October 2019 Capsules

Mahjong
“In ten years, this place will be the center of the world. The future of Western civilization lies right here. And do you know what the odd thing is? We used to study history, the 19th century with the glorious age of imperialism right? Just wait ’till you see the 21st century.”

These words, said in English by an arrogant British industrialist in voiceover towards the close of Mahjong, of course shouldn’t be taken strictly at face value; Yang’s own Yi Yi four years later acts in many ways as a repudiation of a great number of the statements made in this and A Confucian Confusion, effectively the sister film to this. But it acts as a key signifier for Yang’s own intentions: in every work of his save perhaps A Brighter Summer Day, Yang sees the future of Taipei as its past and present, continually reflecting on the former as directly affecting and molding the latter. This is reflected most obviously in the familial relationships, which dominate practically all his films and especially this one, but it reveals itself in so many other ways: the scattered rock memorabilia (especially the Beatles), the past entanglements of multiple characters, and most importantly in language. Here, too, Yang gestures towards the future: Hokkien is phased further out, and English shares center stage with Mandarin. The effect is like a less overtly reflexive version of Mountains May Depart‘s third act: slightly uncanny, immensely focused on the minutiae involved in translation (skewed or otherwise), and eventually incredibly moving. It’s no accident that the two final definitive acts almost eschew language all together: Yang’s cinema is nothing if not at turns impossibly alienated and unbearably intimate, and Mahjong contains both of these impulses at their fullest force.

September 2019 Capsules

Days of Being Wild (rewatch)
Wong’s characters’ obsession with time, which reaches its early peak here, fits so deeply into his overall aesthetic concerns because it’s at once concrete and yet subjective. Unlike a pair of earrings, a car, or a lighter, time isn’t something that can be contained, even by the numerous watches or clocks scattered around the relative ghost town of 1960 Hong Kong. Instead, it floats between them, suffusing the characters and their perceptions. For the male characters, it’s more concrete: Leslie Cheung means it when he says he’ll remember his minute with Maggie Cheung, even if he forgets everything else; Andy Lau’s existence is defined by being on the clock, first in vocation and then in tentative infatuation. For the female characters, it’s something more slippery: a state of constant reverie and remembrance, wondering exactly when their relationships went wrong. But no one can escape their own subjectivity, their own flawed commitments: even Tony Leung’s hustler has to glance at his watch before he brings the lights down.

August 2019 Capsules

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2
Pushes its insistent rhymings with the first film past any reasonable limit: this is no mere referentiality, but conscious inversion and recontextualization from the opening moments, a class-flipped take on the predecessor’s opening scene. That this transpires with the two new main characters, Yeung Yeung and Paul, lends a further unpredictable charge, and a few scenes pass before the original tripartite dynamic is even partially restored — Qi Hong, not coincidentally the most (relatively) stable and committed character of the madcap ensemble, only makes sporadic appearances, which only begin more than twenty minutes in. Instead, the love triangle takes place between the volatile Shen Ran and the two newcomers, yet parallels crop up: Paul spends much of the second half in a soused state heavily reminiscent of Qi Hong in his original state, complete with a penchant for Johnnie Walker; Shen Ran takes Yeung Yeung to the same restaurant where he botched his initial engagement, directly mentioning this fact and prolonging the inevitable conversation until after dessert; Paul cooks seafood for Yeung Yeung in his own relatively humble quarters. “I must have met you before” is said by the new characters multiple times, and in a sense it’s true; by the time the opening is reinvoked once more with Chi Yan sitting on the bus in tears and Shen Ran driving by her in a sports car, the viewer would be forgiven for a strong case of déjà vu.

And yet it feels all so new, or at least cyclical in a way that feels genuine. The economic aspect sets the tone: where the global crash acted as a plot catalyst in the predecessor, here the sudden downturns and upturns feel ultimately immaterial, as of little consequence to the viewer as to the characters, wrapped up as they are in their love affairs. And as lovely as Gao Yuanyuan is once more, and as hard Louis Koo pushes himself (to great and perfectly absurd effect), Miriam Yeung absolutely defines this film. The dichotomy between her severe “queen of the stocks” status and the devil-may-care attitude with which she throws herself into love couldn’t be clearer, and her acceptance of Shen Ran’s proposal halfway through somehow feels both so wrong and so right.

That paradoxical feeling resonates throughout this, a disquietude that intermingles with the euphoria emanating from To’s visual confidence and his ensemble cast’s overflowing charisma. In a sense, this is to be expected: both Chi Yan and Genie, the octopus acting as a feebler but still wonderful stand-in for Froggy, display a consistent sense of “reverse thinking,” predicting the exact wrong thing, which proves great for sports and stocks betting but only muddles the waters further in the games of love. The continual sense of things being not quite right maps onto the sense of entrapment or limbo here, as characters enact the same scenarios over and over. But at the same time there’s such joy, such genuine astonishment on display; the last shot suggests at once infinite heartbreak, bitter defeat, and a feeling that the war is not yet over, and may never be over. In that sense, it’s a perfect sequel, in the sense that it consciously expands the original, inverting and altering it to enrich both parts. It feels so carefully considered, yet so inventive and energetic in the undertaking, that it exists both separately and apart, inextricable and yet fully, gloriously alive.

