Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? [2000)

This is a damn fine film.

Maybe yesterday I would have spoke as much with a mouthful of tobacco.

But today I take a more measured approach.

And still I must proclaim:  this film has aged like a fine wine.

I can find little fault with it.

No film will express all that we hold inside…exactly as we’d express it.

And so this is as close as we get to serendipity on a Tuesday night ūüôā

Yes sir…let me tell you ’bout it.

I write to stay alive.

[now I’m telling you about me…or the film…by way of me]

We come from a long/short tradition.

Film critics.

Critics.

All the way back to the earliest Homer in the Greek.

Rage.

I owe Nick Tosches a debt of gratitude for pointing that out.

My favorite living writer.

This film [we’re back to the film] could have gone off the rails early on.

Like some errant Ken Burns pablum on PBS.

But the Coen brothers are of the most deft cinematic touch.

I have delved very little into their oeuvre.

Most recently I broached the subject with¬†Fargo¬†(a fine film), but¬†Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?¬†is a¬†bona fide ūüėČ masterpiece.

You see, you must be conversant in na√Įvet√© as much as in erudition.

You must run the gamut from Delmar to Ulysses in order to evoke an appropriately universal sampling of the human condition.

Blind on a Pullman.  Nay.  Blind Sheriff Murnau.  Closer.

Blind but now I see.

Precisely.

Bill Moyers couldn’t get to Shakespeare in the recessed library.

Only God could move fate.

To see beauty.

For a moment to dream of a better life.

Saved from cancer.

I know not.

We feel it’s Isaiah. ¬†Or the Oracle of Delphi.

Pythia.  As in pithy.

Icy.

You don’t get credit for half a master’s degree.

Ain’t no one in the world impressed by that.

Even if they should.

People like awards.  Bob Dylan said.

Grammys.  Nobels.

Sells records.  Books.  DVDs.  Tickets for admission.  Memorabilia.

But I doff my hat to Tosches and Quintilian.

We are all excursus.  As Céline was all ellipses.

[…]

The Sheriff is Cooley.  As in Spade.

A mean son of a bitch.

But we don’t care none about these transgressors no more.

The electorate has spoken.

50 states.

From the words Tommy Johnson.

It’s just a cool drink of water from Robert.

And we won’t even get into Lonnie.

We hear the devil is white.

Go to any American university and you will hear the same.

Indeed, our film only falters when it attempts to be too heavy-handed.

We uncloak what is cloaked in ourselves.

And this is the curse of critics.

No critic is writing about their subject.

In reality.

The underlying gist is always autobiography.

To admit as much should be refreshing.

But that is for you to decide.

Just sing into the can.

Voice your opinion.

On shellac.

For generations to plunder in treasure hunts of old South junk stores.

Searching for the Sugar Man/Soggy Bottom…Robert Johnson already dead when he became ¬† sought after.

A prophet in his own land.

All is dream.  And religion comes to the silver screen.

The common man can relate.  And so can I.

With my Bible on my nightstand.

I ain’t ashamed to say.

I depend on God.

See Messiaen if you need abstraction.

Because Debussy gave the clouds first…and the sirens last.

And feasts or parties in between.

Night swimming.  Nocturnes.  Campfires.  Skip James.

Pulled from routine.

We were nearly eaten alive.

And we would have dived into that abyss out of desperation.

Yet the hand of the Lord was upon us.

Not for any deed which had ingratiated ourselves to Him.

But for grace.

Mercy.

Love.

No horror here.  Just a toad.  And Mark Twain.

And how to keep tobacco dry on a Mississippi River boat.

Uncle Sweetheart smells blood.

Years before Masked and Anonymous.

So be careful not to fall in love with your own reflection.

She said he was hit by a train.

And she looked good in a bikini.

To three pathetic roustabouts with no prospects.

Chewed up and spit out by both Tropics to wade in the water of possibility.

Nerds can box.

Maybe know an arcane martial art.

Don’t fuck with us.

But protagonists of epic poetry need something more than a couple of jabs and pinches.

Circumstances must have placed them in a true imbroglio…the mother of all situations.

The Gordian knot.

Ulysses is a lying bastard.  A mad man.  Advertising.  Op side coin propaganda.

But these are skills.  For gainful employment.  And we hover to ethics for guidance.

