So many honorary degrees!
love the Delarue music
I'm sorry, I'm not a real person yet.
Sophie makes fun of me because I can't account for my bruises.
You smoke inside?
It's just this apartment is very aware of itself.
I love Sophie's frames.
I like Paris as anti-romance.
It's bedtime for all good children.
What I remember: the screening room and the acidity/angularity of Mickey Sumner. And I was ready to be smitten alongside Noah Baumbach, too. Meh. The next day I couldn't remember a thing.
The Vancouver Art Gallery has published a beautiful book tie-in to their current exhibition Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life.... It also includes an essay by me [ed., Karina Longworth], on hotels as spaces for class passing and sexual adventure in the Fred and Ginger musicals, particularly Top Hat. [via]
Inception (2010) + Paprika (2006) [via]
Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner, both well-known for documenting the Civil War on glass-plate negatives, routinely cropped, burned, dodged, and manipulated their photographs to create more compelling scenes. Sometimes figures would be added in to portraits to help “complete” the story as was the case with Brady’s portrait of Union army generals. Gardner’s Home of Rebel Sharpshooter and Harvest of Death are both exact prints of the original glass plates. The manipulation here is plain old-fashioned. Gardner moved the bodies around for a better composition (Harvest of Death) and made use of some appropriated props (the “rebel” is resting near a union gun).
After a fashion, they do attempt to assimilate into European ways. "There's a very famous photograph of an American girl walking through Rome, wearing a peasant skirt," says Roth, who adds that that photo provided part of her inspiration for Cate Blanchett's character, who initially dresses like a "Marymount College girl," with gloves and a belted coat, and eventually evolves into a more worldly look, wearing vintage clothes all along the way. As for Paltrow, Jones says, "In the beginning she wears things that are carefree and bohemian, and as the movie becomes more serious, her style becomes streamlined and a little bit more severe." But for the most part, "The shapes of the skirts Gwyneth wears are long and full; once we established that that's what we wanted, we looked in every corner for the period clothes, and recreated some things from prototypes."
"The essayistic," Lee quotes a member of the collective Otolith Group, "is dissatisfaction. It's discontent." There are several points in Lee's essay -- inspired, in part, by his recent trip to the Flaherty Seminar -- at which I balk, but I prefer to let them sink in for a bit, and reapply them to the many classics of the form Lee quotes from. To make that easier, Criticwire has gathered links to every one of the film's Lee cites in his credits, most of which are available in full online.
Cinetrix, here. I was at the Flaherty Seminar along with Kevin B. Lee this summer, but I found several of the Otolith Group's pieces more problematic and facile the further I got from the immediate experience of them. Still, I learned about Fred Moten from them, so...
Related, at least in my mind:
Humanities grad school is replete with so-called theoryheads—students, mostly dudes, who love to speak as unintelligently as possible and lord their affection for dead and living white guys who’ve done the same over them. And they are, almost to the person, the fucking worst.
To be fair, I hadn’t been educationally reared in the theory tradition. My background was all formalism and historicism, which is another way of saying that my undergrad professors had taught me to “close read” a film and figure out the historical things that made it what it was, but steered clear of theory. This meant that in my first weeks of grad school, I was making serious frenemies of Althusser, Lacan, and Derrida, whose French punning scarred me so badly that I shamefully still can’t return to it. Non-theoryhead-cheatsheet: these were guys who wrote about a.) how society works and/ or b.) how our own psychology/ subjectivity works.
I hated it. Not because it was hard, per se (I’d loved Calculus 3, and that was hard), but because it all seemed so knotted, esoteric, masculine. It felt like every guy who’d ever mansplained me, only he was French and using words that no one—not even SAT tests—ever used. It was Your Dad Talking About Investments + Your Boyfriend Talking About Fantasy Baseball to Your Friend’s Husband Explaining How Arcade Fire is the Linchpin of Modern Rock power.
