Monday, May 07, 2007

Boorman/Point Blank

It’s a funny thing. Sometimes movies that struck our eyes and ears as modernist when we first encountered them years ago, slowly start to appear more classicist with the passing of time.

I’ve seen Point Blank three times now — once on the big screen, only to realize that this is an essential big-screen movie — and it only gets better. But also, the things that once smacked strongest of modernism — the Resnais-ish temporal fragmentation, the non-naturalistic sound design, the dream/reality shuttlings, and most importantly, the aggressively abstract and expressionist use of architecture — now seem harmoniously blended, coherent. The style isn’t spilling over ‘in excess’; instead, it seems to be always serving, as classicism does, the subjects and themes of the film. (No value judgment implied here, by the way — my heart belongs equally to classicism and modernism!)

After watching the movie last night, I looked up Manny Farber and marveled once again at the evocativeness and accuracy of his description:

Whatever this fantasy is about, it is hardly about syndicate heist artists, nightclub owners, or a vengeful quest by a crook named Walker (Marvin) for the $93,000 he earned on the “Alcatraz drop.” The movie is really about a strangely unhealthy tactility. All physical matter seems to be coated: buildings are encased in grids and glass, rooms are lined with marble and drapes, girls are sculpted by body stockings, metallic or velour-like materials. A subtle pornography seems to be the point, but it is obtained by the camera slithering like an eel over statuesque women from ankle across thigh around hips to shoulder and down again. Repeatedly the camera moves back to beds, but not for the purposes of exposing flesh or physical contact. What are shown are vast expanses of wrinkled satin, deep dark shadows, glistening silvery highlights. The bodies are dead, under sedation, drugged, or being moved in slow-motion stylistic embraces. Thus, there’s a kind of decadent tremor within the image as though an unseen lecherous hand were palming, sliding over not quite human humans. It’s a great movie for being transfixed on small mountains which slowly become recognizable as an orange shoulder or a hip with a silvery mini-skirt.

In a sickening way, the human body is used as material to wrinkle the surface of the screen. Usually the body is in zigzags, being flung, scraped over concrete, half buried under tire wheels, but it is always sort of cramped, unlikely, out of its owner’s control. At one point in the film, Marvin walks over to a public telescope at Pacific Palisades and starts squinting at a whitish skyscraper. It is one of the mildest scenes since the birth of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, but after the endless out-of-control cramping of bodies, the serenity of the composition and the reasonable decorum make for a fine blissful moment.

* * *

Ashamed to admit this, but due to no particular reason other than negligence, I've seen nothing else by John Boorman. Care to recommend any of your favorite Boorman films? And if you like, share your impressions about them, if you feel like it?

* * *

A few links:

Darren posts capsule reviews of the films he caught in San Francisco.

Mike Newman at Zigzigger on "Irony, Sincerity, and Fountains of Wayne." (I'm nuts about Welcome Interstate Managers and just picked up the new one.)

— At DVD Panache, Adam Ross has interviews with several bloggers including Andy Horbal, Dennis Cozzalio, Tuwa, David Lowery, etc.

— Curtis Harrington has died. Here's an old Voice tribute by Chuck Stephens; a brief account of his films by Mike Grost; and an interview with Harrington about Orson Welles at Bright Lights.

Walter at Quiet Bubble on Brakhage's The Act Of Seeing With One's Own Eyes (1971).

Craig Keller on Lubitsch and the married couple.


Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I'll be writing something about Curtis Harrington on my blog. One of the few DVDs I have with me is Night Tide.

As for Boorman, of films available, Excalibur, Hope and Glory, and his first film with the Dave Clark Five which is coming out on British DVD. He also did an interesting version of King Lear called Where the Heart Is. Hell, see any Boorman you can, even Zardoz and Exorcist II for giggles. I met Boorman at NYU when he showed film students his first cut of Leo the Last.

May 07, 2007 10:57 PM  
Blogger cineboy said...

The Boorman films that stick with me the most are Deliverance (1972), Excalibur (1981), The Emerald Forest (1985), and Hope and Glory (1987). I don't how any of them will hold up - it's been years since I have seen any of these. I suspect, though, that they will hold up quite well, mainly because they're interesting stories.

