A Room With No View [ORPHANS]

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Published on 25 Sep 1987 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Naked Spaces–Living Is Round

Significantly, when Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha gives herself a director’s credit in her remarkable meditation on West African life and architecture, she places an X over the word “directed.” Why? Because a central aspect of her project is the dislocation of the authority by which we generally presume to understand the alien, and redirection and indirection are equally descriptive of what she is up to. A composer and a poet, she pans and cuts in irregular rhythms, continually stopping and starting, and rather than “direct” our focus and interpretation like an anthropologist, she interweaves three distinctly accented female voices speaking English, each of which conveys a different kind of discourse, traversing the images at different angles. Like the separate typefaces in Mallarme’s poem “A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance,” these voices and mesmerizing recordings of African music encircle and commingle with their subjects rather than attempt to capture them in linear/colonial/narrative fashion. (Sample: “The house is composed like the human body. The earth or clay is the flesh, the water the blood, the stones the bones, and the placid surface of the walls the skin.”) The results are both beautiful and instructive, a duet between filmmaker and subject, disclosures and enclosures, which remains perpetually fresh and unpredictable over the film’s 134 minutes. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, September 13, 2:00, 443-3737)

Published on 11 Sep 1987 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Man Who Envied Women

It’s strange to recall that as a modern dancer and choreographer, Yvonne Rainer was known throughout the 60s and early 70s as a minimalist. For the past 15 years, she has been making experimental quasi-narrative films of an increasing multitextual density, culminating in this angry, vibrant film of 1985, which, in her own words, takes on “the housing shortage, changing family patterns, the poor pitted against the middle class, Hispanics against Jews, artists and politics, female menopause, abortion rights. There’s even a dream sequence.” Working with the speech and writing of over a dozen figures, ranging from Raymond Chandler to Julia Kristeva, Rainer also confronts and parodies male theoretical discourse (Michel Foucault in particular, sampled and discussed in extended chunks) as a mode of sexual seduction. Politics have been present in all her features, but usually folded into so many distancing devices that they mainly come out dressed in quotes. Here she allows the politics to speak more directly and eloquently, and it charges the rest of the film like a live wire–rightly assuming that we could all use a few jolts. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, September 10, 6:00, 443-3737)

Published on 04 Sep 1987 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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