February 27, 2007


Waël Noureddine:

When the last war began, I was far away, in my house in Paris. I just wanted one thing: to return to Beirut as soon as possible and to start to shoot, they were historical moments. This film had become for me the essential film: to film to prevent the repetition in loop of the story, and create a bank of images for future generations. I never understood why there were so few films directed during the war in Lebanon. Except some rare films, nothing remains of this time. The war however needed more attentions. (September 2006)

[July Trip is a documentary essay shot in Lebanon during the last war in July 2006. Filmed in 16 mm and HDV, this film is more an essay than a documentary. Using connections between video and cinema, Wael Noureddine tells of the repercussions of the last war in Lebanon. The film plunges us in a universe in war: the images shot in 16mm sublimate a tension, frightening because of the lack of sound. An incipit in silence, almost a reference made to all the noises caused by the bombs, by the explosions, which will follow to this unconventional beginning. More than to give us his version of the war in Lebanon, the director suggests to us keys of reading throughout film. What does one have to think about the foreign journalists, who put themselves in scene in front of the camera? They remain bits of humanity behind the cameras which pile up in front of a corpse in rigor mortis?Do we really share this tabloid information and these scoops which relax us so much sitted on our sofas IKEA? Wael Noureddine does not formulate answers to all these questions, but lets the images and sound go on to make us become aware of our manipulation, of "a true" reality which hides behind the television news of the 20:00. We travel through the South of Lebanon, diverted by a torn landscape: a limpid sky, a blue sea, make this contrast even heavier. The Mediterranean sea, heart of civilization, was trapped by a too "human" history, nature seeks to rebel while making us weigh his beauty, the human "work" being, on the other hand, "monstrous". The repercussions of the war are there in front of our eyes, so present that we would like to go up on this boat with Europeans and come back home.](from the Mediterranean Films website)

February 25, 2007

for Akasaka Diasuke...

...reverse shot ... ?

"Normal conversation! Family atmosphere!"

With a floppy hat on but with no one around (my writing desk) I say the same thing as Peter Falk...normal conversation, family atmosphere!

If cinephilia is a history of stubborn orphans and elected families (Daney) I've been blessed with good aunts, uncles and cousins. Past contributions to Kino Slang have made the thing worthwhile to me; now and in the future I'd like to intensify this in the interest of polemics, contrapuntuality; if not that, then at least sprightliness (you bastard! such words about a blog! it's only words and images put together!). John Gianvito's film image and the below series on Cassavetes by my compatriot
Charles Leary are steps in this direction. Charles has done incredible work for the William K. Everson website and he continues to write on Cassavetes, among others.

-andy r.


“It’s a tradition. Actresses get slapped. It’s a tradition.”
– Manny (Ben Gazzara), Opening Night

John Cassavetes runs through scene in Ben Carruthers’ place, with Jacqueline Walcott. Shadows (1959)

Bobby Darin and Marilyn Chambers. Too Late Blues (1961)

Slap to bring her back from the dead; Seymour Cassell and Lynn Carlin, Faces (1968)

"You're not the first guy to ever punch his wife out." Ben Gazzara, Meta Shaw, Lorraine MacMartin John Cassavetes, Peter Falk in Husbands (1970)

Cassavetes engages the whole body in motion for the force of a slap of Rowlands. Rowlands: “The secret is that the person who’s doing the hitting is in the foreground and he pulls his hand back to the camera. It’s not the forward motion of the slap you see. His hand doesn’t touch you but, as it looks like he’s hitting you, you have to snap your head back. At the same time, what I did was an old stage trick of clapping my hands loudly. You don’t need that on film because you can always put the sound in…the crew threw down the lights and anything else they were holding and rushed and grabbed John by both arms.” (from Judith Christ, ed., Take 22; also recounted on DVD commentary). Minnie and Moskowitz (1971).
In the 1983 draft of the screenplay for Love Streams, upon the arrival of Sarah (Rowlands) at Robert’s (Cassavetes) home, the following takes place:

ROBERT: I hate the word love. When someone says I love you, that means they want to kill you.
SARAH: If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead, because I still have my magical powers. And I never do it with a knife or a gun.
The boy has been watching, taking it all seriously.
Robert lunges at Sarah, and she throws him down to the ground in a shot. Robert springs to his feet.
ALBIE (screams) Dad!
Robert moves to her and slaps her across the face. It's a fake slap; something they have done a thousand times before. Sarah gets up.
SARAH: I need a drink. Just one. I'm trying to stay balanced.

