Friday, February 27, 2009

The Paroxysms of Mourning

As regards:

This Anthony Kaufman article (click image or here) is upsetting on two levels — (1) the thrust of its worry (the cinema vanishing — I completely empathize, as, in the abstract, how wouldn't this be worrying?); (2) its weird admixture of fear-mongering (for all-the-cinema vanishing is, in the proposed context of video/digital, an essentially abstract fear), misinformation, and a typically snobbish New York-centrism (that courses likewise through most of the English-language-cinephile-Internet).

Some facts:

Greed has been in the works for a 2009 DVD release from Warner Bros. for some time, and will yet see the light of day. There is not a proverbial-snowball's chance that Greed, hackneyed though it may extantly be, will never see a digital home-video/VOD release.

— It's well known that The Magnificent Ambersons (hackneyed though it may extantly be) has been in the queue for a specifically-2009 release from Warners for a long time. Ditto, for that matter, Journey into Fear.

— Not so much a fact-just-yet, but I believe Providence is in the works for a restoration / new telecine (if it hasn't already happened). But come on: an Alain Resnais feature not getting a release, ever, on home-video/VOD? Really? If that's ever the case, I'll have to remember to modify my scorecard: "La Vie est un roman = check. Providence = here the gods did conspire..."

— The status of the Fullers and the Borzage has already been mentioned by one 'cadavra' in the comments section of Kaufman's essay.

— As noted within the article, Mizoguchi's Tale of Late Chrysanthemums is a Janus property, and will almost certainly see a Criterion or Eclipse release in the near'ish future. In the meantime, an English-subtitled version circulates by way of other venues.

— As for the two Tourneur films: molted starlings augur us good these pictures see similar light of day.

— Ditto for Antonioni's Chung-kuo (and then some). (In the meantime, cinephiles of every stripe can keep taking a big poo on The Dangerous Thread of Things.)

I understand that the impulse to point to such high-profile titles' absence on DVD is hard to overcome, especially when one's entire essay depends on such exhibits for the crux of prosecution — but anyone who's done a little bit of time in the cinephile trenches, no matter the nation, knows you can pop over to the easily searchable Criterion Forum website (which, it must be stressed, holds no affiliation with The Criterion Collection), located here, and check in on the buzz/gossip/status around hundreds of forthcoming catalogue releases from any of the major, or boutique, DVD labels based around the world.

As for the inevitable disappointment that Kim's massive library is leaving the city: yes, this is sad news for New Yorkers. Yet I wonder if this news is the kind-of-'sad' that necessitates all mentions of the library's move exist in the vicinity of phrases (bywords) like "a small Sicilian town" or elsewhere "an obscure Italian town." It's like the Sicilians receiving access to the trove are but merest country-bumpkins, humans to be sure but of an ilk that has no business reaping the riches of discovery that this library can yield for viewers of any background — while presumption dictates the library was assembled "by(?) New Yorkers — for New Yorkers."

Parallel to my disgust for this idea resides a total odium for the implication that the closure of the St. Mark's store marks a death-blow for cinephilia-as-general-concept — as though any talk of the since-video-existed dearth of access to many of these titles for the large majority of 'film-buffs' (and non-'film-buffs' alike) who have lived, out of necessity or by choice, in non-NYC / non-urban regions of the United States and other countries, and who never had easy access to these titles to begin with, would only underscore the complaints, and implicitly distasteful rurality, of a Statistically Inconvenient Other.

Of course, it's well known, outside of New York, that the NYC-as-Center-of-the-Universe Virus afflicts discourses ranging from the entire zone of modern visual-art, all the way over to "where can I find the perfect carrot-cake." But if we were to hold focus squarely on The Death of Cinema: Last Week of February 2009 Style, one curio we'd end up resolving would be a rather odd piece — getting a lot of 'viral' play, I should add — by the producer Ted Hope, written for the Tribeca Film Festival website, and readable here. A friend sent this to me earlier in the week, and given that the essay begins with the sentence —

"I love New York City and hope I never have to call anywhere else my home."

— it triggered enough outrage that I emailed back to my friend the following post-haste:

TED HOPE: "Filmmakers will always be able to make the super low budget films here, but will they be able to make the ones that are decently financed enough to catapult them to the world stage? Will they even be able to afford to live here?"

