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    Interruption (x)


The LIBERATED FILM CLUB—a monthly series curated and hosted by Schtinter—has come to a premature end due to these unprecendented and uncertain times. The series, running from its birth to its death—2016 to 2020—would guarantee a wide wing-span for critical conversation. Screening “Liberated film” (a loose category designed to scaffold the show), a guest would be invited to introduce a film; an audience seated to watch it through; but there’d be an interruption to that typical format. Neither the audience nor the guest would have any idea what film would be shown, and this anonymized format would invite broad and antagonistic perambulation on the what, the why and the how of film. An interrogation of what we do when we sit in a cinema; a reckoning with the kind of posture we should assume when we frame a film for further talk. Playing with the various ways we should consider and reproach the institutions built around all of our cultures of making and the manners and methods of all of our cultures of consumption,  the Liberated Film Club was a rare reflection on the act of reflection itself.

To signal the end of the series, Schtinter mailed a letter to attendees; speaking to the death, rebirth, and redeath of the Club—and the contexts for its prospective evolution/revolution—see below for an unabridged iteration of that open letter.

Actor, writer and director Stavros Tornes once argued... 


Here Schtinter speaks to that search and that application in a ‘new normal’ defined by clipped wings, and the new catalysts of care and criticism that we need acknowledge.

The Liberated Film Club is dead.
Long live the Liberated Film Club.

... and if Kuno himself,
flesh of her flesh,
stood close beside her at last,
what profit was there in that? 

20.03.2020 was to be the final date of the Liberated Film Club in its familiar unfamiliar format. I decided some months ago to end the club’s better-known manifestation to avoid it becoming a victim of its own success. If in the months to come our cinemas re-open, perhaps I will pick it up again, diluting the concept and betraying her underpinning virtues as the masses rush to a shadow of that which they feel profound shame to have overlooked in the time before the virus, and major exhibition centres (more ashamed still) battle it out, auction and fisticuffs, for the right to host the last, lost, Liberated. My better self enacted elsewhere, afforded by all of this an easier life of Brüt Imperial, Marron Glacé and Walker’s Sensations (even when they aren’t on promotion). But for now? Film is (still!) the liberating application in the margins in search of a proper world... and never the twain shall meet.

An uncertain upload window makes its case behind this word document. Behind that there is a smattering of unfinished document tabs insolent over Léon Comerre’s The Flood of Noah and His Companions, and a foot beyond that there are double-glazed windows with a few notes stickied over, and then a grass against cutting, and then a tree bearing blossom (to which I return often to check that it really does smell like marzipan), with cousin chump and a short axe beneath the branches and yesterday’s empty Guinness can the airgun couldn’t puncture (we missed) set back by a foot; behind this, upwards, the Malvern hills and the sun of many days behind it all. It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there. (Before you mistake me for one in bed with the much derided French authors summer-housing the lockdown as ‘sleeping beauties’, know for what it’s worth that I have permanently lost my home as a consequence of this and have only a bunk in this Midlands bolthole as meaningful support.)

