What happened when theater master Samuel Beckett met American maestro of comedy Buster Keaton in a 1965 silent short entitled Film? How deep into the mysterious abyss of desire did the great German choreographer and dancer Pino Bausch plunge in her first and only cinematic work to date called The Complaint of an Empress? The touring film festival Through a Glass Darkly, organized by the Taiwan Film and Culture Association (台灣電影文化協會), consists of 22 hard-to-find movies made by, or featuring, international heavyweight theater directors, and is set to open up a mind-blowing vista on the hybrid wonderland of cinema and theater starting today at Spot.
In classical theater, the script is definitive, and members of the audience are treated as readers who comprehend the narrative through the actorss' speech. The film festival's organizers have not positioned Through a Glass Darkly within this paradigm. Rather, the films to be screened sneer at the faithful representation of the script and use cinematic elements of imagery, light, shadows, sounds, voices and fragmented narratives to represent the meaining of a text.
“The theater directors we selected were all deemed heretical by the orthodox theater circle since they crossed over freely to different media, bringing elements from the visual arts and cinema to the art of theater and enriching the cinematic form with theatrical aesthetics,” said the festival's curator Wang Pai-chang (王派章).
The Great unknowns
Though the names of Jan Fabre, Ariane Mnouchkine or Christoph Martler may sound foreign to local theater-goers, all the subjects introduced in the festival are influential figures in contemporary theater scene, said Wang, who laments the dearth of world-class performances by international masters in Taiwan.
What: Through a Glass Darkly – Great Films by Master Stage Directors> (穿過劇場的玻璃 – 劇場導演的影像創作)
When and where: Today through Aug. 25 at SPOT – Taipei Film House (台北之家－光點電影院), 18 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2, Taipei (台北市中山北路二段18號); Sept. 1 through Sept. 10 at Kaohsiung Film Archive (高雄市電影圖書館), 10 Hesi Rd, Yencheng Dist, Kaohsiung (高雄縣鹽埕區河西路10號); Sept. 3 to Sept. 27 at the Performance Hall of Taoyuan County Government, Cultural Bureau (桃園縣政府文化局演藝廳), 21 Hsienfu Rd, Taoyuan (桃園市縣府路21號); Sept. 14 to Sept. 17 at Hsinchu Municipal Image Museum (新竹影像博物館), 65 Chungcheng Rd, Hsinchu City (新竹市中正路65號).
Tickets: For Taipei, NT$180 for non-members and NT$150 for members, available through NTCH ticketing outlets nationwide or at www.artsticket.com.tw; for Hsinchu, NT$100 at the door. Screenings in Taoyuan and Kaohsiung are free of charge. For more information, visit http://www.spot.org.tw
Belgian artist Jan Fabre is almost unknown in Taiwan. A controversial performing artist, choreographer and visual artist, Fabre is famous for employing nudity, self-mutilation, blood, urine and semen in his works that challenge bourgeoisie morality. His film Les Guerriers de la Beaute, is a phantasmagoria of elements taken from his art works.
Composer, theater director and filmmaker Meredith Monk is a versatile artist who produces multi-disciplinary works. The festival will screen her first feature film Book of Days , a work that presents poetic imagery of the Middle Ages alongside images of contemporary religious conflicts, nuclear proliferation and the HIV epidemic. The soundtrack features Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble and has become a sought-after edition to contemporary music enthusiasts' collections.
Besides the works in the interdisciplinary category, films made by theater directors dedicated to cross-cultural studies are also on the bill.
Having ventured into different foreign cultures ranging from Chinese, Japanese to Indian and Tibetan, Ariane Mnouchkine, director of the famed French contemporary theater group Theatre du Soleil, is known for her innovative methods of blending Oriental theatrical forms with the Western tradition of realism. A cinematic rendition of the classical play Tambours sur la Digue first stage in 1999, Mnouchkine's film of the same name is a mix of live theater and puppetry inspired by Japanese Noh and Bunraku theater in which female roles are played by masked painted actors manipulated by black-clad handlers.