Thursday, September 04, 2008

Venice Biennale | Introduction by the Director

Biennale Cinema 65th Venice Film Festival
Introduction by the Director of the 65th Mostra, Marco Müller

"What is new is unforgettable"Gilles Deleuze

We resolved, for this new-four years mandate of the Cinema Section of La Biennale (for this 65th Venice Mostra), to stop, once and for all, looking at the cinema as if it were an infallible compass. No longer did we want to ask the cinema to rescue us from a problematic, ambivalent, ambiguous present: it was up to us, instead, to stay in there, not to pass over the new problems (artistic and beyond) that are being posed by the age in which we have to live. An age characterized by an evershifting profusion of images, but also without, when all is said and done, there being all that much to see.

If the cinema is no longer (or almost) the cinema, this may also bring to light aspects whose positive nature is not immediately discernible. The cinema has become a whole series of ideas, forces, properties, capacities, myths and stories. And, above all, it has turned into a new way of thinking, and an original and powerful one. So that, fortunately, when we set out to track down what, in the cinema, has come after the modern, we are always exposed to the danger of contagion, from the risk of hybridization.

For over a century the cinema has been the most fertile and relevant medium, and the most inventive; one of the constituent elements of modernity (it has never been a spare part, replaceable, interchangeable). The part of modern cinema that we have experienced as necessary, almost definitive, has had a fine set of progeny. A progeny which, in its turn, has claimed the right to persist, not to disappear gracefully once its own time has passed (as so many movements in the visual arts, architecture and literature have done); it has even claimed, instead, to be the absolute reading of the cinema, its profundity, its essence. But the idea of a modern cinema that has lasted for over half a century is a true oxymoron.

While it did last, the historical modernity of the cinema soaked up everything that was contemporary, so that the contemporary ended up aspiring to be able to coincide with an ideal of the “modern.” Now that modernity is ready to find its place in genealogy and in history, the very notion of “modern cinema” daunts us – so hard have we squeezed it, ground it up, in order to extract what might still be of use to us. And the new classifications? “Contemporary” cinema: contemporary with what? The term, in any case, designates nothing permanent or stable.

The cinema is entertainment too, and it is undoubtedly industry that organizes entertainment (Malraux’s old aphorism remains valid: the first art to have been invented from scratch is in any case an industry). Yet it is no longer the mass spectacle with enchanting effects that it once was, capable of continually renewing its own mythology and, more rarely, its own works of reference. Many of the movies that are being made, in fact, bore people rather than entertain them. They promise moviegoers the latest in aesthetic techniques (special effects: of screenplay, performance, direction, visual wizardry), but then leave them frustrated, hungry for that stimulation of the imagination and for those illusions which the cinema had been able, in other times, to guarantee them, and of which it now offers them frozen shadows (perhaps someone left the air-conditioning on, and turned up too high...).

So who will take us toward new (different) territories, unlikely continents?
While they are certainly not unprecedented or surprising, at least two hints can be found in the program of the 65th Mostra.

a) If we look beyond reflexivity, negativity and historicity, some responses to the end of modernity and the “grand narratives” can perhaps be found in the worlds (in the South, to the East) where “necessary modernity” has never really arrived.

b) Even in worlds nearer to us (in the West, in the North), the passion for the new has not vanished: a “new” which is not novelty for the purposes of publicity, but creation, the sort with a signature, which has an author and so will not disappear with the fading of the latest “new” fashion. An author of the kind who can still allow him or herself the luxury of being untimely – who believes in the new but is conscious that the future is an art of transmission (and, at times, of tradition).

The (provisional) goals of our work are these.

We have reaffirmed the futility of the consecration of Art (pet subject of the festival since the end of the Thirties) and Geography (the pointless ecumenism of a festival as “atlas of the nations and the planet”). Rather, it is now a question of putting to use our knowledge of the route covered in former times in order to come up with new tracks, helping to renew the systems of mapping.

In order to put on a 65th Festival that will be pluralistic, and therefore intentionally contradictory, we could not but place the emphasis, as a glue that would hold the works together, on the intuition of the truth that is concealed in them.
Purity, uniformity and absoluteness appeared unfeasible (because unproductive), and so we have pursued authenticity through its opposite.

Quality has counted, but even more the non- coincidence of the expressive phenomena: narrative freedom; the splendor of the forms; the pleasure of the screen; the challenge to the “common sense of the real” – the continual questioning of the idea of fiction (or of non-fiction...) and of the limits of the point of view permitted to the moviegoer.

Shuffling the cards has meant: taking unexpected risks, trying out untested solutions; recapitulating the recent phases of the “new” in cinema in order to reassess them, to relocate them in the territories to which they belong (but without covering our backs with ideology).
The variety of propositions and options, models and schemes – even of genres (we have not foregone our midnight showings) – has revived the possibility of addressing very different kinds of viewers, particularly keen to explore, to reflect and to enjoy the diverse trajectories of the program. Once again this year it is questions that we must ask of them rather than providing them with answers.

As a result of these programming choices, we like to picture the “Venice International Film Festival” as a place with a richer range of individualities, which can be formed not by assimilation but by comprehension, through an active gaze and through comparison. The future of the Festival, in the shadow of the emerging new complex of movie theaters, is undoubtedly in need of it.

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