Heavy [1995)

Holidays are hard for many people.

Perhaps we think of who we’ve lost.

But also there’s the pressure of the days themselves.

Christmas.  New Year’s Eve.

Even times like the 4th of July.

I didn’t set out to write a heartrending post, but I don’t always know what it is I’m about to watch.

In general, Heavy is not a sad film.

It’s a masterpiece of minimalism.

Every shot…every movement in this movie is lovingly made.

James Mangold created a world which corresponds to the understated expressions of silent films as much as it does to the desperation of everyday life.

I’m sure some people have very happy lives.

But what Mr. Mangold has given us is a look at extreme awkwardness.

Loneliness.

Do you ever feel awkward buying something?

I do.

Every time.

It’s the interaction with people.

It comes and it goes.

But for our protagonist Victor, it mostly comes and stays.

I can’t recall an actor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) getting so much depth out of so few words.

No film I’ve ever seen handles shyness quite like this one.

Victor is a cook at his mom’s little tavern.

It’s the kind of place you’d find in Woodstock.

Kingston.  Poughkeepsie.  West Saugerties.

Though the setting is never named, these are what came to my imagination.

Those places that inspired Mercury Rev to create their masterpiece Deserter’s Songs and, before them, The Band.

But whatever this fictional town, it is positively not cool.

It is in the middle of nowhere.

And so a feeling of desolation pervades this picture.

Victor cares for his mother (played brilliantly by the late Shelley Winters).

They live together…just the two of them.

There’s a little dog.

It’s a quiet life.

Sure, it’s sad.

But it’s life.

Life goes on.

Every day.

Open the tavern.

Pay the delivery man.

Cook the pizzas.

Clean up the broken beer mugs.

It just so happens that the place has a waitress/bartender.

And the actress playing this role indeed had experience.

Max’s Kansas City.

That’s right, Debbie Harry.

Debbie plays Delores.

She’s just as feisty as you’d expect.

She doesn’t put up with any shit.

And so the world goes on.

Day after day.

Status quo.

But one day, a ray of light enters lonely Victor’s world.

Liv Tyler.

You can imagine.

Liv was 18 when this film was made.

Which brings us back to Woodstock proper.

Liv Tyler was born Liv Rundgren.

As in Todd.

It’s a complicated story, but this future actress/model knew Todd Rundgren (producer of The Band’s Stage Fright which was recorded at the Woodstock Playhouse in 1970) as father until well into her life.

Todd, of course, was also a resident of the area.  This was back in the days of Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Records.

Which brings us to another fascinating little town:  Bearsville, New York.

But Liv was obviously the daughter of Steven Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith).

Liv didn’t find this out till age eight.

Back to our movie…

Into lonely Victor’s life walks a new waitress whose real life genes were those of lippy Steven Tyler and Playboy Playmate Bebe Buell.

That’s no ordinary gene pool.

But this is no ordinary romantic comedy.

In fact, it’s not a romantic comedy.

It’s not funny.

It’s deep.

[He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother]

Because Victor is a portly fellow.

And this bothers him.

It’s something he tries to ignore, but living at home with mom…and being fat…and being shy…

It’s enough to give a guy a complex.

And this is not a rich family.

No psychiatrists here.

Just get up and go to work every day.

Cook breakfast for mom.

Feed the dog.

Go to the little grocery store.

Get some eggs and orange juice.

So I wasn’t sure what I was getting with this movie.

But I’m so glad I watched it.

I wouldn’t really call it an uplifting story, but that’s not the point.

It is cinéma vérité in the truest sense.

And the world needs these kinds of films.

There are no explosions.

Maybe there’s not even a happy ending.

I will leave that for you to discover.

But there are certainly very few cliches.

And so this picture spoke to me in a very deep way.

To reach out to anyone on the Internet who might be reading this.

This is a film about problems.

Not crippling problems which require literal crutches, but crippling all the same.

