Then who was the ground team that planted explosives in WTC7?
If it was al-Qaeda, then we would have heard about it.
We never heard about any ground teams.
Therefore, the ground team was not al-Qaeda.
Whoever the ground team was, their existence didn’t not fit the narrative of 19 beardy guys with box cutters defeating the greatest military on Earth and bringing down two of the three tallest buildings in America on one day.
But there were three buildings that came down.
WTC7 was not hit by a plane.
It was not consumed by a raging inferno (though it had been on fire most of the day).
No modern steel-framed skyscraper had ever collapsed because of fire.
But NIST (Department of Commerce) wants us to believe that three collapsed due to fire on the same day.
The two large towers, WTC1 and WTC2, had been designed by a Japanese architect to withstand the impact of what was roughly equivalent (in size and weight) to the 767s which hit them…without collapsing.
As for fire bringing them down, the wrong building fell first.
[i.e. the second tower hit was the first one to fall]
If WTC7 was rigged with explosives (something that couldn’t be done in one day [while the building was on fire]), then it stands to reason that WTC1 and WTC2 were almost certainly rigged with explosives as well.
There would have been time and opportunity to do this.
There were prolonged power outages (including the disabling of security systems) in the months leading up to 9/11.
The pretext was something.
Computer system updates.
New fire proofing on stairwells.
But these complete power downs (overnight) in WTC1 and WTC2 are the likely time when the buildings were rigged with explosives.
How do you surreptitiously bring (import) a huge amount of explosives into the United States without raising suspicions?
Inside job (to some [large] degree).
The explosives were already here.
Were there really planes that flew into WTC1 and WTC2?
I believe there were.
But I am open to other explanations.
Occam’s razor comes to an easy conclusion (in my opinion) that the flights which ostensibly hit the WTC were remotely captured and flown by remote control into the buildings.
My guess is that the “terrorists” were CIA/military assets who thought they were participating in a drill.
In other words, when they realized they were actually gonna fly smack into the side of a building, it was too late for them to get out of this “drill”.
And there were plenty of active drills that day.
And MANY, many more.
Experts can be fooled.
That is the message of F for Fake.
Think outside the box.
“War of the Worlds” (as presented by Orson Welles in 1938) was made “real” by fake news.
“John Brennan on Thursday recalled being asked a standard question for a top security clearance at his early CIA lie detector test: Have you ever worked with or for a group that was dedicated to overthrowing the US?”
If I were to say “late Godard” (and that would be my natural, truthful answer), Monsieur Godard would likely point out the merits of his early films…just to annoy me.
If I spoke lovingly of Vivre sa vie, he would probably proclaim that it is shit.
Jean-Luc Godard is a very complex individual.
And I can wholeheartedly identify with that.
A walking civil war.
This film never makes reference to Cahiers du cinéma.
It doesn’t need to.
This film covers a period of time which Wikipedia classifies as Godard’s “revolutionary period”.
When did Godard stop writing for Cahiers?
He never stopped being a critic.
We know that.
And I see his point.
This is shit.
Because we want to invent new forms.
Breathless was like his “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.
Or his Bolero.
He couldn’t escape it.
Couldn’t lose it.
Must be nice.
But maybe not.
“Play the hits!”
Did politics ruin Jean-Luc Godard?
But it was necessary.
It was his process of growing up.
His process of attaining wisdom.
Trial and error.
But not the last word.
I don’t agree with Godard’s politics.
Perhaps at some point in my youth I did.
But not very much.
Because I never really understood them.
But I too am a revolutionary.
In these days.
After the 2020 election.
You may call me a reactionary.
I don’t care what you call me.
I think George Washington is cool.
I think the United States of America is worth saving.
And the American Revolution has recommenced.
Same goals as the founders had.
Love it or leave it.
Godard did not show up in 2010 to receive his honorary Academy Award.
Good for him.
Give me the old stuff.
Not this new crap.
Perhaps you see where me and Godard overlap?
