Next year, the great Peter Kubelka, godfather of avant-garde cinema and co-founder of Anthology Film Archives in New York and Filmmuseum in Vienna, turns 80. Fragments of Kubelka can be understood as an early birthday present for the passionate cinema lover and cook.
The best thing about watching the movie in Vienna was that Peter Kubelka himself was
present. Not in your regular "director talks about the film" way, but just as a private viewer. Though Fragments of Kubelka is not his own work, he just cannot let it alone. As he explains in the movie, for him, going to the cinema is an ecstasy, it is all about the present, the here and now.
The movie features some rare footage of past events like the opening of Anthology Film
Archives as well as personal conversations with the filmmaker at important places of his life. In addition, he talks a lot about his own films and gives insight into his view of cinema, which is his view of the world. For example, he delivers an almost shot-by-shot analysis of his film Unsere Afrikareise, and it becomes clear how influential his little work can still be.
Although the filmmaking by director Martina Kudláček is rather poor, the movie develops a certain charm thanks to leaving the stage for Kubelka himself, who loves to talk and is an enigmatic figure to watch. As Kubelka describes his point of view on cinema it becomes clear that everything is about the material, the celluloid. He literally touches the filmstrip and explains what the so-called avant-garde cinema is all about.
Though the movie lasts for almost four hours, one never grows tired of the numerous explanations and monologues of Kubelka. For example, he compares watching a fire as a child to the essence of cinema, and he famously connects the process of cooking to cinema, and, in a more general context, he teaches cooking as an art form.
Kudláček just gives in and tries to follow the captivating figure. That may be enough for an interesting TV documentary but her feeble plays with the screen turning black from time to time, her digital look on THE analogue filmmaker, and certain redundancies lack the skill Peter Kubelka deserves.
In the end, the Austrian prepares a famous "Viennese Schnitzel". You can watch him for almost half an hour cooking without getting bored. Somewhere inside the sizzling meat lies a deeper truth that Kubelka tries to communicate and Kudláček cannot quite reach.
The film played at the 2012 New York Film Festival and is now showing in Austrian cinemas.