Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Two Thousand Weight? #5: Pure Joy

by Mikey

Track One: "Suffering Jukebox" - Silver Jews

Live it's a tie: 650 torchbearers Millbrae Bros bringing Seattle to its knees with the help of a whiskey-soaked devil VS. Earth melting the brains of a hundred-plus yuppies at the Bad Seeds concert.

Track Two: "Strange Overtones" - David Byrne and Brian Eno

After requesting "Baby on Board", Lindy being picked to harmonize and become an honorary member of the Dapper Dans.

Track Three: "Old Fools" - the Magnetic Fields

Seeing WALL*E at Pixar (yeah, that's me). It ain't no Ratatouille but that first half hour is the greatest of the year. Strike that, any year. Fuck the haters (see below). WALL*E is optimistic about the future in spite of the evils of mankind taunting it in the face. After seeing this work of art constructed on robots but conceived and shaped entirely by humans, this jaded little misanthropic atheist saw a glimmer of hope too.

Track Four: "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" - Randy Newman

Speaking of hope, remember this?

Track Five: "Nude With Boots" - Melvins

The greatest band in the history of music soldiers on.

Track Six: "The Rip" - Portishead

Overhearing Nellie McKay say she's never heard of Cat Power from the booth next to me at California Vegan in L.A.

Track Seven: "Borrowed Your Gun" - Spiritualized

Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is a movie about life and death and love and lust and art and commerce and children and parents and one's purpose or lack thereof on this planet and it made me laugh and cry and gasp and sigh and I couldn't get it out of my head for days. I woke up after dreaming about it with new revelations having come to light and I still don't know if I know what I know because it was all so fast and fleeting and full of wit and vigor and pith and vinegar. It's the most beautiful film about ugliness I have ever seen.

Track Eight: "I'm A Tide" - Broken Strings

Buried treasures: Pennies from Heaven, Zola, A Tree With Roots, The Blue Angel, Bela Bartok, The War of the World by Niall Fergusson, Rio Bravo.

Track Nine: "More News From Nowhere" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


Monday, December 29, 2008

The Cure of Misanthropy: On Wall-E, Kubrick, and Mike White’s The Year of the Dog

by Daniel Coffeen

rully barkin

I just re-watched Wall-E with my five year old (it is the first, and only, film he’s seen in the theater). Let me tell you why I think it’s a dangerous film and why I wish Stanley Kubrick, or even Mike White, had directed it.

Wall-E opens on a bleak landscape, an apocalypse of waste. The only life on this planet seems to be a robot, the eponymous Wall-E, whose sole job is to gather and compact the trash. The films seems to proffer a certain damning critique of humanity: we’ve destroyed the earth with our mindless, heedless consumption. But Wall-E is an unabashed celebration of humanity. Wall-E roams the waste gathering stuff he loves—lighters, light bulbs, various tchotchkes. And he watches the same maudlin scene from the same maudlin film over and over. All he wants, it seems, is a wife. In other words, the spirit of humanity that Wall-E embodies and resurrects is the humanity of the late 20th century white, middle-class bourgeoisie.

He’s a fucking robot! And the only mode of love he can muster is the familiar, monogamous, bathetic bullshit? He’s a machine! He’s capable of offering an education, a training, that can get humans past their humanity. And yet to the bozos at Pixar, all he can do is reproduce the very humanity that created this apocalypse in the first place.

Wall-E proffers the all-too-human Christian critique of humanity—we have to fight our bad ways. The play of sympathy in this movie is disgusting and so familiar I had to punch myself in the face, Esther Kahn style, while watching it.

A Clockwork Orange, too, gives us a certain apocalyptic vision. But, of course, that film shifts our sympathies in such a dramatic way that we find ourselves rooting for the ultra-violent Alex—as the last bastion of true humanity! Now that is a damning critique of humanity. That is misanthropy. Imagine Kubrick making Wall-E. The egregious thing about the Pixar film is that it thinks it’s tipping its hat to 2001, to the image of HAL. But HAL is cool, calm, and brutal as only a machine can be. HAL is an invitation to think past the bathos of humanity.

But why misanthropy? Because if we are to overcome our destructive ways, if we’re to cure the virus we’ve evolved into, then we have to overcome our humanist training, our humanist tradition. We have to continue to evolve. We have to shed our humanist skin and become other to ourselves. Or avoid misanthropy all together—but then don’t give me the guise of critique when all you do is repeat the illness, embed it deeper into our blood stream. The reason I loathe Wall-E is that it pretends to give us a cure while spoon feeding us the same old sickness.

rully sad

Thank goodness for Mike White’s Year of the Dog, a truly misanthropic film. Molly Shannon plays Peggy, a woman who comes to realize her disgust for humanity and her preference for animals. What makes this movie so powerful, so damning, is that Mike White never gives us a caricature of humanity. Peggy’s boss is pretty cool—but he is her boss and that is enough. Her friends are all fine human beings—but they are human beings and are hence saddled with their all-too-human concerns. These concerns are not petty; they’re just, well, human. Her brother and his family are not bad—but they are a human family and that, alone, is ugly.

Filming Peggy’s interaction with these people, White just puts the camera square on them so we share her viewpoint. These people are not bad: they’re not assholes, they’re not cruel or stupid. The only problem with them is they’re people!

And yet this is not a depressing, negative film. On the contrary, it is hopeful, joyous. There is a way out of humanity. We don’t have to choose the same old shit. We can shed the sickness of our humanity. Mike White, in his understated sleeper of a film, offers us a curing dose of misanthropy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Two Thousand Weight? #4: So long!

