Friday, June 28, 2013

Film&Fashion Fridays: Isidore Isou's Traite de bave et d'eternite

I know, I know: first of all, one might argue it's not Friday anymore. And I say ''it's sure Friday somewhere''. It's Friday night, so that still makes it Friday in my book. So why am I blogging this late? Maybe because I've spent the whole day in school and I'm still in work mode. Or maybe this could be a scheduled post, who can tell?

Ok, enough mind games and mysteries.

I must open with my confessed shame that I only managed to see this movie recently, even though I've known about it for years; the more shameful part is that Isidore Isou was Romanian, so this isn't just a staple of experimental cinema (a textbook classic), but also an important piece of my culture. Which unfortunately is widely neglected by our school system. I wish I had more Lettrism and less heavy-handed peasant drama sagas (my compatriots know who I'm talking about; heck, I don't even know as there's so much of it in our syllabus!).

He was a Jewish expat in Paris after all, so no wonder he's being a little neglected. Tristan Tzara is equally unpopular in his home country, as well. But this is a completely different story.

So, back to the movie- Stan Brackhage openly declared that he's been inspired by this movie to do his signature painted on films; they basically invent modern vocal improv and there's a fair amount of killer '50s suits. What more can you ask for?

The entire movie is a long rant/manifesto on cinema,revolution and poetry, but despite this brash, abrasive discourse, it boils down to a series of sad and intense love stories. While trying to shake cinema out of its rules (and cliches), Isou masterfully conceives one of the most vibrant portraits of Saint Germain des Pres in the early '50s, when it was still the stomping ground of writers, jazz lovers and students and not the disgusting rich boutique neighborhood it is today. Oh, and basically invents experimental cinema.

Well, not really, but utilizes some of its techniques that would later on become definiting elements of the movement such as found footage, synchronized sound ( probably the only one picked up in actual cinema by the Nouvelle Vague) and scratched/painted on film.

And, most importantly, emphasizing that cinema should work with the the actual film stock, not the image. It's pellicule in French, so that makes it a little bit clearer. Funny thing is that this will eventually become the core belief of many experimental filmmakers, not actual cinema people. After all, not every innovator ends up revolutionizing its own domain, but rather creating new ones, right?

I know I've been postponing watching this because now I'm spoiled and prefer watching experimental films in a cinema, but RE:voir released a very nice DVD that's totally worth buying/checking out of your library.

And why would I want to sit through the whole two hours again? I won't spoil it for you, but there's an amazing scene of Lettrist poetry reading over abstract squiggly lines and shapes, the most bizarre military footage, a Jean Cocteau cameo and of course all that '50s Paris street style.

And because the title roughly translates as Treaty of Spit and Eternity. 'Nuff said.

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