Fictitious Nonfiction

Rules of the Game (1913-1940)

Photo credits: The National Film Archive

silent films, soundless films, shorts, actualities, and sports documentaries, runtime: 45:18 minute
music: Dan Michiu
guest: Flavia Dima (critic de film)

How a Film Piece is Made? (soundless film, Paul Călinescu, 1940)*
The Golf Technique (soundless film, unedited, 1940)
Speed Race by Kilometer Elapsed Organized by the Romanian Moto Club (1924)
From Urlea to Negoiu (Gustav Wagner, 1932)
International ski competition (Gustav Wagner, 1934)
Unidentified title (Gustaw Wagner, 193?)
Unidentified title (Gustav Wagner, 193?)
Skating on Cişmigiu lake (Nicolae Barbelian, 1913)

*digitized for the first time

I happen to think this is the most intriguing cluster in Fictitious Nonfiction. And I happen to think it’s no happenstance. For, to a great extent, the rules of the game are the same for sports as for cinema, popular arts in constant contraction of motion and time, whose performativities we rendezvous in the current selection. It bears no mentioning that sport, especially (with a) public, performance sport, is pure spectacle, and the movie camera becomes its ideal and idealizing spectator, the eye that looks past no detail.
How a Film Piece is Made? the professional training film by Paul Călinescu, perhaps the foremost filmmaker of the pre-Socialist industry, opens the selection with a sport somewhat unique to cinema, namely horse racing, a spectacle of control and dressage. Of all sports, the most interesting ones for the screen seem to me those involving animals, a third-party presence that neither the trainer, nor the sportsman or the director can control entirely. Still, the feature tackles much of this, how first the sportsmen, then the filmmakers attribute flow and meaning to the horses’ motions, as if Eadweard Muybridge hadn’t shown it all. The Archive also holds its twin, How a Radio Piece is Made.
Another training film was made in 1940, The Golf Technique, left with no instructions from the voiceover, without a signature and, judging by a certain looseness of the footage, without a final edit, though the audio track would’ve worked wonders. Were it not for archive fetishists, such ‘no man’s films’ on chance topics would never reach the screens. And it’s a shame, for they can serve many – to us, for instance, they illustrate with a unique simplicity the concept of the movie camera as a favored spectator, an apprentice who is shown all the necessary details. Moreover, as a didactic film, not to mention unfinished, we come to see two spectacles at play, golf and cinema. What was the value of such a genuine film in 1940? Perhaps not much, as cinema still sought validation as art, an endeavor in which The Golf Technique’s small Méliès tricks played no part. Here’s the ball that whoop!: turned into a tee; and here’s the strike that moves the ball upward and whoop!: the camera lifts toward it. Now, eighty years later, we can smile unabashed. The movie camera may well be an ideal spectator, yet the other onlookers, people in arenas and at finish lines, those without the prospects of the close-up shot, turn sport into spectacle. Speed Race by Kilometer Elapsed Organized by the Romanian Moto Club (1924) is a simple, fair-to-middling coverage of a motorcycle race on May 18th 1924, precious precisely because it harbors glimpses of the commotion of waiting for exact timings and false golds.
All else aside, the most fabulous of our discoveries this year has been the archive of the studio Guwag-Film, named after its factotum, doctor Gustav Wagner. Beyond the beauty of these small films shot on 16mm, the Sibiu documentaries are unique in that their director lends them a ludic air of home movie and loisir, as if he were one of them, and not the surrounding “man with the movie camera.” Sports aren’t grueling, Wagner shows, but endless entertainment, with masquerades on skis and snowball fights, charming smiles cast at random by blond lads, pipes smoked on mountaintops and applause!, fiery applause. And when we don’t see beyond image and virtuosity, like those two minutes of figure skating, we felt the need to add – true, the skaters of Sibiu do it swimmingly, but look what fun amateurs on skates had cutting the ice on Lake Cișmigiu in the winter of 1913. (Călin Boto)

Dan Michiu is an instrumentalist (electric guitar, audio tape, electronics) and graphic artist who resides and works in Bucharest, active since 2010 both solo and in various configurations on Bucharest’s underground scene. A musician interested in varying aspects of “alternative” music: extended techniques for electric and acoustic guitar, magnetic tape manipulation, unorthodox instruments and sound sources, sound collage, etc. He divides his artistic activity between experimental music, graphics and performance. Using improvisation as an artistic approach, both in music and in related lines of work, he is an active figure in the independent cultural circuit. He has released recordings with record labels from Romania and Europe. He collaborates with the groups Abator Industries, Michiu & Fierbințeanu, Fake Bantame as a multi-instrumentalist. At present, he acts either as a solo entity, or as a guitarist for the group Jah Cuzzi. Invited in 2020 to POST MUZICA (Rezidența9): “Paying mind especially to the underlayer of Dan Michiu’s works, it was clear to me that the fine-anguishing ‘deposit’ was there, under the ‘chords’ tension’ … conceptually, but also literally. To end on a slightly ironic note, I’m thinking that, were we to seek sound artists who are in complete antithesis with what we understand to be ‘sufficient’ or mainstream music, then Dan Michiu would be on the front line, among the few and great.” (M. Micleușanu)

According to the contractual requirements imposed by the Romanian Film Center (RFC), we have separated the video source from the audio. The system of automatic synchronization, developed for the apps utilized, can present small delays depending on the (Internet) transfer speed and your device (desktop, phone, etc.).
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