Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? [2000)

This is a damn fine film.

Maybe yesterday I would have spoke as much with a mouthful of tobacco.

But today I take a more measured approach.

And still I must proclaim:  this film has aged like a fine wine.

I can find little fault with it.

No film will express all that we hold inside…exactly as we’d express it.

And so this is as close as we get to serendipity on a Tuesday night ūüôā

Yes sir…let me tell you ’bout it.

I write to stay alive.

[now I’m telling you about me…or the film…by way of me]

We come from a long/short tradition.

Film critics.

Critics.

All the way back to the earliest Homer in the Greek.

Rage.

I owe Nick Tosches a debt of gratitude for pointing that out.

My favorite living writer.

This film [we’re back to the film] could have gone off the rails early on.

Like some errant Ken Burns pablum on PBS.

But the Coen brothers are of the most deft cinematic touch.

I have delved very little into their oeuvre.

Most recently I broached the subject with¬†Fargo¬†(a fine film), but¬†Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?¬†is a¬†bona fide ūüėČ masterpiece.

You see, you must be conversant in na√Įvet√© as much as in erudition.

You must run the gamut from Delmar to Ulysses in order to evoke an appropriately universal sampling of the human condition.

Blind on a Pullman.  Nay.  Blind Sheriff Murnau.  Closer.

Blind but now I see.

Precisely.

Bill Moyers couldn’t get to Shakespeare in the recessed library.

Only God could move fate.

To see beauty.

For a moment to dream of a better life.

Saved from cancer.

I know not.

We feel it’s Isaiah. ¬†Or the Oracle of Delphi.

Pythia.  As in pithy.

Icy.

You don’t get credit for half a master’s degree.

Ain’t no one in the world impressed by that.

Even if they should.

People like awards.  Bob Dylan said.

Grammys.  Nobels.

Sells records.  Books.  DVDs.  Tickets for admission.  Memorabilia.

But I doff my hat to Tosches and Quintilian.

We are all excursus.  As Céline was all ellipses.

[…]

The Sheriff is Cooley.  As in Spade.

A mean son of a bitch.

But we don’t care none about these transgressors no more.

The electorate has spoken.

50 states.

From the words Tommy Johnson.

It’s just a cool drink of water from Robert.

And we won’t even get into Lonnie.

We hear the devil is white.

Go to any American university and you will hear the same.

Indeed, our film only falters when it attempts to be too heavy-handed.

We uncloak what is cloaked in ourselves.

And this is the curse of critics.

No critic is writing about their subject.

In reality.

The underlying gist is always autobiography.

To admit as much should be refreshing.

But that is for you to decide.

Just sing into the can.

Voice your opinion.

On shellac.

For generations to plunder in treasure hunts of old South junk stores.

Searching for the Sugar Man/Soggy Bottom…Robert Johnson already dead when he became ¬† sought after.

A prophet in his own land.

All is dream.  And religion comes to the silver screen.

The common man can relate.  And so can I.

With my Bible on my nightstand.

I ain’t ashamed to say.

I depend on God.

See Messiaen if you need abstraction.

Because Debussy gave the clouds first…and the sirens last.

And feasts or parties in between.

Night swimming.  Nocturnes.  Campfires.  Skip James.

Pulled from routine.

We were nearly eaten alive.

And we would have dived into that abyss out of desperation.

Yet the hand of the Lord was upon us.

Not for any deed which had ingratiated ourselves to Him.

But for grace.

Mercy.

Love.

No horror here.  Just a toad.  And Mark Twain.

And how to keep tobacco dry on a Mississippi River boat.

Uncle Sweetheart smells blood.

Years before Masked and Anonymous.

So be careful not to fall in love with your own reflection.

She said he was hit by a train.

And she looked good in a bikini.

To three pathetic roustabouts with no prospects.

Chewed up and spit out by both Tropics to wade in the water of possibility.

Nerds can box.

Maybe know an arcane martial art.

Don’t fuck with us.

But protagonists of epic poetry need something more than a couple of jabs and pinches.

Circumstances must have placed them in a true imbroglio…the mother of all situations.

The Gordian knot.

Ulysses is a lying bastard.  A mad man.  Advertising.  Op side coin propaganda.

But these are skills.  For gainful employment.  And we hover to ethics for guidance.

On how to wield words in the age of microblogging and memes.

He needed a story.

Chained together.

An inspiration.

Because we’re (for all intents and purposes) inseparable.

We can dream of $500,000 ($400,000)…as the “major D”…even the¬†m√Ęitre’d…if we’re feeling saucy.

Dream of land.

But what was Everett’s dream?

We know only later.

To spend 84 years in jail.

Released:  1987.

Incarcerated at age 3?

Not counting on these two to do the taxes.

The KKK took his baby away. ¬†–Joey Ramone

Seems very Bohemian Grove.

But we don’t know these things.

We only know what we’ve gleaned from D.W. Griffith.

These synchronized David Dukes are meant to evoke a temple of doom.

It is the hinge (brisure) in the whole film (if we are doing a deconstructionist reading à la Derrida).

And thus auteur theory is vindicated.

Joel Coen had something to get off his chest regarding the treatment of blacks, JEWS, Catholics, etc.

We could deconstruct from there.

It’s easy.

Top psychiatrist Steve Pieczenik does it breezily when he traces Jill Stein back to her Jewish Chicago roots which give her the privilege to run as an agnostic.

But the Coen brothers are timeless artists here.

They have found the trick.

Hillary’s coven must have been on hiatus for the past few weeks.

Demoralized.

But it’s hard to fight back the tears as they get in front of that lozenge mic I’d associate with RCA…

As the Soggy Bottom Boys emerge from obscurity.

And they have a fan base (constituents).

And these mythical performers were not even confirmed to exist.

In the flesh.

Ah, but public relations…

He was proto- “drain the swamp” with his little man and broom.

But the planets shifted.

And he’s on a hot mic inserting both feet into his mouth, one at a time, very slowly, with each succeeding word.

The way politics works.

In Mississippi.  Louisiana.  Texas.

Suck on a cigar.  Think it over.  Maybe some cognac or brandy.

And seize upon an opportunity.

To hire the best.

The best who have appeared on this stage at this moment for this very reason.

Three years after Titanic and the Coen brothers wanted a weightless freak show of inanimate objects floating as Japanese melange symbolism.

I am the man with the can.  Not Dapper Dan.  And no record-cutting lathe.

Just a tin of tobacco. ¬†My floating life. ¬†And all we’ve been through.

Memory soup.

We pull up to the aquarium to peer into the mysteries of other realities.

And, by so doing, try to make sense out of our own.

-PD

KaŇĺd√Ĺ 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 Brejchov√° 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!”

 

Le Mepris [1963)

I dated Brigitte Bardot for awhile.¬† Well, not THE Brigitte Bardot, but it might as well have been her.¬† I thought I had died and gone to heaven.¬† Ah, but all those hours on the highway didn’t end happily.¬† No, there weren’t many happy endings for those involved.¬† Anna Karina.¬† Jean-Luc Godard.

Contempt.¬† You must look beyond the characters.¬† Look beyond the actors.¬† And even so, you must take note…Fritz Lang as Himself.¬† It’s like the old U.S. TV tradition of saving that one zinger character for the end of the opening credits.¬† Say, for instance, you’re watching The Jeffersons or Laverne and Shirley…or even Three’s Company…”and Don Knotts as Mr. Furley” [zing!]

But Fritz Lang isn’t funny.¬† He doesn’t wear a powder-blue leisure suit.¬† No, the mood is very grave around here.¬† Even when we relocate to Capri.¬† It all begins with a quote from Andr√© Bazin.¬† Twenty-five years later Godard would turn to that quote to kick off his masterpiece Histoire(s) du cinema.¬† “Le cinema substitue…√† notre regard…un monde…qui s’accorde.”¬† Cinema substitutes in our eyes a world which harmonizes.¬† Ersetzt das Kino in unseren Augen eine Welt qui harmoniert.¬† Sostituisce il cinema nei nostri occhi un mondo qui armonizza.

This is the world of Le M√©pris.¬† Babel.¬† Babble on.¬† Whore.¬† Vulgarity doesn’t suit you.¬† How ’bout now?¬† Does it suit me now?

He commands me…ou il me prie?¬† Le M√©pris.

Once again we miss Anna Karina.¬† Two films in a row.¬† Les Carabiniers and now this:¬† replaced by Bardot’s ass.¬† Ass ass ass ass ass.¬† Blue ass.¬† Yellow ass.¬† Natural ass.¬† The tricolor.¬† God save the queen!

This was Godard’s shot at the big time.¬† Like Dune for David Lynch.¬† “Walk On the Wild Side” for Lou Reed.¬† Godard as Neil Young skipped Harvest and went directly to On the Beach.

That’s how it goes.¬† Perhaps it’s why Godard got on with Woody Allen.¬† Yes, Godard the neurotic drove his life and career directly into the ditch.¬† Do not pass Go.¬† Do not collect $200.

He even made the biggest star in France (B.B.) wear the same shabby Louise Brooks wig which his wife (Karina) had worn in Vivre sa vie.  Yes, something is amiss with this film.

I feel the Godard/Karina relationship problems bubbling to the surface.

“No, go do it!¬† This is your big chance!”

“But you won’t be mad at me?”

“Why should I be jealous of Bebe?”

“You know I would prefer to cast you.”

“Forget about it.¬† I’m not mad.¬† I’m happy.¬† I just look mad because I’m crying.”

Something like that.

All,                                                of,                          that,           aside,

this film couldn’t be more masterful.¬† It is a precarious film.¬† It threatens at every turn to fall headlong into a sea of shit, but it doesn’t.¬† The waters of Capri blue.¬† Bardot’s golden ennui chevelure.¬† A white Greek statue and a Shirley card in CinemaScope.¬† Go ahead and give Ulysses some sky-blue eye shadow and lipstick.¬† And Penelope.¬† Pen elope.¬† Moravia.¬† Javal.¬† dactylo.¬† cam√©rastylo.

The poet’s vocation.¬† Vacation.¬† Terrorist.¬† Tourist.¬† Coutard.¬† Kutard.

Casa Malaparte is abandoned.¬† 99 steps and a bitch ain’t one [hit me] (!)¬† Gulf of Salerno looking out to…nothing.¬† Ulysses sees something I don’t.¬† There is no homeland.¬† Only insecurity.¬† Die Heimat?¬† Fritz Lang would know.¬† Is that a command or a request?¬† Please tell Goebbels that Herr Lang has politely declined the offer to head up the film efforts of the Nazi propaganda program.¬† And by the way, he’s leaving the country.¬† Maybe call up Leni Riefenstahl.¬† I’ll bet she has a nice ass… lagniappe!¬† L.H.O.O.Q.

99 steps from the Gulf of Salerno.¬† that last step’s a doozy [hit me]!

-PD