Friday, May 27, 2011

A conjunction of quotations #13

— edited by Ryland Walker Knight

by Paul Nozolino
Paul Nozolino


We don't even know if what ends in daylight terminates in us as useless grief, or if we are just an illusion among shadows, and reality just this vast silence without wild ducks that fall over the lakes where straight and stiff reeds swoon. We know nothing. Gone is the memory of the stories we heard as children, now so much seaweed; still to come is the tenderness of future skies, a breeze in which imprecision slowly opens into stars. The votive lamp flickers uncertainly in the abandoned temple, the ponds of deserted villas stagnate in the sun, the name once carved into the tree now means nothing, and the privileges of the unknown have been blown over the roads like torn-up paper, stopping only when some object blocked their way. Others will lean out the same window as the rest; those who have forgotten the evil shadow will keep sleeping, longing for the sun they never had; and I, venturing without acting, will end without regret amid soggy reeds, covered with mud from the nearby river and from my sluggish weariness, under vast autumn evenings in some impossible distance. And through it all, behind my daydream, I'll feel my soul like a whistle of stark anxiety, a pure and shrill howl, useless in the world's darkness.
Fernando Pessoa


C. Bergvall says space is doubt—
What emerges then?
Something cast in aluminum from a one-half scale model of a freight shed
The slight smudge of snow in the shadow of each haycock in the still-green field
The hotel of Europe. Its shutters.
Fields and woods oscillate as in Poussin
While the vote is against renewed empire, or at least capital temporarily
Each wants to tell about it but not necessarily in language
Lisa Robertson


Walked through Covent Garden; there were five of their mimes knocking about. I don't understand why people take pictures of mimes. Everyone looks like a mime in a picture.
Karl Pilkington


Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To where were the foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Job, 38:4-7 º


English has a hard time speaking the deed, articulating the event. We can speak actively — I love you — or passively: I am loved. But it's difficult to speak in a way that is neither active nor passive, that is both active and passive: loving. Which is to say, it's difficult to speak with the world because either we're doing things to it or things are being done to us.
Daniel Coffeen


There’s no need to invoke the Beyond when talking about Dreyer. Neither God, nor master. Just soul, that’s all. A gospel of images, that’s all. That the images happen to be sharp, ultra-sharp, is a plus – a ‘bonus’, as people say these days. The essential thing in Dreyer (as in Fassbinder, the master of cinema after cinema, which obviously needs a master) is what he tells, not how he tells it. What he sings, if you like. Oh, you don't like, you want your short-order review of Ordet. And what does Ordet even mean? It means ‘the word’. And that means there is speech, and that this speech matters. Is that too complicated for you? Tough luck.
Louis Skorecki


The logic of artistic construction and esthetic appreciation is peculiarly significant because they exemplify in accentuated and purified form the control of selection of detail and of mode of relation, or integration, by a qualitative whole. The underlying quality demands certain distinctions, and the degree in which the demand is met confers upon the work of art that necessary or inevitable character which is its mark. Formal necessities, such as can be made explicit, depend upon the material necessity imposed by the pervasive and underlying quality. Artistic thought is not however unique in this respect but only shows an intensification of a characteristic of all thought. In a looser way, it is a characteristic of all nontechnical, non-"scientific" thought. Scientific thought is, in its turn, a specialized form of art, with its own qualitative control. The more formal and mathematical science becomes, the more it is controlled by sensitiveness to a special kind of qualitative considerations. Failure to realize the qualitative and artistic nature of formal scientific construction is due to two causes. One is conventional, the habit of associating art and esthetic appreciation with a few popularly recognized forms. The other cause is the fact that a student is so concerned with the mastery of symbolic or prepositional forms that he fails to recognize and to repeat the creative operations involved in their construction. Or, when they are mastered, he is more concerned with their further application than with realization of their intrinsic intellectual meaning.
John Dewey


My difficulty is only an — enormous — difficulty of expression.


