Die Büchse der Pandora [1929)

Elle est une femme fatale.

Thus sang the chorus.  Der unsichtbar Chor.

On Big Star’s cover of The Velvet Underground.

Third/Sister Lovers.  Alex Chilton from Lou Reed.

And so if we want to really know the prostitute in Vivre sa vie (Godard’s best “movie”), then we must see G.W. Pabst’s Die Büchse der Pandora.

Pandora’s Box.

Is empty.

See Mulholland Dr.

Blue key.

Lighting.

Her hair.

Louise Brooks.

The gloss of her brunette bob.

Yes, this film is many things.

Confusing?  Yes.

Boring?  Yes.

Genius?  Absolutely.

And here is why.

The two climaxes.

One would fit seamlessly into Fritz Lang’s M…or virtually anything by Alfred Hitchcock.

But the other climax?

It is seconds before.

And worlds more important.

A candle.

Like Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation album.

Two lost souls.

Dreaming.

One is reflecting on a messed up life.  Perhaps.

The other is a messed up life reflecting on nothing.  Just content with a moment’s peace.  Maybe.

Together.

The misfits.

Soon consumed by cataclysm.

An act of God.

Or its opposite.

What I mean to convey is that G.W. Pabst did something remarkable with this film.

It really does read (watch?) like Mulholland Dr. or The Big Sleep.

Something is missing here and there.

Sound!  (for one thing…)

I’ve said it before, but it really does matter who picks the music for these silent films.

It takes some research to know whether the version which has come down to you has anything to do with any official release which might have happened in the year of said film’s premiere.

What I got was Tchaikovsky…and “Greensleeves”…

But, most remarkably…it is the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (by Пётр Ильи́ч) without the soaring love theme…which is to say, it is the build-ups…the violent cymbal crashes…the angular solemnity which Dvořák’s 9th Symphony also shares (particularly the bold final movement).

But none of this really matters.

What matters is Lulu.  Nana.

Alban Berg.  “Das Messer ist blutig…”

Émile Zola

The fine print.

Frank Wedekind

October 24, 1929

the fear index

abnormally low?

who was ready on December 1st to see the premier of Pandora’s box in new York city?

Yes, I’m afraid the world runs on fine print.

And so the glamorous flapper Lulu had a tortuous go of it (behind the scenes).

The difference between men and women.

Every word is labored now.

Because once you are caught in a font it is a vicious circle.

And so I only urge:

press on through the boredom for at least there is a candle.

-PD

Bande a part [1964)

I need a word.  Just a word.  A word.  To start it off.  Nothing fits.  Frustration?  Yes, perhaps.  Ferment?  That might work even better.  It is a feeling.  I search for it on the Internet.  I cast my net to the blog sea.  Ahh, Valentine’s Day…  Yesterday.  How I wanted to write, yet I abstained.  Abstinence.  Discipline.  Youthful anarchy.

I needed a word.  As so I sought.  Abandoned, abandonment, abstract expressionism.  No.  Alex Chilton, Anna Karina.  Yes.  After two films she was back.  Here.  Anne Wiazemsky?  No.  We will wait for her at the Tout va bien café.

Art house, arthouse, Astruc?  Yes. Alexandre. camérastylo.  A free-flowing style.  Freewheeling.  Big Star, Bilinda Butcher?  Yes.  Feed me with your kiss.  Do you know how to kiss?  With the tongue?  That’s correct.  You stick your tongue out and I will kiss you on the cheek.

So I found my word?  No.  I found Bob Dylan, Boise, bored to tears.  A phrase.  Bresson.  Wiazemsky.  No, not yet.  But, pickpocket.  Yes.  Money.  A big stack of money!

Broken heart.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.  And how does a heart break?  Neil?  Love.  CSS.  No, not the computer language.  Language?  We are barely passing English class.  Romeo and Juliet.  Verona.  Valentine’s.  The world’s shittiest Starbucks.  Right by my house.  Trust me.  I’ve been to Starbucks in middle-of-nowhere Arizona…in a fucking Albertson’s.  No, Target.  Maybe Wal-Mart.  No more depressing than the one by my house.  Sure, the buck-toothed high school senior was not much on the eye candy scale, but I am living in the same wasteland.  Neu Mexique.  The place where they tested the bombs.  Long ago.  Trinity.  I have become the destroyer of worlds.

No, the other CSS.  Tired of being sexy.  That one.  And Cary Grant.  Yes, my jacket’s at the dry cleaner…and I don’t have any money…so I won’t take off my coat.  Tou bi or not tou bi contre votre poitrine:  dat iz ze question.  Something like that.  Claude Brasseur.  What a brute!  What a fucking asshole!! !

