Friday, May 29, 2009

Convergence for your summer entropy (5/29/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight


we obviate and immolate

The hand that we have been dealt.

by Ryland Walker Knight


After some hummus and half a cucumber sliced, but before any beer, I found my way on the eve of another move (via twitter, of course) to a thread on The Auteurs about a topic I'm particularly, well, obsessed with—in fact, that I have been obsessed with for some time: cinema's shift to digital. So I gave it some more words, jotted rather quickly, which I quote below. It should be noted that this is not so much a full argument as a volley, an invitation to more, as ever.
For this record, while I'm here, as if it needed repeating on this interweb: I find INLAND EMPIRE to be truly beautiful. I love the smear. Likewise, Mann knows what's up. The paradoxical mechanics of aperture and shutter speeds makes Mann's argument that much more interesting, too, since a lot of what seems to have motivated his shift is his interest in the speed (and the ramping up of the speed) of story and of action to the point where it gets hardly representational. I think this impatience operates differently in Soderbergh, though both men are interested in working and how one works and how much one works. It's never a question of why one works. One simply works. That is, if they do not work, then they die. What's cool about Mann is how much he's after a vividness of the world over against the remove of Soderbergh; both are fascinating, but the world Mann makes is the world I want to live in; or, at least, the world I want to see every day. Then again, one might say that those are the same (though different, of course).

I'm sure my friend Danny would love it if you kept the conversation to the thread you can find by clicking those words above, but I would love it even more if you continued a conversation with me here! Expect more Michael Mann stuff soon, when that new movie opens.


I feel compelled to say that this conversation, by necessity, ignores both the broader history of digital trends in cinema and the particular efforts of some genius frogs who have been playing with grain and mauling light like this for some time: Godard and, more importantly, Chris Marker. (To say nothing of Costa and Jia and their projects.) But I don't have time for that right now. Now is the time to hunt for that beer, to fly off a little ways into a brighter dumber haze.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forms of fate: James Gray's Two Lovers

by Ryland Walker Knight

—rings, sands

Just prior to my cross-country move, that fine gentleman critic Ekkehard Knörer wrote me, asking me to contribute a text to the first print issue of Cargo, a new German film magazine and website that Ekkehard has helped launch as one of its four editors. (David Hudson generously, and gracefully, covered its inception back at GreenCine.) Unfortunately, due to my lack of a screener and/or screening possibilities, I was unable to write about, let alone see, Soderbergh's Che in time for that premiere edition. Luckily, despite the rough and tumble—to say transitional—spring season, I was able to throw together some thoughts on James Gray's Two Lovers for the magazine's second printing. Though I can tell you my essay was titled "Rückansicht eines Melodrams", which means "Rear view of a Melodrama" according to Google's (I trust far too literal) translator*, as of today, the essay is unavailable online. Soon, though, I'm told, it will be presented in its original English. I'll be sure to let you all know here (and, I imagine, @ryknight) just as soon as that happens. Also, if you live in Germany and happen to read this blog, please do go buy a copy of the magazine once it hits the stands! I got a preview of the layout the other day and, as with No.1, it's gorgeous.

forward focus?

For a laugh, here is the little auto-bio I wrote to accompany my text:
Ryland Walker Knight is a writer born of California now living in Brooklyn. A graduate of the Rhetoric department at UC Berkeley, his blog, VINYL IS HEAVY, tracks his perpetual education (some might say conversation) with the image.

* The title given to my piece may, also, be a play on how I term the films Gray makes "obverse melodramas," but I will have to wait for Ekkehard, or any other bilingual German-English speaker, to tell me more. (Perhaps in the comments below?)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Convergence for a Sunday send off (5/10/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

hidden, sought

take off

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SFIFF52 #4: Portraits

by Mark Haslam


Raymond Depardon's new documentary Modern Life (La vie moderne) isn't as interested in showing or explaining as it in building relationships: a relationship between director and subject, between viewer and viewed, between camera and household. For the film, Depardon returns to the same farmers of the Ardèche that populated his two previous films, and their continuing struggle to maintain a lifestyle that fast is becoming obsolete.

His visits are those of an old friend come back to catch up. With only his wife to hold the camera and a friend to record sound, Depardon is shown candidness and intimacy in conversing with the farmers. An amazing effect of his style is that, in the long silences that sometimes pass in conversations, it becomes uncomfortable for us to make eye-contact with the person on screen. We come to feel as though we're doing more than watching—as though, instead, we're interacting, a part of the dialogue.

The camera presents a lifestyle equal parts distinct and distant from ours, but it's one that doesn't need, doesn't ask for, and doesn't get an explanation. Depardon has very little interest, here, in the process of farming, apart from the impact it makes on these farmer's lives. Nor does he make points about modernity's forgotten people. Rather what he's interested in is people themselves: the things the say and the little things they do.


Modern Life is the third in Depardon's series, Profils Paysans. His films don't get much distribution in the States, so a chance to see on a big screen is an opportunity not to be missed. It plays again one last time on Wednesday.


money, baby

A restoration of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West played at the Castro yesterday. As I'd never seen this one on the big screen, and as it demands the big screen, I went. I hope all of you made it out, too. The new print was made possible by The Film Foundation and the Rome Film Festival, with assists from Sergio Leone Productions and Paramount. The Film Foundation and American Express are presenting this and other newly restored films across the country. Keep an eye out for anything they bring near you.



In California Company Town, Lee Ann Schmitt documents the remnants of California's industrial towns—places constructed around business, and abandoned.


The images were captured over a five-year span, and though the film is short, this sense of duration becomes integral to the viewing experience. We linger on objects and the landscapes that house them. Objects are given space and time, which empties them of a single message, of a specific importance.


We siphon through various meanings to place on the things in images, but they soon fade back into the desertion that has occurred all around them, and resume lifelessness.


Schmitt weaves these images with archival footage, sound bites, and her own narration—in a tone whose dryness seems to mirror that of these towns—to create a stunning portrait of the ravaged California that is all of our neighbor.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Convergence for my birthday (5/5/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

bare eyes!