BLACK SUN


Co-produced by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men, Y tu mamá también) and John Battsek (Searching for Sugar Man, One Day in September), Black Sun tells the story of Hugues de Montalembert, a French artist and filmmaker living in New York, who was blinded during a violent assault in 1978.

Combining de Montalembert's audio narrative with signature 16mm visuals, the film articulates the immediate and longer-term consequences of the attack as de Montalembert reflects on his perception of the world. A portrait of an unique man and his remarkable reaction to a life-changing trauma, Black Sun is a poetic cinematic meditation on an extraordinary life without vision.


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THE PROPHET


In The Prophet, BAFTA-nominated director and composer Gary Tarn (Black Sun, 2005) takes Kahlil Gibran’s classic novel and spins it into a cinematic exploration of love, life and loss.  An intimate narration, performed by the British actress Thandie Newton, is integrated into Tarn's minimal score for orchestra, guitar, cello and synthesiser. This fictional text is juxtaposed against footage shot on the filmmaker's solo travels to Lebanon, Serbia, New York, Milan and London. Finding beauty in the everyday, the film leaves space for each viewer to find their own meaning : an uninhibited eye observing the world through the lens of poetic wisdom.


First published in 1923, The Prophet, Gibran's hugely popular guide to living, has sold millions of copies worldwide and was the bible of the 60's counter-culture. It continues to be read and to inspire people around the world today.



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ALFONSO CUARÓN  PRESENTS 

A  LAND MEDIA AND PASSION PICTURES PRODUCTION

IN  ASSOCIATION  WITH THE BBC AND CACTUS THREE


‘BLACK SUN’


CINEMATOGRAPHY GARY TARN

STORY AND NARRATION HUGUES DE MONTALEMBERT

ORIGINAL MUSIC GARY TARN

CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS FOR CACTUS THREE

JULIE GOLDMAN  KRYSANNE KATSOOLIS  CAROLINE STEVENS

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FOR BBC NICK FRASER

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS  ALFONSO CUARÓN 

FRIDA TORRESBLANCO   ANDREW RUHEMANN


CO-PRODUCER  JOHN BATTSEK


EDITED PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY GARY TARN




DIRECTOR'S NOTES


Hugues de Montalembert has lived an extraordinary life. It is a rich source of inspiration, and his story is one that I am surprised is not better known. Any one of us could have suffered such a random fate, but I don’t believe many of us would have coped as well, nor had the will to live and explore the world as he has. His example is humbling, and can put many of our own problems and concerns into sharp perspective. 


I hope my approach to the film leaves enough room to allow the viewer to reflect on his or her own life and memories. I have always enjoyed the analogue of film to dreams (you’re awake, it gets dark, you see pictures, you’re awake again) – and a more poetic approach to sound and imagery seems to elicit this. Hugues de Montalembert’s curious side effect, creating ‘films in his head’, as a result of being denied images through his eyes, seemed the perfect story to tell in this way. My own journey in making this film, and tracking some of de Montalembert’s travels, allowed me to create my own version of such ‘films’. 


The project started in the spring of 1999. I had been working as media composer for some years, but couldn't really find my way to the films I wanted to score. A friend and I had started to shoot some film, but none of the projects ever seemed to get finished. Eventually, I decided to work alone, and set as my goal to shoot, edit, score, produce and direct a film, just to see if it could be done. I would learn each job as and when I needed to, and I started to think about what kind of story would work for the kind of film I had in mind.


I knew I wanted a spoken narrative, and I knew (from having done experiments with cut-up TV documentaries) that a conversational interview could be radically edited to create an intimate, poetic narration. I remembered a book I’d read in the early 80s about a painter who had been attacked andblinded. With help from a journalist friend I eventually tracked down Hugues de Montalembert in Denmark and pitched the idea of an ‘experimental documentary’ over the phone. He was interested enough to suggest that we meet which we did a few weeks later at his apartment in Paris in the summer of 1999. 


I played Hugues a couple of pieces where I had incorporated spoken word into an orchestral composition. He agreed to be interviewed, which we did in his apartment over the next couple of days. Returning to my London studio I made some initial tests using the interviews and set about editing, trying to create a narrative structure from the diverse material. With a vague ‘shooting script’ of some 20 pages, I bought an old 1970’s Canon Scoopic 16mm film camera over the internet, and started to shoot some images in between commercial music jobs.


