Monday, June 19, 2006

The Cinephiliac Moment



Proceeding off a tangent from Manny Farber, I'm now midway through Christian Keathley’s tremendously engaging book Cinephilia and History, Or The Wind in the Trees. It has a central idea that's been clattering around in my head all week. Let me lay it on you and ask you what you think.

Keathley defines and develops the idea of “cinephiliac moments”—these are small, marginal moments that detonate an unforgettable little frisson in the viewer. The important thing to remember is that these are not moments carefully designed to exert great dramatic effect—not that there’s anything wrong with those—but instead they are fleeting "privileged" moments writ small that we find ourselves strongly attracted to, perhaps even disproportionately so given their scale and possible (lack of) intention. We end up fetishizing these cinephiliac moments:

[Paul] Willemen cites his own fascination with “the moment when the toy falls off the table in [Douglas Sirk’s] There’s Always Tomorrow,” while Noel King, citing the famous dropped glove scene from On The Waterfront, writes, “I tend to notice the number of times Eva Marie Saint tries to retrieve the glove and the things Brando does to delay this happening.” Other cinephiles have their own cherished moments. Of director Nicholas Ray, critic David Thomson writes, “it is as the source of a profusion of cinematic epiphanies that I recall him: Mitchum walking across an empty rodeo arena in the evening in The Lusty Men, the wind blowing rubbish around him; that last plate settling slowly and noisily in 55 Days At Peking;….the CinemaScope frame suddenly ablaze with yellow cabs in Bigger Than Life.”

The American critic Manny Farber regularly devoted space in his reviews to such privileged moments. In an essay on the work of action genre directors like Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, and Anthony Mann, Farber wrote that, although these directors’ films “are filled with heroism or its absence, the real hero is….the unheralded ripple of physical existence, the tiny morbidly lifeworn detail.” Indeed, far more than plot or character these marginal bits are what stick in his memory. Years after seeing these films, Farber writes, one most vividly “remembers the way a dulled waitress sat on the edge of a hotel bed [or], the weird elongated adobe in which ranch hands congregate before a Chisholm Trail drive.” In the course of celebrating Howard Hawks’s The Big Sleep, a film that “ignores all the conventions of a gangster film to feast on meaningless business and witty asides,” Farber provides what is perhaps an extreme example of a cinpehiliac moment: “One of the fine moments in 1940’s film is no longer than a blink: Bogart, as he crosses the street from one bookstore to another, looks up at a sign.” As Greg Taylor put it, if American auteurist Andrew Sarris offered in his criticism a connoisseurship of lists, Farber offered in his a connoisseurship of details.

....Roger Cardinal, another critic who has written suggestively about the fascination with marginal filmic details,.…explains, “What I notice, or elect to notice, is necessarily a function of my sensibility, so much so that a list of my favorite details will equate to an oblique mirror-image of myself…”

I thought I’d record, off the top of my head, three cinephiliac moments that are stuck in my memory. If I had to do this tomorrow, three different ones might come tumbling out. A word of assurance: they are all spoiler-free.

(1) Early in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days Of Disco (1998), Chloe Sevigny and Robert Sean Leonard meet at a disco over drinks, and go back to his place. She’s just been told by her not-very-kind best friend Kate Beckinsale that guys find her stiff and schoolmarmish. To overcompensate, she asks him to pour her a Pernod and upon seeing his first editions of Scrooge McDuck comics, remarks—with sweet ridiculousness—that she finds Scrooge really sexy. He puts on Andrea True Connection’s “More, More, More,” and they dance slowly away from the living room, almost but not quite accidentally heading into his bedroom. We never go inside the bedroom but discreetly watch from a distance as they close the door; they’re still dancing.

And then—here’s the moment—a sharp straight cut to the bright morning and Sevigny emerging from the front door of his building, the cool wind lightly whipping her coat about, the last strains of the song fading quickly. I’m not sure why this moment affects me so strongly; perhaps it has something to do with the understated but deeply sad contrast between the romance of the night and the reality of the morning after, contained—perhaps not even intentionally—in that brusque throwaway cut.

(2) In Truffaut’s Small Change (1976), a young girl and her dad (played by Truffaut) visit a small town that happens to be located right at “the center of France.” She mails a card to a friend; we cut to a classroom and her friend reading the card in class when he’s supposed to be paying attention to the teacher. The teacher notices this, and instead of punishing him—as he might have done if this were The 400 Blows—quietly takes the card from him, turns to the blackboard, and uses it as a springboard for a geography lesson. It’s a casual moment that lasts all of a few seconds, but it always stops me short by reminding the teacher in me that there are two ways to go with every situation that arises in a classroom: you can suppress an errant impulse by punishing it, or you can constructively use it to collective benefit.

(3) Jean-Paul Belmondo is driving his babysitter Anna Karina home in Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou (1965). They're having a long conversation, but I can never remember what it’s about even though I’ve seen the film three or four times. Here’s why: The streetlights passing by are reflected on the windshield in crisp, crackling colors—electric blue, flaming yellow, tart orange—moving diagonally across the windshield like little comets, one every few seconds. It's so visually gorgeous, and hypnotic—due to its metronomic regularity—that I find myself doing little more than following the shifts of color and light that streak across the car, forgetting all about story, character and dialogue for the rest of the scene.

So, your thoughts on cinephiliac moments? And/or your own example(s), if you like.

106 Comments:

Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I can't think of More, More, More without remembering DJ Don Imus' comment, "That was Andrea True going down on the chart." See this.

June 19, 2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jennifer Macmillan calls all fans of Leonard Cohen's music for a blog-a-thon on Sunday, June 25.

And Peter issues a reminder for the Lana Turner blog-a-thon on Thursday, June 29.

June 19, 2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger jason sperb said...

As Jenna may have told you, we've talked about this concept several times over at Mabuse. I'm doing a departmental presentation on it in Sept at Indiana U., talking about cinephilia and visual effects using a cinephiliac moment in Star Trek: Nemesis.

js

June 19, 2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger girish said...

JS, I look forward to seeing you perhaps post about your presentation at Mabuse.

June 19, 2006 11:01 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Thanks, G! My favorite cinephiliac moment is from Blow-Up, the close-up & sound of the trees in the wind. . .

June 19, 2006 11:09 AM  
Blogger girish said...

"the close-up & sound of the trees in the wind. . ."

J. ~ That's an excellent example.
Here's why:
The subtitle of the Cinephilia book I mentioned above is "The Wind In The Trees." It comes from a DW Griffith quote from 1944, when he was a bit disillusioned with movies. He said: "What's missing from movies nowadays is the beauty of the moving wind in the trees."

June 19, 2006 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Darren said...

I want to ponder this subject a bit before adding some favorites, but first I wanted to thank you, Girish, for that Griffith quote. For a year or two now, I've wanted to write about my fascination with wind blowing through tall grass, both in the movies and in "real" life. When I read your post, the first images that came to mind were the wind-in-grass scenes in Mirror and Exotica.

June 19, 2006 11:35 AM  
Blogger girish said...

"I've wanted to write about my fascination with wind blowing through tall grass, both in the movies and in "real" life. When I read your post, the first images that came to mind were the wind-in-grass scenes in Mirror and Exotica."

Good examples, Darren.
Strange, but this has been a pet fascination of mine as well.
Some others I can think of to add to the list might be: Days Of Heaven; Ratcatcher; Onibaba; Dovzhenko's Earth.

June 19, 2006 12:01 PM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Cool! That moment in Blow-Up is such an evocative scene for me. I'm glad that DW felt the same way about movies. And the avant-garde is often composed of the ephemeral moments of cinema too. :)

This is a very interesting post, G.

June 19, 2006 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

There's a wonderful passage in Walker Percy's The Moviegoer where he describes these cinephiliac moments as some of the most treasured moments of his life. He mentions two, but there's only one I can recall, for I would include that on my own list: the scene in The Third Man when the kitten finds Orson Welles in the doorway.

As for others -- it may seem a bit obvious (given my blog title and all) but the Madison sequence in Bande à part always does it for me -- particularly when the music drops out and all we hear are the footsteps and handclaps of the trio.

June 19, 2006 1:28 PM  
Blogger Momo said...

Hey Girish... yes, it's been quite a topic over at Dr Mabuse. :-) Incidentally, Jason and Scott, another Dr M member, also organised a panel on cinephilia at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies conference earlier this year.... so you've brought up an incredibly fascinating topic!

I was intrigued to read your Walt Stillman example of Sevigny and Leonard dancing because my own example is similar (albeit without the "next morning" bit): Adriana Asti and Francesco Barilli dancing in Bertolucci's Before the Revolution - their movements are so sensual, the Gino Paoli song is so gloriously romantic, and they are dancing to so many people in the same room (but all asleep or oblivious), which makes that moment so private precisely because it is so public. But most of all, it's Bertolucci's camera - a close, single shot of the entire dance... the camera held so close it's almost caressing the couple even as they hold each other closer, the camera moving with them, dancing with them, as slow and as sensual and as langourous. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. :-)

Jenna

June 19, 2006 1:49 PM  
Blogger David said...

