Blondie’s New York [2014)

Man…

So much I could say about this one.

But it’s one of the few times where I can say, “I worked with that person.”

Clem Burke.

Probably wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire.

Now.

Because I’m a Trump supporter.

But he was the best drummer I was ever in the same room with.

And drumming was the longest “career” I ever had.

I’ve played drums since I was a kid.

All of them.

The set.

“Traps” 🙂

Orchestral snare drum.

Marimba.

The whole 4-mallet thing.

Jazz vibraphone.

But when I worked with Clem, I was a bass player.

That day.

That year.

For awhile.

It was the bass that took me to England.

To Scotland.

And to Spain.

And it was the bass that first took me to Los Angeles.

But this is about Blondie.

The band.

And what a band!

Based on my own experiences just mentioned, I can attest to the extremely high musicianship of Clem Burke.

And watching this relatively-short documentary (an hour) convinces me of just how special each of the band members were/are.

But perhaps my favorite part is seeing Mike Chapman work.

The record producer.

What a talent!

It was my dream to be a record producer.

Didn’t really work out 🙂

Tough business.

Maybe you fuck up.

Or maybe no one helps you.

Or maybe you get one chance.  And only one chance.

But that’s ok.

Because life goes on.

Marilyn Monroe aged.

Lou Reed sang about it on the Velvets’ “New Age”.

And Godard wrote about it.

The aging of Marilyn Monroe must have been a traumatic phenomenon for the first generation of movie goers.

The first generation with that color reality.

And with the television buttress.

And Marilyn…

Even Elton John, a homosexual man, was in love with Marilyn…in a sort of way.

“Candle in the Wind”

Which brings us to Debbie Harry.

The former cocktail waitress from Max’s Kansas City.

Chickpeas and lobster.

Park Avenue South.

And brings us to the album Parallel Lines.

This documentary is almost strictly about that album.

About Blondie’s breakthrough into the mainstream.

Yeah, they were punk…

Had the street cred.

But they transcended.

Mostly due to musicianship.

A bit like the Talking Heads.

The other bands were hopelessly arty.

Of this scene.

My favorite, Suicide.

[R.I.P. Alan Vega]

I met Alan once.

Changed my life.

But Suicide never really had a hit.

[Nooo…you don’t say?!?]

Yeah.

The name.

Whoa mama!

But that was punk.

And my whole mission is a bit of a punk mission.

Pauly Deathwish.

Uh huh.

Not a name I came up with.

But given to me.

I remember that day.

And the personages.

But my mission is also a bit like the mission of Greil Marcus.

And Lipstick Traces.

Now I’d just prefer to read Debord.

Or read Len Bracken on the Situationists.

But Greil tries (valiantly!) to pull it all together.

And I’m a bit like that kind of wanker.

Just hoping to SOUND like I know it all.

And someday have Harvard written on my spine.

But we’ve hardly discussed Blondie.

Or this excellent little film.

Which is currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S.

Again Kino Lorber’s marketing team (?) seems to be absent behind this release.

There’s no Wikipedia page.

And the iMDB page lists the title of this made-for-TV-affair as Blondie’s New York and the Making of Parallel Lines.

Ok, so it’s not Citizen Kane.

But it’s well worth watching!

Directed by Alan Ravenscroft.

He does a fine job here.

It really is a magical story.

Punk.

New York City.

CBGB-OMFUG.

The Fugs! 🙂

New York, a magical place.

Hell, even mayor Ed Koch is in this.

And he’s much easier to stomach than Bill Clinton.

I don’t care…liberal, conservative…whatever.

Just don’t be a dick!

And if you’re a dick, have the schtick down!!

Like Trump.

He has the schtick down.

He’s learned to lie.

In his many years.

“The babies, the beautiful babies…the innocent babies”…

There were no babies, my friends.

There was no chemical attack.

That footage was in the can for some time.

But it’s a white lie in the world of geopolitics.

It’s like telling your kids that Santa Claus delivered the presents.

There’s no way to explain, “I’ve gotta bomb Syria to make an impression on China.  And the bombing has to happen almost simultaneously with dinner…at Mar-a-Lago.”

And McMaster must be lying too.

That’s ok.

Just don’t make a habit of it.

