God's Little Acre

God's Little Acre
Lord, make way for gold

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea's work

Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers
broken, faked, MADE

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

graceful acquistion: Assayas' THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

I wish i could more clearly relay my impression of seeing Olivier Assayas' THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA.  I was tired, even jet lagged, and i saw it late my last night in Amsterdam for a romantic (reservation for one) fast paced three day travel weekend.

 The film was both dreamy and sober,  experiential and plot driven, a love story and a horror story.  American and French.

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche play personal assistant to a star and aging theatrical and film star, respectively. Both women surprise.  Stewart's American assistant  is a no nonsense young woman who is capable above her job title, a woman who Binoche's renowned, confident yet still insecure actor relies on as the eyes and ears experiencing her performance.  Stewart speaks quickly and intelligently in the role, informative, well schooled on acting, better informed than her boss about the current crop of  filmmaking and acting stars.
The women connected create a bonded relationship, each partner bolder, more solid and self fulfilled.
Binoche plays a great actor, and a great actor can not exist in a vacuum.  She must be a part of the world, a part of a relationship, to authentically portray an experience and a connection.

Each woman verifies the other, and informs her stability. But the relationship is not equally distributed, for there is still a vital tension at the center of it, the desire for youth and for new knowledge with the yearning for wisdom, wealth and experience.
Assayas' film refuses to be a straight art film that doubles as modernist vampire genre film as much as it refuses to be straight "making of a film"..film.  You could not quite call it a female melodrama either, though it beautifully takes many of the melodrama's elements and runs with them.  There is a symbiotic union, struggle and replacement of the Image, (with the female icon as image) and there is also a story of money , sex , seduction (on multiple tiers, be it the seduction of friendship and of Moretz with her author boyfriend) and duplicity.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA is really all of these things, and all of them at once.  It is elusive and rich; the mirroring of any image is more of a collection of multiple broken pieces of glass. The movie is dense, yet
quiet in it's construction.

The relationship  fulfills a vital need for both women, but when one disappears, is it because her need has been surpassed? Her role replaced...or is  her position and its inherent tension stifled?

The bottom line is that this film encompasses everything that interests me most about Assayas.
It has elements of the Vampire film genre that is an aspect of the corporate take over and female character immolation in DEMONLOVERCLOUDS echoes IRMA VEP in its self reflexivity of actresses as well as the way it nods to other films (Assayas' own SUMMER HOURS , BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, GERRY.)  Much is being acted out here. The single film Assayas has made encompasses at least four themes and genres he has previously explored, yet all coexist coherently. Like in Gus Van Sant's GERRY,  the film image and structure itself is forefront and death is on the horizon.  In the last quarter of the movie, one of the main women vanishes from the storyline, and she may have also dropped off a cliff in the Alps. She is not brought up again,  image surpassing image until one fades away, too far to see, without further mention.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

kardashians kan kry

Kris Jenner has not let herself be known.  Bouncing from business lunch to business lunch, she plays manager to several high powered Hollywood children, making sure that deals get negotiated in her interest.  She rushes out of Nobu to check in on various daughters in various photo shoots, and Kris' Truth remains hidden in the unknowable space between her outings.

Many ask if mother manager exploits her own children.  Is making your children filthy rich equivalent to exploitation? Or is it only because she designs what they get hired for, and she is cut 15 percent, or is it more?
Maybe she started out to make her children learn to work, and within her hollywood context, living life as reality starlets was simply reflective of their locally limited options.
Maybe it turned exploitative later on.
Some wonder, do the children feel exploited? Do they seek out fame and the initiation of narratives (to make a better tv product)?
In the last episode of KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS Khloe flipped out on mother Kris, saying she can't have her as her manager if she keeps slipping up. Khloe said her mother had set her up on an interview where she was asked questions her manager was supposed to make sure were not allowed, but Kris had forgotten to check the questions. Khloe's rage was personal, claiming it made her feel less loved, low on the totem pole, and more forgotten compared to more valuable siblings.   At the episode's end, all had been resolved, because the rest of the episode focused on Khloe's burgeoning dalliance with French Montana, and her attempts to cope with divorce and a broken heart.  The issues with managerial exploitation were now safely contextualized as one more way Khloe was acting out because of her heartbreak.  Kris expressed love and patience with Khloe, and by the credits, all was well at Kasa Kardashian.

At no time did the children unite to discuss the thought that they may all be exploited in their roles as daughters on camera.  It is confusing, but it is also a culture which often equates parents with bosses. Both make decisions as to how to behave,and how to instill order and teach people how to make a space (company or family home) profitable.
The boss is the one who exploits because they control how your wages reach you, n'est-ce pas?

