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

Monday, December 21, 2009

1st list* 2009

09 list #1

1 the girlfriend experience
2 tie: Public Enemies/ ne change rien
3 inglourious basterds
4 Tie: Fantastic Mr Fox/ Ricky
5 Les plages d'Agnes
6 Lorna's Silence
7 Hurt Locker/Tyson
8 35 Rhums
9 Two Lovers
10 tie: 36 vues du pic Saint Loup / Summer Hours
11 Tony Manero
12 A Single Man
13 Bruno
14 tie: Chelsea on the Rocks/ la frontiere de l'aube
15 Alexander the Last

hon m:
white material
singularities de jeune fille blonde

bad lieutenant: pocno
funny people

bizarrely inappropriate yet rewarding:
Precious: based on the novel Push by Sapphire
lovely bones
(and to a lesser extent, regarding rewards,) up

Sunday, September 27, 2009

bitches' rewards

A woman's behaviour, that which is publicly witnessed, either in social groups or in office spaces, is sometimes the only political action at her disposal. In Party Girl (1995), Parker Posey plays the titular role with equal parts rude sarcasm and infectious goofiness. The girl in question, Mary, is a 23 yr old part time party girl/ club kid and full time fashionable young woman who seeks out aesthetic and experiential pleasure while abhoring the confines of rules and authority. Think Edie Sedgwick- lite in a screwball comedy; sans drug addiction. The film begins amidst the chaos of stoned guests, multiple semi audible conversations, a shaky handheld, and what is mostly a shin view camera angle on a steep apartment staircase. Our first view of Mary is atop these stairs, affectedly (which can be read as sarcastically--but only by those outside her partygoing circle, those outsiders who are the status quo) waving a collection of bills and asking the crowd for admission money. One party guest pays with a joint, and Mary immediately partakes of the drug, happily oblivious of any wrongdoing. Her transgressions are certainly illegal but the rules don't apply in the world she's designed. This world is semi real and semi imagined, and the film itself is structured accordingly. This alternative market place she's working may be amateurish, yet it foreshadows her knowledge of consumerism, profit, and the world's underestimation of young dandyfied women; while simultaneously flipping the finger to the rules she's supposed to play by. The law catches up with Mary and busts her; the credit sequence timed to the whole affair; the final shot takes Mary out of home turf and behind prison bars; where her once funky outfit now reads terribly hookerish.

There is something about the pace of Mary as an individual that speaks to her method of uniquely and politically inhabiting, or rather effecting, Space. The space she designs for herself is really just a corner in the room of the public sphere. She designs a party, one doubly aimed as a way to earn rent money by charging entrance and a veneer of exclusivity; with a fringe guest list and a particularly chaotic aural environment. Multiple conversations drown each other out and house music beats the focus from our eardrums. Mary's voice speeds up in certain moments and pronounces things with a gay man's delayed/elongated affectation the next. The unexpected inflections of her line readings sometimes undermine the literal meaning of what is said. Her friends are a community of performers; the club world is peopled with lower class individuals, diverse ethnicities and disenfranchised transgenders who "go out" to put on acts of being rich and spoiled. Mary has rushed past experiencing labor to just perform the role of hostess. She acts both bored of her role ,and glamorously incorporating it at the same time. For her, pleasure is achieved by acting rich (which she isn't)and extravagant at the exact same time that she works to make money. Her role is played out in a poor apartment building she is nearly evicted from yet her actions are rushing ahead to the life of leisure.

It is only when Mary is removed from her own self- designed world that what seemed rebelliously flippant and ingenious now plays more obnoxious, inane and out of place. Brought to jail, it's the first time she's brought into society's dominant institutions , and the first point that we second guess her charm. Whether it be in jail or the library she ends up working for, Mary is told she needs to shape up and play by the rules. She mocks authority, she doesn't act affected by things that she is expected to. The film's humour allows us to laugh at how her haughty library worker bees praise Dewey Decimal and mock Mary's lack of serviance. Parker's performance makes it clear that they consider her a spoiled bitch; it's unacceptable to be flip and as free thinking as a man, especially when you look like a cute young woman. We are made aware, in absurdist touches like animal sound effects, suddenly overdramatic line readings, and rapid facial close up reaction shots echoing Mary's performance as mediating the concern over her situations, that those who live by the system--the new immigrant, the cops and her godmother/boss-- are insulted or even threatened by her lack of seriousness.

