List 3

They say that the last creatures to discover water will be fish. We move through our world taking our niche for granted. Cinema, like the other arts, can refocus our attention on weight and pattern, texture and stubborn objecthood. We can find rich rewards in glimpses, partial views, and little details. Chamber art has an intimacy that’s at once cozy and discomfiting. Seeing familiar things in intensely circumscribed ways can lift up our senses.

― David Bordwell, “Stuck Inside These Four Walls: Chamber Cinema for a Plague Year,” April 1, 2020 

Greetings All,

For the third week of Mariposa County Arts Council’s Virtual Film Club, we turn our attention to chamber cinema – that is to say, films that are (almost) entirely confined to a single room or location. 

Many of us may well be climbing the walls by now, sick to death with each other and/or bored with a pace that no longer resembles our former lives out in the fray. With this list, we offer an alternative to staring at the wallpaper or nursing resentments. We hope these movies will instead give us a unique opportunity to take inventory of our support systems, assess them, and (perhaps) change them for the better. Mind you, none of these films offer models of self-improvement, or even gratitude for that matter, but they do offer a vulnerability and clarity of vision that we may all be able to learn from rather than tire of. 

The films we’ll be watching this week are as follows:

  • Our first film is Moon (2009), the confident debut feature film of Duncan Jones that takes place on the far side of moon in and around a helium-3 mining base, where Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is wrapping up his three-year solo stint. Hallucinatory visions and an accident make him suspect he’s not actually alone.
  • Next up is The Exterminating Angel (1962), which ranks as one of Luis Buñuel’s best late surrealist films and is the last feature-length film he made in Mexico. The guests at a fancy dinner party in Mexico City find themselves unable to leave the music room at the end of the evening. 
  • For the third film this week, we’ve chosen Venus in Fur (2013), Roman Polanski’s adaptation of David Ives’ Broadway 2010 play of the same name. Thomas Novachek (Mathieu Amalric) is having a hard time casting the female lead in his adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (1870), the novel from which modern-day conceptions of masochism derive, when Vanda Jordan (Emmanuelle Seigner) walks in and takes control.
  • The next film, Locke (2013), takes place entirely in a car over the course of nearly 40 phone calls as Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) drives from Birmingham to London.
  • Our final film of the week is Dogtooth (2009), the most famous example of Greek Weird Wave, an ongoing film movement in Greece that is responding to the austerity measures put in place following 2008 with subversive films that (among other things) seek to make their viewers as uncomfortable as possible. Unlike the other films in this week’s list, Dogtooth deviates at times from its one set location, but at no point does it ever relieve us of the sense of being trapped in this family’s country estate and mind games.

Here’s to staying curious in familiar situations and taking a magnifying glass to all the eating and drinking and caregiving and bathing and talking and sleeping and daydreaming we do.

Let’s get to it!