Lovelace [2013)

“I know it when I see it”

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.

Obscene.

Pornography.

What is pornography?

As of two years ago, the sixth most visited site by American internet users was Pornhub.

https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-users-access-porn-more-than-twitter-wikipedia-and-netflix-2018-9

Two of the other top 15 sites for American internet users:  XNXX and XVideos.

The latter two sites are both owned by WGCZ Holding.

Pornhub is owned by MindGeek.

WGCZ Holding’s “country of origin” (?) is France, yet their headquarters is in Prague.

MindGeek’s “country of origin” [I suppose this means “where the company started”] is Canada, but its headquarters is in the country of Cyprus.

In our current coronavirus pandemic, it is not hard to find information about the world-wide INCREASE in pornographic viewing.

So it seems only fitting that we come to this wonderful film.

It is a beautiful film.

As beautiful as Amanda Seyfried.

But also a sad film.

Reminiscent at times of Requiem for a Dream.

There are moments, in both of these films, when their respective sadnesses could be viewed as “loss of the soul”.

In Requiem for a Dream, heroin steals souls.

In Lovelace, the porn industry threatens to steal Linda Lovelace’s soul.

But what we get in the movie Lovelace is something more specific.

Spousal abuse.

Domestic violence.

Human trafficking.

Sex slavery.

Spousal sexual abuse.

It’s not very titillating stuff.

It turns the stomach.

It’s like watching Ike and Tina as a fly on the wall.

I’ve seen Deep Throat.

I think it’s an excellent film.

But there is a dark underbelly.

Linda, it appears, was coerced (to put it mildly) into making the picture.

Lovelace (Seyfried) states near the end of our film that she was only in the porn industry for 17 days.

Yet she is probably the most famous porn star ever.

And not without good reason.

Whether it is accurate or not, Chuck Traynor (Linda’s husband) is portrayed as a scumbag.

A creep.

A really bad dude.

There is agenda setting in Lovelace.

We are SUPPOSED to see Traynor as bad.

Which makes me suspicious.

The subtlety of Dostoyevsky is nowhere to be found.

Linda good.  Chuck bad.

Perhaps that is the whole story, but it would be an unlikely black and white moment in a world of gray.

But let’s enter the world of color for a moment.

Amanda Seyfried is so beautiful in this film.

And it is beautifully shot by cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards.

Interestingly, we have two directors on record as having helmed Lovelace:

Rob Epstein and

Jeffrey Friedman.

Which brings us to a familiar story.

Jeffrey Epstein.

If we go further, we realize that Hugh Hefner is played in Lovelace by James Franco.

There’s something going on here.

I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Chloë Sevigny plays a brief role in Lovelace.

Sevigny performs actual oral sex on actor/director Vincent Gallo in his film The Brown Bunny.

What are we seeing here?

How long has this been going on?

It’s clear by this wonderful movie, Lovelace, that Deep Throat brought pornography into the mainstream.

But since then, it has still hidden…and peeked around corners.

It is everywhere.

It is pervasive.

Perhaps it has lost some of its taboo.

But it is still widely regulated.

And ACTUAL hardcore PORNOGRAPHY is still rarely seen in Hollywood films.

So what do we have here?

We have Amanda Seyfried looking beautiful.

We have actors reminiscing on older actors.

We have a major industry paying homage to a minor industry which is itself becoming a major industry (especially during the coronavirus pandemic).

But I’m here to talk cinema.

Lovelace is cinema.

It skirts in and out of being a masterpiece.

Some scenes are timeless.

Others are a little clumsy.

I would say it is well worth a view.

What is particularly interesting is the role that parental judgement plays in Lovelace and Requiem for a Dream.

In Requiem…, the parental element is more of a reference.

But both movies evoke sadness.

Parents want the best for their children.

Most parents probably don’t want their children to grow up to be heroin addicts or porn actors.

There is genuine heartbreak in both of these films.

Kudos to Robert Patrick for playing Linda’s father.

He verges on a caricature of Chris Cooper in American Beauty.

But Patrick is better.  Warmer.  More human.

Wes Bentley is here in Lovelace.

As he was in American Beauty.

Then there was Kevin Spacey…in American Beauty.

And flying around with Jeffrey Epstein.

And Thora Birch was in American Beauty.

And her mom was in Deep Throat.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

It is a very weird spiral.

An almost-invisible web.

What does it mean?

If Trump wins the next election, we have a chance of finding out.

We are ready to unleash hell.

 

-PD

Good Morning, Vietnam [1987)

Things are sad here.

This is a war.

Pieczenik has outlined it as both biological warfare and psychological warfare.

Morale.

How to keep morale high?

Maybe you love someone.

Or maybe you’re just attracted to them.

But as you see them leave in a hurry, you wonder whether it might be the last time.

Are we winning?

Are we gonna make it back home?

Everything is shot to shit.

Destroyed.

The DJ is lonely.

Daft.

But quite possibly a genius.

And so you can see how Robin Williams might have committed suicide.

The Great Pretender.

Tears of a Clown.

Death of a Clown.

Drugs have taken hold.

Not the gentle breasts of the opium den, but the annihilation of heroin.

Even the General smokes.

