Still ill?

SFD’s X sat down with Blase DiStefano of OutSmart magazine to get thru the current state of affairs. While talking outside People club in Turkbuku both were enjoying the view over the Aegean Sea:

DiStefano: Can you give us an update on that beach lectures-project?

X: Sure. Well, actually, there is a new twist to the story. Currently we’re interested in kind of a spin-off, a side-project: the beach screenings. Pictures, images instead of words. Well––words also.

How come?

The thing is, recently I spoke to a friend of mine, he is in the chrome-business [der befreundete Chrom-Magnat]; he’s quite big. Well, I talked to him about the possibility of a whole new series of lectures, or, more broadly, a new series of events. Since, from the very beginning, this was supposed to be about images, pictures, movies.

What movies? What’s this whole series-thing?

Well, first of all, series was one of the key-concepts behind the idea of beach-lectures. See, one lecture could be fine, inspiring, teaching, whatever – but we always wanted to have more than one. See, the more-than-one-idea always had a cling to us.
Now, I mean this is really fresh stuff, you know, I’ve never talked about it in public yet (so you’re really bringing home a scoop)––the tentative name of the project is: “Still Ill”. Actually, this is one option; another could be: “Ill Still,” or “StILL Life.”

What is it about?

About? Well, actually not really much. Is it about something, at all??


No, let me be more specific–––

Specific, about nothing?

Well I see––ok, the point of departure was when I saw that trailer of the movie SAFE (by Todd Haynes): the topic of the movie isn’t that easy to grasp, as it is said in the trailer: “it is not alien, it is not viral, it is not natural” –– well, how about that for a start?!

As far as I remember SAFE is about a woman getting sick because she feels, or, actually is alienated by the ongoings in late-capitalist America. There is no real communication with other human beings, sterile suburbia, chain subsidiaries abound, airports, pollution––really frightening. Such a cold movie . . .

Well––the condition (I like to think of it as a condition, not as the story of an individual disease) the movie tries to picture is very much characterized by this: “not alien, not viral, not natural”, since: if it would be one of the three, then, basically, people could, more or less, cope with it, like: if it’s alien: kill it, or befriend it, assimilate it; if it’s viral: find a drug, call 911, drive to the next ER (admitted, it could be more, much more complicated, I tell you; but still); finally, if it’s natural: realize that you’re part of it, that it’s part of your world, turn it into an “invaluable lesson,” you know.
But all these options don’t fit. It’s something else. It’s different.

But the New York Times thought, it was a science-fiction-movie, located somewhere in the future.

I know, I love that.

So, but that’s just one film. What about the series? You want to show SAFE at the beach?

Absolutely. SAFE would be part of that series.
But, look, when I first saw SAFE it made me think about the kind of illness that is portrayed; and I thought of other movies that try to tackle some such sort of illness. I thought of Antonioni’s RED DESERT, for instance. Same, or similar situation: people responded to the movie as if it is a denouncement of modern life, modern, late capitalism, commodified society–of the spectacle. You name it. And, in a way, it might be. But still––
And this was the point at which the chrome-tycoon [der befreundete Chrom-Magnat] entered the stage, since––he is really a very special person, and while he is extremely wealthy there is still a certain sadness around him. I don’t know if “sadness” is the right word: he feels kind of distant to his surroundings––

His friends, family?

Not only–though also, you know, things–– his nourishment, the water of his pool, the leaves of the trees . . .–– But he doesnt feel just simply uncomfortable about this being distanced. It’s more complicated.
However, another movie which comes to mind is, of course, JEANNE DIELMAN. (It’s interesting that, while Haynes thought from the very beginning about JEANNE DIELMAN, he had never seen RED DESERT and only SAFE’s cinematographer, Alex Nepomniaschy, of POLTERGEIST 3-fame, brought it to his attention.) And, while being at Chantal [Akerman], you sure know that the “protagonist” of her latest film, LA-BAS, also feels kind of ill, doesnt leave the house that much––to say the least.

I found that film particularly boring–

You’re not alone with that. Though I’m not talking about myself (neither of the chrome-tycoon, for that matter).
Anyway, the series would be interspersed by some fine disease-of-the-week-movies, you know, TV. And there is much more you can think of.
And then, there is the internal relation with––the beach! This is why we’re also thinking along the lines of “StILL Life”, still life: I mean, you know the beach, how the beach feels, how you relate to it (remember, last nite, when we had diner at The Ev?, and Karin came over? oh, that was Kim? nevermind–). What is the beach? For one, it is the view you have of it, right?! You can hardly differentiate the beach and its view–

The view of the beach, or the view you have when you’re at it, like: the sea, the coastline, the barely clothed bodies, the sand, etc.?

Well both. The beach is always also the picture of the beach, say, the “dream”, the “phantasm”––and, in a way, and that is kind of strange when you think about it: this is why you’re always be sort of distant to the beach––even when you’re there!
My point now would be this: when it comes to a world as it is depicted in films like SAFE, I would like to speak about the condition that gets rendered within, or by such movies: by condition I mean the relation people, characters (if there are any–), maybe figures entertain with their surroundings. I think these films try to investigate these relations, while constructing and reconstructing them (think wide shot style, slow tracking shots, etc). This is their ticket.
That, … and also (am I starting to speak like Carol?) the measure of the distance to the surroundings: how do you measure such a distance? It is not a question of being close or far; here, there, another logic enters; maybe it has to do with colors, also. Black, teal. Many colors––it’s out there . . .
Accordingly, I consider the beach as the most appropriate place to present the venture of such films. And so thinks my friend, the chrome-magnate [der befreundete Chrom-Magnat].

Still, isn’t the beach one of the most perfectly natural places on earth? Water, salt, sand, all forms of life––life as we know it found itself formed right at the beach, didn’t it?

Nature is never as intriguing as when it looks all natural.
To clue the potential audience, check this (brillant) interview with Haynes: That’s so interesting.

I guess it’s time for a little apéritif before diner. Let’s head over to Mavi Suite.

Would it be fine with you to go to Ship Ahoy instead – later, I have an appointement there.


Let’s go now.


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