Sommaren med Monika [1953)

This film hits a depth like no other.

Summer with Monika.

I should have said, nothing is more persistent than love.

There.

And the ups and downs of love are painted by Ingmar Bergman in their greatest glory and most miserable despair.

Two kids rebelling.

Such freedom.

There are moments which presage Pierrot le fou.

On the beach.

In the most carefree sense. And also in the Neil Young sense.

Two characters attracted to one another.

One freewheeling.  The other a more reserved being.

Several dreams interwoven.

Security.  Tenderness.  Camaraderie.  Courage.

Harriet Andersson is the star.  Shining bright.

Ice.

Pursuit of the elements.

“Slip inside my sleeping bag” as ZZ Top sang.

Two kids against the world.

Such a sparse recounting.

Quitting jobs.

The stress.

The harassment.

Bergman showing the unique pressures of young women.

But everything is so sweet.

With a girl not afraid.

To take the role of the man.

Not let life pass by.

This film made an immense impression on me when I first saw it.

Almost like Tropic of Cancer shuffled with Tropic of Capricorn and compressed to a pamphlet.

But it feels epic.

Film does that.

We can feel everything in an hour and a half.

We can shake our asses in three minutes.

Get the message in 30 seconds.

But life intervenes.

And we have to make some ugly choices.

We must pawn our scant comforts.

And aspire to one day again achieve “augmented survival”.

Debord again.

Monika wants nothing to do with it.

Her Henry Miller streak is longer.

And it’s pretty ugly.

Though she played the most beautiful hippie before beatniks even snapped.

Up and down.

Gives you the bends.

Few films capture the razor’s edge of pleasure and pain…the excruciating detail of ecstasy and sad panic.

Bergman was a master.  Along with Wild Strawberries, this is his true winner.

 

-PD

 

Twin Peaks “The Man Behind Glass” [1990)

I’m guessing this episode might best be chalked up to studio interference.

We’ve seen it before.

Take the James Bond film Spectre.

One can feel the executive sabotage.

But here is a little different.

From a quick glance.

ABC (presumably) wanted Lynch and Co. to move things along.

Enough with this suspense.

Or perhaps that was yet to come.

Perhaps this episode is like recitative in opera.

It has to be there (upon a time), but we kinda want it to be over.

We want the arias.  The choruses.

There’s no Maria Callas disc of “best-loved recitatives”.

[Recitativi?]

Yes. sì.

Here we run into a sort of auteur theory for stories.

Or perhaps we are running into auteur theory in its purest form.

If we assume the brilliance of David Lynch (and Mark Frost), then we will blame Lesli Linka Glatter for daft direction here.

But we have previously praised Ms. Glatter.  She has the chops.

So what was the problem with this episode?

Did the material (Lynch and Frost) save Glatter’s direction?

[Did Glatter’s direction ruin Lynch and Frost’s writing?]

Or did Glatter save a mediocre piece of writing by Lynch and Frost?

That’s the problem of episodes.

Chunks.

TV is inherently cubist.

And stories are not conceived with interpolated commercial breaks.

That’s why the stories suffer.

On TV.

The medium is faulty.

The medium gives very little respect for the creations it airs.

But hey:  at least the message is getting out there!

McLuhan would point out that the orientation of space and time determines to the largest extent how we interpret television shows.

[Which is to say, “…the medium is the message.”]

I would have to agree.

And so we are left hanging.

Perhaps for the first time.

Usually we are looking forward to the next episode.

But this time we’re just annoyed.

Because the episode is not a self-contained satisfying unit of entertainment.

Not this time.

You win some, you lose some.

We still love the story.  And the characters.

But we could have done without some of the clumsy fluff.

That was, by the way, my initial concept.

For my website.

A descriptive coup.

Clumsy fluff.

 

-PD

Taxi “Come as You Aren’t” [1978)

We tend to think the small things don’t matter.

A 30 minute TV show.

25 minus commercials.

[22 by the 1990s…a few more ads jabbed in and substance sucked out]

A television show.

But it does matter.

I’ve neglected my journey through the world of Taxi for far too long.

And coming back to it I was greeted by a delightful episode dominated by the ravishing Marilu Henner.

Again we find Judd Hirsch’s character Alex as a sort of amateur psychologist for his friends at the taxi company.

Hirsch is the one everyone comes to for advice.

Not having watched the show for awhile, I could have sworn he had a mustache.

I mean, come on…it was 1978.

The whole vibe of Alex (Hirsch) is “guy with mustache”…not in a 21st-century hipster way, but in a Bread way…soft rock…working man.

[alas, no stache]

But back to Marilu Henner.  She really owns this episode.

Andy Kaufman has a few priceless lines, but Henner is the center of attention.

As with other Taxi episodes, Hirsch is the moral compass (more or less).

It’s a very unpretentious brand of ethics.

It’s from a time when America was younger.

Each episode ends with an “Aww…” moment.

But don’t get me wrong.

The situations are believable.

It’s not realism, but it’s generally plausible.

The point of the show, however, is to make people feel good.

To make people feel better.

Is it entertainment?

Sure.

But it’s also, in its own way, a brand of homespun philosophy.

Every show is a little slice of optimism amidst the cruel world.

 

-PD

SNL Season 1 Episode 17 [1976)

Why do we review films?  Why do we feel the need to write about that which is expressed as sound and vision?

