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Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category

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 © 2016 by James Clark

      There are two ways to approach a Ridley Scott film. The first and most popular way is to engage each outing as a totally new venture under the aegis of a writer (or two, or more) never to be heard from again. This preference takes up a vehicle like Black Hawk Down (2001) as a patented Scott patina of highly accomplished cinematic mood in the service of vividly introducing us to the nuts-and bolts details and stresses of modern military action. The second and rarely considered way is to note that, though seldom acknowledged as a (sort of) ghost writer of every production he undertakes, his efforts all zoom to a consistent and rigorously developmental communicative sense of cosmic crisis. As such our film here does not in fact well jibe with indifference toward the ramifications of an al-Qaeda take-down of elite military aircrafts in the productive sweep peppered with the al-Qaeda take-down of the World Trade Centre.

How on its toes is the discursive flood of action propelling Black Hawk Down? An epigraph leads the way—an epigraph far more abusive to the unwary than any of the countless bloody ambushes to come! “Only the dead have seen the end of the war.” The statement is attributed to Plato. Plato, like hell! This little tweak of erudition derives from the philosophy-challenged, General Douglas MacArthur, trotting out an old soldier’s bromide about the huge stature of those in the military and finding it apt that a universally revered clear thinker would be onside. The true author of that reflection on war is a far less celebrated participant within the process of sharing lucidity. That idea, far less self-evident than the General imagined, derives from someone who did his work around 500BC, a hundred years before Plato “flourished” (in the vernacular of professional teachers of the subject of thinking, a métier invented by Plato). Concern for the endlessness of war was a major project for one Heraclitus, of the town of Ephesus (in what is now Turkey), one of his pronouncements being, “War is the father of all and the king of all. Some he has made gods and some men; some slaves and some free.” (more…)

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counselor-1 

© 2016 by James Clark

 

 

    Ridley Scott readily lets us know that he is an avid searcher amongst the films of newcomers, for the sake of keeping up with the latest thoughts and skills. He never gives us a break, however, about his encyclopedic coverage of films from the past. Unlike Michael Mann, who warmly treasures the impetus derived from the work of Jean-Pierre Melville, our eclectic helmsman here chooses not to explicitly identify that range of inspiration contributing to those heights he so often soars to. As with his breathtaking TV commercials, for Scott it seems to all come down to the season’s hit and its filmic brilliance. A large problem about that strict immediacy is that his formidable perceptiveness ardently digs into the problematics of world historical discernment. His sagas flame high and wide with being on the hunt for this planet’s catastrophic and institutional malignancy. This is long-term work in spades. And though that might constitute a reason for hiding it at the summit of Mount Everest, the forward motion of that contrarian manifold takes place with far more transparency than Scott, a hugely divided agent of popular entertainments— “I don’t make films for other people. I make films for me” –is prepared to tolerate.

Keeping in mind that caveat, with The Counselor (2013) we not only have wave after wave of presentations based upon films of Melville; but, moreover, without this component The Counselor cannot come into its own as a richly tempered hopeful communication. Sure, it’s got a flashy cast and devastating horror hooks. But, to all intents and purposes, it looks the part of a relentless dismissal of every vestige of adult integrity. Seemingly doing his utmost to leave intact the rattlesnake smarts of the Cormac  McCarthy screenplay, he declares, “I was very happy with The Counselor. I think it was cynical and too nihilistic for some people, but I like nihilistic.” He likes a lot more than that. And thanks to Melville’s Le Doulos he knows how to royally tip a scale, overloaded with sentient figures amounting to sewage trucks, with an abundance of rhapsody. “Music is dialogue,” is another of Scott’s sayings, one, in fact, which particularly reaps benefits from Le Doulos. (more…)

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© 2016 by James Clark

      For the past while we’ve been trying to unlock surprising nuances in current films and those from the middle distance. But here we are, far back with the work of that of that fading comet, Jean-Pierre Melville, with a view to his always valuable coverage of the labyrinthine ways of integrity. After being away for a while from our auteur’s mastery of the magic of sensibility, I’ve come to realize the importance of that mantra, amongst cognoscenti, to the effect that all the commotion boils down to the remarkableness of zeal for mutual loyalty amongst thugs, needing serious recasting. Due to Melville’s telegraphing his unique commitment to American film noir, we tend to overlook the territory of “human relations” (in the vernacular of that Ridley Scott whose Thelma and Louise [1991] has a kinship to Le Doulos [1962]) in effect over and above the world of lawbreakers.

In this context of confusion, Le Doulos may be uniquely equipped to lead us into Melville’s true metier, in relation to which the crime gratifications are but a rewarding foretaste of dawning surreal intensity. Le Doulos introduces us to a couple of protagonists so palpably lacking those bona fides of grace and charm—assets on the order of Bob le flambeur, Jef the samouri, and Corey, contending with a red circle—from out of which claims of sensitivity could actually pull the wool over our eyes. Our two fast friends in the underworld here, namely, Maurice and Silien, are audacious punks on the order of Gu, having a discouraging form of second wind, Philippe being an insubstantial functionary on board an army of shadows and even Leon Morin a smart, but half-baked, con artist. Whereas Gu, Philippe and Leon circulate amongst associates with cogent integrity whereby fine feelings make some sense, Melville has crafted this current display with such minimalist barrenness as to prompt the viewer to consider that mysteries are afoot which far supersede the mysteries of stealing, murdering and eluding arrest. (more…)

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thelma-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

      The career of Ridley Scott offers a fertile sense of the glories and the pitfalls of contemporary film. Most particularly, his connoisseurship of conflict, resentment and equilibrium meets in the workplace and marketplace a bizarre and bruising dismissiveness, notwithstanding superficial salutes.

