Image: Claudio Cretti


Comment on the film by Júlio Bressane

The great presupposition that allows the understanding of contemporary art resides in what should be called angular. Angular comes from an angle, it is an installation from a point of view, and through the angle one can see the point assumed by the artist to configure the object of his creation. The art of our time explores the angular to the reach of its ultimates, through boredom and even its negation: the point is transmuted, for example, into a concept, or into Happening, and stuff like that.

However, in its essence, even when denied, art claims the point of view: the view from a certain angle will determine the nature of the work done in all its dimensions. And nothing special is advanced by saying that this is the very definition of cinema and even the principle of its possibility. However, I'm a virgin, I haven't read anything, not even the sacred Deleuze. But I saw, as is usually seen, with the voyeurism of film clubs, a lot, all or almost. That, however, is now the past.

Today, I start imagining another cinema, the dawn of a new art, which I can't even imagine where they will be. The promise remains: if all goes well, cinema manages to pose this bigger problem - the very future of art. That is to say: of art as a synthesis of the arts and as the place where the basic values ​​of society come together. It is known that great art has always resided in this double conjugation. And it is in this upheaval, updated and absolutely necessary, that cinema's raison d'être resides. What is at stake in cinema -and I am thinking of this art here as a detail embedded in a greater vocation- focuses on the meaning that cinema can offer in the context of a horizon that is only announced.

But now everything goes through that angular reference. Here, nothing new. The angular, deep down, boils down to a matter of discipline of the look. And education for such a discipline undoubtedly boasts a beautiful history, starting with the unusual privilege that the Greeks lent to sight; by that it is understood, for example, that the angular hides the very meaning of the evolution of the plastic arts.

This is how David manages, with his highly theatrical classicity, to bring all the sequences and consequences of the disaster of a war or all the splendor of Napoleon's coronation under the gaze's control. This culture of the gaze ends up developing so strongly that, through well-known paths, the angular itself becomes an art object; it is as if there were, then, a diopter installed at the back of the eye to determine the principles of everything that is seen, that is, in the angularity of the constructed composition, and that this diopter, as if prescribed by a force majeure, started to film herself. Of course angular is first and foremost a cultural entity. Discarded the priority of the concept-limit that is the innocent look, angular if you want language as a principle of construction, now taken to its possible extremes.

What has just been said constituted a true starting point for understanding contemporary art. Evidently, things have become too complex to admit any kind of conceptual reductionism. Oblivious to this bias, I am thinking here of the very specific particularity of cinema. And I draw attention to two of its aspects.

The first concerns art in general and is linked to the aforementioned concept of language. What can be seen, however, is something like a subversion of language. Because language can be said to be primarily referential: one talks about something, about a reality other than that of language itself. The subversion stems entirely from the fact that, in the art of our time, language transforms itself into a referential, it makes itself a referential of itself.

It is accepted that the external reference to language itself may or may not subsist, and in many ways, but it happens that things are no longer concentrated there.
The well-worn example of Picasso serves here: he never abandoned the so-called figurative reference, but that does not prevent it from being said that he was perhaps the most abstract of all painters, the most concentrated in that immense laboratory that is the research of plasticity in its its own texture, in its specific language. In this sense, the arts have become an essentially experimental activity.

But it should be noted that this experimental nature does not mean that art is condemned to dealing with the provisional, immersed in a transience situated short of the supposed great objective to be achieved; experiences no longer live by waiting for the great dawn to consecrate the definitive. What happens is that experimentalism absorbs in itself the totality of meaning of artistic invention itself. The experience now resides entirely in the invention of that angular. It is the discovery of this experience in the cinematographic language that feeds the interest of all cinephiles, of all cinema club goers.

This brings us to the second point, which is totally attuned to the nature of cinema. I return here to the issue of the meaning of the angular, and the question focuses on what cinema managed to do with the angular. The essence of angular is in the eye, in the act of looking: I need to stop to see the painting, sit down to watch the theatrical performance. And it is precisely this staticity that changes in cinema to the point where it can be said that the seventh art should be seen as the most significant, the most revolutionary in the general context of contemporary arts. This is true even if it turns out that the vast majority of films have nothing to do with what is being claimed – worse for such films, one would say. Evidently, the cinema spectator is also paralyzed sitting, but he as if he attributes a kind of delegation of powers, mediated by the filmmaker, to the camcorder.

