Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category


 © 2017 by James Clark

      La La Land (2016) approaches us as a peculiarly naive boy-meets-girl story, with an archaic musical façade. It lulls the viewer into an effervescent Debbie Reynolds’ diversion about show-biz ambition, somehow goofy and uplifting at the same time. It insinuates that the bad old 21st century is, when all is said and done, as cute and sentimental as before. But, on further inspection, its “before” turns out to be the world of Jacques Demy (1931-1990), who was neither cute nor sentimental. (I must interject, at this point, that this glowing refinement of the Demy aesthetic is, to me, an almost incredible gift! The exposition to follow, however, becomes attentive to that rally’s making any headway.)

The first encounter—bristling with  Singin’ in the Rain’s cliché of hate-at-first-sight—takes the form of her (Mia) giving him (Sebastian) the finger during a stressful LA traffic jam. Before we see them, however, we see that same freeway when clogged with convertibles and alight with song-and-dance hopefuls bounding skyward and frolicking lyrically upon what has become a virtual (cement) stage from which to display their resilience and wit. The troupe are Southern-California casually clad as they sing and dance in unison as if they were close acquaintances. Or, as if they were a company of carnies, headed for their next gig (Rochefort, France) by way of the suspension ferry-bridge which, in 1967, still served that town as occupied by members of the cast of Demy’s film, The Young Girls of Rochefort.

The song in the bottleneck, “Another Day of Sun,” conveys that paramount to their experience is the tough slog to become movie stars. (“Could be brave or just insane… reaching for the heights.”) The salsa current stresses the staccato cadence of a life of self-assertion, self-promotion and withstanding refusals and harsh discouragement while leaving room for Michel Legrand-resembling musical topspin. The phrase, “another day of sun,” pertains to gratifying opportunities in the offing every day. What it strikingly lacks—despite brio—is full-scale joyousness and lightness; and that soaring is what the Legrand pop/jazz instrumentational-only motif induces from the dance-carnies. No one declares anything on that Pont (bridge) Transbordeur. It all comes down to bodies in buoyant dance motion, joining with the natural and constructed surround as a delicious mystery, in contrast to a battlement to be scaled. The travelling music and motorcycle marketing soon experiences a defection of two of the ladies (opting for romance with two guys from Rochefort); but they had had that afternoon on the bridge. Their local replacements, twin sisters (one a musician, one a dancer), however, prove to be far more driven to public grandeur; and it is with them that the protagonists having a bad day in another day of sun coincide and with them who get under the skin of our up-to-the-minute persons of interest. (more…)

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© 2016 by James Clark

      One of the defining features of contemporary history consists in design elbowing art out of the exclusive spotlight it has enjoyed since the days of living in caves. A hundred years ago, at the dawning of surrealist art, sensual proclivities stemming from the motives of the Romantic era saw fit to imbue the constructs of practical life with functions of vision hitherto regarded as profane, as distinct from the sacred status of artistry.

Film art has evinced a fascinating ambiguity in face of this notable shift. The overt craft-design content of that métier has bolstered a priority of design calculated to speak to the more modest pleasures of craft. Those avatars of that industry who could see the point of dovetailing with theatre art have tended to access film schools and their repository of traditional humanistic vision.

Whereas many of the stalwarts of that catch-as-catch-can business have done very well for themselves in reaffirming a tried and true territory, there have been noteworthy exceptions of those with a background of architecture, graphic, industrial and fashion design, surrealist painting, advertising and rock music who march to the sound of a different drummer—a march decidedly at odds with a Renaissance no longer excitingly futural. A recent figure on this horizon is Tom Ford, who, like Ridley Scott, has been and continues to be a player in the world of marketing. (more…)

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© 2016  James Clark


Long before there was Cyber Monday there was the more direct World War II, presenting, among other things, a weighty Christmas shopping dilemma. Wrapped up in the glorious Christmas shopping number seen above, we bring to you here (with its surreal Christmas tree by by that same Marcel Vertes who oversaw the visuals and won a couple of Oscars in connection with John Huston’s film, Moulin Rouge [1952]), a true feast of struggle to make merry at death’s door.

