Monday, December 31, 2007

Well, the countdown to midnight on New Year's Eve. There was a litle segment from Sydney, Australia, where it's already been the New Year.

What a year! Benazir Bhutto's assassination, the Iraq War is still raging, North Korea continues its nuclear policy, Kenya is having riots....

It's very depressing. But it's been a very vital period for the arts. And that does seem to be typical: crises seem to really provoke creativity. Last night, i spent a lot of time online, looking up fragments of books by Yvonne Rainer, Sally Banes, Kenneth King, etc. (Nowadays, you can always find sites where sections of chapters are available for perusal.) It made me nostalgic for that period of my life when i was in the midst of all that activity....

And i have to say that i miss so many of those people. There was the time when there would be the marathon readings of Gertrude Stein's "The Making of Americans" (then it alternated with Joyce's "Finnegans Wake"). And there were always those people like Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles... Kenneth King was someone who usually read, there were other people as well....

There was the year when Christine and i decided to plan a big New Year's Eve, and we wound up going to see the Salzburg Marionettes, and then going to Michael's Pub where Anita O'Day was singing, and then we wound up at the Copa where we danced until it was time for breakfast. (In between, there were things like drinks at Top of the Park.)

And i remember one New Year's Eve where we had a dinner party... William Dunas came... i think that Jane Comfort and her husband came... it's hard to remember exactly....

I'm glad that i lived through the 1960s and on... i'm glad that i got to see a lot of the things that i saw, and i'm glad that i met a lot of the people i did. But i think that there are better times ahead.

Last night, i decided to watch a few movies to get me in the New Year's Eve mood. So i watched "Brewster McCloud", "Charade" and "Help!" Tonight, TCM is having an Astaire-Rogers marathon. One movie that i remember on New Year's Eve for many years was "The Great Ziegfeld"; usually, Luise Rainer as Anna Held was before midnight, and Myrna Loy as Billie Burke was after midnight.

TCM showed "The Big Sleep" followed by "Bringing Up Baby"; interesting to see Bacall being molded into the Hawks woman previously embodied by Frances Farmer ("Come and Get It"), Lombard ("Twentieth Century"), Hepburn ("Bringing Up Baby"), Jean Arthur ("Only Angels Have Wings"), Rosalind Russell ("His Girl Friday"). There's an article in the latest Vanity Fair about Angie Dickinson, one of the last of the great Hawks heroines ("Rio Bravo"). After "Rio Bravo", Hawks had wanted to sign Dickinson to a contract, the way he had signed Lauren Bacall, but Dickinson never had any interest in contracts: she preferred her independence. And maybe she was right, because the conditions in Hollywood were changing.

"The Chase" remains a very strange movie, though i think that Angie Dickinson is quite good in the movie. No matter what else, it's certainly a personal movie for Marlon Brando: it's one of the ones where he was working with people he knew (like his sister Jocelyn) and whatever mixed-up political posturing is in that movie, it certainly seems to have been close to Brando's own feelings at the time.

I think a lot of times, people tend to think that a mess which isn't a success was done for "financial" reasons... but that's not usually the case. Francis Ford Coppola has been going around trying to work up interest in "Youth Without Youth" and he's gone on record as saying that he did "The Godfather" for commercial reasons, and it's not a "personal" film for him. And i think he should be taken at his word. He did "The Godfather" for the money, it's not a work he feels represents his "art".

Nowadays, it takes so long for any movie to get made, it would be crazy to spend a lot of time on something that really wasn't of interest. I think it was Melissa Anderson from Time Out who noted that it's been five years since Paul Thomas Anderson, Todd Haynes and David Fincher made movies, and this year they came back with "There Will Be Blood", "I'm Not There" and "Zodiac". But that's a long time between projects.

(I still haven't seen "Zodiac", it's in my Netflix queue, but i'm looking forward to it.)

