Friday, November 21, 2008
Evolution is a process too slow to save my soul
But I've got this creature on my back
And it just won't let go
If I am only an animal
Then I can do no wrong
But they say I'm something better
So I've gotta hold on
Darby Crash (The Germs)
But Darby Crash, did not hold on. After disbanding earlier in the year, the seminal punk-rock band, The Germs, got back together to play--what would end up being--their last show, on December 3rd, 1980. Then, four nights later--on the eve of John Lennon's death incidentally--Darby Crash killed himself with $400 worth of heroine, in the poolhouse of his friend's mother's home (the girl who was supposed to die along with him, but survived).
The Germs were part of the "first generation" of punk-rock (the mid to late 1970s)--and a vital part of the Los Angeles contingent of the...uh...movement. Darby Crash's performances, as singer of the Germs, were often marked by bleak gestures such as self-mutilation, and showering the audience in food and blood. Crash (like Sid Vicious) was the epitomization of the fatalistic nihilism and disillusionment that summarily defined that particular generation of punk-rock--before of course, pockets of positivity and revolutionary vitality started forming later in the 1980s.
I begin my discussion of Jean-Luc Godard's ingeniously "alienating" (as the truth often is) and non-linear, Masculine Feminine, by talking about the fate of Darby Crash, for one primary reason. And it lies deep within the fate of a generation defined by the utterly irreconcilable paradox of "Marx and Coca Cola." Darby Crash is the tragic poster-child for the fatalistic nihilism and existential torment, of the generation that was the aftermath of Godard's "Children of Marx and Coca Cola." I do indeed believe that the generation that Godard's "Children of Marx and Coca Cola" embody, was a profound watershed. Not only had the Marxist revolution failed (as the ultimate inconsequentiality of France's student/labor uprisings of 1968 illustrates), but the essential ethics of struggle and sacrifice, that are necessary for such a revolution, were buckling under the sheer gravity and pervasiveness of the gospel of possession, convenience, and leisure, that was/is Western consumer culture.
Which was no big deal, if you were a child of the bourgeoisie and upper classes. But if you were a child of the vast majority--or the lower classes--which did not get to enjoy any of the comforts and conveniences, terminal disillusionment inevitably followed the realization that the war was over with, and they won. And within a decade, came the nihilistic desolation of punk-rock.
Godard efficaciously illustrates the confusion of ideals and motives of France's youth of the time, in a number of different ways. For instance, the polling-interview that Paul (Jean-Pierre Leaud) does with "Miss 19." She has won a bit of a prestigious status that has given her the benefits of consumer culture. She knows little--if anything--about the wars occurring at that moment in the world, she owns a car, she doesn't know what "socialism" is, and doesn't care. But more importantly, she has been to the United States, and loved it. She is very attracted to what she feels it means to be an American--or as she says, it's like "Being somebody [and] having lots to do."
On the other hand, one particularly odd scene seems to convey--presciently--the forthcoming nihilistic tide. This is the scene where Paul is chased out of the arcade by the young man with the knife, who then illogically commits suicide, by stabbing himself. Another suicide occurs when a man lights himself on fire in front of the American Embassy to protest the Vietnam War (but I guess that suicide is noble, although that is a whole other discussion in and of itself). But in general, the male characters in this film, seem to be struggling to reconcile the irreconcilable--like Paul attempting to act like he cares about the labor or class struggle, and at the same time, get along with Madeleine (Chantal Goya) and her acutely narcissistic desires for fame and success.
Which brings us to the girls in Masculine Feminine. Enough has been said about Godard's misogynistic tendencies. There's no sense in going on about them here...but...considering the roles that women play in this film, it seems quite...uh...fitting that Elisabeth (Marlene Jobert) is eating an apple throughout her whole interview scene. The apple, of course, being a rather universal symbol of the--allegedly--inherent proclivities of women, towards such regrettable tendencies such as betrayal and desire and covetousness. Whether we buy that whole original sin crock or not, and despite her aspirations and moderate level of success as a pop-singer, Madeleine leaves us on as much of a dismal and doomed note at the end of the movie, as any other character or occurrence. After all, the last thing we hear her say--after indifferently agreeing with Elisabeth's version of Paul's death--is that she considers "a curtain rod" to be her most viable option in dealing with the life growing inside of her...
...no future indeed.
...Dragged on a table in a factory
Illegitimate place to be
In a packet in a lavatory
Die little baby screaming
Body screaming fucking bloody mess
Not an animal
It's an abortion
Body! I'm not an animal
Mummy! I'm not an abortion...
