The Missing

There is a seductive cliche that runs through “cultural circles”: writing about dance makes about as much sense as dancing about architecture. What is implied here is not only a suspicion at the “folly” of the critical impulse, but an essentialist rigidity about the “purity” of artforms. No translation, no equivalence is possible here – the vertiginous poetry of slippage, sliding, overlapping (1) is foreclosed. I don’t even want to get into the long-waged debate about the “impurity” of artforms in our postmodern age – instead, I’d like to return to some basic notions. Architecture is not the art of designing something beautiful to look at, from the outside or in a glossy picture, but something to inhabit. And what better way to inhabit it than dancing in it? And I’m not talking about a performance of Swan Lake – no, just a party with friends and a bunch of CDs, or a girl swinging her hips to move toward her lover when they are finally alone, or children inventing games with a complex, secret choreography. In other words, an architecture which has not been danced in has not really been experienced.

So the culprit may be the word “about”. When we seek to translate one artform into another – dance into words, architecture into dance, images into music – it shouldn’t be a commentary about but a reflection that comes from an intimate experience of the medium from within. I would certainly make this claim about film criticism (translating film into words). Texts that describe a film (mostly its plot), or texts that carelessly express the writer’s opinion (it sucked and the heroine was a fool to marry that guy) are jamming print and electronic media. Real film criticism goes deeper, enacting a conversation between the filmic texture/discourse which the writer strives to decipher and his/her own intimate experience of seeing the film. Serge Daney used to say that writing film criticism is a form of autobiography (2).

At the recent Sundance Film Festival, the works that interested me the most (interestingly, they were all, but one, in non-competitive sections) were those using film/video to comment on the cinematic image. That such a commentary – or, more appropriately multifarious forms of variation/deconstruction/ reappropriation – came from within the image itself was all the more telling. In some cases – from the heartfelt yet straightforward and rather conventional Baadasssss! (2003) by Mario Van Peebles, son of Melvin, to Jonathan Caouette’s recklessly experimental Tarnation (2003) – autobiography was embedded in the texture of the work, the director recycling images he had seen and/or produced to reposition himself as a subject/creator of a different flow of visual/aural signifiers. Comparing Baadasssss! and Tarnation – whose aesthetics are miles apart – is less unorthodox than it may seem, for both directors were, literally, born out of cinema. They were not children of the circus, but children of the camera.

Baadasssss!

Young Mario’s first experience as an actor was when Dad, the legendary Melvin Van Peebles, cast him as a street urchin, and, more importantly, as a younger version of the protagonist, the high-powered stud-cum-political rebel Sweetback in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), the movie that started it all – from Black independent filmmaking to Blaxploitation, from Black pride, the fight against “the man” and the denunciation of police brutality against African Americans to the cult of the hyper-masculine black stud. To explain Sweetback’s alluring moniker as well as the trade he plies at the beginning of the film (he’s a sex performer in a down-and-dirty live show), Van Peebles shows his hero, then a malnourished child of the Depression, seduced by a cute whore when delivering food in a brothel. “What a sweet back you have!” So young Mario’s first encounter for the camera was also the first time he held a girl in his arms. In the rest of the film, Melvin himself plays Sweetback, with more than one casual encounter with girls, black and white, and cops (mostly white) intent at getting him, dead or alive, and various brothers helping him one way or another, all the way to the Mexican frontier. In Baadasssss! (“Premieres” section), Mario returns the favour by playing Melvin trying (unsuccessfully) to raise the money, directing the first American no-budget film.

All of this would be fine, and Mario is certainly a good son, a nice man and not a bad director – I quite liked his revisionist black Western Posse (1993) and his angry historical manifesto Panther (1995) – but the worst thing to do to Baadasssss! is to screen it side by side with the original film whose saga it recounts. And this is exactly what I did: having heard from a curator of New York’s MOMA that the print they had lent Sundance was the last remaining of Sweet Sweetback (which I had last seen a few years ago on an illegal laser disk), I left the Q & A with Mario and Melvin, jumped into a shuttle bus and propped myself in front of the screen. After only a few minutes did we realise what American cinema had lost in 30 years, how sanitised and “PC” it had become and what was, conversely, the true meaning of “independence” for Van Peebles in 1971: the exhilarating freedom to be loud, vulgar, unpredictable, funny, violent, sexual, formally imaginative, narratively unbound – to say “shit” to the powers-that-be, to the sanctimonious brothers, to the liberals, to the financiers, to the exhibitors.

