Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ferrara Blog-a-Thon

Preface: Please excuse the fact that I don't currently have screen capture capability to more directly illustrate this and make this whole thing much, much easier...

1. Pre-Credit Sequence of Dangerous Game / Snake Eyes

Four fast tableaux. The first is a dinner scene which introduces our protagonist (Harvey Keitel) and his wife and child, though these relationships are not immediately confirmed in these shots, only suggested. There's small, tense talk about food. (It is the only tableau broken into two shots, as well.) Second scene is of Keitel and Nancy Ferrara as they finish having sex. Third scene boasts a dark and icy palette as Keitel stands in the boy's room while he sleeps. Fourth scene continues the bleak palette as Keitel walks out of the townhouse and down the street, coming towards the camera, until a cut to the credits.

Instantly we may wonder if Keitel's character, Eddie, is leaving to catch the plane alluded to in the first shot ("I hate plane food"). If so, why so late at night? Does he not live with this woman (Madlyn) and their son? These four quick scenes demonstrate the figural disintegration of the family unit, from the dinner table through the conjugal bed, the child's bed, to flight. From togetherness into solitary departure. Three people in a shot, then two, then again two (only one of whom is conscious and "present"), then one.

What motivates this cold prologue? It may establish the difficulty of togetherness and the pain of isolation (or perhaps the comfort of aloneness). It suggests in quick, subtle strokes (without trafficking in binarism) the tension between work and home, performance and sincerity. We have in under three minutes food, sex and sleep; we have figures sitting, laying, standing, walking; what we have is a microcosm, an ultra-concise Table of Contents for imagistic representation of human activity. The camera moves a little, slowly, discreetly, in each shot, arrogating a certain mobility for itself while never drawing attention.

2. A Case for Some Tendencies in Ferrara

In Abel Ferrara's work there's always a sense of our intellectual, sensuous, ethical grasp of things being splayed, fanned out, worked like an accordion and a piece of origami. One can say that Ferrara, in his treatment of concepts, fractures and opens them up--but not as part of a completist taxonomical project, instead a treatment comparable to Cubist approaches to visuality. What I mean by this is that when there is a problem, a conflict, an expression, a development in Ferrara's films, it tends to be presented to us so that we see from two or more incongruous "angles" at the same time, or in quick succession. For instance the first shots of Dangerous Game, wherein we see kindness & cruelty play out in simultaneous, co-existing lineages:

a) Would anyone else back me up in asserting that there's a strong hint of impatience in Keitel's cheese grating in the first second of the first shot? He holds it up ready to use for Nancy Ferrara even before she finishes dishing up her pasta. He goes through the motion of being kind, but it appears that there's the faintest slow passive-aggressive burn. But is it even a function of Keitel's character? Perhaps Abel Ferrara had simply already ordered a few too many retakes at that point, or had otherwise pissed off Keitel that evening. Is the impatience coming solely from Keitel's own acting as an expression of Eddie's character, or is it behavior bubbling up from Keitel's subconscious that he and Ferrara have used to help form Eddie?

b) Madlyn asks Eddie if he'll eat on his flight. "I hate plane food." So he's willing to be openly critical of food and assertive of his tastes, an echo of which informs his ostensibly jocular disgust at Madlyn's pasta. Though Eddie insists to Madlyn, 'Have a little faith in yourself,' he's saying it more for his own benefit, like Peter Falk ordering Gena Rowlands to 'Be yourself!' in A Woman Under the Influence. If Madlyn lacks a certain faith in her cooking (and in "herself") here, it's because she is familiar with the tension between Eddie's performance and his sincerity. Before Eddie feigns disgust at his wife's cooking, he tells her and their son, "This'll taste so good ... that I'm not gonna believe it" (a transparent patronization).

c) "It's delicious," he insists to her, before she offers her own (seemingly disingenuous, unconvinced) "thank you."

