Monday, May 26, 2008

Poems for the month: Wordsworth.
"To Sleep" (3 from 1806)
"Animal Tranquillity and Decay" (1798)


lost girl found

O GENTLE SLEEP! do they belong to thee,
These twinklings of oblivion? Thou dost love
To sit in meekness, like the brooding Dove,
A captive never wishing to be free.
This tiresome night, O Sleep! thou art to me
A Fly, that up and down himself doth shove
Upon a fretful rivulet, now above
Now on the water vexed with mockery.
I have no pain that calls for patience, no;
Hence am I cross and peevish as a child:
Am pleased by fits to have thee for my foe,
Yet ever willing to be reconciled:
O gentle Creature! do not use me so,
But once and deeply let me be beguiled.

A FLOCK of sheep that leisurely pass by,
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I have thought of all by turns, and yet do lie
Sleepless! and soon the small birds' melodies
Must hear, first uttered from my orchard trees;
And the first cuckoo's melancholy cry.
Even thus last night, and two nights more, I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear to-night away:
Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

FOND words have oft been spoken to thee, Sleep!
And thou hast had thy store of tenderest names;
The very sweetest, Fancy culls or frames,
When thankfulness of heart is strong and deep!
Dear Bosom-child we call thee, that dost steep
In rich reward all suffering; Balm that tames
All anguish; Saint that evil thoughts and aims
Takest away, and into souls dost creep,
Like to a breeze from heaven. Shall I alone,
I surely not a man ungently made,
Call thee worst Tyrant by which Flesh is crost?
Perverse, self-willed to own and to disown,
Mere slave of them who never for thee prayed,
Still last to come where thou art wanted most!


tell him something pretty

THE little hedgerow birds,
That peck along the roads, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression: every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought.--He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten; one to whom
Long patience hath such mild composure given,
That patience now doth seem a thing of which
He hath no need. He is by nature led
To peace so perfect that the young behold
With envy, what the Old Man hardly feels.

richter falls

[Poems taken from this site, which hosts his complete poetical works. Image 1: The lost girl from INLAND EMPIRE; Image 2: Al Swearengen cleaning up his own mess, as ever, denying Johnny something pretty; Image 3: Gerhard Richter's Niagra Falls.]

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Commencement: Cleaving, floating and waving forward.

line of flight

Monday, May 12, 2008

Liquid Angles and Rivulets: Claire Denis and Jean-Luc Nancy.

liquid angles
like a bat

The uncertain status of the image in Claire Denis’s cinema, its immeasurable limits, whether forward into the spectator’s perceptual space, backward into the abstract terrain of signification, or sideways within its own narrative space – Laura McMahon discusses the crucial use of off-screen space in Beau travail – tends to create a distinct sense of unease in the spectator, or what Beugnet identifies as paranoia. This is also related to Denis’s use of genre. There is something almost Kubrickian about Denis’s play with genre in a way that consistently thwarts expectations. Beau travail is a film about the military but one with little action, where even the training appears redundant. To offer a revisionist, ‘queer’ reading of the film around latent homoerotic desire is at once too obvious and misses the point – which rather seems to lie somewhere in the impenetrable reality of these male bodies. As Nancy points out, a single shot of Trouble Every Day – that of Béatrice Dalle raising her coat above her shoulders like bat-wings – is enough to evoke the entire history of the horror genre, yet the film teases us with horror clichés (such as the erotic/horrific encounter) before showing us what is truly unyielding in the mystery of the body and desire. Meanwhile, as Beugnet suggests, there is something monstrous about Trébor (Michel Subor) in L’Intrus, as though he were a refugee from a vampire movie that had wandered into a spy film.
--Douglas Morrey's introduction

I realize I'm probably late to notice this newest, current collection of essays that the online film journal Film-Philosophy has collected and published about Claire Denis and Jean-Luc Nancy. I don't have the time this week to read all of the essays but the collection certainly piques my interest as I'm quite the Denis fan and sometimes, when I forget how great Beau Travail really is or how seminal Trouble Every Day was for me, I think L'intrus (which was inspired by an autobiographical monograph of Nancy's of the same name) is her "best" or most intriguing work. So, head on over. As alluded to in the quote, there's even an essay by Nancy himself, on Trouble Every Day, which, although I didn't realize it at the time in 2002 (I was mostly dumbfounded and grossed out), really pushed me towards a whole new way of looking at movies. This idea of her use of genre is really cool, too, as another way to talk about the instability in her films, in her images: what does genre do for Denis as a medium? Something to think about. Just not now, not for me right now; but soon. If you happen to follow this link and read these essays, please tell me which ones strike up your imagination. --RWK

delicious devil

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Late night Happy Mother's Day image.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Iron Man Love for Robert Downey Jr.

by Ryland Walker Knight

making faces

Somehow it’s fitting, even forgivable, that this prototype reflects the film’s clunky opening: reinvention is a fix-it job.