Who is the real Kris Jenner?  Does her heart still mourn her late husband?  Does her soul still cry out for murdered best friend Nicole Simpson?

Has she bled out silicone tears and sweated through menopausal 15 hour industry work days just to one day enjoy a little bit of luxury?

Tortured by her daughters' beauty and her competitive nature, she is but a woman who gave birth to many beautiful wage earners.  Unable to keep up or cease aging, her gears whir into motion, desperate to DO something. Resulting in a series of plastic procedures; ranging from 'unfortunate' to 'not so bad' to 'could be an allergic reaction',  the pain wears itself on her bloated features and increasingly short haircuts.

The soul lies under our skin, yet sometimes it sweats through it's cover, revealing itself in droplets of transparency.
The consistent motion of managerial meetings resists opportunities for the soul to touch and moisturize the chafing brutal exercises of labor that persist to keep it hidden.
How can mother be seen as mother when she is the wage manager?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lock up the Beast

The scar of his pain is larger, more visible than one is allowed to show.

The scar in mention is of Freddie Quell's. But the scar he bears is of any human who transgresses. The Jesus of post war United States. The cross bearer who fucks underage girls, without any stigmata. Anderson narrows in on messy, expansive debauchery with a formalistic, laser focus. THE MASTER is on fire when the cinema is at its most essential: music is clean and classical; the focus of each shot is precise, narrow.
The order and discipline of the storytelling is what makes the transgressions and scope of the religious founder so compelling.

THE MASTER opens with approximately 20 some minutes of "scoundrel esque" behavior from Joaquin Phoenix's character, a former US Seaman (a marine?) who acts out sexually and morally in anti social, public inappropriateness that ousts him from societal acceptance.

How is one to fit in when one's emotional pain exceeds what polite graces allow?  Phoenix's character       Freddie Quell explains away some "bad behavior" to a military superior by noting he was reacting poorly
to a letter he received from an ex.  The connection is logical, yet in other scenes, his debauchery and risk taking behavior is less explained.  The religious portion of the film will focus more on causation at its most nebulous; memories from pre birth.

The LRH ish Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) forms a symbiotic relationship with Quell.  Dodd is the hand on the shoulder, the calming, fatherly and non judgmental presence who ( at first) lightens the harshness of Quell's burden.  His smile is warm, his pasty skin is soft and his features as gentle as his hair color.  In sharp opposition is the angular Quell whose neck always seems to be straining up and away from his spine, with veins and wrinkles strangling his skinny face.


Even while listening on headphones and transcribing this message of Dodd's Quell nonchalantly writes a note to his fellow listener that asks if she wants to fuck.  The fact that this question is in conflict with the promise of higher self that Dodd promises is not reflected in Quell. He is still operating, ever casually, from his basest instinct.  He is like Truffaut's WILD CHILD, brought in from the jungle family and expected to behave amongst professors.
ordered symmetry of the gnarled face

But the union of Quell and Dodd is also a clear and deliberate reflection of what happens in 12 step programs.
Quell is attracted to Dodd as he relates to him yet Dodd has something that Quell wants.  This element of identification with attraction to an improved self is a key principle of how 12 step fellowships operate.  In looking for a sponsor the basic texts tell people to look for someone who has something that they dont. To find that person who is similar yet calm, when you are anxious. Or someone who has pain like yours, but they act light and they smile, while you shrug, and walk looking downward.


Their first intake, the one on one between the two men, shares some elements a Fourth and Fifth Step.  Scientology has replaced 12 step programs for many addicts who prefer religious promises to the non religious Anonymous Fellowships.
Ultimately, the behavioral issues and help that men seek is unable to be contained. The film tracks a progressive and chronic expansion; it is comprised across oceanic waters, dug in the sand, runs across the desert, compulsive behaviors and tempers unleashed. The beast evades lock down and the clock ticks in time with the staccato of the film's score, tracking inevitability.

As the film progresses, there is a stress on repetition, both in specific spoken utterances ("excuse me, excuse, me, excuse me" and the way Quell and others are asked to repeat their names  during intake), and also in the consistent return to the past and alternating progression of Quell's spiritual journey. This rhythmic tension adds with each cycle of the story, each cycle of progression and regression of Quell's journey and Dodd's religion.

The perversion of behavioral science suits some of the people in the universe of THE MASTER. It entails creative storytelling,  improvisational science, and aid to people who engage in self harming antisocial behaviors.  Using academic perversion to dominate natural human perversions is an implementation of ORDER and DISCIPLINE on the highest levels, not at all unlike the filmmaking employed to illustrate it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

aversion and engagement, the couple i observed monday night

Swooping in, from above, she has to turn to meet him and allow his help

 Sharing a view , a meal, a plan, then a worldview

He still sees her, directly, head on.  She looks to the side, eyes open, not averted, yet not meeting him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Who's Persecuting Who? Roman Polanski's VENUS IN FUR

VENUS IN FUR opens in motion, on a Parisian road,  lined by perfectly paralleled trees.  The camera moves through  increasingly swift paths, moving anxiously towards its end goal.  All the while the treetops open, reaching out and touching one another...a thin branch from the left border of the street meets the thin branch of the right side.  The visual roadmap changing before us, and these impossibly static left and right sides meet  one another's touch, like bending tentacles. They separate as the camera slows, hovering at a theater entrance.

