Sunday, August 02, 2009

Viewing Log #5: Frankly curious, hungry [7/27/09 - 8/2/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

dark side of the moon
sun flare
—Past gold, into dust like scythes of light

  • Heaven Can Wait [Warren Beatty & Buck Henry, 1978] # Co-written by Elaine May, if you remember. And co-starring Julie Christie, as I'm sure you can't forget. She sells everything, and not solely because she's a gorgeous creature. (Annie wasn't feelin' it, btw; her loss.)
  • The Grapes of Wrath [John Ford, 1940] # How's this for a come down? I said a few things in the comments at this post, but, now, looking at the dates in this list, it's amazing that this picture is "contemporary" with that Fleming ark of the antebellum.
  • Funny People [Judd Apatow, 2009] Said plenty at fN!, but I want to say here that it's such a fine line between the camera loving its subject and the director congratulating himself. I wanted more from that trio of competitive bile.
  • RocknRolla [Guy Ritchie, 2008] Wasn't up for anything I'd have to think about, so this puffer was easy to down despite its blatant bullshit because, well, it's macho and it's entertaining and Thandie Newton is a dime. Mark Strong is classy, typically perfect, but this one ain't no Revolver—by a mile.
  • Wedding Crashers [David Dobkin, 2005] # Only about 45 minutes, and on cable, which butchers the dirty fun.
  • Gone With The Wind [Victor Fleming, 1939] A bizarre meld of expressions, and big as a plantation to be sure (broad as hell, too), but Gable kept me going. More and more I think him a fine actor, with real valiance and wit. A true He-Man type, but the wounds show up nevertheless.
  • Noroit [Jacques Rivette, 1976] I don't know. Perhaps as "purely negative" as that Lang picture he loves. Halting and arrested, this is about as uninviting a picture as you'll see. Rivette braids revenge and self-destruction in a complete nowhere world that has lost its treasure, and sense of order, until the cataclysmic finale, which is basically a zero sum game. Will have to watch again. Lafont's pants are hilarious; she's kind of terrifying. That, too, it seems, is the movie.

Qualen is the man


  1. Is "this one ain't no Revolver--by a mile" a compliment or a condemnation? Or both?

  2. Advice needed: Should I start doing one of these?

  3. @JF: I dig _Revolver_, silly as it is, cuz it's really trying something. It looks great, there's a lot of fun plotting, ideas overflow in spite of Ritchie's Kabbala thing and Liotta is fantastic, hilarious. Ambition counts. Also, the scene of Mark Strong shooting around corners and thru walls is pretty damned amazing; really any scene with Mark Strong. He's also great in that kids movie with Claire Danes, _Stardust_, which I saw with my sister, and kind of slept thru sometimes.

    @Ignatiy: only if you want to... I do it because it's nice to feel obligated to write something. And cuz it's kinda fun.

  4. I think Noroit is one of Rivette's best films, and would certainly never call it "uninviting." Like all of his work, I find it charming and off-kilter, its narrative subsumed by an interest in pure moments. I especially love all the rehearsals for The Revenger's Tragedy, which finally lead to that brilliant staging of a scene from the play, in which acting and reality subtly intertwine, the lines between the two states blurring before a sudden act of violence restores the clarity of separation. It's a wonderful, complex film, definitely worth multiple viewings to unpack everything that's going on.

  5. Ed, yes, it's a fantastic movie. But it's bigger than just "pure moments" by these lights. And it _is_ hilarious, in the way something like that can be, in that it certainly doesn't need its audience to make jokes or get approval; it's its own audience, as that scene you reference indicates. It's closed off, a system negating itself, predicated on the elimination of one character after another (like its predecessor, _Duelle_), interested in every kind of theatricality, but chiefly masks.

    Then that finale comes along and it's like the film attacks itself. It's amazing, thrilling, scary, and so unfunny it's funny.

  6. I don't mean to imply anything bad by that remark about "pure moments" -- only that its narrative is so fractured that there are many scenes that seem to play out in a vacuum, where you forget there's even supposed to be a plot to what you're watching. It's both a narrative film, and not really one. And I agree that it's funny as hell, in its own weird way. I often find myself laughing during Rivette's films, and then wondering why I'm laughing. It's not so much humor as sheer delight in the way he plays with form and character.