Because you don’t know how many days you have left.

One minute you’re fine.

The next you get blown up by the Vietcong.

Or the virus gets in your lungs.

In times of great distress (to paraphrase), comedians are needed.

“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

Willy Wonka said that.

As he grabbed Veruca Salt’s impudent mouth.

Cash is getting low.

Grapes of Wrath.

But we hang on.

With our radios.

And our MacBooks.

To have a zany DJ.

A “maniac”!

Yes.

On a boring street.

In a tense environment.

Theater of war.

Conflict.

Bittersweet.

Perhaps with more knowledge comes more sadness.

But the heart needs to heal.

The psychic energy has been vomited up.

The emetic was psychological.

Autobiographical.

And now I feel wasted.

Limp.

Fatigued.

But hopeful.

I will press on.

I am 43 years old.

There are good things about me.

I recognize what society sees as my shortcomings.

But I am on ice.

And yet it is temporary.

I was never cut out for the military.

And neither was Adrian Cronauer.

But there are many subgroups in the military.

Many ingenious ways by which to put creative individuals to work.

If the totality of war is fully understood.

Outcast.

Freak.

Break the rules.

Skirt the rules.

Play.

Emphasis on play.

Whimsy.

Quixotic.

Cronauer is a bit like Alex Jones.

Which makes sense.

When one sees the admiration Steve Pieczenik has for Alex Jones.

Not just anyone can get in front of a mic and do that.

We get a bit of Stripes here (rehashed).

Do the right thing.

Make true friends.

Long-lasting connections.

Be a good person.

Watch how your life achieves harmony.

Censorship.

Gimme Some Truth.

The pointless pursuit of the unattainable.

Sadness in human history.

In a foreign land.

Where no shops are open.

Where there are no places to congregate.

Our job is important.

We fall into a niche which is not easily defined.

The creators.

Of content.

And happiness.

The most electric scenes here directed by Barry Levinson are those of Robin Williams at work.

Spinning records.

Dancing.

You can feel the energy.

He plays off the reactions of his crew.

And the camera captures the frenzy with a shaking electricity.

Back in the real world, we must decide whether to go on being DJs and clowns.

Many dead ends.

And a broken heart.

A heavy heart.

But God says, “I got you, dawg.”

And we take this as gospel truth.

 

-PD

택시운전사 [2017)

[A Taxi Driver (2017)]

Wow.

I was unfamiliar.

With this amazing film by Jang Hoon.

Not a perfect film, but very close!

A very moving picture.

Very much due to he extraordinary performance of Song Kang-ho.

And me.

I am learning Korean.

And seven other languages.

But I am lagging behind.

So we dive in further.

Kim Man-seob (Song Kang-ho) has a daughter in the film.

She is very important.

Played by Yoo Eun-mi.

But the big story is that of Gwangju.

South Korea’s sixth-largest city.

1980.

80.

Something about “hope”.

The “official story” is that “civilians raided armories and armed themselves”.

That’s what Wikipedia says.

So still you see that this movie is (whether true or untrue) at odds with mainline history.

None of the protesters are seen with guns.

Not one.

Indeed, no protester in this film does anything but peacefully protest.

So we are looking at (perhaps beautiful) propaganda.

Or, on the other side, FAKE NEWS.

Which is it?

I don’t know.

I am rather new to the subject at hand.

Modern Korean history.

But it begs a further question.

Why is an entire film dedicated to showing how bad the South Korean military coup government was in 1980 when the regime across the border (North Korea) is extraordinarily famous for their ruthlessness?

It is weird.

Who’s funding this?

It wasn’t the United States.

This is not American propaganda.

So who, then?

The most likely culprit is China.

Means, motive, and opportunity.

The idea would be to show the South Korean government as corrupt and (by extension) the American military as grotesque occupiers.

Funny enough.

In 1982 (two years after this incident took place), Gwangju was made a sister city with my hometown:  San Antonio.

Military city.

Hmmm…

Bringing it all back home, said Bob Dylan.

But, as Godard said (and I paraphrase), all propaganda can be beautiful.

i.e., it doesn’t matter if it’s true…it’s still a good story.

Jürgen “Peter” Hinzpeter is framed to make us unquestionably worship reporters.

That is the propaganda showing through.

Excellent story.

About the politeness and honor of Koreans.

Honor a favor.

Bow.

Multiple times.

Quickly.

And do not bring shame on your country by being greedy.

Stand up for your fellow countrymen.

Yes, of course.

Ahhh, those great balls of dough (?) in Honam.

Jeolla food.

I love Korean food!

Ugh!

Bibimbap.

So fucking good!!!

Before cell phones.

Left his 11-year-old daughter home alone in Seoul.

Because he’s a widower.

And now he can’t call to tell her he’s alright.

Because the military has cut all the phone lines to Gwangju.

All she has is him.

All he has is her.

Heartbreaking.

Nice acting by Yoo Hae-jin.

Taxi drivers.

Unite!

Like the ice factory workers in that Bruce Lee film.

The best Bruce Lee movie (probably).

The Big Boss.

Uprising.

Like in Hong Kong.

People take to the streets.

Very real threat of bodily harm.

Up against an immensely powerful military.

