Emma’s Dilemma — “A Lee Ann-thology of Concrete Poetry” with Lee Ann Brown

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speaking with a friend today about documentaries of writers or the lack of good ones…  reminded me of this portrait which i love. by experimental video maker superhero henry hills

interviewed by emme bee bernstein.

another on susan howe here.

PLATFORM by jia zhangke

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yesterday i saw PLATFORM. which, with PICKPOCKET, make up the stunning first two thirds of the “hometown trilogy” by jia zhangke. for some reason, maybe because he’s found relatively secure funding in his latest films (and not had to work outside china’s constrained studio system), these first two are, for me, much richer than his more recent work. both star the nerdy, nebbish beauty of wang hongwei–who plays an odd, shangxi-province version of bizarro woody allen. i think i could watch wang hongwei smoke and eat noodles for hours.

like his recent films, PLATFORM and PICKPOCKET detail china’s transformation from a closed society of state-run industry into its current brand of particular capitalism.  for the sixth generation this change has resulted in a stunning slowmotion whiplash. jia zhangke was actually present at this particular screening, which took place because of a MOMA retrospective. at the Q&A after the screening someone asked the director whether he thought of himself more akin to the blockbuster and arguably escapist films of zhang yimou or the more openly critical, political-protest films of li yang. jia zhangke gave an interesting reply, saying he didn’t necessarily agree with such dichotomous labels, that reality was larger than such simple opposites. i asked a poet friend — who was also in attendance and who had himself left china shortly after ’89 tiananmen — whether he thought jia’s response was more true or more politically coy — and my friend seemed to think it was a sincere answer.

in any case, i spent today thinking a great deal about PLATFORM’s last scene. i don’t think it will give anything away to say it’s a strange, mostly static composition. i’d seen PICKPOCKET a while back (which also has a terrific ending) and while i think it’s easy to say PICKPOCKET’s the better film, i was taken with how beautiful PLATFORM’s story was, a love story really, about two couples in a theater troupe through the 1980s. this last scene is a mysterious one, which doesn’t add particularly to your factual knowledge of the characters, but does have a very strange magic in its blocking and in its actions that burns in the brain (at least in mine) a permanent portrait of this non-couple and non-family.

the film’s precise depiction of the changing material conditions of the youth of shanxi province make for me a kind of mind-shattering comparison with the material state of the west in the 80s… definitely one to try.

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[somewhat relatedly, tonight — through tragic happenstance — i was forced to watch the very end of SEPTEMBER ISSUE — a documentary about vogue magazine. it made me ill. maybe i’m a fool, but to see those two movies back to back made me speak into the apartment air, involuntarily: we live in an insane world where the ones in power are insane people who do insane things.]

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profile and interview with jia zhangke by stephen teo at senses of cinema:

ST: Why do you want to return to that stage of primevalism? Cinema has developed for a hundred years.

JZ: Because after a hundred years, the human life force in cinema is becoming less and less. The cinema is subjected more and more to industrial standards. I think cinema should contain human flavour and the flavour of the auteur. That’s why I didn’t want something easy and smooth. I want a movie that has an accent. For example, I can’t speak standard English, I have a Chinese accent. The cinema is the same. I have my own Jia Zhangke accent. I may be too garrulous, or too vague. My camera may be shaky or it jerks too much but that’s the emotion I feel on the set. That’s the kind of movie I want to make. Pouring your life force into the movie, not conforming to a cold industrial standard. That’s why I rejected the use of certain supplementary film techniques such as steadicam or even the track – though I used a bit of that in Platform. I don’t want my cameramen to use these supplementary techniques. Because I want my camera to come into direct contact with the subject.

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JZ: I use a lot of long shots. If the audience can see things in there, that’s good, if they can’t, so be it. I don’t want to impose too many things onto the audience… I don’t want to impose a message onto the audience. I want to give them a mood and within that mood, you can see things that you want, or you can’t see things. My films are rather challenging for the audience. They are not very clearly stated to the extent where the audience can see clearly the objects they want to see – this pen or this watch. If they don’t notice it, they don’t notice it. It’s not that I am being indifferent. Through all these, I am imparting a director’s attitude, how he sees the world and the cinema. What I mean to say is that it’s only an attitude because you can never be absolutely objective. When you need somebody to look at something, it’s no longer objective. There is no absolute objectivity, there is attitude, and through this attitude, there is an ideal.


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
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