Double Shadows 2: Where Cinema and Life Converge
Marceline Loridan and Yamagata Catherine Cadou
Politics of Additional Paths
You are welcome to read all this as fragments, from someone’s life. Or as a letter from a homesick stranger. Or as a novel, pure fiction. Yes, you are welcome to read this as fiction. The subject, the plot that ties up these bits is my life, my growing up. The villain? The villain is the twentieth century. (I Had Nowhere to Go, Jonas Mekas)
Perhaps Jonas Mekas’s journey—his life—was, in a sense, the 20th century itself. War, refugees, asylum, the United States, and movies—uprooted by the Soviet Union and the Nazis, Mekas made his way to the United States shuffled between labor camps and refugee camps, got a 16mm Bolex camera and filmed his feelings for his family, his friends, and his homeland. Having lost the place he should have returned to, becoming a rootless wanderer, he did not try to repair and recover his crushed self-identity, but rather created diary films and diary literature by joining the fragments together. He says the following while looking at the New York skyline:
This is the city which I built, little by little, memory by memory, street by street, face by face, step by step. We grew together, the city and I . . . I am aware, that my New York will never be like anybody else’s New York. But let it be . . . It has saved me from going mad. (Ibid)
Caught in the undulations of history, on the verge of being ejected by them, there are moments when memories that are only fragments gain new life through images, flashing in the darkness of a past that has been shuttered. This is not the kind of “history” made up of an accumulation of given facts, nor can it be contained by words and concepts such as “personal film.” New colors and voices are added to found footage, and divergent countenances emerge out of the overlapping of shadows, the overlapping of images. When we confront the fact that one movie, one life does not complete itself, and cannot exist alone, boundaries and systems such as nationality and genre collapse away, and the linear history of film begins to crumble.
In Double Shadows 2, as in the program’s first appearance in 2015, we screen films about films—more specifically, fifteen documentary works about the very act of expression through images. Using film to undertake this kind of scrutiny of film history might, by its nature, be expected to lead nowhere beyond the boundaries of film. But images are unable to reflect on themselves, or change and progress on their own. Phrases such as “the century of the image” and an emphasis on the inundation of images reflected false goals supported by a happygo-lucky view of historical progress, that can only result in cliché. Rather, should we not work on drawing another additional path that would lead to new expressions in history, new forms of film? That path is the politics of our culture, society, and expression. It doesn’t begin and end within film—it is a question of how to live in a way that deals with what may be found in film. Hence our theme this time is: A Place Where Movies and Life Converge. Mekas declares:
Cinema is beginning to move. Cinema is becoming conscious of its steps. Cinema is no longer embarrassed by its own stammerings, hesitations, side steps. Until now, cinema could move only in a robotlike step, on preplanned tracks, indicated lines. Now it is beginning to move freely, by itself, according to its own wishes and whims, tracing its own steps. Cinema is doing away with theatrics, cinema is searching for its own truth, cinema is mumbling, like Marlon Brando, like James Dean. That’s what this is all about: new times, new content, new language. (Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959–1971, Jonas Mekas)
Let us recall that Mekas said that we do not capture everyday life, but rather that everyday life is created through filming. Cinema “with us” does not only mean that life is the object of film, but also that one’s own reality and body partly begin in and are constructed through film. So Angela’s Diary: Two Filmmakers, a new work by Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi, who have worked on reknitting history by collecting, dyeing and re-editing found footage, inevitably confronts the activities of their creative process itself.
People literally live cinema. What is real or invention is of little importance. The faces etched in Chronicle of a Summer, the gestures of Marlon Brando captured by Maysles along with the sight of his own figure reflected through the camera—these will surely teach us something that surpasses what may be said to be “true.” Now, in the Double Shadows woven at the point where film and life converge, existences forgotten by history return, and we hear the echoing voices of human beings who have been lost.