His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com


The Problems with Poetry 

I’ve expressed my love-hate relation to poetry in various ways, but Liliane Giraudon nailed it for me:
“There’s a statement I’d like to borrow from Jacques Roubaud, which in effect says that ‘poetry is most contemporary today because it most exactly formulates the question of survival.’ I truly feel that way. There’s something in poetry that reveals the end of something, and it may just be the end that explains the ardor within.
At the same time there’s a posture in poetry I don’t like, which is undoubtedly connected to a religious problem, the sacred, something that seems treacherous to me in that it entails a certain mastery, and it is easier, I think, to be a major traitor with objects cheaply made. I think that one can, by oneself, produce or read even though there comes a moment -- the drama of contemporaneity -- when one realizes that what one has written is finally so limited, as is one’s evaluation of one’s contemporaries, that one is also a hostage to the system. Given this situation, I’m not sure if one can actually proceed. When I read a piece of prose, I believe I can identify a certain breath, a certain speed, a certain weight that writing possesses. But this is increasingly difficult to do when I read poetry, and I am increasingly skeptical about my ability to know whether I have in is an écriture or a parody, the work of someone who is bluffing or who is just a fine technician.”
--Liliane Giraudon, in Toward a New Poetics: Contemporary Writing in France (interviews and texts, translated by Serge Gavronsky, University of California Press, 1994).


The Color of Hope 

One more post about the Tales of Four Seasons and I'll be done with Rohmer, I think; I wrapped up the Comedies & Proverbs series last week with Summer and Boyfriends and Girlfriends. (The English titles are terrible, by the way; Le Rayon Vert et L'Ami de mon amie are far superior). Out of the series, Le Rayon Vert and The Aviator's Wife are stand-outs, both within Rohmer’s oeuvre and contemporary cinema in general; both featuring, incidentally, Marie Rivière. She's given a co-writing credit for Le Rayon Vert, and it's a compelling character study -- atypically, for Rohmer, there’s a lack of a triangle or ensemble in the film. This works well with more of a kind of cinematic openness at play; Rohmer's camera is more relaxed, and the camera language seems a little different -- the beach scenes and the explanation of “the green light,” for example, have an almost snap-shot to documentary feel.

Le Rayon Vert essentially chronicles Rivière’s character, Delphine, in her half-hearted attempts to spend her summer vacation. From the outset, Delphine radiates disappointment; she’s not particularly likable, but relatable enough: she’s picky, contrary, and seems constitutionally incapable of happiness, undermining her chances for it throughout the movie.“It’s better to wait than spoil your hopes” she reveals at one point. Love and its trials is a common theme with Rohmer; there's a lot of the blush of infatuation, longing, questioning & frustrated desires, but in Le Rayon Vert we witness actual heartbreak through a single character; preoccupied as she is with her loneliness and sadness, and isolated as she is, her difficulties are touching; there’s something at work here, stakes much higher than simply “good acting.”

The film itself seems filtered with a summery green,"the color of hope," and there's often an element of red in the frame (sometimes worn by Delphine) for contrast. "Le rayon vert," the green flash sometimes seen at the horizon just at sunset, here occupies the place of the singular element that often appears in Rohmer's work as a quilting or a turning point; whatever its place in the story, looking back, other lines seem to cohere around it, or, gnomon-like, its placement gives relation to the various strands of the narrative. Rohmer’s formal grace can be either too easily overlooked or it can put one at a distance. Le Rayon Vert is one of those rare works that’s as much a life experience as it is a film.

"Ah, for the days/that set our hearts ablaze."


