The grey suit in NXNW [1959/2017)


After many long years.

I finally got a decent suit.

But the pinnacle is still Cary Grant in North by Northwest.

Perhaps more important than Dorothy’s slippers.

The grey suit.

Gray?  Grey.

Because Archibald Leach (Grant’s real name) was from Bristol.


The debate rages on.

Was it Norton & Sons (Savile Row) or Quintino (Beverly Hills)?

And this is a very important matter.

Basis in fact.

Innocent lives are at stake here.

Vanity Fair (at least they employed Tosches for a time) contends it was a British suit.

But The Independent counters that it was an American (Beverly Hills) tailor.

My first thought is always The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (novel 1955, film 1956).


Something in the air.





Whatever you do, don’t buy a property at 666 5th Avenue.

Mr. Kushner made that mistake.

Can you change an address?

Can we inch the building over a bit?

666 1/2?

But finally, that eternal quote of Mike Ruppert:

“The CIA is Wall Street.  Wall Street is the CIA.”

What could all this mean?

What could ANY of this mean?

It’s well-known.

But the real danger is Finnegans Wake.

Is it unpredictability?

The real danger is changing stripes.




A mask.

My daily trousers are sweatpants.

And then we must bring in Erik Satie.

As dangerous (harmless) a man as ever lived.

The “Velvet Gentleman”.

Seven gray velvet suits.  All identical.  One for each day of the week.

A revolution in simplicity.

But there are many, many hours of piano music to wade through.

Through which.

It’s not just the Gymnopédies.

Or even the Gnossiennes.


It’s a veritable Voynich manuscript of eccentricity.




But with Magritte we got the grey bowler.

And Max Ernst:  “The hat makes the man.”

But did he say it in English?

Not bloody likely!

And so rail-thin Cary Grant, almost certainly homosexual, looks stunning…dapper…a paragon of class in North by Northwest.

And it is a rare time where I (and many other men) say:  “Wow…I want that business suit!”

Because I didn’t grow up rich.

And it took me till age 40 to get a passable sack.

Brooks Brothers was expensive.

Still is.

I’m low-rent.


A conundrum.

I don’t want to sell oil.

I’m a city boy.

They won’t take me on the farm.

So what am I?

Do I ride around on a horse?

Do I spit tobacco into a cuspidor?

[not anymore]

We must go away.  To come back.  And see for the first time.

What was Jia Zhangke talking about?

Or from?

The I Ching?

Or some Zen text?





We are drawn to the suit.

The breezy ease with which Cary Grant negotiates New York sidewalk traffic.

Every remark quick.

Never at a loss for words.

And the characters all pay attention.

From Martin Landau to Eva Marie Saint:  menswear.

Three buttons.

[a detail I missed…too late]

Buttons on cuffs.



The most remarkable aspect, though, might be the “grey suit with grey tie” effect.

I mean, “what the fuck”?!?

It is slightly “off”.

Not the color-matching.

That’s fine.

But the concept.

Or this hypothetical exchange:

“What’s your favorite color?”



“Yeah, I don’t know…I just like gray.”

“What about it do you like?”

“I don’t know…it’s sorta mysterious?”

“Ok…but, I mean, it seems sorta drab, don’t you think?”

“Well, I’m not in the market for a gray bikini…”


There’s the gender.


Do men fancy grey?

Is it one of the colors they’ve been “given”?

And women.

Do they really fancy pink?

I suppose some diabolical seamstress has plotted the complementary colors of all the world’s hetero couples.

Grey and pink.

Pink and green.

Orange and blue.

Red and green.

Purple and yellow.

Ad absurdum.

All I can say is this.

I feel spectacular in my new gray suit.

I’m a little closer to Daniel Craig, though mostly in the Cary Grant body type.

Or, put differently, I’m an extremely-poor-man’s Daniel Craig 🙂

I, too, would look scrawny next to James Bond.

Which segues nicely into the 007 franchise.


Whether in Jamaica or parts unknown.

The sartorial fastidiousness would play a major role in framing Bond as “not just another guy”.


An eye for detail.


And personality, though understated.

The grey suit.

It the biggest weapon in my fashion arsenal (as of today).

And thus we turn towards commerce.

Another run, perhaps, of job searching.

Selling myself.

But at a certain point you just gotta say, “Fuck it!”

I’m a cool person.

I ain’t out to hurt nobody.

I read books.

Big fucking books.

About math and shit like that.

I’m a nerd to the nth power.

I know that.

And I’m fine with that.

Because I see the value in that.

So now I may have to bludgeon the HR receptors with a whole new level of qualifications.

Can I do it?

Can I be a lawyer?

Can I be a PhD?

[notably, perhaps, in advertising]

And beyond.

Because life has led me to this impasse.

We worry about bread on the table.

And some milk to stay healthy.

Heat in the winter.

Cooling in the summer.

Most of all…in all this mess of writing…I am thankful.

Thankful for a chance.  A chance to do the right things.

And thankful for family.  Thankful for time.

Thankful for intuition.

And thankful for failure.

Have your cake.  Or eat it.

Thank you, my friends…for your support.

I am happy today.  Hard day, as always.

And I pray the good happenings for each of you…in your lives…


Netflix fail [2017)

This is not a film review.

This is many film reviews.

Or rather, this is a review of Netflix, Inc.

Which, at the present time, is wasting your monthly fees (and mine) on subpar programming.

In the action genre:

-Silver Streak (almost good, but ultimately unwatchable)

-Barbarella (total bollocks…just like its watery “activist” star Jane Fonda)

-Good Guys Wear Black (sorry Chuck Norris, but this film sucks)

-Robinson Crusoe On Mars (sadly, no)

-Young Tiger/Rumble in Hong Kong (schlock by any other name…is still schlock)

-Return to the 36th Chamber (the Shaw Brothers are immensely overrated)

-Invincible Shaolin (ditto…crap)

-Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman (epically unwatchable)

Yes, dear friends, I am a tough critic.

But this is to balance out all the things I call “masterpieces”.

When I say it, I mean it.


