Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang [2014)

I bet you thought I stopped writing about film, right?

ūüôā

Me too.

Sometimes.

I think…

“Am I still a film critic?”

With all this Trump this and Trump that.

With these tableaux.

This lazy poetry.

But I am back with an actual film.

And it is a masterpiece.

But I don’t know what to call it!!!

It’s a Chinese film.

Sort of.

But not really.

Because it’s by a Brazilian film director.

But not just any Brazilian film director.

Someday I will get around to reviewing one of the best exemplars of¬†na√Įvet√© ever made.

Yes, one of the best FILMS ever made.

Central do Brasil.

Central Station.

A formative episode in my filmic life.

But back to this Chinese film directed by a Brazilian.

I didn’t even get to his name yet ūüôā

Walter Salles!

Yes…two masterpieces are enough to make an auteur!!

But we can’t use the Chinese title here.

For the film.

Under consideration.

Because that would be disingenuous (and we will get to Trump).

[Or we will try.]

{so much…stuff…in the world}

Let’s paint the picture…

Three Gorges…no.

We must wait.

Central Station was a fiction film.

A beautiful masterpiece which stretches even up into the sert√£o.

But¬†Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang¬†is a documentary…about a guy from Fenyang…named Jia Zhangke.

Messrs. Baggini and Fosl (Julian and Peter) would call that a “spectacularly uninformative sentence”.

And Kant, the less-colorful–less-candid “analytic proposition”.

But we hit an impasse.

The film I am reviewing is so little-known (apparently) that it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

Worse, it has a strange, butchered title on iMDB.

There it is called Jia Zhang-ke by Walter Salles.

Hmmm…

I must admit:  it appears some people in marketing over at Kino Lorber are dicking around.

But we press on…

Just who the fuck is Jia Zhangke?  And why should you care about him?

Well, first: ¬†he’s a film director.

And second: ¬†he’s as good as Jean-Luc Godard.

Did I just say that???

Yes.

I just put someone on an equal level with my favorite director of all time.

What’s more, a Chinese guy you’ve probably never heard of.

Of whom.

And what about this Fenyang business?

Well, let’s get out our maps.

First, we must find Shaanxi Province.

Northern China.

The capital is Xi’an.

But we must get to the more obscure.

Fenyang.

Home of our subject auteur:  Jia Zhangke.

So we don’t exactly know the title…here to there…from this platform to the next.

But we will say this.

If you are in the U.S., this film is currently streaming on Netflix under the title Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang.

Or something like that.

This is the confusion of a lack of standardization.

Where’s ISO when you need them…or Zamenhof!

Ok…so why should you watch a 105 minute documentary about a filmmaker of whom you have likely never heard?

Because Walter Salles compels you.

He says, “Watch my story… ¬†Pay attention to this little self-deprecating Chinese man. ¬†He’s a cinematic genius.”

Wouldn’t it be great if all artisans and artists helped each other out in such a way?

A filmmaker, age 57, decides to make a film about another filmmaker, age 46.

Actually, that is quite an honor.

That an older filmmaker would help in the career of the younger one.

So we heartily praise Salles for his mise-en-scène as well as his morals.

But then we hit another impasse.

Because words cannot express the brilliance of Jia Zhangke’s grasp on cinematic language.

And so, why should you watch this film?  I ask again.

Because it gives you an introduction (not dumbed down in any way) to the works of a contemporary film artist who is leading the cinematic medium into this new century.

Likewise, it gives you an introduction to Chinese film at the same time.

These aren’t kung fu flicks (for the most part).

These are art films.

Similar to Breathless

Born of the French New Wave.

But also born of Raj Kapoor.

Indeed, as a young boy…Jia Zhangke remembered an early film which extolled thieves. ¬†And it was this Indian film shown in China. ¬†And the Chinese kids remembered the melismatic melodies for decades…to rip off a shred and a few threads of a melody which bound them as enfants terribles.

Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang is a bit like Cinema Paradiso.

The big director returns home.

And there’s a sadness.

Maybe you can see your childhood home.