...Fuck this and fuck that
Fuck it all and fuck a fucking brat
She don't wanna a baby that looks like that
I don't wanna baby that looks like that
Body, I'm not an animal
Body, an abortion
The Sex Pistols
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
grog \noun\ [Old Grog, nickname of Edward Vernon (1757) Eng. admiral responsible for diluting the sailor's rum] : alcoholic liquor; esp : liquor (as rum) mixed with water
Was Francois Truffaut's, L' Histoire d' Adele H., supposed to be a comedy, because that shit was funny as hell? By the time Adele has lied about being pregnant and married to that poor fool, Lieutenant Pinson, and in that one scene where he is out riding around with his army regiment, and Adele is straight lurking in the bushes stalking his ass, and then she just pops out of the bushes--in front of all of his soldier friends--pulls out the pillow that, I guess, was suppose to be her fake pregnancy, and then throws a fistful of money at his ass...shit...that shit's as funny as that scene in Next Friday, when that Tawana chicken-head has keyed Dae-Dae's BMW, and maced him on his front lawn.
Nah, but seriously, L' Histoire d' Adele H. is pretty much the most boring, average, garden variety, Hollywoodish film (movie) we have seen yet. Which isn't necessarily a criticism...I guess...just more of an observation and/or impression. I guess it's also an excuse for the fatuous nature of what follows from here on out in this blog entry. With this film, at this point in Truffaut's career, and especially compared to the innovative uniqueness of films like, Les Mistons and Les Quatre cents coups, he seems to have--for good or ill--adopted a much...uh...safer formula for filmmaking. This circumstance, combined with the fact that this film is based on historical events (and I don't feel this is the time or place for a historical discussion) has left me--for the second time this semester--at a loss for thoughtful things to say. And consequently, I am--once again--forced to express myself outside the parameters of insightful, scholarly discussion. Or in other words, what follows is going to be a lucid example of oblique, evasive shit-talking and babbling. In fact, this particular blog entry, it is safe to say, and academically speaking, will be the most worthless entry I will write this semester, and I will apologize here for the fact that, whomever does read it in its entirety, will walk away stupider than they were before they read it.
For instance, I'm not saying that--in real life--it would be amusing or entertaining to witness the gradual and systematic decay and collapse of a young girl's mental and physical health, due to a broken heart, but by the end of this film, it starts to seem pretty fucking funny. I mean, I thought that the character, Alphonse, in Truffaut's, La Nuit Americaine, was a hysterical dingbat when it came to dealing with the opposite sex, but mother of babbling god, compared to Adele Hugo, Alphonse is "too cool for school." Jesus, Adele Hugo, at least as her story is told by Francois Truffaut, is the poster-child for male-celibacy. In fact, if poor Adele Hugo's story illustrates anything, it illustrates the benefits of being a genuinely vain, shallow, and utterly self-absorbed person, because if Adele was such a person--as plenty of us can attest--it is quite difficult, if not downright impossible to become so enamored of any particular person (except of course, for that beautiful motherfucker in the mirror every morning). Holy shit...did I just say that?
Aside from all of that doggerel, I like these filmic depictions of "olden" times, because them fools talked funny, and shit was just weird. Like when that amiable old SOB, Mr. Whistler comes over to see how Adele is feeling, and she can't come down and see him because she's in bed with a case of pleurisy. What the? And speaking of Mr. Whistler, I like how dude owns a book store, and when Adele comes in looking a little...uh...sallow, he offers her "a nice grog"--at a book store, in the middle of the day. I want some "nice grog," at a book store, in the middle of the day. That shit's as funny as that one time back in one of the other days, on Saturday Night Live, when Bill Murray had to go see the barber (it was "olden" times), for a "good bleeding," because while he was "over celebrating at the festival of the vernal equinox," he had "a little too much mead, and dotted out in front of an ox cart." I love that shit...
Friday, November 14, 2008
"The only reason I'm in Hollywood is that I don't have the moral courage to refuse the money."
All of a sudden I feel like my blog entries are all becoming malevolent and sardonic--my last entry for Jean-Luc Godard's, Contempt, after all, is downright hateful. But then I remember that the current film I'm writing about, Francois Truffaut's "self-conscious" "feature," La Nuit Americaine, as well as Godard's, Contempt, are both films about...well...making films. And their "insider's" look at the degenerate nature of the small class of people who populate this gratuitous and nonessential (if not downright detrimental) industry, of course explains my rancor. Although Truffaut's film shows a...uh...more benign and "romantic" side of filmmaking, it still illustrates the childish dysfunction and acute narcissism of a class of people that I would just assume see collectively tied to cinder blocks, at the bottom of the Detroit River. Included in this desire, would be the veritable ocean of insignificant, sycophantic, "aspiring," desperate, groveling underlings doing all of the "behind-the-scenes" work as well.
