I DIARI DI ANGELA (ANGELA’S DIARIES) (Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi, 2018)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
In February 2009, MoMA hosted a retrospective of the work of Italian visual artists Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi. Ten years later, MoMA is presenting the US premiere of their final film, I Diari di Angela (“Angela’s Diaries”), which Gianikian completed following the death of his longtime partner; Lucchi died in February 2018 at the age of seventy-six. The film, running through February 13, is an homage to both their private and professional life together, incorporating archival footage with scenes they shot during their travels to Moscow, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other locales, often tied to recent war and political and climate turmoil, in addition to home movies of Lucchi cooking and gardening. Throughout the film, Gianikian reads random pages from Lucchi’s extensive diaries, his aged fingers turning the pages filled with her attractive handwriting and drawings. “This is my memory of Angela, of our life. I reread these notebooks and discover others I didn’t know about,” Gianikian explains in his director’s statement. “Reexamining all the notebooks of Angela’s infinite Diary and the backward look of our private films, which accompanied our research. My desperate attempt to bring her back to my side, to bring her back to life, the continuation of our work as goal, as mission, through her notebooks and drawings, a sort of map for action in the present, containing its guiding principles and envisaging its continuation. Angela and I have prepared new and important projects to carry out. The promise, the oath, to continue the work.”
It is often difficult to tell which footage is old and which is new, as the pair hand-tinted much of the archival material and eschewed the latest high-def technology for the newer shots, layering together the look of the past and the present. Early on, Lucchi describes one of their canvases, which includes watercolor images and handwritten text: “I want to use my work to express my indignation, our indignation. This is like our manifesto. It took shape during a period of great despair for today’s world, with so much upheaval. So, I wrote that our world is not political, is not aesthetic, is not pedagogical, is not progressive, is not cooperative, is not ethical, is not consistent. Above all, it’s the contemporary world, it’s contemporaneity. And I think many artists, nowadays, focus more on getting into the market and making money. We began, and go on, working out of passion. And I say that if other artists focused a bit more on these things, then maybe the world would be less wretched.” Despite such dire pronouncements, the film is a soft, touching, poetic work, told in their trademark avant-garde narrative style. Men dangerously saw wood. Gianikian and Lucchi (Dal Polo all’Equatore; Oh! uomo; Pays barbare) visit a friend’s studio. They go through canisters of old, decaying film. They tell a serious story about a terrible accident Gianikian suffered. But through it all, even with the slow pace, they display a passion for life, for justice, for love. It’s a one-of-a-kind documentary, a work that eventually sweeps you up into its welcoming atmosphere, a fitting finale for a one-of-a-kind team.