31 décembre 2009

A Year in Cinema, 2009

The best films I saw for the first time in 2009, in rough order of preference:

Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, 2009)
To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008)
Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (Manoel de Oliveira, 2009)
Che (The Argentine and Guerrilla) (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)
Our Daily Bread (King Vidor, 1934)
Inextinguishable Fire (Harun Farocki, 1967)
The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman, 1998)
Canary (Alejandro Adams, 2009)
Summertime (David Lean, 1955)
Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 2008)
Their Newspapers (Harun Farocki, 1968)
Frontier of Dawn (Philippe Garrel, 2008)
Le Garcu (Maurice Pialat, 1995)
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal (Robert Kramer, 1977)
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948)
Touched in Head (Jacques Doillon, 1974)
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1968)
Man's Castle (Frank Borzage, 1933)
Smorgasbord / Cracking Up (Jerry Lewis, 1983)
L'intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)
Um Filme Falado (A Talking Picture) (Manoel de Oliveira, 2003)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2007)
Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
Videograms of a Revolution (Harun Farocki, 1992)
Moses and Aaron (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1973)
The Docks of New York (Josef von Sternberg, 1928)
Ishtar (Elaine May, 1987)
Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, 2008)
An American Tragedy (Josef von Sternberg, 1931)
Ne change rien (Pedro Costa, 2009)
Prison Images (Harun Farocki, 2000)
Rendez-vous de Juillet (Jacques Becker, 1949)
Dead End (William Wyler, 1937)
The Exploding Girl (Bradley Rust Gray, 2009)
The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein (John Gianvito, 2001)
In Comparison (Harun Farocki, 2009)
The Savage Innocents (Nicholas Ray, 1960)
Black Fury (Michael Curtiz, 1935)
Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allen, 2007)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)
Images of the World and the Inscription of War (Harun Farocki, 1988)
Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar, 2009)
The Inglorious Bastards (Enzo G. Castellari, 1978)
Respite (Harun Farocki, 2007)
Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
An Image (Harun Farocki, 1983)
Beeswax (Andrew Bujalski, 2009)
El cant dels ocells (Albert Serra, 2008)
American Madness (Frank Capra, 1932)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009)
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Review (Red Letter Media, 2009)
Nathalie Granger (Marguerite Duras, 1972)
The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
The Danish Poet (Torill Kove, 2006)
Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 (Hara Kazuo, 1974)
Impolex (Alex Ross Perry, 2009)
Bluebeard (Catherine Breillat, 2009)
Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (Peter Sollett, 2008)
Unas fotos en la ciudad de Sylvia (Jose Luis Guerin, 2007)
Cours du soir (Nicolas Ribowski, 1967)
One P.M. (Jean-Luc Godard and D.A. Pennebaker, 1972)
Maneater (Timothy Busfield, 2009)
7 Women (John Ford, 1966)
In The Country (Robert Kramer, 1966)
Let's Get Started (Azazel Jacobs, 2008)
The Whirled (Ken Jacobs, 1956 - 1963 / 2004)
Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)
Black Legion (Archie Mayo, 1937)
Night Nurse (William A. Wellman, 1931)
Crawford (David Modigliani, 2008)
Wall Street (Oliver Stone, 1987)
No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, 1934)
Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, 2008)
The Taste of Life (Harun Farocki, 1979)
Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
The Pleasures of the Flesh (Oshima, 1965)
You Won't Miss Me (Ry Russo Young, 2009)
Eros Plus Massacre (Yoshida Yoshishige, 1969)
Three on a Match (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932)
Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine, 2009)
Don't Let Me Drown (Cruz Angeles, 2009)
I'm No Angel (Wesley Ruggles, 1933)

28 décembre 2009

"Every day is Ashura, every land is Karbala"

"Yazid is a transgressor, a drunkard, killer of innocent people and an open sinner. A person like me can never give allegiance to persons like him." - Husayn ibn Ali*

“I will kill, I will kill; he who has killed my brother!”
[a slogan, also, of the 1979 Islamic Revolution]

“I will kill, I will kill; he who has killed my brother!”

“I will kill, I will kill; he who has killed my brother!”


“Velesh kon! Velesh kon!” -- “Let him go! Let him go!”

a wounded man. a seized police helmet. a protestor's blood. a burning police station.

