Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Message de salutations: Prix suisse / remerciements / mort ou vif

Jean-Luc Godard's new five-minute film. Arthur Mas transcribed the French sound-track, and I translated it into English, here at The Notebook at MUBI.

UPDATES: 3/21/2015:

– A commenter at The Notebook, wrote: "The opening is taken from Ramuz’s text from Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale [Histoire du soldat, 1918].

– Another Notebook commenter, Dmitry Golotyuk, wrote: "Fernandel is for sure: it’s his line from Regain[Harvest, 1937] by Marcel Pagnol."

– Martial Pisani emailed me today, writing: "Another thing we can take for certain is that Chiens perdus sans collier refers in Godard's mind to the 1955 Delannoy film. Truffaut couldn't stand it, and wrote about it in Arts. There are details about it in the book by de Baecque. We can see the kids in Les mistons [The Mischief-Makers, François Truffaut, 1957] tearing up the poster of the film and, apparently, Truffaut later said that the film wasn't so bad but his hatred for it was the reason he wanted to make Les quatre cents coups [The Four Hundred Blows / Wild Oats, 1959]...

"The links between all the references stay quite mysterious. Since the poem by Pasolini (VI part of Les cendres de Gramsci) is said to be the description of his childhood landscape, we may think that the film is an evocation of Switzerland the way Godard used to see it as a child: Ramuz's text seems to be well known by Swiss schoolboys at the time, as were the historic figures of the country... and last but not least, Erwin Ballabio was a famous Swiss goalkeeper!

[Ballabio is also a commune located in Italy between the west-east points across the Swiss border of Denges and Denezy in the canton Vaud. –CK]

"There is still work to do!"


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bad at Dancing

Interview with Joanna Arnow

Berlinale Silver Bear Jury Prize for Best Short Film (Narrative)

The following short interview with Joanna Arnow took place during the run-up to her new film's premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, where last week it won the Silver Bear Jury Prize for the Best Short Film (Narrative).


KELLER: Your first film, i hate myself :) — which you assert must be spoken as "I Hate Myself Smiley-Face" — struck many viewers in the last year or year-and-a-half since it came out. Had you expected the kind of response you received — not only for the nominal shock-factor of the content — which responses are already documented within the film itself — but also for the praise and support provided by the cinephile community?

ARNOW: Thank you, yes, I do insist on pronouncing the smiley face – it’s crucial to the film’s meaning and I am very taken aback whenever people leave it out!

I didn’t know what kind of response to expect, although in my rough cut screenings it became clear people were divided about the film. Some were incredibly enthusiastic, but others, when pressed, said they would have walked out if I wasn’t in the room. It took a year of submissions before the film was accepted at any festivals, so I was happy for it to be more widely seen and to hear the different responses.

KELLER: Did you receive any correspondence or praise/press from overseas for the film? France, etc.?

ARNOW: The film hasn’t played in France yet, but we did have a great response and positive reviews in Germany and Canada. We screened in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich thanks to Unknown Pleasures Film Festival.

KELLER: Before going into Bad at Dancing at length, what were your wishes for the film that would follow up i hate myself :)?

ARNOW: I guess it’s something of an oxymoron, but I really loved making i hate myself :). And if it’s not too self-congratulatory to say, I loved how that film turned out too! I just hoped I would feel nearly as strongly about my next film, and I wanted to make a piece worth sharing with others.

KELLER: But you've got to say a bit more than this. "A piece worth sharing with others"? Your film Bad at Dancing is a grenade. Do you actually consider it just a piece-of-work?

ARNOW: The film portrays the complexities and sexual intrigue within the off kilter friendship of two women – especially because there are not enough films out there with multi-dimensional stories about women, my hope is that Bad at Dancing will add to the conversation. I'm happy with how B.A.D. turned out and feel lucky to have worked with such a terrific cast and crew.

KELLER: You had to know that i hate myself :) was going to be a divisive work. And that invitees to its rough cut screenings were perhaps not going to anticipate what the film ends up being. Let's assume the default setting for invitees is: "Oh cool, I want to see this person-I-know's film that will be projected... It will be fun." — Further, you had to know that you were going to be judged for the on-camera behavior of the nominal boyfriend; viewers would perhaps be projecting themselves, potentially, into the situation of, I don't know, having to interact with him at a Thanksgiving dinner or something.

