Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New York Journal 3.

Acquarello is to filmblogging what (ahem) Iggy Pop is to punk rock: ancestor and trailblazer. I remember sending a gushy fan e-mail to Strictly Film School in the late nineties. We started corresponding, and Acquarello urged me to start writing about film for Senses Of Cinema. I had never written about the arts at all, and was terrified, but the encouragement nudged me into doing it.

And so it was delightful when we finally met in person on Saturday at the Whitney Biennial. We wandered through the show and then watched an avant-garde film program which included Michael Snow’s WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time. Originally 45 Minutes, Now 15!). In 2004, Snow took the 45-minute film that he made in 1967, divided it into thirds and superimposed them on to each other. In addition to the Snow film, the program also included: Jeanne Liotta’s Eclipse, Louise Bourque’s L’Eclat Du Mal, Christina Battle’s Buffalo Lifts, and Martha Colburn’s Cosmetic Emergency.

The next avant-garde program of the afternoon featured just two filmmakers. I found David Gatten’s The Great Art Of Knowing utterly fortress-like and impenetrable but Lewis Klahr’s Two Minutes To Zero trilogy was a charmer. In it, he takes comic-books and photographs them in extreme close-up—every Benday dot looms large—and uses lightning pans to move from objects to characters to landscape, constructing a story all his own from this found material. The icing on the cake is the collection of obscure but killer 60’s pop tunes he plays in their entirety to accompany his narrative. A feast for eye and ear.

After the Klahr films ended, I went down to the Whitney lobby to rendezvous with experimental filmmaker/curator Jennifer MacMillan of Invisible Cinema, whom I'd never met before. Fumbling around in my pockets, I realized I had forgotten to bring her cell phone number. There must’ve been a hundred people milling around for the Biennial in the lobby, and though I had a (small) picture of her, she didn’t have one of me (not one that would help anyway). I called my friend Gordon in Buffalo, had him log into my email account, retrieve her number and read it to me so I could call her, a few feet away (ah, la vie moderne…). We took the train to Union Square for a lovely dinner. I promised to make her a hip-hop mix CD with Missy Elliott on it.

Sunday was my last day in New York. I met up with Acquarello at Lincoln Center and we went across the street for a dynamite sushi meal (memo to myself: scour Toronto for good sushi restaurants) and caught a double bill at Rendezvous With French Cinema. Serge Le Peron’s political-historical docudrama I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed was informative, well-intentioned and workmanlike. There were flashes of a greater promise when Jean-Pierre Leaud appeared on the screen, alas too infrequently. He played the director Georges Franju—who made Eyes Without A Face—as kin to the touchingly cuckoo filmmaker Vidal of Irma Vep. I could've seen an entire film devoted to Leaud/Franju; he had an odd but captivating appeal.

The other film was Brigitte Roüan’s Housewarming. It's about a lawyer played by Carole Bouquet—she was the cooler of the two actresses playing the same character in Buñuel’s That Obscure Object Of Desire—having her apartment renovated by a group of butter-fingered Colombian illegal immigrants. It’s a light comedy complete with musical interludes and anarchic pratfalls but played at a breakneck speed and edited with an elliptical knife. The jokes are many and quick, but the film never waits for a response to them—it simply moves on briskly to the next moment. There's something modest and endearingly self-effacing about that. Though the less “lofty” of the two films in terms of subject, it was the more interesting example of cinema.


Blogger girish said...

Michael Guillen interviews Deepa Mehta.

March 21, 2006 10:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"Quiet Bubble" Walter's art collection.
As a big Kevin Huizenga fan, I'm more than a little jealous.

March 21, 2006 10:40 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Nick Rombes on Linklater's Tape and DV.

March 21, 2006 10:42 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Some recent film reviews by Nick Schager.

March 21, 2006 11:12 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

So these french films were not really good, were they? I was afraid so...
Brigitte Roüan is one of the recurrent guest at the radio show "Le Cinéma l'après-midi" that I enjoy every week. She worked as an actress with Rivette, Resnais, Haneke...
But the french "slapstick comedy" (Housewarming) is not my cup of tea.

March 22, 2006 3:09 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Best Q&A comment by Roüan: "I am the black duck of my family." :)

March 22, 2006 7:54 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh that was funny.
[She waved away the translator and cut loose a little torrent of English malapropisms. It was kinda cute.]

At one point she said, referring to someone, "They're so tight-up...", meaning uptight.
And she has one of those low, raspy French-woman-filmmaker voices like Claire Denis or Chantal Akerman.

Harry, I didn't realize she worked for all those directors.
She was sharp and vivacious, and fun to listen to...

