Friday, March 16, 2018

Late-Teen Yakuza

Rue Teens!

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Arrow Blu-ray as included in the boxset Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years: Vol. 1: Seijun Rising: The Youth Movies.)


Late-Teen Yakuza [High-teen yakuza, 1962 — aka Teenage Yakuza] unfolds upon images of construction vehicles clearing out rocks and soil dumped over ridges. For, this movie is jazz, goddammit, not your ersatz pre-Beatle rock-'n-roll: the benefitting kids want only Art Farmer, Louis Armstrong, and Don Elliott!, can't you see!, like any other Anglo brand hung on a peg! "Robin Coffee Brought to You by Chimoto," the franchise café the mother of schoolboy Jirō (Tamio Kawachi) is opening up in tandem with the expansion of this extra-Tokyo growth in small-business economic rise-of-promise: a playset for shrewd Suzuki four years before Godard's more cosmologically cogent focus on the Paris banlieues in 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her [2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle, 1966]. Sprinkle their faces with sea-salt or not — the shots are all diurnal! Aside from the brilliant framings and sets, a terribly ugly film... the bastard bleaching sunlight... it exposes the cowards and conformists that Jirō defends against and the extortionist delinquents he ATTACKS! in fending off this multi-block plot for which the owners thought they were signing up in solace to hunker over in perpetuity on the heels of the war...

Fictional teens cry and hiccup for the power to loaf! They might extort protection money from the conformist-cowards who took out business-loans, but Jirō comes round to offer real protection kicking the would-be-yakuzas' asses all over the curbs, arm-blocking every ridiculous haymaker-right-hook before he socks them impermanently to the dust.

Two beautiful details, that most present-day directors are incapable of equaling in their films:

(1) A cop manning a one-man-barracks, whose wife and toddler are visiting during Jirō and his buddy Yoshio's (Toshio Sugiyama) questioning. After the cop dismisses the two to go home, maybe half-an-hour later in the film, the next time we return to him (because films and scenarios work at the power of twice, not three-times), he's dandling his toddler solo near the plants before the keisatsu bungalow. And:

(2) Kazuko (Midori Tashiro) speeds into her father's udon/soba shop to make a plea, and like a pied-piper, the most popular girl in town because maybe the shittiest, all her friends follow her and clog up the windows in the background to gawk.

Late-Teen Yakuza is a beautiful and short (1 hour 12 minute) movie, and I only wish it might have ended differently: with Yoshio having already been crippled in the leg, and Jirō having suffered a similar maiming from a blade in the same spot — my wish, my wish... is that when they reconcile and pedal bicycles together during the final shot ————— both might only operate the pedals with their left feet and their right legs dangling numb off the frames...


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

Fumi hazushita hara [Trampled Springtime, 1958]

Kage naki koe [Voice Without a Shadow, 1958]

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]

Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze [Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass, 1961]

High-teen yakuza [Late-Teen Yakuza, 1962]

Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast, 1963]


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass

Variety Show

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Arrow Blu-ray as included in the boxset Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years: Vol. 1: Seijun Rising: The Youth Movies.)


It takes Shintarō (Kōji Wada), an economics student on sabbatical passing through a mountain village, to get the Imai Kinyō Traveling Magic Show's mojo back on track. The drifter-savior, if only there ultimately to inspire Misako Imai (Mayumi Shimizu) to follow her dream of resigning from the troupe and moving to Tokyo. A dream she'll abandon at the film's end! Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass [Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze, 1961 — somewhere along the line it got aka'd The Wind-of-Youth Group Crosses the Mountain] abounds with frustrated dreams, the funniest being the yakuza prohibited from killing his mark, and troupe leader Kinyō himself (Shin Morikawa) botching his projected showstopper during practice and drowning in a submerged trunk. Escape for Tokyo, escape à la Houdini, even in the case of the yakuza's mark escape through the honor of death — in the end, there's no escape at all.

A neglected treasure in Suzuki's career, Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass examines the underlying absurdity of entertaining audiences with cheap spectacle, whether that be a third-rate magic-and-striptease production, or the barking at fairground passers-by to take a chance on discounted ladies' bloomers. Like the Imai ensemble itself, Youthful Wind, and Suzuki, are caught in a transitional time bound up with tricks and strippers, mercenary promoters and gangster associates. It was this filmmaker's charge to satisfy his audience, that of the Japanese cinema of '61.


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

Fumi hazushita hara [Trampled Springtime, 1958]

Kage naki koe [Voice Without a Shadow, 1958]

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]

Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze [Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass, 1961]

High-teen yakuza [Late-Teen Yakuza, 1962]

Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast, 1963]


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Voice Without a Shadow

She Has the Ability to Distinguish Between 300 Voices

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Arrow Blu-ray as included in the collection Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Volume 1.)


"Born in Tokyo, it was assumed Suzuki would take over his father's bicycle bell-making business...."
—from Stuart Galbraith IV's essay "Voices Behind the Shadow" [2016]

I haven't come across many chroniclers of the early years of Suzuki's career who will admit that the respective films are not just entertaining genre programmers but indeed stand apart from other, albeit excellent, Nikkatsu works of the era — example: Toshio Masuda's Red Pier [Akai hatoba, 1958], also included in the Arrow set. Take Voice Without a Shadow [Kage naki koe, 1958]: it's got all mod cons: bicycle bells, dog whistles...

Asako Takahashi-Kotani works as a switchboard operator at the Maichō Shinbun. (Yôko Minamida plays Asako, whose character does not, as far as we might surmise via common practice of the time, officially carry a hyphenate-surname; she's referred to alternately with both surnames by Ishikawa, a newspaper journalist played by Diamond Guy Hideaki Nitani who knew her in earlier days.) When Ishikawa requests she connect him from the newsroom to an outside line, she plugs into the wrong number, belonging to a pawnshop where a crime in-progress can be overheard in the background as one of the perpetrators answers the phone and taunts the operator, two noh masks gazing down upon her from a calendar posted on the wall. Three years and one noh mask later, she'll recognize the crook's voice at last, now that it's emitting again from a telephone receiver: it's her husband's shifty mahjongg pal Hamazaki (Jō Shishido), who's become a fixture at the game nights her spouse has been strong-armed into hosting and pissing away his and Asako's paltry savings upon.

The latter two-thirds of the film deal with Hamazaki's murder committed shortly after Asako's epiphany, and Ishikawa's procedural gumshoeing to discover the guilty party. The clues hinge upon a specific variety of coal-dust found near the Kotani residence that's found smudged on Hamazaki's suit and within his autopsied lungs. It's later revealed that these are planted specimens: the dust in his lungs got wafted down his windpipe by way of a handfan brandished directly before his strangulated face by devil-vixen Mari (Midori Ishizuka) who, earlier the same night of Hamazaki's murder, will sit on a parlor floor and playact the choking of a pet dog before tearing the feathers off a mangy fowl.

Anyway, in the end everything's tied up in a bow, and Ishikawa gets the killer.

I'd draw attention to Suzuki's inspired technique and impeccable staging. The production design is first-rate, specifically the cramped confines of the Kotani household and the labyrinth of Mari's bungalow. There's the ill-boding flashback sequence tipped off by the framing of each shot with a canted angle, and the three-shot distorted in a shattered mirror. Lastly, a prime example of Suzuki's endeavor of keeping everything interesting through camera placement and blocking: e.g., Asako erupts into tears while engaging with Ishikawa at a café and bursts out onto the sidewalk: cut to exterior, camera on the door, Ishikawa rushes out, pauses. Pedestrians pass. It's raining...


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

Fumi hazushita hara [Trampled Springtime, 1958]

Kage naki koe [Voice Without a Shadow, 1958]

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]

Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze [Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass, 1961]

High-teen yakuza [Late-Teen Yakuza, 1962]

Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast, 1963]


Saturday, March 03, 2018

Trampled Springtime

Bulletin Board System Nikkatsu

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Arrow Blu-ray as included in the boxset Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years: Vol. 1: Seijun Rising: The Youth Movies.)


There's high and low camera angles, juvenile delinquency even if approached like F-Troop, transposed though to cool, and the general spectacularization of violence. This is Suzuki in his very early years, setting himself apart from the other directors at the Nikkatsu studio not only by the audacity of implementing the shooting-script but by the suppleness and originality of his mise-en-scène that makes every shot come to life. Call to arms among rival gangs. Nobody knows this movie as Trampled Springtime: that's my translation of the original Japanese title, Fumi hazushita hara [1958], which has also been translated as The Spring That Didn't Come and, poorly as it's not even a translation, The Boy Who Came Back.

AIDE-MÉMOIRE: Keiko (Sachiko Hidari) is a newly recruited case-officer (on an extracurricular basis!) taking on her first file to assist in reforming Nobuo Kasahara (Akira Kobayashi, Nikkatsu's mega-pated, non-syncopated Jerry). The story that ensues recalls Sirk's Shockproof, with major differences.

