Monday, September 29, 2008


Silly/Con Graphics

"You know the end of the movie 2001, where the Starchild's coming down to the earth, with its eyes wide open? That's these kids; they're going to shift everything."

Indigo by Stephen Simon, 2003:

2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, 1968:

Indigo by Stephen Simon, 2003:

Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick, 1987:

There's practically nothing to say about this film that isn't already present in every contemplation of the generic. And yet the form, the existence of Indigo raises at least one question: Where does the vanity project end, and personal cinema commence?

The answer starts (lies?) at pixel-x, plotted somewhere along that chromatic, Gradient Tool'd band that illustrates the cinema ("cela s'appelle l'aurore") whenever it lap-dissolves to crepuscular A/V propaganda. Indigo'ism is an ideology or conviction-system (keyword: system) like any other — Christianity, etc. Hence Stephen Simon's Indigo, founded on the ridiculous and assuredly outmoded principle that "the children" are innocent lambs who, withal, can point us in the direction of ego-chloroformed thought, unitchy/ants-less rolls in the grass, and Roubini-appeasing economic safeguards. Or so we'd be led to believe.

Indigo by Stephen Simon, 2003:

It says something about adults so adrift, and so shallow, that they experience repeated, even (let us say) post-Vinelandian urges to stare backward into the (hindsought) blank slate of childhood, to chase the dream of the Holy Idiot, with the notion it will justify their own blankness of idea-actualization, or of actual ideas, and, in the parlance of regression, synch up with the discovery of some way 'out' from the piles and piles of traumas, disappointments, and outright abuse that they themselves have endured through their largely ineffectual, and/or hair's-breadth-from-abusive, bluebirdbrain'd (jackdraw'n? <— ink enough?) American lives.



Philip Roth's new novel is brilliant, pulverizing, and, in as real as the sense gets, eschatonic. There's a great 15-minute audio interview with him on the book's Amazon page, actually — here.

Also worth mentioning (as I haven't seen it brought up in any press) is that the beautiful cover/sleeve was designed by the great Milton Glaser.


And now for some lafz.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Josette, va voir c'qu'il(s) fabrique(nt).

L'Enfance-nue [Naked-Childhood] by Maurice Pialat, 1968:

A few weeks ago an online venue asked for a piece of copy to promote the forthcoming MoC Series release of Maurice Pialat's convulsive masterpiece L'Enfance-nue [Naked-Childhood, 1968]. After thanks were exchanged, I didn't hear anything more back from the parties involved. Turns out a substantially altered version of the text went up last week on the site in question, with my name still attached — lots of deletions, beaucoup new additions — end-result being, yes, a real Bobby Brown of a thing.

So if you happen across the piece (or, for that matter, Mr. Brown), please disregard.

UPDATE: The text at the other site has been updated. There was a small snafu having to do with site-updates, and a mix-up in communication among a couple different people. Understandable, and no big whoop; I'm grateful for their following through with the fix.

It's just a small piece but, anyway, the text-as-intended (and now updated) is...


L'Enfance-nue: the title is French for Naked-Childhood. What's with the hyphen? I think it emphasizes the relationship between adolescence and emotion (still in its raw state before growing-up hews it into some kind of form — if not quite perfect, if not exactly stable, maybe settled, at least, or dulled, at worst). I squint my eyes: The hyphen resembles a railroad spike, one element on the track that accommodates, and illustrates, a journey — the rail spike which young François, an hour and ten minutes into the film, will hurl from an overpass into the windshield of a speeding auto. I peer harder and the hyphen looks like an arm outstretched: "Keep your distance." 45 minutes in and François has chucked a dagger at his foster-brother's head. Life is a journey, night becomes day, to love is to hurt, day becomes night. François's hand is stand-offish, and equipped for generosity: it directs a shopclerk to the scarf he'll gift to a difficult guardian; and to the elderly couple with the photo albums it pens the words: "I think about you every day."

L'Enfance-nue is Maurice Pialat's feature debut, and a phrase that describes the Pialat-genius.

—Craig Keller


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cahiers du cinéma

Bill Krohn has passed along the following English translation of a letter written by the editorial staff of the Cahiers du cinéma. The message is a show of support among a 90% majority of the presiding Cahiers team, and among an estimable cadre of ex-editors/-contributors, for the sale of the revue (and all it encompasses in 2008: website, publishing-house, DVD series, etc.) by the Le Monde group to a consortium in which Thierry Wilhelm will act as principal shareholder. An opposing bid — and that addressed by the text that follows — has been maneuvered by the French arts-culture weekly Les Inrockuptibles, led by disgruntled ex-Cahiers-editor Jean-Marc Lalanne, with plans to dismiss most of the current staff and "remix" the revue into an outlet newly "energized" — that is, caffeinated — with a mandate to consider (my words here, and at least as I see it) "all the images all the time" — video-games, TV shows, websites, and all manner of échafaudage des clips.

