This blog post proposes a new film genre: museum film. It consists of three parts. The first part is a short list of films defining the emerging genre. The second part provides commentaries with the assistance of two texts: the 16th-century museum treatise Incision and the French filmmaker Robert Bresson’s Notes on Cinematograph (1975). The third part takes a more detailed look at shortlisted films and defends museum film as defined here as a unique genre.

Part I: Museum Films: an Inventory

  • Russian Ark (2001), feature film, Alexandr Sokurov (Russia), The Hermitage (St. Petersburg)
  • Une visite au Louvre (2003), dialogue film, Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet (France), Louvre (Paris)
  • Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge (2007), feature film, Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan/France), Musée d’Orsay (Paris)
  • Visage (2009), feature film, Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan/France), Louvre (Paris)
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), documentary, Werner Herzog (Germany/France), Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave (southern France)
  • Museum Hours (2013), feature film, Jem Cohen (US/Austria), Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)
  • The Great Museum (2014), documentary, Johannes, Holzhausen (Austria), Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)
  • Art and Craft (2014), documentary, Sam Cullman, etc. (US), various American regional museums
  • The New Rijksmuseum (2014), documentary, Oeke Hoogendijk (Netherlands), Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)
  • National Gallery (2015), documentary, Frederick Wiseman (US/UK), National Gallery (London)
  • Faux Départ (2015), documentary, Yto Barrada (Morocco), various Moroccan fossil-producing villages
  • Sector IX B (2015), installation, Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc (Senegal/France), IFAN Museum of African Arts (Dakar)
  • Francofonia (2015), feature film, Alexandr Sokurov (Russia/France), Louvre (Paris)

(For blog editor: the following posters can be included if so desired)

Part II: Commentary

A simple definition of “museum film” is “art films representing museums”. The definition apparently excludes educational films often shown on the premises of museums with regular intervals and commercial films using museums as background. However, as seen in Part III of the blog, the boundaries between three types of films are not absolute. “Museum”, “art film” and “museum film” are all fuzzy concepts with specific historical and philosophical connotations.

The élan of palaeontologists, archaeologists, Egyptologists, connoisseurs, dilettantes, thieves and other misfits render their lives a treasure trove for comedies, thrillers, fantasies and horrors. Opposing the loftiness of tombs, cathedrals and museums, they are our heroes in their quick moves and their cheekiness. In Howard Hawks’ screwball Bring Up Baby (1938), a palaeontologist played by Cary Grant commits himself to an awkward love affair to secure the museum funding. On the other end of the spectrum, absolutely charming robbers from Peter Ustinov (Topkapi, 1964), Peter O’Toole (How to Steal a Million, 1966) to Pierce Brosnan (The Thomas Crown Affair, 1999) target museums for monetary or erotic gains. And we have Mysteries of the Wax Museum (1933), One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975), The Da Vinci Code (2006) and The Mummy Returns and Night at the Museum franchises. None of them is a museum film.

A museum film must satisfy at least two criteria: (1) its protagonist is a museum; (2) it is an art film. The first criterion delineates the material base for a specific cinematic aesthetics: it must be spatial as well as object-oriented. The second criterion applies to the aesthetics itself: it must possess transcendental qualities. As it can be argued that all films are spatial and object-oriented even with the presence of strong characters and narratives and as the standard for transcendental art is relative, museum film discussed here is simultaneously a description and an idealization, a prototype in want of further development and an archetype maintaining an inner posture. My commentary, in turn, looks at historical formation and the aesthetics such formation entails. The two primary texts that I depend on were written not by theorists but two visionaries who happened to be preeminent practitioners of the trades: 16th-century Flemish physician Samuel Quiccheberg’s Inscriptions; or, Titles of the Most Ample Theater (1565), the first European treatise on museums and French master filmmaker Robert Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography (1975).


Quiccheberg began to work with the collection of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria in 1563. Inscription, the first known European treatise on collecting and museum, is foremost of a schemata of collection classification. It was written mostly in short descriptive notes followed by longer paragraphs which Quiccheberg called “digressions”. Three features distinguish this otherwise mundane text: (1) universalism, or the comprehensiveness of the projected collection; (2) spatiality, or a dynamic spatial schemata associated with the object-centred schemata; (3) practise and performance – in Quiccheberg’s using the word “theatre” to describe his museum.

In the Quiccheberg scheme, objects are divided into five classes. Objects in the first class, representatio, pertain to the material culture of the royal patronage – the owner of the projected museum. They include historical, genealogical, geographical, military artefacts as well as portraits. Objects of the second class, artificialia, are three-dimensional art and artifacts including sculptures, coins, exotic ethnographic objects, antiques and weights and measures. The third class includes objects related to the physical world and natural history – biological humans included . The fourth class includes useful tools. The fifth class, representation, is “art and science” proper and is distinguished by its two dimensionality: paintings, maps, charts, diagrams. Interestingly, tables and cabinets that house those two-dimensional objects belong to this class.

This scheme appears to arbitrary and overwrought. But let’s imagine that the University of Toronto’s Anthropology Department is a Quicchebergian museum, the first class will be the internal archive and documents of the department. Students documents and submissions belong to the first class as they correspond to the “military” part of the first class. Much of the archaeological section’s research collection belongs to the second class. Much of the physical anthropology collection and some of the archaeological section’s collection belong to the third class. Research publications and documents from all sub-fields belong to the fifth class. The interesting bit this scheme reveals to us is that the Quicchebergian scheme externalizes the internal with its inclusion of the first class objects. In other words, it is inherently reflexive. By contrast, the archives and student files of the Anthropology Department are inherently external to the department. It is to be noted that the Quicchebergian system is a Leviathan system in a Hobbes sense when he put the royal patron and indeed the central government in a presiding position – and the museum in its abstract conception is a model of the universe with the royal patron playing an analogy of the Creator. Meanwhile, they still belong to one of the five classes. They are inside and outside simultaneously.

Another interesting bit of the scheme is more apparent: the scheme includes artefacts, natural objects and indeed abstract constructs such as ideas as the treatise proposes an extended version of the museum that also includes library and other parts of the royal estate. Comparing it with large scale modern museums, the Smithsonian’s and indeed Royal Ontario Museum have some resemblance to the scheme which contradicts the prevalence of the division of natural history museum, art history museum and ethnology museum.