Pink Floyd summed it up as well as anyone when they sang about “quiet desperation”.

It may be “the English way”, but it’s not a uniquely British phenomenon.

I hate to talk about the “human condition”…because I fear I will sound like one of the putzes who pens the elevator pitches which adorn every film on Netflix [who writes those things?!?], but James Mangold did something very significant with this film.

Even the music is subtly artful.

We can thank Thurston Moore for that.

And so little harmonics and behind-the-bridge pings give depth to Victor’s struggles.

It’s quietness.

Standing by the staircase.

Staring up.

Is mom coming down?

Will the dog come eat his food?

There are heroes in this world.

And sometimes they are right under our noses.

Victor is one of those.

 

-PD

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles [1975)

Lots of commas.

And sub-clauses.

And finally Santa.

Enfin.

That something happens in this film is a miracle.

It is a monument of nothingness.  [hang on]

A monument of boredom.  [wait for it]

A truly glorious feminist film.  [truly]

Quite simply, this is one of the hardest films I’ve ever tried to watch (much less review).

I was familiar with the late Chantal Akerman’s style at least a bit.

[may she rest in peace]

Nothingness.  An obsession.

It’s closer to the Warhol end of the spectrum than Bergman.

Uncomfortable shots.  The time-image.

We don’t have time to read about the time-image. [Bergson]

Deleuze.  De loser.

We.  Miss out.

And so when we are thrust into a film such as this…

There ARE no films like this.

The nausea of which Sartre spoke.  Wrote.

I knew that Akerman admired Godard.

She was already in my good graces for that.

But I almost didn’t make it through this 3-hour-21-minute film.

From one J.D. to another.

Jeffrey Dahmer to Jeanne Dielman.

Dielman’s life is just as horrible.

She might as well work the 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. shift at a chocolate factory.

Belgium.

Every activity she caresses.  Like finest lace.

And so we see the Godard of Vivre sa vie.

That is the premise.

The “ooh-la-la”.

But it is much more Marina Vlady than Anna Karina.

2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle.

Washing dishes.  Interminably.

That lifeless, empty stare.

Perhaps it is Brecht.

Distancing.  Reality.  But symbolic.  Unreal.

Verfremdungseffekt.

Epic.  201 Dalmatian minutes.

Force the issue.

We dummies still worship Delphine Seyrig.

In the same way we worship Anamaria Marinca.

Because we’re sick of Western women…sick of soul-sucking Western culture.

Sick of the Easter bunny.  Sick of Santa Claus.

We want the East.  The Eastern bloc.

And further East.  Chinese acting.

Brecht.

Delphine from Saussure.

Cup and Saussure.

Such amazing acting by Seyrig.  To not act.

To act as if she wasn’t being watched.

To shine shoes and drop the brush.  [An event!  Here…]

To disturb the cream bottle.  Precariously returns.

To not apologize to the camera.

To get her apron caught…

The hardest button to button.

And the adrenaline-pounding rush of shopping for buttons.

Buttons.  Those little things which go through eyelets.

Like trying to find the correct shade of mauve.  All over town.

And so in the end it ends as an action film.

You think I kid.

But Akerman must have had a soft spot for Chabrol…(viz. Hitchcock).

Let’s play the quiet game for three hours…and see if it will drive you nuts.

Doniol-Valcroze pays a visit.

But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is the can of Ajax on the side of the tub.

The green and red.

Might have my brands wrong.

Tiny daggers of color.

Nowhere.

But there’s one.

 

-PD

 

#5 The Trouble with Mr. Bean [1992)

This is more like it.

Perhaps the most classic bit of all.

Getting dressed in the Mini Cooper.

Brushing his teeth.

Rinsing with the windshield wiper fluid.

It’s bloody clever!

The dentist appointment is rather good, though it’s hard to follow the adventurous trip which precedes it.

The final picnic bit is rather lame.

But the very opening…yes, let’s go back to the top.