Now we are among people.
How will their common goal connect? How will what was previously hidden about a person come to show it itself? Our masks? Our neuroses, our psychoses?
Is this another great Polanski film about persecution and persecution complexes?
Of course.
But here, we explore these matters by way of Speech.

Polanski sometimes has messy women color his movies. These messy characters are corporeal, blunt.  They are also like white rabbits;
Adjani's mysterious roommate Stella drew THE TENANT's Trelkovsky down a rabbit hole of doubles; all hunted, all victims, all outcasts. They were as literal and historical as they were psychological and neurotic. Seigner's sexually self possessed Mimi of BITTER MOON leads all the characters into a mystery of love and disappearance. In VENUS IN FUR Seigner's Vanda also leads.  She needs to earn his respect and trust before she can lure Thomas.  She allows him to see, through her ability to connect to once hidden parts of himself.
She also shows him a new way to connect to text, and to his relationship as a director.
These properties are nearly mystical/spiiritual, though depicted matter of factly.  She is a seer who leads the blind, not unlike Tess, not unlike Adjani in THE TENANT or Ruth Gordon's Minnie in ROSEMARY'S BABY.

The first time we see Thomas (Almaric) he is overheard speaking on the telephone.  He makes a joke of women today and their frivolity.  The conversation cuts off after he sarcastically jokes he could dress in drag.

In THE TENANT, Trelkovsky's fears and otherness are brought to the forefront when he dresses in drag in a pivotal scene in the film.

Is that what Vanda's character is? Is it Thomas? in drag? Or just another image of him, created or projected from their meeting.

There is a moment in the beginning when we understand that how they speak to one another, and in which voice, will dictate their forward motion, in a psychological sense. We are brought a precise moment where suspense of disbelief concretizes:  Thomas has previously been dismissive of this blowsy actress.  But suddenly  Thomas nearly spins towards her on the stage,now needing his glasses as if to see through something appearing unclear. She is reading a line and he replies to her, grabbing the book...
He  believes her in the role.
And in turn, he is willing to play his part.

This new  film too is about what is created when things brush against one another, when they line up, as do the left and right sides of the tree lined street.  Between men and women, between the actor and the author, between the artist and the audience, connections are revealed that change the look of the road.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


There is romance when they notice you.  You are  standing in a crowd, you are female, yet you are poor and strange, not of this place.  Are you going to find work, will you be accepted into a community, can you communicate well?  More importantly, will you be someone of worth?
In other words, will you be not nothing?

Ewa (Marion Cotillard) is transcendent playing a woman desperate to transcend.
She needs rescuing because she has been victimized by being a woman,  disadvantaged by being dependent on men to be saved from deportation and to make money to survive.  Her choices are divided but her claim is singular:  that she lives to make money to bring her sister home from the Ellis Island hospital.
The methods are twofold:  be a "moral" woman who saves money slowly, sewing, legally earning money.  She could be saved if a man would find her and love her and choose to marry her.  Someone mentions that maybe she'll get married and have children, and one can nearly see the birds dancing around Ewa's head as her eyes glow, her secret revealed.
The second method is less legal, yet more direct.  A dancing girl, a working girl, is just as eager to lure that male attention, except one is focusing on multiple men instead of a lone husband.

Bruno finds Ewa and she is given both options, two methods to choose from. She chooses, yet she changes her mind.  Does she do so because she repents?  Or is that she is simply walking down the second avenue...
Ewa recommits to Bruno, to their partnership  and their livelihood.  She again dances with the devil, or is he son of God?  He is a relative to Bruno, the same man perhaps, but he would be the husband, the alternative choice.
The choices are never entirely clear.  Bruno is sure that this is not the moral highroad, or even a smart decision, or that his cousin is even a decent or loving person.  Ewa waivers as well.  Is her intense declaration not to be nothing a revealing statement about needing to be valuable? And is commanding  financial value what her purpose eventually becomes?

Desire is muddled, but morality is even murkier.
The american dream is dirty and religious salvation is a lie. The true nature of Ewa's goals elude us every moment. But Ewa is still treated, filmically, as a religious figure.  She prays not to God but to the "Mother of God".  Even as Ewa's descends into transgression,  she is lit and captured on film as a glowing figure.  Complicating the religious imagery is a parallel series of images:  Ewa's thin and heart shaped jawline, glowing eyes, and her awkward deer like gaze into an audience of men.  She is seen as both a martyr and as a marvelously sexy woman aware and distracted by men looking at her.