To answer that third-year’s question: clearly, no, I was not a theoryhead. I wanted to bash my head against my theory book and go back to actually consuming the culture to which these dudes' theory was deemed so critical in unlocking. Part of the problem was the syllabus (according to this list, apparently no non-white, non-Western non-dude dude had ever “theorized” anythin) and part of it was the teacher, and my lack of experience, and general first-year paralysis.
Amy! (1980) Directed by Laura Mulvey & Peter Wollen Duration: 30 minutes.
Aaron Dobbs--who long shamed me for having a CRT TV and no DVR [both since remedied, thank you]--advances an intriguing theory, both on his blog [quoted below] and in the first of a series of posts developed with FOC Alison Willmore on Indiewire:
I'm not arguing that the lead-up to this now-monikered "Third Golden Age of Television" is a direct result of big corporations and pop culture co-opting the '90s independent film movement, but the progression is more linear than one might first imagine. Nor do I want to enter the debate about whether film (especially independent film) is dead or alive. More movies than ever are being made today; colossally bloated atrocities as well as tiny stories easily overlooked, many deservedly so. Even as technological and economic concerns have made it logistically and financially easier than ever to make, truly independent film seems to have reclaimed the meaning of "independent."
Elsewhere: Bela Tarr is one of many yawning voids in my viewing, but because I arranged my 20th & 21st century lit class around the movies [shorter pieces engaging directly with them; longer ones having subsequently been adapted into them], this piece intrigued me [via]:
I’ve been thinking about Béla Tarr’s long takes versus other long takes. Damnation, Sátántango and Werckmeister Harmonies are all based on either books, or screenplays by the Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, I’ve been reading his writing too and the work is really phenomenal; he uses these long sentences that sort of cycle through. You start off in one place, and somehow, through the succession of his dense language and phrases, seem to pass through eternity and end up in another place altogether. There’s a similar feeling to a long take, but they’re not the same. The sentences will sometimes describe very simple things, like people in a waiting room and how they’re feeling. But the sentence manages to encompass the whole history of these people and their future and their fates and the feeling of waiting and of eternity; and then, you the reader now feel like you’re confessing your own being to some vague ghost of God while you’re reading the sentence. It’s hard to explain. But I’ve been interested in why Krasznahorkai’s sentences are so powerful for me, and why Béla Tarr’s long takes are so effective, at least for me . . .
Speaking of long takes, I showed my film class The Kiss leading into our discussion of the long take, but what I really enjoyed in this post was its examination of The Life of an American Fireman [and this week we talk about continuity editing]:
Take the Lumiere’s Leaving the Factory. Well, what kind of a factory is it? It’s a movie camera factory. The people leaving that factory are absolutely aware of what that funny box on the tripod is, and they didn’t get to leave the factory until their boss, the guy making the movie, said so. Or take Edison’s The Kiss—it may look like a couple of middle-aged schlubs having a quick snog but in fact they are professional actors recreating a scene from a play they were in. As “actualities” go these are staged events involving subjects who are aware of and playing to the camera....
8. Fireman Save My Child
OK, kids, here’s where it gets complicated. We just saw the lady and her rugrat saved, and now bizarrely the film has leaped backwards in time to show the same events all over again from a different point of view.
Forgive me, but this is the weirdest piece of editing imaginable—this borders on the avant garde. But this avant garde weirdness only exists here because it hadn’t yet occurred to Porter (or anyone else) that you could cut in the middle of a scene, go look at something else for a while, and then come back. In other words, cross-cut.
As soon as cross-cutting was an option, it would quickly become the norm. Filmmakers would abandon the all-or-nothing approach—because it makes no sense. It is absolutely insane to run a scene through in its entirety, then roll back to the beginning and watch it all over again from a different angle. It feels like we’re watching the daily rushes, an unfinished product.
