sexta-feira, 28 de abril de 2006

The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse

Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader

After a long and fruitful career in Hollywood, Fritz Lang returned to Germany in 1960 to make the final chapter in his trilogy about the criminal genius Dr. Mabuse. (The first two films in the series were released in 1922 and 1933.) The Thousand Eyes has the stripped-down, elemental feel of many late masterpieces: all the distractions have been cleared away, and Lang is able to present his concerns with a disarming directness. The comic-book story focuses on the psychopathology of power; around the edges lurk the shadows of paranoia, sexual displacement, and death. The director himself is finally equated with the omniscient Mabuse in one of the first overtly modernist flourishes in cinema. 103 min.

Próxima pessoa que falar mal de Missão: Marte será amordaçada a uma cadeira e obrigada a assistir o Solaris do Soderbleargh oitenta vezes seguidas - a la tratamento Ludovico.

Le Massacre de Fort Apache (2)


par Louis SKORECKI

J'ai un faible pour Henry Fonda. Quand il parle à Dieu, dans le Faux Coupable, j'en ai la chair de poule. S'il parle à Dieu , c'est que personne ne l'écoute. Dans le Massacre de Fort Apache, c'est le contraire. Il ne parle pas à Dieu parce que Dieu, c'est lui. Enfin, c'est ce qu'il croit, cet avatar de Custer, grand massacreur d'Indiens devant l'éternel. Tu tires, tu réfléchis après. Pas de problème, Dieu est aux commandes. Il faut que je vous dise, j'ai toujours eu un faible pour Dieu. Je n'irais pas jusqu'à dire que Dieu, c'est moi, mais il y a des jours où j'ai des doutes. Oui, oui. Disons, pour calmer le jeu, que je me sens plus proche d'Henry Fonda que de Dieu, même si je n'ai jamais tué d'Indiens de ma vie. Je n'ai jamais non plus tourné dans un film de Ford, mais je me sens plus proche de lui que de Benoît Jacquot, que je connais depuis des années. Je ne me suis jamais crevé un oeil, et pourtant je ne vois pas en stéréo, en relief, je veux dire. Je vois tout plat, comme Ford, c'est même pour ça que je suis un bon critique de cinéma, de cinéma à la télé, je veux dire, ce qui est bête à dire vu que la télé et le cinéma, c'est pareil. C'est même pire. Lumière a inventé la télé, et il ne le savait pas. Pour revenir à Dieu, et pour calmer le jeu, disons que je suis un bon critique de cinéma, et basta.

Si je vous dis que Shirley Temple joue la fille de Henry Fonda, vous ne me croirez pas. Si, si. Si je vous dis que la bande à Ford est presque au complet (Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen, Pedro Armendariz, Jack Pennick, John Agar), vous me croirez mieux. Si je vous dis qu'il y aussi une grande fordienne, Mae Marsh (les Raisins de la colère, le Fils du désert, The Wings of Eagles, Donovan's Reef, les Deux Cavaliers, Cheyenne Autumn), née au cinéma avec Griffith, en 1912, vous sourirez. John Wayne sauve la situation, comme toujours. Fonda meurt, comme souvent. Qu'est-ce que je t'aime, John Wayne.

quinta-feira, 27 de abril de 2006

La Charge héroïque (2)

Cinécinéma Classic, 20H45

par Louis SKORECKI

J'ai un faible pour John Wayne. Quand il parle à sa femme, sur sa tombe, dans la Charge héroïque, j'ai beau dire à mes yeux d'arrêter de pleurer, ils coulent comme une rivière. Celle des Deux Cavaliers, là où sont postés pour l'éternité deux autres bavards célestes, James Stewart et Richard Widmark. Dire que je les aime, ces deux-là, serait leur faire injure. Ils coulent dans mes veines comme le cinéma n'y coule plus depuis trente ans. Qu'est-ce que je dis, trente ans, cinquante. Quand il coule aussi lentement, qu'est-ce qu'il coule vite. J'en ai la chair de poule. Je me vois sur la tombe de ma mère, en train de faire une prière. La prière des morts et le kaddisch. Il faudrait que j'aille prier sur la tombe de ma mère, je n'y vais pas assez. Je suis un fils indigne. Rien que de le dire, j'en ai les larmes aux yeux. Comme quand John Wayne parle à sa femme dans la Charge héroïque. C'est aussi beau que ses amours maritimes dans le Réveil de la sorcière rouge, le chef-d'oeuvre de Ludwig. C'était le film préféré de Wayne, vous saviez ?

John Wayne est le cow-boy ultime, le prince des cavaliers. Dans la Charge héroïque, il met en fuite des milliers de chevaux. Il s'y connaît en chevaux, John Wayne. Ford aussi, Walsh aussi. Ils savent allumer des feux aux couleurs de leurs films, ils savent les faire flamber. Les couleurs sont en feu, elles brûlent, elles hurlent. Le feu, c'est la vie. Ford et Walsh, c'est la vie. Ford encore plus. Aller au travail jusqu'au dernier jour, jusqu'au bout du bout de la vie, après les massacres, les feux de camp, les feux de joie, les feux de vie. Harry Carey Jr. est là. Fidèle au poste. Comme son père avant lui. Comme la vie avant lui. Quelques trompettes, quelques violons. Ça veut dire quoi, les violons ? La mort, la mort, l'amour. Après la mort, c'est encore la vie. Les chants, les valses, les violons. Les violons ont toujours raison, non ?

quarta-feira, 26 de abril de 2006

terça-feira, 25 de abril de 2006

Love in the dying moments of the twentieth century.

Like All Old Couples, the Movies and TV Have Wound Up Looking Alike

The phoney war between the seventh art and the weird and wonderful window on the world, with its missed opportunities and its piled up resentments, isn’t over. This old couple hasn’t had its final say. Is cinema coming back? Yes, but in what condition? Can we still talk about cinema and television in all seriousness as distinct entities? Nowadays we know that the cinema’s survival depends in large part on television. That the cinema is simultaneously TV’s revenue, its kept woman and its hostage. What’s not so clear is that in aesthetic terms too the cinema has lost its fine autonomy. This has not been TV’s gain. The winner has been a hybrid, the telefilm. The telefilm and the drama. In Nice this year at a festival of Italian film, an incensed jury insisted on the point that it had throughout the impression that it was judging not film but telefilm. A sign of the times.

For there is a history of our perception of prerecorded images and sounds (‘the audio-visual’, an ugly technocratic word). Our perception of the cine-visible and the cine-audible, as Dziga Vertov would have put it, has come by way of the cinema, the silent, then the talkie, then by way of television. It is now starting to be worked on by video. It is in this ‘history of the eye’ that the cinema-television couple still has centre stage.

Flashback to the fifties: the beginning of television. TV didn’t come after cinema, as a replacement for it. It came when the cinema ceased to be eternal. When it had the first intimation of its mortality - therefore its modernity. The connection to newsreel. No turning back. For that it took a world war (the second) and a continent (Europe, together with Orson Welles, who is a continent all on his own).

Being modern isn’t turning the language of film ‘upside down’ (a naive idea), it’s having a sense of being no longer alone. Having a sense that another medium, another way of manipulating images and sounds is in the process of pushing through the interstices of cinema. To begin with the cinema was very sure of itself (you only have to re-read Gance or Eisenstein); it began by ‘gobbling up’ everything that had come before: theatre, dance and literature were mercilessly filmed. And then one day, one, two, or maybe three directors realised that it was no longer the case, that the cinema had less of an appetite, and an even more voracious monster had come on the scene.

There are few films as moving as A King In New York (1957). Chaplin makes his appearance as a dethroned king, having fled his kingdom (the cinema, America), compelled to earn his living by acting in a commercial (for a brand of whisky, his only piece of dialogue being ‘miaow, miaow!’). With tight-lipped irony the greatest director in the world does no more than indicate that cinema’s centre of gravity has just been displaced. He is not the only one. Between the end of the war and the eruption of the new waves (say fifteen years or so), the most modern film makers have often been great TV makers avant la lettre. Television was out there at the end of their headlong course, their horizon, their unconscious.

Why is that? A guess: in Europe after the war it was the end of making cinema serve great causes and simple-minded ideals, the end of a ‘total art’ at the service of ‘total war’, the end of uplifting music or dance to get in step with. The beginning of the era of the ‘camera as pencil’, the taste for micro-analyses, anonymous samples, the fall of the stars and, through live relay techniques, the age of surveillance. This is when cinema goes on the alert. You find all this in Rossellini (the first great roving reporter: Germany Year Zero), Tati (the first great sports reporter: Holiday), Welles (the first great quiz master, trick questions a speciality: Mr Arkadin), Bresson (the first inventor of the sadistic boobytrap: Pickpocket). And even in old Renoir (the first to film with several cameras, for television: Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier. And of course in old Lang-Mabuse, the first man in control of the video-paranoia console. All of them, to a greater or lesser degree, consciously or otherwise, anticipated what was to be the normality of television.

For all at once that’s television: a half-hearted monster who keeps an eye on us and which we too keep an eye on, but no more nor less than a cat or a goldfish.

What’s amusing is that what is most rawly sensitive, most artistic in the cinema (from Italian neo-realism to the French New Wave) finds itself in synchronicity with a new continent of rough and primitive and yet to be refined images. The fifties: TV (which still has no notion of its powers) and cinema (which begins to reflect on its powers, yielding to introspection) meet along the way. For there will be no handover. Except in the stubborn dreams of a few visionaries like Rossellini or Godard who - shock, horror - will make television: from The Rise to Power of Louis XIV to France Tour Detour Deux Enfants.

For from the sixties on, the triumph of a television now very conscious of its social weight and its contextualising role will gradually give the cinema its dispensation from modernity. The cinema will embark on its regression: film-buffery, necrobuffery, retro fashions, kitsch taste, the movies nostalgically celebrating the movies, ‘the way the movies were’ as revivals in old cinemas - and soon on TV - sham choc ices, embalmed usherettes and period supporting features. The cinema reduced to its rituals.

Let’s move on to TV. To start with of course it’s the golden age. The product of DIY types. Adventurers, amateurs, entertainers. In the beginning television is entertaining. Too quickly there comes the moment when centralised power (Gaulliste at that time) identifies television as a combination of significant social regulator and evening classes. The one reinforcing the other. The powermongers (not Gaullistes necessarily) dive straight into this opening. Nowadays, veterans of the ORTF like Spade or Dumayet locate this decisive turning point around 1964. This slide to be more accurate. Television became less entertaining and lost its freshness. A decision had been made on high that it too had to have its specificity; this was never found, and for good reason. It was there, ready made, from the start. But they didn’t want to see it. They were a little embarrassed.

