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Seventh Code (Kurosawa, 2013)
Suggesting both a Rivette film and a half-remake of THE SEVENTH VICTIM (ironically I have not seen DUELLE yet…), SEVENTH CODE is a free and associative sketch on courage (and more).
An unusual short subject piece - “minor,” so to speak - running at barely 60 minutes and doubling as stunt promo for a Japanese pop singer… Loved it, essentially, but really need to see the seemingly epic, hugely divisive REAL.
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The silent and solitary but pestilential scientist surrounded by his destructive (and destructible) tools.
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The gladiatorial Spaniard is with his sought-for iron and armor.
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Hooper already tests out his interest in the world of objects as a parallel plane existing alongside ours, objects functioning as furtive, sneakingly poignant, perhaps more permanent stand-ins for humans’ already shaky and self-undermining ontological existences.
A rose and chalice is made to be what remains of the (apparently - and arbitrarily - Russkie) aristocrat into the finer things.
The Heisters (1963)
The Heisters is so very good.
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….because a lot of music ignores the American intellectual tradition of Bernstein, Ives, and even Kottke. It’s funny that I got onto today’s JoNew jag because of a CO askfm question about Kottke and Fahey. To me, there’s a tradition of nebbish whiteness intellectualizing a less well formed (read: savage?) landscape and exercising a poetic/romantic/religious vision in order to create a more orderly and perfect heaven or community that Newsom’s vision continues. It’s a really lavish and generous idea that’s often blotted out in nihilism, which is a a natural reaction to generosity if you think about it. The idea of a self-fashioned utopian society is such an enduring one that it’s even still and just now an au courant millennial thing. I find it odd that JoNew’s music isn’t more popular except that it’s not exactly pandering or feel-good enough (except for the above, a song literally called “Good Intentions Paving Company” come on think about it). You hear only some of the signifiers (a rusticated footstomp melody and weird instrumentation straying into such far territory as a the middlebrow Paramore song of the summer) without the seeming Idea underlying. You get the same romantic, we’re young and we’re doomed so let’s live life to the fullest type of thing without the intellection of eternity. That’s the real lesson of nature and season: recurrence lasting longer than humanity. I guess the setting: we’ll never live to enjoy the benefits of Social Security, the National Climate Assessment says we’re fucked, etc. But this isn’t new! Traditionally, transcendent thought would increase in times like this, but where is it? Has it been syphoned off into the techno-futuristic point of view? Or an all consuming apathy. I cannot be the only person who desires to stare wideeyed into the abyss.
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NB: So how do you manage to work in the context of the modern art market?
CA: It’s turned out that, up to now, I’ve been able to work through intermediaries whom I’ve respected. Not only in public museums, also in private markets. I respect Suzanne Pagé, at one point the director of the Museum of Modern Art… There have sometimes been real modern patrons, like Sylvina Boissonnas, the Schlumberger heiress, who sponsored the Zanzibar group and then, unfortunately, the ‘Psychoanalysis and Politics’ Group…
But in the end, art usually serves the rich – the phallus. Occasionally, there are collectors who are really in love with art. Again, nothing’s simple. Before the war, the gallery owners kept the artists alive – not through speculation, but through love for the artists and their works. Even when it’s exhibited, often in palaces, art becomes just the exhibition of a limitless ego. But, all the same, it’s good that it gets shown.
NB: Jonas Mekas had a line about Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963): why all this lavish delirium on-screen instead of just buying a big gold nugget and exhibiting it directly as is?
CA: Ah, I hadn’t heard that one. The Golden Calf. Idolatry. And before the Golden Calf, slavery, the pyramids. We have to reread Exodus, it remains so true.
I’m not on-board with Polanski’s The Pianist (2002): art doesn’t serve a powerful purpose, it doesn’t reconcile people with each other. And not European art. I sometimes have the impression that German Romanticism led to the war. But maybe it’s just an impression.
NB: Besides your scripts for Les rendez-vous d’Anna (Albatros, 1978) or Un divan à New York (L’Arche, 1996), you published two books: one play, Hall de nuit (Night Lobby, L’arche, 1992), and a story, Une famille à Bruxelles (A Family in Brussels, L’Arche, 1998).
CA: For many reasons, I believe more in books than images. The image is an idol in an idolatrous world. In a book, there’s no idolatry, even if you can idolise the characters. I believe in the book; when you immerse yourself in a huge book, it’s like an event, an extraordinary one.
NB: You’ve shown unparalleled energy. You salvaged Almayer from a black hole of extraordinary production problems, like a lot of your work.
CA: My energy comes in fits. I spend half my time in bed. Luckily there’s a window now in front of me, and I look outside. Before, there was a wall. I had my first manic episode at 34. My life changed, something broke down: something of that energy that filled me when I was younger.
NB: What was the nature of this change?
CA: Previously, I had felt a kind of energy in life, with moments of depression of course – but I read constantly, took notes, was curious about everything. Then it was gone … The breakdown knocked me out. Before, I walked barefoot in the street, I brought poor people home, I wanted to save the world. Imagine, I telephoned Amnesty International to try to get them to dig a hole to the other side of the earth, to Siberia, so they’d get out all the people imprisoned in the camps! I wanted them to have 10,000 Socialist Jews brought to Israel to change the government and make peace … But I wasn’t living there, and it’s for the Israelis to know what’s to be done. Not for us who live here, for the time being, securely.
NB: Your work includes a number of self-portraits, and one majestic figure who totally innovated the relationship between portraiture and narrative: the figure of a mother, Jeanne Dielman.
CA: While I was writing it, I didn’t understand Jeanne Dielman. I didn’t understand it until many years later: it was also a film on lost Jewish rituals, not just about an obsessive woman. If she’s so obsessive, it’s to avoid leaving an hour open to anxiety. And when that extra hour arrives, all her anxiety surfaces.
I understood it after the mental crisis and analysis. I wanted my mother to keep the Sabbath, to light the candles; it came from the death of my father’s father (my mother’s father died in the camps), the man who had accepted me as a girl. At his death, I was still little; they took me out of Jewish school overnight, and it was a shock, since it broke off another connection to my grandfather. To keep the Sabbath, for me, meant reviving my ties with this man who had accepted me as a girl. It’s a really beautiful ritual, powerful and even philosophical when you grasp it. The idea of the ritual has to do with the passage from animal to human. According to the dietary rules, you have to know what’s a milk-product, or product of other foods, you have to think before eating. I like that idea. I don’t keep kosher, but at least I know the basics. I know why you can’t eat shellfish: because they never fully developed.
NB: You make me think of Ken Jacobs, who’s explained once that Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son (1969) is a film about a Jewish ritual of sexual initiation.
CA: A lot of sexual rites are made so that men might think a little before fucking women. In Judaism, the man is required to please his wife. If not, it’s grounds for divorce. One of my cousins got divorced for just that reason. Friday night, the man has to please his wife, so that he has to get to know her, for five minutes he has to forget about himself. You don’t have to be a believer to subscribe to that. Unfortunately, the ultra-orthodox have changed all this, and often for the worse.
NB: What was your experience like at the film’s release?
CA: At Cannes, after the screening, the first one up was Marguerite Duras. Right away she tried to dismiss the film. She said that she wouldn’t have filmed the murder, she would have made a ‘chronicle’. I don’t think she understood anything. She said, ‘that woman’s crazy’, so she could relate the character to her own world. I was furious. For me that woman was like all the women I’d known as a child. Were they crazy or was it a way to fight against craziness, anxiety?
Marguerite built up airs around herself that she would promote and flaunt non-stop. With Agnès [Varda], we were sometimes competitive, but Agnès is capable of moments of great generosity toward women, where Marguerite was only capable of generosity to men; she loved them madly. It would have been better if I hadn’t met her.
Sirk (Douglas), Written on the Wind (1956) & Fassbinder (R.W.), In a Year with 13 Moons (1978)
CA: ‘Written on the wind’, that title is so beautiful. Douglas Sirk managed to sneak so much subversiveness into the melodrama, it’s enough to think of Imitation of Life (1959) and the way he invites a white viewer to feel what a black woman would feel. Fassbinder was very influenced by Sirk, but he brought more rawness to it. Sirk doesn’t give the impression of holding grudges against anyone; in his films, there’s no trace of resentment. Whatever Sirk’s conscious desire, it’s completely surpassed by the film itself. That’s what gives it its force, its beauty.
NB: However, whether in your films or installations, you’ve always shunned pathos and psychology.
CA: While my tendency has always been towards Bresson, I think that it’s possible to go towards the same, essential materiality through the opposite path, through melodrama. Bresson and Sirk, two opposing paths that finally meet; the final shot of Pickpocket (1959) could be put at the end of a Douglas Sirk film.
CA: Everyone wanted to go to Hollywood. Even me, even Godard. It’s Mecca, but not in the real meaning of the term – it’s Mecca where you go to flay yourself alive. Even if our Jewish colleagues had the chance to work there during the war: the filmmakers, musicians, novelists.
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