Fargo [1996)

America is getting crazy.

Perhaps we’ve always been crazy.

But it seems like people are flipping out for a multitude of reasons.

Life is unpredictable.

We can only plan so much.

And then random events impress themselves upon us.

In America we had pre-election stress.

Very immense.

And now we have post-election stress.

Perhaps one half of the country was more stressed before, and the other half is more stressed now.

But the side which is stressed now (the losing side) is really pissed off.

And they are baiting.  With night crawlers.

And racing.  With illogic.

It’s a sort of contagion one must be removed from often in order just to survive.

This tension, as it turns out, is aptly symbolized by the film Fargo.

I have never reviewed a Coen brothers film on here till now.

And this is a good one.

I hesitate to call it great.

It’s a little too self-conscious to be great.

But it is a compelling watch nonetheless.

Our director is Joel Coen.  Ethan was producing.

1987.

A tangled web woven by a rather mundane fellow named Jerry Lundegaard.

Up in the Scandinavian north of the USA.

A piece of shit towing a piece of shit.

Fargo, North Dakota.

It’s a sad story.

But funny in its idiosyncrasies.

The everyday life of the Dakotas.

Minnesota.  Iota.

It’s edgy.

Murders.

But in steps the marvelous Frances McDormand.

Such a humanizing presence here.

To draw out “funny-looking”…just “funny-looking”…other than being uncircumcised?

Steve Park is excellent as Mike Yanagita…with a Minnesota accent.

We don’t think of these things as possible.

Down here in Texas.

Like getting cut shaving.

Ouch.

And then a Paul Bunyan axe.

But the bizarre calmness of William H. Macy might take the cake.

Calm until the very end.

Perhaps we would call it bourgeois denial.

And so perhaps panic is natural.

When we see a complete lack of panic replaced by the Nile.

“Funny-looking” comes back.

In several feet of snow.

It might get cold tomorrow (!)…front blowing in.

One socked foot.  Like a periscope.

The sweetest thing is the romance between McDormand and John Carroll Lynch.

At the buffet.  Smorgasbord.  The Swedish meatballs.  Watching TV in bed.

Every night.

And waking up together, every morning.

It is quaint.

It is America.

It is the electoral college.

You have 50 states to which you must appeal.  Convincingly.

Buscemi is pretty priceless.

Foulmouthed small-time criminal…in over his head pretty quick.

Peter Stormare, as it turns out, is actually Swedish.

And taciturn.

And of course we can’t forget the brief candles of José Feliciano.

Not a masterpiece, but strangely compelling.

 

-PD

Každý den odvahu [1964)

I took a long time off.

Because the brain is delicate.

I have crammed so many facts into my noggin.

That a release valve was needed.

The escape of television.

Which is to say, I’m no better than anyone else.

In some ways, I’m no different.

And this film proves the point.

Courage for Every Day.

Goes nowhere.

Except to the sublime.

But you must work at it.

You just haven’t earned it yet, baby.

Maybe.

It’s not buddy holly.

But it bops along with capitalist incursion.

This isn’t Evald Schorm’s best work, but it showed his range.

For a first film, it’s damned good.

But it’s slow.

Not like slow cinema.

More like plodding.

Plotting clumsy Ulysses.

When all I ever want is Finnegans Wake.

Former makes too much sense.

For a first FICTION film.

Largely failure for first 50%.

And then the sublime emerges.

We’re not on TV anymore.

We’re in the realm of cinema.

And it’s a huge difference.

Time…to stretch out.

In which.

A bunch of boring communist functionaries.

Up against the magic of the feral masses.  Untamed.

Uneducated.  But free, almost.  Maybe.

Jana Brejchová just like Beth Behrs.

But there is heartbreak.

When she says, “Work it out for yourself.”

Something like that.

Human being lawnmower.

Morphs into Czech Breathless.  Existential vacuum of Antonioni.

He can’t be a normal person.

Because of the cause.

All causes are insane.

Including mine.

The cause…

Not to be confused with causal mechanism.

To be an idealist.  Circumspect.

There is no life outside commerce.  In the West.

We have lost.

