Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

 © 2017 by James Clark

      We coffee drinkers appreciate the world of taste. (I suppose smokers could be included as seekers of such deal-making, but in the sense of diminishing returns.) What is there about wide consumption of those stimulants which merits strong attention to the point, in fact, of producing a feature film, namely, Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), by that finder of diamonds in the rough, Jim Jarmusch?

One factor to be recognized, in fathoming the characteristically odd unfolding of the disclosure, is that in all (but one) eleven disparate vignettes the players are seated at a table in a coffee shop with, with one exception, at least one other aficionado. That leads us to a first premise that something about the interaction at those tables is largely (though not exclusively) responsible for the supplements of a cup (or more) of coffee and a cigarette (or more). Though most of the conversations consist of rather bewildering tatters of good will, there is one tete-a-tete which seems to have found its way to a field of reflection which might provide more than those copious dead-ends which most viewers of Jarmusch’s films readily assume to be all there is and consequently find themselves obliged, in respect to the whimsy and comedy, to maintain that grotesque errancy is as much as anyone will ever know and that that status quo is acutely gratifying. One other element of this scenario, which should be mulled over, is the cast’s being show-biz notables, many of whom having appeared in previous Jarmusch movies and consequently bringing those dramas into renewed considerations. (more…)

Read Full Post »

© 2017 by James Clark

 This film (from 2016) is as devoted to the undeclared war, between old world-history and something beyond that, as Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997). The latter, in its denouement, pours out a Bronx cheer upon an oldie for the sake of its overwhelmed eccentrics, knowing all too well that victories will be very scarce and very incomplete. Elle shows us what such victory of the “selfish” self-starters is apt to look like.

Our more than unusual protagonist, Michele, on being raped one evening in her house by a figure pleased to look like Spider-Man, has her doctor arrange a STD blood test next day—a “full panel”—and, in line with the physical and financial authority she exerts, the specialist suggests a new medication, PEP. She has already covered that avenue and declares, “Too many side-effects… I can’t miss any work.” She adds, metaphorically blowing the roof off the tony clinic devoted to classical science, “I guess we roll the dice…” Albert Einstein, a master of pushing the envelope the better to hide out, poured forth a Bronx cheer of sorts upon youthful researchers in the early days of quantum studies, who were struck by a creative field shot through with uncertainties, by, that is, unpredictability in the ways of nature as crucially including humans. He capsulized his contempt for those renegades by declaring, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Immediately after that appointment she and we are in the midst of the first of a series of locales (at Christmas time) where chains of small white lights flash about, approximating elemental phenomena soaring in electrodynamic outbursts. That such heady take-offs are far from carefree is announced—truth to tell, with nearly as much shock as the oddly truncated sexual assault—at a lunch bar (lights in its doorway and visible through the whole scene) where a splenetic diner dumps the dregs of her tray all over Michele’s shoulder and sleeve, along with the denunciation, “Scum! You and your father!” Her still and silent response is a reprise of her undemonstrative rally after the rape.

Although several melodramatic narratives seem to be vying for attention which would pay dividends, we might find that the outcomes very closely approximate that inconsequentiality of the suicidal obsessive in Taste of Cherry; and that it is the major-league (which means far from perfect) coordination of Michele amidst myriad cons and a few pros which lifts the proceedings to regal stature. (Isobel Huppert’s performance as Michele, though marvellous, constitutes another distraction by which those not having a clue about what is going on can invest the action with a shot of the “powerful,” which can mean anything they want it to mean. This is, in fact, a film [like so many of Kiarostami’s works, and those of Jarmusch] to embrace, not to pigeonhole.) (more…)

Read Full Post »

© 2017 by James Clark

      An Abbas Kiarostami film may be characterized as an alert against getting rushed away from one’s best interests. The dramas of his films gather with wit and industry a powerful, world-wide coercive force prohibiting the cultivation of maximum lucidity and sufficiency. These introductions in the form of movies do not confine themselves to self-standing aesthetic objects to be promoted to a Pantheon and treasured as a cinematic/ cultural dividend. But rather, they presuppose viewers with the same eccentric and compelling range of struggle as those depicted on the screen.

Taste of Cherry (1997), therefore, brings to light a suicidal figure having been underwhelmed by all he was supposed to subscribe to, and lacking the resolve to effectively obviate the tainted input of a vast and vastly overrated majority. Accordingly, we are in the presence of the stirring of a new range of interaction, a range which may take centuries to become well-known as such.

It may seem ill-advised to move along that long path under the auspices of someone having lost all interest in being alive while still in perfect health. The protagonist emits a pall of contempt toward any instinct except his own obliteration. Therefore, beyond rejection of such energies and whatever sparks of defiance toward that perversity may arise, where are we to look for the rallies at the core of Kiarostami’s problematic? As it happens, in characteristic style, there are surprising, entirely intuitive and (perhaps this film’s special gift) quite extensive figures impinging upon the central juggernaut in ways which provide much food for thought. (The special snare, I think you will find, within this prize-winning supposed suspense-drama, takes the form of seeming to be on familiar film-entertainment grounds while being as far away from such diversion as the outer edge of the universe.)

