Sunset Boulevard [1950)

This is the story of O.J. Simpson.

This is the story of Phil Spector.

Too much foreshadowing?

Scramble.  Scramble.

Scramble the meaning.

This is Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon come to life.

Fifteen years before anger published.

In France they have Angers.

And every George is a multiple.

Georges.

But what passion!

Yes, dear friends…

Sunset Boulevard is one of the strangest films ever made.

If you want to know from whence Mulholland Drive came, start here.

SUNSET BLVD.

Mulholland Dr.

If you’re really daft (and I am), you’ll think you’re watching that guy who played The Professor on Gilligan’s Island in one of the best films you’ve ever seen.

But there’s a big fucking difference between Russell Johnson and William Holden.

Or is there?

Just let the wind blow through the bellows of the pipe organ for a moment.

And imagine yourself in a dream so dark it could be a nightmare.

But it’s merely spooky.

The great art.

Has mystery.

What was director Billy Wilder groping for?

Never mind, for a second, the bursting cast.

Every extra a novel in themselves.

Just the story of Sunset Boulevard is enough to make a thinking person stagger into the intersection on the Rue Campagne-Première.

But there are so many intersections…

Mon ami.

It starts bad.

Like a second-rate Raymond Chandler ripoff.

But it compels you to stay with it.

A little underwater photography.

Novel.

The adjective.

So much hinges on Paramount Pictures.

The gate.

The arch.

And how criticism can thwart a career.

The straw that broke the needle in the camel’s eye.

It’s like something out of Breathless or Dr. No.

The precipitous turn.

Kicking up dust.

Before the boulevard was broken dreams and crack vials.

Syringes.

Just ordinary fascism.

Triumph over violins.

And we trace the line.

A shoulder.

A chin.

A palazzo.  A collection of post-Impressionists.

Because we want to know.

For nothing could be more mysterious.

Lost a husband to the Spanish flu.

Lost two more, too.

But one lives as a ghost.

And his monocle groove is strangely vacant.

Erich von Stroheim.

Unreal.

Whether in a Jean Renoir picture or here.

Whether behind the camera or acting in his own film.

In two places at once.

Like Schrodinger’s cat.

But nobody remembers Schrodinger’s chimpanzee.

And a little coffin.

And the steps Stroheim has to take to stand in a hole.

This is the story of Michael Jackson.

This is the story of Emmett Miller.

Not gone, but forgotten.

And it is the true way entertainment worked.

When mass media was born.

At a million miles an hour.

1900.

Or 1898.

Churning out pictures.

From the dream factory.

And wax cylinders.

And who cares about these young girls…we can always find more.

But Buster Keaton sits in for Miller.

Because there is nothing more sad than a sad clown.

The waxworks…

The rogues gallery.

It could have been Elektra.

But it had to be Richard Strauss.

1909.  1911.

Great silence on one coast.

And great noise on the other.

Direct from Europe.

This is the story of Thora Birch.

The greatest star who ever was.

And I am just a humble servant.

Max.

There will be Max.

Always a sadness over beauty.

When beauty is counted in but one way.

One dimension.

3-D clustered, but without 4 time.

But you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.

And actors are all full of nothing.

Must empty out.

Each time.

To fully fill.

May the best shell win!

So that she stalks the shit outta him.

Like some Transylvanian octopus.

And Igor schleps his stuff in the middle of the night.

Like some dream from Dreyer’s Vampyr.

What the fuck?!?

Poor William Holden is living in the decline of the West.

The sagging tennis court.

The bowling alley in the basement we never see.

Because it would be like the Biltmore on hard times.

Truly grotesque.

Decay.  And decadence.

Taken separately.  Different connotations.

A piece of rotting fruit in the trash.

And champagne supernovas of drunken, naked excess.

But they are one and the same.

When rooted word-wise to rot.

Gloria Swanson is the hysterical car-wreck-of-an-actress here.

You can’t look away.

Bride of Frankenstein.  Hell, Frankenstein himself.  Sex changed.  Sexless.

More hideous internally than externally.

And more nuts than the peanut gallery of an old picture house.

