Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't even know how long it's been since i posted anything. I've been seeing things, but it's also been very hectic trying to deal with the holidays. And already, it's almost time for the end-of-the-year round-ups. Just got my notification about the Village Voice/LA Weekly poll. It's due next week.

But what have i seen this year? Strangely enough, because of the way American movies are marketed nowadays, being in Berlin actually wasn't a detriment. There are a number of foreign movies that i missed, though i'm trying to catch up with some of them (such as Bellocchio's "Vincere") but it's been such a haphazard year. The categories for these polls (with actors and actresses and supporting actors and supporting actresses) presuppose dramatic narratives, but a good percentage of the films i get to see are documentaries. And though documentaries can be illuminating and informative, the specific qualities of imagination which drew me into the movies just aren't there in documentaries.

One reason i've been feeling out-of-it is that i feel very displaced. I came back to New York, and soon i was seeing the press screenings at the New York Film Festival, but i haven't been seeing other people. I'll give an example. A few weeks ago, i went to the press screening of Edward Bland's "The Cry of Jazz", a 1959 featurette recently restored by Anthology Film Archives. Now: i invited a friend to the screening, because Anthology's press screenings can be notoriously underpopulated. So i'm there with my friend, and one other person is there. That's it.

Then the movie has its run at Anthology... only J. Hoberman in The Village Voice and Richard Brody in The New Yorker devote considerable space to the movie. My question: when did they see this? There was only one press screening, and i didn't see them.

It was an incredibly fascinating film. As a film, it's rather crude, but as a dramatic polemic, it was mesmerizing, because it attempted to develop an argument about race in America which prefigured the attitudes of the 1960s, with the Black Panthers, Malcolm X and Amiri Baraka's "Dutchman". The film intermingles various concert footage with a single scene, the aftermath of a jazz club meeting, when a group of three African-American men and two white men and two white women remain, to discuss (actually, debate) the "meaning" (political, philosophical, sociological) of jazz. And the point is that jazz represents the soul of "the Negro" and "the Negro" is the conscience of America, and the fate of "the Negro" will be the fate of America, because how the country treats the people that it has enslaved will determine the humanity of the nation.

One sidelight: while watching the movie, i had this nagging feeling, because one of the young women, a tall, rather round-faced blonde, seemed very familiar. And her voice was so distinctive: i knew i'd heard that voice many times before. And the credits at the end of the movie didn't really help... and then, about an hour after i saw the film, i realized that "Linda" must have been a diminutive of her name, and then i realized that she was a teen-aged Melinda Dillon!

But what were some other highlights of this year?


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