Archive for October, 2009

Heads-up re: TCM, 10/19

October 19, 2009

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It’s a gorgeous day in Madison, WI, no doubt, but if you happen to be home this afternoon circa 3:00PM and not consumed in your studies, then you’ve only got two options for recreation as far as I’m concerned: you can watch my beloved Halos try to climb up off the mat against the nefarious Yanks, or you can watch the Marx Brothers’ A Night in Casablanca (1946) on TCM. The latter promises to inspire chuckling just as the former promises to inspire cringing. The MLB playoffs are the most pessimistic time of the year for me, and what better way to blow off steam during commercial breaks than to catch up with Groucho, Harpo and Chico? It’s a “howl-raiser,” for crying out loud.

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(Visual) Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, 10/18

October 18, 2009

Yet another not-so-thinly-veiled act of procrastination. Then again, I’m sitting in a café at the moment—though not with Laszlo Szabo or Pascale Ogier, sadly—so let’s pretend that I’m plenty justified in posting this adorable little image instead of doing schoolwork.

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From Eric Rohmer’s Les nuits de la pleine lune (1984).

Procrastination links

October 17, 2009

The title of this post more or less says it all.

Glenn Kenny shares a funny anecdote about a ressentiment-drenched sort-of-encounter with Pauline Kael. Given my own opinions of Kael’s aesthetics (and her seemingly snobby personality), I’m sure that I would’ve reacted just as strongly, though probably in an even more passive-aggressive manner.

Acquarello on the latest (and likely last) Jacques Rivette film, 36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup; on Michael Haneke’s much-hyped The White Ribbon (fingers crossed for an eventual run here in Madison); on Pedro Costa’s latest documentary, Ne change rien; and on 100-year-young Manoel de Oliveira’s Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl (which, by the way, sounds tremendous).

For those of us who live in Madison, which has no shortage of used bookstores, the fine art of browsing shelves to find something worth impulse-purchasing remains a popular past-time; alas, as Charles Rosen notes, this isn’t so for most Americans.

Dave Eggers will give a talk at the Chazen on 11/4. Hopefully he’ll be able to tell us where exactly the wild things are.

(Visual) Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, 10/16: Take 2

October 16, 2009

This, ladies and germs, is how I myself hope to go.

From Alexander Dovzhenko’s Earth (1930).

(Visual) Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, 10/16

October 16, 2009

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From Claire Denis’s L’intrus (2004).

This weekend à la Cinematheque

October 16, 2009

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Friday night: Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life (1956), an über-polychromatic, cinematic portrait of Vincent van Gogh (played by Kirk Douglas), this film has the reputation as being Minnelli’s most confessional melodrama, though it also has the reputation as being a somewhat masturbatory testament—what’s more self-flattering than using the image of history’s most famous tortured artist as an allegory for oneself?—from one of Hollywood’s most grandiose figures. The screening begins, as usual, at 7:30PM, and, in my myopic estimation, it ought to be terribly good.

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Saturday night: Grigori Aleksandrov’s Volga, Volga (1938), a musical comedy that holds the rather remarkable distinction of having been Stalin’s favorite film—an interesting tidbit that should by no means be downplayed. Last Saturday’s screening from the Aleksandrov series, The Circus, was a lot of head-scratching fun; thus, I’m going into Volga, Volga with more or less high expectations. You’d never believe it but the screening begins at 7:30PM. Definitely be there if you’re a cultural—as opposed to a practicing—red, or if you’re an orthodox Groucho-Marxist (like yours truly).

Out with the sensual, in with the conceptual

October 16, 2009

Philosopher of art and Darwinian cultural theorist Denis Dutton has a guest op-ed in today’s NY Times that you may find highly readable. Dutton’s thesis, succinctly put, is that the end of the 19th century marked the end of a certain mode of artistic production wherein the quality of a work of art was linked, both in in design and in discourse, to the skill with which the work’s maker used the materials from which the work was made; thus, for Dutton, our artistic epoch is first and foremost the age of conceptual art, the only era in which figures like Warhol, Duchamp and Hirst could’ve possibly struck it big. Ours is an epoch in which people are no longer content merely to gaze at pretty objects: the image is nothing without the idea from which it is inseparable.

Dutton’s piece is interesting, no doubt, chiefly because he doesn’t position himself against conceptual art as such (though he definitely seems to think Hirst and his work are something of an elaborate gag). His main point—the best I’ve ever read from him—is that,  a century from now say, people will reflect upon our era as having been a very strange time in the history of art. I can’t disagree with that diagnosis, no sir.

But one thing that I find a little bit strange: if the concept reigns supreme in the artistic mainstream (Hirst’s formaldehyde shark went for $12 million just a little while ago), why is it relegated to the avant-garde in cinema? I don’t mean to suggest that non-avant-garde cinema is intellectually bankrupt, because that would be a totally ridiculous claim; but all the same, many of today’s most remarkable filmmakers are interested firstly in the medium’s sensuous dimensions, secondly in the conceptual dimension. Not that there’s anything wrong with this approach… perhaps cinema is just too successful at bombarding the senses to give itself entirely to the concept.

Ghosts (and fanboys) in the machine

October 15, 2009

Comrade Slane, with whom Anthony and I are sharing a page in today’s Daily Cardinal, is on-point with his critique of the vaunted IMDB Top 250 list (something that I indirectly addressed in a BH column last year). That more people in my generation have seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Shawshank Redemption than have seen, say, Citizen Kane or À bout de souffle (to name a random two), is cause for concern—perhaps only concern amongst film dorks like K.S. and myself, but concern nevertheless.

Signs and symbols and pith (hopefully)

October 15, 2009

In today’s edition of the Daily Cardinal: Anthony Cefali and I collaborated on a review of the Robert Rauschenberg exhibit currently on display at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and, lo n’ behold, after sitting on the backburner for a couple weeks now, it actually got published. It’s pretty lengthy as far as DC articles are concerned, but it’s also probably one of the articles I’m most proud of having written. Enjoy (maybe).

(Visual) Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, 10/15

October 15, 2009

To make a film, all you need is…

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From Jacques Rivette’s Secret défense (1998).