Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Tarnation



"I love the idea of making a narrative where it feels like the audience member is peeping in on something that they don't necessarily know if they should be peeping in on."

"When I started making this film it was definitely more of a cathartic sort of an exorcism."
- Jonathan Caouette


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I saw only one film at the Los Angeles Film Festival. But it was a good one.

It was an extraordinary, experimental, cinematic memoir documentary called Tarnation by Jonathan Caouette.

The film's claim to fame is that it was made for just over $200 and edited on IMac's IMovie. But the only thing that particular fact reveals is that anyone can make a film. Not anyone can make a film as painfully effective, as visually impressive or as emotionally compelling as this one.

When the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year it was placed under the experimental category. From a stylistic stand point this makes sense. However, Tarnation is ultimately a documentary of a very personally nature as it deals - in operatic terms - with the pain of existence, the difficulties that come with memories and the struggles of gay young man who grew up with a mother who had suffered through abuse, insanity and drugs.

From a stylistic point of view Tarnation recalls - and even seems to emulate - the work of such underground experimental filmmakers as Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman. But what sets it apart is that it is so personal that it makes genuine connections with the audience in ways that none of the films by these other filmmakers do.

Without slighting the work of these other fine filmmakers the one thing about most experimental films is that they are emotionally cold and often more concerned with style than content - or the content is the style. In this case, each stylistic flourish is taken from home movies that reveal something real, personal, endearing or disturbing about Jonathan or his mother or his grandmother and grandfather. The editing techniques too take on a stream-of-conscious aspect with out-of-focus, hazy, off-color video images flashing by, back in forth in time, revealing different states of mind and different situations.

Each scene fits also shows a particular space in time, and much of it is painful to watch. One of the film's most amazing sequences comes toward the end when Jonathan's mother is singing a song, laughing and holding up a pumpkin, which she keeps picking up and putting down and picking up again and again. In the scene she comes across as slightly mad or delusional and it is hard not to feel pity for her. Yet Jonathan holds the shot for about two minutes to the point that it becomes so painful to watch it verges of horror. Still, as the scene carries on you have to laugh because it is at this moment that we realize that this is his mother - this is who she is, this is what she is and there is no changing her. And more importantly Jonathan has accepted this.

The film is not all experimental. It does follow a narrative in time from the present to the past and back to the present. And it also uses many intertitles to feed the at times frentic narrative.

What's amazing too is the use of music. Jonathan has a natural gift for marrying music to image and he throws in every kind and style including, The Magnetic Fields, Dolly Parton, Moby, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Low, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash and...the list goes on. At this point the film has clearance for 75% of the music. Hopefully, they get it all.

Tarnation has impressed many people including John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant who both put their name on it as executive producers to help give it attention and get it finishing funds. As a consequence it has been picked up for distribution by Wellspring.

The film comes out in October. Mark your calendars.

Links:
Interview

BBC article

Wired article

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Net Surfing...


- Women and Men in Pots. A collection of drawings. Via Koewi

- A bird in the hand... Musarium presents A Bird Handbook.
Via Life in Present

- Cloud photos with an interesting musical score from PBase

- Holy Talking Batman! Mattel will design a Batman toy that interacts with the television when kids watch a Batman animated series that comes out next year.

- Australian calligraphic alphabet with birds and animals. Via Metafilter.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Semaphore...



This bit of informative fun and so much more can be found at this school of design Visual Codes site.
Stewart on King...

Jon Stewart of the enormously popular The Daily Show was on Larry King Live Friday (Transcipt here).

He proved himself to be quick on his feet, sensible and, of course, very damn funny.

About Cheney and the Bush Administration.
STEWART: [Cheney] was very upset, because someone impugned his integrity and they love to throw that bravado up when you impugn your integrity, but there's a great deal of evidence that we need to examine a little bit further. There's this sense of how dare you question them. And that is the thing that I almost find more appalling than the decisions that they make. Because I can accept incompetence, but I cannot accept self-righteous incompetence. That's the difficulty

About Ralph Nader
STEWART: Ralph Nader has said that he's not a spoiler for the Democrats, that he's going to pull a lot of Republicans and he really wants to pull some conservatives. And he says there's actually a pretty substantive conservative block. And I think that's real silly. But I do think there are some -- I think that 'conservatives for Nader' is probably equal in size to the group 'retarded death row inmates for Bush'. Maybe two on each side.

