The 60s, and 1968 in particular, was a heady, tumultuous and electrifying time in the way it was rocked by defiance, counterculture and revolutionary fervour against the established orders. João Moreira Salles captured a subset of that in his enthralling, meditative and blazingly impressionistic cine-essay In the Intense Now. Through a mix of amateur footage, archival reels, film clips and home video, he crafted a formally radical work that conflated broader historical and political forces with personal reflections and memories. It covered four different episodes in parallel – the epochal May 68 Paris protests that started with labour strikes and transitioned into a massive student movement against the de Gaulle government, and in turn against reactionary forces in general; the thudding end to the Dubček’s Prague Spring by the arrival of Soviet tanks on Wenceslas Square, and Jan Palach’s tragic self-immolation soon after; the eruption of public anger in the streets of Rio upon the death of a young guy killed by the police; and unearthed footage – the least overly political and the only ones in colour – of his mother’s visit to China in ’66 during the Cultural Revolution. Various fascinating and even idiosyncratic aspects of the May’68 protests were captured, including Cohn-Bendit’s stardom, class and gender divide within the euphoric protesters, quirky political graffiti, divergent attires of opposing camps, etc. Other moments of brilliance included the stunning act of silent dissent by an unknown Prague documentarian, juxtaposing his mother’s apolitical nature with propaganda slogans across Beijing, the striking image of a solitary crying woman in the funeral march in Rio, etc. They were accompanied by the director’s poetic voiceover, pulsating evocation of the zeitgeist, and evocative use of music.
Director: Joao Moreira Salles
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Political History