Monday, January 22, 2007

Poetic Film


Jennifer MacMillan's The Garden Dissolves into Air (2006)

“Poetic”: Lord knows how many times I’ve flung that word about when describing a film. But what exactly does it mean?

In 1953, Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 put together a symposium called “Poetry and the Film.” The participants were: Maya Deren; playwright Arthur Miller; poet Dylan Thomas; poet/critic Parker Tyler; and filmmaker Willard Maas. The transcript of their discussion in Film Culture Reader (edited by P. Adams Sitney) makes for fascinating reading.


* * *

Maya Deren speaks of the poetic dimension as being “vertical” as opposed to drama and action being “horizontal.” She is distinguishing between the narrative (“horizontal”) and the lyric (“vertical”):

The poetic construct arises from the fact, if you will, that it is a “vertical” investigation of a situation, in that it probes the ramifications of the moment, and is concerned with its qualities and depth, so that you have poetry concerned, in a sense, not with what is occurring but with what it feels like or means. A poem, to my mind, creates visible or auditory forms for something that is invisible, which is the feeling, or the emotion, or the metaphysical content of the movement.

[…] In Shakespeare, you have the drama moving forward on a “horizontal” plane of development, of one circumstance—action—leading to another, and this delineates the character. Every once in a while, however, he arrives at a point of action where he wants to illuminate the meaning to this moment of drama, and, at that moment, he builds a pyramid or investigates it “vertically,” if you will, so that you have a “horizontal” development with periodic “vertical” investigations, which are the poems, which are the monologues. […] You can have operas where the “horizontal” development is virtually unimportant—the plots are very silly, but they serve as an excuse for stringing together a number of arias that are essentially lyric statements.

Deren, in generalizing her idea to the other arts, also gives an example from dance: a pas de deux might be thought of as a poetic “exploration of a moment” after which the dance piece returns to its plot line.


* * *

Arthur Miller expresses the view that speech and sound are redundant to the art-form of cinema, whose potential lies in the image alone. (To my mind, this is an interesting if needlessly purist view.) He also differs with Deren in that action and drama—her “horizontal” dimension—are very important to him.

I think that the reason why it seems to many of us that the silent film is the purest film and the best is because it mimics the way we dream. We mostly dream silent, black and white. A few of us dream in technicolor, but that’s disputed by psychologists. It’s sort of a boast: Certain people want to have more expensive dreams . . . I think that the film is the closest mechanical or aesthetic device that man has ever made to the structure of the dream. In a dream, montage is of the essence […] The cutting in a dream is from symbolic point to symbolic point. No time is wasted. There is no fooling around between one important situation and the most important moment in the next situation.

[…] [I]n the drama there was a time, as you know, when action was quite rudimentary, and the drama consisted of a chorus which told the audience, in effect, what happened. Sometimes, it developed into a thespian coming forward and imitating action such as we understand action today. Gradually the drama grew into a condition where the chorus fell away, and all of its comment was incorporated into the action. Now for good or ill, that was the development of the drama. I’m wondering now whether it’s moot, whether it’s to any point, to arrange a scenario so that it is necessary (and if it isn’t necessary, of course it’s aesthetically unwarranted) for words to be added to the organization of images, and whether that makes it more poetic. I don’t think so.


* * *

I cringed when I read the condescending reaction of the men—especially Dylan Thomas and Arthur Miller—to Maya Deren’s views. Miller starts out disagreeing calmly, then quickly grows impatient with Deren. “To hell with that “vertical” and “horizontal.” It doesn’t mean anything,” he says, which provokes applause from the audience. Dylan Thomas (dripping snark) claims not to understand Deren’s ideas and sneers: “The only avant-garde play I saw in New York was in a cellar, or sewer, or somewhere.” [laughter from the audience]


* * *

One of Bill Nichols’ six modes of documentary is the “poetic mode.” He uses it to refer to a type of film—first dating from the 1920’s—that foregoes continuity editing in order to “explore associations and patterns that involve temporal rhythms and spatial juxtapositions.” Rather than 'explain' or describe action in logical detail, these films might stress mood, tone, rhythm and form.


* * *

In the Bill Nichols-edited book, Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde, Annette Michelson writes that Deren was arguing (in the Cinema 16 symposium) prophetically for a certain "duality of linguistic structure, that very duality that [Roman] Jakobson was to propose, through his study of aphasia, as the metonymic and metaphoric modes..." (I know nothing of Jakobson's ideas, and would be glad to learn from those of you who do!)

