Dear Diary Entry Where Mike Leigh Reams Me (In My Dreams)

August 23, 2010

I don’t usually write down my dreams but sometimes they’re so intense that I should/need to write them down. I’ve written whole haiku-like poems in my dreams before but this morning I dreamt that I was working on a Mike Leigh film and he was stuck about how the opening title sequence should look like and I offered my suggestion of starting a type in medias res and then a sudden freeze-framing (like Truffaut, like Degrassi Jr. High) with the credits rolling in pop-colored font (yes these were very specific suggestions) superimposed over the freeze-framed image. And suddenly Mike Leigh became the archetypal megalomaniac director/dictator and hated not only my suggestion but that I offered one to begin with. None of the actors who would spend a year workshopping the film were on my side and I was never asked to work on a Mike Leigh film again.

Breathtaking!

June 14, 2010

Summer’s beginning and I’m back on the blogging wagon (or is it off the wagon). There has been so much going on in my three academic-quarter break from this site that I don’t want to even attempt to delve into all the details. Most of which is boring anyway but.… There was Romance! There was Action! There was Horror! You could say my nine-month absence from whatever it is that I do on this thing was…Breathtaking. I made some cheap, bad movies, I wrote some writings, I performed some writings, I met some lovelies. I didn’t watch as many movies as I should have. Something about the guilt of sitting in a theatre when you know you have a stack of papers to grade makes it hard to watch the film. I did see The Red Shoes yesterday though. How could I not. San Diego’s no New York. We don’t have a single institution that regularly revisits past films. Blame it on the audience, blame it on the distributors, blame it on the audience again. Anyway, I had seen it only once before but on DVD so the centerpiece of the film, the actual performance of The Red Shoes was Breathtaking. But something deterred me from experiencing the same awe I did when I first watched the film about a decade ago or so.  Maybe it’s because I’ve discovered Max Ophuls since the first time I saw The Red Shoes, a director with similar sensibilities but has more to offer in his exploration of artifice and melodrama. Or that I’ve come to love A Small Back Room, a smaller Powell & Pressburger with edge-of-the seat editing that anticipates newer action fare like The Hurt Locker. The Red Shoes is not Powell & Pressburger’s masterpiece as conventional film culture lets us believe. But Godard’s trailers are as much of a masterpiece as the films they are “synopsizing.” Breathless turned 50 this year, at least in turned 50 in the states- it may be a year older in Europe. And the trailer for a reissue of Breathless that played before The Red Shoes yesterday reminded me of how much pleasure I receive from watching a Godard trailer. Any of them. His trailers, which he cuts himself, are like metacommentaries on the film, as well as commentaries on the tropes of film trailers in general. Take for example here an excerpt from the narration in the trailer of Pierrot le Fou:

A little harbor like a Conrad novel. A sailboat like in Robert Louis Stevenson. An old brothel, like in Faulkner. An Adventure film. Like in the Algerian war. A love story. Remembrance of Things Past.

The metonymic objects here highlight the tension between literature and film as arts, poking fun of the notion that film art is not as serious as the literary arts. Or he could be deflating the role of the great author, or at least exploring the possibility of such taboo. And again, how clever is he also to equate The Algerian war with an adventure film. By the way, is it pretty common now to refer to Remembrance of Things Past by its more “accepted” translation: In Search of Lost Time? I haven’t read anything about it but it must have shaken the translation community to make such move. I think there’s a Camus translation out there called The Outsider, but obviously it doesn’t have the same cultural reverberation as The Stranger. But In Search of Lost Time seems to be sticking. I’ll have to agree with critic Armond White (which is not as uncommon as you would think) when he argues for changing the title of Breathless to a more apt translation: Breathtaking. If Breathless is an exploration of cinematic convention and film history, especially of Hollywood’s, then Breathtaking is a better title since this conventional old Hollywood trailer blurb encapsulates, in that one word, the very thesis of the Godard film. The film itself is a sort of annotated trailer. And the trailer for Breathless I watched only reinforces this:

And yes, Godard still makes trailers that are playful that comments on the convention of trailer. Here’s Godard’s trailer for his latest movie Film Socialism, which makes hyperaware the role of the trailer as synopsis by giving us the whole damn thing and speeding it up:

Halloween, 2009: Dear Diary Entry #9

November 1, 2009

Yesterday it was Halloween: A-Rod & Richard Simmons publicly fondled me while a lesbian was singing Alanis Morisette’s “Uninvited.”

Nothing in That Drawer

October 12, 2009

Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.

-Ron Padgett

Elephants, Termites, Farber

October 11, 2009

The only time I ever saw Manny Farber in person was when he screened Hou’s Goodbye South Goodbye, paired with the Chuck Jones’ Warner Bros. cartoon “One Froggy Evening,” (everybody do the Michigan rag!). The Hou film with the Jones short is emblematic of Farber’s taste, and his that high art and low art (what he used to call Underground film, different from what we think of the term now) should do its best to tagteam against the self-aggrandizing, middlebrow movies, the ones that go off to win Oscars because they’re made with the specific intent to win Oscars, like the ones that come from the Miramax machine of the 90s, like Spielberg, like Dances with Wolves, like many of the costume adaptations, you get the idea. He coined terms and wrote a  kinda-sorta manifesto called “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art,” which is just one metaphor of many that he’s used before and after this essay. Of course the metaphor extends beyond merely categorizing art between high & low brow with middle-brow fare; they do come from the mind of Manny after all. I paraphrase Robert Polito, who has compiled Farber’s complete film criticism, when he states that Manny Farber’s writing resists summation. We can’t really know precisely the full range of meaning of termite, elephant art, negative space, we can only suggest some interpretations. Robert Polito was one of four panelists discussing the working life of Manny Farber the other night at DG Wills. His wife and collaborator, Patricia Patterson was also present; her recollection shed some personal light on Farber’s work and habits and hinted at an upcoming project that collects his lecture notes during his decade long stint as a professor @ UCSD. To have been one of his students…