Too rashes like a Venn diagram…with a particularly-irritated common ground.
The skin is red and peeling.
I scratch my arms.
I’m running out of real estate on my body for these nicotine patches.
You thought it was something more interesting?
Where does the former President of Peru come in?
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Godard’s first cousin.
I too had cousins.
Who are as far off as Peru.
But always close in my heart.
Kuczynski is 82.
Godard will be 90 in one week.
I will be 44 when the Electoral College meets.
Anna Karina died on my birthday last year.
She was 79.
But this film doesn’t deal with the wonderful Ms. Karina.
No, this film deals with another stunning beauty: Anne Wiazemsky.
Wiazemsky died three years ago.
The same year Redoubtable came out.
In the English-speaking world, we know it (ironically) as Godard Mon Amour.
Sounds more sophisticated to have the subtitled film with a more commercial FRENCH product label.
Redoubtable is too vague.
Godard Mon Amour sells itself.
[that’s what the advertising guys must have said]
Godard and Wiazemsky were married for 12 years.
Godard and Karina married for a mere 4.
I’ve never read Mauriac.
I have nothing against Catholics.
I adore Olivier Messiaen’s music.
So it bears mentioning that one of the smartest, most unique artists in the history of the world was a French Catholic [Messiaen].
Which is to say, believing in God does not make you boring.
I believe in God.
The same God.
The Christian God.
God who gave us Jesus.
God who gave us synesthesia.
Combat didn’t like La Chinoise.
De Gaulle withdrew from NATO.
Will Trump win?
De Gaulle supported sovereignty.
The European Union is the antithesis of what de Gaulle wanted.
De Gaulle criticized America’s war in Vietnam.
But that wasn’t enough for revolutionaries like Godard.
De Gaulle wanted Québec to be free from Canada.
If you’ve ever been to Québec, you might see why.
It is unlike the rest of Canada.
Except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
But not really.
Île de Chêne?
Starring in a Maoist film directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
And then they married.
Godard was correct.
Au Hasard Balthazar is the antithesis of the Central Intelligence Agency.
But Godard never said that.
So Anne Wiazemsky wrote a book called Un An Après which was published in 2015.
She died two years later.
The same year her book was adapted for film as Redoubtable.
She died of breast cancer.
Less than a month after Redoubtable was released in France.
This film proves that Michel Hazanavicius is a very talented filmmaker.
It proves that he knows his Godard.
But it is flawed.
Aren’t all masterpieces?
Is Redoubtable a masterpiece?
In some ways, yes.
In some ways, no.
It is probably most similar to Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock.
Both of them are films of “exorbitant privilege”.
Which is to say, a little out of touch with their subject matter.
Was Pablo Picasso ever called an asshole?
Not if we take Jonathan Richman at his word.
Art contains deeper layers of meaning.
Unless you’re Warhol.
In which case, the meaning MAY be found closer to the surface.
Stravinsky liked this too.
Music has no meaning.
It is just tones.
Little dots on a page.
So we are told.
Jean-Luc Godard and Igor Stravinsky both embraced MANY different approaches to their craft over their long careers.
Because they loved their crafts.
They were addicted.
It was a compulsion.
And, for Godard, it remains so.
Godard married the girl who rejected Robert Bresson.
Do not underestimate the thrill of this.
The thrill of it all.
Bresson was a genius too.
But she was only 18 when Bresson made his advances.
Girls want to live.
Bresson was 65.
Numbers can lie.
Godard and Wiazemsky were only together as man and wife for three years.
Though they were married for 12.
Three years was enough, apparently.
The divorce appears to have been more a formality.
I spoke to Anne-Marie on the phone once.
In exceedingly-broken French.
She was saintly in her patience.
All I wished to convey, as I called Rolle (Switzerland) on my flip phone, was that Godard was my intellectual hero. [it is true] And that his LATE films mattered. That they mattered THE MOST. That he had created beauty. That he had plumbed the depths. I owed it to my master to deliver this message before I (or he) died (God forbid).
