KINO-JOURNAL of THE AMAZED SPECTATOR #’19203 – 22-05-2015 3D ANAGLYPHIC PICTURES
EDGAR PÊRA – What kind of amazement did you feel when you first saw your first Essay Film?
LAURA RASCAROLI – Definitely a different type of amazement… closer to an intellectual pleasure I would say, curiosity, the idea of being stimulated to think. Curiosity about the ability of film to talk to me and to reflect with me – to make me think, to kind of involve me in the reflection. So, if you want it’s an intellectual type of amazement, but at the same time, I think there is also an emotional-affective side to that form of spectatorship. So there are pleasures that are not uniquely intellectual in watching a reflective piece of cinema. So there is also a kind of sensuous pleasure, as well.
EP – And do you remember the first film that made that kind of…
LAURA RASCAROLI – I would imagine it probably as being Chris Marker Sans Soleil / Sunless. Obviously I had encountered intellectual, so to speak, films before, like films that, you know, are reflective. I remember encounters with the likes of Godard, or Tarkovsky. But what we would call, in terms of what we would call an Essay Film, I would think of Chris Marker. And a range of themes but particularly Sunless.
EP – What kind of difference do you see between a film like Sans Soleil and Man With a Movie Camera?
LAURA RASCAROLI – The difference…I think…Man with a movie camera is a film that excites me in terms of the visual ability to create visual astonishment with a whole range of different tricks, if you want… of the camera, of “Montage”… Something like Sans Soleil, instead, while of course is well able to do those kind of things, but it’s more a sort of…more of a thoughtful reflection – rather than that exhilaration of the rhythm like something like Man with a Movie camera.
EP – Less impulsive, in a way…
LAURA RASCAROLI – Yes, it’s more reflective…
EP – Futurism is more impulsive than lots of other avant-garde… I see also there is something there that… Well, the film is also a Manifesto, of course… and I think, maybe you could call it some kind of collective essay, even if it’s something by someone like Vertov. And a film like Man With a Movie Camera, was made from “WE” to “WE”, it’s a collective essay’
LAURA RASCAROLI – That’s a lovely way of thinking about it… and it’s an interesting point, because Essay Films are often thought of as extremely individual, sort of the work of an individual, of an intellectual filmmaker who is controlling the film and the discourse of the film very, very personally. But I think Film is never, in any case, entirely a singular discourse. So there’s always a kind of collectivity, if you wish. About that particular film I think you’re right, it’s a pretty good example to reflect a little bit more about that. The idea of a collective voice, almost, you know.
EP – What kind of connection do you see between the way the actors interpolate the spectators in the “Cinema of Attractions”, the Essay Film, and the presence of small one shot movies that we see on social networks, like facebook – someone is doing something in front of the camera for us and… how do you connect these three things?
LAURA RASCAROLI –… there is a way of addressing the spectator that probably is the one element that puts together all the types of Cinema and post-cinema forms you have just mentioned. So, there’s an attempt at sort of create a strong communication with the spectator. I mean, of course if a film wants to bring the spectator inside in the show, inside in the “spectacle”, inside in the screen, etc. But certain type of films do that, addressing us more directly. There is a sense in which they sort of connect with us much more directly. And of course they do it in different ways, I mean, you’ve cited the “Cinema of Attractions”and in certain cases it can be done by certain performances, for instance, through something exhilarating and… where as in other ways it can be done by… sort of breaking this so called code, addressing directly the spectator. Or creating a sense in which the spectators participate in the thinking of the film. That is something I am particularly attracted to and fascinated by… the sort of, in how does a film make me feel… well, of course it’s talking, not only to me but to a whole set of people, ideally in an auditorium… How does that a film manages to persuade me, to convince me that I am involved, you know, in the thinking itself of the film, that I am contributing actively to the creation of the film. And again it’s something that many films do, that most films do, but they do it at different levels… This idea of addressing the spectator and the forms of address, that’s interesting.
EP- So, do you think all these tricked ways which the essay film uses may be the most prominent forms of addressing the spectator?Is there some kind of Manifesto against voyeurism that is the rule of Invisibility……Is the Essay Film a kind of Manifesto against voyeurism?
LAURA RASCAROLI – That’s an interesting question. I never thought about it in relationship with voyeurism. Almost as if it were kind of the opposite of voyeurism. In the sense that we cannot hide, that we are not aloud to feel, to sense that we are invisible. So that’s a very interesting thought. Thank you very much for mentioning that to me. I’ll think more about this.
EP – Well…There is the Laura Mulvey’s essay about voyeurism and…I connected that also with your book about “Essay” and some of Tom Gunning’s ideas about “Exhibitionism” and “Voyeurism”. The “Cinema of Attractions” is clearly an exhibitionist way of doing Cinema. What I think that is really interesting is making the presence of the spectator more physical, more real. Sometimes I compare the voyeuririst cinema to someone talking to you in a bar and he doesn’t look at you in the eyes. There’s people like that! These films are a bit like that, they don’t talk to you… ‘Why are you ignoring me?’ So that’s why I find really interesting your ideas about what really is an Essay-Film. Can you synthesize…
LAURA RASCAROLI – Yes, I mean… One of the ways in which I have been thinking about Essay-Films is precisely in their relationship with the spectators. So, an idea of communication. And in the dimension in which they have to sort of perform the process itself of thinking – because that’s what an Essay is! Even in the much older tradition of the Literary Essay, what we get is a Thinking Brain, we get the sense that we have a subject to its thinking but that thinking cannot be exclusive of me. Because, of course it has to involve me and make me feel that I am participating in the line of reasoning. So, one of the ways in which I have thought about the Essay-Film is ‘How does it do that? How does it achieve that?’ So, in what way does it “interpellates” me, and make me feel like it is making room for me, making space for me, to participate in that line of thinking. So that’s one of the perspectives that I use to think about Essay-Films.