Somebody go fetch me a preacher
So I can buy the rights...
I wanna love you!
The Mighty Hannibal


I’ve been dancing so long, I don't know. Maybe. I don't know, I’m not against the idea. Again, it’s like these guys in the play entering middle age. You say, well, what stopped me from this, and was it the other person, or was it in me? And I don’t have the full answer for that. I was never really settled in being an actor, what I wanted to really do in my mind was think, Okay, let me settle that first because then I’ll do this. Because if you get married and have kids you should shovel shit for them, you really should. When I was 25 or 35, "shoveling shit" in my parlance would mean doing really crappy movies, intentionally making crappy movies I didn't want to do. I mean, I had some that came out crappy, but it was never the ideal.
Jason Patric


We're going to turn this team around 360 degrees.
Jason Kidd


Sometimes it’s unfair, because of how strong I am.
LeBron James


The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
Wallace Stevens


The bowl that emerged was one of those gifts whose first impact produces in the recipient's mind a colored image, a blazoned blur, reflecting with such emblematic force the sweet nature of the donor that the tangible attributes of the thing are dissolved, as it were, in this pure inner blaze, but suddenly and forever leap into brilliant being when praised by an outsider to whom the true glory of the object is unknown.
Vladimir Nabokov


Forgiving is never as easy as we would like. Apparently quite a lot of people cried.
Karen Green

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cannes 2011 #5: Wraps so lissome she could fly

by Ryland Walker Knight


Got a few more dispatches hitting the Cargo site late, post-fest due to my computer being tied up with FCP work and my aversion to writing on "foreign" keyboards all last week. Granted, I wrote a lot by hand, but not all of that's for the internet's eyes to see. So keep checking that link.

There's a high school behind my friend's apartment in Milan and the constant babble is almost better than music. Except when the glee club (they have those here?) starts trying to harmonize "Don't Stop Believing" for a good half an hour. That's when I retreated to headphones. But watching basketball happen, even when it's bad and these kids can't shoot, was better than half the movies I saw at the festival. Too bad I forgot to grab my camera. Too bad I just watched. But also not: living and making don't have to be one and the same at every juncture and I'm glad I hold that memory, like the waves off the beach at Cannes those first two days, or like certain dinners out in the streets, in a corner of my brain you will never open even if your eyes are wide. I'm reminded of windows at all events; it's probably why I shoot them so much.


UPDATE WAY LATER: Found the Indonesian TV clip I was in over here. I play the yokel quite well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cannes 2011 #4: Cannes Questionnaires

by Ryland Walker Knight

# 1: Gerardo Naranjo

Here's a post I will continue to update as we post these videos on vimeo and in The Notebook. Our first, with Gerardo Naranjo, had its fair share of problems, like a battery dying and the implementation of Danny's Flip in lieu of the T2i, and our second, with BONG Joon-ho, presented new audio issues. Luckily, most of our audience will see the video first on MUBI so this little bit of text won't set up expectations of post-synch hiccups.

In any case, more are in the pipe. We hope you like them because it's a lot of fun for us; maybe even more fun than writing.

# 2: BONG Joon-ho

# 3: Bruno Dumont

# 4: Vimukthi Jayasundara

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cannes 2011 #3: There is no tunnel, only light

by Ryland Walker Knight


After Tree of Life I made some eggs (above) and wrote my mom a letter about the movie, which I am very happy to have seen but that made me miss a lot of people at home and elsewhere. Here's the link to Cargo again.

