Monday, 25 May 2009


Let The Right One In: Or How A Director Can Film Children As If They Were Emo Gangsters And Hope To Be Called Sensitive.

In one of the first scenes, we see a man in long shot knock another man unconscious, then hang him upside down from a tree, then grab a knife to slit his victim's throat, at which point he steps in front of the camera to hide the act: the director is being "sensitive" about violence...
Except he cuts from that shot to a close-up of the blood trickling down into a bottle, with sound effects to boot. Giving cheap blood thrills while pretending to be discreet about it.

I saw the film just after having read an article by Daney in La Maison Cinema et Le Monde in which he explores how the dividing line between progressive (seen in his argument as proposing a positive proleterian class heroism) and immoral cinema runs through, and not between, "industry" and "art" cinema (films d'auteurs). It was not, therefore, too much of a surprise to find that the film this vampire blood-porn fest reminded me of the most was the other film to have made me so angry recently: Watchmen. Same hypocritical attitude to violence, same superficial disdain for human emotions passing off as depth, same sickly fascination for power, which here means the power to slaughter...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Day of the Dead

The french magazine Panic was a key stage for my film education, and one to which I still go back now. It was a bimonthly magazine that only ran 5 issues, all of which contain great articles. From the beginning, it was daunting but also exciting: in the 1st issue, an interview of Olivier Assayas in which he discusses the need to fundamentally rethink the established standards of film criticism (a few points which I remember vividly: there has been as much time elapsed between us and the Nouvelle Vague as between the Nouvelle Vague and silent cinema, from which the film grammar we inherit was established; his belief that the most interesting writing about cinema is that written by filmmakers).
Only recently was I able to approach, with more contextual information, the articles of one of the contributors. The articles were impassioned, rigorous, daunting, fiercely political, full of references, only 1/20th of which I understood (now, only about 1/10th). The writer was of course Nicole Brenez.
One of the articles, A Propos de Nice or the Extremely Necessary, Permanent Invention of the Cinematic Pamphet, has been reprinted at Rouge, but another one, The Treatment of the Lumpenproletariat by Avant-Garde Cinema, has as far as I know not. I will post on it more completely when I get back home (where my magazine is), but for the moment let me post one of the videos she recommended, which I've been watching often over the last few weeks: Afrika Shox.
(I don't yet know how to embed a youtube video)
It could be part of her urban pamphlet article as well, since its project corresponds almost exactly to what she describes:
It "shows how social injustice is inscribed within flesh itself, on walls, within the very fabric of urban organisation, in the concrete occupation of space [...]. It describes injustice’s physical dimension, reconstitutes its symbolic function, demonstrates its violence".
Maybe more on this videos in days to come.

Friday, 15 May 2009

China Girl

Testing: Post 1.
Have just finished going through a Ferrara marathon in order to read Nicole Brenez's book (which was as superb as everyone said). Previously, I had seen only New Rose Hotel (still my favorite) and Bad Lt (with the Driller Killer and The Funeral, the one I liked least).
China Girl I was excited about. The film is obviously a pamphlet against racism. The first level of reading is introduced in the first few minutes: the two big brothers and their racist friends, the criminal organisations that meet above the characters' social levels... Everything is put in place to install a regime of equivalence.
But the film goes beyond that by insuring that this simplistic reading is installed so early and obviously: now that this point has been made, the film will be about not only proving how baseless the prejudices are, but opposing two different versions of equivalence. Brenez is right to point out that the two lovers are one of the only versions of pure good in Ferrara's cinema: to the equivalence of the criminal organizations, Ferrara contrasts the equivalence of their innocence, the equivalence of what both cultures can produce that is beautiful (they teach each other how to say "I love you" in their respective languages, for example). The hurlement de rage of the film is therefore not only to declare that the two cultures have their meeting grounds, but to affirm that those can be love as well as crime. It is also despair at the final destruction of this, the only valid utopia of relating to the other.
(Still struggling with how to integrate images)