Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fever (Louis Delluc, 1921)
I'm Still Here (Casey Affleck, 2010)

Ben Sachs was totally right on when he wrote that this is an American von Trier film. The moral is essentially conservative (though, like in von Trier, presented through "radical" "content"): the meaninglessness of "personal art" (Joaquin Phoenix's shitty rapping, which comes straight from his character's heart) compared to the meaningfulness of the pettiest piece of popular entertainment (the art he's escaping). This is not a satire of Hollywood -- the film is firmly in the Hollywood camp, and it's certainly the work of two people who believe ardently in "acting" and popular entertainment; in fact, it's an attack on those people (represented by the character Phoenix plays) who think that saying somebody else's words for a living is bullshit and who put faith in the myth of artists as loners. The huckster Diddy plays isn't banking in on Phoenix's celebrity (he couldn't give two shits); he's just willing to take the money of any fool who thinks what he has to say is worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Late Night with Conan O'Brien, episode dated 10/23/96

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Operation Condor aka Armour of God 2 (Jackie Chan, 1991)

The Medallion (Gordon Chan, 2003)

Police Story (Jackie Chan, 1985)

Rush Hour 2 (Brett Ratner, 2001)

Rumble in the Bronx (Stanley Tong, 1995)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Detail of Beethoven's handwritten score for the "Große Fuge"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Super 8 as a weapon / Panic in High School (Sōgo Ishii, 1976)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1500 reckless words on The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (John Constable, c. 1824)
End of a typewritten letter from Ray Bradury to Brian Sibley, dated 6/10/74
9/13 - 9/19
  • Devil (John Erick Dowdle, 2010)
  • I'm Still Here (Casey Affleck, 2010)
  • The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  • La Chevelure (Ado Kyrou, 1961)
  • Cops vs. Thugs (Kinji Fukasaku, 1975)
  • Could This Be Love (Abel Ferrara, 1973)
  • The Crimson Curtain (Alexandre Astruc, 1952)
  • Empire of Passion (Nagisa Oshima, 1978)
  • If You Were Young: Rage (Kinji Fukasaku, 1970)
  • Janine (Maurice Pialat, 1961)
  • Rue Fontaine (Philippe Garrel, 1984)
  • Street Mobster aka Modern Yakuza: Outlaw Killer (Kinji Fukasaku, 1972)
  • Undisputed III: Redemption (Isaac Florentine, 2010)
  • Here Comes the Kraken (Here Comes the Kraken, 2009)
  • Lisbon (The Walkmen, 2010)
  • Re-ac-tor (Neil Young, 1981)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Leaud's Phonecall

Rue Fontaine (Philippe Garrel, 1984; photographed by Pascal Laperrousaz)

Besides the grainy darkness of Pascal Laperrousaz's 16mm images, one of my favorite things about this Garrel short, the highlight of the Paris vu par .... vingt ans après anthology film (a largely muddled "twenty years later" follow-up to the movie commonly called Six in Paris in English), is a brief scene where Jean-Pierre Leaud calls Christine Boisson from a payphone.

While the camera is pointed at Leaud (the whole scene is done in one take), a microphone has been set up elsewhere with Boisson. Instead of hearing his voice clearly and hers coming out the receiver, we hear her side of the conversation -- her voice is disarmingly crisp and his is tinny. Garrel and sound recordist Jean-Luc Rault-Cheynet complicate things further by also recording Leaud's side of the conversation and bookending the recording of Boisson with direct sound of Leaud picking up and putting down the phone. That is, they go against the conventions of showing a phone conversation in a movie (sound and image from the same point of view), and with the reality of a phone conversation as something that always occurs from two perspectives at once.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Claude Berri & Hubert Deschamps in Janine (Maurice Pialat, 1961; photographed by Jean-Marc Ripert)

"Maybe you were too good to her."
"You're joking. I beat her."
"You didn't ... how?"
"With my fists."
"I don't believe it."
"That's the way I am. I'm soft or I'm hard, nothing in between."
Michel Piccoli in La Chevelure (Ado Kyrou, 1961; photographed by Oleg Tourjansky, who also shot Rabbit's Moon)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

