Nuovo Cinema Paradiso [1988)

One of the greatest of all time.

I wasn’t sure I could handle the flood of emotions this film was bound to trigger.

But I went for it.

And it is, truly, a masterpiece.

Essential viewing.

In the U.S. we know it simply as Cinema Paradiso, but I wish to honor director Giuseppe Tornatore by reviewing it under the Italian title.

This film is full of fear and regret…because it is reminiscence.

Gone long from home.

Many years away from family.

Moreover, there are few films which portray a pure love for cinema quite like this one.

What we have is a mentorship.  Alfredo, the mentor…and Toto, the mentee.

There are so many magical shots…so many jewel-like devices of cinematic deftness which make this picture truly special.

When I was a young man, this film taught me the potential of cinema.

And my fear at the time was losing my past.

But now that I have, by the grace of God, returned to my homeland, my fear tonight was reimmersing myself in the beauty of misery.

Or the misery of beauty.

In accounting, they teach you to ignore sunk costs.

But the human psyche still yearns for the one that got away.

We analyze our past decisions.

We lament our judgement.

But the costs of love, the economic costs of love (the totality of what was at stake) cannot be so easily dismissed.

Maybe it was not meant to work out.

But there are some very painful, lonely yearnings which age us like a bottle of scotch.

Perhaps our pain will be someone’s joy.

We cannot live with a “letter never sent”.

But a letter never answered can be so indescribably mournful.

And so we have come back.

Having tried our luck and worked our hands to the bone.

And we praise God for the opportunity to see Alfredo again.

The whole family.

It’s a trade-off.

And lost love still leaves us wistful.

Maybe we don’t understand the reverse culture shock we have been battling.

For several years.

Maybe we are yet too young.

To see our homeland with eyes of clarity.

This is what Philippe Noiret tells Marco Leonardi.

You’re not old enough yet…to be here.

Noiret is really the star of this film.

With his big mustache.  And his close-cropped hair.

The projectionist.

But none of this would have been possible without the child.

Toto.  Salvatore Cascio.

His impish smile.  His hunger to learn.

We see a filmmaker in the making of himself.

And while Jacques Perrin is quite special as the grown-up Toto,

there is one key personality I must touch upon.

Agnese Nano.

This actress changed my life.

And I fell in love with her understudy.

Perhaps years later I did the same again.

Those blue eyes always kill you.

But it was when I first saw this.  In 1998.

I fell in love.

And it didn’t work out so well.

It was too much.

Ill-fated.

Romeo and Juliet.

I felt I was lower-class.

I had no confidence.

It is these things which we regret.

How a word could have been different.

How a revelation might have changed history.

But we praise God for Pupella Maggio.

Thank you, God, for your blessings.

This film has made me very emotional.

Because it is a masterpiece.

And we shall sail on.

Into the night sky.

And remember how Ennio Morricone guided our every blessed footstep in our Garden of Eden.  Over paths encrusted with tiny diamonds here and there…which would catch the reflection of the moon.  We walked the path the best we could.

-PD

Chronique d’un été [1961)

Capture capture capture.

Always capture the emotion of what you’ve just seen.

You have to take a piss?

It can wait.

[ok, sometimes it can’t]

But here it must wait.

Because Chronicle of a Summer is beyond the level of masterpiece.

For so long, I wanted to see a film of Jean Rouch.

Et voilà…ici!

Joined by another genius = Edgar Morin.

Where Nuit et brouillard fails, Chronique d’un été succeeds.

The reality (yes) of the Holocaust is in Marceline.

Marceline who does not want to sleep with an African.

Marceline with the concentration camp tattoo.

Marceline and her memories of her dear papa.

In this moment, the Holocaust becomes true.

We believe it…because it is not the same bullshit propaganda we have heard a million times.

Propaganda meant to amplify a truth can actually succeed (fail) in negating a truth.

Such is with the Holocaust.

It is where Spielberg fails with Schindler’s List.

It’s the Titanic of Holocaust historiography.

Titanic might be a good film (I believe it is), but it is certainly not cinema.

It is popcorn viewing.

That’s what Spielberg (of Jaws) did with the Jews.

He knew no other way.

He made a pop song out of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Not even that.

Worse.

But Rouch (rouxsch) and Morin (more on, not moron) do the opposite.

Here we see all the techniques which would dominate the work of Jean-Luc Godard in the 1960s.

And Godard has admitted the debt to Rouch.

Ethnography.

