Since two weeks, I’m working part-time at the Department of Literature at the University of Antwerp. During the autumn semester, I’m teaching a film seminar attached to professor Tom Paulus’ MA course Aesthetics of Contemporary Cinema. The seminar focuses on classic modernist filmmakers such as Robert Bresson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. Each session, I shortly introduce the film that we watch together, after which we have a group discussion about the film’s narrative, stylistic and emotional dimensions. It’s hard to imagine a teaching assignment that I would love better!
Yesterday, we organized an excursion to the Ghent Film Festival with the students of the Master of Theatre and Film Studies. We started with the first part of Miguel Gomes’ extraordinary Arabian Nights, of which I only can conclude that I’m looking very much forward to the next two volumes. The afternoon program started somewhat disappointing with the screening of David Wilkinson’s documentary The First Film. I certainly like the idea to make a documentary about Louis Le Prince, who was one among the many pioneers who during the second part of the 19th century simultaneously experimented with the recording and projecting of moving images. Wilkinson’s quest to prove that Le Prince made ‘the first film’ can be a nice approach to make the documentary more appealing, as long as there is enough nuancing involved. The central premise of the film, however, that ‘Louis Le Prince was robbed from his rightful place in the history books’, is simply not correct (see e.g. David Cook’s standard reference work A History of Narrative Film). Moreover, the documentary was in my opinion an hour too long and was only slightly interesting in creative terms. Luckily, the screening was followed by a very interesting debate on the past and future of film criticism with professor Tom Paulus, Nick Pinkerton (critic for a.o. Sight and Sound) and Patrick Duynslaegher (former critic for Focus Knack and now the artistic director of the Film Fest Gent).
Finally, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin proved a more than worthy film to end with. Although many people in the sold-out film theatre seemed to have expected something different from Hou’s first wuxia film, the aesthetic qualities of the images was simply astonishing. I’m looking forward to delve deeper into the film festival’s varied program the next days!