Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Two weeks since i've blogged; have been thinking about what it means to blog, but also have been getting sucked into Facebook. One thing i've done in the last few days: setting up "photo albums" using stills i've downloaded. On Friday night, Larry and i finally used the scanner: i took my Antonioni stills, and i made a file on the computer, and then i took those downloads and uploaded the stills to a Facebook album. (Upload, download: am i using these terms correctly?) On Facebook now, i've set up albums of Frank Borzage, Jacques Demy, Antonioni, and Godard. In the case of Borzage and Demy: i've just started these albums, and i've used stills available online. But in the case of Borzage, what's funny is that some of those stills are actually mine: when the Film Society of Lincoln Center had its Borzage/Margaret Sullavan retrospective years ago (when was that?), Larry made slides of my Borzage stills, and we gave them to Joanna Ney. And now some of those stills (the one of Margaret Sullavan on the floor, dying in "Three Comrades", or the one of Sullavan holding onto James Stewart from "The Mortal Storm") are making the rounds.

But i still have the Borzage stills, which i have to scan. But all this activity was fun, because it reminded me of my childhood, when collecting movie stills was one of my major hobbies. (That's how i met David Noh, because he was working for Paula Klaw's Movie Star News.) Of course, i'd be the one trying to find stills from (say) Bresson or Mizoguchi....

But in the last two weeks, i did see some movies. Went to the press screening of Isaac Julien's "Derek", his and Tilda Swinton's protrait of Derek Jarman. (She's the producer and writer.) It's a very elegant film, and quite smooth. A lot of the film consists of the different filmed interviews that Jarman gave over the years: he certainly enjoyed his status as gay spokesman. But in a way Isaac's sensibility is at odds with Derek's: there's never any grunge in Isaac's work, it's always very elegantly crafted. But certainly enjoyable.

Also saw Marco Bellocchio's "The Wedding Director", also enjoyable. Not quite a peak in his career, but not disgraceful. His sensibility remains so quirky.

Also saw Jiri Menzel's "I Served the King of England", and also intriguing to see another director from the 1960s who sontinues to work in his own style. The faux-naif fable quality which was also present in "Closely Watched Trains" is even more pronounced.

The big event of that week was the AICA annual meeting on Friday, May 16. It was held at the Bronx Museum, which meant a real trek: more than 90 minutes on the subway to get there. If film critics think there is a crisis, art critics have already been in crisis mode for more than a decade: ever since i've been a member of AICA (Association International des Critiques d'Arte, or the International Art Critics Association), there's always a discussion about the decline in art publications, the loss of jobs on newspapers and magazines, etc. But we also were given a tour of the exhibitions, and then (after lunch) a tour of the Mott Haven area, where a number of artists have studios and there are a few art spaces. It was instructive to see how people are trying to make an art scene, and how one person (in this case: Tony Feher) can serve as an anchor.

Will McCord's short film "Henry" was selected for the Reel 13 series, and was broadcast on Saturday, May 17; congratulations to Will, looked at his website and see that this short is supposed to be the anchor of a feature film which will consist of other sections, which involve how relationships are being transformed by the internet, cellphones, etc.

Last week: press screenings for Open Roads, the annual series of new Italian films. Well, "new" may be a misnomer. Went to see two films by Franco Piavoli at Anthology Film Archives: "Blue Planet" (from 1982) and "At the First Breath of Wind" (2002). As part of Open Roads, Anthology will be hosting a retrospective of Piavoli's films (which, surprisingly, have never been seen here before). The films i saw were imagistic, the narratives proceeded through the succession of images. But after seeing two of his movies, he has a talent for single images, but not really for making those images flow together. His films are a little static, it's not like he holds the images so that they'll sink in, he holds them because he can't quite time how long they should be, so the films seem arbitrary. Yet they are very beautiful.

Also saw "Days and Clouds" by Silvio Soldini. A very good film, particularly relevant now. It's about a middle-aged couple, the wife has just gotten her doctorate in art history (she is restoring a mural in an old church) and the husband's company has been sold, and he is now out of a job. I thought it was a very well-done movie.

Then the first two press screenings for the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival. The opening night film is Peter Raymont's portrait of Ariel Dorfman, "A Promise to the Dead". And the centerpiece film is Julie Bridgham's "The Sari Sisters". One thing about the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is that the films are often excellently done, but the subjects can be so depressing. This wasn't the case with "A Promise to the Dead", but that film had another problem, a certain sentimentality. (The contrast would be "Calle Santa Fe", Carmen Castillo's documentary which was at the last NY Film Festival, and is also in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Both are films about how the Chilean revolution and repression affected people's lives, and the recent coming-to-terms with Chile today.)

But i've been talking to people, thinking about the situation of criticism (both art and film) and trying to decide what to do. Blogging doesn't seem to be the answer: after the purge of film critics from so many print publications, there have been defections in the blogosphere as well.

What are the options? Just got a notice about the launch of a new online art journal called "The Art Section" edited by Deanna Sirlin and Phil Auslander.

The other day, after the press screening of "At the First Breath of Wind", decided to go to the Strand; walking up from Anthology, i saw Jenneth Webster but didn't get to say hello... and then ran into Dan Cameron (and i did say hello). And at the Strand, ran into Dave Kehr. At the Strand, found a copy of the revised edition of Geoffrey Nowell-Smith's Visconti book (it adds a chapter on "The Stranger", "The Damned" and "Death in Venice"): i had no idea that the book had been revised. Also picked up another book in the old Cinema One series, Peter Graham's "The New Wave". I have a copy, but when i was a child (and before i started collecting stills) i would take my old movie books and cut out the pictures, so my copy has several pages cut out. So now i have a complete copy. Also got Claude Simon's "The Trolley" (short and sweet) and Victor Serge's "Unforgiving Years".

With books and playing around with the computer and playing games on Facebook... well, that was my weekend.


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