This is not a film

Andrei Kartashov of the 2014 Talent Press reviews Philippine-Canadian avant-garde collaboration LA ULTIMA PELICULA, which features i the Berlinale Forum Expanded.

Raya Martin's and Mark Peranson's LA ULTIMA PELICULA

Now that production and, especially, projection on 35mm has been almost completely abandoned – we sometimes have to generate such clumsy verbal monstrosities as “film shot on film” – the word “film” has lost its original meaning. For the Philippine avant-garde director Raya Martin and the Canadian critic and programmer Mark Peranson, the decline of the analogue is the apocalyptic event in the world of cinema. It is explored in their collaboration LA ULTIMA PELICULA – emphasis on “pelicula” which, just like the English “film”, means both “movie” and “film stock”.

Inspired by Dennis Hopper’s acid meta-film THE LAST MOVIE, LA ULTIMA PELICULA follows an American indie filmmaker Alex who comes to Yucatan in December 2012, planning to shoot a movie about the Mayan apocalypse. The decentralised gallimaufry of a plot sees him working out the concept, scouting locations and eventually shooting the movie. Just like in the word “film” the correlation of the signifier and the signified is discordant, truth and fiction in LA ULTIMA PELICULA blend in a very twisted way. It is not just a film within a film – through many deliberate mistakes, including visible crew and equipment or “scene missing” cards, we are aware that what we see is, in turn, made up.

Alex is farcically overfull of himself, constantly scoffing at his pseudo-spiritual compatriots who are swarming the touristic sites, but it is never made clear whether his arrogance is justified – we see only one scene from his film in the making, and, frankly, it looks like a piece of junk. The same may be said about LA ULTIMA PELICULA itself. The film champions old-fashioned technique, which goes hand in hand with haughty accusations of new things being phoney. Concurrently, LA ULTIMA PELICULA does look like a junk movie with its goofs, narrative incoherence, negligent framing and random editing. Its liberated form also makes it akin to digital rather than analogue movies.

Here’s the rescuing irony – LA ULTIMA PELICULA is made in many different formats, including 8mm stock and an iPhone video, but none of them is 35mm. It’s only projected that way. Basically, it is not a real “pelicula”. Transition to the digital has occurred within it, just like the Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen – instead of it, a new era has started.