To use trendy terms, Quicchebergian presented his schemata as an assemblage or a network of things. In fact, he provided a set of abstract maps – or to be more precise, diagrams – to demonstrate how to “walk through” the collection. Since there are five classes, we are able to create two pairs of dualistic oppositions with the fifth serving as a starting point or the governing principle (Figure 1-4):

(Figure 1: Natural history perspective with dualisms of (1) knowers/knowledge (2) tools/resulting artifacts)

(Figure 2: The Leviathan perspective or socio-political constructivism with dualisms of (1) 2D representation/3D reconstruction (2) nature/artifact)

(Figure 3: Modern representational perspective with dualisms of (1) two types of agency (2) two types of structure)

(Figure 4: The schemas are not only diagrams but also maps as evident in their expanded views that include other physical structures and objects)

To an extent, the Quiccheberg system can be compared to the Linnaean taxonomy emerging about 150 years later (Figure 5). Both systems accentuate the contrast between physical morphology of a diverse collection of individual objects or organisms and a unified diagrammatical system or a visual representation of an inner structure. However, the Quiccheberg system is at the same time less developed and more sophisticated. Less developed in the sense that Quiccheberg didn’t create a useable binomial nomenclature for objects. In other words, the translation from objects to a scientific language had been incomplete. MoSre sophisticated in a sense that Quiccheberg’s system is inherently dynamic when he introduced an odd number of classes that equivocally retains strong symmetry and destabilizes such symmetry with a dominant principle arbitrarily chosen.

(Figure 5: A typical textbook representation of the Linnaean schemata)

In his conceptualization Quiccheberg was responding to the surging quantity and diversity of collectible artifacts in the 16th-century Europe. An underlying sensibility is “more is less”: the more one knows about something, the greater sense of ignorance one feels. The purpose of the schemata was simultaneously to contain and to open up for further amassing. The reciprocal close/open dualism is physicalized in the reciprocal place/space dualism. The key is to create a continuity of objects in space. The insurance of such continuity comes from the fact that any single class of objects can be an beginning or and end for a perceptual act which can be visualized in a circular system.

A more profound contradiction can be detected in a tradition on which the Quiccheberg museum was built: the German ideal of Wunderkammer, or “curiosity cabinet” which purported to inspire a sense of enchantment. Such enchantment, by the 16th century, had been demoted to the domestic sphere and became something befitting for women, children, the demented, the primitive and the less educated. Quiccheberg in his design faced the dual purposes of preserving a sense of wonder and a sense of rational order inherent in his assemblage of objects. The dual purposes, in turn, were achieved by approaching and locating an object or a set of objects in a continuous circle that can be “cut” in different ways: a “cut” corresponds to rationalization while the circle the cut resides corresponds to wonder. Meanwhile, any class of objects when designated as the principle class can be viewed as a source of reduction for other classes. Context is created by putting individual observers into the circular system. In particular, the royal philosopher-kings to whom the treatise dedicated could put themselves outside the entirety of collection (by walking through and out of the museum and contemplating about it) and put themselves inside the entirety of collection (when their own kinship, genealogy and portraits were “inscribed” into the system) simultaneously. When one is looking at one’s own portrait, one is looking at from outside the world in which the portrait resides. A dream-like sense of wonder is thus inspired.

Such dialectical sense of wonder is quintessentially theatrical. And it is not by accident that the main title of Quiccheberg’s treatise is “Inscriptions or Titles of the Most Ample Theatre” (Figures 6-7).

(Figure 6: Original title page)

(Figure 7: Translated title page)

Quiccheberg acknowledged in the treatise that he called his museum “theatre” after Italian philosopher Giulo Camillo, the author of L’Idea del Theatro (The Idea of the Theatre). The “theatre” as used by Camillo has the connotation of “memory theatre”. It can be said as a kind of demonstrative system of philosophy played out by objects in philosopher’s mind’s eye in an almost automatic way. Modern philosophers or physicists would call it “thought experiment”. In borrowing the word from Camillo and in emphasizing the performativity of his system of knowledge embodied by the museum designing, Quiccheberg also stressed the subtle difference between his “theatre” and Camillo’ theatre when he suggested that his “theatre” also referred to “amphitheatre”. Such usage first off suggests the physicality of Quiccheberg’s “theatre” which is not just a mental construct but also a physical construct. It also suggests the nonlinearity or circularity of his theatre. The objects to be observed weren’t lined up horizontally in front of the audience but enwrapping them and absorbing them (Figures 7 and 8).

(Figure 7: “theatre”)

(Figure 8: “amphitheatre”)


One of the reasons Samuel Quiccheberg’s text was attracting renewed attention is that more and more museums are now trying to re-create Wunderkammer. However, the origin of contemporary practice of creating enchantment, according to Bruce Robertson in his preface to the English translation of the Samuel Quiccheberg treatise, is not Quiccheberg but French Surrealism. Surrealism, it is to be noted, is distinguished by its assemblage and fusion of the living and the dead, its manipulation of functional and ethnographic artifacts, its circular visual motif, its inversion of the internal and external, its “automatic” theatricity and its purported anti-rationalism that often assumes scientific postures and working with scientific objects (Figures 9-13).

(Figure 9: Object, Meret Oppenheim 1936)

(Figure 10: Automatic Drawing, Andre Masson 1924)

(Figure 11: Un Cadavre , Georges Bataille 1924 & 1930)

(Figure 12: The Fair Captive, Rene Magritte 1931)

(Figure 13: Le beau monde, Rene Magritte)

Visual excess of the Surrealists is a response to the calamity of the Great War. By the end of the Second World War, however, the excess finds its relief theoretically in the emergence of structuralism and cinematically in the emergence of the French New Wave: the former tugs away Surrealists’ visual program in its philosophising while the latter inherits Surrealists’ propensity for the accidental, the bizarre and the violent: it forges an art cinema both in its verbosity and in its infusion of pop sensibility. But it is outside the New Wave, art cinema finds its true transcendental practitioners in the silent and restrained poses of Carl Theodore Dreyer, Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson. In this blog post we will leave Dreyer and Renoir aside and pay attention to Robert Bresson’s style and ideas and his relevance to museum films.


Known for his austere style and limited output, Robert Bresson (1901-1999) created a series of cinematic masterpieces based on literary sources: Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945) is an adaptation of Diderot’s novel. A Man Escaped (1956) is based on André Devigny’s memoir as a member of French resistance; Balthazar (1966) was inspired by Dostoevsky’s The Idiot; Diary of a Country Priest (1951) and Mouchette (1967) are based on Georges Bernanos’ novels; The Trials of Joan of Arc (1962) follows faithfully the transcriptions of the trial. Last but not least, Pickpocket (1959) is a sublimely Gallic reinvention of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The filmmaker’s Notes on the Cinematograph (1975) is a slim collection of adages in the style of Blaise Pascal’s Les Pensées. It can be alternatively viewed as a book of contemplation or a book of instruction, not unlike Quiccheberg’s Inscriptions.

If one is forced to use one sentence to describe the entire volume which is composed of fragmented thoughts often expressed in a cryptic way, one might say that it is a war against theatre, or rather, a war against reproducing theatre on screen. I will humbly reproduce a collection of selected adages from the book for further illumination (“Figure 14”):


  1. “Two types of film: those that employ the resources of the theatre (actors, direction, etc.) and use the camera to reproduce; those that employ the resources of cinematography and use the camera to create.”
  1. “An actor in cinematography might as well be in a foreign country. He does not speak its language.”
  1. “Cinematographer’s film where the images, like the words in a dictionary, have no power and value except through their position and relations.”
  1. “A cinematographer’s system does not regulate everything. It is a bait for something.”
  1. “Flatten my images (as if ironing them) without attenuating them.”
  1. “Your imagination will aim less at events than at feelings, while wanting these latter to be as documentary as possible.”
  1. “No music as accompaniment, support or reinforcement.”
  1. “Nine-tenths of our movements obey habit and automatism.”
  1. “Your film – let people feel the soul and the heart there, but let it be make like a work of hands.”
  1. “Catch instant, spontaneity, freshness.”
  1. “The power your flattened images have of being other than they are. The same image brought in by ten different routes will be a different image ten times.”
  1. “Montaigne: The movement of the soul were born with the same progression as those of the body.”
  1. “Not artful, but agile.”
  1. “Things made more visible not by more light, but by the fresh angle at which I regard them.”
  1. “The persons and the objects in your film must walk at the same pace, as companions.”
  1. “Your film is not made for a stroll with the eyes, but for going right into, for being totally absorbed in.”
  1. “To an actor, the camera is the eye of the public.”
  1. “Cinematography films: emotional, not representational.”
  1. “Wondrous, wondrous, wondrous machine! –Purcell”
  1. “Production of emotion determined by a resistance to emotion.”
  1. “Hollow idea of ‘art cinema,’, of ‘art films.’ Art films, the ones most devoid of it.”

(Figure 14: A pocket collection of Bresson’s notes)


The above collection begins with an adage against theatre (#1) and ends with an adage against art film (#21). But what is really being opposed? The objection to the “art film” designation can be interpreted from adage #13, “Not artful, but agile”, which indicates that film is not representational but physical. It can also be deciphered in Bresson’s curious choice of word for film and filmmaking: cinematograph, which literarily refers to “kinetic writing” or “writing with physical movements”. In Pickpocket, a free and brilliant adaption of Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky’s verbal brilliance is abolished in favor of physical virtuosity. Three stylistic signatures are: (1) the extensive use of the back shots of actors who often walk away from the camera (Figures 15-18); (2) the perspective
vertical to viewers’ eyesight such back shots naturally entail (Figure 16-18); (3) the focus on skillful manual operation, in this case, a chain of operations of co-ordinated pickpocketing in public space with recreated naturalistic soundscape (Figures 19-23).

(Figure 15)

(Figure 16)

(Figure 17)

(Figure 18)

(Figure 19)

(Figure 20)


(Figure 21)

(Figure 22)

(Figure 23)

The essential difference between theatre and cinema for Bresson, from evidence collected here, is that theatre assumes a dualism of stage and audience paralleling each other (Figure 7) while cinema assumes the disintegration of this duality by putting audience into the screen – done here by demanding actors turning back to the camera and leading the audience towards the depth of perspective. The emotional and erotic climax achieved in this process is not in souped-up dramatic expressions but in the cool and methodological maneuvers that demand great self-control and systematic sensibility: the emotional focus is often not on facial expressions but on hands when one works (even as a pickpocket) and on the lower body (when one walks). We’ve already seen similar conception in Quiccheberg’s museum, or, “amphitheatre”, although in his case the emphasis in on mapping out a physical space with classes of objects in a bid to facilitate such physical movements and manual operations.

The cinematic illusion of walking in depth inevitably involves the symmetry and the consolidation of 2-D and 3-D – something tackled by Quiccheberg in Inscription (Figure 2). The aesthetics of representing 3-D (or even 4-D if we include the temporal lapse a cinematic moment or a museum walk naturally entails) within the limitation of 2D is also profoundly associated with capturing wonders and enchantment in a rational system. Bresson addresses the dynamics in adage #5 and #11. By extension, we know that a single object yield multiple views (adage #14). Simple examples demonstrating the point can be found in optical illusions such as the Necker cube (Figure 24) which immediately produces two very different views with the same image (Figure 25). It is conjectured that leading audience into the depth of a dynamic space within the limitation of a fundamentally two-dimensional or rational system is both Quiccheberg’s intention and Bresson’s intention.

(Figure 24)

(Figure 25 Two views of the Necker cube)


Let’s not take the word “illusion” necessarily as a word contradicting “truth” or “reality”. Let’s assume both a museum and a film try to create a space or a place of illusion that allows their respective audiences to look at objects within that space simultaneously in multiple ways – and this can be understood either as allowing different individuals to perceive the same thing differently at the same time or the same individual to perceive the same thing differently at different times. Let’s also assume “truth” or “reality” is the sum of different perspectives and as long as the object to be observed has new audience, such totality or truth can never be truly achieved, then how the Quicchebergian museum perspective profoundly different from the Bressonian cinematic perspective?