Asako I & II
Obviously have much, much more to say about this heartstopping masterpiece, but one of the most important aspects seems to be the sudden intrusion of the March 2011 earthquake, only hinted at by iOS designs amid the almost timeless/fantastical quality of the romances. Rather than grounding its surprising, almost radical approach to this odd love triangle, Asako I & II restrains itself to bounding and locating it, all the better to bring forth the flights of fancy. In a film filled to the brim with little details, feelings, and gestures, this act registers as one of the most quietly powerful.

A Confucian Confusion
The pleasures and interests in A Confucian Confusion are perhaps best expressed in two contradictory, yet not necessarily mutually exclusive, statements made less than five minutes apart: the categorization of Taipei as a small town and as a big place. Coupled with the opening statements the unusually direct intertitle (which in itself is counterposed with the elusive, mysterious dialogue snippet intertitles interspersed throughout) calling Taipei one of the wealthiest cities in the world, the impression is one of a space in total flux, befitting a milieu in which everything, no matter how seemingly settled and predestined the existing structures are. As always in Yang, the mercurial and unpredictable flights of human emotion clash with the glass windows and steel buildings: a theater director makes a swerve from postmodern abstraction to comedy, people fall in and out of love with almost alarming regularity, and people decide to seek other forms of employment. Yang, incongruously but perfectly, plays this roundelay of absurdity as farce, but there is a surfeit of scenes pitched at his usual, startling emotional level; if this doesn’t quite aim for a comedy of remarriage, the implications of its overall narrative feel deeply in kinship with his past work, with the comedy tradition, with the state of the modern world.

July 2019 Capsules

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
The genius of Lang lies in his ability to make even the most abstract, most incomprehensible moments totally concrete, representing the total paranoia of a man pursued in a tilt down matched to an oscillating soundscape. Arguably the reveal of the metallic silhouette behind the curtain is already redundant; Mabuse and the figures he possesses have already transcended the normal form, and yet they retain a distinctly material existence: etched scribblings onto paper, a rigged record player, neatly typewritten memoranda. The feeling is of total entrapment, of narrowly escaping one room only to become confined within another; even the thrill of a car chase in the night is subsumed by the rear projection.

The Ultimate Trip [LA FLOR]

“But in that case, the entire magical, mysterious world in which I move would be shattered in a moment. And that’s not possible.”
– Colin, Out 1

“And who is this kind of Sultan who appears to have devoted his life to them?”
– Gatto, La Flor

At first glance, La Flor, Mariano Llinás’ magnum opus created in collaboration with the actresses Pilar Gamboa, Elisa Carricajo, Laura Paredes, and Valeria Correa, lacks the unity —structurally, tonally — that typifies so many of the greatest films of all time. An unashamed anthology film in every way aside from its conception by a single director, it spans no less than six genres/modes of filmmaking across its six episodes; counting the seven fifteen-minute intermissions and a luxurious forty-minute end-credit sequence, it runs 868 minutes (over 14 and a half hours), and takes as its very aim the exploration and co-opting of these disparate forms. Each part has its own flavor — a mummy B-movie, a musical “with a touch of mystery,” a spy movie (which itself spans multiple genres across five hours), an unclassifiable hybrid that piles something like four metafictions upon one another, a reimagining of Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country, and a obscured visualization of an apocryphal text about 19th-century women held captive by Native Americans, respectively – starring the four actresses in all but the fifth episode in wildly varying roles. As might be expected, the process of making this film took ten years, shot episode-by-episode and piecemeal amid other films and across multiple continents. As part of the concept, the first four episodes tell stories that have no endings, the fifth tells a complete story fashioned from a famously unfinished film, and the sixth has an ending but no beginning.

Understandably, a project like this has never been made before, and in many ways it stands alone amongst other films; even something as sprawling as Jacques Rivette’s 13-hour Out 1, one of the films most commonly invoked in connection with this work — which in many (but not all) ways feels like its true spiritual successor — was shot in just six weeks. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a less outwardly focused all-timer: Out 1, for all its extended theatrical rehearsals and narrative digressions, emanates an overwhelming dread and fear in post-’68 Paris; the famously bifurcated shoot of Mulholland Dr. only enhanced the strange seductive pull of that dream factory known as Hollywood. So what makes La Flor the overwhelming, all-encompassing, electrifying masterpiece that it is?

Of course, one must start with the experience — I saw it in the largely de rigeur formulation of three parts, over the weekend that comprised the Locarno in Los Angeles 2019 festival — as with most films past a certain runtime. In a sense, La Flor both initially precludes but eventually invites a sense of complete and total discovery: the genres are laid out in Llinás’s introduction at the start of the film, giving the viewer a general road-map of the destination, complete with the diagram that gives the film its name. However, as with many of the best, most fascinating films, the journey is considerably stranger than initial appearances would suggest. Part of this is due to the slightly outmoded or schlocky nature of the first three genres in the film, especially in the context of world arthouse cinema, which consequently leads to a certain adjustment in expectations regarding rhythm — this is a far cry from slow cinema in every way except temporal duration — and how narratively “conventional” Llinás’s film might end up actually being. As might be expected, however, Llinás’s sensibility, while deeply committed to the intentions of genre in a way that proves vital for the film’s mastery, is too protean to play it all entirely like the films of each genre’s heyday, something which only becomes clearer in the later episodes: the Lewtonian mummy movie is inflected with a Cat People-esque subplot, the mystery mentioned in connection with the musical turns out to be a scientific cabal obsessed with using scorpion venom as a possible elixir for eternal youth, and so on. This approach, of course, is in keeping with Llinás’s previous film from 2008, the great four-hour Historias extraordinarias, which used its starting narratives as a jumping-off point to delve into a whole wealth of perspectives and stories.