I was compelled.
Jean-Luc Godard is my favorite creator this side of heaven.
Even though I don’t agree with his politics.
Bob Dylan is neck-and-neck for this honor.
Dylan is, no doubt, my favorite musician to have ever lived.
Neck-and-neck with Roland Kirk (perhaps).
My favorite jazz artist.
My favorite instrumentalist.
It is never noted that Wiazemsky was in Les Gauloises bleues.
And Godard could be an asshole.
So can I.
So can Trump.
Trump is my ideological hero.
My political hero.
I DO agree with his political philosophy.
And yet, my favorite film director (auteur) remains Godard.
No one is even neck-and-neck with JLG for me.
Brakhage is a distant second.
Welles is formidable.
But they do not hit the mark like Jean-Luc.
Il seme dell’uomo.
Nothing suggestive there.
And then I gave Jacques Demy’s grandson piano lessons.
Or Agnès Varda’s grandson.
More like organ lessons.
You should use Belmondo again.
We see Coutard’s hair early.
Politics entered soon.
Le Petit soldat.
The perfection of Vivre sa vie.
The jaunty, carefree, playful anarchy of Breathless.
And a sadness tied to beauty.
Politics again with Les Carabiniers.
An attempt at commercialism with Contempt.
Equivalent to Nirvana’s In Utero album.
A thorough disdain for the Hollywood system.
And the “tradition of quality” in France.
But something deeper…and more bitter.
Bande à part more like Breathless.
A little like Vivre sa vie.
Down and out in Paris.
Life at the margin of society.
Hazanavicius first really gets going with Une Femme mariée.
Stacy Martin in the nude.
Grabbing the bedsheets.
Brace brace brace.
The resemblance to Charlotte Gainsbourg is striking.
A little Alphaville.
Someone who nibbles Godard’s neck.
The Samuel Fuller scene from Pierrot le fou turned into a fistfight.
Don’t insult me!
A bit of Macha Méril in the hair.
And a bit more of Chantal Goya.
Getting shouted down by a situationist during the May ’68 occupation of the Sorbonne. Lumped in with Coca-Cola.
Things go dark with insults.
On the blink.
Made in U.S.A.
Two or Three Things I Know About Her.
“You ruined my shot!”
Eating Chinese food.
A rather unfortunate outburst directed at a war hero.
And his wife.
These are the things we do.
When we’re young.
What is striking is the humor in Redoubtable.
The broken eyeglasses.
The slipping shoes.
And their replacement.
I must give credit to Louis Garrel.
He really does convey the mania and eccentricity of Godard.
While Stacy Martin is very good here, it is a shame that Hazanavicius chose to lovingly evoke every detail of Godard’s life…except Wiazemsky’s red hair.
They told Beethoven it was a horrible way to begin his 5th Symphony.
With a rest.
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.
The whole orchestra.
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).
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.
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)
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.
Which Hitchcock so admired.
…and the Oscar goes to.
Irishmen in France.
The recurring scene from Salò…
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.
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.
This film should be mandatory viewing for fighter pilots.
Practice your OODA loop here.
If you want to survive in this jungle of meaning.
Night of the hunter…
It’s all true.
That weary look.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
This much-féted masterwork was not only released on television (which is to say, it was not a “theatrical” film per se), but it was accompanied by a soundtrack on the very erudite German record label ECM and further augmented by a book (text and screenshots) published by the most famous French publishing house Gallimard.
The soundtrack is very difficult to find on CD, but it is becoming less-difficult to find in the digital realm (unlike the film itself).
You can at least “listen to the movie” on Spotify.
And so for this film review, we will only be considering (to start with) the first section (which runs 51 minutes).
It is the section with which I am most familiar.
It is my personal favorite.
But it is important to note that the entire 266 minute film is essential to the “weight” of this creation (even if this first part is the most finely-crafted).
