At the October seminar in Paris, Alain Bergala showed us a short film by the Kazakh director Darezhan Omirbaev called July. I’d never heard of him before – one of the great pleasures of working with the Cinematheque is being introduced to very different perspectives on cinema. July isn’t available with English language subtitles – we saw a version with Portuguese subtitles, and this version below is on YouTube, in 3 sequences. The whole thing is about 20 minutes long.
The film is about two boys who, having been to their local cinema one afternoon, want to return in the evening, but don’t have the money for a ticket. They decide to steal some melons from a field and sell them to the passengers on a train that passes through the village. In the opening sequence, after a short sequence shot from a train moving across the steppe, we see one of the boys waking up, meeting his friend, and going to the pictures. Their cinema is in a shed, and is managed by a formidable old woman.
We looked at the very controlled use of the camera: the way in the bedroom it moves up and around the window, across the sleeping mother and the waking boy, as if following the mazy movement of the fly buzzing on the soundtrack. The movement is cut in with shots of what the boy sees around him. His environment, culture, situation are economically established in under a minute. Bergala pointed out how, in the cinema sequence, the featured film (a Bollywood-style Russian musical melodrama) uses a zoom to demonstrate a ‘coup de foudre’, or instant attraction, between the two stars, and how Omirbaev contrasts this with very delicate, tiny movements between two of the children in the cinema, whose forearms edge towards each other then flinch away when they touch. Zooming, for Bergala, is an absolute no-no. Move the camera, not the lens, in order to mirror the human scale movements of character (and implied viewer).