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FILM WEBSITE The Worldwide celluloid Massacre

An encyclopedia of extreme, surreal, twisted and bizarre movies

This is a collection of brief film reviews/director profiles by Zev Toledano. I came across it when looking up Godard one more time.

Comparing the compactness of his interpretation of Godard with,say, the comprehensiveness/prolixity of the wiki: Jean-Luc Godard, ought to bring a smile to one’s face, if that face had seen some Godard films and read about him elsewhere.

After his succinct assessment of Godard he lists those Godard films he considers worth a try ( ‘of some interest’) and those he thinks are tosh (‘worthless’). À bout de souffle gets a mention (‘ …hand-held cameras, wild jump-cut editing, youthful undisciplined energy, whimsical narrative, exploratory cinema with people in the street as subjects, and other unconventional techniques’ ) but is in neither the ‘watch’ or ‘don’t bother’ category.

Today, reading Jim Emerson’s latest post led to Roger Ebert’s piece, The ecstasy of the filmmaker Herzog, on Werner Herzog attending a cinema interruptus viewing of Aguirre Wrath of God. A commenter, Mathew Walther, made a remark about the grammar of a sentence in the post. Ebert replied about having read Mathew’s blog. I checked it out and found the latest post, The Elephant in the street, part i, using the work of Kieslowski in examining Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film (which looks like a book one should avoid, going by this 4 page review). A quote attributed to Kieslowski:

I suspect there are a few hundred books in the world which have managed to achieve a full description of what lies within us. . . Literature can achieve this, cinema can’t. . . It’s not intelligent enough. . . it’s not equivocal enough.

took me straight back to Godard. Had he got the wrong medium? Perhaps he should have written novels. I needed an explanation of Godard between the simple clarity of Toledano, which was true but didn’t say enough, and the wiki entry, which it was possible to read all the way through and still not quite understand the essence of Godard.

I found an element of this essence on my bookshelf: Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film.

Writing about how jumps cuts hadn’t suddenly arrived with À Bout de souffle, describing the way they had been used in Dovzhenko’s Arsenal (1930), he mentions that Godard uses exactly the same number of jump cuts (nine) as in the Russian film, although he had written before about his dislike of jump cuts in certain Spanish films.

Cousins then goes on ( p. 271):

The shock attached to seeing jump cuts in À Bout de souffle arose because they were not there for any special psychological purpose, as they had been in Arsenal, nor were they wedded to quite traditional stories, as in the Spanish films. The reason for cutting the sequence in this way was because the cuts were beautiful in themselves, because they emphasised that what we were watching was cinema, just as painters had turned to cubism many years earlier because it emphasised the flatness of the canvas. Godard had been part of the magazine Cahiers du Cinema’s “think tank”. So immersed in cinema were Godard, Truffaut and others that they saw it not as something that captures real life, a mere medium, but as part of life, like money or unemployment. So, when they became filmmakers, movies were not just vehicles to carry stories and information or to portray feeling; they were also what those stories carried, part of the sensory experience of, say, sitting in a cafe watching the world go by.

In the next paragraph he goes on: “The subjects of their films were themselves, their erotic imagination, their fragility and alienation.”

April 13, 2010 Posted by | film [its techniques], Godard, Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Paul Schrader | | Leave a comment

FILM FRENCH BRESSON Pickpocket [1959]

SNIP BRESSON The Pickpocket [book]

In writing a post on Bresson’s The Devil, Probably, I re-watched Pickpocket because I learnt that Paul Schrader, the writer-director [American Gigolo, Patty Hearst, and Light Sleeper ], who interviewed Bresson in 1976 just prior to himself winning at Cannes for Taxi Driver – he wrote the script: Martin Scorsese directed – thought it the best film ever, using similar ending to The Pickpocket in several of his own films.

In this brief interview with Sheila Johnson in the Telegraph [23 January 2003], Schrader re-affirms his love for Pickpocket.

In part 4 of the YouTube of Pickpocket, there is a close-up of the fly-leaf of a book, The Prince of Pickpockets. The author appears to be Georges Barrington, although it looks like there is another name below it, suggesting it is the story of Georges Barrington by someone else. It turns out that Georges is George, and he was Irish. Almost all – no direct mention of the author of the book of George as thief – is explained here under the peg of the first plagiarised book/fake author. [More on George Barrington {1}, {2}]

So we have a character called Charles in a Bresson film studying a book about a thief whose life has been stolen by the author. Plus: thief, Barrington, whose real name may not been Barrington.  

Thre is a YouTube of a 1960 interview with Bresson (French with English subtitles). The two interviewers looks supiciously as if they are behaving like Bresson’s ‘models’. John Humphreys and Jeremy Paxman could well have learned from her ‘technique of interruption’. One comment in YouTube calls it The Trial of Robert Bresson. But this is Bresson by Bresson, and so useful.

February 19, 2010 Posted by | Bresson, Paul Schrader, Robert Bresson | , , | Leave a comment

Film: Paul Schrader on Robert Bresson (two part Youtube)

Paul Schrader ( famous scriptwriter of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver) sheds light on Bresson in a two part Youtube.

I learnt about Bresson a few years ago and bought the DVD of Au Hasard Balthazar as a start.   It is possible to hate a film’s style but understand what the creator was getting at and so really not quite hate it just be annoyed by some of the ways it was made.  A very common reaction amongst viewers is to to say the donkey was the star: it was, without a doubt.

Schrader going through Bresson’s Pickpocket was a highly instructive.  I made myself watch  Balthazar again, overcoming the feeling that I could not bear to watch the suffering one more time.  The stylised wooden acting still jars. But this time I thought of masks in a Greek play. But it doesn’t work for me as I would like it to. One can get the point of a film while not enjoying the experience of it.

There is a lot of meat in the interviews: at one point Schrader says Bresson’s is saying with Pickpocket (and presumably the rest): “I am going to recede from you ever so slowly till you start coming towards me.” Schrader later goes on to discuss  his view that film is not a spiritual medium.

A second film post will tackling the cinematographic long take after an experience with some Yuutubes of samples of the Hungarian director Bela Tarr.

August 15, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Robert Bresson | , , , | Leave a comment