Watching a bunch of Antonioni recently, I'm surprised how full of these moments his movies are, especially given Farber's description from a couple weeks ago. How David Hemmings in Blow-Up, so stiff most of the time, waits a couple seconds before lunging toward a ringing phone, or jumps and clicks his feet in the air as he walks up the stairs in the park; or how in L'Avventura, Sandro poses like a bodybuilder before they leave, and later, Monica Vitti begins singing along to a song from behind a bed. And so on.

Of course, I had forgotten all those moments the first time I saw those, so I'm not sure they really count. A couple that strike me:

In Bottle Rocket, during the hectic disastrous heist, Kumar, unable to open the safe, just sits downs, puts his head down, and waits.

In Fists in the Pocket, almost anything Ale does counts, but I especially like when he strikes the air in front of his blind mother, and stands on his head on his bed.

In 8 1/2, Marcello Mastroianni walks down a hallway, and suddenly shuffles his feet as though he could break into a full dance to Rota's music at any moment (If I remember correctly, he does the same step when he's trying to avoid his movie's crew in the gigantic hall).

June 19, 2006 2:17 PM  
Blogger That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Girish, here's a moment that always sticks with me, from Michael Mann's HEAT. De Niro has just spent the night with Amy Brennerman and is leaving before she wakes. It's just a quiet little grace note: He places a glass of water wrapped in a napkin beside her bed. I love how that says so much about what he wants to be, how he so desperately craves a normal relationship but just can't seem to get out of "the life" to do it. And, of course, that unwillingness to bend will be his eventual undoing.
Great idea for a post!

June 19, 2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Filmbrain ~ What a coincidence: That passage from The Moviegoer is actually quoted in this book. And I'm sure we could make up a long list of cool cinpehiliac moments from Godard alone.

Jenna ~ Before The Revolution sounds great--unfortunately, I've never seen it. I do have a bad VHS dub on a shelf somewhere that I need to pull out and watch because who knows if it will ever make it to region 1 DVD.

And I need to go through the Dr. Mabuse archives and find all the "cinephiliac" posts.

David ~ Choice examples all. That Bottle Rocket moment is so poignant. Preceded by a line in the movie that sounds banal but has me in stitches each time: Owen Wilson saying, "Get back in position, assholes!"

And Ale makes that strange gesture that I couldn't figure out in Fists: thumb to his nose, flapping his fingers like the wings of a bird.
He's a library of great mannerisms.

Round-Headed Boy ~ I haven't seen Heat in 10 years, since it came out, but that moment sounds exactly like what we're talking about. A small but significant gesture.

June 19, 2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger phyrephox said...

Just off the top of my head, and off of David's comment on the Antonioni's L'Avventura, is when Monica Vitti, left alone in her apartment after Sandro leaves to roam the beachfront, shrugs him off by very briefly playing with the external pockets her dress (or sweater, I can't remember) has. It is a very cute but also idiosyncratic and revealing gesture of self-sufficiency and satisfaction.

Personally, I wonder if such moments as the revelation of Harry Lime in The Third Man really count in this catagory we are talking about. Linking it to Farber's idea of termite art, it isn't the grand revelation scenes (like Wells first appearance) but rather the forgotten gestures and subsumed details noticed amongst large, more "important" and more purposeful pleasures of a film.

Great topic Girish.

June 19, 2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Phyrephox ~ You bring up an interesting point. You are right: I didn't mention this earlier, but in the book, Keathley makes a distinction between moments intended to be memorable and those that are smaller, "termitic," almost unconsciously placed in the film and then discovered and fetishized by the viewer.

In fact, it is this degree of "excessive attention" to a small moment (that might not "conventionally" merit attention or be remembered by most people) that causes it to be named a "cinephiliac moment" rather than a "cinephilic moment": the former almost signals a sort of disorder, e.g. (Keathley says) "necrophilia."

June 19, 2006 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RUPERT! WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO DOWN THERE?!?

June 19, 2006 5:00 PM  
Anonymous cinetrix said...

Anyone who read The Conversation way back when already knows my answer: the pas de deux of mirrored anguished moments in Before Sunset

June 19, 2006 5:05 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Stop Making Sense: David Byrne is sprinting around the percussion and keyboards section at the back of the stage when he realizes he doesn't have enough time for the last lap, jumps up onto the set, scrambles over it, and makes it back to the mic just on cue.

Same film: while singing "Girlfriend Is Better," Byrne has a man holding a light right in front of him. He holds the mic out and the light man gets in a "stop making sense" and then it's back to Byrne. Byrne holds the mic out to the cameraman at his right, who doesn't take him up on it.

Same film: he's trying to remount the mic on the stand; it falls to the ground and clatters. They must have mixed that down quite a bit, but you can still hear it.

Harold and Maude: two moments, right after they plant the tree in the forest. Harold is breaking out his pocketbook, probably to bribe the policeman (his mother in the dinner scene near the beginning of the film was talking about d'argent needed to take care of things after Harold's father was arrested floating nude down the Seine.)

Then when getting on the policeman's motorcycle, behind Maude, he dings himself in the head with the shovel. You can see, very quickly, that he frowns and his eyes go wide, and then he's on the bike and they're off down the road. I'm sure it was not done on purpose.

The Big Lebowski has so many of them--it's wonderfully dense with jokes--but one I didn't catch for far too long is that the nihilists at the end are trying to blackmail The Dude, complaining that "it isn't fair". So obviously they believe in something.

June 19, 2006 6:26 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

at house right, rather; Byrne's left. As you were--

June 19, 2006 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

This might not seem surprising coming from me, but many of my favorite cinephiliac moments are from some of Godard's films, and these moments all have something in common. Godard has always been able to convey the transience of a moment, even the transience of life -- and he often does this in brief, fleeting images of city street life. There's a very lyrical scene in which Anna Karina is riding the metro in Band of Outsiders, and as she begins to recite a poem (by singing it), a series of images of passers-by, cafes, and other street scenes appear. There's a similar, equally lyrical moment in In Praise of Love, in which Godard, very briefly, focuses on a woman sitting on a bus bunch at night. And in Masculin feminin, he does this again, this time presenting fleeting images of Paris workers to Bardot's voice-over. There's something very beautiful but also melancholic in these images, and while they are not as thematically as important as the rest of each film, they're moments that really strike a chord with me every time.

The interesting thing is that these prized cinephiliac moments aren't just purely visual pleasures -- often, they're something existential or transcendent or visceral about them. Others have mentioned Antonioni and the wind, and this reminds me of a resonant moment at the very end of L'Avventura when Vitti is walking outside and she stops and turns to stare at trees swaying in the wind. Antonioni virtually repeats this imagery/experience at the end of L'Eclisse, just as Vitti leaves Delon's office after they've promised to meet later. And though it's less emotionally powerful, there's a brief image of a blue candy wrapper swaying in the wind at the opening of Kieslowski's Blue -- out of all the great images in that film, this is the one I remember the most.

Really, though, there are just so many! If I had to pick one ... it would be very difficult -- perhaps the shot of Bardot, brunette wig and all, as she rides away in the back of a cab in Contempt; it's the conclusion of the film's emotional centerpiece (her fight with Michel Piccoli) and it's just breathtaking.

June 19, 2006 6:46 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

The shot in Dozhenko's Earth showing us these apples, huge, heavy, gleaming, are probably meant to be memorable, but I'd argue a similar shot in Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro wasn't--tomatoes this time, just swollen with juice, and bright apple red. This is followed by the crisp crunch of a stream-cooled cucumber one of the girls bites off at the tip. A small moment, but an emblematic one of Nature's effortless bounty.

June 19, 2006 8:14 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Maybe the biggest one ever IMO: the moment of motion in La Jetée.

I think it's interesting how most of these involve actors doing something, and the camera registering it in some memorable (if subtle) way.

Three for the road:

- When a few characters (including Schumacher) spot a neighbor's cat on the grounds in The Rules of the Game, let it out of a rabbit trap, and then shoot it--the cat runs off the screen in one direction, but the guy shoots in the opposite direction. In two seconds and a static shot, Renoir carves out a 3D space (and says something about his characters to boot).

- The open window sheds light on the "big picture" in Edward Yang's The Terrorizer.

- The last shot of João César Monteiro's final film Vai-e-vem, the filmmaker's eye as music (can't remember what) plays. The shot is held for what feels like forever (it's been an excellent but loooong film) and at a certain point the image freezes, and you may not notice it right away. Very moving for some reason, perhaps partly because Monteiro has died ...

I don't know his body of work well enough yet, but I wonder if Philippe Garrel sought to make nothing but 'cinephiliac moments.' In terms of capturing chance, Tarkovsky might have learned how to centralize such moments to his aesthetic more decisively than anyone else (except Tarr?). I think Godard worked hard to actively produce them.

June 19, 2006 9:38 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

This sounds a bit like Roland Barthes' punctum - a detail in a photograph, accidental, at least incidental, out of the control of the photographer, that catches our attention, that pulls us in.... Trying to think of examples is harder than I thought it would be - mostly because I keep ending up with fairly significant moments - Takeshi Shimura blinking in the background in Rashomon when the medium reveals the fate of the dagger that killed the samurai, that sort of thing...

