Thursday, March 26, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

From Sketch to the Screen: Ken Adam's Citty Chitty Bang Bang

Taxi (Jafar Panahi, 2015)



يادداشتي بر تاكسي جعفر پناهي
كم‌تر اثري در برليناله به اندازۀ تاكسي جعفر پناهي مؤيد تغييرات بنيادين سينما در قرن بيست و يكم و زير و رو شدن شكل ساخت، ارائه و برداشت اثر سينمايي بود. اين تجربه كوچك، مطبوع و بسيار موثر دنياي فيلم‌هاي اخير پناهي را به شكلي منطقي و حساب شده گسترش مي‌دهد (البته من پرده را نديده‌ام) و قابليت‌هاي ديجيتال براي يك مكاشفه شهري/اجتماعي ثابت مي‌كند. فيلم مجموعه‌اي از صحنه‌هاي نوشته شده و طرح‌ريزي شده است كه برخي اصالت مستند بيش‌تري نسبت به ديگري دارند، اما وجود همه و كنار هم قرار گرفتنشان براي ساختار فيلم ضروري است. قالب اصلي يك كمدي است كه در آن فضاي محدود تاكسي، اين «اكلسيا»ي طبيعي در ايران (همان جايي كه در عصر طلايي يونان شهروندان براي صحبت دربارۀ موضوعات عام گردهم مي‌آمدند) به جايي براي تبادل نظر و تنش تبديل مي‌شود.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Camp X-Ray (2014)

كمپ ايكس‌ ري (پيتر ستلِر، آمريكا): مشكل بزرگ سينماي آمريكا اين است كه تصور مي‌كند اعتقادش به فردگرايي با شعارهايي كه دربارۀ ارزش‌هاي جمعي سر مي‌دهد مي‌توانند به راحتي يك كاسه مي‌شوند. به عبارت ديگر در سينماي آمريكا رستگاري يك فرد، رستگاري يك دسته بزرگ‌تر مثلاً رستگاري يك كشور تلقي مي‌شوند. در اين سينما بيداري يك فرد هميشه با بيداري جمعي اشتباه گرفته مي‌شود. در سينمايي آمريكا وقتي نوبت موضوعات حاد روز مي‌رسد، معمولاً يك شخصيت (در اين جا يك نظامي زن) در مقابل سؤالي تاريخي/اخلاقي (در اين جا زنداني كردن و شكنجه مضنونين تروريسم) قرار داده مي‌شود. اما به محض اين كه آن شخصيت وجود آن سوال را به رسميت شناخت، و قبل از اين كه به پاسخي برسد، فيلم با عجله و غرق در احساسات به پايان مي‌رسد. با آن‌كه كمپ ايكس ري در دسته فيلم‌هاي بعد از يازده سپتامبر اثر بهتر و برخوردش با رسوايي‌هاي اين كشور در گوانتانامو صادقانه‌تر است اما هم‌چنان با برخورد ملودراماتيك از زير مسئوليت انساني خودش شانه خالي مي‌كند.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Willow and Wind (1999)

Willow and Wind

The tragic news reached me last night: the young son of the master of children cinema Mohammad Ali Talebi has died in a car accident on his way from north Iran to Tehran. Adding to my immense sadness and disbelief was the fact that April would be the first anniversary of Mr. Talebi's visit to the UK and his three-film tour around the country which put the two of us on the road for nearly 10 days.

Talebi with his piece of glass on the hills of Scotland. [©Ehsan Khoshbakht]

While sending Mr. Talebi my deepest sympathies, for reminding the love and affection he has always shown for children, I'll republish a short programme note I wrote to his masterpiece Willow and Wind, the story of a young boy's quest to carry a piece of glass through the windy hills of north Iran which now can be seen as the perfect metaphor for this unbelievable loss. Ehsan Khoshbakht

Willow trees bend easily in the slightest breeze, but even the wildest wind cannot uproot them. That is, more or less, the story of children in Mohammad Ali Talebi’s cinema; they are affected by every turn, every event, each nuance of the adult world, but they never fall down or stop fighting.

Willow and Wind is Talebi’s greatest cinematic achievement, both in terms of narrative and visual style. It tells an amazingly simple, sometimes absurd story. Like a Persian miniature, it is expressed through fine details. It depicts the efforts of a young boy to carry a large piece of glass some distance across country, to reach the school where he has broken a window during a football match. He’s not allowed back into class until he mends it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2015


The gates of heaven will be opened once more on June 27th. If you don't know about Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato, then maybe you're looking for the gate in the wrong place.
 
The festival of international cinephilia, film history and preservation, a year after losing the irreplaceable Peter von Bagh, is more or less following Peter's guidelines and the road map he drew before his passing in September 2014. (See my homage to Peter here.)


