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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Thus Far: The Films of StudioFilmClub

StudioFilmClub opened its doors on Thursday, February 13, 2003 with a screening of Perry Henzell's 1972 classic, The Harder They Come. To date approximately 180 films have been shown, including feature films, documentaries, TV films, short films, and student films. One film has been screened twice, Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother, which was voted the most popular film shown at StudioFilmClub by its patrons.

SFC has also witnessed three live music performances, from Jah Defender, jointpop, and 12.

The Films of StudioFilmClub
(In chronological order)

1. The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1972, Jamaica, 100')
2. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999, USA, 116')
3. The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda, 2000, France, 82')
4. Le Mepris (Jean Luc Godard, 1963, France, 103')
5. Dog Town and Z-Boys (Stacy Peralta, 2001, USA, 91')
6. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1951, Japan, 88')
7. Reggae (Horace Ove, 1970, UK, 60')
8. King Carnival (Horace Ove, 1972, UK, 40')
9. A Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997, Iran, 95')
10. Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959, France, 107')
11. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986, USA, 120')
12. Rockers (Theodoros Bafaloukos, 1979, Jamaica, 100')
13. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000, Japan, 98')
14. All About My Mother (Pedro Amoldovar, 1999, Spain/France, 101')
15. London (Patrick Keiller, 1994, UK, 85')
16. Gentlemen (Nick Relph & Oliver Payne, 2003, UK/USA, 25')
17. All Around Her the Noise Echoes Her Footsteps (Mario Lewis, 2002, TT, 3')
18. May 1st July 4th (Mario Lewis, 2002, TT, 5')
19. Jules et Jim (Francois Truffaut, 1961, France, 105')
20. East is East ( Damien O'Donnell, 1999, UK, 96')
21. Stepping Razor - Red X Diaries (Nicholas Cambell, 1992, Canada, 103')
22. Talk to Her (Pedro Amoldovar, 2002, Spain, 112')
23. The Importance of Being Morrissey (Tina Flintoff/Ricky Kelehar, 2003, UK, 90')
24. Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002, USA, 114')
25. All of Emily (Elspeth Duncan, 2002, TT, 22')
26. Pepe le Moko (Julien Duvivier, 1937, France, 90')
27. That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Bunuel, 1977, Spain/France, 102')
28. Crossing Over (Christopher Laird, 2000, TT/Ghana, 58')
29. Konimo - Palm Wine Guitar (Christopher Laird, 2000, TT, 36')
30. Solas (Benito Zambrano, 1999, Spain, 101')
31. The Journey of Lesra Martin (Cheryl Foggo, 1999, Canada, 46')
32. Coffy (Jack Hill, 1973, USA, 91')
33. Space is the Place (John Coney, 1974, USA, 85')
34. Quilombo (Carlos Diegues, 1984, Brazil, 114')
35. Kes (Ken Loach, 1969, UK, 110')
36. Bowing for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002, Canada/Germany/USA, 120')
37. The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan, 2002, UK/Ireland, 119')
38. Xala (Ousmane Sembane, 1974, Senegal, 119')
39. Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000, Germany/Denmark/France/Finland/UK/Iceland/Norway/Netherlands/Sweden/USA, 140')
40. City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002, Brazil, 130')
41. The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, 1998, USA, 117')
42. Black Stalin (Judith Laird, TT, 30')
43. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973, Germany, 93')
44. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1956, Italy/France, 110')
45. Dance the Calypso (John Barry, 2003, TT, 35')
46. Tango (Carlos Suara, 1998, Spain/Argentina, 115')
47. Der Lauf der Dinge (Fishli & Weiss, 1986/87, Sweden, 30')
48. Mixtape (Payne & Relph, 2002,UK, 23')
49. Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (Johan Grimponez, 1997, TT, 100')
50. Les Fiances du Pont MacDonald (Agnes Varda, France, 3')
51. Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1989, UK, 40')
52. Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (Mark Lecky, 1999, UK, 15')
53. Les Mistons (Francois Truffaut, 1957, France, 17')
54. The Trinidad Tripoli Steelband (Bud Smith, TT, 1971, 28')
55. The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974, USSR, 108')
56. George and the Bicycle Pump (Asha Lovelace, 2003, Cuba, 13')
57. The Filth and the Fury (Julien Temple, 1999, UK/USA, 2000, 108')
58. Afro Punk (James Spooner, 2002, USA, 73')
59. L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960, France, 145')
60. Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959, USA, 120')
61. The Story Beneath the Surface (Jason Riley, 2002, TT, 35')
62. Smile Orange (Trevor D Rhone, 1974, Jamaica, 88')
63. Roots Rock Reggae (Jeremy Marre, 1977, UK/Jamaica/USA, 60')
64. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953, Japan, 136')
65. Pierrot le Fou (Jean Luc Godard, 1965, France, 110')
66. Sex and Lucia (Julio Medem, 2001, Spain/France, 128')
67. Together (Lukas Moodysson, 2000, Denmark/Sweden/Italy, 106')
68. BC (Before Columbus) (Robert Yao Ramesar, 2000, TT, 3')
69. The Saddhu of Couva (Robert Yao Ramesar, 2001, TT, 5')
