"Blind Loves": Minimalist Variations By Gabriele Barrera

in 10th Motovun International Film Festival

by Gabriele Barrera

Motuvian, [mo×toove?n] adjective.
1. of a film or relating to a film of the unmistakable Motovun film festival, Croatia, especially when compared with the not so extraordinary competitions and atmospheres of the other festivals, worldwide: e.g. it’s a typically Motuvian movie! It is regrettable that critics did not go easy on the Motuvian works. The Motuvian thing is that…
2. (of a kind of movie or filmmaker) deliberately odd, astonishing, more plentiful of inventiveness than usual, unconventional, with all sorts of wonderful characters and styles: e.g. I’m a little weirded out by this Motuvian documentary! Motuvian things have been happening… (metaphorical proverb) A Motuvian film a day keeps the doctor away
3. origin, early 21th century: neologism — a recent FIPRESCI’s coinage — from the name of the international film festival of Motovun.

Therefore, you take the hint. Blind Loves (Slépe Lásky, Slovakia, 2008), by the discovery and promise of the indie cinema Juraj Lehotsky (born in 1975 in Bratislava, graduated from the Academy of Music Arts, department of documentary film directing, already author of shorts and music clips, now winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at Motovun this year, with his eclectic debut in feature film), is exactly a Motuvian masterpiece, there is no other word for it. And that’s just what says Rajko Grlic, artistic director of the 10th Motovun Festival 2008: “Motovun, after ten years, always means strangeness, nonconformism and freedom, discoveries and risk factor. Croisette and Venice’s Lido downwards: that is the odd side of the cinema.” Here is the reason why Blind Loves, brilliant and blank sightseer around the everyday nature of life and love between blind people, is a Motuvian gem, in the widest sense of the word. A tender and at the same time breathtaking docu-fiction-animated-manipulated-stopmotioned-patchwork of uncommon cinema. A movie that will be, it’s certain to happen, a future blind love for the eyes of any cinéphile with an open mind. Or with a Motuvian mind, it’s the same.

A Blind Faith in the Cinema

The main idea of Blind Loves, repeated with minimalist variations in four chapters and following with the respectful Lehotsky’s camera the life of several blind characters, is a paradoxical idea. Have a look at that. All the characters are real blind people, not professional actors, but filmed in an unrealistic way: for example Peter Kolesár, blind piano teacher in the homonymous episode Peter, presents “some charming moments that play like Georges Méliès crossed with Jan Svankmajer”, as Alissa Simon writes in “Variety”. Miro Daniel in his Miro, a blind version of Romeo and Juliet, has not a tragic but a sweetest happy end. Elena Manzelia in Elena, about a blind pregnant girl, is a mélange between the Truffaut of L’argent de poche (1976), and the Johan van der Keuken of Blind Kind II (1966). Zuzana Pohánková in her Zuzana, a blind teenager that plays blind in a chat room, that is an anti Larry Clark’s version of the description of the teens’ love, combines the poetically realistic style of the Slovak director Dušan Hanák (e.g. Ruzové sny, 1976) to the visual harshness of Dog Days (2001) or Jesus, You Know (2003) by Ulrich Seidl.

And, further, a bigger paradoxical idea. Surprise! Lehotsky’s blindess reserves a tender and indescribable sense of well-being, through a (not) vision of the world marked by an unexpected happiness. Normal anxieties, yes, normal hopes, but — in his Blind Loves — lives a tactile sensation of a caressing atmosphere. A resounding reversal of the novel by José Saramago, Blindness (Ensaio sobre a cegueira, 1995), and of the movie by Fernando Meirelles (id., 2008). Consequently, as in a lov and hate relationship, Juraj Lehotsky has a blind love for the contradictions. Lehotsky builds his visual opera about the impossibility of the eyesight but not the tragedy of the blindness, like to say: the impossibility of the cinema isn’t a tragedy! But it’s not enough. Because it’s true that all the spectators of Blind Loves — those who have just seen a movie about blind-love-stories and a lot of blind people — are in the disturbing position so that everything is literally visible only by the public, only by Lehotsky and his spectators, not by the people into the screen. It’s a position of unintentional, unseen, ontological status of voyeurism: voyeurism without cause. It’s exactly the blind alley of the cinema, from Lumière to Andy Warhol: to view the reality and to make a kind of violence to it. This is the reason because an immediate will of tenderness from the public balances the intrusion of Lehotsky in the blind world: a world made not for the cinema.

Another odd, unforeseen, paradoxical idea, Motuvian in the pure state. Lehotsky strokes and rewrites his blind world with the ear and not with the eye of the camera, likewise his blind characters in their happy life of every day, in the tradition not of the usual documentary but — above all — of the musical camera’s style of Jacques Tati, Jia Zhang-Ke and Jean Vigo (openly quoted in a surreal sequence between L’Atalante, 1934, and Jules Gabriel Verne). As Michel Chion writes, it seems to review Blind Loves: “Cinema is a sound art, God is a disc-jockey” (see, evidently “Un art sonore, le cinéma. Histoire, esthétique, poétique”, 2003). Happiness, like the good cinema, is a sight defect. And so, in the country of Blind Loves, the one-eyed man is perhaps king, but the two-eyed spectator is a little sad.