The most mysterious line in the film, or at least in this sequence, is one that I'm still not 100% sure I can make out correctly. It's in the third tableau, when Keitel leans in to his sleeping son and whispers, "Forget me kid--I'm your daddy." It would make more sense for him to say 'Don't forget me...' but no matter how many times I listen to this line, I can't really be sure that I hear even a faint, mumbled 'don't.' It'd be slightly enigmatic even in that circumstance (why would the child forget him?), but even more, why would Eddie Israel instruct his child to forget him while reminding him of his paternity? I've remained confused for as long as I've known this film ...

3. Unforced Formal Cohesion

Up until now I've talked mostly about character psychology and the implication of the viewer in this sophisticated web; but this isn't all that characterizes Ferrara. The first shot demonstrates an S-curve composition. Three figures at a table (and though I don't know that there is any especial Catholic significance for these early scenes, the number three is at least worth noting when it comes up in Ferrara). Eddie sits in the middle of the frame, flanked on our left by his son and our right by his wife. The dinner table is a dark, warm color (a mahogany finish), matched on screen-right by Nancy Ferrara's magenta sweater; the top of the frame (background of two symmetrical thin-curtained windows that flank a panelled wall) is conversely cool, gray-and-blue-and-white, and this is matched by both the shirts that Keitel and the boy are wearing. Within the composition of the first shot there is a yin-yang opposition of color-tones--but even this brief sense of 'balance' is disrupted once the film cuts to a medium-close-up of Madlyn (segment 1), and then begins a slow incremental left-then-right glide down to encompass both her and Eddie (seg 2), then for a moment only Eddie (seg 3), then Eddie and the son (seg 4), then back to Eddie alone (seg 5, echo of seg 3), then Eddie and Madlyn (seg 6, echo of seg 2), and again Madlyn (seg 7, echoe of seg 1). This is the overall structure of the shots to which I've attributed labels for the specific sub-images, but in actuality the camera movement isn't quite so mathematically clean--in-between segments 5 and 6 the camera follows Keitel's quick bodily shift and momentarily reverts to what we might call 'seg 5a,' an echo of 'seg 4,' so that we might also translate 'segs 4 -5a' as a symmetrical framing regiment of their own: 'subsegment 1,' 'subsegment 2,' and again 'subsegment 1.'

I don't want to get too positivist-formalist on my readers (it's not my style) but I wanted to use these labels simply to demonstrate first the underlying cohesion to Ferrara's image-organization (hence assigning these numbered segments with their own rhyme & reason), as well the provisional and aleatory excursions (my so-called 'segment 5a') that just as profoundly mark Ferrara's cinema. Just as the camera movement in this initial scene has been horizontal, so are the bold lines of composition in the next image (the bodies of Harvey Keitel and Nancy Ferrara simulating sex in missionary position). So the first tableau (second shot) had a graphic horizontality marked by the camera movement, the second by the pictorial composition, and the third, now, in the son's bedroom, by Keitel's bodily movement as he walks from screen-right to screen-left (the camera following him).

The fourth and final tableau ostensibly stands apart from the previous three shots and echoes the very first shot, again, in that (a) it doesn't emphasize a strong horizontal line in some form, and (b) it settles into a basically symmetrical image. This last is roughly true, not strictly true: this final shot of the passage begins with Keitel leaving the building and walking down the stairs to the sidewalk, going from screen-left to center to achieve the symmetry a few seconds after the shot actually begins. Ferrara then holds the camera on Keitel walking straight through on the sidewalk towards the camera. At the last moment, however, before he would presumably walk straight into the camera, he passes it on screen-right, thus inscribing upon this symmetrically-composed image a very gradual and indirect movement from screen-left to screen-right--a horizontal line through deep three-dimensional space (and so the characteristics of a static pictorial symmetry and a strong, graphic horizontality are joined like two axes). And a split-second "deviation" from a standardized image.