70. The Gospel According to St Matthew (Pier Paulo Pasolini, 1964, France/Italy, 137')
71. Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jareki, 2003, USA, 107')
72. 101 Reykjavik (Balthasur Kormakur, 2000, Denmark/France/Iceland/Norway, 88')
73. The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1993, Netherlands, 109')
74. Baadasssss Cinema (Isaac Julien, 2002, UK/USA, 60')
75. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976, USA, 113')
76. Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2000, Mexico, 153')
77. Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 1999, France/UK, 94')
78. L'Argent (Robert Bresson, 1984,France/Sweden, 85')
79. Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003, USA, 81')
80. Omeros (Isaac Julien, 2003, UK, 20')
81. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960, France/Italy, 174')
82. Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel (Gandulf Henning, UK/Germany, 2004, 90')
83. Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) (Satyajit Ray, 1955, India, 115')
84. The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973, Spain, 97')
85. Aparijito (The Unvanquished) (Satyajit Ray, 1956, India, 113')
86. Osama (Siddiq Barmack, 2003, Afghanistan/Iran/Japan/Netherlands, 83')
87. Apu Sansar (The World of Apu) (Satyajit Ray, 1959, India, 106')
88. Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003, Japan, 116')
89. Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2004, Germany/Denmark/France/Finland/UK/Netherlands/Norway/Sweden/USA, 177')
90. Kids (Larry Clark, 1995, USA, 91')
91. The Coconut Revolution (Dom Rotheroe, UK, 50')
92. Rocco and His Brothers (Luciano Visconti, Italy/France, 1960, 177')
93. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994, Hong Kong, 102')
94. Tape (Richard Linklater, 2001, USA, 86')
95. Old Boy (Park Chan-Wook, 2003, Korea, 118')
96. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004, USA, 122')
97. Calypso Dreams (Geoffrey Dunn/Michael Horne, 2003, USA, 85')
98. Music is the Weapon (Stephane Tchal-Gadjieff/Jean Jacques Flori, 1982, France, 53')
99. Jump Up (Rune Hassner, 1966, Sweden, 86')
100. Don't Look Now (Nicholas Roeg, 1973, UK, 110')
101. Elephant (Alan Clarke, 1989, UK, 39')
102. Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969, USA, 94')
103. Agua, L'Eau, Water (Sonja Dumas, 2002, TT, 15')
104. Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003, USA, 107')
105. A Man Escapes (Robert Bresson, 1956, France, 99')
106. Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders, 1999, Cuba/France/Germany/UK/USA, 105')
107. Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, 2004, Colombia/USA, 101')
108. The Return (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2003, Russia, 105')
109. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993, USA, 103')
110. Jeffrey's Calypso (Vashti Anderson, 2004, USA/TT, 25')
111. In This World (Michael Winterbottom, 2002, UK, 88')
112. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles, 1971, USA, 93')
113. Dark Days (Marc Singer, 2000, USA, 90')
114. I Have a Dream (Zak Ove, 2002, USA, 22')
115. Suite Havana (Fernando Perez, 2004, Spain, 84')
116. Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939, France, 100')
117. Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004, Spain, 109')
118. Salaam Bombay (Mira Nair, 1988, UK/India, 113')
119. Day for Night (Francois Truffaut, 1973, France, 115')
120. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955, USA, 93')
121. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965, Italy, 117')
122. Muhammad Ali: The Greatest (William Klein, 1964/74, USA, 120')
123. Hana Bi (Takeshi Kitano, 1997, Japan, 103')
124. Rastafari (Herman Lohe, 2004, Sweden, 12')
125. Edward Said: The Last Interview (Mike Dibb, 2004, UK, 205')
126. Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2000, France, 84')
127. Bali - Altar of the Gods (Errol Sitahal, 2003, TT, 26')
128. Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (Barbet Schroeder, France, 1974, 90')
129. Basque Ball (The Skin Against the Stone) (Julio Medem, 2003, Spain, 108')
130. Francis Bacon - Arena (Adam Low, 2005, UK, 96')
131. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell/Emeric Pressberger, 1947, UK, 100')
132. Writers and Places: Shiva Naipaul (Adam Low, 1982, UK, 35')
133. Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962, USA, 152')
134. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar, 1999, Spain/France, 101')
135. Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1995, Canada, 103')
136. Bus 174 (Jose Padhila/Jose Lacerda, 2004, Brazil, 120')
137. Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001, USA, 99')
138. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1959, Sweden, 99')
139. Spetters (Paul Verhoeven, 1980, Holland, 127')
140. Central Station (Walter Salles, 1998, Brazil, 113')
141. Gadjo Dilo (Tony Gadlif, 1997, Romania,100')
142. Secretary (Steven Shainberg, 2002, USA, 111')
143. Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004, UK, 125')
144. Derrida (Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering Kofman, 2002, USA, 85')
145. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949, UK/USA, 104')