But a sudden ray of hope…

Only defense against desperation.

Here I sit, over my Underwood.

Go talk to him…

He loves you.

Cook it and kill it!

Or vice versa.

At such a time that pulling rabbit from hat becomes the ultimate embarrassment.

Because ridicule has been wedged.

We are back to real films (if not standard criticism).

Can only be discussed in its own terms.

Every time.

Ekphrasis 24/7.  8 day s week.

Rachel Corrie is my inspiration.

As said Giles Corey:  “More weight!”

 

Twin Peaks “Slaves and Masters” [1991)

Twin Peaks was becoming really laborious by this point.

[I’m sure you know the feeling]

But it can’t really be blamed on Diane Keaton.

The director here.

Of this episode.

It’s true.

It’s as if the series knew it was not going to be extended.

But Keaton’s directing is alright.

Sure, there’s plenty of bathos.

But the story really became ludicrous.

In fact, very little was working by this point.

All of the storylines sucked.

Josie (bleh).

Windom Earle (really unnecessary).

David Warner (Eckhardt) [Rupert Murdoch].

Nadine.

For fuck’s sake.

At least Robert E. Lee was entertaining.

And so the greatest TV series in history was spinning itself out.

Somehow, some greedy bastards had disrupted the flow.

That much is obvious.

ABC gaveth, and ABC taketh away.

Mr. Tojamura was a short-lived recovery.

Can Twin Peaks turn it around in its final weeks?

We shall see.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “Lonely Souls” [1990)

Holy shit.

New shoes.

New shoes.

That this ever made it on TV.

Good lord.

Goddamned genius!

The Pepsi/Coke challenge.

It was indeed David Lynch who directed this episode.

The scariest moment in American TV history.

Eclipsed.

Because the owls are not what they seem.

Truly possession.

It…would be a lot easier not to give a shit.

And so this isn’t a paranoid statement.

THe owls.  Everyman.  Conspiring for truth.

Histoire(s).

That the French gave the world film criticism.

But Hollywood provided Hitchcock with just the right concoction.

An unknown drug.

In my corner, I am meaningless.

So that we must know the giant.

Maybe the evil of the Bilderberg Hotel.

Carel Struycken.

But really the eveil of which we all know we are capable.

How’s that?

It is the family of man.

We learn from every source.

The genius of James Joyce.  Blind prematurely.  Scribbling.

What Beethoven called it.  The “late” quartets.

Not his own program.

Scratching.  Fiddling.  John Carson.

Looks like a “D” this time.

And should we be surprised?

It is the cosmology of drama.

No creators dared.

Till David Lynch and Mark Frost.

But Lynch proves who the real killer is.

Power center.

Category killer.

Television which shames cinema.

Never been scared reading a film review?

Think TV is pap?

I did too.  Never.

It means much more that I don’t give you the words easily.

What would be the healthy thing?

Harmony.  Community.

But we live in perpetual hell.

And so Baudelaire takes his place among urban poets.

Muck of milkshake.

If…we know the secret to illusion.

Then we are not as scared.

But the real thing is positively chilling.

Effect.

Several messes.

Remember Finnegan serialized.

Histoire(s) televised.

I am but a lonesome hobo.

Luke the drifter.

But we want our entertainment to contain everything.

And Hitchcock achieved it first.  And best.

Set limitless parameters.

So that Lynch could step in.

Nature morte.

Exquisite corpse.

The song doesn’t exist.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “Laura’s Secret Diary” [1990)

There is an old chestnut of narrative theory…nay, more homespun wisdom…

The phrase “losing the plot”.

It can mean going crazy.

Perhaps that is its primary meaning.

But a very interesting thing happens when one applies the saying literally.

I sense that Twin Peaks was losing the plot around this time.

If you are alerted to such, you will know that the viewership for this show was declining around this time…a few episodes into the second (and final) season [not counting the reboot due soonish].

And it’s easy to see:  Season Two started with a bang (eclipsing the previous season’s finale).

Season 2, Episode 1:  19.1 million viewers.

S2, E2:  14.4

S2, E3:  13.7

And Season 2, Episode 4 (that which is under consideration):  12.8

“Tanking” might be a good word for it.