It should be obvious which side I'm on — and contrary to all that Lalanne and company's conception of what an inquiry into "cinema" must certainly "mean" to myself and others of the iPhone Generation, I join Andy Rector in asking the following:

More on all this over at Andy's Kino Slang blog, here.


Open Letter to Les Inrockuptibles

Dear Inrocks,

We are the editors of the Cahiers du cinéma.

When Le Monde decided to sell les Cahiers, we took the opportunity to develop a project with the editor-in-chief [i.e., Emmanuel Burdeau] for the purchase of the magazine. That project, born of the desire and the need for critical thinking about cinema, has convinced financial partners: our main shareholder being Thierry Wilhelm — press and Internet editor — along with, among others, Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, a publisher who has always been close to the magazine.

Our project is also that of a huge number of old members of les Cahiers, like

Jean-Luc Godard,

Claude Chabrol,

Jean Narboni,

André S. Labarthe,

Jean-Louis Comolli,

Louis Skorecki,

Luc Moullet…,

and longtime companions like

Jacques Rancière

and Jean Louis Schefer.

They, more than twenty-five in total, have indicated their commitment by signing a letter we published in Libération.

This project was initiated several months ago. It has constructed itself in plain view of everyone, and its aims are now well-known: renewing les Cahiers in-depth by developing a new complementarity between the magazine and the Internet; ensuring the sustainability of the structure in all its activities; guaranteeing continued employment for the salaried staff.

All of this you know. Or rather, no, you pretend not to know it when you maintain your proposal to take over an inside project, announcing among other things further layoffs.

Is it possible that these Inrocks are the same news magazine that displays a left-wing sensibility? Is it possible that you wish to take over a magazine, at this historical moment, that has the will and means to ensure its own future?

We don't believe it. There must be a mistake.

Therefore, do not delay in letting people know it's not true: Les Inrocks don't want to buy les Cahiers. They are too attached to the plurality of the press, and to lively critical debate, for that.


Pierre Alferi,

Hervé Aubron,

Christophe Beney,

Nicole Brenez,

Jean Douchet,

Laurence Giavarini,

Charlotte Garson,

Gilles Grand,

Bill Krohn,

Ludovic Lamant,

Elisabeth Lequeret,

Arnaud Macé,

Philippe Mangeot,

Thierry Méranger,

Cyril Neyrat,

Eugenio Renzi,

Antoine Thirion,

Axel Zeppenfeld


Monday, September 15, 2008

Nuits rouges

Franju Unrepentant

The beauty of Franju: the centrality of his frames, the nothing-else-going-on around the focal, that is, the "something-else-...", the visual application of GF's oft-cited "room to dream": the extraordinary economy, planing, of the découpage.

Observations: Ugo Pagliai ("M. Borrego") the perfect stoic (so heavily made-up to underscore that he, and not just the nominal villain, wears a mask, to deaden the pallor around an already dead gaze), able to reconvene with his lover, kiss-and-pick-up-and-all-alright, after god-know's-how long separated, a bygone kind of movie-protagonist (39% of Franju is the cipher) — the rooftop scenes that could have come out of any art-installation-film, more aggressive dislocation even than in Feuillade — think about the crime-film practiced by Franju, and by Melville, stencil the convergences — the comedy that's like a table-clearing, magician pulling out the tablecloth but given-over to breaking the plates, "now you see 'em now you don't, bitches" — the comedy that shuffles with so much ease between its own absurd bases and the terror-surrealistic, or melodramatic, and which uses as its bridge the plot-mechanistic — the motorcycle-men who are not only out of Cocteau's Orphée [1949] but also out of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange [1971] (Kubrick is also recalled in the living room of the television-watching couple) — another reference to Cocteau, to further emphasize the pedigree: "It's a pity you forgot to load your revolver, poet." — l'Homme sans Visage as prototype for Cobra Commander (soon to be portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt!), ...Destro too?... ... ... and Gayle Hunnicutt (ex-wife of the now-deceased David Hemmings; presently "Gayle, Lady Jenkins") pre-viz'ing The Baroness... — blood: red tube oil paint — above all, the remarkable pleasure of making cinema (as someone once put it: that boys' train-set), it goes on and on like a train in the American night, always circling back as on a closed track to the originary stuff (eternal return), the law, and the awe, of the evidential trick, the dream made real then transfigured, again, into dream.

