Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hunter S. Thompson - Jacket Copy for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Jacket Copy for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
By Hunter S. Thompson

The book began as a 250-word caption for Sports Illustrated. I was down in LA, working on a very tense and depressing investigation of the allegedly accidental killing of a journalist named Ruben Salazar by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept—and after a week or so on the story I was a ball of nerves & sleepless paranoia (figuring that I might be next)…and I needed some excuse to get away from the angry vortex of that story & try to make sense of it without people shaking butcher knives in my face all the time.

My main contact on that story was the infamous Chicano lawyer Oscar Acosta—an old friend, who was under bad pressure at the time, from his super-militant constituents, for even talking to a gringo/gabacho journalist. The pressure was so heavy, in fact, that I found it impossible to talk to Oscar alone. We were always in the midst of a crowd of heavy streetfighters who didn’t mind letting me know that they wouldn’t need much of an excuse to chop me into hamburger.

This is no way to work on a very volatile & very complex story. So one afternoon I got Oscar in my rented car and drove him over to the Beverly Hills Hotel—away from his bodyguards, etc.—and told him I was getting a bit wiggy from the pressure; it was like being on stage all the time, or maybe in the midst of a prison riot. He agreed, but the nature of his position as “leader of the militants” made it impossible for him to be openly friendly with a gabacho.

I understood this…and just about then, I remembered that another old friend, now working for Sports Illustrated, had asked me if I felt like going out to Vegas for the weekend, at their expense, and writing a few words about a motorcycle race. This seemed like a good excuse to get out of LA for a few days, and if I took Oscar along it would also give us time to talk and sort out the evil realities of the Salazar/Murder story.

So I called Sports Illustrated—from the patio of the Polo Lounge—and said I was ready to do the “Vegas thing.” They agreed…and from here on in there is no point in running down details, because they’re all in the book.

More or less…and this qualifier is the essence of what, for no particular reason, I’ve decided to call Gonzo Journalism. It is a style of “reporting” based on William Faulkner’s idea that the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism—and the best journalists have always known this.

Which is not to say that Fiction is necessarily “more true” than Journalism—or vice versa—but that both “fiction” and “journalism” are artificial categories; and that both forms, at their best, are only two different means to the same end. This is getting pretty heavy…so I should cut back and explain, at this point, that Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas is a failed experiment in Gonzo Journalism. My idea was to buy a fat notebook and record the whole thing, as it happened, then send in the notebook for publication—without editing. That way, I felt, the eye & mind of the journalist would be functioning as a camera. The writing would be selective & necessarily interpretive—but once the image was written, the words would be final; in the same way that a Cartier-Bresson photograph is always (he says) the full-frame negative. No alterations in the darkroom, no cutting or cropping, no spotting…no editing.

But this a hard thing to do, and in the end I found myself imposing an essentially fictional framework on what began as a piece of straight/crazy journalism. True Gonzo reporting needs the talents of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer and the heavy balls of an actor. Because the writer must be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it—or at least taping it, or even sketching it. Or all three. Probably the closest analogy to the ideal would be a film director/producer who writes his own scripts, does his own camera work and somehow manages to film himself in action, as the protagonist or at least a main character.

The American print media are not ready for this kind of thing, yet. Rolling Stone was probably the only magazine in America where I could get the Vegas book published. I sent Sports Illustrated 2500 words—instead of the 250 they asked for—and my manuscript was aggressively rejected. They refused to even pay my minimum expenses…

But to hell with all that. I seem to be drifting away from the point—that Fear & Loathing is not what I thought it would be. I began writing it during a week of hard typewriter nights in a room at the Ramada Inn—in a place called Arcadia, California—up the road from Pasadena & right across the street from the Santa Anita racetrack. I was there during the first week of the Spring Racing—and the rooms all around me were jammed with people I couldn’t quite believe.

Heavy track buffs, horse trainers, ranch owners, jockeys & their women…I was lost in that swarm, sleeping most of each day and writing all night on the Salazar article. But each night, around dawn, I would knock off the Salazar work and spend an hour or so, cooling out, by letting my head unwind and my fingers run wild on the big black Selectric…jotting down notes about the weird trip to Vegas. It had worked out nicely, in terms of the Salazar piece—plenty of hard straight talk about who was lying and who wasn’t, and Oscar had finally relaxed enough to talk me straight. Flashing across the desert at 110 in a big red convertible with the top down, there is not much danger of being bugged or overheard.

To Read the Rest

Mulholland Dr. (France/USA: David Lynch, 2001)

Mulholland Dr. (France/USA: David Lynch, 2001: 147 mins)

Ayres, Jedidiah, et al. "Mulholland Dr (2001)." The Projection Booth #296 (November 8, 2016) ["David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001) lived a double life as a television pilot and feature film. A neo-noir that plays with themes of identity, roleplaying, and obsession, the film stars Naomi Watts as innocent ingénue Betty Elms and Laura Elena Harring as Rita, a woman with a past hidden from herself. Mike talks to Patrick Fischler and Laura Harring about their roles in Mulholland Drive (and a lot more). Professor Erik Marshall and author Jedidiah Ayres help elucidate the mystery of Mulholland Drive."]

Bocko, Joel. "Lured in by Lynch and Rivette." Keyframe (December 8, 2015)

Bowen, Chuck. "Mulholland Drive." Slant (October 26, 2015)

Eig, Jonathan. "A Beautiful Mind(fuck) -- Hollywood Structures of Identity." Jump Cut #46 (2003)

Ebiri, Bilge. "Why David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive Is a Great Horror Film." (October 23, 2014)

Elsaesser, Thomas. "The Mind-Game Films." Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema ed. Warren Buckland. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2009: 13-41. [In BCTC Library]

Falzon, Christopher. "Philosophy Through Film." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (August 12, 2013)

Freeman, Sara. "The Creatures: Lynchian Women and Mulholland Drive." Keyframe (October 30, 2016)

Grozdaniz, Lidija. "Möbius, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the 1950s: David Lynch As the Ultimate Architect's Film Director." Architizer (July 14, 2014)

Kite, B. "Remain in light: Mulholland Dr. and the cosmogony of David Lynch." Sight and Sound ((March 2012)

Koresky, Michael. "Altered Beast: Tropical Malady Meets Mulholland Dr.." Reverse Shot (May 19, 20005)

---. "Performance Anxiety: Mulholland Drive." Reverse Shot (January 1, 2010)

Lim, Dennis. "David Lynch's Elusive Language." The New Yorker (October 28, 2015)

"Memories of Mulholland." Current (October 19, 2015) ["Fourteen years ago today, David Lynch’s haunting masterpiece Mulholland Dr. opened in theaters across the United States. Take a look back at critics’ initial reactions to Lynch’s mystifying “love story in the city of dreams.”]