I saw Iron Man yesterday afternoon and wrote some words about the pleasant experience for The House Next Door. You can read them by clicking here. It's got a mostly-terrible, or just plain rote, screenplay, but it's also got Robert Downey Jr. and he's a treasure: charming and handsome, a gentle and generous spirit under that sardonic cover, a flat out great comedian. I think Iron Man is as much about him as it is (or is not) about weapons of mass destruction; much how one could read A Scanner Darkly as about that group of actors and their troubled, winding histories through Hollywood and the movies. Oh, right, I did that, too: click here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Run towards it.

over it

Roy's association of slavery with living in fear, thus echoing Leon's earlier perception, also reminds us of the replicant's perception of their own status in relation to their human creators; in part, his lesson is intended to teach Deckard what he, along with all human beings, is responsible for doing to the replicants -- what his denial of their humanity amounts to. But most fundamentally, it is designed to teach Deckard a lesson about his own relation to death -- about his mortality. Roy brings it about that Deckard feels that every moment may be his last, and Deckard's response is to flee from this threat; he functions at the level of an injured animal, incapable of anything more than an unthinking attempt to avoid the threat of extinction. His pursuer, by contrast -- who knows that his own death is imminent, whether by genetic determinism or by Deckard's own efforts with gun and crowbar -- responds to the threat by running towards it. He toys with the very threat that paralyses Deckard; he sees that, since mortality is internal to human existence and embodiment, genuine humanity turns on finding the right reaction to it.

We are thereby given inauthentic and authentic ways of living a human life in the face of its mortality. Deckard's flight denies the ubiquity of this threat -- as if an escape from Roy would amount to an escape from the threat he incarnates. Roy treats the same threat playfully. ...

Like Zarathustra's disciples, Roy is dancing on the edge of the abyss, performing his version of Pris' cartwheeling enactment of her thinking, embodied existence (in Sebastian's apartment). The lightness and grace of his life finds confirmation in his ability to look at death, and the death of love, without fear or hysteria. And he wants to teach this to Deckard: if to play is to be fully alive, not to play is to be reduced to death-in-life or merely animal existence. If you can't play, you might as well be dead.

-- Stephen Mulhall's On Film.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Recommendation for the day: Paola Marrati.

by Ryland Walker Knight

Like most books written by professors and published by university presses, the English-language translation of Paola Marrati's book, Gilles Deleuze: Cinema and Philosophy is really expensive. Unfortunately, only the original publication, in French, is available in the whole of the UC library system. So, I have to figure out how to get Berkeley to buy a copy so I can read it. I tried reading Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image a year ago and didn't get very far. So the prospect of this book, which comes with a sterling recommendation from none other than Stanley Cavell, sounds very welcome as I imagine her text will live up to his characterization. Here it is:

The claims upon philosophy by the explosive consciousness of the fact and the art of cinema -- not alone claims upon the philosophy of art but upon philosophical thinking at large, upon what is to be called thinking -- are, still surprisingly to me, not something that has attracted the sustained attention of most philosophers. However intensely and consecutively and concretely I recognized these claims to be met with in the work of Gilles Deleuze, I had in several attempts over the years not been able to find my way into a convincing draw through the manner of it. The appearance of Paola Marrati's admiring and sustained attention to this thinking, placing and featuring Deleuze's principal volumes on cinema (it is essential to her view that these are indeed featured, in important ways climactically, in Deleuze's expansive body of work), changes the intellectual odds in this demanding challenge. I imagine that many others will also find education in Marrati's sophisticated and generous and clarifying articulation of Deleuze's educative venture over the entire constellation of the major cinema of the world, but I think no one could be more grateful to her achievement than I am. It is a relief to be in the presence of Deleuze's intellectual originality and Paola Marrati's meticulous responsiveness to it, free of the many fashionable repetitions in the field of film study (e.g., film is a language, film is unconscious of its ideological slants and economic drags), and to watch other of its slogans (e.g., film is a mass art, film is a producer of dreams, Hollywood never appreciated its geniuses), given surprising derivations that release a sequence of genii from their jarred formulas.

The coolest thing about this recommendation is how he says her work sidesteps the usual invocations of Deleuze as a rather simple (to say fashionable) model to start a reading that does not, in practice, pay strict attention to the object (the film) at hand (on display) but rather uses the object as illustrative of Deleuze's theories of cinema and its movement- and time-images. Looking at the beginning to her chapter in a 2001 book called Religion and Media (available on Google Books), I can see why Cavell likes her writing: like Mulhall before, Marrati's prose is clear and unfussy, evidence of a thoughtful, career-long investment in the subjects she chooses to write about. (Her CV is pretty impressive, btw.) This is, of course, what draws me to Cavell, too, although his prose can sometimes madden a reader with its endless clauses-sentences-paragraphs; he stretches (ordinary) language to perform, so to speak, his argument, or his project, about the necessity to defamiliarize the familiar (to step out of the ordinary) in order to approach it again. It's similar to notions of distanciation but I like Cavell and Wittgenstein better than Paul Ricoeur or Mikhail Bakhtin (here's an essay that links these latter two thinkers) mainly because Cavell is an inheritor of Ordinary Language Philosophy and uses rather ordinary language (that is, little theoretical jargon) in his work. In any event, my taste aside, it's fitting that the book Marrati is readying next should be called The Event and the Ordinary: On the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell. Seems like that bridging will be the next "trend" in academic writing, as far as my limited perspective can discern, because, I must admit, it's a bridge I'd like to see erected; indeed, a bridge I'd like to understand.