What is that?

Ethnic and graphs?

Might be some false cognation in there.

But yes:  this is a film from the social sciences.

Morin, the sociologist.

Rouch, the anthropologist (always mentioned as an “ethnographic filmmaker”).

It you want to see a film that doesn’t suck, see this one.

It has everything.

But it is not forced.

It is Paris, but it is also Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Belgian Congo, colonial Algeria, jungles, leaves over the “sex” [genitals]).

Yet, all of this is merely talked about.

We are taken there by dialogue.  Language.

Immigrants.  Africans.

High and low.

A Renault factory.  Saint-Tropez.

Up and down.

Youth happy because the sun is shining and they are young.

Elderly who have lost their spouses or siblings.

Down and up.

Immigrants from Italy.  Depression.  REAL FUCKING DEPRESSION.

But beauty.  La bohème.  Attic apartments.

Bullfighting.  Rock climbing.  Bananas.

Fruit and //furniture forgeries.

Cooked books.  Accounting irregularities.

Leisure.  The revolution of doing nothing. [or at least something surreal]

You can’t just buy one book and expect to have it tell you “how the French think”.

No, my friends…

You must work at it.

You must study for years.  Study a culture.

And that’s what I’ve done with the French.  Because I love them.

 

-PD

 

Twin Peaks “Rest in Pain” [1990)

Science thinks it knows what religion doesn’t.

Religion thinks it knows what science doesn’t.

Science thinks.

Religion feels.

Romance is a sort of religion.

Unthinking.

But beautiful.

These are the issues in this rather unremarkable episode of Twin Peaks.

The romance of film criticism seeks to give no spoilers.

Break the code, solve the case.

Handwriting analysis…seems as old and mystical as phrenology.

Because today it is stylometry.

Were it not for Snowden, we’d still be in the dark.

ABSENCE OF LIGHT.

Hoping David Sanborn makes an album called Kryptos.

Or not.

I INSERTED THE CANDLE.

CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER.

EMERGED FROM THE MIST.

There’s easier ways to get jobs.

To make verb tenses agree.

And to verb agreements tense.

Word pie lay.

The fragments are essential.

Each piece.

Piece by piece.

With ice cream on the side.

Huckleberry H.

Scalia was whisked off.

Like a broom.

He had been a jack of one-eyed secret society.  Guest.  SS.

Pound’s poetry didn’t go this deep.

But deeper.

To Colombian hell.

It’s trying to think.

Puttin’ on the Ritz.

I thought it was her.

A cipher.

Shame on me.

Eric Da Re.  Doremi Fasol Latido.

Rest in pain.

Jawohl.

The biggest asshole in television history.

Vs. a perception sharpest blade mind ever.

Even for an actor.

Kyle MacLachlan.

Sherlock Holmes.

A perverse sense of knowing.

Raymond Chandler.

Several stops and starts to get here.

Like the end of Vivre sa vie.

And like the beginning.

Michel Legrand subject to the most genius whims ever.

Lynch is our Godard.

Where the Germans have Schoenberg, we have Ives.

Not the best metaphor.

But perfect.

Length trying your patience.

I know.

Like the end of Vivre sa vie.

Where we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

That is the bathos of mechanical mayhem.  Haywire sob hiccups.

G’uh g’uh g’uh.

Over and over and over and over and over again.

The Vladimir Poutine syndicate have goldBRICked with the Meow Zedong overseas intelligence amoeba to form a truly Quebecois brand of! Godspeed.

Kinda like that hockey scene from Strange Brew.

Messiaen at the organ.

ils.

Sont.  Hellfire.  Bohemian.

No Moloch or Moulouk can do it justice.

Moulouk vs. Bébert.

Oui.  C’est Ça.

There’s always two sets of books.

 

-PD

C’est arrivé près de chez vous [1992)

Writing is a healing exercise.

We try.

We do the best we can.

Sometimes we have to laugh at how bad things are.

Nietzsche would say we’ve lost something.

And he’s right.

But still we must laugh.

Because nobody knows the troubles we’ve seen.

Jesus wept.

Jesu swept.

We must laugh because the walls are closing in on us.

Our lives should have turned out so much better.

But let’s be optimistic.

Let us remember the good times.

Times when we sang.

Cinema…CINEMA!!!

Times when we shat and sang.

And shits yet to come.

Future shits.

It is not wrong to count life in such base terms.

When we venture out in the world, we only hope that a pretty girl smiles at us.

