Sunday, October 16, 2011

Imagining Spaces

[NOTE: I just noticed that Brandon has a new post up and Lisa has finally abandoned her foolish dreams in order to wade in the cesspool with us gutter freaks for at least tonight. Sorry that I can't keep up with these current posts. I'm going to bed. Here's what I wrote earlier.]

A response to all three of you losers. Jeff first. Then, Brandon. Finally, Chris. Ben doesn't get a response because I think that he's mostly in agreement with me even if he hasn't seen Drive.

"John, your post alone made me watch Cold Weather, so kudos."

I admit that this was and is my primary purpose in all of these shenanigans. I didn't want to be Ben championing Black Death for months before the rest of the group reluctantly gets on board. Love it or hate it, I just wanted Cold Weather to be seen.

"There is one point you made that really interests me. It is the idea that Katz is constructive whereas Refn is merely reconstructive."

I admit that I was being a bit hyperbolic in making the distinction (though I do try to clarify the distinction a bit below). There is nothing new under the sun. Both are recycling bits of something and making something else new.

"I would say that Cold Weather is as highly constructed as a “film” as Drive is. It is cinematic even if it is working within a model of purported realism between people."

I agree. But, Cold Weather is cinematic in the way that Bergman's films are cinematic or Ozu's films are cinematic. It is not cinematic IN THE SAME WAY that most people mean when Drive is described as such.

"He makes an admirable film, but not the subversive piece of cinema you create it to be. This is no more revolutionary to me than Drive is. If Katz is preparing a feast, he is using the same Sundance menu as most other indie filmmakers at the moment."

It's a quiet revolution.

Honestly, I'm not sure what is "revolutionary." This is the point in your post when I started to realize that you were either misreading what I wrote or that I just wasn't very clear or both.

As far as your Sundance slam goes, I just have to beg to differ. I don't watch a lot of "indie" films because whenever I do, I get a little disgusted. The "Sundance menu" makes me gag. Cold Weather may use some of the same ingredients, but the finished product is quite different. You do acknowledge this, but, still, a low blow.

"Just because one is filming personal relationships doesn’t mean one is somehow outside cinema."

I'm certainly not claiming this.

"The only way to refuse to play the cinematic game nowadays is to not make a film."

That's always been the case. By "refusing to play the game," I did not mean a "cinematic game," whatever that is. I only meant that there is no winking. There is no posturing. Cold Weather draws on its sources without either worshipping them or becoming them or pretending to be cooler than where it comes from. It is a slacker gumshoe movie. I don't think it ever plays like an "arthouse Holmes" in the same way that Drive could be described as an "arthouse neo-noir throwback" or Antichrist could be described as "arthouse torture porn" (I'm just going on what you guys have said on that second one. I still haven't seen Antichrist.)

Cold Weather could be described as a detective movie stumbling upon an early Linklater/Jarmusch movie, but it's faithfully operating within both of those molds without a hint of irony. It's not apart from those things, commenting on them. It's not commenting on those types of movies (except indirectly). It's also not trying to be better than them. It's maybe trying to be one of them and that's endearing.

On the other hand, I don't get the feeling that Drive wants to be shelved alongside Michael Mann thrillers and Taxi Driver. I feel like it wants to be in the Criterion Collection.

"Still, I understand the point you are trying to make though. You believe that Katz is working in the spirit of Truffaut, which I totally get."

Yup. I'm also definitely not saying that Refn is anywhere close to the level of Godard.

Basically, the point is that Godard was making movies "about" movies. Truffaut was making movies "about" Truffaut. The distinction breaks down because of course Godard's movies are "autobiographical" and of course Truffaut's films are shaped by the movies he loved. Still, there's a distinction.

It was an imperfect analogy, but I do think that Katz and Refn both clearly fall down on one or the other side of this divide.

"I’ve explained why I think Cold Weather isn’t as innovative as you present it to be (I wouldn’t have used this as a point of criticism if you hadn’t brought it up though, and I don't mean it as a dig at all)."

As above, I'm a bit befuddled. I don't think that my reasons for championing Cold Weather have to do with revolutions or innovations. I don't think I used that kind of language.

I suppose that there's one paragraph in my post that could be construed as such. The one that ends with, "A way forward."

I meant a way forward for me, for Katz, for people. I didn't mean a way forward for movies.

My point was that Refn is engaged in deconstruction and I don't think he offers any way "forward" (not that he has to. Those aren't his aims.) Drive's exploration of (and undermining of) the "lone hero" mythos is astonishingly well-crafted. The way that it interacts with its cinematic predecessors is clever and almost cute. It's still a work of dismantling. It uncovers a lie. It doesn't offer us anything to replace that lie with. Instead, it almost, almost validates the lie by making the character's "truth" the central "true" climax of the film, thus maybe making it noble and stripping it of its subversion. I'm not sure. I do know that it will be hard to have any real un-ironic Man With No Name heroes from this point on.

Katz is not deconstructing anything. He's joyously building on something he loves and it shows. He's respecting past influences and he's able to move anywhere because he's not tearing up the road behind him as he walks it. Cold Weather does uncover a precious small chunk of truth and cherishes it. It never shrinks from its sentimental point, but it's also never mawkish about it. Because Cold Weather upholds what is good about its sources, there is room for further adventure. The Holmes detection legacy lives on.