About the difficulty finding Osama.
KING: Why do you think it's been so hard to get Osama bin Laden?
STEWART: Oh, he's a shape shifter.
KING: He's a what?
STEWART: Like on Star Trek. Some days he's Osama bin Laden, other days he's a lamp. And here's the other thing, too, when you have a beard, you have so many more disguise options than most people. He can trim it, he can go with a van dyke. Nobody expects that from bin Laden. He wears a headdress, and a long beard.
KING: He's the tallest guy in the country.
STEWART: But you're looking for Osama bin Laden with the long beard and the thing. Let's say a 6'6 guy comes by with a beret and a goatee? Who's that? It's bin Laden.

About God
KING: He's a judgemental God.
STEWART: Very angry. Loves the Americans. Very big. Wants us to have bigger cars. Wants us to have bigger cars and as a little goof on us has only made a finite supply of oil. It's very -- he's very funny. He's a trickster. Here's another little joke he did. He promised three different religions they were the chosen ones, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and then, funny, follow me, he put their holiest sites all in the same place. And then he backed away and he just wants to see who wants it more. That's what this is about. This is God going, hey, show me something, people.

About Same Sex Marriage:
KING: Will same-sex marriage be an issue in the campaign?
STEWART: Same-sex marriage is a very difficult situation and I was freaked out by it too. You know that.
KING: Why?
STEWART: Well, until I found out that it wasn't mandatory, because I love my wife and I'd hate to have to leave her for a dude. So I didn't want that.
KING: You thought it was mandatory.
STEWART: You never know. I don't know what -- they said the gay marriage and people got upset, so I figured, well clearly this means that there's a law being passed that we all now have to be gay.Once it was explained to me that only gay people, I seem much more comfortable with it. It doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore.
KING: You think it will be an issue?
STEWART: It's one of those wonderful red herrings that people throw into elections like as though that will in any way be crushing the culture. It's like the 10 Commandments Issue. That's another one that's culturally divisive and societally meaningless. Putting the 10 Commandments in the school and that way kids won't shoot each other, because they'll come with an AK-47 and go, thou shall not kill. You know, I really have got to look at this thing.

About his age:
KING: How old were you in the '60s?
STEWART: Depends on the 60's. I mean, if you say '61 I was not born. So, 62 I was born, so then I was zero.
KING: So, that's --
STEWART: Let me put it this way. When Kennedy died, I cried but for a completely different reason. I was tired and I'd just gone in my pants.
Barbara Boxer Fund Raiser Party...

This weekend at our townhouse apartment my roommates and I were host to one of 30 fund raiser parties in California for Senator Barbara Boxer who is up for re-election in November.

Below you will see just one of the fine foods that we had.



I'll just say that the item you see on that grill is not cheap. In fact, we may have spent more money on the party than we raised.
But it's not because the party-goers don't support Barbara it's because her comfortable lead in the polls makes people feel a bit complacent.
Or it could be that my roomates and I aren't too good at turning the fund raising screws on our friends.
Or maybe our friends are too poor!

Who knows? But we had a good time. And a lot of people including blogger MRJEFF3000! showed up to make the party happen.

Before the drinking got heavy [and before an Xbox game took over one room!] we watched a DVD of Barbara Boxer and we got to listen in on a 30-minute conference call. I say 'listen in' because our party didn't have enough clout to ask questions.

Now we are left with a bunch of appetizers as well as a month's supply of beer. [Everyone finished the wine - good work].

I want to say thanks to everyone who came and made the party happen and an extra thanks for those who made a contribution.

Oh, and to the two dozen Serbians' who set up their own party in the corner of our dining room (complete with a huge boom-box) around midnight I just want to say sorry for throwing you guys out at 2:30am. It was a long day.

Friday, June 25, 2004

LA Seen...