Gonna go get my life on! It starts like this!

kick drum
pose tuff
wave bye

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Two Thousand Weight? #3: Hip Hop Suggestion Sector.

by Leile One

I’m not going to lie to you. 2008 was as wack as any other years in recent memory as far as the normal Clear Channel rap records are concerned. Sure, sure, we had some mainstream gems like Lil Weezy’s rhyme wizardry extravaganza Tha Carter III, and some funny rad viral video shit like Hot Stylz “Lookin’ Boy” type of shit, which I obsessed over for a good couple of months (major props to all y’all who did some great homemade versions). But despite these beacons of glory in a mainstream sea of robot voices and puke-worthy style bitings, most of the good shit this year was heard far, far away from the FM dial. No big surprise. But I thought I’d take a minute to mention a few of my favorite records from this year that were probably too dope to even graze the MTV2 3am jackoff hour. In no particular order:

Siah and Yeshua DapoED: The Visualz Deluxe Edition CD
There was a time when I was the coolest kid on the block for owning the original issue of the Fondle ‘Em Records vinyl EP of this criminally over-slept-on classic from the 1996 era of supreme college radio late night classics. Now it’s everyone’s to grab, thanks to a definitive reissue from Traffic Entertainment that dropped in April of this year. The production is on some absolute classic jazz-digger gold nugget styles (think: everything that was coming out in the mid-90’s times ten), and the emcee duo of Siah and Yesh sound fresh as ever on some real live chemistry that will bring you right back to the times of listening to rhymes in an alley while ignoring your math homework. The eleven-minute opus “A Day Like No Other” alone is worth the price of admission to the magical circus, and if you enjoy twenty pages of liner notes along with flyer images explaining exactly what the fuck was going on for these dudes back then, they’ve included that, too.

Why?: Alopecia
This one’s already gotten a lot of love from Pitchfork and such, and many may argue that this isn’t even hip hop. But you’re wrong. Nothing is more hip hop than rhyming about how you “got sick and blew chunks” in the parking lot behind Whole Foods. As this record proves once and for all, hip hop can also sometimes be about doing wet coke in a Starbucks bathroom, with the door locked, hella ashamed of yourself. To put it simply, this is the most hardcore shit that came out this year. Alopecia makes all the other records sound like Disneyland, even when they’re on some murder shit. Why’s new shit is on some murder yourself shit, which can at times be the tastiest murder of all, if you‘re in the right mood.

C.R.A.C.: The Piece Talks
These guys are kinda hard to pin down. That’s why this record is so good. Sometimes these dudes are on some pop sensational magic loveliness vibe, like on “Buy Me Lunch”, Exhibit A. Later they may hit you with some real rugged stuff, like, “Don’t make me have to POP THEM BOYS!!” They are not afraid to threaten you. I think what I like about this record is that it’s so diverse. More specifically, it’s nonchalant. It’s like one of those classic albums where some dudes just hit the studio and were like, “Fuck it, let’s just have fun with this, even if it sounds really crazy and doesn‘t sell.” Like Digital Underground’s Body Hat Syndrome, or The Pharcyde’s first record. This is one of those bravery type of albums that remind you that 2008 was actually pretty cool. And, in retrospect, it was.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

— A found fact. From Ryland and his family's tree to you and yours, and your family trees, here's some light:

bright lights

Monday, December 22, 2008

Two thousand weight? #2: Something approaching superlatives.

by Ryland Walker Knight


If you're curious, and I'm gonna guess you're curious, I offer something like a top ten list over at The Auteurs Notebook. I also offer something about some other "older" movies I saw and gasped about. I called it, "Wrangle yourself and laugh." I called it that because, well, because that's what I feel like I learned (a little) how to do again. It's a great thing. But it's tired in here, after a nap, and my family is funny, so I shouldn't be blogging. Let's light those candles, sister.

a bridge to somewhere

A Quick Note: on the late late bojangles. (EFF THE ARE EYE EH EH!)

From RWK to you, beloveds.

to love somebody; you don't know

I'm playing with a sidebar redesign. This involves blogroll/s. This involves shrinking the blogroll/s. I think smaller versions are more "helpful" and a "cooler" barometer of taste. Just know, the sidelined, as if you even care, that I am currently subscribed to well over 150 blogs in my Reader and when the "new items" number balloons past 600, like it did today, I freak the fuck out and that's bad news for this boy. So, like I said, I'm gonna try to thin some things. Like, for starters, my jeans. What?! Here's a gift: MORE NINA SIMONE! Here she's singing a George Hairyson song! (Also, thanks, Girish, as ever, for the nod; glad we're "wonderful" over here. Like, a lot.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

A conjunction of quotations #3

— edited by Ryland Walker Knight

gait, not gate
Petulia, from Tom

Nor is there singing school, but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence.
W. B. Yeats

We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot!
Betsy Trotwood

Consent is, on earth, always a risk, as democracy is, and hence is always accompanied by a knowledge of being compromised. So understood, consent is the show of a readiness for change, of allegiance to a state of society responsive to a call for change. This is how I present the enduring comedies of remarriage in their conversation with society, and how I see Astaire's farewell gesture, as he merges into the shifting crowd on the pavement outside the Arcade. The question is therefore how compromised consent is shown, is made—in Locke's use of the terms—express as opposed to tacit. The idea is not to hedge consent, as if your commitment were incomplete, but to give it in the knowledge that its object is still in essential part idea, its existence incomplete. This creates a romance of America, but it tends to make those who are not ambassadors into boosters, the former uneasy about the future, and somewhat guilty because of it, the latter refusing uneasiness, and proud of it.
Stanley Cavell

In the most recent upheaval [May 1968], the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need him to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one that profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network. [Intellectuals are themselves agents of this system of power-the idea of their responsibility for “consciousness” and discourse forms part of the system. The intellectual’s role is no longer to place himself “somewhat ahead and to the side” in order to express the stifled truth of the collectivity; rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that transform him into its object and instrument in the sphere of “knowledge,” “truth,” “consciousness,” and “discourse."

In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalising. This is a struggle against power, a struggle aimed at revealing and undermining power where it is most invisible and insidious. It is not to “awaken consciousness” that we struggle (the masses have been aware for some time that consciousness is a form of knowledge; and consciousness as the basis of subjectivity is a prerogative of the bourgeoisie), but to sap power, to take power; it is an activity conducted alongside those who struggle for power, and not their illumination from a safe distance. A “theory ” is the regional system of this struggle.

Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless or the moment is inappropriate. We don’t revise a theory, but construct new ones; we have no choice but to make others. It is strange that it was Proust, an author thought to be a pure intellectual, who said it so clearly: treat my book as a pair of glasses directed to the outside; if they don’t suit you, find another pair; I leave it to you to find your own instrument, which is necessarily an investment for combat.

In "conversation"

I don't believe you. You're a liar.
Bob Dylan

Yeah, you don’t have the second plot in order to relieve the pressures of the first plot. Now, in theater that works. In Shakespeare it certainly works. But there’s something about film I don’t think it works, because film is a solid, plastic form – a solid piece of time form – and there’s something about breaking that time form. In Ordet the point of view is actual. We’re actually some place rather than the point of view being images from a more literary form of cinema. [...]