Also: see Tom Gunning's excellent foreword to Abigail Child's book This is Called Moving: A Critical Poetics of Film, in which Gunning also discusses the Cinema 16 symposium.


* * *

If you like, please feel free to share ideas on what "poetic film" or "poetry in film" might mean to you....


* * *

We've lost too many musical artists lately (Alice Coltrane, Anita O'Day, Michael Brecker) and now comes news of Peer Raben's passing. In memoriam of his work with Fassbinder, here are: (1) "Lili Marleen" sung by Hanna Schygulla [mp3]; and (2) "Blues for Franz" [mp3] from The Third Generation.

73 Comments:

Blogger Maya said...

Once again, you erect such an intriguing scaffold on which our ideas can tendril and climb.

Here in the Bay Area poetry and film have been intimately linked for quite some time and I have been meaning to do a write-up on same. My friend Phil Cousineau recommended it would be a fertile topic. I've only done some preliminary work, talking with Phil and poet Jane Hirschfeld, among others. Jane and I actually had a nice exchange about poetry in film and--while commentary on this subject is alive--I'll try to get back with some of those choice samples.

January 22, 2007 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish - nice topic. I read that symposium, a long time ago - it is notable that the only thing I clearly remember was Deren's definition of poetic cinema. It still seems to be the best characterization of the different modes of film - the fiction (Story, characterization, themes, etc.) vs. the tone, the sounds and pure visuals, etc. I vaguely remember, now, the other panelists' dismissal, but I can't say they registered very well.

January 22, 2007 9:05 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Maya and Weeping Sam. Glad you liked the subject.

I watched Dovzhenko's Earth a couple of weeks back and then looked up Gilberto Perez's amazing section on it in his book The Material Ghost. In it he makes a passing reference to the symposium. I have the Sitney book but had never read the piece.

I'm sure this is quite common, but I find that my reading and viewing often end up being quasi-random, chaining and ricocheting from one film or filmmaker or essay or book to another, which is disorganized and scattershot but (on the plus side) can also make for surprises and happy accidents.

January 22, 2007 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I just had a flashback to NY 1975 when I knew both Gunning and Sitney as teachers at NYU. Gunning was going for his Ph.D. at the time and I visited his house one time in Brooklyn Heights. And I was watching Maya Deren's films during that time.

January 23, 2007 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i had never heard about this symposium however i am very curious about it and will certainly get hold of a copy from somewhere...

i found miller's reaction to deren's definition uncalled for, especially coming from someone who made his living from the arts...

there is a breed of critics who are presumptious enough to assume that they have the right to tell the artist (hate the term, but for want of a better word i shall use this) what to do, implying that it is they who know best...

part of the artist's job is to stick his/her neck out, for better or for worst... he/she comes up with a concept or idea and decides to express it in a certain manner/form... the intentions would be good, to do the best job of
it; but, alas, the end result is always anybody's guess... there is no formula for good art but an 'x' factor that might work in your favour as much as against you... so much so that there is a lot of art whose greatness in part lies in having disregarded the rules, and bad art that is such because it is obvious and uninteresting...

the critic might like it or might hate it... but i cannot think of any sensible reason why he/she should say that the artist should have 'done this and not that'... bad art, spawned by good intentions, might not be pleasant but can prove to be more useful in the long run...

therefore i believe that the critic who looks at his/her theories before looking at the work in front of him/her, or who shields him/herself behind generalities, is a very bad critic who indulges in petty dogma... so it might be true that we dream in silent mode - nonetheless that doesn't mean that sound in film is an undesirable growth, or that all films have to be dreamlike... somehow i am remembering what robert bresson once said, that the advent of sound in film created silence...

i found deren's deifinition of poetic cinema quite apt, effective and easy to grasp... this does not mean that it is the ultimate truth and that everything under the face of the earth should adhere to that model... however it's an interesting view to keep in mind, just as is miller's...

January 23, 2007 5:06 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Noel and Peter.

A few links:
--Jonathan Rosenbuam blog post: More List-O-Mania.
--Zach on cinema poetry and poetics.
--Tucker at Pilgrim Akimbo: Les Carabiniers and the Death Dance of Imperialism.
--At Andy Rector's: Andi Engel on Straub-Huillet.
--Matt Clayfield on Casino Royale.
--via Matt, a great article on modernist design in the Guardian by Robert Hughes.
--At Michael Guillen's: Inland Empire Q&A with David Lynch.
--At Tuwa's Shanty: The latest edition of the Body Snatchers mix with mp3's of Anita O'Day, Bill Evans, Nat Cole, Julie London, etc.

