Riso Amaro [1949)

Robert Bresson said, “I believe in cinema.”

In English?  Like that?  I don’t know.

But it is truly the thought which counts here.

Because I believe in cinema.

Cinema.

Maybe it’s my favorite word.

My religion.

The great omnist hymn of all lands.

Of all the hands which have pitched in to turn the wheels of the mind.

And so this film, Bitter Rice, is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Not because it is flowery and seductive. [It’s not flowery.]

Not because there are perfumed stars in diamonds. [There’s no perfume.]

But because it is real.

As real as cinema gets.

Not the hyperreal of Harmony Korine’s Gummo.

Not even the transparent real of documentary footage.

But a real which is uniquely Italian.

To say neorealism is to cheapen the whole creation.

This is a masterpiece by director Giuseppe De Santis.

You must live through the rain to understand it.

You must have had no hope to fathom the slop.

You must wade in de water.

Because you are seeing Italian opera.

There’s no speech in the field.

No talking.

Workers are in the prison of labor.

Same kinds of rules.

But if you sing, that’s tolerated.

And so it all must be sung.  In the fields.

Puccini famously bragged about his facility.

Give him a grocery list, he said.

And Willie Sutton had his hygiene and motivators covered.

Even if he never uttered the famous phrase.

He ENJOYED robbing banks.

And, yes, that was where the money was.

And so the field workers not only display humanism.

Not only embody feminism.

But engage in a little triage worthy of Sutton’s law.

Taking the poor girl to the embankment.

[They’re all poor.  This is 1949 Italy.]

It’s not psychotic fugue, but psychogenic fugue.

Fugue state.

Thuringia.

The Axis Powers played a very bad game of chess.

Stretto was the shit hitting the fan.

“Ride of the Valkyries” mixed with heavy artillery mixed with vocalizations of agony.

Ristretto is what you get at Starbucks.

But, dear friends, don’t stop after the first half.

Let it finish.

Let it bleed.

Shine a light.

For Silvana Mangano.

Sylvania.  Someone has etched the word “hope” into the light bulb’s socket.

In the Schwarzwald.

The deep eerie mystery of the woods.  And Hitler’s aerie.

[Godwin golden mean]

34 21 13 8

almost Fibonacci but ending

aND nothing more Italian that an actress named Doris Dowling.

But that’s the way it went.

Direct descendent of opera verismo.

Our old favorites Mascagni and Leoncavallo.

But Netflix hasn’t gotten at the heart of what this means.

“Strong female lead” or some such rubbish.

Nice try…

But Riso Amaro blows all those venal pigeonholing strategies out of the water.

Cinema is not my God.

Cinema is my religion.

 

-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

La Bête 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 müde 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 Règle 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

 

#8 Mr. Bean in Room 426 [1993)

First, a short list of Hulu failings:

-Pootie Tang (shite)

-Mordecai (shite)

-Lars and the Real Girl (epically shite)

-The Voices (shite)

-Mystery Team (shite)

-Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (shite squared) [catalog dilemma]

-Anchorman 2 (shite to the second power)

-Beverly Hills Cop II (repetitive shiteness) [catalog dilemma]

-Cannonball Run II (must see first episode to appreciate this shite)

-Teen Wolf Too (now with word shite!)

-The Naked Gun 2 1/2 (quasi-decimal shite)

-The Naked Gun 33 1/3 (LP shite)

-My Best Friend’s Wedding (shite)

-Cashback (shite)

-Dear White People (shite)

-Everything Must Go (shite)

-Jerry Maguire (shite)

-The Skeleton Twins (shite)

-Trailer Park Boys (shite)

-16-Love (shite)

-Novocaine (sic shite)

-Dark Horse (Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-Little Paradise (shite)

-Frances Ha (epically shite)

-Stranger Than Fiction (shite)

-8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (shite)

-C.S.A.:  The Confederate States of America (ambitious shite)

-Trees Lounge (depressing attempt at shite)

-King of California (total shite)

-Dead Hooker in a Trunk (go-back-to-film-school shite)

-Are You Joking? (more Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-And Now a Word From Our Sponsors (shite)

-Falling Star (Kosher Casino shite)

-Jewtopia (no comment)

-The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish shite)

-Heathers (cruel shite)

-Sleeping Beauty (barely shite)

-Gold (Irish shite)

-The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (quintessential shite)

-Jack Ryan:  Shadow Recruit (lazy shite)

-Mission:  Impossible (a colon-full of Scientologist shite)

-Space Milkshake (actually, not too bad…)

[I hate to say it, but the number of films by mediocre directors named Schwarz is really astonishing.]

Now, you might reason:  these are just the rantings of an anti-Semitic film snob.

I admit I don’t laugh easily.

It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.

Mostly I don’t like waste.

Entitled filmmakers are more likely to make shite.

They didn’t earn their stripes.

They have an uncle who works for Sony Pictures.

