|Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
|Un chien andalou
|José Val del Omar
|Window Water Baby Moving
|Luis García Berlanga
|F for Fake
|Wong Kar Wai
Buster Keaton’s films are the ones I watch most often. "One week" has the energy of those who break through, of first times, of rock n’ roll. Filmed in 1920, it is a direct consequence of the great pandemic and the Great War. A roar of laughter. A glimpse of what the 20th century should have been and never was. A poem about the art of editing and re-editing: an amusement park. Buster Keaton very clearly explains in his memoires how LIBERTARIAN cinema fell through when the written script became a control mechanism: the development of the script as a retention spreadsheet is contemporary to the development of neoliberal economy theories. Keaton has probably been one of the most fertile and inspiring artists in history, and it is still easy to find his legacy on filmmakers all around the world. Hurray Bas Jan Ader, Jim jarmusch’s "Dead Man"!
Un chien andalou
For those of us who were born between Banyoles and Girona, Dalí is part of our inevitable landscape. We learnt to jump on the same rocks and swim in the same water. His face is sculpted on the cathedral dating from the 17th century. Nothing seems strange to us. Later on, we learnt that the poor man became a fascist and we spat on his grave. When my grandmother died, her flat was rented by a fortune teller who was on TV in the early hours and claimed to be Dalí’s daughter. Surprisingly, in 2017, she managed to convince the judges to open Dalí’s grave (located in the middle of his museum in Figueras) and cut an end of his Dalinian moustache in search of the DNA. The result of the scientific test was conclusive: the witch was not Dalí’s family. And yet, a paranoid-critical test would find remains of Dalí, Buñuel and Federico García Lorca in many filmmakers in the present. "Impressions de la Haute Mongolie", "Los olvidados" and the trips to the moon never filmed by Lorca are still amongst our favourite films.
It is possible Kurosawa is the filmmaker with the widest register: more furious than Peckinpah, sweeter than Dreyer, carnal and spiritual like Bergman, as epic as Coppola and as suggestive as Marker. “Seven Samurai” is a major proof of his versatility, lyricism, violence, from the sun sifting through the tree leaves, to the horses’ defeaning hooves under the storm. Choosing this film, we also want to pay homage to the tradition of the US Western (Ford, Hawks, Ray), and to Satyajit Ray, who knew how to film people with as much dignity and love as Kurosawa. And if anybody finds it strange to pay homage to the US and Indian films with a Japanese film, is because they still have not understood film’s stateless nature.
Val del Omar’s films do not convey any of the characteristics necessary to be part of a list of the ten best films in history, hence I have "Aguaespejo granadino". Just as heralded by Val del Omar’s “God’s mathematics” “those who give, have the most”. By the 50s, the idea of film as a form of novellettish/fictional prose already prevailed. But Val del Omar, like a mad scientist, carried on filming poetry inspired by Lorca, San Juan de la Cruz, inventingCOMING UP with optical instruments and multiplying the spacial and expressionist possibilities of sound cinema. In his inventionCREATION of rythms, Val del Omar is flamenco. Let’s use Val del Omar as a homage to the filmmakers of surprising poetry, such as the magical Artavadz Pelechian, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Raoul Ruiz and Maya Deren.
Window Water Baby Moving
For years, in the first class I would give my Film Studies students, I’d screen two films by Brackhage: the birth in "Window..." and the autopsy in "The act of seeing with one's eyes". I’d explain to them that cinema is a question of life and death, hence, it’s not important at all. They (particularly the female students) would be more shocked by the image of a baby being born than the corpses, at the end of the day, similar to those shown in series such as “CSI”. Godard would repeat that cinema had not met its due when it did not film the extermination camps: we should therefore repeat that when facing the capital sin of having renounced to show the experiences of our bodies, when we have turned our nature into tabu. Brackhage reminds us that cinema can be intimate, diary and song. With love, with desire, in a natural way. And in its capacity to look upfrontFORWARD, we freely associate it with filmmakers as different as Agnès Varda, Rithy Panh, Joaquim Jordà, Lanzmann, Michael Snow, Eustache and Hollis Frampton.
Regarding the quality of films made between the 50s and the 70s, Berlanga’s reputation is still very low. This is not only because of the atavistic scorn for comedy, neither the obvious difficulty in subtitling four characters speaking at the same time. Berlanga’s small repercussion outside Spain is the result of the director working at the same time as the cahier’s “auteur policy”, who were not able to see his style (imported from Hollywood cinema and readjusted to the shabby reality of Spanish life) reinforced the mordacity and the bitterness of their message. Truffaut (not even the best ones are perfect) wrote that it was a shame that the US nuclear bomb that fell by mistake on the Andalusian beach of Palomares, had not crushed Berlanga. Luckily, black humour was always very dear to Berlanga, as he shows better than in any of his other films, in “The Executioner”, a masterpiece whose visual traits are still as fresh as the first day.