Jerry Lewis once said (with unfeigned scorn) that television was only good for news and games. Admittedly in the USA it was seldom anything else. In France by contrast, it had an important social mission entrusted to it. First to educate, then to entertain. First, non-stop lessons in civic education, French history trotted out to the point of nausea, the whole of nineteenth-century literature ‘dramatised’. Then, news and games.

Alas this noble endeavour took no account of what was new in the television medium. It’s specificity, if you will. Its very own limb-extensions. It’s a long list. To sum up: the impact and the vagaries of live coverage, major news stories and soap operas, sport and slow-motion filming, interludes and the potter’s wheel, the test card, feeble yet always complicated game shows, the eroticism of the women announcers, the blow-dry hairdos, the different treatment of an image that is itself different. The flattened or overlaid colours, the audience circus and the canned laughter, the tightly scheduled debates and the performances of those who rule us, the video feedback effects, etc. An entire world. One still very little explored (despite pioneers like Averty).

Television had two possible evolutions. The video game and evening classes. A pinball evolution and a theatre evolution. Two ways of perceiving and constructing the image. In short, two aesthetics. For now it’s the evening classes that have won out. This is TV recycling. The other arts are recycled (the cinema more than any) and the TV viewer, that eternal total novice, is recycled too. This situation, incidentally, is very French. Very French, this opposition between pointless TV and responsible TV. Everywhere else things worked out differently. In Japan for instance you can ask your TV terminal questions on all sorts of subjects, including the subject of ‘traditional Japanese values’, just in case you should happen to forget! Japan is barbaric. In France TV recycling always has one eye on cultural dignity. As a consequence it inherited the academicism of an already moribund French cinema (the Qualité Française and the repugnant tradition of French-style psychological intimism) and, poor thing, made it is model, its super ego. The aptly named ‘televised play’ symbolised this slide and this choice. It will remain one of the century’s disgraces. And it is still to make its most portentous utterances into the bargain. Let’s wait for the eight hundred and twenty-seventh version of Les Misérables, the Hossein-Ventura version. Let’s wait for socialist TV. Let’s wait in dread.

So television scorned, marginalised and held back its video evolution, its only potential means of being heir to the modern cinema of the postwar period. Heir to that cinema on the lookout. Heir to the fondness for the deconstructed and reconstructed image, the break with theatre, the different perception of the human body and its bath of sounds and images. It is to be hoped that the development of video art will in turn threaten TV and make it ashamed of its timidity.

For now, television has above all fostered in isolation a kind of sub-cinema (under the protection of an iron-clad corporatism) and it is this sub-cinema which has become dominant. Economically and aesthetically. For the institutional divorce between cinema and television has been such that its paradoxical outcome was the restoration of the cinema. This was to do with distribution networks and it happened during the seventies. But aesthetically this restored cinema is a golem. It is not so much the heir of the old cinema as the way in which the telefilm (and the TV drama) have colonised the cinema. So, is the cinema coming back? Yes, but in what condition? What’s left of cinema’s real inventions?

1. The cinema had gone a very long way with the perception of distance. Distance between characters, between them and the camera, between the camera and us. Imaginary distances (since the screen is flat), but nonetheless very precise ones. This ‘depth of field’ was essential to the star system since it made it possible to isolate and illuminate figures (idols or monsters). When a director played with distances it was no small thing. Renoir’s travelling shot of Nana as she dies or the unlikely camera movement which opens Mizoguchi’s Shin Heike Monogatari are hieroglyphs outlined in space. The outline in itself was staggering.

What happened then? The travelling shot didn’t disappear but the zoom arrived. The zoom has become the form through which we apprehend space. It was invented by one Frank G. Back to film sport on TV. It was (not accidentally) Rossellini who was the first to make systematic use of it. The zoom is no longer an art of convergence but a kind of gymnastics comparable to the boxer’s dancing avoidance of his adversary. The travelling shot was impelled by desire, the zoom spreads phobia. The zoom has nothing to do with the gaze, it is a way of touching with the eye. An entire scenography created by the interplay between the figure and the background becomes incomprehensible. It becomes hard for the contemporary spectator even visually to grasp films like Francisca. Once the camera ceases to move, it looks as though there’s nothing moving. And if there’s nothing moving it looks as thought there’s nothing to see.

2. Something else. The cinema had gone a very long way with the art of what’s beyond the frame. Many effects of fear, ecstasy or frustration derived from the decision to film certain things rather than others which remained outside the visual field. The eroticisation of the edges of the frame, the frame regarded as an erogenous zone, the entire play of entering and leaving the visual field, reframing, the relationship between what was seen and what was imagined is - I’d say - almost an art in itself. A cinema unto itself.

What happened next? Since TV started showing films that have been cut, films without the edges of the frame, in nemascope and nicolor, this art has gone downhill. Boorman once said (with unfeigned scorn) that he accommodated all the action in his films in the centre of the image so that with a TV-showing nothing would be lost. Not long ago this was how It’s Always Fair Weather came to have one dancer out of three amputated from one of its musical numbers.

TV’s contempt for the frame is limitless. because on television there is nothing outside the visual field. The image is too small. This is the realm of the self-enclosed field. And what’s embedded in it make it possible to respect this self-enclosed field which fracturing it. Incredible perspectives on things.

3. Finally, editing, Or rather, the cut. Classical cinema dismantled a continuous space-time and reconstructed it with continuity shots, like a puzzle. The art and the technique of continuity (with all its idiotic rules, all its ways of inventing aberrant continuity (the Japanese especially, Ozu especially), the transgression of ‘discontinuity’, these are what kept cinema alive for a long time.

What happened next? TV doesn’t reconstruct a puzzle, it is a puzzle. The sequencing of images on television has nothing to do with editing, nor continuity, but with something new which we would have to call inserting. TV always reserves the option of cutting a flow of images and inserting others, arbitrarily, with no concern for the cut.

These are only examples. I’m not saying that the travelling shot, the field outside the frame or classical continuity are ‘better’ than the zoom, the self-enclosed field or inserting. That would be stupid. The forms of our perception alter, that’s all. And in this alteration the old TV-movies couple still holds centre stage for now. Like all old couples they have wound up looking alike. A bit too much for my taste.

Television, still the prisoner of its wish to ‘make movies’ perhaps isn’t going far enough in its headlong advance. Towards the video game. The cinema, hostage, kept woman and revenue of TV, perhaps isn’t going far enough in exploring its memory. Its most archaic memory. There are exceptions, of course. In 1982, we have high hopes of Passion and Parsifal. Hopes of the studio and of special effects. For asymptomatically, elderly TV and very old cinema have an intersection, one that’s very far ahead and very far back. The point of rendezvous is called Méliès. We have to ask for the moon.

Serge Daney

18 January 1982

La Charge héroïque

par Louis SKORECKI


J'ai toujours eu un faible pour John Wayne. Quand il essaye de se dépêtrer de ses problèmes de blush ou de fond de teint dans Rio Bravo (pour la moumoute, il a moins de mal), je m'identifie à mort à lui. Le problème, c'est que je m'identifie aussi à Angie Dickinson, ce qui me met mal à l'aise avec moi-même. Et si j'allais trop loin, pour une fois ? Je me dis qu'il y a quand même de la marge. Pas sûr, dit Skorecki à Skorecki, tu ne te méfies pas assez du grand Autre, celui qui flirte avec sa fiancée dans le Réveil de la sorcière rouge, avant de l'entraîner au fond des mers pour lui offrir la plus belle des perles noires. Ahhh. Je me réveille en sueur. Je ne sais plus où je suis. Pas au cinéma. Pas au bureau. Pas devant ma télé. Et si j'étais au lit ? Je tâte autour de moi, les draps sont mouillés. Je décide de me réveiller. Je me demande ce qui reste de tout ça. Il ne reste qu'une chose, une seule. J'aime toujours autant John Wayne.

C'est le cow-boy ultime, le prince des cavaliers. Dans la Charge héroïque (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), il joue le capitaine Nathan Brittles, un militaire à deux doigts de la retraite. Henry Fonda est mort, le massacre de Fort Apache est oublié, ou presque. Tuer, toujours tuer, ça use. Sous les ordres de Nathan Brittles, un adorable ivrogne, le sergent Quincannon, joué par Victor McLaglen. Lui aussi va quitter l'armée dans quelques jours. Quitter l'armée, ça ne se décide pas du jour au lendemain. Entre le jour et le lendemain, il y a la nuit. La nuit, c'est fait pour ne pas dormir. Pour remuer des idées noires. Pour changer d'avis. Quincannon croit dur comme fer qu'il va partir, Nathan Brittles aussi. C'est le temps des dernières cuites, le temps des regrets, le temps des décisions aléatoires. Si John Wayne n'était pas né, personne n'aurait jamais parié un rond sur un cheval. Personne n'aurait jamais chevauché un cheval. Ce serait la nuit. Merci, John Wayne, d'être ce que tu es.

La Fille à la valise (3)


par Louis SKORECKI

J'étais de plus en plus envoûté par la mièvrerie alanguie de la Fille à la valise. M'avait-on jeté un sort ? J'étais tantôt Jacques Perrin, ses cheveux légers d'un blond vénitien m'allaient si bien, l'instant d'après, je sentais pointer sous mon chemisier les petits seins de Claudia Cardinale. Lui, elle, qui étais-je ? Je ne savais pas encore que la sentimentalité de Zurlini y était pour beaucoup. Dire qu'il y va de l'intime chez lui n'est pas suffisant. Il y va de l'intime en tant que c'est juste une chanson, douce ou triste c'est selon. En trois films seulement, Eté violent (1959), la Fille à la valise (1961), Journal intime (1962), cet ancien juriste s'est transformé en papillon d'amour, en crooner pour midinettes. Quelques mois plus tard, Jacques Rozier prend le relais avec les plus belles séquences d'Adieu Philippine, à deux pas de la mer, sur des musiques sucrées et des paroles italiennes.

Quelle est la formule secrète de ce cinéma adolescent ? D'être adolescent précisément, et rien d'autre. Pas besoin d'épaisseur à qui sait aimer et souffrir à fleur de peau. La formule se survit à elle-même, elle est source de jeunesse éternelle, de beauté blonde, de petits seins, de rires cristallins, de larmes sans fin, de jouissances éperdues dans des torrents d'amour. Comment résister à la niaiserie sublime de la vie ? La formule secrète de ce cinéma à fleur de peau, c'est 35/23/20, les âges respectifs de Valerio Zurlini, Claudia Cardinale, et Jacques Perrin, au moment du film. Il a 20 ans, elle en a 23. Il est frêle, timide, blond. Elle est nettement plus brune, plus femme, plus rieuse. Le dernier des trois, le plus grand, c'est le régisseur. Il a 35 ans. Un adulte, un enfant. Il rêve à eux. Il rêve qu'il est eux. Il est elle, il est lui. Il se regarde dans la glace en train de se déguiser en fille, en train de redevenir ragazzo. Cinéma travesti, cinéma enchanté, à deux doigts de Demy, qui reprendra Perrin six ans plus tard dans les Demoiselles de Rochefort.

domingo, 23 de abril de 2006

"(...) le triomphe absolu de l'art classique, alternant brillamment analyse et synthèse, concret et abstrait, gros plans et plans généraux, plans courts et plans longs, litote et spectaculaire" (Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du Cinéma).