And hit the wall one more time.

You can imagine the family bed and the father’s desk was there.

And the books on shelves along here.

So many books.

That there is a sadness of being from Fenyang.

I feel it being from San Antonio.

And Jia Zhangke, all throughout this film, ideates thoughts which have now and then wisped in and out of my dreams.

Jia is very calm.  Thoughtful.  Serene.

A true artist.

And as he talks about the process of creation, I find him to be an exceptionally dedicated artist.

We hear about Xiao Wu (1997).

Pickpocket.  Starring Wang Hongwei.

I mean, this bloke…Wang… ¬†His clothes hang on him in almost a magical way.

He’s a good-for-nothing bum in the Chaplin mold, but still puffing away like Belmondo in¬†Breathless.

But Jia was right.

It’s the gait.

The way Wang Hongwei walks.

Body language.

Brilliant!

And the shots we see of Platform are really moving.

It’s like being from a place like Kiruna, Sweden.

Gotta get there by train.

Up past the Arctic Circle.

And the kids…they don’t have a lot of entertainment.

Maybe even the sight of a train.

But in China…………….far more vast.

These remote places.

Like the Three Gorges area where Jia made Dong and also Still Life.

But the joke’s on me.

Because the whole world knows Jia Zhangke.

The whole world of cinema.

And me, with my insular approach, not so much.

Because Jia won the Palme d’Or in both…wait.

We have the wrong envelope.

Ok…so maybe he’s not that well know.

His films have been screened in competition at Cannes, but no hardware yet.

With the exception of his Golden Lion from Venice.

But none of that matters.

What matters is that he’s making great films.

What matters is that he has the potential to best us all.

This was a very moving film for me.

Because it speaks to the obstacles of life.

Of the unhappiness.

Of the solitude which must be for creations to ferment properly.

To mix metaphors, we need the darkness in which to screen our masterpieces of light.

We cannot screen them in a glass house…at 2:30 p.m.

Finally, this film will give you invaluable insights into the recent history and current state of China.

All the people on Weibo (like Twitter).

The market system which has been kicking ass since the 1990s.

And crucial periods such as 1976-1989.

The restructuring period right after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

WE NOW JOIN PAULY DEATHWISH NEWS NETWORK…IN PROGRESS: “…

Xi Jinping.  His father purged in 1963.  His father jailed in 1968.  Xi was sent without his father to work in Shaanxi Province in 1969.  [The remote province from which film director Jia Zhangke hails.]

This was a time of immense violence in China.  Being purged.  Being jailed.  Being sent to the countryside to work and be re-educated.  All of this was suffused with violence.

So when President Xi got the message from President Trump himself that the U.S. had just launched 60 Tomahawk missiles into Syria minutes earlier, President Xi was met with the shock of surrealism…a perfect steak…beautiful ladies…the glitz and glamour of Mar-a-Lago…and the throat punch of an actual tiger. ¬†No paper.

“Get North Korea in line, and fast!” ¬†Would have been the message.

So that, in these times, to truly appreciate that which is unfolding around us, we need directors like Jia Zhangke.

These are our new philosophers.  Our new poets.

Thinking about social media.

Fooling around with it.

Inventing new artistic forms.

And finding new types of loneliness.

And desperation.

Jia came from a very poor area.

He loved his family very much.

The Chinese don’t like violence.

We Americans don’t like violence.

See this film.

Then get back to me on¬†Dereliction of Duty¬†ūüôā

-PD

Hugo [2011)

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

In this very uncinematic era ruined by technology.

But it takes a genius to produce art from tech.

And it takes an artist to produce art.

Martin Scorsese was well up to the challenge.

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

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

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

Films have tried and generally failed at relative tasks.

City of Ember, for example.

But Scorsese was not deterred.

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

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

The big daddy.  The big papa.

Papa Georges.

But first things first…

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

Butterfield is no Mechanical Turk.

Nay, far from it.

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

And why “Hugo”?

Kid living “underground”? ¬†Victor? ¬†Les¬†Mis√©rables?