When Mary 's new after hours plan becomes mastering Dewey overnight, not all of her Party friends approve. Mary moves the rules of the library over to the rules of organising closets and a DJ 's record collection. This ingenuity and personal shift, to her initially disapproving friends, appears quite suddenly,somewhat masculine in its pace and implementation. She doesn't ask to learn or ask to rearrange; she just does. A man who learns quickly is a winner in the workplace where a woman is a nuisance and a bitch. It is Mary's way of being able to live and work in the public sphere. She has to add a sense of play and performance, to find a fun utility for the skills of the workplace.
Mary's quirky marketplace rebellion is complicated by the fetishized distraction of her dress and ironic mannerisms, further mimicked in the screwball color of the film's style. Her dress and attitude are an acknowledgement of the spectacle and illusion of surface beauty, but she also dedicates her life to knowingly construct the product that she mocks. The added novelty of Party Girl is it's upending of romantic expectations. The plasticity of Mary's playfulness and sarcasm ensures her romantic suitors are fellow outsiders; illegal aliens, new immigrants, young wannabe DJs. The mockery of her persona is a veiled satire recognized by men with a shared level of disenfranchisment. Mary's journey suffers no delays from romance that cause self doubt or halting neurosis. Her lovers are tangential partners who come and go. Party Girl itself is an exercise in mocking and upending the process of production. Its tone never allows the spectator to be blanketed in passive laughter. Instead, its comedy is a constantly busy melange of cartoonish literalism, screwball aspects of physical comedy,barely contained bedlam and direct to camera addresses. Such aspects often undermine or complicate straight laughter from other sources of the film's humor, resulting in the film's mixed critical reception. But the film, like Mary herself, winks at its production and refuses to allow us to passively appreciate the lifestyle and money that is usually associated with the Manhattan demimonde.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lorna's in trouble: C.R.E.A.M. (NOTES)

The Dardenne Bros.' Lorna's Silence reflects the bleak tension and unescapable class struggle of its predecessors. Like L'Enfant, Rosetta, La Promesse, and Le Fils, we have lower class social ills illustrated with realistic individual portraits; narrative flow and montage is ultra economised; the subject matter before us is solely driven by economic survival.
Their new film both follows and diverts from Dardenne aesthetic history. Lorna, an Albanian living illegally in an urban area of Belgium, has married a Belgian citizen who also happens to be a junkie. She is poised to divorce him and marry a Russian for some legal/citizenship necessities. I think (can't be sure, i saw this un-subbed) she is also a former prostitute, and her divorce/marriage plots are being orchestrated and executed by someone who seems like he could have been her pimp. No sex is presently being sold; these marriages are business deals, rife with concerns both procedural and bureaucratic-- but of course, it is just like being a pimp (and prostitute) on another social level.
Against Lorna's noble efforts, her ?pimp? has her current husband, now in the midst of transformation from junkie to recovering addict, murdered. Lorna is directed to move on and marry a strange Russian man who will provide her with some clearer hope of the goal at hand: Lorna's dreams of economic freedom-- running her own business (a cafe.) But in these gaps of identity--from junkie's wife, to widow to new trophy wife to entrepeneur-- a rupture halts her forward motion. It seems Lorna has become pregnant.
Although we know Lorna has a Russian lover named Sokol, the most passionate and sexual scene of the film takes place immediately after the junkie, Claudy, gets clean. Lorna finds him poised to relapse, kicks out his dealer/supplier and embraces him naked. The scene is economised -- we only see them kiss and hug. But the kisses are the kind that scream. We can hear them cry when their lips meet. There is a heightened understanding and spiritual connection between Claudy and Lorna. This is the first time that we witness something fantastic ; this intense spiritual-sexual chemistry, cuts into the dire realism of their relationship. Both are true social outcasts who suffer more when they cut themselves off from the help of others.
So who is the father? Is it Sokol? Is it Claudy?
The neat linearity of her plan has suddenly radiated outward. Lorna is no longer poised to jump right into marriage.
We learn her last period was 7 weeks ago. We are not sure when she conceived, but she tells the pimp it is certainly Claudy's.
He angrily chastises her and threatens to force her to abort it-- she refuses and doubles over.
Echoes of spiritual unity:
Claudy too, was seen doubled over before from withdrawl cramps.
She is rushed to hospital where a technician tells Lorna that no pregnancy was visible in the tests.
This child is unseen. Any visible sign, i .e. baby bump, is negligible. If there was a miscarriage, which Lorna refutes, then it was a missed abortion.
The rest of the film follows this tangential plot line. Lorna escapes certain murder, and is seen alone, talking to her belly and apologizing for the death of its father.
Which abrupt death are we facing? And what and who are we left mourning?
Is it the death of Claudy? The death of Lorna's possible pregnancy? Perhaps it's the death of the Real. The only refuge our heroine finds is in the diversion of her meticulous, always bordering on coldly clinical plan of survival. This diversion is the birth of the Imaginary, and its infiltration and subsequent replacement of the Real. Could it be possible she is truly carrying Claudy's child? Of course. But it is this doubt, this mystery, that introduces the disruption of character and narrative flow. It imposes the possibility of psychology over evidence. A relational narrative has been born from Claudy's tragic life and death. His disease can be read as self inflicted, yet his tortured desire to rejoin the living is the experienced pain that Lorna truly shared. The film's final movement is motivated by reverberation. These echoes of trauma, from either Claudy's murder, or the threat of abortion, or an actual miscarriage, take over Lorna's reality and color our experience of her story. There was dignity in Lorna's clarity and commitment in overcoming her imprisonment of social status. There is transcendence in her commitment to her spiritual elevation as Mother, be it an identity that is real or imagined.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Aborting the Alien---pt. 1-notes

Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) has been studied through the lens of genre ( sci fi + horror) theory, Feminism and Semiotics. These images of female sexuality are multiplied rather than singular, and they are tellingly surrounded by issues of the working class.
Scott's vision, of both Space and space, is clearly gendered. The haunting singularity of the production design is echoed in the heterogeneity of Feminine images. Many have described the dead spacecraft/alien ship as womb like, with vaginal and phallic shapes as shapes and spaces being negotiated by the human crew. In 1993, Barbara Creed's landmark book, The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis lent Scott's film a brilliant reading. Creed's perspective is unique for being the first major study of images of the Female Gender as monstrous in the Horror genre. Building upon some writings by other theorists, primarily Mulvey and Robin Wood, she traces this monstrous- feminine as coming from a series of collectively imagined nightmares, from "Archaic Mothers" to women just bearing the scar and castration threat of sexual difference. The scenes of horror in Alien clearly support this; the scene where Ash chokes Ripley plays as a violent attempt to obtain a Blow Job. Of course he is also trying to stop and to kill her, but the scene is clearly coded as a gendered crime. Ash is continually ignoring Ripley's stature and rank. The room he chokes her in is full of pornographic posters of women, and the sexual act of Blow Job is certainly the most demeaningly coded of all heterosexual sex acts. What better way to quiet the screams or ideas of a woman than to gag her with a penis. The representation of gender is clearly at war here: a reactionary view may've given us nothing but a feminine monster, but Scott's film has Ripley; sexy, self-possessed, liberated, feminine and strong. Visually at war with the stilled images of frozen passivity that are posted on the wall, Ripley is their contemporary, and her uniquely strong type of femaleness is a key sign in her struggle to survive and eventually dominate. Fears of blood ties and parasitic love , birth and infection are all female coded horrors. Subsequently, I view the chestbuster scene as a horrific delivery of someone unaware of being pregnant. Scott's film is unique for having characters fear a monster coded as Female while also having scenes of horror that appear to be nightmares of BEING Female.
Having just re-read a few chapters in MetaMorphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change (ed. Vivian Sobchack), I realise that the multiple visual stages of Scott's Alien is something I can view through the concepts in Sobchack's collection. In the intro she wrote for the book she touches on the Uncanny, "....the photo-realisms of film and television, its effortless shape-shifting, its confusions of the animate and inanimate, its curiously static movement, its queerly hermetic liquidity, its homogenizing consumption of others and otherness, are uncanny -- uncanny not only in the sense of being strange and unfamiliar but also in the sense of being strangely familiar....its process and figuration seem less an illusionist practice than ...an allegory of late capitalist 'realism.'" (p. xi)
So this Alien is, like a child, both strange and foreign yet familiar and familial. Furthermore, it is politicised by its rapid change and visual alteration; culminating in a machine -like (due to metallic like head and skull) one that seems to directly compete with humanity. As Sobchack aptly notes, contemporary filmic morphing prefers alignments with imaginative evocations of Production over representations of the Fantastic. After the two initial live Alien scenes --the parasitic facial status of Kane , and Kane's subsequent live torsal birth of the baby alien, we have already seen two separate visual presentations of this creature. Denied exposition, it remains unclear if this is fully based on age or if the Alien is capable of multiple morphed identities. Does the Alien only appear increasingly familiar post torso delivery because it absorbed something from the human during it's facial hosting? Perhaps we are bearing witness to two distinct renderings of a single idea? The Alien is depicted in varying forms of nightmares. These modes are always genedered and increasingly engineered through technology.

As Sobchack points out, there is a Capitalist reflection and ethos to the digital age of mutation. Morphing is created by rapid movement towards change; in the digital age of Film it is conflated by its shared qualitites with conspicuous consumption. Visibly new technologies/products shine brightly as if production occurred seamlessly without the visible influence of its producer. The Alien can glean human attributes by trying to model itself as a better product to the humans. How can it be viewed as an enemy or as a foreign element if it suddenly manifests itself like a child? The baby alien becomes visibile as we give birth to it.
Alien has a Marxist bent on these morphing images. Countering the spectacle of techno dazzle and productionless product is the human crew that fights to kill the Alien. They are the wage- earners who are hired by a corporate enterprise to carry a mineral ore back to Earth. These blue collar regular joes speak to one another as if they were sitting at a diner counter, but as it happens they populate a spacecraft in the near future. But just how does one situate gender back into Scott's critique? We know SciFi depicts the Feminine figure as potentially monstrous. But Alien actually gives us a double identification in terms of Feminine viewpoints. We have both the feminine Alien, planting eggs and searching for hosts to breed its babies, and we have the primary human character (and antithesis) Ripley, a woman seen sans child/family, protecting her ship (Mother) and literally shooting the Alien out of it with air decompression. Creating what amounts to a massive vacuum to shoot out the Alien stands out as the single most intelligent, empowered tactic that any human has taken in the course of the film. As viewers we applaud her decision, her implementation and her humanity. How nice to watch a film where the hero aborts the baby and saves the world.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Brewster's Millions __laughing at and with commodities

