Jim Finn, Communist Dreamer, Makes Up a Better World, One Movie At a Time
Marching to the sound of his own drummer into the radiant future, Jim Finn is the solitary vanguard of post-Communist Communist cinema. Each of this enigmatic artists three low-budget features has been a fastidious, jerry-built re-creation of an ideological fantasyland.
Interkosmos (2006) is a mock Brezhnev-era sci-fi film about a pair of star-crossed East German cosmonauts, one played by the filmmaker, on an expedition to Jupiters moons; an even more uncanny artifact, the Spanish-language La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo (The Shining Trench of President Gonzalo, 2007), purports to be a late-'80s propaganda film celebrating the revolutionary women in Perus maximum-security Canto Grande Prison; The Juche Idea (2008), getting its first New York run during Finns Anthology Film Archives retro, is a movie about the North Korean ethos of national self-sufficiency that, in its deliberate, garish crudeness, both embodies and travesties the principles articulated by Kim Jong Il in The Birth of Juche-Oriented Cinema Art. The protagonist is a South Korean video artist in residence on a North Korean kolkhoz where her Juche projects include English as a Socialist Language and Dentures of Imperialism.
Finn is a unique figure, although, like the freewheeling assemblagist Craig Baldwin and obsessive artificer Guy Maddin, he has an acute sense of cinema as alternative history. Though generally hilarious, Finns movies are closer to pastiche (often incorporating found footage and actual texts) than parody. His necessarily ironic attitude is tinged with nostalgiaand a bit of erotic obsession. Utopian as they are, Finns features regularly erupt into (mainly) female mass dance numbers and spectacular, if primitive, light showsoften with infectious original music. Set to the inexhaustible beat of revolution, La Trinchera Luminosas techno-salsa dance anthem is nothing less than ecstatic.
With their offhanded references to Hoxha-ism and Gonzalo Thought, Finns movies recall the left-sectarian gossip column that Tom Smucker wrote for the Voice back in the day. These movies are comedies for hard-core communistsalthough, as noted by Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, zealot merriment is the humorless laughter of angels. Finns powerful social awareness is matched by his appreciation for the pathos of political kitsch. A master (and connoisseur) of revolutionary jargon and militant catechism, he takes Communism too seriously not to be moved by its aspirationsand their tragic results. This is the paradox: Finn is not only a pomo aesthete who cant help putting quotation marks around the Communist project, but a Kierkegaardian true believer whose leap of faith is the production of precisely these quixotic movies.
Seemingly filmed in the courtyard of a New Mexico motel (and yet the perfect simulation of a doggedly righteous agitprop), La Trinchera Luminosa is Finns most intractable workat once historically rigorous and blatantly fabricated, politically correct and profoundly absurd. Is this jail, without guards or men, a madhouse or a perfect community? Are these inmates living in hell or paradise or a Blake-ian combination of the two?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.