Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feu Mathias Pascal


Recap!



Opening sequence of Feu Mathias Pascal [The Late Mathias Pascal, Marcel L'Herbier, 1925] involves insert shots on a contract that the widow of a family will be selling as part of an estate. Her sister-in-law is nonplussed. Mathias, who is the son-inheritor, remains off-stage, only perceptible through a keyhole — he is “at work” and must “not be disturbed,” according to the chunk of slate hanging on his quarters’ door. He’s roused by the commotion, comes out, sees the contract, is disgusted. He’s played by Ivan Mosjoukine, the centerpiece of the Albatros film group. He flees outside to chide a cow. Outside is orange tint.

Shortly after, he returns to his chamber and work. He’s interrupted by an Oscar Wilde-looking man in a straw hat — “Mino,” a young Michel Simon.

Mathias, storming out, passes one Romilde on the street (in green tint). We’re told she secretly admires him (in orange tint) and she’s being dressed by her mother, a widow, Pescatore, who wants to marry her off to a rich man.

Mathias, back in his chamber, encounters a — ghost? — rising from beneath his tossed cloak. Of course we know it will be some kind of chum: it’s Mino. He folds Mathias into a plot to ask for Romilde's hand on his behalf at tonight’s fête. Mathias nonplussed, then plussed, as an iris closes in, then back out, and fade to black.

“The bonfires have already been lit in Miragno.” Submarine tinting. Mathias and Mino, one more aristocratic in bearing than the other. They spot Romilde. A slew of activity around Romilde and her mom as Mathias approaches. It’s clear the two will fall in love. Mino watches from a distance. Naturally the two abscond while a jaunty tune begins among the crowd and Mino throws Romilde’s chunky mother on a carousel.

Green tinting. They sit like virgins on opposite ends of a remote park bench. He divulges: “A charming but shy young man has instructed me to tell you that he… loves you.” Needless to say, Romilde interprets this as an approach on Mathias’s part. Donning white gloves: “May I ask for your hand for him?” Timidity, as the carousel whirls in orange tint. “So it’s me you…?” starts Mathias, back in the green wash of the park. Chaste move: he presents her with his glove as the revelers carry on with pyrotechnics elsewhere. Mathias and Romilde embrace as the goings-on play out. Their dance is somber. Dissolve to a gold tinted revery where rings are exchanged between the two. And then the couple are back in her workaday salon. This is all too silly. “And the most heinous of mothers-in-law.”

So far, a sad entertainment for audiences. Hours to go.

Mosjoukine’s made-up Russian face, peck-bickering at the air in close-up, to salvage things with Romilde, loyal to her mother, running up a loft-cage like that of the family in Grémillon’s later Le ciel est à vous. Mother says she won’t live under the same roof as this “good-for-nothing” who has not yet expressed scintillae of character. Suddenly an intertitle alerts us of Mathias’s forthcoming fatherhood.

He also doesn’t want to leave his mama, whom he rushes off to visit in an attempt at fresh atmosphere. Amber tinting. She sits bedside him and it’s clear that she’ll probably die at some point in the movie. “HIS MOTHER! the only real love in the world left to him except for the child that would soon be born…” Yes, mother must die.

Her sister-in-law has knitted ten white baby-booties which please Mathias and his mother to no end. With one on every finger he clouds the camera from her face as he kisses her on the mouth then presses himself to her breast while she rocks him. Iris out.

Baby-rocker covered in linens like cobweb and moving at a chunked rhythm. The baby is a girl. Mathias, wiping his hair with a comb while ropes attached to his hips move the rocker, has fully adopted a disgusting habitué. His midsection swaying to the rock of the ropes, he dons a tie, regards himself in a mirror, all perversion of the poverty-fatherhood to follow in ‘30s Ozu. A stuffed pigeon tcotchke eyes his tweeded groin. An intertitle informs us Mathias is now an adjunct librarian, off to start his first day on the job.

He unties himself from the bedroom apparatus and tries to caress the daughter-baby, now held by Romilde, who rebukes him to stop pestering her — past words from her own mama towards the husband too. Superimposition of both their faces! The Russian storms off to a presumable library that in long shot resembles a factory’s maw. An intertitle reads: “Mathias arrive plein de zèle — ‘Le travail, c’est la liberté’,” a prophecy of the similarly arched entrance to Auschwitz.

“Set up in a deconsecrated church, the library was a strange place.” Doors are three times the height of humans, as in all movie sets of the era. Mathias (green tinting) is confronted with piles upon piles of dusty paperbacks and rats. The rats violate his person. He eyes “le bibliothécaire en chef” who hunches over his givens like Scrooge or that guy in Nosferatu. We are to understand him as the poring Jew. He ignores Mathias who gets to work with an arbirary removal of bookstacks, before a segue to gold-tint leads us back to his home where he plays with his daughter, she lighter than the books. Romilde and her mother are caught up in housework. A message comes through by a caller, Mathias’s mother’s sister-in-law: “Madame Pascal is very ill. She would like to see her granddaughter…” The fat elder refuses, stating it's too late, and as the movies of the period will have it, the sister-in-law won’t grab the mother to shake her into the semblance of human sense with any “THE FUCKING WOMAN IS DYING YOU COW,” but rather starts a dough-throwing fight, which on second-thought is perhaps even more satisfying if not effective.

The next morning at the library Mathias, unaware of the previous night’s showdown, gives two kittens — tied to his person by filthy lengths of frayed rope — a lesson in rat-hunting. His aunt enters. “Your mother is very ill, and you didn’t come.” Mathias rushes home to his mother’s bedside. He learns she was forbidden from seeing the baby, and promises her he’ll bring her back. He stalks from the room with a face of determination like Bela Lugosi’s. Back home, the baby has gone ill, and Romilde has left to fetch a doctor. Mathias lifts and lets drop the child’s hand. The doctor arrives and cautions: “It’s difficult to diagnose… there’s nothing do… but wait.” He rushes to his mother’s house. Just outside he sees the bedroom light change to dark. Mother is dead.

He thinks of his daughter in close-up and takes off toward his own home, where a small group has converged with rosaries around the child, and Romilde lies unconscious on the floor next to the baby. Nearly a minute of contortions from Mosjoukine’s face, semitones of emotion clumsily played. He lifts the swaddled child and shuffles out of the bedroom into the night. A fearsome wind wracks father and child. Dazed he enters his mother’s room, mourners gathered around the deathbed. He rests his child’s corpse upon his mother’s breast and kneels. Iris in.

Orange tinting: railroad tracks. Mathias, aboard a train, reading “Histoire de la Liberté,” he is asked for his ticket by a porter. An intertitle explains that he’s getting away from a miserable homelife, torn asunder by mourning. Superimpositions of Mathias outside his home, Romilde, rail tracks… He arrives in Monte-Carlo. ”Still grief-stricken, he saw everything as if in a dream.”

That night: an enormous gambling hall. Mathias timidly investigates the tables, but eventually feels compelled to join in. By midnight, neophyte gambler Mathias has achieved a winning streak at the roulette wheel. “1:55am. Five minutes to closing, Mathias has broken all records.” At the final bet of the night, Mathias goes all in on the number “12” — suggested to him by a fellow player during his first round, Mathias ignored, going with “13” on his own instinct, thereby initiating his streak. This same fellow player, overcome at the neophyte’s run, has now stumbled out to the palm trees, and when the winning bet is called — “12” — he blows his own brains out with a snub-nosed pistol.

Newly rich, he boards the train to Miragno. Shock: a newspaper entry reads: “By wire from Miragno: Last Saturday, the body of a man in a state of advanced decomposition was found drowned in a millrace. The body is thought to be that of the librarian Mathias Pascal. Cause of suicide: grief and financial debt.”

At the next stop Mathias leaps from the train to send a telegram: “Not dead. Home tomorrow.” — has a vision of his sneering mother-in-law… and thinks twice. — “être mort, c’est être LIBRE.” He shreds the telegram, tears the monogram from his inner hatband, and prepares to take a different train. Intertitle: “ROME.” Here Mosjoukine will start life anew, and undergo the literal émigré experience in character that Mosjoukine the actor has already undertaken in Paris.

The film’s second half begins with a fade-in to a dusky shot of an old fountain spewing an aerial stream against the skyline of the city. Moments out of the station, Mathias eyes a new fille, parting ways with her mother. He follows her for a bit, then, eyed strangely by both his prey and some policeman, stops into a haberdasher and buys a suit less “merry” than the one he presently wears, before heading into the Hotel Excelsior Palace. Upon check-in, he’s requested to fill out an identity form, required by the local authorities. Panicked, Mathias enters the restroom and leaps out a window, racing down myriad stone steps in a procession of shots throughout Rome. “There’s something bitter about Liberty…”

The film has by now taken the form of a walking tour of the Eternal City. He spots the girl from the station again, and follows for a bit before coming across a room for rent. The owner calls for his daughter Adrienne, who recages her pet dove on a sumptuous terrace and joins the pair in the much more austere and sooty interior corridor of the place. The room Adrienne leads Mathias to off the main hall is grand, thirty-foot high ceilings, fully furnished, walnut and marble appointments. She straightens some periodicals on a table: close-up: “REINCARNATION” by Marinus P. Ramanida. Adrienne asks him his name. “My name?… My name is.. actually… monsieur ADRIEN.. Does that bother you?” She shakes her head ‘no’ with an expression of delight. She walks away lazily, seemingly distracted, then returns to Mathias: “Don’t mind these books… They’re my poor father’s passion; I detest them, myself!” She walks off.