With two weeks to go in the seventh season of the Gilmore Girls, the end was announced. It didn't come as much of a shock -- after the creator bailed at the end of last season -- that, and maybe it had simply run its course -- this season came off as tired and dead; characters seemed to speak in simulations of "Gilmore Girls trademark banter" rather than delivering their lines, and a few bright moments aside, the whole thing felt like it was packed in styrofoam. The announcement that this was the end came as a sort of relief. Gilmore Girls was a "guilty" pleasure that I started watching as Buffy started to tank, & I soon quit making excuses for it; call me a sentimentalist, but with tart and snappy dialogue, and characters I ended up actually caring about, I genuinely liked it on its own merits (annoying, quirky townspeople aside). It offered more than just a little break each week.
What turned out to be the finale wasn't bad; just enough senes of closure, and at least it didn't end up with a wedding. Rory went off into the world, and Lorelei eventually made a sort of peace with her parents and, finally, Luke. Actor Scott Patterson (Luke) said something about feeling that there was just enough closure, and tellingly, I think, on behalf of the whole enterprise, remarked "I think we did right by the fans." I looked over the 700+ posts on the end-of-season/series thread on televisionwthoutpity.com, and I have to say that --despite all the expected fannish nattering & such --it was really quite touching. There were a lot of expressions of gratitude and a lot of tears; I can't say much more -- this was a show that really mattered to a lot of people and for 22 hours a year, I could check my general grouchiness and just relax. I don't often have the chance to drop my guard and use the word sweet w/o sarcasm. It's been nice.


'neath the puke tree 

Sunday afternoon-- slow day at the store, so I fond myself scanning a few papers & blogs and taking a gander at televsionwithoutpiyty.com. And I spewed, as follows.

A brief look at the Guardian and what do I see?-- Chelsea wins FA Cup. Vomit. Go to books section, experience familiar rise in craw, to see Dave Eggers -- vomit, vomit -- and "The End of Innocence: After September 11, 2001, wrote Martin Amis, 'all the writers on earth were reluctantly considering a change of occupation.'" Eerrummphh. That's just part of one paper. Horse trough?-- I'm looking for a small, dried up pond to hurl into.


tonic & bitters
This helps. A bit. (Though this was courtesy of The Sharp Side, not the Guardian. Ellis points out more disheartening, vomit-inducing news from Palestine/Israel -- I mean, never mind the Occupying power's bulldozing of thousands of olive trees, or the appropriation orchards, lands, and wells by the apartheid wall and state policy. Or the settlements. Or home demolitions.Or forty fucking years of Occupation. Or ethnic cleansing. Heaven forbid one considers the deliberate targetting of civilians by the Occupying Power. Smile!--Israel's planting trees in the name of human rights! Oh Joy! [Irony and bile; not a pleasant cocktail. There's a reason I've avoided politics in these posts, and it's not for lack of concern]).

the day opens into wider, deeper pits
In "all writing is pigshit," Carceraglio wades into the slurry pit of vomit and fecal matter that is the world of creative writing programs -- and their ideology. Creative writing courses, writing centers, workshops, the whole sorry lot -- as Jenny Diski noted, "It's always been the case that people will find a way to cash in on daydreams." The whole corporate enterprise -- part of what bp nichol and Steve McCaffery dubbed "The Book Machine" -- reeks of the stench of lucre & rotting, futile hopes. It's raining. It may turn to a quieter, mellower afternoon. Next post, I'll say something nice, really. Wch prolly means some further notes on Eric Rohmer. Or winsome reflections on the end of the Gilmore Girls.


window shopping 

No, not the Chantal Akerman movie, but where I seem to find myself this afternoon.
"Back in 5."


some Rohmer notes; incidentals 

I would think to write that Rohmer's camera keeps the viewer at a certain distance -- he tends to frame 1-3 characters in a shot, rarely ever a close-up on a face-- but if this a greater physical distance than most filmmakers employ, I realize that this distance more closely mirrors the actual space in wch we might view a scene; it's the close-up favored by so many filmmakers that's unnatural -- only in great intimacy with someone do we see them so closely.

Rohmer's frame is staid; compositionally, even rather dull; in enough cases to generalize, the only movement is a slow and short zoom in, more of a tightening than a cropping of the frame; what this allows or enforces is the words and gestures of the characters. There are numerous scenes (A Summer's Tale comes to mind, trying to determine more about the character of Margot) --where I've felt the need to go back and watch a scene without subtitles, just to observe the expression of the actor(s). I do this occasionally, this review sans subtitles, but moreso lately with Rohmer. It always seems to me an interesting assessment of an artist's worth (or one's personal obsessions) when they drive you to dig deeper, to explore their references or touchstones (My Night at Maud's made me pick up Pascal again; Rivette's L'Amour fou and Gang of Four had me reading Racine; this suggests a completely different post on influence , so I'll leave it the level of film here).

