Serra's movie ends on literal notes of melancholy, plucked and strummed on Ferrant Font's solitary acoustic guitar.
When Don Quixote addresses the sky, Honor of the Knights takes on a simple grandeur not far from that found in Marcos Prado's extraordinary, underseen 2004 documentary Estamira, a portrait of a sage madwoman who lives in an apocalyptic Rio de Janeiro landfill. In appearance, Carbó also somewhat resembles fellow journeyman traveler Vargas, the threatening protagonist of another recent somnambulant cinema work, Lisandro Alonso's Los Muertos (2004). Much like Serra's Apichatpong-influenced debut, the Argentine Alonso's recent films reflect a conversation between filmmakers from different countries that is beginning to emerge from the somnambulant style. Just as Los Muertos shares traits with Apichatpong's Blissfully Yours, Alonso's more recent Fantasma (2006) resembles Tsai Ming-liang's 2003 Goodbye, Dragon Inn more than it does any recent work of new Argentine cinema.
By moving Tsai's and Hou Hsiao-hsien's updates of Michelangelo Antonioni’s slackness from urban settings to mountains and jungles, Apichatpong helped establish the tone, atmosphere, and characteristics of somnambulant cinema, which treats the screen of a movie theater as a wide-open rather than narratively enclosed site for conscious and unconscious dreaming. The most literal example of the form has to be Paz Encina's 2006 Hamaca Paraguaya, which confronts the audience with an extended shot of a rural hammock, using this sight and the voice-over banter to represent Paraguay's place in the world.
Certainly, the very idea of somnambulant cinema brings the prospect of loud snoring two seats away or two rows down, but amid the cavalcade of cell phone rudeness in movie theaters today, that possibility is more humorous than annoying. There is a difference between a slow film and a boring film, and Honor of the Knights is lively - it doesn't require a prescreening blast of black coffee and sugar-free Red Bull (one veteran online critic’s diet before watching Pedro Costa's literally awesome 2005 Colossal Youth).
What is the dark good for, if not dreaming?<\!s> HONOR OF THE KNIGHTS
Thurs/13 and Sat/15, 7:30 p.m.; Sun/16, 2 p.m.; $6-<\d>$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF
HONOR OF THE KNIGHTS