bucolic [2021)

It starts just like Charlotte Gainsbourg.

5:55.

Air.

Nigel Godrich.

But there is something different.

A shruti box?

A little distorto guitar.

Ah, yes.

Chuchotements.

Françoise Hardy.

A little Yo La Tengo.

Built to Spill.

Guitar carries it for a second.

Good lyrics.

All mood.

And then into an Amon Düül II warble.

Like Marc Bolan.

Jim Carrey.

Most annoying sound in the world.

Into Pink Floyd.

David Gilmour.

Circa The Wall.

Strange sadness.

Almost a premonition of impending doom.

Calm before the storm.

J. Spaceman telephony.

Floating with no highs and no lows.

All mids.

Strong opening track.

Very slow-moving.

Luxurious.

Immediate Delgados shift.

Paul Savage.

Pauly Deathwish.

Glasgow effect.

Great counterpoint for a pop musician.

But if you check this bloke’s CV…

You’ll know he went through Fux.

Gonna have to say Elliott Smith.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

Megan Childs violin.

Around the warm fire.

Welsh.

Expansive.

Strings open up.

Hate.

More Fridmann.

Pointillism.

Schoenberg.

Timbre.

Richard James.

GZM.

Beethoven.

Another Welshman.

John Cale.

Orchestral bass that Lou loved.

This guy’s a bastard.

Jaded.

Hurt.

Is this a breakup album?

I thought the last one was a breakup album?

Ahhh…

Into Gorwel Owen.

1968.

Floyd.

Atom.

Mad cow.

The last GZM album.

Rockfield.

Bohemian.

String band.

Money never runs out.

Cheap air organ.

Tubes?

Fan.

A very apropos album title.

Woody.

Tobacco.

Spring water Scotch.

And then the Great Reset arrives.

Like a fucking spaceship.

Dark shit.

What is this glitch business?

Thom Yorke blasts upon the scene.

Drums James Brown.

Good groove.

Savvy.

Whoa!

Marching band.

Drumline.

Snares.

Caught by Lee “Scratch”.

Guitar all mangled.

Melodies solid.

Mogwai?

Bert Jansch out of fucking nowhere.

Definitely Lips.

Pet Sounds.

Track rejected by Bond franchise.

Convincing.

Acoustic to electric.

Now it’s Serge.

Requiem.

Stereolab.

Break beat.

Absolutely boffo.

BOF.

More Brian Wilson.

Van Dyke Parks.

Phil Spector.

High Llamas.

Still a sadness.

That the old world is passing away.

FUCK!!!

Right into some Leonard Cohen shit!

Scott Walker.

How the FUCK was this recorded?

Sounds like 2″ tape.

Question:

how has this Pauly Deathwish released three albums in two months?

I can’t even keep up with this guy.

Mercury Rev.

Deserter’s Songs.

Levon Helm.

Chamberlin.

Mellotron?

Like a Christmas album.

See You on the Other Side.

David Fricke.

A review in the liner notes.

“Everlasting Arm”.

Definite vibe.

Record pillaging wizard.

Baritone.

Lots of fucking glockenspiel on this record.

But it’s nice.

Like Ennio Morricone.

Cinema Paradiso.

Mandolins.

Jackie Gleason.

Dean Martin.

Herb Alpert.

Tchaikovsky.

Again with sugar plum.

Slick!

Very light.

Chiaroscuro.

Fresher than the sweetness in water.

Hearing Dungen.

IV Thieves.

Makes sense.

“Frenchie” Smith.

Dig CV.

Light, British, airy.

Good hook.

Hooky.

Is this the single?

A little neo-psych Hendrix moment.

It’s definitely GZM.

Repetition until transcend.

Stereolab first album.

Not looped.

Manuel.

Carpenters.

Messiaen.

Definitely some breakup here.

Sonic Youth.

Sister.

Experimental.

Thurston.

Lots of drum machine.

Drum and bass.

Panning.

Definitely holds up with Radiohead.

How the fuck was this made?