Children and family genre:

-The Nightingale (almost good…but ultimately unwatchable)

-Looney Tunes:  Back in Action (thoroughly bollocks)

-Nancy Drew (a far cry from the Bonita Granville days…and, hence, total crap)

-The Parent Trap (the original…it’s not them, it’s me [in this case]…no verdict)

So generally another genre stuffed with wasted revenue.


-The Fly (not a classic…and not good)

-Out 1 (kudos to Netflix for getting some Jacques Rivette…but N.B. to the programmers…Out 1 is NOT AN HOUR-AND-A-HALF LONG…what the fuck version of the film is this?!?  The real film is 13-HOURS-LONG!  And the shorter version FOUR-HOURS-LONG!  Epic fail, Netflix!)

Comedies (hold on to your hats!):

-Good Old Boys (unwatchable South American fare)

-Opening Night (immensely daft mise-en-scène)

-This Isn’t Funny (the title says it all…and it’s filed under comedy…not good)

-News From Planet Mars (bollocks)

-Zoom (bollocks)

-Fan Girl (bollocks)

-The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (les bollocks)

-Adult Beginners (forgettably-bad)

-Dial a Prayer (nice try, but shite)

-Free the Nipple (I’ve discussed the bollockness of this one elsewhere and I stand by that decision)

-Basic Sanitation, the Movie (less-than-bollocks…rubbish!)

-Len & Company (woeful…horrible)

-A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (quite possibly the worst film ever made)

-Rainbow Time (sad…amateur…not even close to watchable)

-Atomic Falafel (torturously-bad)

-Klappe Cowboy! (hell no)

-Buddies (bizarre…but unwatchable)

-Hirschen (extreme ennui)

-Brahman Naman (pitiful excuse for a motion picture)

-Love Me (maudlin excess to the point of unwatchability)

-Wet Hot American Summer (overrated shite)

-Scrooged (hasn’t aged well)

-The Beaver (can’t age [and decompose] fast enough)

-Say it Isn’t So (it isn’t)

-Tommy Boy (I feel bad insulting this film…but worse watching it)

-Lion Heart (had potential…but it just didn’t cut the Grey Poupon)

-Blind Date (yes…blind me…so I don’t have to watch this piece of shit!)

-St. Vincent (hipster fail)

-Only the Lonely (even John Candy couldn’t save this flick)

-Eisenstein in Guanajuato (almost great…but ultimately not even good)

-Price Check (pretty sure every Parker Posey movie sucks eggs)


Can you stand that much negativity???

Well, obviously I’m a tough critic (to reiterate)…but let’s roll on…through the multitudinous ways that Netflix is wasting your hard-earned cash.


-John & Jane (almost great…ultimately not even good)

-Ukraine is Not a Brothel (pitiful excuse for a film…propaganda should at least be artful)

-Marias:  Faith in Womanhood (it’s not you…it’s me…or maybe it’s you…no verdict)

-kink (the decline of the West…artlessly documented)

-The Land of the Enlightened (not good)

See, that wasn’t so bad?

Moving on…


-Wet Bum (had potential…but ultimately daft…soggy…etc.)

-The Wonders (ugh…)

-No Quiero Dormir Sola (como se dice “unwatchable” in Espanol?)

-It Looks Pretty From a Distance (suicidally-boring…at any distance)

-The Nun (even Pauline Etienne can’t save this one…)

-I.D. (pathetic Indian flick…unimaginative…dire)

-Where the Road Runs Out (no way)

-Hector (almost…but ultimately…no thanks)

-Petting Zoo (ashamed to say this one hails from my city [San Antonio])

-Nymph()maniac Volume 1 (Von Trier is a talentless hack)

-Miss Stevens (bad bad bad)

-Before I Disappear (fucking horrible)

-The Girl in the Book (no)

-Lovelace (almost good…good concept…bad film)

-Chaplin (sacrilegiously-bad)

-Stations of the Cross (intense…and boring…bad combination)

-The Other Sister (are there any OTHER other sisters?  please???)

-In Your Eyes (ugh…dire viewing)

Ok…so we see a lot of money being thrown at bad films there.

And that is just my opinion, of course.

But as bad as Hulu was (and it was bad), I don’t recall ever not being able to find something to watch on Hulu FOR THIS LONG!

Really, Netflix…time to step up your game!


-The Tribe (no)

-Byzantium (even Saoirse Ronan couldn’t save this film)

And now on to my favorite category.


-1001 Grams (yikes…utter shite)

-Belgica (almost…but not…ugh)

-Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (no no no no no)

-Harud (no…for fucksake!)

Ok, so that was quick, right?

That was (let’s count) 73 (!) films which I’ve tried to watch (many in the past week) which have been a total disappointment.

Not one of these did I watch all the way through.

It’s like a French person purchasing a sandwich from an American grocery store.

They take one bite and throw it in the trash.

Come on, Netflix!

Don’t make me cancel your sorry asses!

I don’t even have a category for how bad you’re failing right now as a company.

Fucking pathetic.



Histoire)s[ du cinema 2a

Imitation of life.  Is it normal and logical that the film industry be compared to “the industry of death”???  All stories.  One history.  The cinema substitutes for our gaze a world which harmonizes.  All the stories to come.  All the stories that have been.

Raptors of greed.  Godard begins chapter 2a of his greatest work by telling us that the film industry was first sold to the industry of death.  Early on there were plenty of babies being fed and flowers growing, but where were the bursts of machine gun fire?  Likewise, cinematography could have been invented in color.  Color photography existed, but at the beginning of the 20th century it was decided that black and white would be the technique used to reproduce life on the screen.

Morality was still strong says Godard.  But not for long.  Nevertheless, cinematography began with the colors of mourning:  black and white.

Godard dedicates this episodic chapter first of all to Armand J. Cauliez.  There is scant info on this person, but he seems to have been a writer on film (having authored books on Tati and Renoir).  The other dedicatee is Santiago Álvarez (a Cuban filmmaker).

