Friday, June 14, 2019

Poemquotes 12 - "I. Benediction" by Charles Baudelaire

my translation


I. Benediction - The Flowers of Evil
[I. Bénédiction] [Les fleurs du mal]

When, by a decree of the supreme powers,
The Poet appears in this troubled world,
His mother, horrified and full of blasphemies,
Clenches her fists towards God, who sheds pity upon her:

—“Ah! that I littered a whole nest of vipers,
Rather than feed this derision!
Cursed be the night with ephemeral pleasures
Where my womb conceived my expiation!

Since you’ve chosen me among all women
To be the disgust of my sorrowful husband,
And which I cannot throw back in the flames,
Like a love-note, this stunted monster,

I will make your hate that afflicts me spurt
Onto the accursed instrument of your spites,
And I’ll so twist this miserable tree,
That it will be incapable of emitting its blighted buds!”

So she swallows the foam of her hatred,
Not comprehending the eternal designs,
She herself is preparing deep down in Gehenna
Stakes dedicated to maternal crimes.

And yet, under the invisible tutelage of an Angel,
The disinherited Child gets drunk on the sun,
And inside of all that he drinks and all that he eats
Discovers ambrosia and vermilion nectar.

He plays with the wind, chats with the cloud,
And gets drunk singing of the way of the cross;
And the Spirit following him in his pilgrimage
Weeps to see him cheerful as a bird in the woods.

All those he would love observe him with fear,
That or, gathering the courage from his tranquility,
Vie with each other in prying from him a moan,
And practice on him the experiments of their ferocity.

In the bread and wine destined for his mouth
They mingle ashes with polluted sputums;
With hypocrisy they throw away what he touches,
And blame themselves for having put their feet in his steps.

His wife is off crying on public squares:
“Since he finds me beautiful enough to adore me,
I will practice the profession of antique idols,
And like them I want to gild myself over;

And I’ll get drunk on nard, incense, myrrh,
Genuflections, meats, and wines,
To know whether I can, in an admiring heart,
Usurp divine homages while laughing!

And, when I get bored of these irreverent farces,
I’ll place upon him my hand, frail and strong;
And my nails, just like the nails of harpies,
Will know how to clear a pathway to his heart.

Like a new young bird trembling and twitching,
I will extract this full red heart from his breast,
And to satisfy my favorite beast,
I will throw him to the ground with disdain!”

Towards Heaven, where his eye sights a splendid throne,
The serene Poet raises his pious arms,
And the vast inspired-flashes of his lucid mind
Thieve him of the sight of furious races:

“Be blessed, my God, who provide suffering
As a divine remedy for our impurities
And as the best and the purest essence
That prepares the strong for holy delights!

I know that you keep a place for the Poet
In the blissful rows of the holy Legions,
And that you invite him to the eternal celebration
Of Thrones, Virtues, Dominations.

I know that pain is the unique nobility
Into which the earth and hells will never sink their teeth,
And that in order to braid my mystical crown one must
Impose every time and every universe.

For it will only be made out of pure light,
Pushed to the holy foyer of primitive rays,
And whose mortal eyes, in their entire splendor,
Are but obscured and plaintive mirrors!”


Monday, June 10, 2019

La madre (Troisième version)

Straub Alone

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Grasshopper Blu-ray.)


This is the "Troisième version," the "third version," of Straub's film La madre [The Mother]. The music is a love-Lied by Gustav Mahler, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ["I Came Lost to the World"], that plays in its entirety over black leader. The soul weeps, the id poses questions under the force of duration.

The dialogue is a setting of a text by Cesare Pavese in Dialoghi con Leucò [Dialogues with Leucò]. Meleagrus (Dario Marconcini) and Hermes (whose name is never mentioned), in female form (played by Giovanna Daddi), converse beneath the shade of trees and bushes. "Listen now, Meleagrus. You are dead. The flame, the burning, are past things. You are less than the smoke that was plucked from that fire. You are almost nothingness. Resign yourself."

The mother is the wife. And: "I am still an ember," Meleagrus asserts. "I lived in front of a hearth, and when I was born my destiny was already closed in the firebrand that my mother stole." Meleagrus speaks of animals and youths beyond the mountains and rivers who live toward strange destinies. "They all had a mother, Meleagrus," Hermes replies, "and labors to accomplish. And a death awaited them, for the passion of someone. No-one was master of himself, nor ever knew anything else."

To Atalanta, Meleagrus screamed during the attack on the boar: "Return home — return with the women, Atalanta. This is not the place for girls' whims. [...] 'O son of Altea,' she said, 'the skin of the boar will lie on our wedding bed. It will be like the cost of your blood, and of mine.'"

In close: "But then why did they kill us?"

Hermes: "Ask why they made you, Meleagrus."

— For all women who stare into the fire.


Other pieces on Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at Cinemasparagus:

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp] [1968]

La madre (Troisième version) [The Mother (Third Version)] [2012]


The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp

Die Zeiten ändern sich

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Grasshopper Blu-ray.)


Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1968] is fragmentary adaptation of Ferdinand Bruckner's '20s Krankheit der Jugend [Sickness of Youth] that treats the phenomenon of prostitution as a symptom and result of class warfare, where the whole itself stands as correlative for, or allegory of, political assassination.


Other pieces on Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at Cinemasparagus:

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp] [1968]

La madre (Troisième version) [The Mother (Third Version)] [2012]


Friday, June 07, 2019

April and May 2019 - Best Disc Supplements

Every month I highlight some of the best Blu-ray and DVD supplements, along with Criterion Channel features. Too often these pieces are overlooked or given the most cursory mention in reviews (or on sites like DVDBeaver where they take a back seat to "A/V" assessment and are usually copy-and-pasted from the Special Features text from the relevant label's website, or the guy reviews the essay by saying the essay gave him "great contextual info"). Pieces cited don't necessarily hail from new releases; rather come from whatever I've been watching that particular month. They represent, in my opinion, the best in supplementary material — critical, historical, personal — above and beyond the status quo.