That doesn’t want to be embarrassed.

In a precarious position.

CIA uprising in Hong Kong.

This film goes a little overboard with the schmaltz.

A few too many string swells (and lifted Mussorgsky licks).

Sometime around this point we enter the world of BATHOS.

Like a Schindler’s List remake done in Korean.

Out to Suncheon.

Shoes.

Heartbreaking.

Food.

This really is a fine film.

Even with its excesses.

A LONG film.

It almost comes apart.

But hangs together like a Bruckner symphony.

The dramatic arc is there.

The film just gets wobbly for a bit.

Threatening to collapse beneath its own weight.

Some genuinely great cinematography here and there.

Thanks to Go Nak-seon.

Definitely a cautionary tale here.

Certainly a danger that military might can be abused.

When military becomes police.

Gets a little “buddy film” with a strange Fast and Furious meets Thelma & Louise sequence.

As ridiculous as “Gangnam Style”.

Yes, there may be some things lost in translation here.

I know not ALL South Korean films are like this, but are some of these mannerisms normal?

Put plainly, there are some CHEESY film gestures which cheapen this movie unnecessarily.

I’d like to find them endearing (and I kinda do), but they are mostly annoying when encountered.

The Gwangju Uprising.

Minjung.

Heartwarming story.

That a mere taxi driver (a humble rung of society) could make a huge difference.

Very inspiring!!!

 

-PD

Kill Me Three Times [2014)

Mediocre film.

For those keeping score at home, let me fill you in.

Simon Pegg is perhaps the most talented actor working these days.

Here’s the films of his which I know to be masterpieces:

Shaun of the Dead

Hot Fuzz

The World’s End

Yes, that’s right:  the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.

It really is that good.

One might not think such possible.

But it is the case.

Close, but not quite up to that level is:

Paul

Another notch down (though it is very inventive):

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

In some ways, I want to put those last two I mentioned on the same level, but Paul features Nick Frost as well.  It’s just too hard to beat.

All said, that’s FIVE essential films starring one actor.

Granted, Frost is in four of those.

Which brings us to this “other” part of Pegg’s oeuvre.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything proves that Pegg can do it without Frost, but there are some bone fide clunkers in Pegg’s oeuvre as well.

Terminal is mediocre.

Worth watching, but mediocre.

And, sadly, I would say the same about Kill Me Three Times.

On a positive note, Pegg is MUCH better in this film than he is in Terminal.

Mostly it’s because he’s allowed to act.

Allowed to bask in the spotlight.

But Kill Me Three Times has many problems (which take away from Pegg’s performance).

Let’s break it down.

The Oldsmobile Toronado with Western Australia plates is a nice touch.

Metallic puke green.

And Pegg with a nice Grinderman ‘stache.

You might be ahead of me.

Indeed, one of the problems from which Kill Me Three Times suffers is an over-adoration of Quentin Tarantino.

The mustachioed hitman is by now a trite trope.

There can be only one Pulp Fiction.

[itself merely a good (not great) movie]

While the story is not entirely original, I would like to congratulate writer James McFarland for doing what director Kriv Stenders did not:

create art.

There is some art (not much) in McFarland’s script.

Conversely, there is no art in Stender’s film.

No thought.

No inspiration.

[and, one would think by looking at it, no cinematographer]

A very uninspired directorial effort.

Now.

You might be wondering why I am so bitter.

BECAUSE I BOUGHT THIS MOVIE!

I don’t have the money to throw away on such a piece of shit.

That, and it’s an affront to those of us who create in spite of severe monetary limitations.

Perhaps the only inspired shots involve the security camera footage in the microwave on the pizza setting.

A good bit, that.

Good special effects here.

Realistic-looking deaths abound.

The ending is good.

Kinda funny.

In an Aussie way.

It’s a shame this film couldn’t have been made better.

The script was fine.

The actors were plenty talented.

It is just such a BLAND mise-en-scène.

Luke Hemsworth is pretty good here.

But the only thing that kept this watchable (aside from Pegg) is Teresa Palmer.

I thought director Stenders might deliver a truly-artful moment…finally…at the end…in the shower scene.

I was wrong.

 

-PD

Le Livre d’image [2018)

And so I’m back.

Sort of.

Maybe.

With Godard.

Can we go from back to front?

After having gone halfway from front to back?

More importantly:  WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH?!?

I’m guessing JLG might relish such a reaction.

But really.

Le Livre d’image (The Image Book) is a thoroughly fucked-up film.

Music stops and starts.

Ok, standard Godard.

Images run and then go to black screen.

Again, standard Godard.

But something is further about this film.

Perhaps the most accessible touchstone would be the glitchy music of Radiohead circa Kid A and Hail to the Thief (to name my two favorites).

To wit:  Godard seems to be enjoying fucking with his audience.

Every possible convention of cinema is destroyed and frustrated by his anti-art approach.

It is Swiss.  It is dadaist (in a certain sense).

But it is stranger…

Which brings us to a crossroads.

Is Godard getting senile?

I mean, seriously:  is this the work of someone falling apart?

It may be.

There is an achingly-sad moment near the end when we hear that trademarked Godard narrative voice break up.

Coughing.