Cinema is not defined so much by the image, but by the mobility of the angle. Even when static, it is this mobility that constitutes the determining principle of the image, and not the other way around. The angular thus becomes extremely mobile, so mobile, or anti-mobile – and I am already starting to talk about Bressane's film – that the camcorder manages to swallow even the spectator. It is soon seen that the experimental character invites to assume improvisations of all sorts, the attempts of essayism even become a kind of rule to be scrutinized. But, unlike amateurism – which is, it should be noted, a profoundly contemporary phenomenon –, the experimental manages to rise to the level of language maturity.

What I am saying has nothing to do with the subordination to aesthetics invented by the moderns; it has to do, yes, with the very invention of aesthetics and for that very reason, perhaps, with its overcoming. Well, let's advance, with a certain pomp, that the advent of aesthetics takes place in the space of the crisis of metaphysics and it is possibly in this crisis that which must be overcome. This is because the process of language maturation proves to be rebellious to aesthetics and all its orders. My pretentious question focuses entirely on this essential point: how Julio Bressane stands in the face of the only really essential issue, that of language.

To a large extent, it can be said that Bressane's creative film sets the traps of a large and well-constructed trap. I mean that he mimics things that are usually presented as belonging to the very nature of cinema. After all, the cinema that we usually see is structured, starting with the privilege given to the optical element, based on coordinates that were defined throughout the evolution of the arts and modern aesthetics – cinema, in that sense, ends up presenting a character sharply conventional and conveys precisely what has become the principle of the death of art, a type of sufficiency of the image that opposes everything to the new tidbits that are in the very invention of cinema. But it doesn't even seem that Bressane is really concerned about that, and for a very simple reason: it's just that his beach is different and his commitment is entirely focused on building a language.

What arouses curiosity and seems to me to be pointed out as true daimon Inspiring in his essentially provocative undertaking is that Bressane explores a language that is at the opposite end of cinema that is fond of our habits. What cinematographically is usually seen is in the sufficiency of the image, seen as the essence of cinema. Of course, Bressane's camcorder is also immersed in this sufficiency – the painter paints, Bressane films. It turns out that, in the case of our film, things get complicated. That sufficiency – and this is just the starting point – now takes refuge in the spaces of memory, in a certain rupture that denounces the instantaneity of the image. Along these lines, Bressane ends up creating a poetics of bastardy.

To a large extent, memory is one of its nourishing elements. If one starts from the idea that cinema is all in the splendor of the image and that the image lives itself in the instantaneous moment of its happening, Bressane as if returning the image to its first fruits, to its primeval anteriority, and everything becomes quote. The citation takes place at the level of the image and speech, and it is so insistent that the images now take place on the plane of reflexivity, in a kind of shamelessness that coldly strips away the fertility of the origins: already by the simple insistence on the presence of the image – the suicide, for example, is self-quotation; and the very image of the book, or books, of the inspiring aspects is soon shown, and repeatedly, the book is claiming to speak of itself and the film, in a way, has already happened in these aspects, it becomes Brás Vats, reflection on reflection. And at the same time there is that almost disembodied manner of the character Miramar, who sees in the love of the sea, in the repeatability of the waters that come and go, in the anteriority of the sameness of his own invention, the principle of all pedagogy – even water is memory.

Thus, reality as a whole, at all its levels, is already concentrated on the consistency of the citation, the citation that reflexively wants to be a citation and which, for that very reason, rushes into the vacuum of image elimination. But it happens that, through this vacuum, with a certain insistence, the image pursues the very meaning of its genesis. And cinema is invented. It's as if the film had already been made from all eternity, in the memorylessness of water and stone, in the orgiastic body that faints or in the word denied in the book's stability. Of course, everything is just fiction, but the big culprit is the image; and the judge is almost denied angular mobility in its raison d'être.

