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robertogreco : françoistruffaut   6

End of the End of the End: Agnès Varda in Los Angeles
"Once the family settled, the Columbia executive who brokered the contract with Demy, George Ayres, then pursued Varda, commissioning from her a manuscript about American hippies, Peace and Love. Columbia liked the script, but negotiations ended abruptly and the film was never made. Ayres (who also approached Andy Warhol) teases that Varda walked away because an executive pinched her cheek; Varda claims Columbia wouldn’t promise her final cut, and signing on without it was unthinkable. The incident is a minor detail in Varda hagiography, and yet it launched her extended engagement with Los Angeles, a relationship between city and filmmaker that would eventually include two sojourns and five films, all conceived, written, filmed, and edited in California. Of the five, two were shorts—Uncle Yanco (1967) and Huey (1968)—shot respectively in Marin County and Oakland, while the three features, Lions Love (…and Lies) (1969), Documenteur: An Emotion Picture (1981), and Mur Murs (1981), are Los Angeles films inside and out, indelibly marked by Varda’s experience of the city.

By the time of her first visit to Los Angeles in 1967, Varda was already an accomplished filmmaker, having directed four features in France, including the celebrated Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), a day in the life of a famous singer as she awaits the results of a life-or-death medical test. Her first film, La Pointe Courte, made in 1954, created even more of a stir, at least within a small and influential circle of burgeoning filmmakers. La Pointe Courte is now credited as heralding the arrival of a new movement in film and Varda’s name inextricably attached to the moniker “grandmother of the French new wave.” The compliment carries a whiff of condescension; the age difference between Varda and Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut is not a generation but less than five years, and it is premature to assign Varda—who, at 85, continues to make films, teach, travel widely, and speak sharply—her epitaph. It is, however, to the point: Varda’s innovative formal structure and use of natural light and nonprofessional actors in La Pointe Courte predated the earliest work of any of her contemporaries.

Initially at least, Varda influenced film as an outsider. When she made La Pointe Courte, she was entirely self-taught and a film naïf. “I seemed to be there by mistake,” she later remembered of her first meeting with the new wave cadre—Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Truffaut, Godard, and others—“feeling small, ignorant, and the only woman.”9 Her miasma was unwarranted, as she was the only one of the group to have actually made a film. Her would-be peers were critics and cinephiles first, filmmakers second, while Varda’s background was in art history and her interest in literature. She wasn’t watching films in her early twenties but attending classes by philosopher Gaston Bachelard at the Sorbonne and aspiring to be a museum curator, photographing children on the laps of Santa Claus and dancers for the People’s National Theater. Her touchstone as a filmmaker was not Jean Renoir or Orson Welles, whom she claimed to have never heard of, but the formal strategy of Faulkner’s Wild Palms (1939), a novel told on two discordant tracks that she devoured, dissected, marveled at, and finally decided to try on film.

***


Like all travelers, Varda brought to Los Angeles a suitcase of assumptions and judgments. In the late 1960s, America in general—and California in particular—seemed to many foreign observers a cesspool of violence and imperialism. America’s war in Vietnam, racist cops, and brutal attempts to contain civil unrest were international news. Los Angeles’s reputation abroad was specifically haunted by the 1965 Watts riot. American leftists found little redeeming in the violence, but in Paris, Guy Debord of the Situationist International circulated an essay describing the tragedy as a “rebellion against the commodity.”10 Varda may or may not have known Debord’s work—more likely the former, since he had unfavorably reviewed her films—but she generally shared the politics of her milieu.11 She was openly disgusted by American racism and, like many white European intellectuals (most famously Jean Genet), strongly identified with the Black Panthers. In fact, one of her major coups in California was a commission from French television to shoot a documentary short about the Black Panthers, including a coveted interview with Huey Newton in jail. Varda’s depiction of the Panthers is unusually fair-minded, portraying protests in downtown Oakland as congenial family gatherings.12 Varda’s disgust with mainstream American culture is more transparently obvious in a 1969 discussion with Newsweek editor Jack Kroll, conducted at the New York Film Festival and later televised. Twice, Kroll describes the filmic subjects in the first of Varda’s Los Angeles films, Lions Love (…and Lies), as “grotesque,” and twice Varda recoils. Finally, brimming with disdain, she interrupts to tell Kroll his is a “racist position”—racist in this case summing up all variety of American stupidity.13

