Monday, November 21, 2011

POTENTIAL EXPLANATION OF ABSENCE

I was recently contacted via twitter about a disappointment regarding the complete absence of any esotika activity since basically 2009, even after I announced the potentiality of a periodic web-journal back in July.

Due to the fact that I lack the same capacity I once had to be writing about the films that I wanted to talk about & think about with any regularity whatsoever, I thought the best solution would be to position myself as the sort of curator of a perhaps twice-yearly "journal of film," with each issue dedicated to a director or subject matter that was very much "esotika." The first issue was to be dedicated to Zulawski, due to my absolute obsession with him combined with the fact that there is very little (good) critical or exploratory writing on his work available. The fact that his films are finally being released in glorious editions from Mondo Vision is great, and I feel like all of his masterpieces are no longer (entirely) in the dark to most viewers.

Due to the fact that I'm ultimately selfish, I was intensely picky about the people I solicited to potentially write for the journal, and it took a while for me to come up with a list of people to email (and there is a huge sphere of film writing I'm ignorant of, and I'm sure even more so since I wrote the email). Once I had a decently sized list, I have to be honest that I had a less than spectacular response. I emailed 12 people. Only four people responded with any sort of enthusiasm whatsoever, and while 4 people plus me writing "longer" essays/"whatever"s would have admittedly been enough to fill a modest "journal of film," the project got side-swiped due to how busy my own life is, and how film as a whole has taken the background to other things. Even opening "submissions" on this blog didn't net me a single email.

By this point I'm used to the sort of obnoxious reality that, most of the time, if I want to be reading about something I'm interested in I have to be the one writing about it myself (this is the entire reason that the esotika project, on this blog, ever started). But seeing as I've recently moved across the country & still have no stable job or place to live, combined with all of my other projects (a lit magazine, a micro-press, blogging for a group blog, my own writing & visual art) & the fact that I'm enjoying the social life that an actual city has to offer for the first time, really doesn't leave me with the mental energy to expend on pulling it together.

I still have the same taste in film, and often really wish that I could get it together enough to make it happen, but with how much I already pour my energy into (everything I do I also do for free, which doesn't help me economically unfortunately) I just literally have no room left for this right now.

I do still write about film on the group blog I post at regularly (in fact, apparently I was invited to write there due to my activity over here), but clearly I'm much more heterogeneous in my attention to the arts now. Film is still a major part of my life, and it's influenced so much of what I do that it's not likely I'll ever abandon it entirely. I have vague outlines & notes for a book project on film that I'd like to write one day, much of which I could probably develop by working on the journal, but I really just can't handle taking on another huge undertaking totally independently now.

So, I apologize to everyone who still appreciates what I've done here and hopes that I'll come back to it soon. Maybe I will, maybe I won't, I really can't tell. Maybe esotika will eventually morph into a journal of film, maybe it'll even be a print journal, who knows. That'd be exciting to me, but of course that'd be an even larger undertaking.

Also, for what it's worth, here's the email I sent out to potential contributors to the Esotika Journal Project:


Hello,
I run the website Esotikafilm.com, which was started as, basically, an archive and resource of reviews & information on world-films that I insisted straddled the border between "sex, art, horror & experimentation." A more wide-spread term that seems to tread similar ground has popped up, "post-genre." As you can see from the website, Esotika Film has been virtually inactive since November of '08, and the blog (http://esotika.blogspot.com) has not been updated with original content since September of '09.

For about a year I have been toying with the idea of turning the website into a semiannual (or so) online journal of film, inspired by sites like Rouge.com.au. However, my intention is to remain true to the project's original ideas: I want to remain focused on what, on the current website, I refer to as "esotika films," which could easily be re-aligned as "post-genre" cinema, an expression that China Miéville posits, via Kim Newman, as a "phrase for something which is clearly inflected in a horror way, and clearly emerges out of the generic tradition of horror, but is no longer reducible to it."

I am writing to you because I have encountered either your ideas or your writing on film, and I am specifically interested in soliciting you to write for the project. At the time I can offer no monetary compensation, as the website is of course non-profit, and I am more interested in expanding the realm of discussion and thought regarding often neglected films than I am in profiting from this venture.

The idea I have had is to maintain a consistency within each issue by offering a specific director or idea at the core of each release, in addition to offering less-specific discussions on the idea of something being "post-genre horror" in general, and how one can work with ideas of a 'genre' that positions itself as 'post-genre.' The idea of the post-genre will continue to be the theme of the entire project, while each issue will offer investigations into specific bodies of work.