ARNOW: In making the film, I hoped that others would be able to relate to the story, and that it would cause people to think about their own relationships. i hate myself :) also explores questions about gender and sexuality, and follows my experience as I learn to be more open about aspects of my identity that I previously found shameful. By exposing myself in this way, my aim was for others to be able to connect with what is universal in all of us. In making the documentary, I also hoped to show the complexities in the film’s characters – of course everyone will interpret the film how they want, but I don’t see it as a story that invites any kind of black and white judgment at all. I want my films to challenge, excite and push into new and uncomfortable territory. Divisiveness is not my goal, although it can be a side effect of having those aims for my films. I admire Caveh Zahedi's work and his films are often divisive, but I’m interested in them because they are innovative, uncomfortably humorous and [they] subvert norms of filmmaking, not because of their divisiveness.

KELLER: How do you feel, in general, about the acceptance and rejection of the film, vis-à-vis festivals etc.? All of my cinephile friends know your first film, and it has been a touchstone, even, at the least, conversationally, for us — much more than many movies we might have seen at Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, SXSW, etc., blah blah. The year-end best-of's come out, and it's all a load of shit, of course. I want you to answer this question directly, and don't hedge: What is it like knowing in your heart of hearts that you have made a film more substantial than Under the Skin?

ARNOW: I feel moved when I think about all the support the film has received, and how generous people have been along the way. The film didn't play at Cannes or Sundance etc, but the festivals we did screen at were all special and felt very personal. Rooftop Films and LES Film Festival were the first two where the film was accepted – they're both independent-minded champions for radical cinema and I'm glad i hate myself :) first found a home with them. I of course wish the film could have screened more widely, but feel grateful it has reached many in the film community - thanks to you among others!

KELLER: On the topic of Bad at Dancing: I have a lot to ask about this, but to begin: Did you start with the idea of the film/scenario by way of the actors, or were they only cast later after the idea?

ARNOW: I did have Eleanore [Pienta] in mind when I wrote the film, although the character in the film is not based on her actual character.

KELLER: Do you think it's easier to direct a (fiction) short rather than a (fiction) feature because there is less commitment required from the actors, purely due to the compression of time filming?

ARNOW: It’s less of a time commitment to act in a short film rather than a feature, but I don’t see it as any less of an artistic commitment.

KELLER: The black-and-white provides a sculptural quality to the naked bodies fucking at the outset, which is beautiful while at the same time being farcical. Please tell me about this, and whether you think the relationship portrayed in the film by Eleanore Pienta and Keith Poulson stakes out any kind of real-world observation.

ARNOW: The story’s narrative has absurd and surreal elements – I chose to shoot the film in black-and-white, because it immediately signals a layer of separation between the film’s world and every day reality. I also barely had any budget for art, so it was a cost-effective way to stylistically accomplish this separation as well. Because the film is not naturalistic, I wanted to minimize the feeling of ordinariness or casualness in the images – the black-and-white look gives Bad at Dancing more of a cohesive and formal stylization.

KELLER: There are moments in your film where I feel that it's almost a kind of sitcom, but without a laugh-track. Maybe this is the new given (none of us like laugh-tracks) but I can still feel the moments in which the introduction of such would underscore a kind of ironic take on the action. I feel the same when I watch '80s Godard.

ARNOW: I was avoiding signaling to viewers how to feel about the material by not using any non-diagetic music, sound bridges etc. – it’s a more comfortable viewing experience when you’re told what to think, and I wanted people to be more off-balance while they’re watching.

KELLER: What necessitates the end credit for an acting coach? I vaguely remember you putting this out there months and months back. Was this because you felt you needed an acting coach?

ARNOW: I’ve collaborated with Hye Yun Park on a number of projects. She is a performer-director who was great to work with as the film’s consulting producer and as my acting coach. I can’t fully direct myself while I’m acting in a scene, so it was helpful to have her perspective on set. We also had an extensive rehearsal process together, and you can check our her awesome web series Hey Yun here. (I was just a DP on season 2.)

To me, the film is a surreal manifestation of the jealous rivalry between the two women – it takes the idea of being a third wheel and pushes it to the extreme in order to more fully explore the dynamic. I did not want the sex scenes to be realistic or overly graphic, but more a recurring element of the set which adds humor and tension because it is so minimally acknowledged. One film that was a reference was Tsai Ming-liang’s Vive l’Amour.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015



Sections: (1) motherhood (2) Beacon (3) actress etc.

