29 août 2007

The Digital Unconscious

Is Inland Empire a journey into the dark corners of a digital unconscious? (i.e., that of a non-linear editing machine)

Are IE's narrative/editing strategies the technological equivalent of Diane's recombinations/reimaginings in Mulholland Drive?

(Prompted by a post at Digital Poetics)

more to come after a forthcoming re-viewing of DVD.

O Sangue / Casa de Lava

Pedro Costa's O Sangue:
"A very film film, a very cinema film" - Pedro Costa

By which I think he means: It is not realism, but rather a cinema version of reality. Which is to say, a romantic one.

I like the romanticism of this film, and the realistic elements of this film, and even the self-consciously Bresonian gestures (when they don't go too far). From here, Costa could have either have become a subtle but overtly romantic filmmaker, or some variation on the stricter realisms of his later work. Watching O Sangue, I felt a slight feeling of loss for the romantic road not traveled. I can see why he views these impulses as failures or distractions from the real task of (his) cinema; the film isn't entirely successful because it switches between these modes, detaching us from the experience of emotional continuity. Danny's thoughts were insightful - each scene, each shot seems disconnected from the others, independently beautiful in a way that detracts from the whole.

Casa de Lava is Costa's remake of I Walked with a Zombie (seriously!). The film's location was formerly a concentration camp in Cabo Verde for communists deported from Portugal. "It was a mini-Apocalypse Now for me," Costa said, but on set he learned to speak Cape Verdean Crioulo and established the relationships that led him to shoot his next films in Fontainhas.

Casa de Lava is carried by the same luminous actress who starred in O Sangue, Inês de Medeiros.

More notes forthcoming on Costa's later work, his relationship with Straub and Huillet, and Costa's thoughts on cinema.

27 août 2007

Forbidden beauty

"Feinstein’s opinion directed my attention to a passage in Maimonides’s legal writings prohibiting various sorts of contact with women. The most evocative bit runs as follows: “Even to smell the perfume upon her is prohibited.” I have never been able to escape the feeling that this is a covert love poem enmeshed in the 14-volume web of dos and don’ts that is Maimonides’s Code of Law. Perfume has not smelled the same to me since."


25 août 2007

Lesson From The Kama Sutra

Lesson From The Kama Sutra
by Mahmoud Darwish

Wait for her with an azure cup.
Wait for her in the evening at the spring, among perfumed roses.
Wait for her with the patience of a horse trained for mountains.
Wait for her with the distinctive, aesthetic taste of a prince.
Wait for her with the seven pillows of cloud.
Wait for her with strands of womanly incense wafting.
Wait for her with the manly scent of sandalwood on horseback.
Wait for her and do not rush.
If she arrives late, wait for her.
If she arrives early, wait for her.
Do not frighten the birds in her braided hair.
Take her to the balcony to watch the moon drowning in milk.
Wait for her and offer her water before wine.
Do not glance at the twin partridges sleeping on her chest.
Wait and gently touch her hand as she sets a cup on marble.
As if you are carrying the dew for her, wait.
Speak to her as a flute would to a frightened violin string,
As if you knew what tomorrow would bring.
Wait, and polish the night for her ring by ring.
Wait for her until the night speaks to you thus:
There is no one alive but the two of you.
So take her gently to the death you so desire,
and wait.

(via, via)

24 août 2007

The Bourne Perception

David Borwell's recent post Unsteadicam chronicles discusses Paul Greengrass's use of technique to obscure reality in the most recent Bourne film. As good as this piece is, I think it misses one significant effect of Greengrass's style. For me, the main effect of Greengrass's stylization is to represent Jason Bourne's subjective perception as different from our own. Greengrass uses style to explore the notion of Bourne's, well, supremacy.

Some quotes from Bordwell's article (all emphases mine; not quoted in their original order):
"Later in Supremacy, the camera jerks across a computer display and suddenly focuses itself, evoking the jumpy saccadic flicks with which we scan our world."

"Essentially, intensified continuity is about using brief shots to maintain the audience’s interest but also making each shot yield a single point, a bit of information. Got it? On to the next shot. Greengrass’s camera technique makes the shot’s point a little harder to get at first sight. Instead of a glance, he gives us a glimpse.

"In United 93, the technique could work because we’re all minimally familiar with the geography of a passenger jet. But in The Bourne Ultimatum, could anybody reconstruct any of these stations, streets, or apartment blocks on the strength of what we see? Of course, some will say, that’s the point. Jason himself is dizzyingly preoccupied by the immediacy of the action, and so are we. Yet Jason must know the layout in detail, if he’s able to pursue others and escape so efficiently. Moreover, we can justify any fuzziness in any piece of storytelling as reflecting a confused protagonist. This rationale puts us close to Poe’s suggestion that we shouldn’t confuse obscurity of expression with the expression of obscurity."

"But our point of view isn’t confined to what Bourne or anybody else sees and knows. The whole movie relies on crosscutting to create an omniscient awareness of various CIA maneuvers to trap him. And if Bourne saw his enemies in the flashes we get, he couldn’t wreck them so thoroughly."

What we're really learning here is that Jason Bourne's perception - and ability to put 2 and 2 together in order to respond to the situation - is superhuman. We get flashes of enough length to understand that the information is both too fast and too little to be adequately processed - by everyone except Jason Bourne.

