Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Béla Tarr in Lars Iyer's 2011 novel Spurious

See also: How to Make Spurious

damnation, bela tarr, lars iyer, spurious
Damnation (Béla Tarr, 1988)

" 'What would Béla Tarr think of your damp?, W. says. What would he make of it? W. has become obsessed with Béla Tarr. He’s a genius, says W. He says he only makes films about poor, ugly people. The ugly and poor are his people, that’s what he says, says W.

Béla Tarr was going to be a philosopher. But when he started making films. . . No abstraction for him, says W. He's completely devoted to the concrete, says W. To what he sees in front of him. He's not like us, W. says. He doesn't float nebulously into the most general and most confused of ideas, into our clouds of unknowing.

'Béla Tarr doesn’t believe in God', says W. 'He's seen too much to believe in God'. A little later, 'He takes years over each film', says W. 'Years! Every kind of obstacle is placed in his way. His producers die of despair. His cinematographers leave in disgust. He runs out of money'. And then, 'His films are full of drunks. Full of drunk, aggressive people like you', says W. 'And mud. His films are full of mud. That’s where you belong', says W., 'in the mud'.

Béla Tarr made his first film when he was sixteen, W. says. Sixteen! Sixteen! That’s when he started, says W. 'When did you know', says W., 'when did you know that you'd never amount to anything?' When did I take refuge in vague and cloudy ideas that have nothing to do with the world?

There's something absolute about my yard, W. says. You can't get beyond it. Some great process has completed itself there. —'What's hung over your washing line? What was it, before it started rotting?', and then, 'Were those once bin bags? My God, what have they become?'

Béla Tarr would discern what is absolute about my yard, W. says. He'd register its every detail in a twenty minute tracking shot. The sewage, the concrete, the bin bags and rotting plants. . . the yard would mean more to Bela Tarr than all our nonsense.

Béla Tarr said that the walls, the rain and the dogs in his films have their own stories, which are much more important than so-called human stories. He said that the scenery, the weather, the locations and time itself have their own faces. Their own faces! Yes, we're agreed, the yard, the horror of the yard, is the only thing around here in which Béla Tarr would be interested."

turin horse, bela tarr, lars iyer, spurious, clothes line, washing line
The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2011)

...A few pages later:

"W. has wheedled £2,600 from some academic fund or other. It's time to give something to the world, he says, rather than taking. Because that's what we always do, he says, we take from the world. 

We should send the money to Béla Tarr! Send it all to him! Béla Tarr's our leader. How long have we been waiting for a leader? But there he is, working in Hungary, on the central plain, a long way from us. No doubt his producers have deserted him. No doubt he's lost another cinematographer. . . We're agreed: he needs our support, and we need his leadership.

But how are we going to get the money to Béla Tarr? Should we go to Hungary ourselves? My God, says W., what would he make of us? Two buffoons on the central plain! What would he think? Isn't life hard enough for him as it is? 

He uses non-professional actors, says W. of Béla Tarr. We talk of the great speech in Damnation about coal scuttles and suicide. It's the best scene I've ever seen in a film, I tell him. He agrees. And the bit in the mud with the dog, with Karrer on all fours barking at the dog. Nothing better. Because that's where we'll end up—in the mud, covered in mud, barking! At each other, if no one else. Barking—in the mud!"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meryl Streep: The Britannium Lady

My friend Sarah B. made this picture, and I thought it was perfect:

meryl streep, oscar, academy award, iron lady, thatcher, undeserved, nomination, fart, overrated, ebert, Frank Caliendo, narcissistic, my week with marylin, michelle williams
  Even Roger Ebert thinks her nomination is undeserved:

"Streep, of course, is a paragon. Her impersonation of Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" was so uncanny she could have given a speech on the BBC and fooled a lot of people. But it wasn't a very good film and didn't make adequate use of her as a resource. In my review, I used a happy turn of phrase: She was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Nominating Miss Streep seems to have become an annual ritual for the Academy, like bringing on the accountants with their briefcases."

I'm glad he calls it an impersonation because that's exactly what it is. Contrary to popular wisdom, these kinds of performances don't have much to do with great acting. If they did, Frank Caliendo would win an Oscar every year. (Though he probably wouldn't; he's not Meryl Streep.)

As others have pointed out, Streep's performances are often narcissistic and conspicuous, which is a type of performance that tends to garner accolades. We see this exemplified by Michelle Williams' nomination this year for MY WEEK WITH MARYLIN. Williams' impersonation has netted her a plethora of awards and nominations, while most of her best performances (and she's one of the very best) have been ignored by Hollywood. Of course that isn't just because Hollywood loves performances you can watch from the other room. It's also because Hollywood is in love with itself-- hence a nomination for convincingly playing one of their great icons. This amounts to nothing more than an institution patting itself on the back. (Though this criticism is unfair since that's all the Oscars are anyway.)

Also, most of Streeps films are rubbish. If she's as great an actor as her reputation suggests, she's squandered her talent.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hugo Projection Botched, New Images Emerge

Recently a movie theater in New York accidentally projected commercials over the final thirty minutes of Hugo, and naturally it was recorded on a cell phone and uploaded to YouTube for all the world to see. Ironic, as others have pointed out, for this to have happened during a film that's a tribute to film preservation. (And of course this was only able to happen in the first place because it was being projected digitally.)

I actually found the video to be somewhat interesting, though I plead guilty to enjoying superimposition for its own sake. Sometimes the images created something serendipitous: the Minority Report-esque opening; a man from a Méliès film doing a backflip at just the moment a car from an advertisement drives by, as if he'd been hit; the trailer for War Horse superimposed over a horse and chariot from a Méliès short; something reminiscent of the opening to a James Bond film recreated by a pulsating circle forming around Hugo (who happens to be wearing a tuxedo and holding up a playing card); or the automaton from Hugo sitting like a homunculus on a guy's shoulder...

Here's a selection I made.

Special appearance by Adventure Time's Jake the Dog.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The SOPA Blackout

sopa blackout, blackout, stop online piracy act, copyright, anti-piracy, ownership, godard, film socialisme, sopa, vishnevetsky, no comment

" 'No Comment,' reads the final title card of Film Socialisme. [...] On its own, it appears to be a puckish deflection, a great big jokey shrug to ward off interpretation and criticism, but within the context of the film—and, most importantly, as the last thing the audience sees—it reveals itself as the opposite. […] “No Comment” is not a deflection of responsibility, but a declination (from, of course, the master of declining) of authorial control. That is: he has declined to comment so that others might instead. Directly preceding this final statement in Film Socialisme is the second-to-last image of the film, in which the FBI anti-piracy warning that usually goes at the beginning of DVDs is overlayed with the words, in French, “When the law becomes unjust, justice comes before the law.” Godard’s made a few comments lately about his stance against copyright, and a few gestures, too, including a token contribution to a pirate’s legal defense fund. Being, in part, a film about how culture is (or isn’t) transmitted and repurposed, Film Socialisme is also a film about copyright. Copyright law replaces authorship with ownership; it institutionalizes the barrier between the creator of a work and his or her audience. So, in a world where the more draconian expressions of copyright—the transformation of a work into a property to be sold and controlled, instead of a protection of the authors’ rights—are givens, the only way to resist is to cease being an author yourself." --Ignatiy Vishnevetsky