City Building Site No. 1 (Leon Kossoff, 1961; oil on board)

Building Site Near Saint Paul’s No. 2 (Leon Kossoff, 1956; oil on board)
The Hatter's Ghost (Claude Chabrol, 1982)

In the Presence of a Clown (Ingmar Bergman, 1997)

The Florentine Method

Undisputed III: Redemption (Isaac Florentine, 2010)

What I like about Isaac Florentine's directing is that he keeps things simple. In his second Undisputed movie (by this point the franchise has drifted far away from the Walter Hill original and closer to the territory of the Ringo Lam / Jean-Claude Van Damme movies -- specifically In Hell, of which this is essentially a remake), Florentine has a little system worked out for the fight scenes, and the system mostly works. It's obstinately unobtrusive: shoot in comparatively long (each shot about 4-5 seconds) hand-held takes, the camera keeping its distance from the two fighters so that both bodies are clearly visible in the frame; focus on the fight, but after every five or so shots, cut to a close-up of the face of an onlooker (usually an inmate, sometimes a guard; always pick an extra with a memorable face, preferably a good scar); at the end of the match, do a brief scene with the money men, crooks and gamblers. The whole film follows a system, too, calculated to give it momentum without taxing the actors too much: scenes in the ring, scenes at the work camp, scenes at the casino, scenes in solitary confinement. Of course the fight scenes are the main attraction: on this sort of budget, you can't afford very good acting (though Scott Adkins -- who was the heavy in Undisputed II and becomes the lead in this film -- has some goddamn expressive eyes), but you can afford great fighters.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

1930 - 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bob Dylan's backup singers from the music video for "Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)" (Paul Schrader, 1985)
Leviathan (George P. Cosmatos, 1989; photographed by Alex Thomson)

Carefully detailed Alex Thomson 'scope camerawork + the usual clumsy Cosmatos direction, resulting in a film's that both dumb-blunt (in the flow of action) and smart-detailed (in the way that action is presented) at the same time. In short: people placed precisely in the frame say stupid shit (Ernie Hudson: "We got a Dracula here with us?") and get chased by a rubber monster. It's also surprisingly bland for a David Webb Peoples scripts -- a 1989 undersea-base thrillers (Deepstar 6, The Abyss) and a blatant rip-off of both Alien and The Thing -- though its sheer goofiness is well served by Thomson's resolute old-fashionedness.

"I'm not a doctor."

Scene deleted from most versions of Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Tenant (Roman Polanski, 1976)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"...the souls of the children grew inside the leopards..."

The dream scene from Cat People, which is also the only sequence that realizes the film's lurid Italo Lovecraft potential. (Paul Schrader, 1982; photographed by John Bailey; music composed by Giorgio Moroder; edited by Jacqueline Cambas, Jere Huggins & Ned Humphreys)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kid blurs & investigators / Gideon of Scotland Yard (John Ford, 1958; photographed by Freddie Young)

Beautiful Vulgarities

[This appeared on the Tisch Film Review website on January 20th, 2009.]

Living It Up (Norman Taurog, 1954)

Frank Tashlin’s reputation has only increased over the decades. Not so for the other great director of Martin and Lewis comedies – but, then again, Norman Taurog’s late films never had a reputation, so he’s lost nothing, which doesn’t mean that he deserved nothing. It’s true that Taurog did make some “reputable” films – he even won an Academy Award. But his best movies are the ones he made in the 1950s and 1960s: bikini comedies, Elvis travelogues and, of course, the half-dozen movies he directed for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. For all the classy polish of the middle(-brow) portion of Taurog’s career, the Martin & Lewis movies are what give Taurog his identity. They define him as the great vulgarian of American cinema, the cheap cigar to Frank Tashlin’s filtered cigarette. It’s a pungent cinema, made with a contempt for everything.