Alone, Mathias exults in the room, jumping on the dusty bed (while a fedora’d man quickly peeks across the edge of a lintel and darts back, in an apparent production snafu) and uncovering beneath the bedspread a copy of a book, close-up again, titled “SPIRITISME.” A subsequent close-up insert reveals a subtitle that had not appeared on its cover just prior: “How to Communicate with the Dead.” Trickshot double-exposures as two Mathias’s appear on a nearby duvet: one the ‘before’ version, the other the ‘after.’

A fat drunk woman tenant stubmles back into the house. Adrienne tells Mathias the woman is her father’s medium, Mademoiselle Caporale. They shuffle her off to her room.

And then Adrienne’s uncle arrives. He wants to introduce Mathias to his niece’s fiancé, “a distinguished archaeologist: Térence Papiano.” — a man who previously greeted Mathias at the door to the Hotel Excelsior Palace, and who foisted his card upon him. He arrives and they make one another’s acquaintance. Taking his leave, Mathias rushes down the staircase only to pass, now, the thuggish boy he saw accompanying the woman he eyed directly upon his arrival in Rome. He speeds up down the staircase, and nearly collides with Adrienne. They chat a bit, and he follows her up… into iris-in, and then an intertitle informs us that “Adrien” has taken a liking to “Adrienne,” that Térence is away, and that he is “odious.” Scipion, the thug, the half-brother of Térence, may intervene after his eavesdropping! Adrienne discloses to Mathias that her father has been using the medium Caproale as a means of enlisting spirit powers so that they might enforce her love for Térence.

The rest is total insanity.

==


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ms. Turner on "Private Dancer"


INTERVIEWER: I’d like to touch upon some of the dark sexual themes in the song.

TURNER: Frank sexual themes.

INTERVIEWER: “You’ll be our private dancer / Our dancer for money / You’ll do what we tell you to do.” — How did this track come about?

TURNER: Years back, I had a Border Collie named Griff. Love of my life. Anything I thought I could do, he could do better. One day I noticed he wasn’t acting himself. His left rear paw was more swollen than usual. 41 hours later Griff was dead.

INTERVIEWER: I’m sorry.

TURNER: Before we cast his ashes in the pool, I commissioned a, what do you call it, not an autopsy…

INTERVIEWER: Necropsy.

TURNER: Necropsy. I decided to place a bet on a necropsist I flew in from Kentucky who made his name on the biggest dead horses. After his examination he’d even brand them with one of those cigarette lighters you find in cars, what do you call them, but he had his sigil monogrammed on it. This way the authorities would know the horse, as was invariably the case, had been, authoritatively, much too pumped with performance enhancers or dehancers to make for what they call "safe second use.” You know, board-certified. And he was the board — judge, jury, executioner. You remember that show Luck?

INTERVIEWER: The HBO thing?

TURNER: Right. Years later, my grandson, he’s a huge cinephile, big fan of Michael Mann. When they were on the verge of closing down production, I rang the necropsist — he was a consultant — to see what he could do, but it was already too late. My grandson was disappointed, but they did send him a hoof. The name “Ms. Turner” still means something in this town after all. [laughs]

INTERVIEWER: So this man flies in to LA to examine Griff.

TURNER: Yes. We take him into the dog’s room, and he lifts Griff’s paw with his tongs and straightaway says, “Brown recluse.” Naturally, I’m like, that’s all I fucking need. Until I got to thinking, and that was how “Private Dancer” was born.

INTERVIEWER: Can you explain?

TURNER: Just the relationship between the spider and the dog’s foot. It’s always hard to talk about where creativity comes from. But obviously it took a more sexual direction, with this couple, and their dancer. I think part of it might have even come from those milk carton ads at the time.

INTERVIEWER: Weird Al even did a parody song, “Tiny Dancer.”

TURNER: The video where the dancer is extremely fat, right. Al Yankovic and I have gone back for years. I was very flattered.

INTERVIEWER: I’d heard that the lyric was originally supposed to be: “Our dancer for doubloons.”

TURNER: That was an early version of the song. I liked the consonance. “Our dancer for dollars” could have worked, but all the characters would have come off a little cheap.

INTERVIEWER: What was the initial reaction from your colleagues?

TURNER: Well, it was very touching. Mr. Spector sent me a stripper pole with a 24-karat handcuff attached, and a really sweet note. Michael Jackson sent over one of those Sony Aibos, years before they were in the market, but it broke, so I keep it in the garden. I know you shouldn’t hold on to old electronics, with the mercury and everything, but it was from Michael. And robotics were always so special to him.

INTERVIEWER: What’s your fondest memory of Michael?

TURNER: Well he was planning on building a 30-foot replica of himself that would roam Death Valley. If you don’t believe me, google it. It was going to run off solar power, and kind of stalk the desert for eternity. But that was the thing about Michael, he was always so childlike. I think in the end he only got the ankles built. He always had this sense of wonder and possibility — but, you know, he’d just get started on something and then one of the giraffes would get sick. And of course he loved Nintendo.

INTERVIEWER: Did you know Elizabeth Taylor well?

TURNER: Ms. Taylor was an angel. The first perfume she came out with, one of the members of the Saudi family threw a gala in her honor, $70,000 a plate with all the proceeds going to AIDS research. This was before most people even knew how to spell AIDS. All of Hollywood and the Middle East was there. During the prince’s speech, he announced he'd be picking up the tab for all of the plates. Six months later the Elizabeth Taylor Epidemiology Center of Riyadh opened its doors. They might have have done so much.

INTERVIEWER: Was her obsession with jewelry so all-consuming?

TURNER: Ms. Taylor had only one love in her life: it wasn’t any of her husbands, it wasn’t Monty Clift, it wasn’t Michael Jackson, it wasn’t David Geffen, it wasn’t Randolph Scott, and it wasn’t Merv Griffin. It was jewelry, plain and simple, jewelry, and Ross Perot.

INTERVIEWER: Ross Perot?

TURNER: Honey, there would be no Apple Watch without Ross Perot. And if you don’t believe me you can google it. I think Ms. Taylor would have loved the Apple Watch. Never set an alarm clock in her life, but that’s what made Ms. Taylor Ms. Taylor.

INTERVIEWER: Among your contemporaries, who do you place in your same league?

TURNER: Oh honey I don’t look at it that way. This isn’t a competition, it’s a team sport. Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love… I know they had their experiences with Mr. Spector as much as any of us did, but he was a complicated soul. Very insecure beneath those wigs. Tended to wear his heart on his rifle-barrel.

INTERVIEWER: Bad place to wear your heart.

TURNER: Good place if you’re vulture-hunting. And Mr. Spector was always circled by more than his share of money-grabbers. Grifting little bitches, some of them. They’d see that ring on his finger that said “PS” and it was “I love you.” I know that’s a Beatles song, but you can see the pun.

INTERVIEWER: Years later he would work with The Beatles and, separately, John and George.

TURNER: Well John brought him in one day, and, to Mr. Spector’s credit, John said that Mr. Spector did the best he could with being handed the shittiest bag of shit, which you can google. Those were the Get Back recordings. Paul didn’t care for this. It was just another letter on the wall.

INTERVIEWER: Is there truth to the rumor that you recorded an album with Gil Scott-Heron?

TURNER: No. But we did run into each other once at a fundraising lunch for Dukakis. Despite being an event, it was fairly uneventful, besides the fact that we were both crashers, which we had a laugh about. He was very charming.

INTERVIEWER [laughing]: Gil Scott-Heron or Dukakis?

TURNER: Gil Scott-Heron was to Mike Dukakis what Dorothy Lessing was to Tupac’s hologram.

INTERVIEWER: That could have been an incredible collaboration, you and Gil.

TURNER: Well, you know, we did have a very nice conversation, shortly before he passed.

INTERVIEWER: Do you mind if I ask what you talked about?

TURNER: Michael Phelps. [laughs] It may seem odd, but we had both been following his extraordinary run of swimming.

INTERVIEWER: Were you taken aback by the success of “Private Dancer”?

TURNER: Flabbergasted. Simply, incontrovertibly, flabbergasted. Those themes had never been explored before in the Top 40, let alone the Top 10. “Let me tighten up your collar”? Please.

INTERVIEWER: Do you wish you’d spent more time pursuing your Hollywood career?

TURNER: When the time comes to close the book, I’ll have no regrets. I’ve seen so many live so poorly, and so many die so well. And that was just at MGM. The movies aren’t the same as they used to be. The studio system, the glamor. I thought Orion Pictures had a shot for a while, but even then… Well, what can you do. What is it the kids say these days, that they’re hash-oil-blessed?

INTERVIEWER [laughing]: I think it’s hashtag-blessed.

TURNER: Well, honey, then I am hashtag-blessed a hundred times over. Hashtag-blessed, hash-brown-blessed, sunny-side-up or over-easy, side of rye and a rasher of bacon. It’s the big chef-in-the-sky’s call. It’s not for me to stock the chuck wagon. But I still take a certain kind of stock. When all the ships have sailed, what will remain? “Orinoco Flow”? Maybe. Bless Enya's heart. “We Don’t Need Another Hero”? Now more than ever. And we'll always have a certain “Private Dancer,” dancing for money. And when we crack that whip, you better damn well believe he’ll skip.