Quick note on character, and by way of that, verisimiltude in Rohmer: I was drawn to the character of Aurora in Claire's Knee; a single writer on vacation, friend of the protagonist, it's she that initiates a primary sequence of events in the movie. There's something attractive, real and non-actorly about her. An IMDB search revealed that Aurora Cornu, actress, is not really an actress but a writer. In the film, to what degree does she perform? (Does she simply, in a sense, be? Yet the script was worked over with the cast: practiced, developed, learned; is it that in assuming the role of an actor, she retains the kernel -- not of the authenticity of the role of a writer, but of the amateur? Is she then the most actual, truest actor of the cast, the non-writing writer, her "real" work suspended?

The Tales of Four Seasons series obviously had to have been filmed at appropriate times -- but what of Rohmer's insistence that, even if it meant filming the Moral Tales out of sequence, the production of MyNight at Maud's be held off until they could film on Christmas Eve, the very night of the principal action?


a note on presence 

The other day, the park, the beach. First time to the beach this year; the wind off the water was cold. The way these things run in cycles. The tide's out, and it takes a little effort to negotiate the pools of water and rocks to reach the ebbing line of waves. It's early in the season, a weekday, and mostly deserted. I always come here alone; it's removed from the city -- a reprieve. It was here that I first attempted Proust; and what else? Re-read Woolf, no doubt. Wrote some. It's here that I've lost my place, tried to lose myself, watching for the occasional heron or hawk. Two years ago I started writing a book, following one published two years -- three years? previous. There was a period following the completion of the first ms. and awaiting the proofs where I felt utterly emptied out, drained and vaguely depressed. A better person would've meditated, improved their tennis game; I sulked. Had yet to discover the beach. And then I did, and began something else.

Jacques Rivette, it is said, is given to lengthy depressions; he turns reclusive and no one sees him. One certainly followed the poor reception of Noîrot. In an interview conducted after La Belle Noiseuse, he speaks of waiting to make Divertimento, a shorter, alternate film created from the outtakes. He worked alone with his editor; it was summer, there was no rush, and they worked slowly. I wonder about this present time, this time suspended: the filming completed, actors and crew gone their various ways, and the film existing solely as reels of stock, filmed out of sequence, takes indistinguishable from outtakes. "The film" being fully present (for Kieslowski, for Wong Kar Wai, only coming together in the editing booth; for Rivette, I don't know, but I suspect to some degree, yes) -- but I write of the film present & in suspension. We're held in suspension in the theater, watching the reels unspool, the screen flicker and its images inscribe themselves on our processing, occupied-in-the-present mind. Our attention may wander and we draw something else in, as we do while reading, but here there's no possibility of review; we lose track and a portion of film is lost to us. (Perhaps gone forever; the experience will never be as fresh, and what of the unique print? The sole copy of Out 1: Spectre I was fortunate enough to see, and may never see again?)...

What of those tins of celluloid, "in the can" -- done but unrealized, everything and nothing at once -- the full weight of the present inherent, yet...?



I felt a little pang, the sort of kernel from wch gnawing doubt follows, a catch in consciousness from wch worry grows. I was walking, slackening my pace through the park, where I caught myself shifting my jaw off to the side -- mimicking a gesture of N.’s, a gesture that always betrayed a troubling, or over-deliberated thought. Here was a mannerism that I had assimilated at some point, until now unknown to me. How long had I been doing this?-- & how many other little gestures and habits have I picked up along the way? There was a gap between the too-sudden cognizance of this gesture and the following realization and, yet again, another catch: if this gesture signified an unsettling worry, what was it that I had been thinking when I caught myself in a manifestation of the act?
Writing this, I pause and make a movement where I fold my arm across my chest to place my hand against my neck where it joins my shoulder, where it aches. Can I say that this is mine? This this. No, this.

humour me 

A black mood, rising, wch gives me cause to contemplate the ancients' notion of humours. Vitriol, melancholia -- the black and yellow biles, if I recall correctly, and rising is the correct word, like a tide. So I took a walk, leaving my bag behind -- no book, no notebook; I would ramble and work the humours out, let them run their course. Something to take me out of myself. Later, I wander through a record store and peruse the Jandek recordings, wch Spurious has been devoting considerable space to writing on. In the course of writing this, I revisit one of the posts:

"Sometimes I think there is a lesson in art, a way of learning not only by thinking about what is made, but about the making itself, and the way it belongs to a life. About the demand of making, as if it held the clue to a new ethics of self-formation, a way not of becoming what you are, but of what an idiom will allow you to be.

