by Ryland Walker Knight
Sight and Sound asked 52 film critics and programmers and professors to put together a dream double bill and write a few words about their choices. You can see them all here in a pdf. I wrote something similar over a year ago for The House, a 5 for the Day post. I was proud my selections were adventurous and intuitive links between the films. Since then I think I've refined my ideas about the double bill and am not quite as interested in those kinds of outlandish pairings, although I dig the idea of cinephile parlour games like how can you link this film with that (real nerd shit). Also, those I chose were all relatively recent pictures. One of the cool things about this Sight & Sound group is that it skews towards older cinema as much as current cinema. But, still, there's one in particular, from Brad Stevens, that I would gladly pay money for: Céline et Julie vont en bateau with INLAND EMPIRE. Here's his little graf --
"Nothing analyses a film better than another film," wrote French critic Nicole Brenez. And, although the result would run for an unwieldy six hours, the best way to fully appreciate Inland Empire [sic]--among the most misunderstood films of recent years--may be to watch it with Céline et Julie vont en bateau. These masterpieces set out to liberate women from the narrative traps in which cinema has traditionally imposed them. Both Rivette and Lynch deconstruct the act of storytelling from an explicitly feminist perspective, showing their heroines negotiating, and ultimately escaping from, houses of fiction. But whereas Rivette takes female solidarity as his starting point and ends by suggesting that the narrative is about to begin again, Lynch brings in female solidarity only during the final stages: the prerequisite for its existence being an acknowledgment, both devastating and joyous, that narratives are no longer possible.
A few things pop to mind: This bill would definitely run more than six hours; that word deconstruct sure does make me itch; I dig the term negotiate; his final sentence is a killer. One can only hope that New Yorker releases that DVD of Céline et Julie before too long, before everything switches again to Blu-Ray, before I plop down that money for BFI's Region 2 disc or pirate some other whack copy. Seriously: how come I missed it twice inside a year right before I moved back to the Bay? When are you going to show it again, PFA? I feel like I need to see it in a theatre. Right? I saw INLAND EMPIRE twice in two days at the California. I think that's another aspect to the double bill that doesn't get talked about enough: where you see the pictures matters. Because, for all my home programming, there's nothing quite like seeing a double bill big and loud in the dark with other people and little time for bathroom breaks. Last spring's pairing of Où gît votre sourire enfoui? and Sicilia! (with the short 6 bagatellas in between) was pure bliss: the entire program's running time (188 minutes) is less than one sitting of either the Rivette or the Lynch and packs just as much joyful whallop as either of those lengthier master works, although this pair is very much about how we don't escape narrative despite our desires to stand apart and strike new ground. Marriage is a story. Life is a story. We tell stories. Also: both these pairs could be seen as "about" their media, too: what do film and digital offer that the other does not? It seems significant that Costa's picture is a video work about editing celluloid, "starring" two older, married people just as much as the brazen surrealism of Lynch seems that much more unbounded in digital form. (Just as Miami Vice makes an argument on behalf of the speed of video; just as The Dark Knight's use of IMAX makes an argument for the requisite size of cinema as analogous to its impact/effectiveness; just as, to complete the circle, William Lubtchansky's photography argues for the tangible grain of celluloid as realer than real, an inherently film-specific kind of pictorial beauty that surpasses reality into sublimity; just as you could make that last clause's argument for any of these filmmakers.)
So, again, what double bills would you want to see? Look at this transition while you think about it:
UPDATE: The internet is beautiful, nefarious.