It is my intention to have the first issue dedicated to Polish director Andrzej Zulawski. This decision comes out of my own, perhaps, obsession with his body as work, as well as with the idea that his oeuvre presents challenges to issues of normal film-making (specifically to ideas of genre) and thus stands as an excellent starting point for the larger project. There has also been a resurgence of interest in his work due to Mondo Vision's recent DVD releases and the dissemination of his films through online, bootlegged sources.

Future possibilities for issue-centers include, but are not limited to: Philippe Grandrieux, Frans Zwartjes & Dutch Experimental film, Paul Sharits, Jess Franco, The films of Kurt Kren & The Vienna Actionists, Thierry Kuntzel, Dore O & Ernie Gehr, Harry Kumel, Renato Polselli & Alberto Cavallone, Roger Watkins & narrative pornography, Jean Rollin, Hisayasu Sato & the shitteno, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Peter Tscherkassky & Dietmar Brehm, and so on.

If you would be interesting in contributing to the project at all, or even becoming a regular contributor (and I hope you are!), please let me know. I'd love to get the first issue live sometime in 2011 if possible. Also, if you know anyone you feel would be both qualified and interested in the project, please pass the information along to them! I'm looking to collect as much quality writing on a mostly obscure 'post-genre' of fantastic cinema.

Thank you,
M Kitchell

Saturday, July 02, 2011

UPDATES

I'm moving across the country and selling most of my DVD collection, along with film books, magazines, and posters. Don't miss your chance to land some rare stuff for awesome prices.

http://www.avmaniacs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48702

In other news, Esotika will be re-launching as a twice-yearly "journal of film" probably around October. First issue will be dedicated to Andrzej Zulawski. If you'd like to submit an article for publication, please contact mike (at) esotikafilm.com

Friday, February 05, 2010

Franco’s Golden Productions

My article on Jess Franco's Golden Films International productions is now live on the Severin blog.



I'll be posting it on the redesigned Esotika website in the future as well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Esotika Plans for 2010

01 - Redo the website. There is a particular problem in the fact that I used frames so when specific articles or reviews are linked you lose the context of the whole site.

02 - Edit all the old reviews. I basically haven't proofread anything that's on here/the website, and it's severely irritating when I revisit things.

03 - Actually start writing about film again. We'll see what happens.

Also, the only thing I've written about film recently, a piece on Jess Franco's Golden Film Productions, should be appearing on the Severin blog at some point in the new future.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

RENATO POLSELLI'S MANIA

In case you haven't had a chance to see it yet, somebody has posted the trailer to Renato Polselli's once-thought-lost film MANIA. Most of us genre fans found out about the film from Adrian Smith's 1999 book Blood and Black Lace--one of the earliest post-DVD books dedicated to Gialli. Needless to say, the film looks excellent, and since it's been found, I hope it makes its way to DVD sometime.




Sunday, June 21, 2009

ARREBATO (IVAN ZULUETA, 1979)


I have had this film for 3 or 4 years now, and really, I should have seen it long ago. I was only missing out. However, thanks to the wonderful film communities that have sprung up stronger since I acquired my initial bootleg, English subtitles now exist for the film. As mesmerizing as its images are, what gives this film its power are the ideas that are present. The images are hypnotic, having what the film itself could potentially describe as "occult rhythms," but without an idea behind the sublimity present in the super 8 film that populates the film, we'd be left with nothing but aesthetics.

There are several ways I would characterize my relationship to film: First and foremost, I am obsessive. Secondly, I find that a story works best (or is most interesting) when rooted primarily in abjection and the uncanny. I think abjection is an important term when considering this film. For me, the loci of abjection and the uncanny in cinema is met when genre film--particularly horror--intersects experimental. This is an allowance of the fantastic with an allowance of materiality, a performative necessity (as in the film itself is performing an act as we, the viewers, are watching), and an insistence that the qualities of film (image music text; movement, narrative) can achieve more than the inherent, assumed qualities of what is considered the classical Hollywood narrative achieve.

Arrebato itself is at the threshold of genre and experimental cinema. Finding itself with one foot in both worlds, meshed together perfectly, it is a cinema of ideas, a cinema of power. It is a cinema of abjection. We'll start with this.

It's easy to turn to the theoretical construct--developed primarily by Julia Kristeva--of abjection when discussing the horror genre. A primary element of abjection is the idea of "letting go of something we would still like to keep."1 A dismembered arm, from the perspective of the amputee, is abject. Horror cinema is often a cinema of viscera: "blood, semen, hair and excrement/urine, we recognize these as once being a part of ourselves, thus these forms of the abject are taken out of our system while bits of them remain in our selves."


According to Kristeva, since the abject is situated outside the symbolic order, being forced to face it is an inherently traumatic experience. For example, upon being faced with a corpse, a person would be most likely repulsed because he or she is forced to face an object which is violently cast out of the cultural world, having once been a subject. We encounter other beings daily, and more often than not they are alive. To confront a corpse of one that we recognize as human, something that should be alive but isn't, is to confront the reality that we are capable of existing in the same state, our own mortality. This repulsion from death, excrement and rot constitutes the subject as a living being in the symbolic order.