The Martin and Lewis comedies are distant relations to Taurog’s 1930s and ’40s work; they seem more like the children of the first movies Taurog made, his 1920s shorts for the homuncular Larry Semon, the most grotesque of the silent comedians (early in this short, Semon can be seen devouring a make-up kit like a goat). What a Sturges or a Tashlin or a Wilder might thumb his nose at, Taurog shits on. The opening scene of Pardners, with Martin and Lewis as their characters’ fathers, is a mockery of cowboy heroism, a piece of satire so bleakly straight-faced, Paul Verhoeven could have directed it. A satire so close to non-satire, to sincerity, that it makes sincerity seem disingenuous.

In the best of his Martin and Lewis movies, Living It Up, everyone becomes convinced Lewis is dying of radiation poisoning, except Martin, his low-rent doctor, last in his class at medical school and more prone to practicing his guitar-playing than medicine. When someone knocks on the door, he puts on his white coat the way you’d throw on a bathrobe. Janet Leigh is the reporter who comes to their New Mexico town, and Martin and Lewis decide to keep up the ruse to score a free trip to New York. The man who’s footing their lavish bills is Leigh’s boss, an easily-conned newspaper publisher using human interest stories to further his own poorly thought-through politic interests auspiciously named Oliver Stone. Handed the key to the city upon their arrival, Martin stuffs it into the back pocket of the unconscious Lewis slung over his shoulder, Lewis’s ass taking up a good portion of the frame. A bellboy at their hotel asks Martin if he has any tips on when his patient might die; he’s placed a bet giving Lewis 14 days. Martin, always friendly, says that for him, he’ll “speed things up.” No one seems to notice that Lewis is fine and, for that matter, egotistical; his childish demands are met with tears. Everyone’s sorry for “the poor kid.” Even Leigh, in love with Martin’s quack, marries Lewis out of pity. Pretending to go crazy from his radiation sickness, Lewis climbs into a chandelier and claims to be a bomber pilot, yelling dialogue that would belong in a patriotic war movie as he throws lightbulbs at his wedding guests. The final shot of the film gives the finger to their fantasy New York, as Martin and Lewis, now streetsweepers, reprise the credits song, singing to the glories of New York’s streets as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal a wide avenue strewn with colorful trash.

Jumping Jacks, made in the middle of the Korean War, has soldiers so lazy that their main concern is putting on a music show. Lewis is, as in almost all of the movies Taurog directed him in, pretending to be someone else: a paratrooper. Martin is his old nightclub partner, now enlisted, who has his friend come disguised to help out with a performance for the men on his base. Lewis is easily snuck into the base; the men are more concerned with clean uniforms and proper salutes than security. Of course, in the Martin-Lewis-Taurog films, people are conned because they want to be: You’re Never Too Young even has man-child Lewis ditching the “man” part entirely and holing away in a private school with the identity of a 12-year-old boy in a turn of events aided by his unsettling theft of an actual schoolboy’s clothes in a scene that makes hating children and the people who give into their whims seem more natural than loving them.

The show in Jumping Jacks is a hit, and the general asks them to tour the other bases with it; Martin and the other soldiers blackmail Lewis into participating, saying he’ll be executed for espionage if he reveals that he isn’t really enlisted. They eventually finds their way into a combat maneuver exercise, where Lewis’s idiocy helps him outwit many of the trained soldiers, including Martin, who is taken prisoner by the opposing team almost instantly. The final two images of the film are Martin and Lewis together on a motorcycle with a sidecar, talking about how nothing can separate them now, followed by the bike and sidecar separating at a crossroads. The film has a younger cousin in Taurog’s filmography: Sergeant Deadhead, a 1965 military comedy with a beach party cast which finds the United States accidentally sending the wrong man into space. This is a nuclear age, a space age, whose dangers give life a comic nihilism. Annihilation makes everything seem stupid (just like when, early in Living It Up, Lewis drove a car through Los Alamos, forcing a startled tank off the road and into a house). There is a reverse effect, too: the bleakness is invigorated. Later in Living It Up, Martin and Lewis perform the film’s main musical number, dancing down a seedy street in coats and tails. A police car’s spotlight becomes their follow spot; they play around with the signs of striptease joints, kick cans and rouse a group of sleeping bums into helping them commandeer a horse and carriage. Only Raoul Walsh’s The Bowery is more beautifully, carelessly vulgar. It’s the mean-spirited joke that puts a smile on your face.

The Dynamics of the Image, or Civeyrac Matters

[A sort of companion to "Films and Feelings" (which appears in a revised version here), this post appeared at the now-defunct Tisch Film Review website on September 23, 2009; unlike that text, this one has undergone minimal revisions. Since this was written, Civeyrac has completed another feature Young Girls in Black.]

À travers la forêt (Jean-Paul Civeyrac, 2005)

Jean-Paul Civeyrac made À travers la forêt in 2005; it’s his most recent feature to date. It played a few festivals, but, like every Civeyrac film, no US distributor has seen it fit (or thought it would make a good enough return) to either put it in a theater or on a DVD. It’s a small film and a big one, both in the old-fashioned sense. Small, meaning that it’s barely over an hour long and was shot on just a few sets in less than two weeks, the sort of schedule Joseph H. Lewis and Edgar Ulmer used to work with back in the day. Big, in that it’s larger than its production budget, that its images are worth more than the money spent on making them. Maybe Civeyrac hasn’t made a feature since À travers la forêt because it is the ultimate Jean-Paul Civeyrac film: he would have to think long and hard to express himself more fully. But who knows — people are capable of a lot of things; to watch movies is to intend to be surprised. But, anyway, that it’s the “ultimate” Civeyrac — an auteurist honorific of the lowest order — isn’t what makes it important. Just because Defiance is the ultimate Edward Zwick movie (and it is) doesn’t mean you should see it. No, the reason that a film being the ultimate Civeyrac matters is that Civeyrac himself matters, whether we know it or not.

Civeyrac was born in the last week of 1964. That makes him 44 now — not a young man, but still a “young director,” because, after all, there isn’t a profession that requires as much living (or fewer qualifications) as directing films. But he’s also a “young director” in the sense that he will always remain one — he’s one of those people like Nagisa Oshima, Manoel de Oliveira, Aleksandr Sokurov or George A. Romero, one of those for whom a hundred and fifteen years isn’t quite a history. There are older things (de Oliveira and Sokurov), newer ones (Oshima) or modern ones (Romero) to worry about. There are no people alive now who were around before people shot movies, yet, at the same time, there’s still a lot to discover, a lot of ideas to work out. Cinema only appears old because there are old movies, but the two things are as separate as art is from paintings or literature is from novels.

The opening shot of À travers la forêt is seven minutes long. Actually, every shot in À travers la forêt is about seven minutes long: there are ten of them in a 65 minute film. But Civeyrac’s technique isn’t fetish and it isn’t a question of “prolonging” or some conceptual take on duration: his films move rapidly, faster than almost anyone else’s, and in one of his long takes there are more distinct and original ideas and feelings than in many of the most complicated (which isn’t to say complex) editing schemes. Civeyrac is no virtuoso; he has nothing to prove about himself, only about the image and its capabilities. There’s a basic truth that forms the basis for his style: a simple picture can show you light or it can show you darkness, but only a movie can show the light changing, clouds suddenly appearing on the horizon or the Sun coming out after a storm. It’s in moving from one thing to the next that a certain sensation impossible in anything else occurs.

