GUY BEN-NER FILM SEASON
15 JAN — 19 FEB 2010
FRI 15 ENE M. Fritz Lang. 1931
FRI 22 JAN One Week. Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton. 1920 /
Zero for Conduct. Jean Vigo. 1933
FRI 29 JAN Pickpocket. Robert Bresson. 1959
FRI 5 FEB The Immigrant. Charles Chaplin. 1917 /
La ricotta. Pier Paolo Pasolini. 1962
FRI 12 FEB A Man Escaped. Robert Bresson. 1956
FRI 19 FEB The Wild Child. François Truffaut. 1960
The CA2M is hosting this film season to accompany Guy Ben-Ner's exhibition Fold Along the Line. It aims to complement and enrich the tour of the exhibition by setting it in a more global context and offering visitors the chance to see the films that inspired some of the author's pieces.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Guy Ben-Ner has used as his working methodology films in which he and his family are the protagonists. Many of his videos are inspired by screenplays for films, folk tales and novels. Analysing these cinematographic passages allows him to exploit the conventions of film narrative: how to tell a story, captivate an audience through a tale, sustain a degree of tension and entertainment, and so on. Meanwhile, he uses well-known narratives to tell his stories, constantly shifting from fiction to reality and vice versa. As such, some of the stories and devices in the film productions featured in this programme have been borrowed by Guy Ben-Ner as an exercise in survival. The plots of the eight films to be screened played a critical role in the production of works in the exhibition. For example, A Man Escaped by Robert Bresson and One Week by Buster Keaton are clearly echoed in House Hold (2001) and Tree House Kit (2005), respectively. Truffaut’s The Wild Child inspired Wild Boy, which Guy Ben-Ner produced in 2004. And then there are the films by Keaton and Chaplin whose devices such as slapstick and narrative and visual simplicity have shaped the artist’s films. As he himself admits, “Silent movies are a catalogue of inventions that are useful for making films with a fixed camera, without sound and the right light. They offer fantastic solutions that no one uses nowadays”.
FRI 15 JAN 8.30 PM
M, el vampiro de Düsseldorf
Fritz Lang. 1931, German O.V with subtitles. 117 min.
For this film, Fritz Lang was inspired by the true story of Peter Kürten, a child murderer in the city of Düsseldorf. In addition to its elaborate Expressionist photography, M paints a dark picture of the protagonist’s social milieu. The parallel search that the police and the criminals and beggars of the underworld launch to catch the murderer represents a clever reversal of roles that has much in common with some of the plays of Bertolt Brecht. The “League of Beggars”, with its meeting place, strict organisation and orderly distribution of tasks, is an evident parody of the bourgeois model of society, although Lang’s mischievous, light-hearted vision lacks Brecht’s strong criticism. Meanwhile, M is one of the few sound films that doesn’t have a sound track, except for the noise directly related to the action (doors opening and closing, engines, footsteps, sirens). The only music we hear is the few bars of Peer Gynt, by Edvard Grieg, that the murderer whistles. These cheerful, child-like notes become obsessive and fatally threatening. Organised in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Madrid.
FRI 22 JAN 8.30 PM
Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton. 1920, silent. 22 min.
In this short film, the first one in which Keaton participated in the screenplay and direction, a newlywed receives a plot of land and a build-it-yourself-house as a gift from one of his relatives. The character, played by Keaton himself, sets to work, but his wife's former suitor exacts revenge for his rejection by changing the numbers on the boxes to muddle the order of assembly. Trying to build the house becomes a nightmare.
Watching One Week, we are immediately reminded of the video that accompanies Guy Ben-Ner’s Tree House Kit (2005) installation, in which he plays a man obsessed with DIY. Lost on his mysterious island – four walls and a rug – he transforms the tree in the scene into various items of furniture and household objects.
In both cases we can trace the modern obsession with prefabricated objects and the possibility of compressing spaces to provide them with the greatest possible number of functions. These are stereotyped spaces, each resembling the next, in which everyone has to use his imagination to resist an imposed standard of comfort – a theme that is also present in works such as Stealing Beauty.
Zero for Conduct. Zéro de Conduite
Jean Vigo. 1933, French O.V. with subtitles. 41 min.
Zero for Conduct uses a variety of scenes in a boarding school to level caustic but benevolent criticism at teaching establishments and social hierarchies. The film draws extensively on Vigo’s own experiences at boarding school to depict a bureaucratic, repressive education system in which surreal acts of rebellion occur, revealing his anarchist view of childhood. In addition to the film language, the theme is closely akin to the Guy Ben-Ner of works such as Wild Boy.
FRI 29 JAN 8.30 PM
Robert Bresson. 1959, French O.V with subtitles. 76 min.
Pickpocket, the first film for which Bresson wrote his own screenplay, tells the story of Michel, an intelligent young man whose arrogance and sense of superiority lead him to become a professional pickpocket. The film contains many of Bresson’s recurrent devices: an economy of means, fragmentation, repetition, numerous front shots, empty shots, frames that are taken up entirely by the characters… Bresson eliminates everything he considers incidental, such as staging, professional actors, the screenplay, etc.
FRI 5 FEB 8.30 PM
Charles Chaplin. 1917, silent. 25 min.
In this short film starring Charlie Chaplin, a tramp arrives in the United States on a boat from Europe. The purpose of his journey is none other than to start a new life in the other country, the land of opportunity and freedom. Chaplin satirises these concepts and pours harsh criticism on American society by having the authoritarian immigration officers accuse the hopeful tramp of theft.
Pier Paolo Pasolini. 1962, Italian O.V with subtitles. 34 min.
This is part of the omnibus film ROGOPAG (Ro.Go.Pa.G.), the title of which is a composition of the first letters of the directors' surnames: Rossellini, Godard, Pasolini and Gregoretti. The film is about a film director (played by Orson Welles) who is shooting a film on the Passion of Jesus. The story of Stracci, the actor in the role of the good thief, runs parallel to the main theme. Stracci is unemployed and has taken the job simply for the food. The filming of The Passion on the outskirts of Rome presents a corrupt, superficial society.
FRI 12 FEB 8.30 PM
A Man Escaped. Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut
Robert Bresson. 1956, French O.V with subtitles. 102 min.
Bresson tells the story of how a member of the French Resistance taken prisoner by the Nazis whiles away the time in his lonely cell by plotting to escape. The comings and goings and his various failures and punishments complicate the initial plan. One of the salient characteristics of Bresson’s work is the way in which he minimises the drama of fiction.
FRI 19 FEB 8.30 PM
The Wild Child. L’enfant sauvage
François Truffaut. 1960, French O.V with subtitles. 85 min.
In late-18th-century France a group of hunters discover and capture a young boy who seems to have been brought up like an animal. The child is sent to a school for deaf-mutes in Paris, where he is bullied and viewed simply as an object of scientific curiosity. An eminent doctor, Jean Itard, takes an interest in the boy and in the solitude of his own house patiently tries to civilise him.
Following his own imprisonment in a reformatory, Truffaut had a lifelong interest in the salvation and protection of children in hostile environments. This film is inspired by a true story that he had read and been fascinated by in a book on social psychology by Lucien Malson. Using the simplest documentary register and playing Dr. Itard himself, Truffaut tries to capture the intensity of human interactions in all their manifestations, from the harshness of rejection to paternal tenderness. He succeeds, despite the barest minimum of events and dialogue, thanks to a profound knowledge of the power of the camera as a narrative tool.
Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton One Week. 1920