Saturday, February 24, 2007


Paul Cézanne, The Abduction (1867, Oil on canvas)

Alexandre Cabanel, Nymphe et Saty (1860, Oil on canvas)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Nymphs and Satyr (1873, Oil on canvas)
John William Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs (1896, Oil on canvas)
Henri Matisse, Satyr and Nymph (1909, Oil on canvas).

dance girl dance

From 'Evil and the Senses: Philippe Grandrieux's Sombre and La Vie nouvelle' by Martine Beugnet:
Highly suspicious of pre-existing screenplays, Grandrieux describes the act of filming as a momentous and essentially sensual experience; the profilmic reality can take hold of the film-maker driven by a desire to make certain images. Rejecting the use of the steady-cam, which would sanitize the movement of a shot, Grandrieux insists on the importance of carrying the camera himself, working in the thick of things, to the point where he feels ‘completely sucked in the field of the shot’. Thus couched in surrealist terms, the definition of the director as author takes on an ambiguous character, as the subject who originates the work and seeks to express a personal vision, yet always seems pulled into the fluid field of the gaze, on the brink of dissolving and merging with the reality being filmed.

The shooting is but one aspect of this practice of cinema as sensual experience, both pleasurable and terrifying, into which Grandrieux hopes spectators will also let themselves be drawn. In effect, the films can be said to be explorations of cinema as, first and foremost, an aesthetic of sensation. Engaging with the legacy of the French surrealist and impressionist avant-gardes, Grandrieux thus equates a return to cinema’s first vocation - the evocation of that which lies at the margins of human consciousness - with the rediscovery of the cinematic image as visual and sound textures - a form of sculpting in movement. Accordingly, although a battery of techniques rendered possible by twenty-first-century technology is deployed, the manipulations are not put at the service of transparent or illusionist effects. On the contrary, realistic aesthetics, psychological elaboration, and narrative logic are abandoned in favour of a celebration of cinema as a visceral, synaesthetic experience, where movement, images and sounds operate as affects that precede the emergence of rational discourse.
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Clips from Sombre (1998) and La Vie nouvelle (2002), with music by Bauhaus and Etant-Donnes, respectively.

Monday, February 19, 2007

a place with no memory of itself

In my soul's dark mirror
Are pictures of never-seen seas,
Of abandoned, tragic imaginary lands,
Dissolving in the blue, roughly.

- excerpt from Georg Trakl's Three Dreams.

This past week I finally saw my first F.J. Ossang film: Le Trésor des îles chiennes (Treasure of the Bitch Islands, 1990). The opening/closing of the iris, the intertitles, it's expressionistic black-and-white photography - like a Georg Trakl poem that has been drained of colour - take us back to Murnau and Epstein, and in other ways (worthy of further future investigation) brings to mind 'the b-movie', Eraserhead, New Rose Hotel, or a Ruiz elaboration. Similarly, its narrative objects are remnants of film noir: pursued heroes, invisible but oh-so-palpable evil, the femme fatale. Until another viewing, it's very difficult to say what's exactly happening at any given moment of the film since events just seem to dissolve into each other, but basically it's about a group of scientists (?) working for a mysterious organisation, the Kryo Corp, who return to the post-industrial Bitch Islands (which seems to be stuck in an eternal twilight, "the red night") to complete an earlier aborted attempt at securing an energy source.

Whatever generic sci-fi expectations one attributes to the plot description is actively thwarted by Ossang's suspending the film in a cloud of uncertainty and hallucinations, disseminated amnesia/hysteria, and a general post-punk approach to narrative (at times 'scenes' seem to exist only to accompany the industrial soundtrack, composed by Ossang and his band, the Messageros Killer Boys, who also provided music to the beautiful tracking shots in Waël Noureddine's From Beyrouth With Love). Later, perhaps unsurprisingly, the hunters become the hunted as the group begins to disintegrate, while the film transforms into a dark 'road movie'. A beautiful, poetic, elusive film about the flight of puppets, who can only go as far as the strings allow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Jean-Baptiste Thoret on Miami Vice (2006) in the latest Senses of Cinema (a reminder for me to get to that rewatch) :
The jerky and convulsive narrative unfolds less according to a classical logic of development of sequences (dilation, edited in power and explosion) than of rampant compilation and short-circuits. The speed of the linking of the actions, their extreme compression, thus prevents the emergence of the feeling of a time that disappears, of a length that takes hold, in favour of a constant and monotonous topicality subservient to the law of “the here and now” – “Right now” the characters do not cease repeating throughout the film. But topicality is the opposite of time and the excess (of actions, of characters, of ramifications, of narrative lines, of narrative forks, etc.) is the mask of an omnipresent lack – lack of space, lack of the Other, lack of time, above all. “Time is luck”, says Isabella on several occasions to Sonny: a tragic refrain and curse of all of Mann’s heroes. (...)

The use of HD allows Mann to forge a dense image, often opaque and viscous, which deepens the backgrounds and engulf the foregrounds. Thus, the characters gain in definition what they lose in contour, and thus in identity – visually, they free themselves with difficulty from the background and seem ceaselessly threatened with dissolution. This loss provokes an increased weight of the bodies (watch how they fall in the final shoot out), a constant swaying of space and, for the spectators, the feeling of a hypnotic pitching of shots.

Also on Senses: Tag Gallagher! Olaf Möller! (among others...) Elsewhere, most urgent of all: a conversation with Adrian Martin on Cinemascope.

Friday, February 02, 2007

two excerpts

9 of the 200 minutes from Frederick Wiseman's Public Housing (1997).

Euro, a video by André Dias.

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