What sets La Flor apart, however, is its recognition of the infinite possibilities that come with what might appear to be the rigid framework of genre. For all the invention of Historias extraordinarias — whose general sensibility is reprised multiple times throughout this film, most notably in the second half of episode 4 — it was bound more-or-less to the “real world,” and its concerns were strictly with the recognizable. No such compulsion is present here, and unexpected divergences arise, not just in the macro premise but in the micro: the sudden emergence of a character to the forefront of a narrative, a transformation of a certain group of characters that takes place with little prior warning. More importantly, this conception of a film world as something that is designed to be disrupted accomplishes the rare feat of pairing two distinctly contrasting things — continually upending the viewer’s conception of the world even as they recognize it is a world in which such things can (and logically should happen) — which are both fully thrilling in their own right, but produce an even greater frisson when placed in concert.

It might be useful to invoke Out 1 once more here. While Rivette’s film, certainly has more of an explicitly political bent built into the characters’ (mostly) unspoken reckoning with the current sociopolitical state, it shares that same fundamental mode of exploration. Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Colin and Juliet Berto’s Frédérique are perhaps the most visible instigators, and their investigative presence is echoed at various points in La Flor, most notably with Casterman in episode 3 and Gatto in episode 4. But to suggest that the other characters involved aren’t attempting a similar form of exploration would be inaccurate; in many ways such exploration is the attempt to make sense of their world, whether in an intellectual, artistic, or other such pursuit. Thus, the extended theatrical exercises explore both in a literal sense for the viewer, testing — pleasurably for some including myself, negatively for many others — the bounds of duration and observation, and in a more ideological sense, with each motion conjuring its own strange reflection and inflection.

As it is for one masterpiece, so it is for the other. The creative relationship that eventually created La Flor stemmed from Llinás attending a play in 2006 put on by Gamboa, Carricajo, Paredes, and Correa as part of their theater troupe Piel de Lava (which is still operating today). Inspired by the quintet’s shared love for fiction in almost primoridial form, Llinás’s intention was, according to his Cinema Scope interview with Jordan Cronk, to “make pictures with them a genre in itself. So that’s when I had the idea to make one picture that would be all the pictures — every picture.”

Despite these origins, La Flor conspicuously eschews the overtly theatrical moments of Out 1 — which, among other things, is driven by a bevy of similarly transcendent performances, although they stem from multiple traditions including cinema (Léaud) and theater and involve a larger, more consistently characterized cast — or the Shakespeare-riffing oeuvre of Llinás’s compatriot Matías Piñeiro, who (along with nearly every figure in Argentine cinema) helped out on the film and whose films have featured Paredes and Carricajo. Instead, Llinás’s concerns appear to remain consistently cinematic; though certain other artistic traditions are invoked like the music industry in episode 2, and he himself describes a strong affinity with painting, such influences are inherently associated with the artifice that the cinematic apparatus provides.

This extends to Llinás’s visual schema, which favors extreme close-ups in shallow focus, frequently abstracting the background, both items and faces, into a textured blur. This approach, which remains more-or-less constant for at least the first three episodes, and opens up only slightly in the rest of the film, was adopted in large part due to the limited budget, offering the potential for suggesting things like killer cats, explosions, and the like. But it also feels truly indicative of the sense of exploration involved in the film; the rack focus is the most obvious element, holding on a solitary face in the very immediate foreground for an unconventionally long time before shifting to the background to allow the viewer, previously waiting in anticipation, to see the reaction. At every single juncture, the viewer is invited in to participate in this strange and long endeavor, to piece together both the moment-and-moment interplay and the larger connections that La Flor weaves.

This expansive view translates to the film, which both pushes boundaries and consciously returns to past “outdated” forms, exploring both the concrete past and ephemeral future of cinema. That the central actresses had little cinematic experience (Llinás: “most of them had not even shot one picture. So we had to make their career. This picture would be their career. You’ve seen their lives, and through these images you now understand their process.”) only furthers this sense of a past (invoked in the long-standing collaboration the actresses had) and future (the episodes that these women and Llinás will continue to make, and which the viewer knows are to come) existing simultaneously.

