Movie-watching for me is frequently a solitary pursuit. [Movie-going? Somestimes, yes. Sometimes, no.] Occasionally, though, the 'Fesser will suggest we eat "like Americans" [that is, in front of the television] and asks if there's anything to watch. Last night, the answer was Bill Cunningham New York, which neither of us had seen. I'd imagine any city dwellers who have days when Manhattan feels too damn big or they feel so damn small should have this lovely portrait of a singular man tucked next to their bottled water, in case of an emergency. Expat New Englanders yearning for the soft accents that sound like childhood should also watch, if only for the pang of saudade that'll pierce them right through the heart whenever Bill says "half."
Elsewhere, that certain look of isolation:
Later, when movies took over practically every aspect of my existence, I started mentally collecting movies that had a look that made me feel good, safe, contented. It wasn’t always stark and desolate but it did always have a feeling of isolation, even if there were plenty of people around. Oddly enough, judging from the early attraction to the Road Runner’s desert locales, the westerns of John Ford didn’t give me that same sense. They certainly fulfilled all of my cinephile needs as so many of them are masterpieces but not my “certain look” needs. Perhaps there was too much energy going on within the films to get that feeling. It’s there, a little bit, in The Searchers but only in the all-too brief winter scenes. But mainly, it’s because I didn’t want the desert-sun-shining-feeling at all. I wanted the isolation, yes, but mixed in with grey clouds and damp weather. It’s just that, at seven, the Road Runner was the best I could do; it gave me the isolation but not the right weather. Which is why if I had to point to a western that gives me that feeling in spades, it’s Shane. The look of Shane relaxes me. It comforts me. It feels removed from the rest of the world and the character of Shane, himself, feels removed from the rest of the world as well. It’s as if that small settlement exists in another universe and despite all the bad things happening there, feels good. Quiet, isolated, removed.
B. Kite places Vigo's Zéro de conduite on a continuum between two terms: ludus and paidia.
An isolated child can be wheedled, goaded, or tricked into a performance—film lore is full of anecdotes of each approach. But en masse, children assume their own momentum, and far from seeking to contain this, Vigo made it the driving force of his film. In a way, the movie might be said to exist to provide a loose, unbinding frame for the cluttered and uncontrolled action of the dormitory riot. All of its branchings lead back and forth from that utopian space, and so must any discussion of it.
[W]e’re introduced to a sensibility for which all borders are porous: inside and outside, male and female, human and animal, body and world, animate and inanimate, perhaps even life and death. This is paidia in its purest form. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the school authorities are so immersed in their rule sets that they’ve come to take them for eternal verities. They are wholly creatures of limit, frozen in a set of grotesque postures. Where paidia blends, ludus sets apart...
Call the doctor:
Last weekend, the Wellcome Trust celebrated 75 years of medicine on screen by transforming the Truman Brewery into a 1980s hospital, complete with a therapy on film ward. Here, visitors were offered consultations with a "doctor" who prescribed a healthy dose of film to cure your malaise. I've long suspected the only effective treatment for the common cold is repeated doses of romcom to be applied on the sofa, but can film really make us feel better?
Finally, celebrate the cinema of seasonal affective disorder with the Style Rookie.