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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

roughly: best of what i saw in 2010

please note Ne Change Rien and Everyone Else were films on LAST YEAR's LIST. cheers.

Wild Grass

2 127 Hours

3 Bluebeard

4 A Prophet

5 You Won't Miss Me/ I'm Still Here

6 Trash Humpers

7 Film Socialisme / Ruhr

8 Essential Killing/The Social Network

9 The Ghost Writer/ Daddy Long Legs

10 Mysteres de Lisbon/Shutter island

11 Certified Copy

12 Boxing Gym

13 Un Lac

14 Carlos

15 Our Beloved Month of August

honorary mentions; too flawed to place:
Please Give
Enter the Void
Black Swan

best REP:
special award for rocking my world goes to william lustig's ace curatorial skillz at AFA incl
white line fever
the burglars
fear over the city
the mercenaries aka dark of the sun

also great in rep this yr:
Bill Gunn series @ BAM, esp. the amazing PERSONAL PROBLEMS

tweet's ladies of pasadena @ AFA

the mutations @ WR

pierre clementi series @ AFA

Anthony Mann series @ FF (especially God's Little Acre)

last straub-huillet and latest straubs @ migrated forms

jean pierre gorin series @ migrated forms

Best Film I saw for the first time on DVD or my computer:

Lav Diaz' MELANCHOLIA (2008)



that's it for now; i've likely already forgotten half of what i saw.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I have a right to change my mind

I like re watching Le Mepris.

'If you're happy , so am I.' -camille (Brigitte Bardot in Le Mepris)

I like re-watching Le Mepris because it is a film about things not working.

Motion is impeded, relationships disrupted, both in the film and outside of it.

Such things not working include Artists and Producers in a bad relationship...Palance confused by the ideas in the film he is financing, Lang being misunderstood in the other direction. His art film is not working because people don't communicate with him as a man and as an artist, only as a God. Everyone is concerned with preservation of beauty: both artistic and romantic. But the classical ruins of our environs forecasts the trajectory. Paul is hired to perform a job on this film, and it is one that he will necessarily fail. He is to communicate another artist's vision of another artist's vision. Lang's Odyssey via Homer. Paul (Piccoli)'s failures are intangible yet real. And he can not begin to comprehend why he has earned the scorn and lost the affection of Bardot's Camille.

As Piccoli says in the screening room , quoting Dante, with evident malaise as he watches the couple frolicing onscreen in the Mediterranean, as Delerue plays: "night then saw all the stars. we were filled with gladness, which soon turned to tears until the sea closed in upon us.'

Surrounded by ruins, the film is weighed down in misunderstandings and mis-married artistic visions. The blinding blueness of the landlocked Mediterranean sea, tainted by the surrounding rot of classical ruins...beautiful yet far from prisine. The cliffs that encroach upon it serving as abstract geographic spaces for Camille and Paul to fill to act out their psychological and romantic distance. Camille languishes on a path by the sea, Paul chasing her...Her scorn is as untranslatable as his motives and role on Lang's film. Godard makes certain points: Camille and Paul love each other. The primary red blue and golden yellow tints in the film's opening erotic scene is all we spy of love. The romance of the Sea is crystallized in a beaming blue as Paul gazes at the clip in the screening. We've come into this world with a last glance of what's dying. A romantic bond, the Cinecitta studios now papered with faded posters, the muddled film in the Sea. Subsequent use of primary colors is delegated to material objects; synthetic fabrics of clothing, painted metal and thick makeup on faces. Geographic and chromatic weight is given to the ripping apart of their romantic bond.

Godard's jump cuts move me because they are last glimpses. Desperately they catch moments; the erotically charged sort that equally fuel obsessions and love. Seconds to make out the image: echoing the cruel games of memory the mind plays as a love affair implodes. The colors are exaggerated Primaries and the movements of the edits are equally affected jolts. Fetishistic shots of Bardot's sulking suspending the progress of both the film and the relationship.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

friends: notes on the beginning

The Social Network is a film lit in three parts, each part dividing one's experience and entry into a privileged diegetic world. An early montage features a set of real experiences and people and places that are, for the spectator, glimpsed. For the character whose imagination stimulates the montage, they are conjured. There are a bus full of attractive young students partying. The light is low and fixed to illuminate only small spaces, intimate groups of students. The setting is evening time and clusters of space and people are lit by campus street lights. The images are detailed as if computerized -- a crisp, dusky, hi def feel.

