May 09, 2013
Peter Kubelka (born March 23, 1934 in Vienna, Austria) is an Austrian experimental filmmaker. His films are primarily short experiments in linking seemingly disparate sound and images. He is best known for his 1966 avant-garde classic "Unsere Afrikareise" (Our Trip to Africa).
Kubelka made 16mm films, mostly shorts, and is known for his "flicker film" which alternates black and clear film that is projected to create a "flicker" effect. Kubelka also designed the Anthology Film Archives custom film screening space in the 1970s in New York. The theater had highly raked (tiered) seating with a cowel over each seat and visual barriers between each seat so that the audience member was totally isolated visually from other patrons. The theater was painted black and the seating was covered in black velvet. The only light in the room between film showings came from a spotlight aimed at the screen, thus insuring that the only light in the room came from the screen. The design is illustrative of the purist aesthetic of the Avant Garde film movement of that era.
Nicolas Rapold's rapturous May 2 New York Times review offers more, and follows.
Recalling the shivery sensation of watching an African sunset and immediately hearing the pounding of tribal drums, the Austrian filmmaker Peter Kubelka sensed the drummers' deep desire to communicate "the feeling that you are alive now."
It's a feeling that Mr. Kubelka embodies with every ecstatic minute of his movies — or, as he puts it in Martina Kudlacek's exceptional documentary "Fragments of Kubelka," every "now moment." Engaging and thorough, Ms. Kudlacek's film is a charismatic extended performance by a philosopher-poet who may change the way you think about art, time, and raspberries.
A pillar of experimental cinema and film culture, the 79-year-old Mr. Kubelka has made only eight brief movies. But all are visceral, material celebrations of the medium of film, which seems to grow ever scarcer in the digital era. Raised in a rural village, he first turned heads as a hungry young artist in 1950s Vienna by fulfilling advertising commissions for a nightclub with black-and-white silhouettes overlaid with Pygmy music ["Adebar"; below],
and then, for a beer brand, [Schwechater; commercial below]
scenes of drinking rendered through the use of complex staccato editing, sonic debris, and intermittent color.
Mr. Kubelka's efforts elicited such ire that he fled for a time to Sweden, but he continued his frame-by-frame artisanship into the 1960s, undeterred, with the handmade, strobelike short "Arnulf Rainer" (named for the painter; below),
a minutely calibrated, filmic heartbeat. An assignment to chronicle a backslapping Austrian safari, "Unsere Afrikareise" ; part 1 up top) becomes in his hands an exquisite examination of the rituals of Eros, Thanatos, and power. With "Pause!" (1977; part 1 below)
he collaborated with Mr. Rainer to create a vibrant deconstruction of breathing and gesture, while his latest work, "Monument Film," exhibited in last year's New York Film Festival, involved both double projections and an installation of entire filmstrips tacked to the walls.
"Fragments of Kubelka" delves into these audiovisually inventive films and fills out his career with his roles in conceiving the Essential Cinema canon and the Invisible Cinema at Anthology Film Archives, as well as serving as a director of the Austrian Film Museum. But Mr. Kubelka, a longtime professor, addresses much more here than his own modernist oeuvre.
Like Stan Brakhage and Ken Jacobs, fellow pioneers of the avant-garde, the invariably vest-and-shirt-clad Mr. Kubelka spins out theories that run deep. An opening sequence at his kitchen table leads into an insightful, elemental discussion of tools, of which he has collected several ancient examples. Later, samples of his culinary lectures and clips from his 1970s cooking show on Channel 13 demonstrate his abiding belief in the primacy of food and even its superiority to language.
If "Fragments of Kubelka" demands an investment of time, Mr. Kubelka rewards it. In his films and his ceaseless explorations, he affirms time as grounded in the rhythm of life rather than measured as a countdown to death.
"Fragments of Kubelka" opens Friday in Manhattan. Conceived, directed, and produced by Martina Kudlacek; At the Anthology Film Archives, 32-34 Second Avenue, at Second Street, East Village. Running time: 3 hours 53 minutes.
YouTube has the majority of his eight films to date.
Videre est credere.
Or maybe not.
May 9, 2013 at 08:01 AM | Permalink
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