Wednesday, November 22, 2023

New Strains

Making the Best of It / Social Distances

The best and funniest film made about COVID, Artemis Shaw and Prashanth Kamalakanthan's 2023 New Strains (double-entendre in full effect) depicts a visitation in a long-distance relationship between Kallia (Shaw) and Ram (Kamalakanthan) in the opening weeks of the pandemic, with the two holed up in a beautiful apartment belonging to Kallia's uncle.

At first DV was pushed to create images that were 'resolvable' — now, the format's usage is no longer that of a chase after high-resolution, but a complicated present-day matter of texture. 'The Past' as DV has become a subject and a phenomenon signified by the medium which screams it — we recall the contemporary footage of 9/11 here during the cruel succeeding happenstance of The Pandemic. This specific tale connotes, as with any good document, the general within and surrounding the specific.

In hindsight we observe the myths, rumors, falsehoods, and truths of the opening weeks of the COVID pandemic. Some were pure horseshit; others all too accurate. People overreacted, people experienced the illness exactly for what it was, people were compromised and died, including the mother of a friend of mine. I'm thinking today of the lyric from The Clash's "London Calling""You know what they said? / Well some of it was true!". All glues together in the preternatural expressivity of Shaw's face.

I'm posting this on the day before Thanksgiving. Among various reasons for my gratitude this year, I give thanks to Shaw and Kamalakanthan for their remarkable film.


Other Writing at Cinemasparagus on the Films of Shaw and/or Kamalakanthan

Have a Nice Life [2021]


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Hong Kong Solitude

Lonely Beauty / Beautiful Loneliness

Hail the fabulous filmmaker and critic Nicolas Saada, whose 2016 two-and-a-half minute short Hong Kong Solitude (which you can watch here) needs to be seen; it's a beautiful entry-point for Saada's body of work — Saada, who needs to be recognized far more than he has been to-date in the United States, let alone in France.

The film's title can be interpreted in at least three ways: (1) The solitude of present-day Hong Kong as, I'll say, a nation in the global matrix; (2) The solitude of the citizens' daily lives per capita in the context of a populace enormous in swell; (3) The solitude of the outsider, the observer, the filmmaker.

Hong Kong Solitude stands at once as a tribute and a lament. History hangs over the present. The stunning black-and-white cinematography grants the impression of a nostalgia for the future akin to the crux of Marker's La Jetée. (Two years ago I wrote about Marker's film here.) Melancholy of the subject, melancholy of the witness... Will those filmed — both the people and the urban infrastructure itself — hold on to Saada's mnemonic excursion as their own memories too?

There will be much more on this blog in the time ahead regarding Nicolas Saada.


Sunday, November 05, 2023

Christmas Carole

Varda Recovered, Depardieu Discovered

Critical, celebratory — the perfect Christmas movie, and only five minutes long.

Varda's 1966 Christmas Carole marks another 2021+ Ciné-Tamaris restoration that has gone up in all its restored beauty on the Cinémathèque's Henri site. You can watch it here. The frames above from the introductory titles provide the general gist: Rosalie Varda oversaw the project, as she did with the contemporaneous Pier Paolo Pasolini - Agnès Varda - New York - 1967

Via which Christmas Carole shares the city-street-set peregrinations of the aforementioned film, and at least through la rose-colored lenses observes a stark contrast between the haywire confusion of Times Square in PPPAVNY67 and Paris of the same era. 

There's the girl Carole (Hélène Viard) and her two male friends, played by Francis Merle and, in the earliest role I've seen him, Gérard Depardieu. Will she sleep with this other guy Paul outside the duo, or should she just throw some therapy in the mix and bed one or both of the Merle-Depardieu pair? Made as a producer test (or maybe as we'd say today, as a 'proof-of-concept') Christmas Carole recalls the earliest mid- to late-1950s New Wave shorts, say Godard's Charlotte et son Jules or Truffaut's Les mistons (or even Godard's third feature, Une femme est une femme) and their similar sexual conundrums. Consumerism became time for forgiveness — "You need money to buy gifts. Give me a franc." —"The folly of money. I buy, I give. He buys, he gives. Same old song: money, money, money." 

As Depardieu says, in a questionably different context, "We can call it 'making friendship'."


