Friday, October 31, 2008

More Martiniana

It is now officially 'Adrian Martin Month' here at the blog: he's writing 'em faster than I can read 'em. In the last week, at least four new pieces have appeared. Adrian: you should think about recording one of those Tony Robbins-style infomercials for the rest of us!

Two of the pieces are in the new issue of Undercurrent, edited by Chris Fujiwara. The issue isn't large, but every single piece in it is good and worth reading. For me, one of the highlights is an exchange between Adrian and Andrew Klevan.

Adrian reviews Klevan's book about acting, Film Performance: From Achievement to Appreciation, praising and recommending it. After getting this strong endorsement over with in the first few paragraphs, the review switches tack to do something unusual: without pulling its punches, it mounts a forthright but very constructive critique of the book. The review takes the book to task for several reasons: valorizing classicism; displaying a lack of interest in cinematic modernism; not drawing from anecdotal material like biographies or memoirs; and sidelining the film director and mise en scène in favor of the actor.

Klevan's response essay replies to these criticisms with great openness and generosity, clearly outlining the rationale for the choices he made in the book. The two essays together make for a rare critical dialogue that is plain and direct in its disagreements but ever mutually respectful. (I'm wondering: Are there other examples of criticism undertaken in this gracious spirit of dialogue?).

Other Martiniana of the week:

(1) "Cruising: The Sound of Violence" in Undercurrent;

(2) "The Enigma of Gesture," a report on the Brisbane Film Festival at the FIPRESCI site; and

(3) "'Abolish All Film Magazines!'": the new Filmkrant column.

The Brisbane piece is much more than a film festival report; it smuggles in a sustained reflection on crying in cinema. Here's an excerpt on why we often sense a discrepancy between the tears of a character and what prompts or triggers that emotional outpouring:

Yet maybe it is only bad, conventional movies which have conditioned us, down the years, to expect that an emotion (as effect or release) can cleanly match or be appropriate to its cause: as philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us, we are always more and less than ourselves, and our emotional response (or affect) invariably occurs in the zones of the not-enough or the too-much. It is our fate. Life confirms this regularly: we find that we cannot grieve enough as we would like, or openly enough, at the funeral of a loved one or family member (with catastrophic social effects, as for Camus' immortal 'outsider'); conversely, we find that that the tiniest pretext, along a convoluted line of displacements and sublimations, can send us into wailing histrionics, uncontrollable and inconsolable.

* * *

More good reading:

-- Chris Fujiwara on the melodramas of Vincente Minnelli, at Moving Image Source.

-- The Siren on "several very famous remarks made by famous movie people that she never wants to hear again."

-- Michael Guillen on the new issue of Film International, a special on film festivals.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum on two Jim McBride films, David Holzman's Diary and My Girlfriend's Wedding.

-- Mubarak links to an essay by Nicole Brenez called "On the Subject of Regrettable Searching - Body to Body, the Filmed Body." It opens thus: "Necessarily, the body is a source of worry: subject to accident, decline, death, it is that from which we must escape by, for example, leaving figurative traces that others perhaps will consider art."

-- Danny Kasman and David Phelps interview Lucretia Martel at the Auteurs' Notebook.

-- A characteristically epic and interesting thread at Dave Kehr's place on Japanese cinema, neo-realism and film noir (among other things).

-- Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic has an essay called "Why I Blog".

pic: "I think she's lonesome...even with all that red hair." Ron Howard to Glenn Ford in Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963).


Blogger HarryTuttle said...

"I'm wondering: Are there other examples of criticism undertaken in this gracious spirit of dialogue?"

I'm thinking of Bazin-Malraux about the film L'Espoir (published in Le Cinéma de L'Occupation et de la Résistance), a great dialogue between great minds.

I take this opportunity to plug a cycle of conferences on Bazin in Paris (Nov 25-29) and at Yale too it seems, not sure.

October 31, 2008 8:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry, yes that's true, at Yale as well (organized by Dudley Andrew):

December 4-7, 2008
"Ouvrir Bazin/Opening Bazin"

"This conference will honor André Bazin, indisputably the cinema’s most influential philosopher-critic, who died November 11, 1958, fifty years ago. This anniversary moment has fueled what has already been a massive resurgence of interest in his ideas over the past decade.