It’s like a bunch of flowers.

And so we must smile.

With all the bravery we have.

If you drink, drink.

If you smoke, smoke.

If you do nothing, do nothing.

Life is too very sad.  Doesn’t make.

So very sad.  Oui!

In Belgium, perhaps, they can laugh.

As in my heart song Aaltra.

Always a dark song.  Like Jeanne Dielman.

And here is Tarantino back through the French.

Au contraire!  This film predates all Quentin-directed features.

But not by much.

However, QT had the distribution advantage by a few months.

Seems Man Bites Dog (our film “in English”) beat Reservoir Dogs to market by way of film festivals.

In particular TIFF.

But really this is like a Belgian Pulp Fiction (and so much better than that hunk of shite which was still two years away).

As you might know.

Two directors I can’t stand:

Spielberg and Tarantino.

In that order.

Quentin has some redeeming qualities.

Spielberg very few (if any).

But you might want to know about the film I’m reviewing.

Ultraviolence meets Spinal Tap.

Yes, I know that’s not the full title.

But you probably know what I mean.

Kubrick of A Clockwork Orange meets mockumentary.

If someone had described this film (or any other) on such terms, I wouldn’t have watched it.

So I’m glad I didn’t encounter my own review.

Because C’est arrivé près de chez vous is brilliant.

The camaraderie chez Malou…

Rémy Belvaux supposedly committed suicide in 2006.

But it’s probably just as likely that Bill Gates had him whacked.

God damn it…

André Bonzel hasn’t died (according to English Wikipedia), but neither has he been born.

A precarious situation, that.

But Benoît Poelvoorde is gloriously alive!

Damn it!!!

Is it strip-tease or stripe-ties?

Une Femme est une femme.

We are learning the language.

French speakers English.

And English speakers French.

And Turkish.

And Romanian.

And Farsi.

Allors…

Tarantino has acknowledged his debt.

And so I too apologize to Mr. T.

It’s a sad life.  When you’re 39.

Rest in peace, dear Rémy.

 

-PD

Vampyr [1932)

I come to you from the darkest place.

Where all hope has been extinguished.

A maze of study and revelation.

Barely a word here spoken.

Do not give me your attention.

I am not the first person.

You wander in this dream.

He comes to know the horror.

Her and her alone.

Climb climb climb from the mist of history.

Give up your secrets to the light.

Vampyr, Kryptos, Tutankhamun.

IQLUSION.  1Q84.

gravity’s rainbow.  CERN.

In a Glass Darkly.  Published in Ireland.  1872.

Sheridan Le Fanu.  Dublin.

Does Langley know about this?

Always candles.  Always lighting candles.

NYPVTT.  Berlin.

Nicolas de Gunzberg as Julian West as Allan Gray.  Got it?

MZFPK.  We’re losing time quickly.

At an even pace.

Speeding towards the hour.

As slowly as we’ve ever been.

William H. Webster.  The only person to have ever headed both the CIA and the FBI.

Courtempierre.  Loiret.

Ah!  The review…

As if waking from a dream.

Or falling back into a nightmare.

Placing one foot in front of the other.

Rena Mandel could have come straight from Nosferatu.

Like Greta Schröder.  1922.  1932.

Not flapper like Frances Dade.  Blonde on blonde.  Helen Chandler.

UFA wanted Dracula to come out first.

A strange tactic.

And then utter failure.

But Sybille Schmitz has that Nazi jawline.  Like Leni Riefenstahl.

Spoonsful of tea for a dying man.

Candles peer in through the glass.

And the camera stares upwards…at the swaying trees.

It is like Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.

To be opened after my death.

Sealed in wax thrice.

Submission is the only slow number.

Mid-tempo.  A revelation.  Talisman.

A crooked doctor.  And you’re giving blood.

They’re putting you on statins.

The drug companies will pay.  And general practitioners will have impunity whoring for big pharma.

A view to a kill.

Berlin.  Surrounded by East Germany.

Mengenlehreuhr.  Yale.

Ooga booga.

Buried alive in the blues.

Come spend a life in Texas.

With no one.

Come be abandoned in Texas.

Not even on the island.

Information warfare.

He is getting his message out desperately.

Franz Liszt as Marguerite Chopin.

No comment from Gounod.

Walpurgisnacht.

Nerval translated 1828.

Gretchen.  Margaret.  Marguerite.

Ettersberg.  Buchenwald.