PD tells us that it was all made on an iPhone with only a Telecaster.

That is some serious trickery.

Ear fooling.

This is COMPLEX music.

Mixes sound polished.

Clarity.

Some Chinese stuff.

Noise floor fucked for the first time ever.

Bacon?

Rollerskate Skinny.

It’s THAT good.

Shoulder Voices.

How was this made?

This heralds a new talent.

But this bloke is 44.

Tour sponsored by Ensure.

Not hearing a sophomore slump here.

Two albums in two months.

Review third forthcoming.

This dude is emo as fuck.

I dig it.

This guy is a mystery.

What is his deal?

This sounds more like a cohesive album that Introversion.

Introversion sounds like a debut album…in all the best ways.

Songs saved up.

A greatest hits.

Go big or go home.

This album deals much more in subtlety.

Not every song here is a home run.

This album breathes.

Ambiance.

Negative space.

More Beach Boys vibes.

70s.

Sad.

Bathrobe.

But mentally sharp.

A spark of genius.

A little bluegrass.

Bill Monroe.

Dock Boggs.

The old world is passing away.

Jonny Greenwood.

Georges Bizet.

Live forever.

Nonesuch.

Elektra.

Hoyt Ming.

Incredible String Band.

Wales, Scotland.

Back and forth.

And across to Ireland.

Oh, no.

There’s the single.

“Makes Me Wanna Stay in Bed”.

Emma Pollock.

Hate is all you need.

Coming in from the cold.

New Radicals.

Delayed bass from The Wall.

Pavement.

Spoon.

Good fucking song!

Eisteddfod.

All Is Dream.

Hard following up.

Unenviable.

Emma Pollock solo.

With Alun Woodward singing.

The Great Eastern.

New Spiritualized.

Banjo.

Let It Come Down.

Abbey Road.

Coldplay.

A Rush of Blood to the Head.

This bloke is serious as fuck.

Sad eyes.

I’m sensing a Jandek promotional strategy.

Final track Richter.

Ravel.

Emperor.

Philip Glass.

Conlon Nancarrow.

City/country dichotomy.

Urban/rural.

Urban encroaching.

Something felt.

Big symphony night.

Excitement of New York Phil.

The fucking french horns!

Automation.

A story in dynamics.

Lesson.

A folk album.

bucolic.

Pauly Deathwish.

iTunes.

Spotify.

-PD

Rambo: Last Blood [2019)

Here is the jewel in the crown of the Rambo franchise.

Truly.

This is the best Rambo film.

Just as Casino Royale (2006) is the best Bond film.

And it’s an appropriate reference…because Rambo: Last Blood is equal parts Sicario and Skyfall.

Sure, First Blood can never really be topped.

Hell, Rambo III is an amazing movie!

But to mix franchises again, Dr. No can never be topped.

And yet, every franchise has a best film.

And for Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo franchise, this is the one.

#AllEyesOnMaricopa

It’s all about the knife.

Variable.

Human trafficking.

Sex trafficking.

Slave labor.

Forced prostitution.

Kidnapping.

Stallone’s acting is amazing in this film.

He has honed his craft.

He is untouchable here.

Completely authentic.

A master of understatement.

Small movements.

Subtle intonations.

Interrogations.

Driver’s license.

I think they throw it back on him.

Such a taut film.

One detail only with slack.

A little bit of The Punisher.

All he needs is a hammer.

Green Beret.

Sadness of time invested.

Sadness of family lost.

Sadness of best friend gone.

The acting.

Scene with Paz Vega.

True, raw emotion.

Samuel Fuller would have respected.

And loved it.

Setting a trap.

Mother Of All Traps.

Decaffeinated?

Shocker.

Side of beef.

Memorial Day.

With General Flynn.

Michael Flynn.

May we prove to be worthy of their sacrifice.

My colonel may be long gone.

Reporting to flag officer.

You are watching a movie.

This film is a masterpiece.

