What can film, which (with photography) is primarily responsible for the decline of the “aura” of modern art, still consider as its strong points? Certainly the regular critical efforts that legitimize it; its (relative) economic power; and above all, its unquestionable symbolic supremacy.
The most representative of the technical arts “resists” because it continues to offer possibilities of renewal for a singular texture of time and space. This is why, even in the past, it could challenge and incorporate anything that looked as though it might supplant it (television, video, “new images”). At this point it is inevitable to wonder if there is still such a thing as the “aura” of cinema, or if it is not simply the mirage of a distant reality, no matter how close might be might be what has evoked it. The provisional answer lies in the programs of the 67th Venice International Film Festival.
In an uninterrupted sequence of intrusions, new film practices have definitively challenged the privileged space of the visual arts, forcing the best of them to take heed of the small and large upheavals they have caused. The criteria of aesthetic judgment were re-established; the concrete definitions of style, talent, profession, authenticity, uniqueness, originality, and authorship suddenly became old-fashioned, their obsolescence all too manifest. In the end the loss of authority involved even those values that often survive in the heart of the (financial or rhetorical) arts market only as branches of a far more determined gesture, the gesture of “film”.
Film has been alone, truly alone, during one period only: from the first sound motion pictures to the introduction of television. This was the era that established the logic of transparency and the (presumed) immediacy of the image. “Film” cannot be simply a direct imprint of the world. It exists as an “art” when it works ceaselessly to tear the seams of reality apart, thus proving it wrong to assert that its essence is purely documentary. In the end we discovered that the “garment without the seams of the visible” concealed the seams of mediation, of the gesture and the work of the gaze looking at the world. The seams are what make film, and the pleats too: because it operates at the point where the two metaphors meet, the metaphor of weaving and that of sewing, which it is committed to merge, like dreams.
What we still call “film” has begun to forget itself, but not to the point that it has removed the fracture from which everything new had arisen. The engine of a technical and aesthetic upheaval that has effaced all the ancient standards of quality (from “crafting” to “signature”), when it appeared it broke through the barriers that had been erected to preserve and regulate its status as a work of art, from the conditions of production to the value attributed to its fruition. If we still wish to consider it as an art (“art”, hence, in the contemporary meaning of the word), we must recognize the disorders it has triggered, the fertile disaster that has opened new fields of experimentation, and raised hopes for an increasingly rigorous relevance to the times.
We have looked at what really has taken place in “film” over the past twelve months. Like every artistic practice, film, when it is reconceived and reformulated, has never hesitated to give new names to the parts and the whole. It has shown indifference in enduring the hysterics of re-labelling even when the transformations denoted categories of urgency that had nothing to do with aesthetics: ethical, intellectual, political urgencies. Never before, therefore, has the “label” of one of our programming lines been more appropriate, and allowed us to follow expressive languages through their gradual liberation from every definition that constrained them into narrow spaces, thus encouraging the search for new ”Horizons” (Orizzonti).
And it was not just "Orizzonti" that has been reinvented and renewed, but the entire Mostra. Without prejudice, without a-priori pretences or predilections of any kind. Without a single “state of the art” to serve as a framework or benchmark. We plunged into the singularity of the works; only upon completion of the selection was the program organized into project lines shared by the filmmakers. We refused to introduce an accounting of criteria which – we are told by actual filmmakers – must be kept open. And even uncertain.
Perhaps film is not yet completely an art, perhaps it must still complete the process of becoming one. Its artistic power wants nothing more than to be able to actualize its own instruments better: yet it often remains a fragile, almost suspended force, the future perfect of a promise.
We therefore called upon the directors who experiment with all that the languages of contemporary visual culture can offer. In the wake of what took place during the period of the great film avant-gardes (during the First post-war period and beyond), when film artists had adopted as their reference a part of contemporary painting, the part that no longer relied on the means of articulated language, that renounced the very principle of figurative painting to reflect its being in new ways of existing at the level of form.
Rather than to follow the adventures of “experimental” film (rigidly protective of its prerogatives as the heir to an art history considered intact, as a single morphological history), we were interested in models that shun identification with one aesthetic area or another, moving instead from one to the next, escaping from any specific certification of origin. Not forgetting that there are now many technologically advanced tools that make it possible for the cinema of intimacy, developed face-to-face with one’s self, the cinema of painters and writers, to gain access to spaces other than those of experimental film.
And it is of this fluidity in contemporary film that we wished to give an account, with a selection that brings together works that break new ground in the traditional celluloid medium and electronic-digital experimentations. Markedly distinct styles and outlooks on the "audio-visual" and on the world. Confident of the existence of a multiplicity of developments in the practices of filmmaking and of their constellations (i.e.: of cinema and its expansions).
So as we worked towards abolishing the old contours of what were the lines of. “Orizzonti”, our purpose was a stronger presentation of that side of the Venice program: a different point of view, a different image of “film as it can be made” today. So that an even wider spectrum of filmmakers, forms and content can create a dialogue among all the programming lines, without having them compete or even appear as an alternative to one another, but as a very special demonstration that now more than ever, film is in direct take with all the arts, with all the expressive languages.
This very particular effort should therefore serve to rediscover the guiding concept of the Venice Film Festival as the “spirit of the times”. The Venice International Film Festival is therefore reborn this year with revised and refreshed programming lines, which document the contemporary “visual” continent in all of its states, soliciting a focused, conscious and committed gaze and offering in exchange a new measure of vision.