Actually, that reminds me, i wonder what P.T. Anderson thought about the Theresa Duncan-Jeremy Blake double suicides, since Anderson worked with Jeremy Blake on "Punch Drunk Love". When the situation was unravelling, i remember that William E. Jones was e.mailing me from L.A., about how everyone in the art world there was talking about it, but there was a real silence about the story here in New York City.

(There's an article about Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake in Vanity Fair, as well.)

Of course, P.T. Anderson had his own story this year: he and Maya Rudolph were infested with bedbugs and sued the person they were subleasing from. (Though i didn't understand why they simply didn't buy their own loft, since she's getting a regular salary from Saturday Night Live.) I didn't realize that Ciaran Hinds is also in "There Will Be Blood"....

And Ciaran Hinds is also in "The Seafarer" on Broadway now. On "On Stage", Roma Torre made the interesting observation that, in spite of all the obstacles, this year turned out to be a big year for drama on Broadway: there were more productions of plays than of musicals, and the plays (both revivals and new plays) were generally of a very high order, with new works by Edward Albee, Tom Stoppard, Tracy Letts and Conor McPherson.

After all the dust has cleared, it's interesting that so much "serious" work is being done, both in theater and in film.

Though one thing is driving me crazy: i wish all the critics who listed "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (including the LA Film Critics) hadn't done that. (A.O. Scott did that in his Ten Best on "Ebert & Roeper".) The movie hasn't (officially) opened yet! If "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" is eligible for 2007, then so is Jia Zhangke's "Still Life" (which opens January 8) and so is the Turkish movie "Times and Winds" and "Opera Jawa" and "The Bet Collector" and.... just all those movies opening in the first two weeks of January (and there are a lot).

(The reason i wonder what P.T. Anderson thought of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake is that the whole story seems just perfect for him, but it may be too close, since he was a friend of theirs. But - i hate to say this - it would be a perfect part for Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The question of "the musical" really seems to depend on the notion of music as a source of expression. That is: when someone sings (or dances), no matter what the circumstances, there has to be the feeling that this song or this dance does express the person. It can be a simple moment, as when Audrey Hepburn sings "Moon River" on the fire escape in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (it's silly to say that hers is the best interpretation of the song, since the song was written expressly for her; if she couldn't carry that song, what could she carry?), or it can be as elaborate as the full-dress "Let's Face the Music" Astaire-Rogers number from "Follow the Fleet" (the number which Arlene Croce described as "awesomely grave"). Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe are test cases: their voices are very limited musically, yet who would not want to hear Hepburn sing "How Long Has This Been Going On?" in "Funny Face", or who would not want to listen to Monroe cooing "I'm Through With Love" in "Some Like It Hot"? They're so much better than mere singers, because when they (try to) sing, they're using everything they have to express their characters. (And Hepburn, of course, could really dance.)

But that's also one of the lessons that was learned during the rock-and-roll era: there are some people who have truly expressive voices, often because they are singing their own material. Bob Dylan's voice is really kind of excruciating (and listening to him pumping himself up in "Don't Look Back" is painful: when he explains how he sings better than Sinatra or Bing Crosby, you wish someone would just flatten him, because he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about), but it's often of-a-piece with his songs. (But one thing: in the 1960s, a lot of people covered his songs, including Odetta and Nina Simone, and Larry and i had a lot of those albums as well as Dylan's own albums.)

One of the test cases was Laura Nyro. Though a lot of people covered her songs, her own voice really resonates. Let's put it this way: i'd rather hear Laura Nyro singing than Barbra Streisand. (Ok, bad example, since i can't stand Barbra Streisand at all!) But Stresiand covered Nyro's songs, and Streisand's voice is similar, but it never convey the emotion that Nyro was able to bring to her own material.

There's a question that always arises in terms of "musicals": should people use their own voices, even if they're not trained singers? (Of course, there are the people who are trained singers, even though they're noted for their acting. Two examples: Blythe Danner and Meryl Streep. I've heard both of them sing on the stage, and they're better than most of the people noted for being musical-comedy performers. For example: Meryl Streep is a better singer than Liza Minnelli.)