-PD

Giuliani Press Conference [11/19/20)

This is potentially the most important media event in the history of the United States of America.

https://www.oann.com/rudy-giuliani-and-trump-campaigns-legal-team-hold-press-conference/

Let’s use Google (please, no laughing yet…) to determine how “top” news organizations are covering a mass criminal conspiracy (if proven) which involved installing a losing candidate (Joe Biden) in the place of the candidate who actually won (Donald Trump).

That would be a big story, if true, right?

Let’s do a quick survey.

Because it’s the job of the news media to parse the one-hour-and-thirty-minute event and give American citizens an overview of its salient points.

Google search result for “giuliani press conference” videos page 1 (let’s presume a person might want to watch the whole thing for themselves):

–Result 1. Located on YouTube (owned, like Google, by Alphabet Inc. [how convenient]). Nine minutes. Key term: “hair dye”. Content: Jimmy Fallon

–Result 2. CNN. Two minutes and 42 seconds. Key term: “baseless claims”. Hey, CNN: do you treat all affidavits with such blanket dismissal?

–Result 3: Located on YouTube (part of Google conglomerate Alphabet Inc). Thirteen minutes and 51 seconds. Key term: “insane”. Content: Seth Meyers.

Let’s pause a moment.

Are we to assume that Google is impartially allowing the “most popular” results to rise to the top of their search here? We are presented with 2-out-of-3 results which directly benefit the search engine’s holding company (Alphabet) by way of a subsidiary (YouTube).

Sure, people like a good laugh.

But are comedy monologues usually the most popular when something as serious as a national criminal conspiracy comes to light?

To make fun of Rudy’s running hair dye is an ad hominem attack. Sure, it’s in good fun, right? But did Jimmy Fallon make fun of the room full of press who followed Rudy’s impassioned feat of logic with inane non sequiturs? I doubt it.

To characterize Rudy’s press conference as “insane” is to characterize Rudy himself as “insane”. This is, again, an ad hom attack which conveniently avoids addressing the event on any intellectual merit whatsoever.

Then, strangely, we have “news” wedged in between these two self-dealing redirects by Google. News in the form of CNN. What we appear to find is that, either A: CNN is the most popular news network in the USA (not true based on television ratings, financial solvency, etc.), or B: Google is pushing the views of a not-widely-popular network as being WILDLY-POPULAR.

Well, at least we can hope the title of said news coverage retains the appearance of impartiality.

Nope.

CNN’s video is titled, “Rudy Giuliani spouts baseless claims at news conference.”

Well, then.

That’s all we need to know, right?

Might as well not even watch it.

…the hour-and-a-half version, much less the 2′(!)42″ version.

CNN is really providing a service here.

They are thinking FOR US.

The video is just complementary.

The title says all you need to know.

There is no subtle shading.

It is black and white.

To CNN (at least), it is clear that Rudy Giuliani’s sworn affidavits are “baseless claims”.

How, I wonder, did CNN come to this conclusion?

Are they able to, point by point, refute each affidavit in a mere two minutes and 42 seconds?

Perhaps an auctioneer delivers the story using logic of which Bertrand Russell would even be proud?

But I doubt it.

And I won’t waste my time being burned again by CNN.

CNN is worse that the village idiot.

Because CNN is not unaware of what it is doing.

–Result 4: Ohhh…The Guardian. U.K. The king’s English. They talk in that proper, fastidious accent. Surely they will be measured and retrospect in their approach. Forty-three seconds. Key terms: “sweaty”, “hair malfunction”, “bizarre”. Right. As has been said recently, your opinion stopped mattering to us in 1776.

–Result 5: People magazine. One hour, 48 minutes, and 39 seconds (no less). Sounds promising. Key terms: “hair dye” and “sweat”. The title is already telling me what to think. It’s already telling me what to focus on. I don’t like that.

–Result 6: Newsweek. A whole whopping 26 SECONDS! Video title: “Tucker Carlson defends Rudy Giuliani”. God forbid…

–Result 7: Located on YouTube [where’s Teddy Roosevelt when you need him?]. The Young Turks. Eight minutes and 45 seconds. Key term: “literally melting down”. Again, ad hominem attack to cast aspersion on the facts presented.

