Artforum has to be the heaviest magazine I subscribe to—we’re talking pounds here, not ounces. Fortunately, not all of it is reading material, or I’d never get through it. The majority of each issue is given over to large and visually striking ads for art shows, and they provide hours of doodling inspiration. The articles on art and film, relatively few though they might be, are usually quite solid, and I end up ripping out and filing many of them. (I wonder: Do other bloggers also have a penchant for collecting writing? I have a filing system in my basement made up of vinyl-storage crates, with files indexed by director and a few national cinemas. While much of it is from print-only media, there’s a fair amount run off the Net, because it’s often more convenient to read it in paper form, mark it up, etc.)
In the new issue of Artforum, there are two terrific film essays. J. Hoberman writes about Mexican director Carlos Reygadas and his second film, Battle In Heaven. There are many blunders one can make at a film festival and my doozy in Toronto last year was to head back to the hotel for a snooze while my friends Darren and Rob headed over to see this film. I don’t remember how good my nap was but I can tell you it probably wasn’t worth it. Thankfully, the film is now being released here. Hoberman’s piece is not on-line but here’s how it begins:
Made forty years ago, Andy Warhol talkies like Vinyl and Beauty #2 remain the reductio ad absurdum of behavioral direction, a technique that requires non-actors to cope, with negligible instruction, while the camera grinds relentlessly on until it runs out of film.
Orchestrating a Warhol is never easy, but ambitious directors have intermittently experimented with this form of situational performance. Lars von Trier’s The Idiots (1998) and Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (2002), for example, are each predicated on a setup designed to cue on-camera improvisation. And the thirty-four-year-old Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas has recently established himself as a Warholian impresario who, working without a screenplay, creates existential conditions under which nonprofessional actors are compelled to expose themselves—sometimes cruelly—on camera.
The Society of the Spectacle is a feature-length film essay—Debord's own adaptation of his renowned work of cultural and political history and theory. Debord not only speaks about the spectacle—he himself reads the incisive voice-over that occupies most of the sound track—but redirects the spectacle's own weapons against it, a strategy the Situationists call détournement. Debord puts into service feature films from "East" and "West," newsreel footage, ads that look like soft-core porn, and soft-core porn that looks like ads. He makes innovative use of subtitles and intertitles to problematize reception. For the spectacle, as Debord reminds us, "is not a collection of images, but a relationship among people mediated by images." In the highly distilled and allusive reflections presented and in their presentation, a complex critical apprehension of the relationship between image and text, individual and society is produced.
When I renewed my subscription recently, they threw in a year’s worth of Bookforum for free. Again, most of the articles in the new issue, like Kent Jones on Marshall Fine's new book on Cassavetes, are not on-line. But here's an interesting essay by Tom Holert on Edgar Morin, who made, with Jean Rouch, the pioneering cinema-verité film, Chronicle Of A Summer (1960).