Another link swiped from the Film Doctor [who I still can't believe I haven't met yet], this time on depth of field:
While it may have been intentional the effect still stands. In Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson went for a very specific look. He lays characters out flat with flattened backgrounds. There aren't leading lines down the frame either. Notice how many straight lines go flat through the frame? Despite being shot on location Moonrise Kingdom looks like a series of sets as opposed to a real world. One of the ways Anderson achieves this is the lack of foreground, middle ground, and background in his shots. This is entirely what Anderson was going for. However if this look is not what a director is looking for, not having depth in his frames will inhibit his movie.
While we're on the subject of Moonrise Kingdom, serious gratitude goes out to Brian Darr of Hell On Frisco Bay for his gracious mention of my round-up about that film in a recent post regarding same, thus answering my question, does anyone not-bot read this site?
At the end of the line, Josef takes his seat before the camera, his many hundreds of coworkers held crystalline in deep focus behind him, their thousands of typing fingers generating a din that sounds distinctly like applause. Josef’s uncle Max (Max Heffler) arrives to express his concern and offer legal advice, but Josef, keen to avoid further trouble, insists that they not talk at length during working hours. But the very moment Josef finishes his sentence, it is as if he has dismissed the office with an inaudible cue: everyone in the room stops typing and stands in perfect unison, streaming from the room in single file with a speed and precision impossible to imagine of a crowd of this size....
The look and feel of this film—an utterly bizarre spectacle of non-traditional framing, focus, and perspectives, shot in a harsh chiaroscuro—depends upon Welles’s technical expertise as much as his desire to both build off of and undermine his history as a filmmaker. That major sequence in the office is typical of the self-mythology the film conspires to deconstruct: it is at once the quintessential Orson Welles shot and a kind autocritical counterpoint to the same, exaggerating the director’s affinity for the grandiose in a context that seems to demand the opposite. It is a caricature of the expected Welles “bigness” of image precisely because the feeling at the heart of The Trial is internal, rooted in the mind: this is a “small” film, in the sense that its fears are located in the paranoia of one man wrongly persecuted, and yet Welles shoots it as if it were an epic.
One more from FOC Aaron Dobbs, which recalled a conversation I had last week with Richard Neupert, a film prof at UGA who also serves on the board of Ciné Athens (run by my grad school classmate, Gabe Wardell) about DCP and one of my film class alums (he failed, thanks to devoting his energies that semester to the campus radio station), the technology manager there. Essentially, he worried the kid would get bored because DCP was "just pushing a button":
Digital projectors usually require little attention after pressing play until a movie is over. But once the projectionist in Targets goes down, when the reel empties with nobody to handle the changeover, the film is done even if the movie isn't over. Bogdanovich repeatedly returns to the projector reel, showing its bulk quickly diminish. I don't claim that the director was making a comment on the medium's exhibition technology, but Thompson's attack on the projectionist could be seen as young America's attempt to extinguish old Hollywood. Even more importantly, it stands for an idea that the youth of the era – within and outside Hollywood – doesn't even realize or care how their actions will impact themselves. Thompson, for example, doesn't consider that by targeting the projectionist, he could hasten his own discovery. Still, half-a-century later, its unintentional symbolism regarding the "death of film" may prove even more profound.
What amused me most about this round-up was how many of the indies mentioned in it* I've actually seen:
Two black-and-white comedies took home a lot of green this summer, too: Noah Baumbach’s buzzy Greta Gerwig vehicle Frances Ha made $4 million, while Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing scored $4.2 million ... not bad for a microbudget Shakespeare film that Whedon had originally intended to release online. Radius-TWC’s 20 Feet From Stardom is another summer success story: The backup singer documentary has earned a remarkable $4 million so far, and the jubilant hit is well-positioned for Oscar consideration down the line. Let’s hope awards voters also remember the rapturously reviewed Before Midnight, which has taken home almost $8 million since May, a sum higher than either of the Ethan Hawke–Julie Delpy romances that preceded it.
*For those playing along at home: Frances Ha, 20 Feet From Stardom, Before Midnight, The To-Do List, The Bling Ring, Stories We Tell, I'm So Excited! [Among the other titles mentioned, I could give a shit about The Way, Way Back or Much Ado About Nothing.]
