CINEMATEK celebrates the 100th birthday of Jacques Ledoux, founder and former director of the Belgian film archive and museum, with the screening of two films in which he appears.
Robert Beavers in a hotel room, at his work desk or stretched out on the bed, while fragments of Duvelor by Michel de Ghelderode play on the soundtrack. The superimpositions, which conjure up a phantasmagoria of faces, as well as the geometric masks, which help to isolate the images into autonomous thought nuclei, give musical tension to the film.With images of Jacques Ledoux, Dimitri Balachoff and René Micha.
“Shedding all traces of narrative in Plan of Brussels, Beavers filmed himself in a hotel room, both at his work desk and lying naked on the bed, while in rapid rhythmic cutting, and sometime in superimposition, the phantasmagoria of people he met in Brussels and images from the streets flood his mind.”
P. Adams Sitney
Tony Pipolo: At the time you were seeing things in Brussels, had you also then an idea or project of your own?
Robert Beavers: Yes, I had already made in Greece the film that would become Winged Dialogue, and I brought this with me to Brussels where it was spliced and printed. Then I began a project in the winter of 1967, called Plan of Brussels. That's what I was working on while I was seeing so many films. Actually, there are a number of people in this film with whom I had acquaintance, including brief appearances by Jacques Ledoux of the Cinematheque , the critic René Micha, and even the director of the film lab, to which we owed so much money. More than from the films that I had been seeing, the inspiration for the film came from James Ensor.
[...] Can you speak in more detail about how you create the soundtracks for your films?
I'll begin by describing the soundtracks of the six early films made between 1967 and 1970. For Plan of Brussels, I used fragments of the text Duvelor by the Belgian poet, Michel de Ghelderode. It is performed by the Toone Marionettes and has as characters, Duvelor, the devil and his wife, a monk, and others, with one voice impersonating all of the characters. I have mentioned my interest in James Ensor, and I thought that this was an interesting sound complement spoken in Brussels dialect. So I cut it to the film and added an electronic tone. I did not have access to very much equipment at that time. When I re-edited this film, I retained the text but cut and placed it differently.
Tony Pipolo in coversation with Robert Beavers1
“The film, which Beavers made soon after moving to Europe, wails with a grating recording of Michel de Ghelderode's macabre Duvelor, ou la farce du diable vieux (1931) and teems with grotesquerie - actors in heavy make-up, jolie laide women, soldiers in lock-step - as Beavers curls up, naked, on the single bed of a cheap Brussels hotel. It carries an exhilarating dissonance, a doubly exposed and thrilling depiction of the vulnerability and youthful terror of one who has not yet fallen into the luxe, calme and volupte of his later accomplishments.”
Time travel, still images, a past, present and future and the aftermath of World War III. The tale of a man, a slave, sent back and forth, in and out of time, to find a solution to the world's fate. To replenish its decreasing stocks of food, medicine and energies, and in doing so, resulting in a perpetual memory of a lone female, life, death and past events that are recreated on an airports jetée.
“This is the story of a man marked by an image from his childhood.”
opening of La jetée
“Can this film possibly substitute for the writing of a novel? To whom to attribute the continuous voice accompanying the images? By whom is this adventure told? A witness, the depersonalized essence of the hero? An experimenter? Or someone who has absolute knowledge of time, death, and the paradoxes of memory? The narrator or commentator (whoever is describing the whole experiment and its length, and who possesses knowledge of the hero’s soul–of the subject of the experiment), the one who speaks in the film, he is not its author, but the author of the novel that the film blows apart, sketches out, jettisons, cuts, and whose substance it reworks. That substance is the secret: the secret that animates the novel’s unending quest for that lost face and produces the petrified image that makes the character disappear behind the reality of an experimental subject, this nameless hero who can’t survive the conflict of images–who can’t, that is, write it down. He himself is an image, precisely the thing that the novel disperses or can never stabilize.”
“However, as each one of La Jetée’s static images lasts considerably longer than 1/24 of a second, on celluloid each still in La Jetée actually comprises dozens of replicas of itself. In presenting us with a series of frozen images, Marker dramatizes a breakdown of time’s invisible flow into a succession of visible moments that might be considered the individual atoms of time, and of our experience of time. Indeed, when the film’s hero journeys into the distant future, that new world is represented as a series of microscope images.”
Chris Marker’s original workbook used for outlining La jetée.