The live sex act that starts Sweet Sweetback is raunchier, dirtier, but also more fun (and involves interesting gender-bending); Mario (or his backers) shied away from reproducing some embarrassing moments of ghetto life that appear in Melvin’s film – such as a black man, laughing and smiling while polishing the shoes of a white patron with the seat of his pants. Sweetback made no apologies about screwing sistahs or white hippie chicks – when wounded he heals himself with a mixture of his piss, semen and the earth. What’s mostly missing, in Mario’s homage – but, after all, I can hardly blame him, he wasn’t there – is the open-air section, when, chased by the entire police force, Sweetback flees all the way to Mexico, endowing the return of the big black man with a mythical, supernatural and almost cosmic dimension. (“A Baadasssss Nigger is coming back to collect some dues”, says the title card at the end). The original film breathed, the homage seems caged and constrained by contrast (3).

Strangely enough – for, to the best of my knowledge, the director is not a fan of Sweet Sweetback – the one film that seemed to inherit some of Van Peebles’ spirit was another reflection on African American cultural history, Rodney Evans’ Brother to Brother (competition). Following blaxploitation, and then the ghetto/gangsta films of the Hughes Brothers and all, the triumphant heterosexuality of the black hero has become a (sometimes trite) narrative commodity. The real Baadasssss Nigger is no longer banging white chicks but screwing other men. The last frontier is to celebrate the unabashed gay lifestyle enjoyed by Harlem Renaissance icons – such as Bruce Nugent, Wallace Thurman and (maybe) Langston Hughes – and Civil Rights heroes, such as James Baldwin. That such a taboo is difficult to break was experienced by British director Isaac Julien when he directed his experimental film, Looking for Langston (1989): the family of the writer almost sued… (4)

Films about homophobia in the black community are few and far between – I remember in particular Ernest Dickerson’s haunting Blind Faith (1997) that played at Sundance a few years ago (5) – but Evans grabs the bull by the horns by inserting his recreation of the glorious days of Harlem (shot, for the most part, in real locations) within a contemporary fiction that draws much from his personal experience. Perry (Anthony McKee), an art student fighting both rejection by his family because he’s gay and fetishisation by his white lover because he has “the sweetest black ass [he] had ever seen”, meets aging queen Bruce Nugent (a glorious performance by Roger Robinson), a legendary poet living in a homeless shelter, still cruising in spite of his grey hair and pot belly. The two worlds intersect in two beautiful moments. One night, Perry and older Bruce chance into a “raise-money-for-the-rent” party in Harlem, where young Bruce (a pretty dandy Duane Boutte) and Wallace Thurman drink a lot of booze and do naughty things involving a white boy and a still camera. Another night, Perry agrees to pose for Bruce, and the two men paint each other, and fall asleep on the same bed. It’s unclear if Perry has finally yielded to Bruce’s advances, if past and present made love, but in the morning Bruce is dead. The past can only be a phantom, but it still informs the present.

For young Jonathan Caouette, the present was always problematic. Growing up between foster homes from hell, grandparents who had inflicted shock treatments to their own daughter when she was 12, and a tragically damaged mother permanently shuttled to and fro mental institutions would do that to you. Then, as a teenager, the tainted joints of a drug dealer met by chance induced dissociative disorder. Jonathan can only talk about himself in the third person, and watches his own life unfold in front of him as if it were someone else’s. But then, between his unsteady self and this terrifying sense of loss, of lack of control, something happened – the presence of a camera. Through a small miracle, as young as eight, Jonathan had access to a super-8 camera, and started obsessively filming himself, then directing spin-off low-budget horror movies with alluring titles like The Ankle Slasher or Spit and Blood Boys. Not surprisingly, he was always playing somebody else. For his first screen appearance, he put make-up on and mimicked the coy and sad gestures of a battered housewife – inspired in part by his own mother, and in part by his favourite sitcom. To gain access to a gay New Wave film club (where he discovered punk rock and underground cinema), being underage, he dressed up as a “petite Goth girl”. And so on. Real life, said Rimbaud, to whom Caouette resembles a little bit, is elsewhere – and Tarnation (“Frontier” section), the astonishing result of his film-and-video experiments, is his “Bateau Ivre”.