No time for a full post today so I'll just post a photo I took a couple weeks ago over by Union Station.


Lost in Los Angeles.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 Love Mail...

By a 3-to-1 margin* the theatre chains of America that are showing Fahrenheit 9/11 have received positive e-mail that supports the decision to show the film.

Below are a sampling of excerpts from the 'love' mail that I have been able to obtain.

While these are not as enjoyable to read as the hate mail in the previous post I have been able to find some good ones that are both fun to read and pertinent.

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-- PLAY THE MOVIE OR THEY WILL CONTROL YOUR EVERY FART…AND BOWEL MOVEMENT.
6/18 10:54am

-- In this era when saying *anything* that could be construed as negative towards the current Administration, brands one a traitor, it's refreshing to see there are still individuals out there not afraid to refuse to give into such moronic thinking.
Thank you for allowing the public to see this extremely important movie. As a survivor of September 11th, I'm eternally grateful for your not bowing to the extreme right's pressure on this.
6/15 3:14pm

-- My little brother and Army Ranger Andrew ____ was killed in Iraq. In fact, the date he was killed was June 25, 2003 by a roadsid bomb and ambush attack. Michael Moore's film is going to debut on the one-year anniversary of my brother's death. There is great controversy over this film, which is to be expected, but the public should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they choose to accept Mr. Moore's view of the situation. Thanks for your willingness to show it.
6/20 8:02am

-- Thanks for having the balls to show Farenheit 911. You are the true Americans.
6/18 5:47pm

--I've lived a fair number of years under repress regimes throughout the world, and seen what it's like when the flow of information and exchange of ideas is controlled by churches, states, or other groups. So I wanted to congratulate you for getting your address listed as an enemy by right wing groups seeking to stop Michael Moore's film. When censors hate you, you should be proud.
6/20 9:21am

-- Funny how the conservatives send us to war to free and liberate another country when back at home our basic rights are constantly threatened by the political right. SHOW THIS MOVIE! SHOW THIS MOVIE! SHOW THIS MOVIE!
6/17 9:48am

--I am amazed to see that a group that claims it is motivated for the good of our country is willing to hijack the 1st amendment for fear of political blowback. I have not yet seen the film, of course, but to have someone take away my right to view it and exercise my free opinion of it is far more anti-American than anything Michael Moore could throw together.
6/17 8:41am

-- Please don't be cowed by these "Move America Forward" Fascist nut bars. Show Fahrenheit 911. Keep our 1st Amendment rights alive.
6/19 10:50am

-- I WILL SEE IT AT LEAST TEN TIMES AND YOU WILL MAKE MONEY
6/19 5:01pm

-- My husband and I are Army veterans; our son is currently serving in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division. I just wanted to thank you for not giving into political pressure and for showing the movie, Farenheit 9/11. We owe it to our soldiers to ensure that all of the facts about the invasion and occupation of Iraq are made available for the public to review; accountability requires a review of all facts.
6/21 7:03am

-- A group of my friends and I will go see this movie at one of your theaters and I promise we'll buy a ton of overpriced snacks and drinks just to support yall for showing it.
6/22 1:20pm

-- Play movie live free or perish
6/17 5:01pm


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* I wrote yesterday that the ratio of positive to negative was 2-to-1 but the access that I got to these e-mails made me realize it is more like 3-to-1.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 Hate Mail...

Because of the work of a web site called MoveAmericaForward.org many executives from the theatre chains across America who are exhibiting Fahrenheit 9/11, have received thousands of e-mails in the last week from people telling them what they think of their decision to show the film.

From inside sources I understand that despite this right wing campaign the ratio of postitive to negative e-mails is about 3 to 1.
However, the negative ones are fun to read.

I have been able to gain access to some of these e-mails. Below is a sampling of excerpts of the best of the best (or worst of the worst) from fellow Americans who are angry that Michael Moore's movie will be playing at a theatre near them. I have withheld the names so as to protect the guilty.