On how to wield words in the age of microblogging and memes.

He needed a story.

Chained together.

An inspiration.

Because we’re (for all intents and purposes) inseparable.

We can dream of $500,000 ($400,000)…as the “major D”…even the¬†m√Ęitre’d…if we’re feeling saucy.

Dream of land.

But what was Everett’s dream?

We know only later.

To spend 84 years in jail.

Released:  1987.

Incarcerated at age 3?

Not counting on these two to do the taxes.

The KKK took his baby away. ¬†–Joey Ramone

Seems very Bohemian Grove.

But we don’t know these things.

We only know what we’ve gleaned from D.W. Griffith.

These synchronized David Dukes are meant to evoke a temple of doom.

It is the hinge (brisure) in the whole film (if we are doing a deconstructionist reading à la Derrida).

And thus auteur theory is vindicated.

Joel Coen had something to get off his chest regarding the treatment of blacks, JEWS, Catholics, etc.

We could deconstruct from there.

It’s easy.

Top psychiatrist Steve Pieczenik does it breezily when he traces Jill Stein back to her Jewish Chicago roots which give her the privilege to run as an agnostic.

But the Coen brothers are timeless artists here.

They have found the trick.

Hillary’s coven must have been on hiatus for the past few weeks.

Demoralized.

But it’s hard to fight back the tears as they get in front of that lozenge mic I’d associate with RCA…

As the Soggy Bottom Boys emerge from obscurity.

And they have a fan base (constituents).

And these mythical performers were not even confirmed to exist.

In the flesh.

Ah, but public relations…

He was proto- “drain the swamp” with his little man and broom.

But the planets shifted.

And he’s on a hot mic inserting both feet into his mouth, one at a time, very slowly, with each succeeding word.

The way politics works.

In Mississippi.  Louisiana.  Texas.

Suck on a cigar.  Think it over.  Maybe some cognac or brandy.

And seize upon an opportunity.

To hire the best.

The best who have appeared on this stage at this moment for this very reason.

Three years after Titanic and the Coen brothers wanted a weightless freak show of inanimate objects floating as Japanese melange symbolism.

I am the man with the can.  Not Dapper Dan.  And no record-cutting lathe.

Just a tin of tobacco. ¬†My floating life. ¬†And all we’ve been through.

Memory soup.

We pull up to the aquarium to peer into the mysteries of other realities.

And, by so doing, try to make sense out of our own.

-PD

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure [1985)

This movie is kinda like LSD.

Not that I would know.

But from what I hear…

If you come into it with fear and anxiety, it will be a grating, disorienting, annoying experience.  Frightening.

But if you come into it at peace and relaxed, you might just have a wonderful time viewing this movie.

The first third of the film was tense for me.

Everything is tense for me.

Thank God for drugs.

And so the rest of the film was quite charming and (dare I say?) meaningful.

We probably all know the Pee-Wee story…how he got caught whacking off in an adult movie theater.

But everyone deserves a second chance.

Sure, a guy who wakes up in the morning wearing lipstick and rouge might be a little suspect to some, but this whole film is fantasy.

Back to psychedelics…

It’s only appropriate that my old computer has just come down with the trippiest virus I’ve ever seen.

But no matter.

We push on.

Five more days.

Yes, Pee-Wee is like Mr. Bean.

And when Pee-Wee dances, it presages Napoleon Dynamite’s talent show jaw-dropper by some years.

Paul Reubenfeld –> Paul Reubens –> Pee-Wee Herman

In Hollywood, you can be anyone you want to be.

That’s entertainment (as The Jam sang).

But we have to give a shout out to the adorable Elizabeth Daily who plays Dottie.

Madame Ruby only accepts cash…even on a rainy night.

But she also does income tax.

Sure, Pee-Wee looks a little too comfortable in his Audrey-Hepburn-meets-Laverne-&-Shirley frock, but that’s part of his oblivious joy.

Large Marge is, of course, unforgettable.

Diane Salinger is really great as Simone.

With that aching dream to get to France.

I know.  This dream.

I lived it.

And how I’d so like to go back.

“Au revoir, Simone…”

Nothing like sitting on a tongue…watching the sun come up between some teeth.

But then we get my hometown.

San Antonio.

And a lot of it!