Hey. Rudy is old. Lights can be hot. Lawyers have dropped off his team because THEIR LIVES HAVE BEEN THREATENED. Oh, and there’s this little thing called WORK. Work generates HEAT. A heated human body naturally SWEATS to cool itself down. When’s the last time you saw a “journalist” sweat?

Result 8: Sky News Australia. Surely the Aussies will offer a different take in their one minute 46 second video. Key term: “hair dye sweat”. Ok, maybe not.

Result 9: CNN. Again!!! Wow…they must really be popular. Let me guess: they give Rudy a fair shake here and, therefore, the video is lower rated by Google (and, you know, “we the people” who utilize this fair and balanced search engine)? Again, with CNN, the title says it all (no need even watching [apparently]): “CNN reporter debunks Giuliani’s dangerous and false claims.” Wow. So Pamela Brown (whoever the fuck that is) takes just four minutes (!) to refute an hour-and-a-half press conference from extremely literate speakers (not limited to Giuliani, but including lucid delineation by Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis).

So, let me get this straight: is the whole world (and particularly the United States [whose election has just been stolen by criminal conspiracy]) just a bunch of fart-joke-laughing middle schoolers who gleaned nothing from this masterpiece of oratory other than from the 10 minutes (out of NINETY MINUTES) where Rudy’s hair dye ran down the sides of his face?

I get it. Funny. Ha ha. That’s right. Let’s just discount the whole thing. Let’s discount “America’s Mayor” who saw us through the dark days of 9/11/01. Let’s just take a big dump on him. Let’s kick this prostate cancer survivor in the nuts because, God forbid, he uses hair dye. And, GOD FORBID, he sweats when he works.

For this audience:

a Rudy Giuliani fart is more literate–more articulate than a Joe Biden State of the Union address could ever be (God forbid the later actually happens).

Result 10: Located on YouTube [$]. Bloomberg. One hour, 48 minutes, and 39 seconds. Hmmm…same exact feed as People? Wow. That said, it’s the only result on page one which seems to even attempt taking Rudy as seriously as CNN takes the Green New Deal.

If you’re not much on videos, then read. This seems to be a fairly accurate transcript (though I have just browsed the top portion [after having watched the entire press conference]).

https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/rudy-giuliani-trump-campaign-press-conference-transcript-november-19-election-fraud-claims

I believe the three people who spoke (Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis) will go down in American history as heroes for what they did today. And so will those working in the shadows (like Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing).

This is the most epic break in the matrix (or Debord’s “spectacle”, whichever you prefer) in modern American history. It will be remembered that it all started here.

-PD

تاکسی‎‎ [2015)

[JAFAR PANAHI’S TAXI (2015)]

This must be “Axis of Evil” week here at paulydeathwish.com 🙂

As I have stated recently to a friend.

George W. Bush was the worst President the United States has ever seen.

And Barack Obama was probably the second-worst.

So what does that make me?

Democrat?

Republican?

Libertarian?

Let’s get to that question (if you even care to know) by a circuitous route, shall we?

First, we must again praise the people of Iran.

It was long ago that I saw my first Iranian film.

Taste of Cherry.

طعم گيلاس…‎‎

[Ta’m-e gīlās…]

It was such a profound experience.

There I was.

In a movie theater in Austin.

And I couldn’t have given a shit about cinema.

But I was there.

For some reason.

God only knows why.

And I saw a movie which in many ways changed my life.

[but it took many years to sink in]

Even so, I came to regard the name of its director (Abbas Kiarostami) with a sort of awe.

Yet, I doubted.

[as we all well should]

And so I said to the cinema gods, “Let Kiarostami perform his miracle again…if he be so brilliant!”

And he did.

I was supposed to be watching Life, and Nothing More…

But I made a mistake.

Because my French is so bad.

[you know, Kiarostami died in Paris last year (may God rest his soul)]

I needed 1991, but I chose 1990.