Even the actual text of the film bears this out: in episode 3, each of the four women’s characters gets her own “origin” story. Though they all end up as spies, their narratives leading up to the point when the viewer first meets them differ drastically in both narrative and generic treatment: Gamboa’s is a traditional spy plot, complete with double and triple-agents; Correa’s is a South American revolutionary legend; Paredes’ is one of doomed, unspoken attraction between two assassins, and incidentally one of the best love stories I’ve ever seen; and Carricajo’s is an arduous mole hunt through Siberia. Each of them is brought to embody the force of these genres, and in placing them as part of the same group synthesizes them into a heterogenous blend; as with the episodes, the individual stories fascinate and move, but their impact is exponential when placed together. One of the many unspoken arguments brought forth by La Flor, and one of the most moving, is that each of these modes, whether it be a B-movie or a remake of one of the most iconic films by one of the greatest directors, has its place and should be recognized for its genuine worth in the cinema.

For this reason, though it is certainly possible to do so, it seems unwise to watch any of these in total isolation. Their cumulative impact operates on an emotional level, whether it comes in the levity of the first scene in episode 4, where the actresses (playing a version of themselves) openly bemoan the French dialogue they had to speak in the previous episode (both in La Flor and in La Araña, the film within the film) or in the genuine appreciation of Llinás’s personal appearances, as he thanks the audience for their patience in watching his film. Perhaps most open-hearted of all is the final passage of episode 4, where the four actresses appear by themselves amid nature. Scored to the second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, it is no simple portraiture: each of them are obscured in some way, whether it be by their distance from the camera, their facing away from it, or the foliage in the way. It is, like many of the greatest moments in the film, revealing, mysterious, slightly embarrassing, and transcendent all at once. This, perhaps, is the greatest achievement of La Flor: a 14-hour film that lacks any trace of insincerity, pompousness, or bloat, instead emerging in every single moment as a monument to a vision and to four immensely talented actresses. May it last forever.

June 2019 Capsules

Blue Velvet (rewatch)
One of the keys to Blue Velvet is that, at least in the heightened collection of Americana that is Lumberton, Jeffrey is closer to a bad boy than when viewed from the vantage point of 1986 (or now). The earring is of course the tell-tale sign, but it is evident throughout: the slight unrecollection of Detective Williams, the appellation of “Ivy League” from Sandy’s jilted boyfriend, the approving comments of the high school girls. Lynch’s vision is less of total innocence corrupted and only partially restored than the exposure of that which was hidden in plain sight — like an ear only uncovered when searching for rocks to lob at a beer bottle in a fit of stifled discouragement. Sandy is the innocent (and luminous), but Jeffrey is something more undefinable and complex: the boy investigator, the lover of mysteries both benign and seductive, the detective *and* the pervert.

The Awful Truth
There are far too many standout scenes in this staggering masterwork, but perhaps one of the most representative of The Awful Truth‘s genius is one of its most seemingly direct, with its central couple and their farcical paramours (one of whom, Dixie Belle, holds this as her only scene in the film) together in a club. In purely narrative terms, this scene’s utility is to provide the inspiration for Lucy’s “drunken” performance near the end of the film, but it possesses a dynamic that speaks to the ensuing hijinks within the scene and through the rest of the film. McCarey isn’t necessarily subtle with how he conveys the prevailing relationships, but it remains both effective and hilarious: through much of the scene, the divorcing Jerry and Lucy are captured in a two-shot, while Leeson and Dixie Belle are shunted off into their own separate singles, a decision that enhances the spouses’ connection by way of discomfort at their present states.

In the spirit of the film, this initial situation is spun out further, with not one but two full performances. Jerry is in many ways the figure in charge here, remaining as the spectator, but just as important is the genuine sense of glee on Leeson’s face, the shameless committment of Dixie Belle, the sheepish embarassment of Lucy. And one of the film’s finest bits of subtlety is here, as Jerry moves seats, first to the space vacated by Dixie Belle, and then to Leeson’s. It is a mastery of space, an assertion of dominance, which plugs directly into the tug-of-war at The Awful Truth‘s core, and that he does it with a full grin makes it all the more pleasurable.

13th (1975): “Celluloid Guerillas” Show Notes

Table of Contents: Description, Corrections/Clarifications, Housekeeping, General, Main Slate, Ephemera, Recurring Directors, Recurring Countries, One-Time Directors, Debuts/Final Features, Festivals/Oscar Nominees, Shorts, Discussions By Length, Specifications

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Description
The thirteenth episode of the Catalyst and Witness podcast, devoted to exploring the films and format of the New York Film Festival, hosted by Ryan Swen and Dan Molloy. This covers the thirteenth edition of the festival in 1975, and features special guest Alyssa Heflin, George Eastman Museum film preservation graduate student and cinephile.

0:00-23:22 – Opening
23:23-1:30:07 – Part One [Conversation Piece to F for Fake]
1:30:08-2:20:05 – Part Two [The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser to Xala]
2:20:06-3:03:28 – Part Three [The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum to Compañero: Victor Jara of Chile]
3:03:29-3:49:41 – Part Four [Exhibition to The Story of Adèle H.]
3:49:42-3:57:22 – Closing

Corrections/Clarifications

  • N/A

Housekeeping

  • Hosted by Dan Molloy & Ryan Swen
  • Special Guest Alyssa Heflin
  • Conceived and Edited by Ryan Swen
  • Recorded in Los Angeles and Rochester on Zoom H4N and Sennheiser Microphones and MacBook GarageBand, Edited in Audacity
  • Podcast photograph from Yi Yi, Logo designed by Dan Molloy
  • Poster by Carol Summers
  • Recorded April 7, 2019
  • Released April 30, 2019
  • Music (in order of appearance):
    • Conversation Piece (opening night)
    • Fox and His Friends (another favorite)
    • F for Fake (favorite of the first section)
    • Xala (favorite of the second section)
    • Moses und Aron (favorite of the third section)
    • India Song (favorite of the fourth section)
    • The Story of Adlèle H. (closing night)

