Monday, 22 November 2010

win/win (labri)

There are no spoiler warnings, as my hope is not selling teasers to the casually interested but rather appealing for help with questions from those already familiar with these. But, I am going to betray this film's surprise, go and see it first.

This is a film made by L'Abri for L'Abri, I would enjoy to hear an other perspective, a broker's perspective, an accidental viewer's, a perspective from one for whom the issues here are not games and metaphors. Seldom one to spill sentimental and exaggerated adjective-of-the-year superlatives, and this has been a year richer than ever in my filmic education, but Win/Win is certainly in my unmissables for 2010.

The real. If we can speak of it, this is a concept, realm or substance that is laboured and layered into this film with every sense, in every sense. The real is emphasised justaposed with its antithesis in hollow tertiary financial abstractions, the machined interiors of corporate hospitality and mediated therapeutic community. By contrast we are shown the real expressed in touch, in relationship, in the fickle and organic realities of a bodily real; the real is spoken in the wordless groans of a phenomenological world that bodies over us by-passing abstractions. The real flickers in a human colour, where the film is of a cool to cold pallor, it warms pointedly for moments of connection, with his call to his grandmother, with the nest of mice, the intercity fellowship, Deniz' shoes, the cake. And the real emerges in the music, I enjoyed particularly the womb of warm noise as he runs his toes into the depth of carpet. And the playful jazz click a clack of his kitchen to train composition of found sounds; that is the real, when the world is our playpen.

Masculinity. This is a man's film about men doing silly things with money, young men, too young to remember the last recession, young men still competitively high on hormones and adrenaline. In the context and apprenticeship Ivan enters here much is worthy of comparison to The Social Network's portrayal of autistic machismo let loose on money, sex and power, a portrayal akin but totally different, why? And what can we say of these fatherless strivers, how might they be other, how indeed might they be and be employed in a world more real?

Nudity. Twice in the film: first as sold in strip clubs, manageable, reductive, shallow sex symbols, signs signifying nothing; the second, the overwhelming glory of I-Thou, a glory which resists image-making, the glory in and of otherness. The second is framed as being a 'favour', that is χαρις, a grace or a gift, an un-market-able transaction, this is the truer nudity, and totally unravelling to behold. We could attribute Ivan's collapse to the bends of decompressed repression, as nudity is a relative thing, a cultural thing, a learnt tolerance positioned between our taboos and our sexual liberation? Or is there something more, as we enter the real, is our sensitivity to the spiritual power of the naked form heightened?

Genius. “Walk the wire on high..” As in Man on Wire, we see a man fully alive, dazzling in their gifted giftedness. These brokers are the gods of our age, with the power to create out of nothing, with the vision to read the signs of the times, to predict, profit, prosper. In his research interviews Jaap extracted from brokers their sense of what secret they had of success, some trusted technical, some social, some psychic-intuitive means of taking the pulse of a share's future rise and fall; ultimately it is their genius, and this is what makes their game so fascinating, so ripe for a film such as this. We are a cinema audience of committee members and anonymous cogs in mundane conglomerates, we want a protagonist operating within a world consistent with the one we experience, so believable, but powerful and free, and yet loveable. Jaap spoke of van Rompay as an actor who “moved like there was a crazy jazz record playing inside him”, and he is and brilliantly able, by the idiosyncrasies he conjures, to create a character whom we can believe might make a million by accident, we are instantly sympathetic to this savant frog-boned weirdo, this child-like holy fool, why?

Sympathy. Ivan is a melancholy character, detached, dis-integrated and yet without cause or motive for his condition. It was my feeling that those quite explicit references to Blue, in the here resurrected mice and in his solitary sleepless swimming pool meditations, we have a borrowing of another's grief, by suggestion to give us cause to empathise, to provoke by association an imagined previous Ivan before he started on the road into his current abstraction. Anyone?

Survival and solitude. Such was the even-handedness of Jaap's handling of this material that bankers have expressed at screenings that Ivan did not have to become sad, and that Stef is in fact the winner in this story, as the one who survives. There is something in this, the strength to carry on in the face of complexity, the single-minded application to a given task, these are virtues. What gives us the right, what gives us the liberty to judge characters like Stef? We side with the underdog, we question power, we affirm bowing out, we advocate the small, the slow and the local, we presume to know, we christians, we presume essentially that sin that is slower and locally grown, is in some way inherently less grievous. A provocation on: sin, scale and technology in a global age, anyone?

Luck. What is luck? What is at the root of the belief in auspicious numbers, ties, orientations, animals, manners and such? Set beside this film's Korean character, can we discuss what Western culture deems lucky by another name?

Feet. Taking off one's shoes is an act of spiritual significance that I feel I can only be crudely reductive in putting words to. Moses takes off his sandals on Holy ground, eastern culture removes its shoes on entering a home in respect, Big Fish shows the flinging-off of shoes up over onto wires as the adventure of the fairytale begins. Taking off shoes brings one's skin into touch with the earth, grounding your being, submitting one to contours of the real, and declaring it more, other and sacred. Taking one's shoes off as one enters the world, the street and the city is to name each and every particular place as particularly sacred, an act anathema to the abstracting, globalising, homogenising, reletivising whims of that banking which begat our present recession?


(Q&A) In brief, some approximated snippets for those absent. British hooligans? Yes, please stage stags elsewhere. What is your message? I am a projector, this may be a postmodernistic idea but a story only becomes a story in its reception, it would be strange to alter the reception or to convince you to see things you didn't see. Why does the poster shot not appear in the film? ABN bank from the poster is one that collapsed which we weren't allowed to film inside. Race of servant characters, a commentary? Yes. Sex on film and christianity, what is your framework? Tricky, the ethics of this, and the double standard of advertising Ooit to church teenagers, but not this. Swearing? Yes, the language of stockbrokers is amazing, rhythmed entirely differently for example: 'the fucking door of the fucking bank..' this is part of their culture.

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