I saw Oshima's Pleasures of the Flesh for the first time yesterday. I couldnt shake the thought that it was like Brewster 's Millions by way of Vertigo , which sounded pretty goofy. Hoping to clear up my mixed thoughts, I revisited Walter Hill's Brewster's Millions. Hill subverts the normal linearity of the narrative tracking poverty to wealth. Hill's images are complicated by a temporal collapse within the individual frame. Each shot is an image of a poor man coinciding with the image of a man who has accumulated an excess of wealth. A fractured temporal palate where the road to wealth implodes on the path back to poverty, or vice versa. A rather traditional mainstream comedy radical for inverting American inventiveness. Creating wealth; an idea made visible in his ingenius ruses to give wealth away. That visibility is doubled in the inanely repeated attempts to design the room he could die in.
Pryor's physical presence is eager and clever, an affability under constant threat from a pathos that can't be smiled away. Opening the film is the singlular sight of him playing minor league baseball. Closing the film, about 10 minutes before the end, there is a shot that frames his Cubs jersey hanging in an empty closet, encased in dry cleaners' plastic. Are all identities tied up in commodity fetishism? Do we purchase our societal roles ? His uniform is branded with the "Cubs ; a stigma that also indexes his societal goals. Perhaps it reveals the entire 'plot' as a conduit, a baseball play . All of this desperate machination, these "proofs" of worth that Pryor's Brewster must exhibit, are really just the inventiveness that is necessary to play the game; whether that game is baseball, American history, or the role of an African American Man, it really makes no difference. Wealth remains the goal, but now it is achieved by emptying and backtracking. All the commodities wealth can accumulate are revealed as shallow ciphers. In the world of Brewster, commodities are obtained to become poor, or rather, almost wealthy. Lacking money signifies a crisis in temporality-- a frozen moment in wealth, the moment we can pause between attaining and getting rid of material commodities.

Friday, January 16, 2009

be kind rewind {2_2008}

While Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind struck its spectators with anxieties about loss of memory and the speed in which the pleasures of the present constantly erode, Be Kind Rewind ...well...basically does the same thing. Both are films about romance, and Be Kind Rewind is even more on point about the romance and love of cinephilia; along with more populist types of movie love. Film lovers know that such love , like romantic love, can lead to obsession, but more specifically the love of film can lead to compulsive behaviour and to fetishism. Perhaps that is why Gondry chose to specify that all 3 of the main movie loving characters in Be Kind Rewind (Glover, Black, Mos Def) are all unattached romantically.

Glover's character expresses angst over Def's character's responsibilities in the Be Kind Rewind video shop: he has anxiety over maintaining the image and maintaining a structure in which it can be shared and repeatedly experienced. His shop is in a state of constant danger and threat-- the threat of going out of business, the threat of competition and the threat of his employees' neglect.

Some critics (Hoberman, A O Scott) aptly commented upon inherent issues of ownership in the world of movies. After all, these films become part of popular culture and live on in our minds, so aren't we rightful in our ownership and our decision to remake them; be it in improper memories or the phsycialisation of this in Rewind's "sweded" products? I see Gondry's film as pre-occupied with temporal anxieties and the compulsive behavior we enact in order to deal with this angst. This is about VIDEO, the first mainstream way for people to fetishize films. They became objects we could covet, rent, own, rewatch, break apart, PAUSE, rewind and fast foward to our compulsive content. Celluloid does not last forever. Cinephiles covet restorations as much as seeing archival prints that may not survive the next time they are due on the repertory circuit. Video, too, has already proven itself to have recently become an artifact.

As Laura Mulvey writes in Death 24 x a Second, "The representation of time has taken on new signifcance". In her chapter "The Possessive Spectator" she elaborates: "With electronic or digital viewing, the nature of cinematic repetition compulsion changes. As the film is delayed and thus fragmented from linear narrative into favourite moments or scenes, the spectator is able to hold on to, to possess, the previously elusive image." Movies on video become less narrative tales than iconic moments, easily identifiable punchlines and gestures allow new levels of abstraction to prevail. Narrative causality is lessened and film has the potential not just to inspire "a deep and durable sense of ownership" as A O Scott notes, but to become part of a ritualised obsession.