Other writing on Agnès Varda at Cinemasparagus:

La Pointe-Courte [1955]

Ô saisons ô châteaux [O Seasons, O Châteaux, 1957]

L'Opéra-Mouffe, carnet de notes filmées rue Mouffetard par une femme enceinte en 1958 [The Opéra-Mouffe: Diary Filmed on the rue Mouffetard in Paris by a Pregnant Woman in 1958, 1958]

Du côté de la Côte [Around the Côte, 1958]

Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald, ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) [The Fiancés of the Pont Mac Donald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses), 1961]

Cléo de 5 à 7 [Cléo from 5 to 7, 1962]

Le bonheur [Happiness, 1964]

Elsa la Rose [Elsa the Rose, 1966]

Les créatures [The Creatures, 1966]

Christmas Carole [1966, posthumous release 2023]

Pier Paolo Pasolini - Agnès Varda - New York - 1967 [1967, posthumous release 2023]

Uncle Yanco [1967]

Black Panthers [1968]

Lions Love... and Lies / Lions Love [1969]

Nausicaa [1970]

Réponse de femmes à une question produite par Antenne 2 pour le magazine 'F. comme Femme' [Women's Response to a Question Put Forth by Antenne 2 for the Magazine-Show 'F. comme Femme', 1975]

Daguerréotypes [1976]

Plaisir d'amour en Iran [Giddiness of Love in Iran] [1976]

L'une chante l'autre pas [The One Sings the Other Doesn't] [1977]

Mur murs [1980]

Documenteur: An Emotion Picture [1981]


Monday, October 30, 2023

Circus Maximus

The Film Maudit of the Last Twenty Years Besides Lawrence Kasanoff's Foodfight!

(You can read this New York Times article about Foodfight! here.)

This is something. Travis Scott (who mostly sucks) decided to produce a streaming short-film this year — it's here on YouTube — to promote his new record. Harmony Korine, from my understanding, was brought on to organize the affair, which consists of different fragments of Africa and Italy, specifically at the Circus Maximus, populated at various times by African natives, clubgoers, and Travis. Obviously it's an ego-project on Scott's part — but I find these to almost always have something interesting that shines a beam on the director's psychology. Whether he knew it or not, he created a no-one-said answer to Lucifer Rising.

Circus Maximus is a horror-show of pacing, but this is its maudit structure. Take the sequence (30-minutes+?) of Scott traipsing around the Circus Maximus followed by drones and backdropped by fifty amps as props for his half-songs, there he is searching for something to do... Harmony's piece in the end-credits is titled Pompeii (I'm assuming this involves the limo ride, and maybe material set in the club, and maybe some other suggestions).

This is true This Is Spinal Tap shit. Down the rabbithole. Like the Alan Smithee movie of the Alan Smithee movie. Circus Maximus evokes the sense of desiring a movie to end.

If the film weren't without a beauty and an utter oddity I wouldn't write about it. — If it weren't Korine-related. It's a document of the Travis Scott world id and ego; Harmony read the email-chain.


Other writing at Cinemasparagus on Harmony Korine:

Circus Maximus [Harmony Korine, et al, 2023]


Friday, October 27, 2023

Invaders from Venus!

Origin Story

Frank Mosley's 1997-through-to-2003 high-school era "backyard movie" Invaders from Venus! is really something to behold. It's one of those video films when we were a particular type of younger, made around the same era, but to which we never had access to digital editing software — we had to cut in camera. Frank is a couple years earlier in age than me, I think, and he had access to the tools that didn't quite exist around '97, which makes Invaders from Venus! all the more impressive because aside from the early existence of 'non-linear' software, he knew how to put a sequence together. No offense to compare to Dave Skowronski's outsider Halloween Party (which I wrote about a few days before this post), but Mosley's 'amateur' effort surpasses HP in all degrees; his natural cinema instincts at such an early age are truly impressive. From shot continuity and overlap of audio across cuts — and a progressive zoom-in on the aliens' human captive during his monologue, Invaders is if anything else a document of an era, which for a certain demographic, might remind an audience of its very self. Kids play sheriff (the little girl in the role is always looking for more drops from her essentially empty booze bottle); one plays the goddamn President of the United States.

It even sports one of the funniest lines I've heard in any movie I've seen, in the final act, as the Texas-based hero breathes a sigh of relief after the invaders have supposedly been eradicated: "I feel really bad that Oklahoma and Arkansas didn't get obliterated." 

Frank is one of the best actors and filmmakers going right now. Invaders from Venus! stands as the evidence that the kid's got talent. You can watch the film here through Split Tooth Media. 

As if that weren't enough, Frank holds his equal own to the generational talent Lily Gladstone in 2020's Freeland by Mario Fuloni and Kate McLean, available to view currently on MUBI.