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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Summer Solstice of Cinema: Longest Films for the Longest Day

Fassbinder? I hardly knew her!

Today officially marks the summer solstice, , the longest day of sunlight, by one second over tomorrow.

The sun rose at 6:27 AM this morning, and will set at 8:51 PM, offering up 14 hours 24 minutes and 01 second of light, almost enough time to watch all 14 hours and 56 minutes of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Though there are "compilation" films (all three parts of the Lord of the Rings films clock in at 683 minutes in the extended director's cut), and experimental works (like Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki) with longer run times (14400 minutes or 240 hours and 10 days), Berlin Alexanderplatz is credited by the authorities (and smarty-pants crowd-sorcerers) on Wikipedia as the longest "Cinematic" film - that is, a film intended to be screened in a cinema in a single consecutive screening.

The longest film on the list I've actually seen (twice!) in a single sitting is #6: Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition, a 9 hour 34 minute Japanese magnum opus set in World War II era Japan.

Screening The Human Condition was rite-of-passage as for Bard College film student undergrads fortunate enough to take Adolfas Mekas' "CineMagic" course. As an alum, I event took the trip back four years after I graduated to serve as "guest projectionist" at an all night screening, and to experience the agony and ecstasy of The Human Condition, in a single sitting.

Adolfas, who passed a year ago on May 31, used to tell his film students to make their films short, warning us that upon death, we'd be greeted in hell by satan and a projector, and we'd be forced to sit through our films. So "make the short, or make them good," he'd chide.

Given his admonition, some wondered whether the marathon The Human Condition screening was an endurance test, or a celebration.

Anyone who has seen the film knows that it falls into the "good" ledger. An example of masterful filmmaking.

Adolfas Mekas and the Human Condition
  • St. Tula
  • Adolfas Mekas and the Human Condition

I've not seen the others on the list...perhaps someday, as an homage to Adolfas, I'll manage to power through a five day journey starting with the Fassbinder, and through #2 Peter Watkin's atomic doc Resan (The Journey) (14 hours 33 minutes), #3 Jacques Rivette's Out 1: Noli me tangere (a more manageable 12 hours 9 minutes, #4 Joris Ivans' 12 hour 43 minute How Yukong Moved the Mountains and #5 Lav Diaz' 9 hour Evolution of a Filipino Family as an endurance pentathalon.

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