146. The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolluci, France, 2004, 124')
147. The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina, 2004, 104')
148. The Dream Life of Angels (Elodie Bouchez, 1998, France, 113')
149. The Terrorist (Santosh Sivan, 1998, India, 100')
150. Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956, USA, 99')
151. Belle de Jour (Louis Bunuel, 1967, France/Italy, 101')
152. Bullet Boy (Saul Dibb, 2004, UK, 89')
153. Rues Cases Negres (Euzhan Palcy, 1983, France/Martinique, 103')
154. Palindromes (Todd Solondz, 2004, USA, 100')
155. A Film About Jimi Hendrix (Joe Boyd, 1973, UK, 100')
156. George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000, USA, 89')
157. Last Days (Gus Van Sant, 2005, USA, 97')
158. Who the Fuck is Pete Doherty? (Greg Rosselli, UK, 2005, 50')
159. 8 Femmes (Francois Ozon, 2002, France/Italy, 111')
160. 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai, 2004, China/Germany/France/Hong Kong, 130')
161. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk, Korea, 2004, 108')
162. Moolade (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal/France, 2004, 120')
163. The Agronomist (Jonathan Demme, 2003, USA, 90')
164. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005, USA, 103')
165. Baldwin's Nigger (Horace Ove, 1969, UK, 45')
166. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959, France, 75')
167. 3 Iron (Kim Ki-Duk, 2005, Korea, 90’)
168. Mad Hot Ballroom (Marilyn Agrelo, 2005, USA, 105’)
169. Fire (Deepha Mehtra, 1996, India/Canada, 106’)
170. A Dream to Change the World (Horace Ove, 2004, UK/Trinidad)
136. Hyenas (Djibril Diop Mambety, 1992, Senegal,113’)
137. The White Diamond (Werner Herzog, 2005, Germany, 90’)
138. Capote (Bennett Miller, 2006, USA, 114’)
139. DiG! (Ondi Timoner, 2004, USA, 107’)
141. Lucia (Humberto Solas, 1968, Cuba, 160’)
142. La Vida es Silbar (Life is to Whistle) (Fernando Perez, 1998, Cuba, 106’)
143. Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba) (Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 1964, USSR/Cuba, 141’)
144. Le Souffle au Coeur (Murmur of the Heart) (Louis Malle, France, 1971, 158’)
142. The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, USA, 2005, 81’)
143. Beijing Bicycle (Wang Xiaoshuai, China, 2002, 113’)
144. Badlands (Terence Malick, USA, 1973, 90’)
145. De Battre Mon Coeur s'est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) (Jacques
Audiard, France, 2005, 102’)
146. Block Party (Michael Gondry, 2006, USA,114’)
147. Lady Vengence (Park Chan Wook, Korea, 2005, 117’)
148. Cache (Hidden) (Michael Haneke, Austria, 2005, 118’)
149. Barrel Children (Cara Weir, USA, 2006, 24’)
149. Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, USA, 1990, 78’)
150. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell& Emeric Pressburger, UK, 1948, 134’)
151. The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross, UK, 2006, 98’)
152. Vers le Sud (Heading South) (Laurent Cantet, France, 2006 108’)
153. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, UK, 2006, 127’)
154. Mamute Siberiano (The Siberian Mammoth) (Vincente Ferraz, Brazil, 2005, 90’)
155. The Proposition (John Hillcoat, Australia/UK, 2005, 104’)
156. Au Hasard Balthusar (Robert Bresson, France, 1966, 95’)
157. Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, USA, 1941, 90’)
158. Crna Macka, Beli Mackor (Black Cat, White Cat) (Emir Kusturica,
France/Germany/Yugoslavia, 1998, 127’)
159. Bread & Roses (Ken Loach, UK, 1998, 110’)
160. Suna No Onna (Woman in the Dunes) (Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japan, 1964, 123’)
161. Volver (Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 2006, 121’)
162. Wassup Rockers (Larry Clark, USA, 2006, 111’)
163. The Yacoubian Building (Marwan Hamed, Egypt, 2006, 161’)
164. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, Mexico, 2006, 112’)
165. Ping Pong (Fumihiko Sori, Japan, 2006, 114’)
166. Water (Deepa Mehta, 2006, India, 140’)
167. Up and Dancing: The Magic Stilts of Trinidad & Tobago (Harald Rumpf., 2007,
Trinidad & Tobago/Germany, 51’)
168. Carnival Roots (Peter Chelkowski, 2003, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, 90’)
168. Blue Collar (Paul Schrader, USA, 1978, 114’)
169. Raising Victor Vargas (Peter Sollett, France/USA, 2002, 88’)
170. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, USA, 1976, 100’)
171. The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975, Spain/Italy/France, 119’)
172. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2006, USA, 135’)
173. Cockfighter (Monte Hellman, USA, 1974, 83')
174. The Wild Blue Yonder: A Science Fiction Fantasy (Werner Herzog,
Germany, 2006, 81’)
175. C.R.A.Z.Y (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2005, Canada, 127’)
176. Junebug (Phil Morrison, USA, 2005, 106’)
177. Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have) (Nicholas Philibert, France, 2003, 100’)
178. Glastonbury (Julien Temple, 2006, UK, 124’)
179. Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, USA, 2004, 93’)
180. Two for the Road (Stanley Donen, USA, 1967, 111’)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Trivial notes on Baldwin's Nigger and Pickpocket

