While I should have been focusing more attention on Christmas shopping this weekend, I gleefully pawed my way through super-cheap East Asian DVDs at a store a block up the Bowery from Lai Ying. Only now do I see and regret some more of the vast fields I have left untilled! As a teenager I would rent the occasional Wu Tang dubbed VHS, and I quite liked Tsui Hark (of the handful I saw, The Blade above all), and I otherwise just sort of skimmed the thinnest layer of the most well-known cult/genre/exploitation/alternative commercial cinemas of the United States, Japan, and Hong Kong. But I certainly didn't learn it, in part because I was--and still am--not really able to identify with the cultish brands of videophilia that mark those fantastic magazines like Video Watchdog and Asian Cult Movies.
Now I want to be a fellow traveler in these circles.
So, high on the agenda for viewing sometime in the first months of 2006 are Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters, and Yokai Monsters: Along with Ghosts. Just as I must also see Miike's newest (released in Japan this summer) The Great Yokai War, inspired by films like these. (I feel bad that I missed Izo, but it was showing at the IFC some months back, and that place is not getting my money. But I guess I will shell out $6 or $16 for a DVD if I don't find it to rent at TLA.) What to do with these films, which have no reputation in Western mainstream or intellectual film culture, which will not help me advance myself as a critic or a scholar (unless I decide that kaiju-films and related areas are part of my "turf")? Why see them, let alone spend time thinking about them before I even get to see them? I've never gone so far into myself as a cinephile to forget that life is short and seeing that scarce print of a Lubitsch silent (or something) is not the worst thing that can happen. At the same time, part of really being a cinephile involves re-incorporating yourself and your cinephilia back into that "real world," that external world for which the lights don't dim, and to be good at that--to justify it beyond being a coach potato with good taste in entertainment--one needs some focus, some faith, some intensity, a certain degree of purpose and vision.
Good examples and some of the answers can be found in a matrix between Olaf Möller, Adrian Martin, and Nicole Brenez, among many others. With the latter two we have the quote from Adrian that Matt Clayfield reprinted in a comment on this blog, and of course Brenez's amazing counterintuitive proposition that the most important films are the ones we don't even know or see. Möller, a madman and a fine cinephile-critic (well anyone who reads this blog knows my opinion of him), always comes up with words of wisdom of his own, which come from his own experience but to other people about the relationship between film, cinephilia, and the world. I'm still coming to terms with it, but there's something big he's getting at here in his article on Farocki and the Filmkritik stable, which speaks to the way I'm dealing with films these days:
Ultimately there is, after all, a “ghostly apparition”. In Imaginäre Architektur (Imaginary Architecture, Germany 1994), Bitomsky uses multiple exposures in an attempt to bring into view various gazes in houses designed by Scharoun. It remains only an attempt, and Bitomsky thematises his “failure”. However, these multiple exposures become spectral images, shots of what we can't see and yet is there, never really tangible, a phantom without circumstantial evidence hence powerfully suggestive.
Living with films, a little the way one lives with music, a little the way it looks in 3 American LPs: looking at the world from a balcony, listening to Van Morrison, who is describing the way things are, then seeing it so.
It's easy to do that with the Filmkritik films, as a cinephile. A good many have videocassettes with films by Farocki, Bitomsky, Bühler and/or Thome right at the front in the video cabinet, clearly visible, clearly accessible; when they come home at night, alone, yet again, depending on how dark the mood they're in, they take a look at Highway 40 West – Reise in Amerika, at Kinostadt Paris (Film City Paris), or Leben – BRD. Thome, especially Berlin Chamissoplatz (W. Germany 1980), Das Mikroskop (The Microscope, W. Germany 1987), Der Philosoph (The Philosopher, W. Germany 1988) and Liebe auf den ersten Blick (Love at first sight, Germany 1991), is rather dangerous in such hours of bleak despondency. One holds these films dear, and with them the self-portraits of their auteurs, and their surrounds.
And I think I must see these films, also.