Arrebato is located in the space of abjection. It's narrative drive is the idea of the "rapture" (the literal translation of "arrebato"), a semi-mystical state of heightened being, a "pause," as Pedro, who is developing the rapture refers to it. When we are first introduced to Pedro, he does nothing but shoot film, an obsession that, we find out, helps him to keep from eating, sleeping, fucking, or shitting for prolonged periods of time. He lives in a state of hysteria, wildly crying as he watches the short fragments of film that he has shot. The only time he can calm down, the only time he can face the reality of humanity, is with the help of "dusty-dust"--heroin.

While Pedro drives the narrative of the film, it is through the world of Jose-- a filmmaker and heroin addict--that this narrative unfolds. Structurally, the narrative of Pedro is embedded within the Narrative of Jose, until the end when the two collapse into each other (almost ontologically). As the film begins Jose is editing a film, a vampire feature that he is visually dissatisfied with. He arrives home from his apartment, after being gone two weeks for a shoot, to find his lover who had formerly left forever, and a parcel from Pedro containing a key, a reel of Super8 film, and an audio cassette.

Eventually Jose sits down to listen to the tape, which retells the story of Jose's interactions with Pedro, as well as the development of Pedro's filmic alchemy. Upon initially meeting Jose, Pedro recognized something special in him, something that isolated Jose as an ally to Pedro's esoteric cause. while Pedro's haunted voice presents the idea that what it is that Pedro can "see" is something mystical, it's obvious to the audience that the only thing that these two men have in common is an utter obsession with the cinema. As Jose remarks early on in the film, “It’s not that I like cinema… it’s cinema that likes me." Jose is presented as akin to real world filmmaker Jess Franco-- despite the fact he doesn't always feel satisfied with what he's done, he has to be making films. Pedro's obsession has already been explained, taking up literally all of his time. For better or worse, both Pedro and Jose are addicted.

This cinematic addiction is paralleled by Jose's relationship with Ana--his ex-lover who formerly left. Their relationship, normal at first, quickly devolved into an intense bond dependent upon heroin to keep it together. The heroin/relationship subplot helps to heighten the intensity of the film, the desperation present, a motivation for the film's denouement: a material example of obsession.

But now we must return to the idea of abjection: "The concept of abject exists in between the concept of an object and the concept of the subject, something alive yet not." Let's consider re-writing this sentence as: What appears on film during cinema exists between the concept of an object and the concept of the subject, something alive yet not. Film's materiality captures a representation of a physical place, a physical person, an action that is literally happen. But what we see when we watch a film is not the actual physical place, it's not the real person, it's not the actual action: what we see is an image. What we see is neither live nor dead; rather, it's a representation of the image.

And this is what the film is about: Arrebato presupposes that film can be more than a representation--it suggests that film has power, and as Roberto Curti points out in his brilliant article on the film, "the image of an object put on film does not share the same ontological reality as that of the filmed object." Eventually, both Pedro and Jose become nothing but film. They are no longer ontologically present in the physical, material world at the end of the film. Rather, they become pure simulacra--a copy without an original. They are ontologically film. The vampiric nature of the camera, brought to life through Pedro's "occult rhythms," has sucked people out of the real world into "film-world."

It is through this ideological construct that a simple jump-cut removing an actor from the frame becomes terrifying. Obsession leads to men away from the "real" world and into something else. A metaphysical afterlife that can be seen but not felt. Pedro knows that he is going to ostensibly "die" as the red pauses on his developed film become longer and longer, yet he prepares himself for and faces his "escape" with both desperate terror and a severe insistence. There is utter beauty in the desperation, and we can feel it in all of Pedro's footage, the pulsing, rhythmic representations of the world moving at an intense tempo: the moon crossing the sky, a penis erecting with the air of flora in bloom, clouds erasing the blue of the air with a mask of white, people moving through life, etc., etc. These images are cinema's pulse, the bloodstream that keeps it alive.

Arrebato itself echos the ideas that it diegetically presents: the film itself holds power over the viewers, calling upon desperation and rhythmic images, coupled with a compelling storyline, to cull the viewer into an active trance-like state. It is mysterious, enigmatic, and compelling. It is a film.




1: All quotions pertaining to abjection come from http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Abjection

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hi.
I went through all my old entries to delete all the spam comments I've been noticing and realized that there were about 25 comments that I hadn't seen, some over a year old. I finally figured out how to turn on email notifications for comments, so even if it's on something old I should get notified of it. Sorry for any confusion in the past!