#3 The Curse of Mr. Bean [1990)

Just who does Donald Trump think he is???

Answer:  Sam Walton.

It’s the big, goofy, mesh-backed baseball cap.  The ones with the plastic snaps and infinitesimally small corresponding holes.  And then the squishy, peaked frontispiece:  “Make America great again” –or– (alternately) “Wal-Mart”.

That is the Donald’s costume…out on the campaign trail.  It’s bold.  Comedic.  A bit like George H.W. Bush “shopping” for groceries out among the common folk and being dumbfounded by this whole newfangled barcode scanner.

Yes, Donald Trump:  man of the people.

And so who did Rowan Atkinson think he was with Mr. Bean?

Well, that one’s a whole lot harder to pinpoint.

We might know Chaplin.  And Sellers.

But then there’s all these other institutions which don’t quite translate outside of Britain…The Goon Show, Dudley Moore, The Goodies…

Just from whence was Atkinson pulling his stuff?

We want to think it’s all original.  And perhaps it is.

But influence is unavoidable.

And so with the third and final episode of 1990, Atkinson gave us The Curse of Mr. Bean.  [1991 would yield only one episode of the show.]

The curse…hmmm…certainly sounds like an allusion to Sellers’ Clouseau.

Whatever the case may be, Atkinson’s material is all tied together with a very cohesive theme this time:  fear.

Fear of the diving board (afraid of heights).

Fear of public nudity or embarrassment (lost his trunks in the pool).

And finally the orgiastic grand guignol of laughter:

fear of movies.

It sounds like a pretentious art school pop album.

For instance, the Talking Heads’ Eno-produced Fear of Music (1979).

But for Bean, the horror was more of the Freddy Krueger type.

Indeed, by December 30, 1990 (this show’s airdate), there had already been five (yes, 5ive) A Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

Churned out of the dream factory like diabolical cotton candy, they appeared in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1989.  The series then would recommence in 1991.  Which begs the question, just what was Freddy Krueger up to in 1986?  Laying low?  Vacationing?  The Caribbean?

To wit, Bean is scared witless while on a date (yes, those things where aspiring romantics “go out”) with the absolutely adorable Matilda Ziegler.

For those of you (like me) who can’t live without pithy character names, Ziegler’s role (like my beloved Enid Coleslaw) is that of Irma Gobb.

And Bean, therefore, is the man-child…the everlasting Gobbstopper [sic].

[Which is to say, Ziegler’s character is a reoccurring one.]

Perhaps we need to look further back to find a precedent for Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean…perhaps out of the world of comedy proper.  Perhaps to the Dadaists?  I can certainly imagine Mr. Bean dressed as a sort of human tampon à la Hugo Ball…with lobster claw hands.  Or maybe Bean with a lobster telephone courtesy of Dalí.  Certainly Bean would have a pet lobster to take for walks in the Bois de Boulogne with a ribbon for a leash like Gérard de Nerval.

But we perhaps perhaps perhaps need to look further.  To the wry humor of Marcel Duchamp.  To the childlike fancy and brilliance of a René Magritte or an Erik Satie.  Even, god forbid, the humor of a Mauricio Kagel.

Conductors don’t have heart attacks mid-concert?  Not according to Kagel’s Ludwig Van.

Yet Bean never crosses that line of pretension.

He’s never Anthony Braxton’s Quartet for Amplified Shovels.

No, Bean always remains funny.

And so, perhaps, nothing is more revolutionary than comedy.

This kind of comedy.

Absolutely scripted, miniaturist-perfect comedy worthy of Jacques Tati.

In that sense, we might say that Mr. Bean is like Peter Sellers having Charlie-Chaplin-like total control over a production.  At least that’s the way it seems.

Perhaps we would be criminally neglecting the director of these first three Bean episodes:  John Howard Davies.

But in such comedies, the thing really does speak for itself.

Rowan Atkinson fills every moment of screen time in these gems with his thoroughly inimitable charm.

 

-PD

Sweet Toronto [1971)

Symptomatic of the times.  Now.  Then.

Read the news and it’s just about enough to depress you.  If you’re not already cynical.

But here comes a boy and a little girl…trying to change the whole wide world.

Isolation.

If you find this film, it likely won’t be under its original title Sweet Toronto.

My copy says John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto.

Which shows you how much Shout! Factory thought of the director D.A. Pennebaker.

The changed the title of his fuckin’ film!

Sure, they tacked on a poignant interview with Yoko to the front end, but other than that it seems unchanged.

Reminds us of another director who got shafted making a music documentary:  Jean-Luc Godard.

What is most widely available today as Sympathy for the Devil was originally to be called One Plus One.