We see why Godard became suspicious.

Because all but the Dutch declined Resnais’ solicitation for holocaust footage.

Inside the camps.

During the war.

By the most technologically-advanced civilization in terms of film production.

Obsessive-compulsive documenters of expenditures.

The problem with the gas chambers.

Sybille Schmitz looks like a raving lunatic.

The ecstasy of Stockholm syndrome.  A bank.  Those doe eyes and bearded hippie among the safe-deposit boxes.

The Goethe Oak at Buchenwald.  THE Goethe Oak?  George Washington slept here.

The Goethe Oak bombed by the Allies.

Now a concrete stump thanks to the DDR.

Goethe Eiche.

Janus-faced Germany.  Januskopfes Deutschland.  Sounds like a load of rubbish to me.

Schiller’s beech tree didn’t bite the dust till 2007.

Death by flour.

I’ll say it again:  Wikipedia’s masterpiece.  “List of unusual deaths”.

 

-PD

 

 

 

Pickpocket [1959)

Writing about film makes you appreciate the film.

You think.

What will I say about this picture?

This succession of pictures.

Sounds.

And so silently you ponder the ways to express true genius.

And how lucky we are to witness true genius.

It’s true.

The Criterion Collection has brought us many films which otherwise might have been forgotten.

Film didn’t begin with The Godfather.

It doesn’t end with Citizen Kane.

And so we need to see the other stuff.

We need to hear voices from outside of America.

Hollywood is international, to be sure, yet everything which enters there leaves marked.

It is a sentiment which Godard expressed in his magnum opus Histoire(s) du cinema.

And this is the other stuff.

Robert Bresson.

You might only know Henri-Cartier Bresson.  Don’t stop there.

Robert Bresson was the master of taking non-actors and capturing their vitality on film.

Pickpocket does justice to Uruguay as much as did Isidore Ducasse (which is to say, completely).

Martin LaSalle, a young Urugayan-French actor in his film debut, plays the lead role here of the pickpocket Michel.

LaSalle’s eggshell acting is essential to this masterpiece.

Yet, it is director Bresson who brings the ballet of crime to life.

Yes, it is like Orson Wells doing his magic tricks in F for Fake (his magnum opus).

Indeed, everything has an art.  Even crime.

And as paper currency disappears from the industrialized world we see the migration of subway thieves to the ether in an attempt to pilfer Apple Pay “money”.

Yes, I’m afraid that soon everything will need quotes around it.

Perhaps I just don’t understand.

But, there is an art to everything.

Take accounting, for instance:  the most boring subject invented by human beings.

And yet, there is an “art” to it…I’m sure…somewhere…deep, deep down inside.

But Pickpocket is of a different era.

Perhaps computer hacking and financial calculator operations require a certain finger dexterity, but nothing like the prestidigitation which Bresson brings to life in this film.

It is a noiseless ballet of lifts, drops, catches, exchanges, etc.  Buttons flicked.  Buckles finessed in one motion.

It reminds me of the one true line in Goldfinger…perhaps the only genuinely cinematic moment in that film (though I love the other 99% pulp)…

Delivered by the title character, as played by Gert Fröbe, it goes a little something like this:

“Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… except crime!”

Ahhh…the rolled Rrrrs of that final word.  Like H.W.’s brief year at Langley.  Like Kissinger at Iron Mountain.  Ah!  But here we run into a problem.

Hoaxes.  Like Sandy Hook.  Like Hani Hanjour.

And will Donald Trump have the balls to read a book?  Perhaps Webster Griffin Tarpley’s 9/11 Synthetic Terror:  Made in USA?

I doubt it.

Is Trump a provocateur or merely provocative?

Because if he shot his mouth off a little more pointedly he’d have my vote.

And I would stand with my immigrant brothers and sisters every day to see Dick Cheney take the stand.  Under oath.

And Philip Zelikow.  Under oath.

And Donald Rumsfeld.  Under oath.

And Larry Silverstein.  And Rudy Giuliani.  And Richard Myers.

Somebody else did it?  Then you got nothing to worry about.

Unravel unravel unravel.

Because Trump is wrong about immigration.

And Bernie Sanders is right about Snowden.

And I don’t like Trump or Sanders.

But Trump is the only one even tangentially touching on the real issue:  truth.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Off the rails. Film review.

C’est la vie.

Conspiracy.

Don’t mind me.

I will just go back to watching films.

Go back to sleep.

Nothing to see here.

-PD