Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Questions Posed

Right after Maurice Pialat won the Palme d'or at Cannes in 1987 for the totemic Sous le soleil de Satan and gave that beautiful, legendary acceptance speech — "Si vous ne m'aimez pas, je peux vous dire que je ne vous aime pas non plus." ("If you don't like me, I can tell you I don't like you either."), a TV interviewer asked him one of the most intelligent questions ever posed to a film artist, occasioned by the catcalls and hisses directed Pialat's way when he took the stage to accept the award. —

"Did you react to these people's stupidity the same way Bernanos did when he was talking to idiots?"

Footage of the question posed and the response offered up will be included in the forthcoming MoC Series edition of Sous le soleil de Satan to be released early next year.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Pedro Costa Interview in LITTLE WHITE LIES

"At the time the experience of listening to something by Wire and PiL was amazing. It was like seeing a Godard film. It was another world where you would get out of the movie theatre. It was a time when the person next door would probably do something amazing, but it wasn’t a commercial competition. There was also a political revolution in Portugal at the same time, where the fascist dictatorship ended and the streets were full of anarchists, communists, and socialists, so from the ages of 13 to 22 I had everything, the music, the cinema, the politics, all at the same time. What this made me see was that John Ford was a hundred thousand times more progressive and communist than so-called left wing documentaries saying things like “film is a gun”, and “change the world”. It was Ozu, Mizoguchi and Ford that were saying that really, you just had to be patient to see it."


"The idea [for Ne change rien] then came for me to be there while [Jeanne Balibar] was rehearsing. When I filmed her in concert I didn’t want to do a film like [Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones recent 'concert documentary'] Shine a Light with the camera turning upside down, and I wasn’t interested in doing a ‘making of’ that you have on DVDs with guys in the studio telling jokes and drinking beer."


"The Warhol film I show [at the recent Costa retrospective + carte-blanche at the Tate Modern] is called Beauty, a film I saw recently and it’s just like In Vanda’s Room, the difference being that he made it without thinking for one second whereas I took two years of pain and blood."


Full interview is here.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009


Floater (Too Much to Ask)
by Bob Dylan
from "Love and Theft" (2001)

Down over the window come the dazzling sunlit rays.
Through the back-alleys, through the blinds — another one o' them endless days.
Honeybees are buzzin' — leaves begin to stir —
I'm in love with my second cousin — I tell myself I could be happy forever with her.

I keep listenin' for footsteps, but I ain't ever hearin' any.
From the boat I fish for bullheads — I catch a lot; sometimes, too many.
A summer breeze is blowin'; a squall is settin' in.
Sometimes it's just plain stupid to get into any kind of wind.

The old men around here, sometimes they get on bad terms with the younger men.
Old, young, age don't carry weight — it doesn't matter in the end.
One of the boss's hangers-on sometimes comes to call at times you least expect.
Try to bully you, strong-arm you, inspire you with fear — it has the opposite effect.

There's a new grove of trees on the outskirts of town — the old one is long gone.
Timber two-foot-six across burns with the bark still on.
They say times are hard; if you don't believe it you can follow your nose.
It doesn't bother me, times are hard everywhere — we'll just have to see how it goes.

My old man, he's like some feudal lord — got more lives than a cat.
I've never seen him quarrel with my mother even once; things come alive, or they fall flat.
You can smell the pine wood burnin'; you can hear the schoolbell ring.
Gotta up near the teacher if you can if you wanna learn anything.

Romeo he said to Juliet: "You got a poor complexion — it doesn't give your appearance a very youthful touch."
Juliet she said back to Romeo: "Why don't you just shove off if it bothers you so much?"
They all got outta here any way they could; cold rain can give you the shivers.
They went down the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Tennessee — all the rest of them rebel rivers.

If you ever try to interfere with me or cross my path again you do so at the peril of your life.
I'm not quite as cool or forgivin' as I sound — I've seen enough heartache and strife.
My grandfather was a duck-trapper; he could do it with just dragnets and ropes.
My grandmother could sew new dresses out of old cloth — I don't know if they had any dreams or hopes.

I had 'em once though, I suppose — to go along with all the ring-dancin' Christmas carols on all the Christmas Eves.
I left all my dreams and hopes buried under tobacco leaves.
Not always easy kickin' someone out; you gotta wait awhile, it can be an unpleasant task.
Sometimes somebody wants you to give somethin' up and, tears or not, it's too much to ask.


by Bob Dylan
from "Love and Theft" (2001)

The seasons they are turnin'
And my sad heart is yearnin'
To hear again the songbird's sweet melodious tone.
Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The dusky light, the day is losin' —
Orchids, poppies, black-eyed Susan —
The earth and sky that melts with flesh and bone —
Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The air is thick and heavy
All along the levee
Where the geese into the countryside have flown.
Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

Well I'm preachin' peace and harmony,
The blessings of tranquility,
Yet I know when the time is right to strike.
I take you 'cross the river, dear —
You've no need to linger here —
I know the kinds of things you like.

