Histoire(s) du cinéma {Chapter 2(a): Seul le cinéma} [1989]

So here we go again.

They told Beethoven it was a horrible way to begin his 5th Symphony.

With a rest.

It’s unheard.

Of.

Unheard.

Only the players see it.

Only the conductor pays it much mind.

So the first “note” (beat) is silent.

The conductor must give it.

But there are at least two schools of thought on how this is to be done.

First, a conductor might do as they always do and swiftly move their baton downwards to indicate visually that the first (silent) beat is occurring.

The only problem with this is that the symphony players must then abruptly jump onto the very next beat (which is an “upbeat”).

They happen in very quick succession.

Nothing/Everything.

The whole orchestra.

Tutti.

And they get one shot.

To come in together.

Like an attack.

[rest] da da da daaaaaaaaaa

[rest] da da da daaaaaaaaaa

The second school of thought is more practical.

It advises that, in this particular situation, a conductor giving a downbeat is not particularly helpful to the orchestra (because no sounds occur on that downbeat).

Therefore, the conductor motions the orchestra that the UPBEAT is happening.

When the baton (or hand(s)) come down, that is the precise time to make noise.

It is not hard to see why this might lead to a more successful outcome.

For the goal is to have the orchestra stick together.

An orchestra of individuals who are a mere microsecond off from one another creates a sound which is generally not highly-valued in Western music (at least not in the performance of Beethoven).

But this STILL leaves a problem.

The conductor of this second school, whose job it is to try and lead his orchestra to a faithful rendition of this masterwork, is thereby IGNORING what Beethoven wrote (or, more precisely, HOW Beethoven wrote it).

The beginning.

Godard comes back more fit and trim in this episode of his greatest work.

1a is probably the nuke.

1b is a psychological warfare manual (perhaps)

2a returns us to kinetic warfare.

More or less.

With some lulls.

But there is genuine artistry within these 26 minutes.

Like a symphony by Beethoven or Bruckner.

The beginning is weighted heavily.

1a = 51 mins. (the longest of all eight parts)

1b = 42 mins. (the second longest “movement” of the bunch)

The entire first section is, therefore (carry the zero), 1 hour and 33 minutes.

That’s the first quarter of this “ring cycle”.

And it is truly operatic.

So now we are into a bit of a scherzo.

26 minutes.

Now you can see the influence of television.

The “producers” of this film.

Canal+ (French TV channel)

CNC (part of the French Ministry of Culture [and Godard is Swiss!])

France 3 (a French TV channel)

Gaumont (a French film studio)

La Sept (a defunct French TV channel)

Télévision Suisse Romande (a defunct, French-language Swiss TV network)

Vega Films (Godard’s production company at the time)

26 minutes.

Enough time for eight 30-second commercials.

Arriving precisely at a sum total of 30 minutes’ programming.

It’s generous (no doubt owing to the fact that this was educational programming).

If you look at the true running time of an American half-hour sitcom these days, it is roughly 21 minutes of what you want to see.

The other 9 minutes are reserved for at least 18 30-second commercials.

In the tradition of James Joyce.

The pun.

Which Hitchcock so admired.

…and the Oscar goes to.

Oscar Wilde.

Irishmen in France.

The recurring scene from Salò…

Julius Kelp.

Literary history vs. cinematic history.

Godard has a curious frame which reads, “Your breasts are the only shells I love.”

It is a line from the poet Apollinaire.

[tes seins sont les seuls obus que j’aime]

But I must say, the exciting parts here are the “booms”!

The fighter jet exploding in midair.

Bernard Herrmann’s music from Psycho juxtaposed with scenes from Disney’s Snow White…(1937).

The agitation of Stravinsky.

Cluster chords on the piano.

Godard’s voice fed through an Echoplex.

And, just as in 1a, world-class editing!

Let me be clear.

EDITING is what makes Histoire(s) du cinéma the greatest film ever made.

It’s what makes F for Fake the second-greatest film ever made.

And what makes Dog Star Man the third-greatest film ever made.

It is more pronounced in Histoire(s) and Dog Star Man.

Orson Welles’ “editing” (montage) in F for Fake is done more at the story level.

It is a juxtaposition of content.

The Kuleshov effect with ideas rather than images.

[more or less]

Godard’s camera-pen makes some of its boldest strokes in this episode.

It rivals the 1a excerpt involving Irving Thalberg.

Which brings us to a very important point.

Godard CHOSE to use the concept of “double exposure” (two images–one on top of the other–but both seen to a greater or lesser extent) to ILLUSTRATE the subject and title of his greatest film.

Though it runs 266 minutes, that amount of time STILL wasn’t enough in which to lay out the history of cinema.

So images needed to be doubled up.

Tripled up.

Simultaneous to that, words needed to be spoken.

And furthermore, DIFFERENT words than those being spoken NEEDED TO BE WRITTEN ON THE SCREEN.