===


Friday, October 10, 2014

Adieu au langage: The Dog, the Territory, the Television Screen


Preface



This is my translation of Aleksander Jousselin's text on Adieu au langage, the third in a series following Arthur Mas and Martial Pisani's first two installments. Here:

1: The Form of the Interview

2: "Now What's All This?"


===


The Dog, the Territory, the Television Screen
(Imaginary Conversation)

by Aleksander Jousselin
August 8, 2014


The following was posted in its original French at Independencia here, where images have been embedded. My translation, which appears below, should appear at the same site soon.



A FILM IN 2D


— So it’s the first feature by JLG in 3D, non?

— More to the point, the first that one sees in 3D, and one has to keep their fingers crossed, since a certain Parisian theater had, a priori, the strange idea to project it in 2D, never mind that everyone has said it’s “impossible” to not see Adieu au langage in 3D, to forgo watching it with the glasses.

— For the first time, I have the impression that 3D is revisiting the other two dimensions. In any case, that it lets you see in three dimensions what might be called 1D and 2D. In large part, incidentally, it’s a film in two dimensions.

— All depends on what you consider the most prominent portion of Adieu au langage. There is, in effect, in the film’s domestic scenes an object, in the background, annihilating the depth effect or the relief effect, which when all is said and done isn’t what the film is aiming for in the first place, beside a few spectacular shots from this viewpoint. The first appearance of Roxy the dog, for instance, shows the dog sniffing at something so close to the lens that he gives the impression of searching for an object on the other side of the screen. As if we were in a crime film and on the one side of the fiction, the whole mystery would remain altogether, with all the clues being found on the side of the spectator.

— By the way, yes, Adieu au langage understands elements of police intrigue; the few brief gunshots demonstrate as much. But to return to an object which is quite visible in those interior shots, I refer mostly to a television set. In Adieu au langage, the television shows films in 2D; the history of the cinema reveals itself in the back of the room, as might a banal conversation, in a western, in the rear of a saloon upon which a cut on the axis suddenly attracts attention.

— Do we let the dog and the 2D remain on one side, you think?

— Between the dog and 2D, between the screen and the territory, there are a lot of things circulating. But what is 1D, for you?

— It’s the zero degree of cinema. A line, a curve in history, the narrative line, the arc of a character, as a Hollywood screenwriter would put it. This still is not the scenario of the Histoire(s) du cinéma, in which one shot gives birth to two or three images, all as the narrative line splits into two, thickens. There it’s the celebrated 2D — not bad, right?

— No, actually this is television. To tell the truth, the Histoire(s) du cinéma was a TV series. A serial stamped Canal +. A long time back, it was said that the cinema was citing the cinema here, that Godard made his history of the cinema here through films. Rather, it’s the small screen citing the big screen: in JLG’s first essay in 3D, Les trois désastres (in 3x3D), Godard actually cites films in 3D (Final Destination 5, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, etc.). But in Adieu au langage, the 2D of classic Hollywood films returns via the television set, the only object to resist the 3D effect. The order of things changes at this same moment; the small screen is also validated by the 3D — and around us, we even see apartments come into bloom with 3D projection; but up to this point, Godard has indeed seen things: on the television the history of 2D, of painting in the cinema while passing through literature, in the cinema, a history of 3D.

— Incidentally it’s an attribute of of modern TV series; I’d say since the end of the 1990s, citing the cinema’s and films’ abandonment. The Sopranos is a resounding example of this: we remember the episode of the death of Tony’s mother, that we both saw again recently as an autonomous medium-length film, at the start of the third season, in which the parallel montage engages beautifully with a television broadcast of William Wellman’s The Public Enemy. In this sense, the Histoire(s) are of the family, and Adieu au langage all over again makes the television screen the territory of the history of the cinema.

— There’s another territory, in which a route defines an outward appearance with a less great precision: that surveyed by the dog Roxy.

A FLAT SCREEN


— We’re going to hold off a bit with regard to the dog and the story. The television screen systematically draws eyes to it. 3D accentuates the desire to bypass the stripped body of the man and the woman to be able to watch what’s at play behind them. We’ve talked how much Adieu au langage cited the scenario of two other films, Le quai des brumes and The Chase. Once more, the movement is logical; beneath the 3D bodies taking leave from the screen, we find the 2D of the flat screen showing films in the background, those films in which Godard for a long time impresses the framework for writing his own fictions, whether it’s a work of a writer or, for that matter, a screenwriter, like William Faulkner and his Wild Palms in À bout de souffle — or Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark, and The Jugger for Made in U.S.A. Under 2D, in which the history of cinema played out, there’s therefore always this cinema that one terms classical calling the shots, — and here we rediscover 1D, the narrative thread, the almost secret thread guiding the images.

— 1D, 2D, 3D — you might as well be running through a nursery rhyme. This time, JLG assured the promotion of his new film via a coup of major interviews. Two sentences by the filmmaker come to mind: one anodyne, which pronounces a banal judgment on the work of Bill Viola; the other, a play on words: “Why do people buy des écrans plats [flat screens] to watch films en relief [that have depth / in 3D]?”. Of the American video artist, Godard says that his creations essentially rely upon “des idées de scénario” [screenwriting ideas]. The sentence is harsh.

Relief, écran plat, scénario, — yet everything is there in two sentences. In the logic we’ve sketched out, the flat screen, 2D, is an intermediary between 1D and 3D, between the scenario and le relief. As if films in 3D have only to do with their scenario, that the spectacle en relief is poorly accommodated by an intrigue. The citation regarding Viola, in this sense, is interesting. One of Viola's exhibitions, displayed at the Grand Palais in the first quarter of 2014, shows a series of screens lined up one behind the other. One can see here what was projected from both sides. The same action is revealed on each screen between them. The effect produced is quite similar to that of a 3D film; the scene seems en relief and at the same time it’s folded back again onto the screen, seized by it, — and which prevents it from escaping.

— This is actually, I’d say, in an accepted sense of the word, a “scénario” idea. In the end, it’s only the repetition of the same scene across several different supports, an unexpected link between the scénario and the relief. If one is on Godard’s side, one can say that it subdues an idea of the image on the basis of a scenaristic trick; otherwise, the effect remains transparent, though the stage of 2D is in fact such that it is unable to grow more ‘pregnant’. Once again, flat screens have the dimension of huge state-of-the-art television sets. Whichever side one takes, JLG’s phrase on le relief is irrefutable.

— Godard himself has never escaped contradictions. But Adieu au langage is the most recent challenge to paradoxes, its title betraying this program anyway. It’s no accident that JLG pronounced just such a sentence that places 3D cinema and the most modern television in opposition. The cinema en relief thus separates from the object that we view “while lowering our eyes.” In the same instance in which TV series, from the Histoire(s) du cinéma to The Sopranos, cite the big screen not out of deference but out of empathy for its equal-footing with the cinema — Godard again placing a distance between the two. If television is our daily, banal language, the one we share more than any, then this Adieu au langage could only be in 3D. The history of the cinema has on the other hand rejoined patrimony, the small screen and 2D.

— And the smartphone, on which Godard claims to have stocked up thousands of videos of his dog? He’s making the inverse of television. He goes from smaller to bigger: Film Socialisme consists of a few shots made on a telephone, on the ocean-liner in the first section. A smartphone, despite all its innumerable useless functions, allows the sending of a message to one exact person, or to everyone you know. It’s more precise than the televisual signal.

— It’s like the dog — it has a sense of smell.

A NATURAL HISTORY


— Yes, the dog that’s going to go find a stick comes back to the one who threw it out there. It responds with the message that it’s retrieved it, and is never mistaken as to whom it’s supposed to be going back to. We talked about the crime scénario, — that’s exactly it: responding to a master (a vocalist) sending letters.

— And as in a film noir, you don’t see the one who does the chanter [vocalizing]. At the same time, the territory of the film is very precise, so much more reduced than the Mediterranean and the coastal landscape of Film Socialisme.

— There’s also a sexual intrigue, and one about deaths. Always the film noir. And yet Godard’s synopsis announced something else: the attempt at reconciliation of a couple who gets to the point they’re no longer able to speak to one another, who are only best off communicating through a dog. Here there has to be some question of mathematics, of Wittgenstein.

— Oftentimes, films or sequences in Godard could be written out as equations. It’s simple reduction: in the course of one of his seminars, Georges Didi-Huberman elaborated on it a bit evoking a passage from Ici et ailleurs. It’s the famous moment where Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler share the image. Earlier on, the photo of Hitler occupied the entire screen: we heard a discourse from the Führer where one word resounded over and over again: “Palestine.” The equation was the following: N/J = J/PN standing in for Nazis, J for Jews. P for Palestineans.

— We’d mention a ridiculous slogan of the anti-Le Pen demonstration: “F for fascist, N for Nazi.” This equation is pretty weak. At least this one, in particular. Adieu au langage, if one has to speak in the scientific sense, instead evokes biology. Its subject, to adopt Godard’s word again, is not an equation.