Please don’t think we all speak like Jan Hooks ūüôā

As an amnesiac, Pee-Wee can recall but one thing:

“Remember the Alamo!”

Yee-Haw!!!

So let’s see…fainting after bike theft (Truffaut) followed by EMS and oxygen? ¬†Check.

Amnesia after being thrown from a bull?  Check.

Hospitalization after riding a Harley through a wooden sign?  Check.

I am remiss to mention that I forgot the appendectomy in Spies Like Us.

These signs that God is looking out for us.

And France.

A story which didn’t resonate during my youth.

But only after I’d fallen in love to Messiaen.

Only after I became Tropic of Cancer.

A duck in Milton Berle’s pants is enough to get Pee-Wee on set at Warner Brothers.

What ensues is truly a zany take on the car chase cliche.

Then Pee-Wee frees the animals at the zoo.  XMAS

And with handfuls of snakes, faints again (trumping Truffaut) before first responders revive him.

Breaking the rules was a way to promotion in the 1980s.

And when it’s couched in playful imagination, it is charming indeed.

When it’s funny. ¬†A farce. ¬†Comedic.

Pee-Wee as bellhop is like Jason Schwartzman’s understudy in¬†The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Director Tim Burton deserves heaping credit for making this an actually timeless film.  It is creative throughout.

It’s really a joy to see.

Just don’t take the brown acid.

-PD

Twin Peaks “Rest in Pain” [1990)

Science thinks it knows what religion doesn’t.

Religion thinks it knows what science doesn’t.

Science thinks.

Religion feels.

Romance is a sort of religion.

Unthinking.

But beautiful.

These are the issues in this rather unremarkable episode of Twin Peaks.

The romance of film criticism seeks to give no spoilers.

Break the code, solve the case.

Handwriting analysis…seems as old and mystical as phrenology.

Because today it is stylometry.

Were it not for Snowden, we’d still be in the dark.

ABSENCE OF LIGHT.

Hoping David Sanborn makes an album called Kryptos.

Or not.

I INSERTED THE CANDLE.

CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER.

EMERGED FROM THE MIST.

There’s easier ways to get jobs.

To make verb tenses agree.

And to verb agreements tense.

Word pie lay.

The fragments are essential.

Each piece.

Piece by piece.

With ice cream on the side.

Huckleberry H.

Scalia was whisked off.

Like a broom.

He had been a jack of one-eyed secret society.  Guest.  SS.

Pound’s poetry didn’t go this deep.

But deeper.

To Colombian hell.

It’s trying to think.

Puttin’ on the Ritz.

I thought it was her.

A cipher.

Shame on me.

Eric Da Re.  Doremi Fasol Latido.

Rest in pain.

Jawohl.

The biggest asshole in television history.

Vs. a perception sharpest blade mind ever.

Even for an actor.

Kyle MacLachlan.

Sherlock Holmes.

A perverse sense of knowing.

Raymond Chandler.

Several stops and starts to get here.

Like the end of Vivre sa vie.

And like the beginning.

Michel Legrand subject to the most genius whims ever.

Lynch is our Godard.

Where the Germans have Schoenberg, we have Ives.

Not the best metaphor.

But perfect.

Length trying your patience.

I know.

Like the end of Vivre sa vie.

Where we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

That is the bathos of mechanical mayhem.  Haywire sob hiccups.

G’uh g’uh g’uh.

Over and over and over and over and over again.

The Vladimir Poutine syndicate have goldBRICked with the Meow Zedong overseas intelligence amoeba to form a truly Quebecois brand of! Godspeed.

Kinda like that hockey scene from Strange Brew.

Messiaen at the organ.

ils.

Sont.  Hellfire.  Bohemian.

No Moloch or Moulouk can do it justice.

Moulouk vs. Bébert.

Oui.¬† C’est √áa.

There’s always two sets of books.

 

-PD

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 √Člie Faure saw (and appreciated) this film.

James Agee admired the work of Jean Vigo.

You can only get as sad as Jean Dast√© 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

Les Yeux sans visage [1960)

Loneliness is hell.

An endless cycle of introspection.

As we each make our way through this life.

Every day.

We are judged by our faces.

A face and a mask.

Masked and anonymous.

There is no real point in recounting this tale to you.

If you wish to know it, you will seek it out.

We can whisper the hallowed name of Franju and almost be done with it.

