Sunday, September 26, 2010

The past week: on Monday, went to the lab for bloodwork, couldn't do it on Friday when i went to the doctor's because i got a flu shot. Missed the screening of "Poetry" because of that, but went to the screening of Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void". Attempted feature-length "trip" movies aren't my thing. What can i say? I also didn't find it visually very distinguished: it's a far cry from (say) Jordan Belson or the Whitney Brothers or Harry Smith. In the evening, TCM showed a number of movies which have been recently restored, so i caught Fritz Lang's "Secret Beyond the Door" and Joseph Losey's "The Prowler".

Tuesday finally made it to the NY Film Festival; caught "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" and "Certified Copy". Wednesday, i didn't go in because i tried to finish writing, and it was supposed to rain; the week before there had been a tornado which went through Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island (some areas still have no electricity) and i was a little freaked out. But it turned out TCM was having an Erich von Stroheim day, so i watched "The Merry Widow" (it's amazing how von Stroheim was able to turn Lehar's operetta into another one of his Ruritainian anti-romances, like "Blind Husbands" and "The Wedding March" and "Queen Kelly"), "Greed", "Friends and Lovers" and "Five Graves to Cairo". And yes, it did rain, and at one point it was pretty severe but the rain passed rather quickly. Thursday, i went to see "My Joy" and "Of Gods and Men".

Friday the screenings were "The Social Network" (a packed screening, but for some reason, i must have some sort of avoidance sign, because there were five empty seats around me) and Godard's "Film Socialisme".

When i came home, i found signs on the subway, announcing the problems with subway service on the weekend. No R service in Brooklyn. So i decided to stay home. Thought i'd watch "The Hurt Locker" but Showtime (as it often does) kept breaking up. I had already seen it but wanted to check whether or not it was as tightly directed as i remembered. It was. But i turned to watch "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon"; i saw it from a screener sent by TLA, but it seemed a little different. (The screener was not the final cut.) Then i watched "The September Issue".

But i was in a daze. What happened was i was sent an online journal, which was supposed to have the transcript of a lecture i gave at the Freie Universitat Berlin. But the transcript was a total mess, because i wasn't asked to proof it, and the transcript is riddled with errors. Quite simply: it was supposed to be a lecture about the Judson Dance Theater, and every other name is spelled wrong, or else there is an approximation, because the person who did the transcript doesn't know the names. So the point of my lecture (which is about accuracy and alternatives, i.e., if you're researching a phenomenon like the Judson Dance Theater, don't just stick to the same names again and again, if you do a little research, you'll also find other names that will bear investigating) is lost, because the transcript is totally inaccurate! And the person who did the transcript doesn't seem to understand what the problem is. He doesn't understand how my reputation as a "scholar" has been ruined because of his sloppy work. It makes it seem as if i don't know what i'm talking about, because i can't get the names right.

But this seems to be par for the course with people under 30 nowadays: an incredible arrogance, a feeling of entitlement. He thinks he can use my work, even if he has reduced it to utter rubbish, and no, there is no payment, and no, he did not have my permission to record the lecture. But he thinks my lecture is something that will help him in terms of his "career", but he's just ruined mine.

Ok. So that's why i'm upset. And also: i spent five weeks actually writing out my lecture (when i delivered the lecture in June, it was extemporaneous, and i went through a lot of information that i knew fast). The reason it took so long was that i went and did a lot of research, because i knew that (say) Yvonne Rainer in her many writings and interviews, or Jill Johnston in "Marmalade Me" or Sally Banes in her books "Democracy's Body" or "Terpsichore in Sneakers" would have information which would back up my claims. And i was right. (For example: one of my points was that Yvonne Rainer's piece "We Shall Run" was not simply a "running" piece, it was more like a precursor of something like Paul Taylor's "Esplanade", because it was running in very complex patterns set to music, and Rainer herself says that in an interview she did with Lynn Blumenthal.) So i was very careful to make sure that i could prove everything i was saying. And now this transcript (which i did not do) makes a hash of my work, and sets me up for ridicule.

Once again!

Why does this always happen to me? I know why: because i'm an idiot!

But watched "Inspector Lewis" and "Dexter" tonight. Both of them were really sick: Larry and i loved them!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This weekend, the subway system underwent major repair work, leaving only one out of the 19 subways lines running normally. I just figured i wasn't meant to get around, so i stayed home. Watched television. "Changeling" which turned out to be fairly engrossing but rather slow, Angelina Jolie was subdued but she was effective in her hysterical scenes. Tried to watch "The Hurt Locker" on Showtime, but it kept breaking up which was distracting; nevertheless, the first half hour that i saw was incredibly tight and tense. I turned to "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon"; this was a documentary that i thought i had seen, because i received a screener from TLA a while ago, but a lot of it didn't seem familiar. Then i watched "The September Issue" on A&E. It was a very alienating experience. The only way i could watch it was to think about it as an example of the secularization of society, where the idea of "the sublime" (which was linked to religious idealism) has been discredited to the point where the meaning of art has devolved into the issue of beauty, and so art has become fashion as opposed to the vessel of cultural meaning. Because we don't have meaning anymore.

I did go to press screenings this week, including several screenings of the New York Film Festival. But i'm exhausted so i'll wait to go into what i saw.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Haven't blogged, haven't seen much, haven't gone anywhere. Basically, i've been stuck at home, trying to finish writing. It's taken me four weeks, going on five. I can't take it anymore. (This always happens: i spend too much time writing, i get cabin fever.)