Puschak, Evan. "Mulholland Drive: How Lynch Manipulates You." (Posted on Youtube: May 11, 2016)

Rodley, Chris. "Lynch on Mulholland Dr." Current (October 30, 2015)

Rowin, Michael Joshua. "This Magic Moment: Mulhollad Dr.." Reverse Shot (July 27, 2006)

Theroux, Justin. "On the Magical Mysteries of David Lynch." The Current (October 29, 2015)

Toles, George. "Auditioning Betty in Mulholland Dr.." Film Quarterly (Fall 2004): Reprinted in Annual Editions: Film 07/08 191-198 [Available in BCTC Library PN1993 A6285]

Treadway, Dean. "Film #81: Mulholland Dr.." Filmicability (November 2, 2008)

Wyman, Bill, et al. "Everything You Were Afraid to Ask About Mulholland Dr.. Salon (October 23, 2010)

What Is "Lynchian"? from Fandor Keyframe on Vimeo.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jonathan Kirshner - The Whole World Is Watching: Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool

The Whole World Is Watching: Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool on DVD
by Jonathan Kirshner
Bright Lights Film Journal

Medium Cool (1969) was a project shadowed by the FBI, saddled with a market-inhibiting X rating, and released with tepid support from a nervous studio. Not surprisingly, despite attracting very favorable reviews, it was not big hit at the box office. But over the years its reputation rose steadily, and eventually the movie found its proper place in the pantheon of the great films of the New Hollywood era. A worthy recipient, then, of the full Criterion Treatment, with a sparkling new special edition DVD and Blu-Ray; among its many features are a new interview with writer-director-cinematographer Haskell Wexler and the very welcome inclusion of (a slightly edited version of) the valuable but obscure 2001 BBC television documentary about the film, Look Out Haskell, It's Real."

As his triple-threat credits suggest, Medium Cool was very much Wexler's project. One of the hottest cinematographers in the business — just off an academy-award winning turn for Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966) and the big hit In the Heat of the Night (1967) — and with the emergence of a New American Cinema that took low-budget chances on new talent, Wexler was given a shot at the director's chair. And to his credit, the ambitious, confident cameraman didn't play it safe but threw everything he had into a risky project that he believed in.

With a background in documentary filmmaking, Wexler was influenced by a philosophy associated with the French New Wave (many of whose participants had similar apprenticeships), that challenged the reification of a divide between "fiction" and "non-fiction" films. Documentaries, they insisted, could not show an objective truth but offered only one interpretation of events, presented as a narrative following classical storytelling rules; realities that were, moreover, altered by the presence of cameras that produced self-consciousness and performance. Conversely, fiction films, especially those made on locations and with a new wave sensibility designed to reflect the personal experiences of their creators, were in many ways also documentary records of a certain type of reality. With Medium Cool, Wexler dove headlong into the blurry intersection between the two, embedding a fictional (and often improvised) story within very real situations. Often featuring non-actors going about their unscripted business, in many scenes only the principal players are aware that a movie is being made. At times those actors were exposed to real danger — placed, for example, in the midst of what the report of a National Commission would describe a few months afterwards as a "police riot." On the streets of Chicago, Wexler's camera became one among many that were capturing the events as they unfolded — and he was among those tear gassed, and was blinded for twenty-four hours.

The politically sensitive Wexler was irresistibly drawn from Hollywood back to his home town, Chicago, and the Democratic National Convention that would be held there in August 1968. Convinced that "something" would happen there — a violent confrontation, of some type, seemed certain — he crafted a story that could be interwoven into those events, unforeseeable in their specifics, as they unfolded. Wexler was later accused of incitement, but his cameras did little more than anticipate the inevitable explosion. Nineteen sixty-eight took care of the rest.

It was a very bad year. In January, the surprise Tet Offensive fundamentally altered the trajectory of the Vietnam War. The unprecedented communist strikes failed to achieve their military goals, but they made plain that no matter how many troops it poured in, the United States was not going to achieve its political objectives in the war, despite the unceasingly optimistic reports previously proffered by the Johnson Administration. (The U.S. would suffer over 4,700 combat deaths in the first three months of 1968. And with 500,000 American troops in the country, the war was being fought — at best — to a bloody stalemate.) In March, Johnson was embarrassed in the New Hampshire democratic primary by the strong showing of anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy; within days, Robert Kennedy dropped into the race; within weeks, LBJ shocked the nation by dropping out. In April, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Kennedy, campaigning in Indianapolis, delivered the news to a stunned, mostly black audience, and delivered a short, moving speech appealing for calm. Scores of American cities erupted in riots that night, but Indianapolis was not one of them. In June, Kennedy would be assassinated moments after celebrating victory in the crucial California primary, his final words, "on to Chicago and let's win there," still hanging in the air as the shots rang out.

To Read the Rest

The Hunger Games (USA: Gary Ross, 2012)

The Hunger Games (USA: Gary Ross, 2012: 142 mins)

Blatt, Ben. "A Textual Analysis of The Hunger Games." Slate (November 20, 2013)

Bures, Frank, et al. "Dispatches From the Ruins: Why do we crave the awful futures of apocalyptic fiction?" Aeon (May 16, 2017) ["In the first two decades of the new millennium, stories of the post-apocalypse have permeated pop culture, from books such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009) and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014) to films and TV programmes such as The Walking Dead (2010-), the Hunger Games series (2012-15) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). While post-apocalyptic fictions of previous eras largely served as cautionary tales – against nuclear brinksmanship in On the Beach(1959) or weaponised biology in The Stand (1978) – today’s versions of these tales depict less alterable, more oblique and diffuse visions of our doom. So why can’t we seem to get enough of humanity’s unavoidable collapse and its bleak aftermath? "]

Connell, Richard. "The Most Dangerous Game." (1924)

Enelow, Shonni. "The Great Recession: Restrained but resilient, a style of acting has taken hold that speaks to an era’s anxieties."  Film Quarterly (September-October 2016) ["This is another way to read the emotional withdrawal or refusal in these performances: as a response to a violent or chaotic environment, one that doesn’t offer an alternate vision of an open and embracing future. For even when representing an alienating or unfeeling world, actors of earlier eras generally appealed to the camera and their audiences to receive their feelings and implicitly trusted them to respond generously, either through vicarious sentiment or humanist compassion. Expressive acting—of which Method acting is one dominant form—is built on the conviction that audiences want an actor’s emotions to be in some way available to them. There’s a basic optimism in that conviction: the optimism that the world would be better if we all told each other the truth about what we feel. In contrast, many of today’s most lauded American film actors give performances that evince no such optimism about emotional expression. Returning to Winter’s Bone, for example, it’s clear that within the fiction of the film, Ree doesn’t trust the world to care about her well-being. But rather than contrast her character’s suspicion with an appeal to the (presumably) sympathetic film audience, Lawrence maintains her wariness throughout. Likewise, Mara doesn’t cut Lisbeth’s lowered gaze and near-inaudible, clipped speech with any revelation or outburst that would make us think she could be—or really is, deep down—other than she appears. There aren’t hidden motivations in these performances, and in fact, close to no subtext (the idea of subtext, with its inherently psychological schema, is parodied in Carol by a would-be writer who takes notes on the difference between what characters in movies say and what they really feel)."]

Fisher, Mark. "Remember Who the Enemy Is." The North Star (November 8, 2013)

Hudson, David. "Gary Ross's The Hunger Games." Notebook (Last updated March 24, 2012)

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." (1948)

Koski, Genevieve, et al. "Battle Royale / Hunger Games Series (Pt. 1)." The Next Picture Show #3 (November 24, 2015) ["With the final installment of the blockbuster YA series THE HUNGER GAMES hitting theaters, we look back to the material many accused HUNGER GAMES author Suzanne Collins of ripping off: 2000's BATTLE ROYALE, a hyper-violent Japanese film adaptation of a hyper-violent manga about kids killing kids in a government-mandated slaughter. In this episode, we get into the many similarities – and many more differences – between the two, as well as BATTLE ROYALE's reputation and place in the larger scope...]

---. "Battle Royale / Hunger Game Series (Pt. 2)." The Next Picture Show (November 24, 2015)

LeGuin, Ursula K. "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas." (1973)

Morabito, Stella. "The Strange Bedfellow-Politics of The Hunger Games." The Federalist (December 15, 2014) ["How can both the Left and the Right claim ‘The Hunger Games’ movies as their own?']

Pharr, Mary F. and Leisa A. Clark, eds. Of Bread, Blood, and the Hunger Games : Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy. McFarland and Co., 2012. [Edited book collection of essays available in the BCTC Library: PS3603.O4558 Z84 2012 ]

Read, Jason. "Primer for the Post-Apocalypse: The Hunger Games Trilogy." Unemployed Negativity (September 5, 2011)

Ross, Gary. "The Hunger Games." The Treatment (March 21, 2012)

Rothman, Joshua. "The Real Hunger Games: Battle Royale." Culture Desk (August 3, 2012)

Schippers, Mimi. "Compulsory Monogamy in The Hunger Games." Sociological Images (December 2, 2013)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

ENG 281 Extra Credit for Fall 2013

September 11: L'Atalante/Zéro de conduite (double-feature) Jean Vigo completed only four films before his death at age 29. L'Atalante, the 1934 masterpiece of French poetic realism, is his only feature length work. Critic Roger Ebert said, "This is the kind of movie you return to like a favorite song, remembering where you were and how it made you feel..." The playful and anarchistic Zéro de conduite, first shown in 1933 and subsequently banned in France until 1946, is a short piece that was a direct influence on, amongst others, Lindsay Anderson's If.... and Truffaut's The 400 Blows. Part of the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival at the Kentucky Theater ($5 admission).

September 18: Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) Set in Rio de Janeiro amidst the excitement of Carnival, Black Orpheus is Marcel Camus' 1959 gorgeous Technicolor take on the classical Greek Orpheus/Eurydice myth. Based on the play Orfeu da Conceicao by Vinicius de Moraes, the film includes a soundtrack that would introduce the incredible Samba/Bossa Nova compositons of Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim to an international audience. Part of the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival at the Kentucky Theater ($5 admission).

September 21: Thriller Auditions for Michael and Ola Roles (Sat. Sept 21st, 4pm @ Mecca) [Requirement for extra credit: picture of you auditioning. Also extra credit opportunity if you participate in the downtown Thriller dress up and dance -- picture required of you participating.]

September 25: Orphée Jean Cocteau's 1950 magical cinematic excursion, Orphée, casts the mythic figure afloat in dream-like cinematography and musings on the darker obsessive side of creativity. Starring Cocteau's partner Jean Marais and set in Paris' post-WWII Left Bank, the film includes a stunning array of brilliant, albeit simple, special effects and amazing camera trickery. Part of the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival at the Kentucky Theater ($5 admission).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vlad Dima - Perpetual Motion: The Dardenne Brothers' The Kid with a Bike

Perpetual Motion: The Dardenne Brothers' The Kid with a Bike
by Vlad Dima
Bright Lights Film Journal

The latest film by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is oddly both fast and slow. Cyril, the main character (played wonderfully by Thomas Douret), looks for his father who had abandoned him, but connects with a benevolent hairdresser, Samantha, who eventually becomes his legal guardian. The kid is moving constantly, mostly on his bicycle the English translation of the original title, "Le Gamin au vélo," misses out on a nuance, that of possession, which is under question at the beginning of the film; but it is his bike — "au vélo" — not "avec"/with a random bicycle). As Cyril's frenetic movement appears to up the tempo of the film, the directors drastically slow down the pace by using long takes, and as little cutting as possible. It is amid the two contrasting tendencies that Cyril's story finds the perfect narrative balance.

Naturally, even the mention of the word "bike" in a film makes us recall Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thief (1948): a kid, a bike, a father. De Sica's film indeed hovers over the narrative of The Kid with a Bike, but the latter goes in new directions. The stolen Italian bicycle is connected to the destinies of an entire family, while Cyril's bike evolves from signifying his lost connection to a father who does not want him to the object that offers him freedom. The theme of independence appears from the beginning when we witness Cyril attempting to escape the children's home in which he had been placed. In fact, in this instance we are reminded more of Antoine Doinel from Truffaut's 400 Blows (1959) than Antonio or Bruno from Bicycle Thief. The emblematic final run at the end of 400 Blows is essentially an interminable, uninterrupted travelling shot of Antoine running toward the sea. Cyril's story almost picks up where Truffaut had decided to open end Antoine's odyssey. The direction of Cyril's movement is rather significant, too. Antoine runs left to right, a direction associated with Western movement; he is headed toward a conclusion. Cyril's movement, conversely, is chaotic and goes both directions. Interestingly, when he is about to get into trouble (riding toward the gas station, running away etc.), he goes in the opposite direction, right to left. When the film reaches some sense of normality, and we see both Samantha and Cyril ride together, they go in the "correct" direction, left to right.

There are many other connections to Truffaut's film, and even to Godard's Breathless (1960). Cyril, like Antoine, lies about obvious truths; there are several references to a psychologist Cyril presumably talks with at the children's home, although we never see him or her. Truffaut's film famously chooses to show only Antoine during the conversation with the psychologist, completely ignoring the counter shot. When Samantha and Cyril are in a car, we often only see Cyril and hear Samantha's voice (the opposite happens in Godard's Breathless in which we see Patricia talk to Michel in the car, but we do not see the latter). Even though there are a few people influencing him, Cyril comes off as independent for the most part. Initially, though, he cannot think of anything but being reunited with his father (in another departure from Bicycle Thief, the father had sold his son's bicycle when he found himself financially strapped). At the crucial moment of acceptance that his father is no longer interested in taking care of him, Cyril finds himself on the other side of a metaphorical wall. However, this happens to be also an actual wall that he had to climb in order to get to his dad. When the father pushes him back to the other side, for a brief moment they are literally separated by a wall. For a moment, we fear for Cyril, for his fate, until we realize that he is on the open side of the wall, the side from which he can escape.

To Read the Rest

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Act of Killing (Denmark/Norway/UK/Sweden/Finland: Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)

“In Southeast Asia, as in other places, dictators appoint rats and cockroaches as their executors, and they live to tell their tales. This experimental documentary is a horror show, a dagger, a guillotine, a confession box in an insane asylum. It’s also a very frightening lesson on history and how we remember it” — Kong Rithdee

The Act of Killing (Denmark/Norway/UK/Sweden/Finland: Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012: 115 mins)

"The Act of Killing." Critics Round Up (Archive of critical responses: No Date)

Bradshaw, Nick. "Build my gallows high: Joshua Oppenheimer on The Act of Killing." Sight and Sound (August 4, 2015)

Godmilow, Jill. "Killing the Documentary: An Oscar-Nominated Filmmaker Takes Issue With The Act of Killing." IndieWire (March 5, 2014)

Herzog, Werner and Errol Morris. "The Importance of The Act of Killing." Badass Digest (July 12, 2013)

Herzog, Werner and Joshua Oppenheimer. "The Look of Silence | Panel Discussion." Berlinale 2015 (Posted on Youtube: February 9, 2015)

Hughes, Craig and John M. Miller. "Stopping the Killers From Killing: An Interview With Allan Nairn on Indonesia and Guatemala." Counterpunch (January 8, 2015)

Landesman, Ohad. "In Cold Blood: The Act of Killing." Reverse Shot #33 (2013)

Marlow, Jonathan. "The Art of Filmmaking: Joshua Oppenheimer and The Act of Killing." Keyframe (July 12, 2013)

McAlinden, Carrie. "True surrealism: Walter Benjamin and The Act of Killing." Sight and Sound (November 29, 2013)

Minsker, Evan. "DJ /rupture Releases Mixtape Inspired by the Film The Act of Killing." Pitchfork (April 28, 2014) ["Stage Boundary Songs is a "musical response" to the Oscar-nominated documentary"]