Update: In the comments, I admit I was stretching this point, and propose a related thesis.

23 août 2007


"In light of all this, “Hannah” plays like an incidental swan song, a signpost marking the point when mumblecore became a nostalgic label rather than a present-tense cultural force, and its most acclaimed practitioners moved on to bigger things. Mr. Swanberg’s third movie is a graduation photo in motion: D.I.Y., class of ’07."
- Matt Zoller Seitz, in his review of Hannah Takes the Stairs
Matt Dentler has distributed various Hannah related interviews amongst the indie film blogosphere.

J. Hoberman: It's Mumblecore!

The New Talkies: Generation DIY starts today at IFC Center

22 août 2007

it will be enjoyable because it will be true, and new

"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them. It may be the story of their first love or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation...and it will be enjoyable because it will be true, and new...The film of tomorrow will not be directed by civil servants of the camera, but by artists for whom shooting a film constitutes a wonderful and thrilling adventure. The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it, and the number of spectators will be proportional to the number of friends the director has. The film of tomorrow will be an act of love."
- Francois Truffaut

clearness and distinctness

"In general the real philosopher will always look for clearness and distinctness; he will invariably try to resemble not a turbid, impetuous torrent, but rather a Swiss lake which by its calm combines great depth with great clearness, the depth revealing itself precisely through the clearness."
- Arthur Schopenhauer
On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason
via Tractatus Blogico-Philosophicus


"When you see the films of certain young directors, you get the impression that film history begins for them around 1980. Their films would probably be better if they'd seen a few more films, which runs counter to this idiotic theory that you run the risk of being influenced if you see too much. Actually, it's when you see too little that you run the risk of being influenced. If you see a lot, you can choose the films you want to be influenced by. Sometimes the choice isn't conscious, but there are some things in life that are far more powerful than we are, and that affect us profoundly. If I'm influenced by Hitchcock, Rossellini or Renoir without realizing it, so much the better. If I do something sub-Hitchcock, I'm already very happy. Cocteau used to say: "Imitate, and what is personal will eventually come despite yourself." You can always try."
- Jacques Rivette, from an excellent 1998 interview

having thought concretely about certain things

via an old post at Dias Felizes, a Jean-Marie Straub quote translated into Portuguese, which I've translated back below:

"Não digo que seja necessário ter visto todos filmes da história do cinema. Mas é preciso ter visto pelo menos três ou quatro coisas importantes, e pelo menos tê-las visto bem. Aprendi algo ao refletir sobre um corpo de trabalho específico. Cultura não consiste em ter tudo mas em ter pensado concretamente sobre algumas coisas."

"I'm not saying that it's necessary to see all the films in the history of cinema. But it is necessary to have seen at least 3 or 4 important things, and at least have seen them well. I learned something upon reflecting about a body of specific work. Culture does not consist in having everything but in having thought concretely about certain things."

Not lost in translation too much, I think.

14 août 2007

A short note on Wong

Wong Kar-wai's films suffer from an excess of style. Even when he should efface the in-your-face style he's known for, his camera and lighting and editing fill in for story. When he hit his stride with Happy Together, it's because he began investing energy in the creation of character and arc. His previous work, for all of its romance, feels like a music video of an adolescent idea of romance; with Happy Together, Wong finally grows up, but cannot escape his inclination to overstylize to punctuate emotion. In Wong's "mature" films (Happy Together, In the Mood For Love) this punctuation also lasts from the first frame to the last, but this tendency is also his downfall... How much more powerful would the end of In The Mood For Love be if he chose that moment, that final secret glimpse into the heart, to switch to a spare, static camera?

In the Mood For Love, 2001

prompted by a recent viewing of Fallen Angels.

13 août 2007

Pedro Costa entrevista

my apologies to those that speak neither Portuguese nor Spanish.

via dias felizes and Blogs&Docs

more Costa content coming soon, I promise.

09 août 2007

the movements of thought and soul, transmitted in a kind of intense isolation

"The great art of films does not consist of descriptive movement of face and body but in the movements of thought and soul, transmitted in a kind of intense isolation."
- Louise Brooks

07 août 2007

Pure Speculation

Frequently, the Criterion Collection newsletter posts hints as to upcoming releases. It's where I've gotten recent anouncements that you see in this space - by solving the (relatively easy) riddles as to upcoming discs. It's never posed as a riddle, but rather as a picture with text, and no indication that it hints at what's to come.

Today's edition had the following picture:

Obviously it's a film starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald... but which one(s)? They made 4 films together; Love Me Tonight (Rouben Mamoulian, 1932) is currently on Kino dvd, so that's out. The options:

The Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch, 1934)
The Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch, 1929)
One Hour with You (George Cukor and Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)

The only problem is, I can't recall a raccoon's relevance in any of these. Perhaps it's related to the dog-in-the-courtroom from The Merry Widow? The Merry Widow is one of Lubitsch's best, and previously unavailable on dvd, though the same could be said for The Love Parade (and maybe even One Hour With You). Perhaps we'll get lucky and we'll get a Lubitsch musical box?

03 août 2007

Pedro Costa series starts today

Anthology's Pedro Costa retrospective starts today. I am muito excited.

Not sure when I'll have time to post, but I hope to post eventually on all of the films, as I'll be seeing each at least once.