The historian must be precise.  This is his job.  Cinema was the art of the 20th century, but it was really a 19th century art which was “resolved” in the 20th.  From Oscar Wilde to the Academy’s Oscars…

We see a shot from Pasolini’s Salò and another from Tabu by Murnau and Flaherty.  We see Godard himself as an actor in his own film King Lear and a shot of Jerry Lewis from The Nutty Professor.  Godard seems to be trying to tell his story in order to tell the story of cinema.  We are placed in the milieu which gave birth to not only JLG as a filmmaker, but also to Truffaut, Chabrol, Rivette and Rohmer.

For the historian of literature starts with Homer and progresses to Cervantes and on to Joyce.  Godard seems to be trying to single out the films which are truly foundational to cinema, but he likewise seems to infer that there are very few.  Few at the beginning?  Few of true worth?  Few that have not been lost?

Truly, Godard gives us the recounting of a passion to create.  Film was his only way of completing himself.  We could steep ourselves in the same books as the master…Goethe, etc.  We can trace the art references…Klimt, etc.  Diderot, Baudelaire, Malraux, Truffaut, Edgar Poe, Faulkner, Edgar Ulmer, Howard Hawks…

What is certain is that Godard values the history of cinema over all other histories, “because it projects itself.”  It is a neat trick which he singles out.

The analogy is Jean-Victor Poncelet…an officer in Napoleon’s army in a prison in Moscow.  Poncelet reconstructed the treatise of geometric findings which he had learned from Monge and Carnot:  the properties of projection of figures.  Published in 1822, the general method of the principle of projection in the demonstration utilized by Desargues to understand the properties of the circle on the mystical cones and put to use by Pascal…  Make sense?  In other words, “your breasts are the only that I love.”  Perhaps.

Back to our French prisoner facing a Russian wall…it is the mechanical application of an idea…for projecting figures on a screen…practically, the cinematic projector.

Godard never stopped learning.  He was always a child with his stamps and maps and his universe has always remained vast.  By lamplight, the world is big.  In memory, small…  In reading and studying we find amazing intricacies and ramifications.  Godard’s is truly a mind on fire.

Consider the film Night of the Hunter.  It was the only film which Charles Laughton directed by himself.  Godard relates to the children who float down the river, “singing lullabies to our infinity.”  Some lullabies are joyous while others are horrors. It may depend on the country.

Again with Klimt…and Fred Astaire in Band Wagon.  Cinema is a woman.  We drown in the eyes of movie stars.  And directors are drunk on space and light.

Is that Cyd Charisse?  Again Klimt…and James Dean.  We want to journey…and fill the boredom with joy.  Enjoy.  The children of Marx and Coca-Cola.  We want to enjoy the boredom of our prisons.  We want to pass on our spirits.  It’s all true says Orson Welles.

Ahh, boredom…  We must remember the cautions of Baudelaire.  And remember Bresson…simplicity.  Yes, the aleatory clouds will always be more mysteriously attractive than the richest city or the largest country.

Chaplin behind a camera.  Laurel and Hardy.  We are those of childish mind.  Painted nails.  The fatal beauty of Snow White.  A little poem by Brecht.  We enter Debord territory when pondering the television.  The origin of the world as updated by Duchamp.  The fatal shell. Orbs of obus.  The boring spectacle of immortal sin.  The image which lies.

An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom.  Cinema.  Raise the anchor…this country bores us.

à suivre


Histoire)s[ du cinema 1b

Mary Meerson.  Monika Tegelaar.  John Cassavetes.  Glauber Rocha.  These are the dedicatees in the first two parts of Godard’s eight-part pièce de résistanceThe first, a personage from the Diaghilev days of Paris (and inextricable from the Cinémathèque Française).  The second, a two-time film producer who helped Raoul Ruiz conjure an ersatz Patagonia in 1982.  And the third?  And fourth?  It may be advisable that you stop reading now if those two names mean nothing to you.  But if you are brave and push on, I salute you.  The name Cassavetes I had heard in my youth.  For all I knew, he might as well have been a plumber of some renown.  Glauber Rocha I am still grappling with (even his very existence…not to mention his films).

Jean-Luc Godard begins each of his film’s chapters (and sub-chapters) with two such dedications.  These four names symbolize Histoire(s) du cinéma as a whole.  If the reference is too obscure, go look it up.  The auteur dares us to immerse ourselves in the details which has made his own inner life of 84 years so rich.  As a “reward,” he will also bless us along the way with references so obvious as to require no research whatsoever…Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, for instance.

Everything, no matter how high or low (culturally), which has passed through cinema has been marked by that experience.  Some forget that Sympathy For The Devil (1968, the film) was directed by Godard (and originally to have been called One Plus One).  It has been said that he would have preferred working with The Beatles, but The Rolling Stones figure definitively into the oeuvre of JLG.  Godard was not even above comparing himself to Bob Dylan (in the 60s and beyond).  Beatles, Stones, Dylan…these are not the talismans of a haughty Swiss intellectual.  But Godard never ceases to amaze.  It is like waking up and having your morning coffee served nonchalantly by Méret Oppenheim in a fur-covered cup…and saucer…and spoon.  Fur.  All of them.  Bonjour 🙂

“Someone whispering in my room/I shut off the TV/but the whispering continues.”  It is Der müde Tod, tired of playing his role.  Dead voices gather here in my room.  The window has been painted into place, but it wasn’t completely closed…and so the wind whistles in through the crack all night long…and my ancestors come and go.

Prison (1949).  Ingmar Berman, not to be confused with Ingrid Bergman.  So many names floating around in Jean-Luc’s head.  Eighty-four years on the planet (68 at the time of Histoire(s)‘ completion in ’98).  Numbers.  Joyce toiling for 17 years–the Irishman in Paris.  And Godard for 10–the boy from Paris now in his golden years…in Rolle, la Suisse.  Histoire(s) du cinéma might as well have been written in Romansh (that obscure, little-spoken, fourth official language of Switzerland)…or Welsh…or Basque.

