Category: Cinema

2017: Movies

Cinema February 12, 2018

This is a recap of the best movies I saw in 2017 that I hadn’t seen before. It was a good year (for movies).

I was thrilled to “discover” some women filmmakers’ whose work I wasn’t familiar with (Andrea Arnold, especially) and to watch more Akerman and Varda. I often found myself thinking about “performance”—as in, the thing an actor does that becomes notable, or is notable precisely because it isn’t. I’m not a fan of the Daniel Day-Lewis type . . . thing. I much prefer Robert Bresson’s rejection of the actorliness of actors:

ÊTRE (modèles) au lieu de PARAÎTRE (acteurs).
[BEING (models) instead of SEEMING (actors).]

I generally admire the work of those who use non-actors or not-well-known actors in their films—Bruno Dumont, for example, though he disappointed me terribly by using Juliette Binoche in his Camille Claudel 1915, a film I avoided for a long time out of fears that, turns out, were justified.

All this points to my appreciating restraint, silence, and an absence of gimmickry in the craft of acting. But then there are plenty of performances I love which have none of that. I mean, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy? Divine? James Gandolfini? So genre has something to do with it, but still it’s difficult to say what precisely “it” is, except that it’s inevitably thrown into relief by the ever-perplexing Anglophone awards season that’s now under way. (Isn’t the winner basically always either Meryl Streep or Charlize Theron in “ugly” makeup?)

Anywho, these are my favorite performances from movies I saw in 2017: Gillian Anderson in The House of Mirth, Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel, Ivan Dobronravov in The Return, James Howson in Wuthering Heights, Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, Nicole Kidman in Birth, Vanessa Redgrave in The Devils, Delphine Seyrig in Jeanne Dielman, and the truly gifted and greatly under-valued Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer:

David Lynch. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. 1992.

Even movies I didn’t entirely love but appreciated for some reason or other (and often the reason was the casting) showcased some utterly moving work by actors: Ben Whishaw’s John Keats in Bright Star and Cynthia Nixon’s Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion; James Wilby and Rupert Graves in Maurice; and Ezra Miller as the psychopath progeny of Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin—Miller shall soon appear, I predict, in an Anne Rice-Sally Potter’s Orlando-pastiche about a fashionable vampire coming to terms with this ability to hang out in graveyards in daylight.

I despise Lars von Trier (except for the first season of The Kingdom) and Breaking the Waves is full of Trierisms, but Emily Watson kept me watching to the end. Read More

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VIDEO POEM: Hill Station

Books, Cinema, Poetry, Writing December 12, 2017

“Hill Station” is the second of three site-generated texts belonging to the sequence “Route: Western Ghats” in my book Some Beheadings. An early version of these three poems appeared in webConjunctions as an online supplement to their issue called Natural Causes. In many ways, these are the poems that began Some Beheadings, not because they were composed first (nor do they appear first in the book) but because they decided its thrust: a series of movements or routes through disparate landscapes. And the Western Ghats—which I visited for three monsoon-thick days in 2014, with the help of my brother, Siddarth Machado, who appears in this video, is a plant ecologist, and was then part of a research group cataloging species in the area—is primary among these landscapes. Primary because closest to home, because least manipulated, most biodiverse, densest.

Take this as a silent film, if you will.

Links to my book: at Nightboat; at SPD; at Amazon.

Link to another video poem: “Route: Thicket.”

SOME BEHEADINGS / Route: Thicket

Books, Cinema, Poetry, Writing September 18, 2017

My new and first and only book of poems will be out in a few weeks, so I’m making a few recordings (some audio, some video) in . . . really just in excitement for the whole thing. Everyone involved in helping this book to be is lovely. Anyway, here’s a video I made for a sequence called “Route: Thicket”:

(Yes, it’s meant to look like that.)

Some sections from this appeared, in a slightly different form, in The Capilano Review 3.28. “I am my land, expressed” is a quotation from Edmond Jabès’s The Book of Questions: Volume I (trans. Rosmarie Waldrop). CJ Martin and Julia Drescher are responsible for getting me to think about the word “attention” through their journal ATTN:.

Oh, and, while this is probably eminently boring for many people, and possibly against some kinds of reading (which I totally get), if one cares to read, this scene from Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar has lived in me for years and made its way into several poems, until, finally, this one: Read More

The Actor’s Face at Rest

Cinema, Television April 21, 2017

It is never quite clear to me what the actor does.

What she does, when I discern something like doing, seems to hover between great style and great anonymity.

The style of some actors reveals itself in vocal and somatic stillness.

Others, through a clipped or frenzied movement.

In neither case do I receive the actor’s work as a full expression. Full as in the purported aptitude of form to enact (perfectly) a content. The notion that an actor might communicate with precision an inner sorrow, joy, or turmoil is to me absurd.

The silent and frenetic actors whom I enjoy never entirely convey their characters. There is too much that cannot be seen or heard. So the actor’s presence is a shape: a gravity, a sonority. Her personality resists novelization.

In this sense, style—or stylization—is a kind of anonymity. Actors of camp are virtually unrecognizable, as actors and as quotidian subjects.

