Increasingly, the cinetrix has had a difficult time writing about film[s]. Even ones she quite enjoyed. Yes, I could give you the log line that the HBO doc in question, now enjoying a brief theatrical run, considers the arc of the oft-controversial artist's career through the lens of the MOMA exhibition that shares its name with the film.
Or I could liken performance art to seduction, and Abramović to a practiced beguiler, the embodiment of provocation. Plus, look at that profile!
I could mention how I relished director Matthew Akers' anti-hagiography attitude during the Q&A following the invited screening at the 15th Full Frame Documentary Film Festival on April 14. And the light he shed on the logistics of mounting that sort of show. Hell, just building that kind of chair and climbing into and out of that sort of gown.*
*My notes read "would like to hear from guards."
I could talk about tears. Or Girls. Or that guy with the moustache. Or the David Blaine near-miss. Or the how-to-perform-Marina's-greatest-hits summer camp on the Hudson and what I suppose the Venn diagram overlap is between those 30 Abramović stand-ins and civil war reenactors.
“I say to them, I would like to make a levitation room, I would like to have a digital temple,” Ms. Abramović said of her conversations with the architects. “There will be a room for drinking water and drinking water in slow motion.”
In a phone interview last week she added: “It’s going to be completely unique and special, like nothing else. It’s going to be long durational, and to educate the public about long durational work.” Ms. Abramović said she hopes to use the center to train others in what she calls the “Abramović method,” in which audience members become performers and vice versa; with every visitor outfitted in a lab coat, the distinction between artist and onlooker will melt away, Ms. Abramović said.
Part of the premise of the institute is that visitors will devote time to it: “When you arrive,” Ms. Abramović said, “you have to sign a contract that you will stay a minimum of six hours.” There is no penalty for leaving early, but endurance is rewarded. “The concept is very clear,” she said. “I’m asking you to give me your time, and if you give me your time, I give you experience.”
I could talk about looking and really seeing another person's face. The flickers of recognition and pleasurable frisson whenever a sitter returns to his or her place opposite Abramović. How she serves as a spindle around which the rest of the world turns. Duration. The mortification of the flesh. Adoration.
But instead I keep coming back to the clip at the top of this post. And this quotation, via Fette:
People ask why there are so few female artists who succeed. It’s because women are not ready to sacrifice as much as men. Women want a man, they want a family, they want to have children, they want to be loved, and to be an artist. And they can’t; it’s impossible.
I enjoyed watching the film, but that line throws into high relief the ?essential? narcissism of Abramović and her art that I will never be able to wrap my head around. [Seriously, folks, I scored a six on the Narcissistic Personality Quiz. Where do you think ol' Marina'd fall?] And it explains why the most breathtaking moment in the film is not when Abramović's former collaborator/lover Ulay returns:
It's the removal of a table. But never the barrier.
In the scene featuring Harold and Maude riding off on a policeman’s motorcycle, Cort actually bashed himself on the head with the edge of the shovel, sustaining a nasty cut. But as the unbroken shot in the film attests, he was a total pro and never broke character while the camera rolled. -- FOC and Criterion producer Curtis Tsui
WWWWDD? via The Futurist!
Remote Area Medical, codirected by FOC Farihah Zaman. [via]
Chris Rock's stated career plan, from yesterday's #NantucketFilmFest comedy panel: "What would Richard Pryor do sober?"— Ty Burr (@tyburr) June 23, 2012
Still coming down from the Flaherty Seminar, working through the pile-up in my RSS feed reader and the var und sund social media. Alors, mes enfants!