Who is it we see struggling to claw her way up the hill?  Jennifer Jones?  And from what film?  It is not only the language (Godard whispering in French with his Swiss accent…as he has since at least 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (1967)…all of the many text elements which fill the screen during Histoire(s)‘ 266 minutes), but the film language–the endless references, the fragments of Bartok and Hindemith, the fine-art interpolated between Hollywood vacuities, actualités, realities…reels and reels of the “real”…and the wordplay so beloved by not only Joyce, but Hitchcock.  All of these must be navigated and deciphered to have any chance of finding one’s bearings in the constant referential stream of Histoire(s).

Sex and death.  I am reminded of Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991).  Jim Morrison is in film school at UCLA and his class project is premiered in front of his classmates and professor.  The film is ridiculous.  It is the stuff of young filmmakers, but it is primal…visceral.

Hollywood is nothing more than sex and death itself.  Always has been.  But Hollywood has, with its glitz and glamour, attracted some of the greatest modern literary minds to shroud the obvious with novel fabric.  The world has been in thrall subliminally since the earliest days of Los Angeles’ long reign.

Jean-Luc found “a keeper” in a fellow filmmaker.  Anna Karina.  Anne Wiazemsky.  And, finally, Anne-Marie Miéville.  I spoke with Anne-Marie on the phone one morning several months ago.  She is a graceful, patient woman.  She is not, at heart, an actress.  She is a genius.

“neither an art, nor a technique/a mystery”…  I do not care about capitalization (nor care much for capitalism).  i will be here in the corner with e.e. cummings.  Strunk and White must take a backseat to Auguste and Louis.  You who obsess over MLA, tell me off the top of your head the meaning of SNCF.  If you cannot, please sit back down.

Were there no rules meant to be broken?  We debate the pros and cons of prose and Cannes.  Tabu:  a story of the southern states…Texas, where to adore Godard is to seem Martian.  I am supposed to think of B.B. King.  If I am an exotic pervert, perhaps Brigitte Bardot.  But Bertolt Brecht?  In Texas the name itself is enough to create a distancing effect (and a generally stupefied look of ignorance).  That is ok.  We are the utopia of Germans and Japanese (to pick randomly):  we are the “wild west.”  John Ford, Rio Bravo, Johnny Guitar…indeed, Joan Crawford was born in my hometown (from which I am writing) San Antonio.

Auguste and Louis.  Lumière.  Light.  Camera.  Act.  I on the other hand have no such appropriate name.  Am I at the edge of the ether (Etheredge)?  Am I truly so reckless as to wish for death?  Depressed?  [I will at this point indulge in a sort of literary sit-in which shall allow me to savor my transgressions as per “writing about film.”]  Ahhh…much better.  I feel refreshed.  And now, on with the show!

There has always been a master/slave relationship in cinema.  The two brothers.  Two reels.  One taking up the slack, the other spooling out.  I know the terminology from sound recording…24-track 2″ tape machines.  SMPTE for the devil (Grasshopper, Mercury Rev).  Please tell me, won’t you?  Which reel is Hegel and which is Nietzsche?  Which Heidegger and which Sartre?  Baudelaire and Baudrillard?  Degas and Debord.

If Méliès (the magician) is fictional, then les fréres Lumiéres are documentary.  But what, then, is Flaherty?  What is a documentary when the characters are directed rather than documented?  Consider Louisiana Story (1948) for instance.  Would Buster Keaton laugh at this oxymoronic method or remain stone-faced (leaving us to laugh, or cry…in turn)?

Consider Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.  I am Spartacus.  No, I am Spartacus.  If we are all Spartacus, then not one of us can be singled out.  They will have to kill us all.  But Karl and Rosa were indeed murdered.

Master…slave…Spartacus.  It is the same old story:  opposition to imperialist wars.  Oh!, imperialism.  You did not disappear when the sun first set upon the British Empire, did you?  No.  Nor did you cease to exist in the 60s when African countries like Algeria were finally able to assert themselves.  There are still busy bees toiling away for imperialists…drones for corporatists.

Without a future.  Johnny Guitar.  Johnny Rotten.  Prison.  “good, he said/night, she said”…Dziga Vertov…Ukrainian for “spinning top”…that man with the movie camera…the devil, probably.

“the whispering/which the man had already perceived”…it begins again.  That lady from Shanghai–an exterminating angel…a femme fatale…Augie and Lou record the arriving train; the workers leaving the factory.  Godard reminds us that a film projector is obligated to the “memory” of the camera.  There is an occasional optimism in Jean-Luc’s philosophy which at times pierces the clouds like the sun at high noon.  L’Espoir.  “…cinema is not an industry/of evasion/because it is…”…what?  “the only place/where memory is slave”…  But don’t take my word for it…a Texan trying to translate French.  Head on down to Barnes & Noble and pick up an English version of Histoire(s) du cinéma.  Just be advised that there isn’t one.

The shadow of a doubt.  You are incredulous.  The law of silence.  You reserve the right to later prove me wrong.  I welcome the day when an English translation of Histoire(s) du cinéma exists.  We human beasts–les Fauves…we live life by the drop…by the dram.  L’Assommoir.  dram…drachm…Dracula.

Godard’s “family album” includes Zola, Proust, Manet.  Is it false to graph a fauxtograph?  Niépce, Daguerre…yes, camera photography indeed originated in France (in the 1820s) and the first known photograph of a person (made by Daguerre) dates from 1838 (in Paris, naturally).  But perhaps the most ironic omission from Histoire(s) du cinéma is Louis Le Prince (ironic at least in that, though he is “remembered” for pioneering moving pictures by way of scenes he shot in the U.K., he was thoroughly French).

But though there is no mention of Le Prince, there are other sorts of pioneers…such as Giotto and Matisse…even Madame de la Fayette and (due to Sartre?) Faulkner.  It is well-known that Sartre was Godard’s intellectual hero.  La Fayette was friends with Cardinal de Retz during the Fronde as well as being close with La Rochefoucauld.  She authored La Princesse de Clèves (1678).  Sarkozy may no longer see exceptional value in this groundbreaking French novel, but leave it to Godard to once again be oracular in predicting (somewhat) the 2009 French protests which consisted of anti-Sarkozy public readings of France’s first historical novel (and quite possibly the first “psychological” novel in the history of world literature).  But Godard was not pulling from thin air:  he knew his history (and had lived it).  Jean Cocteau had adapted the novel for a 1961 film version directed by Jean Delannoy.