Nobuo "throttled his dad with a necktie and induced a mass escape" from his previous reformatory, although if the images beneath the opening credits are anything to go on, this isn't quite the situation. He's got a girl named Kazue (Ruriko Asaoka), she the source of his trouble because Kajita (Jô Shishido) planted his lips on her and Nobuo went apeshit. Now free after a grueling five months or whatever, Nobuo will be guided to and fro Kazue, a schoolteacher with as gentle a demeanor as the reformist. But the bad seeds are lingering around Nobuo once again and Kajita's beer-glass is glinting in the sun.

Keiko wants Nobuo (who affectionately calls her "nee-chan" or "sister") to take up a job at his mother's workplace — she's the janitor, widow to an abusive husband... Nobuo summarily rejects the offer. He fights two of the officemates drunk at a bar. Unusual eyelines in the shots leading up to the violence. Keiko's the co-dependent angel: "I'll come up with some way to save him."

And maybe she — or rather Kazue — does, by furnishing Nobuo with the art supplies he's needed to long to make a go of a career, entryway street-caricaturist. Kazue gets duped into entering a bar where in a backroom Kajita and company attempt to chloroform and gang-rape her: a cop present gets suspicious at the comings-and-goings to the room and bursts through to break it up, upon which the gang absconds only to beat hell, an hour or so later, out of Nobuo returning with his drawing supplies in the Tokyo rain. He gets brought in for questioning and Keiko helps him beat the rap (the gang's pinning on Nobuo the chloroform-rape of Kazue — which it turns out was prevented in the nick of time). A strolling designer found his hand-painted necktie in a puddle and wants to offer him a job. Kazue and he meet up as Keiko looks on from a distance. FIN DE L'AIDE-MÉMOIRE •


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

Fumi hazushita hara [Trampled Springtime, 1958]

Kage naki koe [Voice Without a Shadow, 1958]

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]

Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze [Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass, 1961]

High-teen yakuza [Late-Teen Yakuza, 1962]

Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast, 1963]


Monday, January 01, 2018

What I Saw in 2017

Here's the list of things I watched this past year. Can't remember what the first one was, but the last was Gillian Robespierre's Landline which is fantastic and stars the genius Jenny Slate in her best-ever-role-to-date. Looking forward to the days and months ahead especially to see the new PTA, the new Costa, the new Straub, and, of course, the monumental new Godard, Le livre d'image (Image et parole).

The best film of 2017 was obviously David Lynch's Twin Peaks — call it Season 3, The Return, or A Limited Event Series as you will.


