Sunday, September 28, 2014

VOICEOVER: DIRECTOR NAGISA OSHIMA ON OBSCENITY


"The concept of "obscenity" is tested when we dare to look at something that we desire to see but have forbidden ourselves to look at.  When we feel that everything has been revealed,  "obscenity" disappears and there is a certain liberation.  When that which one had wanted to see isn't sufficiently revealed,  however,  the taboo remains,  the feeling of "obscenity stays,  and an even greater "obscenity" comes into being."  

from THEORY OF EXPERIMENTAL PORNOGRAPHIC FILM (1976)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

OPTIK: HEARTS AND MINDS


Peter Davis' emotionally charged documentary HEARTS AND MINDS (1974) may be the most powerful anti-war statement ever set to film.  It is essentially a film about meaningless endeavors whose outcome produced nothing but human suffering amidst politics, ideologies,  and yes,  real people.  It is also about our loss of innocence when a war's sights and sounds clog the media for the first time as they exploded deep within our then nearly institutionalized compliance to government.  America's blind compulsion to win at all costs is at the crux of the matter here,  be it war,  sports or business. The idea of victory over that dehumanized "other" seemingly willed soldiers to commit  atrocities for no other reason than "they were",  equating killing a "gook" as something mindless,  but essential.  After the Vietnam War it seems we demanded a collective amnesia until 9/11 brought the "other" spiraling back.  If only our shared humanity could lead to better choices.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A BRUTAL SILENCE/SOUND


Our modern malaise is summed up in this bit of taped dialogue by Monica Vitti as Valentina in Michelangelo Antonioni's painful study of disconnectedness that is LA NOTTE (The Night).  Here he combines Cagean concepts with contemporary alienation as we (along with the infatuated Marcello Mastroianni as Giovanni) listen to an ancient technological wonder,  the tape recorder,  its tape later erased by Valentina when Giovanni asks to ear it again.

From the living room today you could hear dialogue from a film or television,

"If I were you,  Jim,  I wouldn't do that."

After that line,  the howling of a dog,  slow and sure,  rising in a perfect arc and trailing off in a great sadness.

Then I thought I heard an airplane,  but there was only silence,  and I was glad.

The park is full of silence made up of sounds.

If you press your ear to a tree and listen,  after a while you'll hear a sound.

Perhaps it comes from within us,  but I prefer to think it's the tree.

Within that silence were some strange noises that disturbed the soundscape around me.

I closed the window,  but the noises persisted. I thought I'd go crazy.

I don't want to hear useless sounds. I want to pick them out throughout the day.

Same with voices and words.  So many words I'd rather not hear,  but you can't escape them.

You must resign yourself to them.

Like the waves when you float on your back in the ocean.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

SH*T ART #5: WILLIAM GLACKENS AT THE PARRISH MUSEUM




William Glackens (1870-1938), called by some (rightly and derogatorily, in my opinion) "America's Renoir" started his artistic life as a newspaper illustrator covering the Spanish-American War,  while also depicting crowded city (NYC and Paris) life and painting dark-hued,  vibrantly brushed paintings. This was some of his best work as it balanced reportage,  loose social narrative, and spontaneity into rhythmically resonant drawings and dramatically spare portraits and landscapes.  But it was his infatuation with the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists that brought on his befuddled take on those then progressive styles.  He took the candied stench of Renoir's palette to new heights without imposing any form of innovation on the pictorial surface. His still-lifes are particularly offensive in their dull compositions and sickly sweet coloration. Much of the Parrish show bathes viewers in a received Modernist stink that serves the mediocrity of sunday painters well,  but does little for the darkly dramatic compositions and social conscience that marked the best of William Glackens.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

MAGNIFIERS: DEATHTRIPPING:THE EXTREME UNDERGROUND


If you're tired of traipsing through the same Hollywood redundancies that promise transcendence,  yet  deliver predictable scripts,  images,  and characters,  here is the place to start your re-education. DEATHTRIPPING  by Jack Sargent was originally subtitled "The Cinema of Transgression",  which is certainly a more apt description of the films presented here. While the Lower East Side is surely the  inspirational locale for this celluloid scum,  its ancestors include films like Bunuel's UN CHIEN ANDALOU,  Genet's UN CHANT D'AMOUR,  Jack Smith's FLAMING CREATURES,  Andy Warhol's BLOW JOB,  Paul Morrissey's  FLESH/HEAT/TRASH triptych, John Water's PINK FLAMINGOS,  and even a bit of the more extreme Italian gialli. This genre's "stars" such as as Nick Zedd,  Richard Kern,  Tommy Turner,  and Beth B are give ample coverage. Essentially the films made by these folks are art films without the art,  porn without the release,  and psychological studies with little or no insight into the characters.  They merely "are", without the benefit of proper "actors",  sound,  camerawork, or editing.  Like the No Wave (late Seventies and early Eighties) music that was an integral part of this scene (and soundtracked so much of this stuff),  films such as FINGERED, THE RIGHT SIDE OF MY BRAIN, WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY, BLACK BOX,  and THE SEWING CIRCLE are strangled cries for attention that are impossible to ignore.  As Richard Kern has stated in interviews The Ramones were not punk,  they were Doo Wop. This is the nihilism and aggression  of the punk ethos given flesh,  or as inspiration and expediency go:  I've got drugs and a  Super 8 camera,  let's have sex,  do something extreme,  and film it.