But we will reconsider as we go along.
The first section of the film (that which is under consideration) dates from 1988.
The book was not released till 1998 (when the film was completed).
So we have a sort of serial composition here (in the sense of Finnegans Wake).
It came out in parts.
It dribbled out.
And its influence spread.
We remember William S. Burroughs and his concept of the “word virus”.
That is certainly germane here.
But I return, again, to Finnegans Wake.
No film creation in the history of cinema is more like James Joyce’s aforementioned masterpiece than Histoire(s) du cinéma.
Indeed, the only other creation I know of which enters into this same sui generis realm is Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk (translated in English as Arcades Project).
These are DENSE works…these three masterpieces.
One (Joyce) a “novel”.
One (Godard) a “movie”.
And one (Benjamin) a philosophical book.
Two books and a movie.
And the movie eventually became a book (Godard’s Gallimard creation).
The reverse of the usual.
Here, book doesn’t become film.
And there is not “more” in the book than there is in the film in Godard’s case.
If anything, there is certainly less.
Which doesn’t make it any less poignant.
So, what Godard has created for us with the book is a perfect guide to REMEMBERING WHAT WE SAW.
Which is a big theme of Histoire(s) du cinéma.
Film preserves the holiness of real life (to paraphrase).
Film (and video…of which this movie makes extensive use) preserves a moment.
Film can be (and is, always) a document.
Godard outlines a very French dichotomy here.
Film can be either predominantly of the Lumière brothers’ tradition (what we might call “documentary”).
Or of the Méliès tradition (a doctored reality…a “staged” document…what we might call “drama” [and its various subgenres such as “comedy”]).
But this dichotomy is not strictly “mutually exclusive”.
And here Godard brings us the example of Robert Flaherty.
Known as a director of documentaries, Godard points out that Flaherty “staged” his documentaries (which blurs the lines between the Lumière/Méliès dichotomy).
And what of Histoire(s) du cinéma?
Is it a documentary?
In many ways, yes.
It is a history of film.
But it is also a history of the filmmaker who is MAKING that very same history of film (namely, Godard himself).
To add further layers of surreality, Godard must address his own contribution to the history of cinema (which is considerable by even the most unbiased estimation).
Which is to say…
Godard is important to the history of film.
Whether you like him and his films or not, he cannot be ignored.
And so we have here a very curious and “loaded” document indeed.
It is a matter of historiography.
Godard cannot (and indeed, does not even try) to remove his own opinion from this exercise of surveying the history of cinema.
That may be, ultimately, because Jean-Luc Godard never stopped being a film critic.
It was as a lowly film critic that he started…and it is as a film critic with his caméra-stylo (“camera pen”) that he continues to create today.
All of his films are, in and of themselves, film criticism.
From Breathless to The Image Book, he is always making a statement.
Pointing out how vapid Hollywood can be.
Pointing out what doesn’t exist in the marketplace.
Perhaps he is creating that which he would most like to watch…as a film lover.
His favorite film didn’t exist (except in his head–except as a vague concept).
No one had made it.
So, in order to watch it, he had to create it himself.
Then he could (theoretically) “enjoy” it.
I imagine he does this with each new film he makes.
It is always an attempt (“essay”…from French etymology…”to try”) to materialize what he would like to watch.
No director has his cutting wit.
No director’s mind pivots so nimbly.
So he must become his own favorite director…over and over and over and over again.
But this film is indeed a special case.
Ten years of creation.
Joyce spent 17 years on Finnegans Wake.
Benjamin spent 13 years on his Arcades Project.
And all of this which I have written is merely a preface.
That is how IMMENSE and pithy(!) Histoire(s) du cinéma truly is.
To be a creator is tiresome.
It makes one weary.
To always dream.
And to sweat in pursuance of crystalizing ones inspiration.
Jean-Luc Godard has always been a bitter sort of chap.
Bitter about Hollywood.