The crisis in the image extends beyond the ephemerality of the easily destroyed videotape. Unfortunately, the novelty and perfect Crystal Image (of the Deleuzian sort) behind Be Kind Rewind’s conceit seems to wear off before it ever expands. All that remained, for me, was a bizarrely unfunny and nearly unwatchably affected pluralistic romp.
Yeah, sure. Ok. Love of film should be utopian. I’m all for that. It’s a little hard to swallow in a film that ends up so off course from an amazing concept. And it’s an especially bitter pill, coming from the director of Eternal Sunshine, a funny and smart romance of obsession and fetishism. A film that equates the insane compulsive re-creation of doomed love with the loving , ever so slightly “sweded” recreation of Alain Resnais’ awesome Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime.

notes on best of 08 list

1 Wall-E: The melancholic charm of I Am Legend becomes fully realised.
I don't know if its my inner cinephile or inner loner, but whatever the reason, Wall-E spoke to me.
Identification and empathy followed the film's awesome 1st 45 mins. The pretense of daily labor revealed as meaninglessness -- psychic boredom kept busy. Filling his spiritually emptied life with an apartment overflowing with junk and purposeless tasks that double as rituals. The diamonds are in the detritus. Wall-E's life belongs to things; objects of (Commodity) fetish, such as in his fixation on a scene re-watched on a VHS of Hello, Dolly. Being able to witness the transformation of that fetish onto a real figure with romantic potentiality (Eva) was brilliant.

4 Gran Torino : A great American film.
Clint Eastwood is like Fuller's White Dog. A B movie that turns itself into an A movie.

5 4 months, 3 wks, 2 days: abortion: how the fear of time (in its exactness; the constant awareness of it bearing down on us and the loss of minute after minute..) becomes related to the process of fundamental healthcare needs and freedom for Women.
Like the less successful Revolutionary Road, this film is marked by one quietly iconic , straightforward image that is simply unforgettable. (Rev Road has Winslet's character standing by the window with the huge blood stain covering her panties and skirt. ) 4 months has the bathroom floor scene, with the aborted fetus.
Both films, although fully grounded in reality, have elements of the horrific. It is important to note that the horror in these films is built around time constraints that connect to a lack of narrative options for each respective character, and that both films take place where and when abortion is, quite unfortunately, illegal and thus unsafe...

12 watching the last mistress is sort of like watching an episode of The Bad Girls' Club, or Vh1's Charm School. Argento's character is all externalisation. All she does and thinks seems reactionary and desperate. Cunning and plotting and loving, yes, but a victim to men. She seems to fool herself into thinking that reacting like a crazy person will make them give a shit about her. Her veil of power and strength is eventually revealed after her miscarriage pushes her further out of the narrative frame of reality. She makes a choice to live inside her pain; the world of the film delegates her to hide in an isolated cottage.
The film studies her, reveals her lack of agency and transmits her emotional wounds with a smart visual composition.
A masterfully simple feminist film.

a fluid list of 08 favorites (it will change)

1 Wall-E (this one isnt fluid)

2 dutchess of langeais

3 che

4 gran torino

5 4 months 3 wks 2 days

6 flight of the red balloon

7 still life

8 silent light

9 paranoid park

10 wendy and Lucy

11 the wrestler

12 the last mistress

13 a Christmas tale

14 man from London

15 man on wire

16 momma's man

17 pineapple express

18 milk

19 four nights with anna

20 W.

best rep:
J -d Pollet
alain robbe- grillet
Mary (!!)
jlg in the 60s
1968 Revisited (or whatever that one was called--FSLC over the summer)
Too late blues
(I'm shocked I almost forgot I saw these this year...) Celine et Julie vont en bateau ...AND...
la salamandre (BAM)

ossos (bones)--my mini critique

ossos (bones) -

ossos paints a picture of lived experience. The locus of this experience is quite specific -- we as spectators feel the smallness of the impoverished Creole neighborhood in Portugal that seems like the entire world to its inhabitants. But ossos is more concerned with the specificity of how it's characters experience time than in how they experience their limited space. Perhaps it is that the focus on their experience of time is the primary guide to this neighborhood.

When I saw the film, it's director, Pedro Costa, appeared in person and provided some discussion. He mentioned that he started with one basic visual concept which led him to create a story, albeit one muddling distinctions between documentary and narrative. That initial image was of a young father with a young baby.  Ossos lets us in as the story has already begun. We are left with impressions and feelings and images more than we are left with any exposition. Near the beginning of the film, we see a very young woman bring home her newborn. There is a disconnect between her and the child. The mother's eyeline seems to refuse to meet the baby's gaze, and the long durations of shots with little to no action occurring reflect the inner emotional stasis that is experienced both within the mother as well as between her and the child. We are refused emotional outbursts and there is minimal dialogue at best.  In one shot, the mother sits with her child , but the child is on the other side of the couch. The mother sits back, facing straight ahead, and the child is lying down on the far opposite side of the couch...facing the edge of the furniture, unable to experience her mother's face or figure. Not only do their gazes never meet, but mother as director has ordered the space that is created and subsequent blocking of space between them. There is little to no action occurring, the camera position is fixed and the shot length is rather long. The spectatorial expectation of mother-child bonding is summarily refused. Instead, the spectator experiences a lack of physical connection. The spectator is doubled in these characters' inability to identify. The camera's gaze never identifies with either the baby or the mother, whose trajectories never cross. Both are illustrated as occupying different planes in one fixed space, so the length of this emptiness, this grand amount of time in all these shots of mother with child--walking in the hospital, seated in a car, on the stairs, on this couch, becomes our primary experience of a relationship. A relationship that is both a presence (the biological fact of them being mother and child) and a lack (the interior distance).

