Mysterious CC – Misungui (2016)
I’ve followed her with something not unlike reverence ever since I first encountered her after stumbling onto the photographs Plume Heters Tannenbaum–whom I consider to be one of the most jaw-droppingly talented, visionary and thoroughly fucking brilliant people making pornographic Art right now.
She identifies as a performer, model, queer feminist and pro-sex, anarcho-communist activist. I frequently gush about her work and the work of artists in her orbit as this performance art writ large as a medium for educating w/r/t kink, genderfuckery, public vs private and just general debauchery.
A video from her birthday party showed up over on Vimeo and reminding me more than a little of the spirit of Maria Llopis’ Public domain porn version–which may be my single favorite thing I’ve ever learned about running this blog–except where for Llopis’ the politics of the performance seems to be the point, Misungui seems to sublimate politics in favor of the transgressive glee of pure, unmediated experience. (Also, the birthday video is the first time I’ve actually understood the draw to shibari.)
But the other thing that I want to draw attention to besides offering an introduction, is to point out a leitmotif in Misungui’s work that I appreciate immensely.
Although it’s not as true as it was a decade ago, it used to be that one of the main things separating mainstream cinema from the art house was–for lack of a better term: poetry.
Let me try to illustrate what I’m thinking. Consider the following scene as it might be written in a script.
EXT. Train Station – DAY
A uniformed soldier embraces his lover. She is tearful. He his strong and stoic. The train whistle sounds, people push towards the train climbing aboard. The soldier picks up his suitcase and moves to the train.
INT. Train – DAY
The soldier boards the train, finds his seat and turns to look at the window as the train starts to move. He waves at his love as she walks and then runs along the platform as the train picks up speed.
Forgive the fact that this portrays the woman as nothing more than her relationship to the male character. I hate that shit more than most people but I did it to illustrate a scenario we’ve all witnessed in one film/TV show/Etc. before.
Now in a mainstream movie, this scene will be broken down into a number of setups. An establishing shot. The couple on the platform together. Close-ups of their faces. Perhaps an insert of him picking up his suitcase. A reverse shot of him moving towards the train with her unsure of whether she should follow him or stay where she is so he’ll know where to find her once he boards the train and finds his seat. Not to mention various close-ups of their faces to convey their emotional state.
You can show him boarding the train–the question of whether you show him boarding from outside or move the camera inside has profound implications with regard to how the director and editor envision cutting the scene.
Inside the train though it’s the same thing. Establishing shot to provide a sense of the place. Him finding his seat. Perhaps checking his ticket to be sure of the seat number. Sitting and looking out the window while the train begins to pull away from the station.
In other words, the mainstream way involves all the information being conveyed in a cleanly parsed, easy to digest fashion. There’s nothing to linger upon. Nothing left for the audience to imagine. You don’t sense the impending separation because you’re too busy readjusting to knew sensory stimulation.
The arthouse way of shooting this scene would be something closer to a one shot. The camera framing an empty seat inside the train, the camera focused through the wind as the couple embraces on the platform. We see him pick up his suitcase, he moves towards the camera passes and we are left watching the woman not sure what to do, her face a mess of conflicting emotions. Rack focus as he sits, turns to look out the window, rack focus again to see her follow the train as it begins moving. Droplets of rain fall on the window, thicken, the train picks up speed. The woman falls out of focus, her blurry form stops running. Focus racks back to show the main staring out the window as more and more rain falls.
In this second version you’ve conveyed the emotional resonance of the scene in a fashion that is conceptually resonant with the information you are trying to convey. It’s not parsed, it’s not clean but it is clear in the same way a good poem evokes far more than what the words describe/explain.
All this is really by way of saying that Misungui’s work always strives for a more poetic approach. How cliche is the pornographic trope of a woman masturbating and licking her fingers when she’s done. This conveys the same sense but in a much more kinky and visually legible way.
I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s extremely impressive and hot.