23 November 2008

Carpe diem

Last Thursday, as I was leaving work to my climbing wall, I listened to a message on my answering machine. It was telling me that Wes Anderson would be at the militant cinema theatre Meliès in Montreuil the very same evening for a talk with director Peter Bogdanovitch.
At first, I hesitated because I really wanted to go climbing as I couldn't go there the week before. And I did go to the climbing wall. But then in front of the wall, I realized hey my favorite contemporary director is 10 mn away from here, what am I thinking. On my MySpace profile, I answered to the question "who I'd like to meet": "Wes and Owen". So it'd be a bit silly to miss on that one unexpected chance. So I hoped on my bike and rode to the cinema. There was a retrospective on Bodganovitch that week that I didn't hear about and for his open invitation to a director of his choice to present and chat with, he asked for Wes Anderson. So that evening, the cinema presented two movies by each director: the Royal Tennenbaum (Bogdanovitch's pick) and Saint Jack (Anderson's pick). In between the movies, they talked for about an hour and it was just great to be there. The audience was offered to ask questions, and surprisingly, I was the only one to raise my hand. I took the opportunity to ask Wes about his use of music as a narrative in his movies. I was interested to know what was his writing process around pop songs. Of course there wasn't as much time to go through this subject as I would have liked but during an intermission I went to see him directly and talked a few more minutes about it. I felt quite shy and clumsy but it was still nice to approach him. He was very kind and patient with the few people around him. After the talk, I stayed to see Saint Jack, a movie that Anderson mentioned as an inspiration for the Royal Tennenbaum. The connection is not obvious, but still it was interesting to watch this curious, sensitive, picturesque movie, following Ben Gazzara in every scene, as a pimp in Singapour.

The 2 directors with translator.

-- Joëlle

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18 June 2008

The Party Girl

To get the full range of Cyd Charisse motions, 3 movies are essential: The Bandwagon, the best Hollywood musical, Brigadoon, another one of Minelli's masterpiece and The Party Girl, a colourful film noir by the genius Nicholas Ray.
Charisse was just a perfect evidence that brought out of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly the best of them. Whenever you'd feel blue, she'd give you sun. Whenever you'd feel happy, she'd get you at another level of life perception.

-- Joëlle

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17 March 2008

Lost word

Last week, I went to see the new Gondry's masterpiece, Be Kind, Rewind. In all of his works, what strikes me the most is the brightness of his ideas, of his imagination. In that particular movie, I was touched by his reading of the (hi)story of cinema and of popular culture. But moreover, he subtly demonstrates how we need fiction to function, how we create narratives to make sense of reality and how we tell each other stories in order to connect, to live together (as in a polis) and to get a sense of belonging to a community/a family.
While I was watching the movie, I thought on another brilliant inventor, John Cage. I was then reading a book of conversations between Cage and Daniel Charles, called "Pour les Oiseaux" / "For the Birds" (a wordplay around the birdcage). What got me to think of him was a word that came back often in Gondry's movie: "sueded". In Be Kind, Rewind, the owners of a video club are shooting their own versions of movies like Ghostbusters, 2001, A Space Odyssey, Rush Hour 2, Boyz in the Hood and many more. They qualify their "remakes" as "sueded" because, as they explain, the tapes are "imported from Sweden". In an interview for the LA Times, Gondry said he "wanted a name that meant nothing". And from that he created a verb that means re-doing/re-interpreting/re-creating/re-composing just about anything, including webpages (in the movie's official site, you can find samples of Goolge and MyFace).
But the thing is what are the chances of coming across a word that doesn't exist twice in a week in 2 different contexts? In For the Birds, Cage uses that exact same word in its French verb form "suédé". So of course, after the movie, I go back home and start browsing the book in search of the paragraph, to compare the 2 meanings. But I browsed it again and again, 4 or 5 times, but I lost it. I can't find that word again. I thought for a bit that I dreamed it, that it's all a mix in my head, a Cage-Gondry conspiracy. But I'm convinced I did read it, because I remember thinking what the hell is that word "suédé"? what's the concept behind it? Maybe one day, when there's a digital copy of the book, it'll be easier to look into it. For now, I prefer to play around more obvious concepts addressed all over the book: silence, nothing, void, space, ecology, technology, references to Thoreau, Fishinger and Backminster Fueller..
In a last associated thought (who said again that the brain functions with associations?), reading Cage made me think about a wonderful project that Cati blogged about: "OTTO" created by Duncan Wilson and Manolis Kelaidis at the Royal College of Art.
An excerpt of the description: "OTTO (Greek for ‘ear’) is a device that makes hidden sounds audible. (...) Every object and surface in our environment has a whisper; subtle tremors and vibrations that are usually undetectable to the human ear, produced by the activity and movement of daily life. What if these sounds were audible? How would that change our aural awareness, perception of space and attitude towards objects? Would it be possible to ‘compose’ our own soundtrack using our walls and objects as a new form of instruments?"
For me this is more or less achieving as a standalone technology what Cage elaborated in his theories and his compositions: a way for us to hear the silence, the sound of objects, of our environment and make a sense of it: being an audience and a composer at the same time.

-- Joëlle.

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