Aventures en Birmanie est un des plus beaux, des plus grands films de guerre réalisé entre 1941 et 1945.

On ne peut qu’être admiratif devant le scénario à la fois brillant et ingénieux qu’il propose. La première grande idée du script est de développer un côté « documentaire » au film. On prend le temps de nous montrer tout ces détails réaliste de la vie de ces militaires : comment accrocher le parachute avant de sauter, le fait de toujours enterrer les résidus de leurs passages, etc. Ce temps investit dans le descriptif est très nouveau pour un film hollywoodien et confère à tout le film une crédibilité puissante.

La seconde force du scénario se trouve dans la structure de son récit tout à la fois huilé dans l’engrenage dramatique qui retire peu à peu toutes les ressources, les unes après les autres, à nos héros : l’avion, le ravitaillement, la radio, les armes, le sommeil… Il faut saluer également l’idée brillante qui consiste à éviter le film-mission dans lequel on voit les soldats soumis à une mission qu’ils vont effectuer durant tout le long du film et finir par l’accomplir avec l’héroïsme nécessaire. Ici, la mission est réglée dans la première demi-heure. Tout le reste du film se résume à savoir comment les soldats vont réussir à rejoindre leur base.

La mise en scène fait preuve quant à elle d’une très belle efficacité, adoptant souvent des points de vue documentaristes : plans larges durant des scènes d’action (la mission notamment), sans musique. On assiste plus qu’on ne vit… Valeurs qui vont bien évidemment s’inverser tout au long du film pour culminer dans une attaque de nuit filmée uniquement en des gros plans sur nos personnages.

Que des choses admirables, mais pourtant il manque un petit quelque chose pour que le film soit un très grand film du Cinéma, et non pas seulement de la période dans laquelle il s’inscrit, période de pure propagande à laquelle le film ne déroge pas. Loin de là.

A l’efficacité manifeste de la narration (scénaristique et de mise en scène), il manque une vision humaine. Les personnages sont tous trop d’une pièce, trop parfaits, trop bons petits soldats sans angles ni dualité. Errol Flynn est l’incarnation du héros parfait, celui que toutes les femmes veulent épouser et que tous les parents aimeraient pour gendre. Il n’a même pas la dimension grande gueule grand cœur d’un John Wayne qui mènerait une action à laquelle il pourrait ne pas croire. Du coup, côtoient finalement des images très réalistes de la forêt, de la guerre, etc, et des personnages qui ne sont plus du tout crédibles. Mélange bancal. Cette propagande ne se voit pas uniquement dans les personnages mais également dans la vision de la guerre qui est développée ici et qui manque de perspective. D’un côté les bons soldats (la scène de la mission est tout de même un massacre, mais cela ne semble pas poser de problème de représentation) et de l’autres les vrais bouchers de japonais, inhumains.

Pour finir, parions que ce film est un des films préférés de Spielberg, réalisateur sans doute plus walshien que fordien malgré ses propore. Une scène entière de ce film a été « emprunté » par Spielberg dans Empire du soleil: celle d’un militaire qui traverse le camp qui a sombré dans l’attente et qui annonce à tout le monde de se rendre au rendez vous pour un briefing. Il passe devant deux soldats qui jouent à lancer un couteau sur une cible, prend le couteau le lance et prend le jackpot avant de filer avertir d’autres soldats. Dans empire du soleil, le jeune héros court dans le camp lui aussi endormi, et croise deux plus petits enfants jouant aux billes, lance la sienne, gagne, pend le magot et part en courant continuer sa tournée quotidienne. Plus loin encore trois phrases de dialogues ont également été pompées dans Empire du soleil: Errol Flynn demande à un soldat qui a les pétoches « tu veux un verre de whisky ? » « oui », répond celui-ci, « Moi aussi » répond Errol Flynn en s’éloignant. Remplacez « whisky » par « tablette de chocolat » et vous avez empire du soleil


"Remplacez « whisky » par « tablette de chocolat » et vous avez empire du soleil…"

Eis o que afasta irremediavelmente a arte do Walsh da imaturidade do Spielberg.

Mickey Rourke como 'Boots' no próximo filme de John McNaughton.


An Auteur? Smile When You Say That


ONE of the enduring enigmas of the movies is the nature of the politics behind "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the classic 1956 science fiction film directed by Don Siegel from a screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring.

For some critics, the film's fable-like account of a small town being taken over by "pod people" — exact but soulless physical duplicates of human beings that have arrived from outer space to conquer our tiny planet — is an unmistakable anti-Communist allegory, as befits the cold war atmosphere in which it was made. For other critics, the film presents a thinly veiled protest against the obsessive conformity of the McCarthy era, with the pod people standing in for enforcers from the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Supporting the latter view is the fact that Mainwaring, a gifted screenwriter whose work includes the 1950 anti-lynching drama "The Lawless" for the leftist director Joseph Losey, was himself briefly blacklisted; supporting the former is Siegel's early filmography, which includes the hysterically anti-Communist "No Time for Flowers" in 1952.

Audiences will have another chance to judge for themselves when "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" appears as part of a four-week tribute to Siegel that began on Friday at Film Forum in Manhattan. ("Body Snatchers" will get a long weekend to itself, Friday through Monday). But it is, of course, the ambiguity of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" that has given it such a long life — an ambiguity that is very much part of the Siegel aesthetic, up to and including his most famous film, "Dirty Harry."

That 1971 rogue-cop picture, which transformed Clint Eastwood from mere movie star into American icon, will conclude the Film Forum series with a one-week run (in a new 35-millimeter print) beginning April 7. Is Harry, the Miranda-trampling San Francisco homicide detective, a right-wing fantasy of ultimate police authority and contempt for the Constitution ("If anybody is writing a book about the rise of fascism in America, they ought to have a look at 'Dirty Harry,' " wrote Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review), or is it a study in psychopathology that presents Harry as the moral equivalent of the unhinged serial killer he is pursuing? (The original newspaper advertisements promised a duel of two psycho killers: "Harry's the one with the badge.")

Siegel, who died in 1991 at 78, seems never to have made a public pronouncement on the issue. Like many directors of his generation, he preferred to hide behind the mask of the hard-nosed Hollywood professional. A product of the studio system at its height — Siegel started at Warner Brothers in 1934 as an assistant editor, became head of the montage department a few years later and directed his first feature, the engaging B picture "The Verdict," for Warner in 1946 — he continued to subscribe to the studio ethic until the end of his career in 1982. The assignments came down from above and Siegel unflinchingly accepted them, whether they were as promising as Budd Boetticher's script for "Two Mules for Sister Sara" (March 22 and 23) or as cringeworthy as "Jinxed!," the dire Bette Midler vehicle that proved to be Siegel's last film (and which Film Forum, discreetly, is declining to show).

Siegel's pose of unflappable professionalism led two of the most perceptive of French critics, Bertrand Tavernier and Jean-Pierre Coursodon, to this summary judgment in their influential 1970 book, "30 Years of American Cinema": "No style and less personality." But when Siegel connected with his material, the results could be dazzling. "Charley Varrick," which opened the series and is showing today, is perhaps the director's masterpiece, a bracingly amoral study of another professional — the title character, a crop-duster and part-time bank robber played with unusual restraint by Walter Matthau — who accidentally steals a cache of mob money and must outmaneuver a sadistic hit man (Joe Don Baker) in order to hold onto it. Matthau's shambling protagonist seems a stand-in for Siegel himself — a shrewd social outsider who is happy to allow others to underestimate him as long as he achieves his goals in the end.

The Film Forum series is full of small gems in which Siegel made similar connections to his heroes, irrespective of the side of the law they were meant to represent. "Riot in Cell Block 11" (March 29 and 30) marked Siegel's emergence from the B-movie pack in 1954 and stars Neville Brand as an inmate who cannily plays the media against a reform-minded warden (Emile Meyer) during a prison uprising. "Private Hell 36," on the same program, is a grim, sordid film noir set in a trailer park about two cops (Steve Cochran and Howard Duff) who decide to pocket some stolen money.

"The Lineup" (March 31 and April 1), ostensibly a spinoff from a now forgotten television series, stars Eli Wallach as a vicious killer in pursuit of a shipment of heroin hidden in a child's doll. If "The Killers" (1964, sharing the bill with "The Lineup") is a partial failure, it may be because the passive protagonist — John Cassavetes, as a race car driver in over his head with a gang of mail robbers led by a sneeringly villainous Ronald Reagan — is just too much of a patsy for the director. Siegel focuses his interest instead on the professional assassin played by Lee Marvin, a closet intellectual intrigued by the fact that Cassavetes did not run away when he showed up to kill him.

Did Siegel have a style? During his years in the editing room, he learned the advantage of carefully planning his shots, priding himself on getting the scene in the first or second take (a proclivity he passed on to his most famous student, Mr. Eastwood, whom he directed in five films) and leaving behind as little film as possible for studio functionaries to re-edit. Even when he is working with a television crew, as in "The Killers" (the film was planned as the first two-hour television movie, but was released to theaters when it proved too violent for the small screen), his cutting is amazingly detailed and precise, displaying an electrifying attention to the dense network of looks exchanged by the characters.

For the most part, Siegel was an eye-level director, who never passed judgment on his characters by setting his camera above them, and never pitched it below them to gaze up in naïve hero worship. But a large number of his films end with a strikingly similar camera movement, a crane shot that begins with a human detail (often a crumpled body) and pulls back into a rising perspective that, if not quite cosmic, imposes a much wider context on the story we have just seen. His signature can be read precisely there, in that slow, magisterial withdrawal from the immediate physical details of a story into a kind of eerie philosophical detachment. Siegel did not look down at his characters, but — more ambiguously, more resonantly — he often looked beyond them.

sábado, 22 de abril de 2006

Christophe Gans lists his favorite horror films

Longe de ser um fã do Gans, mas devo dizer que fora um ou outro clichê achei essa lista bem interessante.


