Hugo [2011)

It’s hard to imagine that perfection would be possible in 2011.

In this very uncinematic era ruined by technology.

But it takes a genius to produce art from tech.

And it takes an artist to produce art.

Martin Scorsese was well up to the challenge.

As the weirdo I am, The King of Comedy has always been my favorite of his films.

Rupert Pupkin spoke to me in a way that perhaps only the totality of Dr. Strangelove ever similarly did.

But Mr. Scorsese had the brass to undertake a project which should have been doomed if only by its trappings.

Films have tried and generally failed at relative tasks.

City of Ember, for example.

But Scorsese was not deterred.

Not least because he had the magical trump card:  Méliès.

Which is to say, he had the story to end all stories (as far as cinema is concerned).

The big daddy.  The big papa.

Papa Georges.

But first things first…

We must give credit to Asa Butterfield (who looks like a cross between Barron Trump and Win Butler in this film).

Butterfield is no Mechanical Turk.

Nay, far from it.

But automata (or at least one particular automaton) play a large role in Hugo.

And why “Hugo”?

Kid living “underground”?  Victor?  Les Misérables?

Yes, I think so.

And it’s a nice touch by the auteur (in the strictest sense) Brian Selznick.

[Yes, grandson of David O.]

We’re at the Gare Montparnasse.

Torn down in 1969.

Site of this famous 1895 derailment.

train_wreck_at_montparnasse_1895

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m up to 1,261.

But we press on…

Because Méliès was about dreams.

And Hugo is about dreams.

les rêves

And Scorsese has been “tapped in” to this magic at least since he portrayed Vincent van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (Kurosawa-san’s best film).

I must admit…I was a bit confused for awhile.

Something told me Scorsese had transformed himself into Méliès.

It was only later that it all made sense.

Ben Kingsley.

I mean, Scorsese is a great actor (Van Gogh, etc.), but he’s not THAT great!

But I’m jumping ahead…

Sacha Baron Cohen is very good in a somewhat-serious, villain role here.

I fully expected the immensely-talented Cohen to “ham it up” at some point, but he instead gives a very fine, restrained performance which fits like clockwork (sorry) into the viscera of this exquisite film.

But let’s revisit Sir Kingsley.

What a performance!

The loss of a career (Méliès).

The loss of a previous life.

The fragility of celluloid.

All to end up running a pathetic souvenir shop.

Toys.

Very clever, but still…

Such a fall from grace.

Into such obscurity.

I can only compare it to the trajectory of Emmett Miller (which was so artfully documented by my favorite author of all time [Nick Tosches] in my favorite BOOK of all time [Where Dead Voices Gather]).

The speed at which technology moves has the potential to reduce the most eminent personage to mere footnote at breakneck speed.

It was so even a hundred years ago.

And the process has now exponentially accelerated.

But we are coming to understand the trivialization of the recent past.

We are holding tighter to our precious films and recordings.

Because we know that some are lost forever.

Will this vigilance continue uninterrupted?

I doubt it.

But for now we know.

Some of us.

That today’s masterpieces might slip through the cracks into complete nonexistence.

Consider Kurt Schwitters.

The Merzbau.

Bombed by the Allies in 1943.

Es ist nicht mehr.

Into thin air.

But such also is the nature of magic.

Poof!

Skeletons later evoked by Jean Renoir in La Règle du jeu.

Scorsese is a film historian making movies.

And it is a wonderful thing to see.

And hear.

Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre more than once.

As on a player piano.

With ghost hands.

And the gears of the automaton.

Like the mystery of Conlon Nancarrow’s impossible fugues.

I’m betting Morten Tyldum lifted more than the spirit of gears meshing in Hugo to evoke the majesty of Alan Turing’s bombe in The Imitation Game.

But every film needs a secret weapon (much like Hitchcock relied on the MacGuffin).

And Scorsese’s ace in the hole for Hugo is the Satie-rik, placid visage of Chloë Grace Moretz.

Statuesque as water.

A grin.

A dollar word.

The beret.

And the ubiquitous waltzes as seen through keyholes and the Figure 5 in Gold.

Hugo is the outsider.

Scruffy ruffian.

Meek.  Stealing only enough to survive.  And invent.

But always on the outside looking in.

Below the window (like in Cinema Paradiso).

Ms. Moretz’ world is lit with gas lamps.

And you can almost smell the warm croissants.

[Funny that a film set in Paris should require subtitles FOR PARISIANS]

Assuming you don’t speak English.

