By Mónica Delgado
Antoni Pinent’s name is immediately associated with his struggle for the visibility, conservation, and dissemination of Spanish experimental cinema since the mid-2000’s. His work as a programmer in Xcéntric Cinema, as a diligent curator in From Ecstasy to Rapture, and contributing investigator to the historiography of Latin American experimental cinema, plus a 25 years career as a filmmaker, place him as a remarkable figure inside the so called “cameraless film”, appropriation and found footage cinema.
In José María de Orbe’s Aita, Pinent took charge of the aging process of the frames projected inside the story of the abandoned house, configuring a phantasmagoric universe in this film which appeals to the nostalgia, the materiality of the past and the analogy of fatherhood. With this background, Pinent arrived to Lima to present thirteen of his works as part of special program in MUTA, -International Showcase of Audiovisual Appropriation-, works which allow a panoramic view of his twenty five years as a filmmaker.
To get inside the work of Antoni Pinent is to fully enter a physical environment of experimentation: tangible, palpable, rough, a experimentation of perforations, frictions and sounds extracted from celluloid itself. In GIOCONDA/FILM (1999), a short film of exactly fifty seconds, the filmmaker divides the dimension of reality from the renaissance painting in a series of frames of a perpendicular order, allowing a different sense and matter in the work. The final credits which read “the protagonist: Mona Lisa”, and “image and sound: Leonardo de Vinci” add this quota of humor to this reinvention in movement of the pictorial layer, where the perforations allow the creation of a sound dimension related to the accident or the texture’s crackling. One could say that the Gioconda in hands of Pinent enjoys a new life.
In the MUTA showcase we could also see one of the first Pinent’s works, which is placed in 1992, N°0 Psycho, where he assemblies – from the frames of a video copy- the initial credits of Alfred Hitchcock’s film with the soundtrack of Bernard Herrmann, on diverse emblematic scenes, such as the one where Janet Leigh is assassinated. The intention of this early film in Pinent’s career sets a precedent in his interest for disarticulating iconic narratives, -a theme which he would develop later in G/R/E/A/S/E– and auscultating the movement of the musical cadence. Pinent manages to achieve this “Herrmann-subverting- Hitchcock” effect, in a resignification where the images are no longer necessary.
In Música Visual en Vertical (Visual Music in Vertical, 1999-2000), Pinent takes a sheet of music and intervenes it, adjusting the material to the verticality of the frame. There’s a rhythm which is visible, like the visual “musicals” of the early past century. But the interesting feature of this cinema without a camera is that one can appreciate the seed which would later become a theme in FILM QUARTET/POLYFRAME (2006-2008), where this poly-frame has now a rhythmic nature, of notes or semitones, which Pinent composes, articulating or disarticulating them. There’s no better analogy that watching Pinent’s cinema as a game of atonalities, of decomposed musicalities, as if some artifacts of musique concrete achieved a physical dimension, something that arrives as a final summa in G/R/E/A/S/E.
FILM QUARTET / POLYFRAME masterfully articulates two elements which compose the experimental universe of Pinent: the necessity of this atonal musical composition –the rhythm that comes out of the perforations, of scratching, and also of those horizontal cuts that reminds us of a pentagram- and the humor, which is the base of this deconstruction or decollage, in its subversive capacity of cutting, mutilating, transforming and giving a new significance, between critical and satirical. If in G/R/E/A/S/E, Pinent seizes a Hollywood pop musical to transform it into a non-musical, in FILM QUARTET/POLYFRAME, such films as Michael Snow’s Wavelenght, Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou or Stanley Donen’s Singing in the Rain gain a dimension that nullifies the capacity of memory or nostalgia in the spectator. Whatever’s going to happen doesn’t happen in the sequences chosen by Pinent; things require frustrating the memory of the same object to bend its connotation. In Buñuel’s film we don’t arrive to the famous cutting of the eye, neither do we in the Donen film, with its mythical scene. Pinent choses Donen because it’s a film that diagnoses the end of silent cinema and its incapacity to approach creatively the simulacra of voices and reverie that sounded cinema demanded through dubbing, which is still a thing today, trashing the nature of interpretation.
In G/R/E/A/S/E (2008-2013), Pinent appeals to the destruction of a pop culture myth, through his Polyframe technique. In a few specific moments, the 35mm frame becomes interrupted, from a possibility that the filmmaker names as “horizontal fragmentism”, creating a depth of field in the intermittence –something that had been already achieved in his short film Descent (2000-2001)- and working in the transformation of bodies, gestures and physiognomies, retaking, reassembling the known story of Randal Kleiser’s 1971 film in a new tale of different love relationships, dances and car races of a different influence and rhythm. But this G/R/E/A/S/E goes beyond an argumental rephrasing. It is a meticulous process of re-editing and reinvention from celluloid itself, based in the perforation technique, the already mentioned Polyframe, to achieve a game of perception with the spectator. But it is also from the way that the sound is edited by Dirk Schaefer, a usual collaborator of Peter Tscherkassky, who in this Pinent film, recomposes the idea of Hollywood cinema with a soundtrack that overwhelms shakes and agitates.
Something that is clear after watching Pinent’s cinema in a panoramic view, is his fortunate perseverance in the experimentation of different editing techniques, not only from the appropriation, but also the subversion of the discourses from the materiality that celluloid allows in its diverse formats, from Super 8 to 35mm, or from video in Betacam. A cinema that comes from old and known things, that are transformed in Pinent’s hands to become vital and powerful.