"It's about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building."
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Thought this might delight you. I came across a full-page ad for the artist Michael Godard while paging through Skymall magazine on a Delta flight. Apparently he's "known as the 'Rock Star of the Art World' and "is currently the #1 best selling artist in the U.S." Then, "Godard's world of art invites us in to his lighthearted perspective of life that surrounds us, mirroring our lives through martinis with animated olives, drunken grapes, dancing strawberries, including his own vices of gambling and the good life."
The biography escalates until it hits this last line: "Today Michael Godard is considered one of the most prolific and influential artists of our time."
Everything on his site is amusingly depressing.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Éric Rohmer died on Monday, aged 89.
Rohmer came into the public eye as a critic in the 1950s, a disciple of the film theoretician/ philosopher and Cahiers du cinéma editor André Bazin (Rohmer would later hold that same post at Cahiers). More than any of his contemporaries, Rohmer remained focused throughout his career on Bazin's concept of film as the medium par excellence to transcribe life--a conviction, in both cases, grounded in deep religiosity. In a 1983 interview, Rohmer described his "theoretical foundation" to Jean Narboni:
"All I'm doing is organizing Bazin's ideas. He said, with regard to Monde du Silence (The Silent World): 'To show the bottom of the ocean, to show it and not describe it, that's film.' Now, literature describes it; painting paints it; and by freezing it, by interpreting it, film shows it--for example, Nanook the Eskimo harpooning the walrus. It's like nothing else, it has no equivalent."
As a filmmaker, Rohmer was one of the greatest to work within the tradition of French cinematic "realism"--a diversely populated and impossible-to-fence territory through which runs one of the richest veins in film history. One finds not only Renoir here, but Maurice Pialat, for whom the documentary "miracle" of the Lumiere Brothers was the barred Eden to which the best efforts of the medium longed, impossibly, to return. There is the self-ethnography of Jean Rouch, and later of Jean Eustache, who, watching a TV broadcast of Nous irons à Paris, a minor comedy by Jean Boyer ("a director who never shined with ambition"), still saw "reflected, perhaps without trying, a certain image of the country, of villages, of France... I can show you an image of France in 1950, through this film which has no other ambition than to make you laugh." Much is risible about the onetime French Ministry of Culture slogan "Quand on aime la vie, on va au cinéma" ("When one loves life, one goes to the cinema"--a maxim I have seen, unsubstantiated, attributed to Truffaut). Love or hate aside, the necessity of communication between lived life and its simulacrum is an essential point (Rohmer, who co-authored with Claude Chabrol a study of the still-mistaken-for-hermeneutic Hitchcock, was quicker than most to recognize the pitfalls of "cinephilia": "I would even say that film is the art that can feed on itself the least")
As news of Rohmer's death spread, one film blogger recently promoted to a prominent editorship suggested that Andrew Bujalski write a eulogy for the Maître of "talkies." Heir apparent Bujalski admitted he wasn't familiar enough with Rohmer's films--which explains a lot. Rohmer works in a mode distinct from the American "realist" model, which, perhaps (over)reacting against idealized fantasist tendencies in our national art, insistently emphasizes the ugly, banal, and inarticulate in portraying the "real"--this includes smutched Ashcan School painting and hoarse Cassavetes films, as well as innumerable texts and mini-movements that don't bear mentioning. Aided for much of his career by his camera lucida, cinematographer Néstor Almendros, a politically-courageous man with a sixth sense for natural light, Rohmer's films were noted for extraordinary, unaffected beauty, an aura that had a spiritual dimension. To Narboni, Rohmer described his formative aesthetic experience, watching Rossellini's Stromboli:
"I hated the way it invited me to look at the world, until I understood that it was also inviting me to look beyond that. Right then and there, I converted. That's what's so great about Stromboli. It was my road to Damascus."
I felt similarly reading a declamation of Rohmer's some time back, a paraphrasal from Husserl's maxim on coming "back to things themselves," a statement which appears in a 1951 article for Cahiers: "Art's task is not to enclose us in a sealed world. Born of the world, it brings us back to it."
I was all,
Concurrent to Rohmer's interment, James Cameron's Avatar has become the 2nd highest grossing film, internationally, in motion picture history (though I never know how to take these unadjusted box office figures). The film, as we at Liquid Metal have been given to understand it, stars some CGI critters (Na'vi) with fiberoptic Zach de la Rocha-esque dreadlocks who enact a rather tired Zach de la Rocha-esque narrative in which a merrie ragtag band of vaguely green/ granola/ Noble Savages take on an invading Military Industrial complex with only their EcoTotes and a prayer, one of those flexible "resistance" narratives that haphazardly conflates AmerIndians, Sandinistas, Tupamaros, Tamil Tigers, Brigate Rosse, Baader-Meinhof, Weathermen, Spanish Republicans, Werwolf resistance, October Revolutionaries and White Russians, the Continental and Confederate Armies, Tea Parties, Michigan Militia, Branch Davidians, Hamas, and so on, ad infinitum.
