DVD Review (on Facts for Fiction / Parco Delle Rimembranze)

Anthony Nield

DVD Review, 31st Oct 2006, 18:00 on: Facts for Fiction / Parco Delle Rimembranze
A double-bill from Michael Pilz: one, a 14-minute, single-take of a phone box; the other a nocturnal taxi ride with a New York cabbie.
[previously available at http://film.thedigitalfix.com/index/DVD Review]

A Michael Pilz double bill, this disc offers up two entries from approximately the midpoint of the Austrian filmmaker’s career to date. PARCO DELLE RIMEMBRANZE, made in 1987, is a 14-minute single-take piece – the shortest of the two films, but also a slow-burner. A phone booth is held in a single shot near sunset, a soundtrack confection of various songs, sounds and noises burbles in the background, and soon darkness takes over, the booth disappearing into little more than reflected neon. It’s a film which allows us to make our own connections, the Rimembrance of the title being key, yet it’s the visuals which remain firmest in the memory. As the light changes, moments of unexpected and sheer aesthetic beauty arise; alongside Peter Greenaway’s Dear Phone, it’s another reminder that these booths and avant-garde cinema really do have a fine working relationship.

FACTS FOR FICTION the second film, also reveals itself slowly, though at 68 minutes this is perhaps to be expected. Less overly experimental than PARCO DELLE RIMEMBRANZE, this 1996 effort sees Pilz move closer to the video diary form, in this case utilising Hi-8. Essentially, he’s recording a taxicab ride, the focus being on driver Jeff Perkins. Initially, however, Jeff is the passenger, the film opening with him forgetting his keys and thus denied access to his own cab. From a documentary viewpoint it seems almost too contrived and as a result can’t help but place doubts in our minds: is this a David Holzman-like set-up? Certainly, the characters we meet over the next hour seem strong enough to have been created, whilst the film as a whole contains terrific narrative energy even if it plays out in lengthy, visually limited takes.

And so whilst this is strict documentary filmmaking – a series of monologues and duologues as Jeff speaks to his driver, the camera and, later, his own passengers – the spectre of fictional cinema does hang heavy. Associations with Kiarostami, for example, are hard to escape, especially such vehicle-centric works as A Taste of Cherry and Ten. More significantly, there’s the world outside of the cab, that of New York, that most cinematic of cities. We drive through the Lower East Side, past Grand Central, and so on, each with its ability to provoke a dozen or more film references. (Likewise, the taxi itself and its associations with James Cagney, Robert De Niro or Jamie Foxx.) Even the radio seems in on the game, providing these sights with an array of backing sounds, from doo-wop to psychedelia to the spoken word.

Key, however, is Jeff himself, a truly fascinating character, thick-accented and full of quotable dialogue. He brings to mind a Cassavetes creation, indeed he mentions the man himself amongst the rat-a-tat of anecdotes, thoughts and general philosophies. The overall effect is that of a Hi-8 My Dinner With Andre, albeit genuine. The perfect demonstration comes with a self-reflexive to W. Somerset Maugham and his novel The Razor’s Edge:

“I once read it—you read it?—I think, doesn’t at the end, doesn’t the guy end up as a cab driver in New York? I don’t remember. I think so. He is on searching, looking for truth and all that bullshit and he finds a guru in Tibet. And the guru tells him ‘Go back to New York and become a cabdriver’, something like that.”

Number 27 in Index’s continuing series of European avant-garde releases, FACTS FOR FICTION / PARCO DELLE RIMEMBRANZE receives the label’s now standard treatment. In other words both films come with fine presentations. Their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios are adhered to, the prints used appear to be in as fine a condition as possible (considering their respective budgets and the formats used), and they’ve been transferred to disc seemingly without technical flaw. The soundtracks are similarly impressive, both coming in DD2.0 form, again without discernible flaw. Of course, Facts for Fiction suffers from its budget inasmuch as not all of the dialogue can be captured as well as we’d hope, though Index are hardly to blame. That said, optional English subtitles would have been a welcome addition. As for extras, the disc itself is bare, though we do find the usual Index offering of a bilingual booklet housing notes, interviews and filmography.

For further information on Index DVD and details on how to purchase their releases, please visit their website at www.index-dvd.at [now on: https://www.sixpackfilm.com/en/indexedition/].