But no locks.

Perhaps a lock of hair…

But no gas.

No blades.

No.

It’s quite a spooky thing to be trapped in such luxury.

Such trappings.

Camelhair.  Vicuña.

What the hell!

She’s paying, right???

Tails.

For godsake, man…Valentino danced the tango here!

But now the tarantula hums.

Manipulative receives new meaning.

An actress.  A star!  And that Roaring Twenties, gilded, cocksure, brassy optimism.

Unfazed by decades of disuse.

“She’s doin’ the ballet on/both of her wrists”

Goddamn…

If Echo & the Bunnymen were around in 1950…

William Holden has been sucked in.

To a vortex.

And it ain’t no fun.

No funny business.  No funnymen.

Plenty of echoes.

Of his past life.

Mingled with her omnipresent portraiture fecundating the stale mansion.

“He could die happily ever after”

Bob Dylan knew about the pillars.

And the pillory of fame.

And so C. B. DeMille was a natural choice.

To depict the heartbreak.

Of a washed up life.

Hate to break it to you, kid…

But the diva is in denial.

Yes, the bitch is back.

Take Elton and a whole gaggle of crocodiles…and the Isotta Fraschini with the leopard seats.

Several leopards died for your ass(es).

How’s the weather up there?

And so she rides a white swan because she’s born to boogie.

With the swagger of Bolan.

Norma Desmond.

Monomaniacal about beheading the past.

On a platter.

American montage shows the unwieldy devices–to make young again.

Strobo-oscillo-sonic skin tauteners.

Franju had a less frightening story sans yeux.

Face without eyes.

Ah! […]

But the eyes have it all!!!

The fire of once-great dominance.

Champagne.  Caviar.

The eeriness of Sunset Boulevard is that Gloria Swanson WAS once a great star (sort of).

And even more so, Erich von Stroheim WAS (REALLY FUCKING WAS) a great director!

And so Billy Wilder managed to tell their stories.

Only the names were changed to protect the guilty.

Devotion till the end.

Love for cinema.

Love for a woman.

A woman is a drum.

Where’s Duke Ellington when you need him???

Jealousy.

Jalousie.

Film noir.

Horizontal shafts of light.

But shadows all the more prominent.

This is our Rembrandt.

Our chiaroscuro.

How insensitive…

Norma with bitter, vindictive precision.

And then the curtain is pulled back on the waterworks.

And the fucking Pompidou explodes in hideous reds of dysfunction.

Yes.

Come and see where I live.

In a lonely place…

Maybe it’s better you don’t know me.

But he really wants to say, “Will you marry me?”

On this night.

What sadness.

We think such overwrought misery only exists in the movies.

But the intersections of real life sometimes make such tragedy possibly.

And we shouldn’t wish such on our worst enemies.

She can’t stand the shock.

But cinema is the ultimate beauty.

So fragile at the end…

We give thanks to see such a picture.

To see Stroheim one more time.

“Alright, boys…  Let’s rev up those cameras!”

To see the silent era stagger down the stairs one more time.

Like a wrought-iron flower.

With a green patina.

Nickelodeons penny on the dollar.

Kicked to the curb.

Save for Langlois.

She just needed one more shot at youth.

It was too much, too soon.

One last shot in the arm of that excitement!

That camaraderie of Hollywood.

Before it became a drag.

Her youth.

Memory is scary as hell.

-PD

Stromboli, terra di Dio [1950)

Trying to get over that mountain.

A volcano.

Stumble, fall.

Not meant to be.

In this place.

A sadness of place.

But I’m just a simple fisherman now.

Pulling in tunas.

Folkways.

She’s had it.

Ingrid in her plain pattern dress.

The wind never stops messing with her hair.

And it’s painful just to look around.

Out to sea.

Mario Vitale.  Takes a simple job.

But the town surveils.

So that the empty winds blow like in LAvventura.

On an island.

Ingrid from Sweden playing Karin from Lithuania.

Argentina does not accept her.

And so she marries.

The best option of no options.

But she has her spirit broken.

By tradition.

By dumb muscle.