Too many cigars.

Almost 90 years old…

But there are other possibilities.

Indeed, The Image Book hearkens back to the Godard of his Dziga-Vertov years.

Extremely obtuse.

Painful cinema.

A cinema of cruelty (for Artaud).

We catch glimpses (literally) of Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

Yes.

There is a pessimism here.

But mostly a hard reality.

And yet, is it reality?

The Image Book is surreal…while being mostly in a stark cinematography.

A bit like Picasso’s Guernica.

But more boring.

Can I say that?

Boring.

When you’re 88 years old (like Godard), perhaps things move slower.

Perhaps you could call it “slow cinema”.

But it is FAST and boring.

Many cuts.

Many, many cuts.

Painstakingly (painstakingly?) spliced.

It seems.

Also seems random.

Aleatory.

I Ching.

John Cage.

But onto another aspect.

That of revision.

Revisiting.

The Image Book is to Godard’s oeuvre as Histoire(s) du cinéma is to film history as a whole.

Le Livre d’image could be said to be a sort of CliffsNotes to the work of Jean-Luc Godard.

But there’s just one catch.

You would need to know the oeuvre in its totality to really make much of this pithy summation.

So it is, in a sense, useless.

But it still speaks.

Galileo.

And yet it moves.

Godard is not dead.

Not yet.

And he should know that he will never die.

Not with the timeless body of work he has contributed to humanity.

And yet, that tobacco cough says otherwise.

To live in those lungs.

To feel the weight of mortality pressing down.

Le Livre d’image is a frustrating piece of work.

It has very little (almost none) of the lyrical poeticism that its predecessor Adieu au langage had.

Indeed, perhaps this is a purposeful “let down”.

Like Neil Young’s On The Beach or Lou Reed’s Berlin.

To extend the metaphor there, it is mostly like Metal Machine Music.

It is jarring.

Annoying.

It gets under your skin.

But it makes you think.

And perhaps that is the whole point.

Perhaps Godard is reaching for a new filmic language.

He may not be there yet, but he is reaching.

This is essential, cranky cinema.

The bleeding edge…

 

-PD

Uncle Buck [1989)

Good one.

John Hughes.

It really started with National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Writer.

Chase.

Ramis was at the stick.

Egon from Ghostbusters.

Hughes really took off with Sixteen Candles.

He directed.

And that’s the first I saw of the big trilogy.

Those ’80s movies which transcend decade and genre:

Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink.

The middle one is the best.

Hughes needed a dry run with Sixteen Candles.

The Breakfast Club was the home run.

The grand slam.

Which leaves some holes.

European Vaction [writer].

Weird Science [hasn’t aged well…unless you’re a horny boy].

By Pretty in Pink, Hughes had relinquished direction to Howard Deutch.

Bueller [director] hasn’t aged that well.

WarGames [piece on #QAnon in the works] is much, much better.

Some Kind of Wonderful is another Deutch-directed hole.

Crosses paths with Back to the Future [Lea Thompson].

All of which is to say that Uncle Buck pales in comparison the the true Candy/Hughes masterpiece:  Planes, Trains and Automobiles [sic].

No Oxford comma.

Holes.

She’s Having a Baby [director].

PTA [director] was his second great auteurist masterpiece after The Breakfast Club.

But in Hughes, auteur once again becomes AUTHOR [in the sense of writing].

Hughes was no camérastylo savant–no Orson Welles or Hitchcock of angle and mise-en-scène.

It’s the story that matters.

And yet…Judd Nelson’s neorealist performance in The Breakfast Club must have made Hughes the Rossellini of the ’80s…if for only a moment.

[and Nelson its James Dean…briefly]

The Great Outdoors [writer] is worse than even Uncle Buck.

Which is to say, Uncle Buck is WAY better than The Great Outdoors.

But both pale in comparison to Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Christmas Vacation was a comeback.

Jeremiah S. Chechik owes his career to Hughes [writer] and Randy Quaid [genius].

Hughes only directed once more after Uncle Buck.

Curly Sue.

Sad.

And his writing went strictly downhill after the rollercoaster pinnacle of Home Alone.

Money isn’t everything.

 

-PD

 

تاکسی‎‎ [2015)

[JAFAR PANAHI’S TAXI (2015)]

This must be “Axis of Evil” week here at paulydeathwish.com 🙂

As I have stated recently to a friend.

George W. Bush was the worst President the United States has ever seen.

And Barack Obama was probably the second-worst.

So what does that make me?

Democrat?

Republican?

Libertarian?

Let’s get to that question (if you even care to know) by a circuitous route, shall we?

First, we must again praise the people of Iran.

It was long ago that I saw my first Iranian film.

Taste of Cherry.

طعم گيلاس…‎‎

[Ta’m-e gīlās…]

It was such a profound experience.

There I was.

In a movie theater in Austin.

And I couldn’t have given a shit about cinema.

But I was there.

For some reason.

God only knows why.

And I saw a movie which in many ways changed my life.

[but it took many years to sink in]

Even so, I came to regard the name of its director (Abbas Kiarostami) with a sort of awe.

Yet, I doubted.

[as we all well should]

And so I said to the cinema gods, “Let Kiarostami perform his miracle again…if he be so brilliant!”

