Sunday, October 02, 2005

Waco Bros., Fri. night at Hideout, doubling as an art show for Yard Dog, the Austin galler that represents High Sherrif Langford, as well as Eric/Rico Bell, Kevin Coyne, and (??) Tim Kerr. Started late, and I faded before the end, but the 45 mins. I saw was excellent: shit-kicking, economical, undeterred by a couple of power surge/PA failures. Also caught the last couple songs of fairly low-key alt-c locals The Phonographs' set; should have asked the keyboardist where he gets his gear repaired. Surprised Jon, Sally Timms by my presence; was kindly introduced to a couple of folks. Noted on the way out a Gibson hand-painted by Jon and tagged at $2,500 was marked SOLD.


Finally saw The Seventh Victim (dir. Mark Robson, but generally understood to be as much Val Lewton's baby). I love (and, after seeing this, still prefer) I Walked with a Zombie, but I'm a big enough Ashbery nerd that this got on my list b/c of his piece on it in Modern Painters (then in Selected Prose. JA credits it as a prime example of a totally studio-shot film that gives a vivid impression of New York-ness (West Villageness, specifically). I can see that, but I think my moviegoing muscle has atrophied a little -- I wasn't bored, but I was more aware of the film's ridiculous features that I would be if I were in the zone. E.g.: If you're a member of Satanic society so secret that it resolves to kill (non-violently, due to some confusing language in the charter!) those who leave, why would you use your secret triangle-in-parallelogram sigil as a logo for your cosmetics company ("La Sagesse")? Some hints of lesbian/orgiastic/"sensationalist" activity duly noted, but not as much fun as Julie Harris & Claire Bloom in The Haunting. Uneven performances: Tom Conway, who's in many of Lewton's movies, good as a George Sanders-type ("Dipsomania is so sordid"); Erford Gage totally insufferable as a "poet."

Rest of that day a bust: Was to meet J-Hop and J-Shep hereabouts, but all parties got stuck in godawful Loop traffic and we called it off.


More explicit but equally silly -- the secret sex club in Eyes Wide Shut, the DVD of which was on the shelf at the house we're renting. Firmly in that category of movie about which Pauline Kael compained: you're supposed to think it's deep because it's irreal/a dream. I guess it's fairly obvious by now that Kubrik was rather cruelly using Tom Cruise for his lack of range: the scene where he makes bland conversation at the deathbed of a woman who's about to come on to him might be the only completely effective moment in the movie. Kidman seems generally to have been accused of overacting, but I like that she's almost allowed to ruprture Kubric's system. Second worst thing about the movie: I think there's an attempt to do the sort of two-person domestic-interior scenes I love in Godard, but K. does almost nothing with the space -- all the "masterful" camera movement comes when Cruise is doing things like putting down his keys. Worst thing about the movie: I think K. may have actually believed the script's insights about "men" and "women." I haven't read the Schnitzler, but maybe K. would have done better to have kept the source material in the original period -- the Freudianism might not have seemed so moribund.


Also caught Elevator to the Gallows, Louis Malle's first film about a week ago. The actual elevator sequences are great, cropping and composition techniques drawing (this is a guess) on Bresson's slightly earlier A Man Escaped, but turned to, yep, genre ends. The film comes 2 years before Breathless, and has some similar elements (the self-romanticizing/ambivalently criminal young couple, the recording of new details of the Parisian landscape, here the motel where room service comes to individual bungalows by golf cart); so why is this merely a promising "start" while Breathless is, well, revolutionary? Minor reasons: The attempt at a more conventionally knotted plot, the use of the already-established Moreau, beginning to age fascinatingly and mostly wandering solo through the rainy streets accompanied only by her voiceover. Major reason: the fact that (as w/ 7th Victim, come to think of it) the inconsistencies and technical errors read as just that, rather than as energy, impatience. (How does the young couple manage to drive off in the car of the Germans they murder just after they've tried to steal it and been told the gearbox has been hidden? Who took the photographs of the principals' illicit affair, found in a camera in the final scene?) Wonderful Miles improvised-in-the-studio score, w/ Klook on drums.


Not to be all Jean-Luc-centric (and warning you that the new print of Masculine/Feminine is playing at the NU museum theater v. soon), but, hey Ange: Speaking not as a pop-analytic-philosophy-muse but as a fan, you know as well as anyone that I love Demy, right? (Just killed me that I missed the new print of Model Shop before I left L.A.) But, really, don't you think Godard, as much as any poet, has shown himself to be on to "the gamble" of art? Same for Dylan, who, like JLG, may be full of shit but also much that is not -- don't think I don't see you over in that comment box.


JLG, disingenuous in 1994 on his "committed" period:

"I have memories of recreation -- it was like school break. You pretend, and I was younger."

(Zero for conduct, Jean: I've read those interviews in Double Feature and MacCabe's Godard: Images, Sounds, Politics [1980 BFI volume, not the recent bio], and they don't really sound like playtime.)

This is quoted in Richard Porton's Film and the Anarchist Imagination (Verso, 1999), which I'm only halfway through but recommend wholeheartedly. Not that I agree with it wholeheartedly: the author makes no bones about engaging in plain old ideological critique which can sometimes underemphasize other kinds of cinematic meaning, but I'm learning tons, esp. about the various internicene squabbles among "anarchist" theories and legacies. Excellent on Clair's A Nous la liberte, and much else. Plus: Tantalizing descriptions of films I doubt I'll ever get a chance to see, like: New Babylon (1929), "Kosintzev and Trauberg's adaptation of Zola's Au bonheur des dames (a film whose delirious montage and anarchic spirit make it one of the most anomalous Soviet films ever made)"* and, especially, "Valentin R. Gonzalez's Nosostros somos asi! (That's the Way We Are, 1937), an anarcho-syndicalist musical comedy....This cinematic curio highlights debates on workers' and women's rights among precocious children who are the anarchist equivalents of Freddie Bartholomew and Shirley Temple." (And I thought I was doing well because I'd seen the '50s Hungarian operetta State-Owned Department Store, which this reviewer pegs precisely: "Under the standard Social Realist kitsch, you have the Viennese kitsch.")

*This maybe isn't that unseeable -- if anyone reading this knows that it's on video, please write.


Upset that I'm missing the Rivette retrospective back home, but at least they're not showing the only film other than The 7th Victim that JA treats in the Selected Prose, the 13 hr. Out 1.


Unrelated, far as I can see, to the previous chain: Finally listened to Interpol's Antics (mostly to compare to the new Double -- there are similarities, but they're pretty shallow). Pretty low-key and unambitious for a "hotly contested follow-up," innit? Is it possible that they're actually smart enough to know they're a pop band/not to swallow the pretension pill? (Against that, I suspect that Paul Banks is trying to be an interesting lyricist. The results are pretty awful, though I'll let you look 'em up yourself.) I don't think they're gonna be able to coast without at least one new idea for much longer. Their sense of arrangement, esp. keyboard additions, is pretty pro forma, and the performances are strangely laid-back -- the drummer (whom I basically like) lays behind the beat, the guitar lines even more so. Even as you're enjoying the thing, you notice that they're repeating melodic ideas four songs in.

Why do I care?

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