In fact, Varda’s California films are devoted to such “grotesque” characters, the marginalized and denigrated types that make of California a hypertrophic variation on America. Varda found in Los Angeles a city of seekers—explorers, refugees, and desperadoes who had pushed westward and westward again, compelled by nothing but dreams, and finally arriving at the edge of a continent. The search that has no object resonated with Varda; she is, by her own admission, a gleaner for whom searching and living are coincident. The natural terminus of such a search—the beach—was where Varda felt most at home. The edge of the sea is both a symbol of dramatic finality and endless expansion, and what happens there is one of Varda’s great themes.14 How to live on a precipice? Having pushed westward until there is no more West, what sorts of searches remain?"



"Varda’s insouciance to Hollywood had scarcely diminished 13 years later, in 1980, when she was again approached by the studios to submit a script. Showing little concern for what was likely to be produced, she wrote a story based on a real Los Angeles event she’d read about in the Paris newspapers. A man was walking down the street naked at 5 a.m. He lived nearby, and his pregnant wife was home asleep. Strolling along on the sidewalk, he encountered an LAPD police officer who shot and killed him. When the officer was questioned why, he simply said, according to Varda’s telling of the story, “Because of his eyes.”16 Her script related the incident through the perspective of a French woman who happened to witness the murder from her window.

As Varda might have guessed, Hollywood refused to produce a film about a police officer’s poor judgment, and the same sequence of events repeated itself. When the script was a dead end and the deal came to naught, Varda chose to remain in Los Angeles to independently produce two more features: Documenteur: An Emotion Picture, about a single mother struggling to make a home, and Mur Murs, a documentary about murals and their creators. Varda conceived of the two films as twins and originally screened them together, though they were later separated when she decided each was stronger on its own."



"The same mural that concludes Mur Murs opens Documenteur: LA Fine Arts Squad’s Isle of California.20 The massive painting depicts a broken concrete highway precipitously perched on an island, dangling above a foamy ocean. Split from the mainland, Los Angeles is in ruins. Without the West, the edge of the West has become a nowhere. Varda once described Documenteur as a film about the “end of the end of the end,” a phrase that also evokes the cataclysm to which this mural alludes, the specter of a catastrophe that will plunge Los Angeles into the sea.21 The ocean reclaims and gifts land at will, such that the end of the end will at some point meet its end. In this respect and others, Varda’s Los Angeles films insist on exposing the city’s secret substratum—the geological precariousness, the outsider’s take on Hollywood, the painful slivers of loss endemic to Angelenos’s propensity for self-invention. If only Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Brecht and all the others had seen Los Angeles as Varda did—as a city of seekers and misfits teetering on the edge of the world—they would not have hated it as they did. Of course, to find that Los Angeles, they would have had to leave Hollywood."
agnèsvarda  film  losangeles  frenchnewwave  françoistruffaut  2014  jean-lucgodard  sashaarchibald  gender  williamfaulkner  fscottfitzgerald  bertoltbrecht  jacquesdemy  georgebeauregard  hueynewton  california  us  thomanderson 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Against Interpretation
[before quoting the entirety, quoting one line:

"What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more."]

"“Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny - very tiny, content.”
- Willem De Kooning, in an interview

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
- Oscar Wilde, in a letter

1

The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual. (Cf. the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc.) The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality.

It is at this point that the peculiar question of the value of art arose. For the mimetic theory, by its very terms, challenges art to justify itself.

Plato, who proposed the theory, seems to have done so in order to rule that the value of art is dubious. Since he considered ordinary material things as themselves mimetic objects, imitations of transcendent forms or structures, even the best painting of a bed would be only an “imitation of an imitation.” For Plato, art is neither particularly useful (the painting of a bed is no good to sleep on), nor, in the strict sense, true. And Aristotle’s arguments in defense of art do not really challenge Plato’s view that all art is an elaborate trompe l’oeil, and therefore a lie. But he does dispute Plato’s idea that art is useless. Lie or no, art has a certain value according to Aristotle because it is a form of therapy. Art is useful, after all, Aristotle counters, medicinally useful in that it arouses and purges dangerous emotions.

