Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922 - 2008)

"Why all the games?"
"Just to see your reactions."

- dialogue from Trans-Europ-Express (Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1966)

Anthony Fragola: What is it that film can accomplish that the written work cannot? There must be something intrinsic to film that draws you to it. What is there in film that allows you to express what you want to express?

Alain Robbe-Grillet: There is nothing I want to express. I have nothing to express. I feel like manipulating forms. I paint because plastic forms interest me. I write literature because the structures of sentences and words interest me, and I make films because the image and the sound interest me. But for me, there is no relationship among these different activities. Well, yes, there is a relationship -- myself; that is all. But I am not at all like Marguerite Duras who can make a film with a novel or a novel with a film. For me that would absolutely never come to mind. For me that is a completely different kind of activity.

- excerpt from The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews With Alain Robbe-Grillet on His Films (1992, eds. Fragola and Smith).

The image above is from Robbe-Grillet's Eden and After (1970), possibly my favourite of the few films I've seen by him. It is a film that contains some of the most striking images of all within this catalogue of seductive, haunting, mind-boggling imagery constituting his cinema. Within this film, fantasies play themselves out in a Tunisian desert, beginning from optical illusions to do with bodily fluids, leading to the infamous scene with the blindfolded woman and a bucket of scorpions. There are references to the paintings of Marcel Duchamp, most of all to 'Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2', signalling a shift in focus to the female characters in Robbe-Grillet's films from now on. Repetition (seduced to repulsed to seduced) as rupture.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vaude and links

The image above is from Johanna Vaude's De l'amort, which I recently saw along with her Exploration (both from 2006), two very fascinating - and explosively beautiful - exploratory short films where the technical hybridisation of painting, Super-8 film, and video, seems to contain a symbiotic coexistence of abstract and narrative sensibilities, perhaps the driving force behind the universe of Vaude's images. The great French critic Raphaël Bassan has written that one needs to watch her earlier piece L'Oeil sauvage to understand her approach and I intend to attempt to do that as soon as I can. More later...

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Links of the day: (1.) Over at Quintín's and Flavia's La Lectora Provisoria, Roger Alan Koza interviews Jonathan Rosenbaum, on global cinephilia and the cinematic canon. In Spanish, so use your favourite web-translator - it's well worth it, and (2.) 'From black box to white cube' - a roundtable discussion on 'cinema' in the museum, with Pedro Costa, Catherine David, and moderated by Chris Dercon: "Cinema is not about the artist. It’s about being in the world, our world, choosing a place and figuring out elements of time and space and limits that are common to all of us. I believe that, if cinema goes beyond its realistic borders, it loses all of its powers. Look at Chaplin: it is not about him, it’s about us, from crossing a street to fighting a dictator" - Costa (via new filmkritik).

And I have finally added some links further down the page to other sites - mostly cinema-related (for now) blogs - that I frequent. This will remain a work in progress.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

the body in its entirety

Daney: As a filmmaker, what does the human face mean to you? You've admired this aspect of other directors' work, people like Dreyer or Bresson or Godard, for example, who continues filming faces. What is a face to you? Is it something that demands respect because it's too intimate or can we no longer film faces like Griffith did and we have to do it differently?

Rivette: I don't think it's a question of having the right... It's more that I don't want to separate... to split things up... I know that a lot of filmmakers, whether consciously or not, who have this notion of splitting the body into bits. Not just the face, it can be the hand or any part of the body. But obviously the face is the main focus of the body. But I know that, when I stand behind the camera and look into the eyepiece, I always have a tendency that I sometimes regret of stepping back somewhat, because when I have just the face I want to see the hands and when I have the hands I want to see the body. I always want to see the body in its entirety. And then the person or the backdrop... the elements in relation to which this body acts, reacts, moves, etc. I think it's simply linked to the fact that I don't have the temperament, the taste or the talent to make heavily edited films. My films focus more on the continuity of events taken as a whole. (...) With Anna, as with Juliet or Bulle - to name just three when I could name others - what I like about these actresses and indeed other actors like Jean-Pierre Léaud or Jean-Pierre Kalfon, is their entire body, the overall way the body moves and reacts from head to toe. And that's what I want to capture on film. I know what I'm saying is only half true. Because a filmmaker like Jean-Luc, who films very close in, knows that as he's filming a particular detail, what he's not filming will come across. If he's filming the face or another part of the body, you can feel the parts of the body that you can't see.

- Serge Daney and Jacques Rivette, from Jacques Rivette - Le veilleur (Claire Denis/Serge Daney, 1989).

Also see, very loosely-related: this post on 'Designated Sleeper', displaying the (unparalleled?) sartorial elegance of Juliet Berto in Rivette's Duelle.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"at your age, grief soon wears off"

[from Toute une nuit (Chantal Akerman, 1982)]

[from Les Années 80 (Akerman, 1983)]

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