2005...from "visual"to "audio"
Jean=Claude Rousseau,Monteiro's "Branca de neve",

A fix shot. In a hotel room,there is a bed,and sunlight enters from a right window. A middle aged man enters into the room and takes off his coat and hat.When he opens the window,the atomosphere and noisy sounds of outside invades inside. The man leads the sounds from outside of screen. He switched on TV,the voice of an announcer of RAI appearing,and noisy siren of a patrol car filled in the room.At the moment that we feel as if the space is exploding with them,the shot and the sounds are cut...black screen with silence,and ties to a vivid long shot of the city which liberates sounds to outside atmosphere.

Jean=Claude Rousseau,who himelf plays the man, is an amazing cineast in that he can show what cinema is with such only one shot. In Japan his four video works were shown for the first time in "Panorama of new french documentaries",in Institute Franco-Japonaise de Tokyo,in November 2004. He was born in 1948,and influenced by american underground cinema during he has been in NY,like Phillipe Garrel. After came to Paris he made 8mm film works,each one for years.In 1999 "Valley Close" won prizes in Belfort International Film Festival,and acclaimed.Jean=Marie Straub says Rousseau is one of the greatest filmmaker in Europe,as Frans Van de Staak and Peter Nestler.Recently Rousseau is making video works at a faster pace.The first one I described is a short film which called "Lettere a Roberto"(2002), it's a masterpiece.I was so fascinated with the movement of light,sound and leading by Rousseau's gesture in the space.The movement captured by this fix shot is very fresh,fun and even entertaining,the director's looks are gloomy to the contrary.But, why?

Some viewers must have the same question about" Juste avant L'orage"(2003), which was shot while Rousseau has been in South-Korea for Jeon-ju International Film Festival.Why such a low-angle fix shot of a street stall so fascinated? Immidiately after men at rest left, woman in shop for cleaning,and families from a distance,in addition a motorcycle and a car appear and leave roaring like the coreografeed extra in Jacques Tati's film.But it's not a comedy. Was it directed or not? I don't know,but this simple shot is incredibly funny. Then the space filled with noises suddenly turns into black screen with silence,and an inside shot of a taxi which captures wipers moving on wet windsield appears,with the conversation between a driver and a guest.

"Faibles Amusements"(2004) fragmentally tells a love story that the director himself tempts a young man who wants to be a filmmaker. They stay at a hotel near the Lake Como and a young man leaves the director,but viewers just can see for example the deck of a ship on which passengers take(Ozu!),a young man posing in bed with the director's voice,the young man who reads outside through a window like a Bonnard's picture,and a street with conversation of the two men about Robert Bresson...The relation between image and sound is loose(for example a shot of the young man's face with conversations in an other scene),and the time does back and forth.
And in 5minutes short film "Cotretemps"(2004), we hear the message voice of a young man from telephone "I can't come to you "with black screen,and see the next wonderful shot whose composition consists of books and antiques of oriental taste on a desk. A book turned over shut by itself. That's all.But in such a short film which consists of extreamly simple images and sounds,we feel Rousseau gives his absolute confidence to space and sounds.-as if each shot answers"yes" when you ask " Is such an image valuable?".

In Rousseau's films he trusts audio-visual sense of viewers that recognize movements which create this world. And through his cinema he lets us notice the existence of the space and sounds which we can't recognize in daily life. How the collision of sounds,their deletion and invasion to space can expand our audition and amuse us! Rousseau developped Bresson's way of "off sound",and he implies that the manipulation of the author himself who organizes the movement of the sound that goes in and out of a fix shot, is an amazing subject,too. His films are documentaries of manipulation in that sense. Rousseau is an ultimate filmmaker because he reform cinema buoyantly like keeping a diary.

With Rousseau's works,Joao Cesar Monteiro's "Branca de Neve"(2001) announces the most important element of modern cinema is sound. It's easier for everyone to talk about visual movement and signs.from men of power to victims of war or natural disaster,everyone keeps talking only about visual spectacles and operation. However, a silence at the preparation and the waiting is indispensable for an incident.It's necessary for survive to percieve a silence filled with terrific energy and a seditious tone. It's the most important to capture the moment when it changes from silence to movement.Monteiro's "Branca de Neve"tells Robert Walser's story based on Grim brothers' "Snow White", but it concentrates the gloomy relation between a daughter and her mother who tried to poison the daughter, and they decided keeping this "love-hate relation",which Grim didn't illustrate.

Monteiro uses only black screen for all scenes with dialogue,and in between-scenes he inserts images of the sky,clouds,the graves which appear in a scene,accompanied with music by Salvatore Scarrino and Heinz Holliger. In DVD interview Paulo Branco,the producer,says the reason why Monteiro used black screen is that it was impossibiliity for him to equal Walser's text(Manoel de Oliveira says Monteiro made "image of word"). Or Mario Barroso,the director of photo,says he and Montiro had a discussion about films of Duras and Guy Debord -which separate image and sound,- before they made "Branca de Neve". In "Branca de Neve" the most wonderful thing is that we can find the moment of sudden appearance of voice as soon as the intervals end. We hear the voice suddenly as if there were no starting point when clouds and the pointillistic piano sound make viewers indulge in. Indeed,the moment existed in Monteiro's other films like "Veredas"(1978)which gives visual domination,too. And probably some viewers must remember the same sense in some films of Walsh, Renoir, Straub=Huillet...But Monteiro succeeded in exposing the most sensual and pure moment between silence and dialogue removing screen which induces glances of viewers. So this film is not a bluff at all.It's constructed severely and is able to bring the sense. Oliveira says "Branca de Neve"is the best film of Monteiro absolutely,very balanced and strong.

