Days in Buenos Aires: Lisandro Alonso


By Robert Koehler

Was this the single most memorable image of the entire BAFICI? Perhaps. Just as Godard’s festival trailer for last year’s Viennale, Une Catastrophe, stamped the entire festival with the filmmaker’s own form of visual-audio music and sense of the Zeitgeist, so Lisandro Alonso’s BAFICI trailer, mysteriously titled S/T, seemed to stamp this edition of BAFICI. I would say that it’s the single greatest festival trailer I’ve ever seen: A close, static shot trained on an owl, in turn very much trained on the camera, its whole body undulating with the inhaling and exhaling of breath timed perfectly to a pulsating soundtrack of beating, pounding drums. It was Alonso’s entire cinema encapsulated into a single minute, a cinema defined by remorseless observation, of the power of solitude, of the essential nature of nature and the nature of watching and listening. After a minute of Alonso’s Owl staring back at us, demanding our attention and some explanation of ourselves, we are able to watch anything that follows…..


Here’s the maker of the Owl Trailer, Alonso himself, dropping by the festival just outside BAFICI’s Festival Space. The title S/T? A mystery…..And excellent news for Southern California lovers of Alonso’s films: He informed me that he’ll be starting a residency at CalArts, starting in mid-April. (Meaning, starting just about NOW.) He’ll be based at CalArts for several weeks, screening and discussing his films, and who knows what else. Stay posted at Film Journey and the usual places for any further Lisandro sightings/events/encounters in Los Angeles.

We may be seeing the start of a shift in Alonso’s cinema, which reached a new development in Liverpool. Whether this also means a shift away from Argentina to….somewhere else, only time will tell. With what some consider the world’s most interesting director, it is always worth keeping track….

18 thoughts on “Days in Buenos Aires: Lisandro Alonso

  1. Fantastic news about CalArts! Thus Alonso continues a tradition that in recent years included such filmmakers as Pedro Costa and Mani Kaul…

  2. Sounds terrific – I’ll be on tenterhooks waiting for a link too!

    Thanks so much for this report, Robert & Doug.

  3. Hi Harry! I definitely will. Generally, the REDCAT theatre programs the films of artists in residence, and combines them with Q/As, if nothing else.

  4. Robert and I hung out with Lisandro last night until 3:00 in the morning–does that count? 🙂

    It was very informal, but it sounds like he is planning some CalArts talks/screenings. I’ll see if I can sit in.

  5. Ah thanks, toutvabien!

    Alonso really disdains DVD/video, and pretty much insists on projecting his work on 35mm, so I don’t think he’s in any rush to put his trailer online.

  6. I’m not surprised that Alonso disdains anything other than 35mm, but it’s a shame that the first 3 features now circulate on such dreadful interlaced DVD transfers (bad standards conversions with a particularly harmful “speed-up” effect). It can be frustrating how the work of filmmakers who take a particularly hard line towards DVD (see also: Michael Snow, James Benning, Fred Kelemen, etc.) ends up being seen non-theatrically in often the worst ways imaginable…

    Doug – you should write up the other night’s reverie with Alonso, no matter how debauched… I’d be particularly interested in reading the conversation between 2-3 am!

  7. It involved others, so I don’t know how much I can tell! 🙂 Lisandro’s staying in a Mid-Century Modern house in Silver Lake and apparently he’ll be here for about six weeks, but only speaking at CalArts for a couple of them. Lisandro is very laid back and friendly, and among other things, we tried to compile an ideal list of places to go in Southern California and we spent a good amount of time on speaker phone to Austria trying to get the latest gossip on the Cannes line-up.

    I’m disappointed CalArts won’t be screening La Libertad, which is the only Alonso film I haven’t seen. Lisandro offered to get me a DVD; he said he has the box set released by MALBA but couldn’t loan it out because 1) it’s his parent’s copy, and 2) it’s the last available copy of the set, which sold out in Argentina.

  8. Oh, and I agree with your points about DVD. It’s a classic example of something being officially denied, thus creating an inferior bootleg market, rather than supervising official releases, even if they’re not ideal.

  9. Sounds great. I intended to corner him when Liverpool screened at LFF last year, but he was nowhere to be found afterwards. Even the organisers had no idea where he had disappeared to…

    I’d be more than happy to send you a (less than ideal) copy of La libertad – drop me an e-mail if you’re interested/desperate!

  10. Dear Bob: I do agree with you: I loved watching the short every time a film was going to start. And the comparision with JLG Viennale, is pretty justified. A big hug.

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