If you are not a native French speaker, you will probably need to have the subtitles on when viewing this film.

Which gives you A-N-O-T-H-E-R visual stimulus which must be taken into account.

Yes.

This film should be mandatory viewing for fighter pilots.

Practice your OODA loop here.

Observe.

Orient.

Decide.

Act.

Constantly looping.

If you want to survive in this jungle of meaning.

Night of the hunter…

Klimt.

Fred Astaire.

James Dean.

Burt Lancaster.

It’s all true.

That weary look.

From Hollywood.

It’s all true.

Which brings us to value (that thing which capitalism so gloriously creates…far more efficiently and in much greater abundance than with any other economic system).

“What is the value of knowing how to read this film,” you ask?

Just this.

It allows you to know how to read the complexity of the world.

It is a brain teaser.

With an infinite layering of meaning.

Like Finnegans Wake.

Joyce’s masterpiece should be the only required reading for a codebreaker.

Or a codemaker.

Take heed, National Security Agency.

Your curriculum needs adjusting.

Assign only Finnegan.

And reap your gains.

And what of Histoire(s)?

Its most direct application would be for analysts.

Whether they be Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, or  INSCOM.

Know how to read the image.

Know how to analyze the video.

You must think outside the box.

Sudoku the fuck out of your employees.

And thereby fight crime and keep hostile actors in check.

Which is where we musicians come in.

To analyze the phone call.

To make sense of the audio…from the video.

It cannot be taught in a bootcamp.

It has to be loved.

Nurtured.

If you had one analyst like Godard, you would have a super-soldier equal to an entire special forces unit.

The trial of Joan of Arc.

Not to be confused with her passion.

Laurel and Hardy.

Gustave Courbet.

Marcel Duchamp.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Which brings us to a very delicate situation.

What is the President planning this weekend?

And with whom is he planning it?

If Ronald Reagan was an actor (and he was), then how much more talented is Donald Trump in getting a reaction with his lines…and his gestures?

HIS lines.

HIS gestures.

Accordion music.

Munch’s vampire.

A President who has been attacked from ALL sides UNRELENTINGLY for nearly four years.

And now finds himself in the midst of the hottest biological/psychological/economic war in recorded history.

Where complexity reigns.

As globalization magnifies each twitch of activity.

And this same President STILL finds himself under attack from the same “bad actors” who have unremittingly assailed him.

As in peacetime, so in war.

These enemies of the state.

Masquerading as journalists.

And their masters above them.

Straight from the latest conclave.

“…two if by sea.”

 

-PD

 

Bowfinger [1999)

Chubby Rain.

A brilliant bit that.

Stealing studio time.

“Borrowing” equipment.

Scrimping and saving.

And breaking just about every law.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING.

The con of Bobby Bowfinger.

Getting people to do what you want them to do.

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT.

What Dave Chappelle has become.

Keep It Together.

Candid Camera.

Allen Funt.

RUnt.

Scientology.

Early jab.

Tom Cruise in vampire movie.

Bless your heart!

Film really gets going with the introduction of Jiff.

Julius Kelp.

Some genuinely brilliant scenes here.

It takes a certain amount of originality to get a laugh-rise out of the jaded.

Laugh out loud.

Bloody jaw-dropping.

Good acting by Steve Martin.

Such a unique character.

Total bastard with scruples.

Son-of-a-bitch in vain.

Eddie Murphy rather brilliant as Jiff.

The key role.

Out with Fake Purse Ninjas.

Not bad.

 

-PD

Busy Bodies [1933)

Here’s where you can see a link to Jerry Lewis.

Julius Kelp knocking from beneath a horizontal door after a disaster.

Some great gags.

The record player in the car.

Good idea!

The window bit is great.

So awkward 🙂

But the paintbrush glued to the chin might be the highlight here!

Such hilarity!!!

These films really are good for the soul ❤

 

-PD

The Disorderly Orderly [1964)

So here’s another movie I was wrong about.

Kinda like how I was wrong about Stan Laurel appearing in The Bellboy.

At least I think I was wrong.

Did I say that?

Because it turns out it was an impersonator.

But back to this here movie.

I couldn’t appreciate it on first viewing (all couple minutes I lasted) because Jerry’s style was so pungent.

Jerry Lewis.

A new star in my firmament.

Peter Sellers still reigns supreme in my pantheon.

And Sacha Baron Cohen still takes the cake for living comedians.

But Jerry Lewis is breathing down Peter’s neck.

And so this film ranks up there.

The Nutty Professor is still probably the best.

And Cinderfella holds a dear spot in my heart because it was the film which proved to me that Lewis was not merely a one-hit-wonder.

And The Ladies Man is really one of the artful, top Lewis films.

And so The Disorderly Orderly is in this rarefied air.

It’s better than The Bellboy.

