Monday, September 20, 2004

Laziness, and a brutal case of the bookworm, prevented me from attending Morgan Fisher’s new film ( ), described in the Film Forum Los Angeles catalog as “a rigorously constructed homage to the unsung building block of narrative film language known as the insert shot.” Ah, the insert shot; according to, “a close-up of something that exists within the basic scene,” as below.

Don’t know what film these stills were taken from, but they convey the idea. I can only imagine Morgan managed to conjure up something magnificent. Hope it screens again sometime. Also showing was Thom “Los Angeles Plays Itself” Andersen’s --- ------- aka Short Line, Long Line (the first film in the wordless title meme?) which I caught last year, and which parodies rock and roll of the 1966 variety, as well as Eisenstein’s dialectical film montage, if you can believe that. It’s been awhile, but I recall a highly structured film: short shots of various rockers, jazzmen, and 60s scenarios, followed by long shots of the same, growing in length up to the apogee, then turning heel, shortening in length to the end of the whole shebang. But anyway: I did manage to see, Thursday last, a three-and-a-half hour documentary on Henri Langlois, that phantom of the cinematheque, entitled Henri Langlois, the Phantom of the Cinematheque. I was aware of but not versed in Langlois’ essential role in preserving film prints throughout the war (storing canisters in bath tubs and transporting them in baby carriages to hide them from the Nazis) and on through the 1970s. The documentary makes the case for Langlois as a “poet of the archive” who screened films thematically, often intuitively, sometimes strategically. Langlois recalls trading away a Theda Berra film very early in his career, assuming it was meaningless fluff, and not realizing the treasure he briefly held. The Langlois Lesson: hold on to it all, you can never foresee the vagaries of critical reception. I concur hesitantly, if only because I’m suspicious of the nostalgia so many from my generation feel for vintage television commercials (Schoolhouse Rocks, say, or Hey Mikey, He Likes It), nostalgia which often consigns (false) value to such cultural ephemera.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Bernadette Corporation, Get Rid of Yourself, 2002, still from a color digital video, 70 minutes, via


Bennett Simpson, Techniques of Today. Artforum, September 2004. It is the summer of 2001, and the New York– and Paris-based collective known as Bernadette Corporation has temporarily merged with Le Parti Imaginaire, a faction of post-Situationist militants and intellectuals with links to the burgeoning antiglobalization movement. The two groups have their own distinct practices and motivations, but, for the moment, they are united by the idea of making a film, which is to be set in the seaside Italian city of Genoa, amid the protests and stultifying inconclusiveness that will engulf the G8 Summit that July. The film resists knowing what it is or wants to be. And so its makers improvise, exploring what they call the "potential of community based on a radical refusal of political identity." More on Le Parti Imaginaire (in French) and the Bernadette Corporation.

Chris Kraus, Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness. Semiotext(e), 2004. Art and commerce have always been two sides of the same coin and to oppose them would be false. Instead, I am talking about a shift that has taken place during the past ten years in how art objects reach the market, how they are defined and how we read them. The professionalization of art production – congruent with specialization in other post-capitalist industries – has meant that the only art that will ever reach the market now is art that is produced by graduates of art schools. The life of the artist matters very little. What life? The lives of successful younger artists are practically identical.

(note bene: I believe this is changing, slowly. For successful non-MFA artists based in Los Angeles see Animal Charm and Miranda July – though it’s debatable whether these artists are “marketable” or not).

Péter Esterházy, The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn (down the Danube). Northwestern University Press, 1999. I once had this mysterious, distant uncle, whom everyone simply called Roberto, as if he were some Italian gigolo. Everyone, that is, except my father, who didn’t call him anything at all: the man’s name ‘never so much as passed his lips’. He wasn’t a blood relation. It was as the husband of a kind of aunt that he briefly became part of the family, joining it at precisely the point where the two sides, maternal and paternal, playfully and fatefully joined hands. A river is always the same river, however many arms it has. More on Péter Esterházy.


Black Spring, Winter 2004.
The Poker, issues 1,2,3 & 4.

Update: Paris’s new slant on Underground movies. A group calling itself La Mexicaine de la Perforation has claimed responsibility for the secret subterranean cinema in the catacombs of Paris, mentioned below. To be fair, until recently very few people did have a clue about La Mexicaine de la Perforation, a clandestine cell of "urban explorers" which claims its mission is to "reclaim and transform disused city spaces for the creation of zones of expression for free and independent art".

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I'm home sick today, but, through bouts of phlegmish coughing, managed to stumble upon this fascinating story in the Guardian. In a secret Paris cavern the real underground cinema.

Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital's chic 16th arrondissement. [...] After entering the network through a drain next to the Trocadero, the officers came across a tarpaulin marked: Building site, No access. Behind that, a tunnel held a desk and a closed-circuit TV camera set to automatically record images of anyone passing. The mechanism also triggered a tape of dogs barking, "clearly designed to frighten people off," the spokesman said. Further along, the tunnel opened into a vast 400 sq metre cave some 18m underground, "like an underground amphitheatre, with terraces cut into the rock and chairs". There the police found a full-sized cinema screen, projection equipment, and tapes of a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir classics and more recent thrillers. None of the films were banned or even offensive, the spokesman said. A smaller cave next door had been turned into an informal restaurant and bar. "There were bottles of whisky and other spirits behind a bar, tables and chairs, a pressure-cooker for making couscous," the spokesman said. [...] Three days later, when the police returned accompanied by experts from the French electricity board to see where the power was coming from, the phone and electricity lines had been cut and a note was lying in the middle of the floor: "Do not," it said, "try to find us."

No word on whether or not they had The Phantom of Liberty (or Phantom of the Paradise) in stock. Link via via BoingBoing via DMD (amazing how these stories spread).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

While thousands of Russians gathered today near Red Square to mourn their children killed at Beslan, the U.S. military lost its 1,000th soldier in the war in Iraq. An unknown number of Iraqis have died. According to Aljazeera, the Iraqi city of Falluja was under heavy artillery fire today by U.S. forces, sending families fleeing and causing civilian casualties. Former President Clinton was recovering from heart surgery, the 10-year U.S. deficit was expected to approach $2.3 trillion, and President Bush said: "Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country."