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robertogreco : jean-lucgodard   10

The Windshield and the Screen | u n t h i n k i n g . p h o t o g r a p h y
"A Google Street View car in Los Angeles once captured a picture of Leonard Cohen. It happened a couple of years before he died. He was sitting with an acquaintance on lawn chairs outside his modest home in the Mid-Wilshire neighbourhood. The driver was an accidental paparazzi. Cohen didn’t even notice him.

The picture of Leonard Cohen on Google Street View is part of the database lore circulated on internet forums. Hobbyists and virtual world trawlers trade Street View links—oddities and pranks and wonders, like a man on the street in a horse mask, someone escaping a house with a makeshift rope of bed sheets tied together, and the 'Hallelujah' songwriter in his front yard enjoying a lovely day. A project as ambitious and omnivorous as Street View could only have these wonders, although not on purpose or by design. Street View isn’t photography as aesthetic representation, but the production of leftovers that happen to be images. These images are the husk — the dead skin of a surveillance charade. This archive can be fascinating and even useful to spectators—the users of it. But this data created and cleaned at scale is a source of Google’s power."



"Users have been tapped as distributed teachers to driverless cars. Granted, this is no guarantee of success: the Waymo project keeps missing its deadlines, and even the most ambitious timelines seem to fall beyond the near future. And just as the Street View online archive exists almost as a refuse of data mining, the security function of reCAPTCHA has just about outgrown its usefulness. Bots and spammers crack it all the time. Humans —those “not a robot” — and human labor serves another purpose: a link in the chain, rather than an end in itself."

[See also:
"Jean-Luc Godard sur Street View? Les internautes en sont persuadés"
https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2016/07/29/jean-luc-godard-google-maps-buzz_n_11254606.html

via (and also by Joanne McNeil)
https://jomc.substack.com/p/animal-crackers ]
joannemcneil  photography  screens  googlestreetview  maps  mapping  2019  leonardcohen  recaptcha  jean-lucgodard  anne-mariemiéville  cameras 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 86. Anab Jain
"Anab Jain is a designer, futurist, filmmaker and educator. As Co-founder and Director of Superflux, she hopes to realise the vision of the Studio as a new kind of design practice, responsive to the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century. She also teaches at the University Applied Arts in Vienna and gave a TED Talk last year on design’s role in imagining new futures. In this episode, Anab and I talk about Superflux’s blend of client and speculative work, her background in filmmaking, and pushing up against disciplinary boundaries."
anabjain  jarrettfuller  2018  jamescscott  simonedebeauvoir  superfluc  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  design  andreitarkovsky  film  filmmaking  education  teaching  transdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  jean-lucgodard  criticaldesign  designeducation  kellereasterling  infrastructure  lcproject  openstudioproject  camerontonkinwise  scratchingthesurface 
august 2018 by robertogreco
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
What is to be done ? | Diagonal Thoughts
[via: http://stml.tumblr.com/post/155290210410 ]

"By Jean-Luc Godard

Written in January 1970 at the request of Simon Field and Peter Sainsbury for the magazine Afterimage, produced by Peter Whitehead. Published in Afterimage n°1, April 1970. Translated from French by Mo Teitelbaum.

1. We must make political films.

2. We must make films politically.

3. 1 and 2 are antagonist to each other and belong to two opposing conceptions of the world.

4. 1 belongs to the idealistic and metaphysical conception of the world.

5. 2 belongs to the Marxist and dialectical conception of the world.

6. Marxism struggles against idealism and the dialectical against the metaphysical.

7. This struggle is the struggle between the old and the new, between new ideas and old ones.

8. The social existence of men determines their thought.

9. The struggle between the old and the new is the struggle of classes.

10. To carry out 1 is to remain a being of the bourgeois class.

11. To carry out 2 is to take up a proletarian class position.

12. To carry out 1 is to make descriptions of situations.

13. To carry out 2 is to make concrete analysis of a concrete situation.

14. To carry out 1 is to make BRITISH SOUNDS.

15. To carry out 2 is to struggle for the showing of BRITISH SOUNDS on English television.

16. To carry out 1 is to understand the law of the objective world in order to explain the world.

17. To carry out 2 is to understand the law of the objective world in order to actively transform that world.

18. To carry out 1 is to describe the wretchedness of the world.

19. To carry out 2 is to show the people in struggle.

20. To carry out 2 is to destroy 1 with the weapons of criticism and self-criticism.

21. To carry out 1 is to give a complete view of events in the name of truth in itself.

22. To carry out 2 is not to fabricate over-complete images of the world in the name of relative truth.

23. To carry out 1 is to say how things are real. (Brecht)

24. To carry out 2 is to say how things really are. (Brecht)

25. To carry out 2 is to edit a film before shooting it, to make it during filming and to make it after the filming. (Dziga Vertov)