"I never revolted in vain, as a rebel or as a tyrant, but I rose seeking reformation for the nation of my grandfather Muhammad. I intend to enjoin good and forbid evil, to act according to the traditions of my grandfather, and my father Ali ibn Abi Talib." - Husayn ibn Ali

"Oh people, the Messenger of God said: Whoever sees an aggressive tyrant that legalizes the forbiddens of God, breeches divine laws, opposes the tradition of the Prophet, oppresses the worshippers of God, and does not concede his opposition to God in word or in deed, surely Allah will place that tyrant (in the Hell) where he deserves." - Husayn ibn Ali

"Death with honor is better than a life of degradation." - Husayn ibn Ali

Ali Mousavi, nephew of Mir-Hossein Moussavi, killed on Dec 27, 2009.


People ask them 'why do you do this to your people?' and the riot guards ask for forgiveness, 'Bebakhshid' they can be heard to say.

'You are Yazid's - the Khalif against whom the Ashura uprising took place - forces', the woman shouts at them. One of the protesters then reassures them that they will not be beaten up, all they have to do is say Khamenei is a bastard. The woman can then be heard saying 'All you can do is kill your people is it?' and again they plead saying 'Please We are not killers'.

A reader adds:
What he leaves out is that the young woman who is heard towards the end yells "Are you only brave on your motorbike, you piece of shit?!" before apparently kicking him as a man tells her to stop.

"Those who were at the forefront of the struggle against Shah's regime, vividly remember the days of Ashoura in 1963, when even the Shah respected the sanctity of the holy day and only arrested the leaders of the opposition in the following days.
How is it that a regime born out of Ashura protests [like that of 1963] is now sending bunches of thugs to the streets and shedding people's blood on the day of Ashura? ...
I can only cry out Imam Hossein's cry [killed in the day of Ashura in 7th century]:
"Even if you don't have faith at least respect other's freedom!""
 - Mehdi Karroubi


5 dead at least, confirmed in the English-language press -- as of now.

Jon Jost
Revolutionary Road...
Andrew Sullivan
Iran News Now
Niusha Boghrati
Jonbeshe Rahe Sabz
The Lede

*Ashura is the day of remembrance of Husayn ibn Ali, slain by the forces of Yazid at the Battle of Karbala. Ashura, this year, fell on December 27, 2009. All images/text/video above, save the quotes from Husayn ibn Ali, from that same date.

a gathering up of skirts and a careful picking of way...

    "The living that throng Broadway care little perhaps for the Dead at Antietam, but we fancy they would jostle less carelessly down the great thoroughfare, saunter less at their ease, were a few dripping bodies, fresh from the field, laid along the pavement. There would be a gathering up of skirts and a careful picking of way..."      
- The New York Times, October 1862
[via Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others]

08 novembre 2009

human dignity

"I'm a school photographer and will never forget the picture I took of a little girl with luekemia. This 10-year-old, came up to my camera sat down and whipped her wig off. I stood there in shock for a second. To this she responded "I want to be remembered as me. Not as the girl with the wig" 

I went home a different person that day.  I'm proud to say that picture was not airbrushed."

[via PostSecret, link currently inactive]

02 novembre 2009

savings books and Sunday suits

Buddha’s Example of the Burning House

Gothama, the Buddha, taught
The wheel of desire on which we are bound,
And bade us
Put off desire, and thus without it
Go into the Nothing that he called Nirvana,
And one day some disciples asked him:
Master, what is it like, this Nothing?
We all wish to put off desire, as you bade us, but tell us
If this Nothing, into which we go,
Is a kind of oneness with all creation,
As if a man lay in water, limbs at ease, at midday,
Empty of thought, lay lazy in water, or sank into sleep,
Scarce knowing if someone tucked a blanket round him, so deep was he under;
Tell us if it is a pleasant thing, this Nothing, a good thing,
Or if it is simply nothingness, cold, empty, without meaning.

The Buddha was a long time silent, then shrugged.
There is no answer to your question.