Allow me this exaggeration: all things considered, we are witnessing an anti-cinema that wants to displace the spectator from his visual habits. If the cinemacity of cinema resides completely, as they say, in the succession of images that seek to complete themselves in their own movement, then cinema completely exhausts itself in an aesthetics of movement, a movement that made the expression compulsive. The End; around, any insistence on the static only underscores the excellence of the movement. Now, movement means time, and time is consequently instituted as a fundamental category of cinema.

Well, isn't it that Bressane interferes in this order of things and chooses space as his basic category? Category means: the most general name of things. Not that everything is simply in space, like the stable apple resting on the tray. But the film begs to be seen as an attempt to construct space, spatial angularity, with a form of dynamism in which one seeks, as it were, to embody the spatiality of the being. Space then offers a thickness that escapes the fluidity of time and which is like its concentration. Hence the sense of the so-to-speak photographic staticity of the image or repetition explored by the film. The fixity of being of the image questions precisely the homogeneous reality of time.

I temporize and say that Bressane's time is another one that one sees in the usual cinema. It is a time that undoubtedly takes place on different levels, in different ways: there is, for example, a certain material sequence of images, there is a narration, there is a whole Bildungsroman, the formation of a young filmmaker almost struggling with what is not even a mismatch with himself; faith subsists in its entirety: it is a question of making a filmmaker through events that are not so painful in their lack of psychology, not so picturesque in their taste for deconstruction.

It is said that Douanier Rousseau said of his paintings that they were realistic, contrary to what his colleague Picasso did, in everything Egyptian. Bressane's delusions also pass through there. And what is at stake, once again, as with Douanier and Picasso, is nothing less than the deconstruction of cinema, realism becomes limping and the Egyptian element does not go beyond a limit-concept. The extremely diverse eruption of music, so essentially temporal, cannot hide a certain discomfort, but it also exhibits the satisfaction of a certain exaggeration. The film, incidentally, thrives on that: a certain amount of exaggeration. And everything configuring a temporality that, in a certain way, lives on the denial of itself.

For there is a kind of dialectic that runs through the film from end to end. On the one hand, for example, the repeated images in black and white, which insist on offering the innocuousness of their own frenzy, in an opposing movement of a purely formal nature and without sequences – in the manner of a collage extracted from some outdated archive. And on the other hand, and mainly, this: the presence of a really remarkable plastic staticity. It's as if suddenly the angularity of the movement was only satisfied in the fullness of the moment. There is no lack of nostalgia for the archeological and disfigured torso of Apollo.

But everything wants plasticity, everything allows itself to be established in the intensification of the moment, in the search for a firmness that condenses in itself the meaning and non-meaning of the whole. The love of the sea already manages to escape the unstable laws of its mobility. Or else, two naked bodies, fixed forever in their ephemeral voluptuousness, plastically pouring themselves out to meet death. Or, still, the composition of the portrait, chasing its own frame. The film knows very well the weight of voluptuousness and knows that everything is strictly lost in the random encounter. And this already seems to be valid, in the first place, for the nature of cinema: the beauty of the image is coupled with its randomness.
Through these paths Júlio Bressane becomes an esthete: he explores the biases of cinematographic language, he wants to know its meaning, and in its entirety.

What matters is precisely the following: it is not about the elaboration of a theoretical aesthetic that is used to abstract spaces and which would subsequently be applied, but the creation of an aesthetic through the making of a film. There is, it is visible, the exuberance of this creation, but there is also, accompanying it, the investigation of those shadows that are the limits of the wanderings of cinema and even of art in general. The candor of the Miramar character is perhaps nothing more than the prospect of death itself. I opt for expectation: cinema will certainly be just the first step of a totally different art. Bressane believed in this confluence of borders.

* Gerd Bornheim (1929-2002) was professor of philosophy at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Art philosophy pages (Wow).

Originally published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul [https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/mais/fs22029806.htm]



Brazil, 1997, 82 minutes

Directed by: Julio Bressane

Photography: José Tadeu Ribeiro

Editing: Virginia Flores

Cast: João Rebello, Giulia Gam, Diogo Vilela, Fernanda Torres, Louise Cardoso


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