‘Angela’s Diaries’ Review: A Tender Journey Through Memory | Modern Society of USA

‘Angela’s Diaries’ Review: A Tender Journey Through Memory

‘Angela’s Diaries’ Review: A Tender Journey Through Memory

From the mid-1970s until 2013, Angela Ricci Lucchi and Yervant Gianikian, partners in life and art, forged an analytical cinematic mode in which they critiqued Western practices of war, colonialism, objectification and more. Their work is better known in the art and academic realms than in mainstream cinematic ones. Lucchi died in 2018, and Gianikian assembled this film as a memorial.

While the movie could hardly be called mainstream, it’s more conventional than the usual Lucchi-Gianikian work because it’s a singular personal musing rather than a painstakingly researched assemblage.

Its contents are as the title advertises. A camera above a table shows one of Lucchi’s open diaries. Gianikian says, on the soundtrack, “I’ll read from Angela’s diary,” then announces the date of the entry. He reads, and the film cuts to home-video footage from the period discussed, sometimes the exact day, sometimes a little before or after.

Footage they shot on a 1996 trip to Sarajevo is considerably more tense and affecting. The couple’s guides, speaking English, navigate a car through the city, ruined by the ethnic wars of the ’90s. The sight of modern apartment buildings that were reduced to hollow husks in the long siege is chilling. The guides point out snipers’ perches, and when the visitors venture outside the cars, they have to tread carefully to avoid land mines. A drive to a new border of Bosnia and Croatia ends on an eerie, mysterious, tragic note. There, the filmmakers are greeted by a couple of pylons partially blocking the way forward, one or two parked cars and an atmosphere of stillness topped with confusion and dread. Nothing to do but turn around.

Back home in Milan, after celebrating a retrospective of their work, Lucchi settles into nonfilm projects, creating a scrolling watercolor painting concerning her experiences in Russia and with Russian literature. The pleasures of home and hearth are conveyed in sequences featuring homemade wine and showing Lucchi cultivating her vegetable and fruit garden. She also recounts more harrowing events, including an accident in which Gianikian was severely burned.

As this movie tells it, Lucchi’s life was her work, and her work was an inextricable collaboration with Gianikian. The diaries yield, in this presentation, no uncomfortable intimacies or expressions of doubt regarding any projects. “Angela’s Diaries” asks of the viewer a kind of patience that may only reside in those already conversant with the couple’s contributions, but its tenderness and straightforwardness are immediately admirable.

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