1. "The Haunting" Robert Wise, 1963
My favorite horror movie of all time. It was made by Robert Wise — the same guy who directed "West Side Story" and was the editor for Orson Welles. It is still the most frightening movie ever made because we don't see anything. Everything is created by camera angle and sound.

2. "Deep Red" Dario Argento, 1976
For me this is the first horror movie that feels like a piece of modern art. It is important to consider that the horror movies should — like modern art — not have a too obvious meaning. When you watch them it is more important what you feel than what you understand. "Deep Red" really opened that.

3. "The Innocents" Jack Clayton, 1961
A beautiful adaptation by Jack Clayton of "The Turn of the Screw" with Deborah Kerr about the corruption of two children by a ghost. A very classic movie, beautifully done.

4. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Tobe Hooper, 1974
The first real American horror film. It defined the kind of horror a great country like America can produce. Many horror movies were produced in America before, but they were inspired by classic literature, it was not this pure American flavor. For me it is the real American horror movie, in terms of how it defined a country.

5. "Dawn of the Dead" George Romero, 1978
It is a pure American movie like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" that uses fear of zombies to make a big social statement. It was the first horror movies that critics recognized and took seriously, and that was a very important moment for people who love horror film.

6. "Prince of Darkness" John Carpenter, 1987
It's a beautiful movie in a way because it is a very abstract movie — completely abstract. It was produced almost the same year as "Blue Velvet" by David Lynch, and they both lead the audience into abstraction. It is something that is difficult to explain, something that you feel. It was a new step in horror film.

7. "Ringu" Hideo Nakata, 1998
It's basically the movie that restarted the genre recently. We had the feeling that nothing new was coming, and then we saw this film from Japan. It is an amazing movie because it is basically a melodrama. In Japan horror film are made for a female audience, so this movie has opened the genre towards the female audience and today the horror genre is very feminine.

Heaven's Gate

Malgré la brièveté de son œuvre (seulement 7 films en 25 ans) Michael Cimino a toujours revendiqué une violente révolte envers l'establishment, une volonté systématique d'anti-conformisme féroce, déjà présente dans son premier film: Thunderbold and Lighfoot (1974). Des êtres brisés et nostalgiques à la psychologie tout aussi brumeuse, des cavalcades éperdues dans des régions montagneuses remplies de lacs et de glaciers. Dès son deuxième film, c'est la révélation mondiale avec le magistral Deer Hunter (1978). La construction en trois parties, de cette fresque historique de trois heures, rappelle les conceptions des plus grands opéras wagnériens et fédère immédiatement les admirateurs. Le cinéaste parvient à organiser sa mise en scène autour d'ellipses audacieuses, de scènes gagnant une ampleur par l'absence d'intérêt dramatique (cf. séquence du mariage). Pendant 25 minutes, le cinéaste tissera de la plus subtile des façons les liens complexes s'établissant entre les six personnages principaux. La façon dont Cimino découpe l'espace rappelle la puissance lyrique de John Ford, Anthony Mann et autre King Vidor. À ce titre, le début du film est une référence explicite à The Big Parade (1925) de King Vidor. Ampleur, lyrisme: Un grand cinéaste épique vient de naître. Les critiques se lèvent, le public suit : C’est le succès mondial avec 5 oscars à la clé, dont celui du meilleur film et du meilleur réalisateur. Après un tel triomphe Cimino, à 35 ans, peut tout se permettre. Et donc, il se permet...

A l’aube…

En novembre 1978 le contrat de 11,5 millions de dollars est signé avec la United Artists pour la réalisation de The Johnson County War. Récupérant un scénario écrit par lui même de 1974 à 1975, le film devrait raconter un épisode peu glorieux (mais véridique) de l'histoire de l'Ouest. En 1889, dans le Wyoming, de très riches éleveurs lèvent une bande de mercenaires afin d'exterminer les petits fermiers qui empêchent leur expansion en volant du bétail. Le tournage débute en avril 1979 et s'achèvera un an plus tard. Budget faramineux (au départ de 11,5 et la fin arrivant à 48 millions de dollars), délire obsessionnel de la perfection, milliers de kilomètres de pellicule impressionnés, des champs entiers repeints... Très vite, le petit Western sans star se transforme en monstre incontrôlable. L'histoire de cette épopée, que constitue à lui seul le tournage du film, a été d’ailleurs racontée brillamment par Steven Bach dans le fameux « Final cut, dreams and disasters in the making of Heaven’s Gate ».

Un crépuscule matinal flamboyant, une église et une silhouette qui court vers sa destinée. La caméra contemplative se fait fluide et colle à la course du jeune homme en mouvement. Très vite, il regagne une fanfare qui rassemble les retardataires... Cimino s'offre un début magistralement Aldrichien (cf. Attack (1956) de Robert Aldrich). Le prologue que toutes les critiques trouvèrent gratuit et incompréhensible est grandiose, mais en apparence touffu et sans véritable sens... En fait, tout dans cette séquence est parfaitement cohérent et intelligent. Qu'un film sur l'histoire de l'Ouest débute dans une grande université de l'Est, n'est gratuit qu'en apparence.

Cimino s'est toujours intéressé aux phénomènes sociaux et historiques, aux rapports passionnels unissant les civilisations de l'Est et de l'Ouest. (Cf.: L'intégration des asiatiques dans Year of the Dragon, 1985). L'Est, pour l'Amérique, n'est pas seulement la Nouvelle Angleterre mais est aussi, en Outre Atlantique, la mère colonisatrice dont l'influence culturelle demeure. C'est aussi l'Europe continentale, celle des ouvriers sidérurgiques de Deer Hunter, symbolisée par les immigrants juifs, polonais, russes omniprésents dans la suite du film et qui vont à leur tour coloniser le pays des États-Unis, terre de tous les espoirs... Les intentions du cinéaste se précisent dans le discours de Joseph Cotten / Reverend Doctor Gordan (Hommage de Cimino au King Vidor de Duel In the Sun, 1946). Celui-ci proclame: « S'il est vrai que votre pays est aujourd'hui hostile à toute forme de réflexion, votre idéal doit être l'éducation d'une nation ! » Un discours totalement raillé par W.C. Irvine qui, moqueur et facétieux, proclame une profession de foi totalement antinomique, revendiquant un immobilisme politique et social. L'étudiant tranche et proclame : « Nous démentons formellement toute intention de changement... » Vingt ans plus tard pourtant, Irvine (devenu une pitoyable épave éthylique) appartiendra à la fameuse association des éleveurs.

Le prologue

L’atmosphère des scènes du prologue annonce le film dans son ensemble, par le mélange de splendeur visuelle, d'euphorie de mouvements de caméra, de foule et d’un malaise croissant engendré par l’agitation dérisoire et la violence des affrontements estudiantins (autour de l'arbre de mai). Ces passages superbement photographiés par Vilmos Zsigmond rappellent, dans un tout autre style, les scènes de foules du Il Gattopardo (1963) de Luchino Visconti. Ces morceaux de bravoure sont somptueux : grand bal vu en plongée, valse aristocratique esthétiquement impressionniste et tumultes des étudiants filmés à la caméra épaule. La scène s’étend et finit par se perdre dans les ténèbres nocturnes. Ce prologue ne met pas seulement en place les thèmes de tout le film, mais il le résume en totalité. En effet, à la splendide aurore du jour, succédera les ténèbres de la nuit qui clôtureront le prologue et d’une certaine manière le film...

La figure du cercle (essentielle à l'évolution de l'épopée) sera représentée par la suite dans : le combat sauvage de deux poules au sein d'un cercle d'immigrants, la valse des patins à roulettes et enfin l'encerclement des mercenaires par les paysans. L'affrontement des étudiants est déjà, en somme, un sombre prémisse du massacre final. Ce motif visuel (magnifiquement rendu) peu symboliser bon nombre de choses : figure allégorique du processus cinématographique ou (plus violemment que chez John Ford dans My Darling Clementine, 1946) la représentation d'un monde cloisonné et sans véritable espoir. Toute la mise en scène est inspirée du motif circulaire. Spirales, volutes. Dans Heaven’s Gate, on ne cesse, de mensonges en félonies, de tourner en rond dans une sorte de « désharmonie. » Il n'y a pas d'issue dans cette société cloisonnée. Les individus sont prisonniers à la fois de l'histoire, de l'univers social et enfin du passé qui se referme sur eux. Plus tard, Cimino donnera cette piste intéressante : « Je tiens beaucoup à l'image de la ronde. La vie me semble un cercle infernal qui donne le vertige, au point de ne plus savoir où l'on est. Voyez la scène de la bataille finale. En fait, on tourne toujours autour du même obstacle sans avancer... »

Grâce à l'assemblage de tous ces éléments, le prologue, donc, s'il n'est nullement une ouverture au sens traditionnel du terme, constitue une exposition au sens musical. Prélude aux thèmes (par exemple : « Le beau Danube Bleu »), à l'action et même au véritable sujet de l'œuvre, l'Acte I détient le souffle épique et romanesque des plus grandes épopées. On sait qu'il fut beaucoup reproché à Cimino l'aspect superficiel de certaines scènes : Valse sur des gazons aux sons d'un orchestre invisible, immigrants faméliques plus proches d'opérette de Sigmund Romberg que d'un quelconque réalisme social etc. Même si ces remarques ne sont pas totalement fausses, elles méconnaissent trop fortement la vocation romantique et lyrique de Cimino. Par exemple, le cinéaste traite l'ensemble des émigrés comme une sorte de gigantesque chœur antique et non comme une communauté socialement crédible. (Cf.: La danse des patins à roulettes). Ses excès lyriques auraient put être pardonnés à Cimino s'il avait donné à son public une intrigue solide, des personnages psychologiquement bien campés et une progression dramatique cohérente…

Un film hollywoodien ?

Malgré les critiques iniques et excessives formulées par la presse lors de la sortie du film, certaines remarques soulèvent une problématique essentielle dans Heaven’s Gate. En effet, le cinéaste frustre l'attente de son audience avec une provocation indéniable et un manque de clarté dans la construction qui peuvent devenir un gros handicap. Les quelques personnages principaux sont d'une complexité peu commune dans l'univers hollywoodien. Ainsi, James Averill reste d'un bout à l'autre de cette œuvre : une énigme. Pourquoi un homme si puissamment riche décide de devenir simple shérif dans une bourgade misérable ? Et son ami du nouveau monde, ce Nathan Campion, Pourquoi a-t-il trahi sa classe pour devenir un des plus redoutables tueurs de l'association ?... Rien ne sera dit sur les relations s'établissant entre les personnages, sur leurs motivations et même sur leurs sentiments. Cimino ne faisant que les suggérer, sans jamais apporter le moindre indice et laissant délibérément beaucoup d'éléments dans l'ombre (trop sans doute en ce qui concerne l'amitié de Averill pour Nathan et le triangle amoureux formé par Averill, Champion et la jeune immigrante Ella Watson). Pauline Kael dit assez justement : « On ne sait pas qui aime qui... » Et en effet, il est très difficile de comprendre les réactions des personnages tant ils sont impénétrables et secrets.