On Joe Baltake's blog (, he had a little item about Diane Varsi. Which reminded me that, when she was being publicized by 20th Century Fox around the time of "Peyton Place", the articles always stressed how she was "unconventional" and a free spirit and a bohemian... she was like 20th Century Fox's answer to Shirley MacLaine (who was also being publicized as "bohemian"). But in Shirley MacLaine's case, it was a crock, because Shirley MacLaine was really a very conventional movie star at heart... but in Diane Varsi's case, she was the real thing, she really didn't want to play the Hollywood game, and after a few attempts ("Compulsion", "Ten North Frederick"), she left.

Last night, Larry and i watched an episode of "Burke's Law", the episode was called "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?" The reason i bring it up is that Andy Zygmunt is a "pop" artist who gets killed... and Ann Blyth plays an artist who spraypaints her models, and then has the girls roll around on the canvas. Shades of Yves Klein! This was in 1964, and already Andy Warhol and Yves Klein were being parodied on TV. (Just as the Beats became a joke on "Dobie Gillis".) What's so sad is that Warhol, whose "importance" was his refusal to take art "seriously", was a joke, and yet no one (now) is laughing. To think that people like Benjamin Buchloh and Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson would spend their time and effort trying to sanctify Warhol's "enterprise" in the most "serious" critical terms, and yet, in 1964, Warhol was to laugh at! Harlan Ellison (yes, that Harlan Ellison) wrote the teleplay for "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?" and he was as perceptive about pop art as Rosalind Krauss.

Finally, getting back to normal. It seems as if this cold has really been the bane of so many throughout the area. But one thing: it made Christmas a very easy holiday. I just stayed home and watched TV, mostly TCM (including "No Sad Songs For Me", which was much worse than i remembered; ok, i'm still a huge Margaret Sullavan fan, but this was such treacle... but for some reason, when i was watching it, i was reminded of "State of the Union" because in that movie, Sullavan's arch-rival Katharine Hepburn is actually miscast, and she's not even photographed very flatteringly, but Hepburn just bulls her way through the movie anyway; in "No Sad Songs For Me", it's not as if Sullavan is miscast, it's that she's too-typically-cast, the role becomes a compendium of her mannerisms from "Only Yesterday" and "Three Comrades" and "The Mortal Storm" and "Little Man What Now?", the catch in her throat starts to get really irritating as she suffers so nobly). Today, TCM had "Holiday" on in the morning: a perfect New Year's Eve movie.

Right now, TCM is showing "Tommy", and ABC is showing "The Sound of Music": now that's what i call a choice!

The one thing that seemed to happen this year is that, for better or worse, "the musical" revived itself. One point that i've always made is that the musical is a popular form, and it needs to reflect the popular music of the time. And this year, some musicals included: "Once", "Vanaja", "I'm Not There", "Across the Universe", "Sweeney Todd", "Colma: The Musical", "Control". But "musicals" just need to be films in which the continuity is joined to music. Some musicals which i love include "India Song", "The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach", "Muriel" (that Hans Werner Henze score is pretty phenomenal)... the other day, Larry and i were watching "The Immortal Story", and the way that Welles used the Satie piano music was just so evocative. (I don't think that Welles's musical sense has been really examined, but it's crucial to his stage work, especially in things like "Cradle Will Rock" and "Around the World in 80 Days", and it relates to the usage of sound, which came from his radio work.)

Well, i really should start looking at the Ford at Fox boxset! One thing about movies: there are moments when someone is preserved in their prime. And that's certainly the case with George O'Brien in the early films, like "The Iron Horse". It's so strange to think that, by the mid-1930s, he was already getting rather bloated and beefy (which was the result of drinking; wow, alcoholism really seems to have been ubiquitous in Hollywood!), but in "The Iron Horse" he's just one of the most dashing Western heroes ever.