"Brandy Burre is: ACTRESS" — a fill-in for any name. Given both profession + woman. A non-household-name actress to begin with: small role in The Wire.

– Issue of camera vs. performance ('the acted non-awareness' of the camera).

– Kitchen 'aesthetic' shots — less Sirk than Jeanne Dielman.

– Tim as a bump-on-the-log — what's not shown can only be speculated upon — selectivity of 'creative nonfiction' — document shapes and creates characters just as much as any 'fiction' feature, cf. Wiseman, and A. R. Wilder's Approaching the Elephant, on which Greene worked as editor.

– Suspension of time — slow-mo shots (calculated at shoot, not post — camera must be set to higher frame-rate): suspension of time for Brandy's acting career on hold...

– ...Of the holidays and the elongation/prolongation of the family unit.

– The chance town-name of "Beacon," a coax-away, a place for retreat, promise of respite, but also a siren's song.

– Small role in the The Wire: scenes that are unrepresentative of the drama?

– After Tim's discovery of her indiscretion, he leaves; she keeps the house. — the invitation to speculate on the nuances of a couple's relationship.

– "Actress" as archetype; "actress" as manipulator.

– Friends who indulge her.

– The mixture of guilt and non-guilt.

– Auditions: a kind of soup, based on either wholly, arbitrary factors or very specific factors/traits that go undisclosed in the casting call — right face? right 'look'? — etc. — rolling the dice of the universe.


This is one of the best movies of 2014. I wrote at the end of the year:

Actress by Robert Greene

"Actress" as archetype, "actress" as manipulator. Like the title card (and marvelous poster) reads: "Brady Burre is: Actress", and any name might be substituted, either that of one who acts by profession, or that of anyone otherwise. A major work that examines the relationship between camera and subject, the relationship between director and document, motherhood, place, and domestic partnership.


Monday, January 12, 2015

2014 Films Seen

Two years ago a friend made a list of everything he'd seen in the course of a year, so I thought I'd do the same, for 2014. Of little mass interest. Results.

