Sunday, October 30, 2005

randomness and brevity

- I'm counting on this to amuse/frighten me (and a couple others) a bit on Halloween night (looks very similar to Argento's awesome Opera, which may turn out to be a good thing). Also rented Night of the Creeps, Häxan, etc.

- Despite a huge pile of stuff sitting right next to me, I haven't seen a film for like, six days. I feel hollow.

- Caveh Zahedi's In the Bathtub of the World has been on my mind though. I realise I didn't say anything about it last week probably because I was too pissed off at his thoroughly shocking and disgusting I Was Possessed By God, but Bathtub deserves more than a nod because it manages to transcend its grainy year-long-video-diary surface and extend into (as Michael Sicinski points out in his letter to Zahedi) a Pialat-oid series of calibrated ellipses that punctuate deeply personal incidences, emotional nakedness, and general hysteria. Warhol would be a more obvious (and possibly unconscious) influence - I was reminded of Beauty #2 whenever Zahedi pointed his camera toward his shy girlfriend. In the end, Zahedi may be a bored narcissist with a camera, but the intellectual and emotional involvement of this document of his cannot be ignored.

- Claire Denis' L'Intrus is coming to DVD in December through Tartan! Of all the films I saw this year, if there's any that I'd love to experience again, it's this dream of a film - possibly Denis' best work so far.

- in music this week: Ghost's Snuffbox Immanence and Lama Rabi Rabi (the latter is a particular favourite of mine), Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt, Linda Perhacs' Parallelograms, and lots of Cocteau Twins.

Monday, October 24, 2005

october log

In the Bathtub of the World (Caveh Zahedi, 2001) ***
I Was Possessed By God (Caveh Zahedi, 2000) *
The House is Black (Forough Farrokhzad, 1963) ***½
Last Days (Gus Van Sant, 2005) **½
Perceval le Gallois (Eric Rohmer, 1978) ***
Thanatopsis (Ed Emshwiller, 1962) **½
Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963) ***½

Sherman's March (Ross McElwee, 1986) ***
The film is perhaps even better than this rating would have one believe. What starts off as a relatively innocuous documentary chronicling the destructive 19th-century march of General Sherman down the South during the Civil War, becomes, well, that and so much more along the lines of a witty and hilarious investigation of the love life (or lack, thereof) of the filmmaker, as he turns his camera - a turned-on, virile tool if there ever was one - onto several Southern belles, many of whom have been previous McElwee flames. Which makes for an engaging, at times even an enlightening 157 minutes of missed opportunities and chronic self-effacement.

Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges, 1948) ***
The Weeping Meadow (Theo Angelopoulos, 2004) **
Two Rode Together (John Ford, 1961) **½
Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (Robert Bresson, 1962) ***½
Lost in America (Albert Brooks, 1985) **
Thanksgiving Prayer (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

Three Crowns of the Sailor (Raúl Ruiz, 1983) ****
Another one of Ruiz's early, exquisitely "unsynopsizable" mindfucks - a world-weary sailor and a student on the run from the law meet in a bar, and the sailor begins to tell the tales he's heard, the experiences he's had while embarking on a seemingly endless journey around the world - Ruiz uses multiple temporal disturbances and dreamlike propulsion of narrative (which frequently reminded me of Claire Denis' L'Intrus), characters (/ghosts) enter and exit at the will of the storyteller, some of them dominating perspective, some of them seem to morph into each other to form some kind of collective experience/memory. Search for identity/pursuit of truth, money, violence, ghost-ships, "letters make up a word, and words make up a song", Sacha Vierny's delicate camerawork, Lisa Lyon's Mathilde - the film's "single-orificed femme fatale", unrequited lust, tales within bizarre tales, references to Orson Welles' The Lady From Shanghai... This is film as a living, breathing, moving creature.

The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)
La Commune (Paris, 1871) (Peter Watkins, 2000) ***½
The Circle (Jafar Panahi, 2000) **½
A Tale of Cinema (Hong Sang-soo, 2005) ***

Monday, October 03, 2005

broken narratives and drunken conversations

A Tale of Cinema (Hong Sang-soo, 2005)
Just saw this, and while I am aware that I should probably see it again before attempting to discuss it, here I am with an expression of appreciation.

[contains spoilers]

Hong Sang-soo is my favourite Korean filmmaker right now and A Tale of Cinema marks a truly refreshing addition to his body of work. I guess the first two things that stand out the most are the much-discussed voiceover narration and the frequent use of zooms, tools which initially surprise anyone who has ever seen Hong's films, which are usually much less 'showy' affairs, normally unfolding in long takes as his characters exhaustedly trudge their way through seemingly banal situations and encounters that frequently end up with establishing an intense feeling of cinematic déjà vu, or in long, drunken confessions. A Tale of Cinema exhibits these established repetitions and rhythms of a Hong Sang-soo film, along with the bifurcated narrative which he put to similar use in earlier films like The Power of Kangwon Province and Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors. As for the zoom-ins - they never bothered me, but I was surprised when they continued into the 'reality' of the second half. This makes sense retrospectively though - Dong-soo and Young-shil share spectatorship of the first half with us, so when full spectatorship passes onto us in the second half, Hong makes us no less aware of our position as a spectator by employing these devices. More intriguing are the parallels between the two halves, especially how our failed director and rising actress of the second half uncannily end up on sites which were featured in the short film, in said director's attempts to recreate his idealistic romance (= a suicide?!). Other classically Hongian elements linking the two halves, besides this doomed pursuit of romanticism/obscure objects of desire, are mechanical sex (which he still cuts to suddenly) and death (the dead fish in Kangwon Province makes sense now). A Tale of Cinema may not be his masterpiece, but I can't think of another film of his which I could identify with as immediately. After all, this is about a (morbid) attraction to the illusion of cinema, creating films of our own and projecting ourselves as the performers. Truly a film for anyone who allows themselves to be lost in the tales of the cinema.

a moment of clarity

Music-wise, that is.

