Interviews and texts published over the past few years and notes from Cannes 2013, where Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hanggannan ng Kasaysayan went down extremely well.
Links:: Lav Diaz on Unspoken Cinema. Comprehensive round-up of early-ish writings on Diaz up to 2009 by Matthew Flanagan. Matthew has included links to reviews by Alexis Tioseco, and dialogues between Diaz and Alexis, published around the mid-2000s, which are well worth reading. Alexis, the founder of the web journal Criticine, was one of the first cinephile critics to write about Diaz. I’m sure at the Cannes screening quite a few people would have been quietly thinking of him and Nika Bohinc, under whose editorship the Slovenian journal Ekran did a special issue on Diaz in 2005. Details in Matthew’s post.
Daily/Cannes2013/Lav Diaz’s Norte, the End of History by David Hudson. Links to a few moving reviews especially the one by Wesley Morris, which gives a wonderful sense of someone who was literally moved to write this piece.
Likewise this short and somehow just right paragraph by Carlos H. Heredero of Caiman cuadernos de cine. I especially like his comment that Diaz’s aesthetic flows between melodrama, neorealism and the fantastic. Four critics from Caiman wrote short responses to Norte from Cannes. It sounds like this may be the first time that leading Spanish critics are tuning into the filmmaker’s work. Responses to Diaz from Spanish-speaking countries should be especially fascinating to read given the intertwined histories of the Philippines and Spain, also Latin America, and the resonating religious sensibilities of these places.
How one responds to Diaz’s films partly depends on whether one has a taste for/tolerance of melodrama as a mode of narration. An earthy contrast to the grace and wonder of Heredero’s paragraph is this exasperated review by Neil Young in Hollywood Reporter, which aligns Norte with TV melodramas.
Another tremendous review by a critic who was possessed to write immediately after having seen one of Diaz’s films is Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa’s piece on a one-time work in progress, Agonistes, in Criticine.
Most reviews from Cannes mention Norte’s borrowing from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Diaz is a literary filmmaker. One of the most fascinating things about his films is how they’re grounded in modern Russian literature, a point mentioned in George Clark’s blog on the AV Festival website. Last year George collaborated with AV to programme two of Diaz’s films at a wonderful event called the Slow Cinema weekend in Newcastle. He did such a good job of introducing Diaz’s films that we joked with the filmmaker that from now on George should tour with him introducing his films wherever they screened.
Diaz’s films turned up in the UK under the sign of slow cinema, an idea extensively explored in Matthew’s recently completed PhD, Slow Cinema: Temporality and Style in Contemporary Art and Experimental Film. This should be on any cinephile’s reading list this year.
Agonistes has since turned into the 2012 film Florentina Hubaldo, CTE. This review by Jasmine Nadua Trice, in Cinemas of Asia, astutely takes as its starting point Diaz’s comment that the structure of his films echoes the archipelagic geographical characteristics of Island Southeast Asia. Shifting the terms of discussion of his work from temporal duration to one of spatial presentation, especially the presentation of landscape and nature, Trice delicately explores the topography of entrapment in Florentina.
The dialogue quoted in her review is from Matthew and Edwin Mak’s journal Lumen. Lav Diaz in conversation is very dear to me as it’s a record of a conversation between Diaz, Alexis, Wiwat, Graiwoot Chulphongsathon and myself at a retrospective of his films in Bangkok, just a few weeks before Alexis and Nika were killed.
A recent dialogue between Diaz and Jan Philippine V. Carpio can be found in the journal desistfilm. It’s a lovely read – intimate and unrestrained with a winning discussion about creative risks.
The question of fundamentalism raised in the desistfilm piece in relation to the 2011 film A Century of Birthing comes back in this meaty interview by Daniel Kasman, published with his great, intricate review on MUBI’s Notebook. In this dialogue fundamentalisms of political and religious kinds emerge as the key theme of Norte. More quietly still the conversation flows to that which lies at the heart of so many of Diaz’s films. Referring to one of the three central characters in the film, the wife of the wronged man, Diaz says her way of carrying on after his imprisonment is “a kind empowerment… Just keep working, keep moving, within the habit that you’re moving.” This answer reminds me of a poignant, understated, moment in Evolution of a Filipino Family when the grandmother tells her granddaughters to “just bear it.” It’s in this sense of stoicism without defeat, this steely non-yielding when overt resistance is not an option, that the women are the moral centre and the political core of Diaz’s films.
May Adadol Ingawanij