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Laida Lertxundi Screening at Human Resources

  |   2012

Friday, January 20th 8pm

Cry When it Happens / Llora Cuando Te Pase
2010, 14 min, 16mm

Los Angeles City Hall is reflected onto the window of the Paradise Motel. It serves as an anchor for this traversal through the natural expanse of California. Here, we discover a restrained psychodrama of play, loss, and the transformation of everyday habitats. Music appears across the interiors and exteriors and speaks of limitlessness and longing.

“ Cry When It Happens, one of three films at last year’s New York Film Festival that seemed vital. Like Uncle Boonmee and Film Socialisme, Cry sees characters with their vision subsumed in the portholes of dingy technology-and eventually takes on their perspective. In the first image, two girls splay on a couch, antiparallel but touching, vaguely grinning, with the light intensified on their arms and faces. Already the film’s both naturalistic, with feeling—a delimited space, real-time hold, physical respite, sense of the bodies touching cloth on all sides—and slightly surreal: their sense of comfort, huddling, belied by the unnecessarily tight squeeze. Eventually two figures in an LA motel room watch TV footage of the sky while one fingers an accordion, and some minutes later, that sky footage becomes the film itself, God’s heavens accompanied by the Blue Rondos’ “Little Baby.”

The song becomes a signal of real-world culture and time against the sky, and every time the movie offers a transformative sight it’s inevitably mediated by the physical realities of a blinking TV and preset sound-loop, like a sidekick that won’t shut up channeling the transcendental. Lertxundi is precise in her abstraction; her cuts back and forth from the sky to the motel are like the Wallace Stevens rhyme schemes in which the words won’t rhyme, but are repeated thuddingly untransformed. Her TV’s not different from Stevens’s jar in Tennessee—”It took dominion every where/ The jar was gray and bare”—at once both all-encompassing and physically self-contained. Shot-by-shot, like Stevens line-by-line, Lertxundi probably has a better sense of bodily relations, suburban detail, and epic landscape, spaces rising deep in the frame instead of receding, than anyone in America, but her accumulation of precisions makes a through line of disembodied gazes, very much of 2011, in which each portal seems to lead forward or back to the next.”
– David Phelps, The L Magazine

My Tears Are Dry
2009, 4 min, 16mm

“Laida Lertxundi’s My Tears Are Dry is something of a coda to her wonderful 2008 film Footnotes to a House of Love. It is a haiku-like sunshiny Southern California riff on Bruce Baillie’s classic All My Life, with a towering palm tree instead of the brambling roses. But the simple, yet elegant, skyward tilt at the end is still there. As with her earlier film, Lertxundi is concerned with the feeling of a location. She creates an off-hand, casual tone that is both comfortable and slightly on edge. The effect is gentler here, but the cross-cutting at the beginning between a woman sprawled on a bed playing snippets of the 1961 Hoagy Landis song “My Tears Are Dry” on a portable cassette deck and a woman plucking discordantly on a guitar sets up an uneasy tension (a slight nod to the “Dueling Banjos” in Deliverance?). It’s the experimental film equivalent of lo-fi pop.”
– Patrick Friel, Senses of Cinema

Footnotes to a House of Love
2007, 13 min, 16mm

“Laida Lertxundi ’s Footnotes to a House of Love, also set in southern California, was in some ways the aftermath to the apocalyptic buildup of SpaceDisco-One. The desert, so often a stand-in for other places imagined by Hollywood, here is barren and bright, set to the tune of Leslie Gore and the Kinks playing through an intrepid little tape deck. The tinny sound carries through a broken down house, a house without walls and whose door falls down the moment someone tries to open it. People drift by and a couple makes love on a sheet laid out in the sand; it’s not clear where the house ends and the desert begins. The music plays in most of the film like a radio signal, a relic of another time, now gone. The film is pervaded with the sense of something having happened, though we’re given only brief glimpses of what came after.”
– Genevieve Yue, Senses of Cinema