— It’s a history, a natural history. Sex and death rather than zero and infinity. Territory is not, at this exact point, there for the provision of its exact coordinates.

— Mostly those of the town of Nyon, which you know, I think, is the place where the major part of the film takes place, between the cultural spot named “L’usine à gaz” and lac Léman. Nevertheless we recall several times in the same places, the fenced-in lake shore, the house with its television, its toilets, its shower, its bed, “L’usine à gaz,” the forest. Still clichés of crime films, though the dog is the first to take Adieu au langage down this route. If he picks up a scent, it’s on the screen — if he wanders and thinks, that’s of the image. He never takes up the same path; he takes short-cuts. He is associated with children, of course — those who innocently, in a suspense intrigue, would be delivered from the fundamental clues about the identity of the guilty, but that have been seen here gambling (three) dice [trois dés / 3D]. The wordplay lends an idea of what JLG is doing with 3D, but the scene also says that, like the dog, they are guides of humanity. They deliver humans, like the filmmaker does with le relief at random with evolution (technical, biological).

— Technique, which has always fascinated Godard, has thus essentially been linked with biology. I heard JLG say it on France Inter: the two sequences that incite the viewer to alternately close the left eye and the right, to create a shot/reverse-shot, only to recall that we have two eyes. 3D isn’t the armed arm of the gaze, it’s only the confirmation that we are able to serve ourselves with two eyes.

— By the same token, the dog is neither a tool, nor a guide for the blind, nor a sniffer-dog for cops. If he’s a guide, it’s because he brings two things to our minds: we’ve always only been guided to think when the other no longer awaits us, and although he doesn’t know it; we also only love others more than those who love ourselves. These are two phrases that accompany the solitary promenades of Roxy, in which reveries turn into thoughts: one says that Roxy thinks, but as he’s always thought; the other says that the dog is the only animal “to love you more than it loves itself.”

— These words are themselves selfless, — they don’t take part in a mathematical demonstration. We never see Roxy save himself such as he is, to testify his love of others.

— To speak mathematics, then, it’s an axiom. Adieu au langage really speaks from zero and from infinity; these are its two limits. A beginning and an end which take the form of the horizon: blocked while we say that, behind us, life goes on.

— Between the beginning and the end, there’s a natural history, that of a divergence: between two sections of humanity distant from one another (dogs and children on one side, men and women on the other), between Godard and language, between 3D and the world of shadows.

— It’s at once the story of a girl and a boy, a girl and a boy after a girl and a gun, du nombre et d’une ombre.

===


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Comprehensive Introduction to Aphex Twin on the Release-Day of SYRO


Aphex Keetwin




I made a playlist for my friend Keetin to introduce her to Aphex Twin, Richard D. James, — whom I place alongside The Beatles, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Lee "Scratch" Perry, The Smiths, and Radiohead. If you haven't dug in yet, here's a perfectly sequenced playlist sampling from his entire body of work from 1991 (or 1985, depending on how you look at it) up to 2014 — from Analogue Bubblebath Vol. 1 and "Digeridoo" all the way up to, and ending on, the opening track of Syro, "minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix]" — I think you can buy all of these tracks online. Always listen with headphones or decent speakers.

Running time: 3 hours 5 minutes. Purchase of Syro just finished downloading, about to listen now for the first time (with the exception of "minipops 67"). Aphex Twin's first material (under 'proper' Aphex Twin moniker, i.e., neither AFX nor The Tuss nor Polygon Window nor Caustic Window etc...) in 13 years, since his double-album masterpiece drukqs in 2001.

(Forgot to include any Caustic Window tracks on the release, so throw in, let's say, "Flutey", "Popeye", "Revpok", or "101 Rainbows Ambient Mix" anywhere they fit.)

Wish I still had the handwritten merch-postcard from RDJ I got in the mail at my house in Pennsylvania back in the day, when I was 16. (That'd've been around the time of Surfing on Sine Waves and Selected Ambient Works Volume II...)

1. Synthacon 9 [as The Tuss, from RUSHUP EDGE, 2007]

2. Analogue Bubblebath [as AFX, from ANALOGUE BUBBLEBATH: VOL. 1, 1991]

3. Wax the Nip [from ...I CARE BECAUSE YOU DO, 1995]

4. Avril 14th [from DRUKQS, 2001]

5. Come On You Slags [from ...I CARE BECAUSE YOU DO, 1995]

6. Crying in Your Face [as AFX, from ANALORD 4, 2005]

7. Heroes (Aphex Twin Remix) [from 26 MIXES FOR CASH, 2003]

8. On [from ON single, 1993]

9. Ventolin (Video Version) [from ...I CARE BECAUSE YOU DO, 1995]

10. Flow Coma (Remix by Aphex Twin) [from 26 MIXES FOR CASH, 2003]

11. Untitled / Track 18 (aka "Window Sill") [from SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS VOLUME II, 1994]

12. Digeridoo [from CLASSICS, original release 1992]

13. Flim [from COME TO DADDY single, 1997]

14. Xtal [from SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS '85-'92, 1992]

15. 4 [from RICHARD D. JAMES ALBUM, 1996]

16. Quoth [as Polygon Window, from SURFING ON SINE WAVES, 1993]

17. To Cure a Weakling Child, Contour Regard [from COME TO DADDY single, 1997]

18. Untitled / Track 24 (aka "White Blur 2") [from SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS VOLUME II, 1994]

19. Ventolin (Marazanvose Mix) [from VENTOLIN single, 1995]

20. Come to Daddy (Pappy Mix) [from COME TO DADDY, 1997]

21. Run the Place Red - AFX Mix [as AFX, from SMOJPHACE, 2003]

22. You Can't Hide Your Love (Hidden Love Mix) [from 26 MIXES FOR CASH, 2003]

23. Untitled / Track 25 (aka "Match Sticks") [from SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS VOLUME II, 1994]

24. Arched Maid via RDJ [as AFX, from HANGABLE AUTO BULB, 1995]

25. Ventolin (Cylob Mix) (cylob sonic research facility) [from VENTOLIN single, 1995]

26. Debase (Soft Palate) [from 26 MIXES FOR CASH, 2003]

27. Donkey Rhubarb [from DONKEY RHUBARB single, 1995]

28. Fingerbib [from RICHARD D. JAMES ALBUM, 1996]

29. Nannou [from WINDOWLICKER single, 1999]

30. Girl/Boy Song [from RICHARD D. JAMES ALBUM, 1996]

31. Windowlicker [from WINDOWLICKER single, 1999]

32. Bbydhyonchord [from DRUKQS, 2001]

33. Cock/Ver 10 [from DRUKQS, 2001]

34. Kesson Dalef [from DRUKQS, 2001]

35. 54 Cymru Beats [from DRUKQS, 2001]

36. Nanou2 [from DRUKQS, 2001]

37. minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix] [from SYRO, 2014]

===


Thursday, September 18, 2014

For the Plasma


"""True Detective 2"""





"The premise is simple" too for the first feature by co-directors "Bingham Bryant" and "Kyle Molzan." With names like Silk Road pseudonyms, the pair tell a story (pause: —— unlike Bryant and Molzan, the directors of movies tentpoled by social-realist or biopic premises are first and foremost lauded on the pretense of "telling stories"; i.e. are, to use a fake street term, all about the pla$ma) of two '10s twenty-something sleuths operating surveillance bunked up in Port Clyde, Maine's historically preserved Porter House ("built in 1820. It was occupied by Russell W. Porter, an astronomer and arctic explorer. It is offered as a summer vacation rental.") with the charge of monitoring sundry spy-cams in surrounding woods to monitor for forest fires ( — no, only one of the two girls, the main character, Helen, played by Rosalie Lowe, can be said to have the charge, such as it is) — Helen's tech acumen's sharp, she is not real, or comes from a rare ethnographical corner of study, or is made unreal by the Porter House second-floor nook that serves as her office... — It's her hunter-stand LOL. [silence] And from here, among old monitors and plugs, she discerns patterns in the woods-images surveillance-cam'd (the "watching for fires" pretense was duh duh doy), presenting themselves as something like Brakhage's The Wold-Shadow, where the concentration here is permuted to extrapolate market fluctuations and divine whatever off the cadence of high speed trades. Helen says she receives checks every day. Significant checks. She's brought a pixie-haired girl named Charly? Charlie? Charli? on-board as a summer-job assistant to assist in oracling; the actress's name is "Anabelle LeMieux" and her pedigree is obviously Alsatian. The entire film, shot in 1.37:1, parallels the shaggy dog idiom of contemporary Japanese literature. Tous les filles aiment Murakami H. Mais elles n'aiment pas Murakami R., ajoutait l'américaine... The score is by one Keiichi Suzuki, and is very Japanese electronic, beautiful, a passing through Takako Minekawa, as her millions of American fans will attest.

But Charli? Charly? (I like Charli XCX, I like Isild Le Besco's second feature Charly), whatever, reads at breakfast the Kôbô Abe novel The Ark Sakura, which you can wiki and decide which elements in the synopsis might be relevant to this film, though none evidently press. Charlie wanders the bush, and speaks on walkie-talkie (iPhone) to a boy in code. "Orange." "86 the communiqué..."

