Friday, November 28, 2008

"Let The Right One In" (2008)

(A swedish film...)

A blackeyed blackhaired girl named Eli, more or less 12 years old, asks a pale blonde boy to imagine what it is like to be 100 years old. Or 500 years, or 1,000. She tells him: "Imagine what it feels like to be me." She stares into his eyes and around her stonewashed eyes wrinkles form and around the wrinkles, shadows. She is 12 years old.

The boy whose hair like hay stays crisp and gold on the snowwhite of his puckered face looks out at the reflection of his ghostly body as it shines back at him from the glass window of his heated room, on which he places his hand like a blessing, like a curse. He blesses the snow outside the glass window that shines back the whiteness of his body. He curses the hand with the coldness of the glass, the hand that blesses the apparition of the outside snow with its hidden rosy deathlike warmth.

When the boy goes outside to a playground swamped in snow he takes his pocket knife and calls a solitary tree a piggy and stabs it to death. He stabs it multiple times; he waits to see if blood pours from the wounded tree, but nothing globs down, only a glimmer of a shadow, a frozen teardrop. He imagines that the knife is his tongue and with words he strikes every living thing dead. In death he finds that every living thing continues to live and to die. He finds that Eli, the 12 year old girl who hungers for nothing less than life and life alone, is a dead girl who continues despite her death to live. He sees her mourning her youth when she looks into his eyes.

He first meets her when he turns around. "I live on the jungle gym." Like an iron feather she jumps down.

He sees that she chooses not to eat away at his youth. She must be let in, she must be invited. When she eats away at the life stored up in others, she finds death. So she must be invited. Life is a feast for her and she waits until she is invited.

The boy who has come to know himself in the glass reflection of his ghostly pale body invites her. He asks for blood, but he learns death; he knows now that death is but a beginning to life. She gives him blood and she receives life, her torn youth again.

When he looks into her eyes he sees a fire consuming the body; he sees her withered body like a crop of shadows gathered around a watchtower at midnight. Her eyes roar like a black ocean aching for blood. He is terminally in love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Ashes of Time Redux" (2008)

Two men, potentially in love with the same woman, a woman who in her hypothetical objectivity is a continuation of the one woman with whom a single man, in falling fatally in love with her, finds himself united with a league of men in tragic conflict with the ruinous indifference of time and its sands - these two men who are friends by fate and ignorance alike, drink a wine given to one to give to another with a message of redemption attached - but this message is lost in transmission, and the wine is left undrunk by the one friend who disbelieves its power to limit memory to an inexact figure, or to eliminate it altogether as the waters of Lethe are known to have done - he doesn't drink the wine, but the other friend, who is personable and handsome by nature and given to indulge in liquor, conviviality, & other men's freshly picked wives, does drink it, and believes enough in its power that he forgets the joys and miseries of his life that night that he drinks the wine to its dregs and goes off to become a hermit on an island in which he is led to believe that he had all his life loved dogwood blossoms, forgetting that in fact it had been a woman's name which he had left behind in a broken trail, in a place where indeed no dogwood or cornel had ever blossomed...

But one man doesn't drink, he tries to forget the branded face of the Beloved that keeps him cynical at daylight and brooding at sunset - that causes him to overlook the desert vistas in which he has lived for centuries and to neglect wonder at what lies over the rolling dunes, on the other side - he never thinks once of what lies on the other side, if whether the ocean sleeps on its back or the one heaven in paralysis -

Perhaps the wine doesn't promise anything, doesn't do anything other than make a man drunk - but it remains that one man chooses to forget - and the other chooses to remember.

Why does the poet remember his beloved, whose memory causes him so much pain, whose preservation like a rack extends his proud volition to brutal and tormenting immobility? It is because the poet bristles inwardly that time could, rather audaciously, measure and terminate his love, a love to which the poet has given birth like a child crying from the womb of sleep and warmth, to which he has made an altar that bears the scrutiny of his defiant authenticity, proof of the one sincerity that causes him to scar his innards with corrosive juices, with the liquor of depths. It is that the poet cannot endure the sight of time scattering what with such delicate grammar and syntax the poet had assembled in a perfect and enduring order - it is that the poet cannot bear to stand by while the wind tears down the castle that had taken years of his life to construct - what had taken his entire strength to make, only to watch blown with cruel vulgarity the face of his beloved with the passing of the sands of time...

She who strives to forget remembers more agonistically - she is aware of this and she dies of it, as if by suicide.

He who tried to remember, had actually forgotten - he retires to the insignificance of a pretty soldier's face whose face calls to mind a young girl's. He drinks with him and takes the soldier's youthful hairless face into his hands and he speaks to him as if he knew that within the soldier a vibrant and fiery and glamorous woman lay beneath. To the winedrinker all women are essentially men, all men essentially women. Knowing one girl he knew all women, & so forth...