2014 Films Seen


35 rhums [35 Shots of Rum] [Claire Denis]
The 39 Steps [Alfred Hitchcock]
42 [Brian Helgeland]
Accusée… levez-vous! [Defendant… Rise!] [Maurice Tourneur]
Ace in the Hole [Billy Wilder]
Actress [Robert Greene]
Actress [Kate Freund and Kyle Reiter]
Adam and Joel [Theodore Collatos]
Adieu au langage [Farewell to Language] [Jean-Luc Godard]
Aller au cinéma: Post-face à ‘Boudu sauvé des eaux’ [Going to the Movies: Looking Back on ‘Boudu sauvé des eaux’] [Éric Rohmer]
Aller au cinéma: Post-face à ‘L’Atalante’ [Going to the Movies: Looking Back on ‘L’Atalante’] [Éric Rohmer]
All the Light in the Sky [Joe Swanberg]
The Alphabet [David Lynch]
Amarcord [Federico Fellini]
The Amputee (Version 1) [David Lynch]
The Amputee (Version 2) [David Lynch]
Analog Goose [Andrew Bujalski]
AP & AK [Ahmed Khawaja and André Puca]
À propos de Nice [On the Subject of Nice] [Jean Vigo]
Are We Not Cats [Xander Robin]
Ars [Jacques Demy]
Art History [Joe Swanberg]
The Assignation [Curtis Harrington]
At Berkeley [Frederick Wiseman]
Bad at Dancing [Joanna Arnow]
La Baie des Anges [Jacques Demy]
Bampton Broom and Morris Dances [filmmakers unknown]
A Beautiful Mind [Ron Howard]
Die beispiellose Verteidigung der Festung Deutschkreutz [The Unprecedented Defense of the Fortress Deutschkreutz] [Werner Herzog]
Bérénice [Éric Rohmer]
Bernie [Richard Linklater]
Beyond the Law, alias: Bust 80, alias: Gibraltar, Burke and Pope, alias: Copping the Whip, or: A Fantasy of the Angels the Downtrodden and the Dispossessed, Otherwise Known as: The Velvet Hand and The Iron Tongue [Norman Mailer]
Il bidone [The Swindler] [Federico Fellini]
Bigger Than Life [Nicholas Ray]
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb [Seth Holt and Michael Carreras]
Boomerang! [Elia Kazan]
Born to Be Bad [Nicholas Ray]
Boyhood [Richard Linklater]
Broken Specs [Ted Fendt]
Brick [Rian Johnson]
The Buddy Holly Story [Steve Rash]
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. [The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.] [Robert Wiene]
Capitalism: Child Labor [Ken Jacobs]
Charlie [Jason Evans]
Chef-d’oeuvre? [Masterpiece?] [Luc Moullet]
The Chicken [Roberto Rossellini]
La chienne [The Bitch] [Jean Renoir]
China Gate [Samuel Fuller]
Le ciel est à vous [The Sky Is Yours / The Sky’s the Limit] [Jean Grémillon]
Cinéastes de notre temps: Carl Th. Dreyer [Filmmakers of Our Time: Carl Th. Dreyer] [Éric Rohmer]
Cinéastes de notre temps: Le celluloïd et le marbre [Filmmakers of Our Time: Celluloid and Marble] [Éric Rohmer]
Cinéma, de notre temps: Georges Franju, le visionnaire [Cinema, of Our Time: Georges Franju: The Visionary] [André S. Labarthe]
Ciné Regards: En répétant “Perceval,” un film d’Éric Rohmer [Cine Glances: Rehearsing “Perceval,” A Film by Éric Rohmer] [Jean Douchet]
Civilisations: L’homme et la machine [Civilizations: Man and Machine] [Éric Rohmer]
Civilisations: L’homme et les frontières: I: La notion de frontière [Civilizations: Man and Borders: I: The Border Notion] [Éric Rohmer]
Civilisations: L’homme et les gouvernements: II [Civilizations: Man and Governments: II] [Éric Rohmer]
Civilisations: L’homme et son journal [Civilizations: Man and His Newspaper] [Éric Rohmer]
Cloak and Dagger [Fritz Lang]
I clowns [The Clowns] [Federico Fellini]
The Color Wheel [Alex Ross Perry]
Comédies et Proverbes: La femme de l’aviateur ou “On ne saurait penser à rien” [Comedies and Proverbs: The Aviator’s Wife, or: “You Can’t Think of Nothing”] [Éric Rohmer]
Comédies et Proverbes: Le beau mariage [Comedies and Proverbs: The Perfect Marriage] [Éric Rohmer]
Computer Chess [Andrew Bujalski]
Contes des quatre saisons: Conte d’été [Tales of the Four Seasons: Summer Tale] [Éric Rohmer]
Copie conforme [Certified Copy] [Abbas Kiarostami]
The Cosmopolitans [Whit Stillman]
Dances by Ilmington Teams in the Grounds of Peter de Montfort’s House 1220 A.D., Fiddler Sam Bennett [filmmaker unknown]
Il Decameron [The Decameron] [Pier Paolo Pasolini]
Les demoiselles de Rochefort [The Young Girls of Rochefort] [Jacques Demy]
Les demoiselles ont eu 25 ans [The Young Girls Have Turned 25] [Agnès Varda]
The Descendants [Alexander Payne]
Design for Scandal [Norman Taurog]
The Diary of a Chambermaid [Jean Renoir]
Dipso [Theodore Collatos]
Doll & Em: Season One [Azazel Jacobs]
Dracula [Tod Browning]
Du skal aere din Hustru [Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife] [Carl Theodor Dreyer]
L’eclisse [The Eclipse] [Michelangelo Antonioni]
Écrans Noirs [Black Screens] [Claire Denis]
Elia Kazan: An Outsider [Annie Tresgot and Michel Ciment]