The answer is intuitive and simple: a museum has its objects fixed and its viewers moving while a film has its viewers fixed and its objects moving. I will forgo a multitude of philosophical nuances the difference entails, let’s name the two directly contradicting perspectives after different characters the two contexts entail: Quiccheberg’s treatise was dedicated to kings and princes while Bresson’s film is almost a tribute to pickpockets; we thus will call the first paradigm the Princely paradigm and the second one Pickpocket paradigm. It’s sufficient to declare here that we can act as tailors to stitch museum and film together, or as democratic mediators who treat princes and thieves equally. Museum film is an artistic demonstration of this equality.

In the following section, I will introduce and briefly comment on some of the films appearing in Part I. They are not synopses or production notes but notes pertaining to the museum-film complex.

Part III: Museum Films

Russian Ark (2001), feature film, Alexandr Sokurov (Russia), The Hermitage (St. Petersburg)

This is the paradigmic film for the museum film genre. Originally designated as a promotional film for the State Hermitage Museum, the film developed into a representation of and a commentary on the 300-year Russian history with a virtuosic single-take of a walk through the thirty exhibition halls of the museum with actors re-enacting historical scenes from different periods in different halls. The key visual element is the unbroken “vertical” walk into the depth of space with the camera. The inclusion and omission of the Hermitage’s artifacts suggest a systematic approach to Russian history that is annotated by many visitors’ personal views presented in the film.

Une visite au Louvre (2003), dialogue film, Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet (France), Louvre (Paris)

The film is a visual recreation of a chapter from Joachim Gasquet’s book Cézanne in which the young Gasquet describes a trip he accompanied Cezanne to Louvre. It is a focused reproduction of fourteen paintings and one sculpture on screen with Cézanne’s comments to Gasquet narrated by voice-over. Profoundly static, it takes advantage of the fact that film audience are not supposed to move around and “enforce” the exhibited artworks in a different way than in an actual museum visit. Such enforcement can be seen by the two filmmakers as a process of creating a new artwork based on the old masterpieces. It echoes Cézanne’s remark: “The Louvre is the book from which we learn to read”. It also emulates the artistic practice of Cézanne who had studied human forms and nature not by sketching in the studio or in the field but by studying artworks in the museum.

Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge (2007), feature film, Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan/France), Musée d’Orsay (Paris)

Partially commissioned by Musée d’Orsay, the director was asked to create a film based on one of the museum’s collection. The chosen artwork is the Swiss Post-Impressionist Félix Vallotton’s Le Balloon (Figure 26). However, the actual artwork doesn’t appear on screen until the very end and that is done from the viewpoint of a red balloon floating outside the glass of the museum from above – the angle, however, coincides the angle suggested in the painting itself. The film is about the daily routines of an ordinary Parisian middle-class single mother played by Juliette Binoche and her young son who forges a friendship with a cheeky red balloon – an obvious homage to the children’s classic Le Balloon rouge. The sanctity of an art museum is enshrined by the mundane life in an average Parisian household.

(Figure 26)

Visage (2009), feature film, Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan/France), Louvre (Paris)

This is a film fully commissioned by the Louvre for permanent exhibition purpose, the fist of its kind. The filmmaker was asked to improvise on a painting and to utilize the museum space. True to his aesthetics, Tsai chose the network of backrooms, boiler rooms, storage, basement and the sewage system of the Louvre as the main space where the actions carried out (this incidentally echoes the glass pyramid designed by I. M. Pei). The film involves long takes of people walking away from the camera to the depth of the basement or other less than glamorous parts of the museum or zigzags out of the sewage system under the premise (Figure 27). In the end of the film, one of the protagonists played by Jean-Pierre Léaud (of The 400 Blows fame) eventually emerges from behind the chosen painting, Leonardo Da Vinci’s St. John the Baptist (Figure 28).

(Figure 27)

(Figure 28)

Museum Hours (2013), feature film, Jem Cohen (US/Austria), Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)

An American woman visits the city of Vienna for the first time to see a dying friend. Between hospital visits, she visits the Kunsthistorisches Museum and forges a friendship with a lonely security guard. The two of them discuss their personal lives and also the paintings: each brings their own perspectives to the artworks in front of them. While obviously not a trained specialist on art, the very observant security guard has been physically around the paintings for a very long time and formed unique views on them. The key artist discussed in the film is the artist whose works are among Kunsthistoriches’s greatest collection: the 16th-century Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, one of the greatest landscape painters who often depicted landscapes from an angled point of view and depicted the people from behind (Figure 29).

(Figure 29 The Hunters in the Snow, 1565)

Art and Craft (2014), documentary, Sam Cullman, etc. (US), various American regional museums

Mark Landis, a soft-spoken and very lonely Missouri man, spends most of time in his apartment. With his TV set on playing old sitcoms such as I Love Lucy, he uses cheap materials he purchased from Walmart to make exquisite copies of artworks of famous artists. The filmmakers follow Landis’s adventures when he dresses up as a priest or the offspring of billionaires to donate his paintings to museums. Almost all museums accepted his donations which eventually lead to embarrassment. A closer look at Landis by the filmmakers, however, reveals that his forgery is a peculiar but genuine art more than many original artworks. In the end of film, Landis gets his own personal show–of his forgery art–and becomes a recognized artist. If Tsai Ming-liang’s Visage sabotages the meaning of art space, the film sabotages the meaning of art.

Faux Départ (2015), documentary, Yto Barrada (Morocco), various Moroccan fossil-producing villages

The site of the documentary is not exactly a museum: the story unfolds in some North African villages once on the bed of a pre-Cambrian ocean and renowned for the discovery of fossils. The monetary motive makes forging fossils a local industry. The forgery, meanwhile, is an hybridity of the real and fake. The camera pays intense attention to the craftsmanship, or sometimes the lack of it, of the process of forgery.

Sector IX B (2015), featurette film, Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc (Senegal/France), IFAN Museum of African Arts (Dakar)

A researcher of African origin, inspired by French anthropologist and Surrealist Michel Leiris, walks around the IFAN museum and observes the artworks with renewed imagination. While many artifacts in the exhibition are carefully labelled and indexed in aesthetics terms, the researcher discovers that a hallucinatory perception of African objects advocated by Leiris is inseparable form the grasp of the underlying network of use values of the artifacts.

