Henri Plaat to Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage
12 May 2020
The ingenious, imaginative and highly idiosyncratic experimental film work of Dutch artist Henri Plaat will be showcased at the International Oberhausen Short Film Festival in May 2020, together with the works of four other Dutch filmmakers.
The seven Plaat films, all of which were digitally restored by the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, were made between 1969 (commencing with The Strange but Unknown Star, which ‘guest stars' Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Eva Braun) and 1986. The programme includes the 4-minute Second War Hats, in which transvestite heads emerge from the manholes of a bombed out city wearing beautiful ladies' hats).
The presentation ends with Plaat's Golden Calf-winning Spurs of Tango (1980), a sometimes clandestine, always luminous, journey through Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina, accompanied by the music of the tango.
"He is not well-known internationally, but in reality he is one of the key figures of Dutch experimental cinema," says Eye Filmmuseum Senior Curator Mark Paul Meyer of the master experimentalist.
Born in Amsterdam in 1936, Plaat is a visual artist who, over numerous decades, has created an extremely rich and versatile oeuvre of graphic work, drawings, gouaches, collages as well as forty-five films.
His film world is characterised by free association and unbridled fantasy/absurdism, and is both visually refined or playfully lyrical. At the same time his films can be disturbing, as well as comforting. The filmmaker himself describes his works as "atmospheric movies, often photomontages with mixes of war sounds, airplane rumble, Zarah Leander's voice, Wagner's music... all fragments, leading to amazing effects".
Curator Meyer points out that the restoration of Plaat's work has been a labour of love over the past fifteen years. "At the beginning it was mainly photochemical. It was all on film, and we made some film prints available for distribution. But now with digital, it becomes suddenly much easier to distribute these films, and that is also why we decided to make this package of films for international distribution."
"Life now with digitisation becomes much easier, and there is another advantage," he adds. "Plaat worked a lot on reversal stock [all the films in the collection were shot this way] and he likes very much the strong and intense colours of Kodachrome, and now with digital you can preserve these in a much better way than you can photochemically. So there is an increased aesthetic interest in his films as well." (When Kodak discontinued the production of Kodachrome in 2009 many believed that the painterly quality of the film stock decreased, at which point Plaat lost interest in making films.
The Oberhausen Short Film Festival may have been cancelled as a physical event due to Covid-19, but its online presentation is just as interesting insofar as the potential audience for the films becomes immeasurably greater.
"It's incredible that the interest is suddenly now," comments Meyer, at the same time underlining the savvy (and necessary) practice of reviving certain films and filmmakers every ten years or so for discovery by new cinephile audiences. He points out, with some satisfaction, that many past works are as shocking and dynamic now as they were when originally created decades ago.
"What's more, there is a younger generation [of directors] that is interested in Plaat's collage-like way of filmmaking and who are also using original 16mm materials for their films, which means additionally there is a special interest from young curators," Meyer ends.
The other Dutch shorts selected for Oberhausen are: Soft Powers by Julia Kaiser and L'eau Faux (Serge Onnen/Sverre Fredriksen) in International Competition. In Children's and Youth Film Competition are Elf by Luca Meisters and En route by Marit Weerheijm.
For more information and bookings of the HENRI PLAAT program, please contact:
Edith van der Heijde
DOWNLOAD the Henri Plaat Brochure