Live blogging from the NEU NOW Festival, Nantes // Last night, the seven films in the festival selection premiered at the Cinema Katorza, with a bilingual artists' talk afterwards.
The first thing to say about the films in the NEU NOW programme is that they are all positively surrealist. Even Riikka Kuoppala’s Under a Burning City, though dealing with historical material, gives silent war trauma a dream-like twist through mirroring the past in the present, and the grandmother's memories in the grandchild. A birthday speech in Sylvain Vuilleret’s Anniversaire becomes a masquerade in soft focus, gradually dissolving into the counterfactual. Calligraphic figures, in Robert Proch’s The Gallery, blend into each other and turn a day of shopping into a dance of changing perspectives. A dog’s life becomes a grand existentialist ouburst of vitalism, summed up in a suspended moment between life and death in Tünde Molnár’s I am Simon.
A helpless widower dances with his dead wife in Nina Gantz’s Zaliger (a Dutch word for someone deceased). Jonas Wellens’ Tape is really made of tape, nothing but tape, lives in a time loop, and speaks a hard-boiled Russian. Even a girl taking a walk with her dog to buy ice cream turns surrealist five times over in Simeon Sokerov’s 5 Times.
Secondly, all films have a more painterly than cinematic attitude (in the wide sense of visual arts). Indeed most of them have not been made by film students but by fine arts students, and five out of seven are animations. Animations that also do well as stills: from Robert Proch’s black,white and red calligraphy to Nina Gantz’ drawings that look like woodcuts, to Jonas Wellens’ rough brown tape and Tünde Molnár’s sharp contours and grayscale landscapes, there is an immense graphic devotion in them. Three out of Simeon Sokerov’s five clips are digital, but Suspense (designed by Kremena Pencheva) is drawn out in thin lines and bird's eye views, and the Impression is a coloristic fantasy in crayon. Also Anniversaire, with its low blurry shots of dinner tables and figures emergning from the dark, is distinctly in the arthouse idiom. Under a burning city, even if it has no temporal narrative, is nearest to an actual film in the programme.
Thirdly, the seven NEU NOW films, though made and conceived completely independent of each other, are like an album. They share the sort of condensed and upbeat montage reminiscent of videoclips, while developing their own idiom to break the limitations of the short film genre. It makes the programme in the Cinéma Katorza an ongoing visual experience rather than a succession of short films.
The last thing to say is that the quality of the projections on the opening night at Cinéma Katorza was dramatic. We have made our due apologies to the artists and the audience. Paula Crabtree invites us all to come and see a second time, because now we have only seen half of them. They are worth a detour at any rate.
The last screening is on Saturday at 18h00.
For more information go to:
Nina Gantz - Zaliger
Simeon Sokerov - 5 times
Robert Proch - The Gallery
Sylvain Vuilleret - Anniversaire
Riika Kuoppala - Under a burning city
Jonas Wellens - TAPE
Tünde Molnar - I am Simon