Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Busy day.

Actually, it wasn't a crazy day, so much as it was simply a full day. Went to three more screenings at ND/NF: "Twelve and Holding", "Iron Island" and "My Country, My Country". Nothing was terrible, but "Twelve and Holding" and "Iron Island" were let-downs, especially since the previous day's "Into Great Silence" was so magnificent. "My Country, My Country" was a very solid documentary... actually, better than that, a revealing look at the war in Iraq from the point of view of an actual Sunni family. But what really brought a pang was the ITVS logo at the beginning. It's so strange to think that it was so long ago when ITVS started, and i had been part of that whole process....

When i got home, there was Film Comment, with an article by Olaf Moller on William E. Jones, and Amy Taubin's coverage of Sundance, and Kent Jones on Terrence Malick's "The New World". Online, there's been intense controversy on "The New World", with Dave Kehr's website getting a barrage of comments. Jim Hoberman said (in his recent review in The Village Voice) that those who love "The New World" seem to approach it with a religious fervor. The whole idea of "art" as a replacement for religion is something that has been overlooked, but it certainly defines so much of the critical language which has been present throughout the 20th Century, aesthetic terms such as "the sublime" or "spiritual" or "transcendent"... the list goes on. In a way, when people's most intense aesthetic passions are stirred, there's no way to discuss it rationally. It's like love.

In The Brooklyn Rail, there was a "poem" by Jonas Mekas, which was from 2003; parts of it were very funny, because Jonas can be such a liar.

On Michael Lucas's blog, he announces that his video "Dangerous Liaisons" won the Gay VN Award for Best Film, and several other awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Kent Larson. I e.mailed Kent my congratulations, and he e.mailed me back. Kent is very courteous; it's funny, because we've been e.mailing each other for about a year... the internet can do funny things, because you can now be in this communication with someone, and there's really no reason to meet.

But it's like blogging: Dave Kehr and Matt Zoller Seitz are people who are creating a real "community" on the web in terms of film, and it's becoming more interesting than most of the film journalism that's out there in print.

In his DVD column this week, one film that Dave Kehr reviewed was Peter Bogdanovich's "The Thing Called Love". That was such a strange movie; if it had been a hit, Sandra Bullock wouldn't have had to wait for "Speed" to be discovered. But he makes a comparison with Altman's "Nashville", which he calls "condescending". And i think there's some truth in that. And it can be shown in terms of the casting. Though Lily Tomlin is (actually) very touching in the film, when Altman cast her (throwing out Louise Fletcher), it was because Lily Tomlin (up until that point) was a comedienne. Henry Gibson was cast in the movie (and opens the movie) and then he casts Lily Tomlin, and Allen Garfield was also a comic actor (in the early De Palma comedies). So you get the sense that Altman is gearing the movie more towards "Laugh-In" rather than a "serious" examination of country music. (I remember rushing out to see "Nashville" when it opened, and that was when i simply refused to see any American commercial movies; from 1973 until 1977, i think i only saw five American commercial releases, though i've since caught up with most of them. I did go to experimental films, i did go to foreign films, but i had NO interest in Scorsese, Coppola, Woody Allen, De Palma, Spielberg, et al. Actually, i still don't have much interest in their work. But i did rush to "Nashville" and i was really let down. My favorite Altmans include "Brewster McCloud", "McCabe & Mrs. Miller", "The Long Goodbye", "Three Women". But even "Three Women" is an example: it's one of Altman's most imaginative films, yet it's also a Hollywood gloss on a much more original and profound film, Bergman's "Persona". And in "Three Women", Altman gets all gooey and mystical, because he's got to resolve his film. In "Persona", Bergman realizes that the conundrums that he gets into are, ultimately, impossible to resolve, so Bergman, in a blinding fit of perception, doesn't end his film, he simply stops it! But Altman has to resolve it, which is why "Three Women" is a lesser movie. "Three Women" is a Hollywood version of "Persona" in the same way that Judith Barry once said that Matthew Barney was like a Hollywood version of Performance Art, cf. Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, Joseph Beuys.)

In terms of "The New World", it reminds me of discussing Robert Wilson with Hannah Wilke, and Hannah thought that Wilson's stuff was so boring, because it was like the old Happenings, only slower and more tedious. But (as Hannah said) people have to have their experience! And if people didn't have Happenings, well, they've got Robert Wilson. And if people don't have Dreyer or Bresson or Antonioni, well, they've got "the New World".


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