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]