Boogie Nights [1997)

Something big is going down.

A country is getting taken down.

And that country is the USA.

It is getting taken down using methods suspiciously-similar to those used by the CIA in their regime change activities around the world.

Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile…

You know their work.

But this time it’s different.

Just as the American intelligence community was weaponized by President Barack Obama against Presidential candidate (and President-Elect) Donald Trump, so is the Deep State (chockfull of former CIA officers) now attempting to bring down the United States to save their asses.

Does China have any reason to attempt to totally destroy the United States AT THIS TIME?

No.  [but they are a part of (willing accomplice to) the takedown]

Does Russia have any reason to attempt to totally destroy the United States AT THIS TIME?

No.

Is there any intelligence organization in the world capable of orchestrating the total war to which the United States has been subjected over the past three months?

Only China and Russia.

And perhaps Israel.

But Israel has absolutely no reason to attempt to depose their greatest ally (Donald Trump).

Iran does not have the capability or sophistication.

Nor does North Korea.

[and North Korea, even if they had the capability (which they do not), has no reason to run a regime change campaign against the most formidable counterintelligence apparatus in the world AT THIS TIME]

And so that leaves us but one “country”:  a country within a country.

The American (Globalist) Deep State.

It is almost synonymous with the CIA.

And the CIA’s methods and signatures are all over the multi-pronged onslaught we have witnessed these past months.

It’s not necessary at this time to point out the biggest players.

Soros?  Yes.

The Clintons?  Yes.

Obama?  Yes.

Bill Gates?  Yes.

What is most important is to locate the quarterback.

And that man is (in my opinion) none other than former Director of the CIA John Brennan.

There are other traitors involved.

But let’s outline the structure of what we have endured:

  1.  Biological Warfare–Here, China sacrificed one of its own cities [Wuhan] to create plausible deniability that they were in any way waging offensive BIOWAR.  As China miraculously shielded the rest of ITS country from COVID-19, they made sure the virus made it (in droves) to the homeland of their arch nemesis:  the USA
  2. Economic Warfare–Here, the Deep State (with a giddy China looking on) watched as the U.S. economy ground to a halt because of COVID-19.  Record unemployment.  All economic activity ceased.  The greatest economy on Earth was ruined (for the time being).  Each U.S. citizen received a pittance of $1,200 which has not been enough to really sustain anyone.
  3. Psychological Warfare–The masses of Americans were told to stay home.  They were cooped up in their houses for two months.  They had nothing to do.  No place to go.  Underlying depressions and anxieties were exponentially amplified.  The populace grew frustrated.  Most of all, the PANIC was conveyed daily by news organizations with heavy connections to the CIA and Democratic Party.  This propaganda terrorized the populace into being afraid to leave their homes–being afraid even to breathe.
  4. Divide and Conquer–Whether the death of George Floyd was a real or synthetic (staged) event, the news coverage would have been the same.  In terms of planning, it is likely that the event never took place at all.  But for the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment that a man named George Floyd actually did die as a result of an incompetent and cruel police officer.  Magically, the big bogeyman (COVID-19) WAS COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN.  All of a sudden, the pent-up rage and frustration and poverty (see #3 and #2) were activated.  This is the “match in a tinderbox” scenario.  After two months of wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus (which ostensibly killed 100,000 Americans by Memorial Day), ALL OF A SUDDEN…THE LIFE OF ONE MAN (george floyd) has become more important than the lives of the 100,000 coronavirus victims (assuming that death toll is accurate [which it is not…it is grossly-inflated]).

So what we have here is a VERY SOPHISTICATED campaign designed to remove Donald Trump from the Presidency.  Worst case scenario (for the Deep State), it is supposed to prevent him from being reelected.

It is also a last-ditch effort to save the asses of those Deep State members whose treason has been pinpointed and for whom justice may not be far off:

-Loretta Lynch

-Sally Yates

-John Brennan*

-James Clapper

-James Comey

-Andrew McCabe

-Bruce Ohr

-James Baker [FBI]

-Peter Strzok

-Lisa Page

-Rod Rosenstein

-Susan Rice

It is my guess that these will be the first pawns to fall.