The clouds are turnin' crimson,
The leaves fall from the limbs and
The branches cast their shadows over stone.
Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The boulevards of cypress trees,
The masquerades of birds and bees,
The petals pink and white the wind has blown.
Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The trailing moss and mystic glow,
The purple blossoms soft as snow —
My tears keep flowin' to the sea.
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief,
It takes a thief to catch a thief.
Well whom does the bell toll for, love? — It tolls for you and me.

A pulse is runnin' through my palm —
The sharp hills are risin' from
Yellow fields with twisted oaks that groan.
Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?


Po' Boy
by Bob Dylan
from "Love and Theft" (2001)

Man comes to the door, I say, "For whom are you lookin'?"
He says, "Your wife." — I say, "She's busy in the kitchen cookin'."
Poor boy — where you been?
I already told you, won't tell you again.

I say, "How much you want for that?" — I go into the store.
Man says, "Three dollars" — "Alright," I say, "will you take four?"
Poor boy — never say die.
Things'll be alright bye and bye.

Workin' like in the mainline, workin' like a devil —
The game is the same, it's just up on another level.
Poor boy — dressed in black.
Police at your back.

Poor boy in a red-hot town,
Out beyond the twinklin' stars,
Ridin' a first-class train, makin' the round,
Tryin' to keep from fallin' between the cars...

Othello told Desdemona: "I'm cold — cover me with a blanket.
— By the way, what happened to that poison wine?" She said, "I gave it to you, you drank it."
Poor boy — layin' 'em straight,
Pickin' up the cherries fallin' off the plate.

Time and love has branded me with its claws.
Had to go to Florida, dodgin' them Georgians' laws.
Poor boy, in the hotel called the Palace of Gloom,
Called down to room service, says, "Send up the room."

My mother was a daughter of a wealthy farmer;
My father was a travelin' salesman — I never met him.
When my mother died, my uncle took me in; he ran a funeral parlor —
He did a lot of nice things for me — and I won't forget him.

All I know is that I'm thrilled by your kiss —
I don't know any more than this.
Poor boy — pickin' up sticks —
Build you a house outta mortar and bricks.

Knockin' on the door, I say, "Who's it? Where're ya from?"
Man say, "Freddy," I say, "Freddy who?", he say, "Freddy or not here I come."
Poor boy, 'neath the stars that shine,
Washin' them dishes, feedin' them swine.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Days Are Numbered

"I had a wonderful experience three or four weeks ago that I want to tell you about. I went to the Los Feliz Theatre to see a revival of George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight [1933]. My wife and I just wandered into the theatre by accident because we couldn’t get into various other shows around town. I said, 'I haven’t seen this film since I was 12 years old. Let’s go in and see it again.' We went in and sat there with a bunch of teenage kids and guys and girls in their twenties, who didn’t know Marie Dressler from the side of a barn, who hadn’t seen Lionel Barrymore or John Barrymore, or Billie Burke in their heydays.

"I was in tears by the end of the evening, because, when Billie Burke finished the great scene where she’s mad at the whole world — upset because the food hasn’t been prepared right for the dinner that night, when she finishes her big tirade which ran two minutes in the middle of the film — this audience of teenagers — to a person — broke into applause for this tour-de-force. My hair stood up on the back of my head, and I thought: 'A thousand years from tonight, the work you people did and that she did and all the people in this industry do will be immortal.' You are all immortal. You have beat death at the game because that scene is going to be repeated a thousand years from tonight and ten thousand years from tonight — and there’ll be other teenagers who don’t know any of you from Adam, but they’re going to break into applause because of something excellent you did once in your life, maybe — or twice, or three times when you had the breaks, and you had a good director, and you had the decent script, and you had these actors working for you and that magical thing happened.

"So I sat there and I broke into tears. I thought: 'Everyone in that film has been dead for 20 or 30 years. Marie Dressler died in 1934 — but she is still alive!'

"This is the science-fictional business you are all tied into. You’re really tacked onto the future — like it or not — so you’re going to be changing people 100 years from tonight and 500 years from tonight and a thousand years from tomorrow noon."

—Ray Bradbury, 1967, in an address to the American Society of Cinematographers. Taken from a post by Lawrence French at The Orson Welles Web Resource, Wellesnet.


