Manny Farber (1917-2008)

20.08.2008

It was Peter Stanfield who introduced me to Manny Farber in his module on MA film noir. Farber was a singular film critic, an expressive writer with a keen eye and a talent to capture the formal and emotional tensions that the best movies create.

He was a defender of the virtues of powerful and economic termite art, which he saw as the opposite of pretentious and bloated white elephant art—“Termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, like as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.”[1] Negative Space contains these perceptive words on the great Raoul Walsh, an artist who produced such an art:

The great traffic cop of movies, keeping things moving, hustling actors around an intersection-like screen that’s generally empty in the center, Walsh’s style is based on traveling over routes which are sometimes accomplished by bodily movement, the passage that a gaze takes, suggested or actually shown, and the movement of a line of dialogue, the route indicated by a gesture.

[...] Birthed in films as a Griffith actor and the director of Fairbanks films, his no-shortcut style is steeped in the silent film necessity for excessive, frantic visual explication, taking nothing for granted.

[...] If hardwares sold a house paint called Gusto, the number one customer would be Walsh: six decades in film using a jabbing, forthright crispness to occasionally vitalize the crudest hack fiction.[2]

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[1] Manny Farber, Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies, expanded edn. (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1998), p. 124.
[2] Ibid., pp. 276-90.

Objecto e Olhar (2)

18.08.2008


Agostino d’Ippona (1972).

Um complemento. Algumas palavras de Stanley Cavell—de The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (O Mundo Visto: Reflexões sobre a Ontologia do Cinema), livro que estou a traduzir para português:

É por vezes alegado que a exigência de uma “posição” do artista é uma exigência arcaica, uma sobra de uma visão romântica e moralista da arte. Porque não pode o artista simplesmente proporcionar-nos prazer ou meramente mostrar-nos como as coisas são? [...] As obras que me proporcionam prazer ou conhecimento de como as coisas são proporcionam-me igualmente um sentimento da posição do artista sobre esta revelação—uma posição, suponhamos, de completa convicção, de compaixão, de deleite ou divertimento irónico, ou saudade ou escárnio ou raiva ou perda. O facto é que um artista, porque é um ser humano, tem uma posição e tem razões para chamar eventos à nossa atenção. O que lhe dá direito à nossa atenção é precisamente a sua responsabilidade para com esta situação.

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“Objecto e Olhar”: (1)

Gulbenkian

17.08.2008

  
Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon, Portugal) and Gulbenkian Theatre & Cinema (University of Kent, Canterbury, UK).

Michael’s Grapplings

16.08.2008

I am glad that Michael Grant decided to create a blog after seeing mine and Katie's Anagnorisis and Directing Cinema. It is already on my list of links.

Two years ago, when I began teaching film and television at the University of Kent, Michael was an invaluable source of helpful information and friendly advice. Like Katie—and let me seize this opportunity to thank her for the kind words about me and my work—he has always treated me as a colleague, as a fellow teacher, even though I am still a PhD student. This made me realise that the separation between teachers (or researchers) and students is more administrative than real. Dedicated scholars never stop being students.

Michael was a tenured academic for some forty years in English and then Film. He has been in the Department of Film Studies at Kent since its inception. He now researches and writes on philosophy, aesthetics, film, horror, and literature. And he is a poet as well.

Here is the description of his blog:

Michael Grant’s grapplings with paradox and impossibility in philosophy, language, and the cinema. With reference, potentially, to the works of Maurice Blanchot, T. S. Eliot, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Lacan, Stanley Cavell, David Cronenberg, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento, inter alia.

The Truth Is Out There

14.08.2008


The X Files (1993-2002), “The Blessing Way” (3.01).

ALBERT HOSTEEN (voice-over): There’s an ancient Indian saying that something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable while history only serves those who seek to control it.

A Marienbad Joke

13.08.2008


L’Année dernière à Marienbad.

Alain Resnais tells a French joke about L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year in Marienbad, 1961) in last year’s interview to The Guardian,

An assassin is arrested by the police for a murder. They know he is guilty. “But I have an alibi”, he protests. “I was at the movies when the crime took place.” The detective asks, “What did you see?” “Last Year in Marienbad.” “Tell me the story”, says the detective. The killer can’t. Naturally, he is condemned.

Including Videos

12.08.2008


Feed the Kitty.

I was always reluctant to include videos on this blog. They may vanish from the Internet and, in that case, all the readers and visitors see is a message stating that “this video is no longer available”. I know: sometimes I include links to other pages or sites that may also vanish. Internet contents and locations change rapidly—that is why electronic references in essays usually indicate access dates.

I guess the true reason for which I have never included videos here is that I did not want to accept the ephemeral aspect of blogging. Yet I have to accept it. Videos can open new possibilities for this space. (I already have some ideas.)

For now, watch Chuck Jones’s Feed the Kitty (1952), a short animated film with an irresistible female kitty that reminds me of one of my two cats.

Bernie Mac (1957-2005)

09.08.2008


Mr. 3000 (2004).

“I’m a certified immortal! And there ain’t nothin’ y’all sons of bitches can do about it!”, bragged Bernie Mac as Stan Ross in this delightful film. I need to see him say it again.

Alexandra in Her Place

08.08.2008



Alexandra (2007).

Alexandra is out place in the military camp where she comes to visit her grandson. But her love is needed there, if only to recall this soldier of his own genuine kindness and deep affection.

Objecto e Olhar (1)

07.08.2008


Buongiorno, notte.


Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains.

Ainda não vi The Dark Knight (O Cavaleiro das Trevas, 2008), mas a questão que o Daniel coloca é fundamental e não só a propósito do filme realizado por Christopher Nolan: com que justeza, com que seriedade se trata aquilo que se filma?

Há algum tempo li um pequeno texto sobre o telefilme Agostino d’Ippona (1972) no qual Inácio Araújo escreve que “Rossellini cala para que o santo fale. Limita-se a mostrar. É o que fazem os grandes cineastas”. Estas palavras são um equívoco, ignorando como ignoram a ética e a estética do trabalho de Rossellini em favor de uma impressão do real. Limitar-se a mostrar é radicalmente diferente de dar a ver—e quando o cineasta italiano falou em não manipular a realidade, o objecto, não estava a referir-se ao apagamento do seu ponto de vista, o olhar. Talvez isto seja exactamente o que Inácio quis dizer—mas as suas palavras trairam essa intenção.

Voltando à questão do Daniel. Trata-se da segunda parte de uma pergunta que os cineastas devem fazer e que os espectadores devem depois revisitar: o que filmar e como filmá-lo? As respostas revelam sempre o ponto onde a ética e a estética se cruzam para fazer nascer a arte das imagens em movimento, popular ou erudita. Lembrei-me disto ao ver dois filmes distintos e sérios, Buongiorno, notte (Bom Dia, Noite, 2003) e Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains (2007), uma ficção e um documentário.

Godard’s Voices

01.08.2008


Histoire(s) du cinéma.

Godard’s voice is monotone. In some cases, understanding its place or role leads to an acceptance of it (but perhaps not to an appreciation of it). JLG/JLG: autoportrait de décembre (JLG/JLG: Self-Portrait in December, 1995) is a self-portrait and therefore his voice is in the film as his image is. Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98) combines his voice with the sounds of machines—in this monumental work, there is something mechanical about the inexpressiveness of his voice that matches the displayed ability of film and video technology to self-reflect. But in Notre musique (2004) there is a sequence of a lecture in which Godard comments on a group of photographs and here his voice is not intimate or mechanical: it just lacks vividness.