Meanwhile - Ozu's films are an inexhaustable suply. These kinds of shots are almost a defining quality of his films, I think. What usually gets me the most are cuts - I think he was the most surprising and wondrous editor in films. All his films are full of moments - but there are a couple in Early Summer that get me every time. One early - Noriko (Setsuko Hara) and her friend Ayako are talking about their married friends, making fun of them, and drinking soda - and as they raise their glasses Ozu cuts to Noriko's parents eating, raising food with an identical gesture and timing of the two women. And then they continue eating, their movements almost perfectly synchronized. And toward the end of the film - Noriko and Ayako decide to spoy on the man Noriko didn't marry. They tip-toe down the hall, with the camera tracking back away from them, and then Ozu cuts to a group of people eating - Noriko's family, back at the house... Those matches, surprises, links are just thrilling... Everything he did was thrilling, I suppose - little details like the grafitti and signs in some of his early films- "two is company, three is a crowd" written on the wall of an apartment in one of his early films... ora sign in a bar: "I drink upon occasion, or sometimes on no occasion."

June 19, 2006 9:43 PM  
Blogger Jared said...

Sam, where does Barthes talk about the punctum? Does the similarity suggest that these moments are simply new elements of the film language which we haven't yet understood? The writerly aspects of a text that's usually readerly?

I love the moment in La belle et la bête when Belle first runs into the chateau in slow motion. But Cocteau wants me to love that moment, even apart from any narrative purpose, so I think that's out.

In Andrei Rublev, when the Tatars attack the city, there's a long tracking shot that ends with a pan down to the chaos of the battle, and a goose falls/flies down towards the action. Beautiful in itself, but very much a part of the theme of the futility of life which is sometimes redeemed by art (in this case, Tarkovsky's art--he was the one who threw that bird.)

So I'm thinking a true cinephiliac moment can only be something that director doesn't notice.

June 19, 2006 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I'm not sure if this counts as a cinephiliac moment from John Sturges' Magnificent Seven. In the scene where Yul Brynner is talking before taking the casket up the hill, Steve McQueen is sitting next to him just doing little bits of business like shaking his bullets as if they were dice. Apparently McQueen was stealing scenes from Brynner with Sturges' approval, but this is a funny bit that has nothing to do with the narrative.

June 19, 2006 11:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all--this makes for great reading!

Just a couple of thoughts/musings:

--Jared said: "So I'm thinking a true cinephiliac moment can only be something that director doesn't notice."

This might indeed be Keathley's intention, although some of the examples he cites (eg Thomson above) seem to contradict it a bit. Perhaps they are not all equally "pure" cinephiliac moments...

--Wondering aloud: Zach mentioned Tarr, Tarkovsky, Renoir, all of whom rely more on mise-en-scene than montage. (I know this dichotomy was in popular critical use a few decades ago, but is it still as valid and useful? I'm ignorant of the literature here.)

So, could one theorize that "cinephiliac moments" exist more plentifully in the case of mise-en-scene-driven filmmakers than montage-driven filmmakers?

And is this why Godard (more montage-driven than them) gives the impression that he is actively working to produce these moments, perhaps relying less on chance than they are?

--Mightn't Cassavetes be an arch candidate for cinephiliac moments?

I just drove up to Toronto to see LOVE STREAMS over the weekend and it's been showing up in my dreams two nights running.

--There's a fantastic essay called "Bad Movies" by J. Hoberman in the Lopate anthology. Highly recommended. In it, he talks at length about the films of Oscar Micheaux. He might be a solid case of a maker of pure "cinephiliac moments." (as per Jared's definition).

--I've scanned six pages from the Keathley and uploaded them here. It also includes discussion of Barthes' "punctum."

Please excuse all the underlining--I was forbidden to write in books as a child and am reversing the taboo with a vengeance as an adult. I did crop all the (garrulous) marginalia to make it slightly easier on your eyes.

June 20, 2006 12:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Only very dubiously related to one of the cinephiliac moments in my post:
Chloe Sevigny has her own category at Go Fug Yourself.

June 20, 2006 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

"So, could one theorize that 'cinephiliac moments' exist more plentifully in the case of mise-en-scene-driven filmmakers than montage-driven filmmakers?

And is this why Godard (more montage-driven than them) gives the impression that he is actively working to produce these moments, perhaps relying less on chance than they are?"

Those are great questions, Girish. Just thinking out loudly and hazarding a guess, I'd say that there's a distinction between what a director like Godard might be actively working to produce and what he actually produces, or at least what the viewer feels in response to what's produced. In other words, if we take some of the examples I mentioned, I don't know if Godard explicitly wanted to achieve the kind of effect that I feel; he might have been trying to reach a different type of emotion or thought in Band of Outsiders or In Praise of Love. But in the context of the entire film, and in terms of what I, as a viewer, bring to the experience, the sequences (or cinephiliac moments) can have a different effect. There's a great scene in Masculin feminin in which Chantal Goya, lying in bed, lifts her head up, stares at the ceiling, and recites a poem. To me, it's a beautiful, poignant moment, but whether or not Godard was actively working towards that feeling is an interesting, open question; he might have simply wanted to throw in one of his many literary references (he was always turning the cinema into a "text"). To me, though, it's almost existential.

So I'm not really sure if a true cinephiliac moment requires (or does not require) full spontaneity or accident. In many ways, Godard was certainly spontaneous (he essentially made up Masculin feminin as he went along). In other ways, he could be very deliberate in intent. But I think it's sometimes hard to distinguish between the two with certainty. I think this is one reason why cinephiliac moments are as much about the viewer's own "creating" as they about the director's. There's not much implicit in that Goya scene that makes it beautiful and poignant; I think a good part of the effect is dependent on me -- though I think, most of all, it's the relationship between viewer and film that is the key here.

June 20, 2006 1:55 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I tried reading Barthes' Camera Lucida sometime last year. It was one of those situations in which I wished I was reading my own book, not a library book. I kept getting little flashes of revelation in a sentence, then become utterly confused by the next, soon finding I'd forgotten whatever understanding had been momentarily achieved earlier. I wish I'd been writing little notes to myself in the margins the whole way through.

I appreciate those pages you just scanned, girish, because they help put Barthes' punctum, which I took as very specific to the way the eye reacts to a still photograph and not to motion, into a motion picture context.

June 20, 2006 2:29 AM  
Blogger David Lowery said...

I'm addicted to these moments; I once considered only focusing on them - and what I could extrapolate from them - in my reviews.

I love Zach's reference to La Jetee, but of course, that's very much a deliberate moment. As Girish points out, some of the best moments in movies are the ones that have an almost accidental, often inexplicable draw - and I suppose what makes them cinephiliac moments is that we can come here and realize that we're all draw to the same things (more or less).

Here's one that I'm sure I'm mostly on my own with: a moment from Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3 when the Entered Apprentice discovers Aimee Mullins peeling potatoes behind the cloud club bar. He leans in close and their eyes meet and something passes between them (it being a Barney film, there's no dialogue). The sense of pure longing in that moment was almost overwhelming - although I'm still not sure how it fits into the rest of the film. I'm not sure my reaction to it with the right one, but damn if it wasn't hard to shake.

June 20, 2006 3:31 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael, Brian & David ~ Merci, mes amis!

A couple of questions for Zach, if he feels like addressing them:

(1) "I think Godard worked hard to actively produce them."

I wonder why you think this was so? What gives this impression?

(2) "I don't know his body of work well enough yet, but I wonder if Philippe Garrel sought to make nothing but 'cinephiliac moments.'"

I wonder if you could talk about what you like in Garrel. And why you think he's such an idol of the Movie Mutations group (Brenez, Martin, etc)?
I've seen just two by him (Regular Lovers, Savage Innocence) and though I liked them, I need to see more to begin to develop a substantive appreciation of his work.

And another question if you're still game: why is Garrel invoked so commonly by Brenez and Martin etc in conjunction with Cassavetes and Ferrara? (What unites them in the eyes of the Movie Mutations crowd?)

Thanks.

June 20, 2006 7:21 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Re: Godard, I asked: "I wonder why you think this was so?"
I guess I meant to ask: "I wonder why you think this?"

June 20, 2006 8:26 AM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

For me intention is maybe something of a canard when it comes to a 'cinephiliac moment'--for even if it's some minor, chance event captured on cinema, it's still chosen to be included in the film. There's always some level of intention present. What ignites my cinephiliac passion--what punctures my eye--is when the film, through its form or its organization in some way, reaches out to me through means untranslatable to any other medium. Which is why, David, I'd maintain that the very intentional moment in La Jetée would qualify. I say photogénie transcends both chance and intention (or is the synthesis of both?)!

Girish, I guess I think Godard is striving to create these 'moments' because, (a) he like the other Nouvelle vague directors was a cinephile and was interested in reworking/recreating the things he had seen in the classical cinema of Hollywood & France, and (b) his political and aesthetic interests were in what the cinema could construct of and with reality more than how they could construct "their own" reality. (In some ways he was an anti-Renoir.) I wonder if Godard wasn't trying to 'capture' things, chances, because he didn't have much faith in a camera 'capturing' what was special--the cinema had to be proactive, had to instill reality with its own moments. Maybe. It's a guess.