Then what matters is to discover an idiom from which you can live. An idiom - not your idiom, not that style which, all along, was yours, but that through which a call can resound, tuning you, attuning you, and letting you live according to its demand. Is this a way of loving fate, of amor fati, as Nietzsche would call it? Of loving what has been given to you to live? Or rather, of giving yourself, or letting yourself receive what henceforward let a kind of living awaken in yourself?

A life within your life. The indefinite article within the definite one. A demand from which you can live. And now I wonder, still more speculatively, whether Deleuze was right to speak of one form of becoming yielding into another, and that the ultimate was to become imperceptible, to become with everything, with the life that streams in all things."

Everything is happening, everywhere, all at once. My mind flicks back, lash-like, between the past and the imagined future, the here-and-now and the eleven minutes to come. To be present, to be too present, overwhelmingly so. Quicksand in front of the hourglass. I listen to the disc I bought: "It Seems Forever." "The World Stops."


a brief note on absence 

or, "the genius of Antonioni"
-- who wondered what The Bicycle Thief would be like without the bicycle.


Rambling: Live Proust score, books & film 

It seems that The Guermantes Way is the book that stops many a reader of Proust dead; among other, obvious factors, I suppose it has something to do with its placement at the beginning of Volume II of the Scott-Moncrieff three-volume set. For me, the floral metaphor at the beginning of Sodom and Gomorrah was like running into a post - and then I read, re Edith Wharton, “..her admiration for Proust seems to have reached its limit at Sodome et Gomorrhe-- ‘Alas! Alas!’ was her final comment.” (Ruth Bernard Yeazell’s on Hermione Lee’s Wharton bio, LRB, 5 April 2007). Friends are encouraging: “Come on! You’re halfway through!” Funny, that. They are serious. But I am committed.
“It will all need to be re-read anyway,” I wrote. It will, no doubt -- but right now I’m merely thinking of how my sense of optimism, on occasion, really cracks me up.

An unexpected side-effect of this reading project is the ease that it confers upon other readings. Knocked off Javier Marías’ All Souls in a couple of days, read with ease and pleasure, though really as ground-work for The Dark Back of Time; I've read the preface and it's intriguing.

It's saddening to discover that, all in all, I’m less of a reader than I once was -- age, habit, television all taking their toll. Though I suppose I spend much more time with film these days, with greater particularity and attention, than I once did. That seems not for nothing.


Twice now already I’ve attempted Jacques Roubaud’s The Great Fire of London, never completing it -- read both directly and as a side project of another failed project. But what was it that drew me to pick it up yesterday, only to discover its sale receipt marking a page -- that receipt dated April 30th -- as if the intervening years hardly mattered, simply a matter of proceeding from one date, that of its purchase, to reading it the next?

For a long time, I used to get up early; it still dark, and I would work in those hours before dawn, the most fertile and active time for me, mind grasping a thought or impression and slipping (unlike now) to the next with the ease of waking, the day’s distractions not yet cluttering it; having the full benefit of a night’s rest and the liveliness of two dawning worlds, within and without, assimilating information before fully processing it, surprising myself with connections and leaps made, everything -- light, coffee, thought --fluid. Kafka, Jack Spicer -- how can people write at night?

Roubaud’s morning habit, his detailing of his Project and method; I thrill to the phrase "this is so." (Is it a sense of certainty I'm after? - in some form, at least?) And so I’m here again, pausing in a book that occupies a pause in a greater reading, writing this c. 4pm, in a café, with notebook (Clairefontaine) and pen (Esterbrook) amidst the noise and chatter, seeing if it can be done; writing against the day, the flow, pushing the lines farther into the book. To review, transcribe, or pass over in silence. Things insert themselves in parentheses.