Tarnation

The child of our era of easy access to cheap technology, Caouette goes overboard and plays with all the tricks and special effects offered by his home computer software, but strangely enough, instead of being downright irritating, this excess strengthens the unmistakable sincerity of the project. The diffracted mirror image he creates by recycling, editing, splitting, solarising or redoubling hours of footage from his personal archives/library is a complex, engaging portrait. In Here and Elsewhere (1974), Godard demonstrated that, in a world dominated by media, we use the images of others to compose the signifying chains of our own discourse – and it’s even better if these others are already dead. Caouette uses images of himself as if he were another – One shouldn’t say “I speak” but “I am spoken”. I is another, said, again, Rimbaud – staging his own death in the process. Not only because of the numerous suicide attempts of his destructive teenage years, but because he had to die as “I” to become the subject of the cinematic fiction in which he appears as “he” – because he had to die as “Jonathan” to be inhabited by the mother who, as he acknowledges in a particularly moving moment toward the end of the film, “lives inside [him], in [his] hair, behind [his] eyes, under [his] skin”.

In this hollowing process, Jonathan-the-zombie re-emerges as the filmmaker who exists through the images he shot and collected. Tarnation is an important work because it is the ultimate found-footage film. Beyond the harrowing story of a stolen childhood, it encapsulates our postmodern condition: the conflicted awareness we have of being split from our own discourse, of being “constructed” by a permanent flow of images, some “real”, some manufactured. Our experience of the world, and some of our most intimate emotions, come from these images handed to us from elsewhere.

The found footage used by the LA-based collective Loma Lynda (Jason Bognacki, Sarah Ellquist, Chris Mammone and Daniel Patrick White) for their multi-media performance (screening plus live music) has a less dramatic origin, and is twice removed from the actual lives of the performers. Working in collaboration with noted avant-garde film/video maker Eric Saks (who produced a segment of the film, and shot all the new footage in 16mm), Jason Bognacki (who also shot all the new footage in 8mm) mixed original sequences with fragments culled from archives, trailers and industrial films dating from the 1970s – a time in which some members of the group may not have yet been born (6).

Creating a dense, multilayered, visually stunning texture, Loma Lynda’s digital manipulation of the images is elegant, sophisticated, elusive, lush and yet almost abstract, and works in dialectic contradistinction with the intimate lyrics written and sung on stage by Ellquist. The juxtaposition creates a new spatial configuration in which past and present, nostalgia and revolt echo each other but never mesh. So the aesthetic/historical distance created by the “camp” quality of the hairdos, clothes, make-up, oversized cars, the exaggerated gestures of exploitation films or TV advertising of a bygone age, the pinkish hues of fading prints generates a new aesthetic space.

From this flow of city streets, parking lots, congested freeways, theatre lobbies, deserted street corners, emerge the faces of countless anonymous women inhabited by unexplained emotions. They dance, take showers, carry suitcases, ride motorcycles, put on lipstick, open their eyes wide, smile, walk alone at night, they are stalked, frightened, arrested, seduced, abandoned. It is indeed in the 1970s that Laura Mulvey wrote her groundbreaking article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (7) – in which she analyses the iconic value of the representation of women on screen. Loma Lynda weaves multi-media poetry about the recurring presence of these icons in 1970s cinema; torn from their narrative context/pretext, they become a melancholy reflection on the passing of time. For these splendid hips, breasts, and cheekbones are now aged, or dead. Silenced forever, they are given a new voice in Ellquist’s singing, their elusive shadows, appearing and disappearing behind a stream of cryptic images, are used to construct new meanings, new scraps of narrative (“introduction to the crime”, “the seduction”, “recollection of a kidnapping”). Playing in the nether world of these ghost-women, Loma Lynda’s performance is a ritual constructed around the idea of death – in this case “the Death of Rock Music” whose invocation opens and closes the piece – an ironical punch line.

Seven years in the making, the indie doc Overnight (2004) (“Midnight” section) was a true labour of love for its two creators, director Mark Brian Smith and producer Tony Montana (who ended up more or less homeless, and spending more time on friends’ living room couch than they had bargained for). The film is clearly indebted to Chris Smith and Sarah Price’s landmark American Movie (1999) (8), for which the directors, in true cinéma vérité fashion, had spent two years living with Mark Borchardt, a lovable screwball intent on shooting horror movies in his kitchen with his mom at the camera and his buddies as actors. At Sundance – where the film won the Grand Jury Prize – Borchardt was an amicable presence, signing autographs and selling copies of his short film, Coven (1997). The same thing was unlikely to happen this year. Borchardt may have emerged from Smith and Price’s enquiry as a questionable film talent but he was also shown as a great, funny, decent guy; on the other hand, Overnight, a true horror movie, unflinchingly records the birth of a monster.