January 23, 2007 6:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Peter and Zach -- In an alternate reality, Marty McFly-style, I'd gladly turn in my chemical engg. degree to study film at NYU instead....

January 23, 2007 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm honored Rosenbaum uses my website to reference his Top1000 online listing. :)

January 23, 2007 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention, Girish.

I had no idea what Miller was like but this doesn't make such a favorable impression with me. I understand it's useful as an artist to have a strongly held and deeply felt vision, but that doesn't mean the artist has to slight everyone else's, does it?

January 23, 2007 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for all those extra posts, Girish. I should remember that anytime Blogger hiccups it's best just to walk away and come back to it in an hour or two and see what it decided to do with the input.

January 23, 2007 9:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry -- I haven't visited your website (as opposed to your blog) in a while. Do you have links to it from your blog? It's easy to see why Rosenbaum linked to it--it's a huge cinephilic labor of love...

Tuwa -- I'm sure Miller is a complex artist and thinker and I wasn't passing blanket judgment on him. What bugged me was the blithely sexist undercurrent of the men's comments...

January 23, 2007 9:41 AM  
Blogger girish said...

No sweat, Tuwa. I took care of the extra posts....

January 23, 2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Wow, great Netflix news: several Satyajit Rays are being released including Charulata, Nayak, Kapurush, Mahapurush, Joi Baba Felunath,....

January 23, 2007 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't pick up on the sexism in the comments posted but they definitely struck me as smug and condescending. I'd taken them to indicate an insular artistic view, but they may well show something even less charitable; maybe if I'd read the entire work I'd have arrived at the same conclusion.

Bravo for restraining from blanket judgments. I'm trying....

January 23, 2007 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I stopped updating my website since I have the blog. But my Rosenbaum page has a steady traffic, so I keep it online.

January 23, 2007 10:11 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Girish,

What interesting questions! I guess trying to describe a poetic film is a bit like trying to describe love . . .

I found this quote recently:

"To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one." -- John Ruskin

P.S. Thank you for using my film still to represent the cinema-poems! It made my day!

January 23, 2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jen--Your film is beautiful; I loved it...

January 23, 2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Thank you, G! I would like to make another flowerbutterfly film. :)

January 23, 2007 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the mention
-Tucker

January 23, 2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey Jen, you really should...!

Tucker, I've been enjoying your blog since I discovered it though Andy a few weeks back...

January 23, 2007 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poetic film critics: Carl Sandburg and H.D. (both collected in American Film Critics), Jonas Mekas, Godard...

Fightin' words: The way Mekas wrote about experimental/avant-garde film is the only appropriate way to write about such a poetic cinema.

Via The Exploding Kinetoscope, a movie haiku from Robert Anton Wilson:

Can't blame the big ape:
I, too, went a bit goofy
Over Fay Wray once

Poems by film bloggers:

-"breath" by Tucker Teague (PilgrimAkimbo)
-a monologue by Peet Gelderblom (Lost In Negative Space)

January 23, 2007 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Andy, for that great collage-comment!

A couple of links:
--A vigorous discussion at Zach's place.
--Acquarello on Isaki Lacuesta's Cravan vs. Cravan (2002).

January 24, 2007 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish,

Thanks for the mention and the links. I was fancily googling my name when I discovered the links you generously made to my blog.

The independent film scene in the Philippines has never been livelier. The Bagong Agos (New Wave --- how I wish this new wave gets noticed beyond Philippine shores) Film Festival is wrapping up and there's a host of wonderful gems. I just saw John Torres' Todo Todo Teros (Vancouver winner) and it was utterly poetic (yes, I use that word a lot too, but it never felt truer this time).

I'm hoping to see Kidlat Tahimik's Berlin-winning Perfumed Nightmare this Sunda. Hopefully, nothing comes up to ruin the plans.

January 24, 2007 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh you're very welcome, Oggs.

And may I say: Perfumed Nightmare is a little masterpiece! I caught it as part of a Sontag-curated series, and had never even heard of it....I look forward to your thoughts on it...

January 24, 2007 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our compadre Brian Darr has a great post from Sundance at Greencine; he's been watching a lot of animated shorts.

