(from the International Film Festival in Rotterdam)
Today I had the pleasure of going to the Nathaniel Dorsky-retrospective at the Rotterdam Film Festival, with the added pleasure of the presence of Mr. Dorsky himself. He showed four of his short 16-mm films, and introduced each of them ‘because he was put up in a fancy hotel anyway’ and was making his while worth. Since the films themselves don’t contain any reference to a story or situation, him adding some information by introducing the films made it a different experience than it otherwise might have been. Before showing his film ‘Winter’ he explained what winters are like in San Francisco, that it’s more like a blending of seasons than European/ east coast style winter. All the leaves are brown.. and some flowers are blooming? He also noted that the rising of the sun could signify the parting of two lovers, perhaps lovers that were meeting in secret.
Indeed there are some brilliant (layered) images of the sun behind clouds, in accelerated speed. The images contain humans as well as nature and man-made environments, with no-one taking prevalence over the other. Right from the first film his work seemed very clear, through it’s abstraction. It has a logic of it’s own, one that he might not understand the complete workings of it himself, but it’s undeniably there.
In the works there is no straight horizon as we know it in our lives, no equilibrium, and as the works are shown at 18 fps there is a different sense of time. In his own words, the length of the film is in a way arbitrary.
Someone asked the obvious question of how we experience the films differently with or without his introduction. He said that it should be no less of an experience, and that he didn’t really know what the difference would be. I was delighted that he said that, since everything these days seems to have to be overly explained. And really, his works speak, he speaks, and the rest is only of additional interest. He did say though, that the words of a filmmaker once ruined his film-experience in retrospect. Different were his films from his person, he also added, that he as a person was more of a corny type. His American ‘corny’ presence was much appreciated by me.
At the end of the quickly rounded up Q&A, his book ‘Devotional Cinema’ was pimped out by his assistant, adding that it would be hard to get anywhere else. He was sitting in a corner in the hallway signing books and answering questions as I overheard him saying that he didn’t sleep for four nights. What were you doing those nights, sir? I wondered. I asked if I could take a photo of him, sitting there, probably too brutally interrupting the conversation, and he said yes. Since his films are only to be seen in specific cinema-screenings, keep your eyes open and seize the opportunity when you have it.
(photo coming up)