Sunday, March 29, 2020

Where'd You Go, Bernadette



Another underrated Linklater, with the underrating this time enhanced by multiple (four) reschedules of the theatrical premiere and no festival exposure whatsoever. "Enhanced," because it's a personal film that mixes class and romantic comedy with drama; contains prime intelligent lengthy Linklaterian discourse (Blanchett and Fishburne intercut with Crudup and Greer) on the vicissitudes of artistic integrity and mid-life crisis; plays its action out in exclusively drizzly settings (with Pittsburgh standing in for most of the Seattle-set interiors and some exteriors); and features a remarkable actress, the young Emma Nelson, wise beyond her years and light-years beyond the stupid teen portrayals of Olivia Wilde's Booksmart. Its art-design is also tremendously beautiful, which at some point in the last decades became a liability, for such things are "not realistic." Like Everybody Wants Some!! [2016], a beautiful entry in Linklater's body of work. See this when you can.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Lloydie: The Boy from St. Thomas

Life / Weapon

To address Lloydie: The Boy from St. Thomas at last: a 2019 7-minute short essay-film by Keifer Nyron Taylor that the director tells us captures the last days of his grandfather, Lloydie Plummer, exploring his violent upbringing in Jamaica, his close friends and the damage done to the family he built after migrating to the UK. The film can be watched free of charge here.

Taylor suggests that to describe all about Lloydie would involve invoking the distances between still snapshots of the family around Lloydie, who seems to exert a gravitational pull among those close to him, friends or spouse-partner, toward embrace, or the fate of the battered-faced. Used, user, abuser. An intertitle quotes a passage written by Lloydie during his time served at HM Prison Liverpool: "[My father's wife] told a lie and my dad beat me. I never went back. I saw him for the last time in Kingston before I left JA for UK in 1959. He is dead now."

Lloydie inhabits front-rooms. Who filmed him here, in the present, on this black-and-white 8mm (?) stock? The familiar glow of the resigned: those individuals who by some befalling hole up in a cave of their making, lamps off, telly on, striking out around 2 or 3 for some chore in the world. Through the film-stock, the drop-away to soundtrack silence, and the inert melancholy of the scenes themselves Taylor conveys to us that we're witnessing an end-of-days, perhaps illness encroaching by way of 'self-illusion'...

Lloydie inhabits front-rooms, and seems to have always been this way.

Along for the ride, Lloydie, passenger in his own vehicle, merges with those automobiles twisting through the passages of the motorway, Tarkovsky's Solaris inchoate.

Then the gathering for a funeral; a floral arrangement lining the rear windows of a hearse to spell "GRANDAD." An open casket, members of Lloydie's family and community filing by to pay their respects before, in one cut, he's resurrected on film nodding off from the perch of his settee as though to lend a ritual haze and to acknowledge, or gaze-down, in turn the attendant mourners.

Life swells wild with expectations, and grows tiresome.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sous le soleil de Satan

Full Mettle Pialat


Pialat's masterful Palme d'Or winner of 1987, Sous le soleil de Satan [Under the Sun of Satan] re-emerges in a new HD master of Gaumont (a rework of their early 2010s master) with the scene of the confrontation with Satan (Jean-Christophe Bouvet) restored to its presumably proper color-timing on the American Cohen Media Blu-ray. (I co-produced the Masters of Cinema DVD, and vaguely recall that the original surreal blue color filter over the scene, although initially approved by Pialat's estate and associates, including DP Willy Kurant, was tampered with by the lab at the time of outputting the HDCAM master tape.)

The straight-razor unites the tonsure and carotid. Add the chain and we have an incomplete catalogue of the holy utilities of the Church's mesmeric masochism. The twice-proclaimed "miracle" of the encounter with Satan suggests that Man and Servant dwell sous son soleil exactement.

"I was shown Man's misery and Satan's power for a reason."

Gabe Klinger's piece on the film, along with Pialat interviewings on it and other miscellany are here. Pialat's short films included on the Gaumont and Masters of Cinema DVD editions, Isabelle aux Dombes [Isabelle in La Dombes, 1951], his first film, and Congrès eucharistique diocésain. [Diocesan Eucharistic Congress.] are not included on the Cohen Blu-ray, but the stunning c. 2010 12-minute interview with Depardieu is.


Notes, information, and remarks by Pialat on the director's short films, which span in their entirety 1951-1966, can be found here.

Kent Jones's 2008 essay on
L'enfance-nue, and my translations of accompanying interviews with Pialat can be found at this blog here.

Emmanuel Burdeau's 2009 essay on
Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble, and my translations of accompanying interviews with Pialat can be found at this blog here.

Gabe Klinger's 2010 essay on
Sous le soleil de Satan, and my translation of a 1987 interview with Pialat, and a 2003 interview with Sandrine Bonnaire, can be found at this blog here.

Adrian Martin's 2009 essay on
La gueule ouverte, and my translation of remarks about the film, can be found at this blog here.

