35 rhums

If Beau Travail continues to be one of the most daunting examples of engagement in pure cinema in film history, 35 rhums, next to Claire Denis’ masterpiece, feels like an afterthought. In a good way. Consider it her Broken Flowers to Dead Man: deeply personal, evocative, and engaged, but overly mannered, precise, and visually specific. Indeed, when 35 rhums shoots for the stars, it does so in odd places: at a bar in a rainstorm, in the deep grass on the German coast, and in working class backdrops. If Denis proved anything with Beau Travail, it was her ability to be suggestive with her visual and aural ellipses, allowing more triumphant moments, such as the scenes in discos, thrust themselves at the audience in utter shock, moving the film to new, remarkable heights.

It’s seemingly impossible to not compare each successive Denis film with her greatest work, in part because it was so revealing and cinema is still reacting to it. Perhaps that isn’t fair to 35 rhums, which for all of its faults, namely its reliance on verbal communication to dictate action, is a truly wonderful and uneven film: smoky, slow-burning, and contemplative.

Old Is New

Broadcast and The Focus Group – Witch Cults.

The cover of Karen Dalton’s It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best.

Moving on

In a week, I will be relocating from Upstate New York to lovely Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I haven’t used this space lately, part of which is due to my upcoming move, but mostly I haven’t felt the urge to write about film (or music or whatever) at all. Life in Binghamton has been less than inspiring, so I hope that with the change of scenery will push me back into posting on this thing regularly.

So, in the coming weeks, I will do my best to update this blog, write about what I see and hear (and maybe include photographs I take), and perhaps remake it as something a bit more interesting and constant. The NYFF this year is an embarrassment of riches, so at the very least I will post my thoughts on titles I see them, though I hope it expands after that. Until then…

Portrait of the filmmaker (#5)

Karl Kels

May 2008

Johnson City, New York

Michael

I can imagine that there are many people in the world, the same age as me or not, remembering the first time they heard a Michael Jackson or Jackson 5 song. It’s difficult to not be nostalgic right now, remembering the first album I owned (Bad) and the first I paid for (HIStory), or even how each period in Jackson’s career from 1982 on left permanent indentations in my memory.

R.I.P. Michael

Portrait of the filmmaker (#4)

Albert Maysles

13 June 2009

Harlem, New York

Towards a devotional cinema

The camera must give itself completely and wholly to its subject, yet it cannot give itself away to its subject. When a filmmaker is fully and selflessly present, the audience becomes fully and selflessly present. The filmmaker’s physical relationship to the world manifests as the camera’s relationship to the image and becomes the audience’s relationship to the screen. To the degree that a filmmaker can relate directly to the heart of an object, the viewer will also connect directly to the heart of the object. The audience will see the screen as the camera sees objects, and a great unity of heart will take place between filmmaker and audience.

– Nathaniel Dorsky, Devotional Cinema