18 septembre 2007
I Miss Sonja Henie
I Miss Sonja Henie: The Making of a Film kicked off the second segment of the Karpo Godina program. This 16mm making of doc (proected via dvd for the screening) is a loose compilation of often-humourous anecdotes from the shooting of the film. Not much to be said for this beyond a few interesting moments of these directors at work, some very vague hints at the ideas at play in the film to come, a few funny anecdotes, and a great Miloš Forman moment where, his body wrapped entirely in gauze and just before his face is to be covered, he requests a final sip of brandy.
I Miss Sonja Henie (1971)
These directors were recruited at the 1971 Belgrade Film festival. Godina intercepted them at the hotel and handed them a 1-page set of instructions, thus recruiting them to direct a segment of the film.
The rules for this film were simple. Each director would make a 3 minute film. The film was to take place in one room, with the camera in a single position. No changing of lenses, framing, angle or position would be allowed. The camera position and room were the same for all segments, though props could change scene by scene. During the film, someone must say "I Miss Sonja Henie" (a Snoopy reference, actually).
All shooting was done at night or early in the morning during the festival, on 35mm.
Dušan Makavejev's segment leads off the film. This segment was my favorite, in part because it was the only one that was not cut apart and cross-edited with the others. It is a closeup of a man and a woman facing each other, framed very tightly around their faces. They make the funniest faces they can for a bit, before sticking their tongues out as part of these faces, eventually drawing close and touching each other in a strange kind of kiss. Makavejev's segment is an exploration of physicality, intimacy, the barriers between bodies and the possible modes of communication between them. A rich, rewarding near-silent short (the required sentence is spoken through the man's closed mouth). The other segments were sometimes witty but generally lackluster, in part because there was not enough communication between the pieces to justify the cross-cutting, which detracts from each segment's momentum. One exception was the series in which a man comes racing into the room, which is occupied by a woman frantically scratching at her skin. The scene is repeated 3 times, and each time the man has a different essential physical need to be sated (to sh_t, to eat, to f_ck). In each case, when he has fulfilled his need, the woman reclines in itch-free, post-coital bliss. This was another meditiation of the role of the body in our interactions and in driving our behavior, a step above the somewhat-witty jokes of the other segments (Makavejev's excluded). As an example, the Buck Henry segment (for which Miloš Forman was wrapped in gauze) was a combination Johhny Got His Gun remake and extended penis joke starring Miloš Forman, Buck Henry, and Catherine Rouvel. Yes, for real.
After the film, Buck Henry, Paul Morrissey and Miloš Forman joined Karpo for a brief panel about the film. Miloš called it "a very beautiful, deep sophomoric joke." Buck Henry's first comment was that the political climate of Yugoslavia created a game of "who could get away with what." Buck asked karpo if the directors were chosen at random; Karpo spoke, and his translator replied: "You were the only ones he could find." Karpo defended the cross-cutting by arguing that it makes the films communicate with each other, before asking his collaborators their opinions. "I say chop 'em up," Buck replied; and after a pause, Miloš chimed in: "I'm still recovering."
The best story from the panel was from Miloš. In that year, a former Czech minister had recently been kidnapped abroad and brought back to Czechoslovakia. At the end of the festival, at 2:30 AM, Dušan Makavejev knocked on Miloš's door to inform him that the Russian have arranged with the Czechs to kidnap him (Miloš). Looking out the window, he could see Czech embassy cars in front of the hotel with people asleep in them. So Makavejev snuck Miloš out the back door and got him on late-night train, escorted by a friend of Makavejev's. This friend was very nervous from Belgrade until the Austrian border, but they arrived safely in Austria.
One final note: Godina has apparently compiled a 100-minute cut of the film also; I saw the original 20-minute version. I would be very interested to see the longer cut of the film.