Monday, January 25, 2010

Homeland of Electricity (1967)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

132 / 35

The movement and arrangement of elements (figures, images, bits of music, references, edits, lines of dialogue, everyday objects, stretches of time) in a Claire Denis film has no real precedent. The closest thing, I think, is the movement and arrangement of instrumental voices in a late Beethoven string quartet. 35 Rhums reminds me of the 3rd movement of the 15th. It's a film in A minor, both molto adagio and andante.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The issue with associating the image with the eye is that we don't see the world the way a camera does. The image doesn't simply remind us of seeing something – it reminds of ideas behind that something, of tactile sensations, smells, tastes.

The natural progression of things is the face, the voice, the hand. In cinema, they go in that order – in images as in ideas. The face, which of course includes the eyes (and sometimes it seems like the face is that which surrounds them, that which was made to comment on a look). And the eyes (or just an eye) are the first things we think of when we think of cameras. The voice, of course, is that dream of a director's voice, that fantasy that someone talks to us through the images, whether the voice belongs to a reporter, a hypnotist, a lecturer, a debater, a storyteller, a poet. A film is a monologue that becomes a dialogue when delivered. The hand's the next step, though it's taken us a while to get there.

Hand Writing

[Adagio from Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001]
Watching a short film usually means watching the director race to their clever ending. Dyana Gaye's Ousmane is a 14-minute film that doesn't hurry. Doesn't linger either. Things happen; that's enough.

The plot's a series of little jokes: a boy begs various people (a policeman, a woman who runs a restaurant, the owner of the skinniest horse you've ever seen) to give him money and, in return, he'll pray to Santa Claus to bring them what they need. At about the halfway point, he gets enough money, so he goes off to the local letter-writer to compose his list (his 500 francs buys 33 lines of text), which includes people who didn't give him anything, like his marabout, who needs to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca and suggests that, instead of having someone write his letter, the boy should take this as an opportunity to learn to read and write French (Santa Claus, the marabout explains, probably doesn't understand Arabic and certainly not Wolof).

Drama isn't a set of rules; it's whatever happens. Gaye's already learned this -- and before directing any features, to boot. Who needs "conflict?" There's enough life, enough action, in just getting something done. Sometimes you don't need to create an impediment. Think of the Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin movies, where being a kid was confusing enough that the plot didn't need to be any more complicated, or the two-act plots of Charles Burnett or Joseph H. Lewis movies. "A man walks down the street" -- there's a story there, maybe even several. Or a Sembene film, where society already posed enough problems not to have to find others. A woman trying to convince a group of people was sufficient material for an hour and a half.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Painting Like a Yuzo Kawashima Film

Christmas in the Brothel (1907)