Monday, June 14, 2010

Ordinary Time

Audience of One presents the audacious cinematic journey of a specific assembly of kooky Pentecostals making a movie of movies for the king of kings.

And it all goes wrong.

And it all goes right.

Such is the work of the Spirit.

By the end, when the pastor starts talking about colonizing other planets, we know for sure that his reach is out there further than his grasp.  But, dear folly, the man's reach is something splendid.  And, I dare say, worthy of emulation.

My response was much more complicated than this and obviously the delusion involved is crazy and Pentecostals are crazy and floating adrift apart from any historical perspective and/or often any semblence of Orthodoxy is hazardous to one's health.  But, still, these kooks are my kooks.

Like Alice, we might all be better off thinking of six impossible things before breakfast.

I rented Burton's Alice, but I slept while Abigail watched it.  I did watch about the first half hour and my liking the film more than anyone else still stands. 

The Battle of Midway was an impossible thing.  John Ford's documentary of the action is pure propaganda.  But time reveals each cloud of black smoke in the sky as a real life extinguished.  And the audience cheers.  

These men were our real enemies and sought to kill our people.  In such a time and place, it seems appropriate to cheer our victories.  

But not too much.  The vilification of all "Japs" and the abstraction of their deaths can only end in atomic abomination.  A larger black smoke for the audiences back home to cheer about.

Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln may be "pure cinema."  It's definitely pure tall tale.  And a mighty good one.  And at least as true a reflection of American history as any string of facts could be.

Becoming John Ford is an artsy-fartsy waste of time.  I should have skipped it and popped in another Ford disc.  Some talking heads and some clips and so-so voiceover.

I initially described Blast of Silence and its perfect fatalism as "the end of noir" and I stand by that assessment.

My dating of the end aside, the first instances of post-noir (or neo-noir) that I'm aware of were brought to us a year earlier in 1960.  Films standing in the tradition but also apart from it and self-conciously riffing on genre tropes and themes. 

Those two films are Breathless and Shoot the Piano Player.  The former is an original Truffaut script, based on a newspaper story if I'm not mistaken, and ultimately brought to playful life by Godard.  The latter is a Truffaut adaptation of a Goodis novel, directed by Truffaut himself, who seriously delivers on all of the promise exhibited in 400 Blows while subverting expectations in carefully tossing out the screwball pitch of Shoot the Piano Player.

Piano Player is a healthy mash-up of genre conventions, resulting organically in a sort of screwball noir, modeling the pastiche and homage that would later be brought to an even fuller realization and near perfection in the Coens's The Big Lebowski nearly four decades later.

It's no surprise that, like Lebowski after it, most audiences couldn't initially handle Shoot the Piano Player.  It was largely dismissed both critically and popularly.  Both films demand audience submission to very specific zaniness which both exists on its own and exists in rich dialogue with much that has come before.  If the viewer won't submit, the viewer will also miss out on the rewards that these films harbor.   

It might be silly (it is silly), but my favorite moments in Piano Player are the Bartender tryptich and the mother keeling over, a couple of playful nods toward Gance and silent cinema.

The ending is predictable and a bit hokey.  It still manages to be emotionally poignant and visually stunning.

Noir may be dead.  The Western lives on.  

By now, my defense of Appaloosa may seem tired.  A minor masterpiece and the best thing Ed Harris has yet done either behind or in front of the camera.

I'm really excited about Jonah Hex.  I'm even more excited that I'm going with Duke.  I hope it's much better than the trailer, but if it's at least as stupid as the trailer, then I think I'll have a good time.  Please.  I hope so.  2010 sucks.  The curse breaks with Jonah Hex!  I want to believe!

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