In this season when designer Tom Ford has cropped up in the capacity of an auteur, with his Nocturnal Animals, the many forerunners in our pages here, of inflected celebration, give us their own incisive take on the nocturnal.

To continue the blog: http://www.idesirevintageposters.com/blogs/christmas-1943-near-and-dear/#more-3952

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 © 2016 by James Clark

      When is a vampire movie not a vampire movie? When it’s a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie! You want to take the blood-drinking as part of an unearthly frenzy, and you’re dead on arrival.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) is, in its very title, a megalomaniac declaration—the kind of stimulant-driven delusion stemming from the likes of rock and roll gods, self-styled inextinguishable heroes for the ages. “Our powers and influence will never die,” they desperately opine. And in that distemper they are a species (a metaphorical species) of the nonsense of undead vampires, a motif winched up by Bela the New American smart guy, in Stranger than Paradise; Roberto the fixer, in Down by Law; Elvis-mad Mitsuko, in Mystery Train; a platoon of soothsayers in Night on Earth; aboriginal mystic Nobody, in Dead Man; samurai-junkie Ghost Dog, in the film taking his name; Don, the spirit of the (flabby) times, in Broken Flowers; and the think-tank-assassins, in The Limits of Control.

Adam and Eve, our protagonists, mete out their days based on Adam’s having been, years ago, one of those rare pop musical hopefuls whose every hope for fame and fortune came to pass. Having, since Day One of their partnership, an eye, a nose, a touch and an ear (sort of like Don’s IT Midas Touch) for what the cravings of their scene would lavishly reward, the first residue we see of that long-ago coup is the city of choice of each of them—Eve’s powerhouse being the erstwhile hipster litmus test, Tangiers, Morocco; and Adam’s peerless realm of funkiness as to 21st century apocalypse being the uber slum of the solar system, Detroit. (After a decades-long romp around Cleveland, now the spotlight of biting irony touches down upon Motown, already a much-despised musical target in earlier works like Mystery Train and Broken Flowers.) That they no longer live together but instead occupy widely separated and significantly differing homelands, is one thing. That the exigencies of their rage to be all the rage (forever) devolve to a diet of blood supplements is something else—being another litmus test, more about basic sanity than cool. Here our helmsman has, as the ante of discovery gets more and more subtle and rough, embarked on a grown-up form of chicken as the heart of his communicative motives. And here I am accordingly compelled to blow that rather preciously hidden clan predilection for the sake of an understanding too important to be left underground. (And, however, on the other hand, this step might be the adjunct to his very expensive and therefore populist-seeming constructions.) As we go forward with this shell game, I’ll issue a little taunt to stand as a challenge: If you really think the central figures are hundreds of years old, and have a long record of sharp-toothed murder, I’ve got some Florida swampland I’d love to sell you at a decent price. (more…)

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 © 2016 by James Clark 

      Broken Flowers, the Jarmusch film from 2005, has introduced, quite startlingly for a project concerning crushing problematics, a figure who is not hopelessly lost. Carmen, the “animal communicator,” whom protagonist Don regards as having lost her once impressive (to him) rational acuity (as a lawyer), sends him on his way as understood to be a total waste of her time. What makes her so sure of this? The actions of Lone Man, in the film, The Limits of Control (2009), contribute to that understanding, though his career has much more in common with that of the contract killer, Ghost Dog, in the 1999 Jarmusch production of the same name.

Over the past several postings, I have highlighted recurrent pluses and minuses enacted in this filmmaker’s work (and recurrent performers), in witty and heartfelt scenarios, for the sake of awakening viewers to a dilemma like no other, and which would sustain the essential drama far beyond the theatre. Once again, as we get to the nub of The Limits of Control, these currents must be shown in action. But here, instead of concentrating almost entirely upon detailing patterns and personas amid socio-economic preoccupations in the service of reiterating that life on earth is not nearly as lively as it could be, we’ll also look to the cinematography, visual and sonic design and performance as marshalled as never before in a Jim Jarmusch film, in order to embrace the love and ruthlessness evinced by Carmen, and being given a go here by a flamenco troupe, an always-nude hooker and a killer devoted to tai chi. (A very significant shift in sensual delivery appears in the form of the camera work of the brilliant exponent of mood, Christopher Doyle—having lifted many viewers of major works by Wong Kar Wai—replacing here the tenure of Robby Muller, Jarmusch’s long-time stalwart on behalf of kookiness.) (more…)

