Friday, 19 October 2018

Movie review: Star, dir Johann Lurf (2018)

This collage, or mash-up, or sampling of movie segments showing stars, with the original soundtracks, is an evocative and experimental work of cinema that takes a little patience. The director and the team of people (who found all the segments of film from the earliest days of filmmaking to the present day, with the segments displayed in roughly chronological order) ask you to take a little time to reflect and think about what all of these attempts to understand the immensity of the universe mean in aggregate rather than in their particular instances.

The sampling is done so that the original sense or meaning of the sampled scene is absent. You get rough cuts, half phrases blurted out, music out of phase and cut up in a crazy asymmetrical array. The words used in the segments are in a wide range of languages, from English to Japanese and from Russian to French. Seen together in this way the scenes let you start to understand that we have always used the night sky as a place on which to project our deepest fears and our most soaring ambitions. The blackness with its myriad of small white dots is the perfect canvas, replete with abstract space, on which to depict all of our hopes and dreams and anxieties.

Stars have been used as carriers of signification by every community on the planet at one point or another; the use of stars for cultural communication is a universal trait of the species.

I had to convince myself at times to watch the whole thing. The temptation to get up and leave was sometimes powerful, but in the end I was glad I stayed. The significance of the project creeps up on you slowly as you try and then fail again and again to construct a meaningful story out of the fragments that you are shown. The meaning comes later, once you have been sitting in front of the screen for long enough that you have been able to relinquish control over your imagination.

The scenes wash over you and gradually patterns emerge to fill your busy mind with new understanding. When you see a film you are usually given a conventional story to follow with an opening followed by development, a crisis, and a resolution. The mind is ever seeking to form narratives out of lived experience and with Lurf’s film it is often at a loss as to what to make of the material offered to it. Letting go allows you to see new things.

The name of the film is correctly only rendered with the symbol of the star, as the musician David Bowie used it in his last album. Lurf is from Austria.

The screening I saw was the Australian premier of the film, which was shown as part of the Sci Fi Film Festival, on at Event Cinema on George Street in Sydney until 21 October. The festival website is here

1 comment:

Unknown said...

On behalf of the organising team here at SciFi Film Festival, thank you for a very insightful and honest appraisal. Your review not only examines the art and craft shown by director Johann Lurf in constructing ★, but also the many journeys the viewer takes while watching it. I'm glad you were able to experience it.
Best regards,
Simon Foster