Friday, August 24, 2007

Exploding heads, and hearts: 28 Weeks Later is thick with blood.

by Ryland Walker Knight

The opening ten minutes of 28 Weeks Later are not perfect but so good they may be impossible for the rest of the film to top, or even measure up to. In fact, the rest of the film only suffers by comparison. Except for one devastating sequence in a medical trailer between Catherine McCormack and Robert Carlyle that devolves into a fiery bloodbath. Other than that it gets sidetracked by some silly political trappings instead of sticking to the almost genius horror tropes set up by the opening. Pushing the politics to the side is still possible, thankfully, since it's a complex film, and one of the best of 02007. What's odd is that critics immediately championed the politics, which are hardly interesting, or subtle, upon the film's release. That reading only makes the film a white elephant dressed up like a termite. Really, what's more interesting: heritage as poison or American occupation as poison? What is a grander theme to explore? Should be obvious, right? Watching the film again helped me see it more for its ferocity rather than its bland posture because it really is a movie about bloodlines, and heritage, and not about the politics it throws at the audience by the handful. There's more there to elucidate in the trope of eyes, and visibility-as-knowledge, but I decided to post to bring attention to the opening of the film, not the film on the whole. Below is my attempt to translate the ferocity of that explosive, melancholic, and rather terrifying sequence. With only the pictures as guide, you lack the brilliant sound design of the raged men and women bursting through walls, and growling, which is a shame. If you have yet to see the film this collage may, uh-oh, contain some spoilers. This is one of the few films I've endorsed a "spoiler warning" even though you can probably tell where the film is going from minute one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Sound You're Watching

by Marc Lafia

Abstract Cinema 3 Things

In some sense the phenomenon of YouTube returns us to the early days of cinema which has been referred to, before its language of narrative and editing evolve, as a cinema of attractions. In these early days when cinema was a novelty, an entrepreneur, some one like Edwin Porter (who would go on to make, The Great Train Robbery) would buy up a number of short films, go from town to town, rent a hall, publicize his event and gather up an audience for a screening. There, with his reels of film and accompanying musician, the entrepreneur who was also the projectionist, would create an order to his films, cue his music and in many cases talk over them. The entrepreneur was a story teller, our first editor, who used sound to narrativize the image.

The sound-image relationship for the moving image did not become uniform until the late 1920's and the advent of synch sound. That is sound up until then was live, and as live things go, they are unique night to night, venue to venue. As the relationship of sound and image evolved more and more film makers became interested in the recording of direct sound, that is the sound heard was to be the sound recorded at the same time as the image. Capturing sound was as important as capturing image. This was quite radical as for example most films still today have a great deal of scored music and effects as well what is called ADR, additional dialogue recording. In fact the practice of the great Italian film studio, Cine Cinetta did all of its sound work including dialogue in post production. Simultaneously multi-track real time direct recording was being explored by many filmmakers including Straub-Hillet, Altman, Godard and many others.

It is sound that so often tells us what we are watching. In the creation of 3Things, this is what is most distinct about the project, or rather, what distinguishes it. It is not 3 images and their sounds playing side by side simultaneously, it is 3 images uniquely inflected by the unique sound of the others and the ability to control the sound tracks one at a time. It is the ability to re-narrativize the image with sound that makes the project unlike others out there.

This intimate relationship of sound to image is explored in a number of works on the site:

Take for example, Abstract Cinema (pic above), roll the mouse over the windows of video, triggering the sound to play over the others and look at the relationship of this early works by Eggeling and Richter and then what happens to them with the sounds of Peter Kubelka.

Or look at, The Image is Real and see how Lynch's film Mulholland Drive narrates Blow Up with his notion that the absence in recording, is that same real but absent ball, pantomimed. Blow Up is an investigation of recording and its relationship to seeing and the unseen. These two clips bookend Godard's infinite pan visualized as a panoptic infinite loop where vision is so banal what it sees becomes invisible - and here no less it is looped. This very witty and sophisticated 3THINGS by Daniel Coffeen shows us that 3THINGS become many things with infinite variation and infinite soundings.

Listen and see.

The Image is Real

An interview

Marc Lafia, Daniel Coffeen and Michael Chichi the trio that put together the original ground-breaking artandculture, which they are soon to re-release as a network of a new order. In addition, they have just released 3 THINGS. Lafia, who since his founding of A+C in 01999, has done a number of computational video projects -- including his Permutations -- thought it was time to bring to the web a new way to present and experience video (and more importantly its relationship to sound) online in a new way.