And it was another miracle.

Close-Up.

I don’t know.

Is it…

کلوزآپ ?

Or…

نمای نزدیک ?

[“Klūzāp”?  Or “nemā-ye nazdīk”?]

Because the unfailing Google Translate (now the second-most popular “tr” search after “Trump” [as “translate”]) tells me that both terms mean “close-up”.

But who can translate Trump?

[ahhh…]

Perhaps only an Iranian?

Well, we would be in good hands if director Jafar Panahi was that man.

Why?

Because Mr. Panahi has made a film which is of the same rarefied air as the two Kiarostami films which I have referenced.

The work is called Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, and it is currently available on Netflix in the U.S.

No, it’s not a really trite game show.

No, it’s not some premise for an uncreative pornographer.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi ( تاکسی) pushes the limits of barebones filmmaking in much the same way that the Palestinian masterpiece 5 Broken Cameras did.

[yes, I know the latter film was an Israeli coproduction…with an Israeli co-director…‎‎but the film was very much Palestinian in its inmost heart]

What our director Mr. Panahi adds to the method (budget cinematography) is an uncertainty of reality.

Frankly, I have never seen a film quite like Jafar Panahi’s Taxi.

Is it a documentary?  Is it staged?

One thing’s for sure.

If it’s staged, the injured man and his wailing wife deserve Oscars “toot sweet”!

Truly, it is panic-inducing…

Which is not true of this film in general.

No, dear eggshell friends (if you’re out there)…don’t be afraid.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi will only take you on a “wondrous boat ride” (so to speak) for a brief, more-or-less manageable period of time.

The rest of the film is fascinating…engrossing…painfully and gloriously perplexing.

Yes, Mr. Panahi borrows Kiarostami’s favorite device:  filming from a moving vehicle.

But so what?!?

Panahi was an assistant director to Kiarostami.

And Abbas certainly wasn’t the first to film out of a car window.

But let’s examine for a moment…

Yes, the special part of this method is that the camera is turned INWARDS.

And so we feel we are seeing Homayoun Ershadi vacillate between life and death…all over again.

Or we feel we are seeing the calm, gracious mannerisms of Mohsen Makhmalbaf transposed from motorcycle to taxicab.

But what we are seeing most of all is a director stepping in front of the camera.

Like Truffaut.

And Chaplin before him.

Godard has done it to excellent effect as well.

And Jafar Panahi is like an empty reed of meditation as he navigates an unending stream of chaos which enters his faux-taxi.

But the most poignant moments are when Hana Saeidi reminds us of the childish joy of being an auto passenger…and when the lawyer Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh addresses us…we, the watchers of cinema.

Who will watch those watching the watchers?

It’s like Juvenal in a hall of mirrors.

But Ms. Sotoudeh breaks the fourth wall and takes us to a very special place.

Prison.

And so, again, frankly:  we don’t know how Jafar Panahi’s Taxi was ever made.

Isn’t Iran one of the most intolerant countries on Earth?

Just what is going on here??

All of this Shostakovich-ean rebellion is really breathtaking when under the microscope of close viewing.

But Jafar Panahi remains stone-faced.

Like Buster Keaton.

Yet, this is largely no comedy.

This is a big “fuck you” to the government of Iran.

And yet, it is the most subtle “fuck you” ever committed to film.

Only a genius can do such things.

DSCH

etc.

Yes, dear friends.  Mr. Panahi has been banned from making films.

And yet he made one.

And then another.

And then this one.

So we salute you, Mr. Panahi.

We appreciate such in America.

To illustrate:

<–fuck you, fuck you–>, and most of all…fuck you ^

That is freedom.

It is ugly.

Messy.

But it works.

And so as a Donald Trump supporter (yes, me), I say, “bring it on, you whiny, sub-literate protesters!”

Maybe they’re right.

But it’s their right.

To protest.

And so we mix and knead.

And we need the yeast of dissent to ever grow again.

Let’s bake some goddamned bread, people!

