Norte – A slow step towards public recognition

It looks as though Norte was good but not good enough for a prize at this year’s Cannes festival. A couple of people are surprised. Yet, knowing Lav Diaz, he most likely doesn’t care. He makes films not for awards, but for cinema. And this he did. I’m personally very happy that I can call him my ‘research subject’ 🙂

Although, I may, in fact, have to re-think this, because he crossed my plans. Norte seems to be different from his previous films I study for my research. His previous oeuvre led me to a unique approach to Slow Cinema. And now, he’s using colour in his film, and sweeping camera shots – this kind of goes against my plan. Thou shalt explain…

Anyway, colour or black-and-white, static or moving camera – I’m looking forward to seeing this latest masterpiece of his.

Let me give you a few extracts from reviews I’ve read since Thursday. These won’t contain spoilers, promised!

“Those who entered Diaz’s world swam somewhere else than the Riviera for those brief hours, and were rewarded with quite possibly the best film there.” (Daniel Kasman for MUBI)

“They took their seats, the lights went down, the movie came up, and I sat there. Two-hundred-fifty minutes later, the lights came up, I stood with tears in my eyes, and clapped as loudly as I ever have for any movie in my life. (Note: I’ve actually never clapped for a movie before.)” (Wesley Morris, Grantland)

“By comparison, the four-hour Norte is a miniature, but it’s also an accessible film, a superb piece of focused narrative that’s more immediately coherent than such digressive pieces as 2009’s Melancholia.” (Jonathan Romney, Screendaily)

In fact, it’s difficult to give you more than this because they all agree on the fact that Diaz’s film was magnificent. I’m glad that he had this experience, and I’m sure that Norte will be accepted at other festivals, too. If you want to read full reviews (which contain spoilers, beware!), you can find links in my Slow Tweets to your right.

As for the award, I’m a bit 50-50 about it. Of course, I would have liked to see him getting the award, or any award in the Un Certain Regard section. It may have been a bit too much all at once, though. I think the effect of his work for cinema will be more effective if he slowly creeps into people’s cinematic world and mind.

I want to end this brief entry with something Lav said in a recent interview with Keyframe. This says it all about Slow Cinema – why write a 80k thesis about it, if you can fit it all into a few sentences?

One of the greatest struggles in a human life is against time. We confine ourselves to some routines, we think it’s time—and it’s not, it’s just action. But if you think of time, it’s just about death and mortality and so are my films. I struggle with time but also respect space; they go together. For them to harmonize in my praxis I need to do long takes or one take. I’m trying to be truthful. I don’t want to manipulate time or space. I’m trying to subordinate the idea that [in cinema] we’re just following the characters. Look at the world, take your time! It’s all about seeing. Many young people don’t necessarily respond to that. ‘It doesn’t fit into my schedule.’ That’s a very important line nowadays.

Norte premieres at Cannes Festival

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, this entry will be no more than a summary of today’s news. For everyone else: this is what slowness is about (sometimes).

Lav Diaz’s new film Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan premiered at the Cannes Festival today at 11am. It’s nominated in the category Un Certain Regard. I know how excited everyone was, especially Hazel Orencio, one of the actresses. It was nice to follow them virtually on their first ever trip to Cannes.

Slowness on the red carpet is a rare image, and indeed, I have to admit that the Norte team looked like the most interesting of the ones I have seen throughout this festival.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the film was four hours and twenty minutes long. Quite a short film for Lav Diaz. But Diaz explained in an interview with Salon Indien (2012) that there is no time, in terms of time doesn’t matter. A five minute film can be as good as an eight hour epic, and I fully agree.

It looked very much as if Norte shook the audience. Jonathan Romney, who coined the term Slow Cinema in a film review in 2004, wrote on Twitter: “Lav Diaz’s NORTE, what a triumph. Raskolnikov in the Philippines, beautifully controlled storytelling with an apocalyptic final left-turn.” And Nick James (Sight&Sound), who actually isn’t very fond of slowness in film said: “The 4-hour Lav Diaz NORTE is worth every second. Finally something transcendent. Amazing.”

The team received a five-minute standing ovation, which, I guess, says a lot. I haven’t seen the film, but I know Diaz’s style. That he received standing ovations for it at the Cannes festival is a wonderful achievement. Apparently, there are distributors interested in Norte. I hope that he can strike a deal, so that we can finally access Diaz’s films (legally).