Antonio Weinrichter.- Mark Rappaport

Antonio Weinrichter writes about Mark Rappaport. First-hand words, that introduce us into the first Master Class of the (S8) lead by the filmmaker from New York.


Mark Rappaport

Mark Rappaport was trained as a film editor. This job let him survive until he bought a 16 mm camera; he started his career as a filmmaker (even when he went through a bad patch) thanks to it. Then, he got the “moviola syndrome”, which is why he directed a kind of cinema based on the editing and recovering the radical principle of collage and avant-garde.

This aspect of his job defines the second stage of a career which could be divided into two different lines. After doing a dozen of short films, in 1973 he directed his first movie called Casual Relations. His cinema is placed among the American experimental movement. Thinking of the USA underground canon’s label, he debuts late. In fact, his movies were launched in the European festivals through alternative ways, without having any benefit of the cooperative and the Jonas Mekas’s writings. His movies would be part of the first independent wave, currently called “indie cinema”.

One unique Rappaport’s characteristic (different than Brakhage, Anger and Smith, and Warhol’s jobs) is that he has always done a narrative cinema, even a hyper narrative and very verbal one. A film like Impostors (1979) is an audiovisual trick that plays with our perception of his narrative ideas, while he gives us a dense net of great dialogues. The classic melodrama, modulated for the mannerist lecture of Douglas Sirk, could be a far reference of Rappaport’s favourite cinema genre. However, he does dry and dehydrated melodramas, Rappaport said. From the melodrama to the opera: another Rappaport film, Mozart in Love (1975), was welcomed because of his courage of treating in an irreverent way the sentimental Mozart’s life as an excuse to offer an anthology of his operas.

During the early 90’s, Rappaport’s career had a radical twist, blamed on the declining system of financing of the real indie cinema (not the Sundance and Miramax one). From that point in time, he delivers a fascinating series of non fiction movies (those ones which will be screened at the Mostra). He virtually invented new filmic essays: the cinema critic done with the cinema means. Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992) and From the Journals of Jean Sebert (1995) adopted the shape of an imaginary autobiography. The actors (Eric Farr as Hudson and Mary Beth Hurt as Seberg) look at the camera and talk about their career using clips of their movies. But this is just a ruse, the pretext for a reflexion which is literally established over the appropriated images, further than the biographical thing: full of digressions and vanishing points. What we hear is Rappaport’s voice thinking in loud voice about cinema.

He uses the same method in The Silver Screen: Colour Me Lavender (1998), a shrewd review of the homosexuality image in cinema. On the other hand, the half-length film Postcards (1990) and Exterior Night (1993) demonstrates that Rappaport hasn’t leaved the narrative point of view. However, it is a second grade narration, developed over a background of images: the postcards that the main characters interchange at first grade and the general shoots empty of old American films in front of which the actors of the second one are situated. Hollywood is taken as a transparency, in depth and at the back: a perfect metaphor about the filmmaker’s positions who works at the periphery.

Currently, this New Yorker filmmaker is about sixty years old, and he says is not working anymore, but do not literally trust him. However, he is still a cinema passionate. He has a sharp sense of humour and his cosmopolitanism is still manifested in his Brooklyn or Soho apartment, where many of their films have been done. It is such a great experience talking with someone who you couldn’t confuse as a classical filmmaker even he knows more about this kind of movies than many others who use it as a modernity thing. Talking to him, reading his great articles, or listening his voice in these essay movies, is the equivalent of diving into a heterodox, provocative, revisionist but very passionate version of something that Godard would have called the real History of cinema. It is the same healthy iconoclasm that appears in those collages that now are his main movie goer activity. Collages where Delphine Seyrig stays in a Marienbad’s garden with the Dusseldorf’s vampire; or Marlon Brando and Janet Leigh -the shower girl of Psychosis– shouting at the same time against the monumental valley of John Ford’s westerns. A story reedited with fragments of the movies which constituted our sentimental education in the cinema.
Antonio Weinrichter