2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle [2 or 3 Things I Know About Her] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1966]
20th Century Women [Mike Mills, 2016]
À bout de souffle [Breathless] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1959]
Alien: Resurrection [Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997]
Amarcord [Federico Fellini, 1973]
L’amour à mort [Love Unto Death] [Alain Resnais, 1984]
The Amputee {Version 1} [David Lynch, 1973]
The Amputee {Version 2} [David Lynch, 1973]
Anecdote [Nathan Silver, 2008]
El ángel exterminador [The Exterminating Angel] [Luis Buñuel, 1962]
Annie Hall [Woody Allen, 1977]
Applesauce [Onur Tukel, 2015]
The Asphalt Jungle [John Huston, 1950]
L’avenir [The Future / Things to Come] [Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016]
BAFICI [11] [Lisandro Alonso, 2009]
Balloonatic [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1922]
Bande à part [Band of Outsiders] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1964]
Bangiku [Late Chrysanthemums] [Mikio Naruse, 1954]
Baskets: Season 1 [Jonathan Krisel and Zach Galifianakis, 2016]
Bérénice [Éric Rohmer, 1954]
The Big Cube [Tito Davison, 1969]
The Big Night [Joseph Losey, 1961]
Bir damla su [Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2006]
Björk: “The Gate” [Andrew Thomas Huang, 2017]
The Black Cat [Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934]
The Blacksmith {Intended Theatrical Cut} [Buster Keaton with Mal St. Clair, 1922]
Blade Runner {The Final Cut} [Ridley Scott, 1982/2007]
Blossoms and Blood [Paul Thomas Anderson, 2003]
Blowup [Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966]
Blow Up of ‘Blow Up’ [Valentina Agostinis, 2016]
Borom sarret [The Wagoner] [Ousmane Sembène, 1963]
The Breaking Point [Michael Curtiz, 1950]
British Sounds (See You at Mao) [Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Henri Roger, 1969]
Bumping into Broadway. [Hal Roach, 1919]
Cabin in the Sky [Vincente Minnelli, 1943]
Captain Blood [Michael Curtiz, 1935]
Carnival of Souls [Herk Harvey, 1962]
Carta para Serra [Letter to Serra] [Lisandro Alonso, 2011]
Catfight [Onur Tukel, 2016]
Cat People [Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton, 1942]
Centron Corporation [Herk Harvey, 1967]
César [Marcel Pagnol, 1936]
Chantal Akerman, de cá [Chantal Akerman: From Here] [Leonardo Luiz Ferreira and Gustavo Beck, 2010]
Le chant du styrène [The Song of the Styrene] [Alain Resnais, 1958]
Charulata [Satyajit Ray, 1964]
Cheobcheob sanjung [In the Heart of the Mountains] [Hong Sang-soo, 2009]
La chienne [The Bitch] [Jean Renoir, 1931]
Cinéaste de notre temps: Sacha Guitry [Filmmaker of Our Time: Sacha Guitry] [Claude de Givray, 1965]
Cinéastes de notre temps: Carl Th. Dreyer [Filmmakers of Our Time: Carl Th. Dreyer] [Éric Rohmer, 1965]
Cinéastes de notre temps: Le celluloïd et le marbre [Filmmakers of Our Time: Celluloid and Marble] [Éric Rohmer, 1965]
Ciné Regards: Directed by Jacques Tourneur [Jean Ricaud and Jacques Manlay, 1979]
Ciné Regards: En répétant “Perceval,” un film d’Éric Rohmer [Ciné Regards: Rehearsing “Perceval,” a Film by Éric Rohmer] [Jean Douchet, 1978]
The Circle [Frank Borzage, 1925]
Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941]
City Lights: John Huston [Brian Linehan, 1979]
Clouds of Sils Maria [Olivier Assayas, 2014]
Comédies et Proverbes: La femme de l’aviateur, ou “On ne saurait penser à rien” [Comedies and Proverbs: The Airline Pilot’s Wife, or: “One Wouldn’t Know How to Think of Nothing”] [Éric Rohmer, 1981]
Commando [Mark L. Lester, 1985]
The Connection [Shirley Clarke, 1961]
Cover Girl [Charles Vidor, 1944]
Creative Artists of India: I: Satyajit Ray [B. D. Garga, 1974]
Creepy [Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016]
Crimson Peak [Guillermo del Toro, 2015]
Cubic Limit [Manfred Mohr, 1975]
Curb Dance [Harmony Korine, 2011]
Daisy Kenyon [Otto Preminger, 1947]
Dark Night [Tim Sutton, 2016]
Dast-neveshtehaa nemisoozand [Manuscripts Don’t Burn] [Mohammad Rasoulof, 2013]
Daughters Courageous [Michael Curtiz, 1939]
David Lynch: The Art Life [Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm, 2016]
Day Dreams [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1922]
Deadly Friend [Wes Craven, 1986]
Decker: Mindwipe [Eric Notarnicola and Tim Heidecker, 2017]
Decker: Unsealed [Eric Notarnicola and Tim Heidecker, 2017]
De l’autre côté [From the Other Side] [Chantal Akerman, 2002]
D’est [From the East] [Chantal Akerman, 1993]
Deutschland im Jahre Null [Germany in Year Zero] [Roberto Rossellini, 1948]
Deux hommes dans Manhattan [Two Men in Manhattan] [Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959]
Devi [The Goddess] [Satyajit Ray, 1960]
Dial M for Murder [Alfred Hitchcock, 1954]
Dimanche à Pékin [Sunday in Peking] {English-Language Version} [Chris Marker, 1956]
Downhill [Alfred Hitchcock, 1927]
Down There [Chantal Akerman, 2006]
Dracula [Tod Browning, 1931]
Dramatic Relationships [Dustin Guy Defa, 2016]
Dressed to Kill [Brian De Palma, 1980]
Drunken Master [Yuen Woo-ping, 1978]
An Eastern Westerner [Hal Roach, 1920]
Easy: Season 2 [Joe Swanberg, 2017]
Eating Raoul [Paul Bartel, 1982]
Eden [Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014]
Educators [Jay Giampietro, 2017]
The Electric House [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1922]
Elle [Her] [Paul Verhoeven, 2016]
Entretien sur Pascal [Interview on Pascal] [Éric Rohmer, 1965]
L’ère industrielle: Métamorphoses du paysage [The Industrial Age: Metamorphoses of the Landscape] [Éric Rohmer, 1964]
Estes Avenue [Paul Cotter, 2005]
Une étudiante d’aujourd’hui [A Modern-Day Co-Ed] [Éric Rohmer, 1966]
Everybody Wants Some!! [Richard Linklater, 2016]
Exit Elena [Nathan Silver, 2012]
Face aux fantômes [Facing Ghosts] [Jean-Louis Comolli and Sylvie Lindeperg, 2009]
Faisons un rêve… [Let’s Make a Dream…] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]
Fallen Angel [Otto Preminger, 1945]
Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) [Orson Welles, 1966]
Fanny [Marcel Pagnol with Marc Allégret, 1932]
Farpões baldios [Barbs Wastelands] [Marta Mateus, 2017]
Female [Michael Curtiz, 1933]
Fences [Denzel Washington, 2016]
Fermière à Montfaucon [Woman Farmer in Montfaucon] [Éric Rohmer, 1967]
Le feu follet [The Flickery Light / The Will-o’-the-Wisp] [Louis Malle, 1963]
Un film comme les autres [A Film Like the Others] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1969]
Finding Forrester [Gus Van Sant, 2000]
Flaked: Season 1 [Will Arnett and Mark Chappell, 2016]
Flaked: Season 2 [Will Arnett and Mark Chappell, 2017]
Force of Arms [Michael Curtiz, 1951]
Forever Amber [Otto Preminger, 1947]
La folie Almayer [The Almayer Folly] [Chantal Akerman, 2011]
Frances Ha [Noah Baumbach, 2012]
Freaks [Tod Browning, 1932]
Fright Night [Tom Holland, 1985]
The Front Page {Milestone’s Preferred Domestic Version} [Lewis Milestone, 1931]
The Frozen North [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1922]
Fuchi ni tatsu [Standing on the Edge] [Kôji Fukada, 2016]
Fushichô [Phoenix] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1947]
Gaslight [George Cukor, 1944]
The General [Buster Keaton with Clyde Bruckman, 1926]
Gentleman Jim [Raoul Walsh, 1942]
George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey [George Stevens Jr., 1984]
Georgie Human [Andy Rector, 2017]
Get Out [Jordan Peele, 2017]
Ginza keshô [Ginza Makeup] [Mikio Naruse, 1951]
Girls: Season 6 [Lena Dunham, Jenni Konner, and Judd Apatow, 2017]
GLOW: Season 1 [Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, et al, 2017]
God Respects Us When We Work But He Loves Us When We Dance [Les Blank, 1968]
Gold Diggers of 1933 [Mervyn LeRoy and Busby Berkeley, 1933]
Good Time [Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, 2017]
Gorillaz: “Hallelujah Money” [Jamie Hewlett, Damon Albarn, and Giorgio Testi, 2017]
The Grandmother [David Lynch, 1970]
Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee [Nanette Burstein, 2016]
Gunga Din [George Stevens, 1939]
Haim: “Right Now” [Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017]
Hakai [Apostasy] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1948]
Half Price: A Conversation Between Alex Ross Perry & Sean Price Williams [Adam Ginsberg and Stephen Gurewitz, 2015]
Hard Times [Walter Hill, 1975]
Harikomi [Stakeout] [Yoshitarô Nomura, 1958]
Häxan [Witches] [Benjamin Christensen, 1922]
Heaven Can Wait [Warren Beatty and Buck Henry, 1978]
He Knows You’re Alone [Armand Mastroianni, 1980]
Hidden Figures [Theodore Melfi, 2016]
L’homme et la machine [Man and Machine] [Éric Rohmer, 1967]
L’homme et les frontières: I: La notion de frontière [Man and Borders: I: The Notion of Border] [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
L’homme et les frontières: II: Une frontière aujourd’hui [Man and Borders: II: One Border Today] [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
L’homme et les gouvernements: II [Man and Governments: II] [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
L’homme et son journal [Man and His Newspaper] [Éric Rohmer, 1967]
His Girl Friday [Howard Hawks, 1940]
Hot Stuff [Zlatko Grgić, 1971]
I Don’t Belong Anywhere, le cinéma de Chantal Akerman [I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman] [Marianne Lambert, 2015]
Ikite iru Magoroku [The Living Magoroku] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1943]
I Love Melvin [Don Weis, 1953]
I Love You, Daddy {Toronto World-Premiere Cut} [Louis C.K., 2017]
The Immortal Story [Orson Welles, 1968]
The Invisible Man [James Whale, 1933]
Isle of the Dead [Val Lewton and Mark Robson, 1945]
Jamaica Inn [Alfred Hitchcock, 1939]
Jauja [Lisandro Alonso, 2014]
JAY-Z: “Marcy Me” [Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, 2017]
Jazire-ye Ahani [Iron Island] [Mohammad Rasoulof, 2005]
Je t’aime je t’aime [I Love You I Love You] [Alain Resnais, 1968]
La Jetée {English-Language Version} [Chris Marker, 1963]
Jigeumeun-majgo geuttaeneun-tteullida [Right Now Wrong Then] [Hong Sang-soo, 2015]
Jîngâng jîng [The Diamond Sutra] / The Poet and Singer [Bi Gan, 2012]
Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star [Peter Fitzgerald, 2002]
Joe Mande’s Award-Winning Comedy Special [Daniel Gray Longino, 2017]
« Un jour Pina a demandé… » [“One Day Pina Asked…”] [Chantal Akerman, 1983]
Julieta [Pedro Almodóvar, 2016]
"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van] [Seijun Suzuki, 1960]
Just Neighbors [Harold Lloyd and Frank Terry, 1919]
Kapurush [The Coward] [Satyajit Ray, 1965]
Lady Bird [Greta Gerwig, 2017]
La La Land [Damien Chazelle, 2016]
Landline [Gillian Robespierre, 2017]
Laura [Otto Preminger, 1944]
Lemon [Janicza Bravo, 2017]
Letter to Jane: An Investigation About a Still [Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972]
Lettre de Sibérie [Letter from Siberia] {English-Language Version} [Chris Marker, 1957]
Leuchtturm des Chaos / Pharos of Chaos [Wolf-Eckhart Bühler and Manfred Blank, 1983]
Little Caesar [Mervyn LeRoy, 1931]
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog [Alfred Hitchcock, 1927]
Lords of Dogtown [Catherine Hardwicke, 2005]
The Lost City of Z [James Gray, 2016]
Lost in America [Albert Brooks, 1985]
Louis C.K. 2017 [Louis C.K., 2017]