And he did.

I was supposed to be watching Life, and Nothing More…

But I made a mistake.

Because my French is so bad.

[you know, Kiarostami died in Paris last year (may God rest his soul)]

I needed 1991, but I chose 1990.

And it was another miracle.

Close-Up.

I don’t know.

Is it…

کلوزآپ ?

Or…

نمای نزدیک ?

[“Klūzāp”?  Or “nemā-ye nazdīk”?]

Because the unfailing Google Translate (now the second-most popular “tr” search after “Trump” [as “translate”]) tells me that both terms mean “close-up”.

But who can translate Trump?

[ahhh…]

Perhaps only an Iranian?

Well, we would be in good hands if director Jafar Panahi was that man.

Why?

Because Mr. Panahi has made a film which is of the same rarefied air as the two Kiarostami films which I have referenced.

The work is called Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, and it is currently available on Netflix in the U.S.

No, it’s not a really trite game show.

No, it’s not some premise for an uncreative pornographer.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi ( تاکسی) pushes the limits of barebones filmmaking in much the same way that the Palestinian masterpiece 5 Broken Cameras did.

[yes, I know the latter film was an Israeli coproduction…with an Israeli co-director…‎‎but the film was very much Palestinian in its inmost heart]

What our director Mr. Panahi adds to the method (budget cinematography) is an uncertainty of reality.

Frankly, I have never seen a film quite like Jafar Panahi’s Taxi.

Is it a documentary?  Is it staged?

One thing’s for sure.

If it’s staged, the injured man and his wailing wife deserve Oscars “toot sweet”!

Truly, it is panic-inducing…

Which is not true of this film in general.

No, dear eggshell friends (if you’re out there)…don’t be afraid.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi will only take you on a “wondrous boat ride” (so to speak) for a brief, more-or-less manageable period of time.

The rest of the film is fascinating…engrossing…painfully and gloriously perplexing.

Yes, Mr. Panahi borrows Kiarostami’s favorite device:  filming from a moving vehicle.

But so what?!?

Panahi was an assistant director to Kiarostami.

And Abbas certainly wasn’t the first to film out of a car window.

But let’s examine for a moment…

Yes, the special part of this method is that the camera is turned INWARDS.

And so we feel we are seeing Homayoun Ershadi vacillate between life and death…all over again.

Or we feel we are seeing the calm, gracious mannerisms of Mohsen Makhmalbaf transposed from motorcycle to taxicab.

But what we are seeing most of all is a director stepping in front of the camera.

Like Truffaut.

And Chaplin before him.

Godard has done it to excellent effect as well.

And Jafar Panahi is like an empty reed of meditation as he navigates an unending stream of chaos which enters his faux-taxi.

But the most poignant moments are when Hana Saeidi reminds us of the childish joy of being an auto passenger…and when the lawyer Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh addresses us…we, the watchers of cinema.

Who will watch those watching the watchers?

It’s like Juvenal in a hall of mirrors.

But Ms. Sotoudeh breaks the fourth wall and takes us to a very special place.

Prison.

And so, again, frankly:  we don’t know how Jafar Panahi’s Taxi was ever made.

Isn’t Iran one of the most intolerant countries on Earth?

Just what is going on here??

All of this Shostakovich-ean rebellion is really breathtaking when under the microscope of close viewing.

But Jafar Panahi remains stone-faced.

Like Buster Keaton.

Yet, this is largely no comedy.

This is a big “fuck you” to the government of Iran.

And yet, it is the most subtle “fuck you” ever committed to film.

Only a genius can do such things.

DSCH

etc.

Yes, dear friends.  Mr. Panahi has been banned from making films.

And yet he made one.

And then another.

And then this one.

So we salute you, Mr. Panahi.

We appreciate such in America.

To illustrate:

<–fuck you, fuck you–>, and most of all…fuck you ^

That is freedom.

It is ugly.

Messy.

But it works.

And so as a Donald Trump supporter (yes, me), I say, “bring it on, you whiny, sub-literate protesters!”

Maybe they’re right.

But it’s their right.

To protest.

And so we mix and knead.

And we need the yeast of dissent to ever grow again.

Let’s bake some goddamned bread, people!

-PD

Tokyo Fiancée [2014)

I have been absent.

Because work.

Not working, but looking.

Labor.

Jobs.

Money.

Healthcare.

I have been absent because anxiety.

Always.

But better.

Walking.

Stretching.

Exercise.

Rest.

Time.

And now the cosmos brings me a perfect film.

Because Pauline Étienne.

Actress full of joy.

But the grand auteur is Stefan Liberski.

Every color.

Every gesture.

You must pinstripe, tuck up your hair you haven’t.

You must primary color.

Yellow and red.  Made in U.S.A.

“You must fall in love with me,” says Pauline Étienne.

“I command you.”

[she continues]

And of all the girls in the world, the Belgians and Finnish are the most diabolically beautiful on film.

Godard said the Swiss.

Clear bias.

And so we have a Belgian film set in Japan.

If we try hard, we can hear Debussy.  Estampes…

Pagodes…

Sado Island… […]

To dream in the rain.

Cross the bridge.

