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 26, 2011

best of 20ELEVEN

the new releases:











Worst films of the year





best films by people im friends with (and all are best films of the year)

(not ranked!)





Thursday, December 15, 2011

not trusting the library

Last night i revisited an amazing film that i have long adored: Pere Portabella's VAMPIR/CUADECUC, a document of the making of jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA. Or better said, Portabella's own version of the same film.
Known as a materialist masterpiece, Portabella's film is haunted by the trace of another filmmaker and spectral glimpses of a performed narrative vision (often eclipsed )and sound (wholly manipulated to mimic the sounds of the projector and of the editing room.)

I just finished a novel/non novel of sorts by W.G. Sebald titled Austerlitz. Both Sebald's and Portabella's work share a distrust of the way we have been taught , a distrust of memory and a distrust of the belief in a singular history, a sentiment reflected aesthetically in the distrust in conventions of storytelling and the urge to look at art as artifact. Towards the end of the book there is the inclusion of a found photograph (Portabella's images are all found footage too, just all from a single source and from one moment in time) of Paris' National Library. An old friend runs into the titular character there: " ...so, said Austerlitz, we began a long, whispered conversation in the Haut-de-jardin reading room, which was gradually emptying now, about the dissolution, in line with the inexorable spread of processed data, of our capacity to remember, and about the collapse, l'effondrement, as Lemoine put it, of the Biblioteque Nationale which is already under way. The new library building, which both in its entire layout and its near-ludicrous internal regulation seeks to exlude the reader as a potential enemy, might be described, so Lemoine thought, said Austerlitz, as the official manifestation of the increasingly importunate urge to break with everything which still has some living connection to the past." (p 286)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Light that Binds

Francois Ozon's bracing 5x2 deconstructs, in the most obstructionist of forms, a relationship and it's demise. Ozon 's film achieves this goal by going out of order as well as backwards.
Light and movement tell much of the story, giving an elemental, biological vagueness to this reflective search for what was missing and what was there. Throughout 5X2, natural light is a visible coorelative to the intangible thing in flux; sometimes intense, constantly moving, and fading away.
I just read a chapter of Sergei Eisenstein's memoir, Immoral Memories, titled "The Knot That Binds." It is a short anecdote about a photo postcard of a perfect family: a ribboned bow featuring images of the Gibson girl and Gibson boy ...the photocaption is "The Knot that Binds" because there is a picture of a baby in between the bow of Gibson girl and Gibson boy. The model relationship image is one that Sergei details being mesmerized by in his boyhood, as his own parents experienced an explosive divorce.
The only thing that binds in the beginning of the story of 5x 2, which happens to occur at the movie's end, is the blinding light of the sunset.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

killing myself part 1

There are certain women that I seek out when I watch movies. Women who I make plans to watch and re-watch.

I am not discussing stars. Sometimes it may happen that she is a woman known by her star persona, but that's not what attracts me. I'm thinking of Natalie Wood in SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS or Ingrid Bergman in STROMBOLI. More specifically though, I'm confessing when and how I watch certain women. I scope out the right film tone, the right type of music or narrative detail, the right hair style on her head...maybe I remember something that happened to her that the film forgot to mention.
These are the women i drill myself into , I hunt them and I find them-- those handful of ladies who turn out this portal of a performance, one ripe for me to fill and usurp with personal psychological projections.
There is still a part of me that is too immature to readily admit the extent of these crimes I've committed. I am, after all, a rarefied NYC film goer, aren't I? A cinephile, or a BFA in Cinema Studies or whatever waste of the English language you want to dribble on me.
Laying bare, I am also a woman who is unable to not take on the personal and SECRET task of compartmentalizing a certain dream. For all the films I see, day in and day out, I have a small part of my mind reserved for finding those films with those women...where the dress and the smell is right and i can take those films for myself...to lose myself to, to cry with, to erase.

If I want to kill these films it is because I want to kill myself.
Just vaguely. Not technically.
I only want to escape my problems and so instead of living a fully actualized life I hide inside movies. I really hide. Not just in the movie theaters, but also inside these certain films.

One such film is MILLENNIUM MAMBO.
I watch it now, because I'm looking to fall.
Its protagonist Vicky (Shu Qi) is some strange step sister to Anna Karina's Nana in VIVRE SA VIE.
Vicky is in trouble but she is also tiptoeing , running away and saving her tomorrows in a way that never worked out for Nana. Vicky is surely in danger but she is safe, and we know this at the beginning, in that most magical of sequences while she dances while she walks to the wonderful electronic music. walking is a dance because she is alone and she is free. Her narration tells us in the opening moments that she saved money for herself and she waited for a time to use it as a reason to get away from him.

These introductory moments slayed me in 2002 or 2004 or whenever it was this film finally opened in NYC, at Cinema Village on 12th street.
Several moviegoers walked out in the first half hour, but certainly not me! Not I who so clearly fell in love and in suicidal erasure projection mode with this wispy pretty girl who was so late 90s in her ear 20sness ...so dreamy and gauzy , and she was newly freed, as was I!