Tables are turned.

But Paris draws the cineastes like bees to a hive.

THE hive.

Historically.

And that is just what this is.

History come alive.

But another word about Ms. Moretz.

As I am so wont to say in such situations, she’s not just a pretty face.

Though they are faint glimmers, I see an acting potential (mostly realized) which I haven’t seen in a very long time.

The key is in small gestures.

But really, the key is having Scorsese behind the camera.

It’s symbiotic.

Martin needed Chloë for this picture.

And vice versa.

We get a movie within a movie.

And (believe it or not) even a dream within a dream.

Poe is ringing his bell!

Or bells.

“Lost dream” says Wikipedia.

Yes.

It is as bitter a music as ever rained into Harry Partch’s boot heels.

To have one’s life work melted down for shoes.

Rendered.

To click the stone of Gare Montparnasse.

In an ever-more-sad procession.

Méliès becomes the vieux saltimbanque of which Baudelaire wrote.

Such is life.

We never expected to end up HERE.

Astounding!

-PD

Twin Peaks “Demons” [1990)

Back when I played the electric jug.

“If you have ghosts/then you have everything”

I had dinner with Roky Erickson a couple of times.

Oh, of course…not just me and him.

I wasn’t that important.

Like when I lectured at Yale.

I don’t believe I uttered a single word.

But I wasn’t alone.

stand for the fire demon

I think of demons

Roky beat David Lynch and company to the punch by about nine years.

The album The Evil One.

But we have many things to address.

Harry S. Truman.

Sheriff.

I thought it was Lou Reed.

Maybe Bob Dylan.

if you ever go to Houston

And Al Strobel.

But we’ll get to him.

Because Nagasaki is more important.

Oh my God…I just ruined it.

In one sense.

Mr. Tojamura.

A few things.

Zugzwang.

Not like restless leg syndrome.

K-complex.

0-0-0

Our eyes are deceived.

MPD Qh5?! DID Q-R5?!

From daft Hallmark by the water.

Almost fell apart.

And then Lynch stepped in as an actor.

A real comedian.

Louis Vivet.

At my grandmother’s house.

From Frankenstein to Poe.

Half brandy, half absinthe.

Would be like the three faces of Tom Sizemore.

Janus with a rearview mirror.

But JFK movie as well […]

APA.  (DSM, July 4).  Demons.  Twin Peaks.  Retrieved from http://www.666.org

It all started at McGill.  With Ewen Cameron.  Joel Paris.  [unfortunate] and Henry Mintzberg.

[even more unfortunate]

It’s quite clear that our hero is Vladimir Medinsky.

Soon to be immortalized by triviality.

Is absolutely right.

Netflix.  MKUltra.

Ian “Life” Hacking.

ポカヨケ

mistakes avoid

Fumio Yamaguchi

SRA

panic in Detroit

TST

wow…whaddaya know?

Georgia peach.

Deliberately created.

Super soldiers.

Assassins.

Mesmerized morons.

Just enough to be dangerous.

Like when Deputy Andy steps on the board.  And does the chicken walk.

vs. the chicken-hawk neocons.

Praying in terms of psychiatry.  And criminalistics.

With Nietzsche at the edge.

Not the Nazis.

NGRI.

The king and I.

No, sank you.

 

-PD

Невиност без заштите [1968)

[INNOCENCE UNPROTECTED (1968)]

I’m taking a wild guess here.

Because life is the greatest complexity.

Only yesterday I was tempting death.

But my name is Deathwish.

Death, for short.

A hard name to live up to.

I’m taking a guess that I have been forgotten…by most of those who meant so much to me.

Such a maudlin (Magdalen) sentiment, but fitting after such a lackluster evening.

If you have read this far, then you are likely qualified to view the ikonoclastic (!) film Innocence Unprotected.

It’s a film about a film.  Wikipedia really likes Croatian.  I suppose because of the Roman letters.

So the original film is question was ostensibly called Nevinost bez zaštite.

It was made during the war.  1941.

Under Nazi occupation (just like Les Visiteurs du soir).

But our 1968 film (the film about a film…sort of) is by my favorite Serbian director:  Душан Макавејев.  Which is to say (with pity) Dušan Makavejev.

And about that title…well, it sounds the same.  That enigma “Serbo-Croatian”…but I can only guess (“taking a wild guess here”) that it was Невиност без заштите.

It flashes before my eyes so quickly.