Feeling to be at his best when giving a consummate twist to the products of others, Scott unveils works tending to be remarkably at odds with the inceptions, stories and screenplays of those populating the credits. Having a keen eye (and heart) for natural and historical incidents significantly pertaining to the preparations on hand, he very subtly provides his rip-roaring, usually quite winning, dazzlements with far less plebeian ranges of nourishment, far more aristocratic ranges of problematics and sufficiency, than the public would suspect. As we make our way through Thelma and Louise (1991), being equipped by feminist screenwriter, Callie Khouri, we must be on our toes to comprehend why such exclusivity strikes him as the way to go. (more…)

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bladerunner-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

      Blade Runner (1982) is one of a very small handful of films that can be truly described as “haunting.” What makes its power doubly remarkable is that it derives from an auteur who does not originate the bare bones of his works but depends upon pre-made literature by which he can deliver impacts at cinematically optimal force. The writer behind Scott’s scenario here, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), was an exponent of science fiction with a view to the question, “What constitutes the authentic human being?” His novel, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? (1968), cites a planet Earth largely abandoned by old-line Homo sapiens and populated by androids in relation to which a bounty hunter reaps rewards of sorts. Dick, who died four months before the film’s release (to a tepid response), had declared that Scott’s running with those initiatives “justified” his “life and creative work…” But before we party with the overwhelming visual-sensual drama on tap, let’s show some apt amazement brought to our attention by those literary roots. “The world we actually have does not meet my standards,” Dick has remarked; and before we get into personality disfigurement it would be wise to recognize that the sense of “more real,” flourished by that venerable insurrection, Surrealism, has been heavily criss-crossed by the history of philosophy and science for the past 150 years. Scott has no qualms about the input of others because he recognizes that the waves he’s intent on making are part of a much wider effort. (His renowned earlier and now parallel TV ads also derive from serendipity events, upon which he expends graphic design magic, and something more.) That’s why he also brings on board the fading candle light of that Jacques Demy who loved color saturating his streetscapes, had a thing about umbrellas and black cars and a thing about Catherine Deneuve in Camelot outfits—Scott’s leading lady, Sean Young, being a dead ringer for that exquisite bone-china presence. (more…)

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alien-1

© 2016 by James Clark

I think it’s a big mistake to suppose that the film title, Alien (1979), pertains solely with regard to the ugly killer of most of the crew of a spaceship. To opt for that simplism is to underestimate the sensibility of helmsman, Ridley Scott. Not that seeing Scott at his best is an easy task, however. Fortunately, he sprays about quite a lot of trailblazing self-characterization—often wildly self-contradictory—ample enough to allow those of us, who have been assured that he’s got the right stuff, to wade past a façade of “professionalism” which brazens out an homage to all the journeymen involved in cash-flow (and nothing much else), on the order of The Martian (2015). Scott generously shares with us not only his life-long commitment to design craft but also his recognition that such a field is very crowded with brilliant practitioners, necessitating relentless and ruthless competitive assertions—assertions (he hearkening to his ongoing TV ad work as in the spirit of Mad Men) not above outrageous bullshit. One of his unforgettable remarks is, “I try to hit the truth.” Another of his unforgettable remarks is that, whereas when he began his film career (Alien being near the beginning) there was a 50/50 confrontation between the watchable and the unwatchable, now it’s down to watchable 3%. (Can you imagine he’d include The Martian in the league of 3%?) A third declaration of importance to us here is, “I’m more intrigued by human relations” [than typical suspense yarns].

Getting back to the good old days of 50/50, after a long winning streak of unprecedented, dazzling Super Bowl commercials (the pilot of the craft in Alien being outfitted with that magic NFL word, Dallas; Dallas also being an assassination site) and the like, our guide was brought aboard a vehicle stemming from screenwriter, Dan O’Bannon and Surrealist painter, H.R. Giger, who met during the abortive Alejandro Jodorovsky run-up to the sci-fi property, Dune. Among those considered for directorial duties for Alien was Robert Aldrich who, with screenwriter, A.I. Bezzerides, had briefly, during the output of Kiss Me Deadly, showed a penchant for “human relations” (or was the real work there that of Bezzerides?). But, elbows in play no doubt, it was Scott who convinced everyone who mattered that he could do the job, a job considerably more complex than giving customers a good scare. (more…)

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 © 2016 by James Clark

      While it is indubitable that the new film by the Coens, Hail. Caesar! (2016), runs past us a tale impacting as a slice of the early 1950s, it is just as palpable that the thrust of the work is not a nostalgic homage to Hollywood productions of that era. Failing to do justice to that latter gust of skepticism known by gut if not by gab, opens a spigot parading the slight that the film is lower-drawer fluff, released in February because it could never be considered as festival- or prize-worthy. Quite a poke in the eye to greet the lads as if they’d lost it!

Maybe a sense that festivals and prizes are not in the offing does factor here. But maybe the crisis is not about not being good enough but, in an onrush, being too good for a film industry now on track as a very comprehensive juggernaut of lowest-common-denominator escape, availing itself of cutting-edge marketing intent, as a prevailing science, to wipe out the competition. Anyone having made an effort to attend to the dramatic motives and carnal assaults of the work of the Coens could never imagine that they’d settle for geriatric pap. (more…)

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