Friday, January 22, 2010

"At the moment, all films are crawling with quotations!"

Silvia Sorrente, and Michel Lemoine somehow looking away from her, in SIN ON THE BEACH.

That's just one of the many great lines of dialogue to be found in Something Weird Video's English-dubbed DVD-R of José Bénazéraf's SIN ON THE BEACH [L'éternité pour nous, 1961]. Here are 14 others:
2. "Improbability always appeals to women."
3. "It's a fact: something is always happening."
4. "When you're hitching lifts, all men are disgusting."
5. "If you mistake my piano for a divan, they [the customers] will mistake my dancefloor for a bed."
6. "All women take off their clothes. Few are applauded for it."
7. "Love! In this house, it's an obsession!"
8. "I'm being absurd. I guess it goes to prove one can't keep news of death to oneself."
9. "What's important is to move. You know? Move!"
10. "You have to hurt yourself to love someone."
11. "The marvelous immodesty of young lovers, it's so very moving!"
12. "That's not blackmail; that's just mendacity."
13. "Men always end up by confessing, especially when we pretend we aren't interested."
14. "One wishes for a great destiny and all one gets is a little song."
15. "You don't kiss madmen -- you lock 'em up!"
The dubbing, performed by familiar voices, is amusingly philosophic and over-the-top, like a Grove Press novel run amok, while the movie itself is almost abstractly alluring. There's Michel Lemoine, with his astonished Siamese cat's face... Silvia Sorrente, an hourglass of maddening flesh... and a story involving a murder that occurs offscreen, which keeps rewriting itself until the viewer loses all concern with who killed whom and feels himself chasing a dream along three parallel strips of grey -- sky, sea and sand -- all long dead.
Running 65:34, SWV's DVD-R contains no credits (apart from "Stanley Borden Presents") and clocks approximately 20m shorter than the uncut version released on DVD in France two years ago by K Films. Though the continuity is choppy, it's likely that the English-dubbed version was always at least a reel shorter than the original length, and chances of a better quality copy of this English dub are highly unlikely.

Monday, January 11, 2010

No More Rohmer Films

Eric Rohmer, the French critic-turned-filmmaker, and former editor of CAHIERS DU CINÉMA, died earlier today at the age of 89. His most recent film, LES AMOURS D'ASTRÉE ET DE CELADON (THE ROMANCE OF ASTRÉE AND CELADON, 2007), was rumored to be his last but I refused to believe it. For many years, he was my favorite filmmaker; Krzysztof Kieslowski eventually overtook him in my estimations, but whenever I revisited Rohmer's work, or saw new work, I felt touched and warmed and changed by it. His films had the power to clear my head and make me see the world again with young eyes, even when he ventured to be cynical or ironic. I feel as though I've lost someone very close and dear to me, met only on the plane of art. The attached image, of course, shows Jean Claude Brialy admiring Laurence de Monaghan in Rohmer's masterpiece LE GENOU DE CLAIRE (CLAIRE'S KNEE, 1970). Two that spoke still more directly to me, though, were MA NUIT CHEZ MAUD (MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S, 1969) and LA RAYON VERT (THE GREEN RAY aka SUMMER, 1986).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Thoughts on the Aughts

As this first single-digit decade of the 21st century draws to a muted close, how do we begin to tie a bow around it? What has it been? What has it meant?

The first thought which comes to mind is that it may be the first decade to take away more than it gave back, considering the vast number of luminaries who have passed. This year alone: John Updike, Alain Robbe-Grillet, J.G. Ballard, James Purdy, Philip Jose Farmer in literature; Michael Jackson, Ron Asheton, Lux Interior, Bud Shank in music; Walter Cronkite, Don Hewitt and Paul Harvey in broadcasting; Patrick McGoohan, Gianna Maria Canale, Paul Naschy, Harryhausen producer Charles H. Schneer, Harry Alan Towers, composer Maurice Jarre, Ray Dennis Steckler and critic Robin Wood in film. This is not your standard obituary listing; it is a hemorrhage -- nay, an exodus.

In past decades, art has always been regenerated, but now, with the arts slowly perishing through a combination of factors -- lack of support, rampant remake-iana, inability to compete with the internet's onslaught of trivial communication and free access -- it seems that the gratification of soul that is the dividend of real art is vanishing from the bottom up, as death scythes the cream off the top.

For me, this past decade has been like an extended "time out" to explore work from previous decades that either got past my radar earlier, or was not previously available, or was not previously subtitled or translated, or needed to be re-read. I can remember joking during the '80s that everything needed to be put on pause so we could all catch up, and that pretty much happened. Here are some of the offerings this past decade that were especially meaningful to me...

Novels: Robbe-Grillet's REPETITION, Nabokov's THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA, Ballard's SUPER-CANNES, Theroux's LAURA WARHOLIC OR THE SEXUAL INTELLECTUAL, Pynchon's AGAINST THE DAY -- but the most meaningful, for me, aside from the one I wrote (THE BOOK OF RENFIELD), was GLIMPSES by Lewis Shiner, published in 2001. Honorable mention, if I may, for the completion of my 32-year project: MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK.

Films: Terry Zwigoff's GHOST WORLD, Charlie Kaufman's SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK, Lech Majewski's shot-on-video THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS, Jonathan Weiss' searing film of Ballard's THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION, Wong Kar-wai's 2046, Terence Malick's THE NEW WORLD, Guillermo del Toro's PAN'S LABYRINTH, Tomas Alfredson's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

Some other 00's movies I loved or admired: MULHOLLAND DR., SIDEWAYS, LOST IN TRANSLATION, ONCE, LUST: CAUTION, ALMOST FAMOUS -- also THE DIRT, the short film starring Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, her best work to date. ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL continues to taunt me, such a near-miss.

Movies I saw this year for the first time that left a lasting impression: CHILDREN OF PARADISE (why did I wait so long?), FORBIDDEN GAMES, Robbe-Grillet's THE MAN WHO LIES, Frankenheimer's GRAND PRIX, Michael Blake's shot-on-video LAUGHING HORSE (an oddball, baffling showcase for the beauty of Irene Miracle, in her most enigmatic role), and the work of Myriem Roussel.

Music: For me, this decade was almost entirely retrospective in a musical sense. The completion and release of Brian Wilson's SMILE (a musical milestone yet somehow more tantalizing as uncoalesced puzzle pieces), DigitMovies' liberation of countless great Euro soundtracks from the CAM vaults, the Beatles and Stones remasters, some great Miles and Coltrane box sets, King Crimson and Pixies in 5.1 sound, the three-disc VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY set. But what made the most difference to me was my own postponed, deep-dish discovery of Françoise Hardy, who did record several fine albums this decade. None meant quite as much to me as my belated discovery of her 1971 and 1996 releases, LA QUESTION and LE DANGER. I recommend the five-disc set 100 CHANSONS as the best starting point, if you can find it; it's the only place you can be exposed to all her facets.