When the two friends split and part, a woman who waits by the side of a seacoast suddenly dies, and the friends realize in each other's absence that something had passed away, along with the seasons that meaninglessly drift apart at wider intervals -

The winters are no longer bitter or hardfought - they turn merely cold; the summers turn merely hot; the spring holds up a batch of wordless birdcalls; the autumn like a tiresome guest will divert for an hour and depart, leaving one in wonder at one's own stupendous vulnerability.

When there is nothing to remember there holds forth a sunless horizon, a listless wave.

"The root of man's problems is his memory."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Vivre Sa Vie" (1962)

Today, at the Ritz at the Bourse in Philadelphia, I saw for the second time, Godard's "Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux", in a new 35mm print...

Of all Godard's films, this may be his finest; no amount of intellectual foreplay and conceptual masturbation could collapse the bridge of essential attraction in Anna Karina's eyes, in her contumaciously french esprit, that dares us, that dares the complacent objectivity of the camera itself, to stare back at her as she gives herself to herself, lending only her body to the plastic space of the image, to the men whose faces we do not know nor care for; her coffee brown eyes in mascara are ineluctable, like shadows to her tender baffled words, that in their immediacy reduce Godard, the artist, the thinker, the scenarist, to a mere observer, to an enchanted beast who for a structured and falsely Brechtian 80 minutes, in a series of 12 straightforward tableaux, renders for us the dreamlife of an angel stuck in a fallen world of clinical images straining for life, for liveliness, for the sudden and suddenly interrupted luxuriant notes of Michel Legrand, for the light and dark and outside city of Raoul Coutard's pensive eye, for a parisian life outside of Paris somehow, in a life less ordinary, less quotidian than the filmic banalities of whoredom and the conformist obscenities of a predatory clientele and a theatre audience seeking vain instruction in the studied breakdown of a model and her artist, of an actress and her director -

We are asked the questions, "Does cinema derive from Art, or from Life? To which does this fragile and insufferably artificial medium correspond?" We have only her eyes, Nana's eyes, Anna Karina playing Anna Karina, gazing at us repeatedly, yet this time, as distinct from the other films in which she appeared for her portraitist, Jean-Luc (who no doubt finds himself to be as guilty in the way Poe's 'oval portrait' narrator is, referenced toward the end, of subjecting his young wife to the psychological and blush-stealing crucibles of the film camera obsessively turned on her and at times zooming in on her in avoidance of all other circumstantial characters - those whose mere existence is barely intimated by brief glimpses of their faces in an angled mirror or of the backs of their heads as a suite of language games ensues or of their hands as they try to touch or hug or fondle or strangle our only breathing heroine - with direct and unmitigated intensity); yet this time, it is her disinterested beauty, her paradoxically conventional & erratic beauty, which flashes back at us and dares us to stare at her directly, with the directness that a living being requires; as she had done with genuine adoration for the martyred, for Jeanne d'Arc, with tears running down her cheeks, because her love was such that it could create out of a strip of celluloid and refracted light the presence of another woman subjected to the cruel logic and gross scrutiny of a bewildered and awestruck and fascinated mankind in terror of an independent and self-created womanhood; when Nana sees Maria Falconeti shed tears, she sees her reflection, and we see Anna Karina shed tears as well: we look up at Nana, at the moment that she is looking up at Maria. Nana too is a martyr, a heroine, a living woman to whose countenance the camera is helplessly, ruthlessly, enslaved. Nana stars in a film in which every gesture is captured and measured and calibrated, to no discretionary use; she creates her own film, it is her life to live, a life which is a film which is a life in which she is responsible for her own liberty, for its enactment in front of us, in which she defies us and dances when she cares to and smokes when she lists and doesn't drink when she finds no reason to. It is her life to live in defiance of the camera, which seeks to penetrate into her, the whore, the godless mother, the 'victim', but it is she who chooses her end in spite of the camera's clearly outlined and ruthless trajectory: she dies without ceremony, the camera in the end has its way, and yet it remains clear - to those who are suddenly jerked into realisation that the film is over, that Nana is dead, that life is waiting outside the theatre - that her decision to leave prostitution for love, to leave film for life, was her own destined martyrship and her own death which shined forth in an end credit screen that left us no choice but to read: 'Fin'; which was also, 'La mort', in black letters on the vibrant white screen like a marquee on top of the door to paradise - Nana became a prostitute the moment that the cinema like God spoke to Jeanne d'Arc and told her that she must die for the sake of reconciling the medium of artifice to the material of life...

Nana Kleinfrankenheim sought film (she was of course, in another life, Anna Karina, who starred with Eddie Constantine in a film set in the future), she sought to become an actress, and it was her life which became a film, and for this choice - to give up her life for art, her gesture for the camera's consumption - she had to die and give us a death that revealed to her alone the aesthetic purity of such a choice.