A birth, a death, a lifetime–Eduardo Nunes’ incredible debut feature film contains the longest measure of time imaginable in a single day and on April 10, GFI hosted one unforgettable screening of the film…
The Global Film Initiative held an event for local friends that might be called a purist-cinephile’s dream–a screening of Eduardo Nunes’ visually striking, black and white film, SOUTHWEST, in 35mm, at San Francisco’s historic Clay Theater. It was a return to the collective spectatorship that went hand-in-hand with the cinematic experience in days before the advent of personal computers and televisions, a celebration of film and the connectivity it can provide.
And what better venue for such an event than the Clay Theater? Built in 1910 by media-tycoon brothers, Marshall and Robert Naify, the Clay Theatre has remained one of San Francisco’s classic cinematic landmarks for more than a century. Over the years, The Clay has served as a nickelodeon house, a foreign film showcase, and a safe haven for films of a controversial or underground nature. It has been operated by Landmark for 22 years, and enjoys the best of both worlds: a classic design and atmosphere with all the modern amenities of the average, 21st century movie theater–with the added benefit of a 35mm film projector.
Given the breathtaking visuals of Nunes’ film, it truly is best viewed with the softness and texture of celluloid.
Filmed in an exceptionally wide-aspect-ratio, SOUTHWEST captures the static serenity of a lifetime in a rural community of the unspecified past. Here, a child is born in the moment of her mother’s death and is then christened by a witch. She lives the entirety of her life in the span of just one day, and in this way, Nunes manages to capture the haunting ambiguity of existence.
As stated in The New York Times, SOUTHWEST is “an intensely poetic mediation of the life cycle with a magical-realist sensibility, it has the feel of a somber fairytale…a visually beautiful film that demands that you surrender to its hypnotic images.” And given that these images were originally captured on 35mm, we film nerds at GFI were thrilled to be able to view them as they were intended, on the Clay’s silver screen.
As the lights dimmed and the barring branches of SOUTHWEST’s opening frame materialized, an anticipatory hush fell over the Clay Theater: here, in this celebrated space of cinematic exhibition, among a community of dear friends, we gazed in awe of Nunes’ vision of the incomprehensible beauty of a lifetime.