Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

hiroshima-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

      Alain Resnais is a filmmaker widely revered as a harbinger of the many contemporary filmic launches testing our tolerance for risk and innovation. Unlike many of those he supposedly inspired, his was not a career with much staying power in the limelight. As we prepare to size up his signature (and debut) piece, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), we’ll begin with the conundrum of supposed dynamite branding having apparently lost its way, or at least having lost its compellingness. The supposed magic touch, of our film at issue here (produced in association with screenwriter [novelist, playwright, and filmmaker] Marguerite Duras), pertains to his bringing to quite unnerving immediacy an impasse between the two protagonists. Let us posit, for the sake of coming to savor singular energies here (accounting for an early noteworthiness and niche patronage but no significant subscription to his method) which have perhaps not effectively made it on to the global radar, that it is the weight of world-historical inundation which ushers in a type of crisis both devastating and manageable. More succinctly, I’d like to propose that we are not (horrific details and pundits notwithstanding) getting ourselves into the onset of a death march, but instead a joyousness in being under heavy but not impossible fire. Resnais haunts later film not for depiction of hopeless decadence; but instead for getting under its skin the marvel of a daunting competence. (more…)

Read Full Post »

eyes-wide-shut-1 (1)

 © 2014 by James Clark

      Take a look at 1938 Roma from the perspective of Federico Fellini’s film, Roma (1972), and you could be well on the way to comprehending what’s up with the 1999 New York City of Stanley Kubrick as served up by his film, Eyes Wide Shut. In the latter project (the artist’s last hurrah), a scene that hogs the lion’s share of the fire power features a masked man in a Vatican cardinal’s scarlet robes, seated on a dais presiding over a satanic ceremony heavy on orgies and murders of mass dominance. In Fellini’s Roma, a scene that wins the jadedness prize hands down in a scenario seeming to be known by jadedness alone, the Pope, in his cardinal’s robes and wearing shades, has been invited to the palazzo of Princess Domitilla as part of an effort to lift his spirits in the wake of the shock of ruthless secularism represented by Mussolini-style fascist dominance. Seated on a dais in the palace’s ballroom, the melancholy divine is treated to a fashion show of clerical costumes purporting to introduce a new, with-it spirit to the corporate miasma. The Princess laments, “People were nicer, more respectful…” Her strategy to, if not revive the cause, at least bring to her sanctuary a bit of omnipotent, rejuvenative fantasy, includes a pair of roller skating nuns, hyped, in the show’s voice-over, as “Little Sisters of Purgatory,” with huge (wimple) head-pieces of material giving them a lilt like the wings of seagulls. It does create a bit of a sensation in that refuge desperate for uplifting news.

That latter event would stand, in the couplet-endeavor Kubrick has activated, as a quaint, geriatric response to the condition of molding a quorum faithful to a gratifying ultimacy. (The 1938 event resumes, for a final climax, in the form of a wispy, heavenly aura within which is inserted the fabrication of the likeness of a long-gone pope. [“He’s back!” the innocents cry.]) The no country for frail, simply gentle and less than millionaire creatures that was New York, in 1999, is given a similar expose by the Kubrick film, a slice that noticeably jacks up the killer instinct. (more…)

Read Full Post »

blancanieves-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

       It seems a bit strange, wanting at the outset to dig into a rather complex point of film design, for a film virtually no one has seen. But, as never before with this series of film finds, we are about a film disclosure that entails a much-deserved rebirth, in the wake of the extreme failure to thrive that was its fate back in 2012, when it attracted (ignored) kudos on the part of a handful of critics but received no serious distribution. Blancanieves came forward as, alas, the second (by mere months) silent film of the 21st century (after Michel Hazanavicius’ enormously popular and acclaimed comedy, The Artist. Both Hazanavicius and Pablo Berger, the writer/director of our film here, worked independently to mine crucial currents of sensibility that could be startlingly accentuated by bringing body language to very intense levels in silent black and white filming replete with special filtering of the grey scale and a cast of masters of dance and mime. But whereas The Artist banked upon the copious rich windfalls forthcoming to largely mainstream domesticity, Blancanieves had a far darker and deeper story to tell.

Which brings us to that “complex point” we have to tackle in order to dispel any inferences that this narrative, packing an infrastructure teeming with details of the children’s story, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, could be effectively engaged as suffused by the sentimental simplism of the Brothers Grimm and their ancient sources; or, for that matter, any “adult” variant of the conquest of evil by the forces of virtue. The Snow White factor, it won’t be so hard to demonstrate, hangs out there (as do the antiquated auras of the silent and black and white format and the eventuation of the bullfight and its rituals) as instancing historical architecture in the process of being razed by an intimate illumination of unprecedented cynicism, risk and disinterestedness. Though the original tale shows a poisoned heroine’s body lying in state in all its beauty in a shrine, under constant watch by the troupe of dwarfs, to be, before long, brought back to life by a loving hero’s kiss, our film (uncountable light-years away from Disney) has a bullfighter agent—who had taken advantage of the illiteracy of Snow White (Blancanieves), the novelty starlet in that field, to lock her into a lifetime contract for peanuts—putting her beautiful corpse on stage in a freak show, where men (and the occasional woman) would pay him to take a shot at delivering a magic kiss to bring her back to life. (Every night, by means of a mechanism hidden within the coffin, someone gets to imagine his kiss making her sit up and smile.) This being in fact a Surrealist shocker which goes on to take our breath away by its acuity regarding love, the freak show is preceded by the father of Carmencita (Snow White’s original name before getting into show biz along with 7 bullfighting dwarfs), a wheel chair-ridden former great matador, being pushed to his death down a long flight of stairs by his love-deficient second wife who proceeds to charge his fans to have their photo taken with him in his Suit of Lights. (more…)

Read Full Post »

LAVVENTURA-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

 Some years back, I wrote an essay on L’Avventura (1960) as usefully clarified by Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000). There the thematic wonderment centered upon a tidal wave of social exigencies shattering intimations of integrity which would cut across the grain of mountainously firm and venerable laws of survival.

In the wake of a consideration of the wiggle-room of similarly-beleaguered A, the protagonist of Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961), there seems to be more to say about the trials and tribulations of Claudia, protagonist of L’Avventura, ensconced, like A, in an A-list milieu. A would eventually consign herself to the ways of salt-of-the-earth, X. But her trajectory would also be mindful of the allure of solitude as an offshoot of both advanced material well-being and advanced flexibility in coping with the world at large.

Even before bringing us L’Avventura, Antonioni was well known as an avatar of arrestingly stylish cinematography, an auteur extraordinarily focused upon the perceptual updrafts accruing to the pulse of a scenario by reason of striking deployment of natural light as absorbed by the grey-scale of black and white filming, in conjunction with the physical presence of performers, their apparel, their industrial and architectural design milieu and the compositional cadences of their moving about. With L’Avventura, he had on his hands an unprecedented objective to bring these factors into stunning and subtle force. (Hence the first image of the credits reports that the film has been cited, by the Cannes Film Festival, for its “new movie language and the beauty of its images.”) (more…)

Read Full Post »

Last-Year-Marienbad-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

      The intricacies of Anton Corbijn’s film, A Most Wanted Man (2014), come down, it seems to me, to the readily ignored grace note of solitude. (For that matter, Jonathan Glazer’s Birth [2004] also exposes that elusive treasure.) In the Corbijn film it is only intimated by the disaster in its absence and the rumor of its presence in the sailing we hear about (once) but never see. On having, over the past four years, gathered together what sometimes seems to be a filmic mountain of exigencies painfully including that possibility of quiet, I think it is time to pay specific attention to three films from the dawn of contrarian go-for-broke, quite well-known but not widely enough cherished for their daring—namely, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Marguerite Duras’ India Song (1975). Generally understood as instances of a filmic tsunami of ennui and distemper triggered by a World War palpably obviating the allure of the kind of heroics which had served for so long as a cogent grace note, the choreographic imperatives of those hugely alienated creations have been substantively overlooked—in itself a powerful revelation of the hardness of the crisis they address. (more…)

Read Full Post »

jules-and-jim-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

      Jules and Jim (1962) is a staple of the French New Wave and thereby we brace ourselves for a monsoon of flip self-congratulation. In doing so, however, we should not close the door on valuable surprises.

The prime mover of this filmic flare-up, Francois Truffaut, turns out to be, even by movie standards, very volatile. We might best clarify our concern here by noting a moment from the DVS’s supplementary programming. The man who coined “auteur” (only to have a posse of such colleagues outstrip his daring and lucidity) is giving a TV interview whereby he wants to maintain, to a not fully won-over host, that his film is all about “two wonderful men and a wonderful woman.” After flashing a quietly smug smile at the recollection of how thrilled was the novelist, Henri-Pierre Roche, to have his original version of the narrative forming the prototype for the film, Truffaut proceeds to assure us that the questionably odd fusion of moods he brings our way is absolutely true to the writer’s purpose. Here is the helmsman’s rendition of the heart of Roche’s autobiographical work, an account which a perusal of the original writing would clearly contradict. “This story, with its shocking situation, is never scandalous or indulgent, because it is a tale about morality. But this morality doesn’t come from the outside world. It’s invented by the characters as they go. And never out of self-indulgence, but out of necessity… All this must have been very painful back then. Yet fifty years later, it enchants him…” Under further questioning, the ingratiating man of the hour warns us not “to believe it too strongly… It had to be filmed like an old photo album…” (more…)

Read Full Post »

A-MOST-WANTED-MAN-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

      Spy stories tend to get enmeshed in fulsome displays of overt cleverness and irony. Overt irony. Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man (2014) excitingly thinks outside the industry’s box.

Getting to the nub of its protagonist’s grubby accomplishment entails no small measure of mucking about in the narrative’s most murky moments. One of the most rewarding brownouts occurs when our protagonist, German agent, Gunther Bachmann, gets together with Martha, an American security expert based at the Embassy in Berlin, at a scuzzy bar at his home base of Hamburg. The picture of executive composure and sanguine fitness, always seen in a tastefully minimalist dark suit, she addresses her colleague—unkempt, overweight, insomnia-enshrouded—with, “Tell me which way you’re headed…” He sketches for her what she is well aware of, an Islamist terror ring prominently supported by a self-styled progressive fund raiser for humanitarian relief to displaced, innocent, warm-hearted Muslims. Bachmann’s immediate point, though, is that a more obvious and far less professional enemy of infidels, recently arrived in Hamburg, would be more effectively dealt with as a means of shutting down Abdullah the stealthy dealer of war bucks than as a jail-bound illegal small-fry. In the midst of his lobbying that simple dresser hopefully not simplistic, Bachmann becomes irritated that one of the drug-addled habitués of a place Martha responds to with, “Can’t do any better than this?” (no doubt mischievously  chosen by our personally sloppy but professionally formidable and witty charmer of a guide through a minefield that can cut down the best of them) is beating the shit out of a lady friend. He goes over to the attacker and levels him with a heavy blow (not bad for a chain-smoker). But the lady insists, “It’s OK,” and the peace disturbers are quickly peaceful with one another. Martha tells him, “Now I’m really impressed…” But did either of these hawk-eyes consider the simplistic implications of such goodwill, staring them right in the face? (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 377 other followers