One of the first times we see this lack of intimacy is when they ride home from the hospital with another, older woman. Perhaps she is the baby's grandmother, but no relations are made explicit. As the new mom blankly looks ahead, the older woman glances at her, trying to meet her gaze. She seems to express surprise, and then busies herself tending to the baby that the mother refuses to bond with. This fleeting image of confusion intimates the mother once had a more intimate connection with her child; meaning before she actually gave birth. Perhaps the distance this young mother is experiencing is as a result of the move from internal connection to external connection. There is a doubling , a unity of consciousness in a woman whose body sustains the life of another. All that changes when the mysterious and unknown entity morphs into its own newly self-sustained, potentially unknowable entity. Many women experience some version of Post-Partum Depression that gives rise to such lack of compassion for one's own child.

Ossos uniquely composes its images with what may be described as contradictory axioms. The film connotes intense emotion that is evoked through physical stillness. This stillness of mise-en-scene and exposition turns spectatorial focus inwards and allows us to question what intense inner processes must be keeping this woman from expressing love for her child.

We first see the father carrying the baby without any narrative set -up or causality established. We can only gather that it has actually happened somewhat later on in the film. The father is out on the street and he carries his newborn in a black garbage bag. The suddenly oppressive sound is strictly diegetic. The frame is now full with pedestrians and traffic-- filling the shot and consistently causing the spectator to lose the father and child in the crowd. The initial move from quiet to noise is mirrored in that it is from the mother and child to the father and child. The stillness of the mother's existence signified a resistance...perhaps to emotional connection, perhaps a resistence to external reality. Later in the film, the new mother abuses narcotics; further resistance by purposefully altering her own perception of time and feelings. With the father, we move to a resistance that is all about acknowledging and facing that external reality. The struggle of the crowded and noisy street points towards the larger struggle the father will soon deal with -- achieving the necessary connection and assitance to feed and care for his baby-- all dependent on his negotiation with externality- - the resistance he finds from the people outside of the immediate family of new mother, new father and baby.

Near the film's end, focus is again resumed inside the house of the mother and her child, perhaps due to an elliptical editing style, but also because the struggle of the father is aligned even closer with that of the mother. A young mother who is never seen feeding or loving her child? She'd be demonized in classical narrative cinema, but what initially seemed like a contradictory experience between the mother and the father is really brought home as a reflection of images that closely parallel one another. Ossos is composed of persistent struggle via stasis. This resistance to external help and the subsequent action to receive it, this refusal to have intimate connection with one's child is simultaneously a fight to save the child from one's own internal/external death. These characters are ghosts that move around the narrative action/inaction quite differently, yet to similar aims. Death seems to seep through them, yet the delay of its onset is as crucial as it is certain. Refusing the conventionality and finality of narrative closure, Ossos' aesthetic refuses us the process as well. There are no clear causal links, no narrative momentum that ever adds up to antything finite; no final stillness or peace.