-PD

Rosemary’s Baby [1968)

There are a handful of great horror movies.

Movies which came late enough to set the bar.

Although the early days of cinema were horrific.

A different style developed.

Rosemary’s Baby has a Hitchcockean subtlety to it.

And so Psycho would be the first true horror movie.

1960.

It was a new style of filmmaking.

But Roman Polanski advanced that style.

Here.

Perhaps we wouldn’t get another in this line till The Shining.

1980.

When great directors dabble in horror.

1960.  1968.  1980.

But horror is an everyman genre.

And so Tobe Hooper made a great one.

1974.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

1960.  1968.  1974.  1980.

A progression from subtlety to overt gore.

But all these films are artful.

Silence of the Lambs resurrected that tradition.

Art.

Fear.  Terror.  Poetry.  The flowers of evil.

1960.  1968.  1974.  1980.  1991.

We feel it in Twin Peaks.

Possession.

But perhaps no film captured the essence of the occult so artfully as Rosemary’s Baby.

It is a truly terrifying film.

Spooky.

But classic.

Austere.

Every element is well-placed.

It is an art film.  But equally a spectacle.  An entertainment.

Most notably, it is a philosophic reflection upon evil.

As I’ve said…science doesn’t admit such.

The existence.

But we have to wonder.

When such powerful people believe in such mumbo jumbo.

Whether there is power or not.  In their ceremonies.

They believe.  Ostensibly.

It is a frightening prospect.

A very disturbed element of the intelligentsia.

But always…

Always.

Strive.

To understand your enemies.

 

-PD

Deutschland im Jahre Null [1948)

The first thing film critics have to get right is the title.

Let me explain a bit.

On my site, I always list a film in its original language (to the best of my ability).

In my opinion, that is the best way of honoring the film.

So far, I have encountered the mild idiosyncrasies of Romanian, Serbo-Croat, Czech, and Polish in addition to the mind-blowing intricacy of Farsi and Japanese.

But with Deutschland im Jahre Null we are seeing a German-language film by an Italian director…sort of.

Italy has a very peculiar tradition concerning voiceovers and direct (or, conversely, indirect) sound.  It is an oddity which caught the attention of Godard in his role as film historian.

I cannot give you as erudite an explanation as my hero Jean-Luc, but suffice it to say that foreign (non-Italian) films in Italy have traditionally been overdubbed into Italian.  So, in other words, no subtitles.

This is distinct from an American viewer watching a Fellini film.  The “American” version (whether on DVD or as a film print in a theater) will be in Italian with subtitles in English.  This goes for almost all foreign-language (non-English) films marketed in the United States.

But getting back to Deutschland im Jahre Null…  It is similar to the Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer directing the French film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc…with one major difference.  Dreyer’s film was a silent one (the only French being the intertitles).  Rossellini’s Deutschland im Jahre Null is very much in German.  We are hearing German actors speak (exclusively) German dialogue.

What is most interesting is the linguistic lineage of this film.  In English, this film is known as:

Germany, Year Zero

Which is quite similar to Rossellini’s preceding masterpiece (in linguistic parallel):

Rome, Open City

To be fair, let’s consider the Italian name (the real name) of Rome, Open CityRoma città aperta.  Fine.  That is the way I recognize the film.  The true name is (in my mind) Roma città aperta.

But with Deutschland im Jahre Null we come to a very strange case.  If we do not recognize the primacy of its English title (Germany, Year Zero), and I do not, then we are directed by that great arbiter of cultural legitimacy Wikipedia to consider our options exhausted by being cognizant of the Italian title (Germania anno zero).

What is the message of this omission by English Wikipedia?  I believe the message is that Germany was (and continues to be) a null.  A zero.  A conquered culture.

We see a similar thing in the kowtowing stereotype of conquered Japan.  And though Japan might be experiencing some moderate-to-light financial troubles in recent years, Germany is by all accounts the economic powerhouse of continental Europe.  Why do I bring economics into the discussion?  Because wealthy nations are able to assert themselves.