“Oh, Joan, she buys clothes and then she takes it to her seamstress and has it tailored two sizes too small!” It’s a funny little character thing that I love about Joan. Joan wears her clothes too tight—it’s fabulous.
Learn about Laver's Law from the Siren. Made me feel even better for asking students which movies they'd seen the most times on the first day of class:
Laver's Law applies to cinema.
Laver's Law was the creation of James Laver, an art historian and curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum, who helped create the field of fashion history as we know it today. His law is, as it should be, of the utmost elegant simplicity. In a book called Taste and Fashion(1937), he proposed that the way we regard fashions in clothing forms a predictable cycle over time. One item, such as a dress, will be regarded in a number of ways as the years roll on....
The point is that in just a few more years, these films may look different to everyone. Certain films are born great and stay that way; but canons are not immune from fashion. This year's whipping boy may be on my grandchildren's college syllabus. If the Siren has been caught dissing a treasured favorite, comfort yourself with the thought that time's winged chariot may yet run me off the road.
And perhaps somewhat related, a piece from The Toast reminds me that watching and then writing about films should be a source of joy:
Did you enjoy the campy absurdity of movies like Step Up or Center Stage, and do you also like enormous fucking drums? Then you will like Drumline. It is a movie that has everything in it, particularly lots and lots of drums. Swirling drums and giant drums and medium-sized drums and droves moving in unison and sideways drums and upside drums and just when you think there aren’t more drums, there come the drums. It is better than most other movies that exist. Most other movies have an appalling lack of giant fucking drums getting just whaled on by Nick Cannon making the most serious face he can muster. Let us look at the evidence.
Challenger: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Moral of Challenger: Several people with inexplicable hairstyles regret dating Jim Carrey, for various reasons. Having memories is hard.
Parallel Moral of Drumline: GIANT DRUMS ARE AMAZING
Challenger: The Dark Knight.
Moral of Challenger: Agent of chaos spends upwards of 20 minutes carefully and rationally explaining his justification for becoming an agent of chaos; nobody has any fun.
Parallel Moral of Drumline: BING BANG BOOM CRASH BOOOOMMM
Challenger: Donnie Darko
Moral of Challenger: Do not take your ADD medication. It will kill your sister and it will crash planes.
Parallel Moral of Drumline: Nick Cannon is handsome like an old-timey milkman. And he learns how to stand up for himself with the help of a team of misfit drums.
Challenger: Into the Wild
Moral of Challenger: If your family loves you and sends you to college, you should definitely run away to Alaska and starve to death to show them how fucked up their conventional values are.
Parallel Moral of Drumline: Sure, you’ve played the drums…but have you played the drums while SPINNING AND WEARING A CAPE? GIANT DRUMS ARE AMAZING. WITH A FUCKING PLUMED-ASS HAT ON IT? FUCK YOU AND YOUR SIMPLE, RESERVED HATS. PANTS WITH STRIPES AND SHOULDER PADS WITH STRIPES AND SHOES WITH STRIPES AND BANDANAS WITH STRIPES AND PLAYING THE DRUMS WITH YOUR FEET AND STRIPES STRIPES EVERYWHERE FUCK YOU YA FUCK.
Challenger: (500) Days of Summer
Moral of Challenger: If you loved your girlfriend, and she goes on to love somebody else, you are an interesting person.
Parallel Moral of Drumline: FUCK YOUR SAD EYES JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT USE YOUR SAD EYES TO LOOK AT THIS:
Elmore Leonard did a reading at the Brattle Theatre at the end of the 90s when I was the operations manager there. The Harvard Book Store would rent the space when they anticipated a big turnout for a reading, which indeed he drew.
Afterwards, we moved downstairs to the lobby, where Leonard pulled out a cigarette and began to light it. There was (and is) a smoking ban in Cambridge, so I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Leonard, there's no smoking in the theatre." He said, "I am not smoking. I am lighting my cigarette." He did and went outside.
