Girls and Her

When I first heard of the Girls…I was appalled. And that is putting it lightly. My self-loathing was tangible, palpable oozing so bad I had to work over time and two extra shifts to deny it. It felt like I was looking in a mismatched mirror of my own desperate past, that was now for all to see, objectify, ridicule. It was like self-loathing on super speed. I refused to watch it. One time, out at dinner at a semi-chic (read; not so good and overpriced) then-new restaurant in Bed-Stuy (so Girls) my friend told me that I reminded her of Lena Dunham. Not, her alter ego Hannah, but the real LD herself. I almost died. I had not yet seen Tiny Furniture or Girls, but still, it was like a kick to the lady parts that made me want to flip my gourmet macaroni slider ball covered table and storm out to wait 45 minutes for the G.

Anyways, there was a lot of weird self-loathing slash overall annoyance with the show…before I actually sat down to watch it and TF.  Of course, I LOVED. IT. because obviously how else would that story end.

Not only do I love the show-not my favorite in history but-hilarious and uncomfortable nipple showing half shirts and all, but I deeply admire Lena Dunham. She REPRESENTS. She OWNS her shit. She basically has a mini Bey thing goin on, not as fabulous of course, no one could be, but we can all aspire. Perhaps most importantly, she is a boss. She runs the show, writes it, produces it, and doesn’t give a damn what people think. Especially of how she looks, which by the way makes her a fucking hero to like millions of women. Not saying she is perfect, and I kind of wish she would write Hannah to be more like Lena, but whatever. The point is, I was way wrong.

Now, when I saw the trailer for Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix I literally barfed in my mouth a couple of times over and over again, then once for real on the floor. Then I saw this article in the Atlantic; why it is THE BEST film of the year… Oh congratulations you mega douche. You love your phone. Novel concept really…oh wait, have you ever met ANYONE before?! If only your character was a little bit more like your “character” I’m Still Here, then I think things could get for realsies interesting. Remember how much you hated women in that movie? It’s almost like you could make them disappear! Which is exactly what has happened in Her. Ahhh, sweet relief. A womanless world.

Which brings me to my next point. Another character who made a lady disappear, Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones.

Can I get a Hello?!The whole PDA with your PDA (who happens to be Scarlett Johansson, I mean are you kidding me Jonze) joke is like MADE with the movie though, thanks for that at least. But, just like with Girls maybe I should watch it and it won’t make me want to die so much. Except, Girls is all about, well…it’s in the title…girls running their shit. Her, on the other hand, is just that…the objectifying, commodifying, empty, perfect, AI girlfriend any hetero-normative mustachioed tool can ever hope to Google.Congrats to you on that.


the number…isn’t my phone number…

Last night I saw David Holzman’s Diary at Anthology Film Archives. The director, Jim Mcbride, was there and spoke afterward with Jonathon Demme in tow.

The film, a pioneer in American cinema verite, is at the same time cinema parode…oui, pardon, je suis amerikawn, parody. The moderator mentioned that the film anticipated youtubiness of such diaries like lonelygirl15–the title which Demme had to remind him of. The talk made my skin crawl. But first the film.

Every time Holzman quotes Godard in the film (maybe 2 or 3x) saying “truth is 24 times a second”, all I heard was Laura Mulvey barking “death 24 times a second!” in my ear.

My mother also lived in the upper west side in 1967, when she was a sophomore in college. I loved that and upon telling her about it she said ‘maybe i was in it!’, I laughed and thought how much she would have liked to seen her old neighborhood on film, and how I’d like to hear what she thought, if it represented the neighborhood accurately, if it was a portal to the past, if she even liked it.
But I know if she saw it she would be reminded of the clamor and arrogance with which she often vaguely describes her memories of that time, of New York, of the men she knew or didn’t. After all, on the columbia campus you learn real quick “never date an engineer!!”, a star point which has remained one of her best pieces of advice.

Although she has never told me the full story of her experiences in NYC, being a student in 1968, and bizarre run-ins with the law, her past remains to me more like a mosaic, a pastiche of moments, fragmented, kaleidoscope like, but inevitably straying far from ever sounding like the lamentations of a nostalgic hippie, something she never identified as. But that’s neither here nor there.

But I still want to hear what it’s like. So bad. From someone who has feelings. That’s why it’s a damn shame that ‘Holzman’ never let a woman get a word in. There was Penny, who was “dirty”, literally, caked in dirt, which we know because Holzman pushes a picture of her towards the camera saying “look closely at the ring of dirt under her chin”. Her character was a model who didn’t like to be filmed. the horror! Then there was the neighbor woman, who we only knew from a far, a lame play on Rear Window. Finally, there was the transgender woman in the car, who Demme later referred to as “half woman”. Sadly, neither of the two idiots on stage knew she was not she by birth until long after the film was made. The story goes that Mcbride’s friend later “fucked her and she had a very muscular back.”

The film was like a blunt punch to the kidney, and the discussion following a foot to the jugular of a baby bird. On the stage were dudes, a dude introduced them, most people asking questions were, shockingly, dudes. One woman asked about the role of women in the film, which was a relief, but Mcbride’s answer was jaw droppingly naive.

Mcbride mcresponded to the question of Penny (Eileen Dietz) that in the film she was a model for work, but didn’t like to be filmed because she can only reveal herself on a surface level, but never reveal her soul. Which explains why, tempestuous as a rabid child, leaves her loser boyfriend. The real Penny eventually tracked him (Mcbride) down, got the film, and never gave it back. I wouldn’t have either.

marcelines flower

But, I ask you, oh lords of verite, oh film school egos, oh kim’s employees, oh anyone so short-sighted to think a woman cannot overcome her vanity and truly reveal her soul to the camera: consider Marceline. Marceline Loridan Ivens that is, from Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer. The picture above is a her hand holding the flower and cigarette, carefully concealing her tattooed number from the Holocaust. Its a still from a still before one of the most beautiful scenes in history; Marceline walking slowly around Paris, a small suitcase in hand which must have been holding her mic equipment, she reflects on her past and the seemingly tangled promises it had offered her. She was given the chance to speak and so she spoke poetry.

This is the scene before that scene of just Marceline, which I couldn’t find.

dancing with the fucking lunatics

*because i’ve been away. does contain spoilers no one cares about, if you make it to the end (threat and promise)*

tony manero

Pablo Larrain’s 2008 Tony Manero is a film which coolly reminds you that art isn’t dead and war isn’t over. Manero is Larrain’s second film after his debut in 2006 with Fuga which portrays a pianists decent into madness. We meet Manero in the depths of the madness, where cruelty is so quotidian it is passe, adding insult to injury the insanity is veiled with sequins and polyester leaving you the same as a thief on the streets would- abandoned, cut up, and chuckling with disbelief.

The film premiered at this years Cannes amidst a slew of other films from “the subcontinent” as The Guardian’s Xan Brooks describes “Are things really as bad as that? Latin America is supposed to be the success story at this year’s Cannes”. Latin American film has been perpetually fertile ground for unknowing critics to cry ‘film ho!’ and plant a flag down declaring the next big thing. However, this time there may be something to talk about.

Manero, is played by co-writer Alfredo Castro because, as many auteur critics know, there probably is no one who could have played him better, it seems as though his vision was so specific, so obtuse, the casting could only lead circuitously back to the writing.  The approach to creating a dialogue regarding readership of Latin American cinema dances a precarious line between appropriation and praise, which makes Tony Manero reflecting it right back, such a hot subject.

The film usurps poetic license to recreate the Pinochet era, known as the Chilean reign of terror, feeling more like a mental flashback than a picture perfect time machine. The film openly covers the ramifications of what happened after the 1970 socialist candidate Salvador Allende was voted president with a small margin of victory. However, in 1974 after years of intervention from the United States CIA, the Chilean parliament was overthrown, Allende committed suicide and the military commander Augusto Pinochet seized power. And following suit of important historical events, in 1977 Saturday Night Fever was released.