She’s a little flower crushed by the rock.

But it’s true.

She’s a mean melancholic.  A flailing tuna with one last whip of the tail.

Hoping to return to the ocean.

And she is pricked on all sides.

Hoisted.

And piled with the other creatures lengthwise.

My heart breaks for Ingrid.

Because of Roberto Rossellini.

A new style of filmmaking here.

Similar to his other film of 1950:  Francesco, giullare di Dio.

The flowers of introspection.

Existentialism.

Italy.

And now in Ginostra you might find Jacopo Fedi catching octopi or Marco Nicolosi relaxing.

In real life (away from celebrities), it is hard to make friends.

What Žižek might call “the desert of the real”.

Some turnovers you can eat, others you just have to live with.

 

-PD

Každý den odvahu [1964)

I took a long time off.

Because the brain is delicate.

I have crammed so many facts into my noggin.

That a release valve was needed.

The escape of television.

Which is to say, I’m no better than anyone else.

In some ways, I’m no different.

And this film proves the point.

Courage for Every Day.

Goes nowhere.

Except to the sublime.

But you must work at it.

You just haven’t earned it yet, baby.

Maybe.

It’s not buddy holly.

But it bops along with capitalist incursion.

This isn’t Evald Schorm’s best work, but it showed his range.

For a first film, it’s damned good.

But it’s slow.

Not like slow cinema.

More like plodding.

Plotting clumsy Ulysses.

When all I ever want is Finnegans Wake.

Former makes too much sense.

For a first FICTION film.

Largely failure for first 50%.

And then the sublime emerges.

We’re not on TV anymore.

We’re in the realm of cinema.

And it’s a huge difference.

Time…to stretch out.

In which.

A bunch of boring communist functionaries.

Up against the magic of the feral masses.  Untamed.

Uneducated.  But free, almost.  Maybe.

Jana Brejchová just like Beth Behrs.

But there is heartbreak.

When she says, “Work it out for yourself.”

Something like that.

Human being lawnmower.

Morphs into Czech Breathless.  Existential vacuum of Antonioni.

He can’t be a normal person.

Because of the cause.

All causes are insane.

Including mine.

The cause…

Not to be confused with causal mechanism.

To be an idealist.  Circumspect.

There is no life outside commerce.  In the West.

We have lost.

But a sudden ray of hope…

Only defense against desperation.

Here I sit, over my Underwood.

Go talk to him…

He loves you.

Cook it and kill it!

Or vice versa.

At such a time that pulling rabbit from hat becomes the ultimate embarrassment.

Because ridicule has been wedged.

We are back to real films (if not standard criticism).

Can only be discussed in its own terms.

Every time.

Ekphrasis 24/7.  8 day s week.

Rachel Corrie is my inspiration.

As said Giles Corey:  “More weight!”

 

L’Atalante [1934)

The world is one big heartbreak.

This film reminds me of that.

I had seen it before.

But I hadn’t lived enough.

Life had never been that hard.

As it is now.

I don’t know what poetry is.

Maybe heightened language.  Anguish.

Languid.

God’s pace through the heavens.

This was one of the few Jean Vigo films.

The auteur of auteurs.

Because he directed little.

A bit like Anton Webern.

In that regard.

Vingt regards.

You know the story.

I shan’t count down from twenty.

I’m sorry.

But at least I can relate to Michel Simon.

We’ve been all around the world.

Not really.

But not bad.

And in our cabins with our trinkets.

On this ghost ship.

We ply the harbor.

To have such sad conversations.

And such optimism.

Yeah…

Michel Simon with his monkeys.

Meenkeys.

A bit like Nerval and the lobster.

But here he has cats.

And that is all too appropriate.

Yes, even Élie Faure saw (and appreciated) this film.

James Agee admired the work of Jean Vigo.

You can only get as sad as Jean Dasté when you’ve loved (and lost) someone as beautiful as Dita Parlo.

I’m not alone in feeling that way (apparently).

But it doesn’t make it any easier.

To be among one’s own leafless trees.

Floating down the Seine.

Never allowed to dock.

Nothing but tragedy.

 

-PD