Because then you’re CIA.

And that’s a dark road.

To get wrapped up in lies.

But the white lies are synthetic terror where nobody dies.

Even the Russian/Syrian body count.

Likely false.

Especially the “four kids” detail.

Pithy.

Icy.

The Democrats are really (I mean it, unfortunately) exceptionally dumb.

They only sense the general outline of the conspiracy.

Russia’s faux indignation.

But they don’t understand that their infantile foreign policy made such machinations necessary.

Blondie 🙂

And Quintilian.

See the documentary.

Forget about North Korea for a moment.

By all means, don’t watch inferior propaganda.

The Propaganda Game?

Great film.

Songs from the North?

Cinematic equivalent of toilet paper.

The Cinémathèque Française knew the value of propaganda films.

Henri Langlois.

Back when they were educating “the five” (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rivette, and Rohmer).

And Godard understood the importance of “good”, well-crafted, persuasive propaganda.

As Jacques Ellul wrote in 1962, “Ineffective propaganda is no propaganda.”

In other words, it has no business calling itself propaganda.

It’s less-than-worthless.

But kick back with some Machiavelli.

And The Art of the Deal.

And remember the unholy marriage of art and commerce that is and was Blondie.

-PD

The Imitation Game [2014)

When I started this site, I focused a considerable bit on “spy spoofs” (which I cheekily filed under “espionage”).

But now we return to espionage in a more serious tenor.

Cryptography, to be exact.

Keep in mind, signals must first be intercepted before they can be decrypted.

Encryption–>Key–>Decryption.

Cipher, rather than code.

[or something like that]

And this story of Alan Turing hits all the right settings of the heart.

Indeed, the seeming Asperger’s case Turing makes a particularly prescient observation in this film.

Namely, that deciphering secret messages is very much like linguistic deconstruction.

Or even like its predecessor, structural linguistics.

Finnegans Wake, by my reading, is largely a sensual text of transgression written in a sort of code language which can only be decoded by a sort of Freudian mechanism inherent in minds similarly repressed by circumstances such as censorship.

There were things which James Joyce could not just come right out and say.

Else he would have ended up like Oscar Wilde (or Alan Turing himself) [though Joyce was pretty evidently heterosexual in excelsis].

And so The Imitation Game is a very fine film indeed about Bletchley Park (and, by extension, its successor the GCHQ).

It makes one reconsider that great piece of British classical music the “Enigma Variations” by Elgar.

Perhaps it was Edward’s premonition.

That a homosexual savant would save many lives through dogged determination to solve what was arguably the ultimate puzzle of its time.

Enigma.  James Bond fans will know it as the Lektor Decoder (a sort of substitution…a cipher…le chiffre…a metonym if not a MacGuffin).

“the article appears to be genuine” [stop]

“go ahead with purchase” [stop]

Smooth jazz on the weather channel…heil Hitler.

It’s true.

In Nazi Germany one was to begin and end even every phone call with “Heil Hitler!”.

Stupidity has its drawbacks.

Donald Trump has been skewered roundly by nearly every globalist publication on the planet, but there is power in the words, “You’re fired.”

Turing very soon realized that breaking the Enigma code was not a job for linguists.

It was purely mathematics, applied with imagination.

One of the most crucial actors in this film, Alex Lawther, plays what might be referred to as Boy With Apple.

There is something befitting of the “agony columns” mentioned by Simon Singh in his tome The Code Book about Turing’s backstory.

In the grown-up Alan Turing, we see the affection that man can have for machine…much like a struggling record producer naming his tape machine.

In the rotors there is music…and plenty of calibration to be done.

But the machine must be allowed to work.

And we must help the machine along by giving it hints on those entities which are “safe to ignore” (a sort of semiotics of limiting the fried pursuit of completism).

Love, as it turns out, sinks the Nazis.

Because even among the rank-and-file (or, perhaps, especially among them) there was a humanity which was not snuffed out.

It’s not because Hitler was a vegetarian who loved his dog.

The machine becomes predictive.

Because we tread the same path daily.

In some way.

In most ways.

Few of us are psychogeographical drifters–few bebop our infinitely-unique situations.

And even Coltrane has some signature licks.

Some runs.