En pleine forme [Feeling Good] [Pierre Étaix]
En profil dans le texte: Entretien sur Pascal [Reading Between the Lines: Interview on Pascal] [Éric Rohmer]
Eraserhead [David Lynch]
Et dixit le mage [And Thus Spake the Mage] [Haydée Caillot]
Une étudiante d’aujourd’hui [A Modern-Day Co-Ed] [Éric Rohmer]
Europe ’51 [Roberto Rossellini]
Evolution of a Criminal [Darius Clark Monroe]
Faces [John Cassavetes]
The Fall of the House of Usher [Curtis Harrington]
Fermière à Montfaucon [Woman Farmer in Montfaucon] [Éric Rohmer]
Feu Mathias Pascal [The Late Mathias Pascal] [Marcel L’Herbier]
Films Taken from Kinora Spools Made in 1912 [Barry Callaghan and Mike Heaney]
Il fiore delle mille e una notte [The Flower of the Thousand and One Nights] [Pier Paolo Pasolini]
The Floorwalker [Charles Chaplin]
For a Good Time, Call… [Jamie Travis]
Foreign Correspondent [Alfred Hitchcock]
For Ever Mozart [Jean-Luc Godard]
For the Plasma [Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan]
Frances Ha [Noah Baumbach]
The Fugitive [John Ford]
Gideon’s Day [John Ford]
Un giornalista racconta: Agenzia matrimoniale [A Journalist Reports: Matrimonial Agency] [Federico Fellini]
Going Out [Ted Fendt]
The Grandmother [David Lynch]
The Grapes of Wrath [John Ford]
God Bless America [Bobcat Goldthwait]
The GoodTimesKid [Azazel Jacobs]
Le grand amour [The Great Love] [Pierre Étaix]
The Grand Budapest Hotel [Wes Anderson]
Le Grand Méliès [The Great Méliès] [Georges Franju]
The Great Gatsby [Baz Luhrmann]
Happy Christmas [Joe Swanberg]
A Hard Day’s Night [Richard Lester]
Harold and Maude [Hal Ashby]
Hellaware [Michael M. Bilandic]
Henry: A Basic Film [Lindsay Anderson]
Heureux anniversaire [Happy Anniversary] [Pierre Étaix]
Hit Man [George Armitage]
Les horizons morts [Dead Horizons] [Jacques Demy]
Höstsonaten [Autumn Sonata] [Ingmar Bergman]
Hôtel des Invalides [Georges Franju]
Human Geography [Misha Spivack]
If.... [Lindsay Anderson]
i hate myself :) [Joanna Arnow]
The Immigrant [James Gray]
Impolex [Alex Ross Perry]
Ingmar Bergman, om liv och arbete, ett samtal [Ingmar Bergman: On Life and Work: A Conversation] [Jörn Donner]
It Felt Like Love [Eliza Hittman]
Jalsaghar [The Music Room] [Satyajit Ray]
Je vous salue, Marie [Hail Mary] [Jean-Luc Godard]
Journey to Italy [Roberto Rossellini]
Judex [Georges Franju]
Jules et Jim [Jules and Jim] [François Truffaut]
Khan Khanne, séléction naturelle, 2014 [Khan Kanne: Natural Selection, 2014] [Jean-Luc Godard]
Killing Me Softly [Andrew Dominik]
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie [John Cassavetes]
Kohayagawa-ke no aki [Autumn for the Kohayagawa Family] [Yasujirô Ozu]
Körkarlen [The Coachman] [Victor Sjöström]
Kumiko the Treasure Hunter / Treasurehunter Kumi [David Zellner]
The Lady from Shanghai [Orson Welles]
The Last Detail [Hal Ashby]
The Last Hurrah [John Ford]
Let’s Get Started [Azazel Jacobs]
Letzte Worte [Last Words] [Werner Herzog]
L for Leisure [Lev Kalman and Whit Horn]
Life in Between [Stephen Gurewitz]
Lightning Strikes Twice [King Vidor]
Like Someone in Love [Abbas Kiarostami]
Listen Up Philip [Alex Ross Perry]
Liv & Ingmar [Dheeraj Akolkar]
Le Livre de Marie [The Book of Mary] [Anne-Marie Miéville]
Living and Departed: Roberto Rossellini: ‘Voyage in Italy’ [Tag Gallagher]
Lola [Jacques Demy]
Long-men Kezhan [Dragon Gate Inn] [King Hu]
Louie: Season 4 [Louis C.K.]
Love Is Strange [Ira Sachs]
Lucy [Luc Besson]
Lumière d’été [Summer Light] [Jean Grémillon]
La luxure [Lust] [Jacques Demy]
Macbeth [Orson Welles]
A mãe [The Mother] [João César Monteiro]
Maidstone [Norman Mailer]
The Man Who Knew Too Much [1934 Version] [Alfred Hitchcock]
Die Marquise von O… [The Marquise of O…] [Éric Rohmer]
Massnahmen gegen Fanatiker [Precautions Against Fanatics] [Werner Herzog]
Me & My Ramadan [Ahmed Khawaja]
Memphis [Tim Sutton]
The Mend [John Magary]
Men’s Thanksgiving [Tom Levin]
Mieux voir: Nancy au XVIIIe siècle [Seeing Better: Nancy in the XVIIIth Century] [Éric Rohmer]
Mogambo [John Ford]
Momma’s Family [Azazel Jacobs]
Momma’s Man [Azazel Jacobs]
A Most Wanted Man [Anton Corbijn]
Moon Over Miami [Walter Lang]
The Mud [Nigel DeFriez, Kira Pearson, Rob Malone, and Brooke Bundy]
mulignan(s) [Shaka King]
My Darling Clementine [John Ford]
Nadja à Paris [Nadja in Paris] [Éric Rohmer]
The Naked Kiss [Samuel Fuller]
Nashville [Robert Altman]
La natation par Jean Taris, champion de France. [Swimming by Jean Taris, Champion of France.] [Jean Vigo]
The Night of the Hunter [Charles Laughton]
North by Northwest [Alfred Hitchcock]
Notorious [Alfred Hitchcock]
Now, Voyager [Irving Rapper]
