Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Going to Spain, Movie Watching and a Little Bit of Antonio Gaudi

For those who don't really know, I've been toying with the idea of moving to Spain over the past couple of years. For those back home whom haven't heard me mention this, yeah it's true. No, I've never been there and the best Spanish I can muster is from broken, faded memories of taking the class in high school. In fact, I can't really say I have a whole lot of reason behind the idea, if boil it down to brass tacks. Nor do I have any plan, were I to actually go through with it.

So, what's the deal with Spain? Why not move back closer to home or just another city? Truth be told, I feel the need for a complete revamp of the world around me. I've lived here for almost 6 years and, while it's given me a tremendous amount of good things (the absolute perfect wife, great friends which led to greater opportunities and plenty of life experience), I can't get around the idea of what a completely different frame of mind would show me about this world of ours.
Will it happen? I'm not sure. But I knew I wanted to move here in order to be with the woman I love and that couldn't have worked out better. So it's possible.

This past weekend, we sat down and watched Antonio Gaudi. A film by one of my favorite Japanese directors, Hiroshi Teshigahara. Now, I'm not going to say that anyone should run out and watch this film. It's not even really a film, but an unobtrusive tour through the work of who many call the greatest architect in history. This film is essentially 98% silent. There's a score, but there's no narration, explanation or verbal insight into the absolute beautiful work that is shown on screen. The only dialogue comes near the end when an old man (I believe a colleague of Gaudi) briefly goes into detail about the Sagrada Familia.

Now, I don't know thing one about architecture. I barely understand art in general. I think I can feign a certain amount of intellect in terms of music and movies, but I don't know much. Bearing all that in mind along with the hesitance I had as this film got rolling, this was actually an easier watch than one could expect. The absence of the most necessary details required in a documentary (see the prior paragraph) actually gives the audience a bit of freedom. We were able to comment on his style, notice little details, pause at our leisure or go back to a previous shot without feeling like we're interrupting something.

***A little side note: I detest doing all the things I just mentioned during a movie. I prefer to just take it all in as it comes. I'll go back only during foreign films in instances, though very rare, wher the subtitles are moving to fast. All that aside, with this film being the way it was, these things I can't stand just felt natural. Now, I'll return to what I was talking about.***

In this film you see all of Gaudi's major works including Casa Vicens, La Pedrera, Palau Guell, Casa Batllo and the Barcelona icon, the Sagrada Familia. Teshigahara's camera gives each work an admirable gaze from many angles and set-ups with the kind of attention to detail that immortalized this artist on film when it was made in the 80s. Gaudi's style operates on the principles of nature. His columns resemble trees more than support structures, the shapes of rooms resemble caves and he was unafraid to try anything new. Nothing of his looks typical or normal, but all of his work is visually alive and all the details pull the eye over the entire surface with out looking messy. If anything, this film sort of added to my desire to live in Spain so I can see what these look like with my own eyes.

What's most interesting to me as film nut, is how appropriate this film's maker and its subject seem perfect for earch other. Hiroshi Teshigahara made films of astounding quality, but in a manner that is as equally off-kilter as their essential premise. His visual style is brilliant, the screenwriting is poetic and the music is eerie and otherworldly. Of course, he's only one third of the trifecta that included Kobo Abe (screenwriter) and Toru Takemitsu (composer). The Criterion Collection put out a box set (The aptly titled Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara) that brings together the three films put together by these 3 individuals. Pitfall, the masterpiece Woman in the Dunes, and Face of Another with an additional disc of supplements paint a picture of the filmmaker almost as an Antonio Gaudi of cinema and all (except maybe the supplements) are completely worth the watch.

This is where I completely fail as a critic: I can talk about why I like something forever. I'm not all that great at selling it. I don't know why, but it's always something that's been lost on me. If anyone reads this, they probably won't want to go to their friends/family/significant other and say, "Hey! Let's watch a movie with no dialogue that showcases the work of an architect from Spain!" If it does happen, I'll shut my mouth.