Monday, November 30, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Image of the Day

I have found a photograph that gives me a new goal in life. This is something that I want to achieve when I'm an old man with a beard. (It's Edward Gorey.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Margin Notes on Culture

Some say that the profound appreciation of beauty is one of the only true good things we ever experience in life and that, fleeting but real, it makes life otherwise bearable. This seems a workable maxim, insofar as who would contest that taste is important to those who say it is important? One should not spend too much time worrying about proper taste, however. This is one of the problems with "seriousness" and its stranglehold upon culture (kulchur?). Lightness, leisure, unstrained, ideally—should anyone doubt that there is a problem when we have to work very hard, harder than anything else, to attain "culture" ... and we bear the visible marks of our hard work, on top of that? Funnily enough is in bad taste to feel more than mild or passing anxiety about "good taste." The anxiety may be a necessary part of the learning process but one must work to neutralize it, rise above it, in order to actually live well, and to appreciate beauty most appropriately. (Now the question arises as to what appreciation of beauty is "most appropriate" ...)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Art of Persuasion

Wild River
(Elia Kazan, 1960): a film about statecraft as the articulation of bureaucracy, a matter of public relations and, once we get down to it, persuasion. Lippmann-like technocracy comes up against the mess of implementation. It's an interesting film, to me, for its topic alone; but the treatment, too, is interesting. The surveilled lands, the problem of looking out, the space of a river island and visibility on the hill, amidst corn and weed ...

Image of the Day

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Animal Love

One of the oddest eddies of State Fair (Henry King, 1933) is a passage where Will Rogers' giant pig Blue Boy locks eyes with a prize sow, camera lingering in medium close-up on presumably aroused swine.

VHS Decay

From the ending of Decision at Sundown (Budd Boetticher, 1957)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Unsettlingly, I have discovered a film blog whose author also signs posts 'ZC,' and whose links list overlaps some with mine (how did I not take note of this blog before?), and who even sort of "scooped" me on a Night Mail comment by a year and ten days: compare, my doppelganger's and mine. There is even a long post on Dumb and Dumber, which is something that I would love to one day do. I don't know if the author of this blog, Precious Bodily Fluids, has ever noticed my existence, but here on out I shall traverse the blogosphere with a mild, but augmented, sense of unease ...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Say It Again, Sam

Unfortunate metonymic cliches in film writing -

- Gorki on the "kingdom of shadows" (quoted in 97.6% of all pieces on cinema's origins, as well as in 29.0% of all books of film theory).

- Brakhage on the child who sees grass but does not know "green" (mentioned in 94.2% of texts that ever mention Brakhage).

Other suggestions welcomed ...

(NB: All calculations strictly tentative and provisional, to say nothing of impressionistic and highly questionable.)

The Early Work of the Dead

'Primitive' flickers.

"What we call the twentieth century ended in 1915. Those artists who survived the collapse of civilization at that point completed the work they had planned before then, when they looked forward to a century of completely different character. Joyce wrote his Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, both implicit in the nineteenth-century idea of literature. Proust, aware that tanks were crawling like monsters out of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne over the poplar-lined road to Illiers, completed his account of the world which the war obliterated as the brimstome Sodom.

"What the war blighted was a renaissance as brilliant as any in history which we can only know by the survivors and by the early work of the dead—the Alain-Fourniers (Battle of the Meuse, 1914), Sant' Elias (Monfalcone, 1914), Apollinaires (1918), Gaudiers."
—Guy Davenport, "The Pound Vortex"


The archaic, in aesthetics, provides a wellspring. The very fertile period of the flowering of the late 19th century (which existed, depending on how you slice it, up until 1913 or 1914; also the same time as the emergence of the feature film), when cinema was new, found one kind of reimagination in the flicker films. "Failures" they were, perhaps, but transfixing and alluring failures more durable than ninety-nine out of a hundred cinematic "successes," I'd say. The history of audiovisual art & communication is seasoned liberally with attempts to reach a neutralization, a ground zero or originary moment, in the very medium that allows an image to come into presence. Always trying to go back home, or to revisit the old family's pantry, to scrape away layers of paint and get at the hardwood. Flicker films tried it; Rossellini tried it; television tried it (we will control the horizontal, we will control the vertical); I think what we see in instances of people or movements or moments conceiving of a productive erasure (or call it whatever) is that the pathways one might have meant to get to but didn't. Time passed, last year's paths got overgrown, and now one searches for them. Depending on one's philosophical outlook, and how far one travels, we could say that one looks for homeland, or a second chance, or simply a new adventure.

This is interesting to me because it crystallizes perfectly my own intellectual state. But whether I am intrigued by the aptness or the comparison or construct the comparison merely to correspond to my intellect still escapes me ...


Grids / Grids 2. The reconstitution of time by space: the history of art as the emplotment of images in succession as though history itself were a matter of cinema. To perceive a historical progression of forms presents itself as a problem to be constructed through space. Bureaucracy would aim to pulverize this impulse, eliminate the perceptual pathways for conceiving of these nodes.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pears, Plums, Tomatoes

Alone. Life wastes Hans Epp (the merchant of four seasons). He, like Heidegger, goes for walks a lot, and thinks. Like Visconti with the aristocracy, Fassbinder was a filmmaker with a great understanding toward the (his) petit bourgeoisie. Manny Farber suggested that physical discomfort is at the core of RWF's work; and indeed there are so many moments where his characters simply fall, utterly exhausted, meeting the ground as though it were their mother's womb.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ley Lines

... or, cranks on the porch ...
... or, any resistant individualism's tragic neutralization into farce ...

"Entirely apart from any willingness to preach history according to the ideas of the Berlin party, or to turn the class room into a hall of propaganda, the whole method of this German and American higher education was, is, evil, a perversion.

"It is evil because it holds up an ideal of 'scholarship,' not an ideal of humanity. It says in effect: you are to acquire knowledge in order that knowledge may be acquired. Metaphorically, you are to build up a dam'd and useless pyramid which will be no use to you or to anyone else, but which will serve as a 'monument.' To this end you are to sacrifice your mind and vitality.

"The system has fought tooth and nail against the humanist belief that a man acquires knowledge in order that he may be a more complete man, a finer individual, a fuller, more able, more interesting companion for other men.

"Knowledge as the adornment of the mind, the enrichment of the personality, has been cried down in every educational establishment where the Germano-American 'university' ideal has reached. The student as the bondslave of his subject, the gelded ant, the compiler of data, has been preached as a summum bonum.

"This is the bone of the mastadon ...

... this is the symptom of the disease; it is all one with the idea that the man is the slave of the State, the 'unit,' the piece of the machine." (Ezra Pound, "Provincialism the Enemy," 1917)


"Clausewitz, at the beginning of his history of the campaign of 1815, gives this summary of his method: “In every strategical critique, the essential thing is to put oneself exactly in the position of the actors; it is true that this is often very difficult.” The difficult thing is to know “all the circumstances in which the actors find themselves” at a given moment, in order to be in position to judge soundly the series of their choices in the conduct of their war: how they accomplished what they did and what they might have been able to do differently. So, above all, it is necessary to know what they wanted and, of course, what they believed; without forgetting what they were ignorant of. And what they were ignorant of was not only the result still to come of their own operations colliding with the operations that were opposed to them, but also much of what was even then making its weight felt against them, in the disposition or strength of the enemy camp — which, however, remained hidden from them. And basically they did not know the exact value they should place on their own forces, until these forces could make their value known precisely at the moment of their employment — whose issue, moreover, sometimes changes that value just as much as it tests it." (Guy Debord, Panegyric)


"This is von Clausewitz shit: total fucking war!" (Gerard Butler's character in Law Abiding Citizen)
"This is Sparta!" (Gerard Butler's character in 300)


"Thus it does not seem that so-called nationalisation of property leads to ground rent and surplus value being effectively nationalised, i.e. belonging to the whole people. There is no essential difference, except that the bourgeoisie is no longer the exploiting class that receives the surplus value, but it is the bureaucracy which is granted this honour. Naville identifies nationalised property with socialist property, which seems to us neither too scientific, nor too Marxist." (Bruno Rizzi, The Bureaucratization of the World)


"Nothing 'matters' until some fool starts resorting to force. To prevent that initial insanity is the goal, and always has been, of intelligent political effort."
(Pound, ibid.)