"3 THINGS is a new way to see the moving image. Much like the cloud we developed for artandculture, in 3 THINGS, 3 videos play simultaneously each in the context and contrast of others. We've set this up so that any one can put together 3 videos, along any theme, trope or idea they have and then roll over the sound of one video to re=score the others. A Pina Baucsh dance performance can get re-scored by an early Wong Kar Way film and then both of them by the real audio of rain pattering in an architecture walk through the surrounding walls of a Mario Botto Cathedral," says Lafia.

"The idea of 3 has always had a special sense in numbers, design, cosmology, ordering and that is what informed the design," says Chichi. "3 Changes everything. We wanted to give people the opportunity to curate in widescreen so to speak. Not in one clip - but....

"The new web is about curation. Curation as a consumptive pleasure. It is about the mix, the fold, the mutable," says Doctor Coffeen.

The Image is Real

EDITOR'S NOTE: I, too, have created a few 3THINGS in an attempt to play with the model. In fact, I've created three. None are quite as adventurous as either Marc's or Daniel's efforts but they are all three mostly fun, and distinctly personal expressions of myself, of my tastes.

(1) Godard Highlights Being Young, and Alive sandwiches the widescreen technicolor beauty of Pierrot le fou between the rich, super-cool black & white of Masculin-Feminin and Bande A Parte.

(2) 3 Magic Things Sifting Light pits Weerasethakul, Antonioni and Malick against one another. The first two have no dialogue so to hear the Malick scene's dialogue over the other pair's wordless montages may give a spark to their apparent empty spaces.

(3) 3 Things Defining My America uses Bill The Butcher, some skewered Werner Herzog barnyard music madness and a Deadwood scene to get at, just maybe, what I dig about this country that spawned me. And, you know, freedom.

We hope you like this idea. We hope you make your own. We hope you pose us questions or simply make some claims about these possibilities. We hope you have some fun. Please do. (And don't forget to let us know about it!) [RWK]

Monday, August 20, 2007

No Claire Denis?

by Ryland Walker Knight

When Ed Copeland asked us to nominate 25 non-English films for a list to be voted upon by others I kind of dashed off my list. I have expressed some of my issues with lists here before. They rarely feel complete. Which is an impossible goal anyways, right? So my thought process was: I'll type out a bunch and then whittle it down to 25 or so. I initially only had about 30. I was surprised. Losing five wasn't too tough, actually, it was coming up with 30 I felt I could stand behind without any qualms that I found most difficult. So here's my list, silly as it may be, in the order they appeared in the email sent to Ed. After the first two the order is rather arbitrary but you can probably follow my train of thought.

Rules of the Game
Out 1
Celine & Julie Go Boating
Fanny & Alexander
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Diary of a Country Priest
Au Hasard Balthazar
Pierrot le fou
La Dolce Vita
8 1/2
Talk to Her
Double Life of Veronique
Seven Samurai
Beau Travail
Law of Desire
Chung Kuo Cina
J'ai Pas Sommeil

I guess a fair ammount of my choices did not make the final list. The most shocking, to me, at least, was the absence of a single Claire Denis film (where you at Travis?!), and Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest. (And, yes, this list means I have now seen both Playtime and Celine and Julie. I cannot begin to express myself yet. I may have to shell out for both, though, when that fall disbursement comes through the pipeline.) But, you know, whatever, the list is good, fun. Lists are good and fun, even when they are frustrating endeavors for nerds like me who can obsess over idiotically banal, and minor, details. That is, nerds who niggle. (What a fun phrase! Alliteration!) If I were to spend more than five minutes on a list it would probably strain to look a lot "cooler" with less director repetitions and a broader scope of time, perhaps stretching back to include something like Le Million or throwing in one of those Mizoguchi films I fretted about a couple months, or so, ago. Or, if only we could stretch the timeline to include some Carlos Reygadas and Apichatpong Weerasethakul up in this. See: it's all silly. So, there's my list, for what it's worth. I know I'll think harder, and probably longer, about my next ballot for this project.

BTW: Jim Emerson is hosting the individual lists in the comments of this post on Scanners. He's a kind fellow. Enjoy. This is a helluva learning tool for a young film nut looking to broaden his or her horizons beyond the googleplex and Coca Cola. There's shit like art houses and red wine out there, too, and they're both delicious. But then again so is Coca Cola. Also, as Darren Hughes points out in the comments at Ed's site, this list shows how much the Criterion Collection has effected the shaping of the modern canon (notice the links above?). But let's not bring that word up again. That was really silly, right Zach?