General

  • Selection Committee: Richard Roud (program director), Richard Corliss, Roger Greenspun, Arthur Knight, Arthur L. Mayer, Charles Michener, Susan Sontag, Henri Langlois (retrospective consultant)
  • Location: Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall
  • Prices: 2, 2.50, 3.50, 5; for opening and closing night 4, 5, 7, 10
  • Films seen for the podcast:
    • Ryan
      • Seen before podcast watching period: F for Fake, Xala
      • Seen for the podcast: All available except Milestones; all rewatched
      • Favorite films: India Song, Moses und Aron, F for Fake, La Chienne, Fox and His Friends
      • Least favorite films: Black Moon, Compañero, Autobiography of a Princess
      • Rewatch Round-Up: Muriel, or the Time of Return (1st)
    • Dan
      • Seen before podcast watching period: La Chienne, Grey Gardens, F for Fake, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Xala
      • Seen for the podcast: All available except Autobiography of a Princess, Compañero; F for Fake rewatched
      • Favorite films: F for Fake, India Song, Fox and His Friends, Moses und Aron, La Chienne, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, The Story of Adèle H.
      • Least favorite films: Black Moon, Conversation Piece, Hearts of the West
      • Catch-Up Corner: Even Dwarfs Started Small (8th)
    • Alyssa
      • Seen before podcast watching period: Fox and His Friends, F for Fake
      • Seen for the podcast: All available except Compañero; F for Fake rewatched
      • Favorite films: F for Fake, Fox and His Friends, India Song, Xala, The Story of Adele H.
      • Least favorite films: Black Moon, Hearts of the West, Autobiography of a Princess
  • Discoveries of the festival: India Song, Smile
  • Unavailable films: Exhibition, French Provincial

Main Slate

Opening Night: Conversation Piece [Gruppo di famiglia in un interno/Family Group in an Interior] (1974, Luchino Visconti)
September 26, 9:00 {Avery Fisher Hall}
Released 1977
Retrospective: La Chienne [The Bitch] (1931, Jean Renoir)
September 27, 3:00
Released 1976
Fox and His Friends [Faustrecht der Freiheit/Fist-Right of Freedom] (1975, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
September 27, 6:00
Released 1976
Grey Gardens (1975, Albert Maysles & David Maysles & Ellen Hovde & Muffie Meyer)
September 28, 3:00
Released 1976
F for Fake (1973, Orson Welles)
September 28, 6:00
Released 1977
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser [Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle/Every Man for Himself and God Against All] (1974, Werner Herzog)
September 28, 9:00
Released 1975
Electra, My Love [Szerelmem, Elektra] (1974, Miklós Jancsó)
September 30, 6:15
Never released
Black Moon (1975, Louis Malle)
September 30, 9:30
Released 1975
The Wonderful Crook [Pas si méchant que ça/Not So Bad] (1975, Claude Goretta)
October 1, 6:15
Released 1977
Xala [Impotence] (1975, Ousmane Sembène)
October 1, 9:30
Released 1975
The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum [Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann/The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead] (1975, Volker Schlöndorff & Margarethe von Trotta)
October 3, 6:15
Released 1975
Hearts of the West (1975, Howard Zieff)
October 4, 9:00
Released 1975
Moses und Aron [Moses and Aaron] (1975, Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet)
October 5, 3:00
Released 1975
Autobiography of a Princess (1975, James Ivory)
And: Compañero: Victor Jara of Chile (1975, Stanley Forman & Martin Smith)
October 5, 6:00
Never released/Never released
Exhibition (1975, Jean-François Davy)
October 5, 9:00
Released 1975
India Song (1975, Marguerite Duras)
October 8, 6:15
Released 1981
Milestones (1975, Robert Kramer & John Douglas)
October 8, 9:30
Released 1975
Smile (1975, Michael Ritchie)
October 9, 6:15
Released 1975
French Provincial [Souvenirs d’en France/Memories of France] (1975, André Téchiné)
October 9, 9:30
Released 1976
Closing Night: The Story of Adèle H. [L’Histoire d’Adèle H.] (1975, François Truffaut)
October 12, 8:30 {Avery Fisher Hall}
Released 1975

Ephemera

  • A series of directors’ symposia (unscheduled)

Recurring Directors
Key: films in this iteration excluding shorts/omnibus/retrospectives, films in this iteration including, films in the festival up to this point excluding, films up to this point including, number of gala spots (when applicable), number of festivals with more than one film shown (when applicable); † indicates their last appearance, fraction in parentheses indicates number of features shown from oeuvre, features released in the eligible timeframe, features in oeuvre

  • Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet: 1/1/5/6/0/1
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder: 1/1/5/5
  • Werner Herzog: 1/1/5/5
  • Miklós Jancsó: 1/1/5/5
  • François Truffaut: 1/1/4/4/3
  • Marguerite Duras: 1/1/4/4
  • Louis Malle: 1/1/3/3/1
  • Luchino Visconti: 1/1/2/2/1
  • James Ivory: 1/1/2/2
  • Volker Schlöndorff: 1/1/2/2†(2/22/22)
  • Ousmane Sembène: 1/1/2/2
  • Orson Welles: 1/1/2/2†(2/5/14)
  • Albert Maysles: 1/1/1/2
  • David Maysles: 1/1/1/2†(2/8/8)
  • Claude Goretta: 1/1/1/1
  • André Téchiné: 1/1/1/1
  • Jean Renoir: 0/1/0/3

Recurring Countries
Key: films in this iteration excluding shorts/retrospectives, films in this iteration including, films in the festival up to this point excluding, films up to this point including, number of gala spots (when applicable)

  • France: 6/7/81/97/11
  • USA: 4/4/39/52/2
  • West Germany: 4/4/19/20
  • UK: 2/2/19/21/1
  • Italy: 1/1/30/34/3
  • Hungary: 1/1/8/8
  • Switzerland: 1/1/3/3
  • Senegal: 1/1/2/2

One-Time Directors

  • Jean-François Davy
  • Stanley Forman & Martin Smith
  • Ellen Hovde & Muffie Meyer
  • Robert Kramer & John Douglas
  • Michael Ritchie
  • Margarethe von Trotta
  • Howard Zieff

Feature Debuts

  • Stanley Forman & Martin Smith
  • Ellen Hovde & Muffie Meyer
  • Margarethe von Trotta

Final Features

  • John Douglas
  • Stanley Forman & Martin Smith

Festivals

  • NYFF World Premiere
    • Autobiography of a Princess (?)
    • Compañero: Victor Jara of Chile (?)
    • Grey Gardens
    • Hearts of the West
    • The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
  • Cannes
    • The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Grand Prix, FIPRESCI, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury)
    • Electra, My Love
    • India Song (Out of Competition)
    • Fox and His Friends (Directors’ Fortnight)
    • French Provincial (Directors’ Fortnight)
    • Milestones (Directors’ Fortnight)
  • Other
    • F for Fake (San Sebastian)
    • Moses and Aaron (Rotterdam)
    • The Wonderful Crook (Locarno)
    • Xala (Moscow)
  • N/A
    • Black Moon
    • La Chienne
    • Conversation Piece
    • Exhibition
    • Smile
    • The Story of Adèle H.

Oscar Nominees

  • The Story of Adèle H.: Best Actress

Shorts

shorts

Discussions By Length (Approximate)

  • 16:10 F for Fake (1:13:57-1:30:07)
  • 14:42 India Song (3:06:30-3:21:12)
  • 14:39 Fox and His Friends (48:07-1:02:46)
  • 13:27 Moses und Aron (2:39:45-2:53:12)
  • 13:13 Black Moon (1:48:51-2:02:04)
  • 12:21 Conversation Piece (24:21-36:42)
  • 11:23 La Chienne (36:43-48:06)
  • 11:09 Grey Gardens (1:02:47-1:13:56)
  • 10:43 Smile (3:28:05-3:38:48)
  • 10:13 The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1:31:06-1:41:19)
  • 10:01 The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (2:21:06-2:31:07)
  • 9:48 The Story of Adèle H. (3:39:53-3:49:41)
  • 9:37 Xala (2:10:28-2:20:05)
  • 8:36 Hearts of the West (2:31:08-2:39:44)
  • 8:22 The Wonderful Crook (2:02:05-2:10:27)
  • 7:30 Electra, My Love (1:41:20-1:48:50)
  • 6:51 Milestones (3:21:13-3:28:04)
  • 6:03 Autobiography of a Princess (2:53:13-2:59:16)
  • 4:11 Compañero: Victor Jara of Chile [One Person] (2:59:17-3:03:28)
  • 1:53 Exhibition [Unavailable] (3:04:36-3:06:29)
  • 1:03 French Provincial [Unavailable] (3:38:49-3:39:52)