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t take life for granted. I don’t even take the premise for granted. I love not even taking the premise for a moment for granted. Like, let’s say, even knowing what this is, us talking to each other. This is a common experience for filmmakers. There’s an interviewer, and, say, we’re doing an interview for some puff piece after a screening. But that’s never been my sense of reality, of getting absorbed in the societal belief of things. I’ve always felt a little out of it, a little bit like a ghost. So I’m like a ghost and society is a phantom. They’re phantoms but somebody made them. I’m a ghost and I’m not even here. At a certain point I decided, “Well, I’m going to make films from my point of view. What would they think if I started to express my point of view? Would it mean anything to anybody?” So I decided to make films about my point of view. How I feel and see cinema. And then it turns out I end up being invited to Toronto.
Nathaniel Dorsky

Though Silent Light owes a strong, self-conscious debt to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s eccentric 1955 masterpiece, Ordet, another story about faith and love, the new film also recalls some of the more pastoral passages in Terrence Malick’s New World, yet another tour de force about love and faith (in other people, in the cinematic image). In one of the loveliest sequences in Silent Light, Johan’s family idles in and around a creek that serves as its communal bathing pool. As some of the children drift languorously in the water, their bodies modestly covered and blond heads floating like lilies, the parents tenderly wash the younger ones, scrubbing one child’s head with soap, massaging another’s feet with oil and exchanging small endearments and instructions.

It’s a gorgeous, innocent yet sensuous scene, a glimpse of the prelapsarian with a hint of the viper that Mr. Reygadas closes with a shot of a pink blossom, an image that begins as a blur of color and gently comes into focus. He holds on the image a few beats — much as he often does — not only because, I imagine, he wants us to appreciate its metaphoric resonance but also because he wants us to see its glory. There are a handful of ways to understand the meaning of Silent Light, words that I read as an allusion to love, but this is also very much a film about that ordinary light that sometimes still passes through a camera and creates something divine.
Manohla Dargis

A picture lives by companionship. Expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token; it is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world.

What voice is this that speaks within me? That guides me towards the best?
Captain John Smith

Beneath her the tiles rippled and breathed. The pulpy surfaces of the walls ripened uncontrollably under her observation, inhaling endlessly like lungs preparing to blast her face with a calling or a message. Stripes and pyramids fell across the air in nearly comprehensible organization, writing that changed just before she understood it, and the room itself became a vast insinuation, swollen with filthy significance. She wanted to catch her breath and wail, but realized that her own lungs were already full. When she exhaled, the room seemed relieved of its tension momentarily: she was crushed to remember that this very same action of ballooning and diminishing had been linked to all her other breaths. This terrible, terrible thing that was happening was her breathing.
     The beat of things, their steady direction, had dissolved into nothing--this room wasn't happening then, it isn't happening now; maybe it's a dream of what's going to happen or what will happen never. The sound of her own voice injures her like a shock of electricity through her ears, but screaming herself to hoarse exhaustion is the only reprieve from breathing.
     She looked up out of her voice and saw the angel.
     He will have ears like a cartoon of organic growth. He is yellow with light but covered with mobile shadows, animated tattoos. His face kept changing. His voice will come from far off, like a train's. His body is steady and beautiful and hairless, the wings white, incinerating, and pure, but the head changes rapidly--the head of an eagle, a goat, an insect, a mouse, a sheep with spiraling horns that turn and lengthen almost imperceptively--and the entire message had no words. The entire message will be only the beat and direction of time. Yes is Now.
     The angel who says, "It's time."
     "Is it time?" she asked. "Does it hurt?" He will have the most beautiful face she has ever seen.
     "Oh, babe." The angel starts to cry. "You can't imagine," he said.
Denis Johnson

Just like the tiptoe moth
That dance before the flame
They burn their hearts so much
That death is just a name
And if love calls again
So foolishly they run, they run, they run
They run, they run, they run, they run
They run without a sound
The desperate ones
Nina Simone [the drip-drop (pure) dope]

Well... There is a vast network, right? An ocean of possibilities. I like dogs. I used to raise rabbits. I've always loved animals. Their nature. How they think. I have seen dogs reason their way out of problems. Watched them think through the trickiest situations. Do you have a couple of bucks I could borrow? I've got this damn landlord.
Freddie Howard

Sometimes just making yourself at home is revolutionary.
Paul Beatty

On the one side, freedom confronts squarely the ancient claims of rationality, with its inescapable exlusionary logic—for example, the idea that "membership in a particular type of moral community, one from which fundamental dissent has to be excluded, is a condition for genuinely rational inquiry" (Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry, p. 60). This idea cannot be wrong, which oddly may be why the ethical and reflective interests of hermeneutics, committed as they are to things like openness to the non-identical, are at the receiving end of this logic. Hermeneutics, like freedom itself, may not be compatible with ontological security. On the other side, freedom confronts ironic modernity, or the idea that once we understand that history is the history of obsolescence, that we are only so many webs of belief and that the point is, Penelope-like, to unweave and reweave these so as not to get caught by them, there is really nothing left to call freedom, unless it is just being mistress in one's own house, full of undesirable hangers-on as it is likely to be. This cannot be wrong, either, but it makes an interest in the question of freedom seem, well, quaint, which must be ironic liberalism's ironic point. If this book shows anything at all, it is that a point of this sort is bound to be lost on hermeneutics.
Gerald L. Bruns

This grandson of fishes holds inside him
A hundred thousand small black stones.
This nephew of snails, six feet long, lies naked on a bed
With a smiling woman, his head throws off light
Under marble, he is moving toward his own life
Like fur, walking. And when the frost comes, he is
Fur, mammoth fur, growing longer
And silkier, passing the woman's dormitory,
Kissing a stomach, leaning against a pillar,
he moves toward the animal, the animal with furry head!

