Chambre 666 (Wim Wenders / France-West Germany, 1982):

Cinema is represented by a majestic, century-old tree by the side of the Cannes Airport road. Does it face extinction? Wim Wenders asks colleagues during the festival, who address the camera set up at the titular hotel room, a brownish chamber with sunlit window and a TV set flickering behind the interviewees. Wenders shows his hand by picking the apocalyptic room number, but Jean-Luc Godard rolls with it and, in fact, later makes it a gag in Détective. If much of Godard’s Gallic punning is lost in translation, his monologue is still nicely disconcerting: "What you can’t see is the Incredible, and it’s the task of the cinema to show that." You’d think Paul Morrissey would appreciate the Warholian gig, instead he blames auteurist dictatorship: "Movies don’t use characters any more, they use some horrible things called 'directors.'" Monte Hellman says he records movies but doesn’t watch them (Specterman wrestles rubber monsters on the telly), Maroun Bagdadi muses about directors not wanting to depict lived experience anymore, Robert Kramer distinguishes the screen from the bookshelf. Rainer Werner Fassbinder has the most dramatic entrance, Werner Herzog removes his shoes and socks, turns the TV off and remains hopeful ("Wherever life touches us directly, there’s where you’ll find cinema"). Susan Seidelman and a peeved Ana Carolina both mention "passion," each gets about a minute. Mike De Leon: "An absurd question." Noël Simsolo: "It’s not the cinema that’s dead, it’s the filmmakers who make moronic films." Steven Spielberg understands where the decade is headed, and talks turkey: "The danger is not from filmmakers, producers or writers, but from the people who control the money." The mix of cinema and television is on everyone’s mind, Romain Goupil is optimistic but gets interrupted by the telephone. Michelangelo Antonioni stands up, paces the room, peeks beyond the curtains: "Adapt to new technologies, to the new impurities in the air. Our organism will evolve." Yilmaz Güney, hiding from Turkish authorities, sends an audio tape; he has the final statement, yet the shot, disembodied words about oppression and expression arising from a machine, is unmistakably Wenders’ view of the future. Cinematography by Agnès Godard.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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