In Plato and Aristotle, the mimetic theory of art goes hand in hand with the assumption that art is always figurative. But advocates of the mimetic theory need not close their eyes to decorative and abstract art. The fallacy that art is necessarily a “realism” can be modified or scrapped without ever moving outside the problems delimited by the mimetic theory.

The fact is, all Western consciousness of and reflection upon art have remained within the confines staked out by the Greek theory of art as mimesis or representation. It is through this theory that art as such - above and beyond given works of art - becomes problematic, in need of defense. And it is the defense of art which gives birth to the odd vision by which something we have learned to call “form” is separated off from something we have learned to call “content,” and to the well-intentioned move which makes content essential and form accessory.

Even in modern times, when most artists and critics have discarded the theory of art as representation of an outer reality in favor of the theory of art as subjective expression, the main feature of the mimetic theory persists. Whether we conceive of the work of art on the model of a picture (art as a picture of reality) or on the model of a statement (art as the statement of the artist), content still comes first. The content may have changed. It may now be less figurative, less lucidly realistic. But it is still assumed that a work of art is its content. Or, as it’s usually put today, that a work of art by definition says something. (“What X is saying is . . . ,” “What X is trying to say is . . .,” “What X said is . . .” etc., etc.)

2

None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew (or thought one knew) what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art. We can only quarrel with one or another means of defense. Indeed, we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practice.

This is the case, today, with the very idea of content itself. Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism.

Though the actual developments in many arts may seem to be leading us away from the idea that a work of art is primarily its content, the idea still exerts an extraordinary hegemony. I want to suggest that this is because the idea is now perpetuated in the guise of a certain way of encountering works of art thoroughly ingrained among most people who take any of the arts seriously. What the overemphasis on the idea of content entails is the perennial, never consummated project of interpretation. And, conversely, it is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art.

3

Of course, I don’t mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain “rules” of interpretation.

Directed to art, interpretation means plucking a set of elements (the X, the Y, the Z, and so forth) from the whole work. The task of interpretation is virtually one of translation. The interpreter says, Look, don’t you see that X is really - or, really means - A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C?

What situation could prompt this curious project for transforming a text? History gives us the materials for an answer. Interpretation first appears in the culture of late classical antiquity, when the power and credibility of myth had been broken by the “realistic” view of the world introduced by scientific enlightenment. Once the question that haunts post-mythic consciousness - that of the seemliness of religious symbols - had been asked, the ancient texts were, in their pristine form, no longer acceptable. Then interpretation was summoned, to reconcile the ancient texts to “modern” demands. Thus, the Stoics, to accord with their view that the gods had to be moral, allegorized away the rude features of Zeus and his boisterous clan in Homer’s epics. What Homer really designated by the adultery of Zeus with Leto, they explained, was the union between power and wisdom. In the same vein, Philo of Alexandria interpreted the literal historical narratives of the Hebrew Bible as spiritual paradigms. The story of the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the desert for forty years, and the entry into the promised land, said Philo, was really an allegory of the individual soul’s emancipation, tribulations, and final deliverance. Interpretation thus presupposes a discrepancy between the clear meaning of the text and the demands of (later) readers. It seeks to resolve that discrepancy. The situation is that for some reason a text has become unacceptable; yet it cannot be discarded. Interpretation is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate, by revamping it. The interpreter, without actually erasing or rewriting the text, is altering it. But he can’t admit to doing this. He claims to be only making it intelligible, by disclosing its true meaning. However far the interpreters alter the text (another notorious example is the Rabbinic and Christian “spiritual” interpretations of the clearly erotic Song of Songs), they must claim to be reading off a sense that is already there.