Baldwin's Nigger, dir. Horace Ove

Thrilling as it was to see James Baldwin in full flow, I found myself concentrating on his audience of young West Indians, crowded into some nondescript flat in London--with little flags of Caribbean territories lined up on the mantel. I scrutinised the audience shots, wondering if I might recognise any faces--and was amused when a portly, balding fella, English to all appearances, stood up to ask a question & with his first words was revealed as a Trini. Best of all: Andrew Salkey--twitchy, smoking, fiddling with a notebook--sitting two places away from Baldwin, on his right. (And was that Michael X between them?)

Pickpocket, dir. Robert Bresson

Moral: all Parisians are sexy, even the ugly, badly dressed ones.

Favourite line: "I used to believe in God, Jeanne--for three minutes."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tonight at the SFC

Originally uploaded by nicholaslaughlin.
Peter Doig's poster for Baldwin's Nigger, dir. Horace Ove, and Pickpocket, dir. Robert Bresson.

Tonight at the SFC

Originally uploaded by nicholaslaughlin.
Peter Doig screening Baldwin's Nigger, dir. Horace Ove.

Monday, January 23, 2006

SFC takes Manhattan...

... at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, opening in March (full press release here):

Studio Film Club, formed in Peter Doig's studio in Trinidad by Doig and Che Lovelace, will screen some of the Biennial films at the Studio Film Club, while a selection of the Studio Film Club's program will be screened at the Whitney

This week at the SFC: Baldwin's Nigger and Pickpocket

Thursday January 26th

STUDIOFILMCLUB will be screening a Robert Bresson - Horace Ove double bill (both are short films...). We have screened two films by each director before (L'Argent and A Man Escapes, Reggae and King Carnival) are looking forward to seeing these two classics on the 'big' screen! read on....


Baldwin's Nigger (Horace Ove/UK/1969/45') was Horace Ove's first film - a 1969 documentary, this 45-minute piece captures novelist James Baldwin and comedian-turned-activist Dick Gregory addressing a political meeting in London. Cinema verite in the purest and most simple of terms, it also happens to be a superb example of the approach. Its simplicity is its key, the film's events being captured on a single 16mm camera with black and white film stock and a directness which speaks volumes. Director Horace Ove is clearly in awe of Baldwin and as such lets him do the talking; there is no authorial voice here beyond Baldwin's and as such we are left with only one option – to listen.

And of course, this is what we do. Baldwin is a remarkable orator and a great visualist, discussing the black experience with an intelligence, sharp wit and, understandably, a great anger. As he offers his thoughts on slavery, on the then current Vietnam War, on the similarities between the struggle in the UK and the struggle in the States, we are sucked into every word. Yet Ove also gives us plenty to see. Certainly, he is often loathe to move away from his principle speaker and the sweat accumulating on his brow as he grows ever more forceful, though when he does offer a cutaway to an audience member or pans his camera across the collected faces such moments feel necessary. They offer a sense of place, not only of the room itself and the meeting therein, but also the historical context. The tiny moments, such as one member of the audience obscuring himself with a clipboard for fear of being seen or the snatched headline referring to the situation in Vietnam, prove integral and at once proclaim the film's significance in historical, political and cinematic terms.

BALDWIN'S NIGGER: an interview with Horace Ove

Jason Wood: How did you originally come to be involved in the making of Baldwin's Nigger?

Horace Ove: Firstly, I had been very impressed reading Baldwin's novels in the early 1960's; Another Country and especially Giovanni's Room, because it was the first time I had read a book about white gay men in Paris written from a black man's point of view. I was also aware of his writings on the whole social and political movement happening in America at that time. Then I heard he was coming to the West Indies Students' Centre here in London to give a talk with Dick Gregory, a top black American comedian at the time who had given up his career for the struggle, I had just left the London School of Film Technique and thought it would be a great opportunity to film it. I then met Baldwin at a gathering and put it to him, saying that I had no money to pay him. He said 'Go ahead, just do it', and from there we became good friends over many years.

JW: What are your memories of both James Baldwin and Dick Gregory and how closely does the film capture both their personalities and their views on issues related to society and race?