The H that sounds like N.

The B that sounds like V.

The upside-down N that sounds like I.

The C that sounds like S.

The b with its tail in the crosswind…blowing west to east…which, mercifully, sounds like a B (or b).

The 3 that sounds like a Z.

The Roman numeral III with a floor beneath it…like a Greek temple without a roof…sounds like “Shhh…(peaceful)”.

Those are the tough ones at issue.

Cyrillic letters.

Yes?

Now that I have bent linguistic steel like Dragoljub Aleksić, we shall move on to more pressing matters.

Bending spoons.  Like Uri Geller.

An Israeli.  You know how much I love Israelis 🙂

It is true, in a sense.

Once upon a time…that the French and the Jews were my favorite people.

Completely true.

What happened?  How did I get bent from my Henry Miller humanism?

How did I move to a Jean-Luc Godard humanism?

Shouldn’t humanism value all humans equally?

Yes.

In my wrath…in my protective love for the Palestinians I have said some very unkind things about the Israelis.  Nothing I’m sure they haven’t heard before.

I am not really at the vanguard of anti-Semitism.

But I said it to be hurtful.

Strong words.

Because I was mad.

I’m sure Norman Finkelstein is a fine person.

Anyone who would argue with Alan Dershowitz must basically be alright.

As for Dersh, any lawyer who would deign write a book called The Case for Israel (in 2003, no less…year of the Iraq invasion) must have a loose screw.

As for me, all my screws are loose.

I don’t give (nor do I receive) a fuck.  Err…

That is Innocence Unprotected…a rather Dodoist film which wonders whether the dots of my most recent ellipsis were italicized.  The dots.

It would be like writing a poem about Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” (in full-on ekphrasis mode) and calling it “Howl”.

To say there is a considerable amount of film quotation in Невиност без заштите would be an understatement.

It is truly (Poetically) a film within a film.

I dreamt.

And as I did,

I hawked plywood espadrilles

in Belgrade.

Proudly,

to fund my feature film.

Writing is an attempt to live again.

Which is to say, if I begin to live again, then

I shall have to stop writing.

Not like this.

In misery.

Like Baudelaire.

Who only ever laid a hooker.

Because Jeffrey Immelt has neither the time nor mental capacity to read Walter Benjamin.

And that’s why General Electric will fail.

Because the futures of most things are the opposites of their current states.

The future of marketing?  Anti-marketing.

Because people are tired of being tricked.

They want a refreshingly frank admission of inferiority.

And the endearment begins.

Capitalism hasn’t yet cashed in on socialism.

Because to do so would mean its death.

Both.

Trump and Sanders frozen for all time.

Which would mean the humorous death of politics.

And MegYn Kelly would pull her hair out as she stumbled down the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

A lifetime wasted.

But not over yet.

There’s still night school.

She could learn a useful trade.

Now that journalism is dead.

But maybe in some Ethiopian rainforest the last shrub of curiosity/courage/integrity sits waiting for some Amazon former Fox News reporter to scale its unwieldy 39 feet…to take a clipping from the top.

Journalisa arabica.

Caught in the middle like 5 Broken Cameras.

Nothing could curse a presidential candidate more now than positive coverage by Fox News.

Fox News:  a more toxic endorsement than David Duke.

So now they change their tune.

Which begs the question:  does that mean you think that Republicans were rational (God forbid) to oppose Trump so long?

Or was it merely their house organ which disapproved of the ginger waker?

“Wake up kids!  I didn’t go to the University of Pennsylvania for nothing!!”

I would…as a paean to Mr. Georgia Guidestones himself, like to “expand upon” Gone With the Wind.  You know…add some rap music to certain scenes, show Clark Gable brushing his teeth, and such.  And then call it (wait for it…):  Gone With the Wind.

Yes?

Because that last period is almost certainly italicized.

It was not good enough to be amateur.

But Makavejev fixed that.

 

-PD

 

La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 [2013)

Sometimes we wonder whether the sadness is worth it.

In our epic lives which seem unbearable.

We only wanted a laugh for a second.

But we’ve felt too much.  Seen too much.  Too knowing.

All week long.

Misery.

And I have a letter in my heart.

But she won’t read it.

Won’t respond.

I am too sad to live.

Like Poe.  Like Baudelaire.  Especially.

Sitting for long hours in the café which really isn’t a café.

It’s a class struggle.

I can’t afford to be sad.

And I can’t afford not to love you.