“See what you made me do!” Peter Falk rehearses the scene with Cassavetes, taking Rowlands’ in A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Another rehearsal, Cassavetes slapping Falk as Mario Gallo discretely looks on.

Cassavetes demonstrates (for Falk) the slapping of Rowlands atop the couch, as Cassavetes’s parents, Fred Draper, and Eddie Shaw look on.

Before we know what is happening, Rachel (Azizi Johari) slaps an auditioning dancer. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

While Manny asks Myrtle on the phone, “What’s wrong with being slapped?” he is also annoyed by his wife Dorothy’s pantomime and asks her to stop. She (Zohra Lampert) mimics a punch (slap) to her face, making a noise of contact with her mouth, and falls limp to the bed. Opening Night (1977) .

“I’m gonna bury that bastard.”

First, Gloria (Rowlands) slaps “the sissy” (Gaetano Lisi) then braces herself for his counter. Gloria (1980)

The tradition runs its course, and this is the last slap in a Cassavetes film.

This piece is by Charles Leary.

February 21, 2007

Profit motive and the whispering wind
Communiqué from John Gianvito! this image from his latest film...

February 10, 2007

Luc Moullet part one...

In preparation for an upcoming, yet-to-be solidified, roundtable discussion on Luc Moullet, here are two of his early critical pieces for Cahiers du cinéma. I have not found any further information on La Punition, the first film under consideration, but no matter, Moullet's article still has many interesting ideas, and also serves to remind that, at it's inception Cahiers was officially called: Cahiers du cinéma, Revue mensuelle du cinéma et du télécinéma.


La Punition (Jean Rouch, 1962)

From French television viewers to specialists in cinema verite, nearly everyone has condemned La Punition as a kind of cinema lie. Their attitude is unjustified because it confuses three very different elements: film, truth, and cinema verite. For example, we have no right to say that La Punition is bad because it's untrue (Rossif's documentaries are true, but look at the result), or because it's not real cinema verite (neither is The Rules of the Game), or because its director or, more precisely, its producer (and who should we believe if they disagree?) might incorrectly claim it is. In such a case it would have been enough if they had said nothing, or were from a place (Afghanistan) or time (1909-1914) forgotten by interviewers, for the film to be considered good. The truth of La Punition isn't apparent without the active participation of the television viewer, who in talking or doing the dishes while trying to watch the film, fails to comply, fails to participate. This is not the kind of passivity that a nerve-wraking dramatic intrigue forces you into. The audience has to actively interpret the film to understand at which level of truth the film situates itself. If we relax our attention, we lose the sense of the film. It's possible to watch La Punition three or four times without it ever being the same film. Even if it were eight hours long, it would be equally compelling. In this light, it seems rather unnecessary to cut six or eight minutes out of La Punition, simply to broadcast the full version of Cuba Si! afterwards. Here we have an exciting film devoid of eroticism and accessible to everyone, which would shatter box office records if the French didn't prefer, in place of simple, direct cinema (La Punition, Adieu Philippine, Procès de Jeanne d'Arc), the preciocity of indirect cinema(Melodie en sous-sol, La Grande Evasion, La Guerre des boutons), whose useless digressions, dullness, and repetitiveness in the end reflect purely commercial values. Such values enable viewers to turn their attention from films in which a handful of powerful scenes leave lasting impressions on minds no longer required to confront the disturbing reality of unadorned facts.