What a joy to smell the flesh of a new child!
Like new grass! And this long man with the student girl,
Coffee cups, her pale waist, the spirit moving around them,
Moves, dragging a great tail into the darkness.
In the dark we blaze up, drawing pictures
Of spiny fish, we throw off the white stones!
Serpents rise from the ocean floor with spiral motions,
A man goes inside a jewel, and sleeps. Do
Not hold my hands down! Let me raise them!
A fire is passing up through the soles of my feet!
Robert Bly

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #9: Dreamlands of the Night

by Ryland Walker Knight and Brian Darr

in grass
in moon

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RWK here tryna glut our hello lil kitty (kiddy?) corner of the internet with two podcasts in two days. This late afternoon Brian Darr and I took in some dreamlands of the night at the PFA Library here in Berkeley. (You can browse their Film Collection online.) As I say in the podcast, I'm not particularly well versed in the avant-garde. Before today I had only seen stills from and read essays about and seen the littlest of little clips of Brakhage's bigger than big films. Before today I had seen zero films by Bruce Conner, much less read anything by him. And before, inside today, I was seriously down in the dumps of confusion after reading Sheila O'Malley's rather beautiful pean to Mickey Rourke and all his hurt. So these films this afternoon sure did lift. They did some real lifting. I think this comes through in our talk, too. It started with a Kenneth Anger film, called Eaux d'Artifice, which, surprisingly, you can watch by clicking right here if you want to watch it all monochrome blues, without the occasional pink highlight. Then we moved into Anticipation of the Night by Brakhage (the pix above are stolen from Fred Camper and repurposed/reordered and cropped/edited by me). Then, after Mothlight (yes!), we watched Bruce Baillie's All My Life, which you can watch by clicking right here, if you want to watch it on youtube, which seems like sacrilege after seeing it on what has to be one of the most beautiful 16mm prints around in this cinephile-world. Then my fatigue got the better of me and I missed out on some James Benning and Bette Gordon before we switched to DVD to watch two Conner shorts, which knocked my socks off my feet and (kind of) into my mouth. It was a hell of an inauguration. And now, here it comes, the compulsion to see more. Of course, given my love of words, there's a compulsion to read more, in turn, and I think a great first place to start has to be the Avant-Garde Blog-A-Thon that Girish started/hosted with this post. There's plenty there to keep a curious reader/seer busy for years to come. Guess that's my plan!


[Our talk is bookended by some Black Dice and Fennesz. You should buy Beaches and Canyons and Endless Summer if you do not own them; they're really great.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #8: Find the best thing possible.

by Ryland Walker Knight and Daniel Coffeen

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RWK here. When people ask me why I started this podcast, I routinely answer that producing these episodes is, in the most basic sense, a creative and fun way to hang out with smart people I like to talk to and to laugh with and to learn from—to just plain enjoy—aside from the fact that it's kinda easier (lazier? nah...) to just get together and rap on mess than it is to form coherent sentences that do not ramble and tumble and spill everywhere. As I wrangle my life into boxes and suitcases, I found time today to talk with my Good Personal Friend (and former professor) Daniel Coffeen. We had a few ideas and a few directions to try to pursue, but, as this fell together rather quickly (that is, last minute), we just winged it and let our talk meander all over our mind-maps through all kinds of topics: speed, affect, The Bourne Ultimatum, figures, Faces, cubist film, Esther Kahn, hurt, laughing, fear, Bad Lieutenant, the architecture of seeing, separation, Lola Montes, looking for a projection, creativity, pedagogy (and its failure) and glasses and a will to passion, among other jokes. The talk may get off topic (and veer too far into me), but I think this works (despite my constant stammering through a billion associations at once) for the simple fact that it was fun and we rully do enjoy each other's thoughtful (and hilarious) company. That, and I think we share some real good thinks. We hope you feel the same! Please, tell us things. For instance: don't you kinda agree with Nathan Lee? Please read more from the ever-estimable Craig Keller.

As for the songs this week: I'm too tired (defo too lazy) to load them up tonight. If you really want them, let me know. Otherwise, just enjoy the show! Cast that smile along with those ears over this way. Because, of course, that word "possible" is both an outcome and a value-judgment. Just like "catastrophe"...

vom yr mom!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two thousand weight? #1: Shipping costs are up.

by Ryland Walker Knight


[1. this thing / 2. stolen from Pinkerton]

It's official, or at least public now: I'm moving to New York City in two weeks. Barf it out. CFCF makes things easier: have a hear-see, you'll thank me. See you there.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Christmas Tale. A house is an outfit. [part one]

by Ryland Walker Knight

touch that sky

Weird: the title of my recent essay about a (possible) Desplechin double bill almost describes this new film. Except, of course, that this house, if it is baggy, is the kind of baggy you see a big man wearing; the kind that you can tell is full of body, full of flesh and torsion and not-quite hidden (not even silent) liquids. The house is the thing in A Christmas Tale, which, in a way, operates as a sequel to La Vie Des Morts, as it was shot in the same house in the same Northern cold in the same giveaway sumptuousness. Were my memory more reliable I might could say something else about the divergences but (suffice to say?) for now, at the least, I can offer that the maximal new film fulfills the precipitate preview-promise of the debut: there will be drama. And—hey, get this!—blood! The focus on blood here is, let's be real, a bald-faced joke. But it's the kind of joke that hides behind the joke that masks another joke; jokes everywhere, always, going in every direction, just like this narrative (if we want to call it that), just like this family sprawls, just like this house opens its hiding places and unmasks the world.

The house is the cinema, too, we gather. It holds histories and stages opportunities for new life, and new love, all kinds of desires and passions. Desplechin's cinema revels in these possibilities. Hoberman writes: "Expansive but cozy, convoluted yet circular, at once avant and retro, and contradictory down to its last scene, the movie ends with a new myth—if not a new cosmology—articulated by the writer Elizabeth." It's easy to point to the quotes in a Desplechin film (they abound) but it's often harder to secure their significance, much less their relevance, in tidy equations; his constellation of associations splays. The most pronounced quotations in A Christmas Tale (amidst the swirl of Funny Face and The Ten Commandments, Cecil Taylor and beat juggling, Emerson, Vertigo and Bergman; hell, Woody Allen and Wes Anderson) are, as is fitting, from two masters of the reversal: the opening of Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morals and multiple scenes and motifs and themes from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and an "of course!" nod to A Winter's Tale. This cosmology Hoberman hints at—I cannot but spoil his delicious hints—is Elizabeth's appropriation of Puck's final address in her own final address (via voiceover crossing into diegetic speech, "la parole" as she would say) that reminds us, yes, tomorrow is another day in the world of our choosing. Of course, although some try and some do succeed (adoption), on a basic level it remains unavoidable that we do not choose our family. We build the house about the family and we foster it, nurture it, as best we may in those walls; but we cannot renege our stock in the world. Or, that aim goes nowhere, gets nowhere. And there's nowhere but here.