HO: My memories are that they answered a lot of questions that I had at the time about the black struggle. He had a great insight to what was really going on, the hidden psychological games that the people in power were playing and so on. He was able to explain this in a way that was easy to understand. He was a great communicator, they were both very open and a had a great sense of humour. I think the film does capture all that.

JW: How do you feel Baldwin's Nigger is related to your other film and photography work in either theme or visual style?

HO: What Baldwin's Nigger, as well as the other documentaries I went on to make, did was to convey the reality of the situation, the people, the environment, and to be true to the moment, not to impose my point of view on it. That goes for many of the dramatic films that I have made as well, Pressure, A Hole in Babylon, The Garland and so on. I like to do a lot of research with real people first before starting a project. MY approach to photography is the same too, I don't go for the posed photograph, I just want to capture the reality of a particular moment.

JW: How do you think audiences seeing the film today will relate to it? As a historical document on two leading cultural figures what impressions do you feel it leaves us with?

HO: I think audiences that see it today will be amazed at the relevance of what Baldwin and Gregory were saying then to the present time. It all connects to the situations that exist here in Britain, the US and the rest of the world. Instead of Vietnam, its Afghanistan, Iraq, London, New York. It's totally relevant – they address universal issues to a universal audience.

Pickpocket (Robert Bresson/1959/France/75'/B&W)

Jean Pelegri, one of the non-professional actors in Bresson's Pickpocket, said of his director: "He knows what he wants but he doesn't know why.

"Nobody could be less dogmatic or more obstinate than he. He relies entirely on his instinct." Most people think that Bresson, one of the few film-makers who has never had to compromise for commercial purposes, is an intellectual who knows precisely why he wants what he wants. Which is partly the reason why not everybody warms to his rigour and severity. But there's no doubt that he is a great film-maker, and that Pickpocket is one of his masterworks.

It is, at base, about self-fulfilment and redemption through love - a common enough idea in films. But this 1959 epic has seldom been equalled as a philosophical treatise on the subject. The point is that the film is as much a visual argument as a spoken one. Michel (Martin Lasalle) is a petty thief who, after being arrested and then released, starts discussing the rights and wrongs of crime with the police inspector. The only way he can find a place for himself in society is to engineer a head-on collision with it. It gives him a reason to live. In that way, picking pockets becomes an exciting, almost sexual adventure. It is a kind of pact with the Devil. But he has to leave France for London when the band of thieves he joins is arrested. And when he returns he is also caught. It is only when he is visited in prison by Jeanne (Marika Green), the girl who looked after his mother before she died and is now abandoned with a child, that he realises that his whole life could be changed by love. The humiliation of prison inspires him to a desperate act of faith.
The story is told in the form of Michel's diary, almost exclusively in mid and long shots with minimal camera movements and fade-outs as an alternative to editing. Only once does another way of working come into it when Bresson, who was fascinated by the methods used by pickpockets, describes the operations of a gang among the crowds at a railway station. He also pays great attention to the sounds of the city which resound in the small apartment in which Michel lives. The Longchamp races frame the story and one notable sequence follows another, so that the parable grips even at its most internal.

Bresson is clearly not a film-maker for everybody, but he has pursued his own way remorselessly for the best part of 40 years and he has a very faithful audience. His literary adaptations - from Giraudoux, Diderot, Bernanos and Dostoevsky - are often merely points of departure. For him, "the most important ideas in a film are the most hidden", so the watcher has to look hard to find them. It is not an easy process but it is a rewarding one since you feel he has a profound understanding of what he is talking about. His films have little or nothing to do with those of the French New Wave but a lot to do with his Catholic background and the fact that he spent 18 months in a German prison camp during the second world war. Prison also features Les Anges du Peche, Un Condamne à Mort s'est Echappe and The Trial of Joan of Arc. And most of his central characters seem imprisoned, if only in the soul, either through their misfortunes or because society has made it inevitable. If this seems a gloomy process through which to journey, there are always points in his films where redemption and exaltation prevent glumness.

A few quotes from....Robert Bresson: Hidden in Plain Sight by Gary Indiana

Read all...


- True, Michel could get a job. But stealing has a specific psychosexual meaning for him, beyond fulfilling the simple need to eat. Michel is like a man who knows he can cop an orgasm if he manages to be in the right place at the right time, and rubs against the right partner. His fears are more logistical than spiritual, and also function as aphrodisiacs.

It's unlikely that Michel steals because he considers himself a “superman,” in a class of hypothetical, extraordinary beings whose unusual gifts place them above the law—though he posits such a theory, abstractly, in his sour, unengaging encounters with the police detective played by Jean Pelegri. Michel steals because it is the only act that makes him feel alive in a world becoming dead; not only dead to pleasure and unprogrammed emotions but, as later Bresson made ever more explicit, organically dead. Theft reconnects Michel to the flow of life around him, from which he otherwise feels desperately isolated, and which he perceives as pathetically limited in its possibilities.