What I ultimately want to get at is that Ferrara's work demonstrates an attention to symmetry and clarity through time & space, but this is conjoined with--even sometimes disrupted by, though not so much in this early passage of Dangerous Game--a sense of "offness," unevenness, risk, development & progression, chance.

4. A Personal Imperative for Ferrara's Work

What interests me then about Ferrara has to do with the productive tensions--already quite present if not apparent in his cinema--between what we might drastically simplify as 'chaos' and 'order.' An extensive formal consideration & critique of a lot of postclassical cinema that I really admire (not only Ferrara, but Cassavetes, Pialat, Linklater, Miike, others) would seem to invite madness according to conventional wisdom for the simple fact that these films aren't 'clean' or 'efficient' or 'formalist' works in a basically classical idiom and simply defy what formal-analytical tools we have at this point--after all, nobody loves Ferrara's cinema for the shot compositions, right? Do they? And yet, and yet, we love these films for some reason, and to me there's something deeper, richer, and in some ways, even, more systematic than we may initially realize within our love. To call a section of cinema (subgenre, authorial oeuvre, whatever) 'messy' or 'unpredictable' is usually to overlook something fundamental in what caused you or others to group these given films together in the first place. And for Ferrara, who has made a living making films few people seem to like or pay money to see, there's an interesting sense of artistic valor & martyrdom. If Ferrara's ever "breaking rules," "crossing boundaries," "taking risks," then all the rules and boundaries, all the safe options, are there and present in his films, as part and parcel of their fabric, as much as the transgressions and chances, the messy unrehearsed incongruencies and the serendipitous congruencies. Ferrara isn't about making a mess but about carving a path, and even if we may have no faith for gods we may want to reserve some for artists like him, whose destinations might require long and winding routes.

Post-Script: Anyone who actually read all of this long and tortuous casual essay is a saint. Thanks so much if you made it through the end.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I'm seriously contemplating starting a food blog, very likely group one. It would be nowhere near as good as some of my favorites (e.g., the hands-down unbeatable EatingAsia, the very useful NYCNosh, the stream-of-consciousness explosion of personality at The Girl Who Ate Everything). But it might still cover some great little-known restaurants, post a few excellent recipes. I have a few friends in "real life" with whom I might do this. But I wonder if it would be a good idea to get film bloggers, many of whom I know are at least part-chowhounds, to have a voice at this blog. I mean, I haven't really discussed this part with my friends, but would there be any interest in having a "film blogger" (or "arts & culture blogger") contingent at a group food blog? (Or, less regularly, the occasional guest blog entries?) How many readers here are big fans of food & drink, and how many among that group would be interested in a cinephile's pre- or post-screening Vietnamese as much as the screening itself?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Video Games

Sometimes I'm really interested in getting back into videogames--for one thing, it's another skill that will help when I have to "fit in with the guys," and for another, it's interesting to me as part of contemporary digital/visual culture. I think one of the next times I visit my parents I may grab one or two of my old systems and hook them up in my apartment. (Maybe I should even stock up on used games for my old NES and SNES consoles?)

My question for people who read this blog and play videogames is this ... if I were to save up and get a new system, what might present the easiest transition for someone like myself who (mostly) stopped gaming back when the first Playstation console was still pretty current? What system has games or technological capabilities that are, in your opinion, the most far-reaching and interesting? I'm not a technophile, and in fact I'm pretty bad at videogames, but I'm willing to learn, and have tried to do a little research on the current/upcoming systems already. And as far as Playstation 2 titles go, I'm very interested in the two games that Fumito Ueda has designed, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (pictured below), which, as I understand it, are a little like "arthouse games" ... screenshots from them look fascinating:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Draughtsman's Contract

1. The Baroque Is the Cross He Bears

The thing that bothers me about Peter Greenaway is not actually his work (of which I'm mostly ignorant) but the discourse--the rhetoric--which surrounds it. Recently reading some appreciative articles, interviews, and reviews about this filmmaker (I mean, artist) almost caused me to strain my eyes from rolling them so much. Writers do much hemming & hawing about how Greenaway "rejects" this or that conception of narrative in favor of 'sequence' (or 'spatiality'), that his films are singular challenges to cinema's (presumably previously essential) conventions of identification and empathy. Greenaway himself seems to buy into this image, even feeds it: apparently the cinema has run its course, the idea of cinema-as-storytelling has been discarded by Godard (but apparently not before...), and we're all starving for a truly radical departure--and innovation--in cinema.

What bothers me about all this running-off-at-the-mouth is that it poses as a high-cultural stance but it betrays a profound ignorance of the history of the cinema (and by extension the history of global twentieth century cultures, and the history of art). One suspects that Godard is about as radical and obscure a figure as Greenaway is acquainted with in the cinema: for him the avant-garde exists in painting, but apparently has only a few quick, scattershot appearances in the medium of film. But Greenaway is not the first nor the tenth to challenge the things he supposedly challenges; I doubt he's either the best or the tenth best to do it. (My temptation here is to imagine Ruiz dressed up as Annie Oakley singing to Greenaway, "Anything you can do I can do better...")

The cinema is full of films that "challenge narrativity" (from Cornell's Rose Hobart to Meyer's Supervixens) or ignore it altogether (from Garrel's Les Hautes solitudes to Sonbert's Carriage Trade). There are plenty of films that draw upon a rich cultural history of ideas to create conceptually sophisticated and deeply intellectual work with no compromises for the industry: the films of Harun Farocki, Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Straubs, Derek Jarman, Robert Bresson, Glauber Rocha, Chris Marker. The ostensible profundity of Greenaway's conception of cinema comes, I think, from an awful "greatest hits" approach to cinema, whereby (1) it is conceived as essentially, basically, and ultimately a commercial machine used to the ends of die Kulturindustrie, and (2) those rare films which challenge this notion are always those films which have at least one foot squarely in it--because any cinema that isn't part of "the movies" is blissfully ignored by someone like Greenaway, who needs to uphold this image of a reactionary industry to stand in for the entirety of the medium so that he and a few other lone geniuses (Eisenstein, Lynch, Godard, Welles, Fellini) can do their allegedly progressive film-art on "symbol and metaphor." He will
compare the development of music or painting over our period of modernity to that of cinema, and wonders why cinema comes up lacking--but that's because he isn't pitting the run-of-the-mill Hollywood hit of 1952 with a Norman Rockwell painting, and he isn't pitting de Kooning with, say, Brakhage. He's comparing the run-of-the-mill Hollywood film with the avant-garde coterie of the art world as though they are the representative equivalents of their given media.

I brought up this question of "truly challenging" work with regard to Cassavetes a while back. I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable with rhetoric that asserts that this or that film is something akin to cinema's zenith, its event horizon, its sublime poetic limit. I just don't understand why something can't be great, decidedly non-mainstream, and not incredibly challenging, automatically 'over the heads' of anyone who doesn't love it. Malick gets this treatment; Kubrick gets this treatment; Greenaway seems to bask in this treatment (going so far as to insist that Americans don't understand "metaphor and symbol," things like that). This is where, as far as extremism & dogma go, I do prefer Ray Carney's brand; at least Carney, in refusing to acknowledge or discuss 99% of "the movies" in a constructive way--the commerce, the industry products--in favor of reading the medium in terms of its artistic development [as he sees it], is drawing attention to films which the culture industry buries or ignores, and is in some sense resisting the predominant cultural impulse to discuss cinema exclusively in terms of multimillion dollar feature films. He's wrong and shortsighted on so many counts, but he's wrong for some admirable reasons. Greenaway identifies "the cinema" as "the movies" and this enables him to talk about the presumed failures of the medium and the glories of his own, radical cinema-based art. It's self-serving, and it perpetuates the logic of the marketplace despite Greenaway's intentions. Someone like Carney will point the way to some new & amazing films you may never have heard of; someone like Greenaway will point you only to their own films.