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-- You are cashing in on the blood of Americans. This isn't art it is treason.
6/17 8:52pm

-- Trust me! If a plane crashed in the middle of your theaters with loved family members relaxing watching a movie, you might think differently about what we are doing over in Iraq. [...]Mr Moore should be beheaded not the innocent americans that happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time...Shame on you for promoted this!!!!!
6/21 4:52pm

-- Politics don't belong in the movie theater.
6/18 11:05am

-- I will boycott all movies for the rest of this year. All my friends will also boycott the movies because of your treasonous showing of this Moore Lie!
US Movie Theaters in league with Hezbollah..!
6/17 8:30am

[From a Librarian]
-- There are times when we should look at something like The Birth of a Nation or Farenheit 9/11 and recognize it for what it is. We should not be parties to propaganda. I should continue banning the Griffith-style propaganda at my library. You should give real thought to a ban on the Moore-style propaganda that is about to assault your theaters and make a mockery of film as a medium for sharing information.
6/18 8:37am

-- This movie is a bunch of liberal anti-American propaganda and is a slap in the face to all of the men and women who have given their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. Showing this film is tantamount to supporting al-qaeda.
6/18 10:07am

-- Do we know anything about Michael Moore, is he a serial kiiler, pedafile, lover of opera or decent man? Who knows? How dangerous is the message when we do not know the messenger.
Ask yourself, if you were a non-Jew and the Nazi's ask you to turn in a Jew in the neighborhood, would you have the guts to say NO, or would you too have been brainwashed by their films of propoganda and hate the Jews because Hitler told you to. Say NO Moore and fight for what is fair, just and right.
6/18 12:22am

-- Going to the movies should be about enertainment, it shouldnt be an avenue for any political group to try to brainwash others with lies and deception.
6/15 3:04

-- Lately [Michael Moore] has been sporting a "Hitler" like mustache. Take that into consideration of what frame of mine he is in.
6/17 5:56pm

-- [Moore’s] like the schoolyard slut, who spreads rumours to trash someone she doesn't like.
6/12 1:31am

-- Michael Moore would have been great at making films for the Nazis; if he had been on their side back in '42, we would be speaking German right now.
6/21 9:46am

-- By now, I'm sure you know all the reasons this piece of trash (the movie and the movie-maker) should be shown only in Osama Bin Laden's living room, and not in the theaters of America, so I will not recount those reasons here.
6/11 4:57pm

-- Don't even try to use the first amendment about showing this piece of crap. I believe that people who want to bash this country don't have a right to the first amendment.
6/19 7:07pm

-- I bet it is as much of a documentary and as fair, as a recruitement film made by the terrorists or others that want John Kerry elected President.
6/11 5:32pm

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Hitchens vs. Moore II?

Christopher Hitchens challenges Michael Moore in his Slate review of Fahrenheit 9/11:
"Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of."

Hey, I was there at the Telluride Film Festival on that day - August 31, 2002 when they talked on stage outside in Elk's Park. And sure enough I was able to find a photo I had taken of them being civil.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

TALKING SHOP AT SHOW

- Hitchens smoked incessantly and talked in a low, rough voice while Moore played the crowd like a violin.
I, for one, would love to see the gloves come off if they meet again.

---------

Meanwhile the 'Moore War' is getting bigger by the day. John Gorenfeld over at Salon writes about the lengths the right-wing have gone to to stop Moore's film including an e-mail campaign.
He writes about the futility of the campaign since the e-mails seem to be piling up in the wrong e-mail boxes:
A lowly theater payroll employee inexplicably listed on [MoveAmericaForward's] e-mail list of "leading movie executives" is confused about how he became a central front in the War on Moore (he did not wish to be identified). As he sat in his office Friday, messages pinged into his in box. Dryly, he read aloud his favorites: "'I will never see a movie again' ... 'I will not support a business that aids a piece of crap sub-human like Moore in spreading his anti-american bullshit ...'"

And I thought spam was a problem...
Floating around the web...

- Gunner Palace the Iraq War documentary from the US soldiers perspective may make the rounds soon. Check out the trailers on the site.

- Christopher Hitchens eviscerates Fahrenheit 9/11. But then again Hitchens has also blasted Ronald Reagan, Mother Theresa and Henry Kissenger. I see a pattern here and it doesn't seem to really mean anything anymore. He just has a bee in his bonnet against everyone.