Luc Moullet, Cahiers du cinema, May 1964


Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
Luc Moullet

I hate westerns. That's why I adore Rio Bravo. The genre annoys me because, although the sentiments it portrays are admirable, they are almost always based on principle rather than fact. What little directing exists is concerned with something other than itself --personal problems, politics, technique. It denies the spirit of the true western and presents its opposite: emphasis, decorum, lyricism.Yet, Rio Bravo is pretty much the opposite of Johnny Guitar. There's nothing intrinsically poetic about the film although the end result is a kind of poetry. As always with Hawks the rules of the game are respected, at least until that moment when the director has hadenough. Rio Bravo is an extremely original film in that it's a western about confinement in which there are no Indians, landscapes, or chase scenes. It does something rare in rediscovering the essence of the genre, but it does so in this rather remarkable way (whereas Red River and Big Sky arrive at the same result without breaking with tradition). Rio Bravo brings to mind a thriller like To Have and Have Not or a meldrama, like Barbary Coast. So why did Hawks make this western? Because it enabled him to present actions that are not ordinarily seen in our everyday world, by beings outside of nature. I'm not a sheriff, or Angie Dickinson, or a pharaoh; neither are you.Yet Hawks shows us that the appeal of such individuals is unrelated to what we might expect ( the world of adventure, the extraordinary).Hawks the classicist has always rejected these values, satirized them, ridiculed them, even ignored them in The Thing. Yet he also accepts the everyday: a man is a sheriff the same way he's a laborer or a subway conductor. There are plenty of gunshots in Rio Bravo, but none of them real, none of them have any true dramatic value. The incessant gunfights end up only becoming monotonous, and they eliminate all suspense. Each repeated gesture cancels its predecessor. And Wayne's blase intelligence, far from contemplating the act, somehow immediately grasps the range of possible consequences. How Wayne does this is a question of telepathy, similar to the way Hawks' previous heroes had eyes in the back of their head.

Luc Moullet, Cahiers du cinema, July 1959


Two very good short articles on Moullet, on occasion of the recent travelling Moullet retrospective, one by Chris Fujiwara, "Mineral Cinema", and one by Sam Adams, "Funny Strange-Ha: The Not-Quite-Right Comedy of Luc Moullet".


If anyone has information about La Punition, please do tell. And if anyone is interested in the Moullet roundtable, please don't hesitate to email me.

This is the 100th post at Kino Slang. Russian proverb: "It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats." Thank you friends, for everything.


"The contemporary world has lost the secret of the ancients. Recall the well-known serenity of antique statuary. Our smile is forced. We look for complictations."
(25 December 1963, J.-L. Godard)

February 4, 2007


Les Amants de...

New Babylon...They Live By Night
"We work for ourselves, not for the bosses..."
"Banks, that us."

"If you get loaded and act the clown, be the laughing stock of all the town, it's your red wagon..."

Les Amants réguliers

Regular Lovers
"Gunshot Dreams"
"You're with real people now"

...crime story...

"Riot cop, under your uniform you too are jobless."
(graffiti from the anti-CPE uprising in France, Feb.-April 2006)

"All films about crime are about capitalism, because capitalism is about crime." (Abraham Polonsky in Red Hollywood)

...love story...

Love and crime, two poles among revolution.

Love stories have to include crime stories in a certain society.

"This boy and this girl were never properly introduced to the world we live in ."
(They Live By Night, Nicholas Ray, 1949)

We can see about love and crime in Mizoguchi too, especially in the 30's. Almost all of them have to do with the class struggle through love. Love is either reified -- love doused in the icy water of egotistical calculation, nothing but a process through which people are turned into things, a process Mizoguchi shows as clear as the Osaka day -- or it is the door to consciousness, resistance, revolt -- Tokai Kokyogaku (Mizoguchi, 1929): Osome, a waitress at a cafe has been in love with Harukichi, son of a company president, but is shocked to learn that he has become engaged to Reiko, the daughter of a bank president. Osome tries to confront Harukichi about the matter, but he will have nothing to do with her. She later meets Genzo, a childhood playmate. Genzo tells her that their hometown, a fishing village, has deteriorated on account of the company (Harukichi's). Genzo's life is complete poverty and he has come to the big city to avenge the rich.

Lovers in the revolution and of the revolution, why else would you make revolution, if you want to make revolution?

