cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM GODARD A Man, A Woman and a Dog





FILM GODARD Au Adieu au Langage [iPhone]
{1}




Godard has a new film out. And he’s keen/anxious to talk about it, film ‘n stuff.

A few people have seen it, writing and talking about it at great length so spoiling it for everyone else who might have wanted to see it without the comments and interpretations of the expertigensia ringing in their ears, at what you now know are salient or significant points in the film [or the homage points, say, to his own films or film in general] which you’d hope to enjoy, be puzzled or exasperated by at your own pace.

Thank God (the one without the full stop or as the French call it, point, a word J-LG could have a field day with…). I made sure I did not read a lot before watching The Great Beauty. And then when I had seen it, I desisted from even translating the title into Italian or even mentioning that the phrase had been used by a character in the film in a certain way. See, there I’ve done it now. Now you will be on the look out for it, even though there has been no indication why this might have some significance.

One reads the contents of one’s mind before seeing a film, in anticipation of it, which in itself may spoil a film. Book, art, play, film. A filmic or booky equivalent, shall we say analogy, to phenomenological bracketing or epoché is impossible. I’ve already remarked in a recent post that as soon as I saw the poster for The Great Beauty, I knew [as would literally millions of others..] where we were coming from, though not necessarily where we were going to. Eric Morecambe’s famous riposte [applicable to almost anything, like the Actress & the Bishop jokes] to Andre Preview on his, Eric’s, terrible rendition of – was it Grieg’s piano concerto? – “I’m playing the RIGHT notes, but not necessarily in the RIGHT order!” always flings itself up from the recesses of my mind like the lyrics to an incomprehensible ’60s songs like the one by Noel Thingy called The Windmills of My Mind.

Why it is that I think of J-L Godard as the archetype (or prototype) of the incredibly difficult (but obviously highly intelligent) au contrarian conversationalist in any setting – uncle [ton ton] J-J at a family wedding or diner party, seated next to you in aircraft, etc. – who somehow manages to create the immediate suspicion he may well be mad, or temporally cured and released from some sort of mental institution (the old jackets…), yet, underneath the frightening persona, has something interesting to say which holds you there despite your inclination to run.

Really mad people we seem to have an instinct for as we have so much experience of them in everyday life. Like films we have seen too much about before watching them, Jean-Luc Godard comes with such a pedigree, a provenance, we are comfortable in the paradoxical nature of many of his pronouncements. Expect them even. Be lost without them, possibly. We know he, like a lunatic, assumes you know he is God [when it comes to film]. If you do, as he knows he is and you do, then all is simple.

The reviews on Adieu au Langage were not out when I was passed by Glen W. Norton, via a Godard forum, the link to the Canon video interview avec Godard with English subtitles

(…a classic God[.] subtitles joke in there not created by God[.] himself. Qua? Comment? These are accurate subtitles while his are notably unreliable.)

The areas I forced myself to listen to, while going Ni Ni Na Na with hands over my ears [mostly], were the technical ones. And this is reflected in graphics included in the post. Let’s try to grasp (as it is obviously important) why he at one and the same time decries technological advances and at the same time adopts them with alacrity. Except that is, in the case of editing (See relevant tab on the canon interview page) where he it is explained there – something know amongst God[.] watchers – he uses magnetic video tape to edit with, thus getting his technical collaborators who have filmed digitally to make video tapes for him to edit. The amusing thing is he’s renowned as an expert in editing with tape to an extent that makes many scratch their heads at his ingenuity.

I use this digital-magnetic example as a route into the mind of Jean-Luc Godard, in a sense prior to any messages he may be sending to his avid (an even not so enthusiastic) followers about life in general and of course the art of cinema, and Art.