- The Candy Wrapper Museum has a few oldies. Remember the Reggie Bar?

- Bags and Boards is a new comic book industry blog from Variety.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Photo hosting test...

I'm testing out this site called TinyPic.com that hosts photos for free.

Below is a photo I took of some shadows of people in the afternoon sun on historic Olvera Street in Los Angeles. I then did some photoshop work on it.



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Seems to work well.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Fahrenheit truth?

Right wing conservatives are up in arms over the June 25th release of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. I know because I work in the industry and have sources that have supplied me with some of these e-mails, which I will post soon.

One of the biggest complaints is that it should not be called a documentary. But that is only if people are simple-minded enough to think that documentaries are supposed to be absolute recorded evidence of the truth. As I have written before documentaries are just another form of fiction.

Roger Ebert answers the argument very well in a recent article.

"Most documentaries, especially the best ones, have an opinion and argue for it. Even those that pretend to be objective reflect the filmmaker's point of view. Moviegoers should observe the bias, take it into account and decide if the film supports it or not.

Michael Moore is a liberal activist. He is the first to say so. He is alarmed by the prospect of a second term for George W. Bush, and made "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the purpose of persuading people to vote against him.

That is all perfectly clear, and yet in the days before the film opens June 25, there'll be bountiful reports by commentators who are shocked! shocked! that Moore's film is partisan. "He doesn't tell both sides," we'll hear, especially on Fox News, which is so famous for telling both sides."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Net surfing...


- When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?
Ummm... The Straight Dope has the answer.

- This controversial painting resulted in the gallery owner getting punched in the nose and her gallery trashed (it is now closed) in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Yeah, America's most liberal city.
More here on the incident.

- However, San Francisco still has plenty of good leftists. Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti still has the fire.

- Here's a good article on the Brian Eno CD reissues .

- Bar Code Art

- Photos of manhole covers by Dan Heller. Just don't ask him why.

- Take the US citizenship test. I got nine out of ten pheeeew!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Bloomsday...

STATELY, PLUMP BUCK MULLIGAN CAME FROM THE STAIRHEAD, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

Bloomsday 100!

Read Ulysses [Yes, all 800 pages on line]

Have a scone

If you don't have the time here's Ulysses for Dummies (fun but simple graphics)

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Update...
I notice that the BBC has a guide to the Ulysses cliffnotes as well as some nasty comments about the book that they received by e-mail. One of which includes:

"Man goes for a walk around Dublin. Nothing happens."

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Political Documentaries redux...

Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 9/11 played last night at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York.
Interestingly, FOX News actually gives a fairly positive review of the movie!

They write:
It turns out to be a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.
As much as some might try to marginalize this film as a screed against President George Bush, "F9/11" — as we saw last night — is a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty, and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice.


Meanwhile the LA Times has a big article today on political documentaries coming out this summer. I posted a list earlier about this but my list wasn't as complete. Here is the documentary roll call:

"Control Room" — Jehane Noujaim's documentary on the Arab news network Al Jazeera. Currently playing in New York. Opens in Los Angeles Friday; will roll out to an estimated 200 screens nationwide this summer.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" — Michael's Moore's anti-Bush documentary attacks U.S. foreign policy since Sept. 11, 2001. Nationwide theatrical release on 650 or more screens June 25.

"Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" — Portrait of the left-wing activist, playing in art-house theaters all summer, starting Friday in Portland. Directed and produced by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller.

"Bush's Brain" — Based on the book "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential," by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater, the documentary paints Rove as a dirty trickster. Limited screenings in electoral swing states. DVD release via Internet late June. Michael Shoob and Joseph Mealey, directors.

"Persons of Interest" — Muslim and Arab immigrants talk about their legal battles stemming from their detention by federal officials after 9/11. The film will do the festival and art-house circuit this summer and air on the Sundance Channel in September. Lawrence Konner, executive producer.

