Monday, January 9, 2023

THE SCHOOL OF TARKOVSKY: NINA MENKES

I guess I see myself more in the tradition of filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky - Nina Menkes, Sensesofcinema.com


"My Tarkovsky Homage" - Nina Menkes, Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power
The Mirror /
Phantom Love

Nina Menkes is very much her own filmmaker. She has one of the most unique visions and it has been a pleasure discovering & re-discovering her work over the years.

One thing that stood out to me while clicking around & reading about her online is the open praise she's given to certain specific filmmakers that came before her (some directors can be evasive when it comes to any talk of influence). 

Names like Chantal Akerman & Agnes Varda make perfect sense...

I love Vagabond, by Agnès Varda. When I first saw it, I related so completely that I felt I could have practically shot that film myself! - Nina Menkes, Film Comment
Vagabond /
Queen Of Diamonds

We carry trauma intergenerationally via DNA. It’s literally in our genes. So the combination of a Holocaust personal history and a fiercely feminist consciousness makes my connection to Chantal Akerman’s work very clear - Nina Menkes, criterion.com
Jeanne Dielman /
Queen Of Diamonds


But it was her multiple Tarkovsky namedrops over the years that really raised an antenna. Nina Menkes would be a dynamic filmmaker without Tarkovsky's work. I just find the visual similarities between their films compelling...

I had the pleasure of interviewing her last year (click here to go to the interview) and she referred to Tarkovsky's book; Sculpting in Time as "water in the desert" (she even refers to the comparison above as her "Tarkovsky homage" in her latest film; Brainwashed). 

That was the final confirmation I needed.

Below are some of my favorite interview excerpts of Menkes shouting out Tarkovsky along with some visual comparisons I put together (while some of these are intentional, I'm sure others are just me reaching for something that might not be there).

Enjoy...


One thing I find dull about most traditional narratives is the depiction of time. The standard cinematic construct is that you, say, start in the morning and then this and that happens, and there might be a flashback or a flash-forward, but there’s an essential fixed concept of how time “moves forward”. Tarkovsky has talked about this, he calls that “horizontal time”, whereas “vertical time” is a more transcendental or ever-present concept. In my work, I try to express the place where horizontal time intersects with vertical time which is, to me, a more accurate expression of where this mystical force-time-really exists - Nina Menkes, Sensesofcinema.com

The Mirror / Phantom Love


I think of the name of Tarkovsky’s book Sculpting in Time … Tinka always managed to bypass any known laws of editing and just zero in on the essential quality of the experience. So in Queen of Diamonds, instead of five or six shorter casino/dealing scenes interspersed throughout, she understood the power of making one monster dealing scene - Nina Menkes, Talkhouse.com

Sacrifice /
Queen Of Diamonds

Menkes comes back to this shot/idea a few times in her work...

Sacrifice / 
Phantom Love

Solaris/ 
Phantom Love


Stalker / 
Phantom Love

Sacrifice / 
Phantom Love


Andrei Rublev / 
The Bloody Child

Andrei Rublev / Dissolution

Solaris/ 
Phantom Love

Andrei Rublev / 
Dissolution


Sunday, January 8, 2023

A FEW (POSSIBLE) VISUAL REFERENCES IN COPENHAGEN COWBOY

Vampyr /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Putting aside the obvious (and sometimes tired) modern visual references often associated with Nicolas Winding Refn (Mann, Friedkin, Argento, Refn himself or any filmmaker that’s utilized a neon light or synthesizer), I noticed a handful of slightly deeper visual references in his latest project; Copenhagen Cowboy.

I’ll be going back to watch the series again and will update this post accordingly. But in the meantime please scroll through the first wave of comparisons I came up with along with various interview excerpts from over the years to add some context and/connective tissue.


I’m not a film analyst but most of the things we do nowadays, also in advertising, lead back to Kenneth Anger’s work - Nicolas Winding Refn, Indiewire
Lucifer Rising /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Scorpio Rising /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Vampyr has always reminded me of a mysterious dream I once had when I was very little. The film has always stayed with me. I watch it before I make every film - Nicolas Winding Refn, Criterion

Vampyr /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Vampyr /
Copenhagen Cowboy


I offered to read the tarot for him [REFN] and from then on he had me read his tarot every time he made a new movie - Alejandro Jodorowsky, Vulture

Holy Mountain /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Holy Mountain /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Unique, brilliant, fantastic! I love this movie! - Nicolas Winding Refn on Tokyo Drifter, Criterion