Louis Lumière [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
Love: Season 2 [Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, Lesley Arfin, Dean Holland, Joe Swanberg, et al, 2017]
Love Nest [Buster Keaton, 1923]
Lù biân yěcân [Roadside Picnic] / Kaili Blues [Bi Gan, 2015]
Lynch [blackANDwhite, 2007]
Mad Love [Karl Freund, 1935]
Mahanagar [The Big City] [Satyajit Ray, 1963]
A Man for All Seasons [Fred Zinnemann, 1966]
The Man from Laramie [Anthony Mann, 1955]
Maniac Cop [William Lustig, 1988]
Ma première brasse [My First Breaststroke] [Luc Moullet, 1981]
Marius [Marcel Pagnol with Alexander Korda, 1931]
Die Marquise von O… [The Marquise of O…] [Éric Rohmer, 1976]
Marseille [Jean Monti and Jean Margueritte, 1935]
La maschera del demonio [The Mask of the Devil] / The Mask of Satan [Mario Bava, 1960]
Master of None: Season 2 [Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang, Eric Wareheim, et al, 2017]
McCabe & Mrs. Miller [Robert Altman, 1971]
Meantime [Mike Leigh, 1984]
Meshi [Repast] [Mikio Naruse, 1951]
Mia madre [My Mother] [Nanni Moretti, 2015]
Mildred Pierce [Michael Curtiz, 1945]
Mogari no mori [Mogari Forest] [Naomi Kawase, 2007]
Mon père avait raison [My Father Was Right] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]
Montparnasse et Levallois, un action-film [Montparnasse and Levallois: An Action-Film] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1964/1965]
Moonlight [Barry Jenkins, 2016]
Morris from America [Chad Hartigan, 2016]
La Mort en ce jardin [Death in This Garden] [Luis Buñuel, 1956]
La mujer sin cabreza [The Headless Woman] [Lucrecia Martel, 2008]
Multiple Maniacs [John Waters, 1970]
The Mummy [Karl Freund, 1932]
Murder à la Mod [Brian De Palma, 1967]
Murder in the Private Car [Harry Beaumont, 1934]
Muriel, ou le Temps d’un retour [Muriel, or: The Time of a Return] [Alain Resnais, 1963]
Mustang [Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015]
My Blue Heaven [Herbert Ross, 1990]
My Darling Clementine {Pre-Release 103-Minute Ideal Version} [John Ford, 1946]
My Favorite Year [Richard Benjamin, 1982]
My Wife’s Relations [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1922]
Nadja à Paris [Nadja in Paris] [Éric Rohmer, 1964]
Nancy au XVIIIe siècle [Nancy in the XVIIIth Century] [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
Nazi Agent [Jules Dassin, 1942]
The New World {The Extended Cut (Malick’s Preferred Version)} [Terrence Malick, 2005/2009]
A Night at the Opera [Sam Wood, 1935]
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors [Chuck Russell, 1987]
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master [Renny Harlin, 1988]
Nile de nyu er / Daughter of the Nile [Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1987]
No Home Movie [Chantal Akerman, 2015]
La noire de… [The Black Girl from… / The Black Girl Belonging to...] [Ousmane Sembène, 1966]
Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog: Gossip & Trickery [Liz Plonka, 2017]
North by Northwest [Alfred Hitchcock, 1959]
Le nouveau testament [The New Will and Testament] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]
Nuit et brouillard [Night and Fog] [Alain Resnais, 1955]
Number Seventeen [Alfred Hitchcock, 1932]
Ohayô [Good Morning] [Yasujirô Ozu, 1959]
Okaasan [Mother] [Mikio Naruse, 1952]
On Cinema at the Cinema: Season 9 [Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington, et al, 2017]
Orson Welles [François Reichenbach and Frédéric Rossif, 1968]
Ôsone-ke no asa [Morning for the Ôsone Family] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1946]
Onna [A Woman] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1948]
Ootona no miru ehon: Umarete wa mita keredo [A Picture-Book for Grown-Ups: I Was Born, But…] [Yasujirô Ozu, 1932]
Paisà [Roberto Rossellini, 1946]
Paterson [Jim Jarmusch, 2016]
Perceval le Gallois [Perceval the Welshman] [Éric Rohmer, 1978]
Personal Shopper [Olivier Assayas, 2016]
Person to Person [Dustin Guy Defa, 2017]
Place de l’Étoile [Éric Rohmer, 1964/1965]
A Place in the Sun [George Stevens, 1951]
Pleins feux sur l’assassin [Spotlights on the Murderer] [Georges Franju, 1961]
La Poison [Sacha Guitry, 1951]
Le Pont des Soupirs [The Bridge of Sighs] [Jean-Luc Godard, 2014]
Possessed [Clarence Brown, 1931]
Post-face à ‘Boudu sauvé des eaux’ [Looking Back on ‘Boudu sauvé des eaux’] [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
Post-face à l’’Atalante’ [Looking Back on ‘L’Atalante’] [Éric Rohmer, 1968]
Pravda [Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Henri Roger, 1969]
Présentation, ou Charlotte et son steak [Presentation, or: Charlotte and Her Steak] [Éric Rohmer, 1961]
Procès de Jeanne d’Arc [Trial of Jeanne d’Arc] [Robert Bresson, 1962]
Psycho [Alfred Hitchcock, 1960]
Punch-Drunk Love [Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002]
Queen of Earth [Alex Ross Perry, 2015]
Rabindranath Tagore [Satyajit Ray, 1961]
Radiohead: “I Promise” [Michał Marczak, 2017]
Radiohead: “Lift” [Oscar Hudson, 2017]
Radiohead: “Man of War” [Colin Read, 2017]
Rebirth: John Ford: ‘Two Rode Together’ [Tag Gallagher, 2017]
Remember the Night [Mitchell Leisen, 1940]
Remontons les Champs-Élysées [Let’s Take the Champs-Élysées] [Sacha Guitry, 1938]
Rikugun [Army] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1944]
The River [Pare Lorentz, 1938]
Roma città aperta [Rome Open City] [Roberto Rossellini, 1945]
Le roman d’un tricheur [Novel of a Cheat] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]
A Royal Scandal [Ernst Lubitsch and Otto Preminger, 1945]
Les salauds [Bastards] [Claire Denis, 2013]
A Salute to France [Jean Renoir, 1944]
The Saga of Anatahan {Uncensored Sternberg Version} [Josef von Sternberg, 1953/1958]
Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust [Liam Lynch, 2017]
The Sea Hawk [Michael Curtiz, 1940]
Search Party: Season 1 [Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, 2016]
Sembène: The Making of African Cinema [Ngügï wa Thiong’o and Manthia Diawara, 1994]
Shadow of a Doubt [Alfred Hitchcock, 1943]
Short Cuts [Robert Altman, 1993]
Shôzô [The Portrait] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1948]
Le signe du Lion [The Sign of Leo] [Éric Rohmer, 1959]
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock [Preston Sturges, 1947]
Six contes moraux: 1: La boulangère de Monceau [Six Moral Tales: 1: The Bakery-Girl of Monceau] [Éric Rohmer, 1962]
Six contes moraux: 2: La carrière de Suzanne [Six Moral Tales: 2: Suzanne’s Career] [Éric Rohmer, 1963]
Six contes moraux: III: Ma nuit chez Maud [Six Moral Tales: III: My Night at Maud’s] [Éric Rohmer, 1969]
Six contes moraux: IV: La collectionneuse [Six Moral Tales: IV: The Collector] [Éric Rohmer, 1967]
Six contes moraux: V: Le genou de Claire [Six Moral Tales: V: Claire’s Knee] [Éric Rohmer, 1970]
Six contes moraux: VI: L’amour, l’après-midi [Six Moral Tales: VI: Love in the Afternoon] [Éric Rohmer, 1972]
La sonate à Kreutzer [The Kreutzer Sonata] [Éric Rohmer, 1956]
The Southerner [Jean Renoir, 1945]
Snowy Bing Bongs Across the North Star Combat Zone [Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer, with Sunita Mani, Tallie Medel, and Eleanore Pienta, 2017]
The Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute by Katharine Hepburn [David Heeley, 1986]
Spring Breakers [Harmony Korine, 2012]
Spring Broke [Alison Ellwood, 2016]
Stalker [Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979]
Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi [Rian Johnson, 2017]
The Stooge [Norman Taurog, 1952]
Strangers on a Train [Alfred Hitchcock, 1951]
Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong] [Seijun Suzuki, 1960]
Sucker {Rough Cut} [Tricia Cramer, 2017/2018]
Sud [South] [Chantal Akerman, 1999]
Swamp Thing [Wes Craven, 1982]
Swing Time [George Stevens, 1936]
Swiss Army Man [Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, 2016]
Targets [Peter Bogdanovich, 1968]
Teen kanya [Three Girls] [Satyajit Ray, 1961]
That Dog [Nick Thorburn, 2017]
This Is Martin Bonner [Chad Hartigan, 2013]
Ticks [Tony Randel, 1993]
Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories: Season 2 [Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, 2017]
Tip Top [Serge Bozon, 2013]
T-Men [Anthony Mann, 1947]
Todd Barry: Spicy Honey [Jay Chapman, 2017]
Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan [Yotsuya Ghost Story in Tokaido] [Nobuo Nakagawa, 1959]
Tokkan kozô [A Straightforward Brat] [Yasujirô Ozu, 1929]
Tôkyô no chorus [Tokyo Chorus] [Yasujirô Ozu, 1931]
Toni Erdmann [Maren Ade, 2016]
Tormenting the Hen [Theodore Collatos, 2017]
Tout va bien [Everything’s Going Fine] [Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972]
The Tragedy of Othello {European Version} [Orson Welles, 1952]
The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice {US and UK Version} [Orson Welles, 1955]
The Trial [Orson Welles, 1962]
Triple 9 [John Hillcoat, 2016]
Tsuma [Wife] [Mikio Naruse, 1953]
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me [David Lynch, 1992]
Twin Peaks: “Pilot” (U.S. Version) [David Lynch, 1990]
Twin Peaks: Season 1 [David Lynch, Mark Frost, et al, 1990]
Twin Peaks: Season 2 [David Lynch, Mark Frost, et al, 1991]
Twin Peaks: Season 3: The Return [David Lynch, 2017]
Two Rode Together [John Ford, 1961]
Ukigumo [Floating Clouds] [Mikio Naruse, 1955]
Unpresidented [Jay Giampietro, 2017]
Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows [Kent Jones, 2008]
Vampyr: The Strange Adventure of Allan Gray [Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932]
Varieté [Variety-Show] [E. A. Dupont, 1925]
Veep: Season 6 [David Mandel, et al, 2017]
Véronique et son cancre [Véronique and Her Dunce] [Éric Rohmer, 1958]
Vertigo [Alfred Hitchcock, 1958]
La vie est un roman [Life Is a Novel / Life Is a Bowl of Cherries / Life Is a Bed of Roses] [Alain Resnais, 1983]
Waga koiseshi otome [The Girl I Loved] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1946]
Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen [The Forest at the Fore of Blustery Trees / The Forest for the Trees] [Maren Ade, 2003]
Walking [Ryan Larkin, 1968]
Wanda [Barbara Loden, 1970]
Whose Saga?: Josef von Sternberg and ‘The Saga of Anatahan’ [Tag Gallagher, 2017]
Win It All [Joe Swanberg, 2017]
The Wolf Man [George Waggner, 1941]
Woman of the Year [George Stevens, 1942]
Yabure daiko [A Broken Drum] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1949]
Yaeji: “Drink I’m Sippin On” [Anthony Sylvester, 2017]
Yaeji: “Feel It Out” [Anthony Sylvester, 2017]
Yaeji: “Guap” [Kathy Yaeji Lee and Zachary Surprenant, 2016]
Yaeji: “Raingurl” [Kathy Yaeji Lee and Enayet Kabir, 2017]
Yama no oto [The Sound of the Mountain] [Mikio Naruse, 1954]
Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast] [Seijun Suzuki, 1963]
Yotsuya kaidan: Kôpen [Yotsuya Ghost Story: Second Part] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1949]
Yotsuya kaidan: Zenpen [Yotsuya Ghost Story: First Part] [Keisuke Kinoshita, 1949]
Zangiku monogatari [The Tale of the Last Chrysanthemum] [Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939]
Zerkalo [The Mirror] [Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975]
Zero no shôten [Focal-Point Zero] [Yoshitarô Nomura, 1961]


Friday, September 15, 2017

Jean-Luc Godard: Archeological Morality: Excerpts from an Interview from 2016

An Interview with Jean-Luc Godard
by Dmitry Golotyuk and Antonina Derzhitskaya

9 Excerpts Translated Here by Craig Keller

originally published in the Russian revue Séance on 22 May 2016
translated for Débordements on 12 September 2017

The following are nine excerpts from a phenomenal interview by Golotyuk and Derzhitskaya which I've translated. This comes in anticipation of the projected 2018 release of Godard's newest feature, once called Tentative de bleu [Attempt in Blue], and then later titled Image et Parole (Papyrus), and now, apparently finally, titled Le livre d'image (Image et parole) [The Image-Book (Image et Parole)]. Enjoy.

[in which D: means Débordements (Golotyuk and Derzhitskaya) and JLG: means Jean-Luc Godard]



JLG: And there were some initial philosophical essays by Albert Camus — I was young, still, before the baccalauréat — that were called Le mythe de Sisyphe [The Myth of Sisyphus] and that started with the phrase that, one time, I put into a film that was, I think, For Ever Mozart: “Suicide is the only truly serious problem.”

D: And in Notre musique too.

JLG: Maybe. Yeah, it’s phrases that are more citations. When all is said and done, they’re a part of me and I say them like I, myself, came up with them. [laughs]


D: And for new music used in your film — the recent recordings by Dobrinka Tabakova and Valentin Silvestrov — did Anne-Marie [Miéville] bring them to your attention?

JLG: No. That’s music sent to me by ECM. And from time to time, they speak to me. They regularly send me them, and at times I put parts of them in. Because afterwards, the whole thing with music-rights is easier with ECM than with others.

D: But you still have to pay them?

JLG: Ah oui, that, you have to pay. Like Eddie Constantine puts it in Allemagne neuf zéro: “Always loving, always suffering, always paying.”

D: So then, do you yourself listen to everything they send?

JLG: Not entirely. But at the time I’m making a film. Especially during editing. Suddenly I say: “Here, it would have to be a piece of music like this.” So, I look around. I try for the fact that this wouldn’t be a piece of accompaniment like in the American films, which is totally, totally unbearable. Even in Hitchcock’s films, the music is unbearable. For me at least.

D: On our part, we appreciate a great deal how you treat music — sound, in general. As musicians go, we think you’re a musician too.

JLG: No, because I’m not listening for myself. Maybe I listened a lot at one time, especially classical music, but later on, no. Later on, I never listened for myself — only when I’m looking for something: a sound that’s the equivalent of an image and that’s closer to the parole in a deep sense. Because the Americans and the Germans, they don’t have a word for “parole”. [The closest I could think of when I couldn’t sleep last night was: ‘pronouncement’; Uncas Blythe also suggests 'utterance'. –CK] They say: “Worte” or “words”. Even Hamlet says: “Words, words, words.” But there’s no word for “parole”. And la parole, I remember Malraux said (I put it once in a film, in For Ever Mozart... no, was that it?) — “When one hears one’s own voice...”


JLG: Mais oui, [Beethoven] saw the Emperor Napoléon when he was leaving for Russia. But all that, for me, even more than citations, is rather archeological remains. The film I’m in the middle of making, I call it... if it was a literary work, I’d call it “essai de morale archéologique”. But if one takes note of “essai”, the fact that it sounds very literary — so I’m just saying “morale archéologique”. And it’s pieces of film where we look for… Like, I don’t know if you know these two Italian filmmakers doing archeological research…. What are their names? I forget. It’s underground cinema. I don’t remember names. [Golotyuk and Derzhitskaya note that Godard is referring to Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi —CK]. Often the names elude me these days, and it’s not that I’m losing my memory, it’s that when I see, say, faces, quotes, but not words per se, but like tableaux or whatever. Even in my daily life, if I say to myself: “Here, I’m going to grab a cigar,” I see the image of a cigar, but the word comes later. Or: “I’m going to eat lunch at such-and-such restaurant,” but the photo of the restaurant comes later.

D: It’s closer to what you call: “language.”

JLG: Oui.


JLG: ...Going into Palestine when it started to end: the Palestinian revolution and all that. Whereas all the militants... In Cuba, in ’68, there was a big reunion of intellectuals to celebrate Castro and company and I was invited too at this time. And I didn’t want go there with anyone else, I went all by myself, just for me, paying my own way. In the end, things like that. Always later, later.

D: I think this wasn’t always the case. For example, Raoul Coutard talks about making Passion when you wanted to “piss off” Giscard d’Estaing...

JLG: Pff! Maybe I said that. But Raoul, trust me, he had no clue. And that’s to say he had his own interpretations. He was a former indochine like [Pierre] Schoendoerffer or whoever. I remember that on Pierrot le fou, — maybe I wasn't very direct on the matter, but he couldn’t stand either the Jews or the Arabs. He had a small preference for the Jews over the Arabs, but he couldn’t stand either of them. [laughs]

[Pff! Peut-être que je disais ça. Mais Raoul, il ne comprenait pas très bien sûrement. Et enfin, il avait ses propres interprétations. C’était un ancien d’Indochine comme Schoendoerffer ou comme ça. Je me souviens que sur Pierrot le Fou, moi, c’était pas très net, mais il détestait aussi bien les Juifs que les Arabes. Il avait une petite préférence pour les Juifs contre les Arabes, mais il détestait les deux. (Il rit.)]


D: It makes me think of Jean-Marie Straub who believes that Webern’s abstract music is more political than that of Berg (with his Wozzeck), and that Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach counts among his most political films.

JLG: Yes, I understand. He lives here, Jean-Marie Straub.

D: Where does he live?

JLG: He lives in Rolle. Maybe he’s very ill, I don’t know. He has a woman friend who’s living with him since Danièle Huillet’s death. We barely saw one another, then after that we see each other less often because actually, we don’t have much to say to one another. From time to time he sends me his films.

D: Do you appreciate them, his new films?

JLG: I appreciate his work, contrary to others. I think that he’s more of a sculptor who measures the stone. What bugs me is that he always starts from texts, but the text is like stone, and he films stone that’s hammered out. This is how it seems to me. He made a small film about Montaigne [Un conte de Michel de Montaigne, 2013] that people found to be nothing and unbearable with always these neverending shots where nothing happens. [laughs] But I think he’s a sculptor who has a Michelangelo side to himself too. If I was doing criticism these days, it’s with this language I’d seek to be dispensing of — oh well, whatever, that’s what I’d say.


D: And sometimes you jumble up borders between one thing and another — comparing Notre musique to a book, while defining Film Socialisme as a symphony in three movements, or saying Tentative de bleu, your new project, that it has to do with sculpture. Is it really a film for three screens?

JLG: Not for right now. Maybe, if I come to finish it like this, we’ll try to shorten it up. But to shorten it while putting it on three screens, that means dividing it into three parts. [laughs] And making out of it a... what would you call it? — an installation, or an exposition on three screens, which is very facile. Rather than put it like that, because it bothers me that the screen stays flat. We’ve lost... Actually, it’s normal, it evolves, but we’ve lost a little the sensation of space, a lot actually, that there was in the first films, before the Second World War. Everything has become flatter, if you will, and very different from painting. A good photo in one instant speaks better than an image. Even tracking-shots: I remember the quote from Cocteau who said that making a tracking-shot was completely idiotic because it renders the image immobile.

D: Is this even the case during the shoot?

JLG: Not entirely. Sometimes, actually... Here, now, I’m taking... in place of doing a scenario, rather what the Americans call “storyboard,” but not at all in order, more unconscious stuff. Like a painter. Classical painters make sketches first. Often, I prefer attempts [tentatives, studies], Delacroix’s preparations than his big paintings, because you feel something moving. Later, the big painting, it’s static, and one puts words on top of it. You say: “Freedom guiding the people.” But beforehand, when he draws it like so-and-so, you can feel freedom in the work.

D: So, you still haven’t “mounted” [monté] anything for your new film?

JLG: Here — I’m starting to. After: what I call a scenario idea, a sketch [attempt/tentative] of the scenario, but which is done only with photos, if you will. Once, they came often. I know that for his first films in America, Fritz Lang made reports about the region or about other stuff, then the scenario came. But he didn’t try to write anything. Maybe, rather like a musician, if you will, who works at his piano before writing his symphony, because when he writes, he writes. That’s why I’ve always really liked free-jazz without really being able to stand it. But because nothing was written out.

D: Is Tentative de bleu still the title?

JLG: No, it’s just called Image et Parole. [One year later, it’s now called Le livre d’image, or The Image-Book. -CK] And then, between parentheses: “Papyrus”. [And now one year later, between parentheses: Image et Parole. –CK] It’s like if you find an old piece of papyrus where everything’s all stuck together. Those two Italian filmmakers, they’re making films like that, where sometimes you simply see bits of 35mm. They’re looking at image after image, that is, it’s an archeological discovery that allows one to find certain details of... a broken vase, and so on.


D: The former title of your new project, Tentative de bleu, makes one think of painting.

JLG: Oui, I think that there will be a reference to the end of painting, but it’s not very clear-cut. Because I’m doing a very long introduction. A bit like if before seeing the hand, one sees, separately, the five fingers, and afterwards, only sees the hand. So, I’m doing five elements: war; journeys; law; in the sense of Montesquieu, L’ésprit des lois...; and then, the last one, which is called La région centrale in remembrance of an American underground film [sic - Canadian, by Michael Snow –CK] — and then afterward, the hand. So, with the hand, it’s a small story based on a book that seemed interesting to me, which I call L’Arabie heureuse [Happy Araby]. “L’Arabie heureuse” was a term that in the 19th-century voyagers used (Alexandre Dumas, for example) to speak about this world region, the Middle-East, which today is in distress. And I have the story of a... Like you can’t find gasoline — people want to rest there. But then the leader wants to invade all the other betraying Arab countries, and so on. And he makes a fake revolution that doesn’t work out, then after everyone ends up the same. I’m shooting without actors. I don’t want actors. You hear passages from the book — there’s a narrator who speaks like he’s read passages of the book, and you come to understand it’s a kind of fable.

D: So, there won’t be any actors?

JLG: No, not at all, none. For example, my collaborator Jean-Paul Battaggia said to me: “Listen, to tell such a text you can get Jean-Pierre Léaud, he’d be great.” And then, I said to him: “No, because he’s an actor acting a text, and there cannot be any actors.” So, that’s the deal, I have to find an unknown.

D: You mentioned Léaud and that makes me think of Anne Wiazemsky and of a very strange project that has to do with her. Are you aware that Michel Hazanavicius...

JLG: Oh, I don’t want to deal with that. That makes me sick. But, yeah, I don’t give a shit.

D: This idea sounds stupid.

JLG: Oui, oui. But it’s the same producer, Wild Bunch, who made my most recent films. They don’t even dare speak to me about it. [laughs] It’s stupid.

D: But you can’t do anything about it?

JLG: Pff, no — that’s people; people are free to do what they do.


D: Basically, one can say that contemporary art privileges the idea and dismisses the form, or rather beauty. At what point is beauty such as it is relevant for you? Do you consciously seek out beauty?

JLG: No, not anymore. Actually yes... I don’t know, certain times, but not necessarily. Because within all this modern stuff, when I take a look at it, I think the words come after, and only then comes the execution. People say: “We’re going to make an installation called so-and-so.” Which Agnès Varda does now, or who... what’s her name? This Belgian filmmaker who died, I forgot... Chantal Akerman. But it’s only words. It doesn’t work.

D: I like the definition of beauty given by the composer Helmut Lachenmann: “Beauty is the refusal of habit.” I think that one can apply this phrase to what you do, especially since Film Socialisme.

JLG: Oui.

D: In Notre musique, a Bosnian student asks you if the little digital cameras might save cinema. Were you already considering the possibility of using them?

JLG: At the time it didn’t exist, right? But very quickly I’ve... I liked it a lot... We used to make things smaller, like the 16mm or whatever. To be simpler, smaller. Nowadays, three of us make a film. That’s enough. If you had to... I’d really have liked to make (but this was at the time) a film in Hollywood. I tried, but it never worked out...

D: The Story?

JLG: Oh, way before. What I liked was to make a film based on a best-selling book. I told an American producer: “Yes, I’d really like to make a film, but I’d just be a metteur en scène. You choose the actors, you choose the sets, you choose everything. Me, I just want to do the direction. I don’t want anything to do with the rest.” And that’s not what they wanted.

D: When was this?

JLG: Oh, a dozen years ago. [Godard may be referring to his proposed adaptation of the Daniel Mendelsohn book, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. —CK]

D: Why did you want to impose these constraints?

JLG: Ugh, to try to do something like everyone else. But also to do with being tired, because of age. You know, it’s exhausting to always run around and do too much, it doesn’t interest me anymore, I no longer have the desire. Already with three people it’s exhausting, because the two of them are friends and affectionate their entire lives, but only a little with the discussion of making movies, that’s not there. It’s missing. So, you talk to yourself in these instances. But when it comes down to it, it’s just habit too. [laughs]

[Bah, pour essayer de faire avec ce qui reste. Mais par rapport à la fatigue aussi, à l’âge. Vous savez, c’est fatiguant de toujours courir et faire trop, ça ne m’intéresse plus, j’en ai plus envie. Déjà à trois c’est fatigant, parce que les deux autres sont des amis et sont très précieux pour toute la vie, mais en ce qui concerne la discussion un peu sur le cinéma, il n’y en a pas. Ça manque. Donc, on discute avec soi-même dans ces cas-là. Mais au bout d’un moment, c’est l’habitude aussi. (Il rit.)]

D: Can we say that these small digital cameras give you what you wanted to attain with the Aaton 35-8?

JLG: At the time — yes.

D: To do smaller...

JLG: Oui. Smaller quality? Today, it’s the same to me. The film I’m making... It’s like it’s more archeology, the quality of the image doesn’t matter to me.

D: To sum it up, you treat digital in two ways. On the one hand, you start from its faults to create rich textures, which might be called digital expressionism...

JLG: Oui.

D: And on the other hand, you use them in the normal way; you continue to do what you did before, in 35mm. Can one imagine such a film as Notre musique being shot in digital?

JLG: Oui, oui, it could have been done.

D: Now, it’s the same for you?

JLG: Now, it’s the same for me, and then with digital, very little money is required. For the upcoming film, the producer, Wild Bunch, is giving 300,000 euros. Voilà, c’est tout. And so, with 300,000 euros, you have to deliver at the end of two years (it leaves a bit of time: one year to make the five fingers and then one year more to make the hand). And then, if that’s not enough, what I earn sometimes like the money in France with the revenues of films that show on television, I give back to the producer — I don’t ask him to repay. That’s to say that with 300,000 euros three people have to live off of it and make the film for two years. So, if I’m paying these three people, then including me, on the money for the film, that makes 9000 euros per month. And so, nothing is left over for the film. So, I have to give, and fortunately there’s a little, what I have for the producer. I don’t ask anything of the producer. Voilà, so, there you have it, the economy of the film. And it would be interesting to know that within the actual economy it might be the same way.

D: But at the level of the image: of the light, of the depth of the shot — that’s a little different between 35mm and digital, isn’t it?

JLG: Oui, oui. Then, it depends whether one does lighting or one doesn’t. Me, I innately feel what exists. I always try to keep it. But even with the two others, with Jean-Paul [Battagia] and Fabrice [Aragno], it’s hard because they have crew traditions, and when they show up, they bring all of this into it. And I tell them: “This is a set — nothing must be touched — keep your business out of here.” [laughs] But there are a lot of things that can’t be done. And can’t try to be done, that’s all.

D: Why did you change the aspect-ratio of the image?

JLG: To accommodate television these days, that’s all.

D: But at the time you sent to the Cahiers du cinéma a page with two images from Notre musique as projected in three different aspect-ratios. You wanted to show how the 16:9 satellisait a person and concealed the truth. [The original Cahiers article showed a 1.37:1 frame of a woman's face from Notre musique, followed by its cropping to 1.66:1, then to 1.78:1 (16:9), over which Godard marked in pen: "esclave-satellite," or "satellite-slave."]

JLG: Oui, it’s not a good ratio. But it’s the aspect-ratio in today’s reality. I mean that once painters, they painted what they had available. When paint tubes were invented, that changed a lot — impressionism, etc. So, you can only make reality. It doesn’t matter… And then after, if I put a film on DVD, that passes for normal, no one makes a big deal. Whereas in the theater everyone freaks out... Even with television: there’s not one viewer who equates the one with the other. So, there’s nothing to be done. You have to try so that there remains one thing and it’s this thing you have to select to go off from and have to find — if you will.

D: At the beginning of Adieu au langage, we see a mysterious object with elements of a 3D camera. It appears for a few seconds in the light of a flare ceaselessly moving — and then, near the end, it lands on the cover of a book by Van Vogt. And you’re the one who put it there; the actual cover is different.

JLG: Oui, it’s a different image I put on top of the cover of the Van Vogt. So you could see the title.

D: Why did you do this?

JLG: Because what the cover was didn’t suit me. Whereas that one, it was an image (I don’t know where it came from) of an Indian totem or whatever. I thought it was better. If I was the one who published the book, I would have gone with that. [laughs]


D: For these last 35 years, you’ve worked with several directors of photography, like, besides Coutard, William Lubtchansky, Caroline Champetier, Julien Hirsch. Why did you change them up? Why, for example, did you break with Coutard, even though he did beautiful work on Passion and Prénom Carmen?

JLG: Ugh, we made lots of films. Later, I was going somewhere else, and he was staying where he was at. Lubtchansky or whoever — same. There’s a lot of them; I started out with them. At times… Lubtchansky, he had an assistant who was Caroline, Caroline had an assistant who was Julien, bah voilà, on passait... Then after, it came to an end. [laughs]

D: Sometimes, you left Caroline Champetier alone on the set. You even sent her to Moscow to shoot a scene for Les enfants jouent à la Russie.

JLG: Oui, oui, and she did a great job. Because she’s someone who wanted to be involved with everything, who talked about everything, who discussed everything. I said to her: “Bah, tu veux? Tiens, voilà a bag of money. Go on, go to Russia and film the death of Anna Karenina. I have nothing to do with it.”

D: This terrifed her.

JLG: Ah oui, sûrement.


Friday, September 08, 2017

The Exterminating Angel

Email on Buñuel from 2012

I recently watched the Criterion Blu-ray re-edition of Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel [El ángel exterminador, 1962].* The following is an email I sent in 2012 to an acquaintance who asked me for my thoughts about the film, I think in relation to a movie she was making at the time.

*One Peter writes to DVDBeaver, who includes his remarks in their review of the Criterion Blu-ray:

"I'm surprised no one has mentioned this, but the Criterion reissue of EXTERMINATING ANGEL is a dual-pronged botch: it's 1.37, erroneously, and is absolutely a 1:1.66 film. There's way too much headroom throughout (and, of course, below as well), clearly borne out by the design of the credits, as well. A preposterous transfer choice for a 1962 production such as this, even more obvious by a quick glance at the framing at any given point during the film.

And it suffers from the same atrocious sound as the original release. It sounds like the source used has soundtrack damage from the beginning until about the 1 hour and 16 minute mark, at which time it finally disappears. My ears tell me it is a scratched optical track, resulting in distortion/white noise.

Someone along the line applied compression/noise reduction (not very well) for the first 40 minutes, leaving a lot of artifacts behind and making the dialogue occasionally hard to hear but basically acceptable. But at the 40 minute mark, the background noise in the master becomes overwhelming, and remains that way for 36-ish minutes. I cannot believe no one has pointed this out; it's almost as though perhaps whomever mastered it confused it for the sounds of the storm raging outside earlier in the film and forgot about it?"


These observations are only my take-away from this viewing; this movie is enormously expansive, and reveals new things at different times and to different viewers.

On one level, it aligns itself, consciously so or not, with the "mansion/country-house bourgeois/aristocrat dinner-party" tradition in cinema that generally serves to critique the bourgeoisie and deliver an examination of the world via microcosm, often through the interplay of "upstairs/downstairs" or "insider/interloper." The most famous examples probably being, off the top of my head, 'The Rules of the Game' (the bear in Buñuel's film is a hilarious metamorphosis of [and nod to] Renoir's character in his film, when he dons the bear costume for the pantomime performance), 'Last Year at Marienbad' (from the year right before 'Exterminating Angel'), and -- maybe the first ever example of this strain -- Buñuel's own 'L'Age d'or,' from 1930. My understanding is he carries this even further in 'The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,' -- but, scandalously, I've still never seen that film or any of the final Buñuels from 1970 onward.

I think one could even say that 'The Exterminating Angel' is an anarchist re-rendering of 'Last Year at Marienbad' -- again, maybe a conscious response, or not, on Buñuel's part. It's tempting maybe to call this film, or these strains of films, as satires, but in Buñuel's hands, and given his disposition and world-view, I think it's something closer to... I was going to say "parody," but that's not it -- it's something closer to profanation. Since 'Un chien andalou' Buñuel has taken a devilish delight in not just critiquing societal mores and the sacred cows of Western civilization, but savaging them utterly. It's worth pointing out that, alone among these films, 'The Exterminating Angel' is the only one that addresses the need to use the bathroom (an obvious dilemma, with everyone stuck in that room) -- with the guests having to take their shits behind the angel painting -- a visual pun on what it means to be an "exterminating angel," but more of that later...

The guests' tribulations as the days pass come off to me (to use the word again) as a profane parody of Hardship -- in the highest sense of the word, e.g. the suffering depicted in Buñuel's early essay-documentary 'Las Hurdes.' They exist like a poisoned or profaned allegory and -- one of the radical things about the film -- in fact this mock-allegory ('the sufferers,' 'those who undergo hardship', no chance of escape possible from their station in life! -- a lavish salon) undercuts the general notion of allegory in general -- on which, needless to say, Christian tradition and ritual are so dependent. It's part of Buñuel's agenda, in every film, to show up the Church, to scandalize it, in an attempt to counter its centuries of hypocrisy, of folly, and of dangerous pre- and proscriptions. To that point, I see the "arrangements" of the guests (and the theme of arrangement) as much as a kind of mockery of religious tableaux (or nativity sets) as a censure of the rote positions or stations that their class, and those beneath them, are expected to take (or fill) in the course of everyday life -- in terms of work, of social stakes, and (endemic to the guests' class) of the triviality and repetition ad nauseum of "leisure."

Which brings us to that Repetition theme. The arrival scene plays out twice; an introduction between two of the guests occurs twice, but in variation of the reaction of the one to the other. The days themselves come one after the other with no escape in immediate sight. The two dead lovers in the closet repeat (in double now) the corpse locked up in the other closet. Repetition as "eternity" (and eternity itself, then, repetition -- and so the promise of an after-life in Heaven seems a very boring prospect, indeed). In the words of "the Valkyrie," Leticia (played by Silvia Pinal, gorgeous -- she's also the star of 'Viridiana' and appears in 'Simon of the Desert' -- her husband produced all three of these films) -- the guests are "like pieces of a chessboard moved thousands of times." They 'reassume' their positions at the end: theirs is an eternal stasis -- this sudden "discovery" that they must repeat the order of that first day following the piano recital, that this will break the spell, appears to me as probably a completely arbitrary 'solution': that they are, for once, (in contradistinction to stasis) demonstrating VOLITION, but that volition = repetition, is inherently absurd; and it's very possible that they might have left at any point. (As to why the guests on the outside could not 'enter' -- I would only say that there's always a push-me-pull-you relationship between the bourgeoisie and the "supporting" tier -- and the same goes between the Church and the faithful.) Buñuel portrays the entire situation as a sort of Black Mass. The repetition which runs throughout the film is not only an expression of the futility of Man in the stream of a constant and cyclical "eternal return," but also a sort of profanation of "the return" of the Biblical Savior -- both in terms of the Resurrection, and of the promise of Christ's reintervention at the time of Armageddon.

To that point: "the exterminating angel" -- a phrase which is a contradiction in terms, should be a paradox, but has nonetheless made up a cornerstone of the Christian mythos: when the archangel Michael asserts himself, sword in hand, against Satan in the prophecy of the Book of Revelation (written as nothing more, in all actuality, than a sustained allegory -- cf. Elaine Pagels' recent book, 'Revelations'). When the guests go behind the panel with the angel to take a dump (which I think is fucking hilarious), they report looking down into the water between their legs and seeing visions straight out of the end-times (which I also think is fucking hilarious). (The Apocalypse is later brought to visual life in the surreal succession of fever-dreams shared by the guests in that sequence near the end, where saw goes to the fingers of a hand, to cello, to mannequin head against the lightning.) An angel, then, who helps them 'evacuate' or 'exterminate' their waste, too.

(Note that the guests are so eager to be covering things up, and hiding them away -- the corpses, the lovers' lovemaking, their shit and piss in the closets/secret-chambers; blankets constantly pulled up over the exhuasted attendees; a sheet going over the box containing the morphine -- as though the covering of that can have any real camouflage effect, in the eyes of the ones who've already spotted it. A conceit that applies to the greater world at large...)

(Also re: the hiding and the sexual undercurrents: I think one of the funniest scenes is early when the hostess suggests to her lover, in a room off to the side, that they should steal away to the bedroom -- and if her husband comes in, "I'll say I was showing you the incunabula." -- An incunabula is a document from the mid-millennium or earlier which was (pre-printing-press) still "printed" via woodblock -- it can be a religious text, etc. The suggestion is that they've collected one of these artifacts which is ostensibly on display in their bedroom [that itself being funny], but there's also the suggestion with the word "incunabula", which is obviously obscure, that she's referring to her pussy.)

That said, the overarching incarnation of the exterminating angel in Buñuel's film is itself two-fold: (1) The Genteel Class, who will wipe itself out (cf. 'The Grand Illusion' and 'The Rules of the Game'). Divine providence (they're sequestered on "Providence Street") means the punishment due for vanity, cruelty, folly. (2) The Church in the social world. Divine providence means the extermination of the faithful.

The end sequence portrays the guests now piously in attendance in the cathedral for a funeral mass (missa solemnis / "solemn mass") held, apparently, for they-themselves. And of course the proto-Groundhog Day "eternal return" rearrives -- the 'faithful' cannot leave the Church; or, WILL not... The second to last shot of the film (before the entrance of the flock of sheep) is of a riot, of gunfire: a shocking cut with no discernible (on the quote-unquote "diegetic" level) precursor in the film: but of course, the entire film was the precursor to this shot: this unrest is an explosion of the outside world, of society (as opposed to Society) and the masses, to contextualize all the "interiority" which Buñuel has to this point in his film displayed and ruthlessly dissected. And it is a prophecy, a "revelation," of what the '60s would hold in store for that aforementioned world at large.

Anyway, those are my thoughts -- hope this helps sort the film out somewhat..

(Oh, last-minute thought! -- I also meant to add re: Providence Street -- when we see this earlier in the film it has the connotation that, in such a neighborhood, in such a house: 'we should all be so lucky', with the ironic suggestion too that this place is 'divinely ordainted' -- of course, "providence" comes to take a more complicated tack, cf. the previous email.)


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Late Chrysanthemums

"Neither He Nor I Can Afford a Shot of Pork Innards for Energy":
A Précis

(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the FilmStruck app on Apple TV; built-in screen-capturing is disabled during playback from the Web and from the FilmStruck app on iPhone/iPad.)

Prefatory note: The go-to reference work in English about Naruse's films is Dan Sallitt's A Mikio Naruse Companion: Notes on the Extant Films, 1931-1967, which exists as a WordPress site accessible from the link. I've been reading his entries on each film after my initial viewing, and have been enjoying tremendously the lucid and sensitive considerations he's drawn from his own viewings over the years.


Late Chrysanthemums [Bangiku, 1954] is among the sexiest of Naruse's Fumiko Hayashi-based pictures.

Haruko Sugimura, harridan of Naruse and Ozu, here cast as type, Okin.

The movie is about money, the need for it, the power that it itself lends to the holder or recipient, and the abstraction of its circulation. The film is unlike other Naruse pictures up to this point insofar as it is built upon a kind of hand-off/anthology-film structure that leaves Sugimura to focus on her lendees and pass-to-pass, such that the first-time viewer is disoriented until 30 or 35 minutes go by and a pyramid structure hierarchy comes into focus as the framework of the film.

(Money: initial announcement of the Sakae Shopping District Association raffle-sale. Sugimura counting her banknotes in her opening shot.)

A deaf housemaid she can feel superior to and who is her only domestic companion besides a puppy and her agent/business-manager/consigliere Itai-san (Daisuke Katô). Okin buys property and lends money: the premise is very simple: for Okin, a former geisha and tea-room girl, money made (and continues to make) money. Itai: "Can a deaf girl do a good job?" Okin: "Yes — she's quiet." Itai: "Ah, all your secrets are safe with her...!"

Naruse films nearly as many shots as Ozu or Kinoshita of the comings-and-goings through house entrances. One example of Okin's parsimony: the locking of the front door (despite her maid due to rearrive after a mere minute out) and the insertion of the shiv. Okin enters the backdoors of her debtors' establishments in case they attempt to flee — a ridiculous notion but one she nevertheless brings up to each of them in a half-joking chuckle.

The subplot involving Okin's ex, Mr. Seki (Bontarô Miake), is diaphanous. The two share a history of an attempted double-suicide, that was read by police as a homicide attempt (with little dissuasion from Okin). Now he's returned to town in the manner an American stage character or, recently, a Horace and Pete character to request money from a rebuffing, unsentimental Okin, who remarks: "He needs to get his life in order so he can bring an offering to my funeral." (If at first you don't succeed...)

Tomi (Yûko Mochizuki) and Tamae (Chikako Hosokawa), who share a house, are ex-coworkers of Okin in their former life, and now count among her debtors. Tamae has a son Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Koizumi) — they seem merely a decade apart in age... After she starts going on about his father, one suspects she is perhaps his stepmother... He shows up at the house while Tamae is receiving Okin who, in classic Naruse dramaturgy, upon Kiyoshi's arrival takes her leave and announces she'll return some other time. In the confrontation between mother and son, Naruse colors more details: Tamae wants Kiyoshi to break up with his girl ("You made me tell people you were my sister," he exclaims) and expresses her anger over not being consulted before he took a new job in a Hokkaido mining office.

Tomi's daughter Sachiko (Ineko Arima) frequently lends her mother money. She has decided to move out from her mother's and Tamae's upstairs — it takes no more than five minutes to pack — whereupon she brashly asks the visiting Okin to consider advancing her and the fiancé with whom she's eloping that very night some money towards renting a new house, before briskly bidding sayônara. It's as though this alone is a stab at spiting her mother and her money-managerial incompetence.

Having returned from Burma, Tabe-san (Ken Uehara) shows up at Okin's one afternoon, as per his letter, dressed in a schlubby suit. Upon his arrival, a delighted Okin primps till, it seems, nightfall. (The joke is an external shot showing how far the sun has set, while a spread of food and sake provide refreshment for Tabe the entire time in Okin's absence — maybe the funniest exchange in the film: Okin: "I'm sorry for the wait..." Tabe: "You look younger than my wife!") After they toast some sake, an internal monologue of Okin abruptly plays on the soundtrack: "Why did he come here today?... Seki was after me, but Tabe was my sanctuary..." Why: by now in his cups, Tabe admits he's in need of a loan. Okin won't grant the request. In three cross-cuts, Naruse contrasts this now fraught evening with the first night spent alone by a drunk Tamae and Tomi. Tomi: "You were the most graceful parlor-maid at Sanraku..." Tamae: "I remember how you used to wear your hair in the Shimada style..." ..... Tabe spends the night, passing out, at Okin's as rain falls on the city...

The next day comes: full-circle to the film's opening: Mr. Itai stops by Okin's to review finances. The restaurant owner Nobu (Sadako Sawamura), object of Okin's earlier backdoor collection tactics, rushes in to inform her that Seki is being held by the police on account of a suicide attempt? Okin: "Whether Seki goes to jail or hangs himself I don't have time to care. All men feed off of women's blood. We have to protect ourselves. It's not only men who face life-and-death struggles."

Tamae and Tomi accompany Kiyoshi at the train station to provide him a send-off to Hokkaido, when they eye two geisha flurry around their patron in anticipation of accompanying him on his departure. They observe, too, another passer-by striking a 1954 vogue — the "Monroe walk." Tomi tries her hips in imitation — sad results. Tamae: "Act your age!", and the two laugh.

Okin and Itai descend the stairs of the station to a train, en route to inspect some potential new real estate.


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Mikio Naruse:

Koshiben ganbare [Flunky, Work Hard, 1931]

Nasanu-naka [No Blood Relation, 1932]

Kimi to wakarete [Apart from You, 1933]

Yogoto no yume [Every-Night Dreams, 1933]

Kagirinaki hodô [Endless Pavement, 1934]

Ginza keshô [Ginza Makeup, 1951]

Okaasan [Mother, 1952]

Meshi [Repast, 1953]

Tsuma [Wife, 1953]

Yama no oto [The Sound of the Mountain, 1954]

Bangiku [Late Chrysanthemums, 1954]

Ukigumo [Floating Clouds, 1955]