Actually, the film school rubbish on Hulu is astonishing.

It is completely venal in nature.

I just happen to have had some bad experiences with unfunny Jewish films.

What do I mean, “Jewish films”?

I mean exactly what Brandon Tartikoff was referring to when he first saw the Seinfeld pilot.

In that instance, Tartikoff (himself Jewish) was wrong.

Seinfeld was genius!

Seinfeld is a funny show.

Yes, it exists in a Jewish milieu.

Tartikoff thought the show was “too Jewish” to appeal to Americans in general.

He was wrong.

But, sadly, now we have a gaggle of filmmakers who think they are Woody Allen or Mel Brooks.

Status update:  those two guys actually have talent!

Which is not to say they didn’t make some clunkers.

Hulu happens to have picked up two of those clunkers:  Bananas and Life Stinks.

No one’s perfect.

But please…dear world Jewry,

Please tell your precocious sons and daughters that they aren’t all geniuses.

Who’s funding this shit?

Hulu:  who the fuck is in charge over there!?!

Your catalog indicates that you enjoy wasting the monthly fees people pay for your woeful service.

Ok, ok…

A short list of Hulu successes:

-the Criterion collection

THE END.

And so…what part of the Hulu catalog presently needs the most work?

Answer:  the comedy genre of movies.

Second most problematic lack of imaginative curation?

Answer:  the drama genre of movies.

[If you think that Hulu’s selection of movies might be lacking (based on my first two points of emphasis), then you are right:  it is!]

Third crappiest category on Hulu?

Answer:  the “action & adventure” genre of movies.

Even Hulu’s genres are ass-backwards compared to the pinpoint precision of iTunes.

Korean Drama?  Really???  Ok.  I guess Hulu is really killing it in Seoul (and Pyongyang).

CEO Mike Hopkins needs to take a long look in the mirror.

Whoever got the Criterion catalog, give that person an infinite raise.

The rest of them?  Fire their sorry asses.

Beth Comstock needs to overturn the moneychangers’ tables.

Destroy YOUR business, Ms. Comstock.

Jason Kilar…you know what doesn’t work?  Faux-dreams.

Faux-tographs.

A catalog of shite.

Make a call.  Do lunch.

“Anywhere, Anytime:  Shite”

“For the Love of shite”

“Come Shite with Us”

Lot of people drawing a check at Hulu and turning out a subpar service.

The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words…both of which translate roughly to “shite”.

Now, just to be fair…I wouldn’t sign up for Netflix if my life depended on it.

iTunes is a horribly antiquated business model (and offers very little value for consumers).

Amazon Prime Video was petty to disallow MacBooks (as incompatible devices) as late as last year.  Not to mention that Jeff Bezos is just a wannabe Rupert Murdoch who bans books like Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.  [And yes, Virginia, Murdoch is the great Satan.]

And so, with such a paltry selection of movies on Hulu, I’ve been forced to examine its television offerings.  The prospects are not much better.

But I will give credit where credit is due.

Mr. Bean was an excellent pickup.

If you want a tight, seamless work of art (unlike this rambling, frothing review), then check out the episode under consideration.

You know, not even the childlike Rowan Atkinson was above making fun of old people (in this episode) or suggesting that continental Europeans be purposefully killed by British drivers (tourists).  Check out his standup comedy album from 1995 for the latter bit.

Which just goes to show…we all lose our heads.

We all exercise poor judgment.  We all have poor taste now and then.

You may not believe it, but I have put my own sorry butt on the line to stand up for world Jewry.

I will be the first to admit that my term “Judeo-Nepotistic” is incredibly crass and insensitive.

And still, I would ask that Jews (who are no doubt hard-pressed on all sides) please exercise some judgment of their own.  Transparent nepotism is really tasteless.  It goes against our better Jeffersonian principles.

So there you have it.  Bobby Fischer was a jerk.  The Holocaust really happened.  Not so sure about the gas chambers.  You’re welcome Faurisson.  The Earth is not flat.  9/11 was an inside job (and therefore not an Israeli job).  Insofar as it was an Israeli job, the U.S. government was at least half-responsible.  It was much more likely an Israeli job than a Saudi job.  Much more likely a purely self-inflicted inside job (no substantial Israeli involvement) than an Israeli job.  And finally, Israel is a criminal country oppressing the Palestinians in a most disgusting manner.

And for good measure, yes Donald Trump is a bigot.  And he’s horribly wrong about immigration (both in regards to our Mexican brothers and sisters and our Islamic brothers and sisters).  But he’s still the only real choice for President.

Sanders has been right about one thing:  Snowden.  Snowden’s a hero.  But America is not a socialist country.  Sanders would actually be a bigger step backwards than Trump.

The other candidates (Clinton and Cruz) are worthless.

So there you go, Hulu…I need some better circuses here!

To keep me out of the political arena!!