I think that when style increases, anonymity increases also. But I also think that anonymity increases when style decreases. Anonymity always increases.

Read More

2016: Movies

Cinema, Fashion January 19, 2017

In 2016, after years of staying away, I spent a lot of time in movie theaters. With a few exceptions, this meant I forced myself into public acts aloneness in the city of Denver, which is not conducive to such acts.

I liked this very much, though I still find it difficult to adjust to the popcorn-eating of fellow moviegoers. The world today might excuse/explain this trait of mine, which other eras would have called a quirk or bad manners, as something that makes me special. Give me a hug/death. But while I allow for the possibility that I’m really very brilliant for not being to stand the sound of popcorn-chomping, it’s really the smell that gets to me and, even more so, the disrespect. It doesn’t at all bother me that hordes of horrific food items might be publicly consumed at some blockbuster movie, but at Carol? Or Moonlight? Non-horrific foods and beverages, discreet foods, like bits of chocolate, I would not object to those.

Yes, I am an e l i t i s t. But the point of a dark room lit up on one wall seems to be the darkness and popcorn cuts through all that like the vilest fluorescent light.

Barry Jenkins. Moonlight. 2016.

Barry Jenkins. Moonlight. 2016.

Recent Movies I Loved That I Saw in Theaters

Todd Haynes. Carol. USA, 2015.

Barry Jenkins. Moonlight. USA, 2016.

Chaitanya Tamhane. Court. India, 2014.

Paul Verhoeven. Elle. France, 2016.

Old Movies I Loved That I Saw in Theaters

Satyajit Ray. Jalsaghar. India, 1958.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Black Narcissus. UK, 1949. Read More

2016: Books

Books, Cinema, Comics, Fashion, Journals, Philosophy, Photography, Poetics, Poetry, Prose, Psychology, Theory and Criticism, Translation, Writing January 5, 2017

Bref, I read a lot of poetry translated from German and a lot of nonfiction translated from French. This is not very shocking. Much of my non-book reading happened at Asymptote: this reading (plus editing) is far more diverse and includes work by poets like Vicente Huidobro (Chile), Jan Dammu (Iraq), and writers who push at the limits of what translation means (the Special Feature in our January issue). One of my favorite pieces of this latter sort is Bronwyn Haslam’s anagrammatic translations of Nicole Brossard’s poetry (“Soft Links” becomes “Silk Fonts,” for example):

It’s nouns that gulp fire and life, one can’t tell if they’re Latin, French, Urdu, Veda, Cree, Mandarin, Aleut, Creole, Basque, English, secrete a number, deed, quorum, animal or accelerate old anxieties eddying before us in doubled somber contours full of luster and immense legends.

I also got to collaborate with my friend Michael Joseph Walsh to put together a different sort of experimental translation portfolio for Denver Quarterly 50.4 I have a few extra copies and would be happy to mail them to anyone interested (or you can subscribe). Joshua Ware’s visual translations of Celan appear as an online supplement to this portfolio here.

Photography by Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault

Photographs by Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault

For some years now I’ve been obsessed with a film by Yvon Marciano called Le cri de la soie (1996), which fictionalizes the life of pioneer psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault. This year I read two texts relevant to this film, de Clérambault’s case studies of women who developed an unusual sexual “passion” for silk and other textiles: Passion érotique des étoffes chez la femme (1908) and its suite (1910). Read More

2016

Cinema, Fashion, Food, Journals, Language, Philosophy, Poetics, Poetry, Prose, Television, Theory and Criticism, Translation, Writing December 31, 2016

11.01.16

Resolutions:
– speak less of other people
– watch more good cinema
– sleep well

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15.01.16

I found a poem I wrote on 06.04.09 called “A doctoral student confesses”—it is oddly prescient:

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19.01.16

“so sound would be plural like description is” (Giscome Road 52)

“Sentences find you, style finds you on the road out; it overtakes you effortlessly, it palavers” (69)

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28.01.16

“circumbabeled”
Celan/Joris (327)

* Read More

2015: Books

Books, Cinema, Language, Philosophy, Poetics, Poetry, Prose, Sociology, Theory and Criticism, Translation February 2, 2016

Truly, the most important reading I did last year was Beowulf. I got to read it in the original Old English with a group of amazingly brilliant people and to live in that super soundrich world for about two months. We also looked at a couple other translations; the Thom Meyer is really special. The next most important reading was for my comprehensive exams, which I wrote about here.

Hmm. I don’t really mean to hierarchize the value of these books. This is wrong. Maybe, since so far things have been listed chronologically (did Beowulf early last year, comps reading during the summer): a third highlight was Michael Donhauser’s Of Things (trans. Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron), which I read toward the end of the year, on my multiple flights home to Bangalore. It is a gorgeous and fierce book that reads fieldlife:

from “The Tomato”

To say once more “the tomato.”
On this autumn-saturated Sunday evening.
At the quiet of day’s end, the ringing of bells, cries of farewell.
When the fun stops and with it, the feeling of its insufficiency.
The waiting, the passing in silence, the rustling of leaves, being nowhere.
When Sunday, diminishing gradually, retires.
In sitting there, in spoiling away, in willingness.
With which we endure it: in praise of enduring.
To say it: that this has been a beautiful Sunday.
Yet the tomato takes the evening as an opportunity.
Favored by the given conditions: in all their sparseness.
By way of the light: allowing it to gently settle there.
By way of the surging traffic: in order to absorb it.
The humming, the droning, the vibrating: in order to transpose it.
Into the quieter variety of its seeds, into the juice of its fruit-flesh.
(No fruit has ever robbed me of every rebellion like this.)

The tomato appears in the shadow of language.
As moon (once again): as monad.
Darkened: a silken coal ember.

Of Things_Donhauser

Michael Donhauser. Of Things. Tr. Nick Hoff & Andrew Joron. 1993/2015.

Here are the rest of my favorite books from last year: Read More

2015: Movies

Cinema January 6, 2016

I saw Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire for the first time and thought it was overrated. I watched a lot of movies I love again this year, most notably Sergei Paradjanov’s The Color of Pomegranates. Steven Shainberg’s Secretary is still a fun watch. I also saw Taxi Driver again, finding it much worse than when I first saw it as a college student. I accidentally watched the prequel to Ringu, all the while confused as to why it seemed nothing like the Ringu I’d seen some years before. I saw some terrible in-flight movies. I’d meant to see Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night when it was in theatres in 2014 but eventually saw it on Netflix last year: it was too American for me. Iris Apfel is an extraordinary human being and up there with Tilda Swinton in the fashion constellation–you must see Albert Maysles’s documentary about her, which is still up on Netflix. (Aside: all of last year Netflix kept recommending movies with first names of women as titles: Iris, Ida, Pina, Barbara . . . Barbara was good; I left Ida and Pina for another year, maybe this one.) But this is the stuff I really liked:

Mario Bava. Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped. 1974/1977.

Mario Bava. Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped. Italy, 1974/1977.

Peter Bogdanovich. The Last Picture Show. USA, 1971.

Robert Bresson. Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. France, 1945.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Le fils. Belgium, 2002.

Richard Fleischer. Mandingo. USA, 1975.

Aleksey German. Hard to Be a God. 2013.

Aleksey German. Hard to Be a God. Russia, 2013. Read More

My Comprehensive Exam Results

Art, Books, Cinema, Philosophy, Poetry, Prose, Theory and Criticism, Translation September 14, 2015

Pass Pass Pass
Pass Pass Fail
Pass Fail Pass
Fail Pass Pass
Pass Fail Fail
Fail Fail Pass
Fail Pass Fail
Fail Fail Fail

are one of the above combinations.

Or they are what’s in this blog post.

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What’s in this blog post is a list of books that I “discovered” this past summer, that shifted things for me in small or big ways, or that I simply enjoyed.

Comprehensive exams, where I go to school, involve picking three topics for which you create a list of at least thirty-five books each. Like most PhD amateurs I went overboard and had around two hundred books overall, then read about half of them.

You get the summer to read and make notes, then you get questions which you answer in five thousand words each and await results.

I don’t care much for waiting, so I’ve declared myself three wins.

Congratulations, me! You’ve done what millions before you have done.

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The books I picked were of four main kinds:

books I’d read before that I knew would be core books for my essays
books I hadn’t read before that I knew would be important for me
books I hadn’t read before that were there because they were “supposed to be” there
books I picked by chance/that fell into my lap/that weren’t even on my precious lists but I read them

I don’t want to be a broken record about books I may have gushed about before, so I’m picking just a handful of books from the last three kinds.

Etel Adnan (major figure)

Etel Adnan. Journey to Mount Tamalpais. 1986.

All of Etel Adnan’s books, which I either read or re-read this summer, are wonderful—I pick Journey because it works beautifully as both memoir and manifesto for how Adnan looks at the world. As you may know, Adnan has painted Mount Tamalpais for decades of her life. I expected Journey to tell me how she came to that work and how it has sustained her. I didn’t expect it to let me re-enter her written work—The Arab Apocalypse, Seasons, and Sea and Fog particularly—with a more nuanced sense of what she does. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from the book (context: Cézanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire repeatedly in a similar manner, so obviously is an influence):

Let us return to Cezanne. He is a petrol lamp. His glance lightens the things it touches. A sense of the tragic in the quality of a painter’s glance, in the moment of choice, in the phenomenon called vision. Cezanne was in love with the mountain (or the gardener, or the apples) but with the moment when his glance settled on them differently than when he was promenading or was involved in a conversation. A painter’s glance is bitter, in the sense Rimbaud gave this word. That’s why this glance seems to erase the very object that creates its intensity, the cause of its intensity. (“To abolish . . .,” Mallarme used to say.) Cezanne turns light into an impersonal and cruel prism. And if we so much like his watercolors, it is because they escape our direct glance, they slide like mercury under our eyes, because there is between them and us an invisible obstacle which is both transparent and irreducible. It can lead you to insanity.

Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari. What Is Philosophy? Tr. Hugh Tomlinson & Graham Burchell. 1991/1994.

I’m struggling to remember exactly why I put this book on my EA list . . . Read More