Tag: french cinema

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

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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

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.

*

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.

*

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

Best Things 2014, Part II: Movies

Cinema January 19, 2015

The most devastating film I watched last year was Kirill Serebrennikov’s Yuri’s Day (Russia, 2008). To my knowledge it is not available on DVD, or via usual other means, so I’m extremely grateful to the kind people who screened this right before I left Bangalore for Denver.

Here are the other films, listed alphabetically by director, I watched last year that affected me equally, or almost as much, or somewhat:

Vadim Abdrashitov. Parade of Planets. 1984.

Vadim Abdrashitov. Parade of the Planets. USSR, 1984.

Michelangelo Antonioni. Blow-Up. UK, 1966.

Have you ever thought you’d seen a movie you hadn’t actually? For years I’ve gone around thinking I’d seen Blow-Up and then a few months ago I realized I was completely mistaken. Rectified.

Gabriel Axel. Babette’s Feast. Denmark, 1987.

Mainly for the crazy food.

Luis Buñuel. Viridiana. 1961.

Luis Buñuel. Viridiana. Spain/Mexico, 1961.

My new favorite Buñuel.

Peter Brooks. Marat/Sade. 1967.

Peter Brooks. Marat/Sade. UK, 1967. Read More

Best Things I Watched in 2013

Cinema, Dance June 24, 2014

I seem to check up on my website/blog about once a month. This month I discovered a draft post listing all the best movies I watched in 2013. I guess it’s all right to post it now, six months after the fact.

I’m fairly certain these are all movies I watched for the first time last year—nothing I re-watched, which, as it turns out, I do a lot these days.

For a brief moment I attempted to categorize these by genre but that didn’t work out. Also, it occurs to me to mention: I watch enormous quantities of television not accounted for in this list, partly because I don’t keep track, partly because the list of truly excellent television is pretty limited.

OK, some random comments may be found below, if I feel like it.

Robert Altman. The Company. USA, 2003.

Robert Altman. The Long Goodbye. USA, 1973.

Robert Altman. Thieves Like Us. USA, 1974.

Altman = my favorite American director. But I always assumed he sort of lost it during the ’80s and after. So The Company quite surprised me—and the video above is stunningly realized. It’s very much in the Altman scheme of things: the way you see and hear everything as it were. It is also unlike most recordings of dance I’ve seen, given that we experience the external conditions of the dance itself—the dispersed energy of the audience, the weather, the anxieties off stage—in this horizontal, cinematic way.

Aleksey Balabanov. Me Too. 2012.

Aleksey Balabanov. Me Too. Russia, 2012.

Balabanov’s last film, eerily prophetic. Read More

10 Netflix Instant Movies

Cinema July 27, 2013

Off late I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how the act of watching movies has changed for me.

The movies I watched as a child were usually on TV (HBO or Star Movies), awkwardly censored by awkward people, interrupted by commercials and by my dad taking the remote away to check cricket scores. We hardly went out to the theatre. If I did, it was with friends. Once I remember the entire family going to the army movie theatre because they were playing a Bollywood movie called Border. My dad’s entire interest in the film lay in the fact that the protagonists were army officers; my father was at the time colonel of his own regiment. He wouldn’t be caught dead watching a Bollywood movie for any other reason, and after we watched Border I think we all wanted to die.

In college I started taking cinema more seriously, in part because film-making was a significant aspect of my vocational media studies cluster but mainly because a friend of mine and I got invited to a film club that met every Saturday. I still go to these club screenings when I’m in Bangalore. The person who curates the films has been a huge influence on the way I watch and think about cinema. Also, I love that there is a place (to which I belong) in which people yell at each other for bad taste and general lack of intelligence. Hey, I’ve had words with people . . . about movies.

The point is, I went from point A (TV and the occasional big screen) to point B (a biggish screen and my computer screen at home—there was no way I’d find the movies I wanted on TV anymore).

Point C is now simply my laptop. I’ve watched a total of four movies in a movie theatre since I moved to the States and three of them were rubbish. That’s little over a movie a year. Now I just torrent things (if I’m lucky I’ll find a DVD in a library) or watch what I can find on Netflix.

Something serious needs to be written about this shift in movie-watching, which I am sure I am not the only one to have experienced. More likely, something already has.

From a somewhat older time than our current Netflix-era is an essay that Susan Sontag wrote for the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of cinema in which she elegizes what once was “the art of the twentieth century” and which is now merely “decadent.” It’s a fascinating piece and one with which I agree on many points. Read More