Then,the visibility disturbs the exposure of sounds which truly characterize cinema? Exactly cineasts sharply criticize visual domination. For example no japanese critics mentioned Straub=Huillet's extraordinary use of DTS stereo in "Operai,Contadini" (2001). In "Operai,Contadini",we can hear actor's voices surrounded with Chirrup, murmur of a stream, cow's groan voice...by the system. And the sounds naturally need spaces framed by severe compositions as the source of them. The camera follows the light moving in the forest and it's accompanied with the sound by microphone moving.Then we can understand that critics who insisted this film is just a recording of a play, couldn't perceive this combination of images and sounds truly. Because the voices which are surrounded with various sounds, can be heard only through the film. In the latter half of the film the actors' reading develops from the poverty of the farm to the commune life,and when new space and new actors appear, the sounds change correspondingly. The impact can be found only by passing a peculiar process of cinema like the recording, the reproduction, and the edit, etc. This richest sound work of Straub=Huillet's film can be experienced in "Une Visite au Louvre"(2004) with dolby stereo again,as a splendid documentary that catches the terrific breathing of Julie Koltai's reading.

Straub=Huillet's works lead us to experience images and sounds analyzing and recognizing how they consist. After such a experience,for example in Frederic Wiseman's "Maine,Belfast"(1999), when it moves from a certain place to a following place,then car noise appears on the outside road,I found that Wiseman uses fade-in of the sound of the following place.Several fix landscape shots are inserted, and approaching christien facilities,a hymn and voices are overlapped with car noise on the road. This is the consideration for viewers'consciousness shifting from one place to another naturally. The tradition of image in the United States is based on that the image being experienced now is operated without allowing how it consists to be considered. In Japan, as for both documentary and fiction,people tend to admire the natural way that viewers can't be conscious of how the image consists, too. But in the 21st century when the image became necessary indispensable to live, people should be conscious of how the image consists,even if the brechtien sign doesn't exist. Of course I don't criticize Wiseman's work and the american tradition at all. I admire his operation of overlap of the sound and the meantime,and shots which were achieved exceeding intention for consideration.

Peter Nestler's"Flucht"(2001) has things in common with "Une Visite au Louvre"as for film about painting and resistance. "Flucht" is a road movie.A jewish painter Leopold Mayer/Leo Maillet escaped from the Gestapo and the french police in World War 2nd,drawing the series of painting "Entre chien et loup".His son Daniel,also a painter,and the crew trace the truck of Mayer/Maillet. Nestler films a lot of works of Leo and Daniel,and Daniel is drawing sketches of people and landscape during the travel. The sound is most sensitive,as narrator the director's voice and Daniel's voice(the sound of "Flucht" became more colourful by their alternation),and each shot which has each sound, the timing and rythm of their appearance and delete, are always poetic and impressive.The act of drawing is related to labor of manual work.Like Straub=Huillet's "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" Nestler is the greatest cineast who shows the act of manual work affirmatively. In "Pachamama,unsere erde"(1995),in a scene that the farmerette in the village in the mountain mixes mud up, polishes, hardens, and finishes it up in the shape of the bottle, the viewer must be fascinated with the monotonous rythm of repetition and the silence,the moment of appearance of the changed figure in each shot,and the quietness of the completed bottle in the last shot of this scene. The process of making a bottle from a root of tree on hilltop in Lappland in "Die Nordkalotte" (1990)(which is dedicated to Straub=Huillet) is the same.As compared with it,when Nestler makes us hear the noise of cole mining on hillside, the cineast's attitude is quite clear.Then we become sensitive to the moment of connection between a mass of "audio" and "visual"and another one.

Straub=Huillet's respect for sound is more continuous than cutting.The "factory exit" scene in "Trop Tot Trop Tarde"(1981) is different from Lumiere brothers' "workers leaving factory"(1895) because the former has sounds. In "Trop Tot Trop Tarde" a shot seems to continue while a new sound happens in/out of the screen. While traffic noises of cars and motorcycles can be heard outside of the frame,the fixed camera by the road continues capturing their occurrence and disappearance respectfully. As Nestler does, Straub=Huillet also treats a shot as a mass of audio and visual,but they seem to want continuation more than impact of connection. In the sound of wheel after the dialogue on ox-cart in "Della nube alla resistanza" (1979),or In the shot-riverse shot in compartment on train in "Sicilia!"(1999) which expose how they shot and edited(each shot has each light and vibration of face and sound), they seem to secure enough time for viewers to perceive them.

But why most of viewers turn away from trust of these cineasts and leave themselves to the operation of audio-visual? Every year it becomes difficult to watch the films that awake our sense on screen in Japan. Most of distributors and bureaucrats believe that they can leave the sleeping beauty as she is, without knowing it drives us into dangerous place. Our life is enclosed with images now and in future, and the person who doesn't think about it deeply is influenced ,as if it's easier for the person who doesn't have immunity to get disease. We need the cineasts who give us an oppotunity of thinking with enjoyment of listening.


©Akasaka Daisuke