Nairn, Allan. "Journalist Allan Nairn Threatened for Exposing Indonesian Pres. Candidate’s Role in Mass Killings." Democracy Now (June 27, 2014)

Naureckas, Jim. "No, US Didn't 'Stand By' Indonesian Genocide - It Actively Participated." Monthly Review (October 20, 2017)

Oppenheimer, Joshua. "The Act of Killing: New Film Shows U.S.-Backed Indonesian Death Squad Leaders Re-enacting Massacres." Democracy Now (July 19, 2013)

Palmer, Landon. "6 Filmmaking Tips From Errol Morris." Film School Rejects (September 25, 2013)

Rayns, Tony. "The Act of Killing: Brave and unconventional Joshua Oppenheimer’s exposé of Indonesia’s bloodstained rulers may be; it’s also suspect – formally, historically, emotionally and conceptually." Sight and Sound (March 19, 2015)

Rodriguez, Rocky. "Can Theatre Change Your Mind?" Open Democracy (October 17, 2017) [A powerful piece on the possibilities of theater, and all of the arts, to help us recognize our confirmation biases and to transform our lives - highly recommended, please share with performance creatives and the supporters of their efforts.  What would it be like if we were able to work to truly make performances/art like this?:  "The highest form of art is the creation of community—worker-to-worker, person-to-person, friend to friend. Real learning—the only kind that counters bias—happens only when people are open with each-other in a trusted environment, where they can develop authentic relationships."]

Scott, Margaret. "The Indonesian Massacre: What Did the US Know?" The New York Review of Books (November 2, 2015)

Tan, Ian. "Rethinking Historical Responsibility Through Art: The Role of Film in Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012)." Bright Lights Film Journal (March 18, 2016)

Vizcarrondo, Sara. "The Art of 'Killing': How Much Truth Comes from the Lie that Tells the Truth?" Documentary (Summer 2013)

Wartenberg, Thomas. "Providing evidence for a philosophical claim: The Act of Killing and the banality of evil." NECSUS (Autumn 2018)

Sara Vizcarrondo - The Art of 'Killing': How Much Truth Comes from the Lie that Tells the Truth?; Errol Morris and Werner Herzog on The Act of Killing

The Art of 'Killing': How Much Truth Comes from the Lie that Tells the Truth?
By Sara Vizcarrondo

Before he made his film The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer interviewed survivors of Indonesia's bloody "Transition"—the failed military coup of 1965 and the brutal anti-Communist purges that followed—for an exposé on their culture of fear. Police shut down each meeting.

With fear of reprisals, Oppenheimer asked the survivors if they should stop filming. The survivors opposed unanimously, but volunteered a solution: Film the killers, and the police won't stop you. "Begin with my next-door neighbor, the man who killed my aunt," one survivor suggested. "He will appear to be proud. Film that and the audience will see why we are afraid."

After the failed coup, the Indonesian Army began a campaign of political apartheid. They paid street thugs and gangsters to rid the country of the National Communist Party (PKI), whom they blamed for the coup. There were no official trials to prove political affiliations, just semi-private assassinations.

The men who carried out the killings have been glorified in national media as heroes. Even today, they appear on talk shows, have political influence, and boast loudly about their murders to anyone who'll hear—including the families of the nameless victims they left on riverbanks and in ditches five decades ago. The most commonly cited death toll is 500,000, but accurate numbers are hard to tally. It's impossible to say the campaign has ended, since the political class that sanctioned it did so to gain power. And both power and its attainment are limitless things. Corruption persists in Indonesia.

In February 2004, Oppenheimer filmed two killers who took him to a river. During the Transition, these two men would drive a busload of internees from the military concentration camp to a riverbank every night, behead the passengers and throw the bodies in the water. "After they showed us how they'd done it, one of them took a small camera out of his pocket and asked my sound man, ‘Would you mind taking a picture of us to remember this day?' and the two posed, giving the thumbs up and "V" for victory. I went home with that material thinking, I have to make a film that adequately attempts to understand this."

Errol Morris, an executive producer on The Act of Killing, made his 2008 documentary Standard Operating Procedure in response to the photos depicting the torture and humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. He viewed those images with an exposé quality. "Standard Operating Procedure evidences a moment in which people want to remember themselves while torturing someone," says Oppenheimer. "Errol saw the pictures as confessions of a whistleblower. The Act of Killing is an attempt to understand an entire regime that did something similar; it wasn't just one person."

Oppenheimer spoke to 41 perpetrators and took each of them to the scene of their murders to act out what they'd done. With cameras rolling, they'd lament, "Oh, I should have brought a machete, and friends to play victims." But Anwar, one of the subjects in The Act of Killing, was the only man who returned to the roof where he'd killed hundreds, and neither lamented nor wished for co-conspirators. Instead, he danced. "Unlike the other 40 perpetrators, his pain was somehow close to the surface," Oppenheimer observes. "When he goes out on the roof, he sighs; it's like there's a stone in his shoe. He says, ‘I dance to forget these horrors, and so I'm a good dancer.' And I'm wondering how this must look to him."

To Read the Rest

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Battle of Algiers (Italy/Algeria: Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)

The Battle of Algiers (Italy/Algeria: Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966: 121 mins)

Armstrong, Hannah and May Ying Welsh. "Admin Aids French Bombing of Mali After U.S.-Trained Forces Join Rebels in Uranium-Rich Region." Democracy Now (January 15, 2013)

"The Battle of Algiers: 1966 Film Depicting Algerian War of Independence Against French Occupation Parallels Brutal U.S. Occupation of Iraq." Democracy Now (November 9, 2005)

"The Battle of Algiers Turns 50." Current (September 8, 2016)

Benton, Michael Dean. "Introduction and Discussion of The Battle of Algiers." Dialogic Cinephilia (February 20, 2014)

Billet, Alexander. "A Marxist Poet: The Legacy of Gillo Pontecorvo." Monthly Review (October 19, 2006)

Butler, Madison. "The Battle of Algiers (Italy/Algieria: Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966) -– Don't Forget The Timeless Fight for Freedom." Dialogic (ENG 282 International Film Studies student response: May 6, 2009)

"Ennio Morricone." [did the soundtrack] Criterion (2012)

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. trans. Charles Lam Markmann. Pluto Press, 2008.

---. The Wretched of the Earth. trans. Richard Philcox. Grove Press, 2004.

Flood, Maria. "The Battle of Algiers: an iconic film whose message of hope still resonates today." The Conversation (October 18, 2021) 

Flynn, Michael and Fabiola F. Sabek, ed. Screening Torture: Media Representations of State Terror and Political Domination." Columbia University Press, 2012. [Available in BCTC library and your professor has a copy]

Ford, Hamish. "From Otherness 'Over There' to Virtual Presence: Camp de Thiaroye - The Battle of Algiers - Hidden. Postcolonial Cinema Studies. ed. Sandra Ponzanesi & Marguerite Waller. NY: Routledge, 2012: 63-77. [Available in BCTC Library PN1995.9 P6 P68 2012]

Freund, Charles Paul. "The Pentagon's Film Festival: A Primer for The Battle of Algiers." Slate (August 27, 2003)

Gordon, Rebecca. "Torture, Ethically Speaking." Against the Grain (March 30, 2016) ["Is torture ever morally permissible? For what purposes does the U.S. government practice torture? And what should we make of the oft-repeated ticking time bomb scenario? Rebecca Gordon contends that examining torture through the lens of virtue ethics helps us understand what torture does in relation to its targets, its practitioners, and society at large."]