Let's say she's pre-ambition, pre-historic in the way that an herbivore roamed the earth. She brings crabs back from a local grocer, and one of the beautiful moments of the film is her perfect fuck-you-no to Helen as to whether they should be placed in the freezer, followed by a punctuating cut. Well, this moment gets better with every viewing. Neither I, nor she, probably knows enough about crab storage, but her indignation glides over those shells like the "VA" in the Sony "VAIO" logo (that's the analog part; the "IO" is 1/0 = binary). It's LeMieux's best moment in the film, besides a fantasy acting-exercise fight between her and Lowe in an attic.

No results are ever portrayed re: the rise or fall of markets.

Complicated on screen? Maybe. Not as much as Shane Carruth's Upstream Color (which has the best plot of the last ten years, despite its publication-characterization as a navel-gazed 'let it mean want you want' kind of thing, like it's an equivalent to the bald guy on acid splitting to the desert in Flirting with Disaster. Upstream Color's the film with the greatest pure, attentive, and lucid plot since I don't know when... — just don't say Paddy Chayefsky, who neither an auteur nor a good scenarist be'd).

For the Plasma pisses on Paddy Chayefsky's principles. Where Lumet would indulge Dame Wendy Hiller, Bryant and Molzan film a lighthouse (the English so often encomiïze Woolf but it takes Foreigners to invoke Orlando), and while other millabouts dream of Porter's observatory, Bryant and Molzan whoosh-in two Japanese in Lynchian incongruity with the Brilliant Girl and Her Shaggy-Dog Assistant to splay Hubble photo prints with no more proposition than, to paraphrase "Revolution 9": "Take this, sister — may it serve you well."

Surface bits of For the Plasma call to mind Rohmer's Conte d'été (which should have been titled in its recent US circulation Summer Tale, and not "A Summer's Tale"). Anyway, certain shots, the 1.37:1 framing, all very beautiful. Maine is not the summer of the rest of the country, it's much more civilized, as with the summers in Rohmer. Nothing of this film speaks or feels of the plague-humidity since global warming crept in, and so hopefully that means Maine is still immune. Like in Rohmer, dialogue zings: the women are articulate, and can enunciate words, and do not come off stooge-like or wishy-washy as in the majority of independent American films of this era. They speak in full sentences and could write a competitive essay for graduate application to Radcliffe. Intelligent dialogue, intellectual actresses: For the Plasma is a welcome rebuke to an "idea" of Mumblecore (which is not the actuality of those films often categorized as such).

Delivery of dialogue is straight-eyed-flat: my friend Jessica described a certain "vocal monotony," not pejoratively, and pointed out moments where certain actors in the picture break the pattern. I knew what she was talking about. We're trying to figure out the deal with this progression: Hal Hartley -> Dan Sallitt -> Whit Stillman (did you know David Shafer, who wrote this year's excellent Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, is Stillman's cousin?) -> Ignatiy Vishnevetsky -> Bryant/Molzan — is it monomanneredcore? manneredmonocore? Was it reactionary or 'aesthetic,' a (mis)understanding of Straub/Huillet or Oliveira? Well, really who cares.

When Lowe pauses and inhales throughout all the mannerist dialogue delivery (cf. Garrison Keillor's repetition of words in his oral expostulations: "And Jimmy went down to the creek, and the, the water was crisp, chill, you might even almost say it bit his, his bare ankles, kind of a, an unexpected bite..."), I think it's the only solution for this kind of vibe and material, and thankfully she's humming with intelligence. Having seen this film twice, I can't tell whether it's the core, or the flaw, of the thing that among the two leads one exudes "master" and the other "neophyte."

(Rohmer again, via Bryant/Molzan: Fashions of Lowe which are a collision between the '80s, '90s Rohmer in the ass-area, and modern, and therefore out of time, timeless..)

In the movies of late it's ALWAYS a secret corporation, we're in the era in which the corporation is a person.

But Rosalie Lowe: Scot? Jew? too stunning and interesting to allow me to really concentrate on anything in this film as I watch it. I find I don't care about the intricacies that motivated the systems-novel-distance scenario, the "story to tell" (Bryant and Molzan are too clever to moulder around such mulch), — here is one of the new stars: Pienta, Goldhor, Lowe, and Medel, "you're all fighting the same battle," so be kind to each other as you claw to the top.



===

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#HipsterComicBooks


hashtag contributions



Spider-Mange

Dr. Mange

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The Red Beardge of Courage

The Amastbrotherzing Spider-Mange

The Silverlake Dwarfer

Adulterers Monthly

The Illustrated Life of Willa Catheter

My Ántonia Man

Spawnk

Wonder Marty Moss-Coane

Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy

Finding Nimoy

Goy Gory 2

The Collected Beeps of Wall-E Stevens

Last Call with Cars 2 Daily

The Incredible Mormon

President Baseball bestshow2014

Commissioner-Elect Mark Duplass

Ben & Jerry's Nina Hagen-Dazs Kapital

George M. Cohan's Minstrel Show

Dutchman by Alan Less

Reality Bites Origins

Indian Frere-Jones and the Tampon of Dr. Doom

Guess Who's Coming on Dinner?

800-588-2300 Strikes Back

X-Men

Juvenile Court

Dr. Xavier's School for Special-Needs Hipsters by Frederick Wiseman

The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd

thirtysomething

Melanie Mayron, Melanie Mayron

n + #1

thirtysomething #23

The http://idnxcnkne4qt76tg.onion A.V. Club

Todd Macfarlane's Gay Family

Frank Miller's The Pajama Game: Year One

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's How I Met Your Mother

Bob Kane's Abel Ferrara's China Girl

Ray Romano's Everybody Loves Lloyd Kaufman

Seven Brides for Seven Seventh Sons of a Seventh Son #69

Little Nemo in Plasma Pajamas

Little Nemo, Rhinestone Cowboy

Prolapsin' with Mr. Cooper

The Shecky Greene Lanter

Mitzi Gaynor, Hellblazer

Phyllis McGuire's Tell-All: A 'Graphic' Adaptation by Meghan McCain and Michael Ian Black

Derringdodevil v. Angel Deradoorian

Comic Book: The Podcast: The Comic Book

Master P Presents... Superboy

Tony Danza

===


Monday, September 15, 2014

Adieu au langage: "Now what's all this?"


Preface



ABOVE: Rachel Zucker's tremendous The Pedestrians [2014], divided into two parts: "Fables" and "The Pedestrians," — the first strongly complements Godard's film.

My translation of Mas and Pisani's first dialogue on Adieu au langage can be read here.

===


"Now what's all this?"*
(Imaginary Autobiography, Déjà-Vu, Dream Narrative)

by Arthur Mas and Martial Pisani
July 10, 2014


The following was posted in its original French at Independencia here, where images and video have been embedded. My translation, which appears below, should appear at the same site soon. A translation of the third installment in the series, Un entretien presque infini (à propos Adieu au langage), by Aleksander Jousselin from August 8th, will be posted here shortly.

*The French title is
"Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette histoire?", which Laszlo Szabo utters throughout Godard's Passion.



IMAGINARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY


“The premise is simple”: the summary written in Godard’s hand and put forward on the first page of the press-kit insists upon the rudimentary character of Adieu au langage’s story: a woman, a man, and a dog as the principal characters, a kitchen and a living room as the central place of action. Described in this way, the synopsis resembles stage directions.

— One easy hypothesis would be to find in this constriction of the setting and the direction of the proceedings some personal reasons, as though Godard were pursuing here his fictionalized autobiography, initiated in 1995 with JLG/JLG, and continued in 2002 with Liberté et patrie.

— Further to the synopsis and the press-kit, the presentation of Adieu au langage was accompanied by another film, this one truly in the first-person: Khan Khanne. If it indeed originates as an actual letter, let’s note that Godard held on to it to read it aloud at the same time as illustrating it, and that his voice, all but absent in Adieu au langage, lends to the letter an intimate accent that the feature doesn’t adopt.

— Yet it’s not his first filmed letter: there was Caméra-oeil in 1967; Letter to Jane in 1972; the Lettre à la bien-aimée [i.e., Changer d’image] in 1981; the Lettre à Freddy Buache in the following year, etc.

— This one is addressed to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux who, in choosing to post it online on the official site for the Festival de Cannes, made it accessible to everyone.

— Letter writers never write for a single recipient.

— We might also find that the correspondence loses nothing in its courteous exchange. Godard thanks Jacob and Frémaux for their invitation but presents no excuses for his absence. Yet his reasons aren’t difficult to comprehend, despite what certain journalists might have said: he’s “no longer involved in distribution.” The image chosen at this instant shows a herd of cattle boxed-in by some cowboys. The metaphor is obvious, to say the least.

— Godard is a “maverick,” as they say in westerns, a variety without a ranch or a herd. He “follows other scents,” as might also be said of a hunting dog. A phrase often rolls off his tongue whenever he’s asked to define himself: “Je suis un chien, et ce chien suit Godard, du verbe ‘suivre’.” [“(I am / I follow) a dog, and this dog follows Godard — (suis / suit) as in from ‘suivre,’ the verb ‘to follow’.”]

— A khan is a caravansary, a place where caravans stop to rest: it refers to only a pause in the journey accomplished through metaphor. Read another way, the title might be understood as one “cancan’ing” [i.e., gossiping] about whether or not he would show up. From Cannes to canidé [canine], there are also similar sonorities which might not be off-track: dogs barking...

