Friday, July 11, 2008

Well, almost a week, and a lot of movies seen. Missed Nicholas Phillibert's "Back to Normandy", because i went to see Dominique Delouche's films instead on Wednesday. Have to say that "24 Hours in the Life of a Woman" was dreadful, and i felt as if i'd made the biggest mistake in my life. "24 Hours" also proves that there is something called talent, and Max Ophuls had it, and Delouche (trying desperately to make a film in the Ophuls manner) was just hopeless. How must that film have seemed in 1968? Antiquated, certainly, and defiantly dated, and stolid and achingly slow. I missed it when it played at the NY Film Festival (in those days, i bought my tickets, and i made my selections very carefully), and it looks like a good choice. "24 Hours" is the kind of movie where a gay director makes a beautiful woman (Danielle Darrieux) look like a dishrag, the better to feast on the young male lovelies that he has cast. I thought, oh, maybe this was a mistake, and i should have gone to Anthology to see "Back to Normandy", but then i saw Delouche's documentary "Violette et Mr. B" and it was enchanting. Violette Verdy's personality is just so infectious, and the film is tactful and does not intrude but allows her to her to flourish in her teaching and coaching, as she talks about Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, and she teaches some of the roles she made famous.

Quite frankly: i was glad that Douglas wasn't there (he would have been interested in how the dancing was shot, but would have been driven crazy by the Balanchine-worship) but it made me think that i wish i were in touch with Claudia, since i know she would have loved the film.

The great revelation of the week was the screening of Kent Mackenzie's "The Exiles". The print is so gorgeous: it reminds you how terrific documentary films made on 16mm often looked in the 1950s. Another thing "The Exiles" reminds you of is the difficulty of sound recording in the 1950s: the post-synched sound is initially alienating, given how expressive the images are. The hollowness of the sound is ok when there are voice-overs, but trying to synch up dialogue scenes proved very difficult. Nonprofessionals can never quite match their readings to their lip movements, so there's always that dubbed-in lag. But the black-and-white imagery is just so beautiful, desolate and mournful.

"The Exiles" is a great film, and it's another example of how Dennis Doros and Amy Heller are really trying to bring to light areas of filmmaking which have been overlooked or neglected. "The Exiles" is one of those movies that i'd heard about since the 1960s, but it was one of those films that never got a theatrical release and wasn't in distribution. "The Little Fugitive" is another example of an independent film from the 1950s which has a documentary feel... and it also has the same problems in terms of the sound recording. But the images of "The Exiles" are much richer, rather like the images in the Loeb-Levitt-Agee "In the Street". "The Exiles" captures the poetry of what used to be called the symphony of the city, only in a kind of low-down, down-and-out manner.

The Native Americans (in the 1950s, it was still common to say "American Indians") in the cast have a different relationship to the camera than actors do; this also reminds one that there was a time before technology made living under surveillance such a commonplace.

Other documentaries seen this week: "A Man Named Pearl" which is a delightful portrait of Pearl Fryar, a black man in South Cariolina who has become celebrated for his topiary sculptures. "The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale" on HBO. A lot of documentaries in the last few weeks: "Trumbo", "All in This Tea", "Louise Bouregois: The Spider, The Mistress, and the Tangerine", "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired".

"All in This Tea" was Les Blank's digit documentary, and it showed the new ease and accessibility that this technology allows.

Another documentary which proved to be really thought-provoking was "The Loss of Nameless Things", which was on Channel 13 (Independent Lens, i think, but can't swear to it; i know it wasn't P.O.V.). It was about Oakland "Tad" Hall, who was a theater director in the early 1970s who started a theater company upstate New York (Lexington, to be exact) and did some experimental productions (listening to the descriptions and seeing the photos proved very nostalgic) when he had an accident one night. Exactly what happened, nobody knows (he has lost all memory), but he was not found for almost a day, at which point he had been unconscious for more than 12 hours, and the brain damage was severe (and remains). It's the most insanely poignant example of lost opportunity/artistic promise imaginable (it makes Chuck Connelly seemed to be a narcissistic whiner by comparison... oh, wait, that's what Chuck Connelly is).

Some other movies seen: "Kabluey" (a strange movie, certainly, it was almost gratingly unpleasant, yet it had a nagging quality, and it did capture the mood of social anomie that seems to have overtaken most of this country, as the economy tanks and people are left stranded), "La France" (a disquieting fable set during World War I, with the soldiers bursting into song), "Estomago" (a new Brazilian film, part of the series "Premiere Brazil" which will be at MoMA; entertainingly done, but somehow filled with cliches so that even if you haven't seen a lot of Brazilian movies, you feel like you've already seen it); "Dance in the Rain" (part of a series on Slovenian cinema that will be at the Walter Reade Theater; if Roumanian cinema, as evidence from the Roumanian cinema series that the Walter Reade Theater had is any indication, reminded one of the Czechoslovakian cinema of the 1960s, then Slovenian cinema - ex-Yugoslavia - is highly reminiscent of the Polish cinema of the 1950s and early 1960s).

In terms of blogging: in the last month or so, there were articles about the net, such as the article by Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic Monthly, "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?" Also an article in the Columbia University magazine about the digitizing of the colledctions, and what this will mean to scholarship.

One of the points of education is learning to exercise judgement, so that there is the knowledge of what is worthwhile and what standards are being used and why these standards are being used. But the whole idea of standards has been undermined.

But there's a lot more to discuss, but one thing is that old-fashioned scholarship really is one the endangered list.


Post a Comment

<< Home