Francofonia (2015), feature film, Alexandr Sokurov (Russia/France), Louvre (Paris)

The film presents a dilemma: history and art contradict each other while creating each other. The magnificent artworks exhibited in Louvre are often the results of war and looting, yet under the threat of German aggression during the Second World War those artworks faced looting and destruction. The film pays tribute to the two low-key historical figures who nevertheless achieved one of the greatest feasts against looting in history and in art history: the Louvre director Jacques Jaujard who staged as audacious as meticulous an evacuation of artifacts before the fall of Paris and the German apparatchik Franz Wolff-Metternich, a Francophile who passively resisted his superior’s order to transport the Louvre collection to Germany. One of the key visual triumphs of the film is the photograph of paintings with camera, something not as easy as it appears to be. The film also acknowledges the artificiality of the re-enactment of history by including footages of filmmaking into the flow of the story: the point is that the reproduction or re-enactment is itself a genuine art and a genuine part of history. Sokurov also utilized the new drone technologies and included many close-up aerial views of the museum and the city: it’s an observation of details with patterns in mind. Individuals such as Jaujard and Wolff-Metternich are of a quiet and almost unnoticeable type, but the solemn responsibility of defending great art, artifacts and civilization fell on their strong shoulders. Great men (or villaina) such as Napoleon (who were responsible for the acquisition of many masterpieces in Louvre) and Hitler (who had the intention of looting) were portrayed as buffoons.

Books discussed:

Bresson, Robert. 1997. Notes on the Cinematographer. Los Angeles, Calif.: Distributed in the U.S. by Sun & Moon Press.

Quicchelberg, Samuel. 2013. The First Treatise on Museums : Samuel Quiccheberg’s Inscriptiones, 1565. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.

The Ardèche River flows quietly across Pont d’Arc into southern France’s open air and sunshine. Looking at the grand vista, a voice from the famed Chauvet Cave says: “This is just like a Wagner opera.”

The voice belongs to the German filmmaker Werner Herzog who brought his small crew and Teutonic sensibility to the picturesque French country. After all, this documentary about upper-Palaeolithic paintings would be shot deep in cave where loaded meaning of the word “dream” is less likely to evaporate, not unlike those beautifully preserved graffiti from 30,000 years ago.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) is said to be among the first documentaries using the new 3-D technology, of which Herzog is not a fan. “This is an imperative, not a decision.” he explains. 3-D, in fact, is an unnatural way of looking: “3D will always have one major problem, and that is when you look as a human being, normally only one eye looks dominantly at things. The other eye is mostly ignored. And only in specific cases – if somebody approaches you – all of a sudden the brain starts to use both eyes for establishing depth of field and understanding space.”

A sense of fluidity was attempted in this 3-D documentary on the 2-D inanimate cave paintings. But are they really inanimate? Many animals – bison and horses – depicted by primitive “artists” have extra heads and legs, indicating movement. The cave paintings, thus, are the earliest animations. To be more precise, they are the earliest cinema. Herzog must have found his artistic forefathers here.  The caves, cave paintings and the archaeologists are his objects.

“The upper-palaeo men lived in a world of fluidity.” one French archaeologist explains in the film. By “fluidity”, he means “animism”. The material world and human’s immaterial souls are one and the same. The universe, landscape, animals, plants, objects, human bodies and minds are constantly transforming into each other. “We are not homo sapiens – we are homo spiritual.”

As soon as the fluidity stopped for a moment in the human mind, an unbridgeable gap between word and image, sound and silence, order and chaos, contemplation and action, rationality and irrationality… emerges. The awkward contradiction can be found in those bison with eight legs in the moment of fear arrested by tranquility. It can be found in the film itself: a film documenting homo spiritual – not homo sapiens – is too wordy to enwrap us with awe (unlike those by Frederic Wiseman). Is the omnipresent neo-Renaissance music by Ernst Reijseger, which I enjoyed, an anxious attempt to recreate primitive sensibility? Or is it imposing a 19th-century Teutonism to palaeolithic cave dwellers (and us)? At one point in the film, Herzog even traveled “across the valley” from France to Germany to check out the Venus of Hohles Fels. He also had one German experimental archaeologist performed the Star-Spangled Banner tune on a recreated palaeolithic flute. Paintings are still here, but music is what has been lost and forgotten.

I suspect the filmmaker is attracted more to music than to painting. I suspect all good filmmakers are latent musicians. I suspect an attempt at depicting painting is preferrable than an attempt at depicting music. We can extend our taste in visual arts to the primitive ages (the nude female figure in Chauvet Cave resembles a Picasso, Herzog tells us); our taste in music, however, is much more limited. Painting is horizontal; music is vertical. Painting is material; music is vaporous. Painting is edgily; music is edgeless.

Another Teutonic filmmaker (albeit Russian) Alexander Sokurov whose sensibility travels between music and paintings once said that he wanted to create an edgeless feel in his films. His Russian Ark, a 96-minute non-stop one-take, is a 96-minute “vertical” walk across the gigantic Hermitage Museum. In fact, it succeeded in three-dimensionality without using 3-D technology.

Sokurov’s museum film successfully advocated a historical holism with its use of quirky details.  For audience, one of the greatest difficulties in understanding this film is not its lack of linear narrative, its incoherent dialogues (people are often murmuring in the film), and its lavish attention paid to objects, but to recognize who’s who and what’s what. Most of the historical characters – Peter the Great, Nicholas I, Nicholas II – was not explicitly pointed out. There is one figure often appeared suspiciously behind the Frenchman on the margin of the screen. He was never explained or developed, but people who are familiar with Russian history know that in the 19th-century, foreigners were often spied on by government agents. The dinner of the Nicholas II with his family looks tranquil and mundane to an innocent spectator, but the experience of the scene will be enhanced if one knows that this was the last dinner before he and his family were captured and executed by the revolutionaries – the actual seizure of the palace, however, is not shown in the film.

The words and messages in Caves of Forgotten Dreams (in essence another “museum film”) are loud and clear, too loud and clear. Fortunately, we are not entirely deprived of quirkiness. I’m not too sure about the albino crocodiles in end of the film – it’s too self-consciously metaphoric to be of interest, but we do have this young French archaeologist who was an acrobat specializing in monocycle and juggling before coming to Chauvet Cave. The 21-century, after all, continues a tradition of disorderly beauty occurred long before the palaeolithic graffiti artists walked into the dark cave.