While he argues here about his latest film that 3D is a FWOT

(Along the lines of, “It is useless! We see no more with it than before..” All true of course.)

he still uses it (At least twice so far..). And presumably this is a way of saying something. Well of course it is. And here is where we get to the crusty old uncle who frightens the sh** out of you, who blows cigar smoke into your face, and yet who let’s drop those few words which catch your interest. Words you know are true like you know a word of art by a master is true without being quite sure how to explain it.

With Godard it is for me when he talks of art. If you knew nothing about Godard the film genius and heard him talking of art in relation to all sorts of things, you will be gaining an experience of the mind of a man who has thought very deeply about his art and craft, film. Filmmakers who talk photography are in the same area. Even the knowledge that a film-maker was formerly a photographer says a lot.

The one who now always comes to my mind, when film and photography are mentioned in the same sentence, or should we even say thought in the same thought, is Nuri Bilge Ceylan. And if I may take a God[.]-like excursion down an dark alley which neither you the reader nor I may quite know is a dead-end or not – as this post is as ex-tempore as you are likely to get in postdom – Ceylan, has used severally the trope of bloke-wandering-around-ancient-site-with-camera-ignoring-and-annoying-girlfriend trope.

With Godard we have to understand that every film is the same film because he is trying to get over the same God[no .]-like message about how he as God [with or without .] can use film to get over his agendas [or not]. And so could everyone else to humanity’s general betterment, if they only had the brains and foresight to see. He like many good or even great film directors [even nerdy-looking baseball cap wearing ones..] is steeped in film from the year dot. And he evokes the complete history of film almost in every quakey sentence he utters. It’s always, “What is film?”. And of course, “What can it do and not do?” He seems to be saying all the time, “Film can’t do/isn’t doing so many things that people dreamed it might do.” And that’s because they don’t understand it well enough to see its talents.

Godard’s “cinema is dead” or “It is now!” [UK football ref there you no UK people..], or “Well, I thought it was then but it really is now” can confuse people. But it’s simple. He believed like Eisenstein that film was purely for political ends. The montage was the method. The Way, The Truth and The Light.

And so fast forward to a film like Adieu au Langage [3D]. Just like me with my immediate and deep apprehension of the depth of Italian cinema through a balding man sitting on a classy bench with shades that look suspiciously like the Ray-bans Marcello Mastroianni wore in 8 1/2, we should get the fact that every time Godard speaks on film (and life) he is thinking of how film failed. He may talk enthusiastically and yet mockingly or ironically about advanced technology, but you know he is still trying to get there, by any means at his disposal.

And all the time, he is still using the same film-text-film-text-text-film-film he developed from his earliest films. At one point in my Godard journey, I felt sure he was saying film could not replace writing and so his films had to constantly show this to be true. For the audience this can be both irksome and difficult. A major facet of this is his voice and text overs are in French. Unless French is your first language or a good second, his efforts to overlap three things at once are pretty much wasted on you, as an immediate effect.

If this all seems a bit too arcane and you have not got to Histoire[s] du Cinema (and perhaps never will) try reading Celine Scamma’s schema for Histoire[s] – a blog search in COTA will get you there.

And finally, as The Two Ronnie would say, there is that thing about Godard and his unreliable subtitling. Apogee: Film Socialism. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but I sense he is saying that you can’t translate poetry into another language without destroying or partially destroying its original meaning. Which is true. Godel, Escher Bach, for some ideas and background. And he quotes poetry a lot in his films. As well as showing and talking about art.

And so for film. The very act of trying to make a film helps to remove your original intention (He seems to be saying..amongst many other things). If you just use film. So he, wanting to be sure of getting over whatever message he intends, falls back on words in films as text and commentary (plus the obligatory art),which in itself is an essay on the limits of film. Or the dialectic between The Word and The Film. (Being some kind of Marxist, he would want to show that dialectic is real moving things forward).