And the river steams.

You seek a nectarine.

A noisy kiss.

Pauline Étienne.

Buttermilk legs joy rollerskate skinny.

Was taken from Salinger.

Joyce said spittoon.

As cuspidor.

The most beautiful word.

Girl.

Some films, books so good…too much to handle.

My wish.

To marry.

To have that happiness.

A mere handful of fives away from Valentine’s.

When Colombia and Ecuador will be pumping out roses for Starbuckers.

All along.

They said that sex was uncouth.

Or resorted to farm metaphors of propagating species.

But.

They couldn’t talk about love.

Excitement.

When your breath is stolen by a cold kiss.

In the autumn.

Winter.

And yet warmth from optimism.

But we must get on to the little back alleys of Tokyo.

And for a moment stop this dream.

To be born.

In Japan.

Of Belgian parents.

Does not a Japanese make.

I can suck the life out of Auden.

Elliptical.

Though I thought I was aping Céline.

But director Stefan Liberski is aping no one.

personne

We must mention the author and not the auteur, though in French there is no difference (save for the milieu of cinema).

And she gives us a fantastic story.

Amélie Nothomb.

No thumb.

Better than “all thumbs”.

Rhombus.

Can you suck on a diamond lozenge from a ring?

Lots of sucking.

But that’s the aw-kward + loneliness which makes a great film.

This one just happens to pull in Belgique and Nippon to boot.

It depends.

On her yellow socks.

On her haircut.

Pauline Étienne.

On sweater with blue stripes.

Like Edward Hopper did the cinematography.

But the Francophones have it figured out.

Every trick.

Which is to say.

No tricks.

Just emotion.

Realism.

No bullshit.

Embrace the history of film.

Compare and contrast.

What works?  What doesn’t?

What speaks to you?  How does a culture (French, par exemple) see a film?

Answer:  it doesn’t fucking matter.

What matters is the overflowing love and romance which infuses Tokyo Fiancée.

Only thing Lars von Trier ever did well was film Kirsten Dunst in the nude.

Stefan Liberski surpasses von Trier’s entire oeuvre with this one film.

Yes, I’m polemic as fuck!

I’ll take François Truffaut (the film critic) and a bottle of white wine for my friend.

I like red.

And Guy Debord.

I’ll take chances.

Damn.

I have taken so many fucking chances.

But we get scared.

Worn out.

Frightened by inexperience.

All of that is in the film.

Taichi Inoue is really sweet as Rinri.

But I keep coming back to Pauline Étienne.

She has cast a spell over me.

And I must ask:  who does she signify?

Forget the character name.

For each sad soul who dreams their way to the end.

She represents someone.

Fondue.

Teeth which nave never left the village.

New born yellow as unripe baby corn.

On the farm.

Maybe.

A different register (accent?) of French in Belgium.

Immediately recognizable to a Parisian.

And with little modesty lambasted as yokel French.

But perhaps the Belgians and Quebecois have this in common.

A cause for solidarity.

And add in the Swiss…with their weird counting and smoky lisp.

Is it?

Tokyo Fiancée hits harder than La Religieuse (2013) because it is not stilted nor steeped in period costumes.

Just tell a fucking story, we say.

Pauline Étienne.  Born in Ixelles.

How could anyone from such a place be any less than ravishing?

When we think in microcosm.

If we only know one Indian person.

They become India.

For us.

And complicate this with a multicultural relationship.

That is the gasoline of Tokyo Fiancée.

It is clean.  And genius.  Like Magritte.

A bowler hat.  An apple.  And MoMA depth.

We want to be in this Japan.

Because the eyes have captured the essence of magic.

Ingenuity.

Frivolity.

Fun.

Tokyo Fiancée succeeds at every point where Lost in Translation failed (which was at every point).

This is the real deal.

Real acting.

Real art.

Not a dilettante piece.

Sofia Coppola should send her usage permissions for My Bloody Valentine and Kevin Shields tracks to Stefan Liberski posthaste.

Such music is the only thing which could make Tokyo Fiancée any better.

And yet, it is a perfect film.

Don’t fuck with perfection.

Maybe again MBV and Liberski can have a meeting of minds.

But make sure to include the Anna Karina of our age.

Pauline Étienne.

An actress for which Francophonie has been searching for 60 years.

Well, here she is.

And this is the model:  Tokyo Fiancée.

Let the joy in her heart hit the screen (splat!).

Jump on the bed.  Ahhh!!!

In the mountains.  Wooh!  The rush.

An actress with all 21 petals on her Fibonacci daisy.

Which is to say, fully capable of cinema immortality.

I believe it was Mallarmé who wrote of “bursting pomegranates” (!)

Very few films have ever had this effect on me.

And I needed this one very bad.

To confirm that there are quirky, special people in the world.

That there are eyes who see beauty in the details I notice.

And that genius in the cinema is not dead.

Thank you Mr. Liberski.

And thank you Pauline Étienne for your performance which has brought hope to a very sad person in Texas.

Je veux exprimer ma plus profonde gratitude.

C’est infini.

-PD

The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956)

Netflix seems to be down tonight.

I tried several times.  Several movies.  Several fixes.