John Brennan is very important.

More than a pawn (in some ways).

But still a pawn.

How deep will this go?

Barack Obama?

Hillary Clinton?

Bill Gates?

George Soros?

So much depends on each move in this chess game.

Which brings us to Boogie Nights.

There’s a riot goin’ on.

Each of us has a gift.

Heather Graham is great here.

Mark Wahlberg does a really nice job.

We get the Corvette.

Symbol of summer.

Porn with “plots”.

An admirable pursuit.

Burt Reynolds is really phenomenal in this film.

But like Lovelace, this tale of sexual freedom gets darker and darker as it goes along.

You got the touch.

Feel, feel, feel, feel my heat.

Darker and darker.

But very real.

There is a great realism to certain scenes here.

Paul Thomas Anderson really does an amazing job with this one.

Even the usually-vapid Julianne Moore has some actual moments of artful acting herein.

They’re taking her children away.

Black people can like country music.

Definitely a bit of Tarantino in the donut shop scene.

But Anderson is a far superior director to QT.

QT is very talented, but very overrated.

Lots of hype…very little timeless filmmaking.

Anderson is a much more solid auteur.

There is something of Aronofsky here too.

Funny thing is, Anderson got there first.

But Requiem for a Dream goes MUCH DEEPER into drug darkness.

And yet, Anderson paints a portrait of a period of time.

So vividly.

And the colors are washed out.

The soul-eating burn of cocaine is depicted as it really is:  torrid.

Desperate.

Exciting.

Elusive.

Utterly destructive.

Psychosis-inducing.

How many more nights will the “divide and conquer” boogie?

Military police.

82nd Airborne.

101st Airborne.

1st Infantry.

10th Mountain Division.

The United States is under attack…mainly from within.

China played a small (though not insignificant) role.

The main culprits are liberal globalists.

4B.

A second wave of coronavirus will hit the U.S.

This will happen as a result of the fake-news media pushing the narrative that one man’s death (george floyd) is more important than 100,000 ostensible fatalities.

The CIA/liberal media is distracting the country from being vigilant about hand washing, social distancing, etc.

And when will this second wave hit?

Right before November 3rd, perhaps?

 

-PD

The Opposite of Sex [1998)

It was a very good year…

1998.

Unlike the year experienced in this film by Martin Donovan’s character.

And, perhaps, unlike the year 2020 which we are all currently living through.

Spoiler:  Christina Ricci does not get nude in this film.

Carry on!

We start in Louisiana and come to Indiana, Los Angeles, Canada, and back to Indiana again.

This film deals with a lot of things.

Being a widow(er), for one.

Being gay.

Particularly, being gay in a conservative locale.

But at the heart of this film is a very strange series of lies and poor decisions.

But there are also some good decisions interspersed.

Mainly, there is a shitload of chaos.

And most of it is caused by Christina Ricci’s character Dedee Truitt.

Or sex.

Sex is a unifying principle here.

The stupidity of sex.

How sex can lead to a whole concatenation of events which were unintended.

In a strange way, this film is a cautionary tale.

But our narrator (Ricci) couldn’t give two fucks about ethics for most of this movie.

The whole tone of this film is sarcastic.

Sardonic.

If you like your comedy dark, you might like this.

But it’s not a particularly funny movie.

It’s watchable.

And, one might say, good.

Not great.

Lyle Lovett plays on an archetype perhaps established by Sheriff Harry Truman in Twin Peaks.

The resemblance of gesture and demeanor are remarkable.

Lisa Kudrow does a nice job here.

Her character is annoying as fuck.

And she pulls off that personality deftly.

But the real star is Martin Donovan as Bill.

His acting exceeds that of all the other players.

Really, to my eyes, this film revolves more around him than it does around Ricci’s hellbent character.

And so this film is not bad.

It is a little disappointing.

It is a little half-baked.

Half-assed.

Boring.

Even amidst all the chaos, it feels hackneyed here and there.

In the end, it was worth watching.

But just barely.

 

-PD

Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) [2015)

This is not a good film.

It starts well enough.

Director Eva Husson even had me thinking to myself that “the French truly know how to make films”.

And they do.