F for Fake
If cinema can be written on the editing desk, the process of scriptwriting, shooting and post-production can be reversed and run simultaneously. "F for fake" is one of those films that showed me that the cinema of my childhood and adolescence was only a small part of an infinite world. In my head, Welles’s hand tricks come from the same family as Méliès, the African magicians portrayed by Jean Rouch, Pasolini’s Greek tragedies, and the spiral editing of Godard and Marker, as Joaquim Jordà’s "El encargo del cazador", the trips and voice overs in Werner Herzog’s documentaries, Joris Ivens’s trip to the moon, Jean Eustache’s two-part films. Cinema that shows that anything’s possible.
Marguerite Duras’ films follow their own conjugation, where the word film is reinvented and opens our eyes to the sensorial possibilities of latent images, of voices that intertwine present, past and future, in a place that didn’t exist before cinema. In that sense, Marguerite Duras’s films carry on existing even if they are not screened by anyone, as did "the negative hands" in the cave paintings for centuries when nobody saw them. Duras’s cinema is that foreign language that we find with different accents and tones in the cinema of Joao Cesar Monteiro, Isidore Isou, Jean Genet and Jean Cocteau. Of course, cinema, is always a foreign language, something that the Argentine prose writer Mariano Llinás is perfectly familiar with.
This film carries on moving and surprising us each time we watch it, with the story of a bird that only alights once and the melting watches. Wong Kar Wai is one of the great directors of rhythm and change of rhythm – his films prove that between a caress and a punch there can be no other difference other than speed. Other filmmakers who emerged as him, halfway between the 20th and 21st centuries, took rhythm for speed. However, Wong linked rhythm, anaphoras, arrhythmias and beats to those of the heart. We have sometimes written that our favourite filmmakers were all of those named Jean (Renoir, Vigo, Eustache, Cocteau, Godard...) and that most probably Wong must be Jean in Chinese. In any case, in our imaginary family tree, Wong Kar Wai belongs to the family of Léos Carax, Boris Barnett, Jean Vigo and the first Frank Borzage.
There are many contemporary filmmakers with an enormous talent. Very few amongst them are able to make films that didn’t exist beforehand. Claire Denis is an inventor who goes beyond the capacity of synthesising previous PRE-EXISITING ideas combined in a new way. Her originality consists in her way of understanding cinema and life. Did someone ever imagined that there could beEXIST (and like them!) films such as Un beau soleil intérieur, High Life, Trouble Every Day, Nénette and Boni, etc? Watching "Beau travail" we feel that Melville is Denis creating her autography, in the same terrible way as "Almayer’s Folly" was Chantal Akerman’s own flesh, or "Martin Eden" is no longer Jack London but Pietro Marcello. It is gorgeous that cinema continues to be a new adventure every day.
Luckily, cinema is much more infinite than any list.
My list finishes on the year 2000, and obviously, the absence of current cinema has no logic whatsoever. The amount of current talented filmmakers is at least as wide as that at any other moment in time. The only explanation that I can give to this limitation is that I started shooting my first film precisely on 2000, so the films I’ve selected are part of my life, since my childhood, my adolescence or my formation years. A history of cinema with ten films is like a head with ten neurons. How could we not mention Raoul Ruiz, Jim Jarmusch, Agnès Varda, Pietro Marcello, Céline Sciamma, Tsai Ming Liang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wes Craven, Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Alice Rohrwacher, Pedro Costa, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Joaquim Jordà, Rithy Panh, Werner Herzog, Kelly Reichardt, Jean Gabriel Périot, José Luis Guerín, Kiarostami, Kaurismaki, etc? I’ve left out some of the other big ones, (Coppola, Godard, Ford, Eisenstein, Vertov, Truffaut) because I know that they are represented in these kind of lists more than enough and it is advisable to mistrust absolute majorities. At the end of the day, I have never voted for anyone who won the elections. This week I’ve rewatched "Room 666" (1982), the documentary where Wenders interviewed filmmakers about the death of cinema at the hands of television. It is very beautiful to watch it now, forty years later, and watch how the majority announces exactly the same imminent apocalypses that we carry on hearing daily. However, now nobody has TV sets like the one in that room, and smoking is forbidden in hotels; nobody foresaw those disappearances. In the meantime, cinema carries on changing: I promise I will only include films made after 2000 in my next list. The future is yours my friends.
Translated by Mar Diestro-Dópido