With Garrel, I'll have to mull it over and will be back to venture an answer later today. Anyway, work calls PLUS Germany v. Ecuador is starting. I have got to go!

June 20, 2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Fascinating discussion (as always)... I wish I'd seen more Godard so I might have something to contribute to that part of the thread, but alas, I know naa-theenk... (Also, I'm starting to wish that I'd seen more - read: any - Garrel.)

A couple small moments that stick out for me:

- In Punch-Drunk Love, there's the first scene where Barry is shopping and he's looking for inexpensive Healthy Choice products. He's in the freezer section, and when he opens the door to look at a Teriyaki Chicken, there's a brief moment where the hum of the open cooler overwhelms the soundtrack. It's such a small, throwaway detail, yet it makes me hopelessly giddy, because who other than PTA would even think of putting that sound effect there?

- In Touch of Evil, when Orson Welles is at the bar. His resolve is breaking down, his frustration with the case is getting the better of him, and before he knows it he's off the wagon. It's an unconscious thing within the character -- he takes a shot without thinking and then says "I don't drink."

- In The Silence of the Lambs, right before Andrea Martin gets kidnapped, she's driving her truck and singing along loudly to Tom Petty's "American Girl." It's a wonderful little character moment, and its undermining is thus all the more cruel. Because of this film, I've never been able to listen to that damn song without getting a chill.

- In Kill Bill, Vol. 2, after Uma Thurman has put her kid to bed, there's this shot of her walking down a hall to the haunted strain of the Malcolm McLaren tune that uses The Zombies's "She's Not There" as its backbone. It's such a tiny, ethereal moment, and yet it sticks with me more than any of the showier stuff in either half of Bill. (One could probably fill out a list like this with nothing but throwaway Tarantino moments, if one was so inclined.)

More if I think of 'em....

June 20, 2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger David said...

Actually, I've only seen two movies by him, but Philip Kaufman seems to be a master of these incidental little moments--the first 2/3rds of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is composed almost entirely of these moments, with Murch-like editing to de-emphasize any central storyline (which kicks in at the end). My favorite of these is when the girl rolls her boggly eyes, her pupils sliding around all over her eyes--no idea how she did it.

Whereas with The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which was edited by Murch, these moments seem more deliberately placed between entire scenes that are trying to sum up entire story lines; if I'm remembering correctly, I especially like when Daniel Day Lewis scampers across the floor with Juliette Binoche underneath him, while having sex--it feels completely spontaneous, and is a small gesture of silliness, that breaks from the literary pretensions of the rest of the movie.

Of course, you could argue that Kaufman is too deliberate for these moments to count--they're gags and gimmicks, the same way Keaton, Tati, Woody Allen, and so on built up films from little funny gestures--but they're so perpendicular to the main body of each movie, that I like to think they count.

I think the reason Godard feels intentional is that a lot of his tricks clearly took some deliberate craftsmanship to achieve the feeling of spontaneity--the cuts of music in A Woman is a Woman is obviously Godard working to combat our expectations, and even a minor gag, like the camera panning back and forth across a light that turns on and off in Contempt, is still part of the set-up of the shot. They're effective--they look like they meet the criteria by being unexpected, unnecessary, and utterly affecting--but they don't feel improvised on set. They feel improvised in pre-production.

June 20, 2006 10:35 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

I get the impression from Garrel that his images are already something like memories... oneiric, and as such, already exist in a kind of frozen time. The most overt of these is Le Révélateur where each one is a child's memory separated by time, but there's a sense of transitory, frozen time in a lot of his films, like the landscape shots of Le Vent de la nuit or the drug use in Regular Lovers (Savage Innocence too). But anyway, since Zach's ruminating on this one, I'll sit tight and see where the Garrel discussion goes.

June 20, 2006 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

"So I'm thinking a true cinephiliac moment can only be something that director doesn't notice."

I'm not so sure I agree. Or rather, if that is the case, then most of the examples above would be voided. Stillman, Godard, Truffaut, Antonioni -- did any of the moments we've cited truly escape their notice? That Hemmings moment which David mentioned (which is wonderful) -- was this not exactly what Antonioni wanted?

I agree with Phyrephox that they shouldn't be moments of great revelation, but a cat finding Orson is hardly a "Soylent Green is made of people!" moment.

Going back to Keathley's definition: small, marginal moments that detonate an unforgettable little frisson in the viewer. ...not moments carefully designed to exert great dramatic effect.... Hong Sang-soo's films are filled with such moments -- tiny gestures, or slight, awkward body movements or glances -- they all meet Keathley's criteria, yet never for a moment did I think them anything but choreographed.

If we go back to Girish's Stillman example, is not that jump cut a reveal of sorts? Or even if we use Phyrephox's Vitti moment -- can we honestly claim to know that this wasn't (quoting Keathley) "intended to be memorable"?

Maybe Jared is right then -- that the source for these cinephiliac moments can only come from an actor doing something on his/her own that the director doesn't notice, or from something outside of the director's control (wind, rain, etc.)

I guess what I'm saying is -- I'm confused. Or at the very least, Keathley's taxonomy is flawed, for it assumes we can know intent.

June 20, 2006 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Girish - this almost slipped by me:

I just drove up to Toronto to see LOVE STREAMS over the weekend and it's been showing up in my dreams two nights running.

Seeing Love Streams this year was a milestone in my own personal growth as a cinephile. (As my overly passionate review revealed.) I too had dreams inspired by the film, and they still pop up from time to time, though that might have to do with the fact that I've watched the film no fewer than a dozen times this year.

I sincerely HOPE you are going to write about it.

June 20, 2006 11:12 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Great discussion, peoples!
Thank you.

Re: intention, I'd have to agree with Zach and Filmbrain.

"...even if it's some minor, chance event captured on cinema, it's still chosen to be included in the film. There's always some level of intention present."

Yes!

"What ignites my cinephiliac passion--what punctures my eye--is when the film, through its form or its organization in some way, reaches out to me through means untranslatable to any other medium."

Beautifully put!
And the comments about Godard strike me as dead-on.

Photogenie? Explainez-moi....?

Filmbrain ~ I remembered your review of LOVE STREAMS, which is why I made plans to drive to Toronto to catch it. It blew me away; I can see why you've returned to it often. But I feel wholly inadequate about writing on it after just one viewing. (It's a daunting film!)
But first, I need to order that French DVD!

June 20, 2006 11:39 AM  
Blogger That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Steve's mention above reminded me of another favorite, from Cameron Crowe's SAY ANYTHING. It's one that especially hit hard at my 40-ish Boomer generation. It's the scene where John Mahoney is driving along in his car singing along to Steely Dan's RIKKI DON'T LOSE THAT NUMBER. In our deluded Boomer minds, we all still believe we're still 17. Watching Mahoney sing that song made me realize: Christ, we're really getting old and out of it. A cruel scene, but a true scene.

June 20, 2006 1:24 PM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Have you seen the Zanzibar films, which include Garrel's early films from 1968 + films from Jackie Reynal and more? If not, I recommend!

June 20, 2006 1:35 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Which reminds me of Robert Forster in his car with the Delfonics, recommended to him by Pam Grier, on the stereo--and this is important--half-singing, diffidently but with enjoyment--to the tape. [Jackie Brown]

June 20, 2006 1:36 PM  
Blogger girish said...

J. ~ I'd love to see more Garrel.

June 20, 2006 1:37 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I'm not sure what to make of this "concept" yet, and I can't quite relate to it, even though I could list tons of cinephiliac moments myself too. ;)

I would think this type of response, supposedly idiosyncratic, is an integer part of what Cinema is meant to achieve, purposely.
Like Zach said above, any given moment making the final cut goes before so many (acute) eyes during production that none could possibly go unnoticed. In fact this particularity is probably the reason why a take was singled out and kept.

Even if this constitutes the added value of "termite art", the spontaneous capture of "life" that resonates with the audience is, at the worst (if unintended), the collateral benefits of movies.
Staging drama deals with haphazardous details (crowd, nature, ad lib, performances), people on set are put in a situation where such things are likely to happen, and often planned to occur.

Is it the fact film is a definite capture, repeatable, that makes "cinephiliac moments" more appealing than in a live theatre play where they abound?

Thanks for scanning the excerpts Girish, really interesting read!
I tend to agree about the fetishism of it all (or geekery?), and the parallel with affective connections.
It's like the irrational sentimentalism in the mundane memories of a nostalgic relationship. Without going into psychoanalysis, it would be interesting to figure what is the consistent appeal in these priviledged moments.
Maybe the appropriation is more personal, more intimate, precisely if noone else could ever spot this unexceptional detail. Which would push the affect to invest more sentiments into it, and maybe only share it with a cherished friend, as a secret code.
I believe there is a monologue in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind speaking of a series of "bad" (unsignificant nonetheless unforgetable) reasons to love a girl. ;)

June 20, 2006 4:12 PM  
Blogger David Lowery said...

