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Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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boyhood1
© 2014 by James Clark

Boyhood (2014), seemingly in its trailer to be nothing so much as a Disney cash cow, is a uniquely forward-looking movie. Joining a roster of contemporary films on the case of what the old Surrealists referred to as the “more,” it is decidedly and thrillingly distant from “art” films as we have come to know them. Strikingly estranged from those blue-chip sagas of horrifyingly rugged individualism with their burdens of physical carnage and emotional massacre, it dares, in the confines of the Lone Star State, to convey the subversive phenomenon (shocking in iconoclastic circles because apparently rather conventional) of slow, uncertain maturation toward something new. Adding to its pariah status within the orbit of very tough love is its gusto for discovery about how mainstream domesticity fosters, however willy-nilly, migration away from mainstream domesticity.

The boyhood of Mason, our protagonist, might be imagined to be a variation upon James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. But that would be feeble imagining. Moored as he is to a channel of its own reckoning, Linklater has nothing to do with precious softies—being in fact much closer to Anton Corbijn’s sharp kick in the gut to those clever dandies, Jules and Jim, namely, his movie about the ill-starred band, Joy Division, titled, Control (2007). We’re firmly in Texas, here (Linklater’s home-state); but not the gun-crazy Texas of the Coens and David Lynch, nor the virus-paced, transcendental-mystic Texas of Terrence Malick, nor the mass-homicide-friendly Texas of Quentin Tarantino. We’re in a Texas where it’s a big deal that a sophomore co-ed (Mason’s sister, Samantha, whom we saw to be a precociously [sophomoric] smart-assed nine-year-old [her divorced mother’s pointing out the family’s needing to move to Houston, where her mother would help with the kids while she goes to college to enable supporting them financially, eliciting from her, “Fine, Mother. Do whatever you want. We’re not moving…No.No.No!” [and she makes snappy popping sounds with her lips to register as a robot]]) cannot, in contrast to other family members and friends giving droll toasts to Mason on his graduating from high school, do more than have a bit of stage fright and mumble, “Good luck…” Her succumbing to such disarray—when her brother, whom she had made the butt of so many of her self-confident barbs, was now able to face with considerable poise and eagerness the challenges of his own imminent stint in college—is arresting in its glimpse of that viscosity weighing upon the narrative’s myriad efforts to catch and control fire. (more…)

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birth-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

 We’re at a prenuptial event in a large drawing room on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, possibly at that very coveted address, Park Avenue. A string trio in concert-hall-orthodox tuxedos proceeds through a rather precious prelude by way of coming to clarity for the melody of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” (a composition implicated in the mad, incongruous love pairings of the Shakespeare comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Incongruous energies had certainly been lighted up in the preceding narrative; but, despite dismissive raillery, no one there would be betting on a comedic outcome. A precocious ten-year-old boy (whom no one would call a child prodigy in the mold of bright but conservative Mendelssohn) had invaded the impeccably (if very conservatively) designed Parkside residence of bride-to-be Anna, claiming to be the reincarnated presence of her former husband who died ten years before. This lad (named Sean, the same name as Anna’s sorely missed partner—a name the Celtic lilt of which had been clogging schoolrooms for many a year), certainly stuffed with virtuoso self-confidence and aggressive daring, has lighted upon that somewhat effete precinct, extending to the current reception, to press the case of not merely being a metaphysical eccentric but also being an eminence lodging a demand that Anna break off her engagement (to a man named Joseph, with patrician, longish hair style and well-bred visage). That coterie of front-runners, used to being kind to inferiors, and certainly not wanting to offend any Hindus amidst their uninterrupted, cosmopolitan victory lap, beholds the rather grim, pint-sized challenger with board-room caution and cordiality (including him in the enjoyment of a birthday cake) and the occasional hunt-club lapse into yeomanry at the expense of someone down the food-chain taking himself far too seriously. (more…)

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pregnant-man-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

 

      I notice that, in an interview with Slant Magazine, filmmaker, Jonathan Glazer, claims not to have seen Her. Also, he says, “I’m very bad at detecting themes in my work… I suppose it’s [the affinity between Her and Under the Skin] in the air or something…” This, hardly unique to him, penchant for misrepresentation brings us to some necessary infill, perhaps, though, especially pressing in the task of charting where Glazer’s films go and where that leaves us. Disclaimers aside, the three feature films he has brought forward over the past fourteen years are discernibly steeped in strivings central to a filmic avant-garde, as rooted in a wider showdown with conventional rationalist securements. Equivocation is “in the air” and we have to care enough to get a handle on its roots and the kind of fruition being allowed to see the light of day.

We’re starting in this seemingly odd way, to address A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973), because we have also in our sightline Glazer’s Birth (2004), which might well be called A Slightly Reincarnated Man. Glazer hopes to keep the general public happy with the notion that he’s simply a not particularly unusual craftsman of arcane cinematic images which he himself cannot comprehend and which trigger musings that the viewer plays for days to come. That kind of transaction is right up the alley of consumers of rock concerts and TV ads (rock and product filming being a big part of his professional career). It benefits, over and above its monetary rewards, from being an outburst unimpeachable in its variable intimations. As a spokesman for his feature films, he looks to that vein so useful in popular entertainment to disarm those possibly alarmed by brash unconventionality. He’s offering, he’d like us to believe, no more than a sensuous tingle from which we can and should bail out at any time it proves discomfiting. For all its corporate savvy, that gambit is seriously questionable. Interviewers and enthusiasts positively struck, as they should be, by the multiple assets of the three features to date, are dismayingly ready to imagine that the highly complex discursive narratives are tantamount to short-loop, gallery-bound video art—optical   and aural tone poems. But the films as such, though aptly felt to amount to problematic suspense, are built like a Swiss watch, delivering an undertow expertly laced with avant-garde consequentiality. That is to say, a degree of friction obtains here, intrinsic to the phenomena being traversed. (I doubt that in his early days as a director of stage plays he’d have been so loath to admit he knew something about the history of his art, as distinct from the technical craft. Glazer’s rather incongruous approval of the work of the great stylist, Stanley Kubrick, has faked many of those viewers who want to believe that it always comes down to the gratifying variety of humankind as established several thousand years ago.) (more…)

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