Two films by Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub

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Date/Time: 22/03/2007 12:00 am

Two films by Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub
Miguel Abreu Gallery
36 Orchard Street (between Canal & Hester)
New York, NY 10002
Tel 212.995.1774
Thursday, March 22 & Friday, March 23 2007
11 minutes
Photography: William Lubtchansky (35 mm, Eastmancolor)
Sound: Louis Hochet
Actors: Danièle Huillet, Marilu Parolini, Dominique Villain, Andrea
Spingler, Helmut Farber, Michael Delahaye, Manfred Blank, Georges Goldfayn,
Aksar Khaled
Based on the poem A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance by Stéphane
Filmed in location in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, May 1977.
Straub and Huillet¹s simplest film is also his most mysterious, a tribute to
Mallarmé that not only asserts the continuing relevance of his work but also
confronts its literary ambiguities with political and filmic ambiguities of
its own. In outline, the film could not be more straightforward: it offers a
(re)citation of one of Mallarmé¹s most celebrated and complex poems (it was
his last published work in his own lifetime, appearing in 1897, a year
before his death) and proposes a filmic equivalent for the autor¹s original
experiment with typography and layout by assigning the words to nine
different speakers, separating each speaker from the other as she or he
speaks, and using slight pauses to correspond with white spaces on the
original page. But it is clear that Straub and Huillet¹s aim was not simply
to render the poem in film; as he has consistently stressed in interviews,
he and Danièle Huillet choose to work with pre-existing texts in their films
precisely because they are attracted to texts that Œresist¹ them, that
retain their challenge at some level.
‹ Tony Rayns
105 minutes
Photography: Saverio Diamanti, Gianni Canfarelli (35 mm color)
Sound: Louis Hochet, Georges Vaglio
Actors: Olimpia Carlisi (Nephele, the Cloud), Gino Felici (Hippolocus),
Ennio Lauricella (Tiresias), Mauro Monni (the Bastard) and Carmelo Lacorte
Based on the books: Dialogues with Leuco and The Moon and the Bonfires by
Cesare Pavese.
Published screenplay: Filmkritik 11 (1980)
The first half of the film consists of six of the original 27 dialogues from
Dialogues with Leuco presented in their entirety. Taken from the first two
sections of Pavese¹s work, these six dialogues revolve around the birth of
the human world, the sublunar arena of mortality, out of chaos, and the
fixing of limits upon the actions of mankind. This world of gods and
goddesses, of the Olympians and the Titans, of nymphs and ancient heroes,
would seem at odds with the leftist commitments of Pavese, a writer jailed
by the Fascists in the earlier Thirties, a member of the Resistance during
the war, and a writer of and for the common people. While Dialogues with
Leuco remained Pavese¹s favorite work, it was much maligned in its time for
precisely these distant mythic and symbolic concerns. Why then did Pavese
write it, what relation does it have to the material realities of Italy, the
War, the rural peasantry of Pavese¹s homeland, and why, in turn, have Straub
and Huillet appropriated it directly for their radical project?
To begin to answer this, we must turn to Pavese¹s deceptively simple preface
to the Dialogues. He begins, ³Had it been possible, I would gladly have done
without all this mythology. But myth, it seems to me, is a language of its
own, an instrument of expression.² What, for Pavese, a myth expresses is a
³core of reality which quickens and feeds a whole organic growth of passion
and human existence, an entire conceptual complex.² Pavese here doubly
acknowledges myth as ideology ­ both ideology in its older, philosophical
meaning as pertaining to the nature and origin of ideas and, I would claim,
in its Marxist sense as an illusory system of values and beliefs which masks
social contradictions. What Pavese¹s self-admitted ³stubborn concentration²
on the myth aims to reveal and unmask are our basic beliefs, inculcated
since childhood in the form of these classical myths ­myths which like
language and as a language delimit our comprehension of material reality.
[Š] The second part of the film begins in the same rural district of Italy
where the ancient shepherds had lit their bonfire sacrifices to the gods.
Like the movement from the poetic to the political that we saw in Every
Revolution is a Throw of the Dice, the second part of From the Cloud to the
Resistance, in adapting Pavese¹s The Moon and the Bonfires, brings us out of
the timeless ideology of the past, the classical realm of myth, and into the
contemporary world of social and political concerns. But this world of
postwar Italy seems even more inexplicable than the ancient world, as the
gods have long since vanished, leaving in their place the landowners, the
priests, the government officials, as the only indicators of human
limitation, of the law of the gods. The protagonist of this modern idyll has
journeyed back to Italy from his refuge in America in order to recapture his
lost past, the pastoral memories of his childhood. What he finds is a land
abandoned by not only the heroes of classical mythology, but also the now
dead partisan fighters from the War. The ancient sacrifices to the gods have
been supplanted by the meaningless ravages of the War ­ monumental battles
which have reduced everything and changed very little.
‹ Bruce Jenkins

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