Monday 15 October 2018

Second Time Around (Dora Garcia, 2018)

If you're up for something niche today, you might want to head to the London Film Festival for Dora Garcia's "staged documentary", but be warned that this is the sort of film which punishes you should you let your attention wander in the slightest.  Lacanian psychoanalysis comes under the microscope here, as does its high-profile proponent Oscar Masotta and his "happenings", some of which are reenacted in this Belgian co-production.

Second Time Around basically consists of four segments, the first three of which feature re-staged Masotta pieces.  Proceedings kick off with To Induce the Spirit of the Image, a controversial work in which a score of actors are paid to stand around and be watched for an hour; you may very well be rightly thinking that this doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary - after all, aren't actors paid to be watched?  However, when said thespians are almost invariably bourgeois and are pretending to be working class and impoverished for the sake of a living art installation, it's not hard to see why some find such an exercise to be distasteful.

Second up is The Everlasting, a lively discussion in a library in which politics and psychoanalysis are the dominant topics.  Despite brazenly flouting library protocol - you wouldn't want to attempt to engage in quiet study while this conversation's in full flow - the sequence is intermittently interesting and I did learn something about the finer points of Peronism; this sort of material certainly wasn't covered in Evita.

The Helicopter follows, and this segment - which remakes what is arguably Masotta's most famous happening - sees a helicopter flight witnessed by a group of people, who then have to relay what happened to another bunch who didn't see the event; the idea (I think) is that those who did see the copter have to process their knowledge so it becomes information, which can then be absorbed by the others.

Somewhat perversely, the last piece isn't based on Masotta's work, despite sharing its title with that of the film.  In Second Time Around, Garcia revisits Julio Cortazar's short story of the same name, and we witness citizens being interviewed by what are presumably government officials.  This improvised piece is highly effective, and succeeds in unnerving and engaging the viewer as it recreates the climate of Argentina's disappearance-strewn period of state terrorism.  Perhaps surprisingly, it actually proves to be the pick of the film's four scenarios, despite Masotta's Lacan-influenced work taking up much more of the running time.

Chances are you'll know if Garcia's experimental exercise is or isn't for you.  While it certainly is a hard film to tune in to, you don't have to have a PhD in Neo-Freudianism to navigate Second Time Around's admittedly choppy waters.  You can buy a special pass which allows you to sample any three of the LFF's Experimenta offerings for a discounted price.

Darren Arnold

Image: Auguste Orts