There is something foundational and unerasable about the colors and the way they bleat and whisper, running over the film's characters. The sound is used similarly and it creates a harmony that marries the experience, or rather MY experience of this film to my own sense of myself at a particular time and place. Please, let me give you some idea of how it does this:

About twelve or thirteen minutes into the film, following scenes of social nights out and the dulled, industrial feeling of a techno nightclub circa 2000, Vicky and Hao -hao have come home for the night. Post intoxication, post scenes where almost no relations between characters are established and no dialogue seems discernable or worthwhile. ....now comes a domestic moment as the young couple returns home. Vicky undresses to her white bra, and then puts on a red hooded sweatshirt.
Hsien's colors count time.
Later in the film, maybe a half hour or so after this scene, Vicky is again seen wearing red while voiceover is narrating her story of Hao-hao. She is working as a sensual dancer in what she describes as a "Hostess Club", and she says she worked for money (she moves erotically , in an upscale scene, spreading her legs in nothing but an elegant red thong.) and Hao -hao never liked it, most likely because he never really had his own work.

Back to the scene with the red sweatshirt...So lurking in the bedroom is Hao hao, who seems as if he is alone. He puts on music, reacting to it and taking more drugs to it. He sits on a bed in the back of the frame, with a look lost inside intoxication, and Vicky straightens up silently near the foreground.
The first moments of this domestic scene carry over from the one that proceeds it. There are those cool colors like the ones from inside the club...the violets, piercing white yellows, the white blues. Here are the blurred out glowing blobs that act as sources of light in the dance club, places lacking real color and smells. But here we are at home, close up, and so the lights are large blurs that lack the busy movements between presence and absence that occur with the nightclub strobes. Here they flicker in concentric light sources; flourescent desk bulbs and home computers.
As the scene progresses the music bridges as well, though it is less happy and more spare. It sounds like bits of melodies which start out as subtle warnings, coming in just after a bit of violence or just before a meaningful voiceover comment. The colors and shapes of the home become slightly more defined and less expressionist as the tension and the narrated reflections build in tempo.

Actions in the present tense (which are detailed in parentheses in the following paragraph) both inform and inflect the narration , from the future, which tells of the past. From a (which i believe is Vicky speaking in third person) voiceover narration on the start of the relationship with Hao-hao : "They'd go into the toilet together, take drugs, and get high to a certain level. She first met Hao-hao in a disco on He Ping Road called "Spin." That day she and Xuan-xuan planned to go to a karaoke club with friends. But the girls were stood up. Hao-hao and his friends started chatting to them. Asked them to sing. (Hao -hao interrupts by walking over to her and suddenly elbowing her, causing her body to be kicked left of the film frame) She noticed that...(camera pans slowly left to now show them both in a two shot) Hao-hao was staring at her all evening. (He puts a hand to her head, pushing it to the left, expanding film frame further as he shouts something. Vicky puts his hand down-gives a pointed soul baring look and he stares back) Shyly, without saying anything. (He walks to just the right of the film frame , just showing Vicky , looking at him, he calls out nastily"What are you looking at?" There is a beat of silence then he grabs her arm again as narration resumes...) She never finished high school. (They struggle, she is trying to keep his arm off her) He stopped her sitting the final exam, (She gets his hand off her and sits down so frame is on her sitting, continuing to straighten up the table with Hao-hao seen in a torso shot as he stands, looking over.) they were in a motel together. (She stays at table as he walks slowly back into his room, in frame's background.) He deliberately didn't wake her. He didn't want her to take the exam. He was afraid she'd move on if she did. (She walks to the right, past end of film frame; Hao-hao in background, sitting on bed, watching, forlorn, now coming into clearer focus.) Later, they began living together in a rented apartment in Taipei. Neither of them had a job. "

The scene for the story moves into a loudly lit (cool neons-violets + horizon pink) techno coated night club.
The narration tells of him stealing his father's Rolex and how his father came to question him. We see him and Vicky flirting but they look like children and they are intoxicated, him especially.
The narration fades and so does the music and they are fucking quietly in a bed, but all we see is smothered noises and a face. There are two suns, like in a fantasy..two sun spots in the dark bedroom-both goldish yellow and they move around the right side of the frame which is otherwise warm and dull and brown or grey, i can't even be sure which because it does not matter.

I think that overidentification is selfish and it sabotages the art and experience of watching the film without the purpose of erasing it to hold court in it's walls. It is unfair to the FILMS..the things I adore. It's unattractive, self obsessive and narcissistic to boot.
So I admit this to you and I think this is the first level of acceptance. There will have to be more uncovering and investigation to come.

Monday, October 17, 2011

steering the fear

in an effort to become more aggressive in my attempts to make my boyfriend watch certain films with me, i sent him a proposal for some halloween film viewing programs.
my hook was that the program stretched the definition of halloween appropriate titles by characterising my selections as 'fear -based ' films.
examples include Trouble Every Day (fear of sexual connection and invasion), coffin joe trilogy (fear of possession) and Teorema (fear of seduction.) I finish the list and send it off, but i continue to peruse it, trying to get hit with inspiration of how to include more films i want him to see by stretching this thin 'fear' aspect.
so i land on 4:44 last day on earth...a film i loved so very much that it is clearly and loudly the best film ive seen in 2011.
i drift over to the idea that it is the fear of the living that is at the core of this film. and wait, i'm not even stretching the conceit here, it really conveys that painful, tortured picture of living with that fear, a fear I relate to more than most you dear readers really know. Here not only does a person have a death drive, but the planet has a death drive. the city has a death drive, and yes, in turn, his neighbors and even his lover has a death drive. But it is this one man, Cisco (willem Defoe)around whom everyone and everything else is illustrating an Expressionist picture.
4:44 seems to have occurred in an exhale. The running time, the heightened emotions and the outward energy -- exalt, carnal connections, direct rage. Despite all these outward breaths, the film is dotted with scenes showing televised or spied examples of other people talking about inward actions, like serenity and surrender, and we even see our protag Cisco's girlfriend/partner (shannyn leigh) attempt to practice it (through painting/ meditation.) The film itself is running from our grasp as we run out of time to catch it. It's all extension. The film has the temperature and logic of a confession. every moment and sound of this film is an echo of Cisco's refusal to surrender. This feeling is confirmed when his character suddenly cops dope, breaking over 2 yrs of continuous clean time from drugs and alcohol.
Is the scenario of the world's end a fantasy concocted ? Is this movie the filmed and illustrated version of a recovering addict sharing their reservations? Might the entire film be a dream built around a reason to RELAPSE? The first time we are told the news of the apocalypse is through a computer/diarist confession that Cisco SHARES with us. (not entirely unlike one would share at a 12 step meeting or by privately writing out the steps.)
His Lower East Side / east village neighborhood is filled with the sick and suffering, people for whom the world may be ending. their loved ones are across the planet, they are poor and disenfranchised delivery boys or they are grandiose has beens over dressed at the corner store.
Fuck the future.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Creepy Geniuses

"Why was i selling bitches?
I could have been selling birds."
--Heidi Fleiss

Directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato film infamous people who were once awkward. Heidi (Fleiss) and Michael (Alig) move at the pace of money, with the force of fearlessness; they both expect to suffer no consequence. One reason for this is the nature of their product; they market ego and primal appetite . Their clients are us other awkward, insecure people who will pay for status to fill and build ourselves up.

Both Party Monster (the doc) and Heidi Fleiss: Would be Madam of Crystal are about appetite and haunted innovators. Both films work to illuminate the creepy, needy shells of spirits that these two notorious figures had always been.

Heidi is more attractive, not the least because she is a woman and because she has never committed manslaughter or murder, as did Michael. Also, Heidi owned her crimes early on. they are as lucid and attached to her skin as are the searchingly large and screaming eyes on her face. Her transgressions were violet , not violent. And they were masculine, and she is a Girl. She is a girl who is top dog, and she calls out loudly to tell people what to do, and so those who hear her tone deaf voice feel compelled to muffle it.

Poor Heidi. Where is her place? After transgression has come and gone, how does one move elsewhere? How can one be allowed to grow and fit ?
there is a song called LOVEBIRD that plays in Heidi Fleiss: would be Madam of Crystal, and it is composed of music , timed with the visual song of a melodic animation.
It draws flowery feminine pictures of acceptance and home...the picture of a girl in a bedroom , starting out forlorn, but by the end she has perked up as the pencil draws colorful birds that relate and interact with her.

She's for the birds.

She finds wounded and brilliant exotic parrots, and they are as wounded and brilliant as their new person. Oh yes, these birds are like Heidi, also new to sentiments such as trust and community.
Heidi finds a home.
Farewell profit motive. Your attachments imploded.
Heidi can devote her creativity of expansion and production to securing new aviaries instead of building upscale brothels.

There is a sense of manic desperation that hides in the cage. We know it's there for the first 60 mins of the film but it is drowned out.
In the final moments, the cage door is opened. Profit motive is really a dishonest grasp at protection.
Heidi is rabidly high on crystal . Her intoxication and her addiction are flying free in a cageless block of glass. Her words and cries go nowhere fast.
As this is happening, her cries finally vocalize the intense fear and sadness that always stayed tucked under her wing.
Her birds have set her free. At least it almost time to get to the last cage door and find the real open space, the open skies of Recovery.

Monday, August 29, 2011

no measure of projection

I could not tell you how often one gets inspired by watching an episode of Intervention. Common or random? I'm just not so sure. I tend to give too much weight to coincidences and the plethora of connections. Anyway, I recently had this happen to me. The episode seemed just like 2 to 3 chapters out of an awesome novel I'd shamefully only half read, having lost track of it three months ago. And both the television show and the book were now causing me to make further connections with 2 of my most recent movie revisitations.

The episode was titled " Latisha ', and getting inside her world for 60 minutes broke my heart. Her crack addiction kept her worldview obscured by a cheery veil, elevating her self image to 'Queen of the streets' in the fabulous ghetto of her diseased existence. The episode broke the mold of A + E 'reality' drama. The producers and director actually filmed with two lenses; one a lens of clarity, the moments of intoxication and cocaine psychosis embarrassingly clear. The second lens used was that of Latisha's own self protective or rather self projective denial. A sort of denial that is, mostly by the nature of both the disease of addiction and the nature of crack cocaine, narcissisticly destructive; self perpetuating by delusions of self importance.
This projection colored my sense of Latisha's experience of her world. It allowed me the escapism of her highly stimulated thought process and the momentary joy of her imaginary relationships.

I'd recently been chipping away at William T. Vollmann's :" The Royal Family", a sprawling dissection of genealogy and stratum of San Francisco pimps , whores, and the Unicorn of this particular zoo, the elusive "Queen of the Whores", aka "Africa."
Vollmann's male protag is haunted and degenerate. He is a noirish detective by way of a Proustian sad sack, dropped into a transgressive, insular world of fucked up folk. He is one half romantically haunted by a dead lover and one half digging progressively deeper into the mud of the royal whoredom; eventually projecting his obsessions on a whore who Judy Bartons herself into his deceased love.

How did anything strike beyond the obvious remembrance of the cool novel I'd failed in finishing?
What this television episode and this post modern novel share is a quality that also appears in films, though usually sweatier and involving pacing or the cover up of something like a heist or a murder.
This distorted self projection and fucked up self will is something of a germ. Infecting the host it leads to secondary diseases, such as compulsive behavior and addiction, be it gambling, alcohol, drugs, what have you. In films, lucky for us, it also results in projecting a world of their own diseased thinking's creation, one that is entertaining while illuminating, as well as insane, colorful and full of constant heart pounding danger.
I'm thinking of the sweat on Nomi Malone's face in SHOWGIRLS. She is three different things and they are also one and the same: victim or pursuant of Capitalism, a dancer who is a wannabee star, and an Addict. Not a surprise when in the film's fourth quarter she is revealed as an ex junkie, and we see her come alive when she does blow.
Her sweaty forehead and bugged out 'star' eyes are demonic and bothered, a distinct image yet mere mutation on the aloof vacancy in James Caan's eyes in THE GAMBLER. Any interiority ironically revealed through voiceover and the occasional sound bridge.
Both figures drawn here are playing the losing card. How can Nomi ever gain status and respect without stealing them? And how can a human being, as Ivy League as he may be, ever beat the Numbers?
In a classroom scene, Caan's collegiate professor speaks in a Psych or Philosophy class about intangibles such as Desire and Will. Things that , for Caan's alter ego of nighttime degenerate gambler find reflected only the simplest materialist games. The only expressions of emotive power and psychology in the film are those of people in Caan's world..those gangsters affected by the hustler's life and the family members distraught by Caan's risk and loss. Caan, meanwhile, remains a blank mirrored screen, and antithetical to a Nomi Malone, his own wild inner process is laid bare only by the measure of how others respond to his madness.
The film illuminates his disease by showing him as leading almost two entirely different lives. His battle is built around shame and a destructive belief of self grandeur, each fueling the other.
These filmed losers are lovers and their hatred of self and desperation to be loved is made visible in neon gemmed manicures, headdresses, coke nails, maternal robberies, and Atlantic City betting benders.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My bird likes Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan lights fuses

I just learned my bird likes Spencer Tracy, and i find her taste reflects most film viewers' sensibilities. My bird can judge friendliness and likability in the matter of time it takes for someone to speak. People are not so different -- we listen and watch just enough to hear the calm and the warmth and the readiness for connection that a likable person's voice would convey.
Spencer Tracy has all these qualities, and as i watch BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, it is inescapably obvious how marvelous Spencer is for this film. Tracy is class, Tracy is a guy's guy, and he is also old guard and the guy you'd never go wrong trusting. He is the good sheriff and the moral compass, even though he enters the film as the one non cowboy and the outsider in the black hat.

It has been nearly 9 years since i've seen this film, and the social mirror of this film now reflects forward into the present day, making me think of Tea Party eccentrics and the laws of the Western genre. The people of Black Rock are unwelcoming and threatening to Tracy's visitor, and their own ignorance and closed community, again, like the Tea Partiers, is what implodes them all to bits. Robert Ryan, in an early sequence, explains to his cronies how this city outsider is a danger. "This guy is like a carrier of small pox. Since he's arrived, this town has a fever. An infection. And it's SPREADING."

Getting back to Robert Ryan, subject of a current series at NYC's Film Forum. Was there any guy better at being the film screen's psychic and visual equivalent to the trigger of a gun or the light on a fuse? He is sexy, carnal and dangerous. He's as fatherly as he is criminal. Incorporating all of these contradictions, he is the ideal identification for fellow haunted men (ON DANGEROUS GROUND, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW), manic , bawdy and greedy patriarchs (GOD'S LITTLE ACRE.) He elevates every line to a smolder or an explosively hostile relationship. In this film , like INFERNO, the last Robert Ryan selection i saw at Film Forum, also taking place in the desert of the Southwest, Ryan literally is fighting with fire. Both films feature explosive fires in the desert, and it is no ironic observation that Ryan is the common denominator.

It's strange how this picture, which acts as if it's a social issue picture, speaks so much about xenophobia and racism, which is the social issue at the core of this film. The film is actually more of a Western, and it is never illuminating about race. It only speaks of men. And who belongs. but i see no Asians or African Americans, i see men from the city and men from the desert. It's colors bring out the smarts of some men over the banality of others. It's rocky desert topography speaks of the roughness of small town desert life and how simulatneously closed (minded) and open it's spaces and it's people are. BLACK ROCK has spaces closed (in community size) and open (in expansiveness of the desert) ; containing threats of overreaching foreign space that is pure territory...pure nothingness but physical background in which to fight and determine who is allowed to belong. Mostly, the film, for me, is about the experience of watching Spencer Tracy, metropolitan, cityfied movie star, walking in the psychotically beautiful and haunting desert, wearing a dark suit and dark, smart fedora.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

marie riviere in circles

"[Walter] Benjamin said that people were not only going to film, but to be filmed, that people would have to get used to watching everything while being watched , and that the two great winners in that would be the dictator( director) and the star. What more can you say? Nothing has changed."
Jean -Luc Godard

Marie Riviere, as Delphine in Le Rayon Vert, is a study in circular motion. The sense of her psychological and relational developments provides the movement of the film. I experience the movie as circles that never meet. There are two primary movements, seeming to occur concurrently. There is the movement toward isolation and self harm; the movement of increasing retreat (concentric) where Delphine's fear causes stagnation and constriction. The other movement is toward actualization , connection and freedom (excentric), where Delphine increasingly goes her own way and seeks out a connection in the world; the instances where she is able to have a tender moment with a child or to walk alone in the crowded waves of the sea.
Both of these movements revolve around one another, yet both seem to exist apart. Her retreats seem less a response to her freedom , and more just a step back, a step forward in what adds up to a lack of any forward progression beyond that of walking around a circle. The scene in the sea where she bobs in the waves is a physical crystallisation: she leaps towards the large wave ; she runs from the idea that a large wave is coming. There is a toe in but there is also a missed wave.