May 07, 2007 11:19 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Excalibur I consider superior to Jackson's nine hour hobbit movie (and Boorman was at one point set to adapt the Tolkien; talks stalled and this was the result).

I'd speak up for Exorcist 2 and Zardoz--giggle-inducing they may be, but the filmmaking's tremendous. Saw them recently, still tremendous. The flying sequences in Exorcist 2 I submit were influenced by Murnau's Faust.

Hope and Glory I haven't seen for some time. Where the Heart Is I only saw once; same with Emerald Forest. I liked the first, the latter two not so much.

Even that recent film based in South Africa is interesting, tho flawed and not his best work.

May 08, 2007 12:59 AM  
Blogger Ignatius Vishnevetsky said...

Boorman's a challenge for me--I haven't really taken him on, or at least not as much as I should.

A friend of mine watched POINT BLANK a few months ago after seeing Thom Andersen speak (he mentions it as the quintessential "movie for people who hate Los Angeles" in LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF).

It's probably the most impressed I've been with any of Boorman's movies, kind of made me distrust it at first. The highbrow bias is something inside of yourself you've got to fight, like a sin, and I spent the first hour or so distraught over whether I actually liked the movie or whether I was liking it because it was similar to movies I considered important. I'm still a little bit unsure, but I was nonetheless impressed.

May 08, 2007 3:31 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

Two other fairly recent Boorman recommendations for you:

The General, an atmospheric b&w rendering of the Dublin criminal underworld; it's a biopic - of sorts - of Martin Cahill, a career criminal known as The General (who appears in other guises in the film versions of the Veronica Guerin story; he was killed two years before her). As you would expect, Boorman does a fine job of exploring the moral grey areas, and Jon Voight is surprisingly effective/authentic as a Dublin cop. Boorman's familiarity with Ireland, given his long residence there, shows through in the details.

The Tailor of Panama, a flawed film, to be sure, but extremely enjoyable to see Pierce Brosnan undermine the Bond mythology so thoroughly (as he's done in other films, too), while there's a great, clever cameo from Harold Pinter. Again, Boorman is well-suited to capturing the atmosphere of deep moral ambiguity, as well as the absurdity that is at the heart of Le Carré's (self-spoofing) novel.

May 08, 2007 9:35 AM  
Blogger dave said...

Girish - Hell in the Pacific has a similar juggling of 'modernism' and 'classicism,' and really is a fine film. Though I think its use of the snap-zoom has aged a bit poorly, the film creates spectacular tension between Toshiro Mifune and Lee Marvin as soldiers from warring armies trapped together alone on an island. None of Mifune's speech (all in Japanese) is subtitled, one example of a 'modern' technique used to great 'classical' effect. The zooms are also a classical device in their way; if you like Boorman, Hell in the Pacific is highly recommended.
I wrote about it briefly a few months ago.

May 08, 2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Peter, Tucker, Noel, Ignatius, Gareth, Dave -- Thank you, guys! I appreciate your taking the time.

There are so many well-known Boorman films in your suggestions that have passed me by...

Over here, I'm buried neck-deep in a sea red ink. (I speak of exams and grading...)

A little anecdote: Boorman tells Soderbergh on the Point Blank DVD commentary track that the original novel was set entirely in San Francisco but he moved the locale to Los Angeles for most of the action because after touring both cities, he thought that L.A. came off as "harsh" as opposed to S.F. feeling "pastel-like"...

May 08, 2007 4:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Discovered happily that most of the films mentioned here are on DVD and rentable. Also dug up an old VHS of Leo the Last that I must've made off cable .

I also have several volumes of the journal Projections: Filmmakers on Filmmaking that Boorman edits. The issue # 4 1/2, done in association with Positif, is particularly good.

May 08, 2007 6:42 PM  
Blogger Ignatius Vishnevetsky said...

I keep seeing Projections at the library, and the used bookstore by my house has a ton of them in the film section (they haven't sold in two years). Since I'm always unsure on Boorman, I hesitate to pick them up--are they worth it?

May 08, 2007 11:21 PM  
Anonymous jim emerson said...

I'm with cineboy's recommendations. We named "Hope and Glory" the best film of 1987 when I was an LA Film Critic. "Deliverance" is one of those movies every American needs to see -- it's such a part of pop culture (and a damn good movie besides -- plus Ned Beatty's unforgettable screen debut!) I took my mom to see "Excalibur" in 1981 and she burst into applause at the end. I admit I haven't seen any "Lord of the Rings" movies, but I can't imagine they'd hold a candle (or a wizard's wand) to Boorman's magnificent version of "Le Morte d'Arthur." (I envision a double bill with Bresson's "Lancelot du Lac" -- or Rohmer's "Perceval"!) And I have friends who are very big fans of "Beyond Rangoon" -- which was the subject of Kathleen Murphy's cover story in Film Comment in 1995.

May 09, 2007 12:58 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for those suggestions, Jim. I was just thinking the same thing about Deliverance.

Ignatius, Projections is different from other film journals in that it is from the POV of film-makers. It's worth checking out. In addition to 4 1/2, I'd suggest looking at the film criticism issue (#8), and the one which features just interviews with French filmmakers in conjunction with Positif (#9), for starters. I have the first 9 issues. There's one later issue on women film-makers that I've been meaning to check out.

May 09, 2007 6:17 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Film criticism links post at David Hudson's, including Anthony Kaufman's "clogger" (critic/blogger) post.
-- Ignatius transcribes a Q&A with Iranian pre-revolutionary filmmaker Ebrahim Golestan.
-- Peter on Curtis Harrington's Night Tide.
-- Thom on Golddiggers of 1933.

May 09, 2007 6:26 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

For what it’s worth, my brief thoughts on Point Blank, eight paragraphs down from the top.

May 09, 2007 6:46 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

The General is a good one, and you have to see Deliverance, of course.

May 09, 2007 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

I think this is open to discussion, but isn't Point Blank rooted more in the postmodern than the modern?

I've always considered it to be a postmodern spin on the classic Hollywood genre film, grouped with fellow 1967 PoMo masterpieces Le Samourai and Bonnie and Clyde.

Granted, Walker (Lee Marvin) is the very embodiment of the modernist "hero", but the film, with its blending of art both high and low, its fractured narrative, and conscious tinkering of noir tropes certainly lends argument in favor of it being a postmodern work.

May 09, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger The Shamus said...

As I think I wrote once, I always thought Point Blank, and not Bonnie and Clyde, should get the nod for kicking off the classic era of late '60s-'70s films. Also, to tie in with your picture, the use of the yellow color scheme throughout the movie always intrigued me, and I believe Soderbergh comments on it on the audio track. I'm with the others on Deliverance, The Tailor of Panama and Hope and Glory. too.

May 09, 2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger ratzkywatzky said...

Zardoz opens with a sequence borrowed from The Gang's All Here, and closes with a sequence borrowed from Buster Keaton's College. I'd recommend it.

May 09, 2007 3:55 PM  
Anonymous cinebeats said...

Point Blank is my favorite Boorman film followed by Zordoz, Deliverance, Excalibur, Hope and Glory, Exorcist II: The Heretic , The Emerald Forest and Hell in the Pacific is a must watch if you want to see another great Marvin/Boorman collaboration.

I'm one of those strange people who loves Zardoz and didn't find it silly at all, but I also like Exorcist II and can't understand why so many people hate it so much. I thought it has some wonderful stuff in it.

I find The Emerald Forest really interesting partly due to the casting of Boorman's son in the starring role. I thought it added more depth & insight into the whole father/son theme that the movie explores.

May 09, 2007 3:58 PM  
Blogger Damian said...

We had an employee who worked here at the video store not too long ago that absolutely worshipped Boorman, so I ended up watching a fair amount of his films. I have to agree with my friend Tucker that Deliverance and Hope and Glory are among his best works. I also happen to think that Tailor of Panama, Beyond Rangoon and his recent In My Country are rather under-appreciated. I admit that I have yet to see Zardoz, Point Blank or The Emerald Forest but I did see Excalibur and, unfortunately, was not that impressed by it (though it's still superior to Exorcist II).

May 09, 2007 9:29 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Girish, I'm a bit underversed on Boorman myself, so I'm tempted to remain quiet after you've gotten so many other recommendations here. But I can't resist tossing out my own personal favorite so far even though it's already been mentioned several times: Hell in the Pacific.

I actually saw Point Blank at a series of Frisco-set films. Even though only a fraction of the film was set here, it felt just right on a double-bill with (the inferior, but still worth watching) Bullitt.

The Boorman I most want to see is Emerald Forest. I wanted to see it when it first came out- it played a theatre near my house for months and the poster was enough to grab my attention. But I didn't go to movies much at the time, and once its engagement ended it soon faded from my mind. But my interest was recently rekindled by hearing that Apichatpong Weerasethakul considers it a major influence on his jungle films.

On the other hand, I've seen Zardoz on the big screen in the past few years, and I'm still trying to figure out its overwhelming appeal among a certain set of cine-snobs, who seem to be completely earnest in their appreciation. But nobody's been able to help me understand why, other than in the old "so-bad-it's-good" way.

May 10, 2007 12:32 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Flickhead, Tuwa, Filmbrain, Shamus, Ratzkywatzky, Cinebeats, Damian, Brian --Thank you, all! As always, I appreciate your words.

It's really ineresting to see varying perspectives and takes on the same films.

And now I'm really curious about Zardoz...!

Filmbrain, I've been knocking around some of those ideas about modernism and postmodernism too, and was thinking of doing a post about them. Just a couple of tentative ideas:

One school of thought (e.g. Marshall Berman, of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air) believes that postmodernism is a sort of extension of modernism, modernism taken to an extreme. So, the difference between the two is really a matter of degree.

Elements like a fractured narrative, or consciously making the viewer/reader aware of the form of the work, are hallmarks of modernism. (We can think of Joyce, Braque, Resnais....) By extension, they can also be present in postmodernism.

Similarly, playing with and collaging high and low material is a postmodernist trait but perhaps can also be traced back to modernism. (Think of Cubism's rejection of the exclusive use of 'high' art materials like paint and canvas, and incorporation of everyday 'low' materials like bits of old newspaper and other detritus and junk.)

There's at least one way in which Point Blank seems to me to be not postmodernist. It uses plot and setting to actively critique modernity (architecture and urban space; capitalism). IMO, Po-Mo art tends to accept and play with tropes and fragments, high and low, perhaps using 'irony', but doesn't often indulge in systematic socio-political critique by advancing a particular point of view (a certain vision of the world, a 'truth') that it privileges over others. The play with noir, Pop Art and architecture in Point Blank exists not just for its own sake, for the sake of postmodern 'play', but also in fact to strongly satirize and critique modern life. At least, that's how it struck me when I watched it this time around...

May 10, 2007 8:28 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- At Chuck Tryon's place: posts+discussion on blogger-critics.
-- Adrian has a few words on Peter Ibbetson at Kevin Lee's place. Also, post+video commentary essay by Kevin on La Haine.
-- A couple of NYC film programs look interesting to me, sitting far away over here: Generation Garrel at BAM; and Emile de Antonio at Anthology. Anyone out there planning for and looking forward to these films? Just curious.

May 10, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger cineboy said...

It is interesting that most of the artists & philosophers who have been "tagged" as post-modern have rejected that lable - for various reasons, not least of which is a dislike of lables; and labeling (and the rejecting of lables) is so post-modern. Sometimes I think the label "post-modern" came about merely because of a feeling that it must be time to move one, when in fact, modernism was always moving on anyway, etc. etc. Maybe it came about more from a collective-subconscious-generational-post '68-post Gilligan's Island kind of thing than a true change in either philosophies or aethetics. Someday we'll be living in the post-iPod/post-YouTube era and our children will be telling us that we just don't get it, and we'll look at them and say "yeah, but it's still just the same as it always was." And they won't believe us. Ha!

May 10, 2007 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Food for thought, Girish. Nice observations.

Back in the mid-90s I completely immersed myself in PoMo theory, most of which I've forgotten. I remember loving Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition until I read Habermas, who set forth the late- not post-modern argument.

Lyotard's distrust of meta-narratives is appealing, but, as Habermas pointed out, a conception of reality based on a subjectivist approach can only lead to irrationalism.

Have you read much Frederic Jameson? In his book The Seeds of Time (at least I think it was from that book) he mentions the term "double coding" in a definition of postmodernism as it pertains to the arts: a combination of modernist techniques with the addition of other elements that take history into account. The end product is able to communicate modularly.

Point Blank is built upon an established noir framework, but manages (consciously, I might add) to transcend the genre. It it this transcending that, in my mind, makes it post-, as opposed to late-modernism.

Which reminds me of a joke:

Q: How many postmodernists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Two. One to ponder the subtextualities of change regarding the cultural hegemony of the electrical/manual pseudoduality, and one to call the janitor.

May 10, 2007 11:26 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey thanks, Tucker and Filmbrain!

Ah, I didn't realize you had once steeped yourself in Po-Mo theory, Filmbrain.

I haven't read any Jameson first-hand, but I'm coincidentally getting ready to dive into Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Your mention of "double coding" sounds very intriguing. I look forward to reading/learning about it.

May 10, 2007 12:41 PM  
Blogger girish said...

via David Hudson: the website for Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales.

May 10, 2007 1:29 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Mind you, I love the action sequences and atmosphere in Deliverance (and just remembering it makes me think all the less of something as recent as The River Wild), but as a represenation of the South it's slanderous, downright comic in its grotesqueness. You don't want to take it seriously as a travelogue.

But as a landscape of the mind, sure...nightmares galore.

May 10, 2007 10:19 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

If Jackson had any balls, he'd have avoided CGI completely and staged LOTR as a series of theatrical tableaus, much like the ending of Excalibur (which, I submit, influenced in turn the beginning of Coppola's Dracula).

I take it no one here has seen/liked In My Country. It's not too bad--yes it indulges in the cliche of a white and an American (but not in the same person!) witnessing a Big Issue, but it does imply complexities that go beyond that grand experiment that was the Truth and Reconsiliation Commission.

Plus I thought Binoche and Jackson had excellent chemistry. And Gleason was great in that film.

May 10, 2007 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Boorman is a VERY underrated filmmaker - partly because he was caught in that famous polemical war between POSITIF (who love him) and CAHIERS (who don't) - indeed, the key text that, for me, pinpoints the difference in approach between the two mags is a mid 80s review of POSITIF editor Michel Ciment's Boorman book by Michel Chion in CAHIERS. (Chion eventually changed camps!) As or me, I love WHERE THE HEART IS, a truly eccentric film (like many Boormans) that mixes high melodrama, zany British humour, full-blown apocalyptic/cosmic symbolism, modernist mood-switcheroos, and a party-cast including Uma Thurman and Crispin Glover. At the time, Glover in fact announced that Boorman was a better director than David Lynch! Although he may regard himself as a better director than either these days ...

May 11, 2007 12:26 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Noel and Adrian!
Didn't realize the critical/historical context; it's very interesting...

May 11, 2007 6:41 AM  
Blogger girish said...

James Quandt and Cinematheque Ontario have a great couple of months of summer programming coming up: a complete Pedro Costa retrospective, with Costa in person, and a bonus of Straub/Huillet's Sicilia!; also, a Victor Erice series (with Erice in person); and a program of favorite films curated by Erice.

May 11, 2007 10:19 AM  
Blogger girish said...

New issue of Senses of Cinema.

May 11, 2007 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Generation Garrel. Unfortunately not the series one might have hoped for. BAM had a Garrel series about 2 years ago and all the films of his currently showing, except for the incredible Le Lit de la Vierge , which has played recently in NYC, were part of that more comprehensive series (or just had a theatrical run, i.e. Regular Lovers). Not to say I won't see them all again and that there isn't appreciation for them being shown. Just wish I could see the few remaining Garrel films I haven't seen. And, who can scoff at any series that shows the amazing Kings and Queen? Not I for sure. The Dreamers on the other hand? YUCK. Perhaps one of the worst films of all time.

May 11, 2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Anonymous, I've seen just Regular Lovers and Sauvage Innocence and I'm primed for a large Garrel series, if it ever happens...

May 12, 2007 6:15 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

but as a represenation of the South it's slanderous, downright comic in its grotesqueness.

Noel, you've just reminded me of a Shirley Jackson comment that Northerners considered her fiction grotesque except when it was, and then they called it realist.

As a Southerner I didn't feel particularly slandered by the film, probably because I put it in that curious faux-realist camp reflecting a particular psychological point of view. I'm not sure if that's the "right" thing to do--do people mistake Taxi Driver for a complete and accurate picture of New York? (that's a serious question, not a troll)

May 12, 2007 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difficulty of tracking down Garrel prints is quite unfortunate. He's one of my favorite filmmakers which only makes it worse. His early films are especially hard to see though there was a new print of The Inner Scar at MOMA a couple years ago. Then there's the whole thing of there only being one print in existence, I think, of maybe his finest film L'enfant Secret. I;m looking forward to seeing Liberte Nuit again as it also is one of his best. There are some mid-70's films that are up there with Four Nights of a Dreamer as films I most want to see. His "portrait" film of Jean Seberg from that period is remarkable.

May 12, 2007 1:01 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Basically what you said, Tuwa--take it seriously as a nightmare, not as the real South. I did three years' time in North Carolina, myself, for the record.

May 12, 2007 9:22 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

You make it sound like a prison sentence. It wasn't that bad, was it? ^_^ I've heard it's beautiful.

May 13, 2007 12:13 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Anonymous, Tuwa and Noel.

New releases at Netflix this morning include:
Vengeance Is Mine, Army Of Shadows, Pan's Labyrinth.

A couple of links:

-- David Bordwell has a large post on "new media and old storytelling."
-- Michael Guillen spends a day with Heddy Honigmann.

May 13, 2007 8:40 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Basically, I prefer colder weather.

But the food was terrific. North Carolina cue is more elemental than that syrup drenched stuff they have in Kansas or Texas (and I think I agree, you can't get decent cue north of the Carolinas, least of all in New York (except when Mitchell brought his grill there once a year). I'd argue it's more American than apple pie--at least I've mentioned it to film critic Max Tessier, and he wrinkles his nose at the stuff.

May 13, 2007 7:40 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Sorry, had to explain--I mentioned it to French film critic Max Tessier, and he wrinkled his nose at the stuff. Which must mean it's as native as anything else American.

girish, if you ever come that far south you should try it--a serving is around 3,000 calories!

May 13, 2007 11:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Whoa that sounds serious!
The only Southern food I've had is in New Orleans, and my spice-inured Indian taste buds felt totally at home there.

May 14, 2007 6:55 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Aaron Graham has new posts on Jacques Tourneur and Francis Ford Coppola films.
-- Acquarello posts a list of current and upcoming DVD releases.
-- At AFB: animated discussion of Abraham Polonsky's Romance of a horsethief (1971), which I'd never heard of. It sounds fascinating. Brad Stevens even reproduces an old Tim Milne review from Monthly Film Bulletin. I just found the DVD available at Amazon--I kid you not--for a penny!

Well, it's here, the last day of the semester. I'll be spending most of the day hunched over spreadsheets, computing and filing grades. I have a post bubbling under, and shall return with it tonight or tomorrow. Have a good one, y'all.

May 14, 2007 7:40 AM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Noel is right. And in addition to being "all-American," good 'cue is a force of nature! I just came back from a long weekend in North Carolina, though I only got to eat barbecue twice; I'm already wishing I could have some for dinner again ...

I believe Jim Leff (the guy behind is on record as claiming US Southern cooking as his favorite of them all.

May 14, 2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Truth be told, I'm not sure I've ever had barbecue. I'm a timid non-vegetarian, having been raised a (Brahmin) vegetarian for the first 20 or so years of my life. Noel's 3000-calorie meal sounds like a dangerous adventure from where I stand...! (But one I'd surely like to try.)

May 14, 2007 6:24 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I used to love barbecue ... even ordered it in Mexico once when I saw it on the menu as barbacoa. I was outside Cobá, one of the ruins which were still actually ruined, with the lines unplumbed and trees growing up the back, and a few goats climbing higher and higher in the early morning sun to escape the human with the camera. The restaurant was not far from the ruins and had all these chickens walking around it; the meat was very tough. Sadly (as I was in college) this was roughly when I started thinking about where the food actually came from. This food hadn't been frozen, and perhaps was even walking around still as I was climbing the ruins.

It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't Southern; it didn't compare to BBQ in the South.

May 14, 2007 8:33 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Zach: wish we knew each other then/I knew you were swinging by there/whatever; I could have recommended some terrific places near I-95, especially in the little town of Wilson.

In fact, y'all New Yorkers going on a vacation in Florida should stop by the town of Wilson and check out what they have to offer.

It's not as spicy as Indian food; if anything, it's even simpler, cruder, yet forceful. If an Indian meal is a symphony of flavors, this is The Duelling Banjos.

May 15, 2007 3:59 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Tuwa, what Southern state do you hail from?

May 15, 2007 4:00 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

The Florida panhandle. I don't think I've ever been to Wilson. There's a particular restaurant there you endorse?

May 15, 2007 8:57 AM  
Blogger dave said...

I am very excited for the Garrel series at BAM; The Dreamers and Dans Paris might be the only ones I skip. Though Lit de la vierge was embarassingly bad, I loved Regular Lovers. Very much looking forward to the rest of the series.

May 15, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, really? Eh, difference of opinion I guess. I'm a big fan of Le Lit de la Vierge. Yeah there are parts maybe a bit over influenced by the LSD in Morocco but I still find it to be a pretty amazing film. The shot of Peirre Clementi on the donkey riding through the streets as Garrel and Clementi's jams play is one of my favorite shots around. I would warn you to maybe stay away from The Inner Scar if that didn't strike your fancy. The rest of the Garrel films showing are all his post late 70's autobiographical narrative films (though Liberte Nuit is about his father actually).

May 15, 2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger dave said...

a few shots were impressive - I love the opening shot - but for me there's not much there. Danny's review pretty much nailed my response. Still, as far as I'm concerned, anything Garrel is worth a shot.

May 15, 2007 2:13 PM  
Blogger dave said...

has anyone here seen Frédéric Pardo's "Home Movie: On the Set of Phillipe Garrel's Le Lit de la Vierge"?

May 15, 2007 2:21 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey there, folks.

I've been celebrating the end of the semester today by (embarrassingly) just vegging in bed and watching movies. Just saw Fixed Bayonets for the first time. Wow...

Taking a movie road trip to Eastman House in a few minutes, but hope to be back to blogging in the morrow...!

May 15, 2007 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe I saw the Pardo film at Anthology during the Zanzibar series maybe three or four years ago. Silent, Super-8 footage?

I would disagree with the linked to review that Le Lit... has a lot going in, particularly in how it shows a sort of dissatisfaction with and a searching for a way of living in the world and living with others in the world. The film seems to be born of the same disillusionment of post May '68 Garrel addresses in Regular Lovers and is very much a dealing with the questions that raises not on a broad politcal level per se but on a more abstract field of the questioning and searching that goes on in what Stanley Cavell might call a consenting to be in the world, a questioning of what kind of world one desires to live in, whether this world worthy of consent is attainable and how this is gone about with another person.

May 15, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Coincidentally, I'm currently working on a post on Le Lit de la vierge, but it's going slooowly. I've seen Pardo's Home Movie as well (yup, it's silent, in color, 16mm), and that struck me as being more of a kind of collage film of Morocco than really putting a context to Garrel's film. The style reminds me of a hyper-edited Mark Lepore ethnography.

Anyway, I think Le Lit de la vierge is pretty interesting in the way it equates the idea of counter-culture revolution with a kind of modern-day social salvation. It's not a Buñuelian, Simon of the Desert type questioning of beliefs, nor is it a Pasolinian kind of "everyday Jesus" of The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Rather, it's more like a holy innocent, Jeanne d'arc type estrangement.

May 15, 2007 5:24 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Girish, congratulations on surviving the semester! Glad you gave yourself some time to just chill.

May 15, 2007 5:25 PM  
Blogger dave said...

anon, I see those issues as essential pieces of Le Lit..., I just think they're treatment is amateurish, and the film is too abstract, largely lacking a grounding in the world. acquarello, I'm quite curious where your piece goes... I'd love for someone to convince me that I need to give it a second chance. Often when I hate a film, I'm secretly convinced that later I will come around to love it.

May 15, 2007 5:32 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Aye, I too would like to be convinced about the merits of Le Lit...but like Dave am worried that any case of its greater merit will founder on a disagreement not with what it is saying but how it is saying it. The production is slipshod, and overly abstract, with admittedly many moments of coherent beauty and accomplished seriousness (chief among them the Nico musical number; Garrel can even pull off a rotating live statue of Jesus and Mary in earnestness), but on the whole is silly and awkward with cryptic characterizations for the man and woman, the two former qualifies being ones I wouldn't have a problem with if the film didn't take itself so darn seriously. Still, I'm eagerly awaiting acquarello's reading of the film.

May 15, 2007 11:27 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 16, 2007 1:12 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Florida--doesn't the man who invented the Caja China live there? I'd love to try his roast pork...

Parker's was pretty good--they cook the whole pig over charcoal pits, then in the last hour light gas burners above the pig so that the skin'll crisp without having to turn the pig over.

The address is 2614 US 301 South, but if you get off any Wilson exit and ask any gas station, they'll direct you to the place.

The REAL find was Mitchell's, which was at 301 too--Tony Bourdain ended his Food Network episode on barbecue at that place, and it was every bit as good as its rep. Great collards, too, and chitlins.

But Mitchelll's closed, in 2005, I think--tax reasons. Ah, well. I'd heard they might be opening, but no word yet. Still New Yorkers can taste his cue at their annual block party, June 9 to 10.

Wonderful cue and buffet is found on Exit 20, in Lumberton, NC. Get off the exit onto Roberts Ave, head less than a mile west (left coming from the south, right from the north), and you'll see Fullers on your left. Salty, smoked cue with bits of skin, and the okra is great (I asked their secret--they bake it. And, I suspect, smear it with cue drippings). Actually, everything there is great, you can't go wrong eating there.

Some fairly out of the way places--

Wilber's in Goldsboro, 4172 US 70 East (can't remember the exit on 95, just look for the exit going US 70, it's around twenty minutes away) is along with Mitchell's about the moistest, juiciest cue you'll ever taste in the state.

Arguably the best, tho, you need to drive around an hour to reach. Take route 64 east off of 95, then go down 11 south past Greenville. It's in Ayden, the name a contraction of A Den of Thieves (not a promising sounding name, but it's a quiet little burg). When you see the faux Capitol dome, you're there. All the cars in the lot come from everywhere--Maryland, Florida, New York.

The owner died. I don't know if they've kept up the quality. They promised to, anyway.

Note: the meat is drier than in Mitchell's or Wilber's, but the flavor is to die for, or at least I thought so. Same with the cornbread--they mix cue drippings into the dough.

May 16, 2007 1:15 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Hi, girish and all--for those curious about Behram Beyzai, his Bashu the Little Stranger is available on Netflix.

Could be my all-time favorite Iranian film.

May 16, 2007 2:43 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Merci, tout le monde!

All this great Garrel talk is getting me hungry to watch his films! Coincidentally, I happened to catch a long-take clip from The Inner Scar yesterday. It was arresting; I'd like to see the film someday.

Speaking of "hungry," Noel, you are a connoisseur who means business! And thanks for Bashu, which I just added to my queue.

Michael, you know how it takes a couple of days to settle down after a whirlwind of activity? That's the limbo I'm in right now. You must be going through the same thing now that the dust has settled on SFIFF...

And now I can put off my blog post no longer. Back in a few hrs...

May 16, 2007 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Darren said...

A few days away from Girish's site and I miss a conversation about one of my favorite subjects, Southern food. I was raised in Maryland but moved south fifteen years ago and married a woman from the bottom end of Alabama. I'll never be a real Southerner, but I'm a proud (if ambivalent) transplant.

Girish, if you ever make it down here for a long weekend of movies at Chez Hughes, I'll treat you to some Tennessee barbecue or, even better, a massive meal of fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and keylime pie. It's a meal straight from heaven. :)

May 16, 2007 4:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Darren, I've never had such a meal, and have only seen it in the movies! And I'm definitely taking you up on that offer of the Southern trip...

May 16, 2007 6:46 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

What's Alabama cue like, darren?

I like to think I make some decent shrimp and grits. Try do it with stone ground grits, of course.

And--come to think of it--I can finally do real red-eye gravy! I've got a coffeemaker! Now I just have to buy country ham...

May 17, 2007 12:44 AM  

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