On the Edge [Curtis Harrington]
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg [Jacques Demy]
Paris vu par: Place de l’Étoile [Paris Seen by: Place de l’Étoile] [Éric Rohmer]
Passage de la Vierge [Haydée Caillot]
Pays de Cocagne [Land of Cocagne] [Pierre Étaix]
Perceval le Gallois [Perceval the Welshman] [Éric Rohmer]
Perfect Thoughts [Doron Max Hagay]
Persona [Ingmar Bergman]
Petites notes à propos du film ‘Je vous salue, Marie’ [Small Notes Regarding the Film ‘Je vous salue, Marie’] [Jean-Luc Godard]
The Phantom of the Opera [Rupert Julian]
Pickpocket [Robert Bresson]
Il poliziotto è marcio [The Officer Is Crooked] [Fernando Di Leo]
Les ponts de Sarajevo [The Bridges of Sarajevo] [Jean-Luc Godard, Vincenzo Marra, Isild Le Besco, Ursula Meier, Cristi Puiu, et al]
Possessed [Clarence Brown]
Présentation, ou Charlotte et son steak [Presentation, or: Charlotte and Her Steak] [Éric Rohmer]
I racconti di Canterbury [The Canterbury Tales] [Pier Paolo Pasolini]
Rain building music. [Azazel Jacobs]
Rat Pack Rat [Todd Rohal]
Rear Window [Alfred Hitchcock]
Red [Simone Louise Smith]
Red River [Howard Hawks]
Relief [John Raftery]
Remorques [Towings-In] [Jean Grémillon]
Rise of the Planet of the Apes [Rupert Wyatt]
The Rising of the Moon [John Ford]
Roma [Federico Fellini]
The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film [Richard Lester]
Rupture [Break-Up] [Pierre Étaix]
Le sabotier du Val de Loire [The Clogmaker of the Val de Loire] [Jacques Demy]
Safety Not Guaranteed [Colin Trevorrow]
Salò, o le 120 giornate di Sodoma [Salò, or: The 120 Days of Sodom] [Pier Paolo Pasolini]
O sangue [Blood] [Pedro Costa]
Sayonara [Joshua Logan]
Schuhpalast Pinkus. [Ernst Lubitsch]
See You Next Tuesday [Drew Tobia]
Shaft [Gordon Parks]
Shock Corridor [Samuel Fuller]
Short Term 12 [Destin Daniel Cretton]
Le signe du Lion [The Sign of Leo] [Éric Rohmer]
Six contes moraux: 1: La boulangère de Monceau [Six Moral Tales: 1: The Monceau Bakery-Girl] [Éric Rohmer]
Six contes moraux: 2: La carrière de Suzanne [Six Moral Tales: 2: Suzanne’s Career] [Éric Rohmer]
Six contes moraux: III: La collectionneuse [Six Moral Tales: III: The Collector] [Éric Rohmer]
Six contes moraux: IV: Ma nuit chez Maud [Six Moral Tales: IV: My Night at Maud’s] [Éric Rohmer]
Six contes moraux: V: Le genou de Claire [Six Moral Tales: V: Claire’s Knee] [Éric Rohmer]
Six contes moraux: VI: L’amour, l’après-midi [Six Mortal Tales: VI: Love in the Afternoon] [Éric Rohmer]
Six Men Getting Sick [David Lynch]
The Sixth Year: Episode 1 [Rick Alverson]
The Sixth Year: Episode 2 [Loretta Fahrenholz]
The Sixth Year: Episode 3 [Alex Ross Perry]
The Sixth Year: Episode 4 [Nick Mauss and Ken Okishii]
The Sixth Year: Episode 5 [Dustin Guy Defa]
Smart Money [Alfred E. Green]
La sonate à Kreutzer [The Kreutzer Sonata] [Éric Rohmer]
Le soupirant [The Suitor] [Pierre Étaix]
Stromboli [Roberto Rossellini]
The Sun Shines Bright [John Ford]
Susuz yaz [Dry Summer] [Metin Erksan]
Swamp Water [Jean Renoir]
Sword Dances in North Skelton, Handsworth, Sleights, Westerhope and Grenoside [filmmakers unknown]
Take a Knee [Andrew DeYoung]
Tant qu’on a la santé [As Long as You’ve Got Your Health] [Pierre Étaix]
The Tender Trap [Charles Walters]
Tears of God [Robert Barnett]
Terri [Azazel Jacobs]
This Land Is Mine [Jean Renoir]
Three Installations [Lindsay Anderson]
Thursday’s Children [Guy Brenton and Lindsay Anderson]
Timbuktu [Abderrahmane Sissako]
Too Late Blues [John Cassavetes]
The Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice [Orson Welles]
Transes [Trances] [Ahmed El Maanouni]
Travel Plans [Ted Fendt]
Two Lovers [James Gray]
Two Rode Together [John Ford]
The Typewriter the Rifle & the Movie Camera [Adam Simon]
Uncle Kent [Joe Swanberg]
Veredas [Pathways] [João César Monteiro]
Véronique et son cancre [Véronique and Her Dunce] [Éric Rohmer]
Vers l’unité du monde: L’ère industrielle: Métamorphoses du paysage [Toward Unity of the World: The Industrial Era: Transformations of the Landscape] [Éric Rohmer]
Visions of Joe and Hanna [Brian Tran]
Vlogger [Tyler Rubenfeld]
The War Lord [Franklin Schaffner]
The Whole Town’s Talking [John Ford]
The Whirled [Ken Jacobs]
White Dog [Samuel Fuller]
White Material [Claire Denis]
White Reindeer [Zach Clark]
Wild 90 [Norman Mailer]
Wings [William A. Wellman]
The Woman on the Beach [Jean Renoir]
The Wormwood Star [Curtis Harrington]
Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast] [Seijun Suzuki]
Yô-kihi [Imperial Concubine Yang] [Kenji Mizoguchi]
You’re Next [Adam Wingard]
Yoyo [Pierre Étaix]


