David Perlov (1930–2003)

David Perlov, Untitled (ca. 2000–03), film photograph, 30 × 46 cm, courtesy of the artist’s family

David Perlov, Untitled (ca. 2000–03), film photograph, 30 × 46 cm, courtesy of the artist’s family

When Israeli filmmaker David Perlov died, he left behind dozens of Hefte (notebooks), filled with epigrams, texts for films, biographical notes, images interwoven with texts, and texts with images. Yet in the early 1970s, as commissions to make films became scarce and he found himself in a deepening creative impasse, Perlov started conceiving an alternative that was a new ethical and aesthetic way of his own: a Tagebuch, a Diary—not in literature but in film. To the then-local demand for a Zionist message devoid of complexity, Perlov responded with a prolonged autobiography, unfinished in principle. In its abstraction from the personal, he replied with a close-up of the personal as his starting point. He wrote in a notebook:

I buy a camera
I want to start filming
by myself and for myself
Above all in anonymity
It takes time to learn
how to do it

Here an artist’s personal crisis touches a collective fracture: as Perlov began working on the film, the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 broke out. Its first signs were captured by his camera through a window—the anxiety of worshipers exiting the synagogue across the street and listening to the mobilization calls of the army reserves on their transistor radios. In the history of cinema, no precedent exists for a personal diary in which war is an integral part: here the intimate—generally identified with the space of the individual and the home—became radical, public, political.

In 2013, filmmaker and researcher Anan Barakat dedicated his book on the new wave of Palestinian cinema to Perlov, as well as to Mustafa Abu Ali, Mahmoud Darwish, and Jean-Luc Godard, adding in an interview that although these artists spoke politics and thought politics they still created high-quality art.

Excerpt from David Perlov, Diary (1973–1983), source: Re-Voir

Perlov was forty-three when he began filming Diary, and was almost seventy when he completed it. His opus, like Marcel Proust’s or Robert Musil’s, spreads through time—worlds within worlds, complex realities, incorporating its surroundings. Perlov did not deny the subjective; after all, it is the story of his life that streams through the film and his voice that accompanies it throughout. But that is not its essence. The title Diary points to the everyday, to repetition—not to dramas. This is a working travel diary that exposes more and more realities, and only through this accumulation is the political revealed as a new form, as an option for transgression.

—Galia Bar Or

Posted in Notes on 04.28.2017
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