I would ask: "Whose 'world-stage'?" I would ask: "What are the entry-rules for the 'world-stage' Hope is referring to?" And, from a more utopian place, I would ask: "What are the
aesthetic requisites for entry onto that so-called 'world-stage'?" Yet not so merely utopian: for practically no money at all (that is, literally, practically no money at all: not a single low-six-figure budget, let alone a comfy American 'indie' one-million-dollar fund), Jean-Marie Straub, Pedro Costa, Albert Serra, etc., make 'world-stage' films that might not exude the buzz-auras garnered by a Golden Lion, or by those vile festival 'audience awards' — instead, they make films that 'only' get them awarded one-off screenings in the Museum of Modern Art, Anthology Film Archives, or indeed 'Special Lifetime-of-Service Mentions' — but their films will live long after Spike Lee's, or the Coen brothers', have devolved into grey footnotes one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years from now. Furthermore, the means of production have absolutely shifted: an invocation of 'one-off screenings' is no longer consonant-parlance for 'ghetto' — if anything, it's an RSS-fed and/or weekly-newspaper publicity event, which can spur a local audience to attend as usual, and a wider/extra-urban public to investigate the films digitally, and via stream. ("But there's no substitute for the hyper-resolution projection!" old-timers spit, and with fair reason — but this is itself narrow-minded, and fails to envision what 'a stream' will connote even ten years from now, never mind fifteen.) All of this further compounds the fact in 2009 and forward (especially, again, ten/fifteen years from now) that no-one has a gun to any artist's head to have to live in New York — a time draws nigh when the geographical positioning there 'in' the physical city will be, frankly, economically untenable for any non-$chnabel-level artist. And yet that's hardly a cause for mass-distress — America relentlessly, incessantly evolves, and new communities are constantly created and re-created — indeed, the micro-communities are abundant, are progressive, and their respective qualities of life exceed myriad aspects of New York-living even in the gnarly-mercurial present. This New York grass-roots-with-a-budget cinema thing was once a spirited reality, is now a wonderful midday dream, and will in the long run fold into some much more 'illusory' metaphor.

Perhaps Hope should stop living in some world-of-the-half-myth, where the end-all 'independent' gods are comprised of Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Alan Ball, Michel Gondry... As far as I'm concerned, those filmmakers exist only insofar as their films' box-office might line the pockets of producers with a bit of scratch to pass on to artists who have absolutely no 'commercial' value whatsoever — but of course, in America, this is never the case.

And Orson Welles remains rotting.

That's just a brief, and gut, reaction to the hopeless myopia (even within an NYC-filmmakers-context) of Hope's piece, and it certainly warrants more, and deeper, elaboration than I've provided above — either by someone else, or by me-myself in, say, the aforementioned-on-this-blog (and long-overdue) Frownland essay. For my purposes in this post, a summary must suffice: the very premise of 2009 New York as Cultural-Lifestyle Apotheosis just seems so... wildly off.

But back, finally, to a last niggling argument put forward in the Kaufman article: that the putatively irretrievable titles dormant on the VHS cassettes* of the Kim's library will probably never exist "legally, and in pristine form." A jolly-good point (for Kaufman's presumably not talking here about an Antonioni's Chung-kuo or a Resnais's Providence; rather, things more mondo and Wishman'y) — but I would ask: Given that peer-to-peer downloadable bootlegs of many obscure VHS copies of films circulate freely (and make no mistake: Cinephile, that terribly rabid species, always learns what it takes to get a hold of these movies), isn't the onus on the curators of such collections to do their part and figure out the steps in digitizing these analog sources, then putting them back into the world? (See, for example, UbuWeb, whose screens will only grow larger, higher-in-resolution.) The alternative scenario, seldom considered out-loud by Kaufman or critics of the (very real) inequality between 'legal' VHS and DVD sources, would actualize, necessarily, a nightmare realm in which organizations such as the thankfully-defunct "GoodTimes Home Video" or "Fox Lorber" step forth to acquire the licenses for these low-visibility films and, in the process, tie up the rights on these properties for x years (or theoretical perpetuity), regardless of any emergence, in the interim, of new media, and/or of new and interested ventures that manifest an expressly cinephilic and preservational approach.

When Kim's — or any film institution — goes under, the immediate, and (for me) greatest loss is that of the income depended upon by the businesses' dislodged staff. But an appraisal of the situation taken from a more distant vantage would affirm what's already evident in home parlors and screening-rooms, by the light of the respective screens: The Times Have Changed, and not necessarily for the worse.

*We must remember this was the medium that, from Day One of its existence, only ever begat artifacts — in both the sense of magnetic-head corrosion, and of the cassette-as-horrifying-object-in-the-world.


Friday, February 20, 2009


Tonight: the end of one of the all-time (and consistently) great American comedy staples.