In retrospect, I completely agree with Zach et al that the inclusion and/or staging of any given moment in a film is deliberate (the backseat gestures in Before Sunrise being an excellent example of coreographed spontaneity). I think that these moments can be broken down into two (non-exclusive) categories. They are either explicitly designed to stand out, to pull audiences in, to createa sort of cinephiliac buzz - the movement in La Jetee, for example; or they function as a sort of tabula rasa, in which case any instance of heightened reciprocation requires the (often unconscious) initiation of the audience member. It are these latter moments that I think Keathley is referring to.

June 20, 2006 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Maybe the appropriation is more personal, more intimate, precisely if noone else could ever spot this unexceptional detail.

Very interesting statement, Harry. Yet of all the examples put forth in this thread, how many of them were unnoticed by the rest of us? Do we harbor a desire for these moments to be truly private/personal, or does the acknowledgement of others somehow better justify our choice(s)? In other words, is it a game of sorts? Not of one-upmanship between cinephiles, but rather, "Hey, did'ja notice..."

I don't have an answer myself.

In films that have been studied to death -- including those of the directors we've tossed out here -- maybe it is something of a game to spot a detail that others may have missed.

Yet in the case of Hong Sang-soo, I've never imagined others sharing my cinephiliac moment, for the frisson inducer stems from self-identification more than anything else. (Specifically, the way Hong subtly manages to express visually the innermost thoughts of characters in uncomfortalbe or embarrassing moments.)

June 20, 2006 5:22 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Re: Garrel. I've only seen three of his films (Les Hautes solitudes, Les Baisers de secours, and Les Amants réguliers), so I'm not exactly an expert. But his cinema is more than anyone else's I can think of one of 'quiet intensity,' wherein a gesture, a strand of actor's hair or a gaze, a quality of b&w film grain, an unexpected frame movement--all of these things--are pretty much "all there is" onscreen. This isn't exactly true (there is a lot of autobiographical significance, for instance), but plotting & dramatic buildup/payoff are simply not things he seems to care about. All the fascination has to do with these small but deeply engrossing qualities. I would wager that this has something to do with the Movie Mutants' affection for Garrel. I don't know that he's "like" Cassavetes or Ferrara so much as--in the case of the Brenez/Martin cinephile generation--he's linked to them by virtue of these cinephiles liking all three.

As for photogénie, it's a term not too dissimilar from that of 'the cinephiliac moment.' I don't know if it has a single orthodox definition, but it basically refers to the quality of the image (or the essence of the relationship between viewer/image) which stuns/captures/awakens us, which touches us deeply, maybe irrationally. It's a word originally used by certain artists/critics in the days of silent cinema, but which has survived in various strains ever since.

June 20, 2006 8:42 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

I don't know what to add to this - it's a fascinating thread... I was thinking some more about Barthes - I think, sometimes, there is a tendency in Barthes and reacting to Barthes to make too much of the lack of intention - it's important, but I think the distinction between representation and figuration might be even more important, at least broader. That distinction, I think, does not depend at all on being accidental or secret. One can set out to be figural as easily as one can set out to represent. I think a lot of the examples given here fall into that second category - those moments in Godard or Antonioni or Ozu or Malick, and even Cassavetes and (judging from the 2-3 I’ve seen) Garrel are intended to be excessive, to show things that can’t be reduced to the story, the characters, to themes or meanings. They may well have a narrative or thematic function - but they can’t be reduced to it. The graphic matches and synchronized movements in Ozu, the unmotivated and oddly placed camera movements and so on don't have a lot of representational function - they are grace notes, or there for their beauty or to create rhythm or just because they're funny... I suppose that’s not quite what Keathley is talking about, but it’s related to it in interesting ways, I think.

I was also thinking of something different, that sometimes has a similar effect, at least for me: mistakes. Not just the routine, "hey, wasn't that glass empty in the last shot?" bloopers, but times where the "mistakes" have this kind of unintentional significance. I was watching Imamura's The Pornographers last week, and noticed something. There's a flashback, near the beginning, showing Shoichi Ozawa's character seducing (if that's what you call it) the landlady - she's sworn to her dead husband (since reincarnated as a judgmental carp) that she will never love another, but of course she can't help herself. The scene is played in one shot, with a slight camera move in the middle - the beginning places the two on either side of the husband's shrine - then Ozawa moves toward her, past the shrine, and the camera pans a bit to show them. And you can see, in a window on the left, a reflection of the crew. Just a bit - but you can see it... and I can't shake it - it's a goof, sure - but it almost functions as if we are seeing the husband's ghost in the window.

Imamura, finally, packed his films with moments that look like these accidents, but had to have been planned - The Pornographers is full of shots through houses into streets - people walking in the background, with nothing to do with the story - or the scenes in the hospital where we can see out a window to a parking lot being tarred - I can't imagine anything is accidental, but almost every shot has something that is completely unrelated to the story in it...

June 20, 2006 9:31 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Filmbrain,
I would say the cinephile community is the intimate sphere, a way to make us special because we can see things the general audience won't. For the love couple it's "this is OUR song", for cinephages it's the secret handshake "Hey, did'ja notice?" In both instances, it's a way to inject special (extraneous) meaning into something that has not so we can share a common culture not readily available to anyone (is it the "cultural capital" Zach told about a few months ago?).

But that's where I don't get the point of "cinephiliac moments". Like if there was Easter eggs hidden in movies that only cinephages (who seek them out actively) could see. I believe everything on screen functions, more or less consciously for every viewer, even if they are not able to name it.

What Sam says about "mistakes" (boom shot, goofs, discontinuity) is the geeky side of this, and probably not the most cinematic nature of cinephilia. Cinephages assert their belonging to an elite community by sharing such technical miscellania to show how much we pay attention to the screen.

This is a viewer-centered perspective (Roger Cardinal/Walter Pater/Matthew Arnold as cited on Girish's scans), as opposed to the film-centric analysis. The "spectator's epiphanic experience" is a phenomenon divorced from film art. Therefore "cinephiliac moments" have more to do with an obsessive-compulsive mindset that will develop anywhere (books, music, paintings or movies) regardless for its object (good/bad, intentional, aesthetical/idiosyncratic).

The distinction being made by the intentional aspect seems to restrict the auteur's intention to whatever is decided before shooting, overlooking the selective process on the editing table. It's not because a visual detail will cause a variety of responses in viewers that it's role wasn't designed on purpose. I think opened interpretation is very much part of filmcraft intentions.

June 21, 2006 6:33 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Very generous of you all to take the time and set down such detailed insights--Thank you!

Harry and Filmbrain--This is just my own reading of the Keathley book, but I get the feeling that he and the other critics are more interested in these "personal, intimate," intensely private moments that Harry referred to, and less in a sort of game that might catalog all the interesting cinephilic moments in a movie in order to share them with others ("did'ja notice?"). The book focuses on the kinds of moments Filmbrain talks about with respect to Hong Sang-Soo. And as Harry mentioned, each person may gravitate towards different small, private moments. (This is the sense I get from the way the book treats the concept.)

Zach, thanks for patiently answering my questions. I might lob one or two more your way before the week is up--I'm intrigued by the Godard/Renoir distinctions you made. No pressure to answer, though--I know you're in the throes of futbol-philia!

I'd be curious to hear the reasons why Acquarello digs Garrel.

David & Sam, great points all around. I spent some time yesterday reading a little Barthes. As Brian does, I find him a rewarding but challenging read.

June 21, 2006 6:57 AM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

What Sam says about "mistakes" (boom shot, goofs, discontinuity) is the geeky side of this, and probably not the most cinematic nature of cinephilia. Cinephages assert their belonging to an elite community by sharing such technical miscellania to show how much we pay attention to the screen.

That's true - but I'm thinking more about "mistakes" that are something more than just gotcha moments. Like the Imamura reflection, which is very haunting to me - or the shots in some of the early new wave filmes where people look at the camera because, well, they're shooting the movie in the middle of a street in the middle of the day. It blurs into deliberate metafiction (I saw several Luc Moullet films a couple weeks ago - he does things like that all the time - cheap, artificial looking sets, crew members turning up on camera or other people running around with film cameras, or even stepping out of the story completely to talk about the film we're seeing...) But even less intentional things can have a strange appeal - like the way Walter Burns' necktie keeps changing lengths in His Girl Friday - I can't not notice it, and it always makes me as happy as everything else in the film.

June 21, 2006 7:32 AM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

I've seen very little Garrel as well but, like Jean Eustache, he strikes me as someone whose films are about disconnected naked moments of the disintegrating 'self'. In Eustache's cinema, excessive dialogue (and to an extent, the deep fade-to-black) is the means to suspend time, to expose the wounds of the characters and the spectators (at least in The Mother and the Whore - his latter Mes petites amoureuses is rather Bressonian in its restraint), whereas it's the silences or inarticulate gestures that suspend time in Garrel's films. Both filmmakers peer deeply into faces but (I think) their films stress a failure to reach complete comprehension through image alone. I'm dying to see more of Garrel's films (I've just seen four), if only to figure out why the flat desert landscape in La Cicatrice interieure has become a monochromic Paris street in Sauvage Innocence or Regular Lovers (which I'm seeing next month, finally), and what his characters have mourned for in the films in between.