touch this fire

Committed to contradiction as a form of life as much as a form of cinema (isn't the cinema a form of life?), Desplechin's films are often rightly described as "too much" but I'd like to claim that not as a derision; I'd rather say that most other films are "too little." Of course, don't get me wrong, I dig purity, too: Bresson is, is, like, totally—are you kidding me? And yet, I've always been attracted to the baroque, the proliferating and the layering of the image-and-sound. And, of course—are you kidding me?—Bresson is a king of layering sensations; but austerity is after a different endgame. Maybe that's just it: there's no endgame with Desplechin. Films end but, like all great storytellers, it's easy—hell, it's desirable, luxurious, seductive—to imagine the characters living forward, finding the world and building it again every day. I saw A Christmas Tale twice in two days. The first experience was dictated by my fatigue: lots of silent smiling tears. The second was directed by my exuberant enjoyment: a serious front-row grin. We contain multitudes, right?

Gushing on the phone, I told my friend, "It's a reminder that you can make art about yourself and not be an asshole." What I forgot to add is that, well, even if you are an asshole (it seems pretty unavoidable given enough time), you can aim for grace with the right kind of joke. But then we remember that, no matter how sumptuous the right kind of laugh can feel across our bodies, some jokes hurt. What separates A Christmas Tale from its decidedly more affable cousins, Kings and Queen and My Sex Life... (if not exactly reaching Esther Kahn), is the frightfully simple-looking plait of melodrama and comedy Desplechin mounts here. It's a film of reversals but it's not about simultaneity. It's this and that but those things are neither here nor there nor everywhere but anywhere what so ever as long as its bonds are not severed; the ties do bind; celluloid remains a strip; for all the cubist fades, this is not a film as network; I'm afraid to see Desplechin's digital brain if only because I adore this emulsion and this bleeding so; strands bounce against and into one another but the limits reign in the will to sovereignty. Indeed: as soon as Matthieu Amalric's typically dervish Henri climbs out a window and down the side of the house, he re-enters through the back door—only to leave through the front—we might say, through the mouth—to attend midnight mass with his mother, Junon (the rather-perfect, still-vibrant Catherine Deneuve), whom he hours before called "Le Con Capitain."

touch her body
touch his body

—And I think, "masculine?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Free Links for today. (Placeholder?)

by Ryland Walker Knight

light fail

Not quite sure how many VINYL IS HEAVY readers know about or even think to look at (much less subscribe to) that other, goofy blog I keep called freeNIKES!. It began as a much more collaborative project between myself and Cuy Kimovich Kasparov, but, as time wore on, and KK moved across a pond over there, it became clear that this space is more like a glorified tumblr for as many wild and tangential enthusiasms as I can throw up in my free time. (This should not be taken as disparagement of KK's blogging prowess. Dig his other work at the ever-hilarious and -smart Weekend Terrorism.) Well, last night my internet "problems" at home were solved. And, amidst some other bullcrap, this morning and early afternoon I spent a lot of time corralling cool shit over there. In fact, I threw up 11 things. Some are more interesting than others. Some are borderline useless. But, as with everything over there, they all light me up in some way or another. One makes me sigh, most make me laugh, one makes me think, "Good grief," while others are simply "cool." So here's a list that's definitely redundant, in (watch out!) reverse-posting order, to take you through my trajectory. Maybe one of these will make your day!

Half-hour later update: A friend reminds me that my Google Reader Shared items feed acts as another blog of sorts and that, yes, I am rather addicted to that little "share" button. You can find plenty of daily enthusiasms by clicking this link to see the items as a website or by clicking this link to subscribe to the feed itself.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #7: For your milk!

by Ryland Walker Knight and Jennifer Stewart and Mark Haslam

plus one, son!

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RWK here. Yes, due to all kinds of life and extra-blogular writing, posting has been light over here on VINYL IS HEAVY. The main culprit, though, is a lack of reliable internet and, like, zero interest in cafés post-work. So stay tuned. There should be a flurry of hot new shit soon; mostly (still!) about Arnaud Desplechin. (In case you didn't know already: I'm freaking out about A Christmas Tale. That's the realness, peoples.)

But today we saw Milk. We saw Milk at the Castro Theatre in the Castro at Castro and Market in San Francisco. All kinds of heightened levels of signification and significance and emotions. Also, it was overcast. It's finally getting cold around this town. And it feels great. Add to all that: it was a packed house and we sat in the third row. Now if only Milk were a little better. I really want to like this prim thing (and I do, for the most part) but it's kinda-sorta inconsistent—and, yes, it would be nothing if it weren't for Sean Penn's sure-to-win lead performance. Everybody's said it, as if it matters, so why not add to this choir of obvious hype: they should bow-tie the Oscar and engrave that shit yesterday. He's great—he really is!—and his joyful posture, even in a frown, is truly something to behold. I want people to see this movie, especially in our current season, precisely because it was designed for everyone. Gus Van Sant set out to make the movie that the most people would find purchase with—and he did just that—without a lot of his recent formal/aesthetic flourishes; although, to be fair, it's not like we're talking Ray or Walk The Line here. But I'm tired, and it's late, so I'm just going to direct you towards some of the sterling words that have already been written in favor of this film's simple virtues. As Steve Brule would say, "For your milk, dummy!"

Finally, here's some songs you should buy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Natural is not in it: White Dog

by Ryland Walker Knight

who the FUCK spilled the ketchup?
[I've been having internet problems of late so this link-through is late, but, well, here we go...]