- In Pickpocket, the society whose laws Michel breaks is far more criminal than he is—not technically, not legally, but spiritually: this is Bresson's archly comic irony, heavily veiled in nocturnal chiaroscuro. His film's tragedy, which is finally more important, is that Michel would like to feel guilty for his crimes, and would even like to love his mother, or Jeanne. But like the humans of the future that Bresson so clearly envisioned, who are already living among us, Michel can't feel a thing, and couldn't love anyone if his life depended on it. The sad truth is, it doesn't.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Some thoughts on Grizzly Man

"A story of our times," is how one of the audience summed up last night's screening of Werner Herzog's new documentary, Grizzly Man. I'm not so sure I agree.

Grizzly Man is certainly a number of things: beautifully and lovingly made, at times hypnotically engaging, and at others, sharply revealing. But overall it felt--and I hesitate to use the word, though no other seems to present itself--slight.

Timothy Treadwell is no tragic figure. He's way too pathetic for tragedy. A former surfer who was concerned with keeping his blonde pageboy haircut just so to cover his receding hairline after a wipeout; a failed actor who supposedly just lost out to Wooody Harrelson for the role of the bartender on Cheers.

Burned by Hollywood, he heads north, away from the nuisances of people and civilisation, and immerses himself in the world of the grizzly bear. Delusion and romanticism set in, leading Treadwell to believe he is some ursine saviour, the only human concerned with saving the animal from destruction. In fact, the opposite is true: not only are the bears in no danger, Treadwell does more harm than good, ignoring the quite reasonable rules concerning human interaction with bears, possibly leading the animals to the dangerous conclusion that all humans have friendly intentions.

Herzog is fascinated by Treadwell's story, but not taken in by it (though his final assesment is perhaps a little too generous, and surely the Thoreau comparison is pushing it). As a filmmaker, he appreciates Treadwell's own way with a camera (the often breathtaking film footage of the Alaskan wilderness Treadwell shot over a number of summers forms much of Grizzly Man) and also sympathises with his futile and ultimately fatal urge to reconcile modern man with the wild. But he recognises Treadwell's flaws and limitations, that this self-mythologising, selfish--and probaby manic--individual was ultimately more desperate to save himself than the grizzlies.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

This week at the SFC: Grizzly Man

Thursday January 19th

STUDIOFILMCLUB is pleased to be screening Werner Herzog’s extraordinary new documentary.... Herzog documentaries from the 70’s will be screened prior to the feature.

GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog/2005/USA/103’)

Grizzly Man could easily have been sensational and exploitative, but in the hands of Werner Herzog, it becomes something extraordinary. Herzog was granted exclusive access to over 100 hours of video shot by amateur naturalist, wildlife advocate and troubled loner Timothy Treadwell, who spent 13 summers in Alaska's Katmai National Park, where he grew to know and love the grizzly bears that lived there. He was also killed by one of them, in October 2003, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, and that seemingly inevitable fate informs every minute of Herzog's riveting combination of Treadwell's video with his own expert filmmaking and unique vision of nature and man. Whereas Treadwell was a naïve nature-lover and social outcast whose sanity was slowly slipping away, Herzog is a pragmatic mythologist who views nature primarily in terms of "chaos, hostility, and murder," and the disparity of their vision results in a magnetic attraction that makes the sum of Grizzly Man greater than its parts. We come to admire the dreamer, the idealist, the failed actor and recovered alcoholic man-child that was Treadwell, and we equally admire the seeker of truth and wisdom that is Herzog. They belong together, in some world beyond our world, where visionaries join forces to create life after death.

A much longer review below from the New York Times

One rainy afternoon in the Alaskan wilderness two years ago, a self-made man named Timothy Treadwell was mauled and eaten by a grizzly bear. It may be that the animal, a scrawny male about 28 years old and 1,000 pounds, was trying to fatten up in preparation for its winter's sleep. As it happens, Treadwell, who achieved minor celebrity as an expert on grizzlies, publishing a book on the bears and jousting with David Letterman on late-night television, had pitched his tent in a feeding ground. The call of the wild was as irresistible to Treadwell as his flesh proved to be to that bear.

The strange story of Timothy Treadwell, a Long Island native who came to see himself as some kind of ursine Dr. Dolittle, only to die at 46 from a bear attack, is the subject of "Grizzly Man," the latest documentary from Werner Herzog. As fans of the German New Wave know, the director has a fondness for stories about men who journey into the heart of darkness, both without and within - men like the deranged 16th-century explorer in "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," who searches for El Dorado in the Amazon, and the early-20th-century esthete in "Fitzcarraldo" who hauls a steamboat up a mountain to bring Caruso to the Peruvian jungle. Treadwell's journey was no less bold or reckless than these earlier Herzogian tales and certainly no less enthralling.