“You never tell the guy what could happen to him,” Chili explains. “Let him use his imagination, he’ll think of something worse. In other words, don’t talk when you don’t have to.”
A moment of passage into adulthood occurred for me upon the purchase, charged to a MasterCard not billed to my mom and dad, of a piece of consumer electronics. It was a Panasonic VHS deck from a Nobody Beats the Wiz in downtown Manhattan, either the cheapest or next-to-cheapest kind of VCR you could buy in 1994, in the ballpark of $50. I was sharing a 2-bedroom near the Sheridan Square stop of the 1/9 train. The console TV set in our living room was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, who that fall was being moved from an apartment in Brooklyn to a nursing home in New Jersey. We didn't have cable, though it didn't stop me from watching through terrible reception some of my favorite shows of the 90s, particularly Homicide and My So-Called Life. Mainly I watched movies rented from Kim's, a place that ought to have been preserved for exhibit at the Smithsonian. Kim's organized its tapes by director, which is really all you need to know about that VCR and what I did with it in the 1990s....
Others might experience such passages differently. On moving days over the past few years, particularly in the campusy neighborhood near us, I have been paying special attention to the presence of so many CRT television sets abandoned by the curb alongside rotting sofas and broken chairs. Sometimes the TV has been damaged, it often seems intentionally, perhaps with a hole poked in the rear. Goodwill sells CRT television sets these days for 99 cents. Ninety-nine cents for a television. That's less than they charge for a hardcover book. People still want televisions, just not that kind. Maybe there is some pleasure in destroying and rejecting the old, obsolete, abject tube, in treating it like your shit. I have not felt this. Yet I have become fascinated by the ugly heaps left behind by college kids, hoping when I bike by a dilapidated sectional or a mound of old plastic shopping bags filled with leftovers of a few years of undergrad living that there will be a CRT set face down on the lawn for me to photograph and post on twitter.
RIVERS: Yes, and halfway through making this film we went to the Republic of Vanuatu, and worked on a couple shorter films together, a kind of spin-off. We presented A Spell in Marseilles to try and get money to get it made. We won the “Best Project,” and the prize was two free flights anywhere in the world and a Panavision package.
BEN RUSSELL: They were meant to be used for the film we were pitching but at the time we were planning to shoot in Norway but AirFrance didn’t fly there or something, so we decided to make something else as well.
There are no ‘objective’ accounts of theory any more than there are ‘objective’ theories, and it seems worth indicating something of the nature of Andrew’s own bents. For the most part, his expositions of Munsterberg, Arnheim, Eisenstein, Belazs and Kracauer seem unusually detached and judicious, pointing up the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of each without suggesting that he has any particular axe to grind. His less questioning admiration for Bazin diverts this tendency somewhat; and the subsequent chapters on Mitry and Metz, however respectful, hint at a certain dissatisfaction with much contemporary theory which helps to explain the decision to end the survey with Ayfre and Agel. Arguing that the materialism of the semioticians and the determinism of writers like Michel Foucault closes off too many possibilities of exploration within the notion of ‘art as freedom’, he cites the phenomenology of Ayfre, Agel and Roger Munier as a viable route leading back to some of the avenues opened up by Bazin.
What I am calling “vulgar appropriationism” is this: the way in which pop/commercial media today often appropriate formal structures from more-or-less “high art,” or even avant-garde art, of the 20th century, and use them in ways that negates the aesthetic or conceptual radicality of those structures.
The Dissolve: When Kirsten Dunst’s character finds out she erased her memory, she regrets it so much that she sends all her company’s clients their files. Whether they want to remember or not, they suddenly have all this evidence of what they tried to forget. She makes everybody’s choice for them. How did you react to that?
Le: This is actually something my mom has taught me my whole life—no matter what happens, there’s a lot of things you can never control, because other people will dictate how things are going to happen. How you choose to react to it distinguishes each individual person’s reaction. People would act differently—maybe some would want to try to hold on and say, “I don’t care anymore. I’ve tried to forget, and I’m not going to try to remember.” And maybe other people are curious what they lost. But that’s life. We’re allowed to make mistakes and figure out why we made those decisions that we made.