26. To carry out 1 is to distribute a film before producing it.

27. To carry out 2 is to produce a film before distributing it, to learn to produce it following the principle that:
it is production which commands distribution
it is politics which commands economy.

28. To carry out 1 is to film students who write: Unity – Students – Workers.

29. To carry out 2 is to know that unity is a struggle of opposites (Lenin) to know that two are in one.

30. To carry out 2 is to study the contradictions between the classes with images and sounds.

31. To carry out 2 is to study the contradictions between the relationships of production and the productive forces.

32. To carry out 2 is to dare to know where one is, and where one has come from, to know one’s place in the process of production in order then to change it.

33. To carry out 2 is to know the history of revolution struggles and be determined by them.

34. To carry out 2 is to produce scientific knowledge of revolution struggles and of their history.

35. To carry out 2 is to know that film making is a secondary activity, a small screw in the revolution.

36. To carry out 2 is to use images and sounds as teeth and lips to bite with.

37. To carry out 1 is only to open the eyes and the ears.

38. To carry out 2 is to read the reports of comrade Kiang Tsing.

39. To carry out 2 is to be militant.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
Notes

14/15 British Sounds, Dziga Vertov Group’s third film, came out in 1969. The transcript of the film is available here.
23/24: “Realism doesn’t mean showing real things, but showing how things really are.” Godard also quoted this dictum by Brecht in the scenario of Les Carabiniers (1963).
25: A reference to Vertov’s text “Provisional Instructions to Kino-Eye Groups” (1926).
29: According to Lenin, “dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites” (1961).
38: Kiang Tsing (or Jiang Qing) was Mao Zedong’s last wife, well known for her role in the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and for forming the political alliance known as the “Gang of Four”. During the Cultural revolution, Joang Qing, who used to be a Shanghai movie star in the 1940s, created the “internal screenings” (or “internal reference material film”) system which allowed for some filmmakers and elite intellectuals to watch Western films in screenings that were closed to the general public. Godard pays homage to her in Vent d’Est (1970), refering to her text “Summary of the Forum on the Work in Literature And Art in the Armed Forces With Which Comrade Lm Piao Entrusted Comrade Chiang Ching”."
jean-lucgodard  manifestos  1970  politics  resistance  activism  simonfield  petersainsbury  filmmaking  idealism  marxism  metaphysical  bourgeoisie  proletariat  understanding  bertoltbrecht  production  kiangtsing  militantism  jiangqing  realism 
january 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
Three Popular Films by Jean-Pierre Gorin - From the Current - The Criterion Collection
"Jean-Pierre Gorin’s three Southern California movies are so militantly unclassifiable that terms like documentary or essay film seem as hopelessly out of sync with the recalcitrant and frequently exhilarating works themselves as a Marxist harangue in a Burger King. Movie criticism is ill equipped to deal with these ecstatic operations, which get high on their own cunning strategies.

How on earth did this Sorbonne-educated son of Jewish Trotskyites, onetime student of Althusser, Lacan, and Foucault, pre-1968 Marxist firebrand and partner in crime of Jean-Luc Godard wind up in Greater San Diego making these peculiarly all-American movies? Let’s just say that he followed his desire. “Many political people have self-conscious and proclaimed interests that they call revolutionary,” he explained to Danish filmmaker and critic Christian Braad Thomsen in a 1974 Jump Cut interview. “But they also have unconscious interests that can be completely reactionary, even if they are linked to the revolutionary interests. There comes the point when I say: ‘Man, blow your mind, try to dig into your own unconscious, try to find where your investment and your interest is.’” During their misunderstood Dziga Vertov Group period, Godard and Gorin were struggling to find a new, living definition of the political: over the years, Godard went increasingly macro, enlarging his sense of his own consciousness to the point where it covered the entire expanse of Western civilization; Gorin went micro, allowing his films and the people and places and contradictions that nourished them to speak in their own idiosyncratic voices. Poto and Cabengo (1980), Routine Pleasures (1986), and My Crasy Life (1992) are, on one level, vastly different experiences, each with its own peculiar frame of reference and line of aesthetic attack. Taken together, they represent an unofficial “language” trilogy, in which varying styles and modes of American speech ravish and are ravished in turn.