Yes, I think so.

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

[Yes, grandson of David O.]

We’re at the Gare Montparnasse.

Torn down in 1969.

Site of this famous 1895 derailment.

train_wreck_at_montparnasse_1895

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

But we press on…

Because Méliès was about dreams.

And Hugo is about dreams.

les rêves

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

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

Something told me Scorsese had transformed himself into Méliès.

It was only later that it all made sense.

Ben Kingsley.

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

But I’m jumping ahead…

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

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

But let’s revisit Sir Kingsley.

What a performance!

The loss of a career (Méliès).

The loss of a previous life.

The fragility of celluloid.

All to end up running a pathetic souvenir shop.

Toys.

Very clever, but still…

Such a fall from grace.

Into such obscurity.

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

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

It was so even a hundred years ago.

And the process has now exponentially accelerated.

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

We are holding tighter to our precious films and recordings.

Because we know that some are lost forever.

Will this vigilance continue uninterrupted?

I doubt it.

But for now we know.

Some of us.

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

Consider Kurt Schwitters.

The Merzbau.

Bombed by the Allies in 1943.

Es ist nicht mehr.

Into thin air.

But such also is the nature of magic.

Poof!

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

Scorsese is a film historian making movies.

And it is a wonderful thing to see.

And hear.

Saint-Sa√ęns’s¬†Danse macabre¬†more than once.

As on a player piano.

With ghost hands.

And the gears of the automaton.

Like the mystery of Conlon Nancarrow’s impossible fugues.

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

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

And Scorsese’s ace in the hole for¬†Hugo is the Satie-rik, placid visage of Chlo√ę Grace Moretz.

Statuesque as water.

A grin.

A dollar word.

The beret.

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

Hugo is the outsider.

Scruffy ruffian.

Meek.  Stealing only enough to survive.  And invent.

But always on the outside looking in.

Below the window (like in Cinema Paradiso).

Ms. Moretz’ world is lit with gas lamps.

And you can almost smell the warm croissants.

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

Assuming you don’t speak English.

Tables are turned.

But Paris draws the cineastes like bees to a hive.

THE hive.

Historically.

And that is just what this is.

History come alive.

But another word about Ms. Moretz.

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

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

The key is in small gestures.

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

It’s symbiotic.

Martin needed Chlo√ę for this picture.

And vice versa.

We get a movie within a movie.

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

Poe is ringing his bell!

Or bells.

“Lost dream” says Wikipedia.

Yes.

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

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

Rendered.

To click the stone of Gare Montparnasse.

In an ever-more-sad procession.

Méliès becomes the vieux saltimbanque of which Baudelaire wrote.

Such is life.

We never expected to end up HERE.

Astounding!

-PD

Trump vs. Clinton, October 19 [2016)

As I write this, the United States is undergoing a soft (so far) coup d’√©tat and, thank God, a countercoup (also soft…so far).

There are no tanks in the streets.  No physical bridges closed.  But the competing coups are very real and in progress at this time.

This might be hard for my international readers to wrap their heads around.

Likewise, my domestic readers (if there are any) are perhaps equally perplexed by the statements I’ve just made.

For different reasons, these two audiences (my dear readers) have probably not heard ANYTHING about this coup.

And yet I am not exercising hyperbole.

You WON’T hear anything about these competing coups in the media of the “new world order” (or, more accurately, the “old world order”).

Nothing on the BBC.  Nothing from AFP.  Maybe (maybe) something from Russian or Chinese or Iranian sources.  Maybe something from North Korea.

As for the US, there is a complete blackout on all the major channels of media communication concerning this digital coup taking place.

WikiLeaks is very much a part of it.  But even more so, it is the globalist Clinton cabal against a very brave movement seemingly spearheaded by US military intelligence.

I cannot claim to understand exactly what is going on.

But Hillary Clinton is being warned by the US intelligence community and US military to stand down.

Meaning, she has been warned publicly that the game is up.

The main spokesman of the countercoup has been the extremely brave and wise Dr. Steve Pieczenik.

