Sunday, 3 April 2016

Split Log 02

The first Friday night at Kino Klub brings a screening of Duet for Cannibals, Susan Sontag’s take on the daftness of politicians and activists alike, starring a young Martin Freeman.

Afterwards, we discuss the movie (a Bunuelian Godard spoof?) with Kino Klub director Sunčica Fradelić. A bottle of slivovitsa is brought through from a smoky backroom where local musician and Kino Klub member Karlo Silic is routinely thrashing his colleagues at some esoteric card game. Such is the dynamic social tension that pulses beneath the surface of the Klub today. I am introduced to their pet Super 8 camera (just when I thought I got out of Super 8) and the possibility of 16mm is also dangled enticingly in front of my slivovitsa-reddened eyes.

Saturday is spent flipping through archive DVDs, reading up, wandering through Split: two millennia of settlement, obsessively traced on film by the Klub’s camera-clutching flaneurs who – as my meagre research so far suggests – preferred the body of the polis to cinegraphic contemplation of their own flesh.

Split presents itself as a languid port town in which countless concrete people-boxes have sprouted from beneath the extended back yard of the Diocletian Palace, the still-inhabited stone labyrinth which remains the social hub of the area today. Diocletian was the first Roman Emperor to voluntarily retire, and the people of Split have prided themselves on their laziness ever since. Beyond the palace walls, leather jackets and torn jeans form a triumvirate of distressed patinas with the ubiquitous concrete, and tiny dogs are de rigueur, perhaps as a device to draw attention towards the owners’ footwear, which is universally excellent.

The filmmakers of the Yugoslavian region didn’t get around to making their first feature until 1941. The first Tito-sponsored amateur film clubs popped up as classical Hollywood faltered and Cassavetes itched, the key second generation of the Split chapter emerging as new waves began to roll in Europe and elsewhere. The Klubs thus form a unique node between a very brief classical cinema, and both the cinematic and 'fine' art developments to come (perhaps best exemplified through the legendary figure of Zagreb's Tomislav Gotovac, who was muddled up both with the cinematic 'Black Wave' of the 60s/70s and the art scene over the half-century before his death in 2010).

My early impressions of the early Kino Klub Split filmmakers are of an equipe of antagonistic (not angry), curious (not academic) men (not women) with a self-imposed mission that I am not yet at liberty to disclose. As one band of curators points out, these filmmakers have been categorized under a number of overlapping terms – amateur, experimental, avant-garde, anti-film (mostly their Zagreb cousins), alternative film (Belgrade) – precluding, at least until much more recently, the label of ‘video artists’ because video (and possibly artist) is a dirty word. It is curious, then, to work with the club today, when everyone’s packing video, everyone’s an artist, and the former terms have lost their pungency.

Except, perhaps, for that of amateur, a word that adds legitimacy/democracy to the efforts of the casual masses and pride to the enthusiasts. I’ll continue in that spirit, as a kind of enthusiastic sponge, to be wrung out on film before the end of the month.

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