And so it is only fitting that history should trump the ephemeral stages of technological development.

Yes, time for a good old VHS tape.

And not a film about which I’ve previously written.

While I have surveyed many of the early Hitchcock films, I never wrote about the original version of this film.

1934.

To my knowledge, this is the only film of Alfred Hitchcock’s early career which he chose to remake.

Just on this fact alone, it would seem that the story was either very dear to the auteur or that he couldn’t resist something about the plot.

Granted, the two films are considerably different.

Even on a surface level, the 1934 version was (of course) in black and white.

But this was a VistaVision, Technicolor production.

1956.

22 years later.

For better or worse, I was familiar first with the earlier version.

It is a film I should revisit.

But it was not what I would call a “home run”.

The one aspect of the original which one might miss in the remake is the presence of Peter Lorre.

But we must move on to the future.  The present.

1956.

Jimmy Stewart plays the leading male role.  A doctor from Indianapolis.

Doris Day plays his wife.

The action is set for a good bit in Morocco.

Specifically, Marrakesh.

Indeed, the beginning of the film is a sort of travelogue.

In other words, its a good excuse to show off the exotic locale in North Africa.

Camels.  Veils.  [that one’s important]  The social tradition of eating with the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand.  While leaving the left hand in the lap.

All very edifying and exciting.

But Doris Day is suspicious from the start.

If we knew nothing of Hitchcock, we’d say her paranoia was unfounded.

But, in fact, it’s Jimmy Stewart’s ease which is the fateful misstep early on.

And so this movie is about suspicion.

Who can we trust?

In this age of anxiety (thank you W.H. Auden), everyone and everything is suspect.

The only true bliss is ignorance.

[and perhaps my only wisdom is that of paraphrase]

One thing which escaped me the first time I saw this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (in the theater…lucky me) was a funny detail about Brenda de Banzie.

Yes, dear readers (and fans of Peter Sellers), Ms. de Banzie would later appear as the annoying, flamboyant Angela Dunning in The Pink Panther (1963).

Indeed, her role as the terror of Cortina (d’Ampezzo) was her second-to-last film.

But here she is a much more mysterious character.

I will leave it at that.

We get some interesting things in this film.

“Arabs” in disguise.

Which is to say, certain personages of the spook variety in brown makeup (and native garb).

One need not look very far back in history to find a poignant parallel.

Consider, for instance, the “Basra prison incident” of 2005.

I’m guessing that T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) would provide another example, though I am no expert on this matter.

As are almost all Hitchcock films, this one is a tense affair.

Doris Day, in particular, does a surprising job of portraying the personal terror of her character.

Perhaps most notable about this film is the musical component.

As an accomplished percussionist in my own right, I heartily appreciate Hitchcock’s attention to the intricacies of an orchestral percussion section.

Indeed, the film begins with a close-up of this little-featured “choir” (in addition to the three trumpets and three trombones at the bottom of the frame).

What is most remarkable is Hitchcock’s use of the musical score (in various permutations) to tell this unique story.

Funniest is the shot of the cymbalist’s sheet music.

It is nearly a complete tacit…save for one fateful crash.

I fondly remember (with some measure of anxiety) a time when I manned the cymbals for the overture of Verdi’s La forza del destino.

It was a similar affair.

Interminable waiting.

And if you miss your one crash?  Even in rehearsal?

Well, you are screwed!

The judging stares of oboists are enough to melt a man…

But the musical score appears elsewhere.

In the private box.

Perhaps a page-turner for an assassin.

Most vividly, Hitchcock makes the score come alive in a fascinating series of extreme close-ups.

It is like a very erudite version of “follow the bouncing ball”.

So yes…some of our action happens at the Royal Albert Hall.

In an interesting twist of fate, usual Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann garners copious screen time as the conductor…OF ANOTHER COMPOSER’S WORK!

Were it Beethoven, I’d understand.

But the piece is Storm Clouds Cantata by Arthur Benjamin (who?) and D.B. Wyndham-Lewis (not to be confused with [Percy] Wyndham Lewis).

And yet it is a moving piece.

The London Symphony Orchestra sounds lovely (really magical!) in their on-screen segments.

But the real Leitmotiv of our film is “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)”.

Speaking of magic…it is always a gossamer thing to hear Doris Day sing this song in The Man Who Knew Too Much.

I remember a time when I didn’t know this song at all.

Being in a studio with Corinne Bailey Rae and hearing a playback of her wonderful band own this song.

And my discovery of Sly and the Family Stone’s inimitable version (sung by Rose Stone).

But few movie music moments equal Doris Day in her Marrakesh hotel room singing “Que Sera, Sera…” with little desafinado Christopher Olson.

The only ones which come close are Rita Hayworth (actually Jo Ann Greer?) singing the Rodgers and Hart masterpiece “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” the next year (1957) in Pal Joey and Ms. Hayworth “singing” (actually Anita Kert Ellis) “Put the Blame on Mame” in Gilda (1946).

An interesting note about this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much…

It seems to be a sort of forgotten classic, wedged as it is between the first of my Hitchcock “holy trinity” (Rear Window, 1954) and the other two perfect films (Vertigo, 1958, and North by Northwest, 1959).

