To Touch Film: Retrospective of Peter Tscherkassky

When was the last time you touched the film reel, if at all? When clicking the single button “Play“, can you still imagine hours of physically demanding work spent in the darkroom to conjure up a few moving images? Return to the world of film material brought alive by human hands; material that can be separated and joined again. Enter the darkroom along with world-famous avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky and watch his online retrospective from May 25 to June 7 at for free!

Austria’s strong experimental film tradition and a unique knowledge of film history represent the basic framework for the rich body of work of Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky since the early 1980s. The filmmaker, who has managed to succeed across world festivals with the elaborate manual and intellectual treatment of his films, is a remarkable creative personality dealing with the medium and world of film with extraordinary complexity. The highly conceptual form of some of his films alludes to the fundamental theoretical texts and reflections on the structure of film. Others, on the contrary, explicitly show and transform the iconic works of the history of cinema. Working primarily with found footage, Tscherkassky becomes a skilful craftsman, an assembler of new worlds and stories, while dealing with the development of avant-garde film in his books and lectures on a long-term basis.

The online retrospective covers all decades of Tscherkassky’s filmmaking career. His films from the 1980s include some of his earliest works, such as EROTIQUE (1982) and MOTION PICTURE (1984). While in EROTIQUE, the director explores the unachievable female body, and thus the (im)possibility of seeing through the frame of the film camera, in MOTION PICTURE (1984) he revisits the beginnings of film. By means of an experiment, he starts a visual play with a single shot from the famous film by the Lumière brothers Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.

The fascination by early cinema, as well as the general cultural change brought about by film, is addressed by the director in the 1990s again in connection with the films by the Lumière brothers. The film L´ARRIVÉE (1998), capturing a collision of trains one of which is carrying film material, is a metaphor of the transformation of the society after its encounter with film, just like the first viewers encountered the film train of the Lumière brothers. On the other hand, another film from the same decade, HAPPY-END (1996), is a good example of Tscherkassky’s special interest in found footage. Composed of home videos from the 1960s and 1970s, the film constructs a visual spectacle including intensive or even self-indulgent scenes in a fictitious story of a married couple.

Premiered at Cannes, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A LIGHT AND SOUND MACHINE (2005) gives an insight into the director’s films made in the new millennium. Besides the successful and famous film, the online retrospective also includes the filmmaker’s MASTER CLASS from the past year held at the 18th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival which makes an analysis of the film. Before the release of Tscherkassky’s new film The Exquisite Corpus, the film selection as well as the director’s filmography are concluded by COMING ATTRACTIONS (2010) reflecting on the mutual relation between early cinema, characterized by considerable flamboyance a and exhibitionism, advertising and avant-garde film.

You can touch the film material in an online retrospective by Peter Tscherkassky from May 25 to June 7 for free.

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