The conference is in two parts; the first half in Paris from November 27-29 and the second half at Yale from December 4-7. The Yale portion will focus on the consequences of his writings in films, theory, and the arts, including the current situation of digital media. Around twenty speakers will deliver 30 minute talks. A few key films, and at least one filmmaker in Bazin’s tradition, will enliven the proceedings. More information and a schedule will follow."

October 31, 2008 8:42 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

Why, I have just come home from the Courtship of Eddie's Father! A lovely series of films, those Minnelli's...

October 31, 2008 11:46 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Hey Girish: I stumbled on a film that seemed to reveal affinities with other filmmakers. I linked my piece to your previous post. Hope you don't mind that it's in the context of a Mexican horror film.

November 01, 2008 12:54 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

As ever, thanks for the shout-out, Girish. Likewise, with regard to Film International and the renewed interest in Bazin, I'm happy to report that the entire Film International issue devoted to Bazin is now available through Highbeam Research Library, just in case it escaped the shelves before you had a chance to buy it.

November 01, 2008 3:41 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Sam, the more Minnelli I watch, the more I like him. Glad to see you're getting the Oshima series.

Peter, au contraire: I enjoyed your post. I look forward to your Denver film festival impressions. I was disappointed that Toronto didn't program the Tokyo! omnibus film with Leos Carax, Bong Joon-ho and Michel Gondry.

Thanks, Maya. I didn't realize the Bazin issue was available. I'm actually considering subscribing to the magazine.

November 01, 2008 9:05 PM  
Blogger girish said...

There is, in Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father, a scene that is a sort of 'reverse parallel' to Adrian's story about his mother and their cat.

Glenn Ford and Ron Howard play father and son. Soon after the film begins--and thus, this is not a 'spoiler'--we learn that the boy's mother has recently died. The boy shows no real signs of mourning. But upon seeing one of the goldfish in his tank float to the surface, he lets out one long primal scream that seems to contain within it all kinds of emotions--sadness, anger, confusion, etc. The neighbor (Shirley Jones) rushes over to help, and points out the 'displacement' by asking the boy if he is really missing his mother. Glenn Ford gets furious and instantly throws her out.

November 02, 2008 1:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Adrian, I really enjoyed how constructive your criticisms of Klevan's book were, and how generously he responded to them. I'm curious: Have you met him? Do you know him or keep in touch?

November 02, 2008 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Girish - I was absolutely dumbfounded by EDDIE'S FATHER when I saw it again fairly recently - a completely brilliant film. I believe Carlos Losilla has written a long study of it in the forthcoming Minnelli anthology edited by Joe McElhaney, I'm looking forward to that. I had long read about the topic of 'Minnelli and hysteria' since the '70s, but my god, that goldfish scene is incredible, beyond all Freudian textbooks! Minnelli had some extraordinary understanding of emotions and the psyche - and how to stage/dramatise them (sometimes in comedy, or song-and-dance!).

As regards Andrew Klevan: we had only corresponded at the time those UNDERCURRENT pieces were written. I since met him in Australia (he was here for the cricket!), and then more recently at the Reading Uni conference in UK, where he gave a great talk. He's a very nice guy, and his work is very inspiring. But the 'critical dialogue; preceded the personal meeting' per se perhaps a common condition of the modern world!

November 02, 2008 7:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Adrian, I will keep an eye out for McElhaney's Minnelli collection.

November 02, 2008 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Flanagan said...

Girish, thanks for linking to the fascinating exchange about Film Performance - it's a shame correspondences like that aren't published more often. I'd just like to put in a kind word for Klevan's Disclosure of the Everyday: Undramatic Achievement in Narrative Film as well, which appears to have disappeared off the academic radar somewhat alongside publisher Flicks Books. I'm not entirely convinced by his definition of the relationship between undramatic narrative/incident and the 'everyday' (rather conversative, especially the line drawn at 'melodramas of time' which rules out things like Jeanne Dielman), but the chapters devoted to in-depth analyses of films (Diary of a Country Priest, Loves of a Blonde, Late Spring, A Tale of Springtime) are really great, very sensitive and original. Well worth seeking out.

I've been meaning to see The Courtship of Eddie's Father ever since reading Perkins' Film as Film - thanks for reminding me to actually get round to it!

November 03, 2008 6:53 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Btw, Adrian, how was this Reading conference? Will there be any publication of the talks? I'm quite interested by the topics they' ve put up on their website. Would it be possible to read your speech?

what is this Highbeam Research Library? They ask a CC number for the free trial, so I can't register. Anybody out there would be so generous to send me the PDF of this FI issue on Bazin? I would be infinitly grateful.

November 03, 2008 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Flanagan said...

Harry, Adrian's keynote at Reading was a tour de force, and it's a shame that it wasnt recorded (or at least it didn't appear to be). I don't think a comprehensive publication was being planned, but hopefully some of the papers will be turned into journal articles (or at least become available in some fashion).

* Meant to write 'conservative' instead of 'conversative' in my post above - a Freudian slip, perhaps.

November 03, 2008 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
WOOOOOOOOOOOHA thank you Mr Martin. It is your month indeed...

November 04, 2008 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Nathan, you beat me to the exclusive 'Shambu annoucement' of the new ROUGE! Here's our blurb for it:

The long-awaited Issue 12 of ROUGE coalesces around the theme of the Archive. Vinzenz Hediger leads off with a proposal about film archives and cinephilia in the contemporary scene. American avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas speaks of the archive he has collected, as well as the personal archive he has filmed. From Hungary, Péter Forgács speaks vividly about his practice of found footage cinema and its politics. Russian archives hesitate between fact and fiction in the recent film First on the Moon (analysed by Julia Vassilieva) and the New Zealand video Scuppered, presented by its maker Alan Wright. Harun Farocki’s cinema of montage and critique is surveyed by Christopher Pavsek. As well, there is an appreciation of Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven by Yvette Bíró (author of the recently published Turbulence and Flow); an introduction to the Cinémathèque française Mitchell Leisen retrospective by Mark Rappaport; a tribute to the memory of Guido Mutis (director of the Valdivia International Film Festival 2007-8) by Juan Pablo Miranda; and Kent Jones’ reflection ‘Can Movies Think?’. And, on the eve of the US election, two glances back at 2004: in Jean-Pierre Coursodon’s celebration of Robert Altman’s little-screened Tanner on Tanner; and Gilberto Perez’s take on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, an essay deemed too hot for The Yale Review. The special bonus of this issue is a dossier of essential articles devoted to the work of Manny Farber (1917-2008) as critic and painter, by Donald Phelps (1969), Jonathan Rosenbaum (1983), Patrick Amos & Jean-Pierre Gorin (1986), Bill Krohn (1988) and Adrian Martin (1999) – plus a little-known, knockout piece by Farber on radio hosts published in 1951.

November 04, 2008 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Girish said...

Adrian, your productivity has now officially exploded through the roof!

Here's a clickable link to the new Rouge issue.

November 04, 2008 3:58 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Great issue, Adrian. I love adventures in archiving. So when will you come visit us San Franciscan cinephiles? I'll throw you a party.

November 05, 2008 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Just to rub it in: I have a new piece up at MOVING IMAGE SOURCE today on 'DVD chaptering'; and for Spanish readers particularly in Argentina, the 3rd printing this year (after Jose Manuel Lopez's terrific Kawase essay collection and QUE ES EL CINE MODERNO?) of my essay '"Cierto rincón oscuro del cine moderno" ("A Certain Dark Corner of Modern Cinema") in the October issue of EL AMANTE (which includes a whole Kawase section). This one has yet to appear in English!

November 06, 2008 6:50 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Adrain, here's a clickable link to the Moving Image Source piece. You're having a killer week!

Matthew, thanks for your tips on Klevan. I have his Disclosure book but haven't begun reading it yet.

November 06, 2008 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

... and my review of Oliveira's BELLE TOUJOURS is in the December SIGHT AND SOUND ! No net presence of this issue yet on the BFI site, so not sure whether it will be in their on-line selection.

November 11, 2008 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Klevan said...

I wanted to thank everyone for all the kind and generous things said about my work here, and to take this opportunity to thanks Girish and Adrian in particular for their enthusiastic, yet discerning, dissemination of film culture (not to mention their tireless commitment to initiating and maintaining conversations). Andrew Klevan

November 13, 2008 8:21 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

For the Portuguese language readers only, I've published a long interview with Adrian Martin called «O destinatário que testemunha».

January 16, 2009 5:13 PM  

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