TIME OUT NEW YORK calls THE MOTHERING COVEN one of the best of 2009

BEST OF 2009

This book, ostensibly about a group of women missing one of their own, is delightfully strange, both in the way the plot progresses and the way Ruocco plays with language…

congratulations to joanna ruocco for penning this stunning debut. on only its fourth outing, a nice feather too in the cap for Ellipsis Press. won’t you consider picking up a copy of our first four titles at a special year-end sale?



on the radio yesterday i heard someone quote debussy:

At a time like ours, in which mechanical skill has attained unsuspected perfection, the most famous works may be heard as easily as one may drink a glass of beer… Should we not fear this domestication of sound, this magic that anyone can bring from a disc at his will. Will it not bring to waste the mysterious force of an art which one might have thought indestructible.

Written under the subtitle: ON REMOVING THE MYSTIQUE OF MUSIC

most days i so agree with claude’s pov, but ah well… my new favorite album only uses synth drums… que sera sera:

KINGS AND QUEEN by desplechin

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not that you should care about the motivations of your humble correspondent, but breaking once the vow to myself never to blog about movies seems to have opened the floodgates as i now feel a sick need to write about arnaud desplechin. just re-watched his enormous KINGS AND QUEEN — the DVD of which has some incredible extras, including interviews with desplechin and others with the films’ incredible actors.

in the desplechin interview we learn one method that makes possible the density and overflowing of theme and idea and joke in the movie. desplechin had been reading truffaut who wrote to his scriptwriter once, “How can you imagine I will make a scene of four minutes to say one idea?” desplechin decided to make a motto (and one-up) his idol, by placing above his writing desk the following: “Each minute we have to be sure that we show five different ideas.”

the interview also reveals desplechin’s frankly weird idea of the specific possibility of cinema–one it turns out related to a very gendered idea of the psychology of romance. it came out of his re-watching VERTIGO.

I thought I was not a fan of VERTIGO. I thought that I preferred MARNIE. But when I saw the real film that Hitchcock wanted to make, I was crying and crying and crying… I thought the film was saying something, an awful truth about manhood, which would be that each time you love a woman, there is another hidden woman who died before, and that you haven’t been able to stop that. It doesn’t have to be a particular woman, but there is this idea that as soon as you start your love life, there is a woman who died before and that you will mourn all your life. And all the women you will meet, they will be pale copies of this dead woman. …And I think cinema [in particular] …is able to describe that sort of feeling …which is typically …bizarre…quite abstract and concrete… I think that on the opposite side for a woman… I think that each woman has killed a man before the man she is loving now.

i’m really not sure about all of that. maybe it’s important, maybe not — but what a film! overspilling with gesture and idea and tragedy. totally artificial and yet utterly connecting with human experience. a completely new type of extraordinary epic built out of artificially and continuously contradicting characters’ psychologies.

ALEXANDRA by Alexander Sokurov

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saw sokurov’s latest, THE SUN, recently — and didn’t care for it so much… the super-controlled palette and dim lighting effects couldn’t win me over past the overused stillness and the poor casting. the latter had the very unfortunate effect of ruining the movie’s most important scene: a confrontation between emperor hirohito and general macarthur shortly after japan’s surrender. (hirohito was tic-ishly great, but the guy playing macarthur…)

however, seeing it did remind me of a movie i saw not so long ago, which was a very powerful comment on war and peace and on one’s ability to comprehend the abstract conduct of nations. it was sokurov’s ALEXANDRA, featuring the consummate babushka galina vishnevskaya (opera singer and rostropovich’s widow). a mother amidst the soldiers in an unnamed battleground, an enormous amount of commentary and tragedy is gracefully churned up by that seemingly simple juxtaposition.

one maybe for your queue.

A is for Apichatpong Weerasethakul

the amazing “joe” shows how we delight in light in his new short PHANTOMS OF NABUA here. turn down the lights to see it in full glory. thanks to paolo javier for showing it to me. not so long ago i was lucky to catch a rare screening of his campy spectacle THE ADVENTURE OF IRON PUSSY. if you’ve caught the mystical and beautiful SYNDROMES & A CENTURY you should try to seek this one out for, um, contrast.

his shorts in general are exacting compositions even while they showcase a very impish, light sense of humor. his ANTHEM is a glorious tour of a gymnasium, the best game of around-the-world you’ve ever.

the superhero in his own words:

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Interview
Uploaded by iskander80. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.

top three for oh nine


three things i liked from the past year, posted at Big Other:



THE TANNERS by robert walser


simon says!

not the burst of perfect and heart-crumpling song that was JAKOB VON GUNTEN, THE TANNERS is more a patchwork of monologues, but both share the same saint’s heart and the ability to lay out all the observable open secrets of our every day.

some writers, you enter their house in faith and give yourself up to in awe — despite some weaker establishing shots, the occasional hastiness (or more frequently here, the overlong lingering). the heart of the miracle is everywhere apparent nonetheless. and anyway, you were converted by their best moment — and that was more than enough… and THE TANNERS does compensate the faithful, not in least ways by being lovely autobiography — even predictive autobiography:

And he’d frozen to death here, without a doubt, and he must have been lying here on the path for a while… Sebastian must have sunk to the ground here with an immense, no longer endurable weariness… How noble a grave he chose for himself… What splendid peace: reposing and growing stiff beneath fir branches in the snow. You couldn’t have chosen anything better. People tend to inflict harm on the eccentric — and this is what you were — and then laugh at their pain. Give my greetings to the dear, silent dead beneath the earth and don’t get too badly scorched in the eternal fires of nonexistence. You are elsewhere (154-5).

other compensations include a defense of the poet’s otherwise failures: “And never be so swift to look in scorn upon someone who is failing or appears lethargic or inactive. How quickly his sunshine, his poems can arise from these long, dull dreams!” (109); the helplessness and foolishness of loving art too much: “No sensible man allows himself to be made a fool of by any one thing, tormented and tricked for so long” (78); the agonies of teaching: “But when I’m teaching, I think of other things, things more distant and greater than their little souls” (188); comments on religion: “Religion here has too little sky, it smells too little of the soil” (282); and on misfortune: “Let me tell you, I’m a friend of misfortune, a very intimate friend” (258).


& of possible further interest, another walser site which reveals some of the source material :

Between 1936 and 1955, Carl Seelig, who would become known as a biographer of Albert Einstein, took nearly fifty long walks with his friend the Swiss writer Robert Walser. Seelig would meet Walser at the train station at Herisau in eastern Switzerland or at the sanitarium where Walser had been since the early 1930s, diagnosed with schizophrenia. Seelig’s notes of their walks and conversations have appeared in German as Wanderungen mit Robert Walser and in French translation, but the book has never appeared in English. http://sebald.wordpress.com/category/carl-seelig/

seelig’s notes have been translated into english by bob skinner on this nice site with a good search feature, so that a search for “Geschwister Tanner” reveals the following anecdote:

Our conversation touched on Geschwister Tanner, of which Robert said: “I wrote it in Berlin in three or four weeks, essentially without corrections. Bruno Cassirer cut out a few sections he found boring, like the one where Simon found the clerk’s manuscript in the oven. That appeared later in the journal Marz, where Hermann Hesse was an editor. My praiseworthy medical director, Dr. Hinrichsen, who saw himself as an important writer, said once that the beginning was good, but the rest was impossible. He said it as though he would have gagged if he’d been forced to read the whole thing.” Robert laughed heartily at his own description.

pick it up at the library or buy it from the publisher.
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