Nuits rouges [Red Nights] by Georges Franju, 1974:

A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick, 1971:

Orphée by Jean Cocteau, 1949:

Nuits rouges [Red Nights] by Georges Franju, 1974:

By film's end, through three or four missed connections in the plot, Nuits rouges insinuates the timetable never to have been actual, confirming, asserting, through recourse to this absence, that is: to negative space.

The nothing-else-going-on around the focal, that is, the "something-else-..."...


David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 — September 12, 2008)
Photograph by Steve Rhodes, 2006.

What remains of the dying population of Cambodia?

One large photograph of an American actress holding an Asian child in her arms.

What remains of Tomas?

An inscription reading

What remains of Beethoven?

A frown, an improbable mane, and a somber voice intoning "
Es muss sein!"

What remains of Franz?

An inscription reading

And so on and so forth. Before we are forgotten, we will be turned into kitsch. Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion.

—from The Unbearable Lightness of Being [Nesnesitelná lehkost byti, 1984] by Milan Kundera. Translated from the Czech by Michael Henry Heim.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Correspondences, and Other Notes


Soigne ta droite, une place sur la terre [Keep Your Right Up: A Place on the Earth] by Jean-Luc Godard, 1987:

Item: Richard Brody's scurrilous and pathological biography of JLG (that is, a biography which, to me, reads not so much like a psychograph of JLG as of the auteur of Liability Crisis, Richard Brody's, evident and innumerable pathologies), titled Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, was reviewed by genius-level critic B. Kite in the Moving Image Source a couple months back, and is accessible here.

Upon publication last month of the British edition of Brody's bio-specimen, The Guardian published a write-up signed Chris Petit, the auteur of Surveillance, Radio On + Radio On: Remix, Dead TV, and, most recently, Unrequited Love. That piece is viewable here.


But which Godard is speaking? There are many to choose from: the Seer of Switzerland, muttering gnomic asides of eternal decline. The clown Prince and Idiot, smiling sweetly through another indignity. Smutty old Uncle Jean, who desires nothing more than to stick his finger up a pretty girl's ass and count to 33, slowly. The eternal agit-propagator, lighting fuses beneath perceived pieties. Professor Pluggy, with his patch-cord dreadlocks, clenching a cigar stub between his teeth while reinventing cinema with nothing more than a sparkler and a shoebox. Lonesome Luc the Isolate, looking at a childhood photo and observing even there a shadow of sadness: "I was already in mourning for myself." The Angel of History, assuming the burden of mourning for everything else.


Just as Godard has played with cinema, he has constructed multiple versions of himself before and behind the camera, leasing out the character of JLG to actors and sometimes acting himself: cinephile, tyrant, tardy, silver-tongued, Professor Pluggy, politico, foxy businessman, smutty Uncle Jean, fraud (a history of youthful theft), romantic, classicist, dandy, hypochondriac and slacker. A cold reading of the man suggests hysteric, obsessive, depressive, leavened by the schoolboy who was remembered for playing the fool.

Kite, the title of whose piece is "He's Not There":

If I've emphasized the book's limitations in this article it's in part because his simulacrum is so compelling on its own terms.


But while professing openness he remains opaque and, in a sense, the film-maker known as Jean-Luc Godard may not exist, any more than the musician known as Bob Dylan does, except as several simulacra.

Just sayin'. All "correspondences" aside, Petit's article is, of course, useless, and betrays what little grasp the Guardian soldat has on his subject's-subject's oeuvre: "Once ahead of his time, embracing new technology (video) and surfing the zeitgeist as someone might browse the internet, he now denounces digital as death and takes refuge in history, in anticipation of posterity's judgment." — Of course, by the time Petit, grinning and proud, turns off the ignition on that sentence, the independent witness will observe he's opted for mad crooked inertia in a spot marked "handicapped." But let's trace the tracks some more words back. The next time someone refers to Godard as being a kind of proto-Internet-unto-himself, don't just clue them in to "the Tashlinesque" — introduce them to Petit, and The L Magazine's Benjamin Strong, so that the clichés of these two gentlemen (nothing personal) might trigger a Tesla-esque resonance grand enough to tear the space-time fabric, devour the computers of all involved, and impede, at least until new Dell deliveries manage to arrive, the quantum-moronics at play.