EP – So that’s why you see films like Michael Moore’s more like, maybe, Hollywood Propaganda or anti-Hollywood, but Propaganda never the less!
LAURA RASCAROLI – Yeah… What I find about… My experience as a spectator when I watch a Michael Moore film, I mean, it amuses me, often it makes me laugh sometimes, it makes me think, he provokes me in many different ways… I guess I do not always sense that there is genuinely open stands in that kind of film. It sounds to me, feels to me more like I’m a spectator watching a piece of journalism with a thesis – that there is a thesis in the film – and the film is there to try to persuade me of this thesis. It brings evidence to mount a case and persuade me of a particular point that it’s trying to make. I don’t experience Essays in the same way. I don’t feel the Essay has a thesis which is trying to sort of bring me to agree with. I sense more openness in more genuine “essayistic stands”. It’s a kind of a more open type line of reasoning – which makes space for the spectator and which is open to challenge, which is more self-aware of its partiality, of the fact that it’s an attempt, it’s one attempt… The word “Essay” originally means “Attempt”, you know, it’s an attempt at thinking about things rather than have a pre-constituted thesis about something.
EP – So it’s more like “a Path”…
LAURA RASCAROLI – A Path, yeah!… That’s a very good description of it, yes. And it makes you feel that you are on that Path, and you’re walking that Path together with the essayist.
EP – How do you see today’s Cinema? Do you believe that Cinema belongs to the theaters or Cinema is something that depends on the media on which it is shown?
LAURA RASCAROLI – It’s a… I, myself as a spectator, I watch more and more films on my computer, on DVDs…
EP – Guilty…
LAURA RASCAROLI – So I’m a guilty spectator… simply because sometimes I don’t have time to go to the film theater, sometimes I can’t, in the sense that the films that I want to watch are not being screened in the cinema theater. In ways I am a nostalgic spectator, I do have a certain nostalgia for a type of experience that has changed and is over – or not necessarily entirely over but predominantly over. So there is an element of nostalgia, but at the same time I do like technology! I like the ease of technology, the possibility of having a film… sometimes wanting to see something, realizing that there is a film -‘oh!, I would like to see that’ – and I google it, I instantly find it and I can watch it on Youtube and perhaps it’s not the most beautiful sort of image but it has other things that it can offer you: more instantaneous accessibility, the possibility of pausing, rewinding, re-looking, re-watching, etc. I think Film is Film, and Film goes through different phases and it can be consumed in different ways – it has been consumed in very different ways even in the History of Cinema, it’s not always been the same, it’s not always been the same way of going to the cinema. Even when we only watched films, or predominantly watched films in film theaters – because let’s not forget that huge horde of amateur cinema, people recreated film theaters in their own home… from very very early on, of course, people who could afford the technology. Even in the history of the film theater itself the technology changed a lot, in terms of projection, in terms of sound, everything. The film experience has changed a lot, constantly changed and transformed. We cannot deny there’s a certain part of… our way of experiencing Cinema is gone, is over. And, of course, as a cinephile we are all a bit nostalgic about this. But at the same time Film continues to live on and we experience it through other media now.
EP -What kind of stuff do amaze you or excite you besides the films for Cinema: things you see in the net or… anything you saw that made you think, that in a way is an Essay…
LAURA RASCAROLI – I have encountered things on the internet that have indeed provoked a kind of a reaction of ‘Oh!, this is novel, this is different, this is new’, and it combines aspects of the film experience with other aspects as well. One of these experiences is that of the interactive documentary or the online documentary. Of these platforms that have a dimension of sort of information that you can access but then incorporates videos as well and allow you to explore the space and allow you to access content. It’s a novel way of presenting and experiencing audiovisual content and of making an experience… I always feel that… one of the things that fascinate me most about Cinema is that it’s a spatial experience. I think film is instantly spatial, it’s instantly space because… As soon as you switch on a camera you are framing a piece of space. I find it kind of fascinating that these platforms create a space within which they also incorporate film, and I can explore this space. It kind of changes my spatial experience of film in novel ways. So this is one of the things that I am most fascinated with on recent developments, let’s say…
EP – That’s what you’re studying now?
LAURA RASCAROLI – No, I’m still working on the Essay-Film. Ultimately I’m still working on very traditional films, made with either celluloid or digital but that are made for a range of different media, I mean, mostly for the cinema itself but sometimes for television, or for the gallery, installations, etc. So ultimately I am still working on what one would regard as a very traditional approach to filmmaking, although with an eye to all these new technologies as well
EP – Ok. Thanks a lot!
LAURA RASCAROLI – Thank you!
© Edgar Pêra – Production Bando À Parte