Tuesday, March 19, 2013

LLGFF: Lives of Artists

Still from Salome
It took a few days, but I have finally assembled the constituent parts of what could be called a Salome trilogy: Salome (1923), Lives of Artists (1972), and Salomania (2009). Mind you, I saw them all ass- backward and woefully ignorant of their lineage, but I got there in the end, and what a puzzling journey it was.

Firstly, Salome, Alla Nazimova's wildly camp, stagey and rather extraordinary take on Wilde's play. Verity Susman's live and very contemporary (at one point, she busted out some dance beats and I bopped along, if my neighbours didn't) score jarred in places, but I quite enjoyed the use of blue light onscreen, as well as reading between the lines of what is rumoured to be an all-queer production.

Coming next chronologically is Yvonne Rainer's Lives of Artists, which is many things, but also contains a solo inspired by Nazimova's film. The film's construction is dense and confusing, containing rehearsals, narrated photos, what appears to be a love triangle and at the very end a kind of photo film, inspired by Pabst's Pandora's Box. Rainer appears to be a very process-oriented director, which can be lost at a remove of 40 years. I actually saw this film in the Atrium of the BFI a few years ago, but I think the sound was turned down, and I had no idea what was going on.

So, to Salomania, which I have already reviewed from its showing at the SLG recently. Now the scenes between Wu Tsang and Rainer make a bit more sense, though I am still baffled as to how these rehearsal scenes fit with other bits of the film.

Speaking of baffling feminist film, what to say about Chantal Akerman's La Captive, also screened in retrospective at the LLGFF? Based on Proust, the film peers into a claustrophobic and tightly controlled relationship between Simon and Ariane, which is as dysfunctional as they come. He is voyeuristic, suspicious and can only express sexual desire through dry-humping her sleeping body! After 85 minutes of watching this expressionless, passionless pair, I wanted to throw myself in the ocean that called to Ariane....

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