And so, dear readers, you might be able (from this) to fathom just why I have decided to write once again on this Presidential election.

There are no more debates.

The third and final one.

In what is turning out to be an American revolution.

While moderator Chris Wallace was not perfect (he grilled Trump just as the transparently partisan previous moderators had), he did a generally passable job here.

Hillary got the first question.

Clinton:¬† “You know, I think when we talk about the Supreme Court, it really raises the central issue in this election.”

Translation:¬† “I know you don’t like me (and that includes my ‘voters’), but just remember that without me you won’t get to have abortions any more.¬† AND…you won’t have someone to take the guns away from the rednecks.¬† So vote for me, even though you hate me.¬† Thank you.”

Clinton:¬† “And I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people. Not on the side of the powerful corporations and the wealthy.”

Hahahahaha….ahhhhhhh…this lady cracks me up!¬† The hubris!!!

Hillary then speaks of “dark, unaccountable money”:¬† something on which she’s an expert.

And that, my friends, is at the heart of the countercoup.

As I write, Hillary Clinton is under so much investigation by the FBI (including the Clinton Foundation) it’s not even funny.

Hillary punctuates her sermon with “That’s how I see the court.,” but there might be another court she’ll be seeing very soon (one which is trying HER).

Hillary’s self-righteous proclamation of “standing up to the powerful” is absolute bollocks.

She continues, “I would hope that the Senate would do its job…”.

This lady is one to talk!¬† Look at the “job” SHE did as Secretary of State!!!

Unbelievable that her Janus routine is so seemingly effortless.

Hillary says that the Senate’s job is to, “…confirm the nominee that President Obama has sent to them.”¬† Actually, that’s one of two options…of “doing their job”.¬† And by not even getting to that fork in the decision tree, the Senate is saying (regarding Obama’s nominee), “Hell no!”.

But in Hillary’s world, peons like the Senate just “confirm”.¬† They don’t question.¬† They just take orders.

Well, not for long…Hillary.

Trump:¬† “Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people.”

Yes, we all hope Ruth Bader quits.  It would only be fair, seeing as how Scalia was most likely whacked down on the Texas border.

Hillary almost breaks into fake Southern drawl when she feigns respect for the Second Amendment:¬† “I lived in Arkansas for 18 wonderful years.”

And I’m sure she hated every minute of it.¬† Such a boring task being a social climber in a backwoods like Arkansas!

But, you see, Hillary has been waiting for this her whole life.¬† And that’s why she is refusing to stand down (so far) as the US intelligence community has requested (John Brennan notwithstanding).

Hillary:¬† “But there is no doubt that I respect the second amendment.”

No, in fact there are VERY BIG doubts that you do.

But how do we know that Hillary is fake?

Because she can’t even come up with her own words.

As she apes Obama (“common sense regulation”), we know which side of the fence she sits on.

She is all about confiscating firearms BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY (like the fake Sandy Hook “shooting”).

Hillary:¬† “And you know, look. I understand that Donald has been strongly supported by the NRA, the gun lobby is on his side. They’re running millions of dollars of ads against me…”

Nice try…complaining that your overwhelming advantage in corporate donations (and the related, overwhelming ratio of Clinton to Trump ads) has not been enough.

Hillary:¬† “…and I regret that”.

The only thing she regrets is that Robby “Take The Money” Mook couldn’t convince the NRA that Hillary was pro-gun.¬† And not even a shyster like David Plouffe could have convinced them of that!

Trump:¬† “And I don’t know if Hillary was saying it in a sarcastic manner but I’m very proud to have the endorsement of the NRA and it was the earliest endorsement they’ve ever given to anybody who ran for president.”

Sarcastic.  Facetious.  Disingenuous.

Indeed, every Hillary statement is something other than what it seems.

Every word out of her mouth is a false flag.

Hillary Clinton refers to abortion as “health care”.

I shit you not!

Hillary:¬† “So many states are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice…”

Oh boo hoo hoo!

Hillary again resorts to euphemism in calling euthanasia (death, murder…), “healthcare decisions.”

