Monday, November 30, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #18

by Ryland Walker Knight

— Gorgoneion aegis

Viewing Log #22: Everybody in the world [11/23/09 - 11/29/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—No exit

  • Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip [Joe Layton, 1982] # So dark, so perfect, so hilarious. So hard to be good at standup. You can watch it online over here, but we watched it on cable. We all fell over a lot.

  • Mon oncle d'Amérique [Alain Resnais, 1980] Didactic, sure, but most of it's a joke. Resnais lets Henri Laborit play "sage" but the score, and the choral arrangement of images—talk about convergences—undercut even that know-it-all stance. More to come, I promise, on this one.
  • Stromboli [Roberto Rossellini, 1950] Ingrid shines alone, victim of her ego, and that house is a kind of brain, but the fascinating thing—right off the bat—is just how jagged the film unfolds. It resists any structure, though there is a rhythm, and themes emerge. But, at bottom, it's a basic story made more basic, nigh elemental, with its refusal of systems. Everything's aimed at "natural" even though these humans keep forcing things to disastrous effect.

  • L'aimée [Arnaud Desplechin, 2007] Not quite a scrapbook, but surely a collage. That is, the aim is expressive-affective, not documentary, despite the overflow of facts and, say, reportage. Above all Arnaud marvels at his history, at the luck to have such a history (to have a history) to recount. That's his gift: to enrich the world about him, to swirl stories full of color, of warmth; to say, render a wide world full of life. After all, ghost stories should brim, or point you all over the place.

  • In Bruges [Martin McDonagh, 2008] Fell asleep about an hour in, then finished the next morning. McDonagh sure isn't much of a filmmaker, and I'm not entirely sold on his brand of violence as a story backbone, but I laughed enough, and that girl from Harry Potter 4 is delicious.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox [Wes Anderson, 2009] Perhaps the most pleasurable film in, like, forever. I know I loved The Informant! a whole bunch, but, well, this one's even more fun, and touching (though maybe not as "smart"?). In any case, I plan on seeing it as often as possible on a big screen.

  • Where The Wild Things Are [Spike Jonze, 2009] No fun. Wasn't a big part of the book that that recklessness is fun? Isn't that the fun of being a kid? If all we're doing here is heralding youthful verve, how come all the movie's a dreadful downer? I, for one, did not have any fun. So there. I can get petulant, too.

—Well, don't fuck up the suit...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Convergence for your Thanksgivings [ii] (11/26/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

fire fight fire light

fall be kind, leak

Light fire with fight
Axe at it til you see sky
Graze a highway wail

Convergence for your Thanksgivings [i] (11/26/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

Fox 3

—Dance a dazzle, lady light, around our retinae

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alain à la recherche #4: Je t'aime, je t'aime

by Ryland Walker Knight

[The Resnais series playing at the PFA this November and December is part of a broader, traveling retrospective with a concurrent run in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and a proposed stop at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in early 2010.]

Perhaps Alain was trying to one-up that left-bank homunculus, Sartre, with this one, a time travel loop where the only exit is that prior end game choice that landed our monad-man with the guinea pig gig in the first place. It's a frisbee film, a breeze built on repetition, one gesture lazing into another laser. It's a gimmick, for sure, all this jumbling, but the conceit is rather perfect; and the opening fifteen minutes, before Claude Rich's Claude Ridder (Claude Raubois in the war) falls asleep in that pod, caper a quick route through jokes of hurt to get us into the "science" part of this "science fiction." Rich-Ridder tried suicide and failed, so a cloaked commune of scientists pick him for their first human sent through their pod of time, a blob of wiring and indeterminate shape. The plan is for our man in the middle to return one year into his past for exactly one minute. The plan fails, like the suicide, but it succeeds as well as suicide, trapping Rich-Ridder in a mosaic of moments. Some moments repeat. His woman, Catrine (the doomed beauty Olga Georges-Picot you see above), never looks happy. The pair play then dig at each other; he's mostly a jerk. We get more information as varied threads reappear and expose more history. The film shifts from frisbee to football, a calfskin of guilt, though it's never quite oppressive—just sad. Its hopping turns to treading, folds the simultaneous around a rubber-band ball of ignobility. And there's Rich-Ridder, placid, both vessel and detective. And that's us, peering on, piecing together a jigsaw we can't get a handle on: all we see are seams.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wolf Like Me

by Steven Boone

Hippy dippy Woodstock director Michael Wadleigh made only one narrative feature film, the majestically weird horror fable Wolfen. Having not seen it since Late Late Show screenings in the 1980's, I remembered Wolfen, faintly, as that other, lesser, wolf flick of 1981.

Not until screening it recently with a horror afficionado pal did I come to understand it as a reeling peyote vision of New York City's Third World future, the one I'm staggering through presently. Damn. This video is my parting shot as I prepare to join a sad, strange exodus from the city that used to feel like home.

Originally posted at BIG MEDIA VANDALISM

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #17

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Have a heart-rose, shy off

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Viewing Log #21: Bleed heat by night [11/16/09 - 11/22/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Bring yourself, roll

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm, 7th Season [Larry David, 2009] Hard to beat "The Table Read," no doubt, among so many episodes this season, but, once again, LD proves how smart he is about people's petty shit and everybody's desire for a fairytale—despite knowing all too well that most things in life, as it turns out, aren't just jokes but lies. Or, a house of cards and red herrings. I feel like a human again.
  • The White Ribbon [Michael Haneke, 2009] Almost exactly what I expected, but it's the first Haneke film I've wanted to see a second time. The film's ambiguities, in ways I've not felt from this hectoring hooey hocker's work before, feel ambiguous. Since I'm still sussing the political-historical mumbo jumbo, my perhaps-predictable excitement is primarily perceptible: Haneke's digital shift is an aesthetic tool, strictly technological, to register the world in luminescent darkness even more stunning than Public Enemies's wood-bound fire-fight. This light doesn't dazzle, though dazzle it does; rather, in these corridors and on these farms, light and its lack seep and spread, hint even, or slab the world into a plastic fresco at noon. A field of wheat waving is gorgeous, of course, but so is the older brother in the corner, his nightgown a ghostgown and his head missing in the shadows. We're left with voices, and contours. I could watch this movie outside, eating cheese next summer, and be okay.

  • Je t'aime, je t'aime [Alain Resnais, 1968] The stutter of time, and proof of proofs that you don't need "special effects" to make great, hard Sci-Fi. However, it's also "Sci-Fi" in that it's a film of referentiality, and of an index, of how top-down maps don't work (and least of all with the brain). A heart-soul, however invisible, lives in dimensions. More in a separate post soon.
  • Mouchette [Robert Bresson, 1967] # Anybody who calls Bresson boring is, like, the worst. This movie, though hard, is, like, the best. Here the cinema (or maybe just the camera?) poaches life, or can; here the cinema captures spirits, or uses them; here the cinema clacks at the world. It's stubborn, like its subject, and everything's a row. DVD can't help it, as Bresson's cinema desires celluloidal textures felt by the flicker first, but the extras are pretty great on this Criterion disc. (Godard's trailer, for instance, is a treasure.) And I know in my bones that all I got when I saw the film at Film Forum ages ago was that, shucks, the world is rotten. Now I want to read some Baudelaire, and never slap any body.

  • The Magnificent Ambersons [Orson Welles, 1942] Big admission: this was the first time. What a doozy and dizzy quilt of a movie. Even though you can see some seams, it's still wholly fascinating, and surprisingly touching. Matter of fact, it's super sad. —Boy did I hate that guy who wouldn't quit guffawing at the so-perceived anachronisms. Just because its about history doesn't make it a relic itself. I could, and maybe should, watch this movie a ton. Definitely one of the great "house movies" in movies.

  • Muriel [Alain Resnais, 1963] # Still knotty, still devastating, always too fast. A blink of a movie containing so much in its elisions. Here's the jump cut, for Heaven's sake. More, still, back here.

—Marked by lightness, a shining shroud

Friday, November 20, 2009

Alain à la recherche #3: Night and Fog and Muriel

by Ryland Walker Knight

[The Resnais series playing at the PFA this November and December is part of a broader, traveling retrospective with a concurrent run in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and a proposed stop at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in early 2010.]

The third night showcased a pair of ghost films, Night and Fog and Muriel, that dovetails one phantasmagoria of "history" with another knot of pain to paint a picture of memory as only ever a haunting. It's the dread affect. It's how you don't need to see some scars to feel them line your visage, or your soul. The most alarming thing besides all the hurt bottled in these films is that the duo rush by, clipped in to let time slip away. The earlier documentary acknowledges this pretty basically in that it's a short, a little poem of collocation. One form of representation is pitted against another. One imagines seeing two films at once, and how some current artist, like say Jennifer Reeves, might project both media simultaneously; however, Resnais could have done that, too, but he did not; one would be wise to understand the power of a more "linear" contiguity to better shock, assault and mortify an audience. As the title attests—in spite of its before-and-after death camp images—it's not an ashtray film and it's not a smoke trail film; rather, it's that cloud film, hanging; it's a fog fugue. Of course it hurts.

Muriel extrapolates this reckoning project, but instead of a fog of competing threads, it's all tied up, everything a gnarl, as only a Hitchcock fan could dream. Again, it's a crisp film—blink and you'll lose your bearings—but, like a lot of nightmares, the pacing's off. It lumps on, then flies to a cliffside, then a few months fall away and plans are dropped; life's a gambol as much as a gamble. Nothing really happens but a series of "you hurt me once" rounds of sparring. It's a film of remove set in the port town (a liminal space if ever there was one) of Boulogne, outside Paris, away from Algiers, eons from The War that changed everything. Resnais seems given to dialectics in this early phase (though Marienbad's clearly a prism), and here we have not just past and present but young and old, memories and events. Nonetheless, it's hard to call anything an event in a film this oblique, this hidden, this burled, this tangled. Like all of the best cinema, at bottom Muriel is just images, folding, a string of signals that resist that symbolic. Nothing is so reducible in a Resnais film, it would appear. In fact, what I'm already loving is that he's at the other end, exploding things. He claims lineage with the Surrealists and it makes sense: Muriel may be a cube, not just a knot, built of mirrors; however, unlike Marienbad, those mirrors are corporeal, physiognomies rather than reflections, with pores and creases. —We're back, somehow, at the human.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Convergence for my battle tactics (11/18/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight



—Rap my soul awake why don't you: 1, 2

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #16

bry Ryland Walker Knight

—...on the rich kids.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alain à la recherche #2: Stavinsky...

by Ryland Walker Knight

[The Resnais series playing at the PFA this November and December is part of a broader, traveling retrospective with a concurrent run in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and a proposed stop at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in early 2010.]

Some might call Stavinsky... a lavish lark. I called it a "goof" walking out. But its easy charisma, rubbed off Belmondo's debonair superstardom, does not devalue its interest in history (histories, stories) or, again, memory. Though there is no recovery here. The past doesn't loom for Sacha-Alex-Serge; he won't allow it. However, for that matter, he can't out run it. The ellipses matter at the end of the title: they indicate a path, or something unsaid. They can also signal a sigh, as most people floating around Belmondo do just that and shake their heads, calling him out as crazy—sick, Lonsdale's doctor insists—a supreme narcissist megalomaniac. Redundant, yes, but some people are—some people, as it happens, are a sickness no matter their charitable spirit or the love they inspire. This one, this man of a million names, this fake 'stache man with nothing but a grin, this sick sadness can't seem to figure it straight. Belmondo plays him like he believes him. Belmondo knows he's lying, or showing off for ill, but, like he tells that German actress, he's out to deliver happiness (not pleasure) to those around him as equally as he aims to tickle himself with each fancy before it leaves him, caught in an eddy while he floats on. —But what of that silent Trotsky hovering on the sidelines? What's his role? Red herring? Not quite. He's more like an idea, a sign of other quashed dreams. Trotsky inspires his circle but otherwise wrecks little havoc in centers that ripple out, causing a political ruckus, and, it seems, an atmosphere rife for toppling; this France careens, no doubt, towards The War a mess. Its history, as embodied by Boyer's Baron, cannot read the present for signs of the future, nor react with much beyond disbelief. Perhaps that's the price of class honor rolls and their imagined debts: such faith yields ruins, or graves. The Baron, after all, quotes Giraudoux's spectre at the close to signal his own end, to nod at an era he knew and defined now drowned by time.

Viewing Log #20: Sporting lint [11/9/09 - 11/15/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Autumn's not autumnal here. #1
Autumn's not autumnal here. #2
—All things shining.

Most of the week was spent not watching movies. But, as happens with an active calendar, the wait for the weekend brought me some special sights made richer by my recess. More Resnais, mostly, but also some time for some TV comedy. If you follow me on twitter (@ryknight), you know that I watched some Curb Your Enthusiasm earlier this week, but this week's episode, seen live on the East Coast feed with Cuy, was even better. We laughed hard, we laughed a lot. I also laughed plenty during Stavinsky... [Alain Resnais, 1974] despite its melancholy and its slow downturn. I'll say more in another post. Ditto for Muriel [Resnais, 1963] and Night and Fog [Resnais, 1955], which proved a tough pair. One's a knot, the other a nightmare. You can watch the nightmare "history lesson" by clicking here. The Dark Knight [Christopher Nolan, 2008] # sure still has plenty of night time fire frights, but it's hardly as effective in the bright autumn sunshine of a lazy Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. After a stroll for some Blue Bottle, we caught the big chase, the jailbreak, the wild dog window shot, and the hospital bit; we concurred that Heath was cut, and probably due to his junky habits as much as genetics. Then we watched a couple of Party Down episodes. Not only is Lizzy Caplan too cute and Ryan Hansen a surprise scene stealer, but Steven Weber is too funny in his guest spot creeping up all creepy like with his lazy eye and pitch-perfect accent. Clearly, I've been missing out on something hilarious. Now, naturally, after a doze, I'm fading to sleep under that familiar spell of The Thin Red Line [Terrence Malick, 1998] #.

—of course a sentry

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A conjunction of quotations #7

by Ryland Walker Knight

Midtown 120 Blues

Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.
Walker Evans

Color, at the moment, has, for me, a great importance, and I feel a kind of return to a complete commitment and love of color, and a sense of its relation to the human psyche. I think the kind of film that I have made and that I am most interested in is communicating with these basic sensuous elements of film. Color is also an important element in relation to sound; also how darkness and light are used in relation to color is different than in other visual media — all of these things interest me. We are creating structures and we are also presumably creating narratives that are not dramatic. The structures are more like the forms of other time-based or other measure media such as poetry or music.
Robert Beavers

There isn't enough mustard to spread on that hot dog.
Billy North, about former teammate Reggie Jackson

I mean, I brought you all the way out here. It's not like I'm the one who needs swimming lessons. And the fact that you're not even trying? Well that baffles me. Really. I mean, what are you afraid of? There's no sharks in here. Suppose a water dog comes walking down the tracks and sees you. What's he gonna say about you, land dog? I mean, if there's times in the world when it's time to take a chance, it's time right now to take a chance. What's this? Water. Get in it. It's just water. Listen, brother, this river goes two ways: that way, and that way. You know what I'm sayin? It's like a puzzle, with hands, if you think about it.

I make people laugh, which is a great gift, but I live in fear.
Monica Vitti

Being sad is not a crime.
Arthur Russell

And then but no matter what I do it gets worse and worse, it's there more and more, this filter drops down, and the feeling makes the fear of the feeling way worse, and after a couple weeks it's there all the time, the feeling, and I'm totally inside it, I'm in it and everything has to pass through it to get in, and I don't want to smoke any Bob, and I don't want to work, or go out, or read, or watch TP, or go out, or stay in, or either do anything or not do anything, I don't want anything except for the feeling to go away. But it doesn't. Part of the feeling is being like willing to do anything to make it go away. Understand that. Anything. Do you understand? It's not wanting to hurt myself it's wanting to not hurt.
Kate Gompert

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
   Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
   Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
   Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
       With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
             And purple-stainèd mouth;
   That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
       And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
   What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
   Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
   Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
       Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
             And leaden-eyed despairs;
   Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
       Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
   Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
   Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
   And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
       Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays
             But here there is no light,
   Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
       Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
John Keats

The true drama of men consists in the fact that they have always seen the reasons for their anxiety in the external world, defining them as evidence of an enemy structure to struggle against. Men are now on the verge of discovering that the essence of the human dilemma lies within themselves, in that rigid psychological structure of theirs that can no longer hold back its destructive cathexis. ... The self-criticism developed in our culture seems to have taken a path of license and recklessness. Men must leave this path to put an end to their historical role as protagonist. This is the change we are advocating. ... Self-criticism must give way to imagination.
Carla Lonzi

Jerry: In a half an hour, we'll no longer be Mr. and Mrs. Funny, isn't it.
Lucy: Yes, it's funny that everything's the way it is on account of the way you feel.
Jerry: Huh?
Lucy: Well, I mean, if you didn't feel that way you do, things wouldn't be the way they are, would they? I mean, things could be the same if things were different.
Jerry: But things are the way you made them.
Lucy: Oh, no. No, things are the way you think I made them. I didn't make them that way at all. Things are just the same as they always were, only, you're the same as you were, too, so I guess things will never be the same again.
The Warriners

Why keep on seeding the chairs
When the future is night and no one knows what
He wants? It would probably be best though
To hang on to these words if only
For the rhyme. Little enough,
But later on, at the summit, it won't
Matter so much that they fled like arrows
From the taut string of a restrained
Consciousness, only that they mattered.
For the present, our not-knowing
Delights them. Probably they won't be devoured
By the lions, like the others, but be released
After a certain time. Meanwhile, keep
Careful count of the rows of windows overlooking
The deep blue sky behind the factory: we'll need them.
John Ashbery

I like to treat my film as a biological entity. The prints have been deposited, donated or bequested to archives and museums around the world, with the legally stipulated proviso that the film will not be reproduced in any form nor projected with a recorded soundtrack. I hope they will abide to my wishes, but even if they don't, the reproductions will not be handcoloured prints.

The decision to destroy the negative was made back in 2000, when I started the project, so I had plenty of time to get used to the idea. Still, the destruction of the negative was a very emotional moment, something like the ritual slaughter of an animal. I saw one in Central Asia and was struck by the depth of the feelings attached to the gesture.
Paolo Cherchi Usai

I’m not a believer that hardship makes people stronger, but I do think that too much of certain things can make them weaker. Strong people can be distracted by things that come too easy. Maintaining a career nowadays is extraordinarily complicated, even if you’re just doing your work and showing up for required occasions. You can waste an amazing amount of energy, time and goodwill by chasing after stuff that’s not worth chasing after. Really wise artists know how to make dramatic appearances and how to make dramatic disappearances.
Robert Storr

Si vous ne m'aimez pas, je peux vous dire que je ne vous aime pas non plus.*
Maurice Pialat
* If you don't like me, I can tell you I don't like you either.

[The buildings] look normal enough, but they are designed to fall down, like fat men at the opera falling asleep into someone's lap, shortly after the last rivet is driven, the last forms removed from the newly set allegorical statue.
Thomas Pynchon

Monday, November 09, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #15

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Use two hands

Jeanne Dielman: Solitude's a fortress?

by Ryland Walker Knight

—The lid!

It took Danny some time to get me this copy of Criterion's beautiful new edition of Akerman's masterpiece, and then it took me a little time to get my image-essay together. But I have, now, with another assist from Danny on the gif-making, and you can take a look by clicking here. As I looked for these images these past weeks, I noticed how, for all the long takes and long monologues, Akerman cuts some sequences rather rapidly. The space isn't cut up, of course, as we often linger after the frame has emptied, but the apartment is a maze of separation; finding the pathways' connections is difficult. This spatial confusion is another funny knot I spend the "down time" attempting to untangle. Is the bathroom across from the kitchen? How far is it down that hall to the bed?

The first time I saw the picture, at the PFA with Jen, I was drowsy and a lot of the choreography's humor was lost on me. Not that Akerman is Tati or anything, but there's something hilarious about how aloof Jeanne/Seyrig is when she drops that shoe buffer, or when she can't figure where to put the mushy 'taters. (Though that's also quietly devastating.) Put another way, the picture is a lot more contradictory than I remember. I can't imagine falling in love with it the way some of my friends have, but this time definitely shined more and showed me more. Maybe you can tell me some other things I'm missing in the comments here or there. (For what it's worth, Kasman would love it if you dropped the comments over there.) The most obvious thing is that I've ignored a lot of the feminist appeal of the picture, but that's just because, as Jeanne tells her son, I'm not a woman: it's not my argument, as I see it. Or, I wouldn't want to speak for Jeanne or Chantal or Gina or Jen—nor Miriam nor Mia nor Maya nor Martha—that is, not for any of the strong ladies I'm lucky to know. They're liable to... get smart with me. See, without being too-too silly a scaredy-cat, I should assure you that, like all good feminists, these ladies aren't all bark.

—Beware the bureau!

Viewing Log #19: Sea salt swordfish [11/2/09 - 11/8/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

light cloud sound
— Beaming and leaning

  • Last Year at Marienbad [Alain Resnais, 1961] # I could watch this movie a million times. A lot funnier than I remembered, though I remembered it being funny, I think. Another reason to own a Blu-ray player, no doubt. I wrote a smarter, funnier response over here.

  • City of Sadness [Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1989] Not quite the emotional experience I'd expected, though it easily lives up to its title, this picture made me feel, for lack of a better word, small. That is, my political world is much smaller, or narrower, and thankfully/paradoxically/obviously less totalitarian. Not that the picture need be enjoyed strictly for its political-historical import. Plenty, as ever with HHH, is just about life, about living, about letting things happen. There's so much communion in its eating scenes. That baby working its clumsy way around that table was out of this world delightful. The interstitial "exposition" inserts bouncing off of, and sometimes replacing, the inter-titles—as modes of communicating for the deaf but still-sponge-worthy Tony Leung, whose end-of-an-era bridge type acts like a silent cinema stand-in—made my Bazin crush flutter up. Fine first rep feature back in town. —Read Brian at Hell On Frisco Bay.

  • Wings of Desire [Wim Wenders, 1987] # The morning after I grabbed one image before conking out, I watched the whole thing over coffee and toast under grey clouds behind the kitchen. Startled, I'm writing this before my Auteurs piece, and here I'll say that I'm confused and moved in equal measure. It stirred up a bunch of memories; it feels, for better or worse, more formative than many other films.

  • Va Savoir [Jacques Rivette, 2001] The first half-hour, until Sergio meets the delicious blonde in the library. Then I got tired of the headphones and went to bed. So far: love how Balibar narrates her life. Nice echo of Léaud in Out 1. Also, this earlier Sergio appearance changes 36 vues a bit.
  • Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell [Matt Wolf, 2008] Surprisingly artful, though its structure is pretty standard. I was moved, as ever, by Arthur's story and Wolf does some fine juxtapositions and compositions of his own, layering light in nice ways. Can imagine it plays well for audiences of both fans and neophytes, though the fans may want more than 73 minutes and the neophytes are probably won over and content with what's been assembled.
  • Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles [Chantal Akerman, 1975] # Shopping, duh, for pix. Lookey here why dontcha.

world of echo

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Alain à la recherche #1: Marienbad

by Ryland Walker Knight

[The Resnais series playing at the PFA this November and December is part of a broader, traveling retrospective with a concurrent run in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and a proposed stop at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in early 2010.]

This was the third time I've seen Marienbad. As with the first, and the second, it feels like the first time I've seen Marienbad. I don't know if that will persist as I keep seeing Marienbad, as I have, year after year, or one screening one year followed by a pair of years of gap, then a pair of screenings spaced by a year. Last year, I saw Marienbad at The Castro. Before that, a few years before that, I saw Marienbad on a shitty DVD. Needless to say, a year ago was optimal, and new. This time, a year later, unlike last year, the print was a little more travelled, and weathered, but every image still crackles and every edit whips. In any year, it seems, Resnais is a crisp filmmaker. This year, too, the jokes kept hitting harder and harder. Marienbad is easily and stupidly misinterpreted as a dead bore, as nothing but pretension, when, in fact, every repetition is a redetermination of the same joke. The film is one big repetition, or one repetition after another—a Deleuze wet dream, maybe—which means it's one big joke, or one great joke over and over. And every joke is about repetition, and how that can cheapen the serious, and how cheap that can look and feel—and how it piles on—despite being dressed up in the classiest clothes and setting and ornamentation and gloomy mirrors and feathered collars imaginable. Imagination, it seems, is what our Man lacks; or, what he's got in spades; but if he's got it in spades, he's got a poor, somber capacity for it, for fun; that is, it's in spades. He sees a maze as a maze. We might say Resnais sees the maze as the stage, or an arena of invention. You don't map your way out—you look around, you turn corners. But Marienbad, for everything above (inside?), like its jokes and its mirrors, all its doubles and triples and quadruples, all of that remains, in any time, at any rate and in any event, some hopelessly walled-in picture of present tense stasis. —Now, though, I wonder: how come I find that this hilarious this year?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Represent Repertory #1: Fight sadness

by Ryland Walker Knight

The day after I returned to the Bay Area, I saw the new PFA film calendar online and tweeted twice (1, 2) about it. But that doesn't quite do justice to how cool a "Welcome Home!" these next two, final months of 2009 promise to be in my backyard cinematheque. A year ago I had quite a time covering the PFA, indulging in almost everything available by Jia Zhang-ke and Jean Eustache among other treats. This near-winter season I have the luck to catch a number of Alain Resnais and Otto Preminger films as well as four by Miklós Jancsó and a slew of features starring Ingrid Bergman. However, this go-round I hope to expand my horizons and attend both of the remaining Alternative Visions programs: next week, on November 10th there will be a series of recent a-g works by a variety of filmmakers and on December 1st, Harun Farocki's latest, In Comparison, will have its Bay Area premiere. I can't say I'm all that intrigued by the series on torture, but I do hope in the months and calendars to come that I look beyond the big-ticket items. That said, what a fun bunch of hit-makers!


This weekend sees the start of the Resnais series with a Friday night showing of Last Year At Marienbad, which I'm overdue for again, and always happy to see on a big screen (though I should take a look at the Criterion disc for that short film about plastic). The series skips Hiroshima, but there are a few from the 80s and it closes with La guerre est finie, so it should all be a fine primer for whenever Sony Pictures Classics decides to release Wild Grass on the gold coast. (Also worth reading: Mark Rappaport in Rouge.)
———> Friday Update: Jonathan Rosenbaum kicks of Moving Image Source's series of articles on this traveling Resnais retrospective with a piece called "The Unknown Statue"

I've already seen a number of Preminger films before, and already a few here in 2009—most notably Bonjour Tristesse, which was an easy revelation. But aside from Bunny Lake Is Missing, which I saw at MoMA with Danny and Miriam, I've not seen any on a big screen. Most excited for Skidoo, probably, of the films I haven't seen, but I'm eager to see Jean Seberg pout and Jimmy Stewart play piano in Cinemascope as well. Not to mention those Dana Andrews boxes of pride and alarming prize-snatching from the '40s. And, what the hell, Saint Joan can't be all bad, right? For one, it seems like you have to see every possible iteration of that story if you call yourself a cinephile; for another, it's an 18 year old Seberg for Heaven's sake. Chris Fujiwara's upcoming book should be good, but until then here's a Senses of Cinema profile he wrote.

Lastly, last night was the beginning of the Ingrid Bergman program. I did not attend the selection of rarities. Nor do I know if I'll take in all those 1930s Swedish joints, despite their fetish-object obscurity. I do, however, plan on attending all three of the screenings of the pictures she made with Roberto Rossellini as, get this, I've never seen one of his films. Stromboli and Europa '51 play on successive days late this month (the 28th and 29th, a weekend) while Voyage in Italy plays a week later (Dec 6th, a Sunday). Phelps assures me this trio should be a great start on my way to discovering all there is to relish about what kept Tag Gallagher busy filling his massive tome (850 pages?!). Worth guessing that Rivette's letter to the Rossellini will hold yet more resonance after those screenings.

let's eat

But the PFA isn't the only rep screen in town, of course. Of course there's more than a few across the water in San Francisco. In fact, there's one right down town at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where Joel Shepard keeps programming really cool things. I had to miss last week's one-shot showing of United Red Army, despite Danny calling it "unmissable," because of a family commitment. But I have no such ties tonight: Hou Hsiao-hsien's City of Sadness has a title that can turn off a lot of potential ticket buyers—and that's before you know it's over two and a half hours long, or made by a Taiwanese maestro known for long takes—but, silly me, I'm giddy for it. In fact, I'm the only person goofy enough to click "Attending" on the event's Facebook page. And, if you miss it tonight, there's a second show Sunday afternoon. That said, I know Brian will be joining me there—in fact, I'm planning on it—and I don't doubt a few other rep regulars will pop their bespectacled heads into the screening room.
———> Saturday Update: Brian wrote up a little something about the evening, and the film, and HHH, at his blog.


I may have missed out on a number of cool New York film events this summer, and I know I'll yearn to take in some cinema with all my friends back there as time marches on, but for right now I'm pretty jazzed to be here. I figure: I'm here, I'm planning on planting for the foreseeable future, I might as well go hard on the scene. After all, one of the pleasures of being a cinephile here, versus in Brooklyn, is that I have a social life outside the cinema; that movies are my thing, and that I can dip in and out of them as I please. I like being the biggest nerd in a group of friends who host wild dance parties and tussle in the streets and play basketball drunk. We're not "husbands" yet, nor do any of us even think that way right now, but, let me tell you, I definitely feel more alive around these guys—more prone to steal shoes and spill wine, to fall on the couch or spin on the hardwood floor. Besides, I'm not the only Pierrot fou in our crew. Nor am I hot doggin it all that often.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Convergence for how air can hang (11/4/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

—The thick of it rings a round ringing

Flare it, flip it, crack and burn it. More 'Formers.

by Ryland Walker Knight


—Quick, erase it!

Danny helped me out a ton with this latest image-essay, primarily by putting together some animated gifs. You can find the piece at The Auteurs Notebook. Danny asked me to make one for him after that "study in orange" I posted here earlier in the month as prelude to the home-format release of Bay's big bad sandbox of hate and silly. Not that the movie needs any promotion, but, well, we kinda dig it. And this post looks pretty. Also earlier: my neg thrown at the mostly-defunct freeNIKES!.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #14

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Lost in a laugh

Qu'est-ce que c'est? Convergence?

by Ryland Walker Knight

surprise foe

serial killer
Surprise fowl marked for murder

Viewing Log #18: Saints break stains and blue runs red [10/26/09 - 11/1/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

take light

This second week back in the Bay has been awfully full of commitments that have kept me from the movies. I've spent most of the week looking at Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles [Chantal Akerman, 1975] # in preparation for an overdue image-essay that will hit The Auteurs shortly. Once again I'm reminded of how amazing the film is, but, also, how little passion I have for it; I regard it through a veil, almost, of painful echoes. I have found time for some television this week, though, with the finale of this latest Peep Show series as well as another Curb Your Enthusiasm (and one yet to catch up on from last night)—not to mention NBC stuff, like 30 Rock, which keeps proving its smarts week in, week out, by playing dumb. Other than that, there was only one other movie of my stack that I got to, and tardily, last night: I Know Where I'm Going! [Powell & Pressburger, 1945]. Given my fatigue, it shouldn't surprise you that, though I loved the picture, I don't have much to say to account for its typically gorgeous tale of restraint. The obvious thing to say is that its use of off-screen space is fantastic: you can feel the pull of all that sits beyond grasp or fogged-galed-rained out of sight, the way conduction works. Fate, these filmmakers would have you believe, is an equation, a leveling, maybe, where the world finds its balance.

le fou
—Le fou, for real