Mystical fingerings.  Scriabin arpeggiated.

Then come statistics.

And megadeath notebooks seem less cynical.

Its the same discipline which made W. Edwards Deming a saint in Japan as he resurrected their economy.

The blowback was the quality revolution.

The next in that manga pantheon perhaps Carlos Ghosn.

Yes, we Trump voters are morons.  No doubt.

You must hide the victories among losses.

Where the chess player comes in.

Hugh Alexander.

Twice.

“You could be my enemy/I guess there’s still time”

Or is it NME?

“I’ve got a pi-an-o/I can’t find the C”

Or is it sea?

I salute thee, old ocean.  A quote by Lautreamont.

Or is it Ducasse?

Perhaps it’s why Ezra Pound was institutionalized.

On the grounds of the future Department of Homeland Security?

St. Elizabeths.  Washington, D.C.

When he spilled the beans about the Federal Reserve “System” to Eustace Mullins.

Finnegans.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley share a truly touching moment of love.

A passion of minds.

Platonic.  Immortal.

But the breaking is IX.  “Nimrod”…

That austere moment of British greatness.

One of only a handful of UK classical strains which really matter.

Sinopoli does it nicely.  With the Philharmonia.

Only a moron like me would vote for Trump.

To suffer for one’s art.

To turn off the lights and watch the machine come to life.

A miracle of whirligigs and glowing vacuum tubes.

Director Morten Tyldum expresses this ineffable humming solitude in the seventh art.

Cinema.

This dedication.

Dedicated.

And this love.

Which leads both telegraph operator and polymath to tap out the letters of their beloved.

Forever.

 

-PD

کلوزآپ ، نمای نزدیک‎‎ [1990)

[CLOSE-UP (1990)]

In the name of Allah…

We enter the courtroom of the world.

Cinema.

To be judged on our veracity.

But also to be judged for our passion.

Hossain Sabzian had passion.

Here.

And his story is so similar to mine.

Maybe you feel it too?

Dear cinema friend.

Because I will have to invent a new category for this movie.

Loneliness.

Hardship.

Woody Guthrie woe.

Hossain Sabzian plays himself in this story.

It is the truth.

At least as truthful as the novels of Henry Miller.

Real life.

کلوزآپ ، نمای نزدیک‎‎

The world is under the microscope.

How would Debord start his bible about the spectacle?

With that quote from Feuerbach.

A preface as preface.

From Das Wesen des Christentums.

It deserves to be repeated in its entirety.

“But certainly for THE PRESENT AGE, which PREFERS THE SIGN to the thing signified, the COPY to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence…ILLUSION ONLY IS SACRED, TRUTH PROFANE.  Nay, sacredness is be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that [*] the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness. [*]”

Those are my notes.

My copy.

My marginalia.

I could autograph it for you.

But the words are by Ludwig Feuerbach.

Having gone through translation from German to English by Donald Nicholson-Smith.

So what?

I haven’t even named the film yet.

Or the director.

Rather, I haven’t named the film in English.

Substance has been subjected to style.

Style has no translation.

Close-Up.

By Abbas Kiarostami.

One of the few geniuses in the world.

You will find on my site the review for طعم گيلاس

Who’s reading?

Taste of Cherry.

I thought that surely no film by this auteur could top that, but I was wrong.

The depth of Close-Up completely defies what I thought was possible with cinema.

It is a shock.

I am at a loss for words regarding how much this film affected me.

It is as beautiful as a bus stop.

As poor as a paper bag.

The roses from the leaf pile are a good start.

All over the world.

We play “kick the can”.

Don’t ever let people lie to you about Iran.

What is the truth?

The truth is that there is a genius there who speaks directly to my heart…like no other.

That genius is Abbas Kiarostami.

But we must mention Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

He is perfect.

It is unbelievable.

Do you know how I would feel to meet Jean-Luc Godard?

Hossain Sabzian knows.

To meet the person who gave us hope…who depicted our suffering.

Bicycleran.

بايسيكلران

Or the blessed marriage promised long ago.

We, are on the outside looking in.

Farsi mocks us.

With its beauty.

There is a lump in my throat like a piece of coal.

Do we really care about Oriana Fallaci?

Or rather Peter Bogdanovich?

