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Central Bazaar
Jonas Mekas reviews Stephen Dwoskin's Central Bazaar for Soho News, April 7th 1977

On March 28th MOMA (Cineprobe) screened Stephen Dwoskin's Central Bazaar. Dwoskin was present and answered questions. The film was shot last year and is 153 minutes long. It was reduced to that length from fifteen hours of footage Dwoskin shot with a group of volunteers adventurous enough to improvise, to act out their erotic fantasies. The people move, look at each other - there is a lot of looking in this film, maybe more than in any other Dwoskin film; it's a bazaar for voyeurs.

Yes, people move, look at each other, make attempts at communication, fail, sometimes almost succeed - but none of their activities ever lead to any conclusion, any consummation, communication. All remains unfulfilled, suspended, tense, and - sometimes - desperate. Or is it all ritualistic? They reach only that far and then they clash against each other's fantasies; they collapse; the senses hang in a vacuum, burn at their fingertips, never to be fulfilled. Theater of life, costumes, sexes, colors, lips, reality, and fantasy mix and reveal themselves, intensified by Dwoskin's obsessive camera eye, as he picks out, watches, stops on faces, details, sustains, doesn't go away; the face is trapped, recorded. But there is no forcing, no rape of the camera in Dwoskin. It's gentleness itself, it's an intelligence that is gentle and unimposing, a sensitivity that doesn't destroy or rape reality but helps it to open, like a book, page by page, reel by reel, movement by movement.

One will ask, perhaps, on walking out, why was this film made, what is it, what is its information, what are its lessons. I don't know, and Dwoskin doesn't tell us either. I only know that what I see is unique, is difficult to make, and I don't think Dwoskin himself knows why he made it. But he had to make it. It's one of those things about art objects that they must be made. All the talk of the art politicians - walk into any art store these days, the places are crawling with political art publications - all is just a fashionable pastime; it has nothing to do with the fact that art will always be created and won't follow any rules and any politics and will be very useful to some and totally useless to others.

I am watching my little daughter. She is two and a half. Twice a week, with her mother, she goes to Tai Chi classes. She doesn't do anything there, I am told. She just sits or she walks around and watches. She never attempts to imitate any of the Tai Chi exercises. But now, at home, she stands in the middle of the room and she does it. She does them all, one after another.

I told this to Brakhage, this evening. "Yes," he said, "we are all eyes, we are all eyes." And I remember reading somewhere, years ago, how we, while watching a dancer, or listening to a singer, perform, without any visible movements - but these movements have been caught and measured by scientists while we sit there, in that seat, we, the audience, we make exactly the same movements as the dancer, and we make the same sounds as the singer.

So where am I? Ah, Dwoskin's bazaar of the senses. We watch a Dwoskin film and we enact our own erotic fantasies, we follow them, we measure them. Ah, yes, there was this Japanese film too, what was its title, it was forbidden to be shown here a year ago: In the Realm of the Senses. There, too, we sat and watched and reenacted and measured. But what a difference! There was no Virgil - there was only Hell.

Thomas a Kempis, a very wise man, wrote a book, Of the Imitation of Christ. Yes, we can grow and progress by imitation, be it good wine, good bread, or good cinema. And we can also imitate Wonder Bread and bad cinema and drag humanity still lower and produce cancers. Stephen Dwoskin is a good monk of Cinema, the imitation of whose work does good to our bodies and souls.

Jonas Mekas
Soho News (US)
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Jonaks Mekas review of Central Bazaar in Soho News
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