Chris Bell.  The singer.  The white one.  Yeah.  Dead.  No.  Cinémathèque Française.  O-kay!  Now we are getting somewhere.  But I keep searching.  The English classes are not enough.  Maybe the Chinese will prevail.  Sami Frey is betting Chinese:  5-2.

Cocteau.  Yeah.  We’ll sit in the car and listen to the radio.  No, I’m not allowed to do things like that.  Hey, how old are you anyway!?!  Conlon Nancarrow?  Yes.  And the last time Michel Legrand on the big screen [English broken].

When it should be sad, the jazz kicks up impossibly happy.  Happily.  Hereusement?  I don’t know.  I am on the other side of the pond.

Crying.  Depressed, depression, depress-o-rama.  And then she feeds a tiger.

Doldrums.  No.  The other ones.  Not the horse latitudes.  Ennui.  Yes. She is bored, but she doesn’t know she’s bored…until she’s not bored anymore.  Euros Childs.  No.  Completely inappropriate.

Farfisa.  Maybe.  Pasolini.  Frankenstein.  Rasputin.  Claude Brasseur.  What’s your family name, Arthur?  Rimbaud, like my father.  But he’s dead.  As I pump a bull’s eye into the midway target.  Can I keep my chart?  [Crumples and throws away.]

Leave no traces.  Like the Situationists.  No more poetry.  Arthur Craven.  Shitty family.  It’s no joke.  We need that money.  I was in Indochina.  Don’t fuck with me.  Like Raoul Coutard.

Back to black and white.  Truly a film noir. Série noire .  Gallimard.  Says so at the end.  Dolores Hitchens.

Forlorn.  Ooh!  That’s a good one!  Any catch?  French cinema.  French film?  Harmony Korine.  No.  Later, later.

Henri Langlois.  Yes.  Now we’re back on track.  A name.  We needed a name.  Like Tarantino.  His production company.  Like the car scene with Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.  Same thing.  They’re talking about nothing.  But they are incredibly rude.  Crude.  Blow a fucker’s brains out.  2.0

But the travesty is that Godard is forgotten in France.  ;that Quentin is cooler than Jean-Luc.  Quel dommage.

Howard Hawks.  To Jean-Luc.  And then who?  David Lynch?  Not very often.  Too many misses.  Same with Harmony Korine.  But those two are as good as it gets now.

Balls.  Giant figurative testicles.  The Madison.  Joseph Beuys balls.  Wolves and coyotes and felt and fat and goldleaf.  Heathen child youthful anarchy.  La Düsseldorf.  Klaus Dinger?  Motorik.

Driving like madmen.  Park on the curb…like Billy the Kid.  Drive on the sidewalk.  The Simca.  Do wheelies…no, donuts.  The mud.  The giant spools for wire.  Tightrope.

Lovelorn.  Ooh!  Nice!!  Lovesick.  Mauricio Kagel.  Yeah, now we’re getting somewhere.  Because, obviously, there’s a smokin’ hot girl out there in blog land into Mauricio Kagel.  Good strategy.

We are Sami Frey, here at Dossier du cinema.  We are Anna Karina.  We are schmucks.  We haven’t learned yet to embrace our inner Claude Brasseurs.

How ’bout that chick?  Yeah, like her!  Except……………….monotony.  Morose?  Yeah, book it!  Nerval.  Hanging from the streetlamp.  Certainly.  Ophüls?  Nothin’.

Psychogeography.  Clichy.  The Louvre in 9:43…surpassing Jimmy Johnson of San Francisco.

AND THE SUBWAY SCENE!!!

Regret, rejection?  Yes.  Print it.  The man sleeping on the sidewalk.  Teddy bear or TNT.  Richard Hell or Richard Lloyd.  Routine.  Buy groceries.  Aunt Victoria.  Like the Queen.  And a big pile of money upstairs with the door unlocked and just a jacket draped over it.  200 million francs perhaps.  In 10,000 franc notes.

Silver screen.  It has to be silver, you fucks!  Spider Man does not qualify.  It has to be Louis Feuillade.  Jurassic Park does not cut it.  Did you see her thighs?  So white.  Black stockings over your heads.  Undo the garters.  It’s like Le Petit soldat all over again, but this time the terrorists are up and walking around.  That’s what terrorists do.  They terrify.  Burglers burgle.  Etc.  No torture…handcuffed to the robinet.

I don’t have time for this shit.  Shortcut.  Dying.  “Cheat death on the other side.”  J. Spaceman.