Over the next few years I travelled, when I had time, to America, India and Europe – and amassed around a dozen hours of film. I worked alone and tried to “see the world” that Hugues de Montalembert could see no longer. 


Real life (starting a family and making a home) encroached on the project and it wasn’t until 2004 that I returned to the material and set about editing in earnest. I attacked the narrative first, creating a fairly tight structure, and laid in a temp music track. I then started to lay up images – some were immediate matches, and others came about in a more random way. When I had sections that worked, I started to write the score but it took some months to find the musical palette that had the resonance I was looking for. 


Ultimately I tried to find a balance between strong imagery, Hugues' narrative and the musical score.

I see my own alignments, but I’d like to think that the audience can make their own connections – the film acting as a conduit for their own memories and experience.



REVIEWS



TELEGRAPH Sukhdev Sandhu

Black Sun is one of the most remarkable British films to appear for a long time. Scratch that: it's one of the boldest, most beautiful and haunting films to have appeared from anywhere. Gary Tarn's poetic documentary takes as its starting point the awful night in 1978 when a young French artist and filmmaker called Hugues de Montalembert was attacked by muggers as he was walking through the streets of New York. They flung paint stripper in his eyes and blinded him for life.

This film, based on de Montalembert's autobiography, and narrated by him, is part survivor's testimony, part philosophical meditation on the nature of perception, and - ultimately - a celebration of life itself. The Frenchman recalls how after his attack he would make films in his head, start seeing very erotic images, and get approached by all manner of staff and patients at the hospital in which he was recuperating. His blindness led them to view him as a vat into which they could pour their most intimate confessions.

Tarn directed, edited and sound-designed the film by himself. His is an extraordinary evocation and reimagining of de Montalembert's interior world, more adventurous even than that of the late Derek Jarman, whose film Blue consisted of actors discussing mortality over a single blue screen.

Here, exquisite, woozy colours ripple and refract, drift and fade. When combined with footage of the Asian cities through which the artist travelled alone as part of his recuperation process, they create lush and subtly melancholic portraits of modern society that recall Chris Marker's landmark Sans Soleil.

Black Sun is a film about blindness that makes us see the world hungrily, deeply, anew.


EMPIRE  David Parkinson  ****

“Narrated with moving simplicity… exquisitely illustrated… challenges the subjective nature of reality and turns New York into a place that's at once terrifying and wondrous. Rarely have the concepts of identity, memory, faith and hope been explored with such poetic courage.”


EVENING STANDARD Derek Malcolm

"a poetic, sensitive and beautifully shot meditation on a triumphant life without vision"


HOT DOG Marie Findley

“You cannot fail to be profoundly moved… as the narrator’s painful, poignant story opens our eyes to a beautiful world we shamefully take for granted.”


THE INDEPENDENT  Nicholas Barber

...“innovative work of art that provides all the facts and anecdotes of a conventional documentary, but which immerses them in a mesmeric ambience all of its own.”  


THE GUARDIAN  Peter Bradshaw

"A quietly impressive cinematic meditation… A valuable filmic essay."


TIME OUT  Gareth Evans *****

‘So through the eyes love attains the heart, for the eyes are scouts of the heart and the eyes go reconnoitring for what it would please the heart to possess…’

It might have been written 800 years ago but this sensual declaration by troubadour Guiraut de Bornelh catches precisely the primary intentions of this remarkable new British film, an extraordinary essay on the epiphanies of looking. In 1978, French artist Hugues de Montalembert enjoying great success in New York, was mugged in an acid attack and lost his sight. Astonishingly, within a matter of months, he was travelling alone to Indonesia, reversing all expected responses to an assault that, in a single corrosive moment, destroyed his profession and vocation, while threatening the foundations of his identity and humanity.

In a feature-length voiceover, the artist reveals the inevitable despair that initially ensued, but then moves into an emotionally and philosophically charged celebration of being alive in the phenomenal world. A remarkable statement of personal resistance, it is accompanied by a river of images, of cities and landscapes – the locations visited by de Montalembert – that deploy a lyrical but grounded visual language similar to that of work by Jonas Mekas, Peter Mettler and, most relevantly, Chris Marker, with ‘Sans Soleil’.


But this project is no pastiche of influences. Entirely Gary Tarn's film, ‘Black Sun’ never seeks easy illustration of its subject’s journey, physical or otherwise; rather, it catches the luminous materiality of the seen as a means to the most searching spiritual enquiry. A work for all places and times, for anyone who seeks fully to live, to engage, it is indeed essential viewing.

GARY TARN

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