Hudis, Peter. "Frantz Fanon." Against the Grain (March 28, 2016) ["The revolutionary and psychiatrist Franz Fanon was arguably the greatest philosopher of anti-colonialism.  At a time when activists are turning the spotlight on racial oppression, he's never been more relevant. Peter Hudis discusses Fanon's writings on nationalism, race, and humanism. He also explores the controversial question of violence."]

"Jean Martin, 1922–2009." [played Matthieu] Current (February 12, 2009)

Johnson, Sheila K. "The Battle of Algiers and Its Lessons." Common Dreams (September 7, 2003)

Kortright, Chris. "Colonization and Identity." The Anarchist Library (2003)

Koski, Genevieve, et al. "Detroit / Battle of Algiers, Part 1." The Next Picture Show #90 (August 22, 2017) ["Kathryn Bigelow’s intense, controversial new docu-drama DETROIT owes no small debt to Gillo Pontecorvo’s intense, controversial 1966 film THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS, which covers another volatile historical moment with a potent mixture of newsreel-style realism and expressionistic fervor. In this half of our comparison of the two films, we discuss what makes BATTLE OF ALGIERS such an unsettling and resonant film, debate what point it’s making around the issues of terrorism and torture, and, somehow, find the echoes of Pontecorvo’s film in James Cameron’s AVATAR."]

---. "Detroit / The Battle of Algiers, Part 2." The Next Picture Show #91 (August 24, 2017) ["Like Gillo Pontecorvo’s BATTLE OF ALGIERS, Kathryn Bigalow’s new film DETROIT expresses a strong point of view on racial injustice through a careful recreation of a real historical event — and also like BATTLE OF ALGIERS, it’s stirred up some controversy surrounding its docu-journalistic approach. We unpack that controversy, and DETROIT more generally, before diving into how the two films compare in their visceral style, their portrayals of law enforcement, their use of female characters, and more."]

Matthews, Peter. "The Battle of Algiers: Bombs and Boomerangs." Criterion (October 11, 2004)

Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the Colonized. Souvenir Press Ltd., 1974.

---.  "The Impossible Life of Frantz Fanon." The Massachusetts Review 14.1 (Winter, 1973): 9-39.

Nicholls, Tracey. "Frantz Fanon." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (September 21, 2011)

Ortiz, Gaye. "Dark Beauty: Theological Perspectives on War as Cinematic Mythology." Theology and Film: Challenging the Sacred/Secular Divide. ed. Christopher Deacy and Gaye Williams Ortiz. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008: 160-177.[in BCTC Library]

Potter, Gary. "The Wretched of the Earth." Uprooting Criminology (March 31, 2014)

Prashad, Vijay. "Habits of French Colonialism." ZNet (January 29, 2013)

"Sight & Sound Poll 2012: The Battle of Algiers." Criterion (November 16, 2012)

White, Halaena. "Memmi, Albert." Postcolonial Studies @ Emory (Last updated July 2012)

A Beautiful Mind (USA: Ron Howard, 2001)

A Beautiful Mind (USA: Ron Howard, 2001: 135 mins)

Billings, Andrew C. "Biographical Omissions: The Case of A Beautiful Mind and the Search For Authenticity." The Film Journal #1 (May 2002)

Cassey, Joe. "Mental Illness." Understanding Representation. ed. Wendy Helsby. London: BFI, 2005: 99-114. [Available in BCTC Library PN 1995 U4977 2005]

Hansen, Per Krogh. " Unreliable Narration in Cinema: Facing the Cognitive Challenge Arising from Literary Studies." Amsterdam International Electronic Journal of Narratology #5 (Autumn 2009)

Film Studies Books Available Online

(Ongoing Archive)

Choi, Jinhes and Mitsuyo Wade-Marciano, eds. Horror to the Extreme: Changing Boundaries in Asian Cinema. (Hong Kong University, 2009)

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition." Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Horror to the Extreme: Changing Boundaries in Asian Cinema (Hong Kong University Press, 2009)

OAPEN Library

To Read it in PDF format

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Harvard University Press Blog: Catherine MacKinnon on Lovelace

Catharine MacKinnon on Lovelace
Harvard University Press

The pornographic film Deep Throat, released in 1972, was a cultural sensation whose star, “Linda Lovelace,” was said to put a girl-next-door face on the sexual revolution. But the actual life of Linda Boreman, as depicted in the new biopic Lovelace, was one of beatings, rape, and terror. Feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, author of such works as Toward a Feminist Theory of the State and Only Words, represented Boreman after she came forward with her story, and later, with Andrea Dworkin, pursued civil rights litigation as a means to fight pornography. We asked MacKinnon about Boreman, Lovelace, and the potential impact of the film.

To Read the Interview

Metaphilm -- Monsters Inc., Moslems, Inc.: The Uses of Disenchantment in the film that is set after but made before Monsters University

Monsters Inc., Moslems, Inc.: The Uses of Disenchantment in the film that is set after but made before Monsters University.
by Snodgrass

We know that children’s films can be tools for introducing the unpleasant realities of the adult world. Witness Chicken Run, a claymation film from the creators of Wallace and Gromit, in which the World War Two story of the Jews’ imprisonment, forced labor, and then systematic destruction is told through a parallel tale of chickens’ forced imprisonment, mandatory egg laying, and then systematic destruction when the egg farm converts to a chicken pot-pie factory. It is all right there, right down to the propagandistic American hero, whose heroics are in fact very chicken-hawkish, much the way the reality of Nazi Germany’s defeat was thanks more to the Russians than the good ole U.S. of A. So if children’s cinema can be used to explain harsh political realities from a past that the children are currently unaware of but which still retains currency in living cultural memory, how far-fetched is it to imagine that a film could describe harsh political realities while they were happening, so as to soothe the psychic feathers of children as they are experiencing them? Especially if those children are, in fact, the necessary voters and taxpayers your system is going to need to sustain the fictional fantasy by which you run global politics.

To Read the Rest

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Amelie (France/Germany: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Amelie (France/Germany: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001: 121 mins)

Aytemiz, Pelin. "Looking Through 'Her' Eyes: Productive Look in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain." (Posted on Academia.edu: May 24, 2004)

Bonnaud, Frédéric. "The Amelie Effect." Film Comment (November/December 2001)

Choa, Deirdre. "A Little Analysis..." Yes, Your Honour (2013)

Ebert, Roger. "Amelie." Chicago Sun-Times (November 9, 2001)

Gaggi, Silvio. "Navigating Chaos." New Punk Cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2006: 113-125. [In BCTC Library]

Ortiz, Gaye. "Women as Spectacle: Theological Perspectives on Women and Film." Theology and Film: Challenging the Sacred/Secular Divide. ed. Christopher Deacy and Gaye Williams Ortiz. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008: 85-113. [Professor has copy]

Steinberg, Stefan. "The Thoroughly Conformist World of Amelie." World Socialist Web Site (August 28, 2001)

(Not) Love and Death: On Michael Haneke's Amour

(Not) Love and Death: On Michael Haneke's Amour
by Vlad Dima
Bright Lights Film Journal

Michael Haneke's latest film begins abruptly with the police breaking down the door to the apartment of the two octogenarian protagonists, Georges and Anne. The violent intrusion is underlined by the fact that we go, with no transition effect, from complete silence and black screen to noise and color. This type of intense narrative shift is common in Haneke's films. Long periods of apparent stability and quiet are followed by sudden spurts of incredible viciousness, in The White Ribbon (2009), Funny Games (2007, and 1997), or Caché (2005). I say "apparent" because violence lurks just beneath the narrative surface of Haneke's films, its presence felt constantly. So when it does emerge, it is not just for shock value. Oddly, it soothes us, providing momentary relief from the stress accumulated throughout the film. Child beatings, shootings, throat slashing are part of the director's repertoire that may force the audience into a sadistic position, but we avoid them in Amour. Or so it seems. Make no mistake, this is a violent film, but its ferocity comes from being forced to confront our own mortality. This is not a film about love, as the title purposely misleads us. This is a film about death, and worse, our death.