Gorin was invited to Southern California by painter, film critic, and teacher Manny Farber, when Farber was in the process of building a visual arts department at the University of California, San Diego. As Gorin put it to writer Lynne Tillman in 1988, “The meeting with Farber was a determining one. As determining, in a sense, as my encounter with Godard years ago. The reading of his film criticism gave me a very different key to American cinema than the one I used in France, a way to ground it in the culture and its language, to pry it away from its own mythology. But more importantly, it’s from reflecting on his painting, his main activity for years by the time I met him, that I learned the most.”

While he was scrutinizing a new landscape through new eyes, Gorin found the story of Grace and Virginia Kennedy, a pair of twins from nearby Point Loma who, according to the press, spoke in their own private language. “The Loch Ness monster had been nowhere in sight that year, and I suspect the journalists felt the twins would be a good substitute,” Gorin told Tillman. “They built up a case which reeked of Wild Child mystique.” Gorin realized instantly that there was no private language but rather “a patchwork of southern lingo spoken by their father and of the deformations imposed on the English language by their German-born mother.” His newfound American friend the producer–star programmer–California gentleman Tom Luddy suggested filmmaker Les Blank as a cameraman, and Gorin began his inquiry into something that “had been so completely misconstrued. It seemed like an eminently dramatic premise: two kids who moved and sounded like hummingbirds, who for years had been privately deciphering the world for each other, who did not know why they had suddenly become the object of so much attention.” Poto and Cabengo (the names by which the twins sometimes called each other) is not a “portrait” of Ginny and Grace and their family, or a “probing look at the strange phenomenon of idioglossia,” but a rhapsodic layering of elements and relations, filmed by Blank in singingly lyrical motion and color. The film can be examined from multiple angles, each as valid, not to mention exciting, as the next.

“Does anyone else use sound as a totally filmic weapon?” wrote Farber of Godard. The same could be said of Gorin’s fix on the spoken word in Poto and Cabengo, and throughout the trilogy, a matter of tireless ethnographic curiosity, slaphappy connoisseurship, and an immigrant intellectual’s ironically tinged boosterism of his new culture—in fact, the title of one of Godard’s finest and least-known works nicely sums up this side of Gorin’s cinematic enterprise: Puissance de la parole. In Poto and Cabengo, you can practically taste the filmmaker’s joy as he circles around the katzenjammerian speech patterns of Chris Kennedy, the raunchy vulgarity of her Hispanic neighbors, and Tom Kennedy’s depressed Georgia drawl, and then contrasts those voices with the squeaky-clean cadences of the speech therapists and linguists, perfectly enunciating every syllable of their expert opinions.

All three films are conversations—conversations between people and between those people and the unlikely landscapes in which they dwell, between cliché and reality, inside and outside, difference and repetition, sound and image, filmmaker and subject, body language and verbal language, and, supremely, between Gorin and himself as he continually revises his own position relative to both the movie and his adopted country. They are explorations and self-explorations, pinpointing and opening up all the inconvenient details and exceptions that short-circuit any final judgments. At first glance, we sophisticates may feel like we have the Kennedy household, Routine Pleasures’ Pacific Beach & Western railway crew, and My Crasy Life’s West Side S.O.S., Sons of Samoa, 32nd Street gangbangers all figured out. We are disabused of such notions almost instantaneously. Every rhetorical move is either jarred or knocked out of place by a countermove, and we are left with a cinematic organism in which nothing is frozen and everything is in ceaseless motion. I honestly can’t think of another movie that keeps tunneling through its own foundation as relentlessly as these three do, each stopping just short of a complete cave-in.

