Intimate Lighting (1966)

15 12 2008

If it wasn’t for Jan Nemec’s enigmatic Diamonds of the Night, this would probably be my favorite Czech New Wave film. It ends up in a very close second place, despite being the stylistic anti-thesis of Nemec’s film. Where his is experimental and montage driven, this is one is a straightforward, simple, and slow character based-drama. Formally, it’s not exactly exciting, but it does have some wonderful high contrast black and white cinematography, an attribute that all Czech films from this time period seem to inherit. The real selling point isn’t the visuals anyway, but instead its the sponteanous and yes “intimate” moments that Passer crafts so naturally that make this film so special.

The Ear is the one Czech film (of which I’ve seen) that seems the most stylistically in line with this film. Both work on a level of creating completely believable small little moments that aren’t important to the development of the narrative, but still create a mood bursting with realism. The Ear, unfortunately, is dragged down by the slightly irritating “paranoia thriller” element injected into the entire time. Inversely, Passer’s narrative is very unassuming – a couple visits their extended family in preparation for an upcoming concert, which many of the men of the family are participating in.

Perhaps it is just a vibe that I naturally receive from “family dramas” but this did have a slight Ozu feel to it. Passer is a bit away from Ozu’s rigorous composing, but the content here is very Ozu-ian. A perfect example would be the scene in which two men get drunk and talk about the sleeping patterns of their relatives. Not only does it perfectly represent the tone Passer has established for most of the film, but it also manages to take it to another level of realism.

It also doesn’t hurt that many of these kinetic sponteanous moments are pretty funny. There is a sense of absurdism, somewhere between Buñuel and Herzog that feels as though it belongs specifically to Passer. The “minimalistic” approach definitely gives many of the gags a very Kaurismaki feeling. I could really namedrop all day here, but I think that would taint the fact that Passer’s film is remarkably personal and unique. While I see shades of many of my favorite filmmakers in him, I also see potential for a completely new filmmaking style. That’s not to say that this is formally revolutionary as Diamonds of the Night (is any movie?) but it is still just as fascinating to watch.

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