You might also remember (from a cursory search) that some “higher-ups” (ABC?) wanted the great mystery of the show wrapped up or resolved sooner than the show’s authors had wanted it revealed.

No episode during Season One had a viewership lower that 15.6 million.

But barring the bang of Season Two’s opener, the market dropped considerably (and precipitously) for Twin Peaks.

Looking ahead, I can tell you that things got worse before they got better.

Interest continued to wane for several more weeks.

And despite a brief “last stand”, the series’ “numbers” were of a show just creeping across the finish line.  [Comparatively speaking.]

This is the thinking of Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer).

The big pick-up from West Side Story (1961).

But let’s back to this whole authorship thing.

What was David Lynch’s big contribution here?

He cowrote the first three episodes of Season One (with Mark Frost).

From an initial audience of 34.6 million viewers, the count declined to 23.2 and 19.2 in the corresponding weeks (respectively).

Of those same episodes, Lynch directed #s 1 and 3.

Season Two, Episode 1 (facts courtesy of Wikipedia) sees a new distinction in writing between “story” (by Lynch and Frost) and “teleplay” (by Frost alone).

Barring that initial episode of season two, Lynch has no more writing credits up to this point in the series.

Mr. Lynch did, however, direct episodes 1 and 2 of Season 2.

Quantitatively, this seems to indicate that David Lynch was 1.75-out-of-12 responsible for the show’s writing (so far) and 4-out-of-12 responsible for the direction.  That’s 14.6% of the writing and 33.3% of the direction.  Out of a 200% pie, normalled to 100…

That’s 24%.

Even auteur theory would credit Lynch with only 33% authorship of this series.

Granted, these numbers are for Lynch’s reputed contribution.  They are a snapshot of a moment in time.

In total, the original series (of 29 episodes) would include a mere six directed by David Lynch.

That’s an auteur theory contribution number of 20.7%.

Strangely, (barring the first episode of Season Two) David Lynch would not again be credited explicitly with any writing credit whatsoever.  Which means 1.75-out-of-29.

6% + 20.7% of a more holistic authorship pie (200%) would leave Lynch at:

about 13.4%.

All of this is to say that auteur theory is more kind to David Lynch with respect to Twin Peaks. 

And this episode is so utterly mundane that this was the best review I could manage.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “The Man Behind Glass” [1990)

I’m guessing this episode might best be chalked up to studio interference.

We’ve seen it before.

Take the James Bond film Spectre.

One can feel the executive sabotage.

But here is a little different.

From a quick glance.

ABC (presumably) wanted Lynch and Co. to move things along.

Enough with this suspense.

Or perhaps that was yet to come.

Perhaps this episode is like recitative in opera.

It has to be there (upon a time), but we kinda want it to be over.

We want the arias.  The choruses.

There’s no Maria Callas disc of “best-loved recitatives”.

[Recitativi?]

Yes. sì.

Here we run into a sort of auteur theory for stories.

Or perhaps we are running into auteur theory in its purest form.

If we assume the brilliance of David Lynch (and Mark Frost), then we will blame Lesli Linka Glatter for daft direction here.

But we have previously praised Ms. Glatter.  She has the chops.

So what was the problem with this episode?

Did the material (Lynch and Frost) save Glatter’s direction?

[Did Glatter’s direction ruin Lynch and Frost’s writing?]

Or did Glatter save a mediocre piece of writing by Lynch and Frost?

That’s the problem of episodes.

Chunks.

TV is inherently cubist.

And stories are not conceived with interpolated commercial breaks.

That’s why the stories suffer.

On TV.

The medium is faulty.

The medium gives very little respect for the creations it airs.

But hey:  at least the message is getting out there!

McLuhan would point out that the orientation of space and time determines to the largest extent how we interpret television shows.

[Which is to say, “…the medium is the message.”]

I would have to agree.

And so we are left hanging.

Perhaps for the first time.

Usually we are looking forward to the next episode.

But this time we’re just annoyed.

Because the episode is not a self-contained satisfying unit of entertainment.

Not this time.

You win some, you lose some.