This is a pretty sick, diabolical woman.

Hillary:¬† “We have come too far to have that turn back now.”

There have, even by CDC statistics, been 52 million (million!) abortions in the United States…since just 1970.

Let me put that in perspective.  If North Korea nuked South Korea tomorrow and killed EVERY SINGLE South Korean, there would by 50 million dead South Koreans.

Are you beginning to get the magnitude of the drive-thru nature of US abortion?

Clinton:¬† “The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make.”

Or, for Hillary, joyful.

Clinton:¬† “I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”

So Hillary is all for the freedom of mothers to murder babies, but she’s up in arms (no pun intended) when the safety of “toddlers” is endangered by firearms.

Right.  Makes perfect sense.

In other words, the government would be taking firearms to protect “toddlers” (District of Colombia v. Heller), but the government shouldn’t dare interfere with the murder of unborn children.

Got it?

Just wanna make sure we’re clear on Madame Secretary.

Trump scored his first credulity points merely by tone of voice (and amplified by ethical position) when he intoned, “…but it’s not okay with me.”

Exactly.  Hillary Clinton wants to globalize death.  She wants to export it in the form of war.  She wants to import it in the form of mass immigration.  And, not least, she wants the citizenry unarmed so that she and her pals like George Soros can more efficiently exterminate any lowly Americans who disagree with her governance.

Trump:¬† “And that’s not acceptable.”

Thank you, Mr. Trump.

When Trump describes late-term abortions in some detail, Hilary retorts that his descriptions are “scare rhetoric.”

Right…¬† Get an abortion.¬† Everybody’s doing it.¬† And get a new pair of sunglasses.¬† Accessorize your abortion.¬† Make it festive.

Hillary:¬† “You should meet with some of the women I’ve met with. Women I’ve known over the course of my life.”

You mean like Saudi spy Huma Abedin?¬† Or do you, more accurately, mean “girls”?¬† How does Jeffrey Epstein figure into your respect for women?¬† Because you and Bill know him quite well…and Jeffrey (the sex offender) Epstein likes ’em YOUNG!¬† [And, as has been established beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hillary prefers females to males (as far as arousal goes).]

But Hillary reframes…like the slimy lawyer she is:¬† “…choices that any woman and her family has to make.”

Oh.¬† So it’s not a woman’s right to choose?¬† It’s a family’s right to choose?¬† So the decision is equally incumbent upon the man’s consent?¬† Or is he just supposed to “confirm” like your dream Senate?

Hillary:¬† “You know, I’ve had the great honor of traveling across the world on behalf of our country.”

She came.  She saw.  He died.

Yes, Hillary Clinton actually said (not in this debate), “I came.¬† I saw.¬† He died” in reference to Libya and Gaddafi.¬† After “died”, she let out a little gleeful laugh.

I wonder if that same laugh greeted the news that Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans died in Libya on account of Hillary?  I wonder if she even cared enough to laugh?

Probably not.¬† Because killing Gaddafi was an accomplishment (for her).¬† Something to put on her r√©sum√©…always social climbing…always for this moment…as Princess of America…so close…

I will give Hillary credit.¬† At least she’s conversant with natalist Romania (probably because of the insidious (artful!) propaganda of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days).

Hillary:¬† “…decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith.”

Which “faiths” condone abortion?¬† I know not all are as strict as Catholicism (at least until Pope Francis ruins the religion), but there aren’t any “faiths” coming to mind that would be in “accord” with abortion.¬† Perhaps my religious scholarship is lacking.

Trump isn’t drooling out the same globalist shit.

Donald:¬† “We have no country if we have no border.”

Are you seeing why this guy is winning?  NO ONE has EVER said that at the highest levels of US government.  People here have NEVER had a choice to vote for someone so opposed to the globalist grand design.

But Trump isn’t just taking on the suit-and-tie gangsters like David Rockefeller and George Soros. Like a goddamned Eliot Ness, he’s taking on the “bad hombres”:¬† the drug lords.