Palate-cleanser: B. Kite's two-part, 20,000-words+ modern-classic about Jacques Rivette, one of the best pieces of film criticism I've ever read ("film criticism" of course doesn't do it justice — it's "goddamned littacher", although closer to the spirit of H. Melville than V. Nabokov). Initially published in Cinema Scope magazine last year, it remains the singularity / worm-hole standard of modern American film-writing, light-years ahead of practically all else that has appeared in the pages of the English-language movie outlets in these future times.

Jacques Rivette and the Other Place: Track One
by B. Kite

Jacques Rivette and the Other Place: Track 1b
by B. Kite



The new issue of Cinéaste contains, first and foremost, a very fine essay by Adrian Martin on the 87 years of Chris Marker AND, first-and-foremost-prime, runs a new piece by Chris Marker himself, titled "The Last Bolshevik: Reminiscences of Alexander Ivanovich". — "Sad as it is, I dare say [Aleksandr Medvedkin] died on time. I met him on my way back from Tbilisi in '88 — both of us knew it was the last encounter — and he was beaming in the euphoria of pristine perestroika. 'Telling the truth, asking people to participate, criticizing without fear, that's what we always wanted, that's what we tried to do in the days of the Train.' He belonged to that rarest breed who had kept unspoiled the faith of his youth: the tragedy of all those bloodstained years was just the sort of trick History plays .... One year more, and he would have watched the ruin of his hopes." And twenty years more... — Whereas eleven months prior to now, at this very blog, this happened.

And I'd be remiss not to mention that the heroic Jed Rapfogel has a great interview with William Klein in this latest issue, too. Good stuff also in the way of a Guy 'I Will Never Let You Down' Maddin interview conducted by Jason Horsley, and a typically incisive double-book-review by Monsieur Bill Krohn.

But what a lot of folks are talking/writing most about the most, by way of this recent Cinéaste, is the "Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet" symposium that forms the issue's centerpiece, and is readable here. A bunch of my friends-and-acquaintances contributed (and/or were mentioned/sorta-linked), and their musings are well worth reading. Karina Longworth's in particular, which more-or-less offer a rejection of the terms upon which the editors', and the overarching blog-societal, questions are advanced — via the mass-hypnotic, precipitous propulsion of the Pynchonially vexed "vs." Truth be told, I'm surprised that the participants were able to take the propositions at all seriously, and if it weren't for Karina's contribution putting me in mind of the breathtaking "legend of stereo" sequence from JLG/JLG, autoportrait de décembre (this sequence of this key film of my life which, in the preposterous interpretation put forward by Richard Brody — who has the gall to single out Godard's usage of the phrase "the mystic hexagram" with damnful quote-marks like the ashen traces of the brimstone itself, as though "the mystic hexagram" is the "all" that needs to be said; for the Brodys of the world always think there's an "all" that needs to be said, and that, what's more, it's possible to say — codes nothing less than a diabolical broadside against the Jewish executives in the upper echelons of the "modern recording industry" [p. 558 in the U.S. edition] ), the similarly noisome-to-Brody Godard-masterpiece that would have come first to mind would be the most recent feature, Notre musique, with its central section that takes place at the European Literary Encounters symposium, and during which a student-attendee poses to Godard-as-himself the question: "Monsieur Godard, do you think that these new little digital cameras can save the cinema?"

JLG/JLG, autoportrait de décembre [JLG/JLG: Self-Portrait in December] by Jean-Luc Godard, 1994:

That is, if I had been asked to participate in the survey, I would only have been able to respond to the questions with the respective images:

(1) Has Internet criticism made a significant contribution to film culture? Does it tend to supplement print criticism or can it actually carve out critical terrain that is distinctive from traditional print criticism? Which Internet critics and bloggers do you read on a regular basis?

Notre musique [Our Music] by Jean-Luc Godard, 2004:

(2) How would you characterize the strengths and weaknesses of critics' blogs? Which blogs do you consult on a regular basis — and which are you drawn to in terms of content and style? Do you prefer blogs written by professional critics or those by amateur cinephiles?

Notre musique [Our Music] by Jean-Luc Godard, 2004:

(3) Internet boosters tend to hail its "participatory" aspects — e.g., message boards, the ability to connect with other cinephiles through critics' forums and email, etc. Do you believe this "participatory" aspect of Internet criticism (film critics form the bulk of the membership lists of message boards such as a_film_by and Film and Politics) has helped to create a genuinely new kind of "cinematic community" or are such claims overblown?