June 21, 2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

One minor detail I remember from both the Garrels I've seen.
There's this utterly odd but unforgettable musical motif in both Sauvage Innocence and Regular Lovers: it consists of a solo piano playing a slow burst (lasting a few seconds) of notes and chords. Garrel repeats this exact same passage several times during both films; there's not much more nondiegetic music in the films. (There's that Kinks tune played in its entirety in the latter film which also reminded me of the Edith Piaf tune played in its entirety in The Mother & The Whore.)

June 21, 2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger girish said...

--Cinema Scope interview with Garrel.

--A collection of Garrel links.

--Awesome: a collection of Walerian Borowczyk short films on the web.

June 21, 2006 10:17 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Mubarak's comment about Eustache is also what attracts me to Garrel's cinema; it's not just that they were both May '68ers trying to make sense of the failure of the revolution, but in a way, they're really documenting their own disintigration (as Mubarak aptly puts it) in its aftermath. There's an essay in the Elsaesser Farocki book (I think) where the author talks about how people like Eustache were really morally destroyed by the failure of May 68 and in a way, self-destructed, while people like Farocki learned to channel their politicization in other ways to create quasi-cultural revolutions within the medium of film. Garrel is closer to Eustache's sentiment in this respect, where his films are almost like cocooned, fragile memories - they're transient, but lingering, because he's still nursing that same wound of "disillusionment" (for lack of a better word). That's where I also think the Cassavetes comparison fits because his films are in one way or another expurgations of pain and loss, and the inability to overcome that emotional inertia.

The musical motif fits in here too, I think, where the integration of music and "liberation" is not only a kind of time capsule, but also happens just before a tonal shift where things start going downhill (like the re-enactment of the party that lead to the dead girlfriend being "discovered" in the modeling(?) industry in Savage Innocence), so it's almost like a metaphor (and in Regular Lovers, it becomes literal) for the euphoria of May '68 and its unraveling.

June 21, 2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Jim Emerson said...

Great stuff, girish! (And I hope you received my request for an Opening Shots submission at Scanners.)

I wonder if anybody else noticed this wonderful cinephiliac moment in Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion": Ed Lachman's camera (like Vilmos Zsigmond's in "The Long Goodbye") is always moving, floating. During the "Bad Jokes" number with Dusty (Woody Harrelson) and Lefty (John C. Reilly), Harrelson looks out from under the brim of his cowboy hat and looks right past (maybe even into) the camera as it glides by, following it with a mischievous expression that is priceless. Of course, he's about to let loose with some "obscene" jokes to drive the stage manager crazy, and this is his "revenge." Great moment.

One of my all-time favorites is a shot involving a man (Jeremy Irons) on a bicycle and a cat in Jerzy Skolimowski's "Moonlighting." It's a hilarious throw-away -- one of those serendipitous little happenings (like the final moment of "Barton Fink" when the pelican plops into the ocean) that, miraculously, was caught on camera.

June 21, 2006 3:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello & Mubarak ~ Your insights are very helpful. Thank you.

I have this big closet where I store videotapes in boxes (must be a thou or more in there) and I just noticed a Garrel I taped, oh god, years ago off TV5 but have never seen--Le Coeur Fantome. I'll have to queue it up.

It's odd--Cinematheque Ontario is a world-class champ at curating French cinema. They've done scores of great retros but never Garrel. I wonder how James feels about Garrel's cinema--perhaps he's not a fan, I don't know. But it'd be great to see a retro of his work.

June 21, 2006 3:49 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey there, Jim!
Yes, I did receive your e-mail, and I'm putting something together--probably on a Max Ophuls movie--and hope to send it your way soon.

June 21, 2006 3:52 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Speaking of Ophuls, you might drool over these upcoming UK releases, Girish.

Sign me up for more Garrel--I was extremely impressed by Regular Lovers (which I included in my top ten last year) and its sense of crumbling purpose and identity, particularly in relation to the recent riots in France. Ditto Eustache; I'm a big fan of The Mother and the Whore.

June 21, 2006 5:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Doug--good to hear from you!
Wow, that Ophuls set looks yummy.
I'd agree with Godard: Le Plaisir is the most beautiful film title in the history of movies.

June 21, 2006 6:51 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Okay, this is cool.
From the opening chapter of the book MOVIE MUTATIONS, here's Adrian Martin, replying to a letter from Jonathan Rosenbaum.
I've scanned, cut and pasted a couple of paragraphs where he talks (among other things) about Garrel and Cassavetes.
(As usual, pl. excuse the messy markings.)

June 21, 2006 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Burt Bacharach has a new blog at Huffington Post. In Denver this weekend will be a triple feature of the three Body Snatcher films by Siegel, Kaufman and Ferrera.

June 22, 2006 1:37 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Once again, I'm coming late to the party (I am reading The Moviegoer though!) so maybe I'm just reiterating what others have said above (I'll admit I'm a skimmer.)

Here's my problem with the "cinephiliac moment."
The concept is designed to make cinephiles feel superior (as, I think, Filmbrain was perhaps getting at above in his comments on one-upsmanship.) Such moments are usually tossed out in a way meant to say, "See how smart and subtle and modulated my eye is? How much spiritual edification I took from that fleeting moment when the actress closed the window?" It's a kind of bravado, which is, I think, unique to the cinephile. Cinephiles, unlike, say, the literati, approach their obessions with a very different kind of passion -- one that cries out for an obession with fleeting, immaterial details at the expense of the whole cloth. In a book, the "moments" are nicely delineated by sentences, paragraphs and chapters, so that we appreciate the artist's efforts in a more rigorous way. But cinephiles, even auteurists, tend to get caught up in finding something utterly subjective in our experiences -- and the cinephile moment is the perfect way to prove how personally, and privately, you took the film and how you, and you alone, really understand it. Even the director, some of you argue, misses his most profound moments! So that, in the end, it's just a boastful way of proving that I'm more cinephiliac than thou, because I caught every nuanced little flicker of light across the screen. These "moments" validate our worth as viewers -- with the result that our cinephilia becomes rather shallow and fragmentary. Much easier to mount a defense of a single moment of a film than the whole thing -- especially when it allows us to announce to the world the tiny details we noticed and our companions did not.

June 22, 2006 3:05 AM  
Blogger CINEBEATS said...

I find this topic really fascinating since a few film friends and myself have been compiling lists of our "100 Favorite Moments in Film" recently. I suppose these lists could also be called “100 Favorite Cinephiliac Moments” unless I’m being too loose with whatever criteria there might be.

I'm terrible at making lists and hate picking favorites, but I’ve attempted to join in the list making. I have commitment issues and change my my mind a lot so I've only gotten to #30 in my own list so far after 6-7 months of thinking about it.

Here’s the first moment I’ added to my own list of what I’ll now call “100 Favorite Cinephiliac Moments” since it has a nice ring to it. If my criteria is all wrong feel free to school me.

- Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) romances himself in a mirror in Purple Noon (1960, Rene Clement).

I love this moment for so many reasons. Clement’s camera is clearly in love with Delon and until then we (the viewers) have only had brief glimpses of the disturbed character that lies within Tom Ripley. At that moment Delon is able to convey all the seething emotions that are in Ripley and desperately trying to surface, but he still manages to be charming in this somewhat humorous, but ultimately creepy and disturbing scene. Clement shoots it in a way that made me feel like a voyeur watching something I shouldn’t be, but I couldn’t turn away because Delon’s beauty was too captivating.

June 22, 2006 5:04 AM  
Anonymous Peet said...

Another great thought-provoking post, girish.

Call me a chauvinist, but I've always loved the moment where Jeff Bridges as the alien in Starman visits a road diner and tastes Dutch apple pie for the first time. He chews, then freezes, and for just a second it looks like he's going to puke, but the reality of the situation is that he's so overwhelmed by this otherwordly sensation that he momentarily loses control over his borrowed body. 'Dutch apple pie...' he mumbles right after.

But if that example isn't private enough: The boat sequences in The Weight of Water are a well of cinephiliac moments to me. With laser precision, Katherine Bigelow cuts between Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley, creating a visual fugue of secret stares, half-smiles, teases, painful pans, flashes of fetishism and other grace moments that keeps me pushing the rewind button.

June 22, 2006 6:10 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, everyone!

Joshua, your arguments make for fascinating reading.

Let me just say this.
Speaking just for myself, I personally don't view the indulging in "cinephiliac moments" as a form of one-upmanship.
Instead, I see it as being guilty of indulging in a form of fetishism.

June 22, 2006 8:14 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Doug just sent me this--it's hilarious.
Matt Groening's How To Be A Clever Film Critic.

My favorite bit:
The 4 types of clever film critics--which do you aspire to be?

1. Academic type--boring, unreadable.
2. Serious type--reveals endings.
3. Daily type--nice plot summaries.
4. TV clown--nice sweaters.

June 22, 2006 1:18 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh, and this bit is precious:

How to pad out a film review when you don't have anything to say:
1. Recount the plot.
2. Throw in gratuitous puns.
3. Write about yourself.

Thank you--I'll take #3.

June 22, 2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I keep trying to figure out how to work in phrases like "oddly touching" and "refreshingly haunting" in future reviews.