Because I speak to everyone.

I don’t know who will find this post.

From my island I set this bouteille adrift.

Deriving the meaning through impressionist film criticism.

I am not critiquing the film, I’m critiquing myself.

I think, therefore I think I am.

Detour before the bridge.

But I also speak to the cineastes.

And for you I mention Alida Valli.

Because The Paradine Case is one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films.

But the spectacle calls for psychodrama.

Christmas at the zoo.

Christmas on Mars.

A Christmas gift for you.

From Phil Spector.

Sure.

Before there was The Silence of the Lambs.

And even a few months before Psycho.

There was Les Yeux sans visage.

For 1960, this was horror.

But there’s more here.

Like Angela Bettis in May (2002).

Who let the dogs out?

Who set the birds free in Hyde Park after Brian Jones died?

Who cares?

Write loneliness.

Though two roads diverged in a wood.

My face is finished.¬† My body’s gone.

Ask not what you can do for your country…

You’re not waiting for me to cite Houellebecq.

Because it’s understood.

I want to see the film in the morning light.

At morning sun (harmony in blue).

Morning effect.

Setting sun (symphony in grey and pink).

Grey weather.

Dull day.

Dull weather.

Full sunlight.

Road to Rouen.

Messiaen pulling out all the stops.

Eventually these corrupt regimes collapse.

The rich have the faces.

And there are always hounds of hell.

Echoing in the basements of ultimate fear.

As above, so below.

Caduceus vs. rod of Asclepius.

It is only when one runs screaming from the complex (Snowden) that healing begins.

SecDef Forrestal seems to have almost made it.

Before leaping from the 16th floor of the NNMC in Bethesda.

And yet someone felt compelled to drag Sophocles into the mix.

From Ajax:

“Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save

In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….

Woe to the mother in her close of day,

Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,

When she shall hear

Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!

‘Woe, woe!’ will be the cry‚Äď

No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail

Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale.”

Who set the nightingale free?

 

-PD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Je vous salue, Marie [1985)

Jean-Luc Godard has, in my opinion, made five perfect films.  Chronologically, this is the second of those five.

The first was 23 years earlier.¬† In 1962, Vivre sa vie let a 22-year-old Anna Karina shine as never before.¬† After a proverbial 40 days in the deserts of Var√®se-like experimentation, Godard emerged to string together a series of films which paved the way for the style in which he continues to direct till this day.¬† Nevertheless, Je vous salue, Marie towers above the “middle quartets” which precede it.¬† Truly, this is one of the finest films ever to be made.

It is also a particularly difficult film to review as its history is laden with controversy.  Godard, ever the rebel, chose to retell the story of the Virgin Mary in a modern setting.  No doubt the sincerity of Godard was misinterpreted by many Catholics as blasphemy.

The key to understanding this film is watching the whole thing.  If you are offended, try to make it to the end.  Perhaps the method of storytelling will then make more sense.

It must, however, be admitted that Godard’s take on the Annunciation and birth of Jesus is highly mystical.¬† It is like the music of Olivier Messiaen.¬† Dissonance is a gift from God.¬† To hear the works of Messiaen is to hear devotion expressed in a highly unique way.¬† My guess is that the great French Catholic composer might have appreciated Godard’s timeless creation under review.¬† Perhaps even the current Pope Francis might sympathize with the heartfelt offering of Godard.

In 1985, this film was positively scandalous.¬† What a shame…

Continuing with our musical history lesson, one must only consider the great Handel (composer of Messiah).  Handel was reputedly able to curse proficiently in German, Italian, and English.  Handel was not a saint, yet he composed a tremendous amount of sublime religious music (including the aforementioned oratorio).

It makes me wonder about the great artists like Michelangelo (whose Creation of Adam graces the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel).¬† Was Michelangelo a particularly pious man?¬† I have no clue.¬† But it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he was colorful in ways other than with his palette.

But Godard committed the greatest sin.  He let life enter his art.  God forbid that life and praise for the divine coexist in a single creation!

But let us return.¬† This was Myriem Roussel’s film.¬† It is the finest performance by an actress not named Anamaria Marinca or Dorotheea Petre ever committed to film.¬† Saoirse Ronan is still waiting for the right vehicle.¬† Hanna was frighteningly close.¬† Going back further I would nominate Lauren Bacall, but her range was curtailed somewhat by typecasting.