A love/hate relationship (LOVE/HATE…Robert Mitchum…knuckle tats).
And it is true.
Godard delves very early on into the parallel birth and adolescence of cinema and the Holocaust.
Cinema and the Holocaust.
Cinema was still young.
Cinema had a responsibility to document.
The Germans were very technologically advanced (particularly in sound and video recording).
They kept records of everything.
Even when they went astray during the Third Reich.
Germany had already produced great directors by the time of the Holocaust.
At the top of the list would be F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang.
But they were not alone.
There were others.
UFA (which still exists till this day) was a giant.
So where is the documentation of the Holocaust?
[you can see what a “dangerous” question Godard is asking]
Is he “denying” the Holocaust happened?
I don’t think so.
But he’s asking a relatively simple and (I think) sincere question.
Where is the video record?
All that has been passed down to us of the concentration camps (and “death” camps) is the record made by American directors like George Stevens AFTER the camps had been liberated.
So what really went on there?
Are we to really believe the Germans shot no footage whatsoever in these camps?
And if so, why can’t we see it?
Wouldn’t it truly help us to “never forget” and “never again” and stuff etc. etc.???
It is a very inconvenient fact that, as far as the general public has been made aware, there are NO (and I repeat NO) films (NO FOOTAGE) shot by the Nazis in the concentration camps during WWII.
Surely it exists, right?
But where is it?
Who has it?
What does it show?
Godard is the ultimate enfant terrible here (and elsewhere).
He wants to know.
Because he’s a film lover.
And he ultimately blames Hollywood (which had, by WWII, become the global center of the film industry) for not truly DOCUMENTING what happened in the concentration camps (neither while the camps were active nor anytime afterwards).
But here Godard branches off into an aesthetic direction.
Godard flatly rejects the talentless Spielberg evocation of Schindler’s List.
For Godard, a directer as mediocre as Steven Spielberg has no business trying to tackle humanity’s darkest hour.
This is the conundrum at the heart of Histoire(s) du cinéma.
What Godard (I think) is saying is this: there is no way to “write” a history of cinema…because a large portion of contemporaneous history (1939-1945) was not addressed in any true way by the BUSINESS (ironically represented heavily by Jews) of Hollywood.
Godard seems to be saying that Hollywood’s Jews (which is to say, Hollywood) let down world jewry during the years 1939-1945…all for a buck (as it were).
It is a persuasive argument in many ways.
But let’s back up a step.
To reiterate, a history of cinema cannot be told…because there is a portion of that history which is MISSING.
This is a very important word here (and a very important term).
There are films which SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE, but weren’t (by Hollywood).
And there are films which may have be made (by the Nazis), but as far as we know (factually) were not made. They do not exist (officially).
Two kinds of films missing.
Hollywood was responsible for the Méliès portion.
Hollywood should have used its immense power (and magic) to save the Jews of Europe.
EVERY FUCKING FILM should have been about the plight of the Jews in Europe who had been rounded up.
But we know very well that that’s not what Hollywood did.
The Nazis were responsible for the Lumière portion.
As twisted as the Nazis were, there is no way in hell those sick fucks did not film (with their Agfa technology, etc.) what was going on in the camps.
No fucking way.
Of course they filmed.
Like a goddamned serial killer.
And it was of pristine quality.
So where the fuck are those films?
But, sadly, Godard is called an “anti-Semite” for asking about these films.
He is coming from a “pure film” stance.
He wants to see the films.
He wants the world to see them.
And so the history of cinema is incomplete.
There is a gap.
Irving Thalberg. Howard Hughes. CIA. RKO. Starlets.
Film directors have been projecting their fantasies onto the screen since the beginning.
Their perfect women.
Their dream lovers.
But you can’t approach film history without approaching Hitler.
Film was at such an important point in its development.
And along came Adolph.
Chaplin and Hitler overlap.
They have the same mustache.
The Great Dictator was a comedy…more or less.
But it was also an attempt (“essay”) to address Hitler’s presence on the world stage.
