Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Art of Fugue: on Marguerite Duras's Film Aesthetics

Excerpt from the opening sequence of India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975)
The repetition of situations, events, memories, and words abounds in Duras's texts. This repetition seems to emphasize the changing, unstable aspect of memory and language and move the reader to question his or her own memory and examine the dynamics of forgetting. . . . memory is seen as volatile and impossible. [...] It is a remembering that destroys memory and leads to a new memory, which can replace the last only fleetingly and without substance [...]. [Carol Hoffman, Forgetting and Marguerite Duras (University of Colorado Press, 1991): 35-6] 
Impossible de parler de HIROSHIMA. Tout ce qu’on peut faire c’est de parler de l’impossibilité de parler de HIROSHIMA. / It is impossible to speak about Hiroshima. All one can do is to speak of the impossibility of speaking of Hiroshima [Marguerite Duras, Script of Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais, 1960)]
Marguerite Duras s'avère savoir sans moi ce que j'enseigne / Marguerite Duras turns out to know what I teach without me [Jacques Lacan, "Hommage fait à Marguerite Duras du ravissement de Lol v. Stein," Ornicar? 34, Paris: Navarin, 1985]
The cinema of Marguerite Duras is characterized by the notion that a film is nothing but a highly complex mental construct, a universe where memories and senses are reorganized under subjective orders. In contrast to other filmmakers who probably share the same notion (Alain Resnais, for instance), Duras relies heavily on the power of sound and particularly the suggestive power of the human voice to provoke and promote an active participation of the spectator’s imaginative process.
[Dong Liang, 'Marguerite Duras's Aural World: A study of the mise-en-son of India Song', Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, Volume 1, Issue 2, Autumn 2007, pp. 123-139]
Duras’s spectators must play an essentially active and creative role and question the concepts of listening and looking, as well as the relationship between the two. [Wendy Everett, 'An Art of Fugue? The Polyphonic Cinema of Marguerite Duras', in Williams, J. (ed.), Revisioning Duras: Film, Race, Sex (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), pp. 21-36,  33]
[W]e are perpetually forced to recognize that changing rhythms and contextual juxtapositions [in Duras's cinema] do not fulfill a narrative function, at least not in the accepted notion, but exist to create internal patterns or variations that themselves express the film’s themes, and gradually develop its potential meanings
[Wendy Everett, ‘Director as Composer: Marguerite Duras and the Music Analogy’, Literature Film Quarterly,  Vol. 26, no. 2, 1998, 124–129: 127]

Film Studies For Free has been pondering the films of Marguerite Duras a lot recently. This happens fairly often, its true (FSFF's author first alighted on and fell in love with Planète Duras during a year abroad in France at the tender age of 20).

But, this week its ponderings have particularly been provoked by catching up with an experimental feature-length film -- cinematically complex and ambitious on a Durasian scale, and with some notably similar fugue techniques and themes -- made by a former colleague and friend, which is about to begin a two week run at London's ICA (there's a Q and A with the director and others on September 1). Do catch it if you can.

Perestroika -- written, directed, edited and produced by film artist (and academic) Sarah Turner -- has already been shown at a number of key film festivals, and will also very shortly be making a critical splash as the chosen "Film of the Month" in Sight and Sound's October issue, with a long review by Chris Darke. In the meantime you can read a lot more about it here and at FSFF's little sister site Filmanalytical, too, where you can watch a short excerpt.

Today's links list may be relatively small, but it is perfectly formed with some extremely high quality and, delightfully, freely accessible studies of Duras's film aesthetics.

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