Godard with his mind like a TGV.  He is the eternal skeptic…skeptical of cinema as much as Christianity.  JLG the TGV is not one who can be forced to believe.  His mind is too far ahead.  Our avant-garde.  And his mind races backwards through time…back to Bergson…Meerson…and avec grande vitesse towards our present destination…Watson and Crick…Manson and “Tricky Dick”…fat…gift…poison…mist…shit

Louis Le Prince or no Louis Le Prince:  in the beginning was the word.  Ordet.  Danish for “word.”  But as Godard pays homage to Dreyer (director of Ordet in 1955) he drops into German for some reason…and as e.e. cummings…capitalizing (on) nothing:  “wie zu einer anderen historischen nachricht” [as to another historical message].

The eye is sliced again and again throughout the course of Histoire(s) du cinéma (just as the digital razor blade is applied in ever more inventive ways in Godard’s editing laboratory).  “eine ganz andere stelle in deinem leben einnehmen” [an entirely different spot to take in your life]  The Image, it has been said, will appear at the time of the resurrection.  Girls in tears.  “The cinema was never an art and, still less, a technique,” says Godard.  Le Repas de bébé (1895), directed by Louis Lumière, keeps the girl from crying.  Rio Bravo keeps the Frenchman dreaming.  Motion picture cameras never fundamentally changed between ca. 1895 and 1959 (the year of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo).  Godard educates us to this fact while going on to extol the virtues of the Debrie 7 (a cine camera from the 1920s) at the expense of the Panavision Platinum (1986, which would have been the latest Panavision model when Godard was filming Chapitre 1b of Histoire(s)).

Old is better?  Perhaps.  But at the very least, one must know one’s history–the history of their art.  [not an art/nor a technique/but a mystery]  Why do some things “work” in art while others don’t?  That is the mystery of art.  For Godard, cinema is beyond art:  it is a complete mystery.  That is having respect for one’s medium.  That is a humility beyond self-criticism.  I am reminded of Le Gai savoir (1969).  Cinema year zero.

Gide.  Guide.  White shadows, south seas.  Black shadows, north sea.  Kiss me, Captain Blood…you stupid, ordinary fascist.  Madame Bovary.  Adam Ovary.  Before there was porn, there was Bovary.  The Devil.  Cinema is an art without a future.  Godard the pessimist is as splenetic as Baudelaire–as sardonic as Céline.  As Godard was filming Chapter 1 of Histoire(s) it had still not even been 100 years since L’Arrivée d’un Train en gare de la Ciotat (1895)…that canonical cornerstone of film history (directed by the Lumière brothers).

Godard takes another stab at one of his employers (this time specifying the Léon of Gaumont) while again viciously eviscerating the vitiating effect of television upon society in general.  Gaumont’s TV dream was indeed essentially a dark victory.  The sky (indeed, heaven) has been brought down to the level of a midget (“du petit Poucet“…from Perrault, 1697) by way of television [argues Godard].

The “Geneva drive” or “Maltese cross” in movie projectors (the mechanizing principle having originated in the Swiss watch industry) allows each frame of film to pause before the projection lamp for 1/24th of a second.  In that 24th of a second, each frame is twice exposed (creating a frequency of 48 Hz).  The mechanism was still being used (for other purposes) as late as 2007 for NASA’s Dawn mission.  “ce désir mort…”  I cannot explain Godard.  I can only follow leads.  And there are so many of them in Histoire(s)…from Marguerite Duras to Jeanne Moreau.

I read “baron Enfantin” and arrive at Dimitri Kirsanoff by way of Ménilmontant (1926).  It is a silky smooth road of mental glissandi…so very similar to Finnegans Wake.  Godard may be talking about “the dream” being mechanized, but my mind is drunk on rhum–dancing a rhumba.  Is it but a bitter victory to “figure out” what Godard is getting at in Histoire(s)?  …that is to say, the birth of art?  ice floe…sloe gin…  It was the dawning of the 20th century when hysteria began to be treated by the young Freud…”les portes du rêve“…the key to dreams…the key to these doors…Charcot meets Lilian Gish…neurology, psychology, psychiatry…nothing…never…Salpêtrière…  Cinema would not catch up to Godard’s thoughts ca. 1988 until 2012 when Alice Winocour decided to make a film about Charcot and his love affair with a patient (Augustine).

God.  The gods.  gods~~~  the state of infancy was perverted by the World Wars…and sad television…poor, pitiful television of imbecile adults…”which refuses to see the hole from which it was born”…television, personified, itself an adult imbecile…

All of this is, for Godard, wrapped up in the splendor and misery of cinema.  Hitler.  Cinema.  “the techniques have been decided upon for the reproduction of life”…by way of cinema…in the morning of the 20th century.

“she said neither yes nor no”~~~a girl and boy

When will life be given back what cinema has stolen from it?  When will life take it back?  From the beginning, it was decided (for some reason) that the standard would be black and white.  But life is not black and white.  These are “the colors of mourning,” says Godard.  What do Chaplin and the poets have to say about this situation?  If they sing gravely, they still consider all mortals to be their brothers.  Even Edison filmed May Irwin in The Kiss (1896).  And it is simply that:  a kiss.  Was it the first kiss ever filmed?  Perhaps an earlier kiss will be unearthed 😉  One thing is certain:  for its time it was positively scandalous.  Improper.  Quasi-pornographic.  Edison showed the 47 second film in Ottawa and it was long thought to be the first film ever shown in Canada.  Turns out the Lumière brothers had been in Montreal about a month before.  the angel…Gauguin…recapitulation.  “to be a poet in times of distress is to sing, to be attentive to the trace of the gods who have fled”~~~What are we (not to mention, Where do we come from?)?  And, by the way, Where are we going?

She has jumped into San Francisco Bay.  It is nighttime for the world.  And the poet?