Above, 1792, Jean-Joseph Bomier (Edmund Ardisson) dies in the arms of Louison (Nadia Sibirskaïa) in La Marseillaise (Renoir, 1938).

Renoir said about Marie Antoinette: "quite simply (she was) very stupid, really an idiot. All her adventures were grotesque: her constant compromising, her pre-romanticism, her unbridled waste, and the story of the necklace and the Trianon and running the silk manufacturers of Lyons out of business, because she wanted her undergarments made only from fine linen and said so, proclaimed it, and waged war on silk. Not that I like silk, but many people lived off it, and needed royal publicity to sell it."

In La Marseillaise, Renoir has Antoinette always bitterly affected, harrassed and harassing, stung by her own insatiability, a frigid enforcer of royal code and appearances (she is brilliantly played by Lise Delamare). Her only love scene is with this man, of the Royal Guard, just before the Marseillais storm the palace:

Royal Guard: "It is best to allow them to force the gates. Once the rebels are inside, a volley from our guns must destroy the majority. Should some survive, or our gunners be won over,
our best men occupy windows overlooking the yard in a position to effect a crippling fire. We may expect, with luck, few assailants to escape our trap alive."

Marie Antoinette: "We must keep right on our side. By entering the yard they will avow their insubordination."

The Royal Guard at the gates are won over, not by the guns of the rebels, but by fraternity and common enemy. This is also the story of New Babylon (Trauberg/Kosintzev, 1929), people going to the other side; Jean, a Versailles soldier, deserts the army which is suppressing the Paris Commune. He is brought to consciousness by conditions ("no more milk!") and by his lover, Louis (Elena Kuzmina, pictured above). But Jean comes to consciousness too slowly, too late. He walks as slow as anyone ever has walked in the cinema, across the cobblestones, all his fellow deserters, horses even, pass him by. He'll be forced at gunpoint to bury his freshly executed lover in the mud: the massacre of the Communards. She is dead and the Commune goes with her, but the film ends in chalk: VIVE LA COMMUNE.

Did François (Louis Garrel), the young disaffected poet of Les Amants réguliers, go to the other side? The other side of his bourgeois origin towards revolutionary unity against capital (in the events of May '68)? Or did he desert, go to the other side, against the revolution, in opium smoke? In the final section of the film, indicated by a title card "The Sleep of the Just", he goes to an other side; his lover Lilie leaves him and he dies. A cop is the last one to touch François as he takes François's pulse, then steps back into the darkness.

Existence opens and closes with iris shots. An iris shot opens up to the riot police, readying themselves for a confrontation with the students on the barricades. Later, François, barely discernable at the barricades, just manages to escape the cops and, covered in ash from the fires, looks for a place to hide. He goes to the apartment of a family member and tells her, in her plain quiet apartment, what's been happening. It's the chief bit about the events of May '68 that François expresses in the film: "the police, they're real bastards...they hit women...". Chris Marker explained this in his documentary film Le Fond de l'air est rouge. This realization was repeated again and again, almost like theatre; students in the US and France, not accustomed to seeing the repressive State apparatus are given a naked display of it when they act up: suddenly, its not in books -- "this shit really exists!". François, still covered in ash, takes a bath and the iris slowly closes in, perhaps closing this chapter of his existence as a revolutionary actor (if we consider him one).

Earlier in the film, when he was being primed to join the barricades, evading military service and being put on trial for doing so, we see that even a certain playing by the rules of the game does nothing for François. During trial, François's lawyer evokes the importance of French poets in an attempt to garner sympathy for the boy and his role in society as a poet, to excuse him from service. This scene has been interpreted as pure comedy, absurd, but the lawyer is sincerely doing his job in an attempt to appeal to the judges, basically on nationalistic grounds (certainly not poetic ones). It's tragic. The judge's response to the appeal is startling: "Rimbaud and Baudelaire can go to prison". No cultural preservation here, things are a little different by 1968. This judge is no Lestingois.

