So what kind of film director was Van der Keuken? Although it may seem as if the still photographer and the filmmaker were forever competing with each other, he knew how to catch the instant (the gift of the photographer), while making us feel how this instant belonged in a continuum, a movement, a process. Consider a still that he took on holiday in Spain (Sierra Terade, Andalusia 2000), and which he captioned for his monthly picture column (From the Life of a Small Self-Employed), a task he fulfilled for nearly thirty years for the film magazine Skrien. It shows a bend in the road, cut into rocks and is taken from the slope of a mountain. The caption reads: "The spirit of Hitchcock has just passed and disappeared around the corner. But in his absence he still commands the scene." Homage to a master of montage from another master of montage, Van der Keuken sees a view and sees the movement in it, he sees a view and sees the fiction in it.
It was perhaps this permanent and fruitful tension between filmmaker and still photographer, which predisposed him to all manner of other productive interferences, not just as here, blurring the distinctions between documentary and fiction, the holiday snap and the objet trouvé. It also allowed him to transcend genres and styles, giving him scope to mingle the sensory registers, as well as the different aggregate states of the moving image, alternating quite consciously between static viewer/moving image, still image/ mobile viewer (museum), moving image/ mobile viewer (installation) as well as all other possible permutations. It is thus not surprising that he himself, while never experiencing the photographer and the filmmaker in conflict with each other, did finally regard the big installation work he undertook in the late 1990s - The Body and the City (1997-2001) as a form of reconciliation and higher synthesis. Like any true auteur, his work coheres around a few consistent themes. Besides the tension between still and moving image, and possibly quite closely connected with it, there is his the abiding fascination with the human face, from We Are Seventeen, his photo-portrait book from 1955, via the Lucebert films all the way to Face Value and The Long Vacation (2000).
A third recurring strand, vibrating with tension and conflict is the one he himself named, when he called his installation work The Body and the City. The city is a central reference point - starting with his first short film in and about Paris, his photo book Paris Mortel, and then his films and photographs about global cities, including New York and La Paz, returning him eventually to Amsterdam, but its relation to the body remains troubling: a disconcerting clash of flesh and stone, on might say, to paraphrase Richard Sennett's title.
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