NYFF: The 1968 Edition
Yes, I know. I was a teenaged know-it-all, as well as a rabid soixante-huitard, a serious pothead, occasional speed freak, and fanatical cinephile. I spent the summer of 1968, between my sophomore and junior years at Harpur College (aka SUNY Binghamton), in Berkeley, crashing on people’s couches, and hitchhiking when I felt like it to North Beach where I had a menial job in the Ramparts magazine mailroom. My “supervisor” was an ex-Digger who didn’t believe in paying for anything and had a scam for everything.
When I got back to New York, I came up with my own scam, writing to the Film Society of Lincoln Center on behalf of a non-existent film magazine (the “Harpur Film Journal” or some such) and securing press credentials to cover the 1968 New York Film Festival. Incredibly, this ruse worked three times, even though I never bothered to furnish the festival press office with anything even resembling clippings. At least once, however, I wrote a festival report—a 10-page single-spaced screed run off on a mimeograph machine, and distributed at one of the Harpur Film Society’s fall presentations, where it most likely wound up on the floor beneath the auditorium seats.
Forty-five years later at the behest of Scott MacDonald, who is writing an oral history of Harpur film culture, I found a copy of this samizdat in deep, deep storage and belatedly sent it to the NYFF for their files—and amusement. FILM COMMENT editor Gavin Smith suggested posting it online. I couldn’t refuse. What goes around, comes around: for most of the many years I spent at The Village Voice I imagined that my ideal reader was the teenaged Me. This passionate if puerile moviegoer is that guy.
REPORT ON THE N.Y. FILM FESTIVAL 1968
What the Festival Isn’t:
Unlike European Festivals, that at Lincoln Center isn’t primarily a market place–no parties for distributors/no starlets balling their way to the top/no prizes awarded. (An unbought film may attract a U.S. distributor if the press following its festival showing is unusually favorable, but this rarely happens.)
Neither (& this is why Jonas Mekas’ anger, tho understandable, is unjustified) is the festival a showcase for revolutionary &/or avant-garde films. (The festival board [footnote 1] may think it is, but Godard notwithstanding, it isn’t.) Revolutionary films should be shown in the street & the screening in the plastic citadel of High Kulcha would emasculate & not enhance the works of avant-garde film-makers.
What the Festival is:
It’s a collection of some interesting recent commercial flix with a few esoteric blasts-from-the-past thrown in for good measure.
My Shit List (I’ll get it out-of-the- first):
I saw 22 films in 10 days & only walked out on two: HUGO & JOSEFIN, & TROPICS. The former is blurbed ELVIRA MADIGAN Saturday matinee-style (which should have warned me away) but I doubt that any normal kid could tolerate its self-conscious cuteness for very long. Actually, the flick isn’t for kids at all, but for the art house adults who warm up their hearts on A MAN AND A WOMAN and then break them on ELVIRA MADIGAN. If you fit the description and are still interested HUGO & JOSEFIN is as pretty as a sunset-over-Stockholm travelogue and vacuous as a training bra.
TROPICS is a political film and even tho I dug its polemic (revolution in South America/creation of a third world) I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t make it as a movie. It’s even lousy propaganda (endless and repetitive/poorly edited/horrendously acted) as well as artistically fraudulent–the actors are non-actors (Brazilian dust farmers) working with a script they can’t handle and this is supposed to be “fictional documentary” (footnote 2). Director Gianni Amico should have thrown out his screenplay and let the people talk–the raw reality of suffering doesn’t have to be staged. You can make revolutionary art in the studio (GRAPES OF WRATH) but if you want to make it in the field then leave the studio at home. People’s lives aren’t nice linear dramatic progressions, but if that’s what you want it can be done in the editing room. TROPICS will turning up on the New Left benefit circuit in a year or so and the best thing a sympathizer could do would be buy a ticket and read Franz Fanon in the lobby.
24 HOURS IN A WOMAN’S LIFE is a ridiculous film: the tragedy of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am one night stand if you’re a middle aged rich lady & World War I is outside collapsing values in general. It’s a first feature by a former Fellini assistant, Dominique Delouche, and despite some well-composed shots, the flick’s as draggy as the wooden sex scenes–the lovers awkwardly posed with sheets discreetly arranged to cover breasts and genitalia.
Claude Chabrol (THE COUSINS, LANDRU, THE CHAMPAGNE MURDERS) is a charter member of the new wave-cahiers du cinema axis–but his latest, LES BICHES, is light years behind the work of his ex-colleagues Godard, Truffout, & Rivette. There’s this AC-DC triangle culminating in madness and murder, & tho Chabrol is technically proficient–slick as any 20th Century Fox mainstay–his brand of Gallic sophistication is stale and the lesbian exotica is just a new rhinestone on the collar of a dead horse.