The inclusion of "us," the audience, in the film's thematic concerns commences immediately following the sequence in which the police find Anne's rotted body in the apartment. We begin with a flashback to a night when the couple went out to a classical music concert given by one of Anne's old students, Alexandre. In a beautiful fixed shot, we can see the spectators in the theater as they are waiting for the show to start. After a long moment, as the shot turns into a long take, we become aware of the missing reverse shot. The stage is never shown. We, the "real" audience, are suddenly facing the diegetic audience. We are the reverse shot. So we are pulled into the narrative through a counter-cinema artifice. The lack of reverse shot also points to the impossibility of suture; thus the very beginning of the film points to breakdowns, some literal (the door), some metaphorical (the apparatus of cinema and, by extension, life).

To Read the Rest

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Christina Marie Newland -- Satirical Excess and Empty Vessels: Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy

Satirical Excess and Empty Vessels: Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy
by Christina Marie Newland
Bright Lights Film Journal

Robert De Niro as delusional acolyte to the stars, Rupert Pupkin, and Jerry Lewis as a mirror-image of his own talk-show comedian persona, Jerry Langford. Sandra Bernhard plays a supporting role as another hyperactive super-fan, Masha. The King of Comedy, written by Paul D. Zimmerman, does not resemble a typical Scorsese picture; the camera is pinned in place instead of roving around. This is seemingly to facilitate our unflinching stare into the lives and behaviour of the characters, when often we want nothing more than to look away. Scorsese's films usually teem with passion and activity, but Pupkin's world is more sedate, colder. Scorsese's go-to director of photography, Michael Chapman, turned down work on the film because of the director's choice of style: "His plan was to use largely empty sets, flat lighting, and old-fashioned box-like framing" (Rausch 102). Essentially, it was filmed to look like television.

Scorsese once again deals with an obsessional pursuit, a common theme in his work. Rupert Pupkin's obsession is particularly emblematic of the twenty-first century; it extends beyond the traditional pursuits of money and power, pursuing instead something more fleeting and all too modern: fame. More specifically, fame for fame's sake: fame predicated not on riches nor on talent but merely on the desire to be seen and idolized. This desire is what consumes De Niro's Rupert, a twitchy, perennially polite wannabe comedian who refuses to take no for answer when he meets his idol, Jerry Langford. He misunderstands Langford and his entourage's continual brush-offs, revealing his desire not merely to be around Jerry but to emulate him and eventually usurp him. He begs Langford for a guest spot on his hit television show, fantasises about Langford deferring to his ego, and eventually becomes deluded enough to appear uninvited at the celebrity's country house, only to be humiliatingly turned away in front of his crush, Rita (Diahnne Abbott). He and Masha then decide to take matters into their own hands and kidnap Jerry with a toy gun, demanding a spot on the show in exchange for Jerry's safety. Rupert is then allowed to perform his comedy routine on television. With startling irony, Rupert's bid for fame works, and although he is sentenced to prison for kidnapping, he is given a short sentence and comes out of prison famous, writing a best-selling book and receiving his own television show. The ironic conclusion to the film emphasizes its satirical look at the American obsession with empty fame, owing some debt to the 1976 Sidney Lumet film, Network.

The rise of consumerism and tabloid celebrity culture in the late 1970s and '80s is dealt with in both Network and The King of Comedy, but they become uncannily more accurate as time has passed, predicting the rise of reality television, social networking, and the disposable celebrity. Rupert simply decides, in the same aggressive manner as his Scorsesean compatriots, that his 15 minutes will be gained at any and all costs. The overnight celebrity becomes the new fixation of the American dream. The King of Comedy was poorly received, both by audiences and critics. "Unlike the context for Scorsese's earlier films, by the time of The King of Comedy, there was no longer an American film culture that encouraged or even allowed for challenging work" (Raymond 30). Considering the context of 1980s Hollywood and its "Reaganite entertainment" — escapist, often anti-intellectual blockbusters that provided happy endings and visceral enjoyment, it is easy to understand why the vulnerability and discomfort in The King of Comedy missed the mark with audiences. The overall cost of the film was recorded at $20 million; its domestic gross was roughly $2.5 million. It didn't do the film any favors that it was marketed as an outright comedy; it certainly is not that, though it has many darkly comic moments. Critics were more generous than audiences, but also offered some intriguing clues as to why the film flopped. Roger Ebert, for example (typically a Scorsese enthusiast), called the movie, "unsatisfying," "frustrating," and an "emotional desert," though he goes on to say that it is not by any means a "bad movie." Pauline Kael called it precisely that, going on to say that it gave her "cold creeps" and that it was "empty" (458). It is interesting that there seems to be a level of discomfort with both critics about the feelings the film evokes; both rightly refer to its unexpected coldness and the emotional distance of its characters, but another aspect also seems at play, one that William Ian Miller suggests: "the unfunny comedian humiliates himself and one of the sure indications that you are watching someone humiliate himself is that you will be embarrassed by the display" (329).

To Read the Rest

Monday, August 12, 2013

Irreversible (France: Gaspar Noé, 2002)

Irreversible (France: Gaspar Noé, 2002: 97 mins)

Britt, Thomas R. "Lower Depths and Higher Aims: Death, Excess and Discontinuity in Irreversible and Visitor Q." Cinephile 5.1 (2009)

Krautheim, Graeme. "Aspiring to the Void: The Collapse of Genre and Erasure of Body in Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible." Cinephile #4 (Summer 2008)

Palmer, Tim. Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2011. [Professor has a copy]

Sharett, Christopher. "The Function of Film Criticism at Any Time." Film International (April 29, 2017)

Wood, Robin. "Against and For Irreversible." Film International (April 5, 2011)

David Kalat: Ring around J-Horror

Ring around J-Horror
by David Kalat
Movie Morlocks

J-Horror don’t get no respect. The long-haired ghosts have become a cliché to be ridiculed, and the tragedy of it is that the audiences perhaps best attuned to appreciate what J-Horror had to offer in its heyday are those least inclined to give it a chance. I know—I speak from experience. My love affair with J-Horror began, as all the best movie love affairs do, with opposition.

I grew up on horror movies—but to grow up on horror movies in the 1970s meant to grow up on a diet of gothic chillers. It’s an extinct animal these days, hounded off the earth and replaced by a coarser, ruder, more grisly genre that has changed what “horror” means.

The horror movies I fell in love with as a child were films about dread, free-floating fear, and abstract ideas. Fear of sex, fear that science was reaching hubristically too far, fear of the foreign, fear of one’s own inner demons—these were the themes underlying the best of the gothic chillers. Modern horror movies reduce it all down to the simplest element: fear of being killed.

The change in horror movies is not necessarily a bad thing—just because my tastes run one direction doesn’t mean my tastes are right. The gothic chillers I cut my teeth on were crafted in a different, more innocent age. Horror had to change, because the world in which the audience lived changed. In Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets, Boris Karloff plays himself, more or less, an aging star of monster movies whose personal appearance at a drive-in coincides with the arrival of a gun-toting madman who takes to killing the audience for no clear reason. In the 1960s and 70s, the real-life horrors of assassinations and riots and wars made it impossible to feel the same shivers from monsters of a more innocent age.

The summer after September 11, 2001 I was at a monster movie convention. The attendees, all of them fans of gothic chillers and creepy monsters, shared a dazed bewilderment at the unutterable horror the real world had too recently become. If the traumas of the late 1960s had rendered Frankenstein and Dracula obsolete, then how could Jason and Freddy and Leatherface possibly compete with real-life madmen who could vaporize thousands of innocent people in an instant?

It was at this event in 2001 that I was first introduced to The Ring.

A colleague was running a booth selling Japanese horror imports, and he tried to get me to watch Hideo Nakata’s The Ring—but I kept resisting. The problem for me was that the guy trying to convince me was running a stall selling bootlegs of various Japanese shockers such as the Guinea Pig films, and Guts of a Virgin. If you don’t recognize those titles, then you’re a happy lucky person. These are sadistic exercises in video cruelty that even gorehounds find extreme. In my mind, that’s what Japanese horror was: everything that was wrong with modern American horror films, but even more vicious, misogynistic, and depressing.

I wrongly pre-judged Ring to be something gaudy and rough. I almost missed the fact that, halfway around the world, the suspense-driven gothic thriller had been brought back from extinction.

Meanwhile, the Ring spread. At that point, Hideo Nakata’s 1998 motion picture had not yet been officially released in the United States. So it circulated instead through an underground subculture of fans who made copies for each other. “Here, ya gotta see this.” Ironically, that’s the same thing that happens in the movie: people make copies of a scary video for each other. Reportedly, if you watch this cursed videotape, exactly seven days later you drop dead. When a group of teenagers simultaneously die of unknown causes at different places around Tokyo, an investigative reporter traces their lives back to a common point when they watched a scary video together. She watches it herself, and realizes in horror she now has just one week to solve the mystery of the tape and save her own life.

One of the underground copies wound up in the hands of a man named Roy Lee, whose destiny was soon to become intertwined with Hideo Nakata’s. Lee was overwhelmed by the movie—no surprise, really, since everybody who saw it responded by a) loving the movie; b) recommending it to a friend; c) trying to make their own version; or d) some combination of the above. Since Lee worked in Hollywood, his ability to take action was substantially more advanced than the average fan. He made a copy for a development executive at Dreamworks Pictures, Mark Sourian. “Here, ya gotta see this.”

Sourian immediately phoned producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald: “Here, ya gotta see this.” Sourian copied the tape and sent it along to his producers. They watched it, and had the same reaction. They then copied the tape and mailed it to up-and-coming director Gore Verbinski (whose major credit at that time was Mousehunt).

And so, Dreamworks hired Verbinski to render Nakata’s film into English, with an explicit agenda of maintaining as much of Nakata’s atmosphere as possible. It arrived in theaters around Halloween-time 2002, and sported a decidedly low-key marketing campaign. Whatever I had mis-expected of the original, the remake was obviously aimed at—and attracting—a crowd of serious adults, who didn’t come out talking about the splatter FX but instead made comparisons to the early films of Luis Buñuel. My interest was piqued, and off to the theater I went.

I kept my expectations low—but as the film unspooled, I was enthralled, mystified, intrigued, and genuinely scared.

There is a moment towards the end when the entire cramped auditorium erupted in simultaneous shrieking. It’s been a long time since was genuinely shaken by a movie, and it set me out on a project of researching its history and coming to some kind of understanding of the genre.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Bluegrass Film Society Fall 2013 Series

August 19: The Devils (UK: Ken Russell, 1971: 111 mins)

August 26: Medium Cool (USA: Haskell Wexler, 1969: 111 mins)

September 9: Day for Night (France/Italy: Francois Truffaut, 1973: 115 mins)

September 16: Down By Law (USA/West Germany: Jim Jarmusch, 1986: 107 mins)

September 23: Upstream Color (USA: Shane Caruth, 2013: 96 mins)

September 30: Hiroshima Mon Amour (France/Japan: Alain Resnais, 1959: 90 mins)

October 7: A Single Man (USA: Tom Ford, 2009: 99 mins)

October 14: Canceled because of projector problems -- fixed now ;)

October 21: Something in the Air (France: Olivier Assayas, 2012: 122 mins) [Rescheduled from 10/14]

October 28: Cronos (Mexico: Guillermo del Toro, 1993: 94 mins)

November 4: Rust and Bone (France/Belgium: Jacques Audiard, 2012: 120 mins)

November 11: Byzantium (UK/USA/Ireland: Neil Jordan, 2012: 118 mins)

November 18: WR: Mysteries of the Organism (Yugoslavia/West Germany: Dusan Makavejev, 1971: 84 mins)

November 25: A Clockwork Orange (UK/USA: Stanley Kubrick, 1971: 136 mins)

December 2: Hannah Arendt (Germany/Luxembourg/France: Margarethe von Trotta, 2012: 113 mins)

December 9: Brand Upon the Brain (Canada: Guy Maddin, 2006: 99 mins)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bluegrass Film Society: Schedules

Spring 2020

Fall 2019

Spring 2019

Fall 2018

Spring 2018

Fall 2017

Spring 2017

Fall 2016

Summer 2016

Spring 2016

Fall 2015

Spring 2015

Fall 2014

Spring 2014

Fall 2013

Summer 2013

Spring 2013

Fall 2012

Spring 2012

Fall 2011

Summer 2011

Spring 2011

Spring 2010

Fall 2009


Demonlover (France: Olivier Assayas, 2002)

Demonlover (France: Olivier Assayas, 2002: 129 mins)

Assayas, Olivier. "My Generation -- Breaking the sound barrier: A director's take on movies, music, adolescence, and politics." Village Voice (August 17, 2004)

---. "Power Games." Sight and Sound (May 2004)

Gac, Frank Le. "Olivier Assayas." Senses of Cinema #36 (2006)

Hyde, Greg. "Inspiration And Implementation: Olivier Assayas On His Key Films." The Quietus (September 15, 2021)

Khawaja, Aryan T. "Are You Still Watching?: Demonlover (2002) and the Spectre of Voyeurism." Bright Lights Film Journal (October 10, 2022) ["This is the central thesis Assayas raises here – instant gratification via the image suggests a greater degree of control over what we consume (including its ethics) when in fact the consumer is hopelessly chained to a perpetual engine of human suffering that is merely reconfigured to fit the needs of the consumer. The cruelty is the point."]

"Olivier Assayas Symposium." Reverse Shot (September/October 2003)

Pinn, Marcus. "Demonlover: An Understandably Misunderstood Masterpiece." Pinnland Empire (March 7, 2012)

Shawhan, Jason. ""Qui Est Sylvie Braghier?": Identity and Narrative In Olivier Assayas' Demonlover." The Film Journal #6 (2002)

City of God (Brazil/France: Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)

City of God (Brazil/France: Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002: 130 mins)

Benton, Michael. "City of God, Schindler's List and Contextual Viewings." Dialogic (September 2008)

Bowater, Donna. "City of God, Ten Years On." BBC (August 5, 2013)

Carlsten, Jennie. "Violence in the City of God: The Fantasy of the Omniscient Spectator." Cinephile #1 (2005)

The Cinema Cartography. "City of God: The Open World Movie." (Posted on Youtube: April 30, 2015)

David Greven - Making Love While the Bullets Fly: Plata Quemada (Burnt Money), Representation, and Queer Masculinity

Making Love While the Bullets Fly: Plata Quemada (Burnt Money), Representation, and Queer Masculinity
by David Greven
Bright Lights Film Journal