Eric Rohmer's Le Rayon Vert, released as Summer in the united states, spends quite some time explicitly discussing color. Many facets of hue are covered; those spiritual in nature as well as more straight forward reflections about how color physically changes in movement; such as how the sun changes colors at dusk, while moving closer to or further from the horizon.
Then Rohmer gets more straight forward, or it may be that the film becomes Structural, because the issue of color eventually ends up moving out of the realm of Discussion and into the realm of Image; culminating in visuals that fill the total film frame.

This chromatic movement is nothing but gradual, as it takes a while, the film's full 98 min running time to be exact, for that pure visual to take over , and actually obliterate all discussion. Ideation becomes actualized. Echoing this movement from discussion (stagnation) to pure physical image (action/movement/ being-ness) is the movement in the film that tracks it's main character, Delphine (Marie Riviere.)

Early in the film Delphine seems trivial and stilted...and the color green in these earlier scenes is mostly noticeable in synthetic materials: plastic bauble jewelry, a polyester scarf, etc. Later in the film the color green is more focused in nature; point of view shots where Delphine finally allows herself to explore the shore along the beach or the greenness of the aqua sea.

There is a synchronisation of experience for film subject and film spectator. The sense of Delpine's psychological intensifications, both echoed and deepened by mise en scene (coverage of Delphine in social circles; coverage of Delphine going it alone in nature, the color of dusk and progression of intensification in the sunset) and relational patterns (Delphine talking about men/relationships, Delphine watching other people relate, Delphine talking about how she watches others, Delphine noticing herself being watched and sought after by men) crystallizes the simpatico of circularity with the one being watched onscreen and the one watching the film.
As Godard has commented on Benjamin, nothing really has changed. Delphine goes forward and back on two parallel tracks, and we, the viewers, are kept just outside, walking around her as we watch her, never getting out of the circle. Rohmer and Riviere have got us beat.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sion Sono in Pieces

The films of Sion Sono are a construction uniquely of and by the twenty-first century.
Although their narrative rhythms are composed of 'follow this link"and chapter addendum after chapter addendum,they seduce us with the lie of normalcy, a lie also known as Narrative. Sono's films start out as stories, but they erupt and fragment into multiple pieces. These movies engage the concept of crises, and his character centered films revolve around them. Highlighting the precarious status of the 'story' in modern moving image culture, his films simulate the sense of passionate online viewing and track subsequent paths of internet exploration.

With a logic of direct a to b causality, he ensnares us only to consistently frustrate and deny logic. Actions and focus of characters is constantly radiating out to outstretched arms of a family tree and to tangential associates barely in the frame. Watching a Sono film introduces one to the beauty of destruction. The shapes and angles of shattered storylines and fractured characters compose an infected, fevered take on narrative. Films like NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE, SUICIDE CLUB, COLD FISH and the amazing LOVE EXPOSURE taught me the striking elegance and beauty in not only being lost in a film, but being denied the trajectory of getting lost. These movies , which often discuss and illustrate brutal murder and copious blood, take a violent and sickened approach to assemblage in every aspect of movie and plot making.
LOVE EXPOSURE is an exaggeration of this idea and so it is the most poetic. Perhaps people even mistake it as his most ambitious film, for doesn't it just expand upon everything that started with SUICIDE CLUB? How many films and characters had asked me "am i connected to myself ?" before LOVE EXPOSURE. SUICIDE CLUB was as equal or greater a masterpiece; conceiving an entire oeuvre in a single film which also started out as a flawless closed system (not ironically, or highly ironically, about intricate internet networks and social systems). The four hour running time of LOVE EXPOSURE is not unlike a distended hyper illustrated exposure of a lifetime of film footage. it is really every film Sono has made and will make, and it is as brilliant as it is obvious.

Just as Sono's films and fractured storyline so often are served to us in shattered bits and pieces, so are my thoughts on Sion Sono.
Signing off with the intention of more to come.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Oh, helloooo Mikhail Bakhtin...there's some dandy fine cinema samples of Carnivalesque to be found in Larry Yust's unbelievably delightful 1974 film Homebodies. There are old people fighting gentrification by murder. There is goofy scoring, grisly stabbings, mass murders, and some endearing sight gags.
I nauseously fell in love with a few of these elder heroes. The humiliation of aging + poverty turns them into vigilantes. Yust's landscape is all charming neighborhood streets literally eclipsed by the erection of a monstrosity of a massive luxury apartment complex. So Main Street morals go topsy turvy , and the revolution is donning silver hair and knee socks.
If aging rapes us of our dignity, then gentrification is like the 2nd rape in the same day of Ms. 45 fame.
Though not yet old, i am world weary enough to feel contempt for the way the world pushes it's elderly out of it's houses. Identifying with their vigilantism and twisted struggle, i quote the end of Ms. 45, crying out..." SISTER........."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