But let us step back a bit.  Wikipedia does have some tasty morsels of information concerning this film.  If the source can be trusted, this 1948 film was not shown in Germany (the country from whence the language of the film takes its name) until 1952.  After its single screening in München (Munich), it was not heard from again within those borders until it ran on German television in 1978. 

Wow…26 years.  Either this film was grossly misunderstood, or it was understood all too well.  From my reading, this is a very pro-German document.

Rossellini was not George Stevens making concentration camp propaganda.  Roberto was making art.  The sign of art is the admission of possibilities.  Art seduces us because it is subtle.  Art does not proclaim in blanket statements.  Art does not underestimate the intelligence of the viewer.

Roberto Rossellini did something with his “war films trilogy” which seems to have been unprecedented.  The desire of neorealism was to film fiction as if it were documentary.  This fiction would be, likewise, based on reality.

But why is it, then, that we have very different views of Roberto Rossellini and Robert Flaherty?

I will tell you my guess.  Flaherty’s sin was in the framing of his presentation.  To wit, he presented his staged documentaries (take the oil industry propaganda piece Louisiana Story for instance) as if they were naturally-occurring, spontaneous documentaries. The sin, then, was his duplicitous relationship with his subjects.  He actively made his human subjects into actors.

Rossellini takes a different tack.  There is no pretense that Deutschland im Jahre Null is an ACTUAL documentary.  It merely has the feel of that medium.  Likewise, Rossellini’s use of nonprofessional actors was likely more of a precursor to Robert Bresson than a twist on Flaherty’s bizarre formula (which predated Roberto in both Nanook of the North [1922] and Man of Aran [1934]).  No, Rossellini had created something new. 

It’s not so much the films of Flaherty to which I object as it is the idea of them.  At least one of his concoctions (perhaps thanks to director F.W. Murnau) is very fine indeed:  Tabu [1931].  Flaherty and Murnau co-wrote this ostensible documentary.  Indeed, with Flaherty we come into contact with inchoate, obscure film genres such as docudrama, docufiction, fictional documentary (ethnofiction), etc. etc. etc.

Most importantly, none of what I have written here has even scratched the surface of Deutschland im Jahre Null.   What ever became of the heartrending main child actor Edmund Moeschke?  I do not know.

One thing is certain to me:  no film before Rossellini’s “war trilogy” (Roma città aperta, Paisà, and Deutschland im Jahre Null) [1945/1946/1948] takes on such politically sensitive and important topics in such a raw way.  The closest would be the socialism of Eisenstein or the humanism of Chaplin. 

It is, therefore, no wonder at all that Rossellini spawned a million “new waves” the world over.

 

-PD

 

M [1931)

Perhaps we pay too much attention to the story.

We all love a good story.

But the mark of the genius filmmaker may be found in their method of narrative.  The art of how they tell their stories.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t thrilled to return to this Fritz Lang masterpiece, but I’m glad I did.

It is very much how I feel about Hitchcock’s Psycho.  It is a wonderful film, but it’s not something I want to throw on once a week during the course of kicking back.

M, like Psycho, is a supremely tense film.  Nowadays, when we think of Hitchcock, we might reflect on his tastefulness.  Think about it (says Jerry Lee).  In Hitchcock’s day (a long, productive “day”), things which are now shown with impunity were positively disallowed for a Hollywood filmmaker.  Blood and guts…no.  Hitchcock was forced to artfully suggest.

The strictures guiding Fritz Lang (29 years earlier) were even more conservative.  But even so, M is a genuinely terrifying movie.

Terrifying films are rarely relaxing.  They are not meant to be.

But as I had seen this one before, I was able to focus more on the method employed by Lang.  The truth is, M is a masterpiece.  It really is the treatment of a brute subject (murder) with incredible subtlety.

What is most radical about M is its counterintuitive take on crime.

Within this film, crime is divided into capital and noncapital offenses.

