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Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

 © 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…)

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 © 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…)

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 © 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…)

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 © 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…)

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© 2017 by James Clark

      Poetic filmmaker/ musician, Jim Jarmusch, has been bringing to our consideration singularities of dynamics for a long time. The effectively eccentric apparitions populating these works, often far from the dominant sagas of the struggles, treat us to white-hot energies paradoxically muted and doomed. With his recent creation, Paterson (2016), a memorable motif from the past resurfaces for the sake of contemplating 21st century dotage toward lives having erected fire-walls the better to confine themselves to tepid and myopic cocoons. The off-beat motif in question is the positioning of a dog being too-carnal to well-coincide with busy escapists. In that hipster/inventor’s Broken Flowers (2005), a TV-comic-like winning sensibility having made a fortune with IT has to rein himself in to avoid laughing in the face of an old flame who claims to derive insight from wild animals, especially the instance of her now-dead dog. In Ghost Dog (1999), a connoisseur of samurai methodology is far too preoccupied with practising his underground art to notice (twice) a black mutt who would love some attention from the ascetic self-server.

The protagonist, Paterson, of our film today is, like those just mentioned, a technician of sorts (being a local bus driver and poet of rigid literalism stifling the volatility of his muse); and he’s numbingly negligent toward his English Bulldog, Marvin. The legions of reviewers holding this paragon of modesty, civilized expression and citizenship as a new-wave every man have no time for what he’d be like to a non-rational being. Clearly never having expended any time and energy on fathoming Jarmusch’s discoveries, they stumble into the axiom/meatgrinder which could be put as, “Mess with the dog and you get covered with shit.” (more…)

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© 2017 by James Clark

      The many films of Michael Mann seem to be all of a piece in exuberantly delivering that cinematic Midas Touch of “action adventure.” Hardly a subscriber to settling differences with quiet and surgically elegant precision, there is about his shootouts, in a film like our present concern, Public Enemies (2009), World- War emphaticness.

You could leave Public Enemies at that, and go on to sprinkle biographical, political, ethical and cinematographical appreciations. Or, you could allow the overt but tangled delivery of poetics to bring about a lifetime of delicious toil. In the opening passage where bank robber and gangster, John Dillinger, is introduced to an Indiana penitentiary, that world of ignored drama is alive and well. We might have known that something special was up, when being drawn into the delivery of the prisoner-protagonist from a long-distance perspective such that the tiny vehicle and its complement (one handcuffed and one not handcuffed) could be likened to a visit to the Bonneville (speedway) Salt Flats. Coming closer to the pair, we—who were not only moving upon a lunar surface but sky having more to do with an astronomical observatory than a neighbor of the Gary steel mills—see them approaching the entrance, which could have been constructed by Charlemagne in the 8th century. This mix of the past and the future carries far more perceptual weight than the subsequent (not this again?) jail-break, prepped by the new-con’s contingent of long-termers but requiring that functional violence about which the man of the hour (accompanied by a fake, one-man police detail) excels. That prompt exit of figures easily overtaking normal activity involves a reprise of the uncanny, unearthly surround, before the interior of the getaway car hits us with almost full-scale schemers congratulating themselves. Johnny greets the powers-that-be in that dungeon with the rebel yell, “I’m John Dillinger. My friends call me John. But a son of a bitch like you better call me Mr. Dillinger.” That trash-talk is soon undergoing an antithesis whereby our leader, shown in close-up within the cramped confines of the Model-T, evinces that the road ahead will be a tortuous test. He clasps by the hand a seriously wounded partner sprawled on the running board.; and as the latter dies his face shows not simply the loss of a pal but the loss of coherence within his cogent mission. Prying loose the death grip, he watches the body impact the dusty terrain, with its bedrock in the mix, and feels a distinct absence of the lyricism by which he has navigated for a long time, his 9-year hermitage at that pen being an excellent place for an exceptional spirit to deal with intentional conundrums. (To emphasize how fluent he is with crisis, there is a second passenger flying off that iron-age car, someone within the gang who behaved badly during the escape. Johnny slugs him and then throws him out. We are struck by our protagonist’s effort to regain the savoir faire of the earlier part of the day.) A rally of sorts occurs for him on the dirt farm road where a sanctuary has been engendered. The spare, dark, earthy grassland brings about a calm we must not forget in the ragged hours ahead. (An a capella, Eastern European men’s chorus adds crisis in the form of straining for a disinterestedness which can’t be manhandled.)  Nor should we lose sight of the young woman being the lynch pin of the advent of the safe-house on the pragmatic grounds of which the escape succeeds. As Johnny heads for the car to get underway with his perhaps overthought-approach to other people’s money, that sombre but still beautiful factor, precipitating a camera angle showing a firmament, calls to him. And in a whispery voice corroded with harsh disappointment—disappointment that the promise of a long-term life out on that piercingly-true backwater (or elsewhere) turned out to be a cruel ruse—she makes scant verbal sense but towering physical impact notwithstanding. Johnny may be officially an ex-con but our filmic momentum is about to disclose that he’s pretty much all con, especially conning himself. (During his 9 years behind bars, he seems to have mastered a rhetorical sub-genre of preachy fondness about the meek, in the course of happily crippling the rich.) “OK, Doll, I’m sorry,” is the simplism he offers, while getting down to his real register in the car: “Let’s go to Chicago… make some money!” (Somewhat more convincing humanitarianism surfaces during the breaking out of the pen. He forcefully orders an inmate to stop beating a guard; and he’s, momentarily, at least, dismayed that another struggle ended in a low wage-earner’s death.) (more…)