With the exception of Wrist-Hulk, The Lincoln Moneyshot Channel, and a few of the Triumph and/or PimpBot bits (to name only a few; and not including Abel Ferrara's c. '93/'94 appearance to plug Snake Eyes / Dangerous Game), here's my very favorite Late Night moment:


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I've been busy with other things — so the Swanberg collection is on short-term-temporary hold, despite its first installment existing sitting-there in 90%-complete form elsewhere, awaiting frame-grabbing and i-dotting (see also: Grant, Cary; side-effects, physiological). I've temporarily back-dated the Swanberg overture-thing to another place on the blog, because I'm sick of looking at it until the real "Focus On..." series kicks off. For vainspotters, here's a tally of more-long-term promises I've made, and which I swear to follow-up upon and indeed even to follow through all the way to the end upon — at least by the end of 2010... :

— Writing about each separate work in the complete oeuvre of João César Monteiro, beyond his first film Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen — which I already shared some thoughts about here.

— Investigating each separate work in the complete oeuvre of Frederick Wiseman, the first treatment of which will follow a forthcoming piece on Jerry Lewis's The Ladies Man (90% complete). It's re: Titicut Follies, and is 90% complete.

— Thoughts on Seijun Suzuki's masterpiece Operetta Tanuki-goten [Operetta Raccoon Palace].

— Promised-to-Indiepix's-blog essay on R. Bronstein's Frownland.

— Promised-to-self Miéville consideration.

— Promised-to-self extended pieces on Godard's Sauve qui peut (la vie), and Prière pour refuzniks: 1 and 2.

Always of course there's the yearning for a cloning, so a few pleas to an alternate-universe me to fill in faster-than-I-can-get-to-them (with no promises for the materialization of such anyway) inquiries-into:

••• Dreyer's Die Gezeichneten [The Marked Ones].

••• Rohmer's La Cambrure [The Curve].

••• Suzuki's Irezumi-ichi-dai [One Generation of Tattoos / Tattoo Life].

••• Tourneur's Canyon Passage.

••• Lang's The Return of Frank James, Clash by Night, and the Indian diptych.

••• All of the Hitchcock-directed Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes, all of which are Hitchcock films / equal Works, regardless of moyens-métrages status; and North by Northwest.

••• All of Fellini, my hero.

••• von Sternberg's Caprice Espagnole (the title of which was changed to The Devil Is a Woman by the studio — but Caprice Espagnole JvS wanted it, so Caprice Espagnole it is).

••• Hawks's Land of the Pharaohs, and Rio Bravo.

••• Gehr's Glider.

••• Everything in the Ford at Fox box I hadn't seen until recently, plus The Long Gray Line and The Rising of the Moon.

••• Tsai's Hei yan quan [The Dark Circle] / I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, as the auto-critique of Tsai's work to date.

••• All of Rivette, my hero.

••• Ditto Moullet.

••• Straub's devastating Le Genou d'Artemide [Artemide's Knee]. (Note that the name in the title is Artemide, not Artémide, which name for the goddess doesn't even exist in French — it's a conscious switch from French to Italian; the title's nuance being not just my own inference, incidentally, but something stressed by Straub himself. No-one writes the title correctly. See also: INLAND EMPIRE.)

••• Lynch's More Things That Happened.

••• Assayas's Quartier des Enfants Rouges and the mindblowing Boarding Gate.

••• Lubin's Phantom of the Opera.

••• Lillian Roth in Lubitsch's The Love Parade.

••• Any or all of the beautiful multitude of Varda "boni" which are full-fledged Works (see Hitchcock's Presents entry above).

••• De Sica's Terminal Station.

••• Resnais's La Guerre est finie [The War Is Over].

••• Ruiz's L'Hypothèse du tableau volé [The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting] and L'Île aux merveilles de Manoël [Manoël's Marveled Island / Manoël's Treasure Island].

••• Visconti's Il lavoro [The Job] and Conversation Piece.

••• Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West.

••• Wise and Lewton's The Curse of the Cat People.

••• Pasolini's Mamma Roma.

••• Watkins's overwhelming, life-altering Edvard Munch.

••• Ulmer's Yiddish-language films; The Pirates of Capri; and The Naked Venus.

••• Cassavetes's The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night, as starters. (I wouldn't begrudge any person who deemed either film the best movie ever made.)

••• Hong's Geuk jang jeon [A Tale of Cinema].

••• All of Garrel, my hero.

••• Ditto Ferrara.

••• Walsh's The Bowery.

••• Brakhage's Anticipation of the Night.

••• Van Sant's Le Marais.

••• Gainsbourg's Charlotte for ever (in-depth — I wrote about it in brief in an issue of The New-York Ghost).