men cheating on women: the difference is not the 20th century

The last third of the film Match Point is one of the only good things Woody Allen has ever done.
I tend to fall in the Rosenbaum school on the Woody weigh ins: that he is good only at copying other ideas and at amassing groups of talented collaborators.
Here is the first point in the film when i felt any measure of pathos. A verifiable tennis match has commenced. It is one based more on sound than on image. To get rid of sound, one attacks the opponent and achieves silence. A pregnant noise, one that intimates an image that will also have to be hidden, but has not yet grown visible. Yes, Johansson's 'Lola' is hysterical, mocked and morally judged for her sexuality.
That said, she, and Allen's portrayal of her, is honest. She is louder and more forward because she has been injured, and "she" includes more than herself. Rhys-Myers' character may regret his transgression, but Johansson's owns hers and is now morally committed to living for two. Rhys -Myers and Allen's solution is to commit to erase what is in the process of loudly becoming unignorable. What is a man to with such a loud problem?
Smash that noisemaker until it breaks.
I've also just watched Manon 70, a film where Jean -Claude Brialy 's character comments, to Sami Frey's character, about a room of beautiful women, that "They've all been cheated on. They all have been...and they'll all continue to be. Unless they die. They've all been cheated on. So unless you live on another planet, everybody gets cheated on. That's the 20th century for you. But you, the difference between you and them, is that you haven't been cheated on." The issue of betrayal seems less notable for its temporal and planetary occurence and more striking as a crime that men are still free to commit against women. Gendered tennis ... Men: score. Women: love.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Linda Ronstadt-1977-07-Poor Poor Pitiful Me

Having just rewatched what i view as Maren Ade's masterpiece, Forest for the Trees ( Der Wald vorlauter baumen), I'm reflecting on the thin line a filmmaker must walk in depicting self harming protagonists. Is it situational or inescapable psychological pain that continually brings these figures into situations worthy of private shame and our shared, spied pity?
As viewers are we invited to pass judgment? Do we, as witnesses, become the tape that seals up these lost memories that made these characters blind to the path of love and pride?
I'm reading John Ward's 1968 book Alain Resnais or the theme of time, and in describing Seyrig in Muriel, Ward writes of the gaps in time that painful memories wall us into. "She has no durational sense and in fact, is not free....she does not live as she would in conformity with a continuous view of her past and present... As Bergson says: 'We are free when our acts spring from our whole personality...'" (p. 74)
Ade's film, surprisingly akin to Resnais', denies analysis yet engrosses us with a pitiful female protag through it's provocative sense of duration, memory denied, and of one's personally turbulent experience of time.
Forest for the Trees provides no psychological causality. Our focus is what we sense as immediate, we are denied access to Melanie's past. The pity the viewer feels for Melanie has separated us from her, preceding her own shame. Following her blind descent down a rabbit hole, our sense of Melanie is an isolated series of incidents, with increasingly awkward moments and Melanie's escalating reactions. A singular path cleared in the forest; excluding anything but the general trajectory that pummels Melanie towards disaster's way.
But in this movement towards intensification, the film has now gained the shape of a circle, inviting a clear figure with which to witness which point is the birth and which point is the death.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"I'm not a person. I'm a fucking construction."

-ellen burstyn 's character in Alain Resnais' Providence

Sunday, March 13, 2011

d(r)ive into the water

I've just left Walter Reade at Lincoln Center, and for the time i was there, a pin perfect sound system exploded the room with an incessant yet backgrounded guttural throb. I felt the seats vibrate the entire 86 minutes of the film, much like the surge of energy that coincides with the ignition of a motor at the start of a road trip. I've come from a screening of Ange Leccia's Nuit Bleue, billed as a view from the current avant garde French Cinema, in a special experimental section (curated by the unparalleled Nicole Brenez) of Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual "Rendez Vous with French Cinema" series.

The film opens with a shot framed just above a small island off Corsica. It looks like a giant green hill stuck smack dab into an endless blue sea. An almost eerily organic image, except the island has one major road going straight down the middle, another one off to the right-hand side. A car drives down the road in the center, and then there is a major explosion.

Cut to Paris, France. We follow a beautiful female tour guide in the Louvre. The onscreen action intimates she's received upsetting news of a loved one, and then she is off to this island, one we seem to encounter from her travels and her perspective, but this is actually untrue. We experience the filmmaker's closely controlled idea of her perspective, an exteriorized view of emotional impressions and visions, and this is the duality that is the greatest sense the film has left me with. (For better and for worse.) It seems that this protagonist of ours is not just journeying, but also returning, as we later see her reunited with island people who know her. I came across a clear sense of both being foreign and familiar, and the uncanniness of this position.

There is a major aural component to Nuit Bleue, a film which illustrates romance, mourning, familial identity and nationalist politics by way of clear yet elusive visuals and a restless, complicated soundtrack. The film is both agricultural and post industrial, like "the plant of a factory" it is supported by metal; an industrialized score completes the core structure and sonic layering; in explosive moments actual songs come out of its pipe-- their range covers the following: ethnic dirges, an erotic video set to a sexy dancey pop song and the retro romance of Serge Gainsbourg (a la his Anna Karina duet- Ne Dis Rien, "Don't Say a Word"...)