It starts as a Hollywood fairy tale. A small-town bartender-cum-struggling musician, Troy Duffy, sends a screenplay to Miramax, and Harry (Weinstein) loves it. The kid is brought to Los Angeles, offered an office, development money, the promise to write the music for the film in addition to directing it etc… Duffy hires two of his buddies to document his raise to fame, and promise them unlimited access (something he will never completely rescind, to everyone’s astonishment). Then everything starts to go very very wrong.

Overnight

First of all, Duffy might have seen the wrong kind of movies – in which the biggest assholes always come on top. He might have thought that being loud, vulgar and objectionable in his racist jokes might be endearing – not have realised he was standing on shaky grounds, that in Hollywood (or any other instance where power is the key to the game) there is as much pleasure in withdrawing from the left hand what the right hand just gave. In rapid succession, Duffy manages to alienate Harvey, his co-workers, the musicians in his band and even his own brother. Even though he’s slipping down, he can’t let go of the “rush” that the documentary camera gives him. And so, in a more sombre mood, the shooting continues. There’s no money – the office has to be vacated, the staff dismissed – but Duffy continues to be inhabited by the drive and the hope to make the film.

Independent funding is procured. Shot with a more modest budget, the film goes to Cannes – to the Market that is. For a brief period of time, the guys are lounging in so-so hotel swimming pools in the sun, eyeing girls in bikinis, as if it had “happened”. But what does not happen is for the film to find a distributor. Duffy starts getting paranoid – is Harvey’s influence so big that he’s blocking every possible sale? The end of Overnight documents a descent into hell, with Duffy getting almost out of control (Smith and Montana stopped interacting with him after he purchased a gun to defend himself against possible assassination attempts…)

One cannot help being angry at the royal asshole that Duffy proves himself to be (some of the Sundance spectators were offended by one anti-Semitic remark he makes on-screen; the filmmakers assured us that they had recorded many more, but felt that leaving one in the final cut was enough to “get the point”). A more appropriate emotion would be pity. Big, small and medium-sized assholes are a dime a dozen in the film industry, which seems to thrive on them. Duffy’s plight is that he was a naïve, working-class, unsophisticated asshole. Nobody gave him the user’s manual – told him which ass to kiss and which ass to kick. Like a hick cowboy driving in a town that proves too much to handle, he believed in the American Dream and thought he could shoot his way to secure himself a ranch like John Wayne in the first third of Hawks’ Red River (1948).

Overnight‘s fascinating, complex and acute vision of the rise and fall of Troy Duffy is more than a morality tale. In its best moment, vérité turns into a reflexive process, even if the filmmakers are not in the frame: after all, Smith and Montana are bound to get their 15 minutes of fame from their own film, and this might be a terrifying prospect. Smith’s camera lends itself to a scathing, hard-core, sometimes humorous indictment of the film industry. Ultimately, Overnight is a melancholy homage to all the fluffers (9), manicurists, waitresses, personal assistants, mailroom boys and non-speaking extras, who keep hoping that someone will discover them, and, in the meantime, talk too big, annoy everyone around them and go home empty-handed. The Hollywood when a D.W. Griffith could start the day as a riding cowboy and finish it as the director of a one-reeler is long-gone, but the mythology dies hard. And, not coincidentally, the folks at Miramax are among those who bear a great deal of responsibility for both upholding the mythology (they support Tarentino’s creativity-run-amok) and spoiling it (they “warehouse” projects and completed films to make sure that no one else is doing something with them).

This may be why I found it so healthy to let it all down when I saw yet another porno movie by my favourite Canadian bad-boy, Bruce La Bruce. Not that La Bruce does not talk big and is not into mythology himself. His 1997 “memoirs”, The Reluctant Pornographer, might contain a lie per page, but in his new film, The Raspberry Reich (2004) (“Midnight” section), shot in Berlin with German money, has nothing to do with Hollywood, Miramax or the American dream (what a relief!) If anything it’s about how the radical dream (that had informed the 1970s Baader-Meinhoff gang) turned sour in Germany, especially after the fall of the wall – and that the only utopia that might still be possible would be a (homo)sexual one. “Heterosexuality”, says the heroine Gudrun (avant-garde stage actress Susanne Sachsse), “is the opiate of the masses”, and she proceeds to convince the six boys of the would-be “terrorist” gang she leads to be more revolutionary and have sex with each other (10). As it is a Bruce La Bruce film, and the boys are played by German gay porn actors, they have no problems, even technical, with complying, and the screen is soon filled with an arresting collage of erect penises and radical slogans, from Jean-Carl Raspe, ideologue of the Baader-Meinhoff gang to Wilhelm Reich (get it? Raspberry Reich…) to Marcuse, to contemporary anti-globalisation literature.

