Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beyond Style : Godard's "cinema of ideas" with Le Petit Soldat

“ Ethics are the aesthetics of the future “  -  Lenin, said by Bruno in Le Petit Soldat

I have always liked how Godard believes the cinema has metaphysical qualities. His films are an appeal to the emotions. Godard films illustrate ideas in a way that few others do.  He is at once commenting on images and also producing new ones. Characters sometimes speak with their backs to the camera. Everything seem to be rooted in personal experience and a man concerned with religious and literary problems.

It’s interesting to note that for a time, Godard had been good friends with director Jen Pierre Melville. But after the release of Vivre sa Vie, Melville accused Godard of making  “ a lazy man’s cinema” and subsequently, after awhile Godard said goodbye to their friendship. Melville’s change in attitude towards Godard stems mostly from a change in priorities. No longer was he making films focused on new strategies of formalism and craft but instead his films became a “cinema of ideas” . For Melville, his own work is  never interested in anything other than the craft of cinema.  His films are not meant to be seen as political or philosophical. He is essentially an anti-intellectual filmmaker and for apolitical images.

Even the famous Cahiers du Cinema in its first few years maintained an apolitical stance.   While the Algerian revolution is taking place, intellectuals not far outside Cahiers du Cinema’s circle were being arrested  for sympathising with the FLN.

Godard announces that he plans to make a film that is “something about torture”. He says that during the Algerian coup he did not even know that it was happening. This  is 1962 - 63 and is still just the beginning of one of the major achievements ever created of any personal vision of cinema.

Godard begins work on Le Petit Soldat. With no direct-sound so it could be dubbed over,  Godard could yell lines at the actors while filming. Raoul Coutard from Breahless is the cameraman. Every Godard film is like advil for the brain and everything is always beyond fresh, his aesthetic is beyond style, clearly Godardian.

Le Petit Soldat will be playing this weekend at the Cleveland Cinematheque Fri 9:35 PM

Monday, October 14, 2013

Track of the Cat: example for the future of blogging

I was floored just recently by watching William Wellman’s Track of The Cat. The film’s seriousness is never “strained” and all the acting is fantastic. There has been much attention towards the work of William Wellman in the past few years. Much of it seems like it started from the Film Forum, a 42 film retrospective of his work.  William Wellman: a Dossier is a terrific bundle of essays that are highly visual with many different approaches to its subject.  Some great content is in here by people like J. Hoberman and Kent Jones. It’s a free PDF and really works as an example of what the future might be looking like for publications of film writing. I keep thinking of all the possibilities of online criticism. It would be cool to be able to use audio and moving image to accompany these pieces. Perhaps the Rubicon blog might partake in its own PDF publication some day.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Stag Movies Seen Without Lust" some thoughts on Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures

When working on a zero budget many would say that Smith invented what is regarded as “camp”. Susan Sontag’s “Notes On Camp” essay was written just a few years after Flaming Creatures and can be found in her essential Against Interpretation  (1964).  She explains that camp is not a cynical critique of consumerist culture but a sensibility towards the unwanted and unseen. “Random examples of items which are part of the canon of camp” is number 4 of 58 theses, the last on the list being “stag movies seen without lust”.  

My favorite Smith film has always been “Scotch Tape” with its rugged junk yard and doo woop style. But Flaming Creatures is generally considered the masterpiece. It helps that the film made Jack Smith into a cult celebrity and also caused a controversy at the time of its release by being banned, still is technically to this day.

Saturday night in Cleveland the Cinematheque will be showing “Flaming Creatures”. I think it would be the best bang for your buck to go see Jean - Pierre Melville’s “Un FLuc” (a cop) aka Dirty Money. They work as a nice double feature with both directors having very distinct and unique visions that are at once dark and mysterious but with wit. I was reluctant to write about “Un Fluc” because I have never seen it. But Melville’s filmography is filled with a very distinctive style of crime and espionage film that is an influence on Akron native Jim Jaramush. Called the father of the French New Wave, Melville made three masterpieces that I have seen: “Bob Le Flambeur”,  “Le Samourai” and “Army of Shadows”. “Un Fluc” is Mellville’s last movie and I am very excited to see it this weekend for the first time.