— And even there, the idea remains of gossip circulating in his absence.

— The name “Khan” could also go back to Coleridge’s poem, Kubla Khan, since the English Romantics are present in Adieu au langage. Published on the advice of Byron in 1816, a few months before he, Byron, goes off to the banks of Lac Léman [Lake Geneva] with Percy and Mary Shelley, the text caused the name of Xanadu to enter the collective imagination. Behind the emperor’s capital may hide the property where Charles Foster Kane is walled up, to bear witness and die alone, while the world chatters on about his reclusion, at the beginning of Welles’ film. So Godard might also be playing ironically with the image of the hermit that’s been willingly attributed to him. Once again, the mirror effect, polysemy, and the multiplicity of references forge an unknowable identity.

— Twenty years earlier JLG/JLG organized a game of perpetual masks around the figure of the filmmaker. In Khan Khanne, Fantômas makes a brief appearance, but Godard is equally present beneath the traits we know him by. From one excerpt to the next time pursues its task: 1981, in Lettre à la bien-aimée; 1997, in Anne-Marie Miéville’s Nous sommes tous encore ici; 2014, reciting Verlaine’s verses at his desk.

— One sentence mentions a trip to Cuba in 1968 to stock up on Partagas cigars...

— The reasons behind the sojourn are probably less trivial than that: in February 1968, Godard assisted the Cultural Congress of Havana to bring together “intellectuals from all around the world over the problems in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.”

— Nevertheless, it seems the scene dredged up like a memory in Khan Khanne after the title “Cuba sì” has nothing to do with politics. Some images from a strange film noir, Arthur Ripley’s The Chase, reveal a couple going into a nightclub, “La Habana,” where they agree to dance before the woman collapses in the arms of her partner, a dagger planted in her back. The actress is none other than Michèle Morgan and as such the sequence might evoke the end of Le quai des brumes, except reversed, since it isn’t the wife but the lover who dies in Carné’s film.

— Resemblances abound between the two films, whose action takes place in a port: Le Havre in Le quai des brumes, Havana in The Chase. By default the choice of setting invokes a misty atmosphere and the sirens of the boats shipping off. In Carné’s film, in 1938, Gabin goes to war in Tonkin and is warned of his “mind getting foggy”; in Arthur Ripley’s film, which dates from 1946, the hero is a former G.I. subject to post-traumatic stress. Both times Michèle Morgan plays a young woman being hunted by gangsters. We might say that The Chase is a remake of Le quai des brumes directed after the war, in Hollywood.

— A passage from Chapter 3A of the Histoire(s) du cinéma associates two excerpts from Le quai des brumes with two verses of “Elsa je t’aime” (from Louis Aragon’s Le Crève-coeur, 1941) in such a way that an exchange develops between Prévert’s dialogue and Aragon’s verses. Gabin: “You have pretty eyes — you know that?” Morgan: “Kiss me.” Aragon: “Au biseau des baisers, les ans passent trop vite.” [“At the tapering off of kisses, years pass too quickly.”] Jean and Nelly kiss. When Gabin dies, his last words are meant for her: “Embrasse moi. Embrasse moi. Vite, on est pressé!” [“Kiss me. Kiss me. Quick, we’re running out of time!”] and Aragon adds: “Évite, évite, évite les souvenirs brisés.” [“Avoid, avoid, avoid broken memories.”]


— The montage also becomes clear if one remembers that Godard recited these verses in À bout de souffle, which sort of tells the same story as Le quai des brumes. By the way, Sadoul had titled his critique of À bout de souffle in Les lettres françaises: Quai des brumes 1960.”

— In Adieu au langage, neither À bout de souffle nor Le quai des brumes nor The Chase are brought in to play a role on-screen, but Marcus’ [Richard Chevallier’s character’s] last words before dying are indeed those from Aragon’s poem. In Godard’s first feature, the verses announce a violent death; in his latest feature, they bring this death to a close. So would Adieu au langage be a “Quai des brumes 2014”?

— That might be going a little far, but several points in common invite the comparison. In both of the films, a man falls in love with a woman linked to a crook who will wind up killing his rival. A dog — Roxy in Adieu au langage, Kiki in Le quai des brumes — is at the center of the couple. The last shot of Le quai des brumes, in which the animal takes off running on a road, could be mistaken for the final images of Adieu au langage, even if this time the dog comes back.

— And although Nyon and its “Belle Époque” boats have replaced Le Havre and its liners, the mists that glide over the setting, from the shores of Lake Geneva to the brooks in the forest, aren’t dispersed. Taking a passage from Jean Santeuil, a voice describes the landscape in these terms: “When, the sun already breaking through, the river is still asleep in dreams of the fog, we do not see it any more than it sees itself. Even with the river here, the view is interrupted; we no longer see anything but the void, a mist which prevents us from seeing any farther.”

— The recitation ends on one of those paradoxes Godard is so fond of: “In this place out of a painting, to paint neither that which we see because we no longer see anything, nor that which we don’t see since we’re supposed to paint only what we see — rather, to paint what we don’t see.” In the film, the phrase is attributed not to Proust, but to Claude Monet. In fact, the excerpt from Jean Santeuil is of course adapting one of Monet’s paintings — and we know what Elstir, the painter from À la recherche du temps perdu, will owe to his canvasses — but the transferral of Proust to Monet might not be involuntary. Monet is first off a painter of Normandy and his Impression, soleil levant presents a view from the port of Le Havre, sixty-four years before Le quai des brumes.


DÉJÀ-VU


— The scenario for The Chase is one of unusual complexity for a B-movie. A former soldier turned chauffeur in the employ of a gangster falls in love with his boss’s wife and plans their getaway from Miami to Cuba. When the young woman dies after getting stabbed in a club in Havana, suspicion and planted evidence build up on the lover who slips away from the police and holes up in a hotel room. When he wakes up, the man discovers that the incidents that he thought he’d lived through since his departure from Miami were all dreams in the course of a feverish night. At the same time he understands that a second chance is being offered to him to rescue the woman from the claws of her husband and take off with her for Havana. Divided into two sections of unequal length, the film revolves around the sequence in “Havana,” which at once makes up the center and the dénouement of the intrigue. In Adieu au langage, it’s the man’s death which intervenes in the middle and at the end of the film.

The Chase also maintains some affinities with the cinema of Hitchcock, which undoubtedly did not escape Godard. The hero is played by Robert Cummings, who acted four years earlier in Saboteur. The action begins in Miami, as in Notorious, released the same year — moreover, we find in both films a scene in a wine cellar where knocked-over bottles take on a dramatic value.

— To this is added Cummings’ last name in The Chase — Scottie — which will be James Stewart’s in Vertigo. In both films, the love story repeats itself, and ends anew in the same location, in the place of a traumatic event. There’s a deep structural kinship there with that story in two parts, with two couples and two deaths, that is Adieu au langage.

— The knife murderer in a public place, who will show up again in The Man Who Knew Too Much and then North by Northwest, has its importance too. Godard’s films show a particular attention to this detail. A famous sequence in the Histoire(s) du cinéma proposes an “Introduction to the method of Alfred Hitchcock” under the form of a collection of objects and figures embedded in the films of the “Master of Suspense.” Gathered together, pell-mell: the pair of glasses from Strangers on a Train; the bottle of Pommard filled with uranium in Notorious; the glass of phosphorescent milk from Suspicion; the windmill-sails from Foreign Correspondent, etc. The main thing here isn’t so much the fetishistic penchant implied by the entire collection as it is the circulation of motifs from one excerpt to the next and the rhymes revealed by their confrontation: the shower-drain in Psycho reproduces the spiral bun in Kim Novak’s hair in Vertigo; the yellow key from Marnie falls down a manhole, like the lighter from Strangers on a Train; while another key is hidden beneath a rug in Notorious, and the action of Vera Miles brandishing a hairbrush in The Wrong Man announces Norman Bates’ gesture delivering the first slash of the knife, in Psycho again.

— Hitchcockian signs make their return in Adieu au langage: a bathtub spattered with blood; a knife, this time inside a sink; windshield wipers in motion beneath the rain like on the windshield of Janet Leigh’s car on the way to the Bates Motel... A reply given by the man to the woman mentioning a stabbing four years prior suggests a possible link between these elements. On the film’s soundtrack, shrill violins from Giya Kancheli’s Abii ne viderem curiously recall Bernard Herrmann’s famous score for Psycho.

— In The Chase, the character of Scottie is said not to have gone to Havana for three or four years, even if he just dreamt being trapped there, accused of having stabbed the one he loves before waking up.


DREAM NARRATIVE


— The chaotic grammar of the text read aloud in Khan Khanne speaks to Godard having just gone back to Havana last year [l’année dernière à la Havane / last year in Havana] — in 1968: this couldn’t be just a dream...

— He was in the process of finishing the editing of Adieu au langage last year, which he designated earlier as being like a “simple waltz,” thus once again granting a central place to the dance scene in The Chase.

— Could the entire film be a dream?

Kubla Khan has a subtitle: “A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.”

— When would the dream start, then?

— Within the first few minutes of the film, a voice mentions an adaptation for the theater of the Song of Songs. The Old Testament book has been interpreted as a dream narrative, with special focus on one phrase from the first poem: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, / By the gazelles or the does of the field, / That you not stir up or awaken your beloved / Until she pleases.”