But since we are discussing the French New Wave, and not--directly--the pervasive detriment of Hollywood and our modern media juggernaut, it is necessary to not get carried away here. And anyway, my entry for Godard's, Contempt, is probably as much as I need to say about all of that. La Nuit Americaine is Francois Truffaut's filmic admission of his life-long love and obsession for the art of filmmaking. And in its purest, most unspoiled form, before money, fame, and success have profaned it, that is a love I can dig and respect. Perhaps the sincerest conveyances in this film, of Truffaut's love and passion, are nothing more than a couple of brief, dreamy interludes. Of course, there is the repeated flashbacks to Truffaut's childhood mission, of stealing Citizen Kane posters from a theatre. But the most elegant and subtle conveyance of Truffaut's love, is simply the brief interlude where we hear the beautiful and melodic score over the telephone (and in the diegesis), as we see Truffaut thumb through a number of books on films and his favorite auteurs. I feel that this is a graceful and dignified gesture of respect and admiration to his influences and inspirations.
But that is where the poetry ends. The rest of the film is--consciously or unconsciously--one dizzying and irritating example after the other, of what a sordid, dysfunctional, contemptible, pampered, unreasonable class of people populate the film industry. From Severine's (Valentina Cortese) inebriated vacuousness, to Alphonse's (Jean-Pierre Leaud) fatuous pitifulness, we are continuously subjected to the kind of melodramatic bullshit that one expects from spoiled children. And what makes this all worse, is the unarguable fact that there is no exaggerating exactly how fucked most of these kind of people are. Despite the harmlessness of Julie's (Jacqueline Bisset) admittedly laughable request for "tub butter," as she balances on the brink of--yet--another emotional collapse (after sleeping with that pitiful dingbat, Alphonse), it still makes a conscious human being want to throw her out of the fucking window. Or at least start looking for the aforementioned cinder blocks. And likewise, when that miserable wretch, Alphonse, finally leaves his room after being--understandably--dumped for the stuntman, and declares that he needs some money for the whorehouse (although that is pretty fucking funny--pitiful, but funny).
In this context, and combined with the myriad of other obstacles and challenges the director faces, it is--indeed--easy to say that La Nuit Americaine is an extremely "romantic" depiction of an artist's struggle to simply finish his film. Which seems fine. Truffaut obviously loved the art of filmmaking, and as I've already stated, I can respect that. Any condemnation I have, does not lie in the accuracy of this film's portrayal, of the formidableness of making a "feature"--I'm sure, that in this respect, the film is dead on. My vehement condemnation and animosity lies with the actual class of human detritus this film portrays. And in this respect, I wouldn't be honest, if I didn't say that Truffaut himself, sounds like he was a little too self-indulgently shrouded in "romantic" subjectivity, if he was indeed confused (actually, his own word was "tormented") about the question: "Is cinema more important than life?" That sounds like the kind of Hollywood director that would spend twice as much time and money making a film about some kind of awful tragedy, than what he would spend in time and money to actually help ameliorate it.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Warning: If easily offended, abandon ship right here...
First of all, and especially compared to Anna Karina, I don't--for the life of me--understand what all of the fascination and obsession with Bridgette Bardot was all about. Granted, I've never found that whole blonde hair/blue eyes idea of beauty very appealing, but besides that, Bardot just seems kind of bland and frumpy. Not to mention, the color in Jean-Luc Godard's, Contempt, makes Bardot's hair look like a shoddy shade of yellow straw, and makes the character Camille look like the kind of girl you'd meet while hanging out in the parking lot of a White Castle restaurant on Gratiot, in an old, teal Dodge/Grand Am with a "princess" sticker on the bumper, in some wretched shithole of a city like Warren or Roseville, smoking joints of brown weed, and slamming cans of warm PBR to old Def Leppard songs.
But enough of all of that foolishness. The reason I'm minoring in film, is to perhaps have the option of teaching it eventually. I want to teach it because I consider the film industry as a whole (despite a few fleeting pockets of creativity and value) to be the biggest, most detrimental, most expensive, most insidious sedative that the American public uses, to ignore the world and country that is falling apart around them. And if I was to teach film, it would give me an opportunity--perhaps--to repeatedly illustrate what a colossal waste of resources, time, and attention it all is, and how some of the most insatiable, venal, contemptible, malignant, terminally narcissistic examples of human detritus walking among us, are inevitably and logically produced by this industry. And if the people ever organize (or are pushed hard enough) to finally have the initiative to fight the class war that some of us have been waiting and preparing for, these film people will be some of the most deserving targets of wrath.