And so Myriem Roussel.  Godard.  The sublime.  Every shot in this film is perfect.  Every element is precisely placed.  It is intelligent design embodied.

I cannot begin to scratch the surface of this gem.  My lead is no match for this diamond.  No matter how much I scribble, it will not be enough.

This film will endure long after everything is gone.  Je vous salue, Jean-Luc.

-PD

Casablanca [1942)

Time goes by.¬† Time goes by.¬† Sitting in his own gin joint…stinking drunk.¬† It’s like Pythagoras is hammering on Bogie’s heart…searching for a certain ratio.¬† Left to die in Casablanca.¬† The money is good, sure!¬† But the heart is broken.

The heart that loves and the heart that fights…these are the same heart.¬† If she can take it, so can I.¬† And Dooley Wilson strides into the song.¬† It was in the piano all along.

The piano…that musical typewriter…where Beethoven wrote novels as much as chiseled sonorities.¬† Truth is, nobody is listening.¬† There are those in this world we trust.¬† At present we wait.

And then she arrives.¬† And we blow it.¬† All of that crestfallen love transformed into angst.¬† She was the most beautiful woman we ever saw.¬† When Belmondo and Seberg joyride around Paris, it is in tribute to them.¬† And perhaps H√©lo√Įse and Abelard really are buried at P√®re Lachaise.¬† Maybe, maybe not.

But when she hummed that tune in the noir shadows…then the piano started to play.¬† It’s no use.¬† She’ll never come.¬† Oh, but she does come.¬† And then she leaves again.¬† We begin to wonder whether she ever existed at all…whether Pythagoras ever passed a blacksmith and heard an anvil chorus.¬† Anytime’s a good time to be born…and anytime is a good time to die.¬† Harry Partch said that.¬† And Casablanca’s as good a place for it as any.¬† Bogie said that.

Ten thousand dollars/at the drop of a hat/I’d give it all gladly/if our lives could be like that.¬† Bob Dylan said that.¬† There’s blood on the tracks…greasing the rails…from the concentration camps to North Africa.¬† Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world…¬† And now Bogie has to think for all of us.¬† And he does.

Laszlo had to go all Charles Ives and instead of the Fourth of July, it’s the 14th and “La Marseillaise” is drowning out “Die Wacht am Rhein”…tentatively at first, but ultimately in a rousing rout.

I lost my place…my train of thought.¬† Rick lost his place…the train from Oran.¬† It must have been that song…Herman Hupfeld.¬† Humbert Humbert?¬† No, that’s more Claude Rains’ department.¬† Have you tried 22 tonight?¬† Leave it there.

It’s more Schindler than Schindler…because it’s cinema.¬† Mostly because it’s Bogart.¬† The harder they fall…in love.¬† And so now the piano is silent.¬† Another proprietor has taken over.¬† I was always on the side of the underdog…an expensive habit.¬† Was never much of a business man.

And she flies away.¬† He remembers the day…the last time.¬† For me, it was Messiaen.¬† Turangal√ģla.¬† An airport in New Orleans.¬† I’m not qualified to shine Faulkner’s shoes, but here I am…none the less.

Deep underground is the resistance.¬† Love.¬† Maybe.¬† For now we have cinema…when we can allow ourselves to indulge in such.¬† We burn in darkened halls…or simply darkened bedrooms on a laptop.¬† Maybe she has come and gone.¬† Ingrid, painted so lovingly by Curtiz as she first hears the song again…like the other Bergman…like the overture to The Magic Flute.

I coulda been someone.  I coulda been a contenda.  No, another film.  We merely have our thoughts to cache until the library disappears like mandala sand.  Back to the bottle.  Scorsese gets it!

A lovely day and a lovely actress and Deserter’s Songs by Mercury Rev with the windows down.¬† Honey.¬† He did the right thing.¬† The hard path.¬† The road less-traveled.¬† The true saint.¬† The golden agitator.¬† Some say the French invented love.

We’ll always have Paris.¬† That hour in a van…stuck in traffic.¬† How very Tati!¬† There’s Sacr√©-CŇďur…and the Arc de Triomphe from the side.

And then…getting on that plane.¬† The hardest part.¬† Like seeing the Eiffel Tower…only on departure.

-PD