This man has huge, brass testicles to go down this path.

And we love him for it!

Clinton:¬† “…I was thinking about a young girl I met here in Las Vegas…”

I BET YOU WERE!

Hillary only dislikes scare tactics WHEN SHE’S NOT USING THEM!

Listen to her frame deportation of illegal immigrants in Auschwitz terms:

“every undocumented person would be subject to deportation. Here’s what that means. It means you would have to have a massive law enforcement presence where law enforcement officers would be going school to school, home to home, business to business. Rounding up people who are undocumented. And we would then have to put them on trains…”

Maybe Soros recounted his remorseless collusion with the Nazis.¬† Maybe they shared a laugh.¬† Maybe the metteur en sc√®ne Steven Spielberg “authored” the above paragraph.

But it’s not working.¬† The propaganda.¬† The social engineering.

But Hillary dug her own grave.

Trump could kick back and watch her self-destruct.

Wallace: “Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank for which you were paid $225,000, we’ve learned from Wikileaks, that you said this. And I want to quote. ‘My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.’‚ÄĚ

Trump:¬† “Thank you.”

Clinton: “If you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy.”

Of which you have none left.

The game is over.

Your goose is cooked.

No more bald-faced lies about “energy” (the borders would only be open for energy…yeah right), Abraham Lincoln (her “public” and “private” positions doctrine…which she claims to have taken from Honest Abe [you can’t make this shit up]…by way of a Spielberg movie [I knew he had to be involved, somehow…that hack!]), etc.

Hillary Clinton called one of our ostensibly greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln (aka Honest Abe), a liar on national television.

This woman!¬† Like the pot calling the stovepipe hat black…

The game’s up Hillary.

Time to stand down.

Or, in legal language (which you might be hearing an awful lot of in the coming months), cease and desist.

-PD

La B√™te Humaine [1938)

This might be the most depressing film of all time.

And that’s not nothing.

I seem to remember.  Thurston Moore.

A Rolling Stone review of Lou Reed’s album Berlin.

The fucked-up kids will always search out these masterpieces.

Because they are forbidden.

Like the strange death of James Forrestal.

The first U.S. Secretary of Defense.

But let’s back to cinema.¬† [sic]

Let’s active.

Trains.

I often dream of trains.

Such an important part of my lineage.

Whether there were drunkards or not, I have no idea.

But train men there were many in my family.

Enough.

We think it’s gonna be like La Roue of Abel Gance.

That 273-minute behemoth.

But it’s only the trappings which match.

Perhaps, dear reader, you are more perceptive than I.

But I couldn’t have seen this ending coming in a million years.

Like the Maginot Line being overrun.

This was 1938.  Jean Renoir.

Madness.  Madness.

On the precipice of World War II.

Not history.

But present.

It must be ever present.

We must be terrified of history.

And to each of us is given a special area to study.

I long labored in the musical mines.  Studying birdsongs.

But one day I escaped my cage.

And I lived to see the blowout.

Jericho, Kentucky.

But now I am given over to film.

Because I am too old to be a rock star.

“My face is finished/My body’s gone”

It would be a miracle of spectacle for me to be relevant again in the most venal of concert halls.

And so we move on to opera.  Silent film.  Quail eggs.

Madness vs. madness.

When magazine was a store.

And journal was a newspaper.

When was that?

The false-friends attack of language.  Cognates.  Faux.

Gripping his steam engine.  A night without sleep.

La Bête Humaine.  The human beast.  Monster.

Fighting it.  Fighting it.

The banality of evil had already suffused Europe by 1938.

And so we live with a corpse throughout most of this film.

Pocket watch.  Wallet full of dough.

But Simone Simon is already flirting her way to destiny.

Der m√ľde Tod.

Femme fatale.  Serial.  Concatenation of sickly sweet roles.

Roles.

Jean Gabin.

Here’s to you, my friend!

And Julien Carette.  Always sucking on that cigarette.

We begin to covet the boring comfort of his life.

Living from one cigarette to the next.

Vive le tabac!