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Histoire)s[ du cinema 1a

Jean-Luc Godard has always been one to break the rules, but his personality is one of paradoxes.  In his later years he has embraced what might be called humanism–specifically steeped in the art, literature and music of the Western world.  And thus the fact that his most brilliant, exprimental film is likewise a book (with a life of its own) published by Gallimard (arguably the most prestigious house in France…printers and tastemakers of the canonical) makes perfect sense in the upside-down world of history’s most consistently idiosyncratic auteur.

Originally published in 1998, the book is a joint venture with Gaumont.  At age 68 Godard had gone from enfant terrible of the May ’68 Parisian riots to fulfilling a lifelong ambition to be not just an auteur, but an author.  In André Malraux’s 1937 novel L’Espoir, the Negus explains to Puig that the Republicans fighting for democracy in Spain had not yet come to fully appreciate the gravity of their situation.  It is with a reference to Man’s Hope (L’Espoir) that Godard begins his masterwork Histoire(s) du cinéma.  History is a fight.  The history of the world is the history of its battles.  There has been, and will always be, a war on between competing histories.

“Films have never given back to life that which they have stolen,” Godard tells us.  Cinema has told a history (une histoire seule) of the world…one of many versions:  a story.  We always hear about “the Hollywood version,” that proverbial method of accounting for facts which often involves changing essential details and providing “happy endings” where there originally were none.  For Godard, the movie industry (taken in its totality) has failed humanity.  Even when Hollywood attempts to remember, it cannot for some reason.  And forgetfulness is equal to murder–at least in the eyes of Godard.  Why is Schindler’s List actually an exercise in forgetting rather than remembering?  Is it that the director (Spielberg) cannot help but apply elements of “the Hollywood version” mentality even to such a grave subject as the Holocaust?  Godard seems to indicate as much right from the first paragraph of his film-tome.

What is Godard getting at?  His intricate argument has even earned him the label anti-Semite, but is this really fair?  It seems that even at age 84 Monsieur Godard continues to be misunderstood.  Perhaps he only wants the Holocaust to be remembered by way of “real tears and real blood.”  One might hear the influence of Rossellini in these words which echo the ethos of Roma città aperta (1945) and other neorealist Italian films of the postwar years.  Perhaps it is not possible to cinematically capture the horror of the Nazi extermination camps seeing as how no footage exists (or has it merely not been made public?) of the camps while in operation.  We only have footage of their “liberation”–and that at the hands of Hollywood (by way of George Stevens…courtesy of the U.S. Army).  By 1951 Stevens was back to directing Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In The Sun (herself having starred in National Velvet in 1944, at the height of the war).

Godard does not single out Stevens as being artistically impotent.  In the spirit of self-criticism, he faults the whole of world cinema (almost without exception).  It is not just Los Angeles (Hollywood) which is to blame for propaganda, nor simply Moscow, but even Paris itself (epicenter of la nouvelle vague).  It is not just Frank Capra (himself also hired by the U.S. War Department like Stevens…in Capra’s case to literally make propaganda films prior to the war’s end) who is to blame, but also Jean Renoir (a key figure in Godard’s personal pantheon of film heroes).  Directors whose job is to direct “fiction” have been “incapable of controlling the vengeance” which life now demands:  real tears and real blood.

When Jean-Paul and Anna kissed in Pierrot le fou as they leaned from their cars pulled up aside one another, we were seeing Godard in a more naïve period of his career (yet one in which he was beginning to struggle with the fundamental deficiencies of cinema as it then existed in 1965).  That film marks a relatively early foray for him into surrealism which he would return to with more venom in Week-end (1967).  By then, Godard was claiming the “end of cinema” along with the Fin of finality which would prove to be a penultimate prophecy from cinema’s one true oracle.  By 1968, Paris was in flames and Godard had essentially left what little area of the mainstream he had carved out by way of earlier productions such as Le Mépris (1963).  There would be no more films with Brigitte Bardot.  Godard jumped headlong into a fight not unlike that of the Spanish Republicans…and perhaps he could not foresee what a pitched battle it would be.

Indeed, it is possible that Godard sees himself not unlike L.B. Jeffries in Hitchcock’s Rear Window:  simply a technician, a professional…curiosity and a telephoto lens.  Whatever the case may be, Godard became a decidedly political filmmaker from at least 1967 onwards.  It was not until the 1980s that he began to emerge from this single-minded politique to begin embracing a more mature, yet no less eccentrically passionate, form of filmmaking.

No doubt:  a crime had been committed.  Like Jimmy Stewart at his window, Godard has taken it all in for huitante-quatre years (not quatre-vingt-quatre, for Godard is decidedly Swiss).  World War II was, and continues to be, the defining time of Godard’s life.  From ages 9 to 15, he was an impressionable youth living mainly in Switzerland and observing the war with, to say the least, curiosity.  What would happen?  Would all of Europe soon be German?  It certainly looked that way for awhile.

By 1953, the world was starting to forget in earnest.  The shock of World War II was soothed by Hollywood.  It was the year of Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.  The influence of such films on a then 23-year-old Godard is obvious in, if none other of his films, Une femme est une femme (1961).  But much closer to his heart were the works of Alfred Hitchcock (such as 1959’s North by Northwest).  Add to that the influence of much earlier films by Dziga-Vertov (the Soviet director who was arguably at his artistic peak between 1924 and 1934) and you have some of the many filmic ideas which were surely floating around in Jean-Luc’s head…ready to be synthesized and rearranged beginning with Godard’s first feature film À bout de souffle (1960).

In Histoire(s) du cinéma Godard is taking stock (no pun intended).  His film is the culmination of the 20th century:  the century of film.  Just as J.S. Bach neatly tied up all of the fascinating loose-ends from the Baroque period (and pre-Baroque) with his masterful “golden braids,” Godard determined to give perspective to a century’s-worth of movie attempts in the form of a film essay which is absolutely unrelenting in its criticism of “the seventh art.”  Hegel codified les six and Canudo la settima.  An industry, yes, but also an art–the art.  It was, and remains, the art of arts.  Where sculpture, painting, dance, music and poetry are woven together by way of a curious architecture:  a place both spatial and temporal.

