Thursday, April 27, 2006


The reputation of Fritz Lang's 1927 film is built on its qualities as a dreamscape, a design portfolio, and its ease of access as a parable of Good vs. Evil, Working- vs. Ruling-Class, Heart vs. Mind. Its delineation of ideas and its "message" are strikingly... simplistic, and I'm inclined to believe Lang's purpose in creating so airtight a "perfect fantasy" was to put together an irresistible family-night event. Here blue-collar fathers could dream of utopia, and white-collar Herrmeisters could entertain the notion of final redemption, heavenly forgiveness...

The mise en scène exists almost exclusively for atmospheric effect. A moment of exception comes in Gustav Fröhlich's first sighting of the waifish Brigitte Helm, a pseudo-Christian demagogue (later chased by Rudolf Klein-Rogge through catacombs that evoke the early Christian mystery-cults' persecution), in which Fröhlich places both hands over his heart. A reverse-shot of Helm, a group of children, and a few garden-aides, positioned in a heart-shaped formation, completes the sentiment.

That's just about everything I have to say about 'Metropolis'. I wish there were more.

Monday, April 24, 2006

La Belle noiseuse

Notes on Jacques Rivette's 'La Belle noiseuse' ('The Beautiful Nuisance', 1991) —

"Breaking through". One place to another. Places. Two houses, connecting path: guest-house and Frenhofer's. Past, or the memory of the past, within the present. Frenhofer-Piccoli's room and Liz-Birkin's: two bedrooms, separate beds, a doorway in-between. The softened hues of Liz's room, the blues of Frenhofer's, matching the hue of the shirt. Nicolas's sister: "This room reminds me of the studio we used to have... I hated that room..." Marianne-Béart and the fetus-crouch. "We must go further." The mark of one woman on the other: Béart's buttocks (fetus-crouch, all asshole) effaces Birkin (crab-hand reaching out of ass; a blue that again matches the hue of Piccoli's shirt); Birkin's dirty footprint effaces the white paper of a sketch of Béart. Béart rejects Birkin's treating her "like a doll". The posture, movement, t-shirt of Nicolas-Bursztein, a smug pragmatism, the concerns for business, a rage against Frenhofer's methods: a mirror opposite of Frenhofer. The relationship between the cinema-screen and the canvas: a précis on framing, point-of-view, and the manufacture of new worlds (Frenhofer attempting to 'reframe' Marianne after drunkenly falling off his stool); acting and "method-of-acting" in relation to bodily "work"; filmed work vs. commedia dell'arte / the Clown. "Chance" re-examined, 're-framed' by painting, -capturing- the moment, the ephemeral, point-of-view-as-singularity in space-time. The position of Liz's painted face (a) on the canvas whereupon she appears as half-crab, painted over as mentioned with the Béart-crouch, before the canvas is adorned with the violent red vaginal slash; (b) on the canvas at -which position within Rivette's frame- during WHICH particular shot/point of the process of reconfiguring the painting with Béart's presence. A floating, disembodied head, made more bobbing and dislocated in each shot during this sequence as its position in the frame changes position like a broken clock-hand. "Ten years ago you weren't afraid to go farther" — a painting of madness, a cinema of madness: Rivette reflects upon his current aesthetic vis-à-vis his '70s aesthetic (or up to the point of 'Le Pont du Nord' in 1981).

Monday, April 03, 2006

Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache

"Thank you, Kriemhild. Never were we one in love, but at last we are united, as one in hate!"

"Never was my heart more filled with love."

Some of the final (intertitled) dialogue in Fritz Lang's 'Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache' ('The Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge', 1925). The first line is spoken by the king of the Huns, Attila (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), and the second is the response of the widow of Siegfried, Kriemhild (Margarete Schön). The two look on as their enemies within the clan of the Nibelungen burn up barricaded inside the Huns' palace and feast-hall. The clan's gesture is one of defiance — refusing to meet death on the blades of the Huns surrounding the keep — and of ultimate loyalty — not to the king proper, but to Hagen Tronje (Hans Adelbert Schlettow), a proto-Cheney in his "official" standing at court as regal advisor, although all affairs of state requiring the decisive execution of power are his to activate. This final blood-pledge, literal trial-by-fire of loyalty, comes at the end of a series of reneged oaths that runs throughout the two 'Nibelungen' films, and really pile up in the latter installment. Here Kriemhild/Schön accepts a proposal from Attila/Klein-Rogge on the sole basis that he will avenge her late husband's death at the hands of the king and his advisor. He gives his oath, and it goes unfulfilled; he refuses to commit the murders when the entire Nibelungen court arrive at the Huns' camp (with the purpose, no less, of taking Kriemhild back by force) and so must be treated in accordance with his people's rules of hospitality. Kriemhild approaches the serfs, who are, of course, all too eager to carry out her charge after she promises large sums of gold. She keeps her contempt for their filth in check; at home in Worms, she delighted in mixing with the underlings, standing at the side of Siegfried and heaping upon their subjects countless handfuls of Nibelungen treasure, moved by charity and goodness of heart. That treasure now, however, lies sunken in murky depths (not far from home); Kriemhild's heart is likewise consumed, enveloped and smitten with the promise of vengeance — a grand, architectonic vengeance — the mad vision of bringing an entire army down against her house. A desperate vengeance, too — at the first proposal of her marriage to Attila, she even enlists the matchmaker, an ambassador of Worms to the Huns, in a pledge to murder Hagen Tronje.

Perhaps Kriemhild could commit the murder herself — but that would deny the ritual with which the action must be suffused, the intrigue, the deception — the craftiness and, yes, the suggestion of certain wiles: the visual leitmotif associated with Kriemhild are the archways through which the characters pass, before which they confront one another — leering abyss, vagina dentata. All trajectories lead to climax: Even three levels of oaths defaulted seem somehow necessary for the degree of rapture she experiences standing before the deathly conflagration. Hagen Tronje had murdered Attila's heir shortly after the start of the hospitable feast, with a swat of the sword right there on the table. To watch Hagen Tronje burn is, for Attila, the vicarious act of revenge; for Kriemhild, it is something deeper, and darker: an avenging, and a final consummation with the -idea- of vengeance.