Royal Palace | Royal Museums of Turin
Many artists have drawn inspiration from international cinema history in order to deconstruct the codes of cinematic language, to question the strategies of construction and representation of identity, to re-negotiate the spectatorial experience and – in a game of references, associations and appropriations – to create something radically new.
Curated by Giovanna Fazzuoli and Giulia Magno within the framework of the Turin-based festival ‘Cinema a Palazzo Reale’,
Re-enactments explores the intersections between cinema and the visual arts by bringing a selection of artists’ films into dialogue with the masterpieces of cinema history that – from Buñuel to Hitchcock, from Pasolini to Polański – inspired them.
The opening night brings together two different interpretations of the myth of Medea: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Medea (1969) and the homonym experimental adaptation (2013) by Austrian multimedia artist Ursula Mayer.
Euripides’ tragedy contrasts two worlds which are no longer compatible with one another: the archaic hieratic world of Medea and the modern rational world of Jason. The clash between the two characters, who confront each other here as representatives of their opposing systems, raises the eternal question of peaceful coexistence between cultures in a globalized world. Ursula Mayer pays tribute to Pasolini by setting her interpretation of the myth through the caves of Cappadocia. If Pasolini decided to cast an international icon like Maria Callas as the female lead, in Mayer’s experimental work the roles of Medea and Jason – archetypal symbols of the binary opposition between masculine and feminine – are both played by queer feminist icon JD Samson (musician in the band MEN and Le Tigre). Operating somewhere between the mythical dimension and the contemporary world, JD Samson becomes a symbolic figure for the surmounting of cultural and national borders.
Left: Chinatown (Roman Polański, 1974).
Right: After Chinatown (Ming Wong, 2012).
The second chapter is devoted to what François Truffaut has defined a “film about filmmaking”. Watching his neighbors through binoculars and a telephoto lens, the wheelchair-ridden protagonist of Rear Window (1954) L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) evokes the voyeuristic condition of the cinematic spectator.
Presented at the 68th Berlin Film Festival, Accidence (2018) pushes the boundaries of Hitchcock’s exploration of voyeurism.
A mysterious murder is observed, over and over again, as events leading up to the commission of the crime transpire over a gridwork of apartment block balconies, all shot in one long continuous take. Since the film’s frame contains thirty balconies, the viewer must choose ‘interactively’ which storyline to follow most closely. As a result, the film is a completely different movie each time it’s watched even though not one detail changes from viewing to viewing.
Left: Medea (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969).
Right: Medea (Ursula Mayer, 2013)
© Courtesy of Ursula Mayer and LUX, London.
The programme continues with “a film about the Thirties seen through the camera eye of the Seventies”, as Roman Polański
described Chinatown (1974) — seen again through the camera eye of contemporary artist Ming Wong. Incapable to heed the call to forget ending Polański’s neo-noir masterpiece – “Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown” –, the Singaporean artist embarks on a research journey into the legacy of ‘Chinatown’ as a cinematic symbol. Retracing the journeys made by the early Chinese immigrants who traveled from Hong Kong to California, Ming Wong plays both the detective (Jack Nicholson) and the femme fatale (Faye Dunaway), carrying on Polański’s reflection on the conventions and codified identities of the noir genre.
On the closing night, a screening of Luis Buñuel’s L’âge d’or (1930) accompanied by live music will be followed by
Julian Rosefeldt’s visionary hommage to the Surrealist masterpiece. The artist conceived Deep Gold (2013/2014) as a fictional insert in Buñuel’s original film, in which the two protagonists try to fulfil their lust for each other, but are constantly disturbed by various obstacles. Buñuel used the motif of amour fou to criticize the restrictions and conventions of the time: the Catholic Church, the political establishment, the bourgeois morality and the aristocracy. Interpreting the abrupt abandonment of the protagonist (Gaston Modot) by his beloved (Lya Lys) as an early and provocative feminist manifesto, Rosefeldt showcases a grotesque version of the ‘Golden Age’ dominated by an omnipresent female sexuality. After attempting suicide by jumping out of a window, Rosefeldt’s Modot awakes in a foggy street – a surrealistic environment rife with bars, brothels, prostitutes, hustlers and naked people strolling around shamelessly.
Left: Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954).
Right: Accidence (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson & Galen Johnson, 2018).
Nothing is original.
Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.
— Jim Jarmusch
It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.
— Jean-Luc Godard
Ursula Mayer, Medea
UK, 2013, 13’
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Medea
Italy, France, Germany, 1969, 118’
Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, Accidence
Canada, 2018, 9’
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window
US, 1954, 112’
Ming Wong, After Chinatown
US, 2012, 7’
Roman Polański, Chinatown
US, 1974, 130’
Julian Rosefeldt, Deep Gold
Germany, 2013/2014, 18’
Luis Buñuel, L’âge d’or
France, 1930, 63’ [accompanied by live music]
Left: L’âge d’or (Luis Buñuel, 1930).
Right: Deep Gold (Julian Rosefeldt, 2013/2014)
© Julian Rosefeldt and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019.