And so (and here back to latest interviews) he feels he can’t say directly (and never could or would) simply, in words, what he wants to say about film. This is both because it dishonours film (and maybe dispels some of its magic and mystic) and because he doesn’t want to make the whole thing seem simpler than it is. Instead he picks up on small points (in the Canon interview he starts with SMS, the modern, the dubious) from which to expand (why not start anywhere?) outwards and back inwards at the same time, to the core of what he sees film is and can do. And of course what life (using an iPhone) is and can mean (film your day he suggests..). That goes without saying. Though, like God[.], I’ve said it to make sure you don’t miss it.



Other

With Canon interview spoiler…

1/. Godard comes in many shapes and sizes
– He briefly reprised his views on aspect ration with Gallic hand gestures demonstrating the cutting off of the upper part of a shot, etc.

2/. Something I feel strongly: what a film is about or meant to be about can be taken separately from how it was made. Or not. They can complement each other. Or not. My natural inclination is to run these in parallel. Weaving in and out. Often when the going gets tough on the film itself as a story with a narrative imperative (or not), resorting, or even retreating (out of the sun into the shade..), to the How Did They Do That? seems the most sensible place to go. Even if in the end that strip of bright sunlight between the shady tree and the house has to be crossed.

Godard is often talked about in terms of his oeuvre when a new one pops up (as one does of directors in general). We get the jump cut standing for À Bout de Souffle, or Fritz Lang standing for Le Mépris (who starred in it but to whom Godard was also paying obeisance to as a director. (Wiki:Contempt (film) is an Idiot’s Guide to the latter with some of the associated Langifications – A browser search on Fritz on that wiki page will do the trick).



May 24, 2014 Posted by | Douglas Hofstadter, DSLR cinematography, DSLR Digital Cinematography Guide, Eisenstein, European art cinema, European cinema, European film, film analog/digital, Film and The Arts, film aspect ratio, film reflexivity, film sex, Film Socialisme, film technique, film theory, film [its techniques], French films, Fritz Lang | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM DIRECTOR Spike Lee’s dolly shot video










Fun – it solved the background recedes problem I had. Right, on to the next trick.



November 24, 2013 Posted by | dolly shot | | Leave a comment

FILM TECHNIQUES Errol Morris’s interrotron





PHOT Errol Morris [handwritten quote]



I like the irrelevant, the tangential, the sidebar excursion to nowhere that suddenly becomes revelatory – Errol Morris



from Film Experience Blog {1}





GRPAHIC ERROLL MORRIS interrotron [1]


Click to enlarge



From: Errol Morris’s Secret Weapon for Unsettling Interviews: The Interrotron


–The ingenious design behind Errol Morris’s indelible trademark of showing people making eye contact with the camera.



↑ That’s it explained


But as you know a picture is worth a thousand words, so if you aren’t into explantions here’s a photograph showing how it works:




PHOTO INTEROTRON Errol Morris


Well, it looks rather like a picture won’t always do – just to say the Erroll in front of the interrotron is where the interviewee sits looking at Erroll. And Errol wouldn’t be looking through the camera eye-piece -that’d be the cameraman – but off to the side looking into video camera as per the nice colour diag.





September 27, 2013 Posted by | Errol Morris, film production, film technique, interrotron | , | Leave a comment

FILM WITHIN FILM TRUFFAUT La Nuit Americaine [1973]








Jean-Pierre Léaud and Francois Truffaut in La Nuit Americaine


Looked at Truffault again in the week before his anniversary date which was marked by a Google Doodle. With a bit of luck this should mean a lot of people looking to see who he was. And watching some of his films. Could check DVD sales.

Watched 400 Cent Coups from my collection and then decided to buy a DVD of La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night, 1973). In reading about the film over the years and forever coming across the first shot of the square where Alphonse, played by the adult Jean-Pierre Léaud, pops out of the metro, and then the exposure of the film-within-a-film with light, camera crane, it always felt this would be my kind of film.