A virus has presented itself, said to be long overdue in its coming. Said to be just the beginning. All over, those who aren’t obviously sick or dying from the virus avoid each other in novel and militarily enforced ways. Only an hour ago outside the local co-op a woman pressed her (masked) nose against the wall to avoid my passing her, thoughtless: we were less than two metres apart. After a closure that sent shockwaves through the local community, the chip shop has reopened: enthusiasts in their ‘normal’ clothes now punctuated by Mad Max sweatshop accessories, wait more keenly even than at airport departure gates. I expect the virus’ legacy in terms of the queue to be positive: its authority undone by the gaps as necessity or hangover. And on air travel too, which everyone seems too scared to declare a luxury which ought to be banned for businessmen, investors, and especially for tourists; a luxury which everybody knows by its very nature—climate apocalypse or no climate apocalypse—is confusing and wrong. The Chinese takeaway remains closed ‘for the foreseeable future due to an ingredient shortage’. The local NHS pharmacist’s window is armoured with a wall of exorbitantly priced industrial-size and strength alcoholic concentration and painkillers. Here, in Worcestershire, the infection rate was 124th highest in the UK the last time I checked, compared to Hackney (where I came from) which takes second after Newham, rife. With screens and frames before me and with gates and doors to block out the hysteria and the nonchalance, I am blessed in a way that we say we are blessed and affect gratitude but never really get until it’s gone (Howard Marks last night on Banged Up Abroad—the last refuge of cinematographic integrity on UK television—said you can’t appreciate freedom until you’ve been freed). By telephone, by text, by email and in the media, all talk contorts itself around ‘nothing will ever be the same again’. Rubbish, if the past is anything to go by, but for the sake of argument if nothing was the same again: according to who and what? I am one of many people copied into an email from one of Britain’s great catalysts early on in the time of the virus—perhaps too early on—volunteering that this is the moment we exploit to take shape of a genuinely collective, self-sufficient and sustainable future, pooling our resources together ‘to maximise and formalise mutual support, sharing costs to reduce any double spending but also to create.’ It was an exciting response measured by its calm, clarity and anti-pessimism. Feedback trickled in but barely, which surprised me for the calibre and otherwise breathless enthusiasm of so many copied into the prompt forward. A few well-meaning but lacklustre responses were made (your footprints on the ceiling of the Chelsea Hotel baby, et cetera), before the chain became a random and predictable shoot ‘em up of links to lists of films, articles… content which would at a push find dialogue with the possible emergent reality, but was at its core a tribute to the passing of time. And what a pity! For here in the time of the virus was, for those of us fortunate enough to have lost any false sense of security and fortunate enough not to be suffering from the virus or responsible for anyone who is (or deflecting self-importantly via bullshit jobs: think-tanks; fashion magazines; university lecturers; film festival arbiters of nothing OR doing real jobs like REFUSE WORKERS; we say yodel for them every Friday at 8pm! And COURIERS; have whole milk and a banana loaf ready AT ALL TIMES to respond as we should to the patter of tiny feet on the path and the slap on the step of your new libertarian socialist tome: heroes!) time literally freed: it might want to kill you but it wants to kill capital too. Be it the garden of earthly delights before you, or behind closed eyes-doors: however conditional, the time of the virus is a gift as extraordinary as our making. Time to learn Italian (hell, why not Welsh too?); Time to toss the marbles and build the bench; to write the poem; to live, though confined, away for a while from the trappings, and to work on a way permanently out of them (because Goddess knows they’ll make us pay in time). To sign out and switch it off.

In the Douglas Sirk film All That Heaven Allows, Jane Wyman’s Cary is pestered by a salesman, her children and her best friend to get a television. ‘All you have to do is turn that dial, and you have all the company you want, right there on the screen. Drama, comedy… life’s parade at your fingertips.’ The young widow is pressured to refuse another go at love by the fear around her. Why upset those closest and why make yourself vulnerable when the great unifier of the screen is ‘at your fingertips’? Ron (Rock Hudson) is the hunky, working class boy who sees the liberated potential in Cary. A viewing of Heaven Allows in the time of the virus suggests that Ron is the promise of the wild and the unknown to free time, not in fact an individual in pursuit of Cary, but already a part of her deepest and most possible. Ron represents Cary’s capacity for self-realisation and sustenance in a reality antithetical to the dignity and autonomy promised by this rejection of the scheduled programming. Her motion to surrender at the end of the film is the culling of the fantasy as it is imposed upon her (and us), as she (and as we) instead falls into the dark lavender fold of Ron’s embrace; a blind leap into the unknown at the expense of all previously thought real.