Tokyo Drifter /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Tokyo Drifter /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Tokyo Drifter / Copenhagen Cowboy

Tokyo Drifter /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Tokyo Drifter /
Copenhagen Cowboy


For me, Night of the Hunter has always been one of the greatest horror film titles. It is truly a very frightening fairy-tale - Nicolas Winding Refn, Moviemaker Magazine

Night Of The Hunter /
Copenhagen Cowboy


film is such an early medium in a way. You know what I mean? If you go through the history of painters, you can always say that somebody was inspired by someone to do that or to do this, and of course, it's the same thing with film. Every art form is an exchange to someone else, whether it's generational, whether it's of an experience, of an opportunity - Nicolas Winding Refn on influence of David Lynch, nrftsjournal

Lost Highway /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Lost Highway /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Lost Highway /
Copenhagen Cowboy


He [Terrence Fisher] was a very interesting film director and I think very much undervalued - Nicolas Winding Refn, mubi

Flesh For Frankenstein /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Seeing The Shining is like watching a painting of pure terror. It has no purpose, sexuality or function other than to completely terrorize you - Nicolas Winding Refn, Moviemaker Magazine

The Shining /
Copenhagen Cowboy

The Shining /
Copenhagen Cowboy

The Shining /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Snatch /
Copenhagen Cowboy

Pigs & Battleships /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Hannibal /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Flesh For Frankenstein is the only film I’ve ever wished that I had made - Nicolas Winding Refn, Criterion

Flesh For Frankenstein /
Copenhagen Cowboy


He [Terrence Fisher] was a very interesting film director and I think very much undervalued - Nicolas Winding Refn, mubi

The Curse Of Frankenstein /
Copenhagen Cowboy

The Curse Of Frankenstein /
Copenhagen Cowboy


Friday, January 6, 2023

THE ORDER



I’m a fan of Matthew Barney’s films but I also have the ability to step outside of that fandom and see how his work is an acquired taste. I get it. I would never try to rally the troops or convert someone. This entry isn’t for everyone. Matthew Barney isn’t someone you just blindly delve in to (he’s said himself that his work isn’t for everyone). I just love The Order and wanted to share my thoughts...

When it comes to what folks consider to be “pure cinema” (the criteria is very vague and always changing) - I think Barney’s work deserves to be mentioned. Just on a purely visual level…

Cremaster Cycle

Drawing Restraint 9

River Of Fundament

Redoubt


Barney also has some serious subconscious cinematic connections to everyone from Busby Berkeley…

Night World / The Order

Night World / The Order

Night World / The Order


To Leos Carax…

Cremaster 1 / Annette


Matthew Barney is a sculptor/exhibition artist first and a filmmaker second (this probably explains why the “plot” in all of his films comes second and sometimes third). I think the only reason he ended up making movies & filming moving images is because his sculptures & exhibitions got so elaborate that they almost became theatrical. Barney often puts his body in to his work (he was an Athlete as a teenager and maintains an impressive physique to this day). His physicality became a part of his art but you’d never know that just from looking at hit…





Now…if you’ve spent time in a studio, wood shop, model shop, etc - you probably would know it takes some serious physical strength to produce some of his pieces…




His work got too big for a gallery. The next logical step was the moving image.

Barney’s progression from exhibition artist to filmmaker is similar to David Lynch. Lynch transitioned from painting to filmmaking because he felt limited. It’s almost like he wanted his painting to move. His early films showed this…

Six Figures Getting Sick


Lynch continues to experiment with moving paintings…

Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch

Naturally this goes back to Lynch's ongoing ties to Bunuel:

Un Chien Andalou /
Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch


The Order is an isolated segment from a feature film (Cremaster 3) that’s part of a larger series (The Cremaster Cycle). Like I said earlier, plot comes second with Matthew Barney and The Order is no exception. The Order, set in the Guggenheim, is a massive multimedia project that fuse performance art, video, and sculptural installation that explores historical narratives, the politics of the body, and the physicality and eroticism of sport. 
But it’s hard to catch a lot of that on the first (or second) viewing when faced with imagery like this:

The Order

The Order

The Order


To some degree, all of Barney’s work is an abstracted look about the creative process. The section/“level” where we watch Richard Serra (another artist that works on a large scale) is the most fascinating and almost serves as a precursor to Barney’s most recent feature; Redoubt:

The Order


The Order, which clocks in at under an hour is the perfect film to watch over and over (you catch something new every time). 

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