Scenes from the Films of Konkowsky



< 5 >




Yosei Mura, Konkowsky’s cinematographer and alter ego, bends near the director, and Konkowsky listens to the translation, his beetling eyebrows beetling. Long before Mura can possibly be finished, Konkowsky, laughing, waves him away. He pushes snow into a peak in front of him with his fat little hands, and puts a pinch into his mouth, like a man taking snuff. His jubilant, watery eyes come bugging out, and he says, “Look! You can eat it, and it’s cold.”

So he filmed the snow, and warm air melted the snow, and fire melted the memory of snow. Konkowsky died in the custom-made Fichet vault in the basement of his home — with a garden shovel in his hands. In reconstructing Konkowsky’s final scene we begin with the shovel.

We begin with the shovel, for a film of snow is not snow, and the shadow of a flock of birds is not a flock of birds, and a painting of a man is not a man, and the ashes of a man and a shovel are not the man and his shovel. Each is an image of the thing.

An image is a thing riven from that which it has been and that which it will be, cropped and cut and sized and framed off from that which surrounds it in the physical world; a thing first filtered through the artist’s senses, then sifted and sorted and strained by the artist’s mind and soul, then squeezed down by the artist’s hand into or onto a medium, in which form the image reaches the viewer: and now, all that the artist did to distill the thing into an image — the sifting, sorting, straining; the cutting, cropping, sizing, framing; the rivening and rendering — all this is done or redone or undone by the viewer, out of the artist’s control and out of his awareness: until finally the image stands reconstituted, regenerated, re-created, not as the thing it was before it became an image, but as a newborn thing that only now takes the first breath of its life.

The archaeologist finds a broken plate and sets an imaginary table with it; he places the table in a house, the house on a street, the street in a village, the village in a kingdom, the kingdom under a king, the king in history: the archaeologist finds a broken plate and builds up an entire civilization around it. Yet all he has in his hand is a piece of crockery encrusted with dirt.

Who is the artist: the ceramist who made his civilization into a plate, or the archaeologist who made the plate into a civilization? Both, Konkowsky would have said, but the archaeologist is the greater.

Who is the artist: the filmmaker or the film-viewer? Konkowsky believed a film is more than a murder to be solved, an equation with one right answer and infinityminus- one wrong answers; he believed that most films infantilize the viewer, so he made films that venerated the viewer instead.

Now we, the viewers of Konkowsky’s films and the viewers of what he left us of himself — we who file past the empty coffin — must repay the trust Konkowsky placed in us. He gives himself to us as ash and char, gives himself to us as an image: we rebuild the image into the thing. In reconstructing Konkowsky, we begin by reconstructing Konkowsky’s last scene; and in reconstructing Konkowsky’s last scene, we begin with the shovel.

As the Great Fire of Stockholm starts to spread — fire outstripped by scent of fire, scent of fire outstripped by word of fire — we place the slightly dwarflike figure of the director in his rose garden, turning soil up against the exterior wall of the vault in which his doubly-insured and irreplaceable films lie preserved, turning it violently, turning soil and seedling, petal and twig, stem and thorn.



<< Previous Page

1 2 3 4 5 6


Next Page >>