The idea behind the opening shot of À travers la forêt, on a basic level, seems to be to construct a long take — the camera shifting from wide-shot to close-up, circling around and moving forward— out of a parade of ordinary pleasures: flowers, mirrors, a woman’s hair, hands, breasts, a man’s ass. Yet the shot is not about any of those things; if I had to describe "Civeyrac," I'd say that he’s what happens in the movement between those objects. He’s not the framing, but what occurs within the take when the camera moves from one framing to the next, the moment of the dissolve and not the image dissolved from or into, what occurs in the camera’s movement forward rather than the framing that results from its arrival at the end of the dolly track, the pan rather than what’s being panned between. His cinema is the transition, the dynamic, and also the blur. That transition is also a sort of tension, like in his 2000 film Les Solitaires, where the domestic tension of the plot is rivaled by the director’s own tension, a high-wire act between the traditions of naturalism and his own impulse towards truth (the solution, apparently, is theater — the theater of the image, you could call it, and that’s probably how Miklós Jancsó thinks of it, too).

The other key Civeyrac idea is that a person can die in a moving image. While painting or photography can show a moment of death, cinema can portray the transition. This raises a good question: is death Civeyrac’s great subject because of the nature of cinema, or was he drawn to cinema because of death? Either answer seems likely; it’s probably a combination of the two. He’s not haunted by death like, say, Philippe Garrel (for whom death has always been a sort of failure and life, by extension, the road to failure); no, death for him isn’t something final, but a sort of transition in and of itself, maybe into memory or into history. A ghost haunts every grainy image of Les Solitaires. Civeyrac's pre-Raphaelite short Tristesse Beau Visage tells the story of how Orpheus seduced Eurydice, in color and black & white (or is it how Eurydice seduced Orpheus? You’re never really sure — all these turns).

And it’s the turn, and the uncertainity that comes with it, that makes Civeyrac important — a director of small films working with one of the greatest tools available to an extent that’s unrivaled, like some unknown who discovers a secret to painting and toils in obscurity. He is against the definitive and for an image that shows what exists between things instead of the things themselves, what we feel between emotions. And we should be with him.

On Bird-Catching

[Now that Tisch Film Review is defunct, I'm going to start re-posting the essays I wrote for its website here. The original version of this text, titled "Films and Feelings," appeared on the site on February 17, 2009. It has been substantially revised; the paragraphs have been re-ordered, and about 700 words have been cut.]

Sparrow (Johnnie To, 2008)

Sparrow is the story of some very skilled pickpockets meeting the same pretty girl, falling for her, and deciding to free her from the control of her infirm husband to the same degree that Vertigo is about Jimmy Stewart investigating a friend’s wife for him and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is about why he’s at a funeral. No Fear No Die is about cockfighting, Antoine & Antoinette has a couple winning the lottery, The Ladies Man is about a guy who lives with some girls and Play Time is the story of a man applying for a job.

Johnnie To has directed some of the best movies of the last two decades; he is more astounding than almost any other director working today. His cinema is exciting (but never tiring), intelligent (but never distanced), and, above all, emotional. He’s an amateur sociologist, a crack dramatist, an occasional poet. The stakes in Sparrow are much lower than any of his other films: no one is going to die (except maybe of old age) and the main characters get the physical violence coming to them early on, spending a portion of the movie with their arms and legs in casts or walking on crutches. There is no unavoidable set-up pitting people against each other, like in Fulltime Killer or Exiled. The four pickpockets in Sparrow are free to do whatever they want; they choose an action with no tangible reward–to rescue a beautiful girl they realize can’t love all of them–and To and his regular co-screenwriter Wai Ka-Fai let them follow it through.

Struggle, or at least the possibility of confrontation, has always been the main method To has used to explore emotions. While for a contemporary like John Woo the action movie or the gun fight was a way to forge a myth, for To it has always been a device in the strictest sense – a stage. Drama was a machine through which some idea of people (or, in the case of the Election movies, an idea of society) could be fed: the narrative became what they did as they made their way through the cogs and gears. To’s inevitabilities – the contract hits, the suicide missions, the desperate rescues, the haunted memories, the promises that drove protagonists to do foolish things – are a way to explore some idea of camaraderie, ambivalence or cowardice. Whereas in To’s previous crime films, the image of the gun – and the excitement and doom it represented –was a key instrument, here he abandons it completely (not even the heavies carry pistols), interfacing with the sense of danger it represented directly the way Hitchcock did from Marnie onwards, when his interest in human emotion overwhelmed his patience for traditional character and plot construction. Topaz was not a “suspenseful film,” but a film of suspense. Sparrow is not a “heartfelt” film, but a movie consisting entirely of feelings: the strange eroticism of a cigarette shared in a nighttime convertible ride, the mix of flirtation and competition of a casino drinking binge, a rooftop scene that’s equal parts confrontation and caring, the cocky suspense of pickpocketing in a business district and that disarming moment of loneliness given to the film’s nominal villain when he’s defeated. And, above all, a sense of freedom.

