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Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Luc Godard’

Don’t You Forget About Me

August 6, 2013 | by

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Some people revere Jean-Luc Godard, others obsess over finding subliminal messages in the films of Stanley Kubrick. Much as I love the work of these masters, the filmmaker whose work I tend to think the most about is John Hughes. From the iconic films he both wrote and directed (The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) to those he wrote and produced (Home Alone) the movies Hughes helped create between 1984 and 1991 are all classics in my eyes. (Even I will admit that after that his work gets really iffy: 101 Dalmatians, anybody?) I grew up laughing at his films, and when I eventually found myself homesick for the Chicagoland area I knew growing up, I’d revisit the copies of his films that I still watch on a monthly basis. Eventually I’d come to the realization that while David Kamp rightfully called Hughes the “Sweet Bard of Youth” in his 2010 Vanity Fair piece on the late director, I came to realize—thanks in large part to the distance between me and the place where I grew up—that Hughes was something even more; that he was to Chicago and its northern suburbs what Woody Allen was to Manhattan in the seventies and eighties. He made being from those bland suburbs seem more interesting than I recalled.

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Chamber of Secrets: The Sorcery of Angela Carter

October 17, 2012 | by

Illustration by Igor Karash

Fairy tales were reviled in the first stirrings of post-war liberation movements as part and parcel of the propaganda that kept women down. The American poet Anne Sexton, in a caustic sequence of poems called Transformations, scathingly evokes the corpselike helplessness of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, and scorns, with fine irony, the Cinderella dream of bourgeois marriage and living happily ever after: boredom, torment, incest, death to the soul followed. Literary and social theorists joined in the battle against the Disney vision of female virtue (and desirability); Cinderella became a darker villain than her sisters, and for Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, in their landmark study The Madwoman in the Attic, the evil stepmother in “Snow White” at least possesses mobility, will, and power—for which she is loathed and condemned. In the late sixties and early seventies, it wasn’t enough to rebel, and young writers and artists were dreaming of reshaping the world in the image of their desires. Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan had done the work of analysis and exposure, but action—creative energy—was as necessary to build on the demolition site of the traditional values and definitions of gender.

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Václav Havel: Outtakes from an Interview

December 20, 2011 | by

My first memory of Václav Havel is of watching the news as a kid, after the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and seeing pictures of Havel in his living room: a prison of stuffed bookshelves. For me, Havel was the image of a literary hero, an ideal of literature as integrity.

I’ve always, in other words, been a sucker for the questions of Pragueespecially Prague in the era of Soviet Communism, probably because these questions all relate to a larger problem: a writer’s responsibility and resistance to political life, the serious business of being flippant. In the setups of his farcical plays andfollowing his imprisonment in 1977 for involvement in a human-rights charterthrough the patient linguistic analysis of his essays, Havels subject was always the same: how language can be made to connive in unreality. But he also believed that words could be renovated, that a politics was possible. And this hope led him, for instance, to the courage of the following statement in his 1977 trial: there were certain words, he said, “which recur continually in the indictment and which one would describe as loaded, words like subversion, lies, malice, illegal organizations, anticommunist centers, vilification, hatred and so on. However, when one looks closely at these words, one finds that there is nothing behind them.” Just as it made him read Bellows libertine Herzog, in prison, in these dissident terms: “A professional with ‘words’ goes mad in a situation where words have no weight. He clearly lacks what we do not, which is to say a situation in which words have so much weight that you must pay quite dearly for them.”

This was why, in the summer of 2010, I found myself proposing a Paris Review interview to Havel. I wanted to ask him my own series of Prague questions, about his love of Bohumil Hrabal’s stories, the cinema of the Czech New Wave, his intuition of farce ... These questions, basically, were one big question: What was it like for a writer, as he did, to end up in the Presidential Palace?

The Interview, however, turned into a melancholy comedy of its own. Read More »

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The International

June 7, 2011 | by

One of the distinctions of Film Socialisme in Jean-Luc Godard’s oeuvre is its near-absence of cinemacentric references (the most prominent visual citation is from Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, a film from the so-called experimental-film tradition, one that has played a slender part in Godard’s lifetime of cinematic reflections). This time around, Godard comes to the history of cinema from the outside, as in a sequence that features the voice-over remarks “My friends, I’ve found the black box: here’s why Hollywood is called the Mecca of cinema—the tomb of the Prophet—all gazes turned in the same direction—the movie theater.” Likening the movie screen to the Kaaba, Godard suggests that the secular Jews of Hollywood were also founders of a faith, of a devotion to the guided gaze, sacralized by the prophetic power of the image itself. Yet calling the discovery the “black box” suggests that Godard considers the definitive record of Hollywood’s influence also to be a disaster and its prophetic influence to be fraudulent. It also suggests the loss of faith that accounts for the absence of references to the classic cinema and, in particular, to the Hollywood movies that were the core of the tradition he inherited and perpetuated.