If you want to see me still dazed (though also re-caffeinated) and bemused in the bustling lobby of the Palais after the film, watch this video at The Guardian.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cannes 2011 #2: Making things happen

by Ryland Walker Knight


So far, so sweaty. Or, thank heavens we have a clothesline outside our kitchen window. Without providing any real content, let me remind you that you should check in with this dedicated blog at Cargo's website for my more or less long-form coverage the festival. My first missive, about the new Woody Allen movie, which I liked, is up. Early Thursday morning, I saw We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay's newest, the one we've been waiting for since 2002 or 2003, and it's got chops like her other work, but I'll save my more potent/cogent thoughts for another Cargo blog. If you follow me on twitter you can get more immediate, though maybe cryptic, takes as I find wifi post-screenings. And, oh yeah, Danny and I will have some moving images at The Notebook in due time. Never fear: there will be updates.


[Note: I thought I posted something yesterday but it seems to have disappeared; the text above has been changed. Bonus, maybe: here I am, drinking some good whiskey.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cannes 2011 #1: Defense de wouf

by Ryland Walker Knight


Lazy lunch


I went up a hill to take some stills
and look what I did find


Postcard point of view

Sunday, May 08, 2011

SFIFF54 #5: Hear the words in here out there

by Ryland Walker Knight

Onlookers on

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Toronto's own Adam Nayman as he was in San Francisco on FIPRESCI jury duty for the festival. One of the fruitful conversations we shared was about Kelly Reichardt and her new movie, Meek's Cutoff, which, at first, made me madder than a snake. (What're spoilers?) The finest point to point at in my reaction to the film is its ending, which is exactly the kind of storytelling move that I've grown to detest: that seemingly open-ended "grace note" that feels if not over-determined then a cop-out. I complained to another friend that, if you're going to write a story about life and death consequences (risking starvation) on the road to the frontier, then you ought to make some real choices about trajectory, about what those consequences mean; and that it appeared Reichardt "copped out" on any such choices by opting for a "mystic allegory" that makes the film's alarmingly literal lefty slant unavoidable and, well, without argument beyond what I already know about how confused and confusing humans can be. That is, the political element is as rootless as the characters, awash in reaction not conviction. After all, the majority of the film made me angry because the way Meek is characterized—the ignorant blow hard wearing a red shirt quick to beat The Other he refuses to grant any value, let alone agency—leaves little room for interpretation outside allegory when met at first glance (1). But I must admit that not only was I rapt through the plodding but also that I marvel at Reichardt's gift for film grammar and staging. And, yes, that, while grimacing my way through the post-screening talks, trying and failing to bite my angry tongue, I tried to add to every exchange that I did not trust my basic reaction because it felt reductive and far too broad (funny how those dovetail!) for a film this specific.

When Adam and I started talking about the film a few days later nobody had presented any kind of argument to get me out of my funk with the film. I still explained the anger in terms of expecting the ending: "In that reverse shot through the trees, looking at the Indian, before the penultimate one of Williams, I was thinking, Please don't do it, and then you get Williams' face—did you realize her lips are perfect no matter what?—and she's all 'confused' or whatever before the final reverse, this time with less leaves, and I kept thinking, Don't fucking do it, and then it starts down, starts to fade, and I'm a riot inside, just totally, You fucking did it, didn't you? And I wanted to bolt from the theatre." Adam's reply was as simple as it was brilliant, one of those, ouch, I-should-breathe-better moments where your jaw doesn't drop but your mouth does open. He asked, "Does it matter that it's Williams' point of view, looking through those trees, to you?" My head went click and thud, my eyes widened and I said, "Huh, well, okay. Yes, of course that matters. How did I not think of that?" It's not like that question precipitated a complete reversal but it did open a new way to appreciate the film, or, at the very least, a way to let my useless anger abate. Because I'm still not sold on it, nor Reichardt, though I do like being forced to think about a movie, about a filmmaker, about my criteria, about myself. Thinking about thinking and thinking about how you are thinking are rather indulgent modes, I suppose, but that's all I understand criticism to be at bottom. Or, that's the kind of philosophical criticism I'm attracted to: the kind that brings intentionality into play while guiding a reader through one's experience of an object. I realize that ideal is not always possible, or desirable.

There is nothing as hideous as criteria based on emotion.