"Uncovered: The War on Iraq" — Robert Greenwald's expanded documentary featuring ex-government officials dismantling the Bush administration's rationale for going to war. Theatrical release Aug. 13 on about 70 screens. Short version on DVD now.

"Tour of Duty" — Based on the book of the same name by Douglas Brinkley. Portrays the Vietnam experiences and antiwar activities of Sen. John F. Kerry. Theatrical release in September. George Butler, director; Lawrence Bender, producer.

"The Oil Factor Behind the War on Terror" — Original footage from Afghanistan and Iraq and interviews with Bush administration officials link oil interests to the military conflicts. Theatrical release planned in October. Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy, directors.

"Inside the Bubble" — A look inside the Kerry presidential campaign. Theatrical release planned for the fall. Steven Rosenbaum, director.

"War Feels Like War" — Stories of reporters who ventured into Iraq to get the stories uncovered by "embedded" journalists. To air on PBS July 6. Esteban Uyarra, director.

"The Hunting of the President" — Based on the book about the campaign to discredit the Clintons by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason. Opens in New York Friday and Los Angeles July 23. Directed by Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason.

"The Corporation" — Based on Joel Bakan's book "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power." Playing art houses now. Comes to Los Angeles July 9. Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbot, directors.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Themes (and recurring plot points) of the Film Director more still...

- Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
The ethics of love, respect and common sense will save us - especially if you're British.

- Jean Renoir
Any attempt to attain liberation - other than through humanism - will lead to problems - or death.

- Alain Resnais
We are all haunted by ghosts and our memory is hazy.

- Eric Rohmer
Love is beautiful / love is a bitch / love creates moral dilemnas – let's talk about it.

- Martin Scorsese
The main character must contend with a situation (or life) which he cannot escape – although he tries.

- Steven Spielberg
Characters can attain a gratifying adulthood only through a childhood sense of wonderment.

- Andrei Tarkovsky
One must travel outside to find his inner self.

- Andre Techine
Characters awaken to the real-life difficulty of common sense.

- Lars von Trier
The hero becomes the victim and visa versa.

- Wim Wenders
Characters wander through their alienation while angels whisper in their ear.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Themes of the Film Director Continued...


More general ideas and themes that recur in filmmaker's films.

- Wong Kar-wai
The clock is ticking toward the unfulfillment of unrequited love.

- Buster Keaton
If one is nimble enough while stumbling they will find success.

- Kryzstof Kieslowski
All is predetermined - even chance meetings.

Abbas Kirostami
Whether we help people or hurt people life goes on...best to be helpful.

- Stanley Kubrick
Characters become locked in a system that breaks down.

- Akira Kurosawa
Man is easily corruptible - if he is selfish he will die - but when he works together with others toward good he will succeed.

- Patrice LeConte
Two unlikely characters become friends/lovers and create their own reality or fairy tale.

- Kenji Mizoguchi
Characters (often women) are oppressed by social obligations and norms of which they will never escape.

- Yoshijuro Ozu
Subtle family clashes erupt between the younger generation and the older generation - but housework must continue to get done.

- Roman Polanski
The victim becomes the bully.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Themes of the Film Director

The writer Lawrence Durrell once said that artists are dealt one hand of cards which they pretty much play their entire career; only shuffled around a little.

At the risk of sounding a bit too facile or hip I have decided to test out this theory. Below I have listed - in the form of lexiconic blurbs - some famous film directors whom I like and the primary themes and ideas that I see in their work.
[Note I will do two or three posts due to length.]

- Robert Altman
The dreamer becomes disillusioned or dies.

- Pedro Almodovar
The obsessions and perversions of love (and sex) make us slightly mad.

- Micelangelo Antonioni
The loss of love and the onset of ennui in modern life - particularly among the rich.

- Stan Brakhage
The internal hypnogogic psychodrama takes on visual form.

- John Boorman
The King Arthur legend re-done in different forms and guises.

- Robert Bresson
Characters attain grace (toward heaven) through suffering (on earth).

- Luis Bunuel
Characters prove how human they are through their idiosyncratic hypocracies and their sardonic perversions of life.

Claude Chabrol
There is a beast hiding in the bourgeoisie; whatever death they get they deserve.