Piss-poor English Wikipedia will not tell you that Monsieur Carette was an integral part of Renoir’s masterpiece La R√®gle du jeu.¬† Not, that is, if you are looking at his page.

And so, dear reader, I am here to make those connections for you.

Perhaps they will mean nothing.

Perhaps they will mean everything.

Let me just say this…

La Bête Humaine was an extremely brave film to make in 1938.

More Hitchcock than anything Hitch had made up till that point.

Ahead of its time, yes.

But most particularly…symptomatic of that age of anxiety.

 

-PD

 

Viskningar och rop [1972)

Cris et Chuchotements.

…et Chuchotements.

This horribly powerful film.

No light reading.

From the lips.

Fumbling big-hand thoughts.

Like Brice Parain said, inseparable from language.

We can see this fount at which Godard drank.

We can see the borrowing of von Trier.

We can see the fealty of Wes Anderson.

It is Cries and Whispers of Ingmar Bergman.

Tired, aging Bergman.

Clear as a bell.

Static shots which must be achieved through moving pictures.

Just stop moving for a moment.

And be quiet.

That microphone.

Just out of sight.

No B-movie swoop-downs.

But absolute perfection throughout.

And yet the message is dark.

No hope.

Cathartic, maybe.

Always fade to red.

And reemerge through the color spectrum.

Yellow to white light.

Four women.

Three sisters and a zaftig maid.

Someone’s crying Lord…

Come by here.  In a dream.  See their lips move.

We should love the coquette.  The redhead.  Liv Ullmann.

She should dominate us like a Renoir painting.

A madder rose cinema has known not.

But is she not a fake, Maria?

Is she not just a color palette towards which we gravitate?

What worth in the façade when the heart is empty?

It had been a long time since Summer with Monika, but Harriet Andersson was here.

And yet, it is Liv Ullmann who gets the plastic surgeon insults of the doctor (Erland Josephson).

But Harriet Andersson has enough grief with which to deal.

No no, I have gotten mixed up with all these actresses of Bergman.¬† And don’t even mention Ingrid!

We will come back to poor, sweet Harriet.

But we must first deal with the witch:  Ingrid Thulin.

What kind of misery makes such a witch?

A tissue of lies (reads the subtitles).

I believe Thierry Meyssan had to deal with such proclamations (though I read them in translation).

What kind of lies here, though…specifically?

Loveless marriage.

Probably even more empty than simply.

Loveless.

No creative punctuation.  No flirtatious commas or semicolons.

But simply poetry written like a telegraph dispatch.

Full stop.

Desperate.

Depression unto madness.  That is Ingrid Thulin here as Karin.

But then we must come back to our sickness.

A true physical ailment.

A patient.

Bedridden.

Patience.

It is Agnes.  Painful.  Wheezing.  Horrible.  Ghastly.

A high-water mark of art films.

Top that, motherfucker.

Jerry Lee to Chuck Berry.  Worse than an expletive.

But what brings this whole film together?  Who holds this house against her bosom?

It is none other than Kari Sylwan.

Yes, there are no important male characters within.

Georg √Örlin chews his fish like someone in the diplomatic service should.

And expects “a little consensual rape in the evening” (to quote the Nick Cave of Grinderman).

But such petty existence boils the madness.

The glass.

Shards of light.

Smeared with lunacy.

Against all this is Kari Sylwan as Anna.

The maid.

The help.

Priceless.

Humanist.

A believer.  As the sick believed more than the priest.

No real important male characters here.

But Anders Ek is the voice of reason.  The voice of poetry.  For a moment.  Touching.

Don’t touch me.

Don’t touch me.

Such damage in the world.

And Anna bears it all.

The only true hero.

Meek.

Equally tormented.

But strong.

Annas make the world go round.  Deliver the medicine.  Keep the world from splitting open.  Make sure the trains are on time.  Hugs.

The history of cinema is littered with sad brilliance.

Strewn with fictional corpses.

Troubled directors trying to come to terms with their own fears of death.