In M, a band of criminals exists which seeks to put a serial killer out of business.  It may seem a strange turn of phrase, but this killer is bad for the business of other criminals (mainly thieves and such).

A town in terrorized.  The police regularly raid establishments.  You must have your “papers” with you at all times.

And so those who survive on crime are so desperate as to adopt (temporarily) the same goal as the police:  catch the killer.

It is not giving much away to tell you that Peter Lorre is the killer.  This is not a whodunit.  It’s a “what’s gonna happen”.  That I will leave to your viewing pleasure.

While I am on the subject of Lorre, let me just say that this is one of the finest, weirdest performances in cinema history.  The final scene is one of absolutely raw nerves.  Lorre is not the cute, vaguely-foreign character he would become in The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca.  Lorre is stark-raving mad.

His attacks of psychosis are chilling to observe.  But really, it is his final outburst which tops any bit of lunacy I’ve ever seen filmed.

Today there would likely be plenty of actors ready to play such a macabre role, but in 1931 this was a potential death wish.

That Lorre put his soul into it tells us something important about him.  First, he was capable of being more than a “sidekick” (as he was in the previously-mentioned Bogart films).  Second, he was dedicated to the art of acting.  Lorre was not “mailing it in”.  Playing such a role can’t be particularly healthy for one’s mental state.

But there’s a further thing.  His final monologue is filled with such angst.  Let us consider the year:  1931.  In the midst of the Great Depression.

But also we must consider the country:  Germany.  These were the waning years of the Weimar Republic.  Three important dates would end this democratic republic:  Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor (Jan. 30, 1933), 9/11 the Reichstag fire (Feb. 27, 1933), and the Enabling Act (Mar. 23, 1933).

The era of M (1931) was the era of Heinrich Brüning’s “deflationary” monetary policy as German Chancellor.  I put deflationary in quotation marks because Wikipedia’s current description might better be termed contractionary monetary policy.

As Wikipedia would tell it, Brüning was essentially instating fiscal austerity (that hot-button term of recent times) concomitantly with the aforementioned monetary approach.  This was, of course, the failure which paved the way for Adolf Hitler to take control of Germany.

And so we find that the historian Webster Tarpley is right when he refers to certain modern-day policy makers as austerity “ghouls”.  Either conservative/fascist leaders across the globe have no grasp of history, or they are looking forward with anticipation to the next Hitler or Mussolini.

It should be noted that Tarpley is coming from a socialist perspective rooted in the Democratic Party of FDR.  His opposition, therefore, would likely brand him as liberal/communist and through slippery-slope logic see the policies he espouses as paving the way for the next Stalin or Mao.

And so goes the political circus…ad nauseam.

Returning to film, we must at least consider this situation in Germany.  The country was still paying war reparations from WWI (though this was becoming impossible because of the internal economic woes).

What is perhaps most astonishing is how much Peter Lorre’s character prefigures the Hitler caricature which has come down to us from history.

War-based societies have a compulsion to kill.  Germany found out the hard way that this is not a healthy default.  Sadly, today’s Germany has not checked the most warmongering modern country on Earth (the United States) enough to make any difference.

The United States has, for a long time now, been breathing…seething for a war.  The “masters of war” are all wearing suits.  Only suits want to go to war.  A true warrior does not want war.  Only those who will go unscathed actively invite war.

But there is an insanity in suits.  A compulsion.  Don’t let the suit fool you.  A suit is, for us grown-ups, the equivalent of a piece of candy…or an apple…or a balloon for a child.  A suit advocating war is saying, “Keep your eyes on my suit.  I know best.  Trust in me.  Look at my impressive degree.”

The suits like places such as Raven Rock Mountain.  The suits won’t be on the battlefield.  And don’t let the 10% who actually fought in a war fool you:  they were in non-combat operations.  Their daddies made sure of it.

So keep your eyes open for the M of American cinema.  Who is the next fascist to take the stage?  Hitler had a Charlie Chaplin moustache.  How dangerous could he be?  Trump has a ginger comb-over.  Surely he’s harmless, right?

 

-PD