We still love the story.  And the characters.

But we could have done without some of the clumsy fluff.

That was, by the way, my initial concept.

For my website.

A descriptive coup.

Clumsy fluff.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “Cooper’s Dreams” [1990)

Television doesn’t get any better than this.

We all want to be Sherlock Holmes.

We all want to be James Bond.

The analytical in the United States might gravitate towards the FBI.

And the adventurous towards the CIA.

And why would a director of the stature of David Lynch (a true auteur) ever lower himself to doing TV?

Money.

The film studios won’t support a crackpot genius.

Because his whims will be their asses (come annual board meeting time).

And so film’s loss is TV’s gain.

Television is the most disposable medium of all.

It’s like air.  Constantly flowing.  Into every stop on this highline hell.

There are precedents.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents is the direct ancestor.

But the greatest film of all time was made for TV.

And so we must give credit to Canal+, France 3, the late La Sept, and the late Télévision Suisse Romande.  You see what supporting genius gets you.  You might just cease to exist!

But La Sept and Télévision Suisse Romande never did anything more important and timeless than supporting Histoire(s) du cinema.

Perhaps we could count Gaumont as a television player (they deserve thanks regardless).

Likewise, there was the French CNC.

What the fuck does any of this have to do with Twin Peaks?

It’s the red drapes.  The big rig.  The details.

The myna bird.  The poker chip.  The cuckoo clock.

Birds in general.

[meant in all possible ways]

Two eyelids?  Per side?  Red light was my baby?  Blue light was my mind?

BBC 1?  BBC 2?

Television can’t possibly get any better than this.

Episode 5.  Season 1.

We talk about David Lynch.

And we should.

He’s the big gun.

But we don’t mention Mark Frost.

Genius needs organization.

Who’s who?

And who reeled it in (fishy coffee)?

A:  Lesli Linka Glatter.

Director.

We’re all Icelanders.

“Ich bin ein Berliner.”  [with Addison’s disease]

And just as he reaches for the jelly donut (lots of donuts [my favorite])…no, a strudel.  No.  A sort of maple syrup concoction.  Brisk?  Bisque?  Bris?

Long John!  [I was way off]

Just as he reaches…no-look…opening the cabinet…a little secret altar…all with secret places…false bottoms (and real fronts).-

We see the joy of mental activity.

Of solving a puzzle.

Of feeling the brain cells (all two in my case) rub up against one another.

Many problems we have.

This would be a good point to end.  Poorly.

Ms. Glatter’s fine direction brings authorship (in the auteurist sense) into question.

Was Lynch too busy?

Was he deemed unqualified for network work?  Work.

I can’t answer all that.

Not right now.

Gather and interpret.

Orlando looks as fake as a three-dollar bill.

reality erupts within the spectacle

“and the spectacle is real”

There’s more than one way to pretend to skin a cat.

And the same venal studio system.  The same generally repugnant mass media.

Which pipes digital air (pollution) into your home.

Only needs to be controlled at the choke points.

Yale.  Princeton.  You know.

Like the Strait of Malacca.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “The One-Armed Man”[1990)

Sometimes we spend more time searching for what to watch than

watching that upon which we decide.

It’s an old phenomenon.

“57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” Bruce Springsteen was singing in 1982.

And so by the confluence of circumstances these days

I am bringing you more musings on the greatest TV series ever.

I think it’s safe to say.

I’ve approached a few other television programs.

TV is not my natural interest.

The medium tends towards the antithesis of my love.

For cinema.

So I sat down.  More or less.

I rummaged a bit.  Upon the Hulu trash heap.

No deep cuts tonight.

Straight to a standby.

Because now Orlando has a special agent in charge.

A government operation always has the killer wrapped up by midday.

With a bow around him.

And his wallet on his chest…open to show his photo ID.

I’m assuming.

None of that proves anything.

Either way.

What’s at issue is a trend.  A government which operates as a serial killer.

For the sake of survival we avoid (at all costs) the news outlets which have led us so far astray in the past.

These unrepentant charlatans continue their mockingbird mimesis.

I’ve seen good Americans question because something is not quite right.

Not much has moved along.

Same old song and dance.

The essence of code.

To be talking about two things at once.

Key would reveal what those two things are.

[Making code-breaking possible.]

Cipher and code.

A long-term project.

Professionals.

Acting honorably.

Priceless propaganda.

The real story…

is not pretty.

America wants the truth.

From Rosser Reeves (hard sell) to soft sell to no-sell.

That is the future.

Anti-marketing.

Perception management will be a reservist function.

There will be no marketing of ideas.

Until that time (a goal, not a calendar date), closer and closer to brute truth.

That the greatest crime would be for a federal employee to leads his or her countrymen astray.

That such activity should cease cold turkey and news anchors be caught like deer in headlights before blank Tele-Promp-Ters.

No directly line from Langley, no news.

A very valuable oversimplification.

And we have the honorable men and women in the FBI who come through Quantico.

The LGBT culmination will feature a J. Edgar Hoover auto-icon (à la Jeremy Bentham) dressed in drag.

And the message will be clear:  no more obfuscation.

That at least one agency (the FBI) has a vested interest in bringing criminal elements within the CIA and DoD to justice.

This is the only route which saves the FBI.

The same for every agency.  The U.S. government (across the board) has zero credibility (at home and abroad).

It can work.

Who will be the first to rebuild the country?

Comey?  He shares the same birthday with me.

But it might take a madman like Trump to throw the moneychangers out of the temple.

[poor choice of metaphor…on several levels]

Trump still thinks it’s Islamic terror.  Trump needs to visit a decent bookstore.

Get some books which the State Dept. calls disinformation (those are the good ones) and go to work.

Get the country back on track.

9/11 makes sense only as a largely inside job.

The assets or operatives employed may have left trails to incriminate (blackmail) future targets (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.).

Their domestic movements were picked up by Able Danger.

Translation:  DoD (rightly) doesn’t trust CIA.

But let’s give the Agency its due.

Dirty deeds, done for no more than the risk-free rate.

NSA just sits back and giggles.

Could take down any of these punks.

So that everyday the transmission of fraudulent information passed on as news is hell on Earth.

Skills is one thing.

Brazen is another.

Too close to the fire.

Emotional intensity.

Not a disorder.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “Traces to Nowhere” [1990)

Before 9/11.

Before the Oklahoma City bombing.

There was a skeleton key.

Dangling.

Word.  To the wise:

it is not easy to pick this show back up after a long hiatus.

Leaving the Rosetta Stone in the mud…to return knee-deep in crypticism.

Almost makes you want to become an FBI agent.  A special agent.

Because your mind likes puzzles…

Plenty of shows on TV like that now.

It’s the law enforcement arm of the propaganda machine which gives us the sexier James Bond.

Word.  To the wise:

Never Say Never Again is really painful (unbearably so) without John Barry.

Or Monty Norman.

Even Kasparov lost to Deep Blue.

On a rematch.

Maybe.

Barely.

And we’ve discussed the much-vaunted anti-Semitism of Fischer.

Word.  To the wise:

there’s a fish in the percolator.

And so Duwayne Dunham (who?) turns in a masterfully-directed episode of Twin Peaks.

The first real episode (after the lengthy pilot).

Which is to say (viz.)–don’t neglect your studies.

Only you are you.

And you are fighting the greatest enemy in the known world.

The hydra-headed logarithm.

Ask my log.

I thought so.

Sherilyn Fenn is painfully attractive.

Like Martha Vickers in The Big Sleep.

C’est-à-dire, Twin Peaks is the Picasso of television.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

That this show was broadcast on a major American TV network (ABC) is a miracle.

It was the Armory Show of 7-Eleven culture.

The priceless amidst a shitstorm of mediocrity.

Sometimes the rag pickers find a gem in our disposable civilization.

At which point we chiffonniers are mandated to return it…to its rightful owners.

You.

America.

America is everywhere.

An amoebic blob phenomenon bleeding porn and missiles.

Hasta la vista!  Hava Nagila!

Git er done.

We all need to return to the beginning.

In matters so complex.

And I wish you sharp swords in slicing through the bollocks.

Sincerely.

 

-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