Sunday, April 30, 2017

plato's cave twenty six (being a film journal) le samouraï opening shot

jean-pierre melville - le samouraï - 1967

last evening at film forum : melville's classic le samouraï on a wonderfully/lovely worn 35mm print. the print had some evocative "ellipsis" as p. adams sitney explains when describing joseph cornell film oeuvre in the classic museum of modern art monograph published in 1980. i read it probably 20 years ago, but my memory is how sitney writes about the wear to prints as cornell constantly viewed and edited found-films in his collection, and the beauty of the ellipsis that were both necessary and non-intentional.

le samouraï i have seen many times. this was my third time on 35mm. i use to own the criterion dvd and would often watch it often. the opening sequence always reminded me of michael snow's wavelength from the same year. how very strange that they came out the same year, must have really been in the air that year to have a long take of a room, where there is so much "nothing" happening, that a viewer almost does not notice all that actually is happening. a lazy viewer of snow's film would not notice all of the activity in wavelength, and just see a slow zoom. people are coming and going, traffic sounds, the beatles song, electronic interactions... it is all very exciting. even more exciting to this viewer has always been snow's back and forth. almost like a popular 80s high school film (say fast times at ridgemont high from 1982) mixed with snow's severe mechanistic exploits.

the moment in le samouraï that has always fascinated me is about 30 something seconds into the opening static shot. the focus starts to slowly shift and there are tiny zooms in and out and we end up with a slightly wider shot that we began with, and a minimal shift in perception of the room occurs. yet this very minimal shift is like a bomb going off (at least for this viewer). i spent 20 plus years thinking about the reason for this strange business. recently found this article which has a sort of regular analysis of it. yet for me there has always been some kind of mystical experience in that slight shift. in a dark room your relationship to sound and images is drastically heightened. your perceptions change (think of james turrell's work, esp his meeting at ps1)... with the shot slightly widening, the main character becomes more apparent, but i think more than that a shift in the viewer's perception happens with that widening and something magical begins to happen, like in live music when the band hits a psychedelic crescendo that makes you feel like you are in another dimension (i recently saw supersilent and the necks live which was full of these moments).

elsewhere in the film similar shifts occur, like when jef costello is on the walkway bridge with the middleman (clip here, seen at 1 minute 8 seconds) and trouble happens.  a split second before shots are fired there is a hard cut, and the camera moves from the bridge to a distance and is moving parallel to it rapidly. again, this edit is light a bomb going off in the theater. i wonder if over-thinking these subtleties does harm to a true experience with the work?, and that one should simply accept them as a viewer and be ready to perish with the explosions?

michael snow - wavelength - 1967

Saturday, April 29, 2017

plato's cave twenty five (being a film journal)

wim wenders - kings of the road - 1976
seen recently at BAM. second viewing (first time on VHS)

cinematography in this film by the great robby müller (covered elsewhere on this website) and martin schäfer, in which roger ebert compared to the photography of john ford films. stunning. i love the image of them filming into the moving truck, serious guys.

music by axel linstädt, member of the german krautrock band improved sound limited. gets very heavy.

i can't say i like the other two films in the trilogy much, but this is one of wenders' best films, and one of the great films from the new german cinema.

it is a truly cinematic experience to watch the two male characther's relationship to one another progress over this three hour film. teaming up after what i saw as the hanns zischler character's falling asleep at the wheel (but read was a light-hearted suicide attempt), and spending much of the beginning of the film not speaking, to finally being very close to one another in an uncommon way.

in fact, the rüdiger vogler character seems to pass on a relationship with the beautiful lisa kreuzer (memorable in wenders the american friend), to be reunited with his traveling mate. very touching. 

living in a time and place where one must spend all of one's time working to pay expensive rents and groceries; seeing a film like this with two gentlemen and scholars vagabonding across germany makes one really displeased with the way the world is operating now.

Monday, April 24, 2017

plato's cave twenty four (being a film journal)

simon donald - fortitude season one - 2015

my wife and i have just started taking care of a puppy. his name is leviathan, and he lives up to his name. he is trouble.

have not watched as many movies the last few weeks due to that and a cold. have watched some television. specifically bosch, goliath and recently fortitude. the first two, despite some good actorshippe (from the wire etc. and billy bob thornton) were basically rubbish. fortitude was a little better, with its lush landscape and alcoholic disorientation and depression, but also not stellar. one thing making it stand apart was the ben frost soundtrack. mr. frost started with a bang with steel wound, theory of machines, and by the throat, then somehow lost me. but who the hell cares about my opinions, i am ashamed to even have them. if anything, perhaps mr. frost got carried away with the intense volume and machismo of live music which is all the rage. mr. frost surely did add some bass-oriented heavy atmosphere to fortitude, that was often times wonderful, but it gets lost in the sound design (or something....), and the moments of mediocre television.  still basically glad i watched it.

from the stills, it is clear the photography by wojciech szepel, john conroy, david luther, gary shaw, and christopher ross is very nice. the relationship to john carpenter's the thing is apparent. in terms of actorshippe, richard dormer is pretty amazing!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

plato's cave twenty three (being a film journal)

hugo weaving double feature. i can't figure out why, but i had never seen stephan elliott's the adventures of priscilla, queen of the desert. a great film, with some stunning performances by weaving,  terence stamp, and guy pearce. memorable photography by brian j. breheny. the australian and new zealand films have really been speaking to me lately, with the bizarre landscapes, gritty photography, and top notch actorshippe.