I could go on, and start picking apart Greenaway quotes for their inaccuracies or their oversights or their baldfaced lies, but I have to eventually get to the second part of my blog entry.

2. Rewriting the Contract

Several years ago I had my first, and until recently, only experience with Peter Greenaway's cinema: I tried to watch a video of The Draughtsman's Contract ('82). I hated it so much I turned it off. (This is a rare event: usually if I turn off a video of a film I haven't seen, it's because I'm interrupted by something more important, or perhaps I'm too tired and would rather give it a go the next day...) This has been the foundation for my antagonism toward Greenaway, or more accurately, toward the high-and-mighty rhetoric which surrounds his work. But like him or not he's something of a major figure of British cinema, and world cinema (whoops again, I mean "the art world"), and I've detected a few stray mentions of him on Matt's site that indicated he (and David Lowery) liked at least some of Greenaway's work. So I might as well see if my initial disdain continues to match my distaste for the rhetoric.

I have to report the confounding news that, upon a repeat effort with The Draughtsman's Contract, I believe I liked it. I've had a few days to think about why I liked it, and I'm still not entirely sure, but I do think I admire the film. Everything I wrote above still stands, but that's OK so long as I can be aware of contradictions in my own thought & practice here, and reconcile as many of them as I can.

So here we have a Baroque Blow-Up, and one that happens to deal with subjects that orbit my own range of interests: political intrigue (on a small scale), coded images and signs, the consideration of an historical 'visual regime.' But I imagine that a film with these attractive totems could still disinterest me, even repulse me; why did this film (on this viewing at least) win me over, bring me in? The tableau presentation, with its occasional flatness and frontality (or, extended into a long space, its 'High Renaissance' perspectivalism) was very admirable in its sheer forthrightness; what I mean by 'forthrightness' is that Greenaway seems to want to provide us with thought-provoking images, images upon which we reflect (and simply for their conceptual content), but he makes little effort to make the image itself attractive, 'enveloping,' intriguing to the emotions as well as the eye. If I can anthropomorphize a little here, they're the sort of images that, if you met them walking down the street, would intensely invite you to coffee and rigorous philosophical conversation rather than to alcoholic revelry and a roll in the hay. This sort of image-making has occurred in the work of several other filmmakers I've been interested in lately (including Derek Jarman--hmm, I wonder what Jarman and Greenaway thought of one another?) ... and of course each artist has his own variant: Jarman's cinema seems to be an intellectual conversation about the erotic & political qualities of rolling in the hay, for instance ... and anyway, to be clear, I'm not making good/bad binaries between which sort of anthropomorphic path is best ...

I do like Greenaway's willingness to make his late 17th century manor lived in without resorting to dystopic prurience (as in some 'edgy' historical films--like Philip Kaufman's execrable Quills). I like that the scenes are (yes) 'sequentialized' without a strong dramatic build-up (though I'm afraid I'm less blown away by this simple and quite palatable fact than Greenaway would presumably like for me to be...). But what else? Why else would I actually like this film, even if only moderately? Why exactly did I hate it so much before? Could it be that Greenaway is, in a limited way, right? That my younger self, much more attuned to the cinema as "the movies," was fundamentally challenged by his work? If that is the case--if--then wouldn't it mean that Greenaway is really only cinematically challenging for those who aren't already on his general level with regard to cultural capital? Who really is his audience, and if I decide to see the films and join with that projected audience, how do I fit into it?

A little wary still, I suspect I won't be able to figure these questions out until I've seen a few more of Greenaway's films. Any recommendations for second & third efforts?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Every Now and Then

Sometimes there are major films which escape the cinephile, major films by major directors (artists whom the cinephile loves), and for whatever reasons, you have to shrug and admit that you have not seen this by-all-accounts masterpiece. Perhaps, as in my case, you simply hold off for the big screen (and then, um, ineptly miss that big-screen chance when it comes to you), and on the few occasions when your resolve crumbles and you decide you'll watch it on DVD, you find that it's perennially checked-out at the video store. You put off seeing it because you're more and more embarrassed that you haven't seen it. Several friends count it as one of their very favorite films. And when in this particular case one buddy, Girish, is in town and mentions one such film as his all-time favorite, I knew the stars were aligned when my video store finally had the damned DVD in stock. I compromised by not waiting for a print to come back to New York, as I wanted, but here I took the first glimpse (and not to be a final one), and all circumstances considered nothing could possibly be improved, and I was offered more things than I can count ...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Few Things

Injustice: Workingman's Death leaves NYC theaters after only a week, and I--who have wanted badly to see this film for months--missed it! I had counted on at least two weeks at the Cinema Village here, it seemed only customary for an interesting documentary ...

Reparation: At least I'll see some New York Underground Film Festival stuff this weekend. The new James Fotopoulos? Some Kluge? OK, we're go!

Point to Ponder: I can't claim to have read every section of Deleuze's Cinema books, but neither my memory nor the glossaries indicate that he ever mentioned Albert Kahn, who was a wealthy banker-philanthropist who had a project known as the Archives de la Planète. (In this it's obvious to be reminded of another figure from this time period, Aby Warburg, who fascinates me--the wealthy German art and cultural historian whose lifelong dream was to create a Mnemosyne Atlas [and Warburg's example was in turn a partial inspiration for the younger Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project].) At any rate, apparently this Archive is a treasure trove of unedited 'documentary' or 'actuality' material (film strips, autochromes) that Kahn and his employees/associates put together over several decades at the beginning of the twentieth century. I have not seen any of these films myself, of course--though they have been written about in English by film scholar Paula Amad (U of Iowa), Sam Rohdie, and Teresa Castro (I haven't read all these sources yet). What is interesting about Kahn, and the reason why I mention Deleuze, is that Kahn's intellectual mentor and friend was Henri Bergson, who of course is so important to Deleuze's work on cinema. Deleuze, as has been noted by a filmmaker whose work I first sampled not long ago, is a cinephile, he likes good cinema, which is why his books deal mainly with canonical figures and titles--but more than this, if Deleuze is a cinephile in the sense Moullet suggests, perhaps this explains why Deleuze can't be bothered to deal with a mere 'atlas' of footage, as Kahn has accumulated, since it isn't The Cinema, it isn't Griffith-De Mille-Gance, nor Renoir-Bresson-Tati, nor Ford-Hawks-Preminger, nor Mizoguchi-Kurosawa-Ozu, nor Cassavetes, nor Pialat, nor Syberberg.

That is to say, there may be a lot of 'Deleuzian' work to be done on orphan films, 'incomplete' films and fringe films of all kinds ... and the Vogel Call will eventually be complemented by the Deleuze Call.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Eight Arms and a Head (an Octopus), or, Nine Films

The Whitney Biennial had a great series of nine films on Saturday, programmed by one Chris Williams. One of the great discoveries was Jean Painlevé's Les Amours de la pieuvre (made with Geneviève Hamon in 1965). I had expected this to be a "lesser effort" from Painlevé, whose 1930s films L'Hippocampe and Hyas et stenoriques occupy vaunted if hazy positions in my memory. This 1965 thing must be a mere Cousteau sort of rip-off, certainly Painlevé had abandoned all efforts for the avant-garde by this time, right?

How wrong I was! This is at least as good as those '30s films I've seen. Gorgeous color, amazing scientific cinematography (including images of octopus embryos sped up 14,000x), Painlevé's inimitable fusion of clever low-key humor with almost reverent wonderment.

To me the program's quality had a pattern--the first four films were of increasing quality (or at least gave me increasing amounts of cinematic pleasure), and the next four films were a repetition of this trend, and the ninth film, suggesting a real pattern, was "merely OK" in comparison to the other films in the program, as were films #1 and #5. This ninth film was Morgan Fisher's Picture and Sound Rushes ('73), and to be honest, it seemed like an interesting work, but you see, the eighth film in the program (and surely the "head" in this film-program-octopus) was Jean Rouch's Les Maîtres fous ('55), the only film I'd actually seen prior to this program (well, I probably saw the Ivens before, too, but without checking my film logs I'm not 100% sure). And Les Maîtres fous doesn't get any easier the second time around: my body grew increasingly tense as each minute went by, my brain was defeated by a vision on Rouch's part that was just too overwhelming, which remained tantalizingly visible on the far side of my own intellectual powers.

The program began with Otto Mühl's Grimuid, a fine film, but if I never saw it again I don't know that I'd feel too much regret. (Given that the second part of Chris Williams' Whitney programming, in May, also begins with Grimuid, however, I'll probably be seeing it again soon enough!) Joris Ivens' Die Brug (The Bridge) followed--Ivens made my single favorite film of all time, A Tale of the Wind ('88), so absolutely anything by him is of interest to me. But his poetry (as opposed to the filmic appeal of his curiosity, his willingness to tinker with images and his desire to see and to learn) doesn't really develop into something special very early in his career, by my estimation--it comes in parts and passages, but my limited knowledge of the Ivens corpus doesn't reveal anything like Pour le mistral ('65) in his earlier, more montage-driven work. A good film, though.

Harun Farocki's Ein Bild (An Image), however, is a sort of film that I love--forthright but complex, clear if not exactly obvious. In what would make a nice companion piece to his Still Life ('89?), Farocki films a photo shoot for the German Playboy, and the resultant dialectic between flatness/artificiality and depth/reality is really interesting. The first shot of the film is indicative of the way Farocki draws a lot out of a few unforced gestures (his observant and "passive" kino-eye has few peers in the cinema--Kiarostami comes to mind). We see a shot of a studio, the back wall of which is painted to look like a beach and an open blue sea. A few men, who we shall see constructing a set for a photo shoot over the course of the next few minutes, walk through the gulf of space between the 'artificial' space of the painted sea and the point of the camera's lens, underscoring through their movement the divide between a presented image and an actual (or lived) space, something that Farocki riffs on for the next twenty or so minutes.

What can follow something like Farocki's dry, charming, potentially upsetting statement and not suffer for it? Well, we can always move into sublime flicker cinema, that is to say, Peter Kubelka's Arnulf Rainer (1958-60). This was my first film by the renowned filmmaker--which I'm a little sheepish to admit, but very glad that I can finally have behind me. It's all about the frame, here, and the optical play between our gaze and the black-or-white screen, where intense pockets of activity start to form during the really strong flicker-passages, and what you "see" in the frame depends on where and how intensely you are looking.

So I figured the films couldn't keep getting better at this point, and David Lamelas' wry, interesting film A Study of Inner and Outer Space ('69) simply didn't grab me: I may be forgoing its merits, but in this ambitious film program, its role was really to let me catch my breath from Arnulf Rainer.

Ténériffe (Yves Allégret and Eli Lotar, 1932), number six on the program before we got to the octopi, the possessed, and finally Morgan Fisher, may or may not have been a better film, but I was ready to appreciate it more. I feel like I've seen an Allégret film or two in the past--did he do one of the Josephine Baker vehicles? Anyway, it's a poetic documentary (shown without subtitles). Nicole Brenez has mentioned Lotar as a 'martyr and/or sacrificial victim of the industrial cinema'; that's all I know about him. Time for research. And so, in a sense, this is one of the things that made this program worthwhile for me--I came and I got something substantial out of it, but with each step I take on the trail towards True Cinephilic Nirvana, I can only see that the end of the road is one step farther than I had previously imagined ...