An aside, or: scholarship

-Aren't you getting up?
-I don't have class.
-But you must work.
-To finish your Master's thesis.
-Don't you want to begin living?
-I'm already alive. I'm just trying to enjoy it.
-Do you not think I enjoy what I do?
-What do you do?
-You know very well, my agrégation in philosophy.
-Oh, that. I hope you enjoy it, considering the time you spend on it.
-I'm thinking of the future.
-Personally, I think I can live without a Master's on André Breton's materialist transcendentalism.
-Live with your choice.
-I made no choice. The professor imposed it. I don't even know what it means.
-After two years, you don't even know what it means?
-No. And I never will. So there's no point in waking me.

--Le Pont des Arts, Eugène Green, 2004.

Bad Burns - Paul Sharits, 1982, 16mm

(OVERTURE: "All writing is pigshit. People who leave the obscure and try to define whatever it is that goes on in their heads, are pigs." -Antonin Artaud)

--Paul Sharits, "Notes on Films / 1966-68", Film Culture 47, Summer 1969, p.13.

Too many people cannot accept the feeling of abstraction, of obscurity generated by even the most precisely structured film. Their criterion for understanding is that it must be capable of definition. Yet they cannot accept that a subjective response is in itself a 'definition'.

--Stephen Dwoskin, Film Is, 1975, p.187.

i was born amidst the most grand of beams, light slashed skies, the Light Age, inaugurated in horrors of blistering faces, eyeless, limb-charred hulks wandering about streets in europe and japan begging to be awakened, not believing such hideousness even in the actuality of holding their own smouldering skin in their hands, wake up this cannot be The Light, awake to some new level of solar evocation! the other light of my childhood, it recently occurred to me, was that of the projector my uncle (also, oddly, godfather) used to create magical evenings for my relatives and myself in my grandparents’ living room. i remember intercepting my mother’s smiling black and white grainy face with my hand, pretending that that image was being generated from my hand. that is my cinema: a noisy projector constantly breaking down, an aunt “remembering when,” all of us waiting to see ourselves flattened and preserved, evenings of nearly mystical intrigue and sharing and hope. for all my words of “intentions,” “meanings,” etc., i come to see that i am really not trying to express anything with film; rather, i am trying to make some form which will recapture a certain delight in living.

blake painted pictures of our everyday supermarket heavens, bursts out of space, hearing angels glowing, seeing mozartian structures growing between our legs – oh rejoice beyond death as the only possible rapture! i see the sense of ballerinas floating down clear plastic streets in a new new york city in the middle of montana, so terribly happy to awake the villagers by tossing tulips thru their windows into their laps. a new cinema is breathing out coils of strawberry pudding, tinting movie screens like tongues against vaginal walls, pig tongues waggling about from eye sockets, penis grafted to that old round wooden table in grandmother’s kitchen, back in denver, city of solid orange glass, movies glorifying the original source, the vortex between all mother’s thighs, as if birth were the last shuddering of honey explosions (a splice breaks, the projector is turned off, a floor lamp is turned on), some cock bursting felt-light through dripping hot cathedrals – for me the sun is a goddess and i lay my art at the golden feet of her mandalic odoriferous altar!

watermelon map: a flower blossoms in babbling anxiety language: water falling backwards into air yelling inaudible clues to its future form, being nowhere measurable: film is first and most importantly a modular system and must not emit itself as individual leaves, not as “tree”: film is the screaming of air set into motion through its own inner exuberance: no more pretty pictures (the lovely/or meaningful composition of an individual frame is not enough to justify its extension in time); rather, truth: time-mapping and/or time-damming must be as sperm-firing-itself, some strange (that is, completely natural and obvious and fully There) occurrence forming itself functionally, crystals imploding, image of image, love of flattened space and time where an eye can travel faster across a landscape than can a plane, a lost purpose regained in clearly defined obscurity.

l-e-t-t-e-r-s: evocations beyond any trite “abstract art,” sunlight filtered so our cities can bathe in lavender light, clouds shaped like bathtubs passing by to remind citizens of the divinity of door mats and everything else we regard as just so much shit. america must be overthrown with pure imagery. “h.o.p.e. has a big bag of care, kansas city, missouri, when you wish upon a star it makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you” is orpheus (cocteau) intercepting regular radio broadcast across the room from A RADIO THAT TELLS ME THE TIME. only spirit can make an age; spirit used to need space to expand but now it needs something beyond space – i mean we need to paint red computer diagrams on lush pink sidewalks, build multicolored plastic and models forming moorish arches leading to spiral swimming pool gardens of open and free delight and long walks along dusty paths in the middle of indiana flatlands wondering where does the light go after i see it? lightplay across a mound of vomit; zoom in for a close-up view of the next structure of sensual stench you come across and you may see the glistening rebirth of sandra botticelli.

cinema is occuring when one looks at screens, not through them. backward space projections are unrealistic and should be abandoned for a view of the surface itself. from there one can begin constructing planes floating in front of the screen. transactions of retina and movie screen create virtual volume; the space between screens is filled with actuality without recourse to phony densities. trace out the boundaries of a 3:4 plane with pure light and gaze into primal dimensionality. completely confused, the patrons throw up their hands and walk madly out of the cathedral disgusted with the awesome sight of a “naked wall.” place at The Source’s Altar the facts, reinvent vision, travel through the black glow of room after room of ancient disney-like cartoons…as if in some great light palace such as the kaisersaal in the episcopal palace of würzberg. alfred jarry: “light is active and shade is passive, and light is not detached from shade but, given sufficient time, penetrates it.”