It’s better than The Family Jewels.

Hell…  Maybe I should watch those again!

But really.

Jerry Lewis was super-talented.

Indeed, let’s delineate a bit.

Lewis directed (and starred in) The Nutty Professor.

But Cinderfella, an earlier film, was directed by the great Frank Tashlin.

Why great?

Lewis deftly directed The Ladies Man while starring in it as well.

But Tashlin was back as director for this film (The Disorderly Orderly).

And so Tash was integral to the career of Jerry Lewis.

I really can’t imagine Jerry’s oeuvre without a Cinderfella.

It is indispensable.

While The Disorderly Orderly might be slightly less timeless, it is still quite an achievement.

Verily, it is a strange film (truth be told).

Indeed, about 3/4ths the way through, our film takes a turn towards dark, psychological energy.

Dreams.

Nightmares, really.

Shame.

Transgression.

Jerry Lewis as a peeping tom is bizarre.

As a stalker.

[especially considering that the real-life Lewis would be stalked in the ’90s by a man named Gary Benson (who subsequently spent four years in prison…ostensibly for stalking Lewis {according to the infallible Wikipedia})]

Humiliation.

Let’s dissect.

There should be some comparison to Mel Brooks’s’s High Anxiety.

“neurotic identification empathy”

Amen, brother!!!

Let’s list the timeless characters:

Julius Kelp

Fella (!)

Herbert H. Heebert [whose moniker bears a striking resemblance to Nabokov’s world-class pervert Humbert Humbert]

and Jerome Littlefield.

This list will grow.

Soon.

But for now, we can consider the timelessness of dear, squeamish Jerome Littlefield.

Too sensitive for this world.

Definitely too sensitive to be an MD!

The whole drama with psych patient Susan Oliver is thoroughly bizarre.

The film language dips from a rollercoaster zenith to a stomach-bottom nadir.

WTF, Jerry Lewis?  WTF?!?

But remember, this is a Frank Tashlin film.

Or is it???

Every Jerry Lewis film is THOROUGHLY DOMINATED BY HIM.

It is obvious that improvisation plays a large part in the final product.

Not to mention silent gestures which loom larger than any script ever could.

Suffice it to say, The Disorderly Orderly is a sort of “flawed masterpiece”.

No, it’s not on the level of La Règle du jeu, but Frank Tashlin was no Jean Renoir.

And yet…Jerry Lewis was.

In his own way.

Which brings us to a perfect non-ending.

Jerry Lewis is an essential part of French cinema.

Put that in your ceci-n’est-pas-une-pipe and smoke it!

 

-PD

 

Cinderfella [1960)

Here is a masterpiece.

I was wrong to dismiss it so suddenly.

On first viewing.

The fairy godfather and the schmaltzy song by the pool I couldn’t stomach.

But I tried again.

Because the juicer is so good!

AND THE KITCHEN DANCE (!)

So it’s true.

Jerry Lewis made AT LEAST TWO perfect films.

This one and The Nutty Professor.

And it gives me hope with which to plumb the depths of his full oeuvre.

The little mattress on the big set of springs.

The one cheap sheet hiding this dismal arrangement.

AND THE DINNER!

Holy crap!!

That is my life!!!

Forever catering to the whims of dickheads.

Forever going back and forth…for sugar cubes.

And to pour the wine.

And to light a cigarette.

[but mainly to sugar caffeinated beverages]

Out of breath…

Jerry Lewis.

Overworked.

Mucho trabajo, poco dinero.

Pablito!

This film celebrates us nerds!!!

Revenge.

Sure…

But really it’s a much sweeter, more pure vindication.

Nothing nasty about it.

Jerry combing his hair in the toaster’s reflection.

And a little touch-up in the reflection of the Rolls’s front grill.

And that haircut!

Buzz cut.

Except for the little shock of normality above the forehead.

Anna Maria Alberghetti is fantastic as Princess Charming!

So light.

So airy.

So sweet.

But it all goes back to the kitchen dance.

Post- puffs on a ciggy.

Dropped in the sink.

To mimic the entire Basie band.

Rahsaan would have been proud.

To feel it.

The touch notes on the piano.

The little Basie accents.

So lazy.

So classy.

And the air drums.

Brushes.

Buh-da-loop da loop.

Buh-ruh-rump!!!

And that sax, man!

Bari!!!

Blowin’ out the cheeks like Dizzy ( )

Duck walking.

Chuck Berry kicks.

A whole sax section in one mouth.

Fucking genius!

In truth, there are a lot of plot parallels between Cinderfella and The Nutty Professor.

We almost sense Buddy Love in the staircase scene.

But Jerry comes out verbally bumbling.

And humble.

AND HE DANCES LIKE JULIUS KELP IN THE PROM WHITE SUIT!!!

Manic, man…

Bloody jaw-dropping.

 

-PD