But only the first few minutes of this one live up to that maxim.

And yet, this film is addicting.

I kept wanting it to get better.

It had its moments.

Millennials partying.

Parties.

Drugs.

Sex.

Lots of sex.

And yet, this film is not a turn on.

It has no mystery to it.

No true romance.

Just a saccharine silver lining.

The characters are boring.

Two-dimensional.

Daisy Broom had potential.

She has real acting talents.

But they are wasted here (as she becomes a sort of villain).

She becomes ever more two-dimensional throughout the course of this film.

Marilyn Lima does a decent job here.

Her acting is subtle.

Sadly, she is surrounded by a shitstorm of bad filmmaking.

There are some poignant moments.

Sometimes the true rebels are cast out.

Their contributions are forgotten.

And they become conservatives.

They see the stupidity they have spawned.

And they watch from afar.

Covered with tattoos, perhaps.

They only want love.

Lorenzo Lefebvre’s character actually does have a more developed personality.

But just barely.

There are extraneous bits and pieces of meaning here and there.

And none of them are developed for the betterment of this film.

Which is to say, it’s hard to believe that a film chockfull of sex could be boring, but it can.

This one is.

So my recommendation is this.

Don’t waste an hour and a half of your life (like I did) watching this.

It’s not worth it.

It is vapid, pseudo-art-film rubbish.

 

-PD

The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu [1980)

Again we come back.

Revitalized?

Perhaps.

Definitely living with chemistry.

Better living ahead?

Maybe.

But death followed for Peter Sellers.

This was his final film.

And so it is spooky (in a way).

It came out two weeks after his death.

I must admit.

I had a hard time watching this one at first.

On first view, it wasn’t that funny to me.

Indeed, it is a rather strange comedy.

But let’s get really strange.

The executive producer was Hugh Hefner.

Follow the white rabbit.

And now we shall come to QAnon in full force.

Is it real?

Is it bullshit?

Fred Manchu.

Call me Fred.

Who is QAnon?

They don’t mention much about rabbits anymore, do they?

And like me, they are fond of taking inordinately-long pauses between bursts of communication.

Transient random-noise bursts with announcements.

My brain is coming back.

Watch out, world!

Fred Manchu did laundry at Eton.

Eton blue or shelduck blue.

Sid Caesar or Cyd Charisse.

Caesar’s Palace or…

Down to brass tacks.

Tax?

This film is in parallel to (believe it or not) Live and Let Die.

Jane Seymour (Bond) and Helen Mirren (Sellers).

And Sellers in Casino Royale of 1967.

Not to be confused with the best Bond film made thus far:  Casino Royale of 2006.

Seymour (OBE)

born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg

Mirren (DBE)

born Helen Lydia Mironoff

Live and Let Die (1973) was really the breakout performance of young Seymour’s early career.

There is juxtaposition…because you might know Seymour best as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998).

Sultry “Solitaire” (Seymour) is hardly recognizable next to her twenty-year-senior “Dr. Quinn”.

But sex sells.

And it just goes to show that HARDLY ANYONE gets to start off classy.

Stay classy.

In our film, the promiscuous Alice Rage (Mirren) ironically (?) gets an undercover job as a double for the Queen of England.  She then falls for the black-fingernailed Fu Manchu and becomes the 166-year-old (?) villain’s wife.

For those who only know Mirren as The Queen (2006), it is worth revisiting her early years for a jolt of WTF.

Though Mirren had been working in film seven times as long as Seymour when she took this role of Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, it was still something of a feather in her cap (one might imagine).

And though we might suspect this was the depth of her crappy early roles, it wasn’t.

The previous year, Mirren had been in the infamous film Caligula (produced by Penthouse magazine).

[as noted earlier, our film was a Playboy Productions venture with Hugh Hefner acting as executive producer]

Further, Mirren played a prostitute in the contemporaneous Hussy of 1980.

If you only know Mirren from American Treasure:  Book of Secrets, I can imagine your shock.

BTW…don’t make the easily-forgivable mistake of confusing Mirren for Judi Dench (the “M” of the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig-era Bond films).

Which brings us back to Q.

Is QAnon legit?