Interpretation in our own time, however, is even more complex. For the contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted not by piety toward the troublesome text (which may conceal an aggression), but by an open aggressiveness, an overt contempt for appearances. The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs “behind” the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one. The most celebrated and influential modern doctrines, those of Marx and Freud, actually amount to elaborate systems of hermeneutics, aggressive and impious theories of interpretation. All observable phenomena are bracketed, in Freud’s phrase, as manifest content. This manifest content must be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning - the latent content - beneath. For Marx, social events like revolutions and wars; for Freud, the events of individual lives (like neurotic symptoms and slips of the tongue) as well as texts (like a dream or a work of art) - all are treated as occasions for interpretation. According to Marx and Freud, these events only seem to be intelligible. Actually, they have no meaning without interpretation. To understand is to interpret. And to interpret is to restate the phenomenon, in effect to find an equivalent for it.

Thus, interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.

4

Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.

Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” It is to turn … [more]
art  interpretation  philosophy  theory  essays  susansontag  plato  artistotle  film  representation  innocence  nietzsche  proust  kafka  tennesseewilliams  jean-lucgodard  rolandbarthes  erwinpanofsky  northropfrye  walterbenjamin  yasujirōozu  robertbresson  culture  thought  senses  oscarwilde  willemdekooning  content  appearances  aesthetics  invisibile  myth  antiquity  karlmarx  freud  jamesjoyce  rainermariarilke  andrégide  dhlawrence  jeancocteau  alainresnais  alainrobbe-grillet  ingmarbergman  ezrapund  tseliot  dgriffith  françoistruffaut  michelangeloantonioni  ermannoolmi  criticism  pierrefrancastel  mannyfarber  dorothyvanghent  rndalljarrell  waltwhitman  williamfaulkner 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Twitter / @ThisMoiThisMoi: Right after I dropped out ...
"Right after I dropped out of high school I worked at a video store where we got free rentals. Truffaut's were my first ones...

and like any self-respecting "artsy" high school drop out I immediately became obsessed with Antoine Doinel."

[That second half is from here: http://twitter.com/ThisMoiThisMoi/status/166561097753694208 ]
self-directedlearning  autodidactism  autodidacts  learning  2012  françoistruffaut  antoinedoinel  film  dropouts  kartinarichardson  autodidacticism 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Some Came Running: Truffaut/Hitchcock
"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them; it may be the story of their first love, or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation...and it will be enjoyable because it will be true and new...The film of tomorrow will not be directed by civil servants of the camera, but by artists for whom shooting a film constitutes a wonderful and thrilling adventure. The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it, and the number of spectators will be proportional to the number of friends the director has. The film of tomorrow will be an act of love."

—Francois Truffaut, "The Film of Tomorrow WIll Be An Act Of Love," Arts, May 15, 1957…

[via: http://faketv.tumblr.com/post/2909950163/the-film-of-tomorrow-appears-to-me-as-even-more ]
françoistruffaut  film  filmmaking  personal  identity  diaries  confessions  autobiography  storytelling  firstperson  writing  novels  expression  classideas 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Clube da Esquina - Wikipedia
"In 1963 Milton Nascimento moved from Três Pontas, in the midlands of the state of Minas Gerais, to the capital Belo Horizonte, looking for work. He settled at the Levy building, where the Borges Family, including Márcio Borges, already lived. One day, after watching François Truffaut's movie Jules et Jim three times in a row, Milton and Márcio started composing (Milton already played in some bars of Belo Horizonte): Márcio wrote the lyrics, and Milton wrote the music. Since then, Márcio always played a great role in the history of Clube de Esquina as lyricist, mainly together with, at a later stage, Fernando Brant. The first album (Clube da Esquina), from 1972, was followed by another one in 1978 (Clube da Esquina 2), that contains tracks written by authors that were not part of the group (e.g., Chico Buarque)."

[See also: http://worldsofwanwood.blogspot.com/2010/11/milton-nascimento-clube-da-esquina-1972.html AND http://www.amazon.com/Clube-Esquina-Milton-Nascimento/dp/B000005GYI ]
clubedaesquina  brasil  music  miltonnascimento  minasgerais  belohorizonte  julesetjim  françoistruffaut  chicobuarque  márcioporges  tropicália  1972  brazil 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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