Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nail Clippers

It's probably best to preface any pithy commentary on Jean-Claude Carrière's The Nail Clippers with a link to David Cairns' own pitch-perfect (and pithy) write-up on the same, a few years back.  What I like about this film, in addition to the obvious pleasures of its Phantom of Liberty-style, vignette surrealism, is the spareness of space - the soundtrack picking up the emptiness behind a closet door or an empty drawer.

Both Sides Now

“Hawks' films have shown a remarkable consistency (which is also a tedious monotony) throughout his long career, with the paradoxical result that though his films are full of American cliché they are also identifiable as the work of an auteur. He has all the insidious convenience of typicality; his individuality is in his flawless typicality. In his perfection, there is, undoubtedly, an authentic sophistication – if that implies that he has made decisions about the importance of human moods and meanings. Yet, if sophistication means humanity, variety and subtlety, then his films are generally simpler and more facile than their nearest comparisons. Thus his Scarface is simpler than Wellman's Public Enemy, his A Girl in Every Port is a sardonic counterpoint to Tay Garnett's Her Man, his 'satires' are innocuous compared to Wellman's A Star Is Born, his Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is eclipsed by Wilder's Some Like It Hot. But if 'sophistication' means a sardonic attitude to humanity, a deadpan humour which, under the pretext of toughly controlling emotion, also all but denies it, then the very limitations of his films enable these tensions to emerge more sharply.” (Durgnat, Films & Feelings, p. 82)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recently Seen

The Shadow Box (Paul Newman, 1980) - The videotape material seems a little undercooked, simply "there," when it could have been developed into something with more thematic/aesthetic resonance, à la Egoyan.  But an intriguing enough effort, because it tries to do a lot with a little - noticeably finite actors and sets, a little stagebound, but it looks like someone was at least paying attention to the colors of props and costumes, for example.  (Thanks to M. for supplying me with a copy a few years back ...)

Blues in the Night (Anatole Litvak, 1941) - Depression-era bonhomie along with a pair of shots that encapsulate an entire century of white commercial popularization of black music in America.

From Paris with Love (Pierre Morel, 2010) - These days Travolta, like Jimmy Fallon, needs roles that allow one to laugh at him in order to stay bearable onscreen.  From there, a film that uses him well will build off of the humor of the premise itself, like From Paris with Love does - making Travolta a brash hick with a scarf way too fashionable for his station.  The film, like Taken, has a million things wrong with it ... but the EuropaCorp formula is depressingly efficient at hitting certain pleasure buttons.  I cannot lie.  Still, as much as I love the Transporter movies (and District B13) I wonder if the EuropaCorp stable has an artiste, making masterpieces - like MilkyWay has main man Johnnie To producing superb film after superb film (whether modest or grand in scale).  Luc Besson, whose work I do find fairly enjoyable and somewhat interesting, doesn't cut it by comparison.  Anyone else?  I'm all ears since I've basically mentioned at least half of the EuropaCorp films I've even seen ...

Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011) - My ambiguous feelings toward this film can, in many ways, be summed up in how the cinematography captures the actors' blemishes and imperfections.  I appreciate the impulse to bare the body - not in terms of nudity, but rather as a matter of the body as a "machine" that excretes, sweats, wrinkles, etc.  But the idea seems to go nowhere; it's not motivated by aesthetics, nor politics (god forbid an amalgam of both).  Really this just summarizes my disappointment with the vast majority of the whole Apatow school of comedy.  It's not that I don't value the abstract goals - "deep" gross-out comedy - it's that Apatow (whether he's a writer, director, or producer) seems to mostly get behind projects that just pale in comparison to the Real Thing ...

The Harvest (David Marconi, 1992) - I saw this mentioned by a facebook friend a while back (h/t NDC), and out of curiosity I checked it out.  The 1990s were a really rich time for a particular type of cinema that almost nobody talks about - low-budget films that may be "independent" or "genre" or a little of both, that may have enjoyed a stronger life on cable than in theaters.  The qualities of The Harvest include its slightly ingenious plot construction, which is intelligent - there's more New Rose Hotel here (inviting the mindfuck, thematizing it, developing it) than there is Vanilla Sky (taming it, killing it, burying and disavowing it).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"I Buy Forever"

I took another look at the great film Docteur Chance (F.J. Ossang, 1997) the other day, for the first time in a few years.  This time I felt the urge to read it - very faintly - as an allegory of capitalism.  Here: the re-emergence of certain techniques of 1920s French avant-narrative, filtered through punk, and emplotted within a story about living with copious resources ... all on the precipice of its own destruction.  There's even a scene where Angstel goes to the docks, the substrate, the big boxes (yes, those big boxes Noel Burch and Allan Sekula made their movie about, which I've yet to see).  "No future," like the Sex Pistols say.


Friday, May 06, 2011