Interesting that you should ask.

At first we see Haj Ali Reza Ahmadi annoyed, but later we see him as remarkably humane.

This is the Iranian legal system.

We are told it is a civil law system.

In the name of Allah.

How does a country produce such beauty?

Hossain Farazmand.

Everyone wants to be on TV.

It must be difficult to read my writing.

Who cares if you listen?

Now that IS a quote (or misquote).

Milton Babbitt.

Twelve-tone prose.

My beloved concision.

Fighting my windbag tendencies.

It is supposed to be funny.

Like Mauricio Kagel.  Or Francis Poulenc.  Or Conlon Nancarrow.

Must I mention Satie?

Yes, I must.

In the name of Hossain Sabzian.

détournement

Making the job of the DGSE almost impossible.

Ever since the Place de la Contrescarpe.

Les moineaux?  Chez Moineaux?

Trouble makers.

Like the glorious Kiarostami.

But he left us this document.

And he lives at the young age of 75.

Yet, the Situationist is Hossain Sabzian.

Like Arthur Cravan.

But more like Erik Satie.

Life?

Life is hard.

Is it like Film International?

Or like Massoud Mehrabi?

I don’t know.

But I know someone was on the same page mentally.

Because F for Fake (my second most favorite film of all time).

That is the language of cinephiles.

We’ve lost the sound.

Fifteen years ago.

-PD

SNL Season 1 Episode 17 [1976)

Why do we review films?  Why do we feel the need to write about that which is expressed as sound and vision?

And why, after experiencing the sublime, do we still get enjoyment out of the mundane?

Why, as in a society with classes or castes, do we persist in dividing art into high and low?

The former we call high art, whereas the latter is pop art (if even that).

We are often unforgiving.

After immersion in Godard (an ongoing activity for me), we somehow still need comedy.

Comedy lets us relax.

If we spend all day thinking, we want to have an occasional laugh.

And so today we are able to re-approach a show like Saturday Night Live by starting from the very beginning.

As an aspiring film critic, I seek to bring the same respect and passion to writing about television as I bring to writing about film.

I will be honest:  I am not a big fan of TV.

Somehow television has often brought out the worst in humanity.

It’s a rather sickening feeling to let the constant stream of disposable culture wash over oneself.

And so I don’t subject myself to such.

The important point to make is that this decision doesn’t make me any better than anyone else.

It’s just simply a choice I make.

Now, how can one possibly come down from such a marbled column to discuss SNL?

Well, fortunately this particular episode breaks the fourth wall in a very unique way.

The host of this night’s show was press secretary to the president of the US (I refuse to capitalize that repugnant position) Ron Nessen.

This was the Ford administration.

Now.  If you want to see a UNIQUE name, check out Nessen’s predecessor Jerald terHorst [sic].  What a mind-trip!

But back to that fourth wall…

Yes, the other Gerald (the big one…G-man) delivers Chevy’s line here.  “Live from New York…”

This was an exceptionally bold move by a White House which had been lambasted mercilessly by SNL since the show’s inception.  Particularly, Gerald Ford showed a strange side of himself by consenting to be taped for a couple of one-liners.

Strangest of all, however, is Nessen (as himself) interacting with Chevy Chase (as President Ford) in the Oval Office.  It was the obvious skit to do.  Aside from the rehashing of the “Dead String Quartet” to start the show, the first real piece was this one.

While some bits in this episode fall flat (“Press Secretaries Throughout History” comes to mind), in all this is a very solid episode.

Perhaps Patti Smith’s presence as musical guest had something to do with the fuck-off tone encountered here and there.

Let’s face it:  SNL (though still called merely Saturday Night) had become such a force that the White House was forced to respond.

And their course of action?

If we can’t be ’em, join ’em.  It’s the old Bugs Bunny phrase I heard a million times as a kid growing up.

What’s not good about this episode?  Billy Crystal (still Bill Crystal at the time).

It’s almost good.  It’s almost great (Crystal’s routine).  But ultimately, it sucks.

Contrast this with the performance of The Patti Smith Group.

“Gloria” is powerful, but it’s a strange rip-off cover.  It’s a rewrite.  Almost a détournement worthy of Guy Debord and the Situationists.