The flick opens well with Stephane Audran (Mrs. Chabrol)–done up like Djuna Barnes in 1930’s lesbian chic and coming on like the most evil, alluring bitch in the world–picking up an innocent sidewalk artist on a Paris bridge. Chabrol creates a tension (with foggy, muted colors/minimal but double-edged dialogue/and alternate up-down angles) and a sense of impending doom which holds the picture together for about 10 minutes. But what promises to be a tough Oscar Wildean innocence-and-corruption tale degenerates into mediocre predictability and finally boring triteness. For those interested the artist is poorly played by Jacqueline Sassard (ACCIDENT), & Jean-Louis Trintignant (A MAN AND A WOMAN) walks witlessly through the male-of-the-triangle role.
Inertia and air-conditioning enabled me to see how 24 HOURS & LES BICHES turned out. They’re both placid, well-constructed surfaces–no jarring elements. Chabrol’s mocking savoir faire is just as sentimental (though more fashionable) as Delouche’s lush romanticism and both cling to sexual moralities which everyone else has kind of been ignoring for at least 50 years.
Czex and Miscellaneous East Europeans:
Czex films have been recent favorites in N.Y. and of course now more than ever. Political considerations aside, their popularity isn’t hard to fathom–they combine strong humanism with shy and off-beat humor/virtually every Czex director has been processed at Famu (the national film academy, which provides the world’s finest technical education outside of Hollywood)/they’re all young and have (up till now) had large government subsidies to play around with. In short, the Czex filmmakers enjoyed all Hollywood benefits as well as the advantage (in apolitical films) of greater independence than all but a few in Hollywood can claim.
There are two trends in the Czex new wave–the humanists (influenced by Renoir and the Italian neo-realists) & the allegorists (inevitable compared to Kafka but not much like him) who have a strong political orientation. These trends also exist (to a lesser and not clearly defined extent) in the Polish, Yugoslavian, and Hungarian cinemas.
Jan Nemec’s REPORT ON THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS proved to be the Establishment press’ fave-rave: an allegorical treatment of individual acquiescence in the face of totalitarianism, banned in Czechoslovakia for two years–released under Dubcek and now re-banned. It’s fitfully interesting and generally unexciting–the rhythm is so screwed up I spent most of the movie waiting for things to happen and then it ended. (I guess it’s only fair to say that I dislike allegory anyhow and the fact that the film was made at all is reason enough to see it. Still it lacks the power and anger of Bunuel’s treatment of a similar theme in THE EXTERMINATING ANGLE. It would be interesting to put REPORT on a double bill with THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST or POINTBLANK, 2 Hollywood films (ignored by the same liberal critics who lavished over-praise on REPORT) which deal with totalitarianism a little more subtly and a lot closer to home.)
Another film by Nemec was screened–ORATORIO FOR PRAGUE–a documentary on life in Czechoslovakia during the Dubcek reforms. As Nemec was completing its shooting the Russians invaded and there is some occupation footage included. What was intended as a celebration became a memorial and it was smuggled abroad for editing. ORATORIO has all of REPORT’S faults (poor development/flawed rhythm/dull stretches) plus a few of its own (a totally inane commentary). As in REPORT the content barely triumphs over its inadequacies; and if only for its uniqueness, it’s worth your time≥
The other 2 Czech films (which liberal sentiment had open & close the festival) are more successful (tho also critically overrated) & are good examples of the strengths and weaknesses of the humanist directors. CAPRICIOUS SUMMER is Jiri Menzel’s second feature and it suffers by comparison with his first (CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS) being neither as tight nor as inventive. It’s good divertissement (i.e. solid camerawork/eastman color & some skin to groove on). 3 middle-aged vacationers pursue the beautiful assistant of a down & out magician (well played by Menzel, whose acting is, in this case, superior to his direction). On successive nites, each of the three gets his chance with the chick but pisses it away (more or less); the magician splits and the three pals are left feeling sadder-but-wiser & more middle-aged. It’s slight stuff and Menzel can’t quite make it work–he tends to confuse pretty countryside and quaint doings with lyric pastoralism & passes off sentimentality for nostalgia. The music is unusually offensive/the humor more obvious and less biting than in CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS, with too much Hollywood rain and splashstick (over-turning boats/people pushed into the lake fully clothed)–but I dig Menzel, I dig his vision–he’s into and gets behind the small objects with which people clutter their lives & railway clerks their desks–& I would dig being more enthusiastic, but like I said it’s good divertissement.
THE FIREMAN’S BALL by Milos Forman (LOVES OF A BLONDE) was the best of the CZEX films shown. Working with even slighter material than Menzel–the various elements (stolen lottery prizes/reluctant beauty queens/status wars/& an unexpected fire) Forman has made an effective and ironic study of human behavior–universal and compassionate (tho not as good) as the work of his mentors, Chaplin & Renoir. Word got out after the press screening that the film was really a subtle political indictment of pre-Dubcek Czechoslovakia, which may be so (tho though it never occurred to me during the film) but it seems that in this case Forman is more concerned with the broader politics structuring every anecdote and any communal undertaking.