Then, twenty minutes in, we drift through the window of a big-city apartment building and find a couple in bed. Should it not be clear from their appearances that they are Céline (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) — last seen vowing to reunite on a Vienna train platform in Before Sunrise, six years earlier — the heady tone of their exchange gives them away.
“I’ve been thinking about something you said,” Waking Life Jesse says, then quotes back to Céline her statement as a twenty-three-year-old in Before Sunrise that she often feels like she’s observing her own life as an old lady. “I still feel that way,”Waking Life Céline replies. “Like my waking life is [the old lady’s] memories.” The two then discuss the compression of time in dreams, Timothy Leary, brain chemistry, and reincarnation, ending on the idea that our instincts express billions of years of collective memory, and that it’s possible “we’re all telepathically sharing our experiences.”
That Jesse and Céline are still talking their faces off in the main character’s dream extends this idea of telepathic congress. The notion is layered into Waking Life many times over, including in the part where a pair of Cineplex philosophers agree that movies are designed more for moments than for narrative. “Everything is layers, isn’t it?” one of them says.
The Phoenix Portal (2005) Single channel video, colour, sound, 16:9, 4:56 minutes
In this melancholy science fiction, a young River Phoenix from the film The Explorers (1985) opens a wormhole to contact an older version of himself from My Own Private Idaho (1991). Irrevocably haunted by the tragic death of Phoenix in 1993, The Phoenix Portal summons the paranormal power of recorded media to embalm time and seemingly reanimate the dead.
I love Bernard Berkman for his superb beard; I love him for the way he wears a corduroy jacket with jeans and a dress shirt even when playing inappropriately competitive mixed doubles. I love him for his preposterous self-confidence, shot through with the dry rot of self-doubt. I love him for his determination that his sons should like "interesting books and films"; for his jarring quotations from French cinema, and for his blithe assertion that his wife's tennis coach is a philistine. I love him for being a failing novelist, as opposed to a failed one. At least he was published. I love him for being wronged himself, while busy wronging everyone else, including the cat. I love him for being played by Jeff Daniels, Hollywood's liberal everyman. I love him for being married to Laura Linney.
For the stars of the Golden Age, it was different. They were hidden away with publicists releasing tidbits and manufactured stories. They were created and nurtured to be different than other actors and certainly very different than actors of the next generation of the fifties onward. If they started out in the forties or before, even as child actors like Elizabeth Taylor (whose appearances in movies had the same treatment as the other superstars mentioned above), they were Hollywood creations more than any actors who followed. Philip Seymour Hoffman is no Hollywood creation, he’s a superb actor who worked hard in movies for years to get to a point where he sometimes gets leads, sometimes supporting, sometimes Oscar nods and sometimes the award itself. His career is successful by practically every measure of Hollywood success but no matter what he does, he will never be John Wayne. Or Bette Davis. Or Katherine Hepburn. Or Jimmy Stewart. I don’t believe we will ever reach a time when, at the age of 90, his appearance in a movie will lead all the stories on the entertainment circuit. It just isn’t going to happen and not because of him, but because he wasn’t made that way by a studio who mythologized him from the start.
By “gorgeousness,” I mean not only her face—its echo of every blonde siren the cinema has ever known—but her singing voice’s matter-of-factness, combining fatigue and rancor and nervous energy, like Jean Seberg’s French in Breathless. A song passes quickly—four or five minutes. Once it ends, I can replay it, or I can try to communicate its pleasures to someone else, or I can decide to stop talking about the private dimensions of aesthetic experience; I can decide never again to ask my imaginary interlocutor, “Does Debbie Harry’s voice and image submit your body to a tension that isolates you in a chamber of bliss and suffering?”
