Une Femme Coquette may not sound like anything special—a 9-minute no-budget short film, shot on a borrowed 16mm camera by a 24-year-old amateur with no formal film school training. But the short, which was the subject of our article “Neither lost nor found: On the trail of an elusive icon’s rarest film” back in 2014, has for decades been a sought-after item for art-house buffs and rare movie fiends. Filmed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1955, it was the first attempt at a narrative film by the iconic French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard—a pivotal figure in the evolution of movie style, who would make his feature debut just five years later, with the hugely influential and perennially cool Breathless.
Never distributed, Une Femme Coquette has had less than half a dozen public screenings since the 1960s; we were able to track down the only known 16mm print to a national film archive in Europe, where it was being stored unlisted for a private owner, to be loaned out only with the personal permission of Jean-Luc Godard himself. This makes it the holy grail of the game-changing New Wave era—a film so rare that it has often been listed as lost by biographies and film history books. And it might as well have been. No other surviving narrative film by a major, big-name director has been as difficult to see—until now.
Earlier this week, a copy of Une Femme Coquette surfaced on the digital back channels frequented by obscure movie enthusiasts. An enterprising user named David Heslin has uploaded this rarity of rarities to YouTube, complete with English subtitles. Credited to “Hans Lucas,” a German pseudonym that the Franco-Swiss Godard would sometimes employ during his brief career as a film critic, Une Femme Coquette was the budding director’s modern update of a Guy De Maupassant short story called “The Signal.”
via AV Club
Icarus Films has announced the acquisition of all North American rights to Eryk Rocha’s new feature documentary on the Brazilian film movement, which is also titled “Cinema Novo.” Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the “intricately edited” film combines film clips from the major works of the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement and period interviews with its leading filmmakers, including auteur filmmakers Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Carlos Diegues, Ruy Guerra, Leon Hirszman, Walter Lima Jr., Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Paulo César Saraceni, Jorge Bodanzky, Orlando Senna, and Glauber Rocha (father of the documentary’s director Eryk Rocha), as well as of singer Ava Rocha, whose music is featured in the film.
These notable, although mostly unknown (in the USA) filmmakers pushed boundaries with aesthetically bold films that used non-professional actors and low-budget production techniques to tackle social issues; films including “Black God, White Devil,” and “Ganga Zumba” (both previously highlighted on this blog), as well as “Barren Lives” and “Iracema.”
The distribution agreement was signed by Jonathan Miller, Icarus Films, and Sandro Fiorin, FiGa Films.
Watch a trailer for “Cinema Novo” below:
via Shadow and Act
The Plan is directed by Steve Sprung, long time Karlin collaborator and former member of Cinema Action and Poster Film Collective. The Lucas Plan was a pioneering effort by workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. It remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change.
Read more at The Lucas Pan 40th Anniversary
This video essay from Fandor was made for the Thought in Action: The Art of the Essay Film season at the BFI in August 2013. It’s creator Kevin B Lee was commissioned by the BFI to explore the somewhat indefinable genre essay film. Lee says “I spent several weeks reflecting on what the essay film is. This led to a video essay and text published via the BFI’s magazine Sight & Sound that aimed to argue for what true value this as-yet loosely-defined mode of filmmaking could bring to a world that is already drowning in media. Using the video essay to take a polemical stance was a galvanizing experience for me, as it clarified a great deal of my own sense of purpose in being a film critic in a landscape where critical opinions are abundantly available. This video features the work of Santiago Alvarez, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais and many others”.
This stylish, low-budget and heartfelt campaigning film was made by the London Film-makers Co-operative, “in solidarity with the miners”. Shot on 35mm and originally screened before the main feature in independent cinemas around the UK during 1984-85, it was presented as an ‘advert’. Buckets were passed around and the money raised was given to the fund for striking miners. The year-long Miners’ Strike resulted in widespread hardship; many groups and individuals took part in fundraising ventures to support the strikers.
Director Richard Philpott had a background making unusual, experimental films about political causes. He usually shot on 16mm but in this case worked on 35mm so that the film could be screened alongside traditional narrative feature films. Philpott was a member of the London Filmmakers’ Co-operative, an organisation founded on left wing, non-hierarchical principles. The film parallels the darkness of the mining pit with the darkness of the cinema space while also highlighting the illuminatory force of the miners and the power of working together. It was made with an immediate, specific purpose in mind but still conveys its urgent, poetic qualities, even when viewed today.
Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Marker’s documentary film, Description d’un combat/Description of a Struggle, examines the condition and circumstances of the young state of Israel and its citizens. The film was made at the time when the Israeli state was 12 years old, and borrows its title from Kafka’s short story It explores the historical, social, cultural and ethical contexts at the heart of Israel’s existence, and the impact of the tragic and not so distant past on the collective psyche of the nation.
Read more from Boris Trbic ‘s article on Senses of Cinema
Chris Marker prevented the broadcast description of a fight a few years after his shooting. In his article “The film hidden by Chris Marker,” published in Cahiers du Cinema from October 2013 (. No. 693, p 59), Ariel Schweitzer believes that this decision is probably for political reasons; He writes in 1967, Israel no longer represents this utopia which attracted Marker in the early 1960s, during which time he also went to China and Cuba to search for models of alternative society.
Channel 4’s weekly press packs (1982-2002) ‘were the most comprehensive digest of programme information that any UK broadcaster supplied to the press’ and they offer an unique insight into Marc Karlin’s creative approach towards his ‘Nicaragua’ series. The films were broadcast on consecutive Monday nights at 10pm from 14th October 1985, in Channel 4’s The Eleventh Hour slot. Early promotion of Nicaragua lists working titles to each of the films and from these titles its clear that Karlin purposefully staggered the mode of address for the television audience. Karlin’s believed that for a new and foreign audience to discover post-revolutionary Nicaragua in 1985, they would have to sift through the existing filters imposed by mainstream broadcasters that had left Nicaragua and its history entirely obscured.
First on the production schedule was Voyages From Far Away. It was a studio shoot, filmed in London. Displays bearing blown stills of Susan Meiselas’ photography depicting the two insurrections in Nicaragua 1978/79 were erected to allow Jonathan Bloom’s (the cinematographer on the series) camerawork to glide around them. Karlin believed that before geographically going to Nicaragua you had to interrogate the images coming out of the country first. This rule applied not just to the audience, but also to the film crew who would then travel to Nicaragua after the studio shot. From then on, with each segment, the camera and the audience would get closer to Nicaragua. The second film is an ‘establishing shot’ concentrating on the wide-ranging efforts of Sandinistas to recover their buried history. Then, there is ‘medium close up’ documenting the daily process of a Nicaragua newspaper. Finally, ‘a close up’, with a portrait of farmers in one of the most reactionary regions of Nicaragua, voicing their memories and their future fears.
The first film, Voyages From Far Away, this programme captures the inherent contradictions which inevitably result from being an outside in the middle of somebody else’s political struggle.
The second film, Nearer – The Making of a Nation examines how the Nicaraguans are recovering a sense of their own history, and through that a sense of their own nationhood, after half a century of being ruled as if they were a private limited company owned by the Somoza family.
The third film, Medium Close Up – In Their Time documents the way the Sandinsita newspaper, Barricada represents Nicaragua to its readers through several different reports on the war, the economy, the prison system and the political process leading up to the elections.
The final film, Portrait of a Region, is a more ethnographic film on the daily life of a village during the elections.
A booklet, New Independents on Four, produced by the Channel 4’s Independent Film and Video Department in 1983, comments,
…Karlin goes behind familiar Third World imagery to explore the deeper hidden feeling of what is at stake in a country like Nicaragua, developing for itself a new identity, nationhood and memory. What tensions and strains twist and contort that process in a country that builds itself between the conflicting claims of the USA (the heroic socialist struggle) and the Catholic church (the divine hand of God). Marc Karlin’s work through films like The Nightcleaners and 36 to 77 has been crucial to the development of new documentary forms adequate to the complexities of contemporary reality; in an invaluable combination of analysis, reflexivity and feeling his work points towards a truly politically responsive cinema…
Indeed, Karlin had received criticism from some quarters, notably The Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, for not producing a tubthumping portrayal of this new socialist utopia. But as Karlin’s partner Hermione Harris, who was in Nicaragua at the time of the revolution, points out Karlin’s films are not triumphalist works,
…The Sandinistas often referred to the revolution as ‘el processo’. In spite of all the written accounts, it is the moving image that can most clearly represent the process of social, political and economic change… it was also uneven and messy, contending with inexperience, inefficiency and apathy. Revolutions are made by people, not just philosophies and political slogans, and it is the ordinary Nicaraguan that Marc made visible – there is hardly a comandante, an FSLN leader, in sight… This focus on real lives leaves space for contradiction and opposition…
It is for this reason that Karlin stated his frustration of the scheduling of Werner Herzog’s film Ballad of the Little Soldier in a letter to Alan Fountain, the commissioning editor of the Channel 4’s Independent Film and Video Department. Herzog’s film focuses on the Miskito Indians, a group located in north Nicaragua who had formed anti-Sandinista guerrilla style organisations. The channel broadcast the film in between Karlin’s Nicaragua series on the basis of ‘bringing balance’ to the debate, something that Karlin thought he had already delivered upon.