I've been furiously catching up with 2005 music lately, and of course, found myself ending up with a list to summarise the year so far. Some of these have haunted me for weeks:

1. Animal Collective - Feels
2. Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering
3. Josephine Foster - Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You
4. Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow
5. Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness
6. The Fiery Furnaces - EP
7. The Skygreen Leopards - Life & Love in Sparrow's Meadow
8. Antony and the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now
9. Studio Pankow - Linienbusse
10. Nick Castro and the Poison Tree - Further From Grace
11.Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
12. Ø - Kantamoinen

Mostly psych-folk and electro stuff. There're a few more albums which I loved from this year, but for now these 12 should satisfy the list-maker in me. A couple are as-yet unreleased (the orgasmic/insane, Feels, and the fragile-beyond-words, Lookaftering) and I can't wait to own them when they come out later this month. Also looking forward to the new ones by Vetiver, Espers, Broken Social Scene, Boards of Canada, etc.

September screening log

Latest viewing goes on top:

La Captive (Chantal Akerman, 2000) ***
Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-soo, 2000) ***½
Moloch (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1999) **½

L'Amour à mort (Alain Resnais, 1984) **½
Resnais attempts a Bergman-like chamber piece, to frequently fascinating-but-maddening effect. The concept of a man who dies, then miraculously comes back to life, only to form an obsession with his own death, is the most morbid of all Resnais films I've seen, and the film's structure (a series of episodes separated by a black screen, with occasional snow-flakes falling in the foreground) echoes an obsession with death and darkness - the black screen functioning in the same way that the songs (and the jellyfish) did in his Same Old Song, halting the narrative, 'killing' it, completely separating the characters from their 'history' and forcing them to exist as models of their impossible desires. More intellectually distanced than is typical for a Resnais film, but it's strengths surprisingly lie with how Resnais uses music (that accompanies the black screens, by avant-garde composer Hans Werner Henze) to punctuate, or even define, his narrative.

Red Eye (Wes Craven, 2005) **

Soon: The short films of Artavazd Peleshian! Frankly, I'm a little nervous considering how he's been called the "greatest filmmaker you've never heard of" etc. by some, but we'll see.

Kardiogramma (Darezhan Omirbaev, 1995) **½
Kairat (Darezhan Omirbaev, 1992) ***
La Première nuit (Georges Franju, 1958) ****
Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (Patrice Chéreau, 1998) **
Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943) ***
Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936) ***
Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger, 1958) ***½
The Living End (Gregg Araki, 1992) **½
Nowhere (Gregg Araki, 1997) *½
Outer and Inner Space (Andy Warhol, 1966) ***½

A bunch of short films by Bruce Conner, George Kuchar, and Guy Maddin. Highlights: Breakaway (Conner, 1966), Marilyn Times Five (Conner, 1973), Crossroads (Conner, 1976), Wild Night in Reno (Kuchar, 1977), and of course The Heart of the World (Maddin, 2000), which I had only seen once before. Oh, and The Man We Want to Hang (Anger, 2002), which is creeepy.

The Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch, 1934) ***
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999) ***

Whity (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1971) **
Unfortunately saturated with benign jabs at wounded race relations (personified by the psycho-sexual torture that Whity, a black slave, undergoes at the hands of his perverted white masters and mistress). But then there's Peer Raben's masterful score which more than keeps up with the over-the-top material, and Hanna Schygulla herself, who infuses every scene she's in with a certain playful eroticism. Still, a Fassbinder Western has no right to be this dull.

Nanami: Inferno of First Love (Susumu Hani, 1968) ***
Funeral Procession of Roses (Toshio Matsumoto, 1969) ***½
Seeing these two sexually-charged Japanese New Wave films back-to-back was thrilling in many ways. Both films are high on the possibilities of filmmaking, the Matsumoto film (said to have inspired the visual palette of A Clockwork Orange) especially experimenting with the medium with delirious abandonment - subliminal insertions of shreds of memories, catfights among drag queens unfolding in stop-motion animation, surreal flashbacks, interviews with the actors about the making of Funeral Procession of Roses, until it all flows into mondo territory with a genuinely shocking ending which spins off an interesting twist on the Oedipus myth, all set to a minimalist Toru Takemitsu-esque mastery of score.

Viruddh (Mahesh Manjrekar, 2005) ½*
Dogura Magura (Toshio Matsumoto, 1988) *** ?
I guess. Could go either way on another viewing.

High Hopes (Mike Leigh, 1988) ***
Adam's Rib (George Cukor, 1949) ***
The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995) **½
The War Game (Peter Watkins, 1965) ***½
Kasba (Kumar Shahani, 1991) ***
The Power of Kangwon Province (Hong Sang-soo, 1998) ***
Another Woman (Woody Allen, 1988) **
Tarang (Kumar Shahani, 1984) **½
Khandhar (Mrinal Sen, 1984) ***½

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