Sam Fuller's final Hollywood film is so not Hollywood all we can do is say, "Thanks." We have it here, now, in a beautiful new DVD, which I've looked at and then said a few things about over at The Auteurs Notebook. I didn't quite get to everything the movie made me think about, but I think some of the ideas about the phenomenological significance of the close up might be visible to the curious reader. In case that strain of argument is, in fact, buried deep: it's an immediate encounter we viewers cannot ignore, and Fuller never lets us forget this because these close ups often emerge after a zoom (as punctuation, as affective signpost) or a smash cut; the film is unabashedly directing your gaze; but there's nothing maudlin about this man's tears below. All that sentimentality is side-stepped by virtue of Fuller's low angle and looking up kino-eye and Ennio Morricone's meandering ivories and the utter gravity of something so absurd it has to be real; something like, you know, race hate. So if you didn't click that link up there click this one here and when you're done there, or in lieu of that, you might like to look at the images all in a stream-of-argument that says something else with the same materials.

dont go chasin waterfalls

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Speech acts for the late night.

by Ryland Walker Knight


I'm far too tired this week to offer much more beyond: Esther Kahn is one of The Great Things. This scene in particular hits me in all the right spots. This scene, like the film as a whole, makes my ideas about acting in the world seem redundant and old hat, nothing new. But I guess that's why I dig Adrian Martin and Andrew Klevan and what they offer us in this conversation almost as much as I dig Wittgenstein and Austin and Cavell—and Summer Phoenix. She's just perfect here, isn't she? Wrecks me something fierce, too, Zach; and then it builds me up again with the drop of a curtain and a carriage clopping forward.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A matter of scale and color: Lola Montes

by Ryland Walker Knight

talkin spectacular blues

Max Ophuls' final film, the legendary Lola Montes, will grace Bay Area screens starting November 19th: at San Francisco's Castro Theatre, at San Rafael's Smith Rafael and at Berkeley's Rialto Elmwood. I saw it at the Castro. I cannot stress the importance of size enough. On such a grand scale as the Castro offers, all those screens Ophuls shoots through—like curtains, gates, stove pipes—become supple folds in the conjunction of space; his cinema of things is too full to be seen small. Another thought: I couldn't quite shake how much Paul Thomas Anderson seems to inherit from Ophuls' roving, snaking camera that hovers through life's stages. Also, color. Lots of lots of color—as punctuation, as affect, as paint in the image, as a reminder (at every moment) that your eyes are being directed. This issue seems crucial, and unexplored in any explicit terms in my piece, which can be found at The Auteurs' Notebook. I trust some morsels will shine through my hi-jinks.

style and grace, scandal
what a bust
[Martine Carol was teh hottness. Bonus!]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #6: A waltz is a fault; like, falling.

by Ryland Walker Knight and Mark Haslam and Jennifer Stewart

turn away

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Today we saw Waltz With Bashir at the Landmark Embarcadero as the final film in the 3rd Annual SF International Animation Festival. It took us even longer to get home this time but, after some food, we talked on digital tape again. Last week's podcast saw us working through a very common reaction to Kaufman's film. This week we were more hesitant and disparate, largely because of Waltz With Bashir's traumatic ending. Juxtaposed with stunning animation, we struggled to account for the shock of its ultimate loss. Or at least, some of us did.... Ry's earlier thoughts can be read by clicking here, and we would also recommend the ever-astute Michael Koresky as well. Thanks for listening! Here's some songs; go buy them, too.

The Books - There Is No There
Squarepusher - Massif (Stay Strong)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #5: More synecdoches, more f-words, more more.

by Ryland Walker Knight and Mark Haslam and Jennifer Stewart

a look-see

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[SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. There's no other way to talk about the thing, is there, Walter? Seriously, if you want to preserve the experience, don't listen. However, as we try to argue in the podcast, there's no way, really, to "spoil" this thing. For one, it's sour to begin with...]

RWK here. On our third podcast, Mark and I discussed his first take on Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (as well as Jean Eustache and, briefly, Jia Zhang-Ke), with Mark saying, "I liked it enough to not have an opinion of it right away." (He then put that reaction into some written words.) What I took and take that exit-poll impulse to mean is that he didn't feel it necessary to simply say, "I liked it," or, "I didn't like it," say to make a declaration of value. Because it's undeniable: this is a grand old meditation on major themes and concerns that continue to sprout up in cinema and, yes, in life. It's bound to shake, rattle and roll some souls. It's equally bound to simply turn off a large percentage of its audience, no matter its wit, right up front with some ugly images of festering decay and disease. Literally: dis-ease. There's little comfort in this film, although there are a lot of jokes. So, what does one do with this little beast? Well, we went straight home and talked on digital tape. We tried to form our opinions live. Of course, like the film, our conversation splintered and, in a way, as is always the case with words, it failed; or, it failed to resolve. And yet—even though an hour is a lot to ask of you, our faithful listeners—I think this is our best podcast yet.

The look-see: I'm torn between the two poles. The repugnance of the film is somewhat remarkable, even admirable, but it's still repugnant. It wallows as much as it falls away from the viewer. Not that I know them, but I understand why people like Walter Chaw and Manohla Dargis and Andrew "Filmbrain" Grant rhapsodize Kaufman's achievement, such as it is, with this picture; on the flips, an element of me was eager to indulge the "piss off" stance of my buddy Keith Uhlich, but not the "fuck you" of Rex Reed (no link needed for that bile). For all the yucky destitution of narcissistic projection, for all the death and dying, for all that kinda bores me (as well as Jen) with all that, there are some truly great moments, and cool tropes, as can be expected with Kaufman. The narcissistic projection, for one, works brilliantly: Philip Seymour Hoffman's Caden reading books as he imagines them, seeing himself in pharmaceutical ads and, um, building that massive and ever-receding and ever-multiplying theatre space. Add to that, that unlike Mark, I had an immediate and positive response to the film's negotiation with time: I think its fractal nature, with time splintering, works to exemplify its title; this is not a film about endurance. Caden does not endure lost time, he just keeps living in spite of himself, in spite of all the pills he takes and the cane he adopts and the losses that pile up (in the fucking street, no less) around him on his pathetic plodding towards death. In one way, I could probably develop a passion for this film as an argument in negative, as this is how not to live, since the film seems to understand this, but, at the same time, the film does ask us to spend our time with cumbersome and base decomposition.