The producers tacked on the title song to the end of the film (playing over largely inconsequential footage…at least initially) and retitled the sucker.

Godard allegedly punched the producer in the face after the premier…but I digress.

Why should you watch this film under consideration?

There’s a couple good reasons.

The first is Bo Diddley.  Sure, it’s only one song, but it sets the stage (literally) for what follows.

Pennebaker uses Diddley’s music to usher in the motorcade of John Lennon and entourage.

And when we really get to watch Bo, he’s dancin’ and jivin’ and (by the way) doing a nice job of not stepping on his guitar cable.

It’s a long, jammy, droned-out piece:  “Bo Diddley.”  That’s right, the song is titled “Bo Diddley” by (who else?) Bo Diddley.

If you close your eyes you just might think you’re listening to The Velvet Underground.  That won’t be the last time in the night for which those words are applicable.

Pennebaker keeps the train a’ rollin’ with a complete change of pace:  Jerry Lee Lewis.

Again, it’s only one song, but the director builds the excitement of anticipation for the headliner.

Lewis…smoking his cigar…gold rings and jewelry on that pumpin’ right hand…up high on the piano…and occasionally a brown patent-leather ankle book (Beatle boot?) makes it’s way up to the top register to heel a little tone cluster of exclamation.

At this point, Shout! Factory (perhaps at the behest of Chuck Berry?) makes a decision to cut Chuck’s song.

And so we roll into Little Richard.  Again, we can imagine…Prince, Michael Jackson…we are seeing the entire history of rock and roll compressed into 70 (?) minutes…from Jerry Lee singing a song made most famous by Elvis all the way to the headliner who will take us to far out, groovy places which may or may not still exist.

Little Richard has the most cracker-jack band.  A couple of sax players…really tight.

And so after three fantastic performers in a row–three originators of rock and roll, we get the rag-tag Plastic Ono Band.

John starts ’em off nice and slow…reverent…”Blue Suede Shoes,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” and “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy” before the curve ball of “Yer Blues”…

So lonely…wanna die…ain’t dead already…know reason why.

Klaus Voormann hits a steaming helping of wrong notes throughout the early part of the set as bass player, but that’s why we love him, right?  Reminds me of those bum notes which they left in (didn’t edit out) on John’s first solo album titled (what else?) Plastic Ono Band.  But we also love Klaus because he drew the cover to The Beatles Revolver album.

But what Klaus lacks in precision is made up for by Eric Clapton on lead guitar.  Clapton with his beard…denim jacket…a generally pensive look on his face the whole time which seems to read, “What the fuck am I doing here?  Can’t believe I’m doing this.”  Clapton never glares at Ono (at least not in the shots we receive through the miracle of montage), but one can’t help thinking that a musician of Eric’s caliber might have been perplexed (to say the least) regarding Yoko’s musical contributions to the night’s proceedings.

[Alan White is, of course, great on drums.]

And so we slink into “Cold Turkey”…premiered this very night in 1969.  The rendition is like Booker T. & the MGs…very cool and groovy…laid back.

But most of all…about this film…John Lennon in a white suit…huge beard…long hair…little circular glasses.  His presence…

Remember, this concert was about four months after the Montreal bed-in.

And so the band launch into “Give Peace a Chance.”

And it’s still the most revolutionary statement possible.

Musicians are the only ones who have ever done anything worthwhile…

Truth be told, the rendition of “Give Peace a Chance” is a little lackluster.

“And now Yoko’s going to do her thing all over you”

With those words (or something close to that effect), John takes us into the final act of this opera.

And it is powerful.

Yes, these grungy musicians actually succeed in making time stop.

Yoko wails like a woman on the sea lamenting her lost child.

For all the naysayers, Ono actually did have a good sense of pitch.  It’s just that pitch (as the Western ear defines it…narrowly) is not her predominant concern (apparently).

It’s like the Damo Suzuki years of the German band Can…including their two Krautrock masterpieces Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi.  The same criticism that Ono gets for her far-out howling is rarely leveled at Suzuki.  Listeners of Can know that they are getting into an experimental vehicle when they plop a Can album on the turntable.

This, arguably, makes Ono even more revolutionary.  To go from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “John, John (Let’s Hope for Peace)” is truly high art.  The conceptual mind-fuck is equal to anything John or Alice Coltrane ever pulled-off.

And so it is that the night ends on a most bizarre note…a drone…three instruments perched against amplifiers feeding back…as if one is watching…and you will know us by the Trail of Dead.

You’ve gotta see it.  Either it speaks to you or it doesn’t.  For me, there are few more poignant ways to remember the radical genius that was John Lennon than watching a document like this.