March 22, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, new issue of Cinema Scope should be in the mail.

March 22, 2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger girish said...

I just updated the post, adding a link to David D'Arcy's terrific piece on the Biennial in Greencine Daily. (It's at the start of the second paragraph.)

March 22, 2006 9:32 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Is this an illustration of an eclipse? :) Beautiful.

Thanks for writing about the avant-garde cinema screening at the Biennial, G. And you know what? You still look like that photo on your blog. Please send the hip-hop mix!!!

March 22, 2006 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Speaking of avant-garde cinema, I just browsed through the lineup for the Nashville Film Festival and am thrilled to see that they're showing Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine. Unfortunately, I'll be out of the state that week, but just the thought of that film playing in Tennessee makes me smile. They're also showing Sokurov's The Sun. Crazy.

March 22, 2006 11:07 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Darren, your blog is way beautiful. Have you ever considered moving to NY? I'm from Ohio, and I really love it here. :) "Instructions for a Light & Sound Machine" sounds amazing . . .

March 22, 2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger girish said...

J.~Think I was going for an "obscured moon" kind of image. Shall put together that hip-hop mix this weekend. (If anyone else would like a copy, drop me a line.)
The program you're curating sounds fascinating. Maybe you can link to it after you write up the program notes and descriptions.
Darren and I saw Instructions For A Light And Sound Machine in Toronto last year and we were blown away by it.

March 22, 2006 2:24 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Eric Henderson on Bob Ross' painting show (which I once watched obsessively).

March 22, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger girish said...

A filmblog I discovered recently: Pre-Coded Messages.

March 22, 2006 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Inquiring minds want to know about the new Wavelength. My S.O. is interested in the new Barney. She bought this big, and heavy, Cremaster book on sale.

March 22, 2006 3:20 PM  
Anonymous The Pop View said...

Missy Elliott? Ah, girish, you never fail to amaze me.

I've been meaning to post some Missy mash-ups and this may be the motivation I needed.

March 22, 2006 3:50 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Girish, it's lovely how you have wedded your online discourses with offline contact; a skill not many can follow through on. You are inspiring!! I, too, hope to someday meet Acquarello to thank him for the fingerprints he has left on my blogsite, but even more so, to meet you to thank you for all you have done to stitch together this online community.

March 22, 2006 4:20 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

You know what? She makes up neologism and malapropism in french on that radio show too. She's passionate and spontaneous about what she says. She's cute too!
I can't figure where this slip comes from (we say "black sheep" in french too) Maybe she thought of Andersen's tale of the black swan.
Oh well that's how I sound too. :)
That's what we get for speaking an alien language.

That "Wavelentgh for lazy people" is hilarious of itself, quite a provocative statement. Not that people who didn't want to see the long version will rush for this one though... Is there something to it, or is it just confusing?

March 22, 2006 5:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Peter & Harry--The new Wavelength is an interesting film; I'm still pondering it.
For those who haven't seen the original Snow film, here's a nice account of it.

The new film is called WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time. Originally 45 Minutes, Now 15!).
Basically what it does is divide the 45-minute original into three 15-minute parts, and simply superimposes them together. So, each image of the new film contains three superimposed images. And this superimposition extends to the sound as well, so that the sine wave that begins at 50 Hz and ends at 12000 Hz in the original also gets superimposed as three sounds.

I wish I knew this when I walked into the screening; the Whitney program notes were pretty scant. It might've sharpened one's viewing of the film. Instead, I walked in cold and scratched my head a lot. And then later googled up some details.

To answer Harry's question: yes, I think this is a different film with different aims.
It introduces the fresh element of non-linearity, but blends the different time periods into a single image. The always-present tension between the three different instants in time is foregrounded. It's like seeing past, present and future co-exist simultaneously (in multiple exposure) on one cinematic image. Thus resulting in a very different perceptual experience.

And Peter--I hope to post about the Matthew Barney film in the next day or two...

March 22, 2006 6:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Mr. Pop View--I await your Missy mash-ups with great eagerness...

Michael--You're too kind.
Because I live in a relatively small city (unlike most filmbloggers), I feel a special hunger for cinephile company. I hardly know anyone here who's into the kinds of films I like. So, the blogger community has been a godsend for me.
Special as that is (and I spend time there every day of the week) there's something equally special and quite irreplaceable about taking in a movie, sitting down to a good meal or raising a toast with someone face to face.
And I look forward to a trip to San Francisco when I can visit with you and Brian Darr and Rob Davis.

March 22, 2006 6:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Darren would like some suggestions for London.

March 22, 2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello has been blogging about Rendezvous With French Cinema.