Specifications

  • Luchino Visconti, Gruppo di famiglia in un interno, 1974, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 121 minutes, 2.35:1, Italian, Italy.
  • Jean Renoir, La Chienne, 1931, 35 mm, black-and-white, mono sound, 91 minutes, 1.20:1, French, France.
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Faustrecht der Freiheit, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 124 minutes, 1.37:1, German, West Germany.
  • Albert Maysles & David Maysles & Ellen Hovde & Muffie Meyer, Grey Gardens, 1975, 16 mm, color, mono sound, 94 minutes, 1.37:1, English, USA.
  • Orson Welles, F for Fake, 1973, 35 mm and 16 mm, color, mono sound, 88 minutes, 1.66:1, English, France.
  • Werner Herzog, Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle, 1974, 35 mm and 8 mm, color, mono sound, 110 minutes, 1.66:1, German, West Germany.
  • Miklós Jancsó, Szerelmem, Elektra, 1974, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 70 minutes, 1.66:1, Hungarian, Hungary.
  • Louis Malle, Black Moon, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 100 minutes, 1.66:1, English, France.
  • Claude Goretta, Pas si méchant que ça, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 112 minutes, 1.66:1, French, France.
  • Ousmane Sembène, Xala, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 123 minutes, 1.66:1, Wolof and French, Senegal.
  • Volker Schlöndorff & Margarethe von Trotta, Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann, 1975, 35 mm, color and black-and-white, mono sound, 106 minutes, 1.66:1, German, West Germany.
  • Howard Zieff, Hearts of the West, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 102 minutes, 1.85:1, English, USA.
  • Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, Moses und Aron, 1975, 35 mm and 16 mm, color, mono sound, 107 minutes, 1.37:1, German, West Germany.
  • James Ivory, Autobiography of a Princess, 1975, 16 mm, color, mono sound, 59 minutes, 1.37:1, English, UK.
  • Stanley Forman & Martin Smith, Compañero: Victor Jara of Chile, 1975, 16 mm, color, mono sound, 58 minutes, 1.37:1, English, UK.
  • Jean-François Davy, Exhibition, 1975, 16 mm, color, mono sound, 110 minutes, 1.37:1, French, France.
  • Marguerite Duras, India Song, 1975, 16 mm, color, mono sound, 120 minutes, 1.37:1, French, France.
  • Robert Kramer & John Douglas, Milestones, 1975, 16 mm, color, mono sound, 195 minutes, 1.37:1, English, USA.
  • Michael Ritchie, Smile, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 113 minutes, 1.85:1, English, USA.
  • André Téchiné, Souvenirs d’en France, 1975, 35 mm, color, mono sound, 90 minutes, 1.66:1, French, France.
  • François Truffaut, L’Histoire d’Adèle H., 1975, 35 mm, color and black-and-white, mono sound, 96 minutes, 1.66:1, French and English, France.

2019 Reading Log

1. Augustus (1972, John Williams): 12/23/18-4/21/19 (on-off)
In a certain sense I don’t know if I’m entirely fit to form any coherent thoughts on this monumental work, considering my prolonged and very scattered engagement with it. But it seems fitting, in a certain way: it is a book of transience, looking backwards at memories only mostly remembered, even as those who bear witness to history pass before their time. The years pass, only highlighted truly by the denotations in the headings, and the voices thin one by one until the subject himself speaks, and his own voice is as distinguished yet as fundamentally poetic as the rest. A fitting final work, then, encompassing a life and a nation with unimaginable grace.

2. The Savage Detectives (1998, Roberto Bolaño): 4/22/19-6/23/19
It’s an understatement to say that this permeated and swirled around in my consciousness for the two months I read it, and probably will for a good long while after. Finishing it at around the same time as my experience with La Flor, a work of comparable scope and artistic lineage, if not ultimate intention, does certainly color it, but in many ways this colossal work seems even more mysterious than when I first started it. The structure certainly points to a fundamental aimlessness, when a person becomes further unmoored from an already rootless existence, as the regimented structure of the days disappear and a testimony can be split into many parts and take place over the course of a single night or decades. In a sense, this almost combines the intentions of the previous two books I’ve read (Invisible Cities and Augustus) and transforms them, anchoring itself in a time, space, and movement simultaneously real and imaginary. But the anxieties, the raucousness, the desperation are all too real; what truly punctures is not just the two (or three) lost souls at its center, but the fates of so many characters that feel just as key as the rest. Whether ending up dead or cocooned within a life far less radical (for good or ill), no one can escape the progression of time, the march of the decades. When your goal is unexpectedly fulfilled with little fanfare, where can you go, what can you do?

3. Three to Kill (1976, Jean-Patrick Manchette): 6/23/19-6/24/19
Didn’t necessarily expect the political edge to this, which becomes an inflection through the course of the narrative but rears its head at unexpected moments, but it pairs perfectly with the ruthless cool of this, the loving detail given to the process by which men engage in vicious exchanges. Like many of the great artists, and like his central character, Manchette’s facility with time is extremely adaptable, and his chapter structure bears this out: the longest chapters both feature spans of long months and the course of a night, and sometimes they last less than two pages, all the better to convey the clipped yet melodic nature of his prose. Calling this bloodless wouldn’t be correct, but a steeliness emanates off of every sentence, a total confidence that thrills.

4. Transit (1944, Anna Seghers): 6/25/19-8/8/19
Can’t help but ultimately compare this to Christian Petzold’s masterful film, which pares down and refines the surprising multitude of elements to this sobering and deeply involved book. Its greatness is of a sort very different (and not quite as appealing) from the film, delving deep into its nameless protagonist’s mindset, which veers from callous to obsessed in a manner that ultimately feels consistent and deeply revealing of the very whims that govern the murmuring masses whose fates are decided by scraps of paper. The emotions may be somewhat more tricky to get into, particularly in terms of the circling nature of this book, with Seghers seeming as interested in the disparate side characters as in her central dynamics, but as little moments emerge, as more and more is spoken and unspoken, something of no small power does ultimately emerge.