En bref, à force de se méfier de la psychologie conventionnelle et des dialogues explicatifs, Cimino crée non plus des personnages identifiables mais des abstractions à la fois schématiques et opaques. Le réalisateur et scénariste justifia parfaitement son étonnant parti pris en déclarant lors de la sortie de son film: « Je ne crois pas aux mots, aux dialogues. Ils sont toujours parachutés et vite dérisoires. On n'approche bien des êtres qu'en prenant le temps de les regarder vivre ». Même si les motivations restent incompréhensibles, l'auteur traite un des thèmes récurrents de toute son œuvre : l'amitié puissante entre les hommes comme seul bastion contre la violence de l'existence.

Thème incroyablement présent dans Heaven’s Gate d'autant plus qu'il est d'une certaine manière démultiplié à outrance. Les personnages semblent devenir des relais dans l'évolution de J. Averill : Jeune, il s'attache à l'un de ses semblables, soit W.C Irvine, le brillant et cynique dandy, et plus tard il choisira le personnage de John Bridges après la rixe l'opposant à N. Champion. Tous les films du cinéaste (sans exception) sont imprégnés de cette même amitié Hawksienne. Ce sera le jeune Navajo et le toubib californien (Sunchaser, 1996), les deux frères siciliens (The Sicilian, 1987) ou bien les deux loosers du Thunderbold. Tous des frères de sang luttant avec force dans un monde inhumain. Mais comme chez Hawks, l'humanité est un univers d'homme ou seules les femmes ont la clé. Le même triangle amoureux est d'ailleurs présent dans trois de ses films, formant une passionnante triptyque : Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate et Year of the Dragon. Comme dans les films tardifs de Ford (Cheyenne Atumn, 1964 et Seven Women, 1966) les êtres sont des romantiques et des désespérés. Mais le cinéaste introduit une autre figure encore plus fascinante et qui va influencer bon nombre des « sur-western » à venir: le spectre.

Pelo amor de Deus...

Que enorme merda de texto picareta o do Jean-Michel Frodon sobre "cinémamusée" na Cahiers desse mês.

Vergonhoso, lastimável... Tipo de troço que um editor, sobretudo de uma revista como a Cahiers, não pode de maneira alguma se permitir escrever.

sexta-feira, 21 de abril de 2006

Ainda zonzo com Um Assunto de Mulheres...

Palavra chave pra compreensão de uma mise en scène: angulação (segunda opção: planimetria).

Gruas, três tabelas, dollys... Todo mundo usa, mas poucos UTILIZAM.

É o que separa os homens dos rapazes, no fim das contas.

E é decididamente o que mais aproxima Chabrol de Lang (para além das homenagens de um para o outro).

La Fille à la valise (2)

par Louis SKORECKI


J'étais juif, je rêvais. A Jacques Perrin, à Claudia Cardinale. J'étais envoûté par la Fille à la valise, troublé par sa sentimentalité italienne, sa morbidesse alanguie. J'étais tellement amoureux que je me transformais à vue d'oeil. Allais-je devenir un monstre, un mutant à mi-temps ? J'ai perdu, depuis, cet étrange don transformiste, mais il me suffit de fermer les yeux pour me rappeler. C'est l'année du bac. Au lieu de réviser, je rêve volontiers que je suis Dana Andrews qui rêve à Gene Tierney. Je rêve tellement fort que je crève l'oreiller. Elle ne se réveille pas. Elle est toute tachée, ma belle disparue, ma belle morte.

Quand je ne rêve pas à Gene Tierney, je rêve que je suis Jacques Perrin. Plus goy que lui, il n'y a pas. Blond vénitien, presque transparent. Le teenager ultime. Je rêve aussi que j'ai des seins, les seins de Claudia Cardinale. Petits, rieurs, légers, ils tiennent dans ma main. Mes seins tiennent dans ma main, maman ! J'ai crié, mais personne ne m'a entendu. Je suis seul dans la salle de cinéma. Des années plus tard, la sensation légère est toujours là. Lui aussi, il est toujours là. J'ai fini par coïncider avec moi-même, mais ces moments gracieux où je décollais de mon enveloppe terrestre sont encore là, à portée de main. Le plus drôle, c'est que je n'ai jamais réussi à ressembler pour de bon à Jacques Perrin. Le plus drôle, c'est le jour où une adolescente anglaise s'est approchée de moi en rougissant, un cahier à la main, me demandant de signer. Signer ? Moi ? Vous ne vous trompez pas ? Mais, non, vous êtes Scott McKenzie, c'est ça ? Vous, vous avez oublié qui c'est, vous ne pouvez pas savoir à quel point ça fait mal. «If you go to San Francisco/Be sure to put a flower in your hair», c'était lui. J'avais eu la mauvaise idée de me laisser pousser la moustache, j'étais devenu le clone du chanteur hippie le plus con de tous les temps. Jacques Perrin m'avait laissé tomber comme une vieille chaussette. Je lui en veux encore.

quinta-feira, 20 de abril de 2006

Objective, Burma!

Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader

This 1944 war film is a very pure, almost abstract statement of Raoul Walsh's themes and style, with Errol Flynn as the leader of an American platoon sent on a jungle mission against the Japanese. The problem, essentially, is to travel from point A to point B; the enemy remains all but unseen, and the journey becomes a test of endurance and personal drive. The film is long (142 minutes), claustrophobic, and intense, yet it works with elegance and rigor, like a philosophical problem stated and solved. With James Brown, William Prince, George Tobias, and Henry Hull; photographed in a glistening, immediate style by the great James Wong Howe.

On murmure dans la ville

Cinécinéma Classic, 18 h 40.

par Louis SKORECKI

J'ai toujours eu un faible pour Cary Grant. Quand il tente de se dépêtrer de ses problèmes de maquillage avec sa mère (la Mort aux trousses), je m'identifie à lui. Je m'identifie à sa mère aussi d'ailleurs, ce qui me pose un problème. Je m'entends me dire à l'oreille que ce n'est pas possible. Tu vas trop loin, Skorecki. Si tu continues, tu vas glisser sur toi-même. Je m'entends me répondre qu'il y a encore de la marge. Pas sûr, dit Skorecki à Skorecki, tu ne te méfies pas assez du grand Autre. Il rôde dans les bois, tu sais. Le grand quoi ? je demande. Tu ne le connais pas ? C'est le couillon qui flirte avec sa mère dans les motels et se déguise en elle dans Psychose. Ahhhhhhh. Je me réveille en sueur. Je ne sais plus où je suis. Pas au cinéma, en tout cas. Pas au bureau. Pas devant ma télé. Et si j'étais au lit ? Je tâte autour de moi, les draps sont mouillés. Je décide de me réveiller. Je me demande ce qui reste de tout ça. Il ne reste qu'une chose. J'aime toujours autant Cary Grant.

Si People Will Talk (On murmure dans la ville) est si un beau film, il le doit à Cary Grant. Un peu à Mankiewicz, beaucoup à Cary Grant. Rappeler tout ce que Mankiewicz doit à la Fox. Il lui doit Gene Tierney et Vincent Price. Il lui doit Rex Harrison et George Sanders. Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas, Linda Darnell. Il lui doit Bette Davis et Anne Baxter. Il lui doit James Mason et Danielle Darrieux. Il lui doit Ava Gardner et Bogart. Il lui doit Brando et Sinatra. Il lui doit Montgomery Clift et Katharine Hepburn. Il lui doit même Elizabeth Taylor. Tout, il lui doit tout. Il lui doit aussi Cary Grant. Il lui doit surtout Cary Grant. Sans lui, sans son humanité rieuse, sans sa grâce malicieuse, il n'y aurait pas On murmure dans la ville. Il n'y aurait pas de docteur miracle, capable de ressusciter un mort. Personne ne parlerait. Personne ne murmurerait. Ce serait la nuit. Merci Cary d'être ce que tu es.

quarta-feira, 19 de abril de 2006

E mais à noitinha...

They Died With Their Boots On

Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader

Errol Flynn makes an effectively vain, overbearing, and ambiguously charming George Armstrong Custer in Raoul Walsh's 1941 biographical epic. Walsh was often at his best with loosely structured screenplays like this one, which follows Custer from West Point to the Little Big Horn--unencumbered by a well-defined story, Walsh sets up a play of pure rhythm, texture, and tone. It may be questionable history (though the film is anything but jingoistic), but it is superb filmmaking, personal and vigorous. Worth particular note is the way Walsh's camera carves up the space of the final battle scene, sliding between claustrophobic oppressiveness and agoraphobic horror. With Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, and Sydney Greenstreet.


"(...) But eyes show the link between reality and image. Veritable melodramas of eyeballs mark Errol Flynn’s decisions to sacrifice his life in They Died with Their Boots On (1941) and Uncertain Glory (1944). And in The Bowery, a world so hammy that it seems normal for George Raft to strut like a bouncing penis, the characters keep spying the edge of the lens, so that performances often seem realities captured right now by the camera." (Tag Gallagher)


« Custer apparaît ici comme un homme qui voit juste, qui parle vrai, qui hait les compromis et dont le sacrifice sans illusion servira en même temps la cause de son pays et celle des Indiens… Walsh voit aussi dans ce personnage l’occasion de donner libre court à sa haine de la basse politique, de l’affairisme et de la dictature de l’argent »

«… la charge finale où triomphe le style unique de Walsh, alliant comme personne n’a su le faire l’ampleur à la trépidation, la frénésie des plans rapprochés à la sérénité grandiose des plans d’ensemble, véritables tableaux, égaux en génie à la plus belle peinture américaine, et, par exemple, à celle de Remington que Walsh adorait. » (Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du Cinéma - Collection Bouquins).

John McTiernan pleads guilty in wiretap case...

Le crime était presque parfait

TCM, 20 h 45 et TMC, 22 h 40.

par Louis SKORECKI

J'ai un couteau entre les mains et je crie. J'ai un couteau entre les mains et je pleure. J'ai un couteau entre les dents et j'ai peur. Je m'appelle Alfred Hitchcock et, quand je me regarde dans la glace, j'ai peur. Tout ce que je sais, c'est peu mais je le sais, c'est que je n'aime pas rester dans le noir. Comment faire pour retrouver la pédale du réel ? Un ami qui me veut du bien (et qui m'a entendu parler tout haut) me suggère de chercher avec les pieds. Et moi qui cherchais avec la tête, je pouvais toujours courir.