And why, after experiencing the sublime, do we still get enjoyment out of the mundane?

Why, as in a society with classes or castes, do we persist in dividing art into high and low?

The former we call high art, whereas the latter is pop art (if even that).

We are often unforgiving.

After immersion in Godard (an ongoing activity for me), we somehow still need comedy.

Comedy lets us relax.

If we spend all day thinking, we want to have an occasional laugh.

And so today we are able to re-approach a show like Saturday Night Live by starting from the very beginning.

As an aspiring film critic, I seek to bring the same respect and passion to writing about television as I bring to writing about film.

I will be honest:  I am not a big fan of TV.

Somehow television has often brought out the worst in humanity.

It’s a rather sickening feeling to let the constant stream of disposable culture wash over oneself.

And so I don’t subject myself to such.

The important point to make is that this decision doesn’t make me any better than anyone else.

It’s just simply a choice I make.

Now, how can one possibly come down from such a marbled column to discuss SNL?

Well, fortunately this particular episode breaks the fourth wall in a very unique way.

The host of this night’s show was press secretary to the president of the US (I refuse to capitalize that repugnant position) Ron Nessen.

This was the Ford administration.

Now.  If you want to see a UNIQUE name, check out Nessen’s predecessor Jerald terHorst [sic].  What a mind-trip!

But back to that fourth wall…

Yes, the other Gerald (the big one…G-man) delivers Chevy’s line here.  “Live from New York…”

This was an exceptionally bold move by a White House which had been lambasted mercilessly by SNL since the show’s inception.  Particularly, Gerald Ford showed a strange side of himself by consenting to be taped for a couple of one-liners.

Strangest of all, however, is Nessen (as himself) interacting with Chevy Chase (as President Ford) in the Oval Office.  It was the obvious skit to do.  Aside from the rehashing of the “Dead String Quartet” to start the show, the first real piece was this one.

While some bits in this episode fall flat (“Press Secretaries Throughout History” comes to mind), in all this is a very solid episode.

Perhaps Patti Smith’s presence as musical guest had something to do with the fuck-off tone encountered here and there.

Let’s face it:  SNL (though still called merely Saturday Night) had become such a force that the White House was forced to respond.

And their course of action?

If we can’t be ’em, join ’em.  It’s the old Bugs Bunny phrase I heard a million times as a kid growing up.

What’s not good about this episode?  Billy Crystal (still Bill Crystal at the time).

It’s almost good.  It’s almost great (Crystal’s routine).  But ultimately, it sucks.

Contrast this with the performance of The Patti Smith Group.

“Gloria” is powerful, but it’s a strange rip-off cover.  It’s a rewrite.  Almost a détournement worthy of Guy Debord and the Situationists.

“Gloria” works.  The guitars are blaring loud.  Patti Smith is a true persona here.  Magical.  Visceral.  Pissed-off.

But “My Generation” works less well.  And while it is juvenile and lazy, it still has the genuine energy which would inspire groups like Sonic Youth.

The Patti Smith Group is exciting on both tunes because it feels like they could fail at any moment.  “Excursion on a Wobbly Rail” as Cecil Taylor put it.

Yeah.  That was the name of Lou Reed’s radio show when Lou was a student at Syracuse.

No.  Bill Crystal was no Andy Kaufman.  Bill Crystal was just doing blackface here.  Is it Satchmo?  Miles?  An amalgamation named Pops?

Importantly, it is evident that Crystal has talent.  A lot of talent.  It’s just that he’s not channeling it very well here.  The blackface sans burnt cork doesn’t really become him.  It’s lazy.  Like Patti Smith Group’s “My Generation”.  Crystal isn’t risking much.

Today, Crystal’s routine would probably be called racist.  Yeah…  It’s a little odd.

But Patti Smith comes out on top.  “Jesus died for somebody’s sins/but not mine.”  Wow…

On national TV.  Long before Sinéad ripped up a picture of the Pope.

SNL was dangerous.

But it was also a gas.

Super Bass-o-Matic ’76.

Yeah, Dan Aykroyd took a step forward with this particular show.

Who even remembers Tom Snyder?

It’s of a different generation.  Not my generation.

We dig back in the past.

And this show (SNL) is not complete without the REAL commercials.

I wanna see the Marlboro Man, ads for Scotch, plugs for cars that Ralph Nader found out impaled people upon impact.  The good old days…

The FAKE commercials need the REAL commercials for the whole thing to work.

I’m thinking back to my youth.  When Crystal Pepsi was lampooned as Crystal Gravy.

And so it’s a shame that corporate America couldn’t get together and celebrate their grossly dated marketing of the 1970s by being a part of these reruns. Same criticism falls upon NBC.  Why don’t you give us a REAL glimpse of what watching this show in ’76 must have been like?

Some brands don’t even exist anymore.  Who holds the copyrights to commercials for defunct products?  That’s a lot of work just to give people a more realistic stroll down memory lane.

So it is instructive.

What you see on television today (the whole experience…especially the commercials) will be very quickly (QUICKLY) forgotten tomorrow.  The mundane pieces will fade first.  No one bothered to document them.  Too pervasive.

And then the few gems somehow get lost in the digital landfill.

Gary Weis was way ahead of me with his short film set in a dump.  Sanitation workers.  Garbage men.

Don’t mind me.  I’m just sifting through the detritus.

 

-PD