And what has more value than for a woman to be chosen, to be singled out by a man. There is an entire city of women, or at least an island with ships full of them, all strange and foreign, all oppressed and in need.  Some special women will be seen for who they are. Is it their soul or their moral fiber that speaks to the man who finally sees and recognizes value in her? Or is it that her need to be seen bends a moral code to fit the circumstances of her life.

THE IMMIGRANT is an intimate and straight story as much as it is a story about the many shades of grey that complicate a woman's goals, heart and place in the world.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Your Film Becomes You: Jerry Lewis and HARDLY WORKING

Jerry Lewis was born as a wiry Jewish boy with a more Jewish name, in Newark, NJ.   But you wouldn't know it from  his 1981 film HARDLY WORKING.  Here  he is muscular, more manly in stature, suave, poised, intense, creative,  has a goy name of Bo Hooper, and he is serious about labor issues and  the  importance of the role of the artist in society.  At the same time you WOULD know it is the same Jerry from seeing HARDLY WORKING!  In the very same film, as the same man, he speaks with an undeniably Jewish new york/new jersey-ese tone, he is ugly, he is goofy, he is inept, he is selfish, he is simple and he is a schmendrick.

A little back track:
 Jerry Lewis directed himself in his first film in 1960.  He he had already been performing in motion pictures for eleven years.  After having a critical smash with his 1960 debut of THE BELLBOY, Jerry  continued to direct progressively more challenging and unconventional films on a regular basis, through 1970.
After 1971's tortured completion of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED was sealed from the public and never released, Jerry went on a directorial hiatus for ten years, until he returned, again directing himself as the lead, in 1981's HARDLY WORKING.

After the internal artistic punch of TDTCC, Jerry took his time making a comeback and a return to the helm, but he still took a lot of chances. More than ever before, in fact.  The film consists of several jangly, disconnected sequences that serve as set ups to show Jerry failing in different job situations.  He is, at heart, a clown. The film opens with him as a beloved clown of a circus troupe that is being shut down.  He travels to the upper -middle class suburbs of Florida to move in with his sister and her  disdainful banker husband. There is an alteration of serious moments within the much more goofy episodes.
If you watch the film and note a strikingly earnest tone, a series of jokes that seem to go on a moment too long or hold too long for a laugh..or just a generalized strange combination of moral and political seriousness you dont quite buy and silliness that seems too zany...then this is because Jerry Lewis has (finally) succeeded in creating a most perfect evocation of the way he is, and the vision with which he sees and lives in the world.
Jerry is in conflict, and he is a man in progress. He goes and back forth between overcompensating to prove himself, and just being relaxed.  The film reflects this progressive turmoil. Jerry is pompous and he is also a clown. He is an egomaniac, and he also loves to speak (in my opinion  based on seeing him in person and also watching the telethons forever, it's out of both  true human concern as well as the love of hearing himself talking about being a good person.)
Jerry makes sense to me in a familiar way.  He strikes me as a similar type of person as my maternal Grandfather, Sol.  Sol could be described as a perfect definition of one who suffers "Small Jewish Man Complex", a complex more common back in the time of Jerry and Sol. 
Sol comes not from Newark , but from a tenement on Henry St., on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, born to immigrant parents. He is small in stature, but he becomes extremely fit and strong through bodybuilding and physical fitness; doing body (and nude) modeling for Physical American and other popular magazines. He also becomes brilliant, a voracious reader, and he is socially liberal, and he disavows his family's Judaism, becoming an Atheist.  
Jerry's first big break was performing with Dean Martin.
My grandfather's was getting a job at CBS in midtown writing for and with Arthur Miller.  Both men legally changed their names to sound less Jewish (Sol changed his when he was joining the Writer's Guild.)  Jerry is fascinating, and Sol is actually pretty interesting too.  I loathe and love things about both men. They both teeter between grandiose egotism and man of the people ridiculousness.  I make the comparison to point out the uncanniness of Jerry. How familiar and yet how strange he is. And HARDLY WORKING captures the essence of the discomfort of this perception and experience of him unlike any other film has before.

Jerry is magnetic in person , as himself.  He is a contradictory blast of ice and warmth, of sincerity and total falseness, and he is a marvel whose talent surpasses most on this planet.
HARDLY WORKING is his opus; refusing to shut up, making us laugh, making real a fantasy and a specific personality.

Lorna's Silence

Lorna's Silence
spirit interrupts

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea managing the business


cutting through the walls