Now, TCM is playing "The Shaggy Dog" and it's so strange to think that once, Disney was the dead-end studio: it was where you went when you just about were giving up on your career. It was where people like Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, Dorothy McGuire went to retire... i hate to mention it, but when Joan Greenwood appeared in "The Moonspinners", you knew it was over for any sort of Hollywood career for her.

And now, Disney's one of the biggest studios around. How the hell did this happen? (Actually, i know how it happened: Disney was still the dead-end studio, when it signed up has-beens like Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss in the 1980s... and the success of movies like "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and "Splash" and "Stake Out" made Disney and its subsidiaries viable.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Omigod, it's been more than a week, and i've been holed up with one of the worst colds i've ever had. I can't believe it: every time i woke up, my body was aching, i was totally congested, and i felt like i should roll over and end it all.

I went to the doctor's last Friday, got some antibiotics... but the cold was a nasty one, and just would not leave. So: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were washouts, as i just stayed home. I haven't seen anyone in more than a week.

The last week, i've been reading up on all the brouhaha over the end-of-the-year lists. P. T. Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" has become a major contender. Since i didn't see it, i have no idea what the fuss is about. There are lists proliferating on IndieWire... so far, haven't seen the results of the Village Voice poll, so wonder if it will square with the IndieWire poll.

I'm feeling better today, will try to get to the gym so that i don't feel like such a slug.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was... it's one of those events that really seems incomprehensible. But it's symptomatic of the violence which accompanies so much of the fanaticism surrounding politics.

I think that there's so much instability in the world right now....

Well, i need to start getting out. I'm starting to get cabin fever.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Of course, it had to happen: this week, i was inundated with press screenings, and i would get sick. Right now, i'm so congested and i just feel so hot, it's terrible. My body is aching all over.

But yesterday, i went to see the Turkish film "Times and Winds" which i had missed at the Tribeca Film Festival. And it really was an extraordinarily beautiful movie.

But now i can barely move.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Well, the rains came, and so now it's Sunday, December 16 and the Nor'easter is supposedly moving through the East Coast.

This week, went to two screenings: "Flakes" and "Smiley Face". Both will be at the IFC Center, and inadvertently highlight the problems of the independent film. Rather like "Little Miss Sunshine", these were films which had to be done as "independents" but might just as well have been studio jobs (if there were studio jobs anymore). They're eccentric, all right, but seeing both films, i was reminded of a film a long time ago, a comedy called "Twister" (not to be confused with the disaster blockbuster of the same name), which had been with Vestron but then Vestron went bellyup and the film wound up being distributed independently and played at Anthology. These films want so badly to be "different" but wind up rather bland.

This coming week is a mess, there are too many damned screenings, all piled on at the same time: the Walter Reade Theater, the Museum of Modern Art, Anthology Film Archives. And all very interesting.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has screenings for the Dance on Film series, as well as for the upcoming Jewish Film Festival. Anthology's having press screenings for the Turkish film "Times and Winds" (which played at the Tribeca Film Festival; missed it there, but everyone who saw it told me it was amazing). The Museum of Modern Art is having screenings for two films in the Global Lens series.

So there's a lot this week. What i wind up seeing will be anyone's guess....

Right now, TCM is playing one of those "heartwarming" Christmas movies that used to clog the airwaves in the late 1950s: Frank Tashlin's 1953 RKO chestnut "Susan Slept Here". This was a Christmas movie? But it was for the guys programming RKO-TV Channel 9. One year, "Susan Slept Here" was the Christmas selection for Million Dollar Movie, so it played the whole week! The very idea of the movie (17 year old "juvenile delinquent" girl hooks up with middle-aged comedy writer) is borderline ghastly, and Debbie Reynolds's adorable act gets tired very fast. But it is Frank Tashlin, and there are moments of such bizarre cartoon invention.

