Saturday, January 09, 2010


The writing below comes from an e-mail I sent to someone:

--Somehow I think it is a little bit ironic that the two directors (Duras and Robbe-Grillet) who seem to truly understand the most about the potential of cinema are actually writers. But maybe it is reasonable, not ironic, because some people who work in many fields of arts may understand more about the different potential of each art form and can use the potential of each art form much better.

--The acting style in Robert Bresson is very unique. I like the fact that it breaks from the normal rules of "convincing acting", "believable acting", "realistic acting" or "acting from the inside", but it still can be great in its own way. When I was a teenager, I used to think that "realistic acting" (Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, etc) was the greatest way. But when I became a cinéphile, I realized that there are many styles of films, and different styles of films require different styles of "great performances", such as the hilarious styles in Almodovar or John Waters' films, the aloof styles of Delphine Seyrig or Tilda Swinton, the demented styles in Herbert Achternbusch, Werner Schroeter, or Ulrike Ottinger's films, the melodramatic styles in some films, the deadpan styles in Tati or Kaurismaki's films, or the seemingly-wooden styles in Bresson or Godard. I also like the "totally unconvincing styles" in many Thai films made by amateur filmmakers very much. Some unconvincing performances have their kind of charms.

--I just found out that TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS (1966, Alain Robbe-Grillet) is available in Google Video, too. I like this film very much, though I much prefer EDEN AND AFTER to it. I also read a novel by Robbe-Grillet called RECOLLECTIONS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE. It has a very interesting and perplexing structure of storytelling. In the end, I don't know for sure at all which events really happen in this novel. But I think it contains too many straight sado-masochistic scenes for my taste.

--I like CHARISMA very much, though I don't understand anything at all during the last part of the film. Actually, I don't understand "the messages" in most of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films. His films are too philosophical for me to understand, but I still enjoy their atmosphere and their weirdness. I haven't seen BRIGHT FUTURE yet, but I love DOPPELGANGER (2003) and BUG'S HOUSE (2005). My friend Filmsick thinks that CHARISMA is actually about the war between people who react differently to "a thing". There are some people who "worship a thing", while other people wants to "destroy that same thing". There are also some people who want to "exploit that thing", some people who believe they don't have to choose between "destroy or protect that thing", and some people who don't care for that thing at all. The Charisma tree in this film can actually stand for many things in this world. Any person who strongly believes in something, which mean his belief is likely to be opposed by some other people in society, can also be like a Charisma tree. My friend thinks that CHARISMA tries to portray this aspect of a society.

--I want to see TURIN HORSE very much, too. I hope it is better than THE MAN FROM LONDON. I think THE MAN FROM LONDON is quite visually amazing, but I think its story is not as impressive as other films by Tarr. Filmsick also thinks like me. He said that later films of Tarr (from DAMNATION to WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES) seems to be "viewed through the gaze of evil eyes", but these evil eyes are absent from THE MAN FROM LONDON, so some characteristic charms of Tarr's films are absent from it, too.

--I just watched DUELLE last year. It is amazing. I love its fantasy story which takes place in realistic settings. That's the kind of things I like in Rivette's films. He can turn a mundane street and everyday activities into a fantasy world, full of benign conspiracies, secrets, or ghosts. His films seem to belong to no genre and seem to be free from many unnecessary filmic rules or traditions. I also love what Matthew Flanagan wrote about AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN in Senses of Cinema very much. He wrote that "As always, Rivette’s mise-en-scène points as much to the concreteness of natural sound as that contained by the physical frame, and the narrative progression hangs in the balance of the wind in the trees." , because I like the wind in the trees in Rivette's films.

Talking about Rivette, I hope you have a chance to see two Argentine films called CASTRO (Alejo Moguillansky) and THEY ALL LIE (Matías Piñeiro), because these two films have the same kind of charms found in Rivette's films.


Boat said...

Interesting. Last semester, I had a class with James Benning called "ACTING BAD". The main purpose of the class was to explore other kinds of "acting". We tried to break away from what is called "realistic" acting as much as we could. James hates "realistic" acting. He doesn't believe in it and there's no point trying to achieve it.

celinejulie said...

That's very interesting. Hahaha. I like realistic acting or what seems like it in John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh, or Eric Rohmer's films, but there is no need for realistic acting in such films as HAUNTED HOUSES (2001, Apichatpong Weerasethakul), or in films by Weerasak Suyala, or in many cult films, because in these kinds of films, the more unconvincing, the better.

What I think about unconvincing acting in many Thai short films is that it helps reveal the true value of this group of short films. This group of Thai short films may fail miserably as "convincing fiction films", but as someone once said, "every film is a documentanry in a way," I think these Thai short films are great as "unintentional documentaries about the failed attempts of some Thai students to make convincing fiction films." To see some Thai amateur actors unable to conceal their laughing while trying to act seriously in front of the camera gives me much more pleasure than to see them perform convincingly in many cases. If they perform convincingly, the film will become just an agreeable fiction film. If they perform unconvincingly, the film will become an unintentional documentary about the joy of filmmaking.

