Close Up

12 June 2016: The Cinemascope Trilogy


Completing our Peter Tscherkassky retrospective we present the filmmaker’s most well known body of work, a trilogy of films taking on the "widescreen" Cinemascope format. Beginning with L'Arrivée – cinema year zero – as the Lumière brothers' infamous train arrives at the station and precedes to crash through the celluloid screen, Tscherkassky reconstructs cinematic language to his own devices. The second and third instalments both use the Sidney J. Furie’s voyeuristic poltergeist film The Entity as material with which to explore Freudian Otherness and the dream space of Cinema in a whirling maelstrom of fragmented imagery and flickering light.

Peter Tscherkassky
1998 | 3 min | B/W | 35mm

"Just as the record player needle has to find the right groove, L’Arrivée has to settle into the perforation tracks before the narrative line can develop. A train arrives in a station where a hand-instigated collision with another train takes place. The event is not just a depiction, but a battle of the material itself. This is not the end, but the transition to a kiss, to the Happy End. L’Arrivée demonstrates where cinema begins – with the spectacular, and where it ends – with intimacy." – Bert Rebhandl

Outer Space
Peter Tscherkassky
1999 | 10 min | B/W | 35mm

"Suggesting a convulsive hall of mirrors, Peter Tscherkassky's widescreen tour de force Outer Space reinvents a 1981 Barbara Hershey horror vehicle, leaving the original's crystalline surface intact only to violently shatter its narrative illusion. After Hershey enters a house at night-time, sounds of crickets, static, and distorted music give way to explosions, screams, and garbled voices. In an eruption of panicked subjectivity, the actress's face multiplies across the screen as the frame is invaded by sprocket holes, an optical soundtrack, and flashes of solarised imagery." – Kristin M. Jones

Dream Work
Peter Tscherkassky
2001 | 11 min | B/W | 35mm

"A woman goes to bed, falls asleep, and begins to dream. This dream takes her to a landscape of light and shadow, evoked in a form only possible through classic cinematography." – Peter Tscherkassky

"Dream Work, in CinemaScope and black & white, is the same length as a period of deep sleep. The moment at which a woman enters a building, removes her shoes and then her panties (the framing is lascivious), she inevitably becomes both the subject and object. When she falls asleep, she not only falls deeper into the film, the latter penetrates her. The phallic conjoining, the fact that the woman's body exists only within the film (and vice versa), is made tangible by Tscherkassky's copying of individual frames – though in an extremely immediate sense, and also as the horror of being unable to escape this context. Behind the awakening lurks the dream. Behind opening doors waits an ego. Behind a man in the room looms the void. The images, the afterimages, the negatives circle each other in a maelstrom in which the classic psychoanalytic view of the conscious mind's unconscious function is gradually lost in a higher logic of neuronal chaos. And then, guided by Man Ray's rayograph technique, they reassemble in a para-dream which – paraphrasing Freud – could be described as a pictorial mental image (and for the first time to a commissioned score). In the same way as in an actual dream, Dream Work does not contain individual and unconnected images; although each one is radically arbitrary, the context is so compelling that an alternative is inconceivable – unless taken from a different universe, of course. But this is the best of all possible dream worlds, regardless of how terrifying it seems." – Bert Rebhandl

The Entity
Sidney J. Fury
1982 | 119 min | Colour | Digital

"In Sidney J. Furie’s The Entity, Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is violently attacked by a presence with no physicality. Intended as a supernatural suspense thriller rather than a horror film, The Entity received middling reviews on release, and seemed destined to be nothing more than another 1980s genre film. However, Austrian avant-gardist Peter Tscherkassky saw something else. In the early 2000s, he bought a 35mm print of The Entity for fifty dollars. The low price point was a major motivating factor behind his purchase, but the acquisition also fit with his next project: working with the materiality of film by experimenting with the role of the tangible celluloid print. From Furie’s feature film, Tscherkassky created two short works of film-art: Outer Space and Dream Work. Transforming the materiality of the footage – the film stock itself – into a character, his films move beyond The Entity‘s generic categories of horror/thriller and enter an abstracted realm of the sublime. By using film stock as object, Tscherkassky ruptures the narrative world and creates two works wherein the character Carla no longer exists; instead, the woman bearing the brunt of the film’s brutality is Hershey herself. The shorts are not exercises in sadism, but rather critiques of mainstream cinema and its ideological abuse of female protagonists." – Tara Judah

running time ca. 150 min

Part of our Peter Tscherkassky and Eve Heller season