5 films every arts practitioner should watch – Ellen Pau, Director of Videotage Hong Kong

Ellen Pau, Co-founder of Videotage, Hong Kong, rounds up five unmissable films in honour of Art Radar’s fifth birthday.

Art Radar turned five in July 2013 and to celebrate we are bringing you a collection of top fives from artists and arts practitioners across Asia. In the second of the series Ellen Pau, Co-founder and Artistic Director of new media nonprofit Videotage, lists five films that every arts practitioner should see.

Luis Bunuel's surrealist classic 'Un Chien Andalou', 1929. Image courtesy Creative Commons.

Luis Buñuel’s surrealist classic ‘Un Chien Andalou’, 1929. Image courtesy Creative Commons.

Un Chien Andalou – Luis Buñuel (1929)

A black and white silent movie, and one which is very special because I watched it when I was very young. I think it is a must for any experimental filmmaking class. And I think it is a very important film for those film studies people who train for professional film production, but if they want to progress to contemporary art filmmaking, then this is probably the right starting point.

Every time when I look at [the film], I still feel that it is very fresh, even though I don’t really have a storyline for it. I see it more subconsciously, I would say, and I don’t try to make up a storyline. A lot of images appear in my mind when I’m watching the film. In terms of images, it is a very inspirational movie. In terms of film language, it is also very intriguing. I think it is a very good starting point.

'Songs from the Second Floor', inspired by Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo. Image courtesy  Imageshack.

‘Songs from the Second Floor’, inspired by Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo. Image courtesy Imageshack.

Songs from the Second Floor – Roy Anderson (2000)

This is another movie that I really like: it’s more contemporary but also quite surreal. Actually, I’m quite attracted to the surreal, to surrealist filmmaking. And this one is kind of a mix of surrealist filmmaking and advertising. Not like a Hollywood movie, but the pacing is a bit fast compared to experimental cinema. You know, experimental cinema is kind of slow.

Conflating art and life, Pierre Huyghe's 'The Third Memory', 2000. Image courtesy The Guggenheim.

Conflating art and life, Pierre Huyghe’s ‘The Third Memory’, 2000. Image courtesy The Guggenheim.

The Third Memory – Pierre Huyghe (2000)

I think this is a very clever work. There was a bank robbery, I think in the seventies, the first bank robbery that was live broadcast to households – like the first TV crime reality show. This robbery was made into a movie by Sidney Lumet. It is called Dog Day Afternoon, which is very famous, in which Al Pacino played the lead role as one of the robbers. The real-life robber was put into prison after the heist. Pierre Huyghe invited the thief to come and reenact the same scene that Al Pacino played in Dog Day Afternoon; then when he tried to remember the exact scene when he robbed the bank, of course there was a discrepancy between the movie and his memory and the reality. Those are the three things that Pierre Huyghe is trying to put all together in this video work.

I think that is a very clever way of inviting the real person to play in the movie, which itself is like a memory that is shared by the public. And then there is a personal memory from the robber, and we can compare the public and the private thing. And that is very intriguing and inspirational.

I think if I start from Surrealism, which is more dreamy and has a big discrepancy with reality, and then coming to this work, The Third Memory, which blurs all the subtle memories of your subconscious and also things that are external, that is the reality. So it is like a blur – it is like moving from the surreal world and back to reality and back to your mind. I think that is great.

1962 featurette 'La Jetée' depicts a post-apocalyptic dystopia interspersed with time-travel. Image taken from Electric Sheep magazine.

1962 featurette ‘La Jetée’ depicts a post-apocalyptic dystopia interspersed with time travel. Image taken from Electric Sheep magazine.

La Jetée – Chris Marker (1962)

This is a science fiction film, but then again it’s actually not. It is very low budget, which I really like. I think it is great to have a low-budget science fiction movie that is about post-nuclear war experiments and time travel. I also like how the director incorporates very touching narration all through the movie. It is unique to have this commentary along with a science fiction. Usually a science fiction [film] would have more stunning visuals, usually the space is quite open rather than this in this film, where it is very closed. It is a confined space and it is very personal because the narrator is talking to you. So it is a great contrast with the normal science fiction movies. In a way, it is kind of like a documentary also, because it is trying to document what happened, it is like a science document.

Watch ‘La Jetée’ on Youtube.com

Peter Greenaway's mock-umentary 'The Falls', 1980. Image courtesy Creative Commons.

Peter Greenaway’s mockumentary ‘The Falls’, 1980. Image courtesy Creative Commons.

The Falls – Peter Greenaway (1980)

I like Peter Greenaway’s early short films, because I also watched his short films when I started to make my own videos. I think the most memorable movie for me is The Falls. It is a fake documentary about sixty or even more people who have the surname “The Falls,” and how they have accidents, as in they have a fall… It is quite humorous, I think, but in a very British way. It strikes me because of its style; he is a master of structuralist film. When I first saw The Falls, I didn’t really know about theory, I didn’t really know about structuralism, but right away it stood out – the way he presented the different cases of the accidents and the way that he makes the documentary using the BBC voice, how he plays around with how to collect data, archive and then document, but in a very humorous way. The style is also unique. Structuralist film is very important for me. It means I can really look through the camera lens in a very structural way.

Ellen Pau 

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Ellen Pau is a filmmaker, media artist, curator and the co-founder/director of Videotage in Hong Kong.

Related Topics: video art, lists, international artists

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5 films every arts practitioner should watch – Ellen Pau, Director of Videotage Hong Kong — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Kate Korroch » Blog Archive » Sunday Morning Coffee [Things I've been meaning to read/write about]

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