— At the end of Adieu... we hear the voice of Maria Casarès respond to the hero of Le testament d’Orphée who thinks he’s awoken from a long dream: “You’re in bed, professor, you’re asleep. Only, you’re not dreaming of us.”

“You occupy one of those folds in time you’ve done so much research on,” she adds in Cocteau’s film. The issue of knowing who is doing the dreaming, and who is inside another’s dream, even puts time into question, like in Borges’ story.

— It’s a phrase from “The Other,” too, that inspired the conclusion of the Histoire(s): “I suddenly recalled a work by Coleridge. Someone dreams that he passes through heaven and is given a flower as proof of his passage.”

— There are also lots of flowers in Adieu..., but not a single rose. Neither the bouquet withering in the kitchen nor the poppy field that Roxy contemplates seem to signify an awakening. On the contrary, the voiceover incites revery: “Imagine you’re a little boy...”

— If the narrative of the film is shattered, it’s only from this point of view, new in Godard: If we can’t be sure we’re not still dreaming, we wouldn’t know whether to say the film is over, either. The different stories bumping up against one another in Adieu... are no longer unfinished, or have only just begun, like a suite of possible deviations, as was the case up until Film Socialisme. They find themselves taken up again in another narrative, are placed, straightaway, between parentheses. Roxy dreaming of the Marquesas Islands, in the final minutes of the film, doesn’t open a new chapter but belongs, in the span of a dream, to another story of which we’ll only know finitude.

— Paradoxically, on the inside of each parenthesis, time passes so much more slowly that we know it’s limited. “And as for myself, I have to hold on till the end — and this is difficult,” proclaims Élisabeth in Les enfants terribles, at the beginning of Adieu au langage.

— We might say about the story of the man and the woman, and of their four years living together, that they pass as in a dream. We leap quickly from the beginning to the foreseeable end, from the present to the past.

— Maybe the love story is lived through entirely in the past. The first excerpt playing on the television in the couple's house lets us hear, and catch a glimpse of, Gregory Peck seducing Ava Gardner. In Henry King’s film, The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), that entire sequence is a memory of the writer’s.

“‘It was the best time we ever had!’ said Deslauriers.” The last sentence of L’éducation sentimentale, which sends the discovery of the female body back into a distant past, is showcased in Adieu au langage and places the entire film under the aegis of memory and revery. The order of the opening titles, in an effect of one being swiftly replaced by the next, invites us to follow the slope of memory, and then of imagination to set into motion the movement of thought.

— So why interrupt this revery, and the love story, with gunshots?

— Godard said of Hitchcock that he “filmed actresses like plants. Except that he wrote a screenplay for a thriller involving a rose and a tulip.” “A film is a girl and a gun”: nothing prohibits us from thinking that the adage indicates a succession rather than a reunion, nor that this linkage is able to repeat itself in a continuous loop.


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(The entirety of Arthur Ripley's The Chase, which presently exists only in a public domain version, can be viewed on YouTube here.)

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Friday, September 12, 2014

See You Next Tuesday


Lyrics by CK



[INTRO SAMPLES:]

"Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you can't be pretty."

"Shame to my own gender."


Pregnant Mona obliterates niceties —

She touches surfaces the rest of us can't!

Stooling in Key Food stacking powder-scoop iced teas

Expecting some gaga gush from her gant!



Girls are like snowflakes, some melt at your feet —

Wipe your angel's wet print from your mattress!

Choreographed Drake, and it's set to repeat,

As the actress performs for the actress!



You read in Pitchfork that piece about five-years and Grimes.

Portrait of a Critic Controlling One's Story

Would be the name of your novel if you only had time

To escape private entries and enter your glory.



Is socioeconomic struggle all yours?

Feel your body's political 'cause Mom's seen your film?

Tobia or not, to be Mona assures

Ex nihilo: MoMA; after "Ventolin", "Flim".



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Monday, September 08, 2014

Adieu au langage: The Form of the Interview


Preface






This is the first in a series about Jean-Luc Godard's new 3D feature film, Adieu au langage, or Farewell to Language, which is being released in the States on September 29th following its New York Film Festival screening. (It's being released under the translation Goodbye to Language, but there's as much a difference between "farewell" and "goodbye" as there is between "adieu" and "au revoir.") After exiting the Cannes screening (the greatest experience of my life?), I ran into Danny Kasman and we chatted but it was definitely, at that moment for us, goodbye to language; luckily a few days later he got it together in spades and posted this magnificent appraisal at The Notebook. A couple minutes after, and then again a few days later, I had a chance to talk about the movie a little with Kent Jones, and some of what he expressed made it into his piece in Film Comment which is another must-read, here. With the tickets for the upcoming NYFF screening having sold out within two minutes, it's unlikely I'll be at Lincoln Center for the film's US premiere (I'll be seeing it over and over and over again during its regular run); but whether you're seeing it there or elsewhere (or, God forbid, have been sitting on the fence), you should, if you haven't already, check out Kent's words on the film in this interview at the Film Society at Lincoln Center website (he's the director and head programmer of the NYFF) here, where he has the following to say about the Godard:

"When I think of The 400 Blows, for instance, I see it’s a movie about childhood, but it’s a film that’s not made from the perspective of childhood. It’s looking closely at childhood from the perspective of wisdom. Breathless, on the other hand, is a movie from the perspective of youthful energy. That’s what it is, and then at the same time, Goodbye to Language is made from an old man’s energy. It feels very youthful. [...]

"Hans Hurch, the director of the Viennale ... said [he was surprised Godard made a film in 3D]. He saw Jean-Marie Straub two years ago, I think, and Straub was in Rolle, Switzerland, which is where Godard lives. He visited Godard, who was ill for the first two weeks he was there, and saw some of what he was working on and was flabbergasted. He was very doubtful. He is a guy who’s not known to embrace everything. He said it was like watching some new form of montage.

"Last year in Cannes, there was an omnibus film with three 3D films and one of them was by Godard [
Les trois désastres]. It was something he had been working on that was related to the feature and he had crafted a short out of it. I could not see it because I needed a cataract operation in my right eye, but it looked great from what I could tell. Everybody anticipated Goodbye to Language last year and it wasn’t done, and we did the Godard retrospective last year and that would have been great, but it just wasn’t ready.

"So in Cannes this year, that was one of the most heavily trafficked screenings of the entire festival. I got there really early and I have a pretty good pass, and I was up in the balcony — on the side. I wrote about this in my
Film Comment coverage — in the middle of the movie there’s a shot in which two 3D perspectives — both sides of the 3-D image are used, are separate and then they converge. I don’t know how he did it. I would have to see the movie a couple more times to figure it out, but it got a round of applause in the middle of the movie, it was just fantastic. It’s not a surprise that he did 3D. He said that one of the reasons he was drawn to do it was because there were no rules."

The NYFF52 schedule description (likely written by Kent) reads: "The 43rd feature by Jean-Luc Godard (and the only film at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival to get a round of applause mid-screening), Goodbye to Language alights on doubt and despair with the greatest freedom and joy. At 83, Godard works as a truly independent filmmaker, unencumbered by all concerns beyond the immediate: to create a work that embodies his own state of being in relation to time, light, color, the problem of living and speaking with others, and, of course, cinema itself. The artist’s beloved dog Roxy is the de facto “star” of this film, which is as impossible to summarize as a poem by Wallace Stevens or a Messiaen quartet. Goodbye to Language was shot, and can only be truly seen and experienced, in 3D, which Godard has put to wondrous use. The temptation may be strong to see this film as a farewell, but this remarkable artist is already hard at work on a new project."

Before getting to the main feature of this post, I have to point out the absolutely exemplary piece that the great David Bordwell posted about the film earlier today, entitled 2 + 2 x 3D. A must-read-some-of before you see the film, and a must-read-all-of after. It's right here. ("Godard’s Adieu au langage is the best new film I’ve seen this year, and the best 3D film I’ve ever seen." He takes off from there.) Relevant frames (in 2D, naturally) from the film posted below are taken from Bordwell's own piece.

Now without further ado

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The Form of the Interview
(Reversals, Doubles, Reflections, Shadows)

by Arthur Mas and Martial Pisani
May 31, 2014


The following was posted in its original French at Independencia here, where images and video have been embedded. My translation, which appears below, should appear at the same site soon. A second part by Mas & Pisani from July 10th will be posted here shortly.





— Setting out by defining the subject of Adieu au langage might be a mistake.

— Yet several ideas come to mind.

— Let’s not run through them all. Let’s try to figure out what would make us lean in the direction of this subject or that, or, instead, to pick up once more on the signals that would persuade us to take this tack.

— As far as not forcing ourselves to pick up on the most noted motifs goes — and to try to authentically describe the film’s form.

— What’s meant by that? Is it the composition, the rhythm, or the plastic aspect of Adieu au langage that’s most astonishing?

— The way in which the images, the sounds, and the words circulate. In Adieu au langage as in the letter sent to Thierry Frémaux and Gilles Jacob, Khan Khanne, the connection established between the tramway and metaphor functions as a reminder: the Greek word for “metaphor” also refers to a means of transport.