Notre musique [Our Music] by Jean-Luc Godard, 2004:

(4) Jasmina Kallay, writing in Film Ireland (Sept.-Oct. 2007), has claimed that, in the age of the Internet, the "traditional film critic... is losing his stature and authority." Do you agree or disagree with this claim? If you agree, do you regard this as a regrettable or salutary phenomenon?

Notre musique [Our Music] by Jean-Luc Godard, 2004:



The new issue of the Cahiers du cinéma contains a one-page piece by Antoine Thirion about the French DVD release of Pedro Costa's supreme In Vanda's Room [No quarto da Vanda, 2000], which appears courtesy of the new Capricci label "Que fabriquent les cinéastes?" ["What Do Filmmakers Make?" / "What Are Filmmakers Putting Together?"], spearheaded by Cahiers contributing editor Cyril Neyrat. The release appears as a 180-page hardback book, with a DVD of the film (French subtitles only, I believe) attached inside of the cover — not dissimilar in form to the essential ECM Cinema release (Region 0, PAL) titled Jean-Luc Godard / Anne-Marie Miéville: Four Short Films. But the Capricci goes into new territory: a long interview (conducted in French by Neyrat) with Costa — maybe the best he's ever given — which is saying a lot, as any followers of Costa's work and press must recognize that this man can talk; and a long and superb image+text essay (the whole thing's in color) by the good Andy Rector, which appears intercut throughout the volume. The beautiful design-work was done by Sarah Albaret / Lilebulla. (And I worked a leetle-beet on it too, helping out on the image-processing.)

(UPDATE: Andy Rector just emailed to clarify: "the VANDA book/dvd turned out not to be an ECM-resembling object, but, comes as a paperback book plus dvd-in-cardboard-jewel-case, both in a slip case with Vanda's sleeping visage on the cover. Not to be pedantic, but while Neyrat indeed spearheaded and directed the VANDA book/dvd, the company Capricci is headed by Cyril Beghin [he wrote an excellent piece on MILESTONES a few CdC's ago], Emmanuel Burdeau, and Thierry Lounas.")

Truly one of the greatest DVD releases of all-time. You can purchase it here from FNAC.

Forthcoming Capricci "Que fabriquent les cinéastes?" series editions include the groundbreaking La Vallée close [The Enclosed Valley, Jean-Claude Rousseau, 2000], Milestones [Robert Kramer, 1975], and Honor de cavalleria [Knights' Honor, Albert Serra, 2006].

Small stills of spreads from the interior of the book that accompanies the Capricci release of Costa's In Vanda's Room in France:



I received a package recently of our most recent releases in The Masters of Cinema Series.

(a) A double-feature from the great Georges Franju: Judex [1963] (Franju's brilliant/somnambulant remake of Feuillade's 1916-17 serial of the same name) and Nuits rouges [Red Nights, 1974] (another Feuillade-inspired work, starring and co-scripted, as in the case of Judex, by Jacques Champreux, Feuillade's grandson — a long undersung work which, for me, is even more powerful than Judex). On-disc extras include recent video-interviews with Champreux, with the multi-course array arriving in the booklet: a 1984 poem about Judex by Franju; three interviews with Franju; excerpts of tributes to Franju from Georges Sadoul, Claude Mauriac, and Freddy Buache; and an extraordinary, never-before-translated (at least that I'm aware), short essay on Franju's Judex from 1963 by... Jacques Rivette.

(b) The long-awaited DVD edition of the film-restoration of Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 supreme masterpiece, Vampyr: The Strange Adventure of Allan Gray. The MoC edition shares with the recent Criterion the Tony Rayns commentary; the deleted-scenes removed by the German censor; the 1966 documentary Carl Th. Dreyer by Jørgen Roos; and the visual essay on Vampyr by Casper Tybjerg. Exclusive to the MoC edition are a new, ecstatic supplementary audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro; a documentary video-essay called The Baron, edited and produced by Nick Wrigley and written/narrated/photos-shot by me; and an 80-page book containing writing by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum, and Martin Koerber — along with an insane plethora of rare stills, graphics, the 1932 film program, etc.... (Also different subtitles between editions — I did the ones on the MoC release.)



Note to S.

Every thought, should recall, the debris, of a smile.

And if a smile, could re-call, the debris, of a thought thought-forgotten, then the waves, have at last, delivered this, unto me:

"When I think about something, in fact I’m thinking of something else. You can only think about something if you think of something else. For instance: I see a landscape that is new to me. But it’s new to me because I mentally compare it to another landscape — an older one: one that I knew." — from Eloge de l'amour by JLG, 2001.

Eloge de l'amour [Eulogy for Love / Ode to Love] by Jean-Luc Godard, 2001: