An aside, or: resolutions

One Way Boogie Woogie - James Benning, 1977, 16mm


Some words of mine about James Benning's Ruhr are up at The Auteurs Notebook, with a few pictures. Click here. Also: my end of year list for Senses of Cinema. Moving ahead, some notes for 2010:

Here, every time you go to a screening, there's a constant aim to get out afterwards and go to a restaurant. I've seen question and answer periods that lasted eight minutes, six minutes, four minutes! There's almost no interest in actual film issues. You can see here at any venue, at almost any university or conference, at least six different positions, all contradictory, that are not taken up as contradictions. It all depends on the hierarchy of the writer, and you just consume it, with no mental, conceptual, philosophical, or political headaches. There's no need to engage, because next week something new will come up which you can also consume.

--Peter Gidal, in conversation with Jonathan Rosenbaum, Film: The Front Line, 1983, Arden Press, p.237.

I think the problem is one of having too much information, excessive knowledge. There is no longer enough doubt about artistic modes of operating, doubt concerning what the painter or filmmaker is searching for. It's terrible that a certain language and capacity to make judgments come so easily. It should be hard to write on these films. Whatever the film, we are told endlessly, shot by shot, scene by scene, what's good or bad. It's crazy, totally crazy. I'd like to see that mode of criticism applied to Cézanne or Mozart, saying what does and doesn't work at every step. I'm not even talking about Hitchcock and Hawks. In short, the resistance posed to criticism by artistic material has vanished; it's turned into a pie that critics quickly slice into pieces.

--Manny Farber, in conversation with O. Assayas, J.-P. Gorin, S. le Péron & S. Toubiana, "Manny Farber: Cinema’s Painter-Critic", Cahiers du cinéma 334/335, 1982, (re)translated by Noel King in Framework 40, 1999, p.49.

The film business has long been noted for its cruelty and harshness. In his last months, Nick Ray needed something for himself, though perhaps he didn't know what that was. It certainly wasn't this movie, which clearly he did know. What Ray needed, simply, was love. Instead he got a crew who seem to perceive life only through the mechanical devices of film. They rolled over him with a movie-making machine, and now they even choose to display the carnage.

--Jon Jost on Lightning Over Water (1980), in "Wrong Move", Sight & Sound 50.2, 1981, p.96.

It was Walter Benjamin who famously asserted that the document of civilization is also a document of barbarism. Here and now, this embodied contradiction may be obvious to the acquaintance of critical theory. We understand that our high cultural achievements are produced in the material world in a context of aggression and accumulation. The mass-cult product, however, had been so degraded as “bad object,” as barbarism, that the subsequent embrace of these forms is a violent (and not unnecessary) counterstrike, but one whose peril is to forget, or erase, that very barbarism - that very real barbarism. For me, cinephilia’s charge is not to forget this manifest contradiction, never to embrace too quickly anything peddled to us, whether it is the lineage of something the merchant calls Art or the pleasures of something he calls Entertainment. If we do not use our heads, employing “scrupulous erudition,” we are not being cinephiles but rather just buyers. In this case we could truly be said to deserve a squandered life in front of screens.

--Zach Campbell, “On the Political Challenges of the Cinephile Today”, Framework 50, 2009, p.211.


The Grapes of Wrath - John Ford, 1940, 35mm

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