This experience of SENSE, a major part of what it is to sit and watch and hear Nuit Bleue, is unique in its distraction as both the strength and weakness of Leccia's film. It can account for the most singularly experienced moments; political or cereberally aesthetic in idea, yet physically emotional in their reception. There is a sequence in the film, almost romantic in its visual economy and silent poetry, where our female protagonist is traveling, on a ship, out to the island. The sequence is made up of carefully framed shots of the sea and its waves, a painstaking color palette that showcases every type of blue in the water and any bit of orange and yellow in the woman's hair as it's lit by the sun off the sea. Shortly after these scenes, another wordless sequence follows her as she explores onland, slow and ethereal, her progress is suddenly impeded by a bomb exploding. The force of it's fire suddenly thrusting her down off a hill, returning closer to the water. This is the film at its best.
At its worst, a single frame or a single sequence goes for the overlay of images or ideas with the painstakingly planned approach of Late Career Godard, but without the rich well of cinema history that Godard is able to draw from.
There are moments of intense material beauty; stemming from elegantly controlled images and a soundscape to accompany it. Our gaze is most often focused on images of faces, the sea and the natural terrain of the Island. There is little to no dialogue spoken by or between the characters. There are moments that allude to a direct history between these characters, but they are bookended by moments of these characters observing or being caught off guard by (a la the handful of missile/bombed explosions we witness) other narratives-- those of soccer games watched on old computers, classical Italian b+ w romantic films on the t.v., and by footage of the silhouette of a sexy female, in what is likely online porn. These disruptions of plot are stories that split off before they follow any straight line, broken branches that will never continue to grow, yet still hanging on the tree. The way they zigzag through the film is not unlike the way the cliffs and shrubs create the uneven terrain of the island, nor unlike the undulations in the sea that surrounds it. Tensions abound and this is the physical, emotional and wordless story of this island, one held in awkward limbo between pre modern tradition and contemporary revolt. The charged nature of the songs complement our sense of the film much like how all of the missiles drive our view, and the characters, off of the land and into the water.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

wipe out

"The faces have changed. They've floated away. The faces were gone a long time ago. But they were definitely there, if only for a few minutes. Nog too has lined up, his face smashed up against the window. But it doesn't work with him. He rushes up too fast, throws himself down, forgets himself and then, when you least expect it, he's gone. I don't know what to do about him. I've obviously goofed. But I'm stuck. ...."

(p. 120, nog by Rudolph Wurlitzer . 1968, Two Dollar Radio Movement.)

nog : my recent reading of this 1968 existentialist riff on detachment and the mystery of "Self" informed my recent revisit of JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME. The novel, like the film, came out in 1968. Both are counter culturally rich yet primarily centered in a first person interior journey (though both play out as physical journeys as well: nog through space, JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME through time) into the destruction and confusion of memory, invention and the SELF. Resnais ' film is even more straight forwardly melancholic, focusing on romance and an individual recollection and subsequent decimation of it.

Watching JE T'AIME JE T'AIME, I feel both involved and purposefully separate, journeying through time with Claude, but also stuck against the window, going nowhere fast. Aligned with our protagonist, we both journey and remain trapped, falling against the window, mired in pace as if wearing the webbed footgear he has for his scuba dive; stuck in a Past that increasingly is infecting and becoming our Present; keeping us all from any hope of a Future.

There's a framing device in Resnais' sci fi treatment of romantic loss and introspection.
Both at the end and beginning of our journey we are given: Scientists, clear exposition, and a trajectory for our protagonist, the lovelorn and recently suicide failing Claude Ridder (Claude Rich.) In between, chronology collides against itself. Moments of romance may have meant to begin at the beginning, but the very act of journeying in the past and trying to make sense of it seems to cause multiplied beginnings, stymied discoveries, disorder and confusion. As the film progresses and Claude's self directed search accelerates, the very romance and figure of his attachment seems to implode and erase before our very eyes.

Bearing witness to the past is a different idea then trying to relive and explore a beginning or an end to a romantic attachment. Just as in nog, the search for meaning begins internally with the subject, but then radiates outward, causality and order becoming less attached to logic. Claude interrogates himself for culpability. At first, Je T'Aime, je t'aime seems like a beautiful love story that ran it's course. As the film progresses, time and storyline grow in complexity. It appears Claude is exploring his responsbility in a greater crime--the suicide or possible murder of his love interest, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot.) Or was the actual crime (or death) merely that the relationship ended?
Is there much of a difference ? Claude's suicide, real or imagined..is he not already dead during the course of this film?
The framing adds a sense of logic to a film that folds back on itself endlessly, perfect in its dubiousness as real or imagined.
Claude's entire exploration into the affair plays more like a poetic dream then a real sci fi journey. Seeming to last 91 minutes, as in actual dreams, it lasts only one minute but feels distended, haunting, cathartic and unclear. Logic and action is motivated by fear, guilt, attachment, and perhaps even love.
This is one half of a love story revisited. A ghost story, a dream, a journey back in time. The potential readings are endless and yet are all the same: Claude is doomed from the start, but of course we have not even heard from Catrine.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