BIRTH PAIN ECSTASY: the trembling horror of the sun, rising out of bed shaking with fear, seeing another light when i shift my vision to the blank wall, the factuality of being trembling THERE! CONCRETE, NOT ABSTRACT! (“concrete” being as “abstract” if not more so but i don’t care, i sense wider than bullshit wordplay, even knowing that that bullshit is as true as any blank wall) GOLDEN CINEMA IS THERE AT ALL TIMES, bursting with unaffected energy, as a pollock depicts itself. whirlpools modulating, dr. strange-like, defining a figure – not figure represented but presentational-being-in-itself. a flame’s being is mothered, obviously, by destruction: does the flame determine its shape by informing its generation center of what its needs are? or, does the flame exist only as a manifestation of non-visible energy shuffling? neither is the point; i’m not sure what the point is.

--Paul Sharits, “Blank Deflections: Golden Cinema”, in Film Culture 48-49, Winter-Spring 1970, p.20-22.


Still, trapped in the forest.

Melancholia - Lav Diaz, 2008, DV


Forests #1, or: the wind that cuts through the fog

Morning Mist in the Mountains - Caspar David Friedrich, 1808, oil on canvas

From up on the hill I can see the lights
of town through the trees
and there is wind. There is only wind.

Sunrise - F.W. Murnau, 1927, 35mm

fog obliterates the morning


I was born free, and in order to live free I chose the solitude of the countryside. The trees of these mountains are my companions, the clear waters of these streams my mirrors; I communicate my thoughts and my beauty to the trees and to the waters. I am a distant fire and a far-off sword.

--words of Marcela the shepherdess, Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (trans. Edith Grossman, Vintage, 2003), p.99.

A Humble Life - Aleksandr Sokurov, 1997, video


Elegy of a Voyage - Aleksandr Sokurov, 2001, video

The Chasseur in the Forest - Caspar David Friedrich, 1814, oil on canvas

Oriental Elegy - Aleksandr Sokurov, 1996, video

breath becoming clouds / becoming rain / uprooting hillsides / dissolving bones
wind screaming by Mount Erie, among the cliffs / by the hillside, among the clouds that never lift, saying: 'I am the river.' 'I am the ocean of changing shape.' 'I bring bodies.' / 'In the void you heard my name and you are like me. /You are nothing but a place where dust is dancing'

--Phil Elverum (& Nick Krgovich) from "Through the Trees", "Lost Wisdom", "Stone's Ode" & "Wind Speaks", Wind's Poem, by Mount Eerie, 2009.

p.s. the wind in the trees

I began filming on November 3, 2008 in a wooded area adjacent to the Dusseldorf International Airport. There was no wind. It was absolutely still, not one leaf was moving. The high definition captured every tiny twig, while the 16 x 9 aspect ratio allowed for a broader field of vision (lessening the need for a wider angle lens) meaning less distortion. I found the frame and pushed the start button filling two SxS cards with one take – a 114 minute shot. During that time 40 planes landed. The frame remained absolutely still, no registration movement, no dancing grain – a bit like projected slides (if you can recall slide projectors). I wasn’t sure this stillness would be acceptable, but then a plane passed through the frame providing momentary movement. Ten seconds later a wind vortex produced by the passing plane sang through the frame and disturbed one loose branch hanging from a nearby tree. It wavered slightly, and then a bit later a roaring wind followed. The frame exploded with movement. All of the trees swayed raining down their leaves. Then the wind passed and the frame slowly returned to stillness. When the next plane landed it started all over again. Each plane brought varying amounts of movement depending on its size and distance from the camera. When I looked at the footage on my computer that night I realized I had recorded an action that would have been impossible to capture on film.

-- James Benning, “Knit & Purl”, Val Verde, August 2009, Cinema Scope 40, p. 39.

Distance(s) #2

The Bakery Girl of Monceau - Eric Rohmer, 1963, 16mm

On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate - Hong Sang-soo, 2002, 35mm


Men embrace women thinking that she will be the only saviour, but are nervous because they can already visualise the end, even with their eyes closed.

--Hong Sang-soo, interviewed by Huh Moonyung in Hong Sangsoo, 2007, p.80.


for Alexis

Film Ist 4.1 - Gustav Deutsch, 1998, 16mm


I met Alexis in person for the first and only time earlier this year. He was visiting London to introduce two programmes of Filipino cinema: Kalawang (Cesar Hernando, Eli Guieb III & Jimbo Albano) / The Great Smoke (Rox Lee) / Infancia en las Islas de Filipinas, sin fecha (Raya Martin) / Bontoc Eulogy (Marlon Fuentes), and Purgatorio / a 120-min rough cut of Heremias Book II (Lav Diaz). The films were startling, beguiling, frustrating, overwhelming. I struggled to find words for them - or, at least, the right ones. Before and after, when we had the opportunity, we talked about how we lived, about the city and the country, about our families, our loves (his now so sadly departed too), but not in enough detail. Mostly, we talked about movies – about critics we admired, about Rossellini and Brocka, Benning and Serra, the American and Austrian avant-gardes. It turned out that we had both started reading Sitney’s Visionary Film at the same time. I worry now that I talked too much and listened too little – he was too generous. We stayed in touch, and failed on many occasions to exchange films and (serious) ideas – there was always time. I wish now that I had been able to get to know Alexis better – he was so quietly passionate, his manner so gracious and sincere. His letter to Nika is, for me, the greatest manifesto for cinephilia since the Movie Mutations letters, and its singular lived devotion perhaps even more vital. Both were model passeurs, steering a ferry through murky waters, trafficking in goods whose value they not only calculated but gave their lives to teaching. We are all their students, and their fight is now ours.