Bean, apparently, has an immensely difficult time waking up.

I can wholeheartedly sympathize with that.

He has his grandfather clock.

And then a small alarm on his right nightstand.

And finally a tea kettle alarm on the other nightstand to which he has affixed a hose which runs to the foot of the bed…to spray scalding hot water on his foot.

But there are no snooze buttons.

The little alarm is dropped into a glass of water.

The hose is stopped up by the muscle memory of his big toe.

And back to sleep he goes.

Which all explains why he must rush to the dentist in the fist place.

But let’s examine something else.

In this episode, Bean’s childlike nature is on full display.

He sleeps beneath an A-Team blanket (upon which Mr. T’s flannel, pastel head is displayed clearly).

But just as importantly, Bean sleeps with his teddy bear by his side.

For Bean, his teddy bear is a living entity…a toy doll with feelings.

So Bean tucks in the bear for some extra Zzzz…allowing his faithful friend to sleep in.

And thus begins the frantic race to the dentist.

Furthermore, Bean is solely interested in reading a Batman comic book at his dentist’s office.

None of the vast magazine collection in the waiting room will suffice.

And about that picnic scene…

At least it reminded me that Rowan Atkinson is essentially a mime on this show.

Indeed, he says only one word in his basso profundo voice during this episode.

“Bean”, he intones, as he arrives at the opaque receptionist’s window.

For those in search of art, look no further.

The man says one word.  In the entire episode.

Not zero.  And not 571.

But merely one.

Directors Paul Weiland and John Birkin were starting to get the hang of things with this one.

Highly recommended!

But don’t let your nose hair get caught in your Norelco (as Mr. Bean painfully finds out).  Always reminds me of El Sayyid Nosair.  And Meir Kahane.  And the Jewish Defense League.  MIPT (and by extension, Homeland Security) classifies the JDL as merely a “former terrorist organization”.  (Jewish terrorists…imagine that!)  Even the ADL gets it right regarding the similar sounding JDL:  “thugs and hooligans”.

Kahane (founder of this former Jewish terrorist organization) has a nice little monument in Kahane Park in the West Bank.  Which is to say, Israel seems proud of their terrorist martyrs.  What hypocrisy!

-PD

Un film comme les autres [1968)

I took the road less-traveled.

And then I cheated

But there is no cheating this.

A film adrift in the cosmos.

My grasp of French is not good.  Watching this film is not the same as ordering a sandwich at Subway in rural Quebec–and I am not very good at that (to put it mildly).

This film is saturated with revolutionary philosophy, theory, literary allusions.

Fortunately for me there were subtitles available…in Italian.

My grasp of Italian is non-existent.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  I can get the general gist by way of Spanish similarities.

My grasp of Spanish is poor.

Wow.  What a quandary!

What am I even doing watching this film?!?

Well…because Jean-Luc Godard is my favorite director.

This film, however, might be rightly considered the official starting point of his years in the collaborative collective known as the Dziga-Vertov Group.

But any way you cut it:  this is a difficult film.

What are my own thoughts about it?

It is an exercise in minimalism.  It’s like Hitchcock’s Rope minus a plot.

But something has replaced plot.  That something is context.

As I watched this it became clear that the May ’68 events in Paris were the essential detail about which a viewer must have knowledge to understand this film (especially if said viewer is fluent in neither French nor Italian).

The other aspect which occupied my mind during the viewing (as my brain was blowing gaskets from hearing French and “reading” Italian simultaneously) was the “strategy of tension” connected to the false-flag terror attacks (Operation Gladio) in Italy in the 1970s and 80s.

Mai ’68.

General strikes.  de Gaulle.  Latin Quarter.  Situationist International.  Nanterre.  Sorbonne.

Rive Gauche.  Molotov cocktails.  Agents provocateurs?

Daniel Cohn-Bendit.  Nantes.  Nanterre. (WESTXLAYERTWO)

Renault.  Billancourt.  Paris Commune.  1871.

