Monday, June 28, 2010

Viewing Log #48: Speak with your feet [6/21/10 - 6/27/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—With your whole body

  • TRON [Steven Lisberger, 1982] # Wow, this is a lot worse than I remembered. I fell asleep pretty quickly after realizing I wasn't having a blast. Mostly it's crazy just how dated it is, and not just because of the "effects" (some of which are still dope in a predictably anachronistic way), and just how dated the sequel will be in time. In a way, that's neat; but neat's not much. At the very least: Jeff Bridges was always a babe, huh?

  • I Am Love [Luca Guadagnino, 2009] # A second go-round proves I'm not crazy but also proves I may have been hit in the head-heart a little harder back in May for any number of reasons I'll not tell you. Suffice to say, I still adore this thing. So expressive, so wild. Yet it makes sense in the way any melodrama makes sense: accrued affect flooding through style, not story. Not exactly "all emotion" as Mia put it walking out (by the way, she wants me to tell you, my readers, she liked it a lot), but that verve or vibe I've named here so often, even when I wrote about this last (here), that too-present catchphrase that's become a go-to catch-all for a whole lot of people, including me; but I don't see any other way to classify this whirl, this helix. Whether you get on that wavelength, I think, can be brought to a head by thinking about to what degree you're into this image of feminine sexuality (what an affirmation!) as healthy and worth claiming. There are costs, to be sure, but life isn't a pity party. Real risks take guts and that's what I feel the most in the finale: a choice is made to forage forward for the life desired; to seek the unattained self outside trophies and carpets; to find a new way to drape oneself on and in the world outside fabrics; to get dirty and dig it.

  • Utamaro and his five women [Kenji Mizoguchi, 1946] Too bad the print was so crummy. The movie was pretty interesting, another series of ideas about ideas guiding and driving people, about people latching onto ideas instead of Real Life, about the dangers of reifying people and about the pleasure of craft becoming its own art. It's been too long since I last looked at a Mizoguchi to give any kind of placement analysis but I find more parallels with Ugetusu than I do with Sansho (the only other two I've seen; I wrote about them here, with Steven Boone) for the simple fact that I know the former better but also because of that whole ghost angle as a version of projection, which is what portraiture is, too, I reckon, which our Utamaro is so brilliant at, as we're told, which is also what Mizoguchi seems to do so well: craft images of people the fill in through observed details. He also loves to track and pan and extend the space through reframing, letting the camera unfold the world. But it's more stately here, more patient. In any case, it seems clear that I should revisit his work again at some point if I want to really have a point.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Viewing Log #47: Eliminate the laminate [6/14/10 - 6/20/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Old Hollywood indeed
—Must love dogs

  • Bell Book and Candle [Richard Quine, 1958] Fun to think of how Hitchcock must have seen this, after his perfect picture with this pair, and how he might've dug it if only for how much sexier Novak is in this flick. Novak's got more to go on, here, and gets to play a person instead of an idea, but it's more than just an "arc" that makes her radiate (and she radiates green a few times); there's a sense of true wounds getting fingered like buttons; and who doesn't like "ironic" reversals when it comes to romance? Worth noting, too, that this is a film for any lover of New York—Old New York, New York as haunted, New York as a nest or as pregnant—as a place for lovers. I'm not so sure I still hold that same esteem of that great city, but I cannot deny my affection for it and its odd promise of aches and pains to go sidelong with dreams.
  • Caddyshack [Harold Ramis, 1980] # Basically: I want to, at some point, tell a big crowd of people gathered on a deck, "Hey, everybody! We're all gonna get laid!" Failing that, I'd like to adopt some of Chevy Chase's glib tactics with the ladies. Weird that Bill Murray's something of a weak link.

  • To Have and To Have Not [Howard Hawks, 1944] # I've never taken a film production course at a university level before so I'm curious: do any smart profs teach Hawks? Because his model of economy is instructive for anybody with meager means hoping to make movies. There's about six sets, maybe seven, used in this movie. And all Hawks pictures move forward without asides or flashbacks—true continuity—so there's plenty to learn on a storytelling level. Then you get to the idea of acting that's all over this film and covers nearly his entire filmography: get the characters to actually perform things for other characters as a way to indicate their own character; then comment on it, slightly, in the dialog to show these are thoughtful/aware people with plenty of intention behind every play; with a decent distraction story, you've got a tight little structure to build dramatic significance. And, maybe, you can get some friends to charm the pants of the camera. Bacall's little dance out of the saloon always kills me. Bogey's masculinity is sometimes a bore but his physical posture's so bad, the whole bit gladdens me.

  • L'enfance nue [Maurice Pialat, 1968] Funny that Truffaut presents this film, as the credits read, but it's just about the opposite kind of sensibility as that of that calling card about a boy he made first (which I still enjoy, but cannot love save a few choice moments). This one, though, only gets things right. Things like anger. But it's not a psychological film; it's all actions. What you do. What you do doesn't define you but it sure does indicate a lot. Great to see Pialat had the same impulse to shear away plot this early. I'd love to know how he wrote: did he film forever, or write forever, and then delete/edit? Or was his brain so strong that he simply trusted his storytelling enough to jump so often and sometimes so far?

Monday, June 14, 2010

&Review no.2, Islands: "Winter is over if you want it"*

by Ryland Walker Knight

Mia Nolting is both my Close Personal Friend and—bias aside, promise—a talented artist. Her artwork has been featured in a number of make'm-proud outlets (including The New York Times Magazine) and she illustrated the young adult novel, Hold Still, written by her friend Nina LaCour. Mia's newest endeavor, among a perpetuity of creative output, is a print-and-online publication called &Review, which Mia started with her friend Rachel Pedderson, which just published its second issue, in which you can find a poem I wrote. I actually didn't write it to fit the theme of the issue, Islands, but I can see how it works in there. (What's funny, though, is how I've already rewritten the poem from the form in which it was published**. Not drastically, mind, but the third stanza's maybe denser now and not as jumpy; this offers a problem of the rhythm getting jammed but I trust the edit enough to say, here, that if you want to see it, drop me a line. Maybe I'll plop it in the comments below.) And, as befits anything bearing Mia's name, the design of the always-free better-than-a-zine is beautiful—and I'm pleased to see my poem next to an image of water, the image below. You can see the print version of Issue 2 in the pdf M+R have made available here (right click to download). Or, if you live in Portland, you will be able to grab a copy for your own two hands and two eyes this week (find out where here). We hope you do. There's other good stuff in there besides my start-n-stop efforts. If anything, make sure to look at the images Mia and Rachel curated on the site, which anybody in any city can see, which, just for you, I'll link to again right here.

* an alternate title for the poem (published as "No Answers") that attempts a more positive angle on the image of hurt I tried to get across in those lines.

** cf., the alternate title

Viewing Log #46: Collecting returns [5/17/10 - 6/13/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—What do I know?

Yesterday, a friend told me I ought to bring back the Viewing Log. As a result of this flattery, I do plan on it. But, as you can see, this is the second log in a row where I won't run down what, exactly, I watched. This time, however, it's both because I haven't been watching much and also because I haven't been keeping track. Been trying, with varying degrees of success, to simply enjoy watching things. Not everything's something to take note of; or, not everything's something.

To get naked on this dance floor: the whole blogging experience has turned into something I don't necessarily relish. Not because I make more money at my "real job" nor because I'm too tired to keep it up as a result of such work but just because I feel a door shut a while ago and now it's (the 'sphere is) a closed room full of loud voices talking about the most boring topics imaginable with not enough levity and not enough intelligence. Put otherwise, I stopped reading a lot of/on the 'net. For the most part. I still spend too much time "surfing," but I've begun to rediscover real paper-bound books in a serious way. For example, I've bought more books than movies (or movie stubs) this year and I've probably read about 85% of them. There is a backlog, despite my tendency to read five things at once, and I plan on bumping that number up—though it might go down if I stumble upon the right thrift store book section. This is not a novel idea: it plain feels better to not sit with this black box on my chest or my lap or the table and instead hold a book and a beer in the afternoon. My eyes love me more, my brain feels better, I get less angry at useless targets. You may have noticed that I still use twitter*, still tweet (and I've even started to use tumblr, to tumble), but I stopped following more than half the people I followed on twitter because, rather simply, it made sense for my life.**

Another part of the shift has been to writing things besides film criticism because, when it gets down to it, I am sick of all that. Not that I've outgrown it, but I don't get much from it either in terms of entertainment or in terms of edification, though posts like this one by Mubarak today are pretty great—but great because they're rare. I still plan on writing about movies from time to time (especially if somebody wants to pay me to do that), but I don't know anymore what, exactly, this purpose serves. Take, for example, that recent bit on Varda that I wrote. It was fine. I appreciate that people appreciated it (and by extension me). But I didn't get too-great a thrill writing it (in fact, it caused me more stress than pleasure, as can happen all too often), and I don't know if it helps people understand her any better; I just hope it was fun to read. That's all I really want to offer, when it comes down to it: some fun times with words. I don't really know anything. Or, I don't know anything you can't know. I just know how to string some words together in unusual ways. Generally speaking, I'm not in this mix to prove anything. In fact, I like being mostly ignorant of a lot of stuff. It's something like a maxim that these blind spots simply mean I've got more goodies ahead. And that's the only kind of life I want to lead: ready for what's next, and excited. Even if I settle into a family routine some day down the line I hope to meet every day ready for something new. It should be obvious one of the books I've bought in 2010 is Deleuze's Difference and Repetition. And that I dig it.

But enough about me me me. What about some movies. I still love the movies. We still love the movies! Don't we? For example, I'm stoked to see the above-cited Bluebeard at ybca this coming weekend (more here), and the second-to-newest Oliveira with that great title, Eccentricities of a blonde hair girl, the following weekend. And, as Brian has blogged (scroll to the bottom for a schedule, but read the whole thing, duh; I did), there's a bunch of Mizoguchi up at Viz Cinema that I'll try to take in one way or another. That's just to round out June. In July there's the Silent Fest (more coming) and a new PFA calendar and a bunch of those movies I loved at SFIFF coming to a SF theatre near you. I'm getting exciting just typing this. Expect more, but not too much more, soon.

* Danny urges me to quit twitter altogether, but, as I tumbled (shudder), I like the challenge of the medium. I may not make everybody laugh the way, say, Conan can, but I do enjoy that it's mostly a place for me to try out text-based jokes. I should add that this, too, is not a novel idea.

** Worth noting: I quit facebook and that's cleared a lot of mental space, lifted a lot off my brain. And, really, do you want most of your social interactions (over-) determined by some website? It doesn't feed you; it's not even a beautiful representation of your life; just an informational one; it's simply a device; a device for pain as much as pleasure (what doesn't straddle that, I hear you saying) and a device for more false flattery and more false avenues to debase legitimate communication. Again, not a novel idea.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

La Varda

by Ryland Walker Knight

—I just bleue myself

Before Cannes, Danny asked me to write a paean to Angès Varda, "because you love her, right?" See, after some clandestine business negotiations (are they ever different?), The Auteurs, which remains MUBI's curatorial wing, is now showing all of Varda's work—shorts and features alike. Of course, I agreed to fulfill Danny's request; a few weeks later I wound up with an apt love letter full of fun catch phrases intended to strike up your desire to watch the films again. So, you know, please to read what I wrote and, maybe more importantly, please do watch her films. They aren't a hard sell, anyways, are they? Maybe they are; maybe I don't know. Maybe just click here.

Nous nous chargeons du cinéma

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #44

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Never aloof, just floating

Convergence for balancing (6/1/10)

by Ryland Walker Knight

—the old with the new