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

Ping! My interruption interrupted: another email through with a link to great content suddenly ‘freed’ online… and I see a pattern emerging. I see individuals and organisations desperate to retain their pitch in the field; desperate to harvest the feedback they’re used to receiving when all is ‘up and running’; to forecast our emergence from the time of the virus by blocking our emergence with timecoded assaults in all of their flash and their flesh and their colour AND SO with gusto UP my cursor leaps to the X in the left-hand corner of an already uncertain upload window (which was, in case it isn’t obvious, a window prepped for the Liberated Film Club to find an online outlet). The deluge of unfinished somethings underneath are properly revealed and feel a little freer: free enough to prioritise the marzipan blossom, the Guinness, the hills and what is left of the light, and hail victorious to them. No! to adding to the slurry of links, articles, lists obscuring further the route ahead, and No! to playing to the virus in the way that so many rightfully scared and already exhausted institutions and organisations do, instead asserting some power over the drab fantasy of ‘real’ life, with a cautious appreciation for what it can do for us in its suspension at least and fingers X’d destruction of present time as we knew it. I don’t imagine Liberated Film Club attendees would recognise what we posthumously call ‘normal’ as a reality worth resuming, and it is for those people, honouring their attendance and their individual participations, rather than spectatorships, that we stand apart from the human-centipede, blind in service to the consolidation of power gleaned from patronising the “connectivity” co-opted by the screen ‘at your fingertips.’ Of course it is no use to acknowledge that nothing can begin to approximate let alone be equivalent to the adventure and the risk of the thousand-fingered surface. Cinemas, cafes, bars. Even churches. I’ve printed for reference the statue by Francesco Quierolo in the Church of St Severus in Naples. Stay with me—look it up. Without the need to return to the computer to look at Quierolo’s masterpiece, I’ve whittled my online activities down to a rare fix of my old misery crutch in amateur scuba videos… caving only occasionally to the more conventionally dynamic river-deep scavenging videos, and never further. Those people who I had invited to present future editions of the Liberated Film Club: perhaps I will ask from them what they cannot share? It isn’t too late for everyone else (meaning YOU, please!) to send in a favourite image of fire. The
Liberated Film Club is dead. Long live the Liberated Film Club.

In spite of my resolve to sign out and switch it off, I do sometimes fall into the diary to see what would have been happening. In London an exhibition on the furniture of Casa Malaparte was due to open. Casa Malaparte (or Casa come me / House like me as its creator called it), in Capri, is best known as one of the main characters in Godard’s Contempt. Conceived, built and lived in by Curzio Malaparte, a writer, filmmaker, and just about everything else whose life is the fiction to which ours should aspire, he designed the fireplace so that the ocean could be seen through the flames.

‘He gazed at me with a serious expression and smiled. He told me that his two children, who were already in bed, had been overcome with a terrific fear during the first bombings, that the health of the youngest one had been seriously affected—and that he had evolved a means of changing the fearful bombings of Naples into an entertainment for his children. As soon as the alarm hooted through the night, my friend and his wife jumped out of bed and, gathering the two little ones in their arms began shouting merrily: ‘What fun! What fun! The British planes are coming to throw their presents to you!’ They went down into their cellar that offered scant and ineffectual shelter and, huddling there, they passed the hours of terror and death laughing and shouting, ‘What fun!’ until the boys fell happily asleep dreaming about the presents from the British flyers. From time to time, as the crash of the bombs and the crumbling of buildings came nearer, the little ones awoke, and the father said: ‘Now, now, they are throwing down your presents!’ The two boys clapped their hands with joy, shouting: ‘I want a doll! I want a sword! Daddy, do you think that the British will bring me a little boat?’ Toward dawn, when the hum of the motors moved off fading slowly into a sky that was already clear, the father and mother led the children by their hands into the garden, saying, ‘Look for them, look! They must have dropped them on the grass.’ The two boys searched among the rose bushes, wet with dew, among the lettuce plants and the tomato stalks, and they found a doll here, a little wooden horse there and, farther off, a bag of candy. The two children were no longer afraid of bombings, instead they waited anxiously for them and welcomed them joyfully.’

Stanley SCHTINTER is the founding member of the Collective For The Refusal To Return To Normal. He has been described by The Daily Mail as an artist, by The Daily Star as an exorcist, by Iain Sinclair as ‘the last avant-garde provocateur’, and by Sean Price Williams as ‘the Devil.’

See here.


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