June 22, 2006 2:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"provocatively touching" and "stunningly haunting" for me.

June 22, 2006 3:31 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I've used "oddly touching" before (and meant it). I must be a natural. :-/

June 22, 2006 4:35 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

So on-point, even 21 years later. It hasn't aged a day. I probably read it back then too, but didn't quite understand its hilarity.

I'm actually a little surprised no critics have officially adopted the $$$$ rating system in the meantime. I guess that's what boxofficemojo is for.

June 22, 2006 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Oh Girish....I'm in tears! I don't think I've seen this before, but it is SO spot on.

"Can you use "mise en scène" in a review that anyone will finish reading?" Perfect.

June 22, 2006 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

A film buff so devoted to the medium that you have opinions of movies you haven't seen.

Guilty as charged! (Never stopped Godard, either.)

I once wrote a scathing review of Gladiator (pre-blog days) even though I turned it off after "On my command, unleash hell." That was all I needed to see.

For the record, I have since watched the film in its entirety, and it turns out I wasn't far off the mark.

June 22, 2006 5:18 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain, ain't that somethin'?
I'd never seen that before either.
Brian, you're right--it hasn't aged a day.

I sent Doug a link to that ridiculous Clive James NYT article "How To Write Film Criticism" this morning and he replied back with the link to the Groening, saying: "Oh, but this is *far* better."

Tuwa, I'm *certain* I've used "oddly touching!" :-)

June 22, 2006 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Pacze Moj said...

Great topic -- as usual. There's a rarely a post of yours that (although I seldom find anything smart to say compared to the comments already posted!) doesn't send me thinking, in the front or back of my brain.

Some of my cinephiliac moments that I remember at the moment:

1) The field and train scene in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali. And I've no idea why!

2) The shot at end of the dance scene in Napoleon Dynamite: three characters, backs to the camera, watching the dance; music on the sound track; perfect capsule of being an outsider.

3) Tracking shot of buying a hat in Cléo de 5 à 7. Detached, but warm.

June 22, 2006 6:10 PM  
Blogger girish said...

What a coincidence: the train in the fields is the image I remember most from the movie as well.

June 22, 2006 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

"The field and train scene in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali. And I've no idea why!"

Because it features wind blowing through tall grass, of course. ;)

June 22, 2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Of course!

June 22, 2006 9:42 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Post+chat on Cronenberg's Crash at Ben's place.

June 22, 2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Wish I could make that Body Snatchers fest--I've been working on a post about them and the Finney book, in between half a dozen other things. It'd probably light a fire under me....

June 22, 2006 10:14 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Girish: Google disagrees. ^_^

David: in Invasion of the Body Snatchers I always just loved the scene where he's cooking stir-fry. I never really believed it was enough for two people (it looked like it was probably not enough for one) but it always struck me as some specific and wonderfully mundane detail. Not only is he cooking, but he's cooking stir-fry. I wonder if that's because the wok "reads" well onscreen, like pizza boxes and cartons of Chinese food.

pacze moj: I remember that scene, but not the tracking shot ... I wonder now if that was why I liked it (then I thought I liked it because it was just a random detail tucked in and given some odd significance).

I saw another of these today: the can that goes rattling down the street in Close-Up. I'd seen The Wind Will Carry Us, so it set me wondering if Kiarostami would hold the shot until the can bumped up against something. Yes. Completely unnecessary, but it delighted me for some reason.

June 22, 2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 23, 2006 12:31 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

The final shot in the opening credits of Chimes of Midnight has this gruesome image, of men hanging from poles, and soldiers standing below, arms swinging (one of them has a sword hanging from the end of one arm). On my second screening of an incredibly bad VHS bootleg, I noticed that the final shot is in slow motion, and the almost simian arms seem to sway like pendulums, waiting for the men to die (or rot, or whatever). It's a supremely unsettling moment for me, not the least because of that almost imperceptible bit of slow motion that suggests inhuman patience...

June 23, 2006 6:26 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Linkies:

--Another links-laden post of goodies at Frisco Bay Brian's.

--Michael on The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

--Dennis Cozzalio has a generous reading list.

--5 for the day: Summer, at MZS's.

--Recently discovered filmblog: David Pratt-Robson's Videoarcadia.

June 23, 2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger Marina said...

An enormous (in every way!) discussion! Bravo!

Excuse me for joining a bit late but the ideas put forward and the subject itself are irresistible.
My most vivid "cinephiliac moments" are rather sentimental. I still can't resist reviewing some parts of Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" over and over again, thus rarely getting till the end (which explains why I haven't watched the film integer times:)). Every appearance of Olivia Hussey leaves me breathless - she's got such charisma and intonation. In fact, it's the dialouges and the way she pronounces them that fascinates me.
One of them is, of course, the balcony monolouge, just before Romeo intersects (just notice the way she moves her hands and arms in harmony with her facial expression); the other her reactions to the poking nurse:
When the nurse comes in the company of a servant, Hussey looks him so strangely and angrily impatient, that if it were me, I would feel uncomfortable for just being there. And then she goes like that: "Send the man away." and "Go on." (to the servant again with that expression).
And here's the climax: she enters impatiently (yes!) slowly, going like: "Sweet, sweet..., sweet nurse." But her face - eyes, eyebrows and all...The tone...that makes it an unexplainable moment.
A moment of such intensity, exploding in a surprise: "Where is my mother? Why, she's within. Where should she be?"
Beauty.

Then, there's also Bertolucci's "Stealing Beauty": that little poems, scribbling themselves in the eye, and thus in the soul, of the camera, making the viewer a direct witness of emotions. That, of course, is intentional, but nevertheless, so intense and striking to me.

Somebody, mentioned Cocteau's "La Belle et la bête" and particularly the moment when Belle enters in slow motion. That image haunts my dreams!

Regarding intention, if we assume that a "cinephilliac moment" is one unnoticed by the director, which is practically impossible for reasons listed above or to make it sound possible, one which hasn't been granted significance but just resides the screen for the sake of natural flow and therefore, is unnoticed by the conceptual eye of the director, then Kubrick, as absessed with perfection as he is, is off.:)

And now, more seriously, about certain points, raised during the discussion and scanned pages (thank you, Girish!):
Quoting Keathly, quoting Pater:
"a moment - and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect; but it leaves a relish behind, a longing that the accident may happen again."
And indeed there's certain freudism in film viewing - a search of self-projection (sometimes conscious, sometimes not), of a mirror inner self. And then comes the big question about critism, cinephillia and everything else. Is a film critic - a devoted, significant, influencial one - a cinephile? Most logically, we should answer "yes", for it is only love that drives passions that drive hard work that drives significance. Then again, given these circumstances, where does the issue of objectivity and subjectivity stand? Can a critic who remains objective be subjective at the same time? Be entirely subjective in the roots of his generalisations? And what about academitians - can the compound "subjective academitian" be ever accepted?

Let me note down some thoughts that have been bothering me for the past 1 1/2 days. Respectfully, I will take for granted that "every" film critic - a devoted, significant and so on - is a cinephile. However, as "cinephilia" suggests "love of cinema", these most personal and thus subjective moments are a constant companion of a critic. Just as an ordinary viewer would say "I liked it!"/"I didn't liked it." (and would actually have no other explanation as to why is his reaction exactly that and would then reccomend/not reccomend the film entirely based on this subjective personal experience), so does a critic initiate - with a response [to the film]. There is no way one can review a film (efficiently, that is), without having inetracted. So, I believe, it is the "cinephiliac moments" that form the original opinion. They are the grounds, the "guts assessment" no critic [=cinephile] can escape. They determine if your opinion will be positive, respectively - negative. If a film hasn't touched you, you would most probably remember nothing in a week or so. If it has just caressed you, you might remember it for a while, even certain moments longer. But if it has crushed in you - and you in it - those numerous moments will 'cinephiliate' you forever. And that speaks for a negative, mediocre, positive appraisal.

This is the act of experiencing the film that every critic clearly goes through. And only after that does he/she decide whether to speak objectively (keeping distance and locking the emotional experience) or more subjectively (successfully combining feeling and thought). Even if one chooses to remain distant the opinion he MUST express (otherwise it will be a plot summary), no matter how well defended, regarding cinematography, acting, mise-en-scene, is "deep down" subjective, personal. He might plunge into this state of seeking the "truth" [the general, most applicable], but it would be no more that a mere distortion of the initial subjective. In other words, trying to gain the ultimate objective, a critic distorts the subjective. Or in even other words, the final objectivity is a well-defended distorted subjectivity. And that explains the maltitude of tendencies, which are based on theories, initiated by ONE person or ONE close-minded community. And again that explains the impossibility of creating the universal (or 'katolikos' to involve religion) theory - there're simply too many individuals on the planet. :)

If there's a universal theory, there would be universal understandings => universal opinions => universal experiences => universal "cinephiliac moments" => universal cultural [+ aesthetic + historical, etc.] backgrounds => universal people. That would be too sad.

I got too carried away, so forgive me. I just needed to share these thoughts, no matter how off the subject they are.

