Les États généraux du film documentaire 2008 Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Stephen Dwoskin

Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Stephen Dwoskin


Russian by origin, born in Brooklyn in 1939 and living in London, Stephen Dwoskin doesn't belong to any specific side. Affected by poliomyelitis in his very young years, the filmmaker counterbalanced his handicap by continuously being in search of form, inspired by James Joyce's experience in literature and by Steve Reich in music. His creative energy gets out of the tension between his paralysed body and filmed movement.
“Conceived during World War II, I was raised by my mother and my aunts. My wives, lovers, actresses, nurses at the hospital then took over. My relationship with the outside world was shaped by Women, who were the exclusive topic of my first short films. Other films deal with wider-ranging and more documentary issues (The Black, dancers, pain and vileness for pain) or take up a more ironical point of view (Outside-In). The commissioned film about photographer Bill Brandt, who was very innovative in his creation of pictures of nude women, allowed me to get deeper into my own work on low key (Shadows from Light).
But the most poetical films, starting with Trying to Kiss the Moon, my autobiographical diary, have reached their completion thanks to the use of video; Intoxicated by my Illness was the starting point of it all. An unsettling film in his approach of death, shot exactly when I was taken to the hospital in intensive pneumology care. Because digital editing allows me to bring in a contrast between the lyricism of the sound track and the violence of the images, which brings about an increased effect of unreality. By also stretching extremely the sound grain and the visual grain, my work becomes more similar to the act of painting that was my first activity and also that of my dear partner Frances Turner, who died in 2002. Video has been for me a resurrection, I could no longer do without, neither technically nor financially.
Of course, numerous students helped me when I was teaching at the Royal College of Art in London. Some of them belong to the friends gathered in Some Friends (Apart). In fact, they were not really present, hence the expression “apart”. For that, I used found footage spontaneously shot earlier and edited several years later. Same thing for Lost Dreams. For example, the shot with Karen smoking in a window frame, with her blouse opened partway, her generous lips, her face flooded with sun, her radiant or uncertain smile. A moment of happiness, forever lost... In Some Friends (Apart) I wanted to deal in-depth with the issue of friendship. What is a true friend? He is the one you are afraid of losing at the very moment he is about to die, according to Derrida. I also wanted to go into details concerning the meaning of illness. In my favourite book, Intoxicated by my Illness by Anatole Broyard, illness appears as an insane woman, somewhere in China. The author explains that this woman drags him into a foolish and fatal affair. To me, making films is feeling the same kind of excitement for life, even if death is hanging around, sniggering.”

Words recorded by Maureen Loiret, Brixton, London.


Guests : Débats en présence de Maureen Loiret.