There is something so realistic, so simple in terms of narrative content, yet simultaneously so outrageously unreal and fantastic about The Social Network. The narrative thread first unspools from a point like the innermost dot in a spiral circle that draws outward, progressively more ex-centric, and, ironically, not unlike the boredom inspired, overly-detailed pencil maze an elementary aged nerd might draw. Interior, invisible experience (the privileged ivy league-rs and their prettiest and popular 'Final Clubs) fuels these initial scenes. Paralleling similar territory as the less expositional sequences in films like Se7en, Fight Club and Panic Room, these are real places transformed by simulated social fantasies. They are just the fleshed out versions of what Fincher has done in these previous films: series of shots of the insides of pipes, circuits in a computer or the shots that guide us through walls. While these are quite literally impossible views--what is filmed is never usually seen by the naked eye, at least not in real time, there is just as abstract an idea applied to the socially fabricated community of friends that fools isolated computer trollers into accepting the reality of Facebook. Fincher draws us into spaces where symptom and effect are equally confused and concurrent. That most private fantasy, that of a real world that becomes imagined when one invokes oneself into it....this is also the starting point in a film about exponential growth. Growth that is both actual (financial, fame) and illusory (popularity, likability.) The measure of acceleration parallel to the increase in simulated output: shared qualitites of the trajectory of a FB profile, the trajectory of the explosion of wealth and drama in The Social Network, and the trajectory of the reception of a film. The pencil sketch starting with the dot and ending a maze filled page later. Beginning as a series of dreamed events, The Social Network (the film/ the site) grows more external and more actual (and thereby validated) upon being noticed by large numbers of other people.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

our collective scheme

In 2001 interviews with Charles Tesson and Jacques Ranciere, Jean-Luc Godard speaks of the auto factory as a fortress to it's workers.

In Anthony Mann's God's Little Acre (1958), the closed down cotton mill is a fortress that has locked it's workers out. The site in which its captives were once both held and protected remains frozen...set up for the machinery of imprisonment... yet just slightly outside of time.
Especially attracted to this beacon of comfort, of the pain that is familiar, is Will (Aldo Ray), the ex worker turned to addiction. Addicted to alcohol, he, along with the other ex workers who hang just outside their prison, long for regimen and for the lubricant of daily Labor.
Their cotton machine lacks the breath of life. It just needs a trigger, and Will is fingering a pistol.

The Walden family are like beavers, digging in the ground. They exist to work. They work to compulsively dig. They dig to seek security.
The Walden's are led by Ty Ty (Robert Ryan) whose obsession with a story has led him to invest faith in the myth that gold is hidden underground.
Beavers build dams by digging in groups, called colonies. These colonies succeed because of the shared need for protection and natural resources.

The Walden's exchange of faith for gold reflects the gilded shell of the Church's promised Afterlife. God is dug and rooted out to find the true gift: material wealth.
Each of the earthy Waldens bawdily embrace their secular passions.
The family suffers for following Ty Ty's obsessive need to dig. They share the pain from one another's transgressions. Alcoholism, depression, extra marital sex and lewd aggression taint each member with the dirt Ty Ty directs them to dig.
But the shared myth of gold has become the trigger for the group's function, both in the world and as a family unit.
They burrow , they dig up their very own roots, like the beavers whose digging and flooding may cause interference with the world around them.