Pampered First Worlders adore this sort of storytime stuff, through which they can vicariously experience the oppression they've heard so much about and sham caring about, connecting the all-in life-or-death gambles of these never-say-die renegades to their own feeling of helplessness when their boss asks them not to use gChat at work. Rohmer, a most historically astute man, might have had compunctions about recasting the European arrival in The New World in Cameron's Manichean terms, remembering--as almost no-one seems to--that up until 1492 the Iberian Peninsula was still, at least partways, an occupied territory itself. But then it's so much easier to castigate one's forebears from the smug vantage of 21st century enlightenment than to take the leap of historical consciousness toward understanding of the Law of the Jungle that dictated their lives.
I would be remiss not to add that some Na'vi apparently have sex on-screen in Avatar, undoubtedly a Great Leap Forward in the entertainment industry's push to further alienate human sexual response from that no-ticket-required, profitless, prehistoric tangle of flesh and feeling, paving the way for a generation of warped libidos who'll make Furries seem positively back-to-nature (from the Avatar wiki: "One of the challenges in designing Neytiri was making her look sufficiently alien and yet familiar and appealing enough to make Jake's attraction to her natural and convincing.").
Finally, nothing in this Edgar Rice Burroughs balderdash could claim to bear any resemblance to any potential viewer's experience of life, any more than Cameron's Pandora resembles the place most moviegoers watched Avatar. The comedown, documented here, has apparently been considerable:
Hearing the news of Rohmer's death, I took the occasion to watch his last film, 2007's Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon--one of three the octogenarian made during Jim Cameron's post-Titanic idle. Rohmer adapts Honoré d'Urfé's L'Astrée, a four part work published between 1607 and 1627. A title card alerts us that the original setting of d'Urfé's novel, the Lignon River in Forez, has since been swallowed by industrial blight--but in Auvergne, a sufficiently sylvan setting was found to lay our scene. It's a delicious movie. Leads Andy Gillet and Stéphanie Crayencour display a wonderful clarity of feeling, and Rohmer, whose subject is so often fidelity, remains much more erotic than any apostle of Don Juanism (it's interesting to note that Rohmer sponsored the early career of another schoolteacher-turned-filmmaker, the great Jean-Claude Brisseau, whose monomaniacal focus on sex and spirituality will continue to baffle and discomfit mock-worldly reviewers)
Returning to Cameron and Pandora: This is not a polemic towards an art that acknowledges only the "scientifically known" world. I consider both Caspar David Friedrich and D'Urfé's contemporary Hercules Seghers, to provide only two examples, great artists of nonexistent landscapes. I find a closer analog to my subjective experience of the world in Lovecraft than in anything that provides Jason Schwartzman for my generational placeholder (or should I say Avatar?). And Nabokov never seems more pigheaded than when sweepingly condemning the fables of Gogol or Poe into his "books for boys" stack. But the predominant Science-Fiction/ Fantasy notion of beauty does not move me at all, most especially in its current dead-eyed CGI incarnation, of which Avatar is the apotheosis.
Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon, which presents a particularly Christian form of druidic paganism, complete with tripartite Man-God, confirms the possibility of Paradise in our world (and, implicitly, beyond). "We call classical," Rohmer once said, "the periods when beauty in art and beauty in nature seemed to be one in the same." His Auvergne of untrammeled sweetgrass is a 5th century Gaul... as rosily imagined by a Louis XIII-era imagination, and photographed in a 21st century France. The sense of tradition is touching, and watching it one wants Winter to end, cannot wait to be out-of-doors, among other things. Avatar and its ilk, by contrast, imply a surrender. The Earth abandoned to surface parking, we fall back on IMAX escapism. And as hilarious on many levels as the idea of "Coping With The Intangibility Of Pandora" is, it points to the very disturbing reality of a populace whose experience of art, life, nature, and beauty is so limited that a lurid 3D bitmap can be experienced as transcendent.
I allow Gore Vidal closing remarks, taken from his fine 1963 essay, Tarzan Revisited, originally published in Esquire , on the aforementioned Edgar Rice Burroughs, :
"Since there are few legitimate releases for the average man, he must take to daydreaming. James Bond, Mike Hammer and [Na'vi] are all dream-selves, and the aim of each is to establish personal primacy in a world which in reality diminishes the individual. Among adults, increasing popularity of these lively inferior fictions strikes me as a most significant (and unbearably sad) phenomenon."