Thursday, August 14, 2008

How To Cultivate Artificial Desires

The Pervet's Guide To CinemaDirected by Sophie Fiennes(2006)

Bear in mind, any film (let alone documentary) which asserts any kind of truth, will generate an adverse and proportional amount of cynicism, from those to whom any suggestion of and or search for truths is already meaningless, those of you who are already Masters of psychology, film, and captains of the soul, will no doubt find this movie redundant, after all, you already know everything there is to know. Congrats.
For those of us in the minority, like myself, I found "The Perverts Guide To Cinmea"....mostly brilliant, and worth watching for those interested in movies, psychology, and modern philosophy. A little like Scott Mclouds' "Understanding Comics", director Sophie Fiennes, inter-grates Slovene philosopher, psychologist, and social critic Slavoj Zizek right into many of the films and specif scenes he discusses. The cover of the film, for instance, is an image from Hitchcock's '"The Birds"(Zizek takes a boat out to re-create the shot).
Lacanian Psycho-analysis, does not necessarily scream, an evening of great fun...but it is! If you like movies that is.... Having some knowledge of Lacanian psycho-analysis helps (Symbolic, Real, and Imaginary) are terms which get thrown around a little loosely at first, but the scenes which Zizek selects and analyze make remarkably clear what was always for me, a very abstract subject. In fact, it's probably better to have a familiarity with the films he's discussing than with the terminology he uses, which becomes clearer as the film goes on. Why I love, this film isn't because it picks great films to analyze or reveals great truths about Lacan, but shows in a very practical and clever manner, where film and psychology (and by default philosophy) meet. Why is "The Sound Of Music" kinda fascistic, why is "Short Cuts" about more than just class and alienation, why do the birds attack in "The Birds", what is there to learn about the mind from "Alien Resurrection", what does the planet of "Solaris" want, what does "Psycho" and "The Marx Brothers" have to do with each other, and what the hell is David Lynch getting across in movie after movie...well Zizek has some ideas. The role of the voice in both "The Excorcist" and "Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith", is maybe the movies strongest and most lucid moment, when he gets into feminine sexual subjectivity I begin to one point Zizek admits his feeling that flowers are a kind of decorative vagina dentatta, that they are disgusting and should be hidden from children (jokingly, it seems but...). Anyway, it's a fascinating documentary, which anyone who has ever seen a movie, and thought it meant something more than was literally stated, should make an attempt to see. And anyone interested in Slavoj Zizek, this is a must as well, much less dry than "Reality Of The Virtual", and more direct than "Zizek!", two other pseudo-docs, about "the Elvis of contemporary cultural criticism", as he is being dubbed, in the English speaking world. "The Perverts Guide To Cinema" is NOT about the role of sex in cinema. Zizek claims cinema is the ultimate pervert art, because it teaches "how to desire, and not what to desire", and that it is the only contemporary art form that can allow for these desires to be articulated. This is not a film about finding the reality in cinema, it's about finding the cinema in reality, and how important and exciting that can be. Hard to find, and a bit long, but well worth the trouble, one of the most "stimulating" movie watching experiences I've ever had.

In The Beginning There Was, "The Word"

The Mindscape Of Alan Moore

Directed by DeZ Vylenz(2003)
It's okay, not as good "Crumb", and many other artist documentaries, for the same reason, that it is worth watching at all, that being that the film takes it's information almost completely from Moore's own mouth, in one interview which lasts the entire film.We get no context, explanation, or details which Moore does not provide, and though that's interesting, because he's notoriously private and rarely does interviews anymore, we miss out on a lot of information, not about Alan Moore the writer or Alan Moore the shaman/magician (which as he explains very clearly he feels are pretty much the same thing), but Alan Moore the man. We learn he was expelled from high school (he does not mention for selling LSD on campus), we learn he feels his comics are unfilmable (this same year this film was released he would be sued by Larry Cohen, for allegedly stealing "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" from a script he wrote. And would later swear off "royalties" from any adaptation of his works. Then again how could we?), we learn nothing of his family life(he has two daughters, one is a comics writer herself. He is divorced, after a somewhat long term three-way relationship between him, his wife and his wife's girlfriend, all of whom lived together with their children, went awry.) None of which is mentioned. Moore says instead of having a normal "boring" mid-life crisis decided to "give his friends a fright and surprise by completely mad and declaring himself a magician" (also does not mention he worships a Roman Snake God named Glycon, whom he calls Sweety, and is also quite literally a puppet). It's the odd little bits like these, Moore mentions he's worked for over a decade on the pornographic "Lost Girls", with artist Melinda Gebbie, but not that, throughout the course of the book, he became romantically involved with Gebbie(last year they married). How many porn's spill off the page, and become real life love stories? Anyway those are things I knew going in, which I thought were oddly omitted, and might have made the movie more personable, human, and effective.
Moore is, despite, his seclusion, a witty, charming, and remarkably clear speaker. Most of the movie, is Moore discussing his belief and ideas concerning Magic, Human Evolution, Spirituality, and the role of the artist in society.
Magic is often called "the art", and Moore takes this literally, Magic Gramoire is a simple way of saying "grammar", and the casting of spells, is simply to "spell", and by manipulating symbols and language(writing) produce a change in consciousness of the audience. Moore feels "advertisers" are the modern keepers of this symbolic magical language, a perversion he feels, which keeps us attached only to materialism and the psychical limitations of our environments.
The most interesting part of the film is the end, where Moore talks about "Information Doubling" theory, where according to him sometime around 2015, human information, will be doubling every half second. Where literally every second, humanity as a whole, will be learning more in a single moment, than it has in it's entire history, at which point human culture goes from fluid, to boiling, to steam. This is Moore's "apocalypse", which though traumatic sounding, he explains from the dictionary, simply means "revelation".

