Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Face off

In Preston Sturges' sometimes un-
dated and exceptionally funny com-
edy from 1941, Sullivan's Travels,
a high-minded star director thinks
it's his duty to cast aside escap-
ist frolics, and sets about an im-
mersion in the life of the common
man, culminating in a spectacular-
ly sadistic Southern prison, where
the inmates are sometimes pacified
by a glimpse of cinema at the loc-
al African-American church. And it
works; movies can do things.

Layers of difference would have to be con-ceded, in how we see another high-minded star director's examination of the life of the common man in post-Cold War Europe, in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue (1993), White (1993), Red (1994), but again the cinema works its ambivalent escape.

That most cinema is watched in solitude today, must call upon assumptions in a director which are as wholly unexpected as a lifting of political censorship. A coincidence of history raises a defining question, of whether the DVD has only exchanged one alienation for another. In Blue, which is as far as I've allowed myself to step thus far - for about 20 minutes - I couldn't say I've ever seen imagery of greater eloquence in movies. And this impression generates another: does the great film, the superlative symphonic performance, require the participating witness by the many, not just to be endurable in full or to be achieved in full, but even to be received in time?

Clément Chabernaud
Sean O'Pry
Donath Szatmári

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