Close Up

29 January - 17 December 2023: Never on Sunday

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If I Had Four Camels
Chris Marker, 1966, 75 min

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

“Marker's underseen masterpiece, If I Had Four Camels (Si j'avais 4 dromadaires), with its originality and sole reliance on still photographs stands next to his best known work, La Jetée (1962). The photographs incorporated into the film were taken between 1956 and 1966 in many different countries (Greece, Russia, Iran, Cuba, China, France, Japan) as Marker was working for the Petite Planète travel guides or taking snap shots of his favourite people. Here, he offers his own travel guide to a changing word, a "Marker Planet" narrated by a mysterious, world-weary traveller who speaks like a poet and thinks like a philosopher. The narration evolves into three voices with contrasting opinions about the role of photography in constructing collective cultural memory. With an endless sense of irony and the quiet investigating of photographic image, this is one of the great works of the 60s.” – Ehsan Khoshbakht

“There is life and there is its double, and the photograph is part of the world of the double. When you approach [the faces of the photographed], you have the impression that you participate in their life and in the death of live faces, of human faces. But this is not true: if you participate in anything, it is in their life and in the death of images.” – Chris Marker


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I Even Met Happy Gypsies
Aleksandar Petrovic, 1967, 82 mins
UK premiere of the new restoration

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Even Met Happy Gypsies is the progenitor of all the Yugo-gypsy movies that came after it, most notably Emir Kusturica’s The Time of the Gypsies and Goran Paskaljevic’s Guardian Angel, neither of which even recapture the raw authenticity of Petrovic’s acutely observed and felt picture. Alexander Petrovic, one of the grand old men of the Yugoslav cinema who died shortly after completing his epic Migrations, enjoyed the only major international success of his career with I Even Met Happy Gypsies, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1967, as was Petrovic’s Three on the previous year. (…) 

In all of Happy Gypsies, there is not a single happy gypsy – the title is an ironic quote from a traditional tzigane tune. [The film] depicts, with melancholy and muted colour, the odd, anachronistic ways of all-but-forgotten people. On the Pannonian plain near Belgrade, a colony of gypsies dwell in a clot of squalor, surviving on what they earn from buying and selling goose feathers. Outstanding among them is an erotic, intemperate feather merchant named Bora, played by Bekim Fehmiu, a Yugoslav actor strongly reminiscent of Jean-Paul Belmondo. Endlessly indulging in wife-beating and mistress-bedding, Bora downs litres of wine and scatters his seed, his feathers, and his future. As the film’s principal character, he meanders from confined hovels to expansive farm fields, from rural barrooms to the streets of Belgrade. Wherever he travels, he witnesses – and sometimes acts out – the gypsies’ heritage of violence and tragedy, providing the viewer with astonishing glimpses of a rapidly vanishing life.” – Mike Downey