Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Raúl Ruiz

I’ve been reading Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz’s book Poetics of Cinema, and in light of the recent announcement for Harry’s ironically titled ‘Boring Art Films’ blog-a-thon, I thought I’d bring up some of Ruiz’s thoughts on boredom and the cinema.

Ruiz believes that mainstream cinema operates by the “central conflict theory” (“a story begins when someone wants something and someone else doesn’t want them to have it. From that point on, through various digressions, all the elements of the story are arranged around this central conflict.”) Today’s filmmakers find themselves commanded by the marketplace to employ this theory and capture the attention of the spectator for two hours, their objective being: to avert boredom.

Ruiz—a genuine polymath—reaches far back into the 4th century AD and cites the example of monks in their cells beset by the Eighth Capital Sin, tristitia (sadness), caused by boredom. A monk might be tempted by a “noonday demon,” an apparition that offers to take him away from his bored state:

He is transported to faraway lands. He’d like to stay but it’s already time to go home. Back in his cell, he’s astonished to discover that traveling has only made things worse. He’s even more bored than before and now his boredom has ontological weight. We will call this dangerous new sentiment melancholy. Now every trip out of the cell, every apparition of his virtual friend, will make his melancholy more intense. [...] Soon the cell itself, his brother monks, and even communion with God becomes an illusion. His world has been emptied by entertainment. Some one thousand two hundred years later, in France, Blaise Pascal, in the chapter of his Pensées devoted to entertainment, warns, “All the evil in men comes from one thing and one thing alone: their inability to remain at rest in a room.”

Ruiz offers a productive use of boredom: not spending the present moment preoccupied with past or present concerns, nor being distracted by restless ennui, but instead using the present moment to capture and anchor oneself to “an intense feeling of being here and now, in active rest.” The moment of boredom thus becomes a “privileged moment”:

This privileged moment, which early theologians called “Saint Gregory’s paradox,” occurs when the soul is both at rest and yet turns on itself like a cyclone around its eye, while events in the past and the future vanish in the distance. If I propose this modest defence of ennui, it is perhaps because the films I’m interested in can sometimes provoke this sort of boredom. Those who have seen films by Michael Snow, Ozu, or Tarkovsky will know what I mean. The same goes for Andy Warhol, or Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.

* * *

Now the embarrassing part. David Hudson’s recent entry reminds me that I’ve seen nothing by Ruiz. (Actually, I saw a Dutch-subtitled print of his French-language film Time Regained at the Rotterdam filmfest a few years back, but considering it's Proust, and I understood little of the dialogue or voiceover, it doesn’t count.) Rouge devoted an entire issue to an annotated Ruiz filmography, and I noticed that several of his films have recently arrived on DVD: Hypothesis Of A Stolen Painting, That Day, Three Crowns Of A Sailor.

So, I’d like to ask the Ruiz-experienced among you: What are his films like? And what Ruiz films might you recommend?

* * *

Let me nominate, as one of the great jazz-pop records of the seventies, Michael Franks’s The Art Of Tea (1975). Franks can turn a rhyme with sophistication (“I hear from my ex/On the back of my checks”—what a line!) and even has a PhD in comparative literature. The lyrics on the album are full of frisky double entendres: metaphors for sex include cooking (“Eggplant” [mp3]), world geography (“Popsicle Toes” [mp3]), even cinema (“Nightmoves” [mp3]). But the secret weapon here is the backing band, especially Larry Carlton on guitar, Joe Sample on keys and Larry Bunker on vibes.

I'm especially intrigued by all the ways in which this album is un-jazzlike, particularly if we think of jazz in terms of its dominant, bebop-derived strain. Carlton plays a ‘jazz guitar,’ a warm-toned Gibson ES-335 semi-hollow-body (made famous as B.B. King's "Lucille") but he plays it quite unlike your orthodox bebop-based guitarist. He likes to bend and sustain melody notes as a rock guitarist might, e.g. the opening bars of “Nightmoves”. (For some reason, bop players like to either hit the melody notes head-on or slide into and out of them rather than bend them; I'm not quite sure why.) Instead of acoustic piano, Sample plays a splashy Fender Rhodes. And Wilton Felder wields not a stand-up bass but an electric. Incidentally, all three were members of the Crusaders.

Also thrilling is the way three instruments (guitar, vibes, Fender Rhodes) weave in and out of each other’s melodic paths, coming together for unison passages—impromptu? arranged? It’s not always clear—then diverging to either fall into silence or vamp discreetly or inject fills into the interstices when other instruments are soloing. This acutely sensitive interplay clearly owes much more to jazz than it does to pop.

* * *

Once a year, I spend a weekend making a handful of home-made T-shirts. It’s taken a few years of trial and error (lots of error) to refine this process, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

For images, I usually raid my sketchbook but also use CD artwork or reproductions of paintings or film posters or stills, all scanned at a fairly high resolution (200 dpi), and reduced to approximately the dimensions of a CD case. The colors are denser and faster when the images are reduced; the doodle pictured above was a full 8 1/2 by 11 size in the original. I buy white T-Shirts (100% cotton, brand: Merona) for $5 apiece at Target. For the iron-on T-shirt transfers, I’d recommend paying a little extra for a name brand (Avery), because it can make a big difference. They run about a dollar per shirt, and you can get them at your local Officemax. Oh, and make sure to wash the T’s, without fabric softener, beforehand. Easy, inexpensive, customizable, and a creative outlet to boot—I recommend giving it a try.


Blogger Tuwa said...

A thoughtful post, good music, and a tip for a creative outlet in the same post. I can't decide if this is a cornucopia or a Christmas morning. It's not a Halloween, though, because the philosophy is too nourishing to be candy.

October 03, 2006 6:25 PM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

There's nothing boring about Ruiz at all. His camera is always moving, bobbing and weaving in all sorts of unexpected trajectories. And his plots are so deliciously tortuous that if you mapped them out, it would look like a giant spiderweb (and ingenuously enough, they will converge toward a solution!). I'd say, start with the more narrative driven (but still twisted) Ruiz like The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting, Ce jour-là, Three Lives and Only One Death, or Genealogies of a Crime before going to the more impenetrable stuff like Memory of Appearances or On Top of the Whale.

I used to think that Time Regained was pretty atypical Ruiz, but after seeing his recent films, The Lost Domain and Days in the Country earlier this year, I can see that he seems to be revisiting its theme of interpenetrating memory.

October 03, 2006 7:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Tuwa and Acquarello. Very kind of you.

A. ~ You have no idea how appetizing you've made Ruiz's films sound...

October 03, 2006 9:21 PM  
Blogger Alex said...


You challanged me to back up my thoughts about De Palma and so I have:


October 03, 2006 10:53 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Some Filipino films showing in New York and Vienna in the next two weeks:

Lino Brocka's Insiang (1976)--his masterpiece, in my opinion--is scheduled to screen at The New York Film Festival, Oct. 14, Sat. at 12 noon,  Alice Tully Hall (North side of 65th Street, west of Broadway).
I write about Insiang here (warning: plot discussed in close detail)
Meanwhile, Mario O'Hara's Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, 2000)--my vote for the finest film, Filipino or otherwise, of the past 25 years--will be screening at the Viennale in Austria on Oct. 16, 3.30 pm, at the Kunstlerhaus Kino, and on Oct. 24 at 11 am, at the Metro.
I write about the film here.
Finally, a rare showing of O'Hara's Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976) at The Imaginasian, Oct. 15 Sunday at 3 pm, and Oct. 16 Monday at 6.30 pm. There will also be showings of Brocka's Tubog sa Ginto (Dipped in Gold, 1971), Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting, 1974), Tatlo Dalawa, Isa (Three, Two, One, 1974), Insiang again, and Angela Markado (1980); Ishmael Bernal's masterpiece Manila By Night (1980) and Himala (Miracle, 1982); Mike de Leon's Itim (Rites of May, 1976) and his masterpiece Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye, 1981); Siegfried Sanchez's mockumentary Anak ni Brocka (Son of Brocka, 2005); and Auraeus Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, 2005).
Here are links to articles I wrote on Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (warning: plot discussed in close detail); Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros; and Tubog sa Ginto.
(Some of these films may be in projected video; I know Tubog sa Ginto exists only on tape).
Recommendations? I say see them all, even the ones I didn't mention. If you don't have time, well, here's a ranked list.

October 03, 2006 11:48 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Oh wow.


October 03, 2006 11:54 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I haven't been bored by any of his films yet either. I think my favorite of the few of films I've seen is made entirely of still shots. It's called Dogs' Dialogue and is found on the old VHS edition of Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting. I was pretty surprised to see that it's been put up on youtube in three parts.

October 04, 2006 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are lots of great Ruiz films (and more than a couple problematic ones--though they're almost all interesting), but if I had to pick one to start with, I'd go with Ce jour-là. It's pure pleasure from beginning to end. One of the great films of the oughts.

October 04, 2006 12:18 AM  
Blogger Maza said...

Ruiz is amazing. It is really hard to express in this short space reasons for this statement. But I'll try: For Ruiz, cinema is the most accurate way to portray ghost. In his films (all of them, I guess... many of them, for sure) ghost are wanderers taking care of their own businesses. Ghost are not simple entities: Ruiz films are plenty of mirrors because their reflexions are ghost of the main characters (doppelgangers) and mirrors are helpful to duplicate everything we see.

Second. Ruiz plots are against the central plot theory. Ruiz films, actually, are very similar to internet hipertext. Every shot is a film by itself, says Ruiz. That is: every shot is for the viewer a way to escape from the film we see. Our brains work this way. For example, we hear a tune we like in a Ruiz film, and our memory recalls some specific moment of our childhood. The film continues, but we are thinking in something else, for a little moment, most of the times, we think in something unrelated to what is on the screen. For Ruiz, this kind of behaviour from the spectator is expected. Actually he encourage this kind of viewing experience. That's why he says every shot is a film itself. One film is 300 films. In our heads, in our viewing experience. So he tries to connect some of this 300 films, and we are able to watch his films 300 times.

Third. Ruiz cultural background is amazing, so his films are extremely condensed in cultural references. This is not a way to show how ignorats we are. Not at all. Like Borges, I tend to think that many of these references doesn't even exist at all, in the first place. All the reference smake things more complicated. Ruiz says: "Why make things easier if they can be complicated". All the reference are there like some kind of veil of reality. The veil -in the form of the criss-crossed references- are there to hide a deep feeling, imposible to accede in frontal narrative. Like Hitchcock, Ruiz is obssesed with spirals. Once the veil have fallen, we witnessed the ghosts in his films. Ghost hide melancholy and sadness. Some kind of loneliness.

If you are interested, check out my blog entries [http://www.analizame.cl] on Ruiz (write "Ruiz" in the search box in my blog and you'll see), all of them written in Spanish. Once you like one film by Ruiz, you'll start to became obssesed with all the others.

I extremely recommend his first film "Tres tristes tigres", "Le domain perdu". "Hypothesis of a stolen paint", "La vida es sueño" and "Three crowns of the sailor".

Ruiz is filming the future of cinema today. Many years will pass until the day it will became obvious for all of us.

Great blog, Shirish. Sorry for my poor English.

October 04, 2006 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I've only seen three Ruiz films, but can easily recommend Time Regained over Genealogies of a Crime and The Golden Boat.

October 04, 2006 8:04 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the recommendations, everyone.
Maza, thank you for the detailed ideas.

Noel, I've only seen Insiang on that list. Also, I noticed that Cavite is now on DVD.

I just rented Ce jour-là and Three Crowns Of The Sailor. This is odd, but Netflix doesn't seem to carry Hypothesis of a Stolen Painting; what a bummer.

October 04, 2006 8:22 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

I wonder about Ruiz's references too, like Borges and Klossowski. I don't think they're made up though, but I think they're his memories, interpretations, and readings of their work. I think that's part of what makes his films concrete (i.e. grounded in reality), yet malleable at the same time, where dreams, haunted memories, absurdities, and conspiracy theories can just pop up at any time. Memory of Appearances for instance, talks about the lines in the Borges play all standing in for mnemomics of resistance fighters, but it's more of a conceptual association than a word for word one. Then there's a total looper like Love Torn in Dream that doesn't seem to be based on anything, where nothing makes sense, but there are key pieces of the puzzle that keep resurfacing at each iteration, keeping the audience always a little imbalanced about being able to unlock its mystery.

Incidentally, total aside, but I thought I'd mention that one of the Nobel Prize winners for Physics, John Mather, works in the next building from mine at Goddard. By my calculation, I figured I'm about 500' from greatness. ;)

October 04, 2006 9:06 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Well, that is unquestionably the most fascinating post on being bored I've ever read. Thank you for the historical background, Girish, informative research.

What do I have to do to get one of your t-shirts? You know I collect art and was actually going to ask you if I could buy one of your pieces. Which I would still like to do. But it'd be fun to wear one too.

October 04, 2006 9:17 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello, because we talk mostly just about cinema, I often forget that you're a physics brainiac...!

October 04, 2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Maya.
I'd like to send you one; it can be a TIFF memento. I'll email you for the size details, etc.

October 04, 2006 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only Raoul Ruiz film I have seen is Time Regained. I was very impressed though also baffled by it. I have read the first two and half volumes of Proust (that was two years ago) and I am familiar with all the main characters and the basic narrative of the novel. Still the film is baffling because it is actually not a proust adaptation at all! It is Ruiz's own interpretation of themes and questions raised by Proust in his work, such as, involuntary experiencing of events of past, subjective awareness of the passage of time, unstability, unreliability or difficulty of perception and self-knowledge that comes from it and many other things. Ruiz comments on all these things using his own style, derived from the standard surrealist tradition I think, which has hardly anything to do with Proust. It is more like what Proust might have dreamed about his own work!

Incidentally I think Proust is also one of the most cinematic of all writers. His long sentences and the way he piles metaphors upon metaphors and keeps qualifying a normal descritive sentence by adding more and more adjectival clauses is literary equivalent of a long take. It gives a remarkable feeling of continuity which wouldn't be possible with short sentences, which will give an illusion of chopping up reality in bits and pieces rather than capturing it as a whole. Fir example there is party scene in the third volume Guermantes Way which runs to almost 300 pages. A single, sustained, continuous scene! I could imagine the narrator having a digital camera with a hard disk of infinte size roaming around the party and capturing the impressions ...!!

I think the most Proustian films I have seen are Andrei Tarkovsky's Mirror and also Last Year in Marienbad, which is actually a blueprint of Proustian themes. Bela Tarr's style could also be considered Proustian if he could transfer himself from his bleak countryside and old ugly people to turn of the century Parisian salons and beautiful and well dressed people !! :) Incidentally Laszlo Kransznahorkai, on whose novel Melancholy of Resistace, Werckmeister Harmonies is based, is also famous for long sentences which go on for pages. And unlike Proust he doesn't even believe in paragraph breaks too! I have read only a part of the book though.

I know this post is about Ruiz and not Proust but I hope it made some sense.

October 04, 2006 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Ruiz is one director that I've never been able to peg. If I think about all the films I've seen by him, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a brief summary about his work, methods, themes, etc.

From the sublime-surreality of On Top of the Whale, to the oddly conventional Treasure Island (with its bizarre casting combinations, including Vic Tayback and Jean-Pierre Léaud), to the blisteringly awful William Baldwin vehicle Shattered Image to the formal beauty of Time Regained -- I've never been able to work out how all these films are the product of the same person. (I prayed that Shattered Image came from another Ruiz, but no such luck.)

I can't think of any other director who so evades description/definition. Even someone like Soderbergh, who has worked in multiple genres and in productions large and small -- there are those directorial flourishes one can point to. I've not found that in Ruiz.

October 04, 2006 12:20 PM  
Blogger Marina said...

"Incidentally Laszlo Kransznahorkai, on whose novel Melancholy of Resistace, Werckmeister Harmonies is based, is also famous for long sentences which go on for pages. And unlike Proust he doesn't even believe in paragraph breaks too! I have read only a part of the book though."

This style-breaking made me think of Italian writer Alessandro Barrico's wonderfully poetic novels, which are, in fact, a pleiad of prose, poetry and something...in between.

(Just a flying by association)

Haven't seen any Ruiz at all, so sorry for not being able to comment on that. But this post enthused me enormously...

October 04, 2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I've only seen a half dozen or so of Ruiz's films (and given the fact that he has made a hundred, that's not much), but I've enjoyed them all a lot, even for their surface charms alone. There's something almost maniacally off-kilter about his compositions; his use of deep focus and the wide-angled lenses may be second only to Welles. And some of his shots are offhandedly hilarious--there's a conversation scene in Ce jour-là that repeatedly, for no apparent reason (although I'm sure someone could suggest one), repeatedly frames a piece of food in the extreme foreground in its shot-reverse shot sequence.

I also seem to be one of the lucky few who managed to see Une place parmi les vivants (2003) on the festival circuit, which was a delightfully noirish murder mystery. Three Crowns of a Sailor and especially Hypothesis are both strongly recommended, although I, too, have noticed Netflix is lagging behind on the latter. (As well as many other recently-released titles, I might add!)

I agree with acquarello, Ruiz is far from boring, even by less-than-discerning standards. Playful, stylistically extreme, completely unpredictable. I'm sure you'll love his work, Girish.

October 04, 2006 3:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Alok, Filmbrain, Marina, Doug ~ Thank you very much for taking the time. Ruiz sounds like both a challenging and playful filmmaker and I'm eager to make his acquaintance (soon...)

Doug, I've been trying to keep track of new DVD releases thanks to Acquarello's page, Film Comment's new release section, etc. Wondering: have you spotted other significant recent releases that Netflix has not picked up? For one thing, they don't seem to carry the Norman McLaren box...

October 04, 2006 9:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ran across this recent and interesting Chris Fujiwara review of Almodovar's Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown. It even has a reference to Ruiz.

"The cutesy-poo coincidences — Pepa gets picked up by the same cab driver three times; anything that falls or gets thrown from an upper story of a building lands near, or on, one of the principals — are as essential to the utopian fantasy Almodóvar strives to concoct as his multi-colored telephones. Mujeres is a film of consolation and escape, in which movement, action, color, and barbiturates assuage the pain of losing a lover. The penthouse set is Almodóvar’s coup, a vast stage that allows him to create a chic never-land that’s a lot like the Manhattan penthouse of Hitchcock’s Rope. His is a decorator’s cinema, and Mujeres is a catalogue of delectable objects, a fanatical display of style closer to the decadent bloodbaths of Dario Argento than to the high Hollywood melodrama of Douglas Sirk, with whom Almodóvar has been endlessly compared.

The tasteful garishness of the film is kept from being cloying by the director's unobtrusive skill with staging and camera movement. A bravura tracking shot at dawn shows an avenue in depth: all the street lights go out at once as Pepa crosses the foreground. A nice thing about Almodóvar is that when this sort of thing happens in his films, it never looks fussed over: there’s a “That’s it, let’s move on” quality to everything that makes his less pretentious films enjoyable (though it deserts him in more somber efforts like 2004’s La mala educación|Bad Education). He shares with Fassbinder, Chabrol, and Ruiz the gift of speed, though he lacks other qualities — including, respectively, brutality, corrosiveness, and a luxuriant imagination — that make them great filmmakers. Never transcending its creator’s intellectual neatness, his love of surface complexity, and his fondness for wrapping things up and putting a shiny bow on them, Mujeres is slick entertainment, well crafted and intelligent."

October 04, 2006 9:59 PM  
Blogger girish said...

--Not merely one but two David Thomson posts at Michael Guillen's.
--Andy's poll has rocked the blogosphere: 2 Blowhards jump in to do a spin on it.
--The bloodbath at The Voice has now reached horror-movie proportions: Dennis Lim is the latest to go.
--Dennis Cozzalio on a site called DVD Ideas.

October 04, 2006 10:09 PM  
Blogger That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Girish, some nice descriptive writing in the Michael Franks portion of the post. I love music, but find it almost impossible to describe musical sounds in words, and feel it's always a struggle for critics to express what music tries to accomplish in a written form. It's like trying to write calligraphy with a block of concrete or something. (Sometimes, I think movie critics have the same problem in discussing visuals. Maybe that's why they stay away from it and music critics concentrate so much on lyrics, eh?) Having said that, I thought you did an excellent job! Mostly, I just judge purely on emotional response, and it's nice to see you get a little more under the skin of the music.

October 04, 2006 10:33 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, TLRHB. I've been meaning to tell you how much I liked that killer Nilsson post you did. I'm a rabid Nilsson-lover, and have plans to do a sequel of sorts to your post, with mp3's ("Me & My Arrow", both his and Adrian Belew's versions, for starters.)

October 04, 2006 11:12 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

girish, if it's at all possible, you should hightail it to New York and camp out at that theater.

Jesus Christ on Dennis Lim--now we get the likes of Luke Y (Why?! Why?!) Thompson holding forth total cluelessness on why Fearless sucks.

October 05, 2006 2:14 AM  
Blogger Andy Rector said...

Ruiz's TRES TRISTES TIGRES is indispensable cinema (indispensable Ruiz, I think, but I've only seen 3 or 4). It is a little boring in the best sense -- it's about boredom, to be sure. It follows a group of middle class people who are a little bit criminal, a little bit bureaucratic, a little bit drunk, a little bit sleepy...Ruiz turns a shot of a man walking out of a cafe into the exhaustion, vunerability, disintegration, and abandonment of a whole class. A Chilean at the screening I attended remarked at that this portrait of the middle-class at that historical moment was completely accurate. Ruiz has said Shadows (Cassavetes) was an inspiration.

October 05, 2006 2:49 AM  
Blogger Maxim de Winter said...

I have to disagree with Filmbrain's take on Shattered Image - it fits right in with the other Ruiz's I've seen (not many) in its playfulness. He loves genre, as so many directors now claim to - but how many of them do you see engaging with the straight-to-video babes-with-guns genre that we see littering the shelves of the bargain basements? Ruiz does, and turns a very cheesy concept into an extraordinary game where two women each think they're dreaming the other. As in his other films, too, there are very memorable shots and juxtapositions - I still remember a very odd tracking shot where a distorting diopter was attached to the lens, a run of the mill trick but never used in combination with a moving camera - except by Raul Ruiz!

October 05, 2006 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

I am a Ruiz maniac - SHATTERED IMAGE included! - but I would suggest for beginners THREE LIVES AND ONLY ONE DEATH, THREE CROWNS OF THE SAILOR, CITY OF PIRATES, CE JOUR-LA. (And, actually, almost any of his shorts, like the ones included on the Gemini DVDs from France.) And as a Ruiz completist, I have to correct the learned Acquarello on one point: it's a Calderon play (not Borges - I don't think he ever wrote a play!) which is used for the word-association memory-theatre in LIFE IS A DREAM!

October 05, 2006 6:01 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Noel, Andy, Maxim, and Adrian!
Now I'm really jonesin' for some Ruiz...

October 05, 2006 6:51 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Ah, Calderon! Thanks for the correction. Alas...maybe that 500' feet is a long way from greatness after all. :(

I'd have to agree about Shattered Image too, it's also very Ruizian in the way past and present, dreams and memory converge towards each other and even come to a point of singularity.

Grr...it looks as though I'll miss the Imaginasian stuff too, I'm heading back to DC on the 15th (heading out to NYFF again tomorrow), but at least I'm catching Insiang. They used a projected video for the press screening since the print wasn't ready, so I'm holding off on writing anything until the actual public screening.

October 05, 2006 8:24 AM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

I haven't yet seen a ton of Ruiz, (six maybe?) but he's great. To say he's boring (and certainly, he uses boredom as an element in his films sometimes) is like saying Akerman or possibly Tarr is "boring"--it's the first step in a ten-step process, you've got to complete the other parts in the aesthetic framework.

My favorite is On Top of the Whale probably followed by Dark at Noon.

Girish, I've got a little bit of Ruiz stuff on DVD/DVD-R that, once I get a new (and functioning!) DVD burner, I'll run by you and see if you've acquired any yet ... if not ...

October 05, 2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Oh, and--Poetics of Cinema is an essential book! Highly recommended for anyone interested in Ruiz, storytelling, film theory, or all three ...

October 05, 2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

The mainstream definition of "boring art films" is anything in B&W, with subs or slow... whereas my blogathon is meant to highlight an extreme form of artfilm : the "non-verbal" sound films, so Tarr, Snow yes, but Ruiz, Ozu no. Ruiz is definitely a narrative filmmaker relying on verbality.
We all agree great art films are only boring to the neophyts. I didn't mean to defend the value of "boredom" like Ruiz does. Maybe the description of the subject was too confusing and inappropriately worded. In my mind the use of the word "boring" definitely implied the irony of an undeserved charge. The existential study of boredom is indeed more relevant than the mere non-entertainment of movies. I hope it wasn't a boring subject...

Anyway thanks for your great post Girish! I still haven't read this book, and only saw 6 films, though I already know he's my kind of auteur. :)
By the way, here is a film style that should be discussed at length, to decypher his tricks and reveal his arcane poetry. As mentionned by others above, his framing composition, focus, mirrors and cuts are groundbreaking film language. Not to mention all the fantastic psychoanalytical subtext.

I agree with him on mainstream cinema plagued by the fear of "pause". A desperate craving to fill up every frame, every transition, every inch of soundtrack every character, every subplot with narration-driven information. Never to leave the spectator on his/her own, abandonned to... contemplation, which could lead to questioning the film, wondering what is the point to watch this.

October 05, 2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Girish, off the top of my head, Netflix doesn't carry any of the following recently released films:

Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (already noted)
Phantom (Murnau)
The Big Animal
The Incredible Shrinking Man (Universal Sci-fi boxset)
Who's Camus, Anyway? (Film Movement)
An Image (Farocki)

October 05, 2006 11:58 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

I think Film Movement has two releases, the subscription one, then the non-member sales a few months later, so if Netflix is buying them without a subscription (I can't imagine why they wouldn't, but...), then they wouldn't be able to purchase them for a while. I definitely recommend Who's Camus Anyway?, the film references are pretty clever (the crew refer to the director's obsessive girlfriend as Adele H. :) ), and the ending looks like something straight out of Oshima's Violence at Noon and Yanagimachi's own Himatsuri. It's a really clever film.

October 05, 2006 2:06 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Cool, I've actually got the disc and should be watching it in the next few days.

October 05, 2006 4:07 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Another Ruiz-ophile here who's seen too few of his films. My favourite is probably On Top of the Whale, but Hypothesis of a Stolen Painting and Three Crowns of a Sailor are top-tier Ruiz too. I think his 90s films are a good place to start with (for instance, Dark at Noon, Genealogies of a Crime, even Shattered Image, which is very Ruizian, as Acquarello mentioned). There is a very special kind of boredom in his early films (I haven't seen enough of his recent stuff to compare with) that stem from his wandering style of storytelling, and many times I sense that Welles' baroque visual style (not to mention the plays with fiction and storytelling) in The Immortal Story has been a huge influence on some of his early stuff. His ouevre seems to be as unclassifiable as his films, so be prepared for some (initial) sublime frustration.

P.S. - I should really read Poetics of Cinema already!

October 05, 2006 4:29 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the “Theories/Practices of Blogging.” In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

The deadline is October 20th.

Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @ gmail.com

October 05, 2006 5:29 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks a ton, folks. So many cool ideas.

I was looking forward to Camus last year but TIFF passed on it. I'm glad it's on DVD.

Michael, thanks for the announcement.
FYI: in case you haven't seen it, Rebecca Blood has an interesting series of interviews at her site called "Bloggers On Blogging".

October 05, 2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Mubarak made the great reminder of how big an influence Welles appears to be on Ruiz--of course, Ruiz is so large and multi-faceted that he's not overwhelmed by Welles' influence, either. (One of the great ways of whetting a newbie's appetite for Ruiz might be to roll off influences, genealogies, perceived likenesses--like Welles, Buñuel, The Saragossa Manuscript, cheap B-movies from the 1950s (or just as easily, the 1980s), Borges, a globe full & several millennia of folklore, on and on...)

Two very worthy Senses pieces on Ruiz in case they haven't been mentioned here yet--one by Adrian, another by Michael Goddard. A great line from the latter: "The crucial difference between the Baroque, as Ruiz understands and employs it and the ethos of cinematic Surrealism, is the replacement of the motto “everything is fundamentally simple” with its opposite “everything is fundamentally complex.""

October 05, 2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Zach, that does whet this newbie's appetite. And thanks for posting those great links.

Also: nice interviews with Ruiz in Sight & Sound and Guardian.
And here's a review at Screening the Past of Adrian et al.'s book on Ruiz, which I need to put in an interlibrary loan request for.

btw, I love Mubarak's warning about "(initial) sublime frustration."

October 06, 2006 8:04 AM  
Blogger girish said...

--Doug attends a lecture on magic lantern technology and 19th c. visual culture.
--Dennis Cozzalio on the Lone Pine filmfest.
--More David Bordwell from Vancouver.
--In Film Comment's on-line-only section:Bollywood director Ram Gopal Varma.