Gigi: girl with or without a gun

Gigi's narrative movement tracks the linear progression of girlhood adolescence into somewhat more mature womanhood and feminine desire. Rife with contradictory pleasures, Gigi is composed with equal hands enchantment and sad, impotent reflection. We first meet Gigi as a mere aspect of the background action of the frame. The film opens with Maurice Chevalier as Honore, carefully centered in the frame as the initial figure for spectatorial identification. An aging to elderly man, he thanks the heavens for little girls, and he sings a charming tune that seems benignly pleasant and optimistic. The visual rhyme is composed of the ease and careful strolling of the handsome older man which has subtle interruptions of unordered movement of these young girls; darting somewhat hapharzardly in between background and foreground action.
Instability of movement is integral to Gigi's trajectory. She is one of these girls in the frame, and she is brought into focus only by the unsung vocal storytelling of Honore. She is as much conjured by his imagination, a figure fueled by his fantasies and desires, as she is an actual character in the film. Not unlike Charisse in Brigadoon, but without the more obvious plotline, Gigi remains both a figure of older male imagination as well as an index pointing to female identification, characterised by her refusal to grow up into the model of elite femininity that is ordered by her family and society. The quiet visual dualities are complicated by aural incongruities. Both Honore's song and his spoken narration signify both romantic pleasure and a dirge to the lost romantic possibilities of an aging man.
Gigi is an interesting mesh of girlhood rebellion and precocious sexuality. Caron is partially playing her as an innocent girl, often phsically clumsy and off handedly graceful, bounding up her home's green moss -covered stairs in steps of two and flopping herself down with emphatic speed and weight. Her role as a visual image is complicated by the obvious performative nature of this immaturity and jouissance. The simultaneously garish and eye-popping depth of color to her green and red plaid school girl jumper and her primary blue sailor -ish school girl dress is matched only by the saturated opaqueness of her velvety red home -- blanketed in this impenetrable and passionate (and sexual) color from wall to furnishings. Initially appearing to be a corrective to the proliferance of the femme fatale, Gigi is actually equally as fetishized a visual image. Just as the femme fatales overcomensated by distraction: overtly sexual behavior and dress, physical mannerisms and delivery, Gigi's overly performed youth also creates an instability in the image. Along those lines, the near bawdiness of the deep reds and pinks and solid blues further illustrate the performance and production of the role of innocent girl. If a fetish overcompensates for a psychological anxiety, then in Gigi it indexes the general anxiety expressed by many of the film's key characters (including Gigi) -- that of the passage of time and the loss of romantic desire.
These anxieties are visually and spatially reflected in both the song Honore opens the film with, and in two early musical numbers sung by Gaston (the first of which is shared with Honore.) In "What a Bore" Gaston evokes a world devoid of interest or excitement, but as Honore contests each verse with the magic of the Seine or of the Tour Eiffel, Gaston shoots him down with what sound like classically bourgeois negations. The immobility of the adults is tied in to the enchantment that is felt only by the young, or by those adults who exist in a frame that is continually surrounded by the movement of young women. The film actually depicts elitist social mores as stiff and frozen: in certain scenes, by the tennis court and in the dining hall, glances in the background can catch society type characters who seem frozen into an elitist pose. The scene when Gaston takes Laine out to the dining hall ("She's Not Thinking of Me") creates a freezing of both image and sound (albeit sans the actual mechanism of the fully stopped frame or of the edit). Gaston's dialogue is suddenly cut out and we only see his lips move as he walks in. All the diegetic sound is abruptly replaced by affectedly loud voiceover acting as a collective societal whisper to gossip about him and his date (along with other men and their respective dates.)
Gigi is as much a girl is she is a woman or cinema itself. She is a conjured image, tailor made for a man desperate not to lose the desire that triggers his movement, both in romantic narrative trajectories and in social climbs to success. But Gigi is a film as much about the anxieties of aging and losing one's youth as it is about the ephemerality of ATTRACTION itself. The short-lived duration of girlhood to the sexual female figure is as brief a turn as the entirety of many of the film's romantic relationships. Both Gaston and Honore are seen to have (ahem) more than a few different romantic partners. If desire is short lived, what is Gigi's half life? Aflter all, every woman was young once. Is Gigi really unique, or only for this tiny glimpse of time? Her mutability, her performed innocence and her contradiction of youth and romantic appeal are all the components to trigger the look of male desire.

notes on 2007

JLG in Histoire(s) du Cinema: "Killing a man is a crime. Killing a race is a question. Each government has its question. We answer: Humanity has its question too. Bigger than India, England, Russia. It is the baby in its mother's belly."

2007 is the year that pregnancy became fetishized in popular cinema. The new wave of pregnancy "comedies", Juno, Waitress and Knocked Up, engaged and proliferated spectatorial anxieties about women's bodies and their agency. All three of these films appeared easy to swallow , humorous and light - hearted, but they fetishize the image of reluctantly pregnant women. Fetishes overcompensate/distract from a psychological anxiety. So what anxieties are these reactionary films trying to reduce? Perhaps a reaction to 2006, the year of Inland Empire, where the feminine image transcended itself and left the realm of male obsession. Dern's character defied time and space within the ruptures of Inland's narrative structure. Inland depicted "A Woman in Trouble" as the only possible figure(s) with which the viewer could identify. Her character's short pregnancy came to a quick end with a screwdriver in the stomach, but the experiential nature of time (prolonged duration) in that scene was what made it a filmic exploration of female experience. 2007 sadly failed in its attempts to give the public pregnant women as figures of maturity or of strength. The largeness and strangeness of these young ladies' new bodies miraculously rids them of their agency. Unwieldy bellies, morning sickness, it's all played for comedy and it succeeds in humor that privileges the spectator as the one who is free to move around unencumbered. It seems that the male gaze has fought back...with unfunny jokes.
In slightly less popular cinema, miscarriage, and the threat of miscarriage, surfaced in Eastern Promises and L'Interieur (Inside.) Eastern Promises opens with a woman's Christmas-time death, but it begins as a very-near miscarriage. The present action of L'Interieur occurs on Christmas Eve. In L'Interieur, seemingly inexplicable violence is being carried out by a Trouble Every Day-ish Beatrice Dalle towards a (nine-months) pregnant woman. La Femme seems determined to get her hands on the woman's unborn baby. Dalle is later exposed as a woman who suffered a miscarriage due to a car accident involving the pregnant woman. But is Dalle 's "femme" so different from Naomi Watt's character in Eastern Promises? Both are haunted figures that exert extreme forms of behavior, attempting to recover from a sense of internal loss. They explore a uniquely traumatic feminine condition: simultaneity of life and death within the female body. We learn Watts has broken up with her boyfriend and recently miscarried a child. Promises opens with a mafia execution, immediately cutting to a Russian woman's near miscarriage and the subsequent saving of the baby by Watt, playing a midwife becoming obsessed with this motherless child. Cronenberg gives us two beautifully reflected images; the moral code of the mafia infiltrates Watt's own values in recovering from the loss of her child, and evocation of the mafia is uniquely feminized as a means to nurture and protect one's family.