Actually, this was a period of experimentation for Hitchcock.

Our film most precisely follows the odd comedy (!) The Trouble with Harry (1955) and precedes the black and white hand-wringer The Wrong Man (released later in 1956).

But The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) should not be forgotten!

It is such a beautifully-shot film!

Robert Burks’ cinematography is divine.

And George Tomasini’s editing is artfully deft.

Like To Catch a Thief (which is actually on Netflix in the U.S. [last time I checked]), The Man Who Knew Too Much is a film which perhaps needs multiple viewings to be truly appreciated.

-PD

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne [1945)

Bresson has been slaying me recently.

First Balthazar, and now this.

They are similar.

Films which seem boring.

You watch them once.  They wash over you.  Very little effect.

And then you are stranded at the end of the world.

Just you and Górecki’s third symphony.

Yes, you pack away some life beneath your belt.

You ingest the poison trickery of the world.

Et voila!

The film comes to life.

All the Frenchies start out looking the same in black and white.

You furiously follow the subtitles.

But the film presents meaning the second time around.

First were the forms.

A donkey.  Some sluts.  Bad memory.

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne is so forgettable the first time around.

All we remember is the Bois.

Conflated with some lines of Céline’s Voyage…

But this is the real deal.

Maria Casarès was like the Alida Valli of The Paradine Case here.

Indeed, it just may be that Hitchcock lifted the essence of his criminally underrated film (no pun intended) from Bresson’s minor masterpiece of two years previous.

Whatever the case may be, Casarès is absolutely diabolical as Hélène.

Revenge is a dish best served.

Simmer, reduce, garnish, and serve.

Revenge revenge revenge.

And yet we feel for Hélène.

And so in the grand mystery of the spheres we wonder, “What is God if not an impossible camera angle?”

A crumpled note.

Our hearts torn to shreds.

And always raining.

Like some goddamned B-movie with a thunder sheet in the wings.

If I didn’t hook you at first, then you’re not still with me.

HOW TO BLOG:

brevity.

The oppression of Twitter.

So we must think of the greatest tricks of all time.

The recent Microsoft Tay psyop.  To make Trump and his followers look stupid.

As if he needs any help.

But a very real conspiracy none the less.

For some events are so transparent.

And some pure whores like  Agnès (Elina Labourdette) have that bullshit detection meter straight out of The Shining.

Preternatural, if not supernatural.

We might think we’re being tricked.

Too good to be true IS.

“Deceit deceives itself.”  Guy Debord.  D.N. Smith.

It is a very delicate story.

The crystallization of immense pain.

Vanity, yes.

But also human nature.  Survival of the ego.

A hurt so deep as to propel plans.  Special plans.  Operations.

Some countries blow up their own cities.

The old “self-inflicted wound” ploy…as Clouseau would call it.

Orwell was very clear about this in 1984.  The government is firing rockets at its own people.

Because it is only natural to assume an outside enemy as culpable, the true authors slip by.

And as the narrative becomes codified and accepted…and everyone has come back to the NFL, and hockey, and soccer…then the beast can’t be disturbed.

The beast which knows not its own power.

The beast whose abuse rises from below.

The Lilliputians in charge condescend upwards.

All bark and no bite.

And the beast bites the wrong lands.

Afghanistan.  Iraq.

With each passing year the creation myth (9/11) requires inference upon inference upon inference to justify the next humanitarian bombing.

Libya.  Syria.

Very few understand the importance of replacing due process with death by Hellfire missile.

Yemen.

No wonder the video game makers consult with the Pentagon.

A seamless transition from energy drinks in mom’s basement to the joysticks of drone strikes.

Far afield.

From those ladies.

Those ladies who have been used.

Sold a false bill of goods.

A very sloppy expression.  Arcane.

Left dangling like a modifier.

And so we want to go back to a simpler time.

Before we gave up on our dreams (in the blink of an eye).

I call out to cold regions.  Cold rooms.

I call out to cold hearts.  Mixed response.

But the one true miracle is to push onwards.

No more sugar-coating the shite she dished out.

She was a real bitch.

And I was as mad as any painterly glass of absinthe ever existed.

I can’t forget.

No, never.

But I can forgive.

Not much here to steal or ruin.

A very marginal existence.

I can sleep because of a girl.

A dream of a girl.

A girl I don’t even know.

She is hope.

A sort of personification of liberty.

And when will we revolt from this life and bolt?

One step at a time.

Not hasty.

So many years piled on my shoulders.

This is, by the way, a film review.

Not caring how ridiculous I look.

Take your best shot.

World, shut your mouth.

I was no trick.

I’ve been desperate.  Money troubles.  My ethics in the gutter.

But given a second chance by the universe I made an important decision.

To be boring.

A few days longer.

Some dreams worth chasing, others are a disease.

People over profit.

Sign me up, Chomsky!

Better get right with the lord.

Or git hit in yer soul.

It’s easy.  Chomsky won’t touch 9/11.

And Alex Jones won’t touch Israel.

It’s easy.

Why?  Same team, different squads.

I don’t care.

Not being run down by no third-rate psyop.

Fuck your Godwin’s law.

This was 1945.

An odd year to be jilted.

 

-PD