“Gloria” works.  The guitars are blaring loud.  Patti Smith is a true persona here.  Magical.  Visceral.  Pissed-off.

But “My Generation” works less well.  And while it is juvenile and lazy, it still has the genuine energy which would inspire groups like Sonic Youth.

The Patti Smith Group is exciting on both tunes because it feels like they could fail at any moment.  “Excursion on a Wobbly Rail” as Cecil Taylor put it.

Yeah.  That was the name of Lou Reed’s radio show when Lou was a student at Syracuse.

No.  Bill Crystal was no Andy Kaufman.  Bill Crystal was just doing blackface here.  Is it Satchmo?  Miles?  An amalgamation named Pops?

Importantly, it is evident that Crystal has talent.  A lot of talent.  It’s just that he’s not channeling it very well here.  The blackface sans burnt cork doesn’t really become him.  It’s lazy.  Like Patti Smith Group’s “My Generation”.  Crystal isn’t risking much.

Today, Crystal’s routine would probably be called racist.  Yeah…  It’s a little odd.

But Patti Smith comes out on top.  “Jesus died for somebody’s sins/but not mine.”  Wow…

On national TV.  Long before Sinéad ripped up a picture of the Pope.

SNL was dangerous.

But it was also a gas.

Super Bass-o-Matic ’76.

Yeah, Dan Aykroyd took a step forward with this particular show.

Who even remembers Tom Snyder?

It’s of a different generation.  Not my generation.

We dig back in the past.

And this show (SNL) is not complete without the REAL commercials.

I wanna see the Marlboro Man, ads for Scotch, plugs for cars that Ralph Nader found out impaled people upon impact.  The good old days…

The FAKE commercials need the REAL commercials for the whole thing to work.

I’m thinking back to my youth.  When Crystal Pepsi was lampooned as Crystal Gravy.

And so it’s a shame that corporate America couldn’t get together and celebrate their grossly dated marketing of the 1970s by being a part of these reruns. Same criticism falls upon NBC.  Why don’t you give us a REAL glimpse of what watching this show in ’76 must have been like?

Some brands don’t even exist anymore.  Who holds the copyrights to commercials for defunct products?  That’s a lot of work just to give people a more realistic stroll down memory lane.

So it is instructive.

What you see on television today (the whole experience…especially the commercials) will be very quickly (QUICKLY) forgotten tomorrow.  The mundane pieces will fade first.  No one bothered to document them.  Too pervasive.

And then the few gems somehow get lost in the digital landfill.

Gary Weis was way ahead of me with his short film set in a dump.  Sanitation workers.  Garbage men.

Don’t mind me.  I’m just sifting through the detritus.

 

-PD

 

Monsieur Verdoux [1947)

Being unwanted is a powerful feeling.

A life devoted to a profession, and then (poof!)…

But aging is a powerful experience even when separated from an event of displacement.

Let me clarify:

Aging can make one vulnerable.

We are only all too aware that we aren’t as handsome or as beautiful as we once were.

We are made aware of this decline by way of “the spectacle” (to borrow an idea from Guy Debord).

Sure, we can read it in the glances of everyone we meet, but we must realize that those eyes have glanced upon the ideal.  Those eyes are connected to minds.  Those minds have been imprinted like microchips.

With what?  “The tyranny of good looks…” to quote the brilliant Marilyn Yalom.

The quote comes from her excellent volume How the French Invented Love (2012).  Yes, this nonfiction tome is only too relevant to the subject at hand:  Charlie Chaplin’s bizarre Monsieur Verdoux.

This one won’t have you laughing yourself into the aisle.  Not till the back nine (at the earliest).

Charles Chaplin was a rebel.  When it worked, the world loved him.  When it didn’t?  Ah-la-la…  No one can be completely spared the wrath of the public.

A quick glance at the ever-reliable Wikipedia [cough cough] tells us that Monsieur Verdoux fared better in Europe than in America.

Quickly perusing the section marked “Reception” we might come to the conclusion that audiences in the United States did not “get” this film.

So then did we merely have a cultural barrier (and its opposite) in operation as far as world reception?

I think not.  I think that Europe’s humor was forever changed by the World Wars.  Coming just two years after the second ended, this film was a litmus test.  What could be found funny in this cruel new world?