Well, it's time to venture out: i'm going to try to catch one of the De Santis movies at MoMA.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday, December 9, and the day was very trying, because Time Warner Cable went out. Cable television reception was spotty all afternoon, but the digital phone and the internet service was simply out for most of the day, not getting back in service until about 5 o'clock. When something like this happens, it makes you realize how much you've become dependent on the internet and cable TV for basic communication. It's like the weather: it's just so easy to turn to NY1 and get the weather report every ten minutes. But when you can't do that, you miss it.

Friday night, went to a screening of "The Orphanage" with Christine. With that, three of the six movies i missed at the NY Film Festival have now been accounted for. Have to say that this was a very well-done genre film. Very enjoyable. "The Violin" and "The Orphanage" are examples of the current vitality of the Mexican film industry.

Yesterday, spent the day trying to fill out my ballots for the IndieWire and the LA Weekly/Village Voice critics polls. I suppose there are always a few movies that one doesn't see before the year's end, but i figured for what i'm supposed to, i don't really need to see the "big" movies ("Atonement", "There Will be Blood"); actually, i'm interested in both those movies, but it doesn't really matter for me, because i'm asked to these polls so that i'll represent the "fringe". My top five movies are: 1) "Killer of Sheep"; 2) "Into Great Silence"; 3) "13 Lakes"; 4) "Syndromes and a Century"; 5) "Colossal Youth". The polls are different in that the IndieWire poll is one which asks for director, screenplay, cinematography, though both ask for documentary and first feature. In the IndieWire poll, my choices for director: Lisandro Alonso for "Los Muertos"; screenplay: Corneliu Porumboiu for "12:08 East of Bucharest"; cinematography: Abraham Haile Biru for "Daratt". However, for the IndieWire poll, i chose "Billy the Kid" as documentary, but in the LA Weekly/Village Voice poll, i put "No End in Sight". (For first feature, my choice was "In Between Days".)

This year, i was really able to do what i always want: i hate it when these awards have a sweep (it's especially egregious with the Independent Spirit Awards; last year, i was blindsided, i didn't think that there'd be a sweep for "Little Miss Sunshine" but there was), so i try to make sure my ballots are filled with films from all over.

But it was such an extraordinary year for movies... just not for Hollywood movies. And so what?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Last night, went to the screening of "The Orphanage", which meant that, in one week, wound up seeing three of the six movies i missed at this year's NY Film Festival. In terms of "The Orphanage", must say it is an impeccably crafted movie, a very suggestive horror movie that really does contain enough moments which cause a real shock through the audience.

But decided that it was time for my ballot for the IndieWire poll. Just for the record, for my Top Ten (which changed constantly) wound up being: 1) "Killer of Sheep"; 2) "Into Great Silence"; 3) "13 Lakes"; 4) "Syndromes and a Century"; 5) "Colossal Youth"; 6) "The Magic Mirror"; 7) "I'm Not There"; 8) "Brand Upon the Brain"; 9) "Persepolis"; 10) "Regular Lovers". As usual, i tried to make sure that my list was as "diversified" as possible, so that no film is listed more than once, that is, i didn't do the thing where my best film also had the best director, best screenplay, etc. And this year, i really was able to spread out.

But my list for Undistributed Films: 1) "Razzle-Dazzle: The Lost World"; 2) "Lost in Beijing"; 3) "The Man From London"; 4) "Still Life"; "5) "My Father, My Lord"; 6) "Prater"; 7) "Baja las Estrellas"; 8) "La Morte Rouge"; 9) "These Encounters of Theirs"; 10) "The Romance of Astree and Celadon". And i noted that if any of those films wound up with a distributor, i'd be happy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Last night, watched Murray Lerner's footage of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival from 1963-65, the three years when he went from acoustic folk to electric. This was on Channel 13. And (of course) this was the documentary that was included at this year's New York Film Festival (one of the six screenings that i missed).

