Screening Room: 1 - Ian Clark's MMXIII / by Samuel B. Prime

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LA Ciné Salon is continually evolving. That's just a fancy way to say that we're figuring out who we are, what we do, and how best to do it - whatever "it" is. We are trying out a lot of things, but when something lands, we keep it. We are not afraid of change; instead, we embrace it. All of this pussyfooting to say: here is something new.

Starting today, LA Ciné Salon will feature new, undistributed feature films from talented, emerging filmmakers across the globe. Each feature will be available to stream online for 7 days starting with the date and time at which they were posted to the site. Here's the most important part: you can watch them absolutely FREE. 

You don't need to sign up for anything, you don't need to subscribe to our listserv, and we don't need your name, e-mail address, or any other information. You CAN do any of those things and we won't stop you, but the point is: we like free things as much as the next gal or guy. We simply want to share and support good films - the hope is that you do, too. So, the aim is that every two weeks, we will present a different film available here - whether foreign or domestic - for free. You have 7 days to watch it. You can watch it once - or even once for every day it is available. It's up to you. But when you watch, we encourage you to write about it, talk about it, share it with others. Remember: each of these films is effectively undistributed. Maybe they played at a major film festival, a host of regional festivals, or never played anywhere at all. These films are otherwise unavailable.

The word 'curate' is overused these days, but each film selection will be in a sense curated - carefully selected based on a simple meritocracy. I will do my best to explain why in each post or, rather, articulate what I get from - and out of - each film without being prescriptive about my experience. You may agree with me, you may not, but neither really matter. What matters is that you bring yourself to the film as much as we're bringing it to you.  

With that said, the first feature in this series (Screening Room) is Ian Clark's remarkable genre hybrid MMXIII. I saw Ian's film back in February in connection with the Eastern Oregon Film Festival (EOFF) when it all too briefly played online alongside films from other Oregonian directors. I only had time enough in my schedule to watch one of the films, so I watched Ian's - a friend whose taste and sensibilities I trust recommended this above all the others. I didn't see the others, but MMXIII was (is!) something special. The film is a hyphenate, a multiplicity of genres. At once both drama and documentary, it sometimes feels like an acute, observational, fly-on-the-wall account of a young man's life and at altogether others embodies a film about not exclusively filmmaking, but making art in general. In this way, I get a keen sense that for Clark filmmaking is equivalent to the "finer" arts. 

Its cast is spare. Ian Clark appears as a character named Ian Clark. His friend and confidant Nandan Rao is "Friend." His lover, Sarah Nance, as "Girlfriend." The narrative concerns Clark seeking to capture an ideal image, the subjectively perfect photographic representation of nature -- that is, to take a photograph. The process is painstaking, laborious, requiring a certain amount of boldness and dedication as regards decision-making. Minor differences in contrast and the infinitude of digital tweaks available cause an initially insurmountable stasis. Anything is possible, but which is right? The marvel is that one can try, fail, try again without much at stake (other than time). The question (for me) soon becomes whether what we are watching is real or a fiction. How constructed is Ian Clark's film? How deliberate is it? Is it incidental art? I have a lot of questions, though chief among them all I found myself wondering, immediately as well as long afterward, which of the following is more important (and why): whether Ian Clark's film is truth, fiction, somewhere in-between (trying to suss out authorial intent) OR the fact that - whatever it is - it is beautiful? I know what the answer is for myself. See what you think. 

Ian Clark's MMXIII is available to watch on LA Ciné Salon from now until May 11th, 2014, at 10pm (Pacific). 

- Samuel B. Prime

Founder, LA Ciné Salon