The liminal spaces of art and cinema

ART / Three DOKUARTS-screened films invite both the scholarly aesthete and the public intellectual to reevaluate the perennial dialogues at the intersections of art, cinema, and society.

Navigating the liminal intersections of art, socio-political discourse, and cinematic innovation, three DOKUARTS-screenings films—Ross Lipman’s Between Two Cinemas, José Luis Lopéz-Linares’ Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñuel, and Nancy Buirski’s Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy—merge into a synergetic triptych of existential quandaries, cultural metamorphoses, and perennial social struggles. From Lipman’s ontological negotiations between realism and abstraction to the complex temporal dialogues traversing Goya, Carrière, and Buñuel to Buirski’s cyclical excavation of American socio-cultural malaise—these films beckon both the scholarly aesthete and the public intellectual to reevaluate the dialogues that perpetually sculpt the intersectional terrain of art, cinema, and society.

Between Two Cinemas Ross Lipman
Between Two Cinemas, a film by Ross Lipman

Between Two Cinemas

In Between Two Cinemas, Ross Lipman, the multi-faceted American cineaste and adroit film restorationist, interrogates the liminal space between disparate cinematic traditions. The film is a palimpsest inquiry, synthesising autobiographical musings, obscure archival footage, and intimate dialogues with avant-garde filmmakers. An intellectual odyssey, the documentary articulates its quest for cinematic understanding through elements of the filmic essay, archival exploration, and the anthological short film.

Lipman’s film serves as an explanatory endeavour into the dichotomous realities that frame the cinematic landscape: the ontological friction between realism and abstraction, the disjuncture between avant-garde experimentation and narrative continuity, and the transcontinental schism between American and European filmic traditions. The project becomes an auto-ethnographic exegesis as Lipman navigates this interstitial space as a spectator, archivist, and scholarly essayist.

The film evokes a Deleuzian sense of «becoming,» particularly evident in Lipman’s nuanced friendship with the late Bruce Baillie—a symbolic representation of the existential ramifications inherent in occupying this «in-between» locus, far removed from both commercial commodification and industrial dictates. This transcendent negotiation space allows for the convergence and divergence of individual and collective subjectivities, as illustrated in a poignant vignette recounting an interaction between Stan Brakhage and Andrei Tarkovsky at the 1983 Telluride Film Festival.

In its intellectual scope, Between Two Cinemas is an arresting exploration of cinematic discord and resonance. It proffers a complex dialectical analysis, unfolding as an ephemeral yet enduring cinematic palimpsest, redefining the lexicon of perception and conceptual understanding within film studies.

Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñuel José Luis Lopéz-Linares
Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñuel, a film by José Luis Lopéz-Linares

Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñel

In Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñuel, the interplay among the works of Francisco Goya, the insights of prolific screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and the shadowy influence of Luis Buñuel makes for another multi-faceted narrative. Through a no-script approach from traditional art documentaries, its storytelling teems with intellectual fluidity, adding accessibility by bypassing the stiffness of academic jargon.

The documentary positions Goya as a lens to examine the complicated socio-political landscape of his time and a precursor to modernism—an artist adept at tye delicate space between propaganda and criticism. This examination resonates strongly with Carrière’s own interrogations of art and society, as evidenced by his extensive work that also includes collaborations with Miloš Forman, Jean-Luc Godard, Andrzej Wajda, Wayne Wang, Volker Schlöndorff.

After passing away in 2021, Carrière’s posthumous narration adds an intriguing layer to this narrative. As he explores the darker realms of Goya’s art—the haunting «The Disasters of War» series, the omnipotent «The Colossus,» or the disquieting «Black Paintings»—the film ultimately is a philosophical musing on the role of art in times of political and social upheaval. However, though several artists are invited to evoke the painter, only Carrière is invited to share specific interpretations of works.

Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñuel blends art criticism with socio-political discourse, anthropology, and psychoanalysis while connecting Goya and Buñuel through a common Aragonese origin and deafness. It positions Goya’s art within a broader framework, incorporating the ideological influences of the times and its spiritual foundations on Buñuel. This creates a dialogue transcending temporal and thematic boundaries. It’s more than a eulogy for Carrière or a traditional art documentary; it explores the complex interplay between timeless art and the myriad forces, seen or unseen, that shape it.

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy Nancy Buirski
Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy, a film by Nancy Buirski

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy

Nancy Buirski’s Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy is a homage to John Schlesinger’s seminal work and a penetrating socio-cultural critique. Drawing on interviews and archival footage, the film grapples with a complex web of themes—from American queer cinema to the decline of the Western genre. Yet, its core lies in how it resonates with the socio-cultural turmoil prevalent both then and now.

Buirski frames Midnight Cowboy as a continuum, reflecting perennial American struggles against a backdrop of societal schisms. The director’s statement alludes to how figures like Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo are not relics of a bygone era but archetypes continually reimagined in the American narrative. They stand for the marginalized, disenfranchised, and alienated individuals of any generation—lost souls overlooked by the one percent. As global society spirals into a world of ever-gross income inequality and the dangerous peripheries associated with a continued American-led world, the themes of the 1969 X-Rated Academy Award winner seem as prophetic and relevant as ever.

The notion that Midnight Cowboy was a groundbreaking piece is utilised to argue for its enduring impact on socio-cultural discourses. The film was radical then, not just for its content but because it represented a seismic shift in cinematic storytelling. This same groundbreaking ethos guides Buirski’s documentary, making it a multi-layered exploration of socio-cultural angst and the upheavals that shape, and are shaped by, our collective media experiences. Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy, therefore, becomes a discourse on the cyclical nature of societal despair. The historical protests and movements of the 1960s resonate with the political activism and social unrest today, emphasising the cyclical nature of the societal struggles that haunt American society—yesterday, today, and likely tomorrow.

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Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Steve lives in Bucharest, Romania. He writes for some platforms and does some other things as well.

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