Sous les pavés, la plage!

“Ne travaillez jamais”  –Guy Debord (1953)

Graffito.  Graffiti.

Wikipedia leaves out the Debord quote, but the article is generally good.

Title:  May 1968 events in France

I should however mention that Godard’s exclusion from the cinema portion at the bottom of the article is eye-popping.

So be forewarned:  if you want to know the truth you will have to dig deeper.

BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION

1q84.

IT WAS TOTALLY INVISIBLE HOWS THAT POSSIBLE ? THEY USED THE EARTHS MAGNETIC FIELD X THE INFORMATION WAS GATHERED AND TRANSMITTED UNDERGRUUND TO AN UNKNOWN LOCATION X DOES LANGLEY KNOW ABOUT THIS ? THEY SHOULD ITS BURIED OUT THERE SOMEWHERE X WHO KNOWS THE EXACT LOCATION ? ONLY WW THIS WAS HIS LAST MESSAGE X THIRTY EIGHT DEGREES FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES SIX POINT FIVE SECONDS NORTH SEVENTY SEVEN DEGREES EIGHT MINUTES FORTY FOUR SECONDS WEST X LAYER TWO

strategia della tensione

SLOWLY DESPARATLY SLOWLY THE REMAINS OF PASSAGE DEBRIS THAT ENCUMBERED THE LOWER PART OF THE DOORWAY WAS REMOVED WITH TREMBLING HANDS I MADE A TINY BREACH IN THE UPPER LEFT HAND CORNER AND THEN WIDENING THE HOLE A LITTLE I INSERTED THE CANDLE AND PEERED IN THE HOT AIR ESCAPING FROM THE CHAMBER CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER BUT PRESENTLY DETAILS OF THE ROOM WITHIN EMERGED FROM THE MIST X CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING Q ?

Anni di piombo

Fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, false-flag terrorists (sounding familiar?)

If you live in the USA it should.  Same goes for UK.  And Canada.  And France.  And Norway.  Ad nauseam.

But the initial testing was in Italy.  One might also mention Greece and Turkey.

Piazza Fontana.  Aldo Moro.  Henry Kissinger.  Threats.

l’Ulivo.  2000 Italian Parliamentary Commission report.  Strategy of tension was supported by United States.

On this subject Wikipedia is not very good.  It is misleading.  It is covering up for something.  Of course, I am speaking about the English version.

My initial “cheating” was looking at a translated copy of the Un Film comme les autres page on Italian Wikipedia.  The optimist in me hopes that this strange film “about nothing” (most would probably say) inspired the Italians even more than the French.  Present availability of this film might bear this out.  The pessimist in me sees some Italian opportunists out to make a buck (knowing that this film is available in no other territory).  But the subtitles support the former assertion.  If you are an English monoglot, good luck!

George H.W. Bush refused to comment.  Of course he did!  Operation Gladio.

1990.  Seems so long ago that the European Parliament had the balls to condemn NATO and the US for the terrorism of Operation Gladio.  Here Wikipedia succeeds.

Title:  Operation Gladio

That’s cause the EU doesn’t really care about its people either anymore.  Yes, we know…European Coal and Steel Community, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.

CIA director William Colby was quite candid about this whole operation in his memoirs, it seems…  No wonder he died in a “boating accident” in 1996.

On the other hand…  “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request.”   Well that’s very fucking helpful, FOIA.  Works like a charm!

I recommend Daniele Ganser’s work as well as that of Gianfranco Sanguinetti.

If you’ve made it this far, then you understand the gist of the film under review.  That’s what I tell myself.  I’m like one of those students in the weeds…trying to understand it all as the sun hits the hair of the beautiful girl in the yellow socks.  There are no faces in the summer colors…just glimpses…glints.  Memory is black and white.  Recollections of a man with a movie camera.

-PD