A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Camera Buff (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1979)

Malgorzata Zabkowska and Jerzy Stuhr in Camera Buff
Filip Mosz: Jerzy Stuhr
Irka Mosz: Malgorzata Zabkowska
Anna Wlodarczyk: Ewa Pokas
The Director: Stefan Czyzewski
Osuch: Jerzy Nowak
Witek: Tadeusz Bradecki
Piotr: Marek Litewka
Warwzyniec: Tadeusz Rzepka

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jerzy Stuhr
Cinematography: Jacek Petrycki
Music: Krzysztof Knittel

Film, said Jean-Luc Godard, is "truth 24 times a second." But as Oscar Wilde put it, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple," which is the problem amateur filmmaker Filip Mosz runs into when he begins to devote his life to making movies. Filip, a purchasing agent for a state-run factory in the Polish town of Wielice, buys a Russian-made 8mm camera when his first child is born. His wife, Irka, is not entirely thrilled by the purchase, which cost him two months' salary, and she grows even more disenchanted when he devotes more and more time to his new hobby. Filming his new daughter takes up less and less of his time after the director of the factory says he will buy film for Filip if he will make a documentary about an anniversary celebration of the factory's founding, at which numerous Communist Party higher-ups will be present. Filip throws himself whole-heartedly into the project, going to movies more often and reading film books to pick up tips about filmmaking technique. When the director sees the film he makes some suggestions for cuts: Don't show the bigwigs slipping out of the meeting to go to the bathroom, for example, and what's with all the insert shots of pigeons? And then Anna, a pretty representative of the state film commission, shows up to suggest that Filip enter his movie in a festival celebrating industrial filmmaking. This only adds fuel to Irka's jealousy of Filip's avocation. Filip takes third prize at the festival -- after a judge proclaims that none of the films entered deserved a first prize -- and attracts the notice of a TV station in Krakow, which is interested in news footage from Wielice. As Filip's filmmaking career snowballs, however, so do his troubles: The neglected Irka leaves him, and the director informs him that the footage he has sent to the TV station, revealing that renovation funds for the town have been misused, has caused some projects, like a nursery school, to be canceled, and that he has had to fire some of Filip's fellow workers. Camera Buff is clearly a fable, about the compulsiveness that drives and sometimes destroys artists, as well as a rather oblique satire on the dreariness of Polish life under communist rule. At the end of the film, Filip is reduced to filming perhaps the only thing he can be sure of: himself.

Watched on Filmstruck Criterion Channel

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