Having watched it twice – the no-English subtitle DVD, allowing me to focus more on the visuals; then in YouTube with English subtitles – I felt disappointed he chose to counterpoise his clever, funny film about film-making with a run-of-the mill film-within-a-film. Yes, it’s part of the fun to have a bog-standard melodrama – which Truffault himself said still demonstrates how film-making works – but there are reasons why a film-within-film as good as the film itself might have worked too.

A sensible remark elsewhere: look at them as two films spliced together as well as a one film framing another. That is the physical reality, despite the viewer seeing the making of Pamela ‘through the frame’ of Day for Night.

It’s easy to see why he chose a rubbish film to film, right down to questions of mise-en-scene. What’s so clever about Day for Night is how he teases out these issues at different levels: from that of Day for Night itself and how it shows how a film can portray filmmaking; from the point of view of the director of Pamela (played by Truffault himself), who narrates his opinions about films and film-making at certain points (yet the director of Day for Night, Truffaut doesn’t!); and the interplay between the two films as exemplified by where Truffaut is allowed to be (can be) both directors at the same time, directing his own film with a crew we don’t see, and Pamela as Ferrand – at times Ferrand can be Truffaut directing Day for Night when he is in front of the camera directing as Ferrand. This is first shown at the end of the Square shot when after seeing the actors and crew break up from the mise en scene, moving in to listen to the assistant director talking through a megaphone, we see Truffault in the background showing the principle actors how to do their last action: a slap from character Alphonse to Alexandre. One’s first reaction is that this is Pamela‘s director, Ferrand, but it can just as easily be Truffaut the director of Day for Night showing how he wants the slap acted by the real-life actors.

If Truffaut had gone for something which was almost equivalent in quality to his own film, it’d take away from Truffaut’s depiction (Eh? How? Since they’re both his films!): primarily, at times we might have been more engaged in the story he was framing to the detriment of his own. A good story is a good story even if it’s a brief scene or two. Every time we were that absorbed in a narrative, we would be less aware there was another real director and his crew behind that. (Well, perhaps no! They alternate, so we are always made aware of which is which.) In practice the framed film takes only a 1/4 or so of the film’s total time.

There is a point in Day for Night where this actually happens: the past-it woman actress can’t remember her lines because she’s drunk too much, and keeps on drinking more to try to remedy the situation, blaming other people for her ineptitude, while the director of Pamela – played by Truffault to make sure we never forget it’s a Truffaut film by appearing regularly as the acted director reassuring her with lot’s of, “It’s not a problem”, eventually taping her lines to various parts of the set and patiently asks her to re-do it, several times. Truffault the director of Day for Night, as well as of Pamela is the clever bit that others who tried films-within-films didn’t try.

At this point – where we wish she’d just get it right because it’s like a soap being rehearsed; we are also quite enjoying how it allows Truffaut to show how film is created, and the the familiar jokes about film-making – we are not so aware it’s being directed and filmed with Truffaut behind his own camera, because he’s seen so much in front of it. That’s quite clever too.

I kept on thinking (for some reason) why not use, instead of a simple film like Pamela, some kind of modern take on Renoir’s Regle de Jeu with those clever mirror shots and complex story. But then the joins would have been easier to see: it would really seem as if it was two films spliced together (which is was anyway), even with Truffaut bridging the two as himself and the framed film’s directer.

One is left with so much of Day for Night being a film one would never watch! In order to watch his entertaining take on films on films, we have to endure shots re-shot in a film, Pamela, we wouldn’t watch. Of course one of the film-maker’s jokes – made within Pamela at various points, such as the death of the lead actor and the finances, the goings on among the crew – is all this effort is going into the making of film that will probably never get distribution. But his own film, Day for Night, will! Saying that doesn’t say the producer, director and crew as depicted by the actors in Pamela aren’t thoroughly professional. We see the professionals at work in Pamela, but not those creating Day for Night.


But let’s get serious.


Illusion 24 frames per second: François Truffaut’s La Nuit Américaine, Daniel Fairfax, Senses of Cinema.