Friday, October 09, 2009

New MoC Releases

La Camargue [1966] and Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble [We Won't Grow Old Together, 1972], both by Maurice Pialat, and included in this one release in their original aspect ratios of 1.37:1, and 1.66:1 anamorphic + progressive. La Camargue finds Pialat exercising his essay-documentary mode, condensing to six minutes' time that region in the south of France where cowboys and toreadors walked, then and forever a vision of Pialat's, not Hemingway's. For Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble, Pialat shifts into an autobiographical story (which is, in turn, the story of all sincere expression) that sometimes takes place within this same Camargue region — hence the pairing — a story that details the disintegration of a couple already paired together, but for no good reason, as it often is in life, that is, with circumstance itself barely providing justification to man or morality. Possibly Pialat's most emotionally violent work, and unquestionably a grand masterpiece on every level (formal, scenaristic, performative), the film contains for me the single most upsetting shot in the oeuvre of this master — no — god — of the cinema. His miracle is that of the artist who can shake you with threat, who is not a provocateur, no von Trier, or Noé, or any mercantile asshole who trampled the Croix, the Alice Tully, and the .tiffs of 2009. Also included on-disc: a 19-minute 2003 video interview conducted by Serge Toubiana with Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble lead actress Marlène Jobert; 5-minutes'-worth of interviews with Pialat, Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble lead actor Jean Yanne and actress Macha Méril from the 1972 Cannes festival, with two scenes deleted from the film interspersed; a 1972 interview with François Truffaut about this then-latest Pialat film, shot in two parts totaling 8 minutes in length — one, before his having seen the film, and the other, directly after his (first) screening while he remains still shaken and teary-eyed; 12 minutes of footage from a 1972 conversation between Pialat and associates about Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble at a dinner; and the original trailer for the feature, along with the trailers for the six others in The Masters of Cinema Series. A 32-page booklet accompanies the release, and includes an exemplary new essay by former editor-in-chief of the Cahiers du cinéma Emmanuel Burdeau titled "Pialat n'est pas là", and excerpts from three interviews with Pialat about the film newly translated into English.


Passe ton bac d'abord... [Pass Your Bac First...] by Maurice Pialat, from 1979, presented progressively in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 anamorphic. What to say here about this film, Pialat's Strangeways, Here We Come? Maybe let them fight their own wars. Or that it's his Sixteen Candles — an inferno of genius. Included on-disc: an 11-minute 2003 interview conducted by Serge Toubiana with Pialat collaborators Arlette Langmann and Patrick Grandperret; a 35-minute 2003 piece by Serge Toubiana and Sonia Buchman that catches up with the cast and location of the film in the contemporary era; and the original trailer for the film, along with the trailers for the six other Pialat features in The Masters of Cinema Series. The release includes a 52-page booklet that contains a new essay about the film by me titled "The War of Art"; newly translated excerpts from three 1979 interviews with Pialat; and Pialat's explosive responses (newly translated) to a 20-question survey conducted in 1981 by the Cahiers. Also: Hieronymous Bosch.


La Tête contre les murs [Head Against the Wall / Head Against the Walls] by Georges Franju, from 1959, presented progressively in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The debut feature by Franju provides a glimpse into a c. '59 lunatic asylum presided over by Pierre Brasseur and Paul Meurisse. It approaches and at the same time eludes the classification of that other film of the mad that approaches then eludes — that is, approximates: the one signed both Melville and Cocteau — a mystery icing a mystery. (A mystery, then, requesting that another mystery grant it escape to a completed project. God bless the best of intentions.) No figure in Georges Franju's — that is, Jean-Pierre Mocky's — film is allowed to take events to their conclusions except for Charles Aznavour, who of course ends his own life with a hanging. The rest is a vacuum, with both protest and progress testing the limits of static walls before echoing back onto themselves in singularity's instant. Alas — a picture as intriguingly inert as life. "There are no more films about the insane." — Jean-Pierre Mocky (whose giant oeuvre has yet to really be discovered in English-speaking territories) speaking in 2008. On-disc supplements include this very video interview in which Mocky delivers the straight-scoop, for 10 minutes; and a 5-minute 2008 interview with Charles Aznavour in which Mocky pitches questions and comments from off-frame. A 48-page booklet includes a chapter about the film from Raymond Durgnat's 1968 volume Franju; a translation of Jean-Luc Godard's 1958 essay about the film; and newly translated interview excerpts with Franju.

Supplement this release with Criterion's double-feature package of Franju's Le Sang des bêtes [The Blood of the Beasts, 1948] and Les Yeux sans visage [Eyes Without a Face, 1959], and MoC's double-feature package of Franju's Judex [1963] and Nuits rouges [Red Nights, 1974].


Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans by F. W. Murnau, from 1927, presented progressively in its original aspect ratio of 1.20:1, with its original English-language intertitles and Movietone soundtrack — available variously (with identical supplements) in a double-disc standard-definition DVD package, and a single-disc high-definition Blu-ray package. Murnau's great masterpiece is a predominantly moral vision of the world distilled like the remedy for an era (1927, 2009) overcome by the images of profligacy, selfishness, and degeneracy espoused by a Tucker Max or a Kirk Cameron. On-disc: an audio commentary by cinematographer John Bailey; outtake footage from the film, with John Bailey audio commentary; Janet Bergstrom's documentary 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film, newly updated; the original theatrical trailer; and a truncated only-extant European version of the film at a cropped 1.37:1 aspect ratio with Czech intertitles (and optional English-language subtitles). The booklet: a 16-page piece for the SD DVD, and 20-page affair for the Blu-ray, both containing the same detailed notes on the restoration and the differences between the two versions of the film.


A PDF version of the new Masters of Cinema Series catalogue can be downloaded by clicking here.