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Danièle Huillet: The Last Resistance 

Wednesday, May 2 2007
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Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub began making films in the 1960s and continued until Huillet’s death in 2006. In their humorous 1982 short En Rachâchant, the pair adapts a story by Marguerite Duras about a boy who refuses to learn. His fretful parents take him to school to confront his teacher, who tells young Ernesto that instruction is obligatory. Ernesto replies that it is a crime, and indeed, the deft cinematography, with its studied pans and high-angle shots peering down at the boy, underlines the invisible vectors of discipline surrounding his diminutive body. He resists nevertheless, and this resistance — a theme that runs through Straub and Huillet’s body of work — is captured in a filmmaking practice that prevents traditional patterns of character identification and visual pleasure. In the pair’s feature-length Class Relations (1984), tracking shots of various landscapes offer brief moments of motion in a film otherwise filled with looonng static shots that encase the characters in clearly defined paradigms of power. The film is based on Franz Kafka’s unfinished first novel, Amerika, about a boy named Karl who is sent to the U.S. after being seduced by a servant. Once in this country, Karl encounters a series of increasingly complicated — and often quite comical — circumstances that center on proper class behavior. Despite his best efforts, he manages to offend everyone, and his situation goes from bad to worse. The black-and-white film won’t let you identify with Karl; instead, Straub and Huillet put the viewer in a critical viewing position that demands thoughtful engagement, and the result is a rare and exceptional experience not to be missed. REDCAT; Mon., May 7, 8 p.m. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org.
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