But the "it's a small world" phenomenon: i decided i should start reading more. But just to start, i got some movie star autobiographies. Two were: "Thank Heaven" by Leslie Caron, and "Include Me Out" by Farley Granger with Robert Calhoun. Now: how is it a small world? Well: in her acknowledgements, Leslie Caron begins by thanking Bruce Benderson. Bruce Benderson? Now, how many writer-editors who've lived in Paris can there be with the name Bruce Benderson? I mean, Bruce Benderson is the writer who was working at CAPS in 1975; another small world coincidence: Bruce turned out to be a friend of Daile Kaplan, and Daile and i were both working for Jonas Mekas at the time (1975). In "Include Me Out", Farley Granger mentions a play that fell through, that was going to be directed by his friend Shirley Kaplan. Unless there's another Shirley Kaplan working in the theater as a director, she's the person who has been teaching at Sarah Lawrence, and was part of the faculty along with June Ekman and Remy Charlip. And June is the person who worked with Anna Halprin, and was a friend of Trisha Brown's and Yvonne Rainer's in the 1960s. June and Shirley were on the faculty at Sarah Lawrence and were among the teachers of Bob Harris when he went to Sarah Lawrence (as part of the first co-ed class in the early 1970s). Bob Harris (of course) was Shigeko Kubota's assistant for the video program at Anthology Film Archives in 1975.

And (of course) i've just been a hermit for five weeks, revising my essay on Jonas Mekas's film "In Between", which was the diary film Jonas made in 1978, during the time when i was working for him. It's one of those freak occurences: the other big essay i was finishing was the write-up of the lecture i gave at the Freie Universitat Berlin, about the Judson Dance Theater. And so in the last five weeks, i've been looking up stuff about Jonas, and about the Judson Dance Theater (where i came across the name of June Ekman). And even trying to relax, never in my wildest imagination would i think that there would ever be a connection with Leslie Caron. But it's like Facebook: we have Bruce Benderson as a friend in common.

And on Tuesday, i had gone to the memorial for Callie Angell. And that was another connection to Anthology Film Archives in the "old" days. One thing i have to say is that it wasn't a "sad" occasion, there were a lot of people from the old days, and the memorial accomplished what itw as supposed to: there was a feeling of comfort.

I felt sad that Callie's health had been deteriorating, and that she had reached the point where she couldn't see the possibility of a life without severe pain and disability. But i remember Callie as the person who was 21 years old and at her first job, which was as the librarian at Anthology Film Archives in 1969-70.

I remember the excitement we all felt when Anthology was set to open. Jonas asked me if i wanted to volunteer, and what i did was check out the prints of some films. But things were coming in. Callie was always getting new boxes which contained papers or books or other materials, and that meant a lot of filing and organizing. At the memorial, a lot of people were talking about how organized Callie was, and in the early days of Anthology, she had to be, or the library would never have been able to be functional.

It was nice to see people again: P. Adams Sitney, Nadia Sztendera... it's funny, because there were people who only knew Callie from the last decade or so, when she was the curator for the Andy Warhol Film Project. But i remember the old Anthology staff: Callie, Linda Patton, Ric Stanbery, Robert Polidori.

But i'm exhausted from the effort it took to write in the past five weeks.

I wish i could just have fun.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Intended to write after the press screening of Lionel Rogosin's "On the Bowery" (new, restored print distributed by Milestone) but time slipped away. Time always seems to slip away now.

I've tried to get back into the swing of things, or at least some of the things in New York City. But it's the usual grind, and it's disconcerting to find oneself in the usual grind. The feeling is rather like having been trapped somewhere, and finally getting to see daylight, only daylight is a little blinding.

I was thinking of "On the Bowery" and how times have changed since i first saw that movie in the late 1960s. A lot of those documentaries/semi-documentaries from the period (including Kent Mackenzie's "The Exiles", or the Joseph Strick-Sidney Meyers "The Savage Eye", or Sidney Meyers' "The Quiet One") were described in terms like "stark"; the black-and-white cinematography caught aspects of the urban (New York or Los Angeles) landscape that had been glossed over in commercial movies, even when those movies were shot on location.

Quite frankly, at the time, those movies (and related movies such as Warhol's "Chelsea Girls" or Shirley Clarke's "Portrait of Jason") were about what we've come to call "abjection", about those people in society who were either marginalized or "downtrodden" (now there's an old-fashioned term from that period). But i guess you could say that the lyricism of those movies came from the depiction of what had been described as the "city symphony", those documentaries in the 1920s which tried to find the poetry in the developing industrialized urban centers (cf. Cavalcanti's "Rien Que les Heures", Vertov's "The Man With a Movie Camera", Paul Strand's "Manhatta", Ruttmann's "Berlin Symphony of a City"). What became obvious was that, by the early 1970s, films shot on location in New York City ("Panic in Needle Park", "Klute", "French Connection", "Born to Win") were showing a city that seemed devastated. (There's some correlation between those movies and the movies made in Europe right after World War II, such as the Italian Neo-Realist movies like "Paisa" and "The Bicycle Thief", or British thrillers like "The Third Man" and "The Man Between.")

Trying to organize my ideas around these topics seems difficult right now, because there's a lot that remains quite inchoate and almost incomprehensible. For example: i've been doing a lot of reading about the Judson Dance Theater, in order to clarify a lot of the points i made in my lecture that i gave in June. But i find that the more i read, the less clear the Judson Dance Theater seems, because i'm finding it hard to remember my own responses. So much is filtered through other people's responses, and i find it hard to assert my own response.