I also missed "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" and on Tuesday night, i watched it on HBO.

Is there a point? Yes, the fact that these documentaries made it to TV and i had a good time watching them, and the theatrical experience (in my opinion) was not necessary.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I seem to be in a stupor. At the last minute, remembered that there was a press screening for the Giuseppe De Santis series coming up at MoMA, so pretty much last minute, rushed up and saw "Bitter Rice". I know i'd seen it once a long, long time ago, but it isn't a film that's been around much (though the stills have been: Silvana Mangano's wading in those shorts and torn stockings is difficult to forget). And it proved very interesting, because it's a reminder that any "movement" (Neorealism, in this case) is not as linear as we think.

The "classics" of Neorealism ("Open City", "Shoeshine", "Paisa", "Bicycle Thief") all emphasize the documentary look, and are noted for the usage of (mostly) nonprofessionals in the cast (though Anna Magnani and Maria Michi were hardly nonprofessionals in "Open City"). But in "Bitter Rice", not only are Vittorio Gassman and Doris Dowling so obviously "actors", the way they're shot, it's obvious they're being given the glamour treatment. Watching "Bitter Rice", it reminded me of the stories of how Vittorio De Sica had been approached by Hollywood to make "Bicycle Thief"... with Cary Grant in the lead. Of course, in the case of De Sica, this story is supposed to show how Hollywood misunderstood De Sica's intentions. But that doesn't mean that it was the end-all and be-all of Neorealism.

In De Santis's case, Neorealism is simply a way of including some documentary elements (as well as some rather obvious workers-community propaganda) in a very melodramatic framework.

And i'm glad i saw De Santis's movie, because this issue of "documentary" is really getting a bit out of hand. There's the usual outcry about the "shortlist" of the Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary: there are 15 listed, and many of the people who have not been included are claiming that the Academy isn't up with the changes in documentary, etc. Well: what are these people, nuts? The Motion Picture Academy? Documentary? Don't people realize there is (really) a contradiction in terms? That the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the real name of the organization) is a branch of the old studio system, which really had no regard for documentary (though in those days, there were a lot of shorts created by the studios, including things like The March of Time, which is why the category of Documentary Short Subject was introduced... but it wasn't introduced for "independent" filmmakers... and since when would really independent filmmakers look to the Oscars?), seems to have escaped these people working now, who really want to be recognized by "the industry".

I'm sorry, it's just too ridiculous! That would be like Stan Brakhage or Bruce Baillie or Jordan Belson wanting to get nominated for an Academy Award. What are you, nuts?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The last time i posted, it was just before Thanksgiving. And now it's December 1st.

Some things in the news: the Writers Guild strike continues; the other day, i was walking past Columbus Circle and came across one of the Writers Guild picket lines. I picked up one of the flyers which tried to explain the issues at stake. Of course, i support the strike. One of the problems now with all the show business unions is that the situation is so radically different: there are still studios, but nobody is under contract, everyone is (basically) an independent contractor now...

But this Writers Guild strike will prove just how changed the ideas of entertainment are: can audiences survive without dramas, comedies, without any scripted/directed/acted works? The networks (which are all part of multinational corporations with no loyalty to the idea of any sort of "community") are placing their bets on the idea that "entertainment" is dead, that "reality shows" and news broadcasts and various cooking/talk/home improvement shows can assume the place of "old fashioned" comedies and dramas, which is why there has been little movement in terms of the negotiations.

But the other big strike has just ended: the stagehands' union versus the producers on Broadway. That was really interesting because it lasted so long. It was an example of a very old show business union against the new-style management which is now ruling Broadway. It's no longer the old fashioned league of theater owners.

Can art survive in this epoch?

