This report from the 66th Locarno Film Festival was posted on the frieze d/e blog:
Joanna Hogg’s well-received third feature Exhibition (2013), which was among the 20 films that premiered in the International Competition at Locarno, likewise casts two first-time actors in lead roles: singer and songwriter Viv Albertine, formerly of the girl punk band The Slits, as the neurotic and sexually repressed performance artist D, and Liam Gillick as her husband H, a successful architect and designer.
The plot hinges on the middle-aged, childless couple’s decision to sell a house that has been their home for over 20 years. Not just any house. Exhibition is set in a house that the late modernist architect James Melvin, to whom the film is dedicated, designed for himself in South Kensington. Too stylish to suit the needs of an ordinary family, the minimally furnished house with its clean lines, reflective windows and, at its heart, a spiral staircase that looks superb on film, is a gilded cage of sorts. The sense of entrapment is conveyed through a wealth of details, from close-ups of Venetian blinds to the striped tops that D, who hardly ever leaves the house and appears to meld with it, consistently wears.
Another modernist architect’s home, Lina Bo Bardi’s jungle-clad 1951 Casa de Vidro (Glass House) in Morumbi, São Paulo, features prominently in Adrián Villar Rojas’s short Lo que el fuego me trajo (What Fire Brought to Me, 2013). Commissioned by Hans Ulrich Obrist for an exhibition he curated in April 2013 (The Insides Are on the Outside, Casa de Vidro), this is the Argentine artist’s first foray into filmmaking. The most remarkable thing about this 43-minute-long silent film is the protracted closing credits that last a disproportionate 10 minutes. Consisting of spaced out letters, black on white that form elaborate designs on the screen, they wrap up the visual experience of the film in a witty and, to my knowledge, unprecedented way.
If modernist (glass) houses are justifiably favoured by filmmakers, few have hitherto explored the cinematic potential of cable cars. Manakamana (2013) is filmed entirely inside a cable car, carrying groups of two to three pilgrims (including some goats, on one occasion) to the eponymous Hindi temple. The film consists of eleven roughly 10-minute-long shots – the duration of a ride to or from the temple, corresponding to one reel of 16mm film. Each pair or group appears against a moving backdrop of densely wooded mountains and sky, neatly framed by the window of the cable car, which recalls a cinema screen. As an essay in portraiture, Manakamana brings to mind Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (1964–66), whereas the luxuriant landscape filmed in successive long takes, coupled with the exquisite sound design, are akin to some of James Benning’s experimental films, from Ten Skies and Thirteen Lakes (both 2004) to Stemple Pass (2012).
Pays barbare, (Barbaric Land, 2013)
The latest film by the Milan-based duo Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, who have been collaborating since 1986, Pays barbare (Barbaric Land, 2013) is also driven by a strong political message, neatly summed up by the statement: ‘every period has its own fascism’. For the first 10 minutes of the film, blue-tinged footage documenting Mussolini’s downfall in 1945, marking the end of the Italo-Ethiopian war, is projected at decelerated speed and in complete silence to gripping effect. Culled from film archives, the hand-tinted moving images that follow in the remaining 55 minutes are powerful enough on their own, as an indictment of colonialism, without any of the literary quotes and statements occasionally read out in voice-over. That this kind of film should have its premiere in the main competition at Locarno, rather than being relegated to one of the sidebars, speaks loud and clear of the festival programmers’ willingness to take risks and their ongoing support for experimental filmmaking.