More than almost any other contemporary filmmaker, To is concerned with images and the potential of a moving picture: the way perspectives can shift within a single shot; how a shadow can be cast across a person’s face; the dramatics of framings, zooms, dollies, pans, focus changes and depth-of-field; the geometries and symmetries of composing with a wide-angle lens; cloaking shadows, choking daylight, colors both bright and muted.

Before embarking on Sparrow, To devoted an entire film to the dynamic possibilities of the image: Breaking News. The camera travels from floor to floor, from the far end of a room all the way up to a face. The nearly ten-minute shot which opens that movie is ostensibly tied to the build-up and failure of a police bust, beginning with two cops on a stake-out and collapsing into a daytime firefight. The camera moves back and forth, zooming in and out throughout a city block, becoming more claustrophobic, as though every movement mapped the contours of a stifling room, though we know very well that we’re being shown the microcosm of an entire city. “The image” is at the center of the film: criminals barricade themselves into an apartment building, taking a few (friendly) hostages; their battle with the police isn’t about some sort of tangible victory, but about creating and destroying images for the news media gathered outside. Everything they do is to create a picture, to provide a sound bite or a good photo. Which also happens to be the underlying idea of montage: one image affects or upsets another.

Even within the expressive tradition of Cantonese cinema, Johnnie To stands out. As any cinematographer is also an editor, every director who thinks (and thinking of oneself is a key, as, whether they realize it or not, every director expresses something, even if it’s only indifference, through images) of him or herself as expressing through images also expresses through edits. In a scene near the beginning of PTU, every new ‘scope image suggests that a different party has taken power over the others as a policeman, a hoodlum and the hoodlum’s eventual assassin play a sort of musical chairs in a little restaurant. The opening scenes of Election, which traverse long expanses of space across a city, from smoky rooms to sunny riversides, map the boundaries of a netherworld: a series of match-cuts based on social rather than physical gestures.

Before Sparrow, every To movie saw Hong Kong as a locked room (yeah, in Fulltime Killer, To turned the city into a playground, but remember that kids don’t go to the playground out of free will – they’re brought there by their parents). Breaking News made it into a prison on fire. Exiled and the Election movies showed it as an unwashable mark, something that you can’t escape even if you leave it. But here is a sort of liberation, which takes us back to the liberating city life of early cinema and away from the view of cities as stifling places that has dominanted cinema for the last 40 years. “Possibility” isn’t the right word; it suggests choices, and choices are always limited. The protagonists (and by this I also mean the filmmakers) of Sparrow have found a way to be free. Their actions are no longer tests of their character – how they might handle this situation or this set-up or this genre. And it gives those actions weight, because how a person might behave when their hand is forced is measured by different standards from how a person might behave when they’re free to do whatever they want. Because of his facility with the basics of cinema – with images, edits, sounds, performances, etc. – Johnnie To can create a film out of anything at this point. He could find the sensations in two hours of needlepoint or a long cab ride. But these are the feelings he’s chosen and the film he’s made. He is unmoored, untethered. He’s gone hunting, caught something and brought it back.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'm Falling in Love (Jean Fautrier, 1957; oil on paper)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fallout and the Beauty of Play

Fallout 2 (Black Isle Studios, 1998)

Black Isle Studios, which existed from around 1996 (though formally only 1998) to the end of 2003, were more or less the Arthur Freed Unit of computer gaming: a self contained studio-within-a-studio that developed their own house style. The style: role-playing games with an isometric view of the action, notoriously wordy (the combined text of the descriptions and dialogues in Planescape: Torment amounts to about 800,000 words), with plots that incongruously wed adolescent and puckish details to what were often reverently romantic story lines.

