There’s the very famous aphorism, attributed to Blaise Pascal that relates to a lengthy missive he gave in his reply to a letter from an acquaintance. At the end of the letter, Pascal states, “I hope you forgive me, I would have written a shorter response if I had the time.” Having a great deal of time over the last four months to put this present issue in order, I hope that this editorial has the corresponding brevity.
The many personal ways we relate to cinema and art in general is a mysterious thing. Nowadays, we seek in art what we formerly sought in religion and yet no great artist would be content with mere provision of succor, and so art never entirely satisfies or comforts us except in the mere fact of its existence. Movie lovers, being devoted to an art that is temporal in nature feel a particularly great oscillation between highs and lows. Or at least that’s the case of this film lover, who in the month of October, saw 20 films over the course of a week and then 14 over the course of two months. A great sense of desiccation set in, which only piled on thanks to such bathetic media spectacles as the trilogy of the Death of a certain Marathi politician, a death by hanging that provoked a classic Orwellian 2minute hate every alternative day and the recent appalling reactions in Delhi to an even more appalling atrocity.
The wealth of complex ideas and great imagination one sees in movies is not always visible in our daily lives and in our everyday social spectacle covered by the media. Trapped as it is in obsolete discourses that no longer correspond to Indian reality. And yet there seems to be no way for an alternative discourse to confront this issue at least at present or in the near foreseeable future. As such, at the end of the year 2012, there’s a great sense of hollowing out in the cultural sense. One thinks of that line from the U2 song, “Nothing changes/on New Year’s Day”. And of course, the discourse of Projectorhead relies heavily on theatrical distribution of films. As such, we are unable to present a 2012 Best-of list for this December Issue though our next issue will include it. But on a deeper sense, there’s no sense of culmination and finality setting in at the end of 2012. In a way, the incredibly silly apocalyptic fears was embraced by the media and in other quarters simply for the anticipation it provokes, even if it was done with self-awareness of preparing for a non-event. An anticipation much like other non-events such as the release of blockbusters like The Hobbit, endless superhero films like the new Superman film with trailers done in the style of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life or the oncoming parade of Oscar films that would only be open to Indian release in the build-up to Awards season in February. And yet, despite this, it’s been a good year in a lot of respects and the present mood of holiday fatigue hasn’t entirely colored by judgment of the issues. So the next year couldn’t come soon enough for me, filled as it is with possibilities both new and exciting. There’ll be more film festivals to cover, newer ideas to explore and further avenues to chart out. We’ve already broke newer ground in the more comprehensive way we tried to cover the Mumbai Film Festival, as well as the more in-depth and analytical approach given to works of directors as far apart as Merchant-Ivory (Harmanpreet Kaur’s ‘The Wandering Company’), Alfred Hithcock (Anuj Malhotra’s ‘The Sinister Chandelier’) and Satish Naidu’s elegy for Tony Scott (‘The Real RocknRolla’) and Rahee Punyashloka, the most voracious film viewer I have come across, who writes about the Brothers Quay.
One of the most discussed books on film this year is indubitably Geoff Dyer’s Zona, subject to a perceptive critique by Annamaria Dobinciuc on its relation to contemporary viewing practices. So all in all, a good haul I would hope.
Before I conclude this small editorial, there is one issue on which I would like to comment.
I spoke before that the “personal ways we relate to cinema and art is a mysterious thing”. I did not add then that it can be dangerous. It can lead to a breakdown and a despair that Vladimir Nabokov made the subject of his novel Pale Fire. I speak of course of the case of Ray Carney, whose unfortunate John Shade is the film-maker Mark Rappaport. Ray Carney is a famous for his outspoken and vociferous championing of independent film-makers in America, most famously John Cassavetes (on whom he has produced a small cottage industry of critical work) but also Jon Jost, Robert Kramer, Charles Burnett, Barbara Loden, Elaine May and other worthies including Mr. Rappaport. In his list for the 2012 Sight and Sound survey, Rappaport’s Local Color (1977) is included at the very time he was enmeshed in a lawsuit with the director over Carney’s hoarding of his masters and tapes and corresponding refusal to return it to a film-maker he claims to respect and honor. Indeed in the comment placed with the Sight and Sound list, he adds that, “I am offering an exclusively American list to counterbalance the “no man (or woman) can be a prophet in their own country” syndrome. And a list where the oldest work was created less than 50 years ago to counteract the “all the masterpieces are in museums” syndrome.”
A statement that reads as cognitive dissonance when one realizes that the only place one can probably see Rappaport’s work now is in museums and archives. Rappaport had asked for the return of his material from Carney when offers to upload his films for online streaming appeared before him, promising accessibility and a new audience for his work. Carney’s actions have halted this process. As the lengthy exchange on Film Restoration in this issue testifies, film preservation implies and includes accessibility and viewability of the works in question. And as a critic and scholar, Mr. Carney who in interests of fair play was highly respected and honored formerly by the likes Stan Brakhage, has abdicated what is the final fruit of his labors which is serving as a conduit between the film-maker and any new audience the work can attract.
So speaking as the editor of Projectorhead, I would request that Mr. Carney return Rappaport all his materials and put a halt to this prolonged captivity. And for further information and clarification on the issue from readers, I would direct you to the following links: http://cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/chained-relations/
and this petition to which those interested in the matter can add their signatures, but which also shows includes comments by signatories that expand on the issues involved below. So worth reading in either case : https://www.change.org/petitions/ray-carney-return-mark-rappaport-s-films
1.http://explore.bfi.org.uk/sightandsoundpolls/2012/voter/175 Ray Carney’s ballot. Despite the current fervor, it must be noted that Mr. Carney has decent taste and as such, audiences should seek out films like Wanda (Barbara Loden), Mikey and Nicky by Elaine May and the ultra-rare epic that is Milestones.