“Laida Lertxundi’s Footnotes to a House of Love is the type of thing you hope for at a festival: something remarkable by someone you’ve never heard of. not much happens in the film – much to its credit. A young couple inhabits a dilapidated house in the California desert. They read, play the cello, piss, but mostly just walk about. Their actions, however, are entirely peripheral to the film. Footnotes is most centrally about the presence of place, the house and the desert beyond, and the possibilities they seem to invite. narra- tives and relationships are only just hinted at and seemingly swallowed up by the surroundings. There is a subtle mysteriousness to the place that could easily have made it a site for terror, or at least danger, but this is constantly leavened by a gentle, disarming playfulness and teasing.”
– Patrick Friel, Senses of Cinema

“The Grand prize of Basque Cinema, Footnotes to a House of Love, by Laida Lertxundi, begins by weaving a series of brushstrokes in the form of annotations, using fragmentation (and the partial use of off frame) and long shots to transform the non-actor into non-character. Maneuver by which all is left is the referent of the California desert landscape. There is a break with cinematographic boundaries and a departure into the terrain of video art.”
– Cahiers Du Cinema, Spain

A Lax Riddle Unit (PREMIERE)
2011, Spain/USA, 6min, 16mm color, sound
In a Los Angeles interior, moving walls for loss. Practicing a song to a loved one. A film of the feminine structuring body.

“Laida Lertxundi’s A Lax Riddle Unit (2011) also shows a series of gentle transformations. Each of the film’s turns reveals a surprise: a woman suddenly appearing in bed, and, from behind an album cover, her shy smile. With the film’s elements of Los Angeles landscape, houseplants, and James Carr’s plaintive “Love Attack,” continually rearranged like the letters of the title, which is an anagram for Lertxundi’s own name, there is the sense of kaleidoscopic rotation, breathtaking views made with the slightest of movements: changing light, cuts, and slowly revolving camera pans. ”
– Genevieve Yue

“It took some time – and a large Levain cookie – to allow Lertxundi’s film to bubble to the surface again, and when it did, it brought with it all of its precise, crystalline imagery, its loving, evocative use of music, and its warm infusion of natural light. Beginning with a shot of a steadily blurring sunset landscape, the film moves gracefully indoors into a Los Angeles apartment, creeps through its rooms, and lounges on a bed alongside a woman. The graceful tracking of the camera and the airiness of the space (and a couple of frondy houseplants) suggest a cozy domesticity, but the unanticipated edits hint at something like desperation. Is the woman napping, or crying? We’re left uncertain, thanks in no small part to a wonderful invocation of Robert Wyatt’s crushingly beautiful album, Rock Bottom, itself a masterpiece and an act of great courage, which also narrates a form of romantic love that’s about to plunge into obsessive, despondent need. In Lertxundi’s hands, this pop-referentiality lacks the knowing kitsch of some of the other works, offering a rare sense of something fully inhabited, deeply felt, and all too easily forgotten.” – Leo Goldsmith

Laida Lertxundi (Bilbao, 1981) works on film making non-stories with non-actors that explore the terrain of diegetic space, creating a particular sound and image syntax in response to the way desire and expectations are manufactured and imbedded in the language of cinema. She is interested in the histories of experimental film, the possibility of a feminine language and the play between found environments and constructed situations. Her work has been shown internationally in museums, festivals and venues such as MoMa, Lacma, Viennale and the New York Film Festival views of the Avant Garde, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Anthology Film Archives. She recently received the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 48th Ann Arbor Film Festival and was included in Best of the Decade reviews in CinemaScope Magazine and 25 Filmmakers for the 21st Century in The Film Comment Avant-Garde Poll. She has been a programmer for Centre de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona since 2002 and has also programmed for ZineBi at the Guggenheim Bilbao, CalArts and UCSD. Her writing on film includes Xcentric: 45 Películas Contra Dirección 2006 (CCCB, 2006), La risa oblicua. Tangentes, paralelismos e intersecciones entre documental y humor (Madrid, Ocho y Medio Libros de Cine, 2009) and Bájate del Coche, en Busca de la Belleza Secreta en la Región Paradójica (Revista Bostezo, 2011). Reviews of her work appear in Senses of Cinema, ArtForum and Cahiers Du Cinema among others. She teaches film at the University of California San Diego and lives in Los Angeles, California.

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