Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clothing and Decor Signify Your Essence


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Love in the Afternoon (Éric Rohmer, 1972)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Degrees of passion (The Young Girls of Rochefort addendum)

"And in her wonderful documentary about the film--The Young Girls Turn 25, which I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1993--we encounter a French teenager with a backpack who proudly and calmly informs us that she carries the CD of Bach's Saint Matthew Passion and the video of Les demoiselles de Rochefort everywhere she goes, unwilling to spend even a night without them. Such a degree of passion about art is bound to seem demented in a 'utilitarian' (i.e., money-minded) society such as ours, but it's entirely compatible with the degree of passion expressed in the film itself."

-Jonathan Rosenbaum, "Not the Same Old Song and Dance", Chicago Reader, November 27, 1998

A stolen thought on The Young Girls of Rochefort, a still that illustrates it, plus more

The Young Girls of Rochefort

"In The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) [Jacques] Demy uses, between the big song and dance numbers, a lot of humming, people singing to themselves, fiddling around on musical instruments -- so that the act of music making is everywhere in the everyday...

Dancing constantly shoots in and out of the frame, traverses this rectangular window, like it's going on everywhere all the time, whether we can see it or not. Lastly, Demy intermingles walking with dancing, with some participants gliding almost imperceptibly into the foreground action from a long way in the background."

-Adrian Martin, "Musical Mutations: Before, Beyond, and Against Hollywood," in Movie Mutations, The Changing Face of World Cinema. Annapolis: British Film Institute, 2003.



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Today's Image.

alternative text
Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Three Quotes

This is a point I have made a lot, but: one of the interesting things about teen movies in the 1980s vs. their late 1990s counterparts is that the former are generally much more class-conscious. Still "Hollywood," plenty of wish fulfillment and obfuscation, sure, but they acknowledge certain disparities in the way communities are separated, how individuals are thereby classified and subjected to different social options. These disparities are plasticized out of existence in (most) recent teen films. Have you seen Step Up? 10 Things I Hate About You? These are films where the outsider/underdog is never really poor. They are coded as bohemian instead or, more precisely, bobo. I kind of enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, but Anne Hathaway's living a life of relative privilege, albeit stressful privilege, in that movie, and would not be able to afford her apartment with a live-in cook boyfriend—if I recall—unless there was some serious trust fund support. Why can't there be more studio films with cramped, imperfect apartments!? Or—God forbid—living conditions that require one to interact and compromise with their neighbors. A striking feature of The Karate Kid is that little Danny Russo meets people right away in his surroundings. Most importantly, Mr. Miyagi. Hollywood fantasy, especially today, it seems to me, is about being able to live without interference from neighbors, without being in a situation where one is forced to negotiate space, noise, bills, chores, commutes.

Zach Campbell, 10/10/2008

As much as chunk white albacore, kosher lamb and organic lemonade, then, what FreshDirect is selling is a new model of daily existence — one in which Megan and Josh Yogapants can issue esoteric commands from their keyboards and find them quickly and cheerfully fulfilled as if by latter-day butlers and valets. ...

With FreshDirect, the ultimate urban middle-class trudge — grocery shopping — becomes an opportunity to hand down judgments and orders from the home’s new position of authority: the couch. Underscoring her power and leisure, the FreshDirect shopper barely gets out of bed (Jason of the Lower East Side takes pride in shopping in pajamas) and disregards standard working hours (“Ordering late at night is the key ingredient,” writes Elaine of Tribeca). The new life that FreshDirect affords us, apparently, involves securing for ourselves certain Howard Hughes-like eccentricities — the way rich people do.

Virginia Heffernan, "Produce Yourself", New York Times, 10/12/2008

Go to the grocery store. The way that people ignore each other so casually there sickens me. If you try and interact with any other humans at the grocery store, they act like you're crazy. I went to the new Wegman's in Hunt Valley yesterday, part of the new Hunt Valley "Towne Centre." There's a mezzanine with tables for eating at which overlooks the main floor of the store. If you stood on that mezzanine at the right time, you could address 200 people at once-- maybe more, I'm not that good at estimating numbers of people-- they'd all be able to see and hear you very, very clearly. I left without speaking, thinking that I should think of something thought-out and eloquent to say, but the more I think about it the more I feel that going straight off the top is what needs to be done at the grocery store. Volume and frequency are probably much more important elements for any speech that would come off that mezzanine. ...

