Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Austrian cinema for export #1: Ulrich Seidl

Image from Import Export (Ulrich Seidl, 2007)

Unlike [Michael] Haneke or his protégée Jessica Hausner, [...] Seidl finds the disturbing not in extraordinary outbursts of violence or helplessness, but rather in the everyday strangeness all around us, a world he transmits formally in blurring and ultimately deconstructing the boundaries between fact and fiction, documentary and feature. He ranks, alongside Egon Humer, as the most important Austrian documentary filmmaker of the 1990s and has only strengthened this position in the last few years.

Ulrich Seidl has repeatedly emphasised in interviews and public appearances that he never intended to be, and indeed does not see himself solely as, a documentary filmmaker. Like others working in Austria's subsidy-dependent film landscape, Seidl stumbled upon the documentary as a means to realise his cinematic aspirations without having to resort to making movie-of-the-week fare. And even before shooting Dog Days Seidl refused to call his films documentaries, maintaining that all his films have both “documentary and fictional levels”.

Seidl's stylised, laconic regard of quotidian quirks moved his work beyond the social reportage and discourses of “authenticity” and “reality” that inform other domestic documentaries. The world he records lacks any pre-packaged shine. Seidl is uninterested in “life's few happy moments”, which he justifies by asserting the contrast between his cinematic project and a wedding photographer's job.

Mattias Frey (hyperlinks added by FSFF)

Film Studies For Free brings you the first of a number of Austrian cinema-themed links-lists: this one is to anglophone, scholarly, or otherwise very useful, and openly accessible online resources related to the film work of Ulrich Seidl. Below the links list are some excerpts from his early films (trailers for some of the later ones can be seen at the official websites in the links-list).

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