Where is Q?

Why hasn’t Steve Pieczenik commented on Q?

Is Q a “flypaper coup” (to quote Wayne Madsen re: Turkey’s failed coup)?

Hard to say.

For me.

One thing is for sure:  Mirren and Dench both appeared in 1968’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Burt Kwouk makes a brief appearance early in our film…as he drops the MacGuffin (after drenching his burning sleeve with it).

Look to Stonehenge.

Moreover, Steve Franken (the butler from The Party) plays Sid Caesar’s FBI partner here.

Franken was disgraced Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s cousin.

Let’s see if Q has posted anything.

Nope.

Weird.

 

-PD

 

Puppylove [2013)

Everybody likes sex, right?

Well, maybe not priests, but…

Ok.  Bad joke.

But sex is not a subject I’ve ever written about specifically in any of my film reviews.

And perhaps it is only fitting that Puppylove be the movie under the aegis of which I first do so.

There are several ways of situating this film “historically” in the medium of cinema.

One would be to take a recent frame of reference.

Blue.

In a strange example of Zeitgeist, Blue is the Warmest Color beat Puppylove to market by about six months.

Indeed, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 might be the best comparison.

But it is not a very historical one.

Which is to say, the two films are more or less contemporaneous.

Were the creators of the latter film influenced by the earlier release?

Because the connection is strong.

From the astounding Adèle Exarchopoulos, we can draw an easy line to the equally-sublime Solène Rigot.

Their characters, Adèle and Diane, are extremely similar.

But let’s take director Delphine Lehericey’s wonderful film back to an actual previous point in film development.

 American Beauty.

1999.

Solène Rigot is an easy comparison to Thora Birch (my favorite actress ever) in that film.

Likewise, Audrey Bastien is an exact overlay (no pun intended) on Mena Suvari’s character Angela Hayes.

[At this point I would like to quote Neil Young (“I fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand”) and admit that Solène Rigot really stole my heart with this one.  It took me awhile to fully comprehend…who she looked like…someone who broke my heart…a Beatrice in my Dantean darkness upon a time.]

Back to film criticism, and sticking with 1999’s “Best Picture”, we should also note that Kevin Spacey is well signified by signifier Vincent Perez in Puppylove.

To paraphrase Godard, ever image in every film is a quote.

Which brings us to the fountainhead.

To wit, where does this style of filmmaking which Lehericey is practicing originate?

For me, there is no better answer than Monsieur Godard’s perfect film Je vous salue, Marie.

1985.

Hail Mary‘s most jaw-dropping asset was the inimitable Myriem Roussel.

Solène Rigot is a reincarnation of Roussel’s magic.

Instead of basketball, it’s field hockey.

But Puppylove goes on to quote delicately and successfully.

Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water.

Perhaps even Kubrick’s Lolita (equally applicable to American Beauty…at least in theory).

But I’m the schmuck who wins the prize.

I didn’t care how “hot” Mena Suvari was.

And I don’t give a shit about Audrey Bastien’s skinny little frame either.

[Though Bastien is a much better actress than Suvari.]

I fall for the outcasts.

Jane Burnham (Thora Birch).

And, here, Diane (Solène Rigot).

Puppylove is not as earth-shattering a film as Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color.

But Delphine Lehericey is an extremely gifted director.

And she had the secret weapon to pull it off.

Solène Rigot.

Puppylove will endure because Rigot is the real thing.

I’ve hardly talked about sex yet (like, not at all).

But that’s the way the master of understatement Hitchcock would have done it.

The most sublime moments in highly-sexualized European cinema are when the sex isn’t happening.

Exarchopoulos proved this.

And Rigot confirms it.

-PD

Elèna et les hommes [1956)

Sometimes we are emptied of our emotions from exhaustion.

We can’t fail at love any more than we have.

Valentine’s Day is but a mockery.

And so why does Miss Lonelyhearts push on?

And Sgt. Pepper?

Some of us have immense reservoirs of confidence.

Some of us have a penchant for risk.

But not I.

If we treat love as an investment (bear with me),

then every risk has its flipside:  the potential for reward.

In love, we weigh the possibilities.

What will she say?  How will he respond?