This daisy chain of solipsistic desire and leering innuendo — in which no one listens to anyone else, or listens only in order to advance his or her position or to betray someone later — courses through the remainder of the movie like an electrical current, accumulating more bad vibes en route and tarnishing everyone but Cheung. Assayas records this feverish process in compulsive, twitchy camera movements as restless and neurotic as the characters, refusing to distance himself stylistically from this behavior, allowing it to turn his attention and ours as relentlessly as a series of tidal waves. In this context, where no one is fully in control but everyone is driven, evil in an everyday environment is no longer represented by Irma Vep and her gang but by the film crew’s thwarted energies and desires and their effects, creeping inexorably into one social situation after another.
Projected in two adjacent channels juxtaposing images of Maria Falconetti as Joan of Arc in Carl Dreyer’s 1928 Le Passion de Jeanne d’Arc with images of myself. On the left, Falconetti’s face fills the screen and close ups of her expressions guide the viewer through her condemnation to the shearing of her hair and finally through her slow death at the stake. Her movements are channeled into the right frame through my own body, as I cut off my long blonde hair, shave it down to a bristle and mimic Falconetti. The liturgical music of Richard Einhorn underscores a voice-over in which my own voice wavers between historical fact and confessional revelation.
A New Haven “townie,” Sitney found his way into libraries and film screenings at Yale starting at age 10 by being presumed to be a professor’s child. Later he would earn degrees there in Greek and Sanskrit and a comparative literature Ph.D., but he had already become enraptured by avant-garde film. The prodigious 15-year-old Sitney created his own newsletter-turned-journalFilmwise, leading to his editing Film Culture, traveling with avant-garde cinema showcases, and co-founding Anthology Film Archives. He continued the odyssey begun four decades earlier in Visionary Film with Eyes Upside Down, examining filmmakers like Marie Menken (who he considered Visionary Film’s most significant omission) and Su Freidrich through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings.
[Confidential to Catherine: what is that harrowing soundtrack?]
The cinetrix is housesitting for a pal and enjoying the giddy urban summerime delights of biking, multiple restaurant options, old friends, porch drinking, live music, and, natch, movies. Some on 35mm, even!
And speaking of sun and sea, here's Asia Argento's Sea of Love[via]
Anyone else beginning to suspect film historian Fernando Peña is actually some sort of Terminator-stylee time traveler? [via]
And some light reading:
With scripts, there’s a constant process of writing things that are very literal and having characters say what’s about to come next—which you want to avoid—and then paring everything back. But in transitioning from script to screen, you’re making choices in production about how much to show. And in the edit you find that things can be shown very simply. I would love to find a way to synthesize screenwriting logic and the logic of production and how it all comes together in post-production. But you’re fighting against yourself and dominant forms of storytelling. Does a filmmaker know what we’ll like as an audience watching a movie? All our preferences and dislikes? I try to make sure that we’re not pandering and not withholding too much purposefully. For the subjects I think that sometimes implies distance, but the more I can tell visually, the more exciting of an experience it is for the audience.
2. Tarkovsky wrote a book about cinema called “Sculpting in Time.” At least this was the English title. It can be translated more literally as “Depicted Time” or “Written Time,” which sound less poetic but feel more accurate. A devotee of eternal takes and glacial tracking shots, Tarkovsky was a sworn nemesis of rapid-cut editing and other filmic conventions that alter our perception of time, which we, the audience, often expect and demand. For Tarkovsky, the cinematic image was “essentially the observation of a phenomenon passing through time,” and an image became “authentically cinematic when (amongst other things) not only does it live within time, but time also lives within it.”