Marcelo Piñeyro's Plata Quemada (2000) (the title in English is Burnt Money) is an Argentine film that won the Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film in 2001 and several other awards. Based on the 1997 "dirty-realism" novel of the same name by Ricardo Piglia (given the English title Money to Burn), Piñeyro's film is a fascinating, hypnotic work that demands attention on its own stylized cinematic terms. Plata Quemada is especially interesting for several reasons. First, made on the "other" American continent for an expressly Argentine audience and yet managing to become an international art-house hit, the film offers an uncanny mirror image of the possibilities and potentialities, or lack thereof, available to U.S. filmmakers as well as audiences.1 These possibilities and potentialities relate specifically to the gay/queer themes foregrounded in this film. Based on a real-life historical event, Plata Quemada, about two gay bank robbers and set in the mid-1960s, is a languorous male-male version of Arthur Penn's seminal Bonnie and Clyde (1967). One question immediately arises: is this a queer version of that film as well as a same-gender one? (Penn's film itself has queer valences: Clyde Barrow [Warren Beatty] reassures Bonnie Parker [Faye Dunaway], "I don't like boys," after his failed initial attempt to make love to her. Part of his character arc is his eventual success in having sexual intercourse with her.) Argentina's homophobic history seems to be addressed and also pacified in this film that, at once, evokes with extraordinary erotic intensity the brooding, premonitory atmosphere of sexual desire between men but never shows actual sex between men.

Plata Quemada intersects provocatively with the major themes of post-millennial Hollywood films. This period of Hollywood history has been dominated by the new "body genres" of torture-porn horror (exemplified by Eli Roth's Hostel [2005]) and the Beta Male comedies popularized by Judd Apatow. What crucially links these seemingly antithetical genres is their shared fascination with not only exposing but ravaging the male body, marked as straight, white, and heterosexual. In many ways, Piñeyro's film offers its own version of this representational project.2 While the traumatic events of September 11, 2001, are usually identified as the defining "cause" for the tortured representations of masculinity in post-millennial Hollywood, Plata Quemada, like other films of its moment, illuminates the broader issues at work in these representations. Its fascination with the exposed and suffering male body cannot be explained by 9/11, but the film is also representative of those being made in its own period and in the years to follow in terms of its depiction of both masculinity and male bodies. The further question, surprisingly even for this film with explicitly queer content, is, to what extent is the representation of the male body a queer act or event? Because so many overlaps exist between Plata Quemada and Pedro Almodovar's film Law of Desire (1987), I will conclude with a comparative reading of both works.

Plata Quemada recreates the events of a famous bank robbery in Buenos Aires in 1965. El Nene (played by the Argentine Leonardo Sbaraglia) — an aspiring doctor who did not complete his medical training, the black sheep of his prosperous family, and a petty thief who has served time in prison — and Angel (played by the Spaniard Eduardo Noriega), a drifter, become known as "The Twins," recalling the famous Kray brothers of English crime lore. (Peter Medak made a 1990 film called The Krays about these titular criminals. Twin brothers, one gay, one straight, they presided over London's criminal underworld in the 1960s.) But Nene and Angel are not biologically related but, rather, lovers who initially meet in the bathroom of a Buenos Aires subway station and form an unbreakable, if shattering, bond after this first sexual encounter. The queer theorist Leo Bersani has argued for the "self-shattering" qualities of gay sex, but Plata Quemada foregrounds gay desire as a mutually shattering event. The film's romantic nihilism is at the heart of both its appeal and its essentially troubling nature.

The lovers join a group of well-established gangsters who plan to hold up an armored truck. Fontana (Ricardo Bartis), the boss of the group, and the elderly lawyer Nando (Carlos Roffé), preside over a motley crew that includes the Twins as well as the young, dark-haired Cuervo (Pablo Echarri), who recalls the sensual male crooners of the 1950s but with palpable sexual intensity. His girlfriend is an equally sexually palpable presence, a lascivious 16-year-old teenager named Vivi (Dolores Fonzi). During the bank robbery, the armed guards unexpectedly retaliate, and Angel is wounded during the exchange of gunfire, which leads an enraged Nene to massacre all of the guards as well as the police. As David William Foster points out, Nene's behavior here violates all of the codes of such heists, in which any participant who happens to be injured is either left behind or executed on the spot by the other heist members to avoid any interrogation by the police (Foster 146). The Buenos Aires police, enflamed by the loss of some of their own, make finding the heist team a top priority on a national scale. The gang first hole up in Vivi's apartment, but then escape to Montevideo. The police extend their hunt for the gang to Uruguay. As the gang waits for new passports, the film explores the related narrative arcs of Nene's conflicted sexual identity — his need to prove that he is, if not heterosexual, at least capable of being so — and Angel's psychic disintegration. (Angel hears voices in his head and is also obsessed with his own Catholicism. The film strongly suggests that he is suffering from some form of schizophrenia.) At the same time, the real drama seems to be the lack of intimate contact, emotional and sexual, between Nene and Angel, a hiatus that began with their escape. Indeed, it is unclear whether or not Nene's own odyssey of sexual confusion primarily stems from some deep conflict within himself or from his deprivation as Angel withholds intimacy with him — on many levels, of which the physical is the most obvious.

To Read the Rest

Friday, August 9, 2013

Adaptation (USA: Spike Jonze, 2002)

Adaptation (USA: Spike Jonze, 2002: 114 mins)

Bean, Henry. "Self Made Heroes: Adaptation puts the self-obsession of the screenwriter centre stage." Sight and Sound (March 2003)

D., Margo and Margo P. "The Orchid Thief vs. Adaptation." Book vs Movie (June 30, 2017) ["The Margos are back and taking on their most interesting episode yet with a compare and contrast of the Susan Orlean novel The Orchid Thief (which began as a New Yorker article) and the hit Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jones movie Adaptation. If there has ever been a reason for this podcast to exist --this material is the one to tackle!So many differences between the book and movie here, we are not quite sure where to begin but let us give it a try."]

Dzialo, Chris. "'Frustrated Time' Narration: The Screenplays of Charlie Kaufman." Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009: 107-128. [BCTC Library: PN1995 P89 2009]

Edwards, Gile. "Adaptation (2002)." 366 Weird Movies (January 13, 2016)

Evans, Kim. "Charlie Kauffman, Screenwriter." To the Best of Our Knowledge (November 10, 2013)

Kozak, Oktay Ege, Erik McClanahan and Ryan Oliver. "Lost in Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind & Adaptation." Over/Under Movies (June 20, 2016)

Koski, Genevieve, et al. "Cage Match, Pt. 1 — Adaptation." The Next Picture Show (April 26, 2022) ["We’re offering four Nicolas Cages for the price of two with this week’s pairing, inspired by Cage’s latest, THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT, which finds the actor playing two connected versions of himself. But before entering that hall of mirrors, we’re heading back to 2002’s ADAPTATION for a different strain of meta exercise centered on another set of Nicolas Cages, this one playing the film’s screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, as well as his twin brother/personification of his own self-loathing, Donald. The exact nature of Donald’s character and how it shapes the film’s third act is a big point of discussion this week, as is how literally we are meant to take the film’s title when it comes to its literary source material."]

---. "Cage Match, Pt. 2 — The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent." The Next Picture Show (May 3, 2022) ["The new THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT contains a lot of the same DNA as ADAPTATION, but instead of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the film’s meta energy is focused on star Nicolas Cage, once again playing two competing sides of the same tortured talent. This week we get into how the confluence of actor, persona, and screenplay works differently in each film, but first we process UNBEARABLE WEIGHT’s lighthearted excavation of its central talent, and consider whether we may have already moved past the stage of Cage’s career that the film is commenting on."]

Shaw, Daniel. Film and Philosophy: Taking Films Seriously." London: Wallflower Press, 2008. [Professor has a copy]