The Case of the Compulsive Fellator

October 5, 2009

Some homosexuals engage in behavior which is so irrational that it virtually requires psychodynamic explanation. A good example of this is the case of the compulsive fellator who finds himself actually driven to engage in fellatio under what are sometimes situations of radical danger. This person frequently picks up rough-looking young men, e.g., hitchhikers and servicemen, and tries to persuade them to let him bring them to orgasm by fellatio. He is often a typical client of hustlers. As a result of his efforts, this individual frequently is assaulted and is occasionally murdered, although very often it is not clear from reading the press reports that there was a sexual basis for the crime.

What is the reason for this compulsive desire for fellatio?

-Martin Hoffman, The Gay World: Male Homosexuality and the Social Creation of Evil

Dear Diary Entry #8

October 4, 2009

It’s not about time but it is about time I get to work. “Funnel energy” into something “constructive.” Not Constructivist, but maybe that’ll work. & I still need help with my A4A project but what’s the point, really? I mean, really! But who will help me make these posters, who will help me plaster these posters, who will help me bake the bread? I don’t want it to be something facile, like stickers that say ERACISM, but it is about e-Racism. You know the type, right: it’s just a preference. Also, did my world just get whiter, wider this week. I taught my first class & graduate school really does take a lot time, but there seems to be enough time for beers, you know, to wash down all that anxiety, and regurgitate (literally). Like the other day, I puked during a semi-intimate moment, and I hadn’t had any beers, but I can laugh about it now, I laughed about it at the moment: because there’s no time to reflect since everything’s streamlined. But there have been other things that have needed processing: was I a horrible boyfriend? brother? Will I be a better boy & friend? Who are they, these friends? I love my cats, but I wish I had more time: I spend it all in these coffee shops and my little office, but the coffeeshops come in all sorts of flavors, right? Like sometimes they’re too wine bar-y, and that’s okay, but I don’t feel welcome plugging in my laptop there, or watching Wong Kar-Wai when I should be like, you know, planning. I think though there have been some new people in my life that will be there for a while and I guess, that works for me. I sort of want to encapsulate our encounters not in little poems, but rather in trading cards, that capture a highlight of our time: friend a) turning up the car stereo on a manmade island listening to experimental music that recontextualizes talk radio;  friend b) trading eyeglasses and discovering we have the same vision; friend c) flirtatious and flattering messaging, meeting up once a week, if only for a minute or two. I guess I don’t have to sit in class and eagerly raise my hand. Pick me, pick me!

Engel & Orkin: New York treasures

September 22, 2009

Rachel and I rented a movie in my recent New Haven/ New York trip and we chose an adaptation of The Maids, Kings and Queen, and the only two we ended up watching, Lovers & Lollipops and Weddings & Babies. The two we saw were forefathers of independent cinema that obviously had an influence, at least with technique, on the French New Wave, particularly Francois Truffaut. In New York, I also caught, from the same director/s Little Fugitive, the better-known film of husband-wife team of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin (their daughter was apparently in the screening). All three films, their whole oeuvre, provide a sort of a personal travelogue of New York City, in the fifties that we don’t see in their Hollywood contemporaries because of their reliance on sets and sound stages. I was particularly interested in the sound of the city even if the recurring theme songs tend to drown them sometime. It is no surprise that Rachel and I both responded better to Little Fugitive and Lovers, the two films with child protagonists. The acting of the little boy and little girl mirror the visual and aural spontaneity conveyed in their respective films. I wonder why Hollywood directors have such a hard time today scouting great child actors, but maybe it’s because Hollywood/Indiewood would rather foreground cute and quirky and ignore the child-ishness of the child.

Pictures of the Maya Lin exhibit, 10/10/09

September 17, 2009

Crammed into a seemingly small space are these large structures Maya Lin built to recreate contours of the earth and sea but resemble more like giant models of topographic charts and graphs. But also, in a way, they are three-dimensional landscapes pared down to what essentially makes a landscape. The use of wood was interesting too, because it acts as a subtle model for sustainability. To represent the earth use the earth.

East Coast Trip, Preface

September 15, 2009

I’m still in New Haven and they found the body of the disappeared med student. But she didn’t seem to have disappeared at all. Her face was plastered all over the shops and lampposts in the city, the front pages of local newspapers, and at least an hour on Nancy Grace. It’s kind of the opposite of disappearing. It’s my last day here and they’ve found her body in the walls of the research building where she worked. She was 4’11 and was a bride-to-be, the news reiterates constantly. This city favors the billionaire’s kids and they seem distant from the whole thing because the victim was not an undergrad. Usually I wouldn’t bother mentioning sensationalistic deaths but it is difficult to ignore the whole thing when everywhere you go, there are bricks, elm trees, and her xeroxed face.