During the Pinochet reign there existed a “Caravan of Death” which existed solely to incarsirate, if not eliminate, any opposition or threat thereof, against the government. Larrain may have been referring to the Caravan in the scene where an unidentified character is approached by the police in a van (which we had previously seen Manero hiding from) and shot after they discovered political fliers in his bag. Our hero Tony aptly hides, and after the execution is executed, he takes the man’s watch and admires it on his own wrist, an eerie reflection of the timelessness this film encapsulates.
The film gauzily points to sticky international relations on the final game show, as the announcer introduces an Argentinian model they had hired as some sort of tacky olive branch. The commodification of the female body in terms of creating a literal bardering chip is nothing new, but Larrain applies the concept with a vintage chic flavor reminiscent of newness.

Larrain, well aware of his expectations as a Latino director, toys with tokens and symbols of machismo and the spicy flavor of otherness, and tosses them out the window. Mangey dogs, talk shows and skeletol cities, oh my. The motley pack of dogs from Inarritu’s Amorres Perros are bribed with a specific bone of foresight as they soon become collatoral for another one of Manero’s victims.  Almodovar’s love/hate relationship with the Spanish talk show is overlooked with the black humor as Manero loses the competition. Santiago as a city, barren, underdevloped could almost be Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City, but alas Larrain marks it as his own, specifically Chilean as the roaming Manero becomes a vicious, dynamic extension of the cities isolation, violence and neglect.

And then there is Manero himself, the most colorful examination of machismo ever before seen in Latin American film, with the only exception being Roberto Cobo as La Manuela in Arturo Ripstein’s 1978 El Lugar sin Limites (A Place Without Limits) Manero is oversexed and yet entirely impotent, machismo manifest. Manero’s obsession with Travolta surpasses homoeroticism, surmised perfectly when his girlfriend says “you can only get it up for that floor of yours” referring to the GLASS FLOOR he is crafting to perform on.

Manero kills for a TV possibly to watch Travolta on, he kills for the floor he needs to dance like Travolta on, he kills for the copy of the film and possibly out of sheer anger it is no longer playing, and he lets die to perform.

The irony is palpable. The humor and awkwardness with which we now know the halloween-costume version of the seventies is juxtapposed with the serious, death dealing attitude which Tony Manero lives them in. Like the narrative, the film itself is veiled. Stylistically dark Tony Manero is hard to see, literally. Not to suggest that the darkness implies a mysterious metanarrative , rather it challenges the eyes and builds a screen between the viewer and the subject. Manero can’t be had, he must be discovered, learnt, dreamt and lived as the specter of a character he is.

“It has all come true…If you take the icons of US culture and you go to Chile you will see them everywhere. We have a very unsettled and fragile structure. Everything is imported from America.” Says Larrain. It seems in the time of what could be a Latin American film identity crisis, Larrain is buying back what he has been sold with the ultimate “shit on your white suite” bargaining chip- Tony Manero.

Film Criticism in Crisicism

After a bleary battle with the weather this morning i headed uptown to the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln center to bear witness to the great minds in modern media lock intellectual horns and grind their cinematic hooves into the ground for a panel called Film Criticism in Crisis.

but not really. I was nervous before i went in that they would just shoo me out saying “you know what, there really is nothing left to talk about so you might as well LEAVE!” but alas, i found a comfortable seat close to the front. Among the heavyweight panelists were the “king of the blogosphere” David Hudson, Chicago critic Jonathon Rosenbaum and Emmanuel Burdeau the editor of Cahiers du Cinema.

The panel was moderated by professional hoity-toit Gavin Smith, the editor of Film Comment. He functioned well as “the person who asks the other person to speak directly into the microphone”. Burdeau was the classically strident yet loved 35 year old Frenchman who kept things saracastic (eg: calling Rosenbaum old). Rosenbaum was the happily retired smarty pants who seemed comfortable having finally found the freedom to watch’n’write at leisure. Hudson seemed the only panelist with a relative idea of the contemporary media related topography.