Fountain, Alan. (1982) New Independents On Four. London: Channel Four.
Sandino Vive – Marc Karlin’s Nicaragua Series By Hermione Harris, Vertigo Volume 2 | Issue 7 | Autumn-Winter 2004
Marc Karlin – Look Again. Edited by Holly Aylett. Available here
Monday 14 October 1985, 10.00-10.50pm on Channel Four
With current speculation about the future of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua – under constant pressure from Washington – these four documentaries offer timely insights into the country and its situation. They were made by British independent Marc Karlin and commissioned for The Eleventh Hour, but have now been given a slightly earlier Monday slot.
Tonight’s opening programme looks at Nicaragua through the testimony and the photographs of American Susan Meiselas, hailed as the star photographer of the world-renowed Magnum agency, who became personally involved with the Sandinista forces while capturing their revolution on film. Between 1978 and 1979 she was in Nicaragua where she photographed the two revolutionary insurrections which led to the overthrow of the Somoza family, who for 50 years had led the dictatorship of the country. Her photographs were the means by which many people glimpsed what the Nicaraguan people were experiencing as the revolution developed.
Voyages which is in the form a letter written to the filmmakers by Susan Meiselas, also examines the inherent contradictions which inevitably result from being an outsider in the middle of someone else’s political struggle.
Writer: Susan Meiselas
Prod/dir: Marc Karlin
Prod co: Lusia Films
Commissioning editor: Alan Fountain, Independent Film and Video Department
Text taken from Channel Four’s Press Packs – read more here
Tickets: £10 / £8 conc. / £6 Close-Up members
Box Office: 02037847975
Gareth Evans presents a special screening to mark the 15th anniversary of the untimely death of WG Sebald with readings by his close friend, poet Stephen Watts. Evans will be in conversation with director Grant Gee following the screening.
A richly textured essay film on landscape, art, history, life and loss, Patience (After Sebald) offers a unique exploration of the work of internationally acclaimed writer W.G. Sebald via a walk through East Anglia tracking his most influential book, The Rings of Saturn. Grierson award winning filmmaker Grant Gee directs the first film about Sebald, with contributions from major writers, artists and film-makers including Tacita Dean, Robert Macfarlane, Sir Andrew Motion, Rick Moody, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner, with a haunting soundtrack by acclaimed composer and sound artist The Caretaker.
Kindly supported by Soda Pictures.
The Marc Karlin film collection available now on Vimeo On-Demand.
Marc Karlin (1943 – 1999)
On his death in 1999, Marc Karlin was described as Britain’s most significant, unknown filmmaker. For three decades, he was a leading figure within Britain’s independent film community, actively contributing to opening up television through Channel 4. He was a founding member of the Berwick Street Film Collective; a director of Lusia Films, a key influence in the Independent Filmmakers Association, and a creative force behind the group that published the independent film magazine, Vertigo (1993-2010)
His groundbreaking films for television in the 1980s and 1990s combine documentary and fiction film conventions to explore the themes of memory, history and political agency. Karlin was a committed political filmmaker, and his dense, yet subtle films are rich meditations on the nature of filmmaking, the impact of ideologies on political choice and formations, and the necessity for rigorous, open interpretation to safeguard the future of the creative, human spirit.
He filmed his way through three decades of huge change, wrestling with the challenges of Thatcher’s free market economics; the demise of manufacturing; the imagining of socialist ways forward after the fall of the Berlin Wall; the role of art in society and the shape-shifting impact of digital technologies: all key concerns relevant to our world today.
This collection consists of the films broadcast on Channel 4 from 1985 to 1997, predominately commissioned by Alan Fountain Senior Commissioning Editor at Channel 4’s Independent Film and Video Department (1981–1994). Although informed by an international perspective, most of Karlin’s work focuses on the UK. An exception was the remarkable series of five films on the Nicaraguan revolution encompassing the popular guerrilla war of the late 1970’s, the development of the Sandinista government, the effects of the US-backed contra war, and the defeat of the FSLN in 1989. Rather than foregrounding the Sandinista leadership, the films speak from the grassroots, both urban and rural. This rare perspective portrays a revolution for what it is – an exhausting, uneven process.