— So you’d have to figure out the inroads that leave their mark on the metaphors. Between its first appearance and its return, the image has changed without our having been witness to its transformation, or you might say to whatever kind of journey it’s undertaken. — It’s been written that everything, in the film, comes back at least once, but one must be more specific in that this doubling is not exactly a repetition. The stuttering that Godard wished for the actresses to perform (you can read about this in Zoé Bruneau’s set diary, En attendant Godard) seems to have disappeared in the course of the shoot. There remain traces of this in certain replies, before distance compounds the gap between the sentence and its rephrasing, or the motif and its recurrence. The echo is made distant, and distorted, before the back-and-forth is executed anew more rapidly towards the end.

— By the way, how do we know whether this doubling isn’t really an unmasking? It’s possible that the order of the montage presents the double, the transformed image, before the origin-image.

— The distinction’s neither possible nor pertinent. There’s before and after only according to the montage. Time is never linear, except in bad films. "What will be has already been," Godard recalls in Khan Kanne, paraphrasing Ecclesiastes.

— So let’s begin with the beginning of Adieu... The title credits, the song by Alfredo Bandelli, the cover illustration of The World of Null-A by van Vogt, which already opened Les trois désastres, then pixelated war images. And the ending of Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings.

— When Jean Arthur finds out that Cary Grant’s coin has two identical sides, she realizes the seducer has stopped cheating fate by making her believe he was flipping a real coin at every turn.

— By the same token, she understands that he’s just declared his love for her in a roundabout way. The scene is hard to describe; you have to see the film to understand what’s at stake here.

— The man’s love for the woman is sealed by a single identity between two faces that are supposed to be different. In Notre musique, by selecting two frames from His Girl Friday Godard explains to some students that the shot and the reverse-shot in Hawks are, in reality, identical, and that the director makes no difference between a man and a woman. Adieu au langage adds that this single identity, which is a special-effect if not an illusion, is the existential condition of the couple.

— In Vrai faux passeport, the same excerpt from Only Angels Have Wings precedes the image of a migration of birds on a wildlife show. Here the analogy proceeds towards "the rapprochement of two more or less remote realities" according to Reverdy's quote that’s so dear to Godard: fiction and documentary, black-and-white and color, the mail-plane taking off and the birds in full flight. Propellers and birds will both come into the mix in Adieu...

— Therefore it would be a matter of finding the “true-false cut” [“vrai-faux raccord”] evoked in Khan Khanne, the kind that Hawks didn’t know how to create, and which would bring about a transformation in place of wrongly affirming a single identity.

— Does this cut have to produce the inverse of the image? Isn’t it just a different image which is not the equivalent of the one that comes right before?

— Whatever it is, it’s a matter of something entirely different from the reverse-shot.

— By the way, not one shot/reverse-shot is to be found in Adieu au langage, like in Film Socialisme.

— The eyes of the man and the woman never meet. If they’re in the same shot, they’re looking in different directions. If one person’s face appears on-screen, it will be turned toward the camera and the hand or body of the other one will indicate a lateral position, preventing them from looking the first one in the face.

— In a photo-montage that was made public a few months ago, Godard inserted two images of his dog, its head turned in two opposing directions, between two frames of a film the same shot from which we catch a glimpse of twice in Adieu au langage: Siodmak and Ulmer’s People on Sunday.

— The scene takes place right after the two young people race through the woods. The man and the woman look at one another; she lowers her head and he can’t see her face anymore. When he grabs hold of her hair to take a look at her, she averts her eyes, as though under no circumstances should they look at one another any longer as they prepare themselves to make love.

— Object of attention, attracting gazes without returning them, the dog would perhaps come to ensure this interdiction.

— In the bathroom, however, the man and the woman of Adieu au langage are able to exchange glances: the woman from behind, and the man full-face.

— In that instance, they are fittingly no longer at the same height, even though the man holds forth on a discourse on equality that his position is assumed to be re-establishing.

— In the first of the two scenes, he has to raise his head to look at her.

— In the second, she tells him: “I know what you’re looking at.”

— With the shot/reverse-shot, it’s all things face-to-face which are condemned, considered rigged in advance.

— What then of the reflection sent back by the mirror?

— It’s not exactly the same thing. Whenever a character looks at himself in a mirror and the camera frames the subject and its reflection, shot and reverse-shot reside together within the same shot.

— The image is at once reversed and split into two.

— Before the mirror, the man remarks that the image is only partially in reverse: right and left are reversed, but top and bottom remain unchanged.

— He can therefore look his double in the eye.

— In the first trailer for the film, a young deaf-and-dumb woman, facing the camera, recites the phrase inspired by Maine du Biran that Godard has liked repeating ever since For Ever Mozart: “In the ‘I think therefore I am’, the ‘I’ of the ‘I think’ is no longer the same as the one of ‘I am’.”

— Perhaps the mirror is the instrument that allows seeing this alter ego.

— We count at least three in Adieu au langage: one in front of which both couples end up standing, one more in the bathroom when the second couple gets in a fight in the shower — the framing of the mirror is thus apparent. The water of Lake Geneva also functions as a reflective surface — the “mirror of the sea.” In a more general manner, as we’ve said, each sequence is doubled, which makes the entire film one gigantic mirror.

— While a ship is pulling away from the port on-screen, a voice off-screen mentions Otto Rank’s reflections on the importance of water in the origin myths of heroes, and dreams linked to childbirth. A few years after The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: Essay on a Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Myth, the same Rank analyzes in Don Juan and the Double (1914) the role played by reflections on water in the myths and superstitions linked to person-doubling...

— In Borges’ story that opens The Book of Sand, “The Other”, the writer meets his double while sitting on a bench on the bank of the Charles River in New England. A phrase from this story returns twice within the film.

“This morning is a dream. Everyone must think that the dreamer is the other person,” says the first woman (Héloïse Godet), before the second man (Richard Chevallier) corrects: “This morning is a dream. Everyone thinks the other person is the dreamer.”

— The other person is Borges himself, but younger, contemplating the waters of the Rhône, in Geneva, one morning in 1918.

— The aged writer questions his interlocutor about what he’s read at his age.

— The young Borges then evokes Dostoevsky’s The Double and The Possessed.

— The latter novel figures among the books presented to the camera on a stand at the beginning of Adieu au langage. — Among literary doubles, Rank evokes The Double but also the couple formed by Jekyll and Hyde, and the sosie [double/doppelgänger] Percy Bysshe Shelley will encounter shortly before his death.

— Both Jekyll and Shelley turn up as apparitions in Godard’s film.

— Rather than a double, Shelley spoke of his “doppelgänger,” a German word coined by Jean Paul adding displacement, working or starting, to the idea of the double.

— As for Doctor Jekyll, he undergoes a transformation in order to leave his solitary office and plunge full-on into vice. In Rouben Mamoulian’s version (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931), his face is only seen when he looks at himself in a mirror upon returning home.

— Once transformed, he always goes to see Ivy, the prostitute he meets during the scene playing on the television in Adieu au langage.

— Strangely enough, the editing doesn’t retain the fade that closes the sequence, famous for its suggestive character: Miriam Hopkins swinging a bare leg over the side of the bed instead repeats to the doctor returning to see her...

— The main thing can be found earlier, in the painting hanging on the wall of her room, still visible in Godard’s film.

Venus at Her Mirror [by Velázquez]?

— The mise en abyme is complicated by the nature of the interlocking frames: a mirror inside a painting inside a film inside a screen inside another film.

— The painting made its apparition in Chapter 1A of the Histoire(s) du cinéma, then in The Old Place. Velázquez’s mirror and naked woman announce, in subliminal fashion — but isn’t everything subliminal in Godard? — the contemplation of the two couples in front of the mirror, and the clutching of the second in the shower stall. “As soon as gazes fall in love, we’re no longer entirely two,” the voice-over affirms later on: narcissism lets in an intruder.

— The presence of the mirror puts the spectator in the position of voyeur, when the frontality of the frames in the other nude scenes instead betrayed a disregard for decency.

— It’s said in the film that, because they’re naked, animals aren’t naked.

— The dog never lets his reflection be seen, and, strangely, his shadow only once, on the lake. He alone in the film does not seem doubled.

— Could it be because he doesn’t speak? Perhaps Adieu au langage formulates a farewell to language that’s not a phenomenon of doubling, and wants to designate without ambivalence. Reflections, inverses, or reverse-shots, the words shift the problem, obscure it, actually, instead of resolving it, but allow that it not be concealed.

— The title of a book by Julien Green suddenly came back to mind: I don’t know if Godard was thinking about it for his film...

— Which one?

— It’s a collection of articles written in two languages, which therefore has two titles. In French, it’s Le langage et son double; in English, Language and Its Shadow. Moreoever, shadows are not absent from Adieu au langage.

— At one point, only the shadows of the couple on the ground seem to be in conversation with one another, as the words of Dolto on shadows underscore the strangeness of these distinct bodies of which they are the projection.

— Green sees in languages “a closed world from which it’s difficult to escape.” Near the beginning of the film, the woman (Zoé Bruneau) stands behind a metal gate that recalls a cell. Split into two, the image which cements the birth of the couple shuts away those who just united, and cuts them off from the world. Later, an excerpt from Proust’s La prisonnière will take on importance. Perhaps we’ll return to it.

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