But in the evening when they were gone
Buddha sat under the breadfruit tree and gave to the others,
Those who had not asked, the following example:
Once I saw flames licking the roof of a house,
And when I went to it I saw that there were men inside.
I called to them that the roof was burning.
But they were in no hurry.
One, while the fire singed his very brows,
Asked me what it was like outside, If it was raining still,
And if the wind had stopped, if there was another house nearby
And suchlike things.
I did not answer him and came away.
Truly, my friends, to the indifferent who see no need for change
Have I nothing to say. Thus, Gothama, the Buddha.

And we too, no more concerned with the arts of patience,
Rather with the arts of impatience, of maniford means to improve man’s lot,
Teach him to life away his worldly suffering,
We too to those, who, when any day the bombs may fall upon the cities,
Ask us what savings books and Sunday suits will be like in the new society,
To them have we little to say.

- Bertolt Brecht
[The New Reasoner 3 1957-58]

01 novembre 2009

Ulm 1592.

Ulm 1592.

Said the Tailor to the Bishop:
Believe me, I can fly.
Watch me while I try.
And he stood with things
That looked like wings
On the great church roof –
That is quite absurd
A wicked, foolish lie,
For man will never fly,
A man is not a bird,
Said the Bishop to the Tailor.

Said the People to the Bishop:
The Tailor is quite dead,
He was a stupid head.
His wings are rumpled
And he lies all crumpled
On the hard church square.

The bells ring out in praise
That man is not a bird
It was a wicked, foolish lie,
Mankind will never fly,
Said the Bishop to the People.

- Bertolt Brecht

[The New Reasoner 3 1957-58]
{Thanks Ben}

21 octobre 2009

like passing through a door

"I want them to be conscious and feel a conscious light of vision, and not the dream-state that is often associated with film — I want them to consciously see. That is like passing through a door; some people cannot pass through that door to reach a conscious sense of vision in their seeing films, or seeing any image."
- Robert Beavers

07 octobre 2009

The Lovable

"Love is never directed toward this or that property of the loved one (being blond, being small, being tender, being lame), but neither does it neglect the properties in favor of an insipid generality (universal love): The lover wants the loved one with all of its predicates, its being such as it is."
- The Coming Community, Giorgio Agamben

23 septembre 2009


"Exciting! The word is exciting. To me, when I come back from any country — and I love Paris — but still when I come back, already driving from the airport I already am trembling with excitement!"
via Sophie Harris's love letter to New York.

“Those who didn't understand will never understand”: Whit Stillman’s "The Last Days of Disco"

14 septembre 2009

As a sweet apple reddens

As a sweet apple reddens
on a high branch

at the tip of the topmost bough
The apple-pickers missed it.

No, they didn't miss it:
They couldn't reach it.

- Sappho [Ψάπφω/Σαπφώ], translated by Jim Powell

08 septembre 2009

finance is something too important to entrust to financiers

"When I wanted to produce my first feature-length film, I didn’t have any money. So I was forced to rethink the economic system of production. In the end, it’s something fascinating. It’s generally thought that the economic side of filmmaking is a bloody nuisance for a filmmaker and that it doesn’t correspond to his ‘vocation.’ […] I think that finance is something too important to entrust to financiers."
- Luc Moullet

23 août 2009

To Fanny Brawne, 13 October 1819

25 College Street

My dearest Girl,

This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my Mind for ever so short a time. Upon my Soul I can think of nothing else - The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you again[s]t the unpromising morning of my Life - My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving - I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love - You note came in just here - I cannot be happier away from you - 'T is richer than an Argosy of Pearles. Do not threat me even in jest. I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion - I have shudder'd at it - I shudder no more - I could be martyr'd for my Religion - Love is my religion - I could die for that - I could die for you. My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet - You have ravish'd me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often "to reason against the reasons of my Love." I can do that no more - the pain would be too great - My Love is selfish - I cannot breathe without you.

Yours for ever
John Keats

17 août 2009

''My work as a reporter has taught me that logical stories, without riddles and holes in them, in which everything is obvious, tend to be untrue."

