Archive for the ‘author James Clark’ Category


 © 2017 by James Clark


    The paths to Surrealist love and decadence are many and varied. Although the phenomena were incubated in Paris, the long-standing kinship between France and the USA in repelling (particularly British) sensible calculation has provided reverberations streaming out to very recent times. There is a quite pervasive volatility about those two national enterprises for which there is scant interest in a place like Canada (despite its quasi-French ingredient).

That brings us to our now upping the ante toward the more dangerous sensibilities being brought to a showdown of sorts in the movies. Surrealism—coursing through the works of David Lynch, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, the Coens and Jim Jarmusch, to name a few—has always been our business here. But rather than put it into play as a historical, evolutionary going concern, we’re now pulling ourselves together (I hope) to consider its confinement to lives with no real purchase in sight upon a mainstream; but rather consisting of sensual momenta staging largely invisible, self-contradictory revolutions.

We’ll begin with a film by that master of minutiae, Brian De Palma, namely, Carrie (1976), who in this case has to deal with the footsteps of not only horror author, Stephen King, whose 1974 novel by the same name offers a point of departure, but also King’s wife, Tabitha, who (rescuing his unfinished and despised [by him] draft of this vehicle) saw fit to reach back to Jean Cocteau’s 1929 novel, Les Enfants Terribles (The Terrible Children) and the subsequent movie incarnation, in 1950, by another filmmaker more about pores than portents, namely, Jean-Pierre Melville, with Cocteau looking over his shoulder and keeping the faith as far as his opium addiction allowed. Cocteau/ Melville lead off with a high school boy, Paul, being felled in a snowball fight by a good friend (though not so friendly as to desist from couching his missile with a rock). De Palma, no doubt delighted by the wit of the Kings, fires off in his film, to perfect effect, the early moment where Carrie, a high school girl hamstrung by a mother staging a religious war against menstruation and thereby exposing her to shock, begins to bleed, for the first time, in her school-gym-shower, and her panic elicits not only raunchy ridicule from her far more secular classmates but a snowball fusillade of tampons, accompanied by the far from helpful, “Plug it up! Plug it up!” She is not concussed like Paul; but her sense of this world not working for her is even more pronounced. (more…)

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 © 2017 by James Clark

       The film world abounds with generally furtive protagonists locked into an almost hopeless and definitely endless dedication to sprucing up sensibilities that won’t do. One of the grand masters of presenting this unheralded and widely unsuspected mission is Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973), generally regarded (when regarded at all) as a mid-century inventor of chic crime sagas. When you have nothing else to do, the now very muted chronicling runs, check one of these out for the cinematic equivalent of a “good read.” Melville’s endeavors, however, when approached with something more than a good read, come to light as remarkably close to films like Nocturnal Animals, Arrival and La La Land.

In the spirit of reaching improved clarity about this still-buried treasure, I’ll be, near the outset of this manoeuvre, digging into Melville’s final film, Un Flic (1972); then, next, I’ll be showing that Melville’s (and Jean Cocteau’s) Les Enfants Terribles (1950) is at the heart of Stephen (and Tabitha) King’s Carrie (1974) as inducing Brian De Palma, in 1976, to get up close to what’s up with the work-load of carnal consciousness; then we’ll spend the rest of the year savoring such dare devils coming at us from many sources.

One dare devil we need to open with, however, has been virtually ignored for years at this spot, namely, David Lynch. And the delirium of his Lost Highway (1997) involves, to a distinguished level, that heart-pounding crisis of perceptual lostness which is incumbent on all who care to see what cooks. Nearly seven years ago, my take on this movie stressed the noir aspects and particularly the equations of courage and cowardice. We did, of course, have to account for its being one of the most punishing narrative pitfalls in the history of cinema. But, in lieu of a premium upon consciousness per se, the matter of the two sets of hard-pressed lovers came down to a mechanistic fulcrum whereby entities are twinned in such a way that the initial presence finds itself preceded by a presence at the opposite end of the universe. This factor of Lynch’s reckoning did play a part in the coherence of the film. (The consensus that the helmsman did not have a serious idea of what was afoot, and that therefore his film is a shambles due to a self-indulgent reach exceeding its grasp, is insulting nonsense based in ignorance of what a major artist [requiring a reputation by which to raise millions of dollars] is about.) But what now must be added is the second and more primordial polarity that a material-inertial presence paradoxically is amenable to and dependent upon finite intentional consciousness to complement the formation of reality. This state of affairs accounts for a union of Fred and Renee Madison who dare to aspire to subtleties of creative dynamics, as implicated in the rough and tumble of Pete and Alice who tend to lead a far less subtle existence. (more…)

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© 2017 by James Clark


    In Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic, Space Odyssey (1968), one earthling, Dave, leverages his involvement in the American space program to strike up a unique and fertile relationship with a black monolith juke-box-resembling tower emitting unearthly music for the sake of an inter-species choir of lucid and ardent sensibilities. 48 years later, along comes filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve, from Quebec Canada (a place not even very good at streetcars), with a film, Arrival (2016)—also about inter-species progress—which, for the most part, exceeds expectations. Kubrick did have his Old Testament David; but unequivocally, the point was surpassing conventional relentment. What, on the other hand, are we to make of, after nearly two hours of thrilling headway, the Frank Capra denouement? Does the crashingly out of place designation, “Abbott and Costello,” for the pair of aliens they are tasked to make sense of, by a military physicist (as apparently likewised amused on the part of the protagonist, Louise, a top-notch linguistics scholar), constitute a word to the wise that, though some remnants of an obsolete world still hang around, you are welcome to regard Louise’s “triumph” as part of a vivid reverie centering upon the death from cancer of her teenaged daughter?

    Arrival, with its family-guests’ connotation of a title, is definitely sci-fi with a difference. Rather than show off the latest in deadly weapons, wielded by adventurers having been bitten by the adventurism bug since before Kindergarten, we have a central character startlingly indifferent to the day’s Breaking News that (an ecclesiastically 12) alien space ships have positioned themselves across the globe. As a teacher in a university lecture hall bemused that few students had shown up that day, she is put into the loop by one of the few faithful on hand, asking her to activate the high definition media screen to see something of compelling interest. Louise, realizing that she will not be able to get across that day the account of the peculiarities of the Portuguese language and its exceptionally fostering the art of communication, rather non-chummily intones, “Class is dismissed.” What, from her perspective, has upstaged the sensation of the century? What has impelled her to return to the ghost town of a campus next morning and drink it all in how singular she is (anticipating from the invaders either tedious violence or, at best, more of the sluggishness in her face delivered by planet Earth). Along the way, she assures her frantic mother that she has become over-excited. “Mom, please don’t watch that channel! You know they’re all idiots!”In the aura of a presumably horrific eventuation on the horizon, eclipsing the viewer’s focus on her, Louise’s being out of step is, if ever spotlighted, not merely personally bizarre but a disposition of remoteness toward human history far too gripping to ever (ever—as in that ending) turn around on a dime and become just another sentimental thrill-seeker. Miss this step and you’ve missed the movie—a film about aliens whom the protagonist comes to realize to be far closer to where she lives than the bulk of her species. This is what is truly important about this “thriller;” and this is what we’ll follow in detail. (more…)

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 © 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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