And hey, a surprise to discover that I've been blurbed from a stray comment I made here on the blog about Unseen Cinema (I'm sandwiched between Film Comment and Alexander Payne's blurbs)....

January 24, 2007 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is pretty neat, Girish! It's great that you're just "Girish," à la "Ronaldo" or "Almodóvar."

January 24, 2007 9:49 AM  
Blogger girish said...

That's funny, Andy. My mom said to me the other day: "So you're just "Girish" these days? Like...."Madonna"?"

January 24, 2007 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your mother needs her own blog. :)

Poetic cinema--I'm reminded of this quote by Orson Welles, which I dug back up from Wellesnet.com:

A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet. Distributors, naturally, are all of the opinion that poets don’t sell seats. They do not discern whence comes the very language of the cinema. Without poets, the vocabulary of the fim would be far too limited ever to make a true appeal to the public. The equivalent of a babble of infants would not sell many seats. If the cinema had never been fashioned by poetry, it would have remained no more than a mechanical curiosity, occasionally on view like a stuffed whale.

–Orson Welles, Ribbon of Dreams

To me, silent film is often the most poetic, as your imagination must fill in the sound element. When you separate action from natural sounds, you can let the images play in your mind with a force that is very like poetry.

January 24, 2007 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ack, I cut myself off. Where I differ with Miller (aside from his general obnoxiousness in your quotes!) is that silent film was never truly silent (as indeed my dreams are not silent, far from it). Not on set, where music was played and actors' performances fell into a rhythm with it, nor when it was shown to organ or piano accompaniment. (I recall reading that Mabel Normand and Clara Bow liked jazz on the set; some others wanted string quartets. Seems wholly in keeping, yes?)

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that silent film's poetic nature also has something to do with meter and cadence; you can "hear" it in your mind in the way you do poetry, even as other music is accompanying the film.

I hope this is coherent, as Ben woke me up rather early today. :)

January 24, 2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Campaspe -- That's not just coherent, it's very eloquent....Thank you!

And I had never seen that Welles quote before.

"Your mother needs her own blog. :)"

The thing about my mother is that she never tries to be funny or smart-alecky: that stuff just pops out of her mouth, and her not knowing it makes it just a bit more precious.

(I'm feeling a little sentimental about my parents today, for some reason....)

January 24, 2007 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your parents are sweethearts, Girish. I've been thinking about them a bit today too, oddly enough, as I clean house--thinking "I wonder if Girish knows how wonderful his parents are."

January 24, 2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Tuwa, I am guilty of having been indifferent (and thus, cruel) to them when I was younger, and so have been working hard to make amends over the last 10 years. (And I'm glad they're still around for me to do so!)

January 24, 2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Guilt is prerequisite in children. I'm sure your parents understood your "indifference" to be the difficult task of becoming yourself. And what a well-rounded individual you have become!! Though I can't believe you weren't included in "Waking Life." Is there no God? Is He dead or just on the nod?

January 24, 2007 1:27 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Hey, girish, fancy hearing Kidlat's name on your blog. Perfumed Nightmare is a very important work in the independent Filipino film movement, but my favorite of his is the more conventional (if sharply observed and deadpan hilarious) Turmuba.

If it's films with a touch of poetry you want, film critic Tony Rayns was surprised at how lively and varied the independent film movement was in the Philippines--among the best of the experimental, non-linear filmmakers are Raya Martin with his Indio Nacional (making the round of festivals, if you see Raya's name, by all means watch it), and the harder-to-catch films of Raymond Red.

Oggs (hi, didn't realize girish had found you!) mentioned John Torres too, and he's recommended. Haven't had a chance to write about him, tho.

January 24, 2007 5:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Maya, you are so gracious and kind!

Noel, other than Tahimik, I've seen nothing by the independent Filipino film movement, so it's good to have the names you mention...

January 24, 2007 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Noel. This is quite a lively blog, isn't it.

I agree with Noel's recommendation. Raya Martin's Indio Nacional is beautiful. It persuades you with a 'what if' scenario of a Filipino revolutionary obtaining a movie camera during the Philippine revolution. What will he capture? What splices of life shall be revealed? The result is quite sorrowful with a tinge of sorrow.

January 24, 2007 9:57 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

I think Kidlat's Turumba was available on video in Manhattan. But it was an extraordinary video store--it had a bootleg of Chimes of Midnight.