acousmetre: political voice of KINGS SPEECH

a great song in honor of KINGS SPEECH, a film which sucked. In Kings Speech- the King's afraid of the power (world power/personal power)connoted from his own voice; once conquered + reconciled to it, Imperialism is rendered less threatening. A Colonial Power as docile and cozy; a warm blanket that makes you feel familiar , protected, secure. If the King is depicted no different than any middle aged schlub with an analyst, he's made as human as any other non - Fascist. Conveniently revising history to finish off this post 90s Everyman, The King/Bertie (his soft, susceptible identity actually given a separate name) finally finds a voice to execute his speech against Hitler, commented upon in the film as the most skillful orator, and as the apex of moral depravity. So does the strong voice connote moral corruption? The film fails to remember how the real King of England, daddy issues or no daddy issues (and also FDR in the U.S.) actually tightened emigration laws for people of assumed Jewish descent AFTER learning about the Holocaust. KINGS SPEECH allows us this intoxicating warm glass of milk , lulling us into an old guard patriarchy nostalgia; wiping out the grime of real history, where the King of England 's government policies made him an accomplice to Hitler; helping him to throw millions of European Jews to their deaths.
Ghostface-- he comes connected, wielding his voice as a PART of himself; strong like a machete. His voice is a part of himself yet more than himself, an envelopping power both inclusive and expansive. Rap and hip hop is intrinsic liberation. Those once disenfranchised now assert themselves via an original voice; whilst re interpreting existing sounds for backing music. Those who were once dominated are responsible for our re assessment of them as exceptionally strong, beyond masculine...Ghostface or King/Bertie...who is more threatening to us? And what does this say about attitudes towards those in power who dominate versus those who have been institutionally dominated?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

on being a LIGHT SLEEPER

or how Class Consciousness = awakening from the denial of Addiction

In 1992 Paul Schrader made a film that slyly equates drug addiction with Yuppie Materialsm. Our first contact in this world is the Dealer; initially we are lightly guided by Willem Dafoe's John LaTour, entering into a criminal world. And what makes LIGHT SLEEPER so rewarding is how the points of identification are fluid; they splinter, and then shift back and forth. The absurd and pathetic addicts we experience initally seem so contrapuntal to LaTour's seller...then as the film progresses, particularly when Marianne relapses, the cloud of our own dreamlike state is lifted and we see we are all like the buyers, who are also, actually, like the sellers...delusioned and sickened by our own attachments, whether it be to economic class or to drugs.

Our protagonist, John LaTour, has a gently disturbed energy. He deals drugs...at night. Though most of the people he sells to are also variations of light sleepers (most are fairly cracked out on uppers and /or blinded by addiction), Dafoe is the haunted voyeur among their strange land, and it seems to keep him up at night. Revisiting VERTIGO's Scottie Ferguson, LaTour is cued on pause on between a past failed love and the fear of destitution that the future may hold. As his profession mandates, we witness his evening drudgery; stuck on a restless loop of enabling and catering to the sick and suffering. He also runs circles on a parallel track; keeping his own past active addiction at bay and trying to save select others from the depths of addiction that imploded his old fling with love Marianne (Dana Delaney.)
LaTour is also a non psychotic urban everyman reworking of Travis Bickle , having achieved socially acceptable yuppie status via socially acceptable illegal drug sales to the Elite. John has made the vertical climb from user (consumer) to seller( producer) and so he treads lightly. He is easily disturbed, easily roused, and he is tiptoing around people (addicts and yuppies--both blind to their compulsive attachments and to the powerless moral descent it has caused.) LaTour tiptoes as to not awaken...how can a drug dealer maintain his purpose if the addicted get clean and recover?
The same question, a key aspect of the sort of brainwashing that occurs in a disease of the brain like addiction, can be translated over to a more Marxist sensibility. The meaning of the dispossessed can be extended to those who are trapped by the myths that kept yuppies on a hamster wheel of class escalation.
A perfect signification of this waking up from the light veil of sleep occurs in the scene when both LaTour and the viewer learns Marianne has relapsed.
In every previous scene, Marianne has appeared more dressed down, plain, and, well, less glamourous and clearly less wealthy than the other characters. She's been seen in a cafeteria, in a hospital, on the street in the rain. Several of LaTour's customers are caught on the way down; we see ragged and tweaked out characters wearing stained clothes in messy penthouses. They are caught in a moment in between classes: perched in sickness, perhaps about to lose all the shiny wealth they've attained. But when we see Marianne, coked up and wrecked at Tis' (Victor Garber) opulent pad, she is newly housed in a rich frame; housed in a rich apartment and associating with the uber rich elite, and dressed in a silver satin nightie. What makes Schrader's frame so powerful is how he conveys the overlay of images in a single frame; from the movement of LaTour's character to lightly sleeping accomplice to a damaged victim who awakens to the crime and harm around him at the very moment his own best efforts have destroyed all he loves. This overlay of representations of love (once innocent Marianne) with representations of sickness and immorality (active drug addiction; the controlling taint of economic greed.) is a subtle yet combustible formalist coup.
John LaTour, once quietly philosophizing and walking from penthouse to penthouse, set to a jazzy score, is now truly "Wandering around in the night...consumed by fire."

Friday, January 7, 2011

2:37 aka Lisa Gerrard: still affecting

Dead Can Dance: Tristan - Sanvean from Toward the Within

Never forgot this song transition, though i have not seen this since a midnight Toward the Within screening at Ansmellika Film Center in 1994.
Lisa Gerrard: still affecting.

Lorna's Silence

Lorna's Silence
spirit interrupts

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea managing the business

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