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Archive for June 6th, 2011

Screen cap from opening cruise ship segment of Godard's "Film Socialism"

by Sam Juliano

Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.”
– Werner Herzog

“I’ve never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He’s made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis (1966), was shot here in Sweden. It was mind-numbingly boring.”
-Ingmar Bergman

“I’ve never understood the Godard fascination. Contempt is one of the worst
films ever made.” But that’s only the beginning.” 
 –Woody Allen
80-year old Jean Luc-Godard has divided the movie-watching establishment like no other in the five decades he’s worked as a filmmaker.  Some have proclaimed him as the Second Coming among film artists, while others have cursed the sidewalk he’s walked on.  However, it does seem fashionable in the blogging community today to stand by him, no matter what he comes up with, and to issue endless defenses for his seeming penchant to stick his middle finger at audiences, especially those who have grown wearisome with his unconventional style.  Though I’ll admit I respect films like Contempt, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Weekend and Breathless, I have found the majority of his work (especially his output from the late 80’s onward) a major chore to sit through, and in large measure a merciless assault on any attempt we might make on understanding what the incredibly self-indulgent director is attempting to pose.  Such is certainly true of his Film Socialism, which opened this week at the IFC Film Center.  As incoherent, and as unattainable as any film ever released, Godard has still managed to inspire some of his most impassioned supporters to make claims of relevence and artistic validity in his mishmash of images  and disjointed rhythms and translations.  At Only the Cinema the ever-thoughtful Ed Howard, as devout a Godard deciple as exists, makes a remarkable case both for the film’s elusive meanings, particularly the various stylistic distortions of the images and the deliberate attempts to attain lucid interpretations from his jarring presentation.  In one instance a young boy is busy painting an Auguste Renoir masterpiece; Godard shoots over the boy’s shoulder, distorting the image with digital color manipulation, and everything comes off as artificial and distancing.  Howard argues that “Godard seems to be suggesting that art distorts, art lies, art dodges reality” and that “disconnect between what the boy is looking at and what he’s painting suggests that the art of the past, like Renoir’s landscapes, is a way of avoiding engagement with reality as it really is.  This seems to me as a clear instance of reading into something that may not have even been intended, much less achieved.  But that’s the job of the critic and the admirer, and Howard is as good as any in making his readers see and feel as he does.  Some of the interpretations out there are more impressive than the actual work at hand.  Am I suggesting that Howard’s findings are wrong?  Or perhaps the hopeful pontifications of a Godard groupie?  Not quite.  I believe Howard and/or any other Godard fan genuinely interpret the work of their man as planned and achieved.  (more…)
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Classic British satire "Went the Day Well?" ran at Film Forum for two weeks

by Sam Juliano

It’s looking and feeling more and more like summer out there, and soon a number of us will be begging for the cold again.  Such is weather’s take on the “What have you done for me today?” philosophy.  You know the dog days are here too when you see the sequels appearing in multiplexes, the latest of which is the third installment in the X Men saga.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, discussion was at it’s zenith this past week under The Tree of Life thread, where commenters wrestles each other on their own views of the long-anticipated film and Terrence Malick’s career.  To boot, a passionate discussion erupted on individual beliefs and religious doctrine.  Yep, here at WitD there’s almost something sizzling, even when summer isn’t part of the mix.  With the musicals countdown slated for August, there will be two months of free-wheeling here, and the much cherished continuations of Jim Clark’s essays, Allan’s “Fish Obscuro” series, Jamie’s “Getting Over the Beatles” project, and Bob Clark and Jaime Grijalba’s continuing dissection of anime.  The site’s look continues to evolve thanks to the remarkable work by Dee Dee.  Her sidebar updates have focused on movies from all angls and places.  Good luck to John Greco on the sale of his photography at his new sites, which will very soon be added to the blog links.

This week (shortened to six days because of last week’s Tuesday overlap) allowed for the viewing of one interactive stage play, one war years British film classic, and three new openings, including two rare multiplex appearances with the family.

The stage play H4 utilyzes television segments aired on the background movie screen to tell the story of the Bard’s Henry the Fourth parts I & II and it’s connection and relevency to today’s governments.  It’s a noble attempt, but it loses steam and gets lost in all kinds of dramatic convolution and careless integration.  In Theatre Row’s Clerman Theatre which seats 60, there were about 17 people in the audience on a primetime Saturday evening spot.  That pretty much tells where this one is going as per word of mouth, and the reviews have been practically non-existent.  I wish this company well, and lament the missed chance here with some obviously great material.  Some of the performances were fairly good, and the duel scene was well choreographed. (more…)

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