January 25, 2007 1:55 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Oggs and Noel.

David Bordwell on the current state of American indie films: "Visionary Outlaw Mavericks on the Dark Edge; or, Indie Guignol".

January 25, 2007 5:27 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I love that term "Indie Guignol"!

January 25, 2007 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that film is at the heart of their entire professional and personal projects, but damn, Bordwell and Thompson are amazingly prolific at a very high level of discourse. Much of what he says crystallizes the concerns of many movie fans when it comes to the American 'independent' scene as it has evolved since the late 1980s.

January 25, 2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

On the subject of films and poetry, I wrote about a quite lovely film, Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, Mario O'Hara, 2000) for a coming-of-age meme. Actually, it's a coming of age film, a war atrocity drama, a supernatural horror film, a love story, and a celebration of Filipino poetry. I included some very rough translations of the lovely poetry featured in the film.

January 25, 2007 6:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey thanks, fellas!

Just discovered Kevin Lee's filmblog, Shooting Down Pictures. Lots of cool reading there, e.g. a recent post: "Babel vs. Bresson".

January 26, 2007 9:58 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jim Emerson discusses ideas from recent writing by AO Scott, David Denby and David Lynch.

January 26, 2007 10:14 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Folks--
I just migrated to new Blogger and republished. I now find that several comments here (not all) are listed as Anonymous even though originally I could see the names above the comments (Tuwa, Weeping Sam, Harry, etc.) But many others (Maya, Jmac, Peter, etc) appear fine, with names. Any idea why...?
Thanks.

January 26, 2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

That's very strange. I looked through Blogger's help file but didn't find anything official addressing it, though there is this help group thread in which someone speculates that the anons are the people who, oddly enough, are also on Beta Blogger.

--Tuwa, wondering whether he'll be himself or anonymous here.

--and also finally figuring that the captchas will fail, even if you type in the right letters, if you spend too long composing your comment.

January 26, 2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Tuwa. Your name came through fine this time, even though you didn't do anything different when posting this comment (I assume)...so, perhaps it was just a 'transitional' glitch, and (hopefully) everything will be okay from now on...

January 26, 2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tuwa, thanks for that thread. Yes, I think they have a point there. Harry, Andy, Campaspe, etc., who are showing up anonymous here, show up fine in comments from some of last year's posts, before they switched to Beta Blogger...But I suspect it's fine now that I've tranisitioned...we'll see.

January 26, 2007 1:01 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I noticed this glitch when I switched too. Andy Horbal was the only one affected, so I assumed that it was because he was the only one who posted as a betaBlogger on my (before-migration) blog. It seems to match your case here. The anonymous are the ones who had a NEWBlogger ID before you upgraded your blog. So it is probably only an issue for ID version mismatch.
How long did it take to migrate your large blog?

January 26, 2007 1:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry, since you and Tuwa are no longer tagged as "anonymous," I'm assuming that all is now well.

It took me about 10 minutes to switch over. In fact, it wouldn't allow me not to switch...

January 26, 2007 1:55 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

Re Jim Emerson's post on Scott, Denby & Lynch, he also has some insightful comments, in a separate blog posting, in response to David Bordwell's 'Indie Guignol' piece that's referenced above. He's had a pretty prolific week himself!

January 26, 2007 2:13 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Gareth. And here's that link to Jim's "Indie Guignol" post.

Also, Matt Zoller Seitz's five films that "are not in production, except in my imagination."

January 26, 2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I've been terrified to make the blog switch. If your site doesn't go completely haywire in the next day or two, perhaps I'll follow suit. I'm such a scaredy-cat when it comes to anything online.

January 26, 2007 4:35 PM  
Blogger Marina said...

A very interesting post, Girish!

In fact, recently I've been digging out your previous jazz-related writings - they're invaluable.

Just thought, someone might want to check out these Bruno Bozzetto short films: http://www.rivelazioni.com/mm/bozzetto/

January 26, 2007 4:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Maya, no need to worry. It looks like things have gone smoothly. I was nervous for two special-case reasons: my blog size, and the fact that I publish to my own domain. But apart from the little comments snafu, all else has been hunky dory. I think you can plunge in bravely...!

Thanks, Marina. I've been itching to do more jazz posting but feel weird about shoehorning them into cinema posts. But I think I should go ahead shoehorn them in anyway, or I might never do them...thank you for reading them.