All in all- crisis is only a sexy word, this is in fact a heyday for film if only we can update and reconfigure our vocabulary  and harness our web based energies. We could have probably launched at least several large balloons given all the hot air being blown in the conference room, but perhaps that’s something I should have seen coming. at least people are talking.

Thank The House Next Door ↔ to track back to other notes on the panel.

Click here for more information on events with the New York Film Festival – and their blog!

Vicky Cristina Barfelona

The most recent film I saw, and gladly paid my own money to see was Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona I had been looking forward to seeing it for a long time, and my friend Naomi suggested we go to the Angelika Theater, although the east village location would have been ideal, considering the rain. Having missed the 8 oclock showing (the six train was running slow) we bought the tickets for later and passed the time with coffee and a drink before the 9:10 screening.
The film began with a very poignant Luis Vuitton advertisement before launching into a series of trailers for environmentalist documentaries, and one for ‘The Women’ a film which I am sure may be prove the nail in the coffin for feminist film. About every other minute during the trailers a different person, having separated from their couple, would come up and ask if the seats next us were taken, which sadly they were. The variegated but always disgruntled responses of those feeling around for seats primed us to for laughter before the film even started.
Manohla Dargis said it best in her review for the Times that “There will always be an audience that hungers for a certain kind of Woody Allen movie, but it’s a relief that he has moved away from the safety and provincialism of his New York.” This is both true and false. I think people were relieved that he was making jokes again, and not shooting Ms. Johansson with a sawed off shot gun in a stairwell. Although Ms. Dargis is a personal favorite I am not sure that New York is, in fact, Mr. Allen’s vision of provincialism. New York is instead his stomping ground, perhaps what many may call his muse. Sadly, I too am one who misses the New York Allen and craves a refreshment from the genre of urban neurosis.

Interesting though to see Mr. Allen’s new film as a foreign director trying his best to submerge himself in another culture, standing in paradoxical alignment to the plot of the film. It was great; however, because it returned to a lighter, albeit complex, humor reminiscent of his “New York” films, something many fans I feel, have been missing.
There were moments inside the packed and wet theater where everyone was really laughing. There were times when people would laugh preemptively or laugh very boisterously. At first, I was put off by all of these different types of laughter but I realized that maybe people were just excited to see Mr. Allen cracking a joke again, and that maybe i should loosen the fuck up. Often the jokes came at the expense of Ms. Johansson , the poet and the lover. In contrast with the stiff yet quirky Cristina, who comes to terms with her own sexuality in a much different way.
And yet, the tired joke of innocence abroad is often another, more sensual way of harping on a crypto machismo. There was something about the fact that it was a Woody Allen film, or perhaps that there was narration which guided us but there was something quiet that felt as though the film could indulge in itself, Allen could indulge in himself, but we could not. Had this been say, a James Bond movie, regarding the various relationships, the sexuality would have been gratuitous at best. But here, the sexuality is modern, bohemian, dare I say chic.
I had read a diary with the Times called “Excerpts from the Spanish Diary” Mr.Allen wrote from the set of Vicky Cristina parodying the beautiful cast he was working with, something which served to prime me for the film.

“JULY 15

Once again I had to help Javier with the lovemaking scenes. The sequence requires him to grab Penélope Cruz, tear off her clothes and ravish her in the bedroom. Oscar winner that he is, the man still needs me to show him how to play passion. I grabbed Penélope and with one motion tore her clothes off.”. (Woody Allen, NYT,8/20/2008)

Perhaps, this movie helped Mr. Allen reclaim that certain dark levity his ouvre, and his fans had been missing.

NYT blasts auteur culture!

but does it?

it takes one person in one village to make one movie

The problem, as it appears in the article, is that Monsieur Shyamalan seems to have been pigeonholed as a director. Running his mouth on keeping things DIY in philly;however, MNS maintains his crappy signature. Why not put on blast the fact that he is reverting back to the standard which elevated him with the holiest of grails, the sixth sense, with his newest release the happening ?

Go ahead, call me a lady in the water, but i think this next movie is happening to be more of a morass! Even though they say it takes a village to make a movie, it doesn’t mean the director’s unbreakable.