From Splitsider, an Onion News Network vet chooses her five favorite videos, including "Denmark Introduces Harrowing New Tourism Ads Directed By Lars Von Trier"
The cinetrix objects to the oblique namecheck of a pal in the lede but otherwise enjoyed Bruce Handy's takedown of an unlikely generic hybrid, the extinction event rom-com:
As the title sort of implies, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a romantic comedy set against a mass-extinction event—an incoming asteroid, the usual. It’s a potentially clever idea—you could imagine a movie that uses Armageddon to deconstruct romantic-comedy tropes and the way they exploit and fuel our fantasies; after all, what’s the point of True Love if we’re all about to die? Instead, the film gives us Steve Carell in his umpteenth sad-sack, moist-eyed-clown role. Well, actually it’s just his fourth, dating back to Little Miss Sunshine and continuing through Dan in Real Life and Crazy, Stupid Love, but this performer, who only a few years ago was one of the most welcome and reliably funny presences in American film and TV, is now in sore danger of crash-landing on Robin Williams Island. You can feel the tractor beam pulling him in, the Holocaust movie inching its way to the top of the pile of screenplays beside his bed. Pathos becomes Carell in small doses, just as drugs are often fun the first time you try them, but Carell is making a habit of it. Even his Michael Scott on The Office developed a soul somewhere along the way, paralleling Alan Alda’s Hawkeye, who started his 11-season run on M*A*S*H, as a subversive, borderline jerk before he became the grizzled saint of TV legend.
Bomp, bomp. Chickah chickaaah! Apparently, Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out 26 years ago this month? Eeesh. The above recut of the trailer is pretty good (albeit no Shining!), but it's nowhere near as sublime as the various ontological Abe Frohman meditations or the theory that Cameron was fucking Sloane behind Ferris's back.
Stupid is as stupid does. A classic Rosenbaum review of a reactionary flick I still rue seeing [on a first -- and only -- date]:
Consider the evidence: Forrest Gump depicts Vietnam as a tragedy only for Americans (there’s not a single Vietnamese in sight), none of whom exactly “chose” to go: they simply found themselves miraculously transported there (see The Deer Hunter and Casualties of War), fighting for incomprehensible reasons. The antiwar movement was a cynical con game spearheaded by pushy women, ranting Black Panthers, and unwashed male hippies who liked to slap their flower-power girlfriends around, giving the lie to their “peace” platform; hallucinogens led straight to hard drugs; and so on. The mutilated veteran (Lieutenant Dan) is understood strictly in terms of other Hollywood movies — Midnight Cowboy in one gag, thenBorn on the 4th of July more generally — because no other reference points are considered viable. (Maybe that’s the reason for a clip from The Birth of a Nation – because only a famous movie can authenticate the Civil War.)
O, brave new world 1, via Chuck:
He also points out that streaming (at least on Netflix) still makes it difficult to watch with the bonus features familiar from DVDs. To correct the situation, he gets a bemused Jason London to comment on Dazed and Confused and a bedraggled Andrew McCarthy to pull him on a wagon through Central Park while he watched St. Elmo’s Fire on his iPad (a subtle reminder that streaming content is also mobile).
O, brave new world 2, on choosing the nuclear option:
I realized I had in my hands a bigger weapon than his pathetic little iPhone. When the iPad was first unveiled, they were mocked as just giant iPhones, but perhaps they were built to be such with this very moment in mind. Not saying a word, I turned my iPad on, opened the browser to a white screen and positioned it on my lap pointed directly at my neighbor’s face and away from mine. Thus, I was able to continue to enjoy (or not) the movie - with the screen pointed away from me - ignoring him while he glared at me in outrage and waved his hands around in protest. Finally as he seemed about to make a stink, it dawned on him that he was not in a position to complain about people having their screens open during the movie. I saw him visibly deflate and put his phone back in his pocket. Without a word, I then turned my iPad off and put it away.
Elliott Gould, EIFF juror and film-watching warrior. [Confidential to CF: What's with the blond?]
"A quick stroll through some of the notable negative review finds consensus — once we have seen Girls, we should be sated. Lena Dunham, uber alles."
"Lately, watching films from the 1940s and early 1950s for a book I’m planning, I was struck by how the great divas of that era used their eyes."
The Criterion Current catches up with FOC Jesse Trussell:
Is there a specific joy to programming a festival in an honest-to-goodness movie palace?
The living film history of this space is really incredible; the Paramount is the same auditorium where Austin audiences watched Casablanca for the first time. Programming in a place with such a rich history, I try to do a couple of different things. The first is to bring back the style of films that played in the theater during its cinematic heyday, the big emotions and the big images of Welles or Hawks. The second is to almost play against the space; I doubt when Kiarostami was making Close-up he thought it would one day screen in a 100-year-old picture house in Texas, but I’m playing it in August. That type of modernism in such a classical space creates a really interesting experience.