 The cave museum (Chauvet Cave of Ardèche, France):

The palace museum (Hermitage of St. Petersburg):

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16. On art as escape (from art): God gave blood to penis and brain, but not enough for both – filmmaking is about intense engagement; it is a very physical process, like making love; it takes a lot of energy: that’s why I need to get away from it – by doing collage.
16.Art as escape by untimelythoughts
17. On Gus van Sant: intimate but distant, personal but intellectually reserved – a true artist.
17.Gus van Sant by untimelythoughts

18. On getting a sense of specific spaces:
18.A sense of space by untimelythoughts

 19. Physical, not aesthetic: “Why shaky cam? Cinema Verite? No, ask my doctor.”
19.Shaky cam by untimelythoughts

 20. “I’m not kidding but I’m kidding.”
20.I’m not kidding but I’m kidding by untimelythoughts



 11. On filmmaking: “Just do it, because we have to exist.”
11.Just do it by untimelythoughts

12. On location shooting in his own tiny apartment: “Because this is the state of my life”.
12.This apartment is the state of my life by untimelythoughts

13. On universal pigeons: “They shit on everyone.”
13.Universal pigeon by untimelythoughts

14. On films as roadmarks of life journeys: “You never go back, because you can’t!”
14.Journey by untimelythoughts

15. On solitude: “It’s really useful to lose your credit card and passport.”
15.Solitude by untimelythoughts

My real job is to love.” – Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle finished his beer on stage halfway through the TIFF event, too shy to ask for more – but he managed to hold on to his brilliance to the end. This is the first part of his Little Red Audiobook from the event compiled especially for you. Enjoy!

1. On career choice:“Don’t fucking trust the system; just do your own shit.”
01.Just do your own shit by untimelythoughts

2. On the philosophy of life: “You do what you can, not what you want. This is a very important concept.”
02.You do what you can by untimelythoughts

3. On the dichotomy of thought and action: “How did we do the trick? In Chinese, we say “wenxi, wuxi” (arts vs. actions), a traditional division of labor.”
03.Wenxiwuxi by untimelythoughts

4. On who holds the authority: “A person’s authority comes from the objects he works with. Many of you spend much more time online or on computer than I do, and you are the ones who shall be telling me how to do.”
04.Objects and persons by untimelythoughts

5. On style coming from restrictions and obligations: “In the West, you are probably going to build a cave [to create the style], but for us, style comes from restrictions and obligations. That’s the cultural dichotomy of the image-making between the West and East. “
05.Dichotomy by untimelythoughts

6. On “persons and things” in cinema: “There are only three people in cinema: actors in front of camera; audience behind it; and those who are in between – most of time it is me. My real job is to love, to be trusted, to be a bridge, to be a hollow tube.”
06.Three people in cinema by untimelythoughts

7. On what it takes to be a great artist : “The function of art is to be subjectively objective. The real artist has the ability to put all of himself in, and stand back.”
07.Little Britain by untimelythoughts

8. On purity: “What you see is what we shot. I believe as an artist you shall put as much in there as what you wish to share with the audience. Editing is only secondary – I’m such as a purist!”
08.Such a purist by untimelythoughts

9. On the lure and danger of impact-making in art: “The balance between organization and impact sometimes went wrong.”
09.Balance by untimelythoughts

10. On Toronto: “Toronto is a kind of oasis, not Miami as you said.”
10.Oasis by untimelythoughts

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Little Puyi becomes the emperor

I was surprised at my own quietness in front of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. I might have been enraged by the film as I had been by Julian Schnabel’s Before the Night Falls –a vulgar distortion of Reinaldo Arenas’ brilliant autobiography. Every Cuban person in that film, which is not a comedy, speaks English in an “Allo, Allo” way. But here, I felt no objection to the Chinese emperor Puyi talking to his enuchs in perfect English and in a perfectly straight face. The dialogues are banal, but suitably so.

Banality characterizes Puyi’s life experiences, but it comes with imperial opulence – a recipe for a good Bertolucci film. The Last Emperor, in fact, differs little from The Conformist he made 17 years ago. The timid souls of non-heroes in both films struggle in vain against excess for just a little humanity. Marcello Clerici failed. Puyi, on the other hand, had limited success. Their objects of passion (and connections to humanity) have similar fate: Anna Quadri died a terrible death; Wan Jung lived a terrible life. Their sidekicks, however, ended radically different: Guillia was entrapped with the man who doesn’t love her; Wen Xiu broke into freedom in a torrent of blue rain.

Bertolucci’s films are not films. They are operas. They don’t have characters. They have icons. Those icons are not idols. They are banality. They are ourselves dressed in the best clothing possible, shown in the best light possible. They move from one cinematic aria to another. What we treasure, after feasts of majesties, however, is still the simple human feelings and humble inspirations we already have.

That’s probably why we sat comfortably in front of the films, enjoying the grandeur, the banality, and the oddity of English-speaking Chinese. Despite its sumptuosity, history is just like us. We are the history.

Wen Xiu breaks into freedom:


To Find Our Life – The Peyote Hunt of the Huichols of Mexico (1969)

This ethnographical film documented a 1968 Huichol journey in search of the psychoactive cactus peyote, an event of supreme cultural importance. For the Huichol participants, the pilgrimage was intensely spiritual and sentimental, as seen in the end of the journey (not shown in this clip) when everyone wept. The film is rightfully acclaimed for its sensitivity, for it’s evident that the indigenous participants had full trust of the filmmakers/ethnographers. However, even a casual spectator would not fail to notice the bland voice-over that narrates in English the passionate thoughts of the band leader Ramón Medina Silva without a single trace of emotion.

This blandness may be merely technical, for after all this is not a film for entertainment. But there may be underlying philosophy: to this date, anthropology can not decide if it is science or art (although it might be offensive to most anthropologists if you suggest that anthropology is not a science). This ambivalence is shown in a recent controversy concerning dropping the word “science” from American Anthropological Association’s statement of its long-range plan.

There are similar questions. Whether we, the spectators (or “participant-observers”), are outsiders or insiders? Do we believe make-believe? If not, do we believe in make-believe?

In our own comedic arts, make-believes are never contradictory to truthfulness. In fact, by instinct, we know the truth of comedy is inseparable from its entertainment value – a detailed scientific proof of a humor’s validity would render the humor humorless. Humor is its own truth serum:

René of the café talks to the “outsiders” from the “inside”.