Mr. Herzog has been making documentaries for more than three decades, about as long as he has been directing fiction films, but he is not part of any nonfiction tradition. In a statement on his Web site, wernerherzog.com, he declares: "By dint of declaration the so-called cinéma vérité is devoid of vérité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants." This is a rather crude attempt to separate himself from the nonfiction crowd, but Mr. Herzog is also no ordinary filmmaker. It is the rare documentary like "Grizzly Man," which has beauty and passion often lacking in any type of film, that makes you want to grab its maker and head off to the nearest bar to discuss man's domination of nature and how Disney's cute critters reflect our profound alienation from the natural order.

Beauty enters first in "Grizzly Man," which opens with two bears grazing on a spectacular stretch of green in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, a nearly five-million-acre swath on the Alaska Peninsula. Dressed in black, his pageboy stirring in the wind, Treadwell walks into the frame and introduces the grizzlies as Ed and Rowdy. "They're challenging everything, including me," he says as the bears munch away. "If I show weakness, if I retreat, I may be hurt, I may be killed. I must hold my own if I am going to stay within this land. For once there is weakness, they will exploit it, they will take me out, they will decapitate me, they will chop me into bits and pieces. I'm dead. But so far, I persevere, persevere."

It is a typical Treadwell recitation - sincere, grandiose and intensely worrisome - a bit of bravura that ends with the self-designated "kind warrior" blowing a kiss and signing off like Kojak: "Love you, Rowdy." Even if you don't know that Treadwell was killed along with his girlfriend, a physician's assistant named Amie Huguenard, his familiarity with, and proximity to, the bears bodes badly, for him and for them. There is something surreal (at least to a committed urbanite) about anyone who would talk to these animals, especially a guy whose blond, bland good looks made him seem like an aging surfer, a kind of Spicoli of the backwoods. But as Mr. Herzog points out in his online manifesto, "facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable."

Despite some early bumps, Treadwell started off as an average sort. After an injury put an end to an athletic scholarship, he moved to (where else?) Southern California. There he did the usual bumming around, but his life soured and, according to his book, "Among Grizzlies," written with Jewel Palovak, he suffered a near-fatal drug overdose. Scared straight, he gradually reinvented himself, and by the early 1990's was summering in Katmai, home to about 2,000 grizzlies. Mr. Herzog lays out this history in voice-over, illustrating Treadwell's ups and downs through the spectacular videos the amateur naturalist shot and interviews with the dead man's family and friends. The filmmaker also taps the medical examiner who performed the autopsies on Treadwell and Huguenard, Dr. Franc G. Fallico, a character around whom an entire reality show could be built.

Dr. Fallico pops up a couple of times in "Grizzly Man," but the most potent use of his testimony occurs when he expounds at length in an autopsy room, a scene that illustrates Mr. Herzog's sense of drama beautifully. Sporting a blue smock and a fixed gaze, Dr. Fallico recounts his version of the attack, a description based on his examination of the bodies and the six-minute audio record found on one of Treadwell's video cameras. (The lens cap was on the camera.) The account is graphic, gruesome and thoroughly riveting, partly because morbid tales always tug at the imagination, but also because Dr. Fallico turns out to be an incredible storyteller. For Mr. Herzog, it's clear that the truth of this story isn't located just in the facts that the doctor strings together with florid gestures and pregnant pauses, but in a performance that is as artful as it is true.

Treadwell's adventures among his beloved grizzlies were also a kind of performance, built on lies and truth and played out on the stage of celebrity. Even though his choices were dangerous and finally fatal, he traveled a familiar American path shaped by boundless optimism and an almost religious belief in the self. He lived among grizzlies because he believed that he could. Given this, the cheap shots that followed his death, including the appalling snarkiness that crept into newspaper headlines ("Grizzly bear that killed pair attacked at lunchtime"), are revelatory. For some, Treadwell's death confirmed that animal activists and environmentalists are dangerous wackos; for others, though, his unhappy end may have suggested something equally disturbing: sometimes a smile and American goodwill aren't enough.

Throughout "Grizzly Man," men and women pay testament to Treadwell's niceness and naïveté. Some are kind; others less so. Each testifier seems to capture some authentic quality of Treadwell, who from the evidence of his videos and Mr. Herzog's sympathetic inquiry, seemed equally nice and naïve, brave and foolish. At some point that foolishness mushroomed into a welter of delusions about his power to survive the wilderness in which he so recklessly tried to find himself. His death, as inevitable as it was preventable, could mean that he may have been more lost than found. Mr. Herzog remains generous to a fault on this particular point, perhaps because he recognizes that for someone like Treadwell, there is nothing more terrifying than being ordinary, even the claws of a grizzly.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Che's paintings in Caribbean Beat

Incidentally, there's a short feature on Che Lovelace's ongoing series of J'Ouvert/blue devil paintings in the January/February 2006 issue of Caribbean Beat.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Agronomist