The entire world had lost its innocence.

And so the comedian was forced to make do with the sordid rubble.

It is not spoiling much to tell you that in this film Chaplin plays a serial killer.  The idea apparently originated with Orson Welles, but the treatment was no doubt a full Chaplin adaption.

Yes, it is shocking.  A bit.  Nowadays.  But then?!?  It must have been much more scandalous.

This was the first time Chaplin took to the screen in a feature film without relying to any extent upon the Little Tramp character.  It was a brave departure!

What I find most fascinating about this film is that the fictional Verdoux, like the real-life Hitler, was a vegetarian and animal lover.

Ah!  However…Verdoux was based on a real killer:  Henri Désiré Landru.

They share the same first name (and a rhyming last):

Henri Verdoux?

Henri Landru.

They also share a profession:  used furniture merchant.

It is not clear to me (without further research) whether the vegetarian/animal lover aspects were inventions of Chaplin or not.

I’m guessing they were.

In any case, they are effective reminders about the intricacy of human personalities.

Schindler’s List comes down to us as a hack film because it lacks life.  That is the message I get from reading Godard’s critique of Spielberg.  What is more, Godard seems to lament (mourn) the lack of video footage shot within German concentration camps during WWII.

Some have construed this as holocaust denial.

I don’t think that is the point.

However, Godard’s presentation of his argument brings with it a certain amount of skepticism.  Put simply, his question seems to be (in my own words), “How could the Germans be so technologically advanced (particularly in film and motion picture equipment) yet fail to shoot any footage within the camps?”

What comes down to us today is footage of said camps’ “liberations”…  Indeed, Hollywood directors were tasked with making propaganda of the hideous findings (George Stevens comes to mind) [not that they needed much help there].

And so why have I made this detour?  Simply to illustrate that the human brain is smarter than Hollywood assumes it is.

Spielberg is not a great director.  He’s merely a rich director.

Chaplin was a great director.  Monsieur Verdoux was largely a failure in the United States.

To come back to Guy Debord (and I paraphrase heavily in translation from the French), “Reality has been turned on its head…”

The spectacle reigns supreme.  Who cares if it’s true?  Even better than the real thing.  That is the message of Debord’s La Société du spectacle (published in 1967).  And that message is relevant to Monsieur Verdoux.

Perhaps it was the Letterists (of which Debord was a member)…perhaps it was the Situationists (of which Debord was the guiding light)…one of these groups boycotted Chaplin when he arrived in France.

Ah, I have found it.  Indeed.  1952.  It was the Letterists.  Their screed pamphlet called Chaplin a “con artist of sentiments”.  [translation by Len Bracken]

Indeed, that is just the role Chaplin took up five years previous in our film Monsieur Verdoux.  It is also part of the argument which Godard has made against Spielberg.

As much as I love Debord (one of my three favorite writers), I have to disagree with his early (pre-Situationist) position against Chaplin.  Godard would likely disagree with Debord and the Letterists on this matter as well (judging from the abundance of Chaplin films referenced in his magnum opus Histoire(s) du cinema).  But I must agree with Godard regarding Spielberg.  It does no honor to the memory of Holocaust victims nor survivors to give the sad event the “Hollywood touch”.

Godard has (along with most of humanity) been called anti-Semitic.  I don’t believe that to be the case regarding the most important director to have lived.  A single glance is not enough to absorb what Jean-Luc is saying in any of his films (not to mention writings or interviews).

Ah, but now I am far off-track.  I have left Verdoux in the dust.

But that is alright.

Perhaps the measure of a film’s greatness is how much it makes us think?

 

-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

La Chinoise [1967)

Even geniuses make mistakes.  That’s how I thought I’d begin.  And then…viewing again.  It is like “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground.  Was Lou Reed, the songwriter, promoting the use of this drug in the song of the same name?  Not necessarily.  It boils down (no pun intended) to something I learned in economics:  positive vs. normative.