Matthew Flanagan said...

Thanks, Jit! I'm embarassed to admit that I haven't seen Duelle yet - better get on it. I like what you say about Haunted Houses too - "realism" is really only a construct (or a style), and so often the least "convincing" performances (in a conventional sense) can be the most meaningful - Flaherty, Sirk, Bresson, Godard, etc...

Boat said...

According to James, what we think is "realistic" are usually not realistic at all. There are many times in the "behind-the-scene" footage, when actors are acting seemingly realistically, then suddenly, the director yells "cut!", and the actors become more "real".

(I totally agree with your points on unintentional documentary quality of many short films. I also think every film is documentary)

Matthew Flanagan said...

Indeed. As Bazin once said:

"It follows that if we define film culture not only as knowledge of some of the givens of the technical, the historical, and the artistic but also as the recognition of our collective dreams, illusions, and, I dare say, worst thoughts, then every film, good or bad, realist or fabricated, is an irreplacable social documentary."

--Les Lettres françaises, 1947 (qtd from Film Comment, Nov-Dec 2008, p.41).

celinejulie said...

Thank you very much for your comments, Matthew and Boat. I'm sure James Benning is a wonderful teacher. What he teaches somehow make me suspect if it is connected to the fact that his films are mainly about landscapes and avoid the use of human actors. Hahaha.

Matthew, did you mean Robert Flaherty? I have seen only NANOOK OF THE NORTH, and think I need to see more of his films. It is very interesting that his name is included in the list of least convincing performances.

celinejulie said...

This is my reply to Ian in my wordpress blog:

As for the potential of cinema, I mean cinema which doesn't have to be straightforward narrative films, or cinema which doesn't have to be a slave to storytelling or something like that. As for Duras and Robbe-Grillet, I just wrote that sentence because I love their film styles very much, especially INDIA SONG and EDEN AND AFTER, which are radically different from most Hollywood films but can give the ultimate pleasure to me.

Duras makes me realize many things, including:

1. A film can be very slow and very sublime at the same time.

2.A film can use voiceovers of unknown persons for the whole movie.

3.A film can present the sound of some characters (the beggar woman) without ever having to show them on screen.

4.The voiceover can also talk about one thing, while the images on screen show another thing.

5.A film can show mundane activities, and create the most beautiful images out of them (the table-clearing scene in NATHALIE GRANGER).

6.A film can show the images of seemingly-ordinary things, and create the most impressive images out of them (the window in AGATHA AND THE UNLIMITED READINGS)

7.A film can show something cheap, such as the view of a map, but can create more sublime feelings out of it than the view of the earth shot from a helicopter or something like that (the ending of INDIA SONG).

Robbe-Grillet's films make me realize many things, including:

1.A film can make me doubt in every scene what is really happening.

2.A film can create the most exciting feelings, not by stories, but by the editing of some images (some scenes in EDEN AND AFTER).

3.A film can show the most stunning images which don't have to understandable or don't have to be obviously tied to the story (the scene of a nude walking down the staircase in EDEN AND AFTER)

4.A film can tell one story many times, but make them exciting every time it is told. (I think EDEN AND AFTER seems to tell "one story" many times. The first time it is told in "the opening credit", in which the voiceover tells us about "the elements of a story", then we find these elements of a story in the French scene, and find them again in the North African scene.)

5.A film can use other art forms in a stunning way (Mondrian cafe in EDEN AND AFTER, Magritte painting in LA BELLE CAPTIVE)

6.A film can also be about "the telling of a story", in which the storytellers and the characters in the story are not entirely separated from each other. (TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS).

These elements in Duras and Robbe-Grillet's films can also be found in thousands of films, but those thousands of films which carry these same elements somehow don't give me as much pleasure as Duras and Robbe-Grillet's films.

Other films which I think show me the potential of cinema (or show me that cinema can be great without conforming to standardized narrative rules):

1.AUTOHYSTORIA (Raya Martin)
2.BIRTH OF THE SEANEMA (Sasithorn Ariyavicha)
5.THE GARDEN (Derek Jarman)
6.KORIDORIUS (Sharunas Bartas)
7.MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON (Apichartpong Weerasethakul)
8.SMOKING/NO SMOKING (Alain Resnais)
9.TAKE THE 5:10 TO DREAMLAND (Bruce Conner)
10.VIDEO 50 (1978, Robert Wilson)
11.LE MONDE VIVANT (2003, Eugène Green)

Matthew Flanagan said...

Yes, RF - I was thinking more of Man of Aran and Louisiana Story, where the "non-professional" performances (esp. in the latter film) are very rough and awkward. There's no attempt to conceal the fact that the non-actors are in fact acting rather than being, struggling to perform a fiction for the camera...

celinejulie said...

Thank you, Matthew. That sounds very interesting. :-)

Vespertine said...

wow. this entry is very impressive : )