• Not Necessarily in That Order: The Birth & Death & Resurrection of Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie by Jessica Hundley / 2018 essay included in the booklet for Arbelos's 2019 edition of Hopper's film. She writes the way film criticism should be written, following the trail of crumbs that are intuitively interesting and not just strung out like party lights, virtue of facts without true anecdotal interest, rather she knows what makes bar talk good.

• Wizard Work / 5-minute 1964 promotional studio documentary narrated by Joseph Cotten, included on the Blu-ray for the 2019 Masters of Cinema edition of Aldrich's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, capturing the director at work on-set with the actors.


Best Films Included Alongside a Title Feature:

By Sidney Lumet
by Nancy Buirski, 2015
included in the 2019 Carlotta Ultra-Coffret edition of Network

The Frontier Experience
by Barbara Loden, 1975
included in the 2019 Criterion edition of Wanda

I Am Wanda
by Katja Raganelli and Konrad Wickler, 1980
included in the 2019 Criterion edition of Wanda

Scene Missing: The Story of Dennis Hopper's Last Movie
by Alex Cox, 2018
included in the 2019 Arbelos edition of The Last Movie

Some Kind of Genius
by Paul Joyce, 1986
included in the 2019 Arbelos edition of The Last Movie

Alla ricerca di Tadzio [In Search of Tadzio]
by Luchino Visconti, 1970
included in the 2019 Criterion edition of Death in Venice


Cover and Package Design:

• Sidney Lumet's Network
Carlotta - Joachim Roncin (original artwork) and Dark Star (design), 2019

• Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky
Criterion - Connor Willumsen (original artwork) and Eric Skillman (design), 2019

• Barbara Loden's Wanda
Criterion - Eric Skillman (design), 2019

• Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie
Arbelos - Dylan Haley (design), 2019

• Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice
Criterion - Cliff Wright (original sculpture) and Eric Skillman (design), 2019


Monday, June 03, 2019

Battle Cry

Whooping Cough

"They're shaping into a real outfit — they're beginning to look like Marines."

"He's not a soldier — he's a Marine."

"So long, Marine."

"It's rather hard to say what Timmy looks like."

Those are some lines of dialogue pulled from Raoul Walsh's 1955 Battle Cry, but they just might have popped up in any other of the militaristic Marine-sponsored flicks. As bad as they read, I'll note there's no opposing forces within the mise-en-scène to take the armed American macho frat down a notch.

Unlike what Fuller once did label Full Metal Jacket to Jonathan Rosenbaum in good faith, Battle Cry is actually a true recruitment film: selling the services experience with sex on liberty in San Diego, Pacific crossfares, — but then the problem of having a sweetheart back home and the vicissitudes round a woman's staying in love while being married to a Marine.

I'm watching a 2h 28m narrative film from 1955 of the emotional development of robots, the romanticization of the American clod, the manifestation of the bird-brain...

James Whitmore is a cross between Lloyd Bridges and William Bendix.

A black velvet painting of the Natives of our land, and the same materiel as the eyepatch pestled in Walsh's socket by Montezuma's cock.

One of the best reviews of Battle Cry I've read recently comes from a member of Letterboxd name Fred Pahlke. It sums up the problems with almost all of the blockbuster pictures then or now. About Battle Cry, he writes, in whole:

"Standard war film. Do not have the movie."


Saturday, June 01, 2019

Home from the Hill

"What You Feel Now Is Nostalgia and Liquor"

I'm going to walk through the plot, based off a screenplay based off a novel by William Humphrey, to illustrate the power of the melodrama at play, a distant emulsification of Douglas Sirk and William Faulkner, bound earlier in that director's own adaptation of The Tarnished Angels.

"Theron" Hunnicutt (George Hamilton, a weak-link in the Ricky Nelson tradition; another 1960 mama's boy resembling physiognomically Anthony Perkins) takes to his father, Wade (Robert Mitchum's), teaching him at 18 how to be a man in spite of his belle mom the goy Hannah (Eleanor Parker's) coddling. The couple struck a deal years back: she'd marry Mitchum, but the boy would be hers to rear. How to construct an epic of the low-South (in the sense of "low-fantasy vs. high-") — introduce an agent of change, of chance — introduce a stinking boar. Theron on its trail blasts its snout right off, and Wade, satisfied his boy's growing hair on his chest, holds a roasting-dance. Through the virile proxy (broxy?) Rafe (George Peppard), Theron invites Libby Halstead (Luana Patten) to attend the fête, 'cept her daddy Albert (Everett Sloane) don't want her to go, so they meet on the sly at the library, fall in sympathetic love, fuck in the woods on a picnic blanket. Now Wade's the one with the reputation for womanizing, and Albert Halstead's always had an inkling. See how this goes in a town that jumps for spring cleaning the local cemetery? Throw in Hannah's admission to Theron that Rafe's Wade's illegitimate son, and Minnelli's melodrama's now fully charged: Theron goes off like a soprano Bates before his father over what his half-brother should be rightly owed. Wade swats aside the impertinence: "His mother was a tramp — a sand-hilled tacky having her child by the edge of a ditch."

Mirrorings of illegitimate children, proxy matchmakers, and neglected wives panel the homestead of this musky contrivance, solid in its rank among Minnelli's strongest films.