Thursday, July 25, 2013

Muta (2011)

WHO: Lucrecia Martel directed this.

WHAT: Although this short work was commissioned as part of a series of high-end advertisements for an Italian brand of women's clothing, it's of much greater interest than most such (literally) commercial projects I've seen. Its storyline is as simple as it is enigmatic: a swarm of supermodel-shaped women behave rather like insects aboard an otherwise-abandoned ship. Interestingly, none of the women's faces are seen head-on or even in profile, which for me created an unsettling realization of the intensity of my desire to see faces attached to attractive screen bodies, which I'm sure I'd never have become aware of had it not been withheld. And though this conceit may have originated in an attempt to get viewers to focus less on the women and more on their clothes, that did not consciously happen in my case. Instead I found myself admiring the catalog of methods Martel uses to avoid showing the faces, from keeping the actresses heads turned away from the camera, or covered by a mask or hands, to keeping them out of frame, underlit, or out of focus.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens at the Yerba Buena Center For the Arts tonight and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00.

WHY: YBCA announced a good portion of its 2013-2014 season earlier this month, and some of the Film/Video department highlights are definitely worth anticipating. Annual events like the British Arrow Awards, the Human Rights Watch Festival, and the New Filipino Cinema series are planned to return (in January, March and June of 2014, respectively). I've mentioned before the Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective expected to run concurrently there, at the Roxie, and at the Pacific Film Archive, but now I know that YBCA's portion, at least, will happen over a three month period from October to December of 2013.

Also in November and December of this year there will be a series called "Age Limit May Vary in Certain Areas: A History of X-Rated Cinema", which, according to the promotional blurb, "looks back at a time when “adult cinema” meant something more than just porn." I can't resist speculating about films that might be brought in such a series (Visconti's The Damned? Russell's The Devils? Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris?) but the only concrete series title listed in the pdf version of the season preview is one of the last films to receive the X rating from the MPAA, and the first to receive the newly-created substitute NC-17 in 1990, Philip Kaufman's Henry and June.

But the above is only a partial list of upcoming screenings, and was presumably drawn up before the confirmed bookings of Benito Bautista's Harana, making nine repeat appearances in August after two sold-out screenings and the taking of the audience award at the New Filipino Cinema festival last month, or of a pair of documentaries on street art playing this September.

But before all that, there's this weeks' screening of Matías Piñeiro's Viola. I was as confounded as I was intrigued by Piñeiro's previous film Rosalinda a.k.a. Hold On, Rosalind at the venue three years ago; that 43-minute work was launched by Shakespeare's As You Like It while Viola relates to a play I'm a little more familiar with, The Twelfth Night. The numerous recommendations I've encountered make me very excited to see Viola, and I'm very pleased that its 65-minute run-time allowed YBCA programmer Joel Shepard to include Muta beforehand to help catch Frisco Bay audiences up with the work of two current Argentine directors at once.

HOW: Muta and Viola screen together digitally, and I'm almost certain both were shot on digital cameras.


  1. Brian: I await better info than "almost certain." I notice YBCA recently showed Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux, which was shot on film (see interview in recent American Cinematographer) on video.

  2. No question that Viola was shot on video after seeing it last night. I liked it a lot, though perhaps not as much as my friend Ryland.

  3. Thanks for following up, I will have to skip for now.

  4. Sorry to hear. It was pretty wonderful.