In Poto and Cabengo (and Routine Pleasures as well), the filmmaker’s voice-over squeezes some comedy out of the spectacle of an “ex-Marxist” immigrant fretting over the degree to which he is still French or already American. It’s easy, and slightly misleading, to become fixated on Gorin’s deadpan delivery of his stylized and allusive commentary, in which he borrows Farber’s wisecracking deflations and turns them on the film in general and himself in particular. In his writing, Farber found a language that was scintillating, thrillingly dense with metaphors, and utterly precise, disarming both the reader and any conventionally authoritative voices, be they academic, moralistic, corporate, or political. Gorin adapts Farber’s strategy to his own purposes in order to maintain a one-to-one relationship with his subjects and his audience. While the voice-over scores a few comic points here and there and maintains a nice surface tension, its principal purpose is utilitarian: to steer the film up, down, and sideways, and finally guide us to the more unsettling seriocomic state of affairs deep within the material. The gap between Tom and Chris Kennedy’s vision of their economic situation and the gruesome reality is terrifyingly wide, a real-life version of early movie comedy’s fixation on the gulf between aspiration and achievement. The only reasonable response to the strange sight of this “close-knit” family sitting around their cardboard hearth is to laugh, as they might just do were they to wander into a theater and get a load of themselves. This is not the comedy of cruelty but of extreme identification.

Gorin’s American movies are handmade productions that now speak to us in two tenses. Three decades and a “digital revolution” later, they are among the most provocative artifacts of the last moment when movies really were made by hand, and when, for a precious few (Gorin, Godard, Glauber Rocha, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Robert Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Chantal Akerman), process was on an equal footing with product. As immediate, present-tense experiences, they are endlessly self-revealing, an array of clear aesthetic choices, made from a limited set of cinematic elements, combined, layered, pulled apart and put back together in different configurations to build a rich, winningly active surface texture in the mind of the viewer. They are rude and lovably inelegant movies, resisting any drift into sophistication or severity, and resembling nothing so much as the earliest sound productions of Walsh or Wellman as reimagined by a political firebrand who has just escaped from the prison house of his own theories.

But above all else, these are “popular” films, in the French sense of the term—populaire, or “of the people.” In other words, they begin and end at ground level, where life is lived out from instant to instant. Gorin wrote, “My Crasy Life has at its core a commitment, radical in its simplicity: to respect the voice of its ‘subjects’”—the voice and, by extension, the worldview and experiential horizon line. This can be said of all three movies.

In the cinema of Jean-Pierre Gorin, there is no such thing as a case study or a type. Just us, all in the same boat, whether we care to know it or not."
jean-pierregorin  film  potoandcabengo  2012  kentjones  sandiego  california  mannyfarber  jean-lucgodard  filmmaking  srg  mycrasylife  routinepleasures  1986  1992  1980  lacan  foucault  louisalthusser  michelfoucault  althusser  lesblank  tomluddy  lynnetillman  longbeach  ucsd  glauberrocha  jean-mariestraub  danièlehuillet  robertfrank  yvonnerainer  chantalakerman  babettemangolte  raymonddurgnat  sonsofsomoa  ethnography  samoa  gangs  margaretmead  losangeles 
november 2015 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Jean-Pierre Gorin by Lynne Tillman
"LT What makes Poto and Cabengo quite an incredible movie is the way in which it segues from its initial question—What are they saying?—to different areas of inquiry. And in the process, your position as a filmmaker seems to be shifting too. There is the scene, for instance, where you take the twins to the library. They are running around, grabbing books off the shelves at random and you are trying to follow them. There is something very sad and very funny simultaneously, something difficult to express in words."