From Fitzgerald’s “last tycoon” Irving Thalberg to Welles’ subject in F for Fake (and an inspiration for the protagonist in Citizen Kane) Howard Hughes, the film industry has seen its share of “gods among men.”  And yet both of these gods were impotent each in their own ways.  Thalberg was no doubt a true “idea man” of film, yet he was as “fragile” as he was fecund.  Hughes, the courageous and rich multi-industry baron who was yet in thrall to his RKO starlets eventually succumbed to a reclusiveness worthy of Salinger.  The power of Hollywood has always contained within it a powerless human-element–a formulaic tendency dictated by fealty to that double-edged sword:  the bottom line.

Godard and Truffaut (among other French New Wave filmmakers) would turn this formula on its head.  They took the predictable plot schemes of B-movies and inflated them with a fulminating absurdity from the inside until the forms exploded.  One of Godard’s most quotable and enduring utterances over the years has been, “A film is a girl and a gun.”  In the hands of the erudite Godard (himself a disciple of Sartre), this “rule” was transgressed all the more deliciously in that Jean-Luc recognized it and deconstructed it.  The results in his early films were devastatingly beautiful.

Hollywood has always been for the masses.  It is truly the backbone of “the society of the spectacle.”  And thus for “a nickel,” the world would come alive in the hands of early pioneers like Griffith.  The spectacle of Intolerance (1916) was a riposte to earlier Italian epic films such as Cabiria (1914).  Hollywood cranked out dreams as if from a factory and, as Godard points out in Histoire(s), a factory not unlike those of communism.  Ars Gratia Artis (art for art’s sake) reads the MGM logo.  No doubt, among the vapid diversions there were true pieces of art.  New York’s Museum of Modern Art was incredulous when Henri Langlois (founder of the Cinémathèque Française) proclaimed, upon its release, that Only Angels Have Wings (1939) was a masterpiece.  Langlois would be proven correct…not least due to the success of his disciples Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette, etc.   Indeed, its director (Howard Hawks) would become a key influence upon the French New Wave.

But is it not ironic that the producer of Hawks’ early masterpiece was also the producer of Citizen Kane (a film based in part upon himself…and not at all flatteringly)?  Those are the twisted roots of Hollywood.  Hughes of TWA, of Hughes Aircraft, of Project Azorian (not Jennifer, as it is sometimes known) in conjunction with the C.I.A., of RKO…like Daniel Defoe, owner of civet cats (entrepreneurial perfumer), secret agent for William III, trader of wine to Portugal, tax assessor (specifically taxes on glass bottles), proprietor of a tile and brick factory, nonconformist (Nonconformist?), social/economic/political activist, satirist, Tory intelligence agent, “modern” journalist, Whig intelligence agent, false-flag pamphleteer (covert propagandist), chronicler of the supernatural (ghosts), propagandist and spy due to financial debt, spy in Edinburgh, agent for political union and the consolidation of power for state economic gain.  Corn, excise taxes…it was among such concerns that this widely published and now notorious liar, travel essayist, occasionally honest, candid, and (finally, at age 59) brilliant author of Robinson Crusoe (1719) operated.

Howard Hawks’ film His Girl Friday (1940) would not be titled thusly were it not for Defoe’s character Man Friday.  And Godard would not have mentioned Defoe and Robinson (as he had Malraux’s Puig and the Negus) had he not grasped the allegorical reading(s) of the 1719 novel.  Western civilization (Spengler be damned…) continued its “development” (<—…but not discounted) in the Twentieth Century by way of film–from Hawks and Hitchcock to Godard, Cassavetes and Brakhage.  The economic tyranny of the “bottom line” has put undue pressure on filmmakers to be craftsmen at the expense of true artistry.  Yet, artistry has been rewarded on occasion…even as far back as Chaplin and the formation of United Artists (also taking into account the economic individualism of Fairbanks, Pickford and Griffith) in 1919 [UA was initially an anti-company…a response to bigger, more tyrannical business concerns].

But there is a heart beating in this darkness…a heart of colonial desires…the impetus in the marrow of Howard Hughes’ bones:  the desire to write one’s name everywhere (“partout”).  Perhaps what Godard takes most from Defoe is the spirit of repentance (again with the self-criticism…not unusual for a filmmaker who began his film life as a film critic for Cahiers du cinéma, etc.).  Godard is not apologizing for cinema’s refusal or impotence to stop the Holocaust (this is really what is at issue throughout this 266 minute work), but is rather railing against the hollowness of Hollywood’s priorities…starlets not as faded flowers, but rather as rotten meat.

It might be said that Robinson Crusoe is the first English-language novel.  Whatever negative can be said of Histoire(s) du cinéma, it likewise seems to be sui generis.  And if Robinson can be said to have finally triumphed in the series of his adventures (because death never came for him), the same perhaps cannot be said of Howard Hughes.  Death wouldn’t come.  Did the sickly recluse’s life drag on past its usefulness?  Has the cinema pioneered by Thalberg and Hughes (among many others) outlived its usefulness?  Was 1967 truly the end of cinema?

Death is the author…the grand auteur.  “…and death/like Daniel Defoe/did not dare/to kill Robinson.”  The ever-cryptic Godard is positively Joycean both in the film and book versions of Histoire(s).  Franchises, sequels, product tie-ins…  Of all the films never made, was there one which would have “killed” cinema?  Is the movie industry merely a bloated corpse waiting to be punctured and drained of its useless substance?

It is now television which predominates.  The name Jean Renoir is on no one’s lips.  His father, the painter Pierre-August, is only slightly more remembered in this society of forgetting.  We watch TV to forget.  We once went to the movies to escape, to be air-conditioned, to dream in darkened halls, but now…the forgetting is 24/7.  There is no Jean Vigo.  No Jean Cocteau.  No Max Ophüls.  The happiness of television is not joy.  There is no Ozeray to take the stage for a Giraudoux.  Pixar might model a character after Louis Jouvet (in Ratatouille), but a Pixar character can’t quit a few weeks into filming.  It is a voice.  Animated.  Ophüls’ L’école des femmes was never completed.  It was 1940.  Geneva.  Godard was 10 years old.