Maintenant, je sais, je me rappelle. Ce n'est pas un couteau que j'ai entre les dents, c'est une paire de ciseaux. Ça grince, ça fait mal. Qu'est-ce que je fais avec ces ciseaux, maman ? Si ça continue, je vais me faire mal. Ça y est, je saigne. Non, ce sont les gencives, j'ai dû me brosser les dents trop fort ce matin. Je me regarde dans la glace. Mmmmmaman, je suis une femme ! Je ressemble comme deux gouttes d'eau à Grace Kelly. Je suis belle, je suis jeune, je suis blonde. Mais qu'est-ce que je fous avec cette paire de ciseaux ?

Mon mari me regarde d'un drôle d'air. Qu'est-ce qu'il a ? Qu'est-ce qu'il me veut ? Pour un peu, on dirait Ray Milland. Nom de Dieu, c'est vraiment Ray Milland. Je n'en reviens pas, je suis mariée à Ray Milland. Il est beau, il a tourné avec DeMille, Dwan, Fritz Lang, Tourneur. Il a au moins deux fois mon âge, j'en suis sûre. Il me regarde d'un drôle d'oeil maintenant, ça me fait froid dans le dos. Pourquoi m'a-t-il laissée seule avec ce type louche ? Il va m'embrasser ou quoi ? Il a des arrière-pensées, il me serre la gorge, ça fait mal. Il veut me tuer, c'est sûr. Je tâtonne dans le noir, le sang qui bat à mes tempes m'a rendue aveugle, je cherche, je cherche. Un truc froid, métallique, je le saisis à pleine main. C'est ça, j'y suis, c'est une paire de ciseaux, je les lui plante dans le dos, il relâche son étreinte, je respire, c'est fini.

terça-feira, 18 de abril de 2006

Le Massacre de Fort Apache

par Louis SKORECKI


John Ford est le cinéma. Ni Murnau, ni Hitchcock, ni Renoir ne lui arrivent à la cheville. Ni Ozu, ni Mizoguchi, ni personne. A côté de Ford, le reste du cinéma, c'est ni-ni. Il n'y a que Tourneur qui s'approche de Ford par son étrangeté même, son étrangeté au cinéma. Comme si le cinéma ne se définissait qu'à l'envers, par la distance qu'il met avec lui-même. Le cinéma, c'est précisément ce qui n'en est pas, ce qui n'en sera jamais. Qu'est ce que Ford disait de lui-même, déjà ? «Je m'appelle John Ford et je fais des westerns.» Même pas des films. Même pas du cinéma. Juste des histoires de cow-boys et d'Indiens, avec un peu d'amour entre les plans pour laisser respirer le spectateur. Parmi ces westerns, le Massacre de Fort Apache a une drôle de place. Il a la puissance d'un cheval au galop, un cheval dressé pour servir son pays. Le pays, c'est l'Amérique. Vous ne savez pas où est l'Amérique ? Elle est sous le sabot de ce cheval, et nulle part ailleurs.

Le Massacre de Fort Apache est, en 1948, le premier volet de la trilogie fordiennne consacrée à la cavalerie américaine, avant la Charge héroïque (She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, 1949) et Rio Grande (1950). Avec le meilleur des cinéastes, une trilogie prend trois ans. Avec Ford, ce serait trop facile. En trois ans, il s'amuse aussi d'un délicieux film hors genre, presque transgenre, When Willie Come Marching Home, et d'un classique prétélévision qui défie le temps, Wagonmaster. Remercier Dieu qu'il ne se soit pas aussi mis en tête de laver les assiettes, on y serait encore. Le Massacre de Fort Apache est une épopée triviale et alanguie, bâtie autour des délires anti-Indiens de Custer qui ont tant inspiré Hollywood. Henry Fonda joue le tueur de Peaux Rouges, John Wayne essaye de pactiser avec Cochise, ça finit dans un bain de sang.

segunda-feira, 17 de abril de 2006

Bizarro ninguém ter notado as semelhanças entre Streets of Fire e Sin City.

Reler o que Dave Kehr tem a dizer para precisar ainda mais a questão.

Streets of Fire
Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader

Walter Hill's "rock and roll fable" (1984) remains a marginally personal film despite near-fatal doses of rock-video imagery and self-conscious myth making. Hill has tried to adapt his existential action-film ethos to the demands of the teenage market, and the results are grotesque: a group of gangly adolescents (Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Amy Madigan) aping the romantic fatalism of 40s film noir. The characters do not seem old enough to be fully entitled to presents, much less to dark pasts that must be overcome. Hill is incapable of completely kowtowing to commercial formulas, but he comes very close here, assuming a rock 'em-sock 'em Spielberg pacing and a space-fracturing visual style that makes even the rare dialogue scenes look like the production numbers from Flashdance. But enough of Hill's basic moral seriousness remains to suggest that all isn't lost. With Rick Moranis. 93 min.

La Fille à la valise

Cinécinéma Classic, 20 h 45

par Louis SKORECKI

Quand j'avais 16 ans, je dessinais toujours le même adolescent. Il me ressemblait comme un frère, un frère inconnu, caché. C'était moi et pas moi, ce drôle d'animal asexué, presque transgenre, et toujours si attirant. Je rêvais et je craignais de devenir cet être trouble, troublant. Dans la vraie vie, je ressemblais plus à un jeune rabbin imberbe, mais sous mon crayon je devenais Jacques Perrin. Je l'aimais, je l'enviais, c'était mon idée de moi, mon idéal du moi. Je me prenais pour Jacques Perrin. Blond, fluet, gracieux, le contraire du petit juif potelé et bouclé que j'étais, plus bouclé et plus brun que la glaise qui l'avait fait. J'ai perdu avec le temps cet étrange don transformiste. J'ai même fini par coïncider avec moi-même.

Je crois que c'est la Fille à la valise qui m'avait mis dans cet état-là. Le film était aussi séduisant que le joli jeune homme qui l'habitait comme un Golem, qui m'habitait comme un dibbouk. C'est sûr, j'étais possédé par Jacques Perrin. Il faisait de moi ce qu'il voulait. Le régisseur du film, Valerio Zurlini, n'avait pas grand-chose à voir avec le pouvoir d'envoûtement de son oeuvre, aussi envoûtante qu'une berceuse de Chet Baker ou un slow rock du jeune Presley. Quand j'étais jeune homme, les films n'étaient pas accompagnés. Personne ne les tenait par la main, même pour leur présenter un amoureux. Ils devaient se débrouiller tout seuls, même les plus effarouchés, les plus timides, et ce film-là rougissait à vue d'oeil quand on lui présentait une fille. La fille, c'était toujours Claudia Cardinale. Cardinale, comme Bardot, c'est l'éclat de la fillette qui s'imagine jeune fille en rêvant tout haut, en rêvant trop fort. Ces roses-là vieillissent mal, elles fanent vite. J'aimais tellement le joli visage de Cardinale que les visages que je dessinais ont fini par lui ressembler. Je tremblais, je ne savais plus où j'étais. Qu'est-ce que j'allais devenir ?

(A suivre)

domingo, 16 de abril de 2006

Isso aí, McNaughton: mostrar para os fãs de Pânico! e Onze Homens e um Segredo como se faz um filme perfeitamente boçal, grosseiro, misógino, grotescamente naturalista, violento, cruel, estúpido, absolutamente amoral e por isso tudo mesmo fascinante.

Como The Stupids, Escape From L.A. e Showgirls, um chute no saco daquele circo de horrores que foi os anos 90.

New DVD's: Weird Foreign Stuff


Published: April 11, 2006


Uno Bianca

After working as an assistant to some of the biggest names in the Italian genre cinema — including the exploitation king Joe D'Amato; the slasher stylist Dario Argento; and Lamberto Bava, the son of the king of Italian horror directors, Mario Bava — the talented Michele Soavi made three overlooked films before his international breakthrough, "Dellamorte Dellamore" in 1994. Retitled "Cemetery Man" for its United States release, and set for a major reissue next month by Anchor Bay, the film starred Rupert Everett as the lonely caretaker of a small-town graveyard where the dead come back to life, with comic predictability, every evening.

But Mr. Soavi left the industry immediately after his biggest success to care for an ailing son, according to Richard Harland Smith's notes for the NoShame release of "Uno Bianca," and by the time he returned to work five years later, the Italian film industry was effectively dead. Mr. Soavi, one of the few remaining links to the industry's lively past, was forced to look for work in television.

"Uno Bianca" (2001) is a two-part, 200-minute Italian television movie — a police procedural that follows two courageous cops from Rimini (Kim Rossi Stuart and Dino Abbrescia), as they track down a gang of ruthless, indiscriminate killers who rob banks, gas stations and supermarkets, always using a stolen white Fiat Uno for their getaways. The material is unexceptional, but Mr. Soavi's execution has an impressive B-movie force and efficiency. The camera is generally in the right place to create maximum tension; the shots match smoothly; and the action is rendered with clarity and rhythm — things you seldom see in Hollywood action films of the post-MTV generation. Though not particularly personal, this is polished, professional filmmaking of a high and increasingly rare order; it makes you hope that Mr. Soavi will soon find something closer to his heart. $29.95, not rated.


Além disso tudo uma informação interessantíssima no site da Mobius Home Video Forum:

"In Alan Jones' PROFONDO ARGENTO, he does specifically state that Soavi "retired" shortly after making DELLAMORE DELLAMORTE when his son was born with a rare liver ailment so he could devote all of his time and energy to him. The award-winning Italian film THE SON'S ROOM was co-written by Heidrun Schleef, Soavi's partner and the mother of his son, and much of that script was informed by her own experiences with their son Adriano."

Corresponde a qual das seguintes opções:

- apogeu de um momento crítico do cinema americano, um ponto dos anos 60 que este filme e os de Jerry Lewis (além dos últimos Walsh, Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Minnelli, Preminger etc.) ultrapassaram;

- o documento mais instigante da zorra que essa mesma Hollywood nos anos 60;

- limite e por isso mesmo fim do cinema de mise en scène;

- a prova cabal e definitiva de que Jerry Lewis e Blake Edwards foram a vanguarda do cinema americano nos 60 como foram Monte Hellman, John Cassavetes, Robert Kramer, Shirley Clarke e o cinema direto americano;

- o prolongamento ilógico e ambíguo de Playtime.

The Epistemologist of Despair

The Films of Douglas Sirk

If you're watching Douglas Sirk for the camp value, look deeper.