Part of what makes it improbable is that sense of duty a critic feels inside a festival's screening schedule not only to see as many films as possible but also to have something to say about all those free tickets she's received (2). "Duty" may be the wrong word, however, when what's really motivating me (I can only speak for me) is that I simply like going to the movies. But, in turn, I guard that enthusiasm by not going to the movies. (In fact, after Meek's, I only saw five films of the fifteen I'd planned (via iCal) to see. There were a lot of reasons, but the truth of the matter is that I wanted to watch basketball more than I wanted to watch movies. Luckily, this is something Adam is amenable to since he is, among other things, a big basketball fan as well. We will return to this.) Which gives me pause on the eve of my first visit to the Cannes Film Festival. I'm in Nice writing this and though my fatigued body wants to stay inside and lay down or get into some stretching, my brain wants to push that body outdoors as often as possible to feel a different sun and speak a different language walking around a city I do not know. Granted, I'll have a running mate in Danny at the festival and I don't doubt some odd kind of competition will push me to see more and write more than normal. Yet, no matter how flat out cool it is to the fan in me that I get to participate in this festival this year, the sun will always tempt me. Which is another motivating factor to pump out this post to wrap up my SFIFF54.

Thus, to regain the thread: I enjoyed Adam's question of perspective because it brought back a rather basic question I'd forgotten in the haze my eyes had created, reacting to the simple story onscreen in Meek's. Because that is the great thing at work in the film: bringing this woman's eyes to the fore. Her gaze may not be clear, or always level, but she's the moral rock of the picture and by the close she has, in fact, been brought from the back of the wagon ditching heirlooms to the center of the frame with a voice and a face for all to reckon. This reading, too, is reductive of course. But I'd much rather value the film for its picture of a woman emerging than disparage a film for its (by my lights) lazy storytelling. Reichardt may not be interested in story the same way I am, I must allow, since she has a certain a-g background that speaks to interests in space and time (both paramount abstractions here), but the fact is she chose to make a narrative feature that is only ever subtle in its patient formal craft, not its ideas, and that still bugs me. Then again, all three of Reichardt's Oregon pictures are on the cynic's side of the table and part of my problem may simply be my desire for a more generous world, my desire to see some new way towards charity. Put otherwise, I know I rate magnanimous movies higher for their obvious alignment with my own values. This may be selfish.

This is also why I love something like Claire Denis' 35 Rhums, which is nothing if not charitable. So imagine my thrill to meet Stuart Staples of Tindersticks prior to their event at the festival, adding a live score to a sort-of clip-reel of films they have worked on with Mme Denis. Our chat was brief but I can assure that Mr Staples is a gentle and patient man. He talked about a duty, too, he feels to the object at hand, to do right by it by the end of the process. On their first score with Mme Denis, for Nenette et Boni, he said the band had the idea that they would follow in Miles Davis' footsteps by trying to play live to the images, to be real jazz musicians, before they realized it would take time to find apt melodies and write real songs where needed. Now, he says, they get ideas earlier thanks to the script and dailies but it really takes seeing a rough assembly to have the kind of emotional reaction necessary to inspire his/their/that responsibility to the object that can produce such wonders as the delicate, lilting rhymes of the opening image-and-score tandem of 35 Rhums, where the train and its tracks shuffle a bit in time with the accordion. Or the title track from the soundtrack to Trouble Every Day, which was a highlight of the live performance (3) along with the song "Tiny Tears" from that first partnership on Nenette et Boni. Lucky for us, somebody talented shot that part of the show, its finale, and put it on youtube:

It was a low-key event. But it was certainly more about the concert than it was about the visuals (or the interplay between stage and screen) from my vantage. Which is fine, of course, since I feel privileged to live in one of the two U.S. tour stops for the show. And the music is really great, no matter how much I wanted to re-order things or at least open with more of a bang than that (admittedly lovely) shot of Alice Houri floating in the pool near the front of N&B. So I'll quit that tact by saying, Thanks.

