Film Series / Events

Browse All Film Series

February 4 – February 10, 2019

The Outer Limits of the Real. Three Films by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Pioneering filmmakers and restless experimenters, Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor are closely associated with Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab—founded by Castaing-Taylor in 2006—and support of the research and innovation-based practice defined by their three feature films to date. Each of Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s films find novel ways to dive to the very depths of the intrinsically difficult and unwieldy subjects they so boldly explore—beginning, quite literally, with their first co-directed project Leviathan, a form-shattering study of the oceanic sublime and the modern fishing industry shot largely on, and in the churning waters around, a fishing vessel off the Massachusetts coast. The subsequent films, somniloquies and Caniba, both commissioned by Documenta 14, have each raised the bar only higher as they search for appropriate cinematographic and ethical forms to portray two troubling subjects: the frighteningly performative recorded nightmares of Dion McGregor and the dark obsessions recounted by the notorious and unrepentant Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa. Together, all three films embrace a radically fluid camerawork and structure that meld together different perspectives and voices—be they human, animal or machine—into multifaceted portraits and fully cinematic experiences that render richly ambiguous their exact focal point but not their overall position. While Paravel and Castaing-Taylor remain firmly grounded in the academic and anthropological traditions upon which SEL and their work clearly rests, they also reach far beyond the Academy by igniting an exciting dialogue with avant-garde currents in contemporary narrative and experimental cinema. Leviathan, somniloquies and Caniba also exist in dialogue with gallery installation versions, which give new dimension to the all-too-overlooked tradition of rigorously lyrical art films made at Harvard. Often described with the now officially overused adjective “immersive,” Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s films are meant to be experienced in real and sustained time upon the big screen and surrounded by sound, for only there can the viewer (and listener) appreciate the powerful impact of the liquid images and often unsettling “voices” that shape the larger philosophical themes and problematics unfolded by these almost unclassifiable films. – Haden Guest

The screening of Leviathan will feature a poetry reading by Harvard’s own Jorie Graham and a conversation afterwards with Graham, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, Haden Guest and Robin Kelsey, Dean of Arts and Humanities at Harvard. The screening of Caniba will feature a conversation with the filmmakers and film critic/curator Dennis Lim, and the screening of somniloquies will feature a conversation with artist/poet Steve Venright.


$12 Special Event Tickets
Filmmakers in Conversation with Dennis Lim

Monday February 4 at 7pm

Caniba

Directed by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
France 2017, DCP, color, 90 min. Japanese and French with English subtitles

Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s most unsettling film to date, Caniba begins as a portrait of a unrepentant murderer, the cannibal Issei Sagawa, as he returns to the past of his notorious crime: speaking of his 1981 killing, dismembering and partial consumption of a young woman whom he befriended while he was a doctoral student in Paris. Focusing closely upon Sagawa as he calmly recalls his crime and dark obsessions, and shares a manga recreation of his horrific act, Caniba lingers ever closer to its subject, rendering his fleshiness strange and unnatural. Just as it becomes almost unbearably intense, the film expands to become a diptych equally focused on Sagawa’s troubled brother Jun, whose own dark side sheds revealing light on the film’s larger subject: the prurient fascination with the supposedly debased and deranged that remains blind to the deep and implicating connections between the criminal outsider and the rest of society. DCP courtesy Grasshopper Films.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

$12 Special Event Tickets
Filmmakers in Conversation with Jorie Graham and Robin Kelsey

Friday February 8 at 7pm

Leviathan

Directed by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
France/UK/US 2012, DCP, color, 87 min

Leviathan is an unruly yet cerebral film that borrows its name from Melville and Hobbes but is itself also something of an oversized and paradoxical monster: at moments thrashing and untamed, at others brooding and meditative. Made with instinctive intelligence by two filmmakers far out at sea, armed with multiple cameras—many lost to the waves—Leviathan is a radical engagement with the ocean as a living entity and ideal, an ecosystem rapturously romanticized and violently plundered. Whether turning with the fishes in the dark night waters or burrowing deep into the bowels of a ship, Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s omnivorous cameras channel the raw energy of the ocean and contemplate its magnitude in the cultural imaginary. Leviathan was instantly celebrated and controversial at its Locarno debut and, as with all paradigm-breaking films from The Flicker to Russian Ark, equal claims of motion sickness and rapture were made. Time has cooled that fevered debate, and Leviathan is now recognized as a classic documentary and important first expression of that larger, urgent project imagined by Paravel and Castaing-Taylor and by the Sensory Ethnography Lab as a whole: to invent a mode of cinema able to speak and see with the same intensity and truth as a painting or poem, while also engaging bold ideas and observations about a world in endless and seemingly overwhelming flux. DCP courtesy Cinema Guild.

Preceded by a poetry reading by Jorie Graham.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

$12 Special Event Tickets
Filmmakers in Conversation with Steve Venright

Sunday February 10 at 7pm

somniloquies

Directed by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
France 2017, DCP, color, 73 min

Almost hallucinatory images of unidentified sleeping figures float across the screen to the accompaniment of increasingly unnerving monologues, the “dream narratives” of Dion McGregor, an aspiring Broadway lyricist who may have been performing for his roommate actively recording these sessions. In somniloquies, Paravel and Castaing-Taylor discover a dark, forked path to the unconscious in the ranting, sleep-talking voice of an obsessive and possibly deranged individual whose racist, misogynistic and xenophobic fears are unleashed with propulsive force and screeching climaxes.

Our intention is to reconnect with why documentaries are made: to awaken the flesh with which we sense and make sense, to question the enigma that is our lives and what it means to be human, and to reflect and incarnate a world beyond ourselves, our relationships with other creatures, animate and inanimate, real and surreal. The film reminds us that our wakeful self is no richer or more important than our dormant being that is irrepressibly ruminating on the remains of the day. – Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor

DCP courtesy Sensory Ethnography Lab, Harvard.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top