Rabu, 18 Mei 2011

Gillo Pontecorvo - Kapò (1959)

Edith, a 14 year-old Jewish girl living in Paris under German occupation, is led away with her family to a concentration camp. A sympathetic prisoner working in the infirmary saves her life by giving her a new identity as "Nicole," a thief (and non-Jew) who has just died. However, she is shattered when she witnesses her parents being led away for extermination. Now determined to survive at any cost, she succeeds at getting transferred to a labor camp and improves her status there by prostituting herself to SS officers. Over time, she is promoted to the position of kapo and her soul hardens. When Sascha, a Russian prisoner of war, arrives at the camp, the two fall in love and a sense of altruism is reawakened in her. Seeing that little time is left for the prisoners at the camp, she agrees to collaborate on a risky escape plan.

Among the many films I’ve never seen there is not only October, Le jour se lève and Bambi, but the obscure Kapo as well. A film about the concentration camps shot in 1960 by the leftist Italian Gillo Pontecorvo, Kapo was by no means a landmark in the history of cinema. Am I the only one who has never seen this film but has never forgotten it? I haven’t seen Kapo and yet at the same time I have seen it. I’ve seen it because someone showed it to me—with words. This movie, whose title—functioning as a kind of password—has accompanied my life of cinema, I know it only through a short text: the review written by Jacques Rivette in the June 1961 issue of Cahiers du cinéma. It was the 120th issue and the article was entitled On Abjection. Rivette was 33 and I was 17. I had probably never uttered the word “abjection” in my life.

Rivette didn’t recount the film’s narrative in his article. Instead he was content to describe one shot in a single sentence. The sentence, engraved in my memory, read: “Just look at the shot in Kapo where Riva commits suicide by throwing herself on electric barbed wire: the man who decides at this moment to track forward and reframe the dead body in a low-angle shot - carefully positioning the raised hand in the corner of the final frame – deserves only the most profound contempt.” Therefore a simple camera movement could be the one movement not to make. The movement one must—obviously—be abject to make. As soon as I read those lines I knew the author was absolutely right.
from Postcards from cinema, Serge Daney Pontecorvo-cd1.avi Pontecorvo-cd2.avi Pontecorvo-cd1.idx Pontecorvo-cd2.idx Pontecorvo-cd1.sub Pontecorvo-cd2.sub

included: English (srt), Italian (sub,idx)
no pass

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