29 février 2008

On the Unification of the Yin and the Yang

for Jen

Joseph Campbell's Ten Commandments for Reading Myth

1. Read myths with the eyes of wonder:
the myths transparent to their universal meaning,
their meaning transparent to its mysterious source.
2. Read myths in the present tense: Eternity is now.
3. Read myths in the first person plural: the Gods and Goddesses
of ancient mythology still live within you.
4. Any myth worth its salt exerts a powerful magnetism. Notice
the images and stories that you are drawn to and repelled by.
Investigate the field of associated images and stories.
5. Look for patterns; don't get lost in the details.
What is needed is not more specialized scholarship,
but more interdisciplinary vision. Make connections;
break old patterns of parochial thought.
6. Resacralize the secular:
even a dollar bill reveals the imprint of Eternity.
7. If God is everywhere, then myths can be generated anywhere,
anytime, by anything. Don't let your Romantic aversion to
science blind you to the Buddha in the computer chip.
8. Know your tribe! Myths never arise in a vacuum;
they are the connective tissue of the social body
which enjoys synergistic relations with
dreams (private myths) and rituals (the enactment of myth).
9. Expand your horizons! Any mythology worth remembering
will be global in scope. The earth is our home
and humankind is our family.
10. Read between the lines! Literalism kills;
Imagination quickens.


Free Time

Apologies for the unplanned hiatus, but there's been some major uncertainty in my life of late. I've (temporarily) settled into a busy schedule of not working (which entails heavy amounts of trying to work mixed with bits of actual working). As for where I'll land, it's all unclear, but it's certain to be in the realm of moving pictures in the broader sense. I'm open to suggestions...

05 février 2008

Portrait d'une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 à Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1994)

Above: Paul (Julian Rassam) and Michèle (Circé), the young girl of the title.
Image courtesy: Arte.

Last night, MoMA played two installments from the series "Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge...", a series of one-hour television episodes "in which French directors were asked to contribute films based on their recollections of adolescence" (BFI). The first episode shown was Chantal Akerman's PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN AT THE END OF THE 1960S IN BRUSSELS, followed by Claire Denis's U.S. GO HOME. Denis's film (which was co-written by Anne Wiazemsky) is a rich portrayal of the emotional components of being on the cusp of maturity, of the moments of striving for your maturity to be recognized - and of the moments when both that recognition and its lack leave you wounded. It's a film to be savored.

Akerman's episode is an achievement of an entirely different level. It moves beyond being one of the great coming-of-age films; it is simply one of the great films. A moving, multifaceted, and magical hour, presented with honesty and subtle artistry.

The film's nuances are beyond summary. So, some sketches:
A girl has decided to ditch school forever; she tears up her report card. At the movies, a boy next to her touches her leg with his; they talk, they kiss. They spend the day together. The girl makes plans to attend a party. They steal a Leonard Cohen record. She breaks into a relative's house so the boy has a place to sleep.

Things happen beyond these sketches, but I will leave them aside. These simple events are full of poetry, of confusion, discovery, ambivalence, insecurity, beauty.

The title character is played by Circé Lethem (who, incidentally, is the daughter of Belgian filmmaker Roland Lethem). She is luminous. Her character thinks that her friend is much prettier, but even though she's right she's also wrong and it's the boy who's right, the boy who thinks she's beautiful.

I'm overwhelmed by everything in this film. It's the film I'd like to watch, the moments I'd like to remember, the movie I want to make. It's perfect.

And it's playing again on Wed, Feb 6 at 6 PM at MoMA in New York.