One of the great, time-released pleasures of movie-going is watching the actors of your generation grow older. Maybe pleasures isn’t precisely the right word, but maybe it is. I am only now beginning to discover it, seeking out some sign of accreted wisdom, pain, or contentment–experience–in their faces. This one had a baby, that one just lost her dad. Watching Ethan Hawke in Before Sunset was probably, along with the R-train moment, which happened around that same time, the beginning of my realization that time was really passing, that this thing was really happening. Life began to show itself as more than a series of days, or movies, all in a row, which I might or might not attend. He was gaunt and slightly stooped, but it was his face—rough skin and sunken cheeks, with an angry, exclamatory furrow wedged like a hatchet blade between his eyes—that transfixed me. Some said he’d come through a divorce, and it took its toll; that that’s what life does to people. I’d heard about such things but never really seen it in action on the face of someone only a few years older than me. There was something awful and yet so marvelous, so real and poignant and right, about Ethan Hawke’s face, and about getting to see it in this beautiful meditation on what life does to people, a ten-years-in-the-making sequel to a film about people too young and smitten to be too concerned about what life might do to them. And what was life doing to me? I worry.
Linklater’s greatest formal innovations probably result from his experiments in structuring narratives around real-time sequences. Because he has always favored philosophical dialogue over physical action, Linklater typically also favors long takes to fast cutting, and many of his movies consequently take place over the course of a single day: Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, SubUrbia, Tape, Waking Life, Before Sunset andBefore Midnight all take place in a span of less than 24 hours. Additionally,Tape and Before Sunset are among the few feature films in the history of cinema that take place entirely in real time. The apotheosis of Linklater’s style can be found in Before Midnight, in which the lack of cutting and the choreography between the camera and the performers seem so organic to the material and achieve such a perfect sense of harmony that the film’s ostensible European-style “art-film” aesthetic has deservedly found success among general audiences — as if it were a more typical American-style rom-com.
With these strictures and reservations in mind, I come to what may be my most controversial recommendation, certainly for me: never again watch the films you cherished in your youth, for youth lends a wonder and tolerance that age erodes and disdains. The point applies equally to the British "Carry On" series of farces and Bergman’s medieval meditation "The Seventh Seal" (1957), wherein Bengt Ekerot’s Death has lost his sting, even when playing chess with Max von Sydow’s knight, and the final hilltop dance of death by the knight and his followers, stretched out, arms linked, is one of the clearest examples of where my abidingly etched memory is far too strong to make a return viewing anything other than an anti-climax.
Here, Cameron Diaz goes looking for the lip gloss on the car floor, ass end up. The biker who passes by presumes some erotic activity, which Christina Applegate takes as an opportunity to have some fun. The biker, by the way, seems a reimagination of the Wolf from Tex Avery's 1943 Red Hot Riding Hood. His manner is animated in multiple senses of the word—he hops on his seat, he grinds his pelvis, he howls. When he crashes, he survives. In this brief sequence, the three actors are performing characters in three different “realities”: Diaz as innocent friend, biker as an energized onlooker, Applegate as ludic puppetmaster. There are three degrees of knowledge corresponding to these realities: Diaz knows nothing, the biker thinks he knows something, and Applegate actually knows something. It is simple, elegant, and what's more it is light and disposable. On to the next!
Now things get really interesting. In Fast Five, the entire cast is on the lam in Rio, Brazil, (cue requisite shot of the Christ the Redeemer statue). We learn Mia is pregnant after she experiences nausea and looks concerned. Vince returns, still sullen and prone to betrayal. The gang is being hunted by The Rock who is spritzed and shiny and so swollen with muscles you cannot help but wonder when his body will break. There’s a train heist. At one point, Dom and Brian jump from a moving car, over a gorge, into a river. There are foot races through the favelas. The Rock flexes. Dom’s t-shirts get tighter. Through some convoluted events, they realize they have something a very powerful bad guy wants. They need to assemble a team so everyone joins in the fun—Tyrese, Ludacris, the two Dominican guys from the fourth movie, Han and Gisele. It’s like the “Quintet” sequence in West Side Story, only spritzier.
"I had this idea," Korine told the Los Angeles Times. "With music remixes sometimes, when certain producers take a song and chop them up and deconstruct them - why not try that with a feature film? Using all different footage, making the same film all over again." ...Korine added: "It'll be the first chopped and screwed movie."