Molière’s play (L’école des femmes), however, was completed…and first staged in December 1662.  [Was Howard Hughes intimidated by femininity à la Gatsby?]  Molière, for his part, was a bold (yet self-criticizing) character himself.  L’école is almost a Lolita story…a girl brought-up from the age of 4 to the age of 17 by one man (twice her age) whose intent is to have her be faithful due to a purposefully-ingrained ignorance.  It is a play of mistaken identity, a comedy of errors (or tragedy), and a case for Fate. 

Is it not ironic that Godard references Gaumont newsreels from WWII in this book about the impotence of the film industry (a book, no less, co-published by Gaumont itself)?  We see Hitler, Seurat, treason on the radio:  “but cinema keeps its word.”  Fritz Lang tells a real story in M.  No happy ending.  No Lubitsch touch.  Chaplin imitating Hitler imitating Chaplin.  “Radio Paris is German.”

The years rolled by…39-45.  And it was that “simple rectangle”…35mm film, whether Agfa or Ilford, which could have saved “the honor of the real.”  Godard is still fighting that battle today (even if he is working in video, this film for example).  Sure, he is a Spanish Republican at heart, but his trenches are frontline in the war of remembrance (the last soldier, perhaps). Some might wonder with curiosity about this man who doesn’t know the war is over, but for him it is not. He is still holed up in the jungle with a Steenbeck editing table. If any man is an island, it is Godard. He is living empathy.  To forget the dead is to dishonor the dead.  To remember the dead dishonorably is as good as forgetting them.  No, Spielberg is not up to the task…nor Lanzmann.

Most would reckon that Godard has not made a Holocaust film, but he has.  This is it.

During the war years the movie industry was “mute/with its humble and formidable power.”  Why?  In Lang’s Metropolis social justice takes center stage.  There is the curious son who walks a mile in the shoes of the workers who are, each day, buried alive.  There is the angel of protection for the orphans of capitalism.

The battle is fiction vs. reality.  The only real weapons “images et sons”…  Godard would come to respect Nicolas Ray, Samuel Fuller and others who, like Lang, used fiction against itself.  There was a respect for the image.  A respect for sound.  And the little 35mm rectangle, in turn, saved the honor of humanity…if one could let it.  To a certain extent, the director had to “get out of the way.”  And it took true auteurs to walk the tightrope of economic pressure from above (studio heads) and thereby make art (even if given a bad story, scenario, premise, etc.).  The true auteur could transmit a cryptic message like Shostakovich did in his string quartets:  we are alive, I am alive, we are aware, we shall outlast this tyranny.

But the masses want fiction.  The war is over there, not here.  Nothing to see.  Move along.  It’s somebody else’s problem.  From Fantômas to Christ, are they really all myths?  Jesus attending to the crowds.  Films speaking to The Crowd…the lowest common denominator.  The phantom is in the opera.  When we finally see him without his mask, will we be properly horrified?  Is it not much worse that the actor who played The Wizard (in Oz) was a member of Yale’s Skull & Bones fraternity?  It is a rich metaphor.  And completely factual.

Drop your bombs.  Film for BDA:  battlefield damage assessment.  But the Germans of Arriflex, the most technologically advanced nation in Europe:  they filmed nothing at the camps?  Nothing was ever found?  Found, but not released?  Why?  To forget?

The methods are the same today in the fictionally-free U.S.A.  If Wernher von Braun designed it, then was it really Made In U.S.A.?  This is the rhythm of Godard…the cadence.  It is the filmic equivalent of Voyage au bout de la nuit or Mort à credit.  Those three little dots…ellipses, a splitting of the literary atom…to join Mussorgsky and Zola and Partch and Henry Miller in vernacular speech patterns…verismo beyond Leoncavallo or Mascagni.  “People don’t say such things.”  Or rather, people don’t talk like that.  Ridiculous Pagliacci:  singing with a knife in his back.  Lester Townsend.   “La Commedia è finite!” 

The nightly news continues to be The Birth of a Nation.  And the only hope is Rome ville ouverte as Godard writes in translation.  The opera’s opus number works against it.  What if Louis Ferdinand-Céline had been elliptical?  Just as Saul Bass needed Jules Antoine Lissajous to truly express Vertigo in that Hitchcock film’s opening credits, Arnold needed Richter (Arri).  Lightweight cameras.

Godard gives us nightmares and dreams on a screen–a shroud with motives as automatic as a Turin assembly line.  Destouches in Detroit.  Céline in Cameroon.  The shrimp await Glauber Rocha.  20th Century Fox.  Goya.  George C. Scott?  Ingrid Bergman?  William Blake?  Is it a glass bead game or Dorothy about to click her heels?

If you cannot navigate such a foray into absurdity–into a surrealism as black as spring, then you will never ford the fjord which leads to the hall of the mountain king…and you will forever scream.

Unspoken histories.  Histories of the night.  Singin’ in the rain…  Suspicion.  “…it is too late and the army has already fired upon the crowd”…never, Van Gogh, faithful heart.  “Rembrandt and his terrible black and white”…

In this which has been burned, I no longer know what to quote:  and that is the point of Histoire(s) du cinéma. It is sensory overload.  It is Rembrandt superimposed upon Monet.  This is cinema’s answer to Finnegans Wake and Le Sacre du printemps.  Have we forgotten Guernica?  No.  Art remembers.

Who was Valentin Feldman?  Was the first 16mm color film used at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück?  Godard’s steel-trap mind always keeps us on our toes with obscure details he has gleaned over the years.  But one thing is certain:  eyes blind to the final solution brought about a new Germany:  year 0 (zero).

Godard takes issue with American cinema while worshipping it, but one must consider at what age he made this masterwork.  After a life of study, he understands how American cinema “ruined” French cinema and, indeed, all cinema in Europe.  To exactly what cultural colonialism is he referring?  Max Schreck…not the same as Shrek.  Schönberg not the same as Schoenberg.  The last words of Max Linder?  “Help!”


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