-PD

Numero deux [1975)

Back.  Return return.  Long absence.

Unrestful battle to the death with corporate finance.

And Jeannot mentions Georges.  Beauregard?

Yes, almost certainly.

And so politics becomes sex.  But sex remains politics.  The two phenomena simultaneously.

Like dependent events and statistical fluctuations.

Ah, statistics…

Not the fun stuff of batting averages.  No, we mean correlations and covariance and stultifying minutiae.

And that’s where the money comes from.

Godard after 45 years had finally finished with Paris.  Done.  Fin.

Il y a equals = Grenoble?

A new era with Anne-Marie Miéville.  Sonimage.  Mon ton son image son.

Wordplay cures illnesses.

The glissando of sliding meaning.

Slippage.

I want to write film criticism as if I am writing a viola sonata.  Everything is possible.

Amazingly…amazingly…Wikipedia gives a synopsis.

Thank you kind soul…kind, fastidious soul.

Is it the same in France?  Numero deux est la merde?

Yes, Godard finds a way to shock…again.  Like Salò, but in a mundane grocery store of quotidian pain.

Wordplay and illnesses.

Is it Sandrine Battistella?

Is it Pierre Oudrey?

Are the child actors the best players in this film (in the tradition of Bresson)?

And Alexandre Rignault.  The old man?  I am too lazy.  It is already a service.  Mon beau souci.

The anarchy of breasts.

Both enjoy in different ways.

Pain is not simple.

It was this point at which Godard became a true revolutionary.  With his army surplus jacket.  Inconsequential.

Having survived the revolution.  The upheaval.  To live on into the era of Bruce Lee kicking Chuck Norris’ ass.

We see briefly.

But mainly we see fatigue.  The fatigue of Beethoven.  Facile technician.  Adjusting color timing instinctively.  Habit.

Sometime you must take a break from James Bond to question the fundamental things.

White people problems, they say.

No, I see the same in true cultures…in China…in Africa.

Unique modes of expression.  Unlearning.

The greatest service is to convey the feelings of the film.  If these feelings harmonize with the dissonance of your pathetique lives, then you are like me.  Searching for small miracles.

Actors cannot touch non-actors.  Praise be to actors who appear to have no technique–who appear to be non-actors.

Either way.  Doesn’t matter.  Matters.

-PD

Sympathy for the Devil [1968)

To reach a moment of genius.  The genius must rethink.  Through many blind alleys and breezy revolutions.  Rehabilitated.

To speak of clever things.  No.  It does not explain this moment in time.  Police vs. blacks.  Continuation crime.

To quote Juvenal or Sallust.  You have no recourse in the moment.  You will have your name dragged through the mud.

And so we apologize.  We are sorry that we weren’t more harsh.  A final gob of spit before being shot once and for all.

A film by Jean-Luc Godard which achieves genius just as it is diverted.

Punched the producer in the face.

The revolution of everyday life.  Vaneigem.

To speak of the actors would do injustice.

Anne Wiazemsky.  Red flag.  Black flag.  And the wind of god.  On the beach.  The paving stones.

We have got it backwards because we don’t speak English.

Keith Richard.  Sans s.

And my favorite drummer Charlie Watts.

And now we have let routine take over.  Just as we asserted a revolutionary principle.

Through our fingers like sand.  Run, run, run…little kitty.  Machine guns for all.

Makes sense to whom?  Makes no difference.  Sense.

A review.  A summary.  A dissection.

An affront.  An attack.  An absolute about-face.

And so in 2015 we can only speak of Snowden.

We can only speak of extraordinary rendition.

We can comb the news like Matt Drudge.

He knows where his Red Sea is parted.  Which side his bread is buttered.  On.

We can rattle the cages like Alex Jones.  Rattle rattle.  Police gone wild.

We can blame everything on the Jews like Wayne Madsen.  What a poor aspect of great criticism.

Mostly we can find the remnants of SMPTE for the devil at globalresearch.ca

Hot link.  A sausage of…something.  Upton Sinclair Lewis.

We can thank Michel Chossudovsky because we first knew him in print.

Like Webster Tarpley.

When books have disappeared, we will know that the technological age is upon us.

And so as something of an expert I admit that I know nothing.

It leaves me mystified.  No more bands.  No more groove.

Prisoners to click tracks.

The metronomic underground must assert like Radiohead hippies.

Godard would have preferred Beatles.

It’s ok.  History proves him not wrong.

And I would be doing you a disservice if I condescended.

I must regard you as one mind with myself.  Even if false, it leads to the path of truth.

We’re a humble website ready to lay down our arms…rather, our lives.

We are not revolutionary.  Merely students.  Research on globalization.

-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