Monday, 31 March 2014

Queer Magic

On a recent visit to Warsaw's MoMA I got lost in the maze that lies behind the museum's interior walls. Suddenly I found myself alone in a dark room with a very calm film.

Slow-motion, next to no movement. Water, the sky, a forest, a curly boy. It was puzzling to me how a plotless video, with long black-screen breaks in between medidative scenes, managed to not only keep my attention (who finds most videos in museums utterly boring) but to captivate me.

Sure, there is the simple beauty of Wojcieh Puś' Magic Hour: When do we ever take 50 seconds to observe a cloud in the crucial moment of sunset? 
But what really kept me sitting in the dark for over twelve minutes was the mix of nature and the camera's homoerotic desire. The boy's face as it appeared from the water, a wet shirt stuck to his torso, his back as he ran through a forest: Everything suggested an admiration for nature that necessarily included him, and that was intensely reminiscent of Alain Guiraudie's excellent Stranger by the Lake (2013). 

Stranger by the Lake (2013) trailer

Like Guiraudie, who has declared that porn should by no means have a monopoly over sex, Puś likes to go beyond mere allusions. And so, in between clouds and dandelion seeds, Magic Hour includes jets of sperm flying through a baby-blue sky. In slow-motion. Is it the curly boy's, or that of a stranger he met by the water?

Either way, its flight is very graceful. And it can only make one look forward to the coming of summer. 

Watch the whole of Magic hour here or its trailer here.  

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Palace for the People

The first time we came to the city and drove past it was sometime in the early 90's. We stuck our faces against the window and screamed. It was the tallest building we had ever seen, and it made us think of cities we actually wanted to go to. Like New York.

Our parents, who should have been happy their children expressed enthusiasm about anything in this drab country, did not empathise. They hated the Palace. Its monstrous size, its brutal shape monopolising the ground and the sky. They could not forget that it had all been Stalin's idea: to mark a country that suddenly somehow belonged to him.

1955 - Fot. Władysław Sławny

When the Wall fell and the country was returned to itself, plans to knock down the monster appeared and fizzled out. Capitalism arrived and thrived, and spouted private towers much larger and shinier. These did not pretend to be for the people. Like New York.

But in the meantime Varsovians learnt to tame their behemoth: They installed museums, theatres, cinemas, bars. And little by little, the Palace stopped being a victim, to turn into something which speaks out - if only silently - for those who are are as vulnerable as this country was not so long ago. Long may the courage last. 

In support of the Ukraine

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hipster Cinema

Last night, record hipster densities at Warsaw's MoMA for the opening of film festival Kinomuzeum (remember Larry Clark last year?) and a special showing of Matt Wolf's Teenage.

The film was an astonishingly apt reflection of the audience: a good-looking, humorous and slightly repetitive collage of youth sub-culture (between 1905 and 1945). It also highlighted the truism that whatever their name and purposeteenage movements are rebellions frequently hijacked by convention and corporatism.

But there are antidotes to cultural cynicism - like the month of free independent cinema ahead of us. And once you've seen Grace Ndiritu's shamanic video performances and Maria Callas as Passolini's Medea, it will almost be Spring.