Friday, July 13, 2018

Blanche (Marc Hurtado, 1995)

I have a difficult time writing about the films of Marc Hurtado due to how close they feel to a sort of platonic ideal of cinema. A personal ideal, for sure, but regardless, there's a complicated simplicity on display that carries virtually everything necessary for cinema to do what I want it to be doing, and with a degree of effortlessness. The elements: the body/the self, the sea, the way flora moves in the world, the gestures of man, light (above all light). There's more to it, of course, as these are indeed films, in all the medium-specific intensity said form indicates: they depend on movement, rhythmic editing, optical printing, light exposure, the hypnotic bent of duration, and sound, the wonderful sound of Hurtado's own Etant Donnes; sound intersecting with music, reacting to with or against.

Before, in speaking of Kenneth Anger, I've drawn attention to the literal magickal workings Anger makes use of when combining music & film-image. The film-image sits on its own, silent, but the film in itself is not complete until sound begins to interact with it. If the magick works, the film-image and sound combine into a new sort of totality, driven by something other than the artists' direct hand, a confluence that lets interstitial chance (invisibly permeating the world) control the resulting outcome. This sort of near-alchemy is also practiced by Marc Hurtado, though his process is different from Anger's. In the case of Marc Hurtado, the sound-work is Hurtado's own sound-work instead of found music, sound-work that exists before the images exist. In conversation, Hurtado has told me that the film is not edited to the sound; rather, the film is edited first (in camera), and after the film-image sequence is complete, Hurtado introduces sound to the film without spending any insistence on editing the sound to fit the images. Hurtado says:
"The music always exists before the images and I just put the music that [felt] good for each roll without cutting it without any timing exercise and without [even] listening [to] it, it [is] only by magical grace[;] magic is the key of all these films."
The "magical grace" that Hurtado invokes is truly the key to his films. There's a moment about halfway through Blanche where a series of three cuts (arguably quicker cuts than most other places in the film, revealing a series of three singular images [in opposition to the density of the image present throughout the duration]) match up perfectly with the soundtrack: the synchronicity is operates at a level that one would assume would have to be intentional, save for the fact that throughout the 32 minute film there are no other points where editing is tied so specifically to sound cues: as such the magical grace is felt here, as the collusion of sound and image create a sort of affect, away from any of Hurtado's own desire for control.

In fact, it's Hurtado's refusal to control, to dominate, his images that makes the film work like it does, for the images and multiple-exposures are left up to chance as well. Again, Hurtado states:
There [are] absolutely no edit[s] in these films, all the editing was made in the filming [...] when I needed a tree with flowers [and the same tree with snow within the same image] I just wait six months, putting out the roll and filming another roll [in the meanwhile].

It means that for each finish[ed] film it was 2 or 4 years of work [to have] the right mix of images, many times I [shot] 4 times each roll one over the other.

At one moment I [feel] that the film [is] finish[ed]...
The process reveals a complete reliance upon this "magical grace," for if one is to watch virtually any of Hurtado's films made between 1976 and 1996 (the date range he ascribes this working method to) is to find an almost preternatural interaction of images, the world and the body, the inside and outside, the way images move together to indicate a larger idea of gesture or the world or, again, magical grace.

While I'm not entirely sure of any intentionality in this statement, Blanche very much seems to operate as a "conclusion" to both the aforementioned body of work, spanning 1976-1996, as well as a sort of "final statement" in the cycle of films that include Aurore, Royaume, and Bleu (the music from these films is tied to a trilogy; while I'm not positive, the sound Hurtado uses for Blanche sounds like an earlier Etant Donnes piece). The work that follows Blanche (and there seems to be a void of a decade between Blanche and the more recent films) has all been shot on digital video instead of film (with the exception of Jajouka, which Marc made with his brother Eric Hurtado Super16). While the work shot on digital video (especially the majestic Le Saut and Ciel Terre Ciel) have their own distinctive feel, in their examination of light the films reveal they share the same author as the earlier work.

Though, perhaps, this is besides the point. Blanche as a film stands alone, carrying such a range of potent intensity in its exploration of the figure, the gesture, the body, the world, the outside, a timeless place of magic, of holiness, of myth. The film speaks cosmic in using superimposition to flatten the sky to the ground, the sea to the stars: as above so below.

The final few minutes of the film, which seem like a coda in and of itself, features something distinctly separate from the work that has come before it (both the first 27 minutes of the film itself, as well as all of Hurtado's work which precedes Blanche): the nude body of a woman, an other apart from the body of Marc Hurtado himself. The use of the body remains unsettled: nude, but imaged in a way where there is a tension between eroticism and fascination, as if the camera isn't sure if the body is living or dead. Perhaps there's only a placement here to recall the other, the male and female that create the use of nature [and I think this is more of a cosmic invocation than any sort of heterosexual impulse; the idea of reproduction in the world is predicated upon heterogeneity: even flowers must be penetrated]. The use of the female image becomes shocking, especially as the film refuses any sort of come down from the ecstasy it has spent a half hour carrying: and this tension at the end of the film, in many ways, provides the only way out. A way into the world from the mythic and cosmic space of magical grace.

In ecstasy of the world.

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