And in the end, such creations loom large because they closest resemble the art of the ancient world and the itch of the Renaissance.

Storm on!  And write all night long!!

Someone has stolen my beard, but my mustache is plenty weird.

We shall live to see Nietzsche bitch-slap Hitler.

And Tarantino will again work at a video store.  Where he belongs.  A very able clerk.  Like me.

 

-PD

OstŇôe sledovan√© vlaky [1966)

There is no precursor for this delicious film.

Closely watched trains…

There is no warning.¬† No real foreshadowing of what awaits MiloŇ° 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, JiŇô√≠ 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.¬† OstŇôe sledovan√© 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 MiloŇ° 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 V√°clav Neck√°Ňô’s character MiloŇ°.

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 MiloŇ° and M√°Ň°a 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 JiŇô√≠ 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 NańŹa Urb√°nkov√°.

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

Pierrot le Fou [1965)

Here.¬† Ici.¬† Godard=Picasso=Joyce.¬† It may start with an √Člie Faure quote concerning Vel√°zquez, but that is just to set the stage for this ball of colored glass which goes beyond cinema.¬† The politics come on stronger, but they are like that strangely succinct Butthole Surfers lyric about not giving a fuck about the FBI…or the CIA.

You must only dial M.¬† Two murders by scissor.¬† Furthermore, the only way to catch a thief might be in his fireworks.¬† The tears of a clown…Clyde and his Bonnie…I can’t even keep track of their casual carnage.¬† Two?¬† 3?¬† One thing is for sure:¬† the excitement of Breathless returns…along with the high school musical version of Broadway…in a bare apartment…a girl and a shitload of guns.¬† That’s all you need for this film.¬† And a car.¬† The spirit of Gene Kelly emerges later to spiff up the surreal song moments.

Pierrot doesn’t drive off a cliff.¬† But he drives right into the sea.¬† Yes, books were Pierrot’s downfall.¬† He’s never gonna get that job at Standard Oil.¬† Especially since he skipped town with a smokin’-hot murderer.¬† Drive all night.¬† Fuck it!¬† I’m so sick of everyone.¬† I just want to do what I want.¬† You know, just get in your car and start driving.¬† Find a town somewhere and start a whole new life.

Enid Coleslaw would doubtless have a certain simpatico with our lovers Marianne and Ferdinand (Pierrot [Belmondo]).¬† But this paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.¬† A parrot, a fox, sure…but eating out of tin cans…Marianne, like Groucho Marx, wants some hot-cha-cha!¬† And so the dance hall in town.¬† It could be L’Atalante.¬† It could be Casque d’Or.¬† Why are the police not here yet?¬† Because they like to let people destroy themselves.¬† Victor Hugo meets Dostoyevsky.

More torture √† la Le Petit Soldat.¬† Use the whore’s dress.¬† Polyester.¬† An especially nasty asphyxiation.¬† And so Ferdinand ends up back in the bathtub…where he started.¬† Instead of reading the history of modern art to his daughter, he has just outed his lover.¬† What a terrible 5:00 pm.¬† What a terrible 5:00 pm.¬† What a terrible 5:00 pm.

Maybe I will just let the train pulverize me.  Why is it always damsels in distress?  Damoiseau?

Ah, but it all makes so much sense in the end.¬† Raymond Devos sums it up.¬† That tune that’s always been playing.¬† It is our comedic, pathetic love life.¬† Yes, she betrayed us.¬† And so he fails to not commit suicide.

A failed failure is a success.¬† I’ve always had trouble spelling that word.¬† I blame Bob Dylan.¬† There is no k in success.¬† And though I long embraced suckcess, I now remove the k and a c comes with it.¬† Sucess.¬† I have unsuccessfully spelled success.¬† As a graduate student.¬† In business.

Ah, but it’s really no use.¬† One must stay optimistic.¬† Realistic.¬† Let’s face it:¬† the chances are slim.¬† It takes a lot to laugh.¬† Hear that lonesome whistle blow.¬† Maybe tomorrow Bob Dylan.¬† Suckcess in all its glory.

-PD