Gabe Klinger has linked Garrel's film to Renoir's "everyone has their reasons" approach to point of view, and indeed Renoir's "regularness" in regards to grand events, and grandeur in regards to small events, has echo in Les amants réguliers . Neither filmmaker judges their characters. That said, I have to wonder aloud about the meaning of this scene that Gabe describes:

"Garrel and screenwriters Marc Cholodenko and Arlette Langmann are optimistic in their portrayal of the relationship between state and individual. In another late scene, a notary and a detective visit the house of François's rich friend Antoine to collect a bill. The two officials look around at the bohemian setting, and instead of acting suspicious or snobby, they engage the two youths in an affectionate dialogue about the future."

Affectionate is the perfect word for this scene, and it's a bit of relief from the threat of the authorities that looms over the rest of the film. Affection is essential, but people never quote the first part of Renoir's "...everyone has their reasons..." and that is: "the terrible thing is....everyone has their reasons." It is the notary and the detective who are affectionate: they know they're getting paid (unlike the judge at François's trial, just before May '68). They are bemused about their surroundings because the friend is rich, the bill will be paid.

Antagonisms are now gone but I would hesitate to call this optimistic; the flame is extinguished. Though, there is an open flame referred to constantly as François and his rich friend smoke opium. No telling how much time has passed. Defeat is in the air, as is poetry, and almost as heavily. Defeat is easy to come by today; poetry, not so easy.

Garrel: "You know, every cent in Les amants réguliers has come from the political left, even though it's a production funded by private and public money. (...) It had to be that way. There was no way you could tell this story that offers a radically left perspective with right-wing money."

If it's hard to tell how much time has passed in the film, it's because historic events are seldom referred to after the barricades are shown in the first 1/3rd of the film. Like in the other great film of 2006, Colossal Youth, historical events are buried beneath presence and light, passing far below the matter of the film, but always there. And, as in Colossal Youth, clothing plays a major role in Les amants réguliers. Post-barricades, François's clothing remains exactly the same, Lilie's too, though certainly, at least months are passing. In Colossal, Ventura's change of clothes is one thing we notice as an indication of an historical jump back, up to 25 years back. But these changes, or lack of changes, are the least simple thing about these movies. Colossal, which ends up being the more narrative of the two films, is also the more documentary of a film, with Ventura and the testaments he hears becoming historical events in and of themselves, as the stories of those excluded from history and the present, and visually, as presences burning themselves into the pixels (to paraphrase Michael Sicinski). In Les amants réguliers, the lack of change in clothes purifies the love story, which Garrel wishes to be classical (comparing it to The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal).

Love is difficult to speak about; which is why this post goes on like this... Les amants réguliers is a love story. The lovers in Regular Lovers don't meet like Keechie and Bowie in They Live by Night (Les Amants de la nuit), innocently among very guilty criminal conditions into which they were born (the Depression, a criminal catatrophe of capitalism which Gabriel Kolko says is upon us again). They don't meet like Mizoguchi's lovers, through bosses (or through workers for that matter). They don't meet like the revolutionary actors in Renoir's La Marseillaise, with historic tasks (though perhaps Marseillaise's way of loving is similar to Regular Lovers, if inverse: where Garrel's regular lovers barely cross history, in La Marseillaise, history barely crosses the lovers -- both are un-articulated loves). It's certainly not the ecstatic overthrow of an old kind of love for a new kind of love, as in New Babylon. Garrel's lovers meet at a mild get together like nameless people.

So what is it, aside from regular love and a bit of history, because surely this film is tremendously overwhelming? The music (piano accompaniment to invisible planes) and sound (intimist) are fantastic, the photography must be the finest black and white photography in 20 years (shot by Willy Lubtchansky). What else exactly? Hard to say.

There is something the cinema is capable of (Garrel said it: "Cinema is only mise en scene"), it is essentially made of it: the terror of sudden absences and appearances, dreams and bodies materialized, flesh, the weight of silence, gravity over time -- the things of lovers. A physics of love which all cinema is linked to, if it thinks, anyhow. 

"Freedom is the crime that contains all crimes. It is our ultimate weapon."
(May '68 graffiti)