••• Mann's Reign of Terror.

••• Ophüls's Liebelei and Le Tendre ennemie [The Tender Enemy].

••• Álvarez's 79 primaveras [79 Springtimes].

••• Ossang's Docteur Chance.

••• Robson and Lewton's The Ghost Ship.

••• Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

••• Bertolucci's Agonia [Agony].

••• Jia's Zhantai / Platform.

••• Shinoda's Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke [The Strange Story of Sarutobi Sasuke].

••• Schoedsack's Mighty Joe Young.

••• Grandrieux's Sombre.

••• Tarr's Kárhozat [Damnation].

••• King Vidor's The Texas Rangers.

••• Costa's O sangue [Blood].

••• All of Bergman, my hero.

••• Martel's La ciénaga [The Swamp].

••• Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha and Peoples House.

••• Pabst's Die 3groschenoper [The 3penny Opera].

••• Greaves's Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2-1/2.

••• Sallitt's Honeymoon and All the Ships at Sea.

••• Anger's Puce Moment.

••• Sandberg's Nedbrudte nerver [Rotten Nerves / Shattered Nerves].

••• Kawase's Sharasôju.

••• Burnett's Quiet as Kept.

••• Baldwin's Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America.

••• Revier's Child Bride.

••• Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Sakebi [Retribution].

— and then —

••• Roffman's The Mask

Monday, February 09, 2009

Après les grèves / Avant la lutte

Bonne écriture


Bon, é-créatures.

Before I hold forth on this Swanberg business, or get on to acknowledging a few recent developments in the Dardosphere, I thought I'd make a brief detour and post the following image, with translation. It comes from the original program for Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin's Tout va bien [Everything's Going Fine, 1972], which MoC friends-and-associates Nick Wrigley and Soraya Lemsatef were sweet enough to send along as part of a gift-package assembled during a recent Paris trip.

Godard and Gorin's statement is doubly apropos at Cinemasparagus in light of a forthcoming post on Jerry Lewis's 1961 The Ladies Man — a film, like Tout va bien, that I revere, and whose cross-section dolls'-house gets cited obliquely via the latter film's factory set. Both Godard and Gorin were, of course, not only intensely familiar with Jerry Lewis's work, but also, by way of their 1972 invocation, were in a sense setting themselves down upon familiar ground: it was Godard who pronounced in 1967, on the eve of his kiss-off to the presiding commercial-theatrical system, that "Jerry Lewis is the only one making courageous films in Hollywood today. What's more, he knows it." What's more, Godard and Gorin knew of the debt owed by Lewis to the output of his longtime friend and movie-mentor: the filmmaker Frank Tashlin. It might do to alert, or at least remind, my readers to the fact that Tashlin started out his life in film by directing some of the most memorable Merrie Melodies / Looney Tunes shorts for Warner Bros.' animation wing — an experience that fed back into such live-Tashlin masterworks as The Girl Can't Help It [1956] and The Disorderly Orderly [1964] — and the eye-meltingly Techni-dyed, sight-gag-based sketch-schema of Lewis's own directorial career, too.

Hence the closing line.

[JLG]: This is the story of a crisis.

[JPG]: That of a couple

[JLG]: Him: Yves Montand, a filmmaker who's put himself out of work after 1968.

[JPG]: Her: Jane Fonda, the correspondent in France for an American radio network.

[JLG]: This is the story of a crisis within a crisis.

[JPG]: Of the crisis of a couple within a society in crisis (France in 1972)

[JLG]: That's all folks!

— Jean-Luc Godard / J-P Gorin

The Ladies Man by Jerry Lewis, 1961:

Tout va bien [Everything's Going Fine] by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972:

Trebly apropos because Swanberg's films also deal with a couple — the same one, in fact, as Godard and Gorin's picture: cinema / life.


36 by W. S.

Let me confess that we two must be twain
Although our undivided loves are one:
So shall those blots that do with me remain,
Without thy help by me be borne alone.
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Which though it alter not love's sole effect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love's delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailèd guilt should do thee shame;
Nor thou with public kindness honour me
Unless thou take that honour from thy name:
But do not so; I love thee in such sort
As, thou being mine, mine is thy good report.


39 by W. S.

O, how thy worth with manners may I sing
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring,
And what is't but mine own when I praise thee?
Even for this let us divided live
And our dear love lose name of single one,
That by this separation I may give
That due to thee which thou deserv'st alone.
O absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove
Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave
To entertain the time with thoughts of love,
Which time and thoughts so sweetly doth deceive,
And that thou teachest how to make one twain
By praising him here who doth hence remain.