March 22, 2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Two discussions at Doug's site, Film Journey:
Cannes Films.
Ozu DVD transfers.

March 22, 2006 6:56 PM  
Blogger Ed Garrity said...


That's totally cool how you cell-phoned Gordon, got the phone number after his log on, and cell phoned the woman who was probably a few feet away.
Physical distance is nothing ... cell phone $100, PC $1000, having a friend ready and available to look up the digital info ....
... priceless.

Gotta love the digital world

March 22, 2006 7:31 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I wouldn't mind one, Girish, if I could think up something that would make a good exchange for it....

Pop View, there's a Missy/Herbaliser mashup of "One-Minute Man" that's awe-some.

March 22, 2006 8:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tuwa, you've already sent me some great music recently (DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist).
I'll gladly send you the mix if you drop me your snail-mail address.

March 22, 2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger girish said...

MZS on Okinawan filmmaker Takamine Go.

March 22, 2006 8:54 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Like sands in a windstorm, these are the days of my life....

March 22, 2006 9:42 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I can't believe I've recognized a modern music reference, but I really like DJ Shadow's score for Dark Days, which happens to be a tremendous documentary as well; if it had been released nowadays, it would've been heralded as an example of "the return of the documentary."

Girish, I'm glad you had such a good time in New York City; it has been fun reading about your exploits. And you're the first person I know who has seen Acquarello in person. I was beginning to wonder if he really existed!

March 22, 2006 10:49 PM  
Blogger David Lowery said...

Peter, I have that same Cremaster book - it's worth its weight (literally).

Darren, I agree that Dark Days is criminally underrated. It was high on my top ten list back in 2000.

Girish, I'll be getting my tickets to NYC this weekend - I'll let you know my exact dates, in case you feel like planning a return trip yourself....I'm envious of all this real-life socializing!

March 22, 2006 11:44 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

The commentary track on Dark Days is 60 shades of wonderful. Reallyl heartening, humane stuff--having the subjects in on it, intending to split the profits, etc.

I met Marc Singer when he spoke at UF years ago; he was very humble and quiet. Living in one of the little towns outside Gainesville now, spending most of his free time caving and scuba diving.

March 23, 2006 12:07 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Girish, at Casa Maya there is an old adage: In my house, there are two cups. You are welcome at any time should your thirst for company bring you to the Bay Area. We're wrapping up the SF International Asian-American Film Festival and about to launch our International Film Festival. Will you be coming?

March 23, 2006 1:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Doug--Blow me down with a feather. I had no idea DJ Shadow did the soundtrack to Dark Days, and I'm a rabid fan of the guy's music. I remember you telling me about the film, and will surely check it out. And Tuwa, thanks for the anecdote, which seals the deal.

David--Yes, do let me know the dates when you nail them down. Not sure if I'll be able to return so soon, but I will try.
On a side note, I boarded my dog PeggyLee for a week when I was gone to NYC. When I got back, I was told that she pretty much refused to eat for a week (went on hunger strike). The moment I got back and we got home, she was eating like a fiend.
I'm nervous about boarding her again...

Michael--I was on sabbatical a year ago and was all set to join Darren, Doug, Rob Davis and J. Robert Parks at the San Francisco Fest last year but illness intervened. (My plane tix went to waste too.) Because of classes, I can't make it to the fest this year.
But I'll be on the lookout for a conference in coming years, which'll allow me to take the trip.

March 23, 2006 6:07 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Matt Clayfield on Welles times 2.

March 23, 2006 6:09 AM  
Blogger girish said...

MZS: 10 worst movies of all time.

March 23, 2006 6:10 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Good reading: the back page column in the new Cinema Scope by David Bordwell.

March 23, 2006 7:07 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

That's a tour de force and a call to arms Bordwell wrote. (Of course, I have no evidence for that.)

Thought-provoking stuff, though....

March 23, 2006 2:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Tuwa--Nice Iggy goodies.

March 23, 2006 3:55 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Girish a punk fan. You continue to surprise me.

Your package will be in the mail tomorrow. The last few days I've been flopping about like that poor rooster Majid saw to.

March 23, 2006 4:35 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

P.S. thanks. I'm glad you like it.

... where *are* my manners?

March 23, 2006 4:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Tuwa! I'll get yours out early next week.

March 24, 2006 9:58 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

No rush. I just had to set myself a date and commit to it; otherwise it would get buried in the still untended-to things on my desk. :-X

March 24, 2006 10:55 PM  
Anonymous The Pop View said...

Missy mash-ups here.

March 24, 2006 11:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

M. Pop View: Thanks!

March 25, 2006 10:31 AM  

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