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Noël Akchoté - Loving Highsmith

Andrea Aguzzi, NeuGuitars


Paraphrasing Pascal and Borges: “Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is in all parts and the circumference in none.” In the original manuscript, Pascal wrote “frightening” instead of “infinity” and, perhaps, truly for him absolute space was a labyrinth and an abyss. I think the same thing can be said for culture and personal knowledge, perhaps using a less pompous and rhetorical metaphor. Take for example this double cd “Music for the Film Loving Highsmith” by Noël Akchoté. I confess that I did not know the figure of Patricia Highsmith and her books before listening to this album, which I bought trusting my knowledge on Akchoté and on Mary Halvorson and Bill Frisell, who are on the traveling companions for this fascinating soundtrack for a documentary dedicated to the American writer. Chosen as the opening film of the 57th edition of the Giornate di Soletta, Loving Highsmith by Eva Vitija staged, with courage and a healthy (and necessary) dose of provocation, the complex (in the most universal and profound sense of the term) life of the writer, Patricia Highsmith, a figure who over the years has become a model of freedom and fight against discrimination in a suffocating and bigoted society.

Highsmith became known for her psychological thrillers from which more than 24 film adaptations have been made; her first novel, Strangers on the Train, has been adapted for both stage and film multiple times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. In addition to her five-novel series starring Tom Ripley, she has written 18 other novels and numerous stories. Eva Vitija’s documentary reveals, instead, through her camera a decidedly less known side of the American writer: the one linked to her frantic and vital search for love, for physical and emotional sharing with someone who often could not accept her in all its bewildering and fascinating complexity. Her passion for writing but also and above all for her life in all the poignant diversity and complexity of her (Highsmith was an avid traveler), pushed her away from her native Texas in search of being deep inside her. Highsmith has never played any gender role (binary), her identity has always been deliberately ambiguous and elusive, malleable and constantly changing. With her latest film, Eva Vitija managed to grasp and make tangible the innumerable facets of a being in constant struggle with its own demons but also and above all with a society that conceived diversity as a dangerous anomaly rather than as a creative force.

The soundtrack created by Akchoté seems to accompany these themes in a balanced way, the guitars sound liquid and just a moment out of focus, slightly dystopian and transversal. For this project Akchoté has chosen liquid music, with many short-length songs that sound perfect for accompanying images but which also prove to be potential fragments from the independent narrative life to the documentary itself. These two CDs in fact collect the beauty of 48 tracks, some reinterpreted more than once, I tried to listen to them both sequentially and randomly and I had the same result: a departure from the principle of constitutive unity. The creation of an irregular path that never allows you to go back in time and space, where you can only linger on the surface of the signs, the figure at the base of the work, and from where it is not possible to go further. Akchoté’s music moves according to drifts and deviations, along streets that are never highways but always interrupted paths, broken paths, never privileged, where there are no points of arrival or the comfort of a stop. That’s why “Loving Highsmith” always sounds fascinating.