Our Thanksgiving was quite pleasant, we had Tony and his wife Jill over, and the one thing we expreimented with was not cooking a whole turkey. Instead, i made a turkey casserole, using steamed cabbage and ground turkey and sausage. It was actually very good. Jill made a wonderful vegetable dish, where she used filo dough and put mushrooms and red peppers and onions inside. It was a vegetable pastry and it was very tasty. And Gary made a ham and mashed potatoes. Larry made cranberries. A nice low-keyed Thanksgiving.

There are a lot of good series at various places in NYC: MoMA has the IberoAmerican film series, Anthology Film Archives had Jerzy Skolimowski (they press screened "Identification Marks: None", "Walk-Over", "Hands Up!" and "Barrier" and also a new print of "Deep End") the Walter Reade Theater is holding a Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music has Max Ophuls, with a new print of "Letter From an Unknown Woman" running for a week.

The movies which are garnering the most buzz in the last two weeks have been Todd's "I'm Not There", Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", and the Jason Reitman-Diablo Cody "Juno".

The critical response has been very intriguing. Of course, there are people who simply dismiss these movies (especially true in the case of "I'm Not There", which has been derided as pretentious, obscure, "arty"), but what is so stimulating is the discussion about... well, in a lot of the more negative reviews of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", there was always the distinction made that Schnabel's ambitions were "middlebrow". Which is interesting, because as a painter, it's assumed that his ambition is highbrow.

To me, this is interesting because the art world is one which is notoriously sub-literate. There's a lot of trendiness in terms of what people are reading (when i was still interested and talked to artists, people were reading Lacan, or Baudrillard, or Virillo), but what was so striking was that nothing was systematic. Not only wasn't it systematic, but it was utterly ahistorical: in terms of philosophy, any mention of Spinoza or Hume or Hegel was really met with silence. (It's similar to talking to most film fans, who seem to have an interest in movies that are temporally defined within the period of sound. Right now, there's no interest in silent film, at least none that i can discern. And the period of film which i have always found the most exciting, the changeover to sound, that period is now looked on in terms of "pre-code", which is amusing but rarely of any genuine artistic interest. But the great achievements of that period, the films of von Sternberg, or Lang, or Lubitsch, or King Vidor, or Borzage, have really not found much interest.)

I've been trying to read. One essay i reread was Andre Bazin's "La Politique des auteurs". (This can be found in Peter Graham's anthology "The New Wave" which was part of the Cinema World series edited by Penelope Houston and Tom Milne.) In that essay, Bazin tries to explain that the cinema, like all the arts, must also be seen in the context. He uses this example: 'It follows then, according to the most basic laws of the psychology of creation, that, as the objective factors of genius are much more likely to modify themselves in the cinema than in any other art, a rapid maladjustment between the film-maker and the cienma can occur, and this can abruptly affect the quality of his films as a result. Of course I admire "Confidential Report", and I can see the same qualities in it as I see in "Citizen Kane". But "Citizen Kane" opened up a new era of American cinema, and "Confidential Report" is a film of only secondary importance.'

A lot more to think about, but Bazin was warning against the limits of the politique des auteurs by suggesting that the concentration on "B" movies was a symptom of the politique's inability to deal with the cinema in all its (social/political/cultural) complexities. Or (as Bazin wrote) "Some of them will pretend to grant me that, all things being equal as far as the auteur is concerned, a good subject is naturally better than a bad one, but the more outspoken and foolhardy among them will admit that it very much looks as if they prefer small 'B' films where the banality of the scenario leaves more room for the personal contributions of the auteur." And this is the case: it seems as if so many critics now (especially those that have been raised on the "auteur theory" and its derivations post-Sarris) really prefer the "B" movies to movies with great subjects.

(But right now the problem is that so many movies that are being released are documentaries. To be as blunt about it as possible: i'm all doc-ed out, most of the documentaries i've seen don't stir the aesthetic sense - to put it mildly - and so the only thing to judge is the movie in terms of my interest/responsivity to the subject, and my political stand on the issues, etc. Which is not why i came to movies in the first place. )