If all a critic is to do is to tell you to see a film or not, then there's no two ways about it: I would say go for a run instead. But, as I understand it, my job, such as it is, such as I may be a critic (as much as simply a thoughtful person), is to argue for significance—indeed, for understanding—within the object over against of the object. So it's a tough spot. I'd like you to listen to our conversation, and I'd like it to continue, here in the comments as much as in future episodes, but I'd also like to remind you, that, yes, it's good and fun to go live in the world. And, you know, that Lola Montes talks about all these ideas, too, and it'll be playing at the Castro next week. For more on that film, though, you'll have to wait for a link. So, instead of that recommendation, I can just as easily (yes, with greater ease), turn to the other film I held up (perhaps foolishly) against Synecdoche in our podcast talk: David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE. About 35 minutes into this hour-long talk we offer to you, I say, "I love INLAND EMPIRE for a lot of the same reasons I think a lot of people will love this movie. And they should. If this movie turns you on, and you find a lot of resonance with you, that is great—I'm not gonna try to take that away from you. Um, this is just, you know, this is just this. It's just three people—two of us are drinking beer—and, you know, but, INLAND EMPIRE, to me, is about everything that's going on in this movie, and it's a much more joyful thing. And a lot of it boils down to that. For me. Definitely. And that gets into a lot of goofy relativism right there, just saying, 'For me.'" But, as I couldn't formulate last night, all art is, in an basic way, experienced narcissistically, for the me that you are wherever you stand in relation to a film or a painting or a screenplay or a song or a novel or a dance. The trickiest part is to account for your self—to question your "me"—in a fun way, to be thoughtful and hilarious at the same time. Now I don't know if we're exactly hilarious here, but you'll here me laugh a lot in this, and, hell, that's good enough for me.

fire is red

This episode's intro and outro songs, for your downloading pleasure:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Baggy like a house, and running away. Playing catch-up with Arnaud Desplechin’s My Sex Life... and Kings and Queen.

By Ryland Walker Knight

ma vie sexuellerois et reine

NOTE, 9/24/2011: I decided to repost this in its entirety here because the formatting on the new Slant-housed HND post is all screwy. I trust Keith won't mind.

I am not alone, I am certain, in coming late to the Arnaud Desplechin party poised to jump off this winter. His latest film, A Christmas Tale, already garnered plenty of accolades from those lucky enough to see it at Cannes and/or the NYFF (two takes I dig: GK's gushing and MK's lucidity). It played in San Francisco last month, too, at the Clay, as centerpiece of the San Francisco Film Society’s inaugural French Cinema Now program (dig MG's interview, too). I missed it, on purpose—I was watching Jia Zhang-Ke’s The World across the Bay—because I knew it would be released soon, and would probably be a big deal. Looks like the case; the snowball is gathering speed and size. This election week saw not just something righteous for our country but also, on a decidedly smaller scale (like, minuscule, dude), the start of IFC Center’s current Desplechin retrospective, Every Minute, Four Ideas, as a build-up to next Friday’s New York release of A Christmas Tale. Lucky for me, I got to see two of the other Desplechin films shown at the Clay: his rare debut, the deliciously abrupt La vie des morts (more Maya), and his calling card, perhaps, My Sex Life… or how I got into an argument. Since then I’ve revisited My Sex Life, on Fox Lorber’s abominable DVD release, as well as his 2004 freight-train Kings and Queen. Smart cinephiles that they are over there, the IFC Center has programmed both of these for this weekend, including the possibility of one rich, long, seductive, dark-all-day double bill on Sunday.

Early in My Sex Life, Mathieu Amalric’s Paul Dedalus talks with his cousin, Bob (Thibault de Montalembert can grin), about Bob’s new girlfriend, Patricia (Chiara Mastrionni may be more irresistible than her mom)—specifically about how great her ass looks—and Bob asks Paul to be more inspiring, to quote someone. Paul counters with Kierkegaard: “Is there anything more sparkling, more dizzying than the possible?” It’s easy to see Desplechin in this madness: his films are giddy with cinema, brimming past the point you think they should reach for only to delight you with more, more possibilities and more actual delights, more concrete details to complete the picture. Like Truffaut, whom he acknowledges as monumental and inspirational, Desplechin makes films that look simple at first but (pace Kent Jones) take on a protean charge, eager to move into something new, to grab hold of a moment, if briefly, before rushing forward. My Sex Life... is nearly three hours long but it never flags; it pauses, it fades, but it never halts; it asks to be followed; and it’s so goddamned endearing, so charming, that it would be foolish to resist. Or, that’s how I feel. See, it’s hard for me to separate myself from Desplechin’s films. They invite the viewer, much like Truffaut, very much unlike Godard or Rivette, yet it’s not simple and naïve assimilation. Of course, it’s easy to weep looking at a mirror, and I have, but, for every reflection, Desplechin offers at least three more angles on any given scene-space. It’s that maxim the IFC Center has appropriated, which Desplechin initially appropriated from a letter Truffaut wrote to Jean Gruault, screenwriter of L’enfant sauvage: every minute, four ideas. What makes Desplechin so vibrant (yes, violent, too) is his commitment to the speed of this creed within a grand architecture of cinema.

My Sex Life... should promise, mathematically at least, 688 ideas; I did not count, but it feels like there are more. That’s a lot to contend with, and it’s easier in the watching than in this writing, which is funny because Paul, our ostensible hero, opens the picture sleepwalking, refusing to finish his doctorate, refusing to write, because, well, just because: because it’s tough work. It’s easier to wallow in pretension and hurt than it is to do things. (And, as Stuart Klawans argues, Desplechin is perhaps the most Jewish non-Jew in cinema—and isn’t Judaism a religion of faith in action? —I realize many devotions may argue this point in their favor but it seems inherently Jewish to me; it’s not Kierkegaard’s possible but rather akin to Nietzsche’s allegiance to creativity. This much is true and open to be countered: I have not seen Esther Kahn yet. I do not have the full picture of this argument as does Klawans. But I want to, yes, I want to, as ever, to see more—I’m greedy like that—to grab and digest more, and more. I hear myself in the Kierkegaard as much as in the Nietzsche. I hear and see myself, all too much, all too often, all too human to ignore it, in these Desplechin films.) But, of course, despite its cast of academic types, My Sex Life... isn’t about the ivory columbarium; while he does spout off at length, mostly about pussy, we never see or hear any of the work Paul does; the closest is his late rant that culminates: “It’s not Heidegger climbing some fucking mountain. No, it’s the girl’s face, it’s your fear, as you pull back the elastic, her belly … you see?” If the film is about academia, it understands such a life as a kind of death—as something to shuck, to shake free from, to flee. It’s right there in the title: it’s a film about life, about sex, about me! See? It’s an invitation to look back at your self! It’s no different than any other work of art!

