Friday, March 16, 2007

Late Night e-mail for the Day: Living Battle in Heaven

[Just cause it needs it, even if it's a jagged jumble. Just cause I gotta sing. More later, but for now here's an email I just wrote, edited only slightly.]

From: Ryland Knight
To: Keith Uhlich, Ed Gonzalez
Subject: battle in heaven

I just watched it a second time.

You ever get that feeling, after seeing true beauty, that you don't want to write anything down because it will, somehow, kill that beauty -- render it immobile and pointed, cemented in place? Of course, there's the opposite impulse fighting up inside as well: I need to speak it, sing it out loud! This is it! Look right here, I beg! But even that celebration does it an injustice. There's too many things to sing all at once. How perfect the key piece of music (in this movie) is a fugue! Life is a fugue, filling in, coloring and layering time and loves and fears and deaths and cars and musics and footballs and cocks and pussies and breasts and bloods and crosses and feet and mountains and antennae and glasses and knives and jackets and cities and mud in some eternal return of present tense living.

Yet, the film isn't perfect or anything and it's hardly enjoyable in any kind of "traditional" way. But there's something so crystal clear in its construction and execution that, as with any great film (any great art!), of recent or earlier vintage, you feel the world has substance. We aren't aimless. We are living and, while it can be scary and ugly, this is a great world to inhabit -- a great life.

Writing on this is already tough and gorgeous but I will do my best. Soon. But I probably should have waited on watching it until I was done with my Borges essay for Monday. Maybe if I get this out of my system and stick it down in words I can find a way to shift my brain back to Borges & I.

I can't wait to see Japon.

Eyes open, fists up, spirit wide,

PS - 2006 was a fucking tight year for movies.


  1. I'm afraid I let this slip through my fingers last year without seeing it, even when it played the Roxie for at least a week.

    But I very much relate to what you say about writing, and how sometimes an attempt at putting the most transporting films into words might reduce them to one of those cheesy vacation snapshots that can get in the way of remembering the real trip.

  2. Yeah, I could have gone to see it one day in New York but I'm glad I waited because I wouldn't have been as open to it if I'd seen it last February, I'm certain.

    There's definitely an article to be written about this new trend of explicit sex in "foreign" cinema, I think, from this picture to Brisseau's works to (*spoilers through link*) The Wayward Cloud -- and others, I'm sure. It seems "other" directors are trying in earnest to depict an honest sex. Or, use sex in an honest way. But not to titillate or simply shock: there's more to it than that. Take Trouble Every Day: it isn't a shy movie WHATSOEVER.

    The only thing I can think of in recent American movies is that finale of Inside Man or (even tho there isn't any sex scene) the distillation of All The Real Girls's angst. But, of course, those are very American notions of sex and love, I think. And the latter is a very naive young love, to boot. But, for me at least, it's devastating and true. Inside Man's ending scene, however, shows some of the joy to be had and that's what makes that scene so great.

    Thanks for commenting, Brian. Btw, I totally missed "Rules of the Game" at the Castro and may have to journey to San Rafael...lame. For now, I need to get back to Borges.

  3. I feel much the same way about this movie as I do 9 Songs. I appreciate the effort, and the strides directors have taken since Caligula give me hope that one day someone will make a really good, genuinely erotic, sexually explicit narrative film. But this ain't it. It was worth watching (certainly moreson than 9 Songs) but I had such high hopes that I couldn't help but be alittle dissapointed.

    It's kind of like the good punk rock documentary; so many people keep trying to do it, that, eventually, you figure a really excellent one will be made, even if it's just by accident.

  4. Aaron, you heard about this?

    I think this is much bigger than 9 Songs because it is about more than just sex and desire. There's faith, nationalism, LOVE, nature and corporeal identity under the wide blue sky. It's also all about pageants, a theme I'm looking to tease out in a further exploration. That said, it's also ugly and hard to watch, which will, no doubt, be a hurdle for many viewers, as it was for me.

  5. Art-sexfilms? The standard for me is still In the Realm of the Senses.

  6. Still need to get there. Will do, soon.

  7. What do you think of the sex in Bruno Dumont's films, Ryland?

    You know what, I missed it too. Just too much this week. We do have an option for Rules of the Game other than the trek to San Rafael: the Opera Plaza has it for a week now too. Presumably not in one of their "screening rooms" where it's practically impossible not to sit so close to the screen that you can observe the perforations in it through the projection. If it's in one of the bigger houses it'd be well worth going to. Not the Castro, but well worth going to. I'd call ahead.

  8. Just watched 'Mad Dog and Glory' for the first time since... theatrical release? I was impressed that the loves scenes between DeNiro and Thurman were so atypical of American films. More honest, more vulnerable. The realism akin to European films. Worth a look.

  9. Haven't seen any of the Dumont movies. Keith (trustworthy) Uhlich said the problem with those films is it usually feels like Dumont is lecturing, not making a movie. But I do want to give Twentynine Palms a chance at some point. However, I was told what happens in the climax and that sounds just about as awful as it could get. Still, my interest, in light of this film, is piqued so I can make up my own mind about it. Then, of course, one has to gauge how much they're really willing to put into it -- especially when there are other blindspots, like In The Realm of the Senses, that need filling in.