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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

January 22, 2009 - April 19, 2009

La rabbia di Pasolini, April 18

The film essay is a strange beast. To simply define it as a form that foregrounds a voice and sketches a persona falls short. At the core of all essays is an interest so intense that it precludes the possibility of naming it simply and efficiently, of filming it in a straight line, so to speak. The essay is rumination in Nietzsche’s sense of the word, the meandering of an intelligence that tries to multiply the entries and the exits into the material it has elected (or has been elected by). It is surplus, drifts, ruptures, ellipses, and double-backs. It is, in a word, thought, but because it is film it is thought that turns to emotion and back to thought.

The strange thing is that the essay film flirts with genres (documentary, pamphlet, fiction, diary . . . you name them) but never attaches itself to one. It flirts with a range of aesthetics but attaches itself to none. It is, in both form and content, unruliness itself, “termite art” and not “white elephant art.” I am, of course, borrowing from Manny Farber. Farber might be writing about Laurel and Hardy, but the words stick even tighter to the film essayists: “The most inclusive description of [their] art is that, termite-like, it feels its way through walls of particularization, with no sign that the artist has any object in mind other than eating away the immediate boundaries of his art and turning these boundaries into conditions of the next achievement.”

The films in this series are lines of force that crisscross a field. From the push and pull that is curating emerged something as extensive, unruly, and contradictory as the essayistic energy it set out to explore. A proposal for a tussle.

Jean-Pierre Gorin
Guest Curator

Jean-Pierre Gorin is a filmmaker and professor at the University of California, San Diego. He will be our guest on April 18 and 19, presenting Pier Paolo Pasolini’s long unavailable episode of La rabbia and his own Routine Pleasures.

Thursday, January 22, 2009
7:30 p.m. Sans soleil
Chris Marker (France, 1982)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
7:30 p.m. Tire dié
Fernando Birri (Argentina, 1958–60). With shorts: A Corner in Wheat (D. W. Griffith, U.S., 1909), Land Without Bread (Luis Buñuel, Spain, 1937), and Isle of Flowers (Jorge Furtado, Brazil, 1990).

Thursday, January 29, 2009
7:30 p.m. The Man with a Movie Camera
Dziga Vertov (U.S.S.R., 1929). Judith Rosenberg on piano. With short À propos de Nice (Jean Vigo, France, 1930).

Friday, January 30, 2009
7:30 p.m. One Man’s War
Edgardo Cozarinsky (Argentina/France, 1981)

Friday, January 30, 2009
9:30 p.m. Letter to Jane: An Investigation of a Still
Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin (France, 1972)

Saturday, January 31, 2009
6:00 p.m. Letter to Jane: An Investigation of a Still
Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin (France, 1972). With short LBJ (Santiago Alvarez, Cuba, 1968).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
7:30 p.m. A Diary for Timothy
Humphrey Jennings (U.K., 1945). With The Passerby (Donald McWilliams, Canada, 1995).

Thursday, February 5, 2009
8:15 p.m. Chief!
Jean-Marie Teno (Cameroon, 1999). With short Les maîtres fous (Jean Rouch, France, 1955).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
7:30 p.m. Perfumed Nightmare
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1977)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
7:30 p.m. Trial
Moslem Mansouri (Iran/U.S., 2002). With short The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzad, Iran, 1963).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
7:30 p.m. Gladio
Allan Francovich (U.K., 1998)

Sunday, March 8, 2009
2:00 p.m. Train of Shadows: The Specter of Le Thuit
José Luis Guerín (Spain, 1997). With . . . A Valparaíso (Joris Ivens, France, 1963).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
7:30 p.m. Je tu il elle
Chantal Akerman (France, 1974)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
7:00 p.m. Secret Formula
Rubén Gámez (Mexico, 1965). With L’age d’or (Luis Buñuel, France, 1930).

Thursday, March 12, 2009
8:35 p.m. Two or Three Things I Know About Her
Jean-Luc Godard (France, 1966). With short We (Arthur Peleshian, U.S.S.R., 1969).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
7:30 p.m. Les années déclic
Raymond Depardon (France, 1976/1985). With The Dream (Mohammad Malas, Syria, 1981).

Sunday, April 5, 2009
3:30 p.m. Chronicle of a Summer
Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin (France, 1960–61). With short Toute la mémoire du monde (Alain Resnais, France, 1956).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
7:00 p.m. The White Castle
Johan van der Keuken (The Netherlands, 1973)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
7:30 p.m. From Today Until Tomorrow
Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub (Germany/France, 1997). Introduced by Erik Ulman.

Saturday, April 18, 2009
8:15 p.m. La rabbia di Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Giuseppe Bertolucci (Italy, 2008). Lecture by Jean-Pierre Gorin.

Sunday, April 19, 2009
2:00 p.m. Routine Pleasures
Jean-Pierre Gorin (U.S./U.K./France, 1986). Jean-Pierre Gorin in person.

The Essay in Cinema was organized by The Austrian Film Museum and originally presented at the Viennale (Vienna International Film Festival) in October 2007. At PFA, the series is organized by Kathy Geritz and presented with the support of the Consortium for the Arts at UC Berkeley and of the French Ministry of Culture, with thanks to Delphine Selles, Christophe Musitelli, and Cecile Hokes. We extend our gratitude to Jean-Pierre Gorin, Alexander Horwath, Hans Hurch, Edith Kramer, Hellmut Goebl, and Regina Schlagnitweit.