But our world has degenerated into a soulless masquerade.

Do anything…but never show your true feelings.

If we are circumspect in our psychology, we realize that many times we don’t know our own minds.

I am not a meditating ninja.  I do not balance, poised to act with clarity.

No, I am clumsy.

In love, I am particularly clumsy.

To speak of such things in America…it just isn’t done.

Love is more taboo than sex.

Sex is ubiquitous, but love is vulnerability.

An American can never show vulnerability.

This is the great archetypal travesty of the film Patton.

And perhaps no greater dichotomy could exist than from that film to our film Elèna et les hommes.

It is Jean Renoir again.  It is Ingrid Bergman.  It is Jean Marais.

And to a very surprising extent, it is Juliette Gréco.

It must have been this film to which Godard fell in love.

More interested in Gréco than El Greco at this time.  More interested in Juliette than his schoolwork.

Those dreams which would be realized in Anna Karina.

But things fall apart.

How hard to know the soul of a man or woman.

Ingrid plays the role of a Polish princess.

On Bastille Day with Mel Ferrer there is a Rabelaisian warmth to the festivities.

From one Renoir to another, there are the pinks in the cheeks.  Red wine.  A weak drink.  Compared to Polish vodka.

And then there are the daisies.  A marguerite here and there.  Gounod’s Faust would have such as the leading soprano.

A grand opera in five acts is about what Elèna et les hommes feels like.  There are similarities in tone and mise-en-scène to Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès, but the best comparison is to Renoir’s own The Golden Coach.

What may not be evident (due to the visual disparity between the vibrant, saturated colors of Elèna et les hommes and the black and white of Renoir’s early films) is that our film is very similar to the Renoir classic La Règle du jeu.  Both share traits with the elusive Hollywood genre known as “screwball comedy”.  There is a general ruckus of celebration…a confusion of who loves whom…indeed, about who should love whom…mixed emotions…missed connections…conflicted hearts.

There are the base buffoons who live out our easiest desires.  They just chase.  So what if they lose?  Well, it makes a big difference…from the bathos of Schumacher to the stoogery of Eugène.

But these references aside, it is the others who make us believe.  The hesitating class of Ingrid Bergman and Nora Gregor…these parallel characters.  And the luckless chaps who may or may not prevail in the end…Mel Ferrer and, indeed, Jean Renoir himself as Octave in La Règle du jeu. 

It must have been a revelation for Godard to see this film.  It was the French film industry asserting itself.  And yet, it was the spectacle against which Debord would rail a mere 11 years later.

Even so, Elèna et les hommes is (at the very least) a beautiful echo of the French film tradition which preceded it.  In a sense, it was Jean Renoir retelling that old story of La Règle du jeu one more time.

Life is a strange party in which Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre is liable to be conjured from the ghostly ivories of a player piano at any moment.

 

-PD

Amarcord [1973)

This film contains everything.

As in, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

It is truly vast like the sky full of pebble stars.

There is no translation for Federico Fellini’s masterpiece Amarcord other than “I remember”.

Ah, good God:  memory!

I immediately think of George Stevens’ paean to family I Remember Mama (1948) and, of course, the king of memory Marcel Proust.

But this is Italy, not France.  And Remembrance of Things Past is a “bad” translation.  More accurate is In Search of Lost Time.

And that is exactly what Fellini is doing here.

Trying to reclaim the past.

Remember this?  Remember that?

It is, I am guessing, a conversation with himself.

A rumination.

It is a small town (or at least it feels that way).

And we have everything.

A blind accordionist straight out of Tom Waits’ dreams.

A femme fatale by the name of Gradisca (“take what you want”).  [Played by Magali Noël.]

We miss the translation now and then.  Perhaps the Romagnol dialect?

That explains our title Amarcord.

I remember.

“Jadis, si je me souviens bien…”

A season in hell.

From hell.

And yet a season of beauty as well.

Uncle Teo (Uncle Uncle) says it best…up a tree…over and over and over and over again:

Voglio una donna!

Voglio una donna!

[like John Lennon writhing in pain on “Mother” or “Cold Turkey”]

Voglio una donna!

“I want a woman!”