I don't think I've been as moved by a documentary since I saw Coconut Revolution - the story of the people of the island of Bougainville and their fight against the multi-national mining company.
Last night's film, really put a lot of things about what’s currently going on in Haiti into perspective.
A lot of the story of the Haitian people is shrouded in a lot of confusion, distortion.
Demme manages a gritty but touching portrait of Jean Dominique, trained as an agronomist, he buys a radio station and sets about revolutionizing the media landscape in the era of Papa Doc and his Ton Ton Macoute thugs.
Rudder is right, we have a lot to apologise to Haiti for. For turning our backs on them in the past and paying only lip service to the continuing madness, the continuing US interference.
Another thing that struck me about the film is the notion of the journalist as activist. We really don't have a sense of that at all.
The film was excellent because it gave us a rare view of what really goes on inside Haiti. And that is the unfortunate thing.
What of those of us outside in the region? You never hear about the Trinidad Guardian or the Jamaica Gleaner sending reporters to cover the Haitian story. As a result we get third hand news through overseas sources, CNN, BBC, all of whom have their own agendas and also don’t really have an understanding of
Which is not to say that people from outside cannot be a part of whatever the solution will be to the crisis in Haiti. But surely we also have something to add to the discourse and more than just talk we regional journalists, activists, interested people, need to start taking some kind of action.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

This week at the SFC: The Agronomist

Thursday January 12th


(The film features music by Wyclef Jean)


Jean Dominique was a brave man in a dangerous country, and Jonathan Demme's "The Agronomist" shows him telling the truth as he sees it, day after day, on the radio in Haiti. It is obvious that sooner or later, he will be assassinated. Dissent cannot be tolerated in a nation that depends on secrecy to protect its powerful. What is remarkable is how long he survived, and how courageously he owned and operated Radio Haiti-Inter; it became the voice of the powerless in great part because it broadcast in Creole, the language they spoke, instead of in the French of their masters.

Demme, who made the documentary, is a man who seems to lead parallel lives. In one, he is the successful director of such American films as "The Silence of the Lambs," "Philadelphia," "Married to the Mob" and "Melvin and Howard." In the other, he has made documentaries about Haiti, has visited there countless times, has helped promote Haitian art and music, and has a heart that aches as he sees the country victimized by powerful interests both within and without.

In Jean Dominique and his wife Michele Montas, Demme finds subjects who reflect the agony of Haiti's struggle. His documentary draws on hundreds of hours of filming and conversations from 1991 until Dominique's death in 2000. It begins at the moment when President Jean-Claude Aristide was overthrown in 1991, follows the Dominiques into exile in New York, watches as they return to Haiti and Aristide is restored to power, and observes how Dominique, originally a supporter of Aristide, became one of his critics.

Dominique is a man who seems to have come to heroism because it was the only choice for a man of his nature. His college education was in agriculture (which explains the movie's title), and he first came up against the ruling clique through his efforts for land reform. He was interested in the arts, started a cinema club in Port-au-Prince, and was shut down by the dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier after showing Alain Resnais' "Night and Fog." That was a film about the evil of Nazism; why Papa Doc found it unacceptable is easy to imagine.

At first it seemed that the rebel priest Aristide might force a change in his nation's destiny, but soon he, too, was employing the tactics of those he replaced. There is a sequence in the film where Dominique interviews Aristide and challenges him with pointed questions. The president responds with measured sound bites which repeat the same inanities again and again, as if he is incapable of understanding the actual meaning of the questions he has been asked.

Dominique and Montas are persons of great cheer and energy, leaping into each day with such zeal that they sometimes seem to forget the risks they are taking. Their problem in Haiti is that by honestly speaking to the ordinary people in their own language, they offend not only their obvious enemies but even those they do not know they have made. A nation built on lies cannot tolerate truth even when it agrees with it.

Radio Haiti-Inter comes under siege more than once, and Demme's camera does not overlook the bullet holes in the exterior walls. The station seems to be run informally, as a mixture of music, gossip, local news and political opinion; at times of crisis, Dominique stays on the air as long as he can, until power outages or the government shuts him down.

This is a couple who could have led the good life in Haiti. With the light complexions of the French-speaking Haitian establishment, with education and some wealth, they could have gone along with the ruling elite and earned a nice little fortune with their radio station or other enterprises. What fascinates us is Dominique's inability to do that. He is well enough connected to know what is going wrong, and too principled to ignore it.

Did he know he would be killed? Who can say? His country was in a tumult, and the inconsistent policies of the United States did little to help. The country seemed almost to force its rulers into fearful and repressive policies. The wise course for Dominique would have been to return in exile to New York and use a dissenting magazine or Web site to spread his beliefs.

But no. When he could go back, he went back. Demme often followed him. We watch Dominique use humor and cynicism as well as anger, and we understand he is not a zealot but simply a reasonable man saying reasonable things in an unreasonable country. After his murder, Michele Montas goes on the air to insist that Jean Dominique is still alive, because his spirit lives on.

But in this film Haiti seems to be a country that can kill the spirit, too.