January 27, 2007 7:56 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- International Herald Tribune: Manohla Dargis on Sundance.
-- Ed Howard on the films of Paolo Gioli at A_Fim_By.

-- Steve Shaviro has a brilliant post on Vera Chytilova's Daisies:

"Vera Chytilova’s Daisies (1966) manages to be both visceral and abstract, playful and savage, intellectual and infantile, all at once. Watching it last night, I was literally trembling with joy and exhilaration. I felt the same way when I first saw the film, nearly thirty years ago. in graduate school.

"Daisies is a film of the Czech New Wave, but it doesn’t have much in common — aside from the rejection of traditional narrative, and of the aesthetics of “socialist realism” — with the other works of the movement. Chytilova, you might say, plays Godard to Jiri Menzel’s Truffaut. (Chytilova and Menzel went to FAMU, the famed Czech film school together, become close friends, and occasionally worked together — see the biography of Chytilova here). Daisies is a riot of color, jump cuts and shock cuts and deliberate mismatches, garish pictorial inserts, incongruous nondiegetic music and sounds, and anti-naturalistic special effects. Sometimes the screen is in color, sometimes in black and white, sometimes tinted with monochromat filters, and sometimes awash in crazed pixelation (? — or whatever the pre-digital equivalent of this might be) effects. The film as a whole is a relentless assault — against film conventions and forms and indeed cinema itself, against social norms and rules and indeed society itself, and finally against the spectator. This assault is violently nihilistic, but it is also utterly joyous and gleeful: an explosion of affect, in which I share as I watch.

"Daisies delights as well as shocks — probably, at this point, delights more than it shocks, if I can judge from the responses of my students viewing it last night. And yet, despite a certain degree of cult devotion, it hasn’t ever been given its rightful due in histories of film, or even in histories of experimental, radical, and avant-garde film. Owen Hatherley writes brilliantly about it (and I am deeply indebted to his analysis of the film); but his is the only discussion I have been able to find that is in any way adequate to the film’s astonishing force and radicality. Even those of us who love Daisies have trouble finding the proper terms to account for it."

January 27, 2007 8:43 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

After poking around a bit more, I found on one of my sistes where this same thing had happened. Andy posted three times in the comments; the first is attributed to him; the next two aren't.

That's the only time I've found of it, so I'm hoping it's just a glitch in the migration which doesn't repeat.

January 27, 2007 9:04 AM  
Blogger girish said...

"I'm hoping it's just a glitch in the migration which doesn't repeat."
Tuwa, I suspect that's exactly it....(I hope...)

New Release announcements at DVD Beaver: Louis Malle docs; Samuel Fuller's Fixed Bayonets; Kon Ichikawa's Burmese Harp and Fires on the Plain.

January 27, 2007 3:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

--New issue of Offscreen.
--Eric Henderson: "What I learned during "An Evening with Kenneth Anger"
--David Walsh at WSWS: Film, History & Socialism.
--Jeff Reichert at Reverse Shot: Rivette: Duelle & Noroît.
--Grant Rosenberg in Time on Cocksucker Blues.
--Geoff Andrew interviews Nuri Bilge Ceylan at Time Out.

I'm biting David Hudson for many of the above....

January 27, 2007 7:43 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

A friend of mine has an abiding hate for the Stones because of Cocksucker Blues. I've never been able to catch it, unfortunately; I'm very interested in it though I'm not a fan.

January 27, 2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tuwa -- In the age-old Beatles/Stones divide, I'm in the Beatles camp, but nevertheless a big Stones fan, esp. the '69-'74 Mick Taylor period....haven't managed to see the film though...

January 28, 2007 12:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, perfect: At Invisible Cinema: you can view Jennifer MacMillan's film, The Garden Dissolves Into Air. (Length, 5 mins).

January 28, 2007 7:55 AM  
Blogger girish said...