An attempt to repudiate Hitler.
And yet, Chaplin could not quite hit the right tones.
It is maudlin.
As a comedy, The Great Dictator is pretty superb.
But it hasn’t aged that well as a piece of poetic philosophy.
In that moment, the great Chaplin was powerless.
But at least he tried.
But something was missing.
Direct reference to the camps.
Addressing the problem with no beating around the bush.
We need to see the bodies rotting.
We have seen that.
But we need to see the gas chambers.
We need to see the German efficiency and precision.
We need to see their documents.
Their film documents.
No Hollywood recreation can convey what those mythical reels contain.
No backlot will suffice.
We have the propaganda films.
I think what Godard is saying is this…
Hollywood has, since WWII, had to live with the guilt of NOT DOING ENOUGH during the Holocaust.
At the time (while it was happening), it was not kosher (no pun intended) to address the camps.
The public needed uplifting fare.
And Hollywood provided.
Hollywood provided a service.
But Hollywood (as an entity) was permanently cheapened by not addressing the deep philosophical issue of mass death…mass murder.
Hollywood could have yelled, “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
And, indeed, the theater WAS on fire.
But Hollywood said nothing.
Hollywood told jokes.
No medium is perfect.
Hollywood is people.
But as an institution, Hollywood was exposed as being essentially artless and vacuous.
There were exceptions.
Hitchcock (British…but part of Hollywood). Chaplin (British…but part of Hollywood).
Nicholas Ray. Erich von Stroheim (Germanic…but part of Hollywood). D.W. Griffith. Howard Hawks. Orson Welles.
But WWII was also the death of European cinema.
This is a very important concept that Godard conveys.
Not only were European Jews liquidated by the Nazis, but European cinema was effectively liquidated by Hollywood.
Europe would never be the same.
Fritz Lang. Jean Renoir. Abel Gance. Jean Vigo. Jean Cocteau. Roberto Rossellini. Max Ophüls.
America won the war.
The Soviet Union also won the war.
France was “liberated”.
And as Europe was subsequently split in half (the capitalist West and the communist East), the hegemony of American film [Hollywood] spread.
At the end of the Cold War, that hegemony became complete.
And so Godard is lamenting the death of his national film industry.
Godard is Swiss.
But he is, in many ways, also French.
He is a French speaker.
His years of highest-visibility were spent in Paris.
And there is not really a Swiss film industry of which to speak.
French film died (“liberated”/occupied).
Italian film died (lost war…occupied).
German film died (lost war…occupied).
Scandinavian film died.
Everything was pushed out by Hollywood.
Europe was relegated to the the realm of “art film”.
European cinema was put in a corner.
The wrecked economies of Europe could not compete with the war-machine-rich studios of America.
America had the magic–the fantasy–the special effects–the Technicolor.
Weary Europeans wanted happiness.
And they bought into the American idea of happiness.
To the detriment of their own unique cultures and philosophies.
Europe became Americanized (at least in the realm of the cinema).
Funny thing about the Cold War was that it was cold.
At least the big guns.
It was an economic war.
It would really be unfair to capitalism to claim that it didn’t win.
Ah, good old capitalism.
Capitalism is bad in a lot of ways, but it is an economic beast.
Communism is good in a lot of ways, but it got its butt kicked by capitalism.
But our story predates Marx and Lenin by centuries (even though it was commissioned by Stalin).
What we have here is a masterpiece of Soviet film: Ivan the Terrible (Part I).
It’s important. Part I. Часть I.
Because Часть II wouldn’t appear for another 14 years (Stalin was a fickle patron).
And Часть III would never appear. [It was destroyed after the director’s death.]
And what a director!
Sergei Eisenstein was a true auteur in every sense of the word.
When he died in 1948, Часть III more or less went with him.
Considering that, it’s amazing that Часть II itself even survived.
It was only the “Khrushchev thaw” which occasioned its eventual release in 1958.