Some other things I was grateful to catch on a big screen before departure include: Ben Russell's Trypps #7, which really did start its shorts program with a bang (or a bong, or a gong), as it took me forever to figure out we were looking in a mirror at that lady's face stay placid in the quivering frame; T.Marie's Slave Ship was projected smaller than the rest of the series but it still impressed the hell out of me because it flips the "watching paint dry" quip into something productive, forcing us to see an image not take shape but explore its own variance; The Mill and The Cross by Lech Majewski is somewhat confounding, especially from the 2nd row, but its palate is wide and deep and its ideas, though rooted in the narrative structure of the painting, feel yet more modern in how arrayed (not inter-related) they are, but then maybe Breugel was just ahead of his time (in any case I was too tired to offer a more cogent take); Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte is by turns cute and brilliant, with far more whimsy than any note could prepare me for, which isn't a bad thing since we should welcome some levity inside a largely wordless observation on cycles of life (it's not Disney, ok, though its like-minded brevity is a blessing) that still exist outside cities; Breillat's The Sleeping Beauty is nowhere near Disney and so full of stuff that I can't say what I think other than I like how she sees a dream life in a similar way to Lynch on a thematic level if nowhere close on a stylistic or formal level; and, finally, that big bad momma of some smoke and a shitload of mirrors, RWF's World on a Wire.

Believe me, I'm sorry to have missed plenty, but at the least I saw this large-scale goof of a thesis on modernity that's so funny and smart it's hard to believe people get daunted by its size. It's the kind of movie all cinephiles will enjoy, if not adore, and the kind they can never sell to non-movie-people they love. The running time is unavoidable in any description one might try to entice with due, in part, to the fact that the film just keeps getting better as it goes along, accruing incidents of insanity designed for maximum punchline effect. The gambit is easy enough, though, and largely ripped off: there's a government-funded project to build a computer world that mimics our own with a series of programmers, each holding the (invisible marionette) strings on fabricated subjects, going mad when they realize the very apocryphal truth of their own reality. Sounds familiar, huh? Well part of the joy in the thing is precisely its lower case, 16mm filmmaking that relies on performance and structure and sound design with very minimal set decoration to get at a sense of a future just past our present (even if the costumes are unmistakably 1973)—as well as a world enveloping itself. I'm astounded this is only the second Fassbinder film I've seen. But that just gives me another autodidact project, among so many, for after Cannes.

The trick is to step out of such impulses, though, when you're in a foreign country (4) (5) and look how I've failed today, spilling so many words. Whatever, I say; I say, my body saw the sun this morning—for a stroll to the market and beyond, for a lunch in the park and for a snack on the patio at my hotel with the owner. So out I go again, hoping for a cheap pizza and some good wine on a sidewalk where I can watch people in clean clothes try their best to act like they don't have a million eyes on them at all times, or actually convince themselves their lover's the only one looking at them—and only them!—in the world.

—Happy Mothers Day, moms

(1) He's an easy Bush stand-in, if I must use that name, and Michelle Williams' character has a line of dialog that only helps cement this link: "I don't know if he's ignorant or just plain evil."

(2) Not to mention the fact that you want to ply press people with clips to quiet at least one chorus of voices ringing in one corner of one ear.

(3) However, the selection of the man-eating scene was, as S.S. promised, shocking. Even when you see that scene in the context of the greater film it's brutal, gross and nigh gratuitous. Here, it rankled more than most and, again, I looked away for the duration, though that didn't spare me the sounds of the horny young dude screaming and choking and bleeding to death.

(4) I'll be in Europe for a while post-Cannes.

(5) That's the trick anywhere, I think, which is part of the point of World on a Wire: you should want to want your own body, you should want to live in it, you should want to move it and slap windows with delight at movement and light.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Convergence for your barreling without blinders (5/6/11)

by Ryland Walker Knight

—On and up and forward!