Each incantation different.

The 42-year-old Teo up a tree…on a day out in the country…on leave from the asylum.

And a dwarf nun makes it all better.

It’s not what you think.

When you look at the cover for the film, is says SEX SEX SEX.

Sure, there’s sex.

But it’s very matter-of-fact.

This isn’t a film with gratuitous nudity (only one brief nude scene).

Sex is woven into the film.

It’s alright to talk about sex.  1973.  Italy.

Fellini is a big shot by now.

It is art.  It is life.  It is artistic expression.

Everyone is portrayed lovingly.  Everyone is subjected to the same pimple-precise criticism.

Films don’t get any more real than this.

HOWEVER…

Fellini introduces an element of magical realism here and there.  [The magic is due in no small part to Nino Rota’s shimmering soundtrack.]

Sure, it serves as a bit of a distancing technique (Brecht?)…a defense mechanism, perhaps.

This material is too raw; too personal.

It is TOO sad!  One has to laugh because of how sad it is.

And that is the tragicomedy which lived on in the great Roberto Benigni’s comedies and the grand-slam of naïveté:  Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso.

And so, to understand these latter-day…saints(?)…we must examine the old masters.  We must get used to saying Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (the real title)…because cinema is barely a hundred years old, really.  And so, we must look to Fellini as akin to Giotto.

Pros-pet-ti-va!

We get so many perspectives here…

It’s one of the few times AMPAS has gotten something right.  This film.  Oscar for Best Foreign Language.  1974.  Look at the list.  Lots of misses.

Back to Amarcord.

Beauty goes away.  The big fish in the small pond.

But the blind accordion player endures.

Vulpina (Josiane Tanzilli) the nymphomaniac fleshes out the family portrait.

Ah ah ah…

It’s no use.

This film is all about detail.

There is no use recounting the endless assortment of fascinating characters who make this thing go.

You will just have to see it for yourself.

For all of its pithy naturalism, it is really a touching film.

Fellini gets every little detail right.  Such a formidable picture!

 

-PD

 

 

Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. [1967)

Something draws me to Eastern Europe.  I blame Romania.  Thank you Romania!  Yes, there was something about the ambiance which director Cristian Mungiu conjured up in 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile) which has stayed with me for a long time.

Really, it’s a rather mundane part.  Near the top of the film.  The goddess Anamaria Marinca traipses down the hall to find some soap…and cigarettes.  The scene is a college dormitory in communist Romania (pre-December 1989).  Girls in one room chat about beauty products.  There seems to be a good bit of bartering going on.  Marinca is mainly uninterested.  Looking for a certain kind of soap (if I remember correctly).  On the way back to her room she stops off at the room of a foreign student (non-Romanian) who sells cigarettes and gum and stuff.  The whole film she is searching for Kent cigarettes (a few mentions of this brand).  Not surprisingly, there are no Kents to be had in the dorm.  She settles for something else.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.

She stops and admires some kittens which someone has taken in.

It is astonishingly real.  On par with Roberto Rossellini.

Indeed, it might be said that all New Waves (from the nouvelle vague to the Romanian New Wave) have their birth in the neorealist films of Rossellini.

But Mungiu added a new wrinkle.

Marinca.  [The goddess of whom I spoke.]

Marinca is unglamorous.  No one is glamorous in 4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile.  We get the impression that it is the waning days of Ceaușescu’s reign.

Times are tough.  The policies of the state haven’t worked out so well.  It bears some resemblance to a prison.  Material items take the place of money (reminiscent of cigarettes as currency in jails).

What I have yet to define in this article is “goddess”.  What do I mean by that?

Well, I’m glad you asked!  Marinca (particularly in this film) is a goddess to me because she represents the opposite of the typical American woman in the year 2015.  Her beauty is her soul.  Her beauty is her loyalty to her roommate and friend Găbița.  Her beauty is her dedication to acting.  She is completely immersed in her unglamorous role…and it is eye-watering.

I have mentioned a similar impression (which further solidified my admiration for Romanian films) I got from watching Dorotheea Petre in The Way I Spent the End of the World (Cum mi-am petrecut sfârşitul lumii).  This masterpiece by director Cătălin Mitulescu preceded Mungiu’s Palme d’Or-winning film by about a year (2006).  I was again struck by another goddess of film (Petre) who, with the help of her auteur, created a character also in direct opposition to the meretricious, vacuous ideal of American womanhood in the 21st century.

And so it is that we finally come to the film under consideration:  Душан Макавејев‘s Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator.  Dušan Makavejev is Serbian.  Out of deference to his country I have listed his name in Cyrillic script.  Likewise, the title of the film (at the top) is in Serbo-Croatian.  It is a grey area about which I am not completely informed.  Suffice it to say that Croatia seems to generally use Roman letters (as opposed to the Serbian usage of Cyrillic).  It is a bit like the distinction (and writing differences) between Urdu and Hindi [which I have heard described as essentially the same language, but with two different writing systems].

I prefaced this article on Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. with my own backstory concerning Eastern European cinema because it is relevant to my approach going forward.

Before coming to this, my first Yugoslav (1967) film, I opened up the can of worms which is Czech cinema by reviewing Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky).  Jiří Menzel’s sexually-charged film poem from the previous year (1966) was a major revelation for me.  And so it is that Dušan Makavejev’s bittersweet confection shares more than just a communist framing with Menzel’s aforementioned erotic portrait.

Yes, Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. is about our old film-school standbys:  sex and death.  I can never combine those two words (in the context of film) without remembering the ridiculously funny scene of Jim Morrison at UCLA screening his student film in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991). 

The fictional Morrison, then, would be trying to hop on a nonfictional bandwagon represented by the likes of Menzel and Makavejev.  Morrison’s time at UCLA (1964-1965) not only coincided with the staggered births of “new waves” around the world (particularly in Europe), but also occurred while Morrison’s father (US Navy Rear Admiral [RADM] George Stephen Morrison) was the commanding officer of a carrier division involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Jim Morrison lived fast.  Entered UCLA in 1964.  Graduated with an undergraduate degree in film in 1965.  Was dead by 1971.  But those years in between…  It’s no wonder Jim had an Oedipal complex (evident in the song “The End” [1966/1967]) when considering his father was involved in false-flagging the U.S. into a suicidal war against communism.  What a disgrace…

No, the real hero in the family was not RADM Morrison, but rather Jim.  He turned on the dream-switches of so many kids.  To put it quite bluntly, he was part of the counterculture in America which caused kids to start giving a fuck about the world and politics and geopolitics and confirmed charades (frauds, shams, etc.) like the Gulf of Tonkin “incident”.  Such a sanitary and slippery word:  incident.

It fits perfectly, in that there was no incident.

But while Morrison the Younger had gone off into Brechtian pop-rock, Serbian director Makavejev was busy making Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator.  It is equally stunning, for its medium, as “The End”.

Sex needs beauty.  A really luscious film like this needed Ева Рас (Eva Ras).  She is a bit like Jitka Zelenohorská’s character in Closely Watched Trains…mischievous, bewitching…  But there is one great difference between Ras and Zelenohorska:  Ras is a blond.

Though our film is in black and white, it is clear that Ras’ silky hair is rather fair (a detail which would not have escaped Hitchcock).  It must be said, however, that Makavejev did not give in to the easy femme fatale portrayal when it came to filming Ras.  Izabela (Ras) is a complex individual.  The film tells us that she is Hungarian.  She is different…other.  She needs sex.  She is passionate.

All the same, her portrayal by Ras is poetic and tender.  Really, what we are seeing here is a tentative feminism expressed by Makavejev which would become a thundering symphony of women’s liberation in Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. 

And it is good.  It is good for men to see these types of films.  We men idolize and reify women in the West, but we don’t often enough stop to really observe the trials of womankind.

In the best spirit of socialism, this film has something for everyone…men, women…ok, maybe not children.

Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator is really an intense film.  If you have seen (and made it through) Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes (a film I, incidentally, once made the mistake of showing at a party), then you’ll be alright.  For those faint of heart (I generally fall into that category), there are a couple of rough moments in this film (in the context of criminology).