The always-terrific Michael Sicinski on Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower:

"I know I'm not supposed to like this, but I do. It's obviously trashy, a sort of sub-All My Children potboiler that conducts itself as though it were grand Shakespearean tragedy. But taken on its own soapy terms, it's quite entertaining, in that unique way one sometimes takes pleasure in remaining two steps ahead of the plot instead of feeling insulted. However for me the major selling point of Golden Flower is its gorgeously garish mise-en-scène. Like a vast, operatic Chinese restaurant, Golden Flower is crammed with chintzy, faux-opulent Chinoiserie, decked out in searing goldenrod laced with blaring Chinese red. As much a stained glass window as a piece of cinema, Golden Flower hovers like pure light on the screen in its finest moments, when it accidentally takes some down time from the hurtling plot. (In this regard the rather logy pacing actually helps. Visual pleasure is given a bit more time to marinate, which distinguishes Zhang's film from the Mandarin-language Tang Dynasty soaps on which the film is patterned.) In these dense, ornate optical fields, the introduction of a piercing royal blue or emerald green is a spectacular, breathtaking event, on par with and largely exceeding any given plot twist. A good friend correctly compared Golden Flower to Sternberg, with his gauzy partitions and busily Orientalist spatial arrangements, at it's a sign of global cultural exchange that Zhang is willing to sell these ridiculous fantasies back to the very people burlesqued by them. But this is Sternberg crossed with Mondrian. The master director of Shanghai Express would never settle for the clean lines, rectilinear organization and stentorian CGI of Zhang, and the result is a formalism on the brink of illegibility. If Zhang and his editors understood (or cared) how to connect images in relation to their plasticity, instead of merely for narrative expediency, Golden Flower would be a sculptural near-masterpiece like Hero. But this isn't in that league..."

[Many more reviews on this page]

January 28, 2007 8:16 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Girish, Thanks for the link & cross-reference! This makes me so happy! After seeing "Entr'Acte" from my desk at work, my perception of on-line viewing completely changed . . .

Also, I have a film I made a few years ago that I really would like for you to see. I'll be in touch about that soon, ok? xo

January 28, 2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jen, you're most welcome.
Another film? I didn't know about that; I mistakenly thought this was your first....
I'd love to see the other film...

And re: your comment about Entr'acte, I've been hooked on Ubuweb lately.

January 28, 2007 10:59 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Speaking of Entr'acte, one of the little known trivia is that scenarist Francis Picabia inserted a lot of references to Arthur Cravan's disappearance in the film (Cravan befriended Picabia when he went to New York along with Marcel Duchamp). Among these were the scenes where the chess players disappear after being dowsed by water, the collage of eyes and boxing gloves superimposed against the sea, and the sequence of pall bearers chasing a coffin that ends with the self-disappearance of the person in the coffin.

January 28, 2007 1:18 PM  
Blogger girish said...

A.--Interesting! Didn't know that.
There are some truly wild Picabia stories in the Duchamp biography by Calvin Tomkins.

January 28, 2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Cool comments on Curse. That aside about a Chinese restaurant is spot-on. And he notices the ambivalence with entrenched power, and asks the crucial question: just how in is Zhang nowadays?

He implies it but not clearly enough for me to be sure: does anyone else see the putdown of the rebellion as a reenactment of Tianenmen Square? And does anyone think the few minutes after the rebellion's been crushed is the finest passage in the film--the best, and possibly only reason to see it?

January 29, 2007 2:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Yeah, that Chinese restaurant comment made me laugh out loud! Haven't seen the film, though...

January 29, 2007 8:43 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Cocksucker Blues isn't really that great (though I think I'm just not a fan of Frank); however, if anybody wants a copy, I can help.

January 29, 2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Steve, I haven't seen anything by Frank. And thanks for the offer; I may take you up on it at some point...!

January 29, 2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

That Chinese resto remark is good, but my favorite description of the movie mentions the production designer "channeling Liberace."

Maybe my favorite of these Hollywood-ized martial arts films is Ronny Yu's Fearless--he's of the old school (well, oldish--he goes back as far as Tsui Hark), unlike Zhang or Ang he is rarely pretentious, AND he knows how to direct action sequences.

January 29, 2007 8:17 PM  
Blogger b said...

- The first name that comes to mind is Tarkovsky. See: Sculpting in Time

- Tarkovsky, Pasolini, and The Cinema of Poetry

This article discusses Tarkovsky and his relevance to Pasolini's concept of the "cinema of poetry".

"Pasolini theorised that a new "cinema of poetry" was in the process of blossoming, evidenced in the work of established filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Buñuel and Michelangelo Antonioni, among others. He considered the "poetic" aspect of their work to be encapsulated in their unconventional approach to the structuring of narrative, their use of montage for purposes of symbolism and the utilisation of unorthodox camera technique to convey hitherto inarticulate visual images."

February 01, 2007 2:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, b. Nice Tarkovsky site.
I know of, but have never read, Pasolini's essay...

February 01, 2007 8:45 PM  

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