In fact, we invest our body and soul in more serious forms of dramatic arts where the boundary between fancy and reality blurred almost to the level of the Huichol peyote hunters, when we are moved by the drama. Here, even our bland voice, just like the voice of Mrs. Venable – played in the film by the peerless Katharine Hepburn – in the conclusion of Suddenly, Last Summer, betrays our trembling heart:

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Laugh takes away one’s strength. Laugh gives one strength. Sprinkles of youthful joy punctuate Aamir Bashir’s autumnal Harud (Autumn), completing its meticulous observation of psychology and history in contemporary Kashmir where life goes on despite the extreme tense situation and frequent outbursts of violence, elevating the narrative to a transcendental course where sorrows are inseparable from hope, miseries from beauty, individuals from history. The last film achieving this level of completeness is the veteran Russian filmmaker Sokurov’s Alexandra, a personal story in the war-torn Chechnya. Harud, however, is Aamir Bashir’s debut feature.

Laugh takes away one’s strength, and sanity. Thus our young hero Rafiq always keeps his silence and expressionlessness, whenever he is doing his dead-end odd job, or heroically helps an injured intellectual who just survived an assassination, or hanging out with friends, or helping mother taking care of his father who suddenly went insane in this war-zone. But not since Bresson’s Pickpocket are the silence gazes so meaningful. And just like Michel, Rafiq never ceases his search for truth, on his own terms.

Similar to the rare joyful moments, the minor presence of women in this war-and-politics film also demonstrates where real human strength lies. During the Q&A session, Aamir Bashir pointedly mentioned the character of Rafiq’s mother, who is the true pillar of the family when everything went wrong; and an elusive young lady, the girlfriend of the missing brother, who for Mr. Bashir is the symbol of the lost innocence of Kashmir where the filmmaker left 20 years ago for Delhi and where since became a war zone.

A good film has to be a profound but subtle biography of the filmmaker. And this biography must engage the audience. The camera of Rafiq’s missing brother, who is a photographer, is not only central in advancing the narrative, but also central in mitigating the division between art and life, the artist and the audience. Rafiq sees his world through the camera’s lens; we see with him; and we see Rafiq’s shining eyes from the opposite direction through the opposite side of the camera. And eventually, the lens is non other than the filmmaker’s lens. Few films are able to incorporate the representational and the reflexive so lucidly and flawlessly.

According to Mr. Bashir, the film was shot in a very short period of time with largely a local first-time ensemble and occasional professionals (Rafiq’s father is played by Iran’s Reza Raji). The characters and story are preconceived, but there are lots of spontaneous takes.

For me, this film is a perfect blend of neorealism, epic beauty, rich details and subtle sensibility, so characteristic of the Iranian and Indian art cinemas. If there is any film tradition that is able to defy the dogma created by both Western commercial cinema and the “cinemathequesque” cinema (as seen in TIFF’s “Essential 100” list), it will be either from West Asia or South Asia.

In an interview, Aamir Bashir proudly points out that all the major participants in the making of Harud are new and young. Despite a lack of funds, he believes, this will be the new beginning for India’s art cinema. Indeed.


It took me five minutes to find the men’s room on the second floor of the second floor of this gothic glass tower. After relieving myself in a fancy urinal, I ran across the vast but empty marble lobby, passing a crowd of handsomely uniformed young staff who were standing around, returning to the screening of Citizen Kane.

Orson Welles made this film when he was only in his 20s. Is this really “the greatest film of all time”? I would not have known. Despite its scope, its subject and its fame, what really impresses me is the film’s youthful ambition and vigor – even Welles’ heavy make-up couldn’t  hide his gleaming and penetrating eyes that belong only to young people.  The closest thing in the gallery of “great films” I can think of, in fact, is Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. If a 34-year-old Jacques Demy was projecting a youthful regret in that film, a 27-year-old Welles was projecting a youthful cynicism here. While both regret and cynicism are frequently associated with older people, when presented by the young, they are particularly affecting and particularly true because the underlying ambition and love are much stronger

Now Orson Welles and Citizen Kane are part of the establishment they are both enshrined in this “Essential 100” list and this monstrosity of a building. What he needs, probably, is a youthful audience who could occupy the empty theatre I was in this afternoon, and who could watch the film as what it is, not what everybody says it is.

Ambition and cynicism:

Love and regret:


At the age of 40, Jia Zhangke finally made his way to Shanghai from the countryside of his native Shanxi via the northern metropolis Beijing. His latest documentary, I Wish I Knew, recorded interviews with an array of Shanghainese from different background: offspring of nationalist tycoon, gang leader, communist martyr, filmmakers and movie stars – most of which dispersed to Hong Kong and Taiwan after the revolution – as well as an aging socialist model worker, a middle-aged communist cadre and a young celebrity blogger – all of them grew up entirely under People’s Republic’s flag but whose core “memories of life” are tellingly different from one another.

In the past 10, 20, 30, 50, or 100 years, just how many people in China have made similar journeys from the country to cities, or from the North to the South (and vice versa)? Countless. But Jia is one of the few in recent memory who travels conscientiously as a public artist who intends to document a national sensibility.

I call Jia a “public artist”  for a reason. He is never really a “public intellectual”. The greatest strength of his films is their authenticity in capturing the disposition and manners of the Chinese as a people, although they are too often on the mildly melancholy side. But the range of his portraits, while expanding, is still very limited both geographically and historically, and the discourse in his films is never deep. His use of historical and cultural references is always apparent to the point of banality, although not easy to spot for a non-Chinese. Jia’s films give China’s recent history (“public history” if I may) an authentic personal touch, yet his films are never truly individual – they are shared dreams of a nation that had been starved of public culture for a very long time, and those dreams are often crude. This has everything to do with Jia’s own positioning as an individual, for his personal history is very much the public history of China with the sewing machine and bicycles manufactured in Shanghai (he mentioned in his introduction to TIFF’s screening), kitsch revolutionary song and dance routines before 1980s and Hong Kong pops after, both of which he quoted extensively in his films, as well as events of newspaper-clipping worth, such as Beijing Olympics and the Three Gorges. His thematic range and motifs are limited. Provincial in nature, he never ventures into territories of the fringe, the esoteric, or the absurd, as his urban contemporaries Jiang Wen (Devil at the Doorstep; The Sun Also Rises) and Lou Ye (Suzhou River; Spring Fever) did.