Claude Rains for the day

she knows, homie
she will ruin you, homie

[From Notorious, naturally, which I watched, and adored anew, on the plane home from Oklahoma.] --RWK

Sibling Pride for the day

My sister is a star

[My sister, Chloe, is a star. And yeah: I'm back in The Bay.] --RWK

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Late night realization. A spark in you, just before bed.

HERE IT IS: If I lost my eyes I would want to die; and I would be afraid to cry. I love my sight. And my life. And Terrence Malick's movies. Also, I mean it when I say, "I believe in America, and rivers."

HERE I SEE SOME MORE, snatched from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations:

103. The ideal, as we think of it, is unshakable. You can never get outside it; you must always turn back. There is no outside; outside you cannot breathe. --Where does this idea come from? It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off.

126. Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything.--Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain. For what is hidden, for example, is of no interest to us.
One might also give the name "philosophy" to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions.

131. For we can avoid ineptness or emptiness in our assertions only by presenting the model as what it is, as an object of comparison--as, so to speak, a measuring-rod; not as a preconceived idea to which reality must correspond. (The dogmatism into which we fall so easily in doing philosophy.)

HERE WE BASK IN DELIGHT: This does zero justice to the beauty at hand, what with pixelation and the downsizing of widescreen genius. Luckily, spirits shine bright no matter the darkness, or how small the cracks through which light leaks.

[You're a magician to me. --RWK]

Who matters to me.

by Ryland Walker Knight


Today Jim Emerson asked, "Who matters?" I tried to answer in the comments but failed miserably. I simply glossed over some possibilities. I didn't give it much thought. I was simply diverting myself from homework; I've got a take-home final due on Friday. Then I went back to doing some homework. As I reread some Derrida my mind wandered (right?) and I realized that one director I singled out, among the others I listed, really has mattered to me, and I think will continue to matter, as time passes, because his films are so damned smart. And funny. Who? Wes Anderson, that's who. Now, don't get me wrong: I still think David Lynch is rather amazing and will live on in discussion for some time; and I still think Michael Mann understands what it means to be a man, and what it means to make a movie; but Wes Anderson's got a little more mischief up his sleeve and a certain kind of jouissance that infects his sense of humor, his camera, his storytelling, his film style, his world, his being in the world. Which is why I wrote about The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for my seminar paper last semester. I'm very proud to report that I earned a very positive grade in the course on the strength of this essay. However, for some reason I cannot pinpoint, I did not feel comfortable offering it to the blogosphere back in May. Odder still, for some other reason I do not know, or understand quite fully, I now feel comfortable offering it to the blogosphere here in August. You can download it from zshare by clicking here, if you like. But I will warn you ahead of time: it's over 7000 words, and if you don't really like The Life Aquatic, or Stanley Cavell, or "academic" writings, it's probably not for you. All that said, and aside, I still think you might like my work even if you don't really like The Life Aquatic, or Stanley Cavell, or "academic" writings.


[Of note: I've been in such a school bubble that I didn't learn about the Battle of the Andersons at The Castro until a couple days ago when I visited Brian Darr's indispensable blog, Hell on Frisco Bay. Tonight's double bill? _The Life Aquatic_ with _Punch Drunk Love_. Damn you, school! Oh well, I could program it here, at home, whenever I want. Right? (Oh yeah, Brian, I like _Magnolia_ more than _Royal Tenenbaums_ at this point.)]

[Also cool: if you like Cassavetes and/or Altman and you're curious about Stanley Cavell, read this. It's a decent primer for all involved, I think. And it made me want to give _Nashville_ a second look, some six-to-eight years after my initial encounter.]

Liquid for the Day

"Snow's main use is for entertainment."
"Water, water, what hast thou donest?"
What else can I really say? OH: I love water.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The joy we're left with here and now.


Loan your friend a wrench, see a movie on a big fucking screen, kiss your lover for an hour, eat a tunafish sandwich, or some hummus and pita, do a bedroom dance, maybe cry a bit, listen to this song, read your favorite poem a few times, slouch a little towards Bethlehem, give The White Album a spin, tread that thin red line of ______________, wrap me in your marrow, stuff me in your bones, take off the iPod, run to the park and toss a baby in the air, smile, drink a beer, cut your hair, cuss like a goddamned cocksucking sailor, chips and salsa, remember Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, read my silly tribute at The Daily Cal, delight in Dan Callahan's at The House Next Door, swim in a river, throw stones and baseballs and break sticks across your knee, gather yourself up and meet the sunshine. But once the sun has set, go inside and watch a great film on as big a screen as possible.