But the year is 1944.
And the year is also 1547.
16 January 1547.
And Ivan (though he doesn’t look it in the film) is 16 years old.
It’s not Reims.
But it rhymes with…Bosco?
If it had a rhyme, Bob Dylan would have smacked it right down in the middle of The Freewheelin‘ or Another Side…
Good old Moscow! Москва́
Something like that…
And so we see a truly riveting coronation (this is not really a spoiler…1547).
We must remember what “the Terrible” meant.
As I understand it…it’s neither good nor bad.
Terrible as in terror…but also as in “fear God”.
Perhaps I have botched it.
grozny (miniscule). As opposed to the capital of Chechnya.
Let me just say this:
Nikolay Cherkasov (in this film) is the spitting image of Nick Cave.
[God forbid an iconoclast get ahold of a spitting image!]
Some might need a further clarification.
I mean the Nick Cave from Warracknabeal, Australia.
Not the one from Fulton, Missouri.
“2000 years of Christian history baby/and you ain’t learned to love me yet”
Something like that.
Ivan the Terrible “read that book from back to front”.
“It made a deep impression” (on his forehead).
But they didn’t have BBC Radio 4 in Russia in 1547.
So not even a gift of a chess set could cause Queen Elizabeth to beam a broadcast of Gardeners’ Question Time over to Ivan.
Alas, he was on his own…
Boyars be boyin’ [if you know what I mean].
I must admit, I’m rather proud of myself for figuring this out.
To wit, Михаил Названов looks like Gene Wilder as Jesus.
Tsk tsk, English Wikipedia.
Which is to say, Andrey Kurbsky is played by Mikhail Nazvanov.
Every epic needs a great beauty 🙂
And Lyudmila Tselikovskaya is no exception.
She is chaste (and chased).
English Wikipedia gives no hypertext love.
But there is an article.
She was from Astrakhan.
And here she portrays Ivan’s bride Anastasia.
Such a lovely word…tsarina.
And by Astrakhan we certainly don’t mean Canadian military fur wedge cap.
Ivan the Terrible is basically Donald Trump (for anyone needing a reference).
Which is why Stalin identified with Ivan.
Putin is another good reference point.
For that matter, Pavel Kadochnikov’s effeminate, moronic character is a good symbol for the past 16 years of American presidency. Imagine W. as a metrosexual in 16th-century Russia. You’ve got it! 16 & 16.
Marriage is the end of friendship (in more ways than two).
And so Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow heads off to the monastery.
But at this time he was just Feodor Kolychev.
Family Glinski mentioned. Family Zakharin mentioned.
But the House of Romanov takes an extra effort.
Do you remember Kazan from Quantum of Solace?
I never properly expressed my admiration for that film.
Tosca in Bregenz. Exquisite!
Back to Kazan… Poor saps vs. rich saps.
And military strategy comes to the fore. That of Ivan.
Their strength was sapped. One letter from tapped.
That would be Operation Gold!
There’s a Tartar sauce of brutality (?) reminiscent of ¡Que viva México! (remember the horses and the buried guys???).
Same camera angles.
En plein air version of coronation. The doubters. Maybe Eisenstein took a thing or two from Welles?
Because Citizen Kane was 1941.
The Soviet Union joined the Allies in June 1941.
Citizen Kane premiered the previous month and would open in theaters across the U.S. the coming September.
So we wonder whether one of the first “chess sets” of understanding was a copy of Welles’ film.
Back to these Tartars. That’s just the Western version of Tatar.
An extra R (gratis).
You may need some tarragon as well.
It certainly wasn’t “Palisades Park” for these poor Tartars.
No Freddy Cannon sound effects to distract them before being picked off by (demonym-for-people-from-Kazan) arrows.
It’s almost a Thelonious goatee. Pharaonic. Sun Ra-nese.
Over and over we hear of Livonia.
Reval (which is today Tallinn, Estonia).
An iron curtain required iron men.
