Night Sight 2009

Night Sight 2009

(Markus Keuschnigg, curator)

In times of all-encompassing digitalization, in which dreams of self-presentation are satisfied in virtual spaces of self-presentation, in which social networking platforms like Facebook maintain a “we”, in times like these, increasingly unmodulated (male) bodies are still rolling, punching and panting their way through European genre cinema: Jean- Claude Van Damme, Belgian martial arts artist and action film icon, celebrates an impressive comeback in this year’s opening film JCVD. The young French filmmaker Mabrouk El Mechri takes Van Damme’s indestructible screen persona as the starting point for an original and witty treatment of fame and its transience, self-portrayals and their implosion: the new “Muscles from Brussels” are sinking into a professional and personal depression,finally get taken hostage in a bank robbery. El Mechri deconstructs Van Damme and lets him reinvent himself. While JCVD scratches the human being out of a pop figure, the British production Bronson takes the opposite path. Director Nicolas Winding Refn takes fragments from the biography of Great Britain’s most famous long-term prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson aka Charles Bronson and builds them into a shimmering, stylized pop film. Bronson is a provocative, brutal hell ride through the grotesquely twisted life of the proto-psychopath, for whom bludgeoning his fellow human beings does not so much signify destruction and desperation, but rather creation and liberation, who started to paint and write during his time in prison.

The fascinating interplay between art and brutality, between the appearance of beauty and the underbelly of cruelty is what drives many genre films, but there is hardly another work where this is so comprehensively formulated as in Dario Argento’s. The Italian is one of the inventors of modern horror film, alchemizing contemporary aesthetics with those of previous centuries into eternal cinema operas in his works. Argento, the musician, author, filmmaker, all-round artist, only survived the upheavals in the genre production landscape following the rise of the home cinema attitude with many bruises. In this year’s Night Sight, his “Mother” trilogy (consisting of Suspiria, Inferno and La Terza Madre) will also provide a glimpse of the history of European horror film. The latter has been undergoing an extraordinary renaissance in recent years. At least theoretically: for most of these projects do not make the leap to Austrian screens, despite sometimes great success in their own countries of production. This is due to cowardly film distributors, and the DVD market, into which the new European genre film is usually directly thrown, in other words without cinema evaluation; but it is also due to the valuation gap that is still in effect between genre cinema and socalled art cinema. It is, not least of all, young, upcoming talents like the Spaniard Nacho Vigalondo who suffer from this situation: his intricate fantasy thriller Los Cronocrimenes was shown in cinemas in the USA, is already being remade in Hollywood, but is virtually unknown in Europe.

The fact that all these beautiful, excessive, vulgar and uninhibited films do not vanish forever, but actually find an audience, is partly due to the Internet: to the blogs that praise James Watkins’ hard survival horror trip Eden Lake, to the Facebook users who have fallen in love with the Nazi zombies from the Norwegian splatter extravaganza Død Snø, to the communities that promote, spread, enliven like a virtual community cinema. The one thing the Internet cannot do is show the films. At least not well. So Night Sight 2009 intends to give all the films and the people who want to see them a real space, intends to show with its program how directly genre cinema affects the viewers, how intensively you can feel your body in the cinema. These are films against abstraction and for concrete sensation. Films that Charles Bronson and Jean-Claude Van Damme would watch in the cinema after a hard day. The entire world in the reflection of a razor blade. The whole cinema a pumped up biceps.