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Best American Movies of 2014

Top Eleven (in Alphabetical Order)

Actress by Robert Greene

"Actress" as archetype, "actress" as manipulator. Like the title card (and marvelous poster) reads: "Brady Burre is: Actress", and any name might be substituted, either that of one who acts by profession, or that of anyone otherwise. A major work that examines the relationship between camera and subject, the relationship between director and document, motherhood, place, and domestic partnership. Essay forthcoming.

Approaching the Elephant by Amanda Rose Wilder

Captivating mind-reeler document of the inaugural year (2007-08) of the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, New Jersey, and a chronicle of the faculty's and students' attention to the freeform, occasionally "democratic" arrangement of the day's lessons and activities. I wrote about it previously here.

The Cosmopolitans by Whit Stillman

The 26-minute Amazon Prime pilot episode of Stillman's follow-up to his outrageously underrated 2011 masterpiece Damsels in Distress. The most beautiful, and funniest, and wittiest, American-depiction-of-Paris since the studio era. As of this writing still available for free viewing over at Amazon.

Dipso by Theodore Collatos

I can't remember whether this is a 2014 film proper or actually had a premiere in 2012, but whatever, the movie and its maker deserve to be better known. The best movie about brotherhood since Brad Bischoff's Where the Buffalo Roam from last year and Harmony Korine's Gummo. I wrote about it previously here.