Someone to be nice to me for like five minutes and then I’ll leave you alone.  This was Jean-Luc “Cinema” Godard on fire.

-PD

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist [2008)

The great director Samuel Fuller said in a cameo during Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou that, “Film is like a battleground.  Love.  Hate.  Action.  Violence.  Death.  In one word…emotion.”  Writing about film is often an intellectual parlor game.  Drop the right reference.  Sound erudite.  But one must confront the emotion of film with the emotion of criticism…in a harmony of pathos.

This film makes me cry.  We’ve all heard a similar phrase, but perhaps never applied to this new classic from director Peter Sollett.  When this film came out, I needed this film.  It restored my faith in the romantic quest–to find a soul mate.

From the opening titles this film hits all the right notes.  Much has been made of Sofia Coppola’s prescient use of music in her films.  To not only employ the proto-shoegaze of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” (The Virgin Suicides), but also follow it up with some MBV (Lost In Translation) before Kevin Shields and company mercifully reformed a few years later is, in a word, genius.  However, Peter Sollett and crew (editor Myron Kerstein and music supervisor Linda Cohen) score a coup right off the bat which sets the stage for a brilliant cinematic experience…intertwined with the trappings and longings which a life in music (whether as performer or enthusiast) weaves into our thoughts and very being.

Simply put, “Speed of Sound” by former Big Star member Chris Bell is my favorite song off of his posthumously released masterpiece I Am The Cosmos.  To know that someone else felt the same way about this particular composition is really what Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is all about.

Chris Bell was a homosexual heroin addict in the deep South (Memphis) who got kicked out of his own band, ended up working at his dad’s hamburger restaurant, and (like Marc Bolan) died when his car collided with a tree.  That such a sensitive soul was subjected to such unbefitting circumstances and then layed down the tracks at Château d’Hérouville for the sublime strains which open this picture is truly touching.  Sure, “In The Street” by Big Star (from his time in the band as co-writer) was used as the theme for That ’70s Show, but the song placement for “Speed of Sound” long after his death is a tribute to both his genius and the artistry of Peter Sollett and his team.

But here I have up and gone on a tangent…and deviated from my goal of emotion for emotion.

Reset.  A few days ago.  My birthday.  I walk into Barnes & Noble with a fistful of dollars.  I look at almost every DVD in the joint.  Criterion, action, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller, drama, comedy…even family!  And I come out of the place with one film:  the one under review.

The reason is simple.  Kat Dennings is an acting goddess among (mostly) prattling girls.  With this film she took up the reins which Thora Birch strangely released after Ghost World.  Peter Sollett has made a timeless film of equal to the cinematically stunning aforementioned Terry Zwigoff gem.

But back to Dennings.  There are moments in this film (very few) where her acting might be termed hesitant, but in retrospect I believe this to be part of the Norah character which she was conveying with the utmost thespian delicacy.  For the vast majority of her screen time, she shines like the new star which she is.  I imagine that I’m not the only one who came away from this film wishing that her character was real and that I might meet a Norah around the next corner (just as Thora Birch had made me believe that Enid Coleslaw was really out there somewhere).

A word about Michael Cera.  I didn’t think much of his acting on first view, but I realize now that his droll comic timing might just presage his emergence as the Woody Allen of this generation.  He is, without a doubt, talented beyond many of his peers.

Kudos to writers Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (as well as to screenwriter Lorene Scafaria) for working the Where’s Fluffy? idea into this tapestry (almost like a nod to The Residents…mysterious anonymity in rock music).  Likewise, the supporting cast here is essential and outstanding (particularly Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron).  Also indispensable is Jonathan B. Wright in the small role as Lethario.

Two final bits about this music-infused juggernaut…  The Electric Lady Studios portion (particularly the potentially unwieldy orgasm segment) is director Sollett at his finest.  As the VU meters monitor a keyed mic in the main room we are brought the irresistible symbology which the auteur has been tracing throughout this hipster Easter egg chase in a yellow Yugo…perhaps zipping past the parking garage where Warhol’s Factory used to stand…speeding with exhilaration over the Velvets’ old stomping grounds…the deli where Max’s Kansas City once stood (but now with a mile-long sneeze guard around its salad bar)…maybe past the empty hole where the Mercer Arts Center once stood before it collapsed.  Director Sollett takes us “into the red” at just the right moment…just as Lou Reed knew when to step on the stompbox after delivering the line “and then my mind split open” in the song “I Heard Her Call My Name” from the classic angst-fueled White Light/White Heat album (1968).

Last bit…Mark Mothersbaugh delivers just the right dose of simpatico for this journey to the end of the night.  Thank you friends.  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.

-PD