According to the festival's official newsletter, the XXIX edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato will take place from June 27th to July 4th:

"About 360 films from 1895 till today (all with English subtitles), 5 theatres from dawn till dusk, as well as open air evening screenings in Bologna’s wonderful main square, Piazza Maggiore, and in Cineteca’s courtyard, Piazzetta Pasolini. 8 fulfilling and memorable days to dive into the pleasure of unique screenings, to discover the best prints and digital restorations from the most important film archives and institutions all over the world, to meet the main exponents of film history as well as current cinema."

The major strands in the festival, loosely categorized in three parts, are announced, and I'm glad to say that the jazz section (called Jazz Goes to the Movies) is curated by me and Jonathan Rosenbaum in which some newly restored jazz films, as well as standard classics will be screened.

So for now, this is what seems like a full week's plan in Bologna:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Notes on Peter Kubelka


تجربه‌هايي با آن‌چه تماشاگر نمي‌بيند
سينماي مِتريكِ پيتر كوبِلكا

در وسط سالني پررفت و آمد مثل يكي از ستون‌هاي خاكستري آن بي‌حركت و منتظر دوستي ايستاده‌ام. مقابل من پيرمردي با صورت گردِ همينگوي‌وار، مو و ريش سفيد و كوتاه و لباس سياه احتمالاً در موقعيت مشابه من قرار دارد. او هم منتظر كسي يا چيزي است. براي يك لحظه، مثل صحنه دوئلي در يكي از وسترن‌هاي لئونه، اين‌بار از فاصله‌اي نزديك، نگاهمان در هم تلاقي پيدا مي‌كند. او مثل مرد بي‌اعتناي شمال از شمال غربي، در آن طرف جاده دوباره به افكار خودش فرو مي‌رود و من كه تصور مي‌كنم چهرۀ آشنايي ديده‌ام، در حالي كه حافظه كوچك‌ترين دستِ ياري‌اي نمي‌رساند، مثل راجر تورنهيل با اصرار بيش‌تر، و با كمي شرم، دوباره خيره مي‌شوم. اما همۀ اين تلاش با سر رسيدن همراهاني كه باعث توقف و انتظار ما در آن نقطه شده‌اند متوقف مي‌شود و هركسي به راه خودش مي رود. چند دقيقه بعد در خيابان تصوير صورت پيرمرد، اين بار با نامش، به ذهنم برمي‌گردد: پيتر كوبلكا!
اين برخورد بسيار كوتاه و تصادفي با يكي از غول‌هاي سينماي تجربي در روزهاي فستيوال فيلم لندن درست مثل خواب بود، يا دقيق‌تر، درست مثل صحنه‌اي از يكي از فيلم‌هاي اين فيلم‌ساز 78 ساله اتريشي كه هم فيلم‌ را مي‌بينيد و هم نمي‌بينيد. ديدنتان به نديدن تبديل مي‌شود و ندينتان فعلِ ديدن را گواهي مي‌كند. اجازه بدهيد برخلاف سينماي صدردصد آبستره كوبلكا، ما كمي از زبان آبستره فاصله بگيريم تا معلوم شود فيلم‌هاي او چطور هم ديده مي‌شوند و هم نمي‌شوند.

Friday, February 20, 2015

British Cinema in Iran: A Brief History


Many histories of contemporary Iran are left unwritten. Many stories about Iranians and their struggles throughout the 20th and 21th centuries, powerful and dramatic ones, are yet to be filmed. Foreign films in Iran, their reception and their impact on film culture is one of them.

I have contributed a chapter to a new book on Iran-UK cultural relations published by the British Council. Didgah: New Perspectives on UK-Iran Relations is a study of affinities shared between the two nations through history, art, and language.


In my chapter, called British Cinema in Iran: A Brief History, I've explored the continuing presence of British films in Iran, whether in form of theatrical screening or popular prime time TV series. It delves into various types of history, such as the history of Iran in 20th century, its film culture and even my personal history and a very special relationship I developed as a teenager with British films on TV.

It is a history which spans the promotional films of the British Council, in the 1940s to TV series such as The Sweeney, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, and Edge of Darkness in 1990s. Sporadically, but often enthusiastically, British cinema and television productions have been highly appreciated in Iran and the UK’s identity has been on display in many and various ways.

I have narrated it, after an introduction, in three parts as following:

  • First golden period: the documentary movement
  • Second golden period: British art house cinema vs. Norman Wisdom 
  • After the revolution: Norman (again), Nazis and beyond
Like any narrated history, there is a conclusion too.

The book can be download in its entirety here or viewed online, below.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Berlin: A Cinetopographic Guide



"Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison world asunder."  —Walter Benjamin

The topographical Berlin, which one can journey to by train or plane, was born in the 12th century. The celluloid Berlin, which one also buys a ticket for but takes a different kind of trip to, materialized much later, towards the end of the 19th century. The silver screen immediately became a site of living memory for the city, as well as a means by which to project into future.

The “birth” of the celluloid Berlin took place on a rooftop above the Schönhauser Allee, when the inventors of German cinema, the Skladanowski brothers, captured Berlin’s skyline. Only a few of those frames remain, ghostly and fading. Provoked by these images, we will explore some of the best examples of Berlin on film.