By Fred Camper

sábado, 15 de abril de 2006


Edward Yang


With the runaway international acclaim of this film, Taiwanese director Edward Yang could no longer be called Asian cinema’s best-kept secret. Yi Yi swiftly follows a middle-class family in Taipei over the course of one year, beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral. Whether chronicling middle-aged father NJ’s tenuous flirtations with an old flame or precocious young son Yang-Yang’s attempts at capturing reality with his beloved camera, Yang imbues every gorgeous frame with a deft, humane clarity. Warm, sprawling, and dazzling, this intimate epic is one of the undisputed masterworks of the new century.

About the Transfer

Yi Yi is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 4K from a 35mm interpositive struck from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System. To maintain optimal image quality through the compression process, the picture on this dual-layer DVD-9 was encoded at the highest-possible bit rate for the quantity of material included. The soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the original 2-track LTRT magnetic master, and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss, and crackle.

Film Info
173 minutes

Release Info
SRP: $39.95

Special Features

* New, restored high-definition digital transfer

* Audio commentary by writer-director Edward Yang and noted Asian-cinema critic Tony Rayns

* New video interview with Rayns about the "New Taiwanese Cinema" movement

* U.S. theatrical trailer

* PLUS: A new essay by Kent Jones

Le Retour de l'hirondelle d'or

CinéCinéma Auteur, 21 heures.

par Samuel DOUHAIRE

En 1966, King Hu donnait un coup de fouet artistique au film de cape et d'épée chinois avec l'Hirondelle d'or. Ses apports ? Une reconstitution historique pointilleuse qui n'exclut pas l'humour, une mise en scène élégante, et des séquences de combat influencées par le western-spaghetti alors très en vogue à Hongkong. Sans oublier la mise en avant d'une héroïne guerrière ­ même si la belle Cheng Pei-pei est déguisée en homme pendant une bonne moitié du film ­ malgré les réticences du producteur Run Run Shaw qui pensait que les femmes au cinéma devaient être cantonnées aux rôles romantiques. Le triomphe dans toute l'Asie appelait une suite. Mais King Hu étant parti fâché à Taiwan, la Shaw Brothers fit appel à son deuxième réalisateur vedette, Chang Cheh. Qui allait s'empresser de tirer le film vers son propre univers, beaucoup plus tragique, plus sanglant et, surtout, beaucoup plus viril.

Contrairement à ce que pourrait laisser croire le titre, «l'Hirondelle d'or» n'est plus le personnage central. C'est désormais «le Phénix d'argent», un jeune chevalier invincible, ancien condisciple de l'Hirondelle d'or dont il est resté éperdument amoureux. Pour la revoir, il se transforme en ange exterminateur, multiplie les actions d'éclat et les meurtres en se faisant passer pour l'Hirondelle. Dans ce contexte, la star Cheng Pei-pei n'est plus qu'un faire-valoir de luxe au beau Jimmy Wang Yu. Les séquences de combats, sans renier l'influence de Sergio Leone (la mise en place presque rituelle avant la brutale explosion de violence) empruntent désormais au chambara japonais (film de sabre) sans plus se soucier du réalisme. Jimmy Wang Yu sort vainqueur d'affrontements à un contre vingt, anéantit quatre assaillants d'un seul coup d'épée, sans la moindre égratignure, ni la moindre goutte d'hémoglobine sur son costume. Comme si Chang Cheh, en maître coloriste, avait voulu attendre le dernier moment pour maculer de rouge la belle tunique blanche de son acteur...

Chang Cheh é gênio.

Battling the Past - an encounter with Michael Cimino

By Michael O'Connor

Date: August 2005

How would you picture Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate? Sitting, sipping a beer in the courtyard of Bologna's elegant Lumière Cinema, it's a question that occupies my mind while waiting for the arrival of the celebrated American director. A question, because I don't know the answer. There are photos of him from the set of The Deer Hunter, hair bouffant, as you would expect a 70's director to be (and not a million miles away from Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter), but for all intents and purposes after the commercial disaster of Heaven's Gate, the American director shrank from public view. In a sense. In reality, he's directed further films like Year of the Dragon, though never attaining either the critical acclaim or disdain of his two pivotal earlier films. He's also written a novel, Big Jane, which according to reports in 2001, he intends to film. But, public interest remains primarily focussed on those two bold movies that made and broke his name. How would he look now? Grizzled and wizened from his daedelus like voyage between fame and infamy?

Cimino's appearance, as part of the annual Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, is eagerly awaited. He is, as they say in Italy, a Grande. A legend of the Cinema. Born, officially, in 1943 (rumours suggest that perhaps it was a number of years earlier), Cimino first entered film-making as a writer with credits for the influential sci-fi film Silent Running and the second installment of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry series, Magnum Force. It was Eastwood, in fact, that launched the New Yorker as a director, highly impressed by his work on the Dirty Harry film. 1974's Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was a reasonable success, going on to become a cult film. From there he directed 1979's Oscar winning film The Deer Hunter. A critical and commercial success that made Cimino one of Hollywood's hottest properties. His next film, Heaven's Gate would destroy this new found kudos, and bankrupt a Hollywood studio at the same time.

The early evening quiet is broken by the rapid arrival of three sleek black cars, synchronized with tinted black windows. They swerve to a halt, showily, before a medium-to-small size figure exits, dressed in a tan suit with perhaps the most impressive/ridiculous cowboy hat seen outside of Texas. 2005's Michael Cimino has arrived.

Up close his face is obscured by both the ten-gallon hat, that dwarves him, and a pair of dark shades, that must make the dim inside of the Lumière seem like the dark side of the Moon. He doesn't take them off at any stage.

"I'm very very proud to have given a copy of my own personal shooting script of The Deer Hunter to the library here in Bologna," he remarks, looking around the cinema, his lips hardly moving. The skin on his face seems stretched tight. His jaw moves as if of its own volition. It may be unkind, but Michael Jackson springs to mind...

The director is here to both present his 1979 masterpiece The Deer Hunter, and to give a Director's masterclass to Bologna's film students. "One of the reasons I've volunteered to do these seminars with students, is, if I may be vulgar for a moment, that I think students have become tired of bullshit," he says with a smile. "I like movies, - he continues, - I like the word 'movies', because it's what they are: they move. Cinema is a different thing. Once you stop moving you're dead. There's been too much nonsense preached to students about technique, about rules, about so many things that have nothing to do with the heart of a movie. We need to reclaim, the students today need to reclaim the spiritual part of themselves, though that might sound pretentious, or ludicrous even, it's true".

The heart of the movie. That's what interests Cimino, and how you get there. "Before you start obeying rules, start by breaking them," he says emphatically. "I made The Deer Hunter as a young man. If I had gone through a film school before making this movie, I would never have made it. I would have been too afraid. Even today, the script girls say to me, 'Michael, this is not going to work. You're crossing the eye line'. I still don't know what the 'eye line' means!".

Perhaps, though, the era when films could be made easily by breaking the rules has passed. The age of wholescale risk taking, blessed by Hollywood moghuls, it could be argued, was finished, albeit unwittingly, by directors like Cimino himself. Heaven's Gate remains elusively off-topic this evening.

"There's not one cent of Hollywood money in this movie," he says, talking about The Deer Hunter. It's as if, even though no-one asks, the recrimination of Heaven's Gate remains hovering under the cowboy hat. "All the money came from an English company [EMI]. All the costs were covered by them, then the film on completion was auctioned off to whatever studio would pay the most, and it turned out to be Universal at the time. I hope you can look at it with a true heart, true eyes and a true mind," he implores the gathered audience.

This, the most emblematic of films, was released with some controversy. While winning five Oscars including those for best film, and best director, the film also caused the walkout of Warsaw pact countries from the Berlin film festival in solidarity with the 'heroic people of Vietnam'. The portrayal of the Vietnamese, in particular the infamous Russian roulette scenes (no cases were ever documented from the war), was criticised as racist.

"Try not to look for symbolism in the movie, because there is none. There's no political agenda in the movie," Cimino reiterates. "It's not even about the Vietnam war. It's about what happens when catastrophe attacks a group of friends who are like family, in a small town. This is a movie about people. It's simply about people. I would urge you to take it that way. It's a story of a group of friends."

Indeed, while there can be little argument that the Vietnamese characters portrayed in the film are one-dimensional sadistic stereotypes, part of the reason the film had such an effect was due to its portrayal of this small group of friends. While the dialogue is sparse, the movie speaks volumes. "I think that one of the reasons that the movie maintains its vitality, for lack of a better word," he explains, "is that the actors were asked to give very much. All of the actors were asked to go beyond themselves. All of the actors were asked to do things that they had never done before. Those guys, I had sleep in those uniforms and never take them off, wet or dry, for one entire month. They never shaved, they never bathed, which is what happens in combat. You don't get a hot shower every night. The small details like that. Everyone allowed themselves to be inspired by what everyone else was doing. It was a rare occasion."

"I'm proud to say, there are no special effects in this movie", Cimino continues. "There are no digital effects. When you see 9,000 refugees in the night in a burning Saigon, that is 9,000 people in the night. For real. When you see the actors jumping out of a helicopter, that's really the actors. When you see them floating downriver clutching a log, that's them. I know because I was there in the river with them, holding one end of the raft down because it was popping up and the log was so heavy that it was crash breaking it. Everything that I asked of the actors, they gave."

In a very real sense The Deer Hunter seems to be greater than the sum of all its parts. The product of a rare coincidence of talent, working together. "Making a movie is not abut your own inspiration. It's not about only your own excitement. Making a movie is not about your own satisfaction," says Cimino excitedly. "It's also about inspiring other people to go the next step. I think everyone yearns, and I mean that word, yearns for a moment of transcendence in real life. When that happens in work, it's like the greatest drug in the world. When a shot is finished, the take is made and the whole crew, the actors, the crew, everybody feels it, and you can almost see people levitating off the ground!"

It's an intensely nostalgic sensation, listening to Cimino speak. He is here after all to talk about the past, not the present or the future. There are ghosts constantly moving in his speech. He, perhaps more so than any other director, has made his mistakes in public, and for every confident assertion about what movies should be, there's always a hint of doubt. As if filtering through the accumulated criticism of his career.

At the end, though, perhaps he is his own greatest critic. The Deer Hunter has deservedly entered into the pantheon of great films. With the passage of time, Heaven's Gate has been re-evaluated positively, despite its excesses. In short, with the passage of time, Cimino's reputation has been re-established, as visibly manifested by the earnest queue of young directors/writers present here this evening who greet the New York director with reverence.