- Jean Cocteau
Orpheus descends and gets his Eurydice - and visa versa

- David Cronenberg
Characters go though a physical and mental metamorphosis- sometimes literally.

- Atom Egoyan
Memories are a lot like families - they never leave and we cannot leave them therefore we have to learn to live with them.

- Ranier Werner Fassbinder
Due to societies norms and our own limitations nothing can save anyone from bitter disappointment and death.

- Federico Fellini
Characters attempt to escape their loneliness, their madness and societies obligations through the pursuit of dreams.

- Jean Luc Godard
Characters become involved in a self-reflexive world where cinema and politics and real life all become one meta-reality.

- Werner Herzog
Characters are caught in their own internal madness which manifests itself in the outside world.

- Alfred Hitchcock
The wrong man gets caught in a web - often of his own making.

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Part two is here
Part three is here

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A Man Escaped...The Wind Bloweth

"What you just called mysticism must come from what I feel in a prison, as the second title of A Man Escaped says, the wind blows where it wishes. It is those extraordinary currents, the presence of something or somebody, call it what you want, or a hand that controls everything. Prisoners are very sensible to this strange atmosphere, which is not a dramatic one: it is on a higher level...The drama is inside."
Robert Bresson

"The spiritual suggestiveness of a Bresson film derives from its ascetic style, which he uses to underline the conflict between freedom and destiny."
Joseph Cunneen
, National Catholic Reporter

A Man Escaped (AKA Un condamné à mort s'est échappé )recently came out on DVD and I think it is French filmmaker Robert Bresson's best film because it fits his particular aesthetic very well. His films are stylistically full of furtive glances, stiff deliberate movements, the repetitive shots of daily work, close-ups on hands and overall silence. In A Man Escaped there is nary a wasted motion or an unnecessary scene; the film is about as tightly structured as any film you are likely to ever watch.

The story is rather straight forward. During the German occupation a man named Fontaine is imprisoned. He is locked up and waits for his – most certainly guilty – verdict. While he waits he figures a way to get out of his cell. He plans for the escape and works toward that goal.

The film builds really good suspense in subtle but effective ways. And it is engrossing from start to finish. The best scenes, however, are the process shots. Or the scenes in which Fontaine chisels through the cracks in his cell door, makes rope out of clothes and blankets and makes hooks that he will use to with ropes to scale the walls of the prison. In these moments the film attains a certain grace for which Bresson is most well known.

And, in fact, the religious element of the film is much more central to the story than many viewers will acknowledge. The film's subtitle is 'The Wind Bloweth where it Listeth' [aka The Spirit breaths where it will], which is taken from John 3:7-9. 'Listeth' is defined as to please or to choose. In The Gospel According to John Nicodemus asks Jesus "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb and be born?" To which Jesus replies; "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

Within the context of the movie Fontaine at one point reads these lines to an old man in the next cell in order to lift the man's spirits since he has given up hope of survival. But the quote also refers, in the larger context, to Fontaine's survival and ability to 'be born again' not in a direct religious sense but with regards to reviving his spirits and finding a reason to live in the prison as well as summon up the courage to escape.

But the film is not outwardly religious in that it sets out to indoctrinate us. Instead it has a much more personal spiritual feel to it; granted one grounded in reality. Bresson wanted to make the subtitle of the film "Aide-toi" or "Help yourself", which is part of the French expression, "Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera", translated as; "Heaven helps those who help themselves." And, in fact, there is a scene at one point when the men are cleaning up (at the prison 'trough') when one man says "trust in God" and Fontaine responds by saying, "we have to help him".

In this way Fontaine is staying true to his raison d'etre in the prison; God and prayer alone will not set Fontaine free. He has to do it himself.

Bresson was known for his Jansenist religious beliefs, which emphasized predestination over free will. And while predestination is not a belief that I personally believe in I can attest to the fact that almost all movies are predicated on predestination. They tend to work best that way (as do most stories) because it fits narrative structures quite well.

But religion aside A Man Escaped is a great film. Check it out.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Thanks for the memories...