The Raspberry Reich

La Bruce may be the only filmmaker alive to have taken seriously (and beyond everyone’s dreams) Godard’s slogan in Numéro Deux: le cul, c’est aussi la politique (“sex is also politics”). Raspberry Reich is actually a pretty sassy gay porn remake of La Chinoise (1967) – with shades of Fassbinder’s The Third Generation (1979) and Dusan Makavejev’s WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) thrown in for good measure, and even, shall I say, a twist of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Even the design of the title slogans are a clear allusion to Godard’s film, as is the humorous presence, instead of the original bomb-obsessed Kirilov, of another loner, Che, depicted as a gun fetishist and a compulsive masturbator. All of this to say that Raspberry Reich is high-class porno – designed for ecology-minded cinephiles who hate frosty flakes (a target of Gudrun’s relentless denunciation of the social and chemical forces at work behind the most benign consumer products) and have always dreamed of robbing filthy capitalist banks with their hot-stud lovers. Yet, porn it is – with the unassimilable value of showing actual sex taking place in front of a camera. We may laugh at Gudrun’s antics, but be genuinely moved at the spectacle of an orgasm. Porn, even cinephilic and/or reflexive, still rips the screen apart.

Maybe the most fascinating reflection on cinema shown at Sundance was Lee Kang-Sheng’s The Missing (2003) (Bu Jian, “Frontier” section). Lovers of Taiwanese cinema have had a long familiarity with the director, who has been Tsai Ming-liang’s fetish actor since being “discovered” by him in a Taipei arcade for the TV drama Boys (Xiao Hai) in 1991. Since then, Lee has appeared in all of Tsai’s features: a delinquent cutting school in Rebels of the Neon God (Qing Shaonian Nezha, 1992), a son inadvertently meeting his father in a gay bathhouse in The River (He Liu, 1996) or an almost invisible projectionist in Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Bu San, 2003), etc. In all these films, the character played by Lee bears the same name as the actor, with minor variations (he’s often called Hsiao Kang, which means “Little Kang”). Lee’s first hand at directing came when he collaborated with his mentor in the making of the short Conversation with God (11). In the case of The Missing, we were not spared a few critical cliches, albeit well-meaning. People wouldn’t tire of saying how much Lee’s filmmaking was influenced by Tsai’s.

There is, indeed, throughout the film, a pervasive sense of déjà-vu. A grandmother – played by Lu Yi-Ching (who was Lee’s mother in Boys, Rebels, The River and What Time Is It There?) looses sight of the grandson she was taking to a park and spends the rest of the day frantically looking for him. The off-screen son she unsuccessfully tries to contact on the phone is called Lee Kang-Sheng. Meanwhile, a videogame playing teenager looses his grandfather – played by former kung fu legend Mao Tien, to whom Tsai pays homage in Goodbye Dragon Inn, and who appears as Lee’s father in Rebels, most famously The River and more elusively in What Time; he is also an eccentric passer-by in a plague-infested Taipei in The Hole. The grandmother meets a collection of Taipei characters who try to help her. At some point, she buys roast duck to bring to her husband. We realise that the latter’s ashes are in a state columbarium: the meat is an offering for the dead. And then we see the teenager buying roast duck for his grandfather as well…

At the end of the film, as night has fallen, the grandmother and the teenager seek a dim comfort in each other’s loss, unaware that, behind their backs, an elderly gentleman and a child are walking by, hand in hand… The subtle mixture of visible and invisible, natural and supernatural that makes the quiet, uncanny seduction of Tsai’s oeuvre is indeed there. So – did the student really copy the master?

Directing a film is like building a cathedral – but it is the faithful flocking in them that made the cathedrals alive. Tsai made six features and one telefilm starring Lee – these films were built around him, they reflected his persona, his contribution as much as Tsai’s. Film is indeed a collaborative art, and the 1950s politique des auteurs acknowledged this fact while tracking down the particular vision of the world of Hawks or Hitchcock. It is still less accepted that an actor may be an auteur, even though there are countless examples of the creative collaboration between a director and his/her star: von Sternberg with Marlene Dietrich, Ford with John Wayne, Kurosawa with Toshiro Mifune, Truffaut with Jean-Pierre Léaud, Scorsese with Robert De Niro, Chantal Akerman with Delphine Seyrig, Aurore Clément and Sylvie Testud. Which of these directors would have the folly to say that they never listened to the rhythm of their actors’ bodies, that they never learnt from their suggestions, their stories, the recounting of their emotions when creating a character, and, beyond it, the universe in which this character was to evolve? Maybe Tsai is a director more generous than any other – listening to such an extent that his young star would eventually feel empowered to step behind the camera himself – and to recreate, from this point of view, what he had already given as an actor.

The Missing is not “influenced” by Tsai Ming-liang – if anything, and without in any way denying his immense talent, it is Tsai Ming-liang’s films that are influenced by Lee Kang-Sheng’s persona. Maybe we should break our old habits of writing film criticism, and have a more fluid, more realistic vision of authorship. The Missing inserts itself, as a prize jewel, in the symbiotic continuum of the complex oeuvre created by Tsai and Lee together, the very idiosyncratic mood that it generates, and in which each film, as a variation of an ever-evolving theme, echoes and responds to the others. The Missing is as much a film about film than it is about grandmothers, missing relatives, modern Taipei and ghosts. And, from this point of view, it is an artistic autobiography of its director. Like Caouette, like Mario Van Peebles, Lee is a child of cinema. Had he not met Tsai, he may have become a petty Taiwanese hoodlum, or an impoverished salesman. And in the cathedral (or rather, the secretive, haunted and postmodern Buddhist temple) they built, Lee, the star dancer, finally opens his wings and takes flight. Dancing about the architecture of Tsai’s cinema.

Endnotes

  1. I can’t help thinking here of the beautiful monologue with which Godard starts Numéro Deux (1975), in which he talks about “words sliding on top of each other, making love with each other.” It was also the first piece in which he used video, and was establishing bridges and equivalences between the two mediums. For a number of reasons, Godard is very much present in this text – which makes sense(s), since it is about self-reflexive cinema.
  2. On Serge Daney, see the insightful text, “Jonathan Rosenbaum on Serge Daney”, published in issue 13, April–May 2001 of Senses of Cinema.
  3. The film is partially inspired by Mario Van Peebles’s own recollection, and partially by the book written by Melvin Van Peebles in 1971: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. The book was republished in 1994 by Neo Press (Ann Arbor, Michigan) with an introduction by Mario that states: “I have the unusual situation that I am a second-generation black filmmaker, and for black folks that’s pretty rare”.
  4. Interestingly, a few years later, Julien made BaadAsssss Cinema (2002) a critical documentary about the legacy of blaxploitation films of the ’70s that also pays homage to Van Peebles. One learns, for example, that Shaft (Gordon Parks, 1971) was originally planned for an all-white cast, but that the success of Sweetback made MGM executives change their mind, hire Gordon Parks as the director and cast Richard Roundtree as the sexy-and-macho black detective.
  5. Produced by Showtime, the film was shown on cable, but not released commercially.
  6. The current “return of the 1970s” among artists too young to have experienced the decade first-hand is an interesting phenomenon per se.
  7. Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, now reproduced in countless anthologies, was originally published in Screen no. 16, autumn 1975, and created the “field” of feminist film criticism.
  8. This year, Smith and Price teamed with Dan Ollman to complete the simpatico (but light) documentary, The Yes Men about two Bay Area artists impersonating World Trade Organisation speakers at international conferences (“Special Screenings”).
  9. A fluffer is the model (male or female, depending on the needs) whose job is to keep a porn star hard enough to shoot his scene. It’s probably one of the lowest jobs a human being can have – an interesting American invention.
  10. La Bruce has its limitations and Gudrun, who is endowed with a healthy sex drive, is allowed sexual experimentation at the level of acrobatics and choice of unconventional spaces, but is otherwise relegated to the dark ages of straight Mom-and-Pop intercourse.
  11. On Conversation with God, see my piece “Cutting Edge And Missed Encounters – Digital Short Films By Three Filmmakers” published in Senses of Cinema, issue 20, May–June 2002.

About The Author

Bérénice Reynaud is the author of New Chinas/New Cinemas (1999) and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (2002). She teaches at the California Institute of the Arts. She edited the Senses of Cinema dossier devoted to Chantal Akerman.