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Staff Picks: Lawrence of Tell Halaf, Raging Nymphos

June 3, 2011 | by

A previously unpublished photograph of T. E. Lawrence was made available for sale this week at an auction house in Shropshire. The image, taken in 1912, shows a youthful Lawrence (in a casual coat and an oversize collar) at an archaeological dig in Tell Halaf. I took news of the photo as an excuse to thumb through Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom—an all-time favorite of mine—where I was greeted by one of my favorite passages in all of English literature: “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.” —Stephen Andrew Hiltner

I was sick in bed for the long weekend and spent my time veering rather oddly between the new edition of Diana Vreeland: An Illustrated Biography by Eleanor Dwight (basically the most glorious fashion porn in existence) and M. Owen Lee’s fascinating Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art. I like to think that Vreeland, if not Wagner, would have appreciated the combo. (And incidentally, if you haven't seen the very bizarre A Rage to Live—a 1965 vehicle about a nympho Suzanne Pleshette—it’s worth adding to your Netflix queue for your next sick day.) —Sadie Stein

Kelefa Sanneh on Earl Sweatshirt. Alec Wilkinson on the dearly departed Gil Scott Heron. —Thessaly La Force

I’m a little surprised by my own selection, as it’s not my usual fare, but when a copy of Peter Sloterdijk’s Neither Sun Nor Death appeared on my desk, I cracked it open and was hooked. He’s an appealing and exciting thinker, not least for his “leap out of old-European melancholy and the German maso-theory cartel.” —Nicole Rudick

Today, Jean-Luc Godard’s latest movie, Film Socialisme, opens in New York. I first saw the film last fall, and was mesmerized by its polylinguistic structure and “Navajo English” subtitles. I’ve been eagerly waiting since then to watch it a second time and, in preparation, have been reading Richard Brody’s insightful coverage—on the thematic and symbolic significance of the gold, and on Jewish characters and Godard’s own paranoia—revealing the film to be his “most humane, internationalist, [and] multicultural.” —Natalie Jacoby

Sara Breselor’s Idiom piece on lesbian teen fiction is poignant and funny. —S. S.

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A Week in Culture: Richard Brody, New Yorker Film Critic

June 30, 2010 | by

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DAY ONE

10:02 A.M. The week’s first cultural object is a new, yet-unreleased film by Claude Chabrol, The Son of Summer, starring Isabelle Huppert as a childless, married bourgeois intellectual who has a special, foster-like relationship to a young, disabled boy whom, one day, she kills. The film is so new that, in fact, it doesn’t exist—I dreamed it at the end of a morning of troubled sleep.

10:15 A.M. A chamber transcription of Haydn’s Symphony no. 94, the “Surprise” symphony, is playing on WQXR, New York’s classical-music station. It’s music I know and love—I play a spare transcription of the middle movements on recorder—but have never heard in this arrangement.

11:00 A.M. Twitter (and every hour or two for a few minutes, throughout the day). Love the sense of listening in on discussions at the next table when they know you’re listening. Good to chat back and forth with people I don’t know but would want to, with others I do know but don’t talk with often enough, with a surprisingly large yet tight group of fellow cinephiles. The 140 characters? A snapshot of an idea.

11:10 A.M. Heading for the subway, unusually late.

Genis-Goddess11:20 A.M. The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, by Jeffrey Meyers on the No. 6 and the R. Anticipating something like a twist on the line from Saturday Night Fever: “Maybe he’s not so smart and maybe she’s not so dumb.”

11:47 A.M. The New York Times’s Web site, checked intermittently throughout the day’s editorial duties.

3:20 P.M. Glenn Kenny’s blog Some Came Running led me to his piece at Mubi about politicized viewings of “Sex and the City 2.” It concludes with a citation from Slavoj Zizek, which prompted me to revisit Adam Kirsch’s critical debunking, in The New Republic, of Zizek’s politics (The Deadly Jester), and Josh Strawn’s debunking of Kirsch’s, at Jewcy.

7:52 P.M. “The Young Schubert,” a recording by the pianist Leonard Hokanson, a student of Artur Schnabel. Hokanson delights in Schubert’s adolescent inspirations.

8:20 P.M. NY Post: the bridge column. I played a lot in high school, not at all since then—but I read the bridge column every day. And Page Six: the item about Ron Jeremy lunching at Condé Nast. I saw him in the lobby beforehand, where lots of employees came up to greet him. Afterwards, plenty of people in the office were talking about him.

8:30 PM. The Times: Read the front-page story with the headline, “Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.” Put any noun in the place of “gadgets” and there would be a price to pay; that’s true of any addiction or abuse, not just of electronic stimuli. Read the op-ed piece about legislative battles in Wisconsin over raw milk.

9:27 P.M. Bud Powell, A Portrait of Thelonious. Powell, the definitive bebop pianist and my favorite jazz pianist, whose scintillating yet melodious right-hand runs are anchored by the dark lightning of his left hand’s chords. His later recordings (such as this one, from a Paris studio in 1961) are much and wrongly maligned. What he lost in exuberance he gained in profundity; and where they’re exuberant (Live in Geneva 1962, for instance), they’re still more profound.

9:40 P.M. On-line Driver’s Manual and Study Guide—having let my license lapse, inadvertently, decades ago, I need to start again, with a learner’s permit: “You may not cross any railroad tracks unless there is room for your vehicle on the other side. If other traffic prevents you from crossing all the way, wait, and cross only when there is room.”

12:05 A.M. A few minutes of John Ford’s The Rising of the Moon, his low-budget Irish film, from 1956.

1:11 A.M. While preparing to DVR No Sad Songs for Me (which Jean-Luc Godard wrote about in Cahiers du Cinéma at the age of twenty-one), I burn to DVD—and start to watch—High Time, a 1960 comedy directed by Blake Edwards, starring Bing Crosby as a prosperous fifty-ish businessman who decides to get a college education.

2:48 A.M. The Genius and the Goddess. Reading about Arthur Miller’s troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee and its heinous methods, in 1956-57, even after the fall of McCarthy: “Miller said his battle with the committee was ‘a fraud and a farce, except it cost me a fortune [$40,000] for lawyers and a year’s time lost in the bargain, worrying about it and figuring out how to react to it.’”
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