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 © 2016 by James Clark

      Just as we have to resist Jarmusch’s Dead Man being seen to be a Johnny Depp movie, we have to resist that remarkable artist’s Broken Flowers (2005) being palmed off as a Bill Murray movie. Roger Ebert regards the latter work as creating “a gentle cloud of happiness,” due to its providing a banal sense of life being short. That would be as close to absolutely wrong as you can get. Notwithstanding the film industry’s survivalist zeal to wrap up their products as various kinds of deluxe candy, the upbeat dimension of Broken Flowers traces to a far from infantile context the neglect of which puts one forever in the dark about the gift at hand.

Don, the protagonist, one of the nouveau riche IT Klondike powers, receives a letter purporting to bring him up to speed that the writer—unidentified and of unknown address—has, after 19 years of raising a child of theirs which had never been brought to his attention, suddenly felt the need to put him on her Friends list. Before she can finalize the dropping of the other shoe, Don has, with the urging and information provided by a sleuthing-besotted neighbor, turned up at her door. If this so-called Penny ever was worth more than her name, she surely isn’t now. “Donny, so what the fuck do you want coming here? I don’t remember any happy ending…” Amidst a rural eyesore cluttered with motorcycles and motorcyclists, the distaff gives Don a seasoned -brawler’s Offensive Tackle’s block leaving him reeling off the Halloween porch. A couple of soft-spoken intimates (sort of sounding like Dead Man’s Charlie just before the killing commenced) beat him senseless and, with multiple facial wounds, he wakes up in his car in the middle of a harvested field you can be sure having nothing to do with Penny’s profit centers. (more…)

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 © 2016 by James Clark

Though the three early films by Jim Jarmusch—Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law and Mystery Train—provide so many laughs that the mere reading of the titles comes to us as a shot of merriment, with the quite emphatic Night on Earth and subsequent Dead Man the pain that is the populace asserts itself in an exponentially severe and transformational way. Arguably the first test run with a view to dynamic viability on that rocky road is Ghost Dog (1999), seemingly infused with the sense of millennial showdown. There we find, at the outset, the eponymous central figure leaving at dark a shack which he calls home on the rooftop of a Rust Belt hulk to (in the capacity of a contract killer) exterminate someone from out of that sea of annoyances rendering planet Earth, to all intents and purposes, a perpetual night.

However, it is not the darkness of this action which most effectively touches us. No, the first figure we meet is a buoyantly soaring large bird (all but hawk-like), its dark coloration punctuating a not-quite-black, unlimited sky and then tracing a course over a cluttered industrial area of a city, probably that gold mine of the gross, Cleveland, but having licence plates reading, for the sake of global reach, “The Industrial State.” The big bird, soon seen to be a very appropriate pigeon, is (as with wild beasts across the board here) an undiluted joy sustained by the musical uncanniness of luminary RZA, who, like the rest of his band, Wu- Tang Clan, constitutes an electronic river of rhythm and melancholy—assertive and unassertive— (and goes so far, as we shall specify, to dip, rapper-style, into the ultra-obscure 1950s ballad, “Man in a Raincoat”). Hieing to Ghost Dog’s aerie, which we find to be a pigeon sanctuary of sorts, the only-seemingly random sprite ushers in for us the woeful state of the shelter, with its adjacent rickety coop. Nevertheless, we are promptly given to understand that much more than squalor is occurring. The cooing of the birds gives way to a study of sorts where we are introduced to the protagonist at a kind of peace with life in reading (with a quiet and ardent inner voice) a text clearly of great importance and satisfaction to him, namely the Hagakure, that Bible of ancient samurai warriors. The thrust of this treasure is pure hawk, with no signs of pigeon. (Or not yet.) “The way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one’s body and mind are at peace… And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the way of the Samurai.” (more…)

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