And so, we have a film by Jean-Luc Godard which is very difficult to sum up.  On the surface it is easy.  The Situationists called Godard a Swiss Maoist (a sort of double insult).  Even in that, they were only part right.  Yes, Godard today lives in Rolle…in the canton of Vaud:  Switzerland.  But he was born in Paris.  He didn’t move to Switzerland until he was four years old.  Of course, he would return to Paris for university (and eventually to make a name for himself as critic and director).  Actually, it was a back and forth:  la France, la Suisse, la France, la Suisse…like a tennis match.

Back to my point:  this film does not necessarily “prove” that Godard was a Maoist.  But was he?  And what would that mean?  Let’s investigate.

First, I should mention that I have read four books about Godard, one more which is a book-length interview, an additional collection of his writings, and finally an actual book by Godard which was published by Gallimard.  Of the first category, two were biographies (by Richard Brody and Colin MacCabe respectively).

In my opinion, a short review of Jean-Pierre Gorin and the Dziga Vertov Group are needed.

First Gorin.  Wikipedia (in English) is typically terse when it comes to Jean-Pierre.  For our purposes, it is enough to say that Gorin is nowhere called a Maoist in this short entry.

Next…Dziga Vertov Group.  Again, no one is called a Maoist in this similarly curt Wiki reflection.  The closest thing is a non-hypertext mention of the film(s) British Sounds/See You at Mao.

This may seem like laziness on my part (and it is), but it is important to note that the “Dziga Vertov” period of Godard’s oeuvre is the most unknown (and, one might say, mysterious).  This would be roughly 1968-1972.

And so we are brought to the man at issue himself:  Mao.

What ideas are pertinent?  Anti-imperialism.  The Long March.  The People’s Republic of China.  The Great Leap Forward.  45 million dead?  The Cultural Revolution.

One must wonder whether it is a coincidence that the Dziga Vertov Group disbanded the same year Nixon visited China:  1972.  Was this seen as weakness by Maoists?

Let’s recalculate:  40 million dead?  70 million?

Just as in the Holocaust, how much about China’s “dark side” was known outside of the country during Mao’s tenure?  For young idealists, the concept of radical revolution might have an appealing luster, but when deaths are counted in millions and tens-of-millions the appeal should (must!) become appalling.

What were the nature of these deaths?  Mao bragged about burying alive 46,000 scholars.  One thing is certain:  there is a persisting battle between those who seek to rehabilitate the tarnished image of Mao and those who perhaps feel that the extent of atrocities for which he was responsible has not yet fully been made evident to the world at large.

Mao is a strange figure…to whom just about every superlative and, equally, insult has been applied. Just as in a criminal investigation, we must scrutinize the sources and their authors with cui bono:  what do they stand to gain by promulgating such theories?

Were 3 million tortured to death during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962)?  If even one was tortured to death, isn’t that too many?

Yes.  We do not hold torturers and terrorists to be our heroes.  They forfeit our respect at that point…no matter how great their theories are.  It is solemnly inexcusable.

No, rather we uphold the nonviolent masters:  Gandhi and King.  Obama is no King (nor king).  The end does not justify the means.  We who torture lose our humanity.  We are only torturing ourselves.

And so even Nixon himself was a Maoist in a cynical, Machiavellian way.  Anything to counter what Reagan would later normatively call “the evil empire.”  Yes Mao, it is still the imperialists who are the true axis of evil in this young century.  But China is learning how to project its influence.  It would be wrong to call the China of today anti-imperialist.

Enough about Mao.  That is the freedom we have…at this late moment…to still express such a thought.

Godard’s dalliance with Maoism didn’t last long (in terms of his career as a whole).

Perhaps it was Dostoyevsky.  No doubt Paul Nizan.  Most importantly it was the ravishing Anne Wiazemsky.  Godard was doubtless smitten…you can tell by the camera’s loving gaze.  He would have gone to the end of the earth for her.  A revolutionary goddess!

Veronique Verkhovensky.  Her eyes are wild in their tranquility.  She is no paper tiger.  Juliet Berto is the brunette…Wiazemsky the redhead.  Such a beautiful revolutionary group!

Henri Shatov.  He endures the brunt of human stupidity here.  No, he cannot entice Juliet to abandon the radical cell as they dive headlong into terrorism.

Kirilov adds a dash of Peter Max color before his inevitable demise.

Will the Maoists in power continue to struggle on two fronts (ISIS and Ukraine) while fronting like sucker MCs?  Yeah, oops:  Nemtsov and Nisman worked for you…32 was 23 (if 6 was 9).

Francis Verkhovensky.  Like Jimmy Stewart in Rope.  Should we contact Arthur Lee or Althusser in regards to all those little red books of Aden Arabie?  I’m inclined to believe that Love is all you need.

-PD

Une Femme mariee [1964)

I want to write about the weirdest scene in Godard’s filmography up till this point, but I don’t.  It’s not a pleasant scene.  It is uncomfortable.  Unnerving.  I want to write about the pointy bras which figure visually into so much of this film, but I feel silly.  Pointy bras.

I want to talk about Macha Méril‘s hair and how once again Godard evokes Louise Brooks, but I…what?

The title.  It had to get more vague.  No.

There’s really no way of talking about this movie other than in its own language.  I often do that.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But many times it is the only way.  Here.

It slips through the fingers so quickly.  If you do not write immediately, it is gone.  I take a break.  I charge my computer.  It has escaped.

Truth be told, I never had that good a grasp on it.

I have to get worked up to talk about a film like this.  I can’t check the news headlines for ten minutes on waynemadsenreport.com and then come back to it.

She is married.  Unhappy.  Every day she pretends.  She is an actor dating an actor.  Not the same.  The theater and its double.

Artaud is on the tip of his tongue.  Godard.  What is he driving at?

This is elusive film.  A cubist film.  Fragments.  If I stop to pause, it leaves me again.

I cannot give this treatise any ground.  Yes, a treatise like Debord.  In little mini-paragraphs.  Theses.  Something.  I don’t know.  Je’n s’pas.

It’s quick.  Before she’s said it [bam!] it’s gone.  He cuts.  Montage.  Gone.

Roger Leenhardt.  I did not know.  We don’t know.  Barnes & Ignoble.  Ig Nobel.  Banana peels.  Friction.  Slippery slip slopery.  Splits.

Does she say Thalidomide?  It moves so fast.  You are not French.  You have audible French, visual wordplay, puns everywhere…unfunny puns on soul, angel, sea.  Words in the middle of words.  Treatise.  trEATise.  Focus on a part.  How does the part tell a different story than the whole?  Passage.  Pas sage.  Unwise.  Not wise.  No sagacity.

You have to be on your toes with Godard…even to this day.  His mind is the quickest, slickest, oiled mechanism.  The actor…just a mechanism.  Is that a good translation?  It matters.  Are you reading the subtitles?

Some nights maybe you don’t feel like subtitles.  You want to watch National Lampoon’s Vacation…

My queue.  It is the same.  Juxtaposition.  Beethoven.  No accident.  Accidentals.  We reach like bad Joyces.  James…

The Holocaust comes into the oeuvre.  Why the barbers?  Indeed, she says…

Memory.  For him, integral.  For her, rien.  Give me ten more pointy bras.  Let me measure my breasts…nipple to nipple.  The world turns on the tips of tits.  No truer words ever spoken.  Into the arms of Venus de Milo.

Her laughing is like a rodent…a squirrel perhaps.  And then a woodpecker.  It is almost indistinguishable from sobbing.  Laugh tears.  Oh James…

Ingmar got nothing out of it, he says.  Godard took the long shot (extended take) and perverted it.  Torture.  Orgasmic laughs meant to liven up a marriage.  The couple sit and fidget.  Will they put on the Cal Tjader?

And then the husband threatens to rape his own wife.  Is that translation correct?  A significant line.  Vital.  Play acting?  I don’t think so.

Truth in jokes.  Expressed nowhere else.  Why the barbers?

If you sought an insular review, you have found it.  Only a cryptologist would claim spoilers.  And thus we can justify that this is indeed film criticism.  Mere reviews…

If you could double the size of your breasts with a Peruvian serum, would your husband blue you and make you Jell-O-sated?

All the brunettes are neutron blondes in the negative print.  Hitchcock has sensors under your seats to know when your butt has arisen.  Orly.

And the doctor cannot explain love.  Where does sex end and love begin, or vice versa?  Science still compares.  Love is neurochemically like OCD.  Quitting Facebook brings on symptoms akin to drug withdrawal.  Which drug?  How addictive?

It’s over.

-PD