''Hamlet,'' the story of Andrzej Czajkowski, a Polish-born gay Jewish pianist who donates his skull to the theater, is the most fascinating, problematic and personally revealing story in Krall's collection. Although they never actually met, Czajkowski and Krall were contemporaries. She addresses him as ''you'' throughout, telling him, a little judgmentally, the story of his life as she sees it: grandparents, parents, his early childhood in the Warsaw ghetto. Czajkowski was smuggled out to the Aryan side with his grandmother, while his mother chose to stay with her lover in the ghetto and later was murdered in Treblinka. The boy grows up with an inner rage against his mother.

Then, unexpectedly, Krall adds: ''I shall tell you something now. I knew a certain girl. She was your age; she also had dark eyes like you and hair that was bleached with hydrogen peroxide. . . . I knew that little girl quite well, because I know what the Aryan side was for a child.'' It was, she continues, ''a window that you do not go near, even though no one is watching you. . . . A wardrobe that you enter at the sound of the doorbell. The Aryan side was loneliness and silence.'' Krall tells how this little girl and her mother were brought to a police station by a blackmailer. They had false Aryan papers, given to them by a seamstress named Maria Ostrowska, but the policeman insisted on hearing them recite a Catholic prayer. The mother could not, but the little girl did. While the grown-ups debated what exactly had persuaded the policeman to let them go, the little Jewish girl, Krall writes, had no doubt it was ''the addressee'' of the Christian prayer she had recited.

In the entry for Poland in the Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, published in 2004 by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, I came across an account, based in part on Krall's own testimony, of how one Maria Ostrowska-Ruszczynska, in the spring of 1943, saved the lives of Jadwiga Krall and her 6-year-old daughter, Hanna. Perhaps it is easier for an author to tell the stories of others. But when Hanna Krall writes her own story some day -- in the first person -- it will be hard to mistake it for fiction.

17 juin 2009

They removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information.

They are saying: "Marg bar basiji" (down with the baisjis). A guy yells: "They have left. Don't throw stones any more". And then "Tireshoon tamoom shod" (They are out of bullets!) and then there are more shots. Somebody cries, "Don't run away." Then, "they have killed 5 people", and some body shouts at the militia, "what are you doing??" and somebody else,"They are not shooting blanks (they bullets are live)" some more shots and somebody says, "They are shooting for real, Look at the blood" and then the guy on the ground and someone yells, "Ya abolfazl" (Abolfazl is brother of Imam Hossein and a saint like figure) and "Na-mard-haa" (cowards) then,"I called the emergency", getting the reply, "Forget about the emergency, let's take him (the guy on the ground) with us."


"It's painful to watch what's happening.

I don't want anything to do with what has been said this far, as I neither have the strength nor the resilience to face all these unfathomable events.

I only want to speak about what I have witnessed. I am a medical student. There was chaos last night at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don't even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they've asked everyone to stay and help--I'm sure it will even be worst tonight.

What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?

This issue is not about cheating(election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflected on the people. They've put a baton in the hand of every 13-14 year old to smash the faces of "the bunches who are less than dirt" (government is calling the people who are uprising dried-up torn and weeds) .

This is what sickens me from dealing with these issues. And from those who shut their eyes and close their ears and claim the riots are in opposition of the government and presidency!! No! The people's complaint is against the egregious injustices committed against the people."

27 mai 2009

techne does what it must

Below I've included 2 linguistic and historical digressions that I cut from my piece on Philippe Garrel at The Auteurs. They likely need more fleshing out to stand on their own, but for now:

Our difficulty in separating the 'true story' for the 'true' story has its roots in the earliest Western traditions of abstracted thought (themselves products of the historical moment at which leisure combines with urban life). Take the mythoi of the ancient Greeks: in Homeric Greek, mythos (μῦθος) refers to a thing said, a story being told, without reference to its truth value. The word gains a sense of unbelievability that we can trace along with the rise of "logos"-centic rationalism in the Greek world from the physiologoi of the Ionian school through Herodotus' approach to historia.

and, speaking of the myths propagated by the Romantic artists vis-à-vis artistic creation and inspiration:

* myths propagated, but also revealed: the position of the artist, "freed" from systems of patronage, is reduced to an independent contractor, a speculator in the value of their own work. In this system of proto-neoliberal liberation, one needs a certain degree of madness to undertake art as a career. One can also see in this the decline of the craft of art -- the end of techne -- as art (that is, "art," the mythical process of its creation) moves from the realm of work to the realm of 'inspiration.' The disappearance of artists' schools might be said to be the beginning of the end of the idea of art as a process independent from a metaphysical spirit. [Interesting that we can so easily parallel the rise of individualism in the political and philosophical spheres with the rise of similar myths in the arts, in all cases replacing collectivity and higher virtues to which one answers...]

To those who might source this Romantic myth in some classical ideal of inspiration, the relationship between metaphor and reality in ancient Greece leaves the Muses as more a rhetorical flourish than an actual conception of inspiration's roots (mythos makes no claims to facticity). See also the secular mythmaking by Romantic wits like Edward Bulwer-Lytton: "Talent does what it can; genius does what it must."

alienated (organ-harvesting) labor // Capitalism eats her young

You might be aware of this if you follow my Twitter, but I recently saw Alejandro Adams' film Canary, which utterly floored me. I'll be putting together more content on Canary soon, including some thoughts on the way that it offers a formal approach to capturing capitalism's relationship between indoctrination, oppression, and the complicity of the "Little Eichmanns"* who are also made it's victims.

* you probably first heard this phrase when used by Ward Churchill in his essay Some People Push Back from September 2001, but it originated in John Zerzan's 1995 essay "Whose Unabomber?"

Somewhat related: this excellent article from the New York Times Magazine by Matthew B. Crawford is an adaption of his new book "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work." It's the kind of piece that you expect to be some sort of mythologizing of the yeoman farmer à la Jefferson, that instead is a sly, intelligent critique of the relationship between alienated labor and suboptimal systemic and personal outcomes.

21 mai 2009

If you film a soldier, you don’t stand in front of the rifle, but behind, like a war reporter

"We had a somewhat simplistic idea. A little soldier facing a fortress, society. If you film a soldier, you don’t stand in front of the rifle, but behind, like a war reporter."
- Luc Dardenne, on filming Rosetta (h/t)

19 mai 2009

Georg K. Glaser - Schriftsteller und Schmied

"Georg K. Glaser is a working-class writer. Quite literally: he spends the morning at his desk and from midday on he is in his workshop in the Paris district, Marais. There he makes bowls, lamps, vases, jugs, and other metal products. He has mastered techniques that almost no other smith is able to carry out. Born near Worms in 1910, Glaser left home early and went wandering. He was put in children’s homes and joined the Communist Party. In 1933 he went underground and fled through the Saar region to France. There he was naturalized and worked for the state railroad until he was conscripted in 1939, soon finding himself in a German prison camp. For years he had to pretend to be a Frenchman who could speak German well. After escaping and being placed in a penal camp, he returned to Paris and worked for Renault. He found working on a conveyor belt intolerable and inhumane. And so, almost 40 years ago, Glaser opened a craft workshop in order to exercise his critical facul-ties in thought and practice. He combines his craft with writing and points out that the French word for craftsman, artisan, contains the syllable “art,” so that art is no longer separated from work." (Harun Farocki)

08 mai 2009

back to being an art form

"I have lost count of the number of articles proclaiming the imminent or actual death of the music industry. Does this mean that music can now go back to being an art form again? & If so, is it the first art form to begin adapting itself to the post-capitalist society we now find ourselves living in? Or is it just something you get free when you buy a mobile phone?"
- Jarvis Cocker

05 avril 2009

Each work of art is not an act of resistance and yet, in a certain sense, it is.

"What is the relation between the work of art and communication?

None whatsoever. The work of art is not an instrument of communication. The work of art has nothing to do with communication. The work of art strictly does not contain the least bit of information. To the contrary, there is a fundamental affinity between the work of art and the act of resistance. There, yes. It has something to do with information and communication as acts of resistance. What is this mysterious relation between a work of art and an act of resistance when men who resist have neither the time nor sometimes the necessary culture to have the least relation to art? I don't know. Andre Malraux develops a beautiful philosophical concept; he says something very simple about art; he says it is the only thing that resist death. Let's return to where we began: What does one do when one does philosophy? One invents concepts. I think this is the basis of a beautiful philosophical concept. Think -- What resists death? One need only see a statuette from three thousand years before our time to find that Malraux's response is a rather good one. From our point of view, we could then say, rather less elegantly, that art is what resists even if it is not the only thing that resists. Where does such a close relation between the act of resistance and the work of art come from? Each act of resistance is not a work of art while, in a certain sense, it is all the same. Each work of art is not an act of resistance and yet, in a certain sense, it is."

- Having an Idea in Cinema (On the Cinema of Straub-Huillet), Gilles Deleuze

30 mars 2009


JMS: When we met in 1954, I was attending the Lycee Voltaire, but only for eight days.
DH: Three weeks.
JMS: Was I? Well, three weeks. Then I left…
DH: You didn’t. You were told it would be better to leave…
JMS: I was kicked out. I was even told why. I knew too much about Hitchcock and that disturbed the class. I was watching her from a distance. We weren’t sitting that close to each other. I didn’t know her. I was just watching her. And every time she uttered something, the others would ask me - why me? - what she’d said. I had to translate. It was taken for granted that I understood.
DH: And did you understand?
JMS: Ah! That’s a mystery! One will never know. They must have noticed that I had fallen madly in love at first sight, and so they thought: he must understand what she says.

- Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, in Où gît votre sourire enfoui? / Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (Pedro Costa, 2001)

via Kevin Lee's lovely essay on the film


24 mars 2009

To the Foot From Its Child

To the Foot From Its Child
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Jodey Bateman

A child's foot doesn't know it's a foot yet
And it wants to be a butterfly or an apple
But then the rocks and pieces of glass,
the streets, the stairways
and the roads of hard earth
keep teaching the foot that it can't fly,
that it can't be a round fruit on a branch.
Then the child's foot
was defeated, it fell
in battle,
it was a prisoner,
condemned to life in a shoe.

Little by little without light
it got acquainted with the world in its own way
without knowing the other imprisoned foot
exploring life like a blind man.

Those smooth toe nails
of quartz in a bunch,
got harder, they changed into
an opaque substance, into hard horn
and the child's little petals
were crushed, lost their balance,
took the form of a reptile without eyes,
with triangular heads like a worm's.
And they had callused over,
they were covered
with tiny lava fields of death,
a hardening unasked for.
But this blind thing kept going
without surrender, without stopping
hour after hour.
One foot after another,
now as a man,
or a woman,
through the fields, the mines,
the stores, the government bureaus,
outside, inside,
this foot worked with its shoes,
it hardly had time
to be naked in love or in sleep
one foot walked, both feet walked
until the whole man stopped.

And then it went down
into the earth and didn't know anything
because there everything was dark,
it didn't know it was no longer a foot
or if they buried it so it could fly
or so it could
be an apple.

19 mars 2009

ethical problems

"Criminals are never very amusing. It's because they're failures. Those who make real money aren't counted as criminals. This is a class distinction, not an ethical problem."
- Orson Welles*

* attributed; trying to find the citation...

14 février 2009

um modo de filmar muito correcto

"There is a Portuguese director that I like very much, Pedro Costa, who has a very appropriate way of filming. One time, he told me that I film the rich, and he films the poor. I told him that I film souls - and there are souls as much in the rich as in the poor."
- Manoel de Oliveira

Há um realizador português de que gosto muito, o Pedro Costa, que tem um modo de filmar muito correcto. Uma vez, ele disse-me que eu filmava os ricos, ele filmava os pobres. Respondi-lhe que eu filmo as almas – e as almas tanto há nos ricos como nos pobres.»]

Many thanks to André for this.

06 février 2009

Swanberg promises

For those of you thinking that I might have a response to Glenn's thoughts on the work of Joe Swanberg (and Filmbo's followup, plus other assorted defenses and critiques in the works)... well, watch this space.

Update: Craig weighs in. And I can't wait to join the fray.

04 février 2009

Kluge Marx Joyce Eisenstein etc

Alexander Kluge's 570-minute adaptation of Karl Marx's Das Kapital, News from Ideological Antiquity. Marx – Eisenstein – Das Kapital, has been released and is now available only on DVD for under 30 Euros.

I don't see any evidence that there are English subtitles on the disc, but even so -- this is a truly monumental release from one of the most impressively skilled and radical filmmakers.

You can read more about it here.

03 février 2009

to reflect concretely on a limited amount of work

"It’s not important to know then all, but just to know a few well. You don't need to know all the museum when you go to a museum, but only a few paintings. In my case, in fact, for example, I know three paintings by Cezanne very well. It didn't do me any good at all to the museum all the time, but to reflect concretely on a limited amount of work. That’s culture, as they say. It does not consist of having it all, but in having reflected concretely on a few things."
- Jean-Marie Straub

"The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other every day, whereas only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance."
- Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust

"Comme l’on serait savant si l’on connaissait bien seulement cinq á six livres!"
("How wise one might be if one knew only some half-dozen books well!")
- Gustave Flaubert, in a letter to his mistress Louise Colet, 17 February 1853

(the full paragraph: "Tantôt j’ai fait un peu de grec et de latin, mais pas raide. Je vais reprendre, pour mes lectures du soir, les Morales de Plutarque. C’est une mine d’érudition et de pensées intarissable. Comme l’on serait savant, si l’on connaissait bien seulement cinq á six livres!")

inspired by a debate with Miguel Marías (here).
(some information gleaned/confirmed here)

24 janvier 2009

21 janvier 2009

Power, Moral Values, and the Developing Mind: Frederick Wiseman's High School, 1968)

My post on Frederick Wiseman's 1968 film High School is up at The Auteurs' Notebook. I'm really very proud of this piece, which ties together the Athens riots of 2008, Foucault's thoughts on the relationship between power and force, Wiseman's documentary stylistic choices, the changing denotation of the word 'tyranny' in ancient Greece, the psychology of moral development, and the student revolts and social changes of 1968.

Please do read it.


15 janvier 2009

Fair Use (1)

Folsom v. Marsh 9 F.Cas. 342 (C.C.D. Mass. 1841) (pdf):
"...no one can doubt that a reviewer may fairly cite largely from the original work, if his design be really and truly to use the passages for the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism."

Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107:
"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."

12 janvier 2009

Mastery without apparent mastery

I need a hug.

Dave: yeah. totally.
but soooo good

Ben: I could feel myself being very critical about it on cinematic terms while watching it...oddly so. I didn't think it was poorly made, but I could hear my inner voice saying a lot of, "well, that could have been set up and/or executed more interestingly/thoughtfully." But regardless, I was also aware that I was engaged the whole time.

Then, only after getting out of the movie did I realize that it had affected me more than any other movie this year. And furthermore, in human terms that I can realistically relate to. That never happens. I can watch ROBOCOP and be impressed by the filmmaking and in turn affected metaphorically by the extremity of its melodrama. But WENDY AND LUCY made me contemplate money, privilege, and general shit luck-of-the-draw for a solid hour and a half and then beyond...

Dave: YOU'VE NAILED IT. seriously. that's it - and why it was my #1 film this year; though it wasn't the most 'masterful,' it was the most masterful.

Ben: That's kind of the perfect way of putting it. Mastery without apparent mastery.

04 janvier 2009

Aryan Papers

Pictures of Dutch actress Johanna Ter Steege trying on dresses of the early forties, for Stanley Kubrick's Aryan Papers.

The Aryan Papers is as much about a film that never happened as it is a portrait of the chosen lead actress Johanna ter Steege. It begins with images of Johanna taken in 1993 by Stanley Kubrick - they are of the wardrobe shoot for the film Aryan Papers. Johanna was to play the lead role of Tania, a compelling character. Tania is central to the film: she is a Polish Jew trying to save herself and her family from the Nazis.

When we visited the Kubrick Archive, we were intrigued to look at the detailed research for a film that never made it into production. The amount of research is overwhelming and it seems to have overwhelmed Kubrick himself. The research left him very depressed and he abandoned the project.

The work takes its title from Kubrick's film and, intercut between stills of Johanna, are images from the archive of specific scenes Kubrick wanted to recreate and images from the Ealing Studios Archive of interiors, shot in 1939/40. The film moves into live action with footage of Johanna filmed now, fifteen years later, where she appears to come to life, recreating stills from the original wardrobe shoot.

Jane and Louise Wilson

• Jane and Louise Wilson's installation will be at the BFI Southbank, London, from 13 February to 19 April.