About two-thirds through the picture, we take up the thread of Paul’s put-upon long-time (ex-)lover, Esther, played with fierce liveliness (loveliness!) by Emmanuelle Devos, whom, despite no marital bond, I like to see as Desplechin’s Gena Rowlands. As much as Mathieu Amalric’s goofy grin buoys and motivates this film, Devos anchors its pathos. It was during her direct address speech that I finally began to let the weight of it all fall onto me, curled alone in that fourth-row seat—that I first began to cry—through a smile. The first time I saw the film, it started at noon on a Saturday at the Clay, smack atop Pacific Heights in San Francisco, and I did not know the Blue Angels would be performing patterns in the sky above the city that afternoon. Roughly the moment Esther began reciting her letter, so did the roars of jets leak into the auditorium, and I thought, “Brilliant! It’s a film about love as a flight as much as a fight after all!” The fact that the planes did not cease their aural (and aerial) contortions through the remainder of the film made me question this argument, naturally, but it was too delicious a strand to let loose. It makes sense, after all, however the happenstance played. Love is a flight from the real, or reason at that, into clouds of stupidity and luxurious hurt. It makes the pained descent dig deeper, of course—that return to the ordinary—but, we begin to realize, as does Esther in that shower near the close of the film, that the daily muck makes sense, too, and affords us the next opportunity to fly—a new possibility is forged. Flight remains a thrill and tears are a form of baptism. The world beckons.

Devos and Amalric appear in relationship, again, in Kings and Queen, only further removed. It’s nice and fun to play the cinephilic game and imagine these characters, Nora and Ismaël, as extensions of Esther and Paul, but the fact remains that they feel lively and real, here, and all their own and all too human because Desplechin is so interested in their singularity—and because these are two enormously talented actors. The biggest difference is simple: Devos and Amalric are older, and they bare (and bear) their lives all the more in their gait and their lines and their faces. If we can accept that Devos is a French Gena, then perhaps we can agree that Amalric is some kind of Frog Faulk; but, if Kings and Queen resembles any Cassavetes, it resembles Love Streams, which pits husband John against wife Gena as brother and sister leading a twinned, braided life negotiating how to love one another. At one point, Nora says of Ismaël, “If I’d had a brother, I’d have wanted one like him.” We might say Kings and Queen is about the love available (yes: possible) in a family—and what makes family, where you draw the line. We might also say this later picture is an inverse of the earlier in that My Sex Life details Amalric’s Paul’s love of three different women (all some kind of “wife”) while Kings and Queen muscles through Devos’ Nora’s love of four men (all some kind of “husband,” even her son). Formally, too, they diverge: My Sex Life... operates on a logic of occlusion and expulsion, the frame crowded and held—until the tears and the blood and a shower rain down; Kings and Queen, despite a continued affinity for long lenses and their resultant density, jumps through spaces, cuts frequently, feels more frantic, violent, locomotive. We might say, finally, that Kings and Queen is (like My Sex Life…, I suppose) about what it takes to get mobile in the world—and Desplechin’s continued answer may remain magnanimity.

—Did I mention these films are hilarious? Nora’s half of Kings and Queen is melodramatic, very heavy, full of tears and harsh lessons, full of shouting, full of death, but Ismaël’s half is, in Desplechin’s words, “a burlesque comedy.” Being a smart guy, he’s spot on. The irony is startling, lucid, simple: for all Nora’s mobility and affluence and lightness, it's Ismaël who finds joy in the routine—in captivity, no less—despite being a mopey goof whose posture is so aching, so desirous of Real Life—while it keeps happening Right In Front Of Him. Like, you know, that beautiful and desperate young thing, Arielle (Magali Woch might melt in your hand, not your mouth), whose answer-made-flesh seems too easy to be true at first. Their offhand non-courtship is one of the loveliest and silliest I’ve seen; again, I couldn’t resist its charms. And, again, Amalric’s echo de moi-même (most notably in sessions with his voluminous, infamous psychiatrist, Dr. Devereux, played with great wit by Elsa Wolliaston) makes me wince and aspire in equal measure towards something new and thoughtful. In short, in their hilarity, Desplechin’s films stage, say perform, a moral posture (which subtends invitation and challenge) that echoes (again) Nietzsche, and his forebear Emerson, that argues for gaiety as a form of seriousness. But this is never easy, of course; nor is it quite attainable; it’s something to seek. For Ismaël, this adventure is fraught with a net of troubles of his own creation that, like a cape, he must simply untie and fling off. For Nora, it’s a bit more complicated: she has to kill. This picture of womanhood, however generous, is where you know a man made these films; but, as Ismaël says, in what will prove out (I'm fairly certain) as one of the great film monologues, to Nora’s son, Elias (Valentin Lelong is too cute), “that’s not a failing, that’s a quality.” What’s lovely is that the films know this, too, and, it’s true, they are unabashed: they seem to get off on it.

Cotillard's neck

But a yummy montage of Marion Cotillard dancing in her panties isn’t strictly about the pleasure of looking at her, at the curve of her neck as much as the curve of her breasts or the light in her eyes; no, it’s just as much about how easy (how dumb) it is to fall into thoughtless love with a girl just because you like the way she bounces. She remains a human, impervious and strong, with the force to bowl you over, by virtue of the film’s interest in how fleeting this sight is, despite its lingering imprint. Nakedness is a fact, like rain. When Marianne Denicourt sits naked at the close of My Sex Life..., echoing Cotillard like she echoes her own nudity earlier in the picture, it’s not about turning us on (however much such a sight will titillate us heterosexual males) but rather about impressing us that, yes, we spend some time naked. We play naked. Nakedness is readiness, an acceptance, and shared with another body it's an agreement as much as a delight. (This is, of course, a different picture of nakedness than that of Jean Eustache, but I'll save that argument for later.) It makes sense that My Sex Life... opens with Paul's literal awakening and closes with its deferred significance at bedtime, highlighted by a memory of a game played on the floor, looking down at pieces asking to be picked up with care (I'm talkin' Pixie Stix here), while Denicourt hugs herself across the chest.

I once wrote a free-associative essay for a zine called “Baggy Like A House.” I don’t remember the essay any longer, nor do I possess a copy, but I remember that phrase because it was directed, in the essay, at the reader, and I’d like to rewrite it, say revise it, for you who are here: you hang baggy like a house about me, and I keep running after you just as you keep running after me. I have only offered a few ideas, four maybe, for all the time you've spent reading, so please go soak up some more in that theater if you can. If you’re in New York, do yourself a favor and spend this rainy weekend with some fun frogs trying out life, seeing if it fits, and shucking sheaths as they please, as they run towards the door, towards the clouds, towards some kind of love, some kind of naked, some kind of possible, some kind of life.

Denicourt's nakedness