First Cousin Once Removed

First Cousin Once Removed


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"Remember to forget no more." So says Edwin Honig. His interlocutor is Alan Berliner - he asks what Honig would say if he were in a movie, what he would say to all the people watching. "Remember: To forget no more." Alzheiemer's has Edwin, Alan's father and his grandfather too. "Remember to forget, no more."

You'll be asked to remember three words, in order. Pay close attention.

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Edwin is a poet, a multilingual translator of poetry, a son, a husband, a father, not all only once - we see him in decline, but roots of it are traced further back. This is a film of exquisite sadness, an affecting portrait of a person effectively gone.

Skipping in time across a series of interviews with Honig, speaking to others, speaking himself, Berliner's film is tightly machined - it has a rhythm, a meter, a tone. There are brief moments of clips of other things - a raven at a typewriter might be Thought or Memory or Death. Words appear on the screen - some Alan's, some Edwin's, some of Pessoa, the poet whose genius he championed. The ring of a typewriter, the clatter of keys, the inevitable flicker of images verging on strobe, that rat-a-tat of the gate that means 'experimental film', here decayed, obliterated by time. It can be heavy-handed at times, at others breathtaking. An interview by proxy sheds light on four lives; Questions carried carefully convey a kindness and concern that is easy to discern.

There is talk of his reaching a "transcendent place of nothingness", but this is not tranquil, this fading - it is distressing, discomfiting. Other bits of footage intrude; some differently significant like a bridge collapsing out of reach, some clumsily magnificent like a silent film of speech. If you pay close attention you'll be rewarded, this is a poem of tone, an earnest and respectful sadness, eulogy, tribute. Unburied, praised, Edwin speaks - "I know there was a past and [that] I lived in it, but I gave it up". Alan Berliner's film does not give up, and in doing so creates something powerful, worthwhile, haunting.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2013
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Chronicle of poet Edward Honig's loss of memory.
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Director: Alan Berliner

Year: 2012

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: US

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