Monday, March 15, 2021

Krzystof Kieslowski's Camera Buff

Krzystof Kieslowki’s Camera Buff (1979) begins as a parody. However, the development of the silly and the trivial into significant elements in the creation of an artwork (in this case of a documentary kind) is one of the most profound revelations of this complex film. Initailly Filip Mosz (Jerzy Stuhr) who works in purchasing at a factory buys a camera to record the birth of his daughter. Soon he becomes interested in more than domestic matters, which includes living with a colicky baby. Recognizing that he’s in the presence of a  camera buff, Filip’s boss hires him to make a film of factory life that goes on to win third place in a festival at Lodz. "Don't win," are his wife Irka's (Malgorzata Zabkowska) fateful words before he climbs on train to leave their little backwater of Wielice. Later Filip meets the famous Polish director Krzystof Zanussi, though it’s clear the great filmmaker regards his starry-eyed admirer as a rank amateur and rube who has little understanding either of his infatuation with art or its limits. When he’s not in possession of his camera, Filip walks around framing shots with his fingers. In a dramatic scene where his wife, fed up with his growing ambition, leaves, she catches him in flagrante, framing the shot of her departure. By treating everything as gris for his cinematic mill, he's able to distance himself from the pain and joy of life itself. Camera Buff works on two planes:  one of satire and the other broader artistic sensibility. Clearly the greatest irony is that the Kieslowski himself is exploiting his own character, demeaning his ambition in order to create his own movie (a process that’s brilliantly caught in the last scene where Kieslowlski's anti-hero points the lens at himself like a gun). In the process of getting what he wants Filip is gradually losing everything he holds dear. It starts with homelife but ends in a fateful scene (reminiscent of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People) where his growing talent to find the truth in reality ends up causing a beloved manager, who’d become one of his most ardent admirers, to lose his job. Filip becomes a celebrity within the confines of his little town. Even the local dwarf is moved by the way his deformity is melodramatized. However, all along the artist is leaving a path of destruction in his wake. This downward path culminates in a final scene where he intentionally unreels one of his films, letting the celluloid become over-exposed as it rolls into oblivion on a street. “When you edit the long shot and the close up, the person has to be on the same axis,” Filip ominously warns his assistant.

Read "An Incident of Defenestration" by Francis Levy, Vol.1 Brooklyn

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