Dan Sallitt's 2008 essay on
Police (which he considers one of his favorite pieces of his own writing) has just been posted at his blog, here. A dossier of my translations of interviews with Pialat about the film has been posted here.

Dan's 2010 MoC essay on
À nos amours. has also been posted at his blog here. A visual I made for the film along with my translation of the 1984 Le Monde conversation between Maurice Pialat and Jean-Luc Godard can be found here.

My essay on
Passe ton bac d'abord... — "The War of Art" — can be read here. A dossier of my translations of four interviews with Pialat around the film can be read here.

Sabrina Marques's essay on
Van Gogh is here, alongside Godard's letter to Pialat, and words from Pialat about the film.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Un flic



Melville's final film, in which the master had decisively simplified his line. Un flicA Cop [1972] — reductio ad absurdum, arbitrary, perfunctory even. Why not Four Hoods? Or An Informant? It's enough that in the quest of Delon's character ("Édouard Coleman") to put an end to criminal schemes, his ethos is the application of set, often unwritten policies; Melville renders Delon anonymous in spite of his movie-star-looks — what is a bit of a stunt in Le samouraï [The Samurai, 1967] in Un flic is perhaps an equally daring grounding of the man. In no other film — Le samouraï, L'armée des ombres [Army of Shadows, 1969], Le cercle rouge [The Red Circle, 1970] — are the steel blues and greys of the filters, gels, color-timing, sets, and wardrobes so persistent nor so ominous, nor so severe: take the seaside bank at the opening of the film, undoubtedly one of the bleakest locations in all of French cinema. The characters here represent "égarés," lost in time in a world unmoored from an actual present; Un flic is not so much a film of '72 as it is a proverbial train-set upon which Melville lays the tracks of his obsessions, underscored most movingly in the sequence involving the train and the helicopter, obvious miniatures that harken back to an earlier cinema, one of Merian Cooper and Alfred Hitchcock. To be stranded in the world of Un flic is to experience the least routine of pleasures.


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Poemquotes 15 - "VI. The Beacons" by Charles Baudelaire

my translation


VI. Les phares - The Flowers of Evil
[VI. The Beacons] [Les fleurs du mal]

Rubens, river of oblivion, garden of sloth,
Pillow of cool flesh where one cannot love,
But where life rushes and writhes endlessly,
As the air in the sky and the sea within the sea;

Leonardo da Vinci, mirror deep and dark,
Where charming angels, with a sweet smile
Charged wholly with mystery, appear in the shadow
Of the glaciers and pines that close up their country;

Rembrandt, sad hospital all filled with murmurs,
And decorated solely with a great crucifix,
Where tearful prayer rises from garbage,
Abruptly traversed by a wintry beam;

Michelangelo, vague location where one eyes various Hercules
Mingling with Christs, and raising fully upright
From powerful ghosts which in the twilights
Tear their shroud as they stretch out their fingers;

Boxer's rages, faun's impertinences,
You who knew how to round up the beauty of the boors,
Large heart swollen with pride, man sickly and yellow,
Puget, melancholic emperor of the convicts;

Watteau, that carnival where many illustrious hearts,
Like butterflies, wander aflame,
Cool, light settings illuminated by way of candelabras
Slipping into madness at this whirling dance-party;

Goya, nightmare replete with unknown things,
Of fetuses cooked in the midst of sabbaths,
Of old women in the mirror and of children in the nude,
Working at their stockings in order to tempt demons;

Delacroix, lake of blood haunted by bad angels,
Shaded by a wood of evergreen firs,
Where, beneath a pained sky, strange fanfares
Pass, like one of Weber's stifled sighs;

These curses, these blasphemies, these wails,
These ecstasies, these cries, these tears, these Te Deums,
Are an echo spoken back by a thousand labyrinths;
For mortal hearts, they are a divine opium!

They are a cry repeated by a thousand sentinels,
An order sent back by a thousand megaphones;
They are a beacon lit over a thousand citadels,
A call from hunters lost in the great woods!

For it is true, Lord, the best testimony
That we are able to bestow upon your dignity
Is this ardent moan rolling throughout the ages
Dying on the shore of your eternity!


Monday, March 02, 2020

Poemquotes 14 - "IV. Correspondences" by Charles Baudelaire

my translation


IV. Correspondences - The Flowers of Evil
[III. Correspondances] [Les fleurs du mal]

Nature is a temple where living pillars
At times allow confused words to emerge;
Man crosses them through forests of symbols
Observing him with familiar looks.

Like prolonged echoes mingling from afar
Within a tenebrous and profound unity,
Vast as night and clarity,
Perfumes, colors, and sounds give response.

There are perfumes fresh as children's fleshes,
Gentle as oboes, green as prairies,
— And others, corrupted, rich, and triumphant,

Having the expansion of limitless things,
Like amber, musk, bezoin, and incense
Singing the transports of the mind and the senses.