Sunday, September 25, 2011

He Who Awaits Dead Men's Shoes Dies Barefoot: A Cinematographic Proverb

Sab-Hannah — Can You Hear Me?

Quem espera por sapatos de defunto morre descalço, um provérbio cinematográfico, Monteiro #2, begins with the remnants of a Nouvelle Vague-style film — the café scene out of Charlotte et Véronique, the girl with Chantal Goya bangs et son Jean-Pierre. No diegetic soundtrack to the footage — silent, except for the artificial layer of a projector-whirr. Rushes. The microscope and the scrutiny. Goya in a cab (or perhaps Cléo at 6pm). At last, JCM's voice-off cuts into l'écran sonore

"In those days we led a hard life. We wanted to make films and, having just returned from London with our poor but suitably deluded minds, we were the classic figure of the enthusiast. The year was 1965, and many an innocence would in the meantime be ravished. This country, gentlemen, is a bottomless pit, an asshole one can't escape from. At any rate, a film, even though formless and sketchy as a stillborn, is a foretaste of our own history, the silent projection of our spectres. That is all. Let us move on without regrets."

Luís Miguel Cintra picks up in 1970 from the rushes-footage of the abandoned film — he and his friend sit at a table in a café, continuation of Masculin-Féminin. A roach falls from the ceiling into Cintra's water-glass. As always, the search for money.

It's as though João César's 1970 film — and its prologue made of rushes of the aborted 1965 feature — exist as records that attest to the fact: "Alas, once the world was young..."

JCM's tree (cf. Vai-e-vem...)

From the finagle of a newly deceased admiral's clothes in a pre-emptive estate sale (exchange), to the counter of a pawn-shop. To lunch (now affordable) with a bird — her purse leering in central position of the tableau. LMC recites from the collected works of Luís de Camões. But quotation, citation — dead men's shoes — this is not enough.

Cintra will sit in a rocking-chair and watch a couple beyond the threshold laze in bed and (of course) read Cahiers du cinéma. His voice-over narration declares: "In the end, crimes are things that keep repeating themselves."

A cinematographic proverb and an ethics. Yet nods to Alphaville and Vivre sa vie follow: with the negative exposure (repeat of a positive version, seconds before) of Cintra running on the platform at the train that pulls away with his love — the negative marks the shift to the event ("Cintra runs") as 'extra' to the woman's consciousness, the new P.O.V. (when Godard went negative in Alphaville, the citation was of Nosferatu by Murnau, the larger idea about the UFA cinema as metonym for the death camps) — trains. — This-all followed by an invocation of Poe's "The Oval Portrait", as re-poeticized by the doomed finale of JLG's Vivre sa vie. From there, a direct 'Godardian device': the hand that scrawls in a notebook as the camera films the act (and this hand inscribes an aphorism attributed to its master: "The cinema is a fraud (Godard), but that fraud might be overcome."

And then Mónica returns, Cintra sits at a café with her and her friend... João César intones a text over the soundtrack that begins like Cocteau (mirrors, two kingdoms) and gradually suggests the damnation in citation (mirror-people). — How to build the artform anew? beyond influences?

Remember too — the mirror-people are this boy, that girl. "You'd better leave..." he tells her twice across movie-time...

Remember too — the mirror is solipsism, and the cinephile mirror, well... inside and outside, how to escape such-kind of... terrible... self-portrait of the damned?


Previous pieces on João César Monteiro at Cinemasparagus:

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen [1969]


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