(Incidentally, Nemec, Menzel, & Forman are all now in the west and working on projects financed by the French producers of Truffaut and Godard.)
The other East European films, Miklos Jancso’s THE RED AND THE WHITE and Vatroslav Mimica’s KAYA are from Hungary and Yugoslavia respectively. The former has some fine action photography (John Ford style) but isn’t much more than cowboys and indians in Russian revolutionary drag. KAYA is a puzzling film–the color photography is unusually good & the location (an ancient Dalmatian town) well exploited, but Mimica’s overuse of static compositions coupled with a lack of any dramatic fire gave me the feeling of watching someone’s well composed vacation slides while tortured by their boring commentary. Mimica is primarily an animator which may explain his solid sense of design but inadequate handling of actors, dialogue, editing, etc.
The German Thing:
From 1920 to 1932 the German film industry was the most creative in Europe. But what with Hitler at home & the lure of Hollywood gelt abroad every major director (Murnau, Lang, Ophüls, Lubitsch, Pabst) either split or went underground and nothing of any interest (excepting Leni Riefenstahl’s 2 propaganda films) was made in Germany for 35 years. But now things have changed and the festival directors, packaging 3 new German flix together, have pronounced a German renaissance, and it looks like (considering Berlin & everything) next year it will be their turn to open and close the festival.
The most vividly trumpeted of the films is Alexander Kluge’s second feature ARTIST UNDER THE BIG TOP: PERPLEXED which copped the silver something at Venice this year. It’s not as well realized as the other German works shown–weighed down with a lot of heavy-handed and dried up symbols (life as a circus, etc) but it’s an interesting flick nevertheless. Kluge’s fragmented editing and disturbing juxtapositions (a Hitler rally with “Yesterday” sung in German on the track) are especially effective.
Jean Marie Straub’s CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH is a hard film to sit through but if you can dig it, it’s like 90 minutes of Tantric exercises with the same cleansing results. Nothing written can really describe its strange and beautiful quality and any plot synopsis will make it seem boring as a bitch. Straub fuses selections from the letters of Bach’s second wife (stoical descriptions of domestic tragedies and artistic frustrations) dramatizes a few short anecdotes, but concentrates most of the film on the music. The camera rarely moves but when it does the effect is tremendous. The whole film is suffused in Vermeer-like light & if you let it this film can do fine things for your head.
SIGNS OF LIFE is the best first film by a European director since FIST IN HIS POCKET (1965). Werner Herzog is 26, under the worst possible conditions (all kinds of freak accidents during shooting/ a six month delay/& and a shortage of bread) has made a powerful, intense, and really together parable on the doomed revolt of a holy madman. It’s the kind of content that readily lends itself to leaden symbolism (viz. Kluge’s flick) &/or but also manages to incorporate all kinds of literary and mythic references & themes without encumbering the work’s flow. The camera-work & acting are fine and my only complaint is that the editing of the last 20 minutes could’ve been tightened up.
Something’s happening here:
Lots of things are happening in American films, & one is that some very talented people are making quasi-Hollywood flix (that is, films with 5 & 6 digit budgets/union crews/professional actors/& above-ground distribution outlets) outside of Hollywood. These independently produced films are largely documentaries (PORTRAIT OF JASON, ON THE BOWERY, DON’T LOOK BACK) or else heavily influenced by documentary techniques (footnote 3) (THE COOL WORLD, THE CHELSEA GIRLS, & 2 films shown at Lincoln Center–John Cassavetes’ FACES and Norman Mailer’s BEYOND THE LAW).
FACES was probably the festival’s most universally dug selection. (Renata Adler & Jonas Mekas both wrote it up in enthusiastic articles.) Cassavetes paid his dues as an actor and director long before ROSEMARY’S BABY made him a star. In fact, SHADOWS (1960), his first film, with its straight improvisation, was a big influence on everyone who got into it. After SHADOWS, Cassavetes worked in Hollywood for awhile, doing Stanley Kramerish didacto-flick (A CHILD IS WAITING) with Judy Garland & some other mediocrities. In a sense FACES is SHADOWS remade with 8 years of experience. It’s also an actor’s film and the performances are all brilliant. Cassavetes uses a nervous hand-held camera (plenty of zooms & constant motion–some of it due to a shaky grip-man) & deals with the really alienated segment of American society–the successful middle-aged pill-heads & divorce-freaks, the victims & perpetrators of cancerous suburbs and plastic culture. The characters are treated with sympathy & disgust & the flick is extraordinarily convincing.