Driving his white (-washed) Range Rover along a nondescript fringe of Tehran, the protagonist introduces himself within his rather antiseptic moving cell from which he discreetly scowls upon a horde of men at a depot where work for that day only may turn up. As part of an ongoing study of a revelatory vigor to be found within and without a moving car, we have ragged, imperilled hopefuls intent upon the spark of possibility perhaps alive in the stranger and his costly property, and at the same time the deadened gaze of the supposed beneficiary of life. We are about to encounter myriad such ironies, quite readily obtained. The thematic challenge, we will soon find, I think, is what upshot do these cross-purposes press forward? “You want laborers?” someone calls through a side-window. “No,” is the answer to those hungry for food and hungry for life’s free purchases. The faces reflected on the windshield during his cruise become dynamic apparitions from out of a motive transcending those grave and urgent preoccupations. In the episode just completed, his eyes would often be directed skyward, the better to maintain his abstract ways. On departing the job mart seen to be far too raucous for his spate of calculative instruction to seal the deal, he comes upon two boys playing in the remains of what was once a crude economy auto. “Hello, Mister!” one shouts. “Hello,” he replies, in hollow tone. He pulls away quickly, unprepared for such gusto. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2017 by James Clark

      Although Song to Song (2015/ 2017) adopts the design priority of a pell-mell rout by an army of short-lived wild things being long-term softies, there does emerge, for our sense of counter-attacking against the nearly non-stop jumpiness, a pair of visitations from sagas less spasmodic. The first is the silent, black and white, white-hot film melodrama of massacre, ripping into the midst of a palatial, ultra-modern household owned by an Austin music producer, Cook, besotted by the capacity to marshal hookers to his bed and thus drive his wife, Rhonda, to suicide. Along that so-called life to the fullest, he tells himself, “I can’t take this life straight.” He goes on to ask his former-waitress, former-Kindergarten teacher wife, part of an unstable harem, “What’s your fantasy? What are you afraid of?” She tells herself and whatever else could read her thoughts, “When I was a girl I loved everything. You killed my life…” [in the course of a marriage which delivered a nice house to her destitute mother]. That wild premonition including axe-murder and flowing blood reminds us of a jaded screenwriter, Rick, in Malick’s Knight of Cups (2015), who disregards a video in the foyer of a chic office tower, a decorative production in black and white whereby several women blend into each other from their long, jet-black hair, apparel, make-up and eyes. Rick’s sidelined, spent force may not be going anywhere, but the surreal artwork along his retreat becomes part of a rescue mission which speaks to the defunct Rhonda’s once loving everything, to no avail. (The two marital casualties meet when she is his server in a diner. “I have a condition,” he quips. “I can’t be left alone…” [“Help Me, Rhonda”]. The distance between Song to Song’s death-spiral and Knight of Cups’ going swimmingly in an infinity pool (like the one Rhonda OD’d in) gives us to understand that a very different consideration has become necessary. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 © 2017 by James Clark

     Ten (2002) begins with a mother and her pre-adolescent son moving along the streets of Tehran in her car. Although a vicious, lacerating dispute takes place, which has an effect similar to stunning seasickness, we should, for the sake of the lucidity to be found in that stifling cabin cruiser (always seen from the inside) and the subsequent episodes of patrolling those roads, stand back, for a bit, from the opening emotional blood-letting and let ourselves be delighted by Corky, the LA cabby, and her fare, Victoria, the Hollywood talent scout, in the first episode of Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991). The foul-mouth boy is a sort of talent scout, scouting the prospect of inducing his open-road mother to play the part of a stay-at-home-mom in a story made to garner acclaim from those demanding dutiful piety. The philosophical driver, like Corky, runs over the crock that rigid matrimony (like rigid fame) constitutes; and she lives to drive another day, and many other days.