The abducted remembers there is a comfort in losing power. Life is smaller , containable, when one depends on the abductor. The god that owns this acre is not unlike the god that owns the cotton mill. The family, the workers, the congregation; all sickly dependent, needing the expropriation of some benevolent instigator to finger the trigger.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Straub, Huillet and the distance covered

The distance covered in Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's L'Itineraire de Jean Bricard is at once personal and national. Shooting an island in La Loire, the viewer's eye is positioned as if on a motorboat, at the pace of a lesson plan, moving in a direction appearing linear, parallel to a messy tree lined coast. As the eye is caught in the boat's rhythm, one's mind departs with direction and sketches the memory behind these ragged trees, now outlines screaming, like a skeleton.

L'Itineraire lacks none of the essential beauty of the latter Straub- Huillet films. It is similar in sublimity but altogether foreign in aesthetics. Somewhat structural, in the sense that the entire film physically traces a map that is the trajectory of individual memory (TIME), it has none of the common Straub -Huillet elements of austere production design, Marxist film techniques, and overheard discussions of the Gods.

The film is rhythmic though not really musical. Our field of vision is obsessively refused fixity. At many points, we are the kino- eye, and we are watching a different tree or a loop of the same few trees pass by us before any visual security is established. Forward or backward, our motion is limited to the attempt to decipher or to contextualize our own experience.
Coupled with the narration tracing youth, war and what lay in between, the concept of loss is visually foregrounded.
The film's progressive alteration -- both in terms of the coastline revealed as spherical (initially filmed with linear camera moves) and a subsequent tour of the trees as items in a rigid graph, reveals something about the wisdom gained only in returning to revisit the past. Do inconsistencies in memory promote illusion, or is it merely the discrepancies in film emulsion?
The same alteration , strangely enough, is perhaps creating fictions about where we were, who we are and how we became.

Monday, May 10, 2010

analagous pleasures

Can Harmony Korine be a blood relation to Michael Alig?

This thought plagued me as i sat down to experience his newest
motion picture, Trash Humpers. Reportedly promoting it as a VHS found in a ditch, Harmony's film is made to look and feel rough, homemade; both a dirty, hidden object and something tastelessly flamboyant. At times it veers darkly into snuff film territory, but Korine keeps intent and psychology disconnected from experience.
At the inception, my experience was wholly external. I felt devoid of emotion, not sure how to feel, and disinterested. I numbly watched strange people,with wrinkle face make up (or are they
masks?), humping garbage, singing ditties, gurgling guttural sound effects coming from some ugly yet common place of the esophagus.
These are what I came to understand as the film's 'basics'. Pattern and meaning resulting from repetition. Only then was I sucked in. Korine connects it all gracefully; keeping a tight editorial grip. An interplay is formed, a Bakhtinian schema of shared meaning and reliances among the humpers, the various abused or abusive outsiders they encounter, and between all of them and Harmony Korine. Scenes are incomplete, but patterns form and interruptions are contexualized. The record signal goes out, the "Play " button suddenly gets pressed and stopped. Countering my first impressions of the film as loose looks in and out of random happenings, I'm struck by the hypnotic power of repetition: visually via masks and the humping motions, aurally via the tourettic chants, grunts, and twangy devil ditty. At last something is produced; at least a distinct after-effect.
There are also deviations in between...initially I thought they would transform what I had seen: leading to an elusive plot, that secret that would indicate what was going
on, what we were watching, who they were. These deviations only ended
up being devious. Wicked little outbursts, peppered with Rabelaisian humor, but
also danger and blood. Was it make up again? Masks? Were we witnessing crimes or did our
very presence, our act of looking too hard create the desire to detect?
It was only upon repetition, that plastic quality, that the basic elements gained power and trajectory. Narrative remains as purposely fuzzied as the analog image. Plot,
whatever that may or may not be here, remains tertiary to the building
blocks of pattern and rhythm.
Occupying a space somewhere between an ironic nightlife art event
(Alig), a prank crime scene (Alig) and a set up to real life homicide (Alig), Trash Humpers has
stayed with me in a wholly outside experiential manner -- like a worn
out vinyl that plays on repeat but skips in different places all the
time. I remain totally gleefully separate from the humpers, and all
that remains is the way the film diverts from and returns to its own simple elements:
the devil songs, the gurgling sounds,some yelps, twang, and the
anthemic slogans (make it, fake it, dont break it...suck it suck it dont
fuck it....)

Friday, February 5, 2010

the case for The Girlfriend Experience

(Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel--on the passage from boyhood to manhood-"The prison walls of self had closed entirely round him; he was walled completely by the esymplastic power of his imagination -- he had learned by now to project mechanically, before the world, an acceptable counterfeit of himself which would protect him from intrusion. He no longer went through the torment of the...flight and pursuit.")

Stephen Soderbergh's twentieth film, The Girlfriend Experience, introduces Sasha Grey to audiences less acquainted with scenes of gang bang and anal penetrations. Sasha, a notorious young porn star, written about in mainstream press for describing her porn work as Performance Art, contextualizes her career/craft ambitions with those of Anna Karina and J-L Godard.

The girlfriend experience is, on one level, a specific type of escort work, one designed more as an actual date with more kissing/intimate actions than is usually normal. On a second level, the film refers to the experiential nature of acting as if: his camera quietly follows as it rips down commonly shared beliefs on what is a real and what is a false (one with services bought and sold) relationship. Men and women can inhabit the role of gf and bf with or without $ to very similar if not identical results.

Soderbergh's film quietly (and not chronologically) chronicles the objectification of both genders in romantic relationships; the element of performance and leap of romantic faith as fantasy that each partner must choose to take when believing love as an actual quality of life. These are common lies that his film lays bare.
Soderbergh , as Amy Taubin aptly pointed out, makes somewhat structural films (a la Che and The Limey) where application and subject merge. As with Che 's merging themes of strategy and tactics, TGE is as much about escorts as it is about the process, though here it's more specifically the politics, of seduction. Perhaps inspired by Ashley Du Pre/Spitzer and the corporeal politics of finance and recession, TGE eludes any easy category of expose or sycophant- like escort worship. It is a film about stories, and structures, and lies. The Capitalist leap of magical thinking needed to trust the 'Market' is foregrounded here by similarly magical cultural myths weighing down gender roles in conventional coupling. Ideology informs the myth of boyfriend /girlfriend. The heterosexual power couple as commodity fetish-- as altered by competition and infected by profit motive as anything in the marketplace.
TGE catalogs it's protagonist's experiences out of chronological order. Scenes of Chelsea (Sasha's character on the job) and scenes of Christine (Sasha's character off the job) are like Che part 1 and Che part 2, following what Soderbergh described as a call and response relational system. No voyeuristic seduction is used to suck the viewer in to some lurid view of our heroine. Soderbergh prefers this journey as cool and chilly as its color template. The film believably favors the perspective, constantly masked and operating on multiple levels of performance as it is, of Sasha's character.

If countless moviegoers and critics alike missed the point when reading Sasha as 'cold' or 'plastic' then it is even less surprising to read A. O. Scott write that "The idea that Chelsea, the girlfriend for sale, is herself succumbing to the false allure of the girlfriend experience, is an interesting one, but neither the script, by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who also wrote “Ocean’s Thirteen”), nor Ms. Grey’s cool, tentative acting can quite sustain the level of emotional complication necessary to bring it to dramatic life." (NYT 5.22.09) Perpetually saddened by the lack of gender intelligent film critics, I can't feign surprise at such comments. Scott is wrong because he fails to understand a basic fact of sex work. These work relationships are real relationships. And as Soderbergh asserts on this boomerang fold that endlessly reflects back on itself, real relationships are work relationships. love is a system of transactions. Business necessitates leaps of magical thinking and romance is a stage where we simply role play.
Chelsea/Christine/Sasha is a businesswoman who smartly organises her clients. But they are nonetheless actual relationships. This is hard to believe for most men since she is a 'woman' and she is a 'sex worker' but She is a person , with real affection, actual love ties, masks and all.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Girlfriend Experience or How it Feels to be Transient

CUMMING soon...

still working out the *kinks* on this piece.

Lorna's Silence

Lorna's Silence
spirit interrupts

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea managing the business

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