I could use some bread as well 🙂

In any case, I’m sorry for my vile ranting.

But film is my religion.  Through film, omnism.

Stop defiling my religion, Hulu.  Your thoughtlessness is ghastly.

Hire some people who love cinema.

Get your shit together.

 

-PD

 

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles [1987)

When I was a kid, this was a big family favorite.

It was one of those rare times when profanity got a pass.

That second time Steve Martin goes off…on Edie McClurg (the rental car lady).

But even funnier is the first time Martin pops off…in the Braidwood Motel in Wichita, Kansas…and John Candy just takes it.

Yes, there are some priceless moments in this film.

In some ways, this film defined an era.

Trading Places was an early-decade success (1983) for John Landis.

And then Walter Hill succeeded with a similar type of story, treated in his inimitable way, in 1985 (Brewster’s Millions).

But by 1987 the decade needed summation…and this particular genre which transcended classification needed a testament.

This is that film.

Funny enough, this was the same year the Coen brothers really started hitting ’em out of the park (Raising Arizona).  That film also is a veritable classic, but it is forward-looking.  It is almost like comedy in the hands of a David Lynch.

John Hughes was seemingly retrospective with Planes, Trains and Automobiles…like the J.S. Bach of the 1980s…summing up a decade of dirigist American comedy.

Hughes had a lot of career left to go in 1987, but this was a sort of highpoint…especially if considering only his directorial efforts.

Sure…Hughes was more counterculture earlier in the decade, but he wasn’t above putting his heart into a morality play like this one.

But to paint this film as a vanilla affair is not really accurate.

Consider Steve Martin’s yuppie character…a “marketing” professional on a business trip to New York from Chicago.

Martin’s character represents everything that was wrong with America in the 1980s.

Sadly, Neal Page (Martin) represents the problem which persists in America today.

Perhaps Isidore Isou’s famous class distinction fits here.

Neal Page, marketing professional, is an intern (as opposed to externe)…a cog in the wheel of production.

The Neal Pages of today would learn their marketing from an abomination such as Marian Burk Wood’s The Marketing Plan Handbook.

The Neal Pages of corporate America read a Wood phrase such as, “For the purposes of developing a marketing plan, advertising’s two basic decisions concern the message (what content will be communicated) and the media…,” without ever thinking Marshall McLuhan.

A savvy seller of used books might file The World is Flat in “Sociology” (in addition to the more strictly-applicable “Business”) in an effort to unload what must surely be one of the most overprinted books of recent memory.

But what bookseller ever thinks to place Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man (1964) in the “Business” section…or in the Marketing/Advertising “disciplines”?

Marketers, no doubt, would have a glib answer.

But marketers rarely know more than their insular, myopic areas of pseudo-specialty.

The “right” answer…the culturally literate answer…the answer Marian Burk Wood was either too dumb to include…or too convinced that her dumbed-down readers would not get…is McLuhan’s:

“…the medium is the message.”

The first sentence of the fucking book!

Chapter 1 (also, conveniently titled, The Medium Is The Message):

“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”

But the character Neal Page wouldn’t have known that…and that’s why he gets “schooled” in business by the portly, genuine Del Griffith (John Candy).

Of course, Candy’s character wouldn’t have known this either…but at least he wouldn’t have been a venal, meretricious, entitled prick like Neal Page.

And so Neal Page didn’t really go the extra mile in business school…  He just took all the bullshit shoveled down his throat as gospel truth.

Therefore, Page wouldn’t have known this gem either…a parallel to McCluhan from just three years later (1967).

Again, the first fucking sentence of the book:

“The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles.  All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.”

Ok, so I gave him two sentences.  Those are the words of Guy Debord from his masterpiece La société du spectacle (The Society of the Spectacle) [translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith].

Notice the similarities to McCluhan.

But, of course, Debord was referencing the big daddy of them all:

“The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities’…”

Karl Marx.  Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (1867).  Translated by Ben Fowkes.

And so today’s marketing professionals are either brain-dead (thanks to authors like Wood) or craven cynics thanks to equally worthless authors such as Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller.

These last two have contributed a tome to the pseudo-discipline of “marketing” entitled A Framework for Marketing Management.

If anything has ever called for the revocation of tenure, it is the appalling lack of intellectual curiosity these two professors (from Northwestern and Dartmouth, respectively) show over the course of their overpriced bible for aspiring C-level automata.

Consider their statement, “…make low-profit customers more profitable or terminate them.”  Now do you see why America has problems?

And again, “Spend proportionately more effort on the most valuable customers.”

Thank God for the Del Griffiths of this world.

People are not statistics to be terminated.

God bless John Candy and John Hughes for poignantly reminding us of the only true value in life.

Relationships.

Not to be “leveraged”.

Just people.

Plain and simple.

As Del Griffith says, “What you see is what you get.”

Genuine.

THAT’S the marketing of the future!

And it can’t be contrived…

 

-PD