Oprichnina. A policy.
Oprichnik. Of the Oprichniki. Political police.
Oath of allegiance (starting to sound like Dale Cooper).
Because this is one of those films which requires a certain attention to detail.
Get the damn title right.
So what is it?
I have just watched the British version…we’ll call it (adhering to common practice) Confidential Report.
I had seen this once before.
To me it was always Mr. Arkadin. I didn’t realize the level of controversy surrounding this film’s numerous versions.
But let me point something out. All of the versions are within a few minutes of each other. Sure, some are in Spanish. That makes a difference. But at a certain point it is splitting hairs. Either you’ve seen this thing or you haven’t.
I can understand the legalistic approach to film preservation when it comes to this picture.
If the whole thing isn’t presented as a flashback, I can see how the composition might be negatively affected.
But who cares? Bogdanovich? Sure…I care too.
And so let’s get around to why one should even care in the first place.
This is a magnificent movie!
I didn’t really think so the first time I saw it.
It’s possible to see this film and be caught in a The Big Sleep haze.
So maybe it does depend on the version.
Maybe the film isn’t supposed to be confusing.
Yet, there’s something nice (pleasant) about being confused.
If this was a universal maxim, I would walk around with a smile on my face perpetually.
But the confusion here is a rare sort.
When I first saw Mr. Arkadin I mainly “retained” (absorbed?) only its mood.
Something was happening. Orson Welles was a shadowy character.
There wasn’t a sense of continuity.
But here’s another possibility.
This film needs (deserves) to be seen more than once.
The action moves fast.
Weird things are afoot.
The whole film is a sort of riddle.
And the symbolism is as stinky-strong as Roquefort.
Wikipedia might lead you to Basil Zaharoff, but my mind was wandering more towards George Soros and/or Rupert Murdoch.
Even Jeff Bezos…these guys who feel compelled to protect their corporate empires by buying the Wall Street Journal (or Washington Post).
We make fun of Kissinger because he got the Nobel Peace Prize.
We make fun of Obama for the same reason.
Neither deserved it. [the prize]
It is as repugnant as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
But really, we are dumb.
We lump together Kissinger with Brzezinski. And then we throw Soros in for good measure.
And to top it all off, we place Murdoch like a cherry atop the mystère.
There is no mystery.
Bouvard and Pécuchet are aghast.
Maybe he was born in Muğla.
Perhaps he died in Monte Carlo.
This is the dossier on Mr. Arkadin.
You are paying to have yourself spied on.
Whether you like it or not.
Because, with all you have been through, you can’t even remember your real identity.
Oh yes…the tired trope of super-soldier pap and shows like Blindspot.
We almost buy it.
It goes a long way.
But it falls short.
Too few comma splices.
Yes, too few.
I will, be, here with Pynchon. Is not a comma splice.
This is approaching the time in which firemen SET fires. Bradbury. Truffaut.
And among the contraband is Tropic of Cancer.
Yes, my heart rends a bit. As I reach out.
Julie Christie…the rumors are true.
A shamus hired by a murderer.
Orson Welles is painting a portrait of Europe.
A song for Europe.
Mother of pearl.
They say Rothschild came in.
Always came in. But with a nice glass of Lafite.
ONI was sniffing around. They were the first. Good old chaps!
War profiteering runs all through the story of Basil Zaharoff.
And Orson Welles borrows this story artfully.
As when Patricia Medina is drunk on the yacht.
All through the film. Those expressionist camera angles. Vertov. Ruttman.
But with the wine…more sinister. As Arkadin is lucid. Listening. Gathering intelligence.
We need a new generation of jet fighters. Though the last generation never saw action in a real war. Hasn’t been a real war since WWII. Profiteers are restricted in their movements.
The Spanish Empire finally collapsed because of this corruption. Will it happen in the exact same manner to the United States?
The parallels are more similar than Rome.
It is too much. The shoddiness of these machines. I must stop here.