If FACES is social realism, then BEYOND THE LAW is metaphysical social realism, & like FACES a fine, fine movie. Where Cassavete uses the bourgeois schizophrenic attitudes toward sex and money, trying to find out what went wrong in the American dream, BEYOND THE LAW gets behind America’s ambivalence on violence & the cops.
I think that Norman Mailer is a great visionary but a 2nd rate novelist & being a visionary it looks as though films may be his thing. BEYOND THE LAW is as profound & illuminating as the best of his apocalyptic reportage & exhibits the same deadly knowledge as to what’s going on around here. Mailer’s a breathing metaphor of America-the-beautiful intuiting or acting out the deepest yearnings of her collective soul. He’s the man who gives the real state-of-the-union message with no jive.
In BEYOND THE LAW he does the cops & it’s the most open declaration of love-hate ever made by the Statue of Liberty to the blueman with a gun. (It’s the same affair implicit in every Hollywood gangster flick ever made & in the schizoid nature of a nation founded on violence but eternally craving law & order.) Mailer gets together a motley crew of friends (Rip Torn, Michael McClure, & George Plimpton are a few) & for 24 hours they played at police interrogation in an empty office building set up to look like a precinct house. It’s been edited to 2 hours & everything works perfectly. Mailer’s own characterization (Lt. Francis X. Pope) is the best sustained performance of his acting career–as beautiful & outrageous as his finest moments on the Alan Burke Show or during the legendary Buckley debates. Like FACES, BEYOND THE LAW is very funny/very intense/very loud/very serious/ & very important–saying tighten up America before it’s too late. D.A. Pennebaker (16mm’s James Wong Howe) did the camera-work, with his customary frenzy & it’s entirely faithful to Mailer’s vision.
Solid gold soul:
TONI (1934) is a great film by Jean Renoir made at a time when the master could do no wrong: unhappy love & violent death against a background of strong leftist commentary. Unlike the social realists of the 30’s, Renoir is never didactic–his people are always round & never cardboard proletarians. This is the man who influences everyone from Satyajit Ray (who made PATHER PANCHALI) to Francoise (who walked out on it) & there’s nothing that he & a camera can’t do. His style is deceptively simple but totally inimitable, his handling of composition & light intuitive (it’s in his genes) & matches that of his old man, the painter. Renoir is also film’s great humanist and his compassionate-fatalistic Weltanschauung is the most Eastern head west of Rabindranath Tagore.
Andrew Sarris thinks LOLA MONTES (1955) is the greatest film ever made & even if it isn’t as good as POTEMKIN or DUCK SOUP it’s still an amazing flick and a virtuoso performance by director Max Ophuls. Ophuls is the most maniacal motion-freak to ever make films. He doesn’t give a shit for close-ups or composition or montage or anything but movement: sweeping his camera thru extravagant sets, tracking fantastic endless arabesques. Even if romantic excesses & lush decor make you barf you can’t help but appreciate this film. It’s also the ultimate distillation of the baroque tradition & Ophuls’ vision of Lola Montes (Spanish dancer and the 19th century girl mistress to Lizst, the King of Bavaria, and about 15 others) as White Goddess is fascinating. The last shot of Lola (reduced to selling kisses in a New Orleans circus) redeeming the multitudes is one of the best single takes I’ve ever seen.
2 Old Masters:
In the Menlo Park Movie Hall of Fame the 2 great individualists Bresson & Bunuel may stare each other down in eternal opposition, but Bresson’s new film, MOUCHETTE, hints that despite everything they may be reconciled in Heaven after all. Bunuel is impervious to style/Bresson is obsessed with it, even planning out interviews in advance. Bunuel claims to have never suggested a project to a producer & worked only on assignment/Bresson has made just 8 films in 25 years because of his refusal to compromise. Bunuel is a devout atheist/Bresson says “all is grace.” They are the 2 poets of the despised and rejected: MOUCHETTE is just a hair’s breath and semantics away from (say) LOS OLVIDADOS or VIRIDIANA, the difference being that for Bunuel saints are creeps (are human beings) and for Bresson creeps are saints (are human beings).
MOUCHETTE is the 24 hour Calvary of a creep–an unloved adolescent girl, ugly & defiantly anti-social. Caught in a storm she is seduced & abandoned by a derelict poacher. When in the morning, she is rejected by her lover, her father, & even those arranging her mother’s funeral, she kills herself. The suicide sequence (backed by Monteverdi’s “Magnificat” Mouchette rolls herself down a hill several times until momentum throws her into the river) is tremendously moving. Bresson’s rarefied & austere cinema is not easy to get into but MOUCHETTE is the first film of his I’ve seen that I could dig as well as appreciate.
Like Griffith, Orson Welles has been victimized by his own ego & had some great lapses in taste, & like