One of the most anticipated dates in the local cinephile’s calendar of events is the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). Fortuitously, this issue of Senses of Cinema comes online almost concurrently with the commencement of the Festival. Over 19 days some 400 or so films will be screened. It offers an ideal opportunity for local audiences to be brought up to scratch both in relation to new Australian productions and current trends in international cinema. In fact, this period of the year in Australia can almost be labelled the ‘festival season’ given that both the Sydney Film Festival (the first under new Artistic Director Lynden Barber) and the Revelations International Film Festival in Perth screened not so long ago, and furthermore, the commencement of the Brisbane International Film festival is imminent.
For 2005, Melbourne Festival Director James Hewison has once again assembled a broad and enticing canvas of films of which a highlight will no doubt be the mini-retrospective on the little known Japanese director Tomu Uchida. A contemporary of Kenji Mizoguchi, Uchida’s recent discovery by Western audiences (these films received their international premiere at the 2005 Rotterdam Film Festival) once again highlights the boundless treasures still to be found in Japan’s film history. An excellent overview of Uchida’s films and career can be found in a new entry by Japanese film scholar Alexander Jacoby in the Great Directors section of the journal.
Senses has consistently championed the work of certain directors, one of whom is Claire Denis. She has also had a consistent presence at the Melbourne Film Festival; this year her recent film inspired by a short essay by Jean-Luc Nancy, L’intrus, will screen. As a follow up to the interview with her published in the previous issue, the current issue includes a critical assessment of her ‘film-poem’ by R. Emmet Sweeney. And further to Festival matters, Conversations with Filmmakers includes two interviews with directors who feature in the programme – Song Il-gon on Geomisoop (Spider Forest) and Lisandro Alonso on Los Muertos.
One of the worthiest of critical endeavours is that related to challenging a certain kind of orthodoxy that tends to settle around the work of noted filmmakers. It’s also a means by which to keep a body of films alive and fresh for new generations of film enthusiasts. In that vein, Tag Gallagher’s essay on Douglas Sirk, and Scott Murray’s on Walerian Borowcyzk offer reappraisals for consideration. There is also a career overview of the seminal avant-garde filmmaker Harry Smith. Indeed, the contributions by Michael Anderson on James Benning and Max Le Cain on Michael Brynntrup attest to the continuing vibrancy of experimental non-narrative forms of cinema.
Via a mix of good fortune and design, this issue kicks off with a series of essays that coalesce around the themes of violence and cruelty. The cinema has, and always will be haunted by violence. While grouping the articles together under the term ‘The Metaphysics of Violence’ suggests an inherent link between them, each is also very much a stand alone piece subject to the author’s choice of films, analytic approach and philosophical inclinations.
Rolando Caputo, Scott Murray
Editors, Senses of Cinema