The one thing I learned from Ronald Reagan in the 1980's was that if you keep up appearances and you are likable you can pretty much get away with anything. I have to hand it to Reagan; he had an avuncular quality about him.

The one book I recommend is "Mr. Gazoo: A Cartoon History of the Reagan Era" by political cartoonist Tom Toles. [You can buy it for about $2.00 now].

I'm not being sarcastic or disrespectful, here. If you want to know some of the day to day things that went on during Reagan's years in office - from 'just say no', to Star Wars missile defense, to Iran Contra and 'ketchup as a vegetable' as well as a few good things - Toles book is very good and very funny. [For the record Toles is an equal opportunity offender - his cartoons of Clinton were critical and funny too].

More importantly if you want to know about the things that have quickly been forgotten as the nation respectfully mourns then Toles' book is a refresher course.

Unrelated (or related in a tangential way) but of interest...

Short flash movie in appreciation of the US Government's cozy relationship with Saddam.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Tark polaroids...

Andrei Tarkovsky only directed seven films so I guess it is appropriate that The Guardian offers us seven polaroids taken by him.

They are from a book titled Instant Light, Tarkovsky Polaroids published by Thames and Hudson.




Documentaries from the Left...

Now that Fahrenheit 9/11 is slated for a June 25th release it is the must see political documentary of the season. However, there are a good number of other political (I should say political left) documentaries out there as well that unfortunately will get plowed over by Michael Moore’s film. But it shouldn't be that way. Moore's film should be the one to open the gates and as far as I'm concerned if people enjoy Fahrenheit 9/11 then they will enjoy some of these other documentaries. Below is a list:


- The Corporation – a huge hit in Canada this documentary by co-directors Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott tells us many of the dirty secrets we know about capitalism. It should get a good play in the US.
[trailer]

- The Control Room by Jehane Noujaim about the Arab-run Al Jazeera and the way that they reported on the war with Iraq and other such related issued in our troubled times.
[trailer]

- Howard Zinn: You can't be Neutral on a Moving Train – a documentary by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller on the activist / teacher / author of the very popular book The People History of the United States.

- Orwell Rolls in His Grave – a documentary by Robert Kane Pappas about the American media, how it is controlled by moneyed interests and is more interested in managing the news than reporting it - in short it isn't a liberal media.

Watch these documentaries if they come to your neighborhood. And if they don't then watch them at some point on DVD.

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Here is a very good article from the LA Weekly about The Control Room.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

South Korean Films...

I've been on a recent South Korean film kick. [From here on out just 'Korea'].

Over the past month I've seen:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring by Kim Ki-duk
The Good Lawyer's Wife by Im Sang-soo
The Virgin Stripped Bare by her Batchelors
and Turning Gate by Hong Sang-soo - whose considered one of the best directors in the world today.
Pepperment Candy by Lee Chang-dong.
Chihwaseon by master Im Kwon-taek and a mainstream one -
My Wife is a Gangster by Jin-gyu Cho

If you want to be hip in the film world [or at film related cocktail parties] you need to watch Korean films. Right now they are one of the hot spots in world cinema.

Only a few Korean films have received much of a release in the United States. The most successful has been the bittersweet drama The Way Home by Jeong-hyang Lee and the comedy action flic Nowhere to Hide by Myung-se Lee.

Hopefully the film Old Boy by Chan-wook Park, which just won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes will get a release. Other than these few your best bet to find Korean titles is at video stores.

However, by and large DVD's are not easy to find outside of a city. The two video stores I frequent in West Los Angeles are A Video Store Named Desire, which has a lot of Korean films (and every rental is $1.00!) and Cinefile which has a good number of Korean films and notably region 3 discs.

I've also found a good number of DVD's to buy on Ebay.

The best site I've found on Korean cinema is Korean Film.org.
You can also check out Asian films.org and Korean Cinema as well as Kung Fu Cult Cinema. And note that Film Brain writes about Korean films a couple times a month.

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Oh yeah, if you want to rent online you can look for titles at GreenCine.com. They have some titles.

And I just got word that you can rent other-region discs from Korea (and Asia) at Nicheflix.com.