This is Blue is the Warmest Color by Abdellatif Kechiche.

He.

Takes his time unwinding this story.

So delicate.  As lovers with mangoes.

Nobody’s listening.

Praise be to God!

I can’t.

Reveal myself to the world like that.

For it is Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux who have made the perfect film.

Real blood and real tears.

Cinema demands it.

From under the shadows of Godard, Kechiche.

Don’t let it scare you away.

Persevere!

Because this film was wholly deserving of the Palme d’Or.

It’s not a lesbian love story.

It’s not even really a love story.

It’s loss.

Walking away.

Lonely like Anna Karina or Louise Brooks.

Heels clicking pavement.

She couldn’t get close to anybody.

And when she finally does?

It’s devastating.

Devastatingly beautiful.

But devastating.

So many tears in this orgy of Frenchness.

Like Verlaine and Rimbaud.

“You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”

I’ve seen one actress do it (Anamaria Marinca).

But I’ve never seen two actresses do it.

Together.  Like Ginsberg and Corso.

Perhaps.

Ouroboros.

Really, it’s just Exarchopoulos.

I could say the name a million times.

Thank you.

Typically French.

Untypically thorough.

Kechiche.

Tunisia.

France.

Greece.

There’s joy in those tears.

Because acting doesn’t permit this.

Cinema doesn’t permit this.

It’s not The Brown Bunny blue.

Blue is the coldest color.

Timing.

Pacing.

Nothing.

And beingness.

What?

Exarchopoulos.  Exarchopoulos.  Exarchopoulos.

And [poof!] she appears 🙂

Teach me something I don’t know.

The birth of the world.

The middle movement Mozart clarinet concerto like Breathless.

I’m too tired and my French isn’t good.

I’m literally at the end of breath.

But don’t go…

Stay a moment longer.

And linger.

Stay with me with the damned.

What can I offer them?

When my troubles have been so mundane.

No.

Love vastly, hurt immensely.

Learn the real life.

Of Arabic and real estate and dreams destroyed.

I will never be a movie star.

God damn it.

We just want our spark in a bottle to be found.

Our quark.  Her quirk.

Hair all down in her face.

Don’t get me started…

It’s not the Bond girl who fascinates.

It’s the girl of the winding arcades…

Straight and narrow.

Zaftig.  Not the svelte punk.

Lots of spaghetti like Gummo and a chocolate bar through the tears.

My God…

What did I just witness?

Sex is the least important aspect of this film.

Titillation misses the point.

It’s that connection that she so dearly wanted.

This is the loneliest job.

 

-PD

 

 

Austin Powers in Goldmember [2002)

Nice recovery.

To recap:  first episode, pretty awesome.  Second episode #prettyterrible.  And third episode?

Quite good.

In general, all of the things you may have loved about the Austin Powers debut film return here as progressed elements.

Likewise, the shoddy aspects of episode two are herein absent or otherwise fixed.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Mike Myers recovers some of the real-life mojo he seemingly lost in the shag-a-flopic middle piece.

The character of Goldmember (played by Myers) is a significant improvement upon the generally stale Fat Bastard.

Beyoncé Knowles is pretty darn good in this film as well.

I was skeptical coming in.  Didn’t really know her as an actress.  Only slightly know her music.

But there’s a reason I didn’t know her as an actress.  Because this was her film debut.

Thank you Wikipedia.

Now we’re getting somewhere…

However, perhaps the most genius (evil genius?) dimension of this film is the dream-within-a-dream fourth-wall-destroying cameo sequence of Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, and John Travolta (among others).  Lot ‘a Scientologists there…

Continuing:

The big add-on, however, is Michael Caine.  It was really a choice bit of casting to introduce him into the mix.

That said, I’ve been a bit harsh on Mike Myers.  Really, it is formidable that he pulls a Peter Sellers by playing Austin, Dr. Evil, Goldmember, and Fat Bastard in this film.  They are all distinct characters.  In truth, Myers succeeds admirably by way of his talent for dialects.  Dutch is such an odd choice (as a spin on English), but Johan van der Smut (aka Goldmember) is indeed a novel attempt.

888 to you, my friend!

Yes…it’s not coming to the Criterion Collection anytime soon (unless it’s April 1st), but that’s alright.  After a grueling day this might be just the perfect film to make you forget for a moment.

Crack a laugh if you can.

Heartily recommended for James Bond aficionados in need of psychic adjustment.

Or something.

-PD