5. Cathedral (1983, Raymond Carver): 8/9/19-8/17/19
Can’t speak to how this compares to the average short story collection, but there’s such an immense unity to these, each existing in their own orbit but sharing a careful and rigorous attention to suburban anxieties. Without sacrificing the overall air of memory and recollection, Carver’s mode always shifts, especially in when he chooses when to narrate from his main character’s point of view or not; “A Small, Good Thing” is the natural pinnacle and centerpiece of this, fluidly shifting between husband and wife before reorienting suddenly in the last few pages. And of course, the title story is a perfect capper, an immense tribute to art and empathy as prickly and complex as it is moving.

6. The Unknown Masterpiece (1831, Honoré de Balzac): 8/18/19-9/6/19
Though the title story is the greater of the two, the significant presence of “Gambara”, both physically (taking up two-thirds of the NYRB book) and aesthetically, certainly shouldn’t be discounted. The two are both concerned with the undoing or misapprehension of genius, and in a way act as foils for each other. Both share in common what appears to be Balzac’s penchant for long monologues, frequently filled with extensive technical discussions of art, and the actual narratives are relatively brief. However, “The Unknown Masterpiece” feels far more deliberately spare in a way that suits it: taking place over no more than three days (though perhaps separated by a longer span), only involving a few characters, and surrounding a single deliberately withheld artwork; furthermore, all of these characters are (as per the introduction) master painters in their own right at different stages in their careers, and thus share a certain commonality. On the other hand, “Gambara” is almost maximal in comparison; the cast of characters is only slightly larger, but the eponymous character is deliberately isolated, with Balzac frequently negotiating a strange balance in depicting him that never fully coheres, and the logorrheic stretches of musical discourse and description both act as a brilliant replication of time and an only partially successful substitute for the actual experience of listening. Both are perhaps overly invested in a sense of aesthetic purity, but in a way this is fitting; without it, the notion of mastery found and lost would be even harder to evoke.

7. The Mad and the Bad (1972, Jean-Patrick Manchette): 9/7/19-9/14/19
Moves incredibly easily from the carefully manicured and managed world of comfortable living — punctuated by Peter’s violent outburst — to stretches of ultraviolence. Like in Three to Kill, Manchette emphasizes the transformation of the main character into something close to a hardened killer, but it’s complicated here by her past in the asylum, which makes her a less easily readable character (largely) for the better. It seems only fitting that a department store and a labyrinth complete with a room for a giant form the spaces for the grand setpieces of this book: the specter of capitalism and greed looms over this, something which the ending note only throws into stark, gleefully cynical relief.

8. Notes on the Cinematograph (1975, Robert Bresson): 9/15/19
Though the specific qualities that make this such a staggering work are by no means absent from the realm of film writing or criticism, there’s something that feels firmly literary about Bresson’s extensive (yet slim) series of aphorisms. Like in his films, there exists a delicate balance between words, between phrases (and the ideas they suggest), between the arrangement of phrases that gives this its power, continually emphasizing his central filmmaking edicts while suggesting much more. Unnamed films, many composers and thinkers, and the occasional direct command tantalize and set the mind ablaze, all while the central integrity of the book remains steadfast. Amazing because of its stark brevity, not in spite of it.

March 2019 Capsules

Transit
The central conceit, of an environment where the anachronistic elements are essential to the frissons of the whole endeavor, is brilliant, but even more impressive might be Petzold’s restraint and careful deployment. Transit never comes off as overbearing in this — or indeed any — regard: there are no intrusions of technologies that could not have been replicated in the 1940s. The effect is so much richer in this withholding; because the situation is so carefully etched and the stakes so closely tied to a specific time, one can very easily forget the present-tense trappings. But when a modern car trundles into view, or a soldier in an American uniform and an assault rifle stands guard, the effect is continually vivid and bracing, never unsurprising, but never *just* a reminder that what is past is present.

A telling sign, and just one of many moments that shows that Petzold completely understands what he’s accomplishing: Georg lights his cigarettes with matches, not a lighter.

Last Year at Marienbad (rewatch)
As much as any one of the elements in Last Year at Marienbad, Resnais understands the inherent uneasiness and ethereality of his constantly moving camera. It glides past people, emphasizing the spaces around the figures rather than the statuesque forms themselves. In many senses, the people are nigh indistinguishable from the background themselves, and yet to say that Resnais gives them no inner life would be wholly inaccurate. The snatches of conversation, the particular glances or looks that they have on their faces, suggests the possibility of infinite stories, even past the multiple manifestations of the central relationships. It is a limitless film, consisting of hallways and memories leading to everywhere and nowhere.

February 2019 Capsules

Céline and Julie Go Boating
Perhaps the most elegant metaphor for cinema ever devised, and crucially Céline and Julie Go Boating lacks a *visible* camera (which would localize its aesthetic concerns too thoroughly); Rivette’s supreme intelligence is such that theater and cinema, to an even greater extent than in his past films, mesh through his deftness of both staging and editing, as each new shot choice or repetition creates its own associations. Plus, what image of a moviegoer is more relatable than the two women staring slack-jawed at the screen, occasionally giggling or gasping in disbelief?

Blackhat [rewatch, first time director’s cut]
Impossible to state how much the inclusion of the ship denied harbor by the effect of the rising soy prices does to establish the world in which Blackhat moves: it is one set by nebulous rules and regulations, where the fate of innumerable people can be turned by the whims of a ghost in the machine.

Only a ghost can kill another ghost.