JPG It’s a key scene in the film for me. They are grabbing these books as if they were these talismans. There is an urgency, something both manic and poignantly relevant to their situation in the way they pile these books up in the hope of taking them home with them, as if these things were bound to secure their liberation, their passage into another world beyond the confines of their family. While I am there lumbering around with my film equipment and trying in vain to frame them into some scene, some conceit of my own. When I saw the scene on the editing table, I decided to add to the soundtrack a series of pleas, things like “Stop, you guys! Wait a minute! Let me film you! It will only last a minute!” which I had not uttered at the time, but which I could have uttered. It was to recapture how much I had felt at the time the film was escaping me. The whole scene is a good metaphor for what always happens in the filmmaking process for me. I get the sense that a film is going to be successful when the material trips up my initial intentions! I guess what thrills me in “documentary” situations is precisely that dramatic moment when I realize that the material is going to resist my schemes. That’s where the fundamentally fictional aspect of documentaries comes into play. As the gatherer of information, the filmmaker is always forced to approach the facts from a certain angle and always forced also to realize at one point in the process that the facts will show a fundamental reluctance to fit neatly into one’s approach. In effect one is always taken to other places than the one one intended to be taken to. The detour becomes the destination, and, one detour leading to another, the closure of the film becomes very problematic. I have always had a hard time finishing my films. In Poto, I start from the question “What are they saying?” and I end up with quite a different question—"What is going to happen to them?" And somewhere in between, I have asked myself the question of kidnapping the twins and living happily every after with them. In a way these are the kinds of questions Raymond Chandler has running through the mind of Philip Marlowe. The mysteries in a Chandler novel are generally solved by page ten of the book, but the very fact of the inquiry pushes forward a different set of ethical questions. The “noirish” tone of the voiceover in Poto and Cabengo owes a lot to Chandler, who died sipping lime rickeys at the La Valencia Hotel, heartbroken over the death of his wife in La Jolla, a few miles away from Linda Vista, where the twins were living. But even more than the tone of the voiceover, the jazzy vagaries of the inquiry owe something to Chandler.

"LT It seems to me that an essential difference between Poto and Cabengo and Routine Pleasures is that Routine is all about male space—as opposed to Poto which is about women or girls and their space, although that isn’t articulated by you as the film’s narrator.

JPG It’s quite true. In Poto, the main male figure (the father) exists at the periphery of the story. In Routine it’s the opposite; women exist as miniatures in the imaginary landscape of the train people and as articulated dolls in Farber’s paintings. What can I say? Routine is very much a filmic meditation on an American male imagination anchored in the ’30s and ’40s, its high art—Farber—and low art—the train people—manifestations, and my relationship to it. Thus the buddy story aspect of the film. In a sense, if Poto is nothing else than a skewered revamping of a film noir, Routine is a revamping of the outfit films of the ’30s, those ensemble films Hawks or Wellman were so deft at churning out, all about male bonding and the task at hand, obsessive about the way they laid out the details of the rituals of work. What fascinated me, both about the train people and Farber, is how much their childhoods articulated themselves within the rituals of their working life as adults, how much work and play got strangely confused in their activities. I chose never to get the viewer out of the model railroad club, to lock him/her within the space of these guys’ imagination. The world outside is alluded to on the soundtrack, a world of real estate deals and of incessant transformation of the landscape, a world in turmoil. But inside the club, shelter and solace were found in the voodoolike manipulation of these miniature trains, these objects which had played such a role in years past to create the wealth and the might of this country, but were—in the real world—by now almost obsolete. In a sense the film stays locked inside their conservative imagination. It seemed interesting in the ’80s to investigate the conservative imagination, to offer a view of conservatism which would not rehash the traditional macro-political pieties, but instead would probe the imagination of people I knew had voted for Reagan.

LT Obsession seems to be key here.

JPG When you try to track down the “why” of an obsession, you set a trap for yourself. The obsessed lives his obsession as a Fatum and is, definitionally, totally inarticulate about it. He lives in a transparent relationship to his obsession. He will never be able to tell you what makes him tick! If you keep at it, if you keep asking questions, it’s your own obsessiveness that comes to the fore. It’s the movement at the core of Routine. Throughout the film, I am trying to “talk train,” to get inside, and at every turn I feel my defeat: when I think that I have reached a certain level of comprehension, I always find myself confronted by another arcane subtlety. I have barely mastered the difference between a boxcar and a pigflat when I encounter a guy who hints at the fact that the real pleasure of model railroading lies in the ability to differentiate between doorknobs! After a while one just gives up and remains content just to nod at the darn models as they zip through the landscape. What else is there to say than “good-looking train?”

LT The voice in Routine Pleasures seems to be saying, I am trying to keep up with these guys, I can’t quite speak train, but I am more comfortable . . . .

JPG There was an edge, an energy to Poto, which had to do with breaking into a new world. Routine aims at something different. It describes the first years after one’s landing at Ellis Island, so to speak, a time when things American have somehow ceased to be new and assaulting. It’s “Americanization, Part II,” a time when your heart and your throat have grown accustomed to the idiom and you can start looking, a time when you are bound to be hooked by people like Farber or the train people whose exclusive business is looking and composing. There are profound formal differences between the two films, which reflect that. Poto's image has a slapdash quality, a fast-doodle-on-a-sketchpad aspect that is completely absent from Routine, which is all static and strongly referential in its compositions. The interviews of the train guys and the rituals which precede each session at the club were shot in black and white, framed and lit with the outfit films of Hawks and Wellman in mind. Babette Mangolte—the eye behind the camera—did such a good job of it that in the film there’s a shot of two guys inside the machine which turned out as a perfect duplicate of a shot in Hawks’s Ceiling Zero, a film neither of us had seen at the time of the shooting of Routine! The trains and the miniatures were shot in color, with a long list of people in mind whose business had been the depiction of the American landscape, from Walker Evans on down. All that with the hope that somewhere along the line someone would look at the film and blurt out, “Good-looking film!”

LT Let me go back to something. You mention in the film that Farber once wrote of you as a sort of twin brain. Is twin-ship a recurrent curse?

JPG In a fashion. As I say in the film, I “owe” Farber my stay in San Diego! Seriously, the meeting with Farber was a determining one. As determining in a sense as my encounter with Godard years ago. The reading of his film criticism gave me a very different key to American cinema than the one I used in France, a way to ground it in the culture and its language, to pry it away from its own mythology. But more importantly, it’s from reflecting on his painting, his main activity for years by the time I met him, that I learned the most. The lack of closure in his canvases, the endless “and . . . and . . . and” mechanism that shapes them, his relentless way to multiply the entries and the exits into the material, his way to map his own life by incessantly reordering the jetsam of the culture, his hatred for Big Ideas, his insistence on dodging clichés. All that struck a chord. In Routine, Farber gets a mythic, Virgilian status, which I intended as ironic, but that a lot of viewers take at face value. I guess the irony of attempting, under Farber’s coopted and reluctant guidance, this small-scale epic, the absurdity of trying to deliver “America under budget and in a shoebox” got lost for some in the shuffle.

LT Did he play a role during the shooting or the editing of the film?

JPG None. I talked to him far less than I did during the shooting or the editing of the twins film. It’s all a construct, a fictional way to reassess a relationship. And maybe—to refer to one of your questions on Polo—a way to divest myself from it. In fact, in the making of Routine, the “shorthand” … [more]
potoandcabengo  documentary  interviews  film  jean-pierregorin  lynnetillman  1988  mannyfarber  jean-lucgodard 
july 2014 by robertogreco
What would it be like if Fellini and Godard... - Fresser.
"What would it be like if Fellini and Godard collaborated on a two minute film about parking in Naples? 

I won’t spoil it, but it’s worth watching. I kept worrying that it was secretly an ad for something, but it’s not. Unless it’s an ad for Italy.

Starts a bit slow, but let it roll."

[Direct link to video in case the embedded one doesn't work: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/feb/06/naples-parking-fiasco-holdup-video ]
fellini  jean-lucgodard  italy  italia  hilarious  humor  napoli  naples  streets  kevinslavin 
february 2013 by robertogreco
A Brief History of John Baldessari - YouTube
"The epic life of a world-class artist, jammed into six minutes.
Narrated by Tom Waits.
Commissioned by LACMA for their first annual "Art + Film Gala" honoring John Baldessari and Clint Eastwood.

directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman (http://gosupermarche.com/)
edited by Max Joseph (http://www.maxjoseph.com/)
written by Gabriel Nussbaum (http://www.bankstreetfilms.com)
cinematography by Magdalena Gorka (http://magdalenagorka.com/)
& Henry Joost
produced by Mandy Yaeger & Erin Wright

Thank you to John Baldessari and his studio. (http://www.baldessari.org/)"
gabrielnussbaum  arielschulman  henryjoost  photography  sandiego  nationalcity  jean-lucgodard  2012  tomwaits  clinteastwood  documentaries  film  artists  art  johnbaldessari 
may 2012 by robertogreco

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