OK, so what exactly did South Carolina ever do to Bilge Ebiri?
By sticking a little too much to some of the actual particulars of the Lincoln story (even Stephen Douglas shows up, as he did in Young Mr. Lincoln, acourting the future Mary Todd Lincoln), the film has the strangely programmed feel of a historical pageant, as if Raiders of the Lost Ark had been crossbred with The Longest Day. Matters aren’t helped by Benjamin Walker’s indistinct performance: With his expressionless face and his smooth, half-formed features, he resembles nothing so much as a Liam Neeson action figure. Still, there is something bracing about a film that’s not afraid to link the entire Confederacy, still an inexplicable source of pride in some parts of the country, with a race of humanity-enslaving vampires. I can’t wait to see how this thing plays in South Carolina.
My friend is given the task of taking the money to Godard – of ‘making the drop’ as it were, in this cross between an imaginary gangster movie (or spy movie) and the normal everyday business dealings in which independent filmmakers engage in order to sustain themselves. This is an elaborate business and a serious undertaking because, firstly, she has to fly to Geneva and find her way to the station. Or perhaps she might have crossed the Channel by ferry and gone by train – I’m trying to plot the feasibility of this, speculating on the time it might have taken, as if it were some kind of quest narrative or basic fairytale plot that might be staged, and I am trying to build on the skeleton of the story she told me a long time ago.
“Have ya gotta angle for the story?”
The accent—part New England hayseed, part Dead-End Kid—is unmistakable. It belongs to Ruth Gordon. Well, it’s not hers, exactly; it’s a variation on the accent she used when she played Minnie Castavet in Rosemary’s Baby. But why shouldn’t she use it? Three years ago—when she was seventy-two—that accent helped her to win an Oscar for best supporting actress. And that award helped her to get her present part in Harold and Maude. She plays Maude, an eighty-year-old woman who has a love affair—nude scenes and all—with a twenty-year-old boy and dies at the end. Another love story by Paramount.
You’re sitting in her mobile dressing room near Lands End, and she’s asking again in that asperulous accent, “Have ya gotta angle?”
“Y-e-s,” you hesitate, thinking to yourself that she really looks about thirty years too young for the part in her fringed leather jacket and sandalwood hippie beads.
“’Cause if ya don’t, I gotta angle.” She goes right on: “How many actresses are there whose careers have peaked at age seventy-five?”
Okay. Have it her way. She’s entitled. But remember to ask about the nude scenes later.
“Ya know,” she says, “Thornton Wilder asked me, ‘Why do you have to tell everybody your age?’ Well, I figure everyone knows an actress’s age. I went on the stage in 1915 as Nibs inPeter Pan. They didn’t bring me on in baby clothes. I was nineteen at the time. So I figure my age is known. But I tell plenty a’ lies. I took that up two years ago.”
“Anythin’ that’s useful,” she replies truthfully. “And a year ago, I took up selfishness. And this year, look out, ’cause I took up vindictiveness. I’m gonna give it out to anybody who did anythin’ wrong to me. I’m not gonna lose track of lyin’ or selfishness, but I’m addin’ to it vindictiveness.”
Listening to Chris Marker’s La Jetée.
What other film-makers have had such a successful handle on the music they use? Are there any songs you love which you wouldn't know about had they not been used in a movie? Have you ever bought a film soundtrack? Let us know in the thread below.
It may have been around 3:30 when a group of new folks demanded I explain the discussion dynamic to them. Or while I was watching the umpteenth game of foursquare. (No, really.) Or maybe it was a little later, when Shahril was explaining the political process in Malaysia to me, that I realized I was going to need to skip this morning's screening if I had any hope of completing some paying work by the time I'd promised it. Bad, bad seminarian!
Anyway, as a break from my work/break, I give you the program since last we met.
Tuesday morning, "Paradises"; music: "Valse de la Demoiselle aux Yeux Verts," Pascal Comelade.
Tuesday afternoon, "Legacies (The Undead)"; music: "All the Way," Billie Holiday.
Tuesday evening, "No More Heroes" at the Hamilton Theatre; music: "Give Me Your Love (Love Song)," Lambchop
Wednesday morning: no screenings.