Mind you, the last paragraph is not a criticism of Jia. On the contrary, I believe Jia is an unintentional but excellent ethnographer, and emic one that is, and often reflexive. He himself is consistently the departure point of his search for the essence of contemporary China: he was one of the “singers” in Platform. When Jia reaches his celebirty height in the world of cinema, naturally, film business itself becomes the departure point: in I Wish I Knew, more than half of the interviewees  have direct relations to the history of Chinese cinema.

Interestingly, the most telling segment of I Wish I Knew is the interview with the only non-Shanghainese in the documentary – Hou Hsiao-hsien, who in 1997 made the exquisite Flowers of Shanghai, a story about the 19th-century courtesans in a Shanghai brothel and their ambiguous love affairs with their clients. Hou is not only a great modernist stylist, but also a true intellectual. According to him, the emergence of romantic love is one of the most significant elements in the shaping of modern Chinese sensibility. To validate Hou’s assertion, one can check out his works such as Dust in the Wind or Flowers of Shanghai– one can also watch all Jia Zhangke’s films which are intellectually and stylistically influenced by Hou.

As ethnographers, both Jia and Hou succeeded in capturing a vague feeling of romance that often left unconsumed. I disagree with them in that I don’t think romantic love is new, but I strongly sympathize with that lingering feeling of unfulfillment that distinguishes their films.

Smoke in Your Eyes in Three Times(Hou, 2005):

The old man sings I Wish I Knew (Jia, 2010):


Films are celluloid dreams. For that reason alone, most films are redundant, because there is really no need of extra fiction, mystery, drama or special effects, and there is no need of philosophy and polemics. Anything you hear and see on the street, as soon as put on screen, is immediately a dream, a poem, a story, a testimony, a proof, and a thesis. From this point of view, anyone with a camera can be somewhat an artist.

But what distinguishes a true artist is his ability to engage the sustained rhythm of life in front of camera without being overwhelmed by it, or running away from it, as well as his ability to unfold what he has seen to his audience with passionate but dignified intimacy. His audience thus become a genuine part of the life on screen which otherwise might be totally unfamiliar to them.

Frederick Wiseman  is such a rare artist. Last year he brought the engrossing and meticulously observed La danse, a documentary on the Paris Opera Ballet to TIFF. This year it’s some amateur Texan boxers’ turn. Again, Boxing Gym is a gripping portrait of universal humanity that expressed itself in a particular form within the confinement of a particular time, place and institution. A description of the film can be found here. In the Q & A session, Mr. Wiseman made the following points:

  • Institutionalized violence is a topic that attracts his attention. He had made films on state-sanctioned violence before. This time the focus is on non-state but ritualized violence in the form of boxing.
  • He practiced boxing when he was younger.
  • Boxing Gym, a film about amateur boxers in a garage-like gym in Texas, was shot at the same time of La danse, a film about top French ballet dancers.
  • There are inherent similarities between boxing and dancing, not least in their common emphasis on physical control and attempts to grasp rhythm.
  • Catching rhythm was also what he was doing as a filmmaker.
  • There is no music in the film? No, there is! Lots of! All the time!
  • This film has no narrative? No, there is (it’s up to you to figure it out)!
  • How long did it take to find the right gym for the documentary? 15 seconds! “As soon as I entered it, I knew it was a perfect gym!”
  • How long did it take to make people feel comfortable in front of camera? 15 minutes! “It sounds unbelievable, but people do get used to it very quickly!”

La danse (2009):


Sometimes it’s hard to say what’s more important: the book you are reading or your random thoughts generated by the reading? the music you are listening to or your seemingly irrelevant memories and emotions brought out by the music? the film you are watching or your feelings (including boredom) aggravated by the image and sound in front of you?

Sometimes it’s even harder to decide what’s the true intention of the artist (author/auteur) behind all his bombast or solemnity: Is he genuinely communicating his ideas and vision, or is he playing with words, images, and sound, simply to elicit responses from his audience? Such is the case with Jean-Luc Godard’s latest, Film Socialism, the very first screening of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. 

I would not have known if Godard has anything important to say, for the film – mostly in French – was screened almost without subtitle, on purpose. However, as with other Godard’s works, this is a very verbal film. People on screen are talking all the time, yet what they are talking about, I suspect, is totally irrelevant. The only important thing is that they are talking, and you are watching and listening to their talking, and you are thinking, and you are observing your own thoughts in the darkness of the theatre among hundreds of others who may or may well not be thinking what you are thinking about, and you are observing this very last fact at the same time.

Yes, the Ryerson Theatre was packed. I’m sure Godard’s disciples among them were thrilled, for this is an exceedingly handsome film, digital cinematography at its best. If we treat cinema not as a dramatic form but a branch of visual arts, architecture, or music (the film is labeled as “a symphony in three movements”), if we don’t try to contemplate the meanings of the sight and sound in front us – don’t even care to understand the dialogues or voice-over (there is plenty here) and subtitles / intertitles – simply view them as part of overall design, we might see the film as what it is, with all its original beauty.

And I’m sure Cinematheque veterans who are not Godard’s disciples were well-prepared for this test and had a good time in turn.

And I’m sure there are many “newbie” who were completely puzzled and frustrated. The miracle is: although there was a continuing stream of audience fleeing the theatre, most of them stayed.

As I walked out into an autumnal Toronto evening after the screening, I overheard one young lad with lean figure, pale complexion and a big pair of glasses speaking cynically to his friends: “Next year, they will come back …”

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times thought “an improvement in my French and many more fully translated subtitles before I can begin to get a tentative grasp on it”. She was, of course, completely wrong. One might grasp the essence of the film without understanding one word of French, as this reviewer has brilliantly done.

What’s this film to me is not the film itself, but what it bought out in me. Often I don’t judge the film by how enjoyable it is in theatre, but by to what degree it would sharpen my ears and eyes whenI left the theatre. Indeed, Godard’s film has the power to shed new light on the streets outside theatres, and the film itself, because of its overall handsomeness and flashes of exquisteness, is not easily forgettable. For that reason alone, it is a success.

This one-minute trailer of Film Socialism is a masterpiece on its own –  slow it down and you almost have the complete 97-minute film:

 The closest thing in music: