Saturday, 10 November 2012
Monday, 1 October 2012
"Il ne pouvait pas être question de guerre: ces gens étaient des hors-la-loi. Les hors-la-loi, on ne leur fait pas la guerre, on les extermine."
"Travelling around Italy in the 1950s, I kept discovering these aberrant phenomena—Party branches in the South electing Jehovah’s Witnesses as Party secretaries, and so on; people who were thinking about modern problems, but not in the terms that we were used to. Second, particularly after 1956, it expressed a general dissatisfaction with the simplified version we had of the development of working-class popular movements. In Primitive Rebels, I was very far from critical of the standard reading—on the contrary, I pointed out that these other movements would not get anywhere unless they sooner or later adopted the modern vocabulary and institutions. But, nonetheless, it became clear to me that it wasn’t enough simply to neglect these other phenomena, to say that we know how all these things operate. I produced a series of illustrations, case studies, of this kind, and said, ‘these don’t fit’. It led me to think that, even before the invention of modern political vocabulary, methods and institutions, there were ways in which people practised politics that encompassed basic ideas about social relations—not least between the powerful and the weak, rulers and ruled—which had a certain logic and fitted together."
"It is time the rich remembered to fear the poor."
Eric Hobsbawm (in an address at some forum that used to be on youtube).
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
If it's so hard to make up one's mind once and for all about Hara Kazuo, it might be because the radical honesty of his films always seems to run along two apparently mutually exclusive lines: on the one hand, his honesty is complete, including honesty about the unpleasantness entailed by his being present to shoot the material; on the other, one is never quite rid of the suspicion that this honesty is used as a cop-out to avoid questioning said unpleasant issues ("How can you blame me for it, since I'm showing everything upfront!?"). In other words, one is never quite sure whether it truly is a radical honesty, or a truly dishonest radicality: for all the discomfort his films provoke, how much of it stems from the audience's unease with being confronted with the uncanny, unfamiliar, and often shocking images of whatever repressed social phenomenon Hara is observing? And how much stems from principled rejection of the any-means-necessary approach Hara has to his material, which often seems to entail brutality to those being filmed at the same time as it does brutality to the viewer?
Saturday, 1 September 2012
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Sunday, 8 April 2012
In the meantime, here are the blurbs that I wrote for Magdalen Film Society last term. I will post those for the last term once the films have actually been shown, and then I do intend to post at least a few thoughts on film programming as an activity, as I had promised I would. Anyway, without further ado:
An Affair to Remember
For anyone who still thinks that the 1950s were a shallow decade of conformism for Hollywood, An Affair to Remember, a film of almost unsurpassed romanticism, is also a supreme example of radical genre-mixing. As such, it manages the feat of being both one of the greatest romantic comedies ever, and one of the greatest melodramas ever.
What makes it so simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching is the complete mastery with which Leo McCarey, still a criminally under-rated director, treats this tale of a man and a woman, soon to be married to others, who fall in love and promise to break off their respective engagements and meet again in six months at the top of the Empire State Building. A remake of his own Love Affair, it is a study in what brings two people together or keeps them apart. McCarey uses cinema-scope with a rare, self-effacing brilliance, modulating the spaces that his characters share and taking the time to watch them move from guarded flirting to deep attraction. Resting on the finely tuned interaction between a womanizing Cary Grant whose games of seduction give way to genuine commitment, and a quietly strong Deborah Kerr who refuses happiness on terms other than her own, the film finds its soul in the slow process of falling in love. When the two finally accept their attraction, in a scene whose gentleness is the true heart of the film, the result is an unassuming sincerity without parallel in the history of cinema.
An American in Paris
While the musical is not as fashionable today as film noir among film buffs, it is a genre that helped define Hollywood and has given it as many masterworks as any other genre. An American in Paris, one of the pinnacles of Gene Kelly and director Vincente Minnelli's careers, is also one of the miracles of the genre, defined by the constant tension between the director and the star's personalities.
The film, one of the better versions of Europe as a fantasy of America that have always populated Hollywood, follows the tribulations of Jerry, the eponymous painter who lives in Paris for inspiration, when he falls in love with a woman who turns out to be engaged to one of his friends. From the very beginning, which sees Jerry waking up in his one-room appartment in an elaborate choreography which sees every-day movements (getting out of bed, preparing a cup of coffee) casually infused with a rhythm and musicality that sets the whole world in motion, it is clear that the film's mood is wildly infectious. But what makes it truly distinctive is the final ballet, where Minnelli's bitter-sweet vision of love finds its true expression. As Jerry imagines himself, to Gershwin's score, running through a stylized Paris straight out of the great paintings he loves, the film creates Hollywood's answer to The Red Shoes, an explosion of color and music that radically reconfigures the film and bears up to the comparison with Michael Powell's masterwork. There is no higher praise.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
One of the cult slasher hits of the eighties, A Nightmare on Elm Street belongs squarely to that golden generation of films which, with Halloween as the example, claimed the tradition of Psycho as its own and brought it where it has stayed ever since : in the realm of the pulp, trashy, and endlessly inventive shocker.
The film, which features Johnny Depp in one of his first performances, uses all the well-worn tricks of the trade : it-was-all-a-dream sequence, teen-agers getting killed after sex, references to The Exorcist and The Shining, fear of female sexuality, embodied in the iconic image of the claws coming out from between the bathing heroine's legs...Yet it is clear that Wes Craven, with his absurdist sense of humor, had already understood most of what cinema has been telling us since. With the determination of those with no money but a story to tell, he walks the audience through the teenage version of the american dream and transforms all of its images, from the high school hall to the suburban home, into haunting visions of horror. Twenty-five years before Inception, the film invents the lethal dream, tells us that our world is a nightmare, that nightmares are real, and that we get lost in between. And thus, in the most unlikely way, one of the great pulp masterworks of B horror film-making joins paths with W.B.Yeats: in dreams begins responsibility.