News  ·  18 | 12 | 2023

Otar Iosseliani – Solitary and Subversive Poet

Otar Iosseliani, Pardo alla carriera 2013

Even with respect to film history in the wake of the historical New Waves of the ‘60s, Otar Iosseliani's work has played a fundamental and yet resigned role, something that stood apart from the rest. His history as a Georgian filmmaker, far removed from the orthodoxies of Soviet cinema, even so-called revolutionary cinema, made him a kind of critical observer of the 'magnificent and progressive fate' of the world and of filmmaking. Antiquated paraphernalia was often used against him in an attempt to describe his work. Out-of-date, his films were said to be, overly complex or conservative when the criticism came from the 'left'.  

The reality is that Otar Iosseliani was a poet. And probably the most mysterious filmmaker of the 20th century. His touch, as if in a state of suspension, was his way of looking, of relating to the world and whatever passed through it. Forced into exile by the straits of Soviet censorship, he had found refuge in Italy and France. As if torn from history - and its infinite urgencies - his cinema remained in this suspension; a distant, abstracted, poetic world. Iosseliani himself, on the other hand, anchored his gesture to an earthly sensibility, far removed, for example, from the Christian mysticism of his friend Andrei Tarkovsky. Iosseliani's peculiar humor derived from an ironic awareness of futile human striving: of the vain pursuit of worldly goods while one loses one's soul. Iosseliani, as a poet, did not judge, he observed, and from his approach blossomed his individual visions, his stories, his cinematic tours dedicated to human wandering (for which he often invited his film critic friends to act - as with Bernard Eisenschitz, curator of the Douglas Sirk Retrospective at Locarno75, who played the protagonist of the magnificent The Favourites of the Moon in 1984). His passion for vodka became, in his hands, a sapiential practice, a way of interpreting the world. 

The Locarno Film Festival loved Iosseliani and in 2013 awarded him the Pardo alla carriera. With Otar Iosseliani and his films, the dialogue was continuous. His final film, Chant d’hiver, premiered in the Concorso internazionale in 2015. In his words - and in his images - we always found the motivation to carry on, to move forward. 

Carlo S. Hintermann, who loved him infinitely and shared a long journey with him, and whose Italian-language book Iosseliani According to Iosseliani is a milestone, has confided a thought to us before his departure for Tbilisi: “The most extraordinary thing about Otar was that he was perennially a subversive. A conspirator of pleasure, to paraphrase the title of Jan Švankmajer's film. His subversion of worlds was always an artistic gesture. His every gesture was an artistic action and inevitably transformed the fabric of the world and, therefore, of cinema. His was a 'state of intoxication' that put the world in order." 

Giona A. Nazzaro

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