In all, I am very proud and happy to have seen my first Serbian movie.  As a resident of San Antonio (and fan of the San Antonio Spurs), I feel it gives me a better glimpse into the life of one of my favorite basketball players Бобан Марјановић (Boban Marjanović).  I highly recommend this film…and Go Spurs Go 🙂

 

-PD

Ostře sledované vlaky [1966)

There is no precursor for this delicious film.

Closely watched trains…

There is no warning.  No real foreshadowing of what awaits Miloš Hrma.

And I, of course, will not give away the game.

But let me tell you about this watershed moment in cinema.

You could say Czech New Wave.  You could also say Czechoslovak New Wave.

In the case of the auteur in question, Jiří Menzel, it is the former.

The movement was already going by this point.

1966.  Almost the midpoint, if we say 1962-1972.

But none of that matters too much.

What matters is this film.

Closely Watched Trains.  Ostře sledované vlaky.

And so we started with Romania.  A new wave.  A current phenomenon.  Briefly in vogue.  And completely deserving of the praise.

And we made a point to look elsewhere.  To Iran.  Because of Kiarostami.

And now we add a much older New Wave.  It is of particular interest to our first location (Romania).

In globetrotting through movies we hit some odd, beautiful destinations.  Nations.

Czechoslovakia.  No more.  Today.  Czech Republic.  Slovakia.  And Ukraine.

But none of this matters much either.

What matters is Miloš Hrma.  The shy boy.

We know.

Intimately.

Not easy.

If the meek shall inherit the earth (Earth?), then it’s a long time in coming.

I am fond.  Quoting Neil Young.

“Vampire Blues”

“Good times are coming/But they sure coming slow”

Indeed.

That is the situation of Václav Neckář’s character Miloš.

He has the delight of love.  Snow in the air.  Smoke from a steam locomotive.  A cloud of fleeting sparks.

Our heart beats rapidly for cute Jitka Bendová.  And we think of football.  We try to ignore the Bond girl essence of her name.

Because she is one of the most poetic faces in cinema.  No Wikipedia page for her.  At least not in English.

But it is this love between Miloš and Máša which gives us hope.

An adieu from the caboose (football, football).

No doubt Wes Anderson plumbed the depths of Closely Watched Trains while searching for his own cinematic language.

In fact, the beginning of this film is very much like the beginning of every Wes Anderson film.

An exposition of characters.

Some with peg-legs.

An old crazy uncle.

A cow with too many udders.

But the most crucial is the hypnotist.

If there is a precursor to Jiří Menzel (and there must be), then it is Renoir.  Renoir meets Eisenstein.  And sex.

Did I fail to mention?

Closely Watched Trains is a sexual tension which can no longer be crystalized.

And thus history served us well by preserving this document of a different age.

It is a naughty film, but not by today’s standards.

It is sex…as directed by Hitchcock.

And for that it is sexier.  More tense.  Taut.

Consider, for instance, the stamps.  Ooh la la.

If you go ga-ga for Gyllenhaal in Secretary, then you must see the breakthrough moment.  In cinema.

Like the first kiss.  May Irwin.  Thomas Edison.  But actually William Heise.  1896.

Big black maria.  Something/Anything?

Yes, in fact.

First, and most importantly, the telegraphist (as played by Jitka Zelenohorská).  Almost like Chantal Goya in Masculin Féminin, but better.  Same year.  1966.  Maybe Menzel got an idea from Godard.  In any case, Zelenohorská gives one for the ages.  Deliciously naughty.

And lest you run off feeling less-than-substantive edification, it is political as anything.  That’s where Eisenstein comes in.  A brief moment of cinematic intercutting.

And the war.  Like Les Carabiniers.  1963.  The Rossellini inspiration via Godard, perhaps?

But really it is a new cinema.  Czech!  Mind-blowing…

Sex is more erotic with a laugh.  Surreal.  Real.  More real than real.

In a stunning final coup Menzel brought us Naďa Urbánková.

One minute you’re thinking about a girl, another you’ve been rounded up by the state security apparatus.

And then they realize you’re nuts.

And they have pity on you.

Release you into the swaying grass.

And like Chaplin you waltz off into the sunset to fulfill your destiny.

What a film!

-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