October 06, 2006 8:11 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Nice links, girish! I was sold out of the Magic Lantern presentation when it came to Berkeley last weekend (though as consolation I attended a free screening of Ocean Fever a block away- something I wouldn't have gone out of my way for but since I was already out of my way enjoyed being able to view).

And I'll be meeting up with Dennis at Lone Pine on Saturday. Very excited to try my first film festival travel experience (at least, my first where the distance travelled is more than just to the next county over).

October 06, 2006 3:25 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I arrived 45 minutes before the show and there were already 20 people in the rush line--unheard of at AMPAS events. People kept showing up, scrunching their noses, and saying, "Sold out? The magic lantern lecture???" It's impossible to predict these things...

October 06, 2006 4:24 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian ~ Wish you a good trip to Lone Pine and I look forward to hearing about it. What with Mill Valley as well, you've got some serious movie viewing lined up...

Doug ~ I enjoyed your magic lantern post. I interviewed a-g filmmaker Zoe Beloff a while back and once I confessed my ignorance of phantasmagorias and such, we spent most of the interview time with her educating me about pre-cinematic technologies. A bit, um, embarrassing....but I learned a lot.

October 07, 2006 1:43 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Doug's post was fantastic and it doesn't surprise me at all that a lecture on magic lanterns would be such a popular event on both sides of the state. If you're ever in Paris, Girish, you must visit the Cinemateque with its eclectic array of early cinematic devices!

October 07, 2006 11:05 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the tip, Maya. I occasionally spend a week in the spring in France teaching there but somehow have never made it to the Cinematheque.

--Nice big links post at Andy's.
--Flickhead reviews Mai Zetterling's The Girls.
--Alok on the letters of Flaubert and Turgenev.
--Brad on Eisenstein's The General Line.
--Michael Guillen interviews Forest Whitaker and remarks (accurately): "After the Toronto International I can now handle just about anything—cool as a cucumber on a plate of hot tomatoes—I guess you could say these are my salad days."

October 07, 2006 11:38 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Thanx for the plug, g!

October 07, 2006 12:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

You're most welcome, Flickhead!

October 07, 2006 1:04 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

girish, you feeling better? Seen/been disappointed by (I'm being pessimistic here) Black Dahlia yet?

October 07, 2006 9:02 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi, Noel. Thanks, I'm all better now, but have been buried in midterm exam grading, and haven't caught the De Palma yet...

--At Greencine, Tom Charity reports from VIFF on Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth screening + Q&A with Costa.
--Also at Greencine, Filmbrain on Bamako.
--Andy's been blogging up a prolific storm.
--Another David bordwell dispatch from Vancouver.
--Two new posts at Mubarak's.
--David Lowery on De Palma.

October 09, 2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I second Maya's recommendation of Henri Langlois' collection of prehistoric lanterna magica. Although since his museum in Chaillot has been nationalized and moved to Frank O. Gehry's building (the new Cinémathèque is 1 year old), the display has been sanitized into a cold glass house... the spirit is gone.
I believe they did a special show for kids this summer with actual lanterna magica and primitive animations.

re : Ruiz
I didn't like The Lost Domain, which was a lazy adaptation from Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes (another adaptation, even more mainstream came out just this week in France)
However his latest, Klimt is really interesting. Great aesthetic compositions, mirror play and manipulation of time continuity and dreamwork. It's not so much about the artist's work or his biography, but about the (political) atmosphere of an era, the fascination of women and the Secession style.

October 10, 2006 8:35 AM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Some bad news--Danièle Huillet has died.

October 10, 2006 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noel is in Dave Kehr's latest DVD column!

October 10, 2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh that's horrible news about Huillet.

October 10, 2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Wow, I saw Danièle Huillet for the first time at a screening of Amerika, rapports de classe, last march, and she looked in great shape... :(

October 10, 2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Andy Rector just posted on Danièle Huillet.

October 10, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger girish said...

At A_FILM_BY: Dave Kehr asks for nomination suggestions of avant-garde cinema for the National Registry.

October 10, 2006 11:45 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Saw that Andy. It's the first time I ever got to read my name on the pages of the Times. Real head rush.

Terrible news about Huillet, though.

October 11, 2006 12:09 AM  

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