The principal question haunting La Nuit Américaine is, on the other hand, whether films are superior to life.

Ferrand, director of Pamela :

Films are more harmonious than life, Alphonse, there are no bottlenecks in films, no dead-time, films keeps rolling forward, like trains, you understand, like trains in the night. People like you and me, you know, are only happy in our work, our work in the cinema.

Character Alphonse at another point in in Pamela:

“I think Ferrand has it wrong. Life is more important than the cinema.”





Natalie Baye as script girl Joëlle in Day For Night



La nuit Américaine was the point beyond which Truffaut and Godard’s friendship failed. e.g. Truffaut, Godard, Day For Night, and a link. The link is to an short edited version translated into English of an interview Godard gave to Christian Jurgen in German NZZ Online [7 November 2010]. (If read in Chrome, a rough automatic translation of the whole interview is possible).

The Truffaut-Godard spat is a great story and – is there a film already? – is briefly mentioned in that interview, which also covers Godard himself, cahiers, his explaining his turn away from auteur theory (he says it applied to the New Wave, which passed) his new film Socialsme, and so on.

In the interview Godard is asked about Truffaut:

You fell out later with François Truffaut. What was the reason?


I noticed over time that he made exactly the films we attacked: Written movies! Truffaut’s works were not influenced by the camera, but from the pen. The camera imitating what his pen had written.

Godard’s notion of this in some way breaking their rules – as perceived by Godard – of how they made films, links up with my deliberately laboured attempts, below, to look at the joins in Day and Night. I’ve always been a lot more interested in film as a technical medium, its capabilities and limits, than in stories film tells per se, though there are many fine ones, well told.

If you can avoid a cliche in praise-filled phrases you’d be clever. Roger Ebert does well with’…not only the best movie ever made about the movies, but also a great entertainment.’

The cleverest bit in a way is not the film-within-film antiques but that Truffaut is the director of Day for Night and his film-within-a-film (Godard in Le Mempris has Fritz Lang playing himself spouting Godard!), Meet Pamela. It’s the sort of thing that auterists would see in some sort of diagram as the script was developed. The first time we see Truffaut in his trade-mare leather blouson, he being filmed from a crane (yet to be shown itself to establish visually the film-within-film, though we already know this from the behaviour of the actors and the evidence of the camera track running the length of the square) in a medium-long shot giving post-shot instructions to Alphonse and Alexandre. Since he is the director of Day for Night as well as of Pamela, which director is he being at that point? Well, of course, he can relax into this and be both at the same time.

At this point, the viewer can see the possibilities and look forward to enjoying the fun. However – sacred bleu, mais non! Incroyable!- I didn’t find it as exhilarating as I thought I might, wondering all the time whether anyone else had tried, or has tried since, a similar take on film-making.

Having watched Day for Night and then read up again on what others think of it, I’ve come across all sorts of ideas: that the bus which careers round the square in the main shot is going too slow. Crikey, it looked to me it was a wonder a the speed it was going in such a confined space, circling the square, that no one was hit! That’s where the cleverness of the film is slowly established. Other shots (the film of the film shots) show how the extras are carefully walking, well away from the bus, though in Pamela’s shooting shot, it all looks a bit hairy because the tracking shot is sow low.




April 26, 2012 Posted by | film reflexivity, film technique, film within film, film [its techniques], francois truffaut, Godard, Godard/Truffaut, La Nuit Américaine, meta-film, referentiality, reflexivity, Truffaut | , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM ESSAY It Ain’t the Meat (It’s the Motion): Thoughts on movie technique and movie criticism



It Ain’t the Meat (It’s the Motion): Thoughts on movie technique and movie criticism

Jim Emerson, Jim Emerson’s Scanners :: blog, 14 November 2011



November 16, 2011 Posted by | criticism, film directors, film technique, film techniques, film [its techniques], Jim Emerson | , , | Leave a comment