Film Micrœview #429: Stromboli (1949)

05.16.2018 § Leave a comment

Rating: Good.

Clearly a masterpiece. Unforgettable imagery of the volcano and fishing. Characterizations that get under the skin. A powerful, breathless ending.

Yet, personally, it doesn’t resonate. I just don’t particularly care which way it may go. This struggle doesn’t correspond with anything I can identify with. At times it’s even awkward or opaque.


Film Micrœview #428: La Strada (1954)

05.16.2018 § Leave a comment

Rating: Dr. Pepper.

Timeless storytelling, if judged only by the fact that I shared it with a couple friends who were unaccustomed to watching old foreign films and they were both completely engaged.

The film works both on the level of a story about interpersonal struggle, and as a metaphor for the internal struggle of the artistic mind. As Bazin puts it, “Gelsomina and the Fool carry an aura of the marvelous around with them, which confuses and irritates Zampanò, but this quality is neither supernatural nor gratuitous, nor even poetic, it appears as a quality possible in nature.”

Consider how perfectly the performances of the main characters fit their personalities. Zapano’s life is nothing but an endlessly repeating display of false strength and danger. Whereas The Fool’s life is an endlessly repeating subjection to real danger, a balancing act, living perpetually on the edge, taunting death as closely as he can get away with, usually in the form of a tightrope, but ultimately in the form of Zapano, which (he knows) he is doomed to eventually fail at, when his time runs out (his watch is broken).

I think Zapano is the primary vessel of identification, and I think Gelsomina and The Fool represent two sides of an idealistic coin. The Fool is the real artist of the two of them. Zapano cares so much about teaching Gelsomina all she knows, but blames her for not taking to anything, and knows deep down that he has nothing good to teach and that he teaches badly. He is deeply jealous that The Fool teaches her the only things that bring meaning and beauty to her life and those lives she touches. Gelsomina represents another element that artists aspire to: naive purity. In the longest, most critical scene of the movie, between The Fool and Gelsomina, she concludes that if she doesn’t stay with Zapano, no one will. It’s faulty logic; no one needs to stay with him, and he might find someone else anyway, but it’s how her personality works. Where Zapano represents part of the necessity for an artist to survive – the lies, the shock – Gelsomina represents the subservience and inability of the purity of art to overcome its draw.

The cinematography was beautiful. In particular I think back to the scene when Zapano abandons Gelsomina for the first time. A horse without a carriage. Staging in depth. His knee in the foreground. Rack focus. Cut to a few feet above and her standing up into the shot. The child comes around from behind the car. Sudden stopping and starting of the camera movement just before and after cuts, shots generally smooth and stable otherwise, imbuing the continuity with a remarkable energy. Soon thereafter Gelsomina leaving Zapano, and the shift in the structure of the montage from a stable narrative continuity to an anything-is-possible scatter, helping us identify with her adventurous mindset. The towering awe of the church, the greatest street performer of them all, and the surge of the crowd down an alleyway.

I also can’t get the coda for the film out of my mind. The way Zapano eats the gelato in a single bite. Indulgent but devoid of pleasure. He truly loved her but couldn’t express it. The Fool nailed it when he described him like a dog. The whole film is a working up to him experiencing a moment of emotion. The way his final act cuts just at the dangerous moment underscores how the risk was never real, and that is the core of his solitude. The suspense may spell, this time, as an old man, finally, after realizing the two lives he’s destroyed, his will may break and it will kill him. But instead it is the final sequence in which we witness his death. Not the death of his body. But the death of his lies.

Film Micrœview #427: Gates of Heaven (1978)

05.11.2018 § Leave a comment

Rating: Good.

Morris’s first feature and he’s already Morris. The subject matter could have been a Portlandia skit but here it’s a fascinating (and occasionally frustrating or ridiculous) window into desperate human needs.

Dream 549: Infinite Banana Bread

05.11.2018 § Leave a comment

In Denmark. I swim in from shore. The ocean is a thick layer of water covering mountains; the beach is the flat lower area of the earth. The architecture in Denmark is pretty lame. A bunch of freeways using up the waterfront, and uninspiring buildings from the 50’s.

Sitting in a classroom. A diagram sprawls across several whiteboards haphazardly set together in the front of the classroom (not perfectly together or aligned). No teacher. They appear to show a formula for banana bread. Three ingredients: banana, bread, and cooking. The abstract act of cooking is indicated by an oven. The paths of these three ingredients intersect at various points; they make big sweeping loops across the boards. The symbols are drawn not just once for each line, but at several points along the way, not (just?) at intersections, without changing at all, making it seem like a wastefully drawn flow chart. The diagram is a loop for the most part, so you could infinitely recurse, with the banana bread from the previous iteration becoming the bread in the next. Except that the arc of the banana comes from off the screen each time, so where would those come from? The person sitting in the desk behind me asks aloud, “Does this even make sense?” I turn around and it’s Isaac, which makes sense.

Film Micrœview #426: Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

05.08.2018 § Leave a comment

Rating: Good.

At times the New Wave shenanigans feel derivative (not that I’m an expert on the subject or anything, but I feel someone like Seijun Suzuki distinguishes his style more from Godard). And some of the articulations of the 60’s Tokyo queen community’s relations to other marginalized groups such as gay men, resistance fighters, artists, drug dealers, and women feminists came a bit on the nose; generally the hodge-podge format worked in the film’s favor but occasionally the segments addressing these intersections were disharmoniously blunt. The violence and what existed of an insane plot in an insane twisting of the Oedipus Rex story were indeed over the top, but in a way that I felt rang emotionally true to the trauma of abandonment and persecution. I appreciated the candid interviews interwoven with the narrative thread, and how a smooth continuum was built from the fictional space to the non-fictional, rather than hard lines. To me, this was the most effective technique in welcoming us into the world while simultaneously reminding us that we cannot ever truly understand unless we live it. How could we possibly know how crazy their lives really are?

Dream 548: Power of the Orchestra

05.08.2018 § Leave a comment

I am the steward to the throne of the orchestra.

An important cabinet member has departed us.

The crew think I may simply take over his duties as well.

No, I am not that kind of boss. Instead, I ask if anyone is tying to work their way up to that role. The raised hands will indicate someone who could get more use out of doing it temporarily than I would in terms of their career, and they’d probably do a better job anyway.

Dream 547: Rasptlacoche

05.08.2018 § Leave a comment

I have a choice to make.

Either I can fix the raspberries growing as smut in between the kernels of corn on my cob…

or I can layer plexiglass over this splintery hole in the floor to the basement so we can party!

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