Wednesday afternoon, "Chiaroscuro." Music: "The Stars in His Head (Dark Lights Remix), Colin Stetson.
Wednesday evening, "On Life and How to Live It"; music: "Batiscafo Katiuscas," Antonia Font.
Wednesday late night screening info TK.
A quick recap, as I have only a half hour 'til the day's first screening.
Saturday night's session 1, Overture, opened with the Spiritualized song namechecked in this post's title. Programmer Josexto Cerdan has continued this practice throughout, although not everyone's noticed it.
Sunday morning saw Family Affairs, introduced accidentally but aptly by American Music Club's "Home" the same hour I learned of the drummer's death.
Session 3 was Me and the Devil, starting with "La Leyenda del Tiempo" by Camaron de la Isla.
Sunday night's session, Traces, got trippy. Music: "Debriefing," by Vic Chestnutt
Monday, Monday began with Ghosts and Aphex Twin's "Gwely Mernans."
Then it was the afternoon of the Anti-Anthropologist, with the Violent Femmes' "Hallowed Ground" kicking things off:
The evening: Clash! The music? "Waiting Room" by Fugazi.
And now I'm gonna be late! More anon, like links and images.
The cinetrix has retreated to her mountain lair, a summer tradition. Only this time, with a twist. Earlier this week, we had fiber Internet connected, and it's been like the rural electrification act part 2, electric boogaloo. You see, the old system delivered Internet via satellite, subject to the vagaries of weather, and had a FAP cap that could be blown up by streaming a single cat video. Suboptimal, to say the least. Now we can stream Netflix through the new blue-ray onto the new flat screen [so uncanny valley!], and I can imbibe the moving bits of the Interwebs in real time.
Walk with me.
Official Trailer: Always Together: Chinese-Jamaicans In Reggae from Always Together on Vimeo. My pal Generoso's new doc, which looks fascinating.
Silly French people, with your bande dessinees! [via] I totally can't figure out the vocalist on this -- part James Brown by way of Africa, part the Zombies, all while making pow pow gun noises with his mouth like a little boy?
This next clip is included because of the context in which I watched it most recently, on a former student's film blog, captioned
I totally do, too.
Pretty sure these androids also appear in Samsara, at least in the five minutes I caught from the balcony of the Carolina Theatre on opening night of this year's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival before deciding I was too tired to deal with Japanese robots and opted to head back to my air bnb digs.
Walter! I love Walter! [via]
Walter watches your eyes as you watch a film, and every time that you blink, it edits the video.
Based on the theories of Walter Murch in In the Blink of An Eye, I’ve transformed the subliminal action of blinking into a method of interaction with the film. By cutting every time that you blink, Walter creates a customized narrative for you, without interrupting your absorption in the film. You are free to watch while your unconscious does the work.
Some related Canadian content. First, you should really read this piece about Caroline Martel's installation Industry/Cinema at the Museum of the Moving Image. I first saw Martel's film The Phantom of the Operator at Full Frame in 2005. Last summer at the Flaherty Seminar, I was fortunate to see a version of this installation and part of her latest, a documentary on the mysterious ondes Martenot.
Second, this great post at Sounding Out about Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest en Francais and English. The clip above and others embedded in the piece remind us again of the power of the amateur moving image to combat the official narrative of the state ...
Sometimes a manif casserole* sounds like random banging, but most I’ve experienced leave sheer raucous pounding for moments when one march meets up with another, or when someone on a balcony does something particularly cool to cheer on the marchers. A rhythm usually arises from the chaos, encircling the disorder and enveloping everyone. Sometimes the rhythms connect with chants like “la loi spéciale, on s’en câlisse,” which roughly translates to “we don’t give a fuck about your special law.”
The numbers are part of the politics. For the last 100-odd days most Quebec students have been on strike against tuition increases of over 70% in five years. Some protests have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The Quebec government tried to suppress the student movement by passing Bill 78 on May 18, 2012. Among its many preposterous provisions, any spontaneous gathering of over 50 people is illegal without prior police approval—even a picnic. Protesters not only must disclose their planned route, but also their means of transportation, According to Law 78, people are criminals the minute they join a protest, which is why so many people have taken to the streets.
*(manif is short for manifestation en cours, a street protest)
Talking Heads, play us out.