June 23, 2006 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

If anyone hasn't seen it, Amazon is taking a poll on films from the Warner Brothers library to be on DVD. This also includes MGM titles that Warners now has like All Fall Down. Other possible titles include Coppola's You're A Big Boy Now and Kazan's The Arrangement. There seems to be lots of inexplicable interest in Gymkata. I saw the link at IMDb where for the daily poll.

June 23, 2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Peter - My defeatest attitude tells me that the Warners poll winners won't include Cammell & Roeg's Performance, even though Colin MacCabe went on record calling it "The greatest British film of all time." I wish I had balls enough to agree with that in public.

In the process of reviewing the new Cammell bio, I revisted Performance for what must be the twentieth time. My VHS copy was taped off of Showtime back in the '80s.

It would be excellent to see the version Cammell and Jagger approved -- editor Frank Mazzola has their cut in his possession. A running commentary shared between Roeg, Jagger, Mazzola, Pallenberg, and, miracle of miracles, Michele Breton, would be something unique. (I think the round-robin commentaries are the best, such as the ones on The Last Waltz and California Split.)

Warners could also include on the DVD the excellent documentary, Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance.

Nice dreams...for me, at least.

Lana Turner, Thursday.

June 23, 2006 8:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, I once saw British director Bernard Rose present and talk for an hour about PERFORMANCE. Wonderful film--only time I've seen it.

(Pseudo-) round-robin commentary: I love Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzmann on the Criterion RUSHMORE, though you can tell they were all recorded separately.

Marina, don't apologize. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

June 23, 2006 10:03 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Olivia Hussey's twin orbs are always easy on the eyes. Funny, though she doesn't seem to have much of a rear.

June 24, 2006 12:54 AM  
Blogger Joseph B. said...

This entire thread makes me wish that Film Comment would re-invent their always excellent "Moments Out of Time" piece at year's end. A few star-making scenes aside, this exhaustive list was usually the place to give recognition to small moments in a film that usually went unnoticed. One of my favorite little moments in any film is the final scene in Assayas' "Late August, Early September". Mathieu Amalric is talking to someone in a busy little cafe and his attention is turned to an old friend as she passes by. I don't know if it was scripted, but his quick silence and sly smile as he looks down, abruptly ending the conversation, is one of the more perfect final images in many years.

June 24, 2006 1:51 AM  
Blogger girish said...

More links:

--Michael Guillen post on B. Ruby Rich.

--Filmbrain on the Korean film TEARS OF A CLOWN.

--Superb, unmissable initiatory post on free jazz at Marathon Packs, with mp3's: Herbie Hancock on Fender Rhodes; Sonny Sharrock, etc.

--Reminder: Jen's Leonard Cohen blog-a-thon tomorrow and day after.

June 24, 2006 7:49 AM  
Blogger girish said...

--Acquarello has a music post with mp3's.

--Doug has recent posts on Welles' MR. ARKADIN and THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO.

June 25, 2006 12:49 PM  
Blogger Richard Gibson said...

Girish - I'm a bit late to this as have been away.

Re: Good examples, Darren.
Strange, but this has been a pet fascination of mine as well.
Some others I can think of to add to the list might be: Days Of Heaven; Ratcatcher; Onibaba; Dovzhenko's Earth.

Another Malick: 'The Thin Red Line', in fact come to think of it doesn't 'The New World' have it's wind and grass moments?

June 25, 2006 5:47 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Hitckcock's cameos = cinephiliac moments or not?

June 25, 2006 6:33 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Upthread, on the barroom scene in Touch of Evil:

It's hard to call Quinlan's first drink a throwaway detail--his character and in fact the whole film turns on that one gesture. But Welles so carefull arranges and orchestrates the scene--Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) calling for a drink, Quinlan denying he needs one, Grandi insisting on their sharing a problem (Charlton Heston's Mexican prosecutor), Quinlan's hand inching towards the shotglass, literally the man not knowing what his right hand is doing.

The penultimate moment passes without your noticing it, if you're not careful (Touch is magnificent on the big screen, but there's something about DVD--the way you can freeze or forward or repeat the scene to catch every niggling detail--that helps one's appreciation of it). When the glass is empty, Tamiroff is suddenly more arrogant, less obsequious: he explains to Quinlan what Quinlan still doesn't realize: that they're equals now. Quinlan insists for the umpteenth time that he "don't drink," stops when he realizes the shotglass is empty.

Cut to an overhead shot, just peering over Quinlan's shoulder: he looks trapped in that booth. Tamiroff, smirking, goes off to order a whiskey--"make that a double."

Magnificent moment, that.

June 26, 2006 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Natty said...

The mentions of Antonioni's wind in the trees reminded me of some other sound moments:

- In Cronenberg's "eXistenZ," the sound of crickets when Allegra and Ted are outside the "Country Gas Station." I remember noticing this the first time I watched the film on a friend's high-tech surround-sound system, and what an evocative and immersive touch it was. And, like almost everything about that film, it can be viewed as deliberate, something pre-programmed both by the makers of "the game" and by the filmmaker himself.

- In "Boogie Nights," the sound of an airplane or jet overhead when Eddie/Dirk tells his ladyfriend he plans on being a "big, bright shining star." I'm not sure why this appeals to me, but it almost makes me want to cry.

June 26, 2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, more good 'uns.
Thank you, all.

Harry--Perhaps they are. They seem a tad too calculated, even gimmicky, no? And what cinematic purpose do they serve other than pandering to the audience's preconditioned expectation? :-)
(I never liked those--can you tell?)

Richard--Alas I haven't seen The New World yet.

June 26, 2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I don't get a frisson either, but I thought they were the typical example of something only cinephile would pay attention to, and would care about the auteur instead of the star (usually nobody knows how the auteur looks like, well not for Hitchcock)

June 27, 2006 3:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry, I like Zach's definition:

"What ignites my cinephiliac passion--what punctures my eye--is when the film, through its form or its organization in some way, reaches out to me through means untranslatable to any other medium."

June 27, 2006 6:24 PM  
Anonymous James said...

In Fincher's Seven, when the detectives are travelling through the red lit massage parlor to find the lust crime scene, the earlier arrived uniformed cops can't find the control area to turn the music off, so some grinding techno-ish rock song blares throughout. As the Pitt and Freeman characters move underground, the audio likewise moves between layers of muffling, signifying their travel to a lower depth like something out of Greek legend. Never ceases to creep me out.

This one was highly deliberate. The sound editor on one of the commentaries talks about the process to create the effect, and it was quite time consuming, basically playing over a PA the song and reocridng it one room over. Then repeating, with the source being replaced with the previous recording. Regardless, in the film it's almost seamless. Cheers.

June 28, 2006 12:01 PM  
Blogger Maxim de Winter said...

The brief exchange about whether mistakes, goofs etc are particularly 'cinephiliac' moments reminded me of one of my favourite quasi-goofs: in Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, when Warren Oates's character, Benny, a drunk and a loser, goes to see the guys who are offering the million dollar reward for Al's head, he's dressed up trying to look smart, and wearing a really spectacularly awful tie. He pulls out his ID nervously when it's asked for, and when he puts it back in his jacket pocket he accidentally pulls the tie loose - it's a clip-on job. This happens so quickly you can easily miss it, and the first time I saw the film I thought it was a mistake - it's the kind of thing it's almost impossible to do deliberately but keep it looking accidental - but, sure enough, Benny is tieless for the rest of the scene. My guess is that Peckinpah picked up on a happy accident and used it to exemplify Benny's sweaty, humiliated loserdom in the face of the Mob's conglomerate machinations. Either way, it's a beautiful little moment of pure Manny Farber termite art.

July 02, 2006 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this topic and was about to propose it via email to several friends who are well-known film directors.

My termite moments are usually little split-second actor-idiosyncratic moments. Today's will be from "Blade Runner": Harrison Ford climbs the stairs to Sebastian's apartment in the Bradbury Building. Just before he enters the apartment's door, we're looking over his shoulder, waiting -- and then Ford/Deckard quickly looks behind him for danger. It's half a second long, that look -- and it is full of fear and anxiety. This is what makes Harrison such a great film hero, knowing when to puncture a shot with the perfect human moment.

March 15, 2009 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Conall said...

I've just come across this old post from the link to it in the current discussion thread, and wanted to mention that there is in fact, to my mind, an even more beautiful and arresting "moment" that uses the reflection of street and traffic lights on the interior of a car than the great scene from Pierrot you describe - it is in Oliveira's "Christopher Columbus, The Enigma," where the two brothers who have just arrived in New York sit, amazed, in the back seat of a taxi, staring at traffic lights and trying to figure out if there is a logic to the way they change (they have never seen traffic lights before). The light reflected upon their faces suddenly changes [here I forget - does it change from green to red, or vice versa??] and the movement of the car changes accordingly, and they then figure out the signficatory meaning of the changing colours (as Adrian Martin says, traffic lights are great installation art). Perhaps less of a 'cinephiliac moment' than the Godard one, because it is a very deliberately weighted and consciously 'significant' moment -- but no less beautiful for that!

April 04, 2010 12:31 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Here are my cinephiliac moments: http://mubi.com/lists/cinephiliac-moments

July 12, 2011 9:57 AM  

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