As the lights go down, Cimino begs his leave. "What I think about now is how much better I could have been [directing the film]. There are so many things that I would like to be able to have done better. That's one of the curses of looking at one of your own movies, because all you tend to see are your mistakes. You see the places where you might have let yourself down a little bit. Where maybe your energy flagged a little bit. You might have been tired, you should have pushed for a little more, you could have done things differently. That's why it's actually painful. Otherwise I'd sit and watch the movie with you, but I can't. Right from the first scene I'd think 'Oh, I should have had the camera here' etc."

And so, with a skin-stretched smile, dark glasses and his little-big-man's hat, Michael Cimino walks back out into his own past.

quarta-feira, 12 de abril de 2006

Próximos lançamentos Versátil

Querelle, Fassbinder
Estratégia da Aranha, Bertolucci
Persona, Bergman
As Afinidades Eletivas, irmãos Taviani


La Punition

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 televiseion 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, Proces de Jeanne), 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 cinéma, May 1964

terça-feira, 11 de abril de 2006

L’amour existe

par Maurice Pialat

The Round, the Flat, and the Impossible:

"The Wayward Cloud"
By Chris Fujiwara

Vengeance Is Mine

Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader

Shohei Imamura was one of the few important filmmakers working in 80s Japan; this film, which won the 1979 Japanese critics' poll, is often cited as his masterpiece. Based on a true story, the film follows master criminal Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) on a cross-country rape and murder spree; he finally settles down at a seedy inn, where he takes up with the lonely woman who owns it. Imamura's detached, almost scientific style forestalls any pat sympathy for the central character--he is not a sentimental "victim of society," but the embodiment of its darkest Darwinian forces. Imamura implies that his real tragedy lies in not being able to go far enough. With Mitsuko Baisho and Mayumi Ogawa.



E hoje ainda gravo Claro, do Glauber.

segunda-feira, 10 de abril de 2006

Adrian Martin, Once upon a time in America, BFI Publishing, 1998

Adrian Martin's monograph on Sergio Leone's last and greatest film is one of the best entries in the BFI's distinguished Classics and Modern Classics series, which already boasts volumes by the likes of Salman Rushdie, Richard Corliss, fellow Aussie Sam Rohdie, Jonathan Rosenbaum and (most recently) Camille Paglia.

Part of the book's strength is its fine writing, which never tips over into the kind of overwriting that marred David Thomson's contribution on The big sleep. Always at the service of its object, Martin's style blends interpretation with sensuous and felt evocation at almost every turn. The last memento mori, for example, in a paragraph on that subject is the image of Noodles returning to Moe's place as an old man:

Part of the dark poetry of this lost hero's reappearance at Moe's bar derives from the fact that the establishment has previously been identified as 'the joint that never closes,' and here is Noodles, like some angel of death, instantly bringing down its shutters and closing its doors.

In a minor key, Martin's essay adopts Leone's method in this valedictory film, where every image, to borrow a phrase from Andrew Sarris writing on John Ford, is haunted by its "memory image on the horizon of history." Ford is of course Leone's master, even in this film whose story pointedly recalls every film Raoul Walsh ever did about friends made foes by class divisions, and in Once upon a time in America Time is more than ever Leone's subject: its images are treasures at once dark and luminous recovered -- less literally than James Cameron's morphing of digitally recreated images of the Titanic onto documentary shots of its sunken skeleton -- from the shipwreck of Noodles' past. As such they are particularly apt for evocation by a critical style which keeps that impossible object, the film, before the reader's eyes throughout, sending us back to it at the end with its essential mysteries still intact.

Among those, the film's cruxes: the interminable scene in which Deborah removes the makeup from a face that apparently hasn't aged in over thirty years; the garbage truck that carries Max out of the film -- ground up or still living? -- like the junk wagon that carried him into it, and the ghostly cavalcade of revellers that follows; the last zoom in on Noodles as the opium kicks in and his face lights up in a savage grin.

That last image, which was perhaps meant by Leone to sum up his oeuvre, is on the simplest level about "the brutish vulgarity of men" whose celebration by Leone is dealt with scrupulously by Martin in Chapters 4 through 6, circling back at the end of Chapter 7 -- on the film's melancholy -- with this observation:

Central to the film's portrait of masculinity is a feeling of torment, something ambivalent, tearing, wretched. It is a strange and plaintive moment in cinema history, this surge of male melancholia that reaches its peak with Leone's last film.

Yet the film itself ends with Noodles' smile, and Martin goes through all the answers given by Leone, screenwriter Stuart Kaminsky and the film's critics to the question it poses -- What is this man smiling about? -- without settling on one, preferring to quote a favorite phrase of Leone's: "I say it here, and I deny it here." His final word on the subject: Noodles' smile is made possible by an act of repression, "the massive blocking out of what he has come to learn in the course of the film." This may in fact be confirmed by another quote from Leone, who described the film to an interviewer as a "dance of death in which a man moves toward forgetting."

After that intriguing remark, Martin chooses to end his reading of the film with the scene that comes before the opium den finale, the scene between Max and Noodles when Noodles, asked if his refusal of Max's contract is his way of getting revenge, shakes his head "fourteen times quickly before he replies 'no...,' and then, in a smaller arc (like a physical reverberation or aftershock), shakes it ten more times, before he says: 'It's just the way I see things.'"

Martin is quick to point out that the low-key heroism of this reply is poor comfort in a film "which exposes at every turn the fantasies, blind spots, masks and treacheries inherent in a drama of seeing." That sentence, which concludes his reading, enables him to leave the question of Noodles' smile floating in the air like the film's final freeze-frame, just as he sidesteps the enigma of Deborah's eternally young face (quoting and then rejecting Michel Chion's interpretation of it as an Oedipal fantasy) by focusing on the looks that pass between Noodles, Deborah, David and Max in the same sequence.

This reading of the film as a deconstruction of the "male gaze" permits Martin to read it at its highest level of formal abstraction, while bringing rational closure to an argument that begins with the question of Leone's attitude toward men (that "ancient race" sentimentally evoked by Bronson at the end of Once upon a time in the west). It is an eminently satisfying reading which even takes in, obliquely, the film's long production history (detailed in a chapter titled "The Mummy's Curse"), its tortured post-production history (including a description, based on the shooting script, of a still longer version we may yet see some day) and its influence on subsequent films (the chapter evocatively titled "The Ashes of Time"): If indeed the film is Leone's funeral for his own cinema, the mourning work would be, in principle, interminable and ongoing, even after the filmmaker's death.

I was not surprised to learn, in an exchange of e-mails when I thanked the author for an advance copy of his book, that another interpretation of Noodles' smile -- the one I have always assumed -- had occurred to him, too, although it is an interpretation that belongs to a different tradition of criticism altogether, the theory of influence elaborated in my country by literary critic Harold Bloom as a way of talking about Romantic poetry, and eventually about all "post-Enlightenment art." That would be my own interpretation of the film, which was sketched out in my eulogy for Leone in the Cahiers du cinema as a Romantic poet whose last work carries out the movement of internalization by which the Romantics turned quest romance into inner questing. This way of reading the ending of Once upon a time in America , I believe, averts a danger which Martin rightly points out in the "upbeat, transcendent reading" implied by a "New Age" interpretation of the film as Noodles' heroic quest.

For the internalized questing of the Romantics is a darker achievment than any portrayed in The hero with a thousand faces, one predicated on "reduced expectations" with a vengeance (a vision that once encompassed Ford's Monument Valley dwindling to the space between a gangster's ears) and inexorably destined for defeat: the central poem in the Romantic tradition, according to Bloom, is Browning's ghastly poetic monologue by a failed quester, Childe Roland to the dark tower came, which may have been in Arthur C. Clarke's mind when he conceived the monolith at the end of 2001: a space odyssey. Noodles, like the puppet Bowman in 2001, is definitely of Roland's company, and his smile is eerily reminiscent of the smile on the face of the Star Child at the end of Kubrick's film.

As Martin shows, the meaning of that smile hovers between fantasy (an opium dream?) and reality, between past (Noodles childhood? the film we have just seen?) and future (a prophetic vision brought on by the drug?), with no room in the middle for a living present. As it happens, that is a precise description of the "ratio of misreading" (a defense mechanism for creative forgetting) which ends most post-Enlightenment poems, according to Bloom, who calls the ratio "transumption." It is indeed based on a powerful act of repression, by which a belated poet imagines that he is in fact the predecessor of the great predecessor whose work would otherwise cripple his own imagination, and its closest Freudian analogue, according to Bloom, is the repression which founds paranoid psychosis.

The Star Child, I have argued elsewhere, is a transumption of all human culture -- the monolith was here before us, and continues to shape our ends -- through the Wordsworthian paradox "The child is father to the man," but Noodles' drug-addled moment of transumption is a strictly personal one: hovering between past and future, he sees it all and embraces it with his savage smile. Moments of timelessness like this occur at the end of many Ford films -- Lincoln walking into his stormy future, Roddy McDowall seeing his past rise up luminous before him -- but Leone's last variation on Fordean transumption recalls Nietzsche: in the Eternal Return, the past is the future, eternally recurring, and one must have the strength to will both and laugh about it. In that sense only does Noodles' quest succeed, but at the price of "nihilistic despair" (the last words of Adrian Martin's excellent and uncompromising book).

Another line of investigation started by the book's first chapter, but not followed up, would require the author to engage more with the roots of his own cinephilia, which he has described in a letter published in Trafic as part of an ensemble on "Movie Mutations." In his book Martin holds fast to a view of Leone as the creator of an "impure" cinema, and one way of expanding on that would be to go back to the founding contradiction of Martin's criticism: his early love for what he calls cinema as an "arte to the energies and intensities of life" (Wenders, Godard, Ruiz, but also Rouch and Vigo) and his acquired taste for the modern cinema of spectacle which springs, in part, from Leone's films.

My favorite scene in Once upon a time in America is the quintessentially Leonesque moment when one of the young gang members, waiting in the hall with the creamy cake he has brought to purchase a neighbor girl's sexual favors, begins licking his fingers and ends up gradually, very gradually, eating the whole thing. The scene has many meanings, one of which (if I recall correctly) is macabre: I believe the character dies in a brawl not long after, presumably still a virgin, a life wasted. Scenes like this which play on duration (another, described by Martin, is the scene where Noodles rivets his colleagues' attention by stirring his coffee with a spoon) are at the heart of Leone's cinema, and they have as much to do with an arte povera as they do with the epic qualities imitated by Leone's many admirers.

I am told, for example, that Titanic heralds a rebirth of American classical cinema, and I would love to believe that that is true. Perhaps I would be more inclined to do so if it contained one example of minimalist magic like that moment with the cake, which stops Leone's $30 million epic dead in its tracks for at least two minutes, and in so doing somehow empowers the mysterious images of Time transcended which gather at the end.

Bill Krohn

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