"I only make this whole argument because I am reacting against your notion that Cold Weather is moving cinema into new places while Drive is too busy playing within its own cinematic cesspool."

I can only continue to protest that I must not have been clear enough in my silly metaphors.

I don't really think that "cinema" as a whole has moved to any new places in over a century. Put that in your Holmes pipe and smoke it!

I wasn't arguing that Cold Weather represents some "new kind of movie."

In fact, I think that it plays out much more like any "classic film" than Drive ever does. This is the old kind of movie pleasures. Cold Weather is practically this year's The Thin Man.

The unclear point that I was trying to make comes down to the simple idea that I find Cold Weather more spiritually edifying than Drive. That's about as blatantly obvious and biased as I can get. You can disagree with me, but that's what it comes down to. In the end, it's a matter of taste.

There is something life-affirming about siblings reconnecting that isn't found in a delusional maniac living out his hero fantasies.

It was probably always a mistake to frame things in terms of Drive vs. Cold Weather. I only did so because I watched them both around the same time and I preferred one to the other. A lot. I didn't want Cold Weather to be ignored.

My post was in response to Chris asking me to explain why I like Cold Weather more than I like Drive. I tried to do so.

"And I've decide that I like head stompings more than I like personal relationships! Long live violence in film! This is really what my argument comes down to."

Okay, you win.


Brandon, a lot of my responses to what you said would be similar responses to what I wrote above. I do want to pick in a few specific items, though.

"Relational personalism? I think I just fell asleep writing that."

Dang, I missed you.

"I hate everything you wrote about Tarantino and Godard. I’ve heard you rant on that before and it’s even more flawed now."

This is just silly. I like Godard twice as much as you do and I like Tarantino just about as much. I'm not the one saying, "Good for you Jason for crapping on Breathless. I don't like Godard. He's a poseur. He never made a sexy killer in the woods genre film. Let's have a sleepover and watch Bride of Chucky. We can share a toothbrush."

You might not like how I described their work, but it's no less accurate for you not liking it. Neither one of those bozos can be a Sam Fuller or a Joseph H. Lewis or a Budd Boetticher or anyone else. It's just a different type of film-making. Completely self-conscious and devoted to serving at the Temple of Cinema.

"It’s a straight forward picture about a guy who likes a girl and goes to dangerous and violent lengths to protect her."

No. Just no. It is not. It's an abstraction of a straight forward picture about a guy who likes a girl and goes to dangerous and violent lengths to protect her.

"What may I ask is so cynical about DRIVE?"

Cynical may not be the best word. I think I answer this question in my thoughts above about Drive as deconstructive.

"I refute the idea that showmanship is anything to stare down your nose at."

Okay. I agree. But showmanship is only half the story. I'm sure that the dudes burning on stakes to light up Nero's courts made quite the awesome spectacle. Jolly good show. Brilliant lighting choices (pun absolutely intended). One hell of a good showman, that Nero! I'm not really comparing Drive to an historical atrocity. I'm only trying to make an exaggerated point.

"It sounds as though you are going down that dreaded “soulless route” with this one."

Edge of Darkness and Murder, She Wrote are both still better than The Ghost Writer. Don't even go there.

"DRIVE may be violent and simple but it’s not impersonal."

I'll actually concede this point to you. I agree. It's personal. I overreached and overstated things by calling Refn a machine.

"Remember when it was cool to call NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN slick but soulless? That was lame."

Yeah. That was lame.

That's definitely not what I'm going for here (nor was it what I was going for in the silly Ghost Writer spat).

"It doesn’t matter what movie people are talking about years from now."

I'm not sure if you're responding to me or Chris here.

In a sense, it does matter. If something's not being talked about, then it's likely been forgotten. The whole reason we argue about anything here is because we think that certain films are worth remembering (and that other films should be forgotten).

"John, you found a single moment of transcendence in THE LAST EXCORCISM a scene that brought to mind Jacques Tourneur’s NIGHT OF THE DEMON. It lasts about 15 seconds and comes at the tail end of one of the worst plot twists in recent memory."

I'm guilty.


Chris, taking some pills, laying down, and focusing on beating the snot out of Jeff and Brandon was enough to distract me from my hurt for a short while. Now, I don't feel like writing any more. I almost think that your post was too respectful. I've lost that sharp anger to keep me focused and am lulled to relax by your warm fuzzies. Or maybe that's just Seal's vocals. Alas, I owe you a Simpsons post. I won't forget.


Despite my mild criticisms of Drive in these last couple of posts, I repeat that I dig it. I do. I'm not too cool for Drive.

I repeat what I wrote on FB for Jason:

"Reasons Jason should see Drive: bright colors, orgasmic violence, hip 80s soundtrack, Bryan Cranston, all of the other actors, the opening sequence alone, the quiet moments, the loud moments, the meta movie fairy tale stuff going on, the cars, the girls, the kid, the payoff, the fact that three of us film club dudes have already vouched for it, Bryan Cranston, that Gosling guy, a raised hammer, a botched crime, beautifully composed images, comedic timing, everyone else is doing it, doing it, doing it, watching Drive, and blogging it, blogging it. Or don't see it. I don't care."

I like Drive.

I just like Cold Weather better. :)

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