I propose that boring, isolationist grocery shopping should be abolished from the lives of our people this New Year. Gather your friends and neighbors and pick a day and time that's convenient to everyone, and go grocery shopping together every week at that time. And when you shop together, shop ecstatically. Run to the good deals and shout out for all to hear once you have found them. Sing grocery-shopping shanties. It's not crazy to talk to other humans that are all around you-- it's crazy to shuffle around as if they weren't there.

Rjyan Kidwell, 12/12/2005

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Iordanova on Maradona by Kusturica

Dina Iordanova recommends Maradona by Kusturica, a film that received mostly negative notices at Cannes. Many critics derided Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s analysis of Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona as egomanical and self-indulgent, but Iordanova situates the film in Kusturica’s oeuvre and emphasizes the film’s political content:

At the Cannes press conference on the film Maradona said that ‘we are not all obliged to think as the Americans do’ and pointed out that people living in different countries are entitled to interpret international politics from the point of view of where they stand in the world. It is precisely the combination of this conviction (the right to differ and speak up) and the high visibility of Maradona (and of Kusturica himself) that the director uses to turn the film into a political documentary that accommodates dissenting views that need to be aired. …

Equally important is the fact that [Kusturica and Maradona] both belong to peripheral nations that see themselves as having been wronged by America and Britain and that they are both prepared to use their celebrity to bring into the public space a piece of political commentary that is alive but confined to subterranean popular discourse and, if not brought to light by figures of their degree of visibility, would remain fully shut out.

Hopefully someone brings Kusturica’s work to the U.S., at least in DVD form.

Incidentally, Iordanova’s blog is a great source for information on Eastern European cinema, which, unless it’s Romanian or directed by Aleksander Sokurov, might as well not exist to most of the American film media.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Godard trailer for Viennale

Via Kino Slang, Godard's trailer for the upcoming Viennale.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More on Salvatore Giuliano

From Peter Bondanella's Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present, Third Edition, p. 170:

"Salvatore Giuliano reflects what Rosi has termed a second phase of neorealism, transcending its initial postwar attempt to record reality or to provide an objective witness to social events, and moving gradually toward a critical realism with overt ideological intentions."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Salvatore Giuliano: A between film

Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano (1962) is unique in that it shows the convergence of various film movements. It’s a between film, a meeting point of neorealism (it’s based on a true story of rural peasants in post-WWII Italy and filmed on location) and the Italian art cinema of its era (the film was lit and shot by Gianni Di Venanzo, who worked with Antonioni and Fellini during the same period, and frequently employs deep focus composition and graceful camera movements).

At the same time, it points forward to the political filmmaking that emerged in the mid-to-late 1960s. Like many of those films, Giuliano bears the influence of direct cinema and documentary techniques. Handheld cameras follow children through the streets, and voiceover narration pops up to provide pertinent historical facts. The film maintains distance from its characters in both its narrative and camerawork. In fact, for most of the movie, there are no main characters; instead, groups and their activities become the focus of the film. In these ways, the film prefigures The Battle of Algiers, with whom it also shares a cowriter and a basic concern with actions, reactions, and techniques within revolutionary movements.

On top of this, there are a handful of scenes, featuring characters swaggering through the barren landscapes of the Sicilian hills, that point to spaghetti westerns.

It is fitting, then, that it plays so strangely. The movie seems to be cleaved in two: The first half is a dynamic look at unrest and guerrilla warfare in Western Sicily. The second half is a court procedural that lays out the links between the mafia, the military, the police, and the outlaws during that same period.

It’s hard not to prefer the film’s first half. It is there that the camera roves freely over the terrain and through the streets, hungry to survey the entire scene. It is in this portion of the film that social circumstances and their consequences are explored fully, through long shots of groups and individuals from above. This section of Giuliano is a document of who bears the burdens of military occupation, who is conscripted into fighting and why they fight. The second half seems too static, too tacked on, too focused on individuals, and, ultimately, too dry in its exposition.