Whereas Victoria sees Corky’s point and wishes her well on her rocky road, Amin, the Tehran passenger—like the Idi Amin—discloses a vein of resentment toward interpersonal complication which, though aberrant, is also intrinsic. As such, Ten comprises a multi-faceted dialogue on the subject which could be termed, “How far do you want to investigate the phenomenon of love?” The first episode, labelled “10,” as affixed to the driver’s other drives which the film provides over a quite short period counting down to “1,” could be seen as a vividly dramatic study of the fallout of a divorce. (We learn, from the two major battles along that kinetic way, that the divorce occurred seven years ago, she has remarried, but her first husband—whom we see on several occasions, but always in a white jeep [evoking a UN bureaucratic Peace-Keeper, devoutly rule-driven, obsessed with an antiquated utopian end of strife]—an avid porn connoisseur, is less than able to contribute to putting together a serious support for his son; but that he has, in occasional contacts, become a factor nevertheless in inculcating Amin to a dogmatic primitiveness [linked to unpaid “activist” causes] which the driver had overcome. During the verbal brawl, she insists. “You’re like your father. He shut me away, destroyed me. He wanted me only for himself.” [At which point the clever primitive gives her a dagger-like sideways glance and commands, “Not so loud! Not so loud or I won’t listen to you…”] The skirmish turns to her demand, “I’ll say what I have to say” and his “I don’t want to listen” and cupping his ears.) However, as we look closely at the negotiations in the sanctuary of her smoothly-running vehicle, we realize that though Amin, true to his name, is a vicious, implacable thug, his mother (never named and thereby approximating an anonymity at the heart of her actions) is caught up in making an effort, an effort which has been repeated many times, to enlighten her son about the paradox of caring for a flesh-and-blood loved-one while belonging to something more. Episode 10, therefore, shows her (penultimate) folly in supposing a creature of Amin’s age and pathology would ever attain to anything resembling effective reflection. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 

 © 2017 by James Clark

       You might be tempted, by its glowing foothills landscape caressed by blue-chip film stock (Kiarostami’s farewell to 35 mm ancient film—henceforth to be a video guy) and patently dull city slickers impinging upon the self-evident graces of rural ways, to assume that our helmsman has, with his 1999 outing, The Wind Will Carry Us, relented from the rigorous nuances of a triumph, like Close-Up (1990). But that would be a loss of faith that the mutual exchange of sophisticated treasure between him and Jim Jarmusch does not exist.

Evidence that such a nexus does exist is in fact abundant in our puzzling film today. Behzad, a filmmaker being part of a team of “reality TV” journalists biding their time in an Iranian mountain village until they go live to cover the death of a slowly declining 100-year-old woman and the region’s eccentric funeral rites, has no taste for the various domestic and wild animals to be encountered, especially while frantically driving to hilltops whereby to discuss, with optimal phone reception, the wasted time with the producer back in Tehran. (That latter motif could be called Dead Woman; and the unforthcomingness all round could be called Shades of Jarmusch. The volatility of that phenomenon of dead while alive speaks to the hard work Jarmusch and Kiarostami share.) It was one thing to be bored by the various media underlings in the entertainment food chain. It was, however, serious ca-ca to, one day at the, frustrating enough, reporting heights, overturn a large tortoise and leave him struggling. Therewith, the kind of logical retributional earthquake, leaving offenders instantly Dead Men in the eyes of Jarmusch, applies heat in such a way as to suggest to the wary that extreme tests, at Close-Up levels, are at center-stage. (Behzad, in American-dude-jeans and untucked shirt, struts in dead man mode amongst his regular few contacts and irregular many presumed primitives with Alpha staging, recalling very well, Willie, the show-off Hungarian immigrant to Lower Manhattan, in Stranger than Paradise and also, Jack, the pimp, in Down by Law (both roles played by deadpan hipster musician, John Lurie). (That attitude being covered by the Jarmusch keyword, “jerking off.”) (more…)

Read Full Post »

 

 © 2017 by James Clark

 We live in one of those eras where whole nations (or nation-links) have been widely regarded as irredeemably perverse and evil. Over the years, Catholics, Jews, Communists, gays, Japanese, Germans, etc. have been subjected to fierce and massive opposition. Therefore, when approaching a film notable like, Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016), a rare artist refusing to cut ties with (though not a supporter of) militant Islam (within Iran), there is a special preparatory requirement to make very clear that our stalwart is, first and foremost, a citizen of the contemporary world, which is to say, the secular, cosmopolitan world.

In view of this, we’ll put forward a glimpse of the heart of Kiarostami’s work, a glimpse which Michelangelo Antonioni would be touched by, not to mention many other modern filmmakers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh9-uKavbu0

Only an artist alerted to an imperative of dynamics brooking no capitulation to ancient enthusiasms would find necessary that those enveloping thrusts comprising Roads of Kiarostami take the spotlight. Kiarostami’s eventual semi-exile (the regime being happy about his festival winnings, but increasingly suspicious about the content of the material and therefore suspending any further financing), whereby his final two films—Certified Copy (2010) and Like Someone in Love (2012) were produced in, severally, Italy and Japan—comprised a distress that the oddity (uncanniness) he had romanced from the days when Persian Iran was Muslim-Lite had been targeted by a stream of volcanic, though tempered, spleen. But in our film today, Close-Up (1990), that ingredient of nausea is abated. Our special investigation of this surreal saga, then, has to do with those winning roadways and their comedic (Jarmuschian) whimsy remaining a viable navigation even where Paterson-like thought-police pose challenging roadblocks. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »