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:



  1. Craig, I appreciate the Markerian compliment and laughed a lot at your JLG responses to the questionnaire, but - first you're down on the Dardennes, now Chris Petit?? I liked his GUARDIAN review, he says some very critical things about the Brody book that I would think you agree with! The bit you quote about JLG and the digital age is not the best moment of his piece, agreed; but it's one of the better and sharper responses that baleful book has received, in my opinion.

  2. Ah, well, Adrian, y'know, as for the Dardennes, my jury's still out (and that lunch sure has lasted a while...), but I've certainly been taking into consideration a lot written by you, and Dan, and still others (Frodon, and more), such that the ambivalence is resolutely... "open". I don't -not- want to like them, after all. I'm interested to see what Aronofsky has done with The Wrestler as a "response" to the Dardennes, at least from a little I've read (I can't remember if it was in the NY Times, or Eugenio Renzi's Venice blog... how's that for mélangisme?) — but I can't hide how much I hate his earlier films (haven't seen The Fountain), and, unfairly, subjectively, I've always been jealous that the author of Requiem for a Dream wakes up to Rachel Weisz — an envelopment of a being, just cf. the insanely underrated My Blueberry Nights...

    With regard to Petit... yes, I agree with his criticisms, but at the same time, a lot of it mirrors BK's piece a little too much for me to feel very good or even neutral about — I mean, repeats it minus the crackle, the briquet exhausted or lost. And, additionally, was "the real reason" for the bust-up between Godard and Truffaut as Petit states it...? I lean towards 'not really (at all)'... That's a complicated business.

    I look forward to reading your review very much — please let me know if it's going up somewhere online...



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