Though Planescape: Torment was their post-modern showpiece, the masterworks of the Black Isle style are their two Fallout games (Bethesda, who'd once made the jarring and similarly dense Daggerfall, would end up developing Fallout 3 in 2008; it'd been Black Isle's main project -- code-named Van Buren, per Black Isle's policy of naming projects after US Presidents -- when the unit was laid-off en masse by Interplay in December 2003).

The two Fallouts are ironic picaresques. The player finds him or herself in a world that, like a Thomas Pynchon novel, is built entirely out of parodies, vague conspiracies, dirty jokes, genre stories, pop-culture references and, above all, bad puns. Both games start the player as a naïf who must leave a sheltered community and go out into a society of cultural cockroaches; the few things that have survived the nuclear fallout intact are gambling, class warfare (which comes into play in Fallout's famous twist ending, and gets further satirized in Fallout 2's Vault City, an impeccable environment where alcohol is prohibited but slave labor is the norm), exploitation of labor, theft, boxing promotion and prostitution. If the cars and computers don't always work, the scams do.

They are labyrinthine games that invite dicking around, goading the player into avoiding their duty (which in both cases involves finding an object that will solve all of their community's problems). If Baldur's Gate (also by Black Isle, and released the same year as Fallout 2) was a boys' adventure with ancillary quests, Fallout 2 was a game about ignoring adventure in favor of hour-long diversions. Compared to something like Half-Life 2, which merely presents the illusion of a fully-realized world in what is essentially a rigid game environment where every hallway and door serves some kind of purpose in advancing the action, it's an unwieldy monster of a game.

That is: it does the thing that games are meant to do. It doesn't merely give the player the privilege of being a participant in action (which is more or less the purpose of Half-Life 2, and to a certain extent even Deus Ex). It invites play. That's why Counter-Strike was always better than the original Half-Life, and why the Lucas Arts adventure games were superior to the Sierra franchises. The main theory behind so much game development since the mid-1990s has been to involve players in some kind of story, to essentially make the game a movie with worse camera angles and acting but with a limited degree of choice. But "play" -- the ability to navigate and combine elements at will -- is the true property that's exclusive to games, and using them as a vehicle for "plot" instead of the freedom to navigate the code (which is really a text expressing itself through sounds and pictures) is just a way to art them up while ignoring the one thing that is undoubtedly exclusive to the medium.
"Of course it's hard working with a very tight schedule for filming, but once you become used to it, having more time means you can really make good use of it. Though I would probably waste it by sleeping and amusing myself."
--Takashi Miike
Jerzy Radziwilowicz in Man of Marble (Andrzej Wajda, 1977)

Pug-eyed, bauta'd figures in test footage for Welles' The Merchant of Venice

Radziwilowicz's Face

From the International Journal of Slawkenbergian Studies:

There's a moment in The Story of Maire and Julien when Madame X tells Julien that she's suspicious because he doesn't have the face of a blackmailer and you realize that she's totally right, and that Jerzy Radziwilowicz's face, the most Polish face in film history, is almost inscrutably honest.

Everything about Radziwilowicz looks honest: big hands (another moment from Marie and Julien: Radziwilowicz is sitting alone at a round cafe table and he scoops up the change he has left over into his bulldozer palms), big ears and big cheeks that hide his cheekbones. His skin: ruddy in youth, pockmarked in old age. And, most importantly, a big nose which (like Gabin's nose) has only grown bigger as he has grown older. There is an unusual sense of trust and complicity inspired by big-nosed actors: W.C. Fields, Jean Gabin, Gerard Depardieu, Walter Matthau, Jean-Paul Belmondo, John Krasinski (who could star in a Radziwilowicz biopic if someone were to make one; he could play the young JR and Martin Donovan could play the old one), Clive Owen.