Saturday, November 06, 2010

Recent Reading

I am traveling to the Radical Philosophy Association conference in Oregon this week to present a paper on the films of Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak. I've never presented at a philosophy conference before; I'm both excited and nervous. When I return, I'll post some ideas on the topic I've been working on for the paper, building upon notions of radical vs. conventional form and content.

Meanwhile, here are some links to recent reads on the web:

-- Dave Kehr has a piece on the new Elia Kazan box set in the NYT. In his new blog post, Dave writes:

"There was a little spasm of Ingmar Bergman bashing over at Glenn Kenny’s place last week that made me think how much Bergman and Kazan have in common: both were celebrated theater directors who made their movie debuts around the same time, building their style around a distinctive, stylized direction of actors that somehow passed for psychological realism in the postwar context; both liked to traffic in big themes (social and political for Kazan, philosophical and religious for Bergman) but found their most sure connection with audiences in their intimate treatment of the thrills and traumas of adolescent sexuality.

Both panted after grand cinematic effects — the weirdly canted angles in “East of Eden,” the avant-garde interjections in “Persona” — without showing much facility in filmmaking on the practical level of composition and cutting. Both made Red Scare movies that were their absolute worst (Bergman’s “This Can’t Happen Here,” Kazan’s “Man on a Tightrope”). And both eventually drifted away from big ideas into family history and autobiographical confession, Kazan with “America America” and “The Arrangement” and Bergman with “Fanny and Alexander” and “Scenes from a Marriage.” As superb as some of their individual films may be, both in the end seemed to be accidental filmmakers, for whom movies were a secondary form of expression while the true heart of their work lied elsewhere — not in the orchestration of sounds and images but in the theatrical alliance of language and gesture."

-- Recent posts at Jonathan Rosenbaum's place: On Rob Tregenza's Talking to Strangers, Nobuhiro Suwa's 2/Duo, Andrew Niccol's Lord of War, the Winter Soldier documentary, Alan Rudolph's Trixie and Akira Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August. On his notes page: "Notes Toward the Devaluation of Woody Allen."

-- On the tenth anniversary of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, Nick Rombes organizes an event in which critics respond to one frame assigned to them from each of the film's 102 minutes.

-- Zach Campbell: "Citizen Kane is so ubiquitously celebrated that it's almost a latent, potentially underappreciated film again ... not in general, but amongst the cognoscenti. (It served as a whipping boy, for instance, for Joel David's wonderful Sight & Sound list.) The temptation to attack, disrupt, subvert, or ignore "the canon" is sometimes so powerful that it gives greater structuring power to the canon than it might realize. Kane stands in for all that is "yes, but..." about filmic greatness - "yes, it's great, but..."

-- Another Zach post, this time responding to a comment on television made by Tom Gunning in a recent interview.

-- Ignatiy Vishnevetsky: "Bruce Willis winces, Jason Statham mouths off, Arnold Schwarzenegger quips and gets irritated, Jackie Chan mugs earnestly, Steven Seagal swings his ego like a big distended gut—but only Jean-Claude Van Damme gets frustrated, looks scared, cries, stares off into the distance, shrugs, sighs, yelps in pain [...Van Damme's] screen persona is based on hesitation—on the moments when he turns away from the camera (Legionnaire), gets knocked down and recomposes (Bloodsport), slowly breaks apart and then puts himself back together in a new shape (In Hell, which is more "dimestore Dostoevsky" than Jim Thompson ever was) or pauses."

-- At Brooklyn Rail: "In Conversation with Jonas Mekas". (via David Hudson)

-- The most comprehensive Claire Denis retrospective ever to be mounted in New York, at the IFC Center, includes her documentary on Rivette (The Nightwatchman) and her assistant-directing assignments for Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders.

-- Joseph McBride at Sight & Sound: "Capra before he became 'Capraesque'".

-- Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot on Julián Hernández’s Raging Sun, Raging Sky.

pic: Jonas Mekas portrait, pencil on paper, by Phong Bui.


Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

All the best for the presentation, Girish.


November 06, 2010 3:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Srikanth!

November 06, 2010 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Steve Elworth said...

I love the drawing of Mekas. The best thing that I ever saw by Bergman is the only play that I saw him direct, Schiller's MARY STUART in Swedish. I took the head phones off just to hear the language, He did have a way of blocking the actors and creating the space and I was sitting with a bad headache in the first row in BAM and was totally spellbound. I never had the pleasure of seeing a Kazan stage production. To call them accidental filmmakers is a bit too far and to tar them with redbaiting that was impossible for Kazan to shred in spite of his films.but for Bergman not significant except a sign of his flight from politics and history which was never total. That they were uneven and not at the level of Bresson, Dreyer, Renoir and Antonioni is another matter.

November 06, 2010 10:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Steve, this makes me want to seek out filmed stage productions (not my favorite genre, but still...) of Bergman and Kazan.

November 08, 2010 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Steve Elworth said...

Jonathan Rosenbaum put up on Dave Kehr's blog. His memories of the three Kazan Productions he saw. With the strongest play, SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH being one of the greatest things he ever saw.

November 08, 2010 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Dissertation help said...

All the best for the presentation.

November 10, 2010 11:37 AM  
Blogger MovieMan0283 said...

The notion that Bergman did not show facility in composition and cutting strikes me as outlandish at best. Whatever his preference for the "theatrical," films like The Virgin Spring and The Silence demonstrate a stone-cold mastery of film form. Peg the first one as a Kurosawa imitation if you must (Bergman himself did), attribute the second to Antonioni, but if the question is skill rather than originality (and yes, Bergman's originality lay more in his writing than his direction) I think the man's attributes are undeniable.

November 29, 2010 1:47 PM  
Anonymous muondo said...

bravo ce blog est remarquable!

January 29, 2011 3:55 AM  

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