There’s a brief exchange in Rohmer’s The Aviator’s Wife where the ability to work amidst noise is discussed; this pleased me, as did the rest of the film. (As you can see, I've moved on to the Comedies and Proverbs series). Not comedic in the usual sense, and though “light” or mild --they are precise. He has exceptional control over his materials; even what might - momentarily - seem like a bad edit quickly registers and resolves itself into place as one realizes that the scene and the time has shifted. Such articulation!

My afternoon, on the other hand, flows without structure or restraint. Without much restraint. Something generic - likely Haydn - is playing in thebackground, and mingles with indistinct voices. The rain stops and starts. I’ve taken a walk this afternoon -- and this writing, as such, has followed.


Rohmer 1 

Aside from some scenes that have a feel of looking staged, there’s nothing edgy, particularly suspenseful or especially “cinematic” about Rohmer's work -- even the beautiful mountain and lake scenery in Claire’s Knee is washed-out, so as not to distract one from the “tale” being related. Yet his work is resolutely cinematic: while the Contres Moraux may be largely based on previously-written stories, the visual information imparted through the actors, their gestures and tones, & the careful editing and framing of the material cannot be conveyed on the written page, nor could it be staged as a play. The use of intertitles, written as if in a journal, or chapter-like divisions of date or season, heighten both one's awareness of the plastic, constructed nature of the medium, and its -- for lack of a better word -- "literary" qualities.

Wrapped up Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales yesterday; I’d always dismissed Rohmer as the maker of rather light films. "Mild," perhaps. I stand corrected. My Night at Maud’s and Claire’s Knee were, by far, the strongest of the series, but there wasn’t one I didn’t enjoy. He’s an odd filmmaker; the medium’s formal qualities are revealed in a different, quieter way than his Nouveau vague counterparts. As a former professor and writer (four of the six Tales were written in the 50s as short stories; two added later to round out the series), the work is some of the most "literary" I’ve seen -- and while that's a designation Rohmer and many of his fans dislike, few filmmakers offer so much in the way of story-telling craft and its attendant pleasures. Rohmer is insistent that these are not “filmed novels,” and I concur; they ARE films, and he utilizes the medium to add tonal color, nuance and physicality to what can’t be presented on the page. There are abrupt cuts, shifts of scene and time in Love in the Afternoon, for example, that are purely filmic, a little startling -- and completely non-gratuitous. What strikes me most, though, reviewing a few scenes from Claire’s Knee, is the “staginess” -- for lack of a better word -- of a lot of it. Two people will be presented -- seated, for example -- and the camera zooms in just a little, tightening the frame, wch simultaneously increases one’s attention and reveals this to be a film, not theater, though the“theatricality” of this filmic gesture sets us up, & frames the dialogue that follows. A dialogue wch is not completely natural. Rohmer, like Jacques Rivette, works closely with his actors and engages with them, whereas with Godard and Bresson, they’re material. (While in many of Rivette’s movies, the dialogue is improvised to certain degree - I’m thinking of L’amour fou in particular, and most all of Celine and Julie Go Boating was improvised. [Actors are often given co-writing or dialogue credits]).
Rohmer works out a scene and practices it, works with his actors; they rephrase, reform the idea to a certain degree, and when it’s in place, he films -- often in a single take. It’s foregrounded as dialogue; it’s where the story happens, more so than in any particular act. Almost any significant action --with the exception of the first glimpse of Claire’s knee -- is discussed previously or elaborated upon later. They're very "talky" films; never, really, a panoramic shot, or a “beautiful image” one that calls out so. There’s a kind of stiffness, a formality and an awareness of the medium, and Rohmer doesn’t sell you short by luring you into an all-encompassing other reality of film. This being said, the film so framed, one nonetheless is brought into it -- as if the zoom happens in reverse, incorporating you -- and the experience can be revelatory.
The revelation of Rohmer hasn’t altered my sense of cinema the way Rivette has, but as an important director I’ve summarily dismissed, he’s a very engaging “find” -- his work affords engaging psychologies and sheer intellectual & visual pleasure.

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