Saturday, November 25, 2006

On Charlie Rose, Nora Ephron says that if you have to think about what you're blogging, it's nto a blog. Blogging should be just like automatic writing. With that in mind, i'm home because the damned subway was so late, i knew i wouldn't make it in time to catch "Wristcutters" the movie that's part of the IFP's Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You series at MoMA. I really made the effort, but got stymied by the subways. That's why i hate trying to make plans for the weekend: you never know what's going to happen with the subways.

Oh, well, Thanksgiving came and went. Show business deaths come in threes, and that was the case on Thanksgiving. Philippe Noiret died. Anita O'Day died. Betty Comden died. This week, i saw "My Dad is 100 Years Old" and "Bergman Island"... Ingmar Bergman is really... i don't know what to say. The way he has behaved... in our "political" times, we would say that he manifested his directorial authority in terms of sexual harrassment. And the fact that he was such an absentee father to his children, he shrugs off. He continues to rage against his authoritarian father, but his own faults as a father (which are self-admitted) he just disregards. A more self-involved person i've never seen... yet he made at least some movies of the very highest artistry ("Persona", "Shame", "A Passion", "The Magic Flute"). Fellini was (at least) funny, but Bergman....!

Also saw Brigitte Cornand's "Joan Jonas: Study of the Artist With Dog" and i have to say i've seen several of her video "portraits of artists" and they're mostly terrible. No real structure to speak of, and rambling on, and if you don't know the people (i know Joan, i happen to like her, i happen to like her work) the damned thing is just about incomprehensible. Oh, well, it'll be playing at Anthology, and i hope that some people's interest will be sparked, so that they'll take the time to look at Joan's work (such as her video work).

Altman's death has brought out a lot of the usual tributes. I remember when he was "in the wilderness", that period around 1980, when he had a string of flops ("A Wedding", "Quintet", "Health", "A Perfect Couple", etc.) and was doing theater, and then decided to try to make "films" (in some cases, on TV) of some of those plays. One (terribly ironic) thing was that one of the best of the bunch was "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean", which was based on a godawful play, but some of the "better" plays ("Fool for Love", "Streamers", "Beyond Therapy") turned into not-so-good (if not downright awful) movies. That was something i couldn't understand: how "good" theatrical material seemed to flummox him, but bad material really freed his imagination. That was also the period when Marlene Arvan was working for him. (I think the best of the "plays-into-movies" was "Secret Honor", which i still think is very strong.) But when Marlene started working for Altman, i remember Joans Mekas getting all bent out of shape about it, declaring that Marlene was a "traitor" for working for that "imposter"! But so many people talk about "Popeye" as if it were such a failure... well, i liked it. And it actually made a profit. (The other curious thing: in so many of the tributes, they get the chronology of his career wrong: he did "M*A*S*H" in 1970, then he did "Brewster McCloud" in 1971, and then he did "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" later in 1971. Why are people getting confused and claiming that he did "Brewster McCloud" before "M*A*S*H"?)


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