In the time of the Lumiere brothers and Thomas Edison, the world’s earliest filmmakers took their novel filmmaking gadgets with them when they traveled to record their experiences. This desire has generated different types of travel cinema, ranging from expeditionary and ethnographic films to home videos and road movies. The latest installment of POP Cinema, Voyage/Displacement (旅行─移動), revisits this essential cinematic form.
“We cut ourselves off from reality and the past in order to make ourselves ready for a cinematic experience,” says festival curator Wang Pai-chang (王派章). “But as a film unfolds, the noises of reality intrude … The real and the unreal, the past and present intertwine, split and reconnect. It is a process that never ceases to repeat, proliferate and change.”
In the brooding epic Route One/USA (1989), American independent filmmaker Robert Kramer, one of the US’ most forceful dissenters in the 1960s, returns home with a 16mm camera after 10 years of self-exile in Europe. Traveling with “Doc,” a fictional character played by his childhood friend Paul McIsaac, Kramer embarks on a five-month journey from the beginning of Route One in Maine to its terminus in Florida. The line between documentary and fiction is blurred as Kramer uses encounters with his fellow countrymen to create a portrait of America and how it has changed during his long absence.
Between 1993 and 1996 renowned French photographer, journalist and filmmaker Raymond Depardon took a voyage of his own through his beloved Africa. In Africa, How Are You With Pain (1996), Depardon questions his responsibility as an image maker and confronts his own prejudices. Like Kramer he is acutely aware of the difficulties he must confront while making his film and does so with great compassion and respect.
What: Voyage/Displacement (旅行─移動)
When and Where: Today through Jan. 16 at Spot — Taipei Film House (光點—台北之家), 18, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市中山北路二段18號); Jan. 3 through Jan. 16 at Kaohsiung Film Archive (高雄電影圖書館), 10 Hesi Rd, Yancheng Dist, Kaohsiung (高雄市鹽埕區河西路10號)
admission: Tickets for Taipei screenings are NT$170 and are available at NTCH ticket outlets or online at www.artsticket.com.tw. All screenings at Kaohsiung Film Archive are free
On the Net: www.twfilm.org/voyage
A different route is taken by a young couple in Lucie et Maintenant — Journal Nomade (2007). Traveling from Paris to Marseille in an old Volkswagen bus, the pair undertakes the same journey Argentine writer Julio Cortazar and his lover Carol Dunlop took 25 years ago and follows the same rule that requires them to stop at each service area they pass and spend the night in every second one. What is normally a seven-hour drive takes 33 days as nuanced details, small moments, humming sounds and voices are woven into a poetry piece of voyage and nostalgia.
Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, one of the most important contemporary directors in Africa, Waiting for Happiness (2002) tells a tale of departure. Seventeen-year-old Abdallah visits his mother in his hometown of Nouadhibou on the West African coast before embarking for Europe. Estranged from his own community and language, the young man struggles to decipher the world around him.
Taking the road movie genre in an alternative direction, Home (2008) opens with a family living in a ramshackle house alongside an abandoned highway. One night, workers and their machines arrive to resurface the road and put it back into service. Facing four-lane traffic day and night, the family, unable to leave, quickly disintegrates as its members are forced to deal with inner turmoil and eccentricity.
In 1965, legendary Polish director Wojciech Has (often compared with David Lynch) made what has now become a timeless cult movie, The Saragossa Manuscript. Based on the massive novel The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Count Jan Potocki, with its rich folkloric elements, surreal sensitivity, bawdy humor, Jewish mysticism and supernatural themes, the film follows a charming young Belgian captain traveling across 17th-century Spain. The officer becomes spellbound by an old manuscript he finds in an abandoned house, and dreamlike adventures ensue, which escalate into a mind-bending, labyrinthine narrative where characters pass from one story to another.