Moore comes from North Hampton, which he calls "so inbreed the dogs have the same cleft lip as everyone else in the family". We see the cold industrial city built out of the Ruins of a castle, and it's juxtaposed to the brightly colored American comic books, which served as an escape from the bleak "material" world Moore found himself in as a boy(though if you were to read his novel "The Voice Of The Fire", he would argue, all of human history can be traced in some way to his hometown). That's the contradiction of Moore in general though, or at least the one he sees in the world, alternating between magical almost Utopian romanticism and cynical, world weary, fatalism.
If you have no idea, who or what an Alan Moore is, it's a good documentary, which explores his ideas and beliefs in detail (if it skirts his personal life), which some very at times moody and others psychedelic cinematography and juxtaposition of images. Moore is one of my favorite writers, so personally I can enjoy just listening to him talk, but all and all, the film itself, just isn't as good as it's subject. Still I'm glad I watched it, and would recommend to anyone who could find a copy, especially if you like writing or art. A little disappointed with the form here, but non the less, inspired by the content. ...and more conflicted about wanting to see the up-comming "The Watchmen" film, than ever before...

Friday, August 1, 2008

One Way Ticket To Ride


Directed by Stuart Cooper(1975)
Mixes archival footage of World War 2, with fictional story of a young man getting ready to go off to war. The archival footage, serves as the young man's thoughts and fears about going into battle. Scenes of air raids and bombings are spliced together with the scenes of sitting on the bus, being polite, and just doing normal everything thingsThe film ends with D-Day, where our hero is among the first to storm the beach, the point where fact and fiction finally meet. Strange, and bizarre military weapons you have never seen before(the rocket wheel???), the barbed wire removing vehicle, appear throughout as well as amazing ariel footage. The most unique and effective "war" film ever seen. Like Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence At Owel Creek", for the WW2 generation. It really puts you in the place, not of a soldier, per say, but of a human bieng, undergoing the process of becoming a soldier, facing the dread, anxiousness, and absurdity, with a solumn dignity, "Im not freightened", he writes to his parents, admitting he is almost certain he is not comming back. Overlord cannot easily be place as either a pro or anti-war film. Thesituation of a gentle, very boyish, nice guy being sent off to theworlds most violent and dangerous conflict in all it's history (hetakes a copy of "David Copperfield" with him, so he will have somethingto read.), is absurd, but it's not handled for irony. There is a scene,where two soldiers are off for R&R and they stumble across a theater,where a young girl is being forced to sing, by her mother in practicefor some kind of competition. When the soldiers enter, the motherdemands she sing again, though the daughter is even more shaken by theunexpected audience. She sings, and about halfway through the soldierswalk off, in disgust or discomfort, the mother still begging them tostay and listen.
Do the soldiers want to fight? No more than this girl, wants to sing,but for mother and mother country, they both do their share. The reason to watch this film, is because it contains none of the usual images and ideas we come to expect from war and anti-war films. Englad took atremendous beating during World War 2, for years sending their sons to stem,the rising tide of Nazism, inching ever further across the sea between them. Overlord, is thus not the story of heroic victory, or the horrors of war, it's the story of the guy who got sent out, the dayafter he made a date(from his level of excitement, maybe his first), and who will probably not be making it back...

"He Smoked His Own Book...Down To The Last Page"


Directed by Wayne Wang(1995)

Great script, amazing performances. Beautiful and poignant moments. Cliché's aren't bad cus they are un-true, they are bad because they are over-beaten paths to the truth. Love IS blind, but everyone's heard that so much it's lost it's meaning.Like Harvey Kietal's character who takes photographs of the same block every mourning, as part of his life's work, this film is familiar, but each moment is different and full of it's own little details. It's a very dialog driven film, lots of stories, anecdotes, and minutia throughout, everyone sounds natural and all of the actors are at the top of their game. The lives of several New Yorkers, revolve around a Manhattan cigar shop, owned by Kietal. The stories are broken into chapters, each named after a character, (the screen writer is critically acclaimed novelist Paul Auster, and it shows), and revolve around Kietal and a woman he hasnt seen in decades returning to tell him he has a daughter, whose currently in dire straights. To the life of a widowed writer named Paul (Auster's fiction often includes himself as a character, or someone with a similar name, occupation, etc), who is saved from carelessly being hit by a bus, by a teen named Rasheed. Paul, claiming the universal rule that if someone saves your life you have to do something for them, invites Rashiid to move in (which he nervously eventually accepts). That is until Paul, can't "focus" on his writing, so he gives Rashiid the boot, who finds his way to Forest Whitaker's gas station up state (the man who Rashiid has recently learned is his father), where he begins working, under the pseudonim "Paul", and then....well that's enough plot. The proof, so to speak, is in the pudding. It's easy to overlook, the little details, here which make this film much more than typical New York dramedy, but they are there, author and screen-writer Paul Auster, has an eye for detail, and for taking the stuff of melodrama and rendering it familiar yet different. If you don't catch it the first time, "slow down", and try again. What is the weight of smoke?