For the Plasma by Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan

The American debut of the year, and like no other picture ever made. A film about plots, nature, the nature of narrative plots, and Maine. With the performance of the year, besides Jason Schwartzman, Jonathan Pryce, and Bene Coopersmith, given by newcomer Rosalie Lowe. I wrote about it previously here.

L for Leisure by Lev Kalman and Whit Horn

A sensual, sensorial, hilarious, and psychodramatic masterpiece – one of the most exciting films in all of recent cinema, American or otherwise – about the nightmare of The Loss of the Innocence of the '90s. I wrote about it previously here.

Listen Up Philip by Alex Ross Perry

Possibly the single greatest American film I've seen this year: a comic masterpiece of deviltry-in-the-details: from the nuances of the expert ensemble performances, to the thrust and twists of Perry's dialogue for his avatar/not-avatar Philip, and on to the graphic brilliance of Teddy Blanks' jacket-covers. Within the swinging frames of Sean Price Williams' camera, Schwartzman-as-Philip attains operatic heights of verbal violence (for comedy and emotional violence cannot be extricated from one another) that makes him, for me, the most likable character in recent memory, pure venom and spite, the rarely-depicted interior fully unleashed in barbarous words and fuck-yourself actions. I'm proud that we're releasing this theatrically in the UK, and on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Masters of Cinema Series, in 2015.

Louie: Season Four, especially "In the Woods" by Louis C.K.

The unstoppable brilliance and beauty of Louie permuted for the third time across seasons into yet another new shape, another new set of rhythms. The feature-length "In the Woods" alone inspired awe. I recently started going back to Louie from the first season all over again; what Louis has achieved in this project across four seasons so far is unbelievable and unprecedented.

Memphis by Tim Sutton

The images seem "made," "aesthetic," "pictorial," crafted by a definite author, but they are strong and not simply "pretty" or "arty" because they bind tensely the urban/exurban world (it's right to say that Memphis is a "city" but we need a broader conception of that word) with nature in discrete frames over and over. I wrote about it previously here.

The Mend by John Magary

At wits’ ends with their mutual drifts the lifelong opposites Alan and Mat go down, down together in a haze of alcohol and vapes and, intoxicated, as day turns to night and back, slide into new personas whereby these two brothers kind of get along. Time mends all wounds? or (Lennon): Time wounds all heels? I wrote about it previously here.

Person to Person by Dustin Guy Defa

Defa gets better with every film, and this narrative follow-up to last year's outstanding Lydia Hoffman Lydia Hoffman is perfection. A great portrayal of the character and characters of New York City that with every new month are slipping away. Person to Person is the concentrated portrait of Bene Coopersmith, for whom the old cliché "an axiom of cinema" should, must, surely apply. Now available for free viewing via The New Yorker, here.


Mentions for General Excellence (in Alphabetical Order)

Boyhood by Richard Linklater

Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater by Gabe Klinger

The Eric Andre Show: Season Three by Eric André and Kitao Sakurai

Gary Saves the Graveyard by Todd Bieber

Going Out by Ted Fendt

The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson

Happy Christmas by Joe Swanberg

Joy Kevin by Caleb Johnson

Life in Between by Stephen Gurewitz

Lucy by Luc Besson

Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories: Season One by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

Whiffed Out by Jason Giampietro


Haven't Seen as of December 24, But Want To Soon:

Appropriate Behavior by Desiree Akhavan

Christmas, Again by Charles Poekel

Ellie Lumme by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
(seen most of an early version, but not the final cut)

Heaven Can Wait by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie

Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson

It Follows by David Robert Mitchell

I Wasn't There by Skye Hirschkron

National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman

Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre

Sabbatical by Brandon Colvin

Summer of Blood by Onur Tukel

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely by Josephine Decker

Top Five by Chris Rock

Trouble Dolls by Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler

Uncertain Terms by Nathan Silver

Wild Canaries by Lawrence Michael Levine


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Best Films of 2014

1. Adieu au langage [Farewell to Language / aka Goodbye to Language]

by Jean Luc-Godard


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feu Mathias Pascal


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.


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


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?


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.


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


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.


— 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.


— 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.


— 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


hashtag contributions


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


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


Juvenile Court

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

The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd


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?"


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.


“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.


— 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.


— 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.


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