Obviously, the character of Jerry (Jack Palance) in Contempt, is a lucid embodiment of the kind of person I speak of. In all actuality, the character of Jerry would be completely laughable, if not for the disheartening fact that there are plenty of human beings running around that are indeed that fucked. And it really is difficult to overstate how staggeringly fucked some of these people are. Perhaps one subtle example is, when Jerry mentions how he likes Gods, because as he says, he knows "exactly how they feel...exactly." If nothing else, this conveys one particular reason that, when the class war comes, and after twenty-some years of vegetarianism and veganism, the first flesh I will taste, will be the flesh of someone like Jerry (ah, settle down, I'm only half serious).
That's not to say that Paul and Camille aren't both rotten in their own mediocre ways, but their form of wretchedness doesn't exist at the expense of so many other people. Paul and Camille simply illustrate how doomed a relationship between a man and a woman is, when it is bereft of things like honesty, love, trust, faith, commitment, etc. Compared to Jerry's acute level of pure, acrid malignancy, Paul and Camille just kind of seem like your garden-variety, insignificant, bourgeois hyenas--like many of the fatuous, aspiring couples we have running around in our country these days (as our exorbitant amount of divorces attests to).
Yes indeed, the day is coming for the tiny class of human detritus that is embodied in the character of Jerry...
I got something to say
I killed your baby today
And it doesn't matter much to me
As long as it's dead
Well I got something to say
I raped your mother today
And it doesn't matter much to me
As long as she spread
Sweet lovely death
I am waiting for your breath
Come sweet death, one last caress
Last Caress (1982)
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Jean-Luc Godard's disquieting anti-war film, Les Carabiniers, is the bravest film we have seen yet. Vivre sa vie was brave--and honest--but Les Carabiniers is so stark in its condemnation of the waste and destruction of war, and of the vacuous willingness of the common people who are duped into doing the actual fighting, that it is completely surprising that Les Carabiniers was allowed to be released. Especially considering that it was released one year after France's barbaric colonial endeavor in Algeria had failed.
One selfish, personal reason I particularly like this film, is because it is a powerful affirmation of my opinion (expressed in my essay), that any claims that Jacques Demy's fatuous musical, Les parapluies de Cherbourg, is supposed to be some kind of anti-war statement, are unfounded. Les parapluies de Cherbourg's irresponsible dismissal of the atrocities that the French visited upon Algeria, is illuminated when juxtaposed with the blunt, "alienating" (as the truth often is) starkness of Les Carabiniers. Of course it has been said that Demy was not trying to make an anti-war film. But if this is the case, than he did indeed use the Algerian War for nothing more than a peripheral backdrop for the story of two French lovers. Which, considering the malignant intentions of the French in that war, seems as inappropriate as a story about a Nazi romance using World War II as the backdrop.
But I digress. In the character Michelangelo (who I call the village idiot), Godard has embodied every contemptible human trait that makes us, as a species, seem justifiably cursed and doomed. Acute stupidity, terminal gullibility, sleazy and vicious licentiousness, sophomoric insatiability, and a vacuous willingness (and perhaps need) to follow anyone who demands it. The vast and unfortunate ocean of Michelangelos throughout human history, have single-handedly enabled all of the monstrous, malevolent tyrants throughout human history, to commit the seemingly never-ending list of crimes against humanity that plague our history books. As that precious old SOB, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his invaluable essay, Civil Disobedience:
"The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones...such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs."
Or as the blonde, communist girl--that Ulysses and Michelangelo execute in the woods--says about the armies of the capitalists (but which applies to many armies): they act like nothing more than "evil insects," blindly and obediently and mercilessly working away for some queen (or king). Which brings up a point that came up in class. Is Godard necessarily condemning all war, or just when it is in the name of malignant causes like conquest? It is--after all--difficult to condemn war in some instances, such as self-defense, or to rid a country of invaders or conquerors.
In Les Carabiniers, Jean-Luc Godard doesn't really make the distinction though. It seems like an unsettling lament over war in general. All war is indeed unfortunate. But it also seems that war for shameful reasons like conquest, is where the primary condemnation of this film lies. This is conveyed in the film's focus on the futility of acquisition and possession of--among a long list of things--natural wonders, human beings (women), industry, and architecture. These are the kinds of incentive that the riflemen use to convince Michelangelo and Ulysses to fight. If they were fighting for causes as pure and warranted as freedom or independence--like say, what the Algerians were fighting against the French for--than it wouldn't require nearly as much convincing...