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 © 2017 by James Clark

      The young but extremely formidable filmmaker, Damien Chazelle, merits, I believe, special attention for his bringing to the fore in virtuoso style the question of art production in contemporary life. He does so, not from the perspective of pedantic ideology, but from the carnal immediacy of figures pursuing objectives intuitively shallow and vile. The weight of history, appearing to condone and promote such virulent heroics, comes to bear in such a way that it is our protagonists’ injuries which hold us in thrall and, as such, link to an extensive cinematic endeavor (now central to these studies) of a lone wolf in mortal combat with a large pack.

Impressively enriching this imbroglio of tradition, in our film today, is the factor that both jazz-drum student, Andrew Neiman, and jazz-band teacher, Terrence Fletcher, have, variously, assimilated in their sensuous careers—formal and informal—that the world needs shaking up and jazz music is the air force to do the job. This is no over-done, Bach-first avowal like the one cemented to an antiquated French idiom, in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Les Enfants Terribles; but nevertheless, that air force experiences acute engine trouble.

Let’s begin to approach this turbulence by getting a bead on the startling Marine boot-camp Fletcher has been allowed, for many years, to maintain within a prestigious New York City music school (the Shaffer Conservatory). In the course of the expert’s discharging his role of Department Head of the Jazz Faculty, he recruits the precocious freshman, Andrew, to the Senior Big Band. His mentoring includes an instance of expressing reproof toward the youngest hopeful, in this way: “Is that the fastest you can play? You worthless Hymie fuck! No wonder Mommy ran out on [writer/ schoolteacher] Daddy when she figured out he wasn’t Eugene O’Neil…If you deliberately sabotage my band I will fuck you like a pig! You are a worthless faggot little piece of shit!” The Department Head, in this and many other indiscretions, sends us reeling from his sense of entitlement to, on one hand, demolish in youngsters their candid musical endeavor and its mystery. In addition, during many instances of rehearsing that elite squad designed to shock and awe the best which other such ensembles can field, his leadership amounts to honing, for the sake of metronomic, sonic bullets, diamond-sharp tempo and tone. In that methodology, we soon discover the overarching priority upon exposing and punishing his galley slaves as lacking the fibre to be one of those musical icons abandoned and thereby imperilled while at the same time a presumed killing rejoinder to a dominant world history he has come to loathe. The actor, J.K. Simmons, depicting the Head, resembles a grim, ascetic priest channelling a principal of the Spanish Inquisition. There is an episode in one of the nocturnal, management-absent rehearsals when Fletcher’s claw-like hand-gesture demands a halt and he claims to hear that someone is off-key. He decrees that the culprit confess within 10 seconds. No one comes forward. The hunter confronts several players in a solo passage and nothing seems amiss. He derides the assembly with the axiom that not realising one is off-key is even worse than simply slipping. Then he makes his way into the face of a trombone-player he refers to as “Elmer Fudd.” The whip claims to know that Fudd is the travesty. The shy and terrified boy looks down to his feet during this confrontation and says nothing. That earns him being noisily and insultingly thrown out of the band in not maintaining he was faultless—after his departure, the leader telling the slaves (as if an increase in his supposed fascinating unpredictableness) he knew the ex was not to blame (pinpointing a far more handsome kid as in error and going unpunished because the lack of a killer instinct was the crime he chose to punish that day). (more…)

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