Monday, August 26, 2013

Link Round-Up: Something Is Coming

Lots of stuff to catch up on...

Next week, Andrew Welch and I will launch To Be Contd, a film site dedicated to longform dialogues about film, inspired by many sources that believe that slow is better. Andrew and I have been writing and editing each other's posts for the first "issue" for quite some time now, and I'll be very happy to announce the topic when it launches next week (the photo above gives a good hint though), and I'm very excited about some of the writers who will be writing in the future. Do us a favor and follow the social media glitz for now: Twitter and Facebook.

Over at In Review Online, I had a couple of posts. First, I wrote about Wong Kar-Wai's debut feature As Tears Go By for a directrospective on the Hong Kong filmmaker. I tried to get into the nuance of how to examine the film in terms of the industry Wong had been working in for 10 years. Read that over here. I also offered some preliminary thoughts on The Grandmaster over on Letterboxd

My other review was for the tiresome Ain't Them Bodies Saints, one of my larger disappointments of the year in terms of what could have been a really unique deconstruction of the "lovers on the run" genre. Take a gander to understand my frustrations.

New Cinephiliacs have gone up. Doc expert Robert Greene joined me for a conversation on his two fantastic features - Kati With An I and Fake It So Real (thoughts on each respectively on Lboxd) - as well as Peter Watkins's enormously complex film, Edvard Munch. Then acting expert Sheila O'Malley came on to talk about her work as an actor and blogger, plus John Cassavetes's Opening Night. On the "Thank You" side, the equally fantastic blogger Brian Doan wrote about the podcast here.

Some Letterboxd reviews...

From the "current cinema:" The Heat, The Canyons, This Is Martin Bonner, Touchy Feely, and my revisit to Moonrise Kingdom.

From the past: Intolerance, 3 Women, The Hunger, Good Morning, Taipei, Love Streams, A Woman is a Woman, and Ashes of Time.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reality Manifested: The Opening Shot of Tarr's The Man From London

There is something truly metaphysical about the opening of Bela Tarr’s The Man From London. More than any other shot in his filmography, this opening shot, as well as much of the rest of the film, Tarr feels to be manifesting existence before his camera. I love the openings to both Satantango and The Turin Horse, but the operations at work under those shots is of a very different quality of what Tarr does here. Many perceive that the long take in cinema creates a sense of realism. But in The Man From London, Tarr’s long aren’t capturing reality, they seem to construct reality itself. Until the camera exposes us to what we see, I’m not sure that the location beyond the sight of the camera actually exists.

Suspicious Paintings and Wind in the Trees: An Image/Text Approach to Narrative Excess

I have a lot of issues with the idea of narrative excess. What does excess exactly mean? Isn't the point of cinema to see "excess"? Anyways, this paper was written in my seminar on contemporary film theory last semester. It's too sprawling to really have it published somewhere, but it does get to some of my core beliefs about the possibilities of cinema, cinephilia, post-60s film theory, digital indexicality, and more. Please note this is not for casual readers.

I. Wind in the Trees

A man climbs a ladder on the side of a building. He and another cop follow a criminal across the rooftops of San Francisco. The criminal aptly jumps from one building to the next. The cop follows and barely balances himself. The man attempts to do the same but slips, grabbing onto the ledge. The cop comes to help him back up, telling him, “Give me your hand!” but falls himself.  The man can only look down in horror.

Any person who knows the scene I have described from the opening to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) will immediately recognize this description as insufficient. What about the mood of the scene, with its stunning dark hues? How about the tense score created by Bernard Hermann? What about the presence given to Scottie by Jimmy Stewart, and all that seems indescribable in his piercing eyes? This all leads to the real question: is this a failure of my description or a case of narrative excess?

The concept of narrative excess—films that create something that exceeds the necessity of the story they are attempting to tell—has been frustratingly limited in recent discussions in contemporary film theory. It is often relegated to certain films and filmmakers: it exists in action films and musicals during their elongated sequences that “do nothing to push the narrative forward.” Art-house films, with their long tracking shots and characters without affect, are declared to have narrative excess. And one cannot forget experimental cinema, which has no narrative and must only be excess.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Two Images for the Day (8/12/13)

A King In New York (Chaplin, USA, 1957)
Lost in Translation (Coppola, USA, 2003)

Friday, August 09, 2013

Toward a Study on Intolerance

The fatal women of Intolerance wield an enormous power on the level of enunciation: more often than not, they become the subjective focus of the narration, motivating shot changes and authoring structures of vision. 
-Miriam Hansen, "D.W. Griffith's Intolerance," from Classical Hollywood Narrative: The Paradigm Wars, edited by Jane Gaines (1992).

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Movie Theater, 2013

Vezi mai multe video din film
Artaud Double Bill (Atom Egoyan, 2007), from To Each His Own Cinema.

More reading from Glenn Kenny.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Perfected Simplicity: Jang Kun-Jae's Sleepless Night

Jang Kun-Jae's Sleepless Night will play as part of the Museum of Modern Art's ContemporAsain series on Saturday 8/10 and Sunday 8/11. I wrote about the film earlier this year, and have revised that piece below:

The utter simplicity of Jang Kun-Jae’s Sleepless Night makes it feel like such a tender work of art, whose intimacy feels utterly sublime in its feeling. Here’s a film about a couple in their early 30s. They both have jobs and seem genuinely happy with each other. They eat dinner, go on walks in the park, and wash each other in the shower. This is an actual couple, who have a major concerns about where their life is heading, but it never dominates their thoughts or minds.

The digital frames of Sleepless Night (not to be confused with the French action film) might come off as almost amateurish, but Jang is no amateur. This South Korean director, making his second feature (I’ve been told his first feature, Eighteen, is equally impressive), seems to be inspired by a wave of great Asian artists behind him: Yasujiro Ozu, Hirokazu Kore-eda, and Hong Sang-soo. It's a film with almost no pretensions to raise the stakes of its narrative beyond its extremely limited scope, but it executes it with such lyrical precision, that it held me rapturous for its brief, 65-minute run time.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Link Round-Up: Straight Talk

I would hardly call myself a David Lynch auteurist or defender or what have you - I think Mulholland Drive is an absolute masterpiece, and Blue Velvet is canon, but most of the other works are I could probably leave behind. However, I do quite like The Straight Story, which in the latest episode of Josh Spiegel's Mousterpiece Cinema, I argue is perhaps his most Lynchian movie. I was joined by the much more intelligent Jake Cole as well, so give that a listen for some insights into this strange work in Lynch's canon, plus me defending The Lone Ranger despite derisive laughter that follows (which I also defend over here)

Blue Jasmine is the latest Woody Allen film, and like all Woody Allen films, it's quite enjoyable or at least palettable. I reviewed it for In Review Online, though I probably should have spent a few more words on how good Andrew Dice Clay is. Read that over here.

Traveling Light is an a new contender for my favorite film of 2013, an experimental work that follows a train ride from New York to Pittsburgh. I'll write it longform some time, but its filmmaker Gina Telaroli joined me on The Cinephiliacs to talk about her films, her Allan Dwan and William Wellman dossiers, unconscious cinema, and a very magical film: Vincente Minnelli's Brigadoon. Give that a listen over here

New on the Boxd: Laughton's masterwork Night of the Hunter, Johnnie To's fantastic Drug War, Godard's romp-like A Woman is a Woman, Brian De Palma's ecstatic The Fury, Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail, and two films by documentarian Robert Greene: Kati With An I and Fake It So Real. More here if you scroll down.