The gangster genre, with its roots in the Western, has always had themes of community and boundaries; keeping the family together and keeping threats outside. The horror film, as L'Interieur illustrates, has roots in anxieties of the monstrousness of pregnancy and of the female figure. These genres become hybridized through what they share. Dalle's Femme is both the antagonist and the Cowboy in the White Hat: she is the outsider who must be contained as well as the defender of her own internal community-- one that was already (as she sees it, murderously) intruded by the woman whose baby she hunts. Both of these films wisely toy with genre to investigate moral and physical boundaries.

notes on India: Matri Bhumi

India: Matri Bhumi (notes from 11.27.06 post MoMA screening)
A survey of a nation begins with a survey of a street. The camera is poised high above. The street is marked by a focal point at its center, an ancient statue that seems to be aiming upwards like an arrow or index. The statue stands erect and immobile. Centered by the camera's frame, it serves as a visual relic, fingering towards the past. A point around which the action (traffic) radiates, yet an immobile one that seems to impede the overwhelming sense of flow which otherwise defines these opening shots. A sign of ancient history around which the modern buzz of people are moving in and out. Crowded rivers of traffic illustrate the signs of modernity.
Nothing is stationary.  Traffic is bustling and constant.  The camera movements are dynamic.   A freedom of motion is expressed, aesthetically and thematically. The year is 1958 --though the film also covers 1957--the duration of production yet another reflection of temporal crux. The country of interest is India, and the director is Roberto Rossellini.
Just a few years prior to making India: Matri Bhumi, Rossellini took a narrative film with two movie stars, (Viaggio in Italia/Voyage to Italy) and took a rare and revolutionary oppurtunity to infuse classically narrative filmmaking with a more modernist narrative path; depicted as it is by alienation, a slowed-down narrative pace, melancholy, interior psychology and fatalism. India exists almost tangentially to Voyage. Its motivation of montage seems instigated by rumination, reflection and a psychological yet non-voyeuristic observational interest. Voyage is characterised by a series of scenes that meander or radiate from the central "voyage." Speaking to a new type of cinema, the film's construction also speaks to a specific mood and tone that is characteristic to both time and place. The uncovering of relics in Pompeii and the rumination of an unhappily married woman are two such examples. India seems to be more in the form of documentary than of narrative storytelling, but you can feel Rossellini nudging at the walls of narrative formalism.
Documentary and fiction merge. India blurs the impentrable wall that classically separated these two narrative forms. The blurring maintains only the skeletal form of narration in order to drain the illusionary quality of cinema from its well. The film depicts India in a few separate episodic portraits. One subject of these portraits follows the observation of elephants...both as a majestic species and as modes of transport. A subtle co-mingling of tradition and modernity again inserting itself across the screen. The camera often hovers as an unobtrusive observer. This refusal to engage in tradition is no refusal of movement. Movements occur slower and with more internal focus. After the humans have left the elephants, the camera will linger; recording their sounds and their bathing. Time slows as the camera works to avert spectatorial expectations and ruminate on mood and feeling. The voiceover narration is dry yet informative.
Another episode focuses on a monkey who has been taken from its wild home and separated from his tribe. It has been co-opted by man, and once its owner passes on, the monkey out of synch and out of time has become the focus of the film. Another tangent overtaking the story, a modernistic device used in Voyage as well as throughout India. The image of the clothed and domesticated monkey, isolated in the frame of his wild relatives, is a tainted and unnatural image. The radiation that is graphically depicted in the opening shots (echoed with marvelous circularity in the closing sequence) serves as both an introduction and a summary to aesthetic form and content. The sadness of the denatured relic is brought home in these final moments...memory having tied together the loose narrative threads brought out through the subsequent episodes. From the glory of the elephants to the sadness of the old man run ragged in a small village, to the isolation of a relic monkey. The monkey has perhaps the most melancholic role of all. He is an index to a time out of joint.   From realism to illusion to neo-realism and modernism; the remains of these movements are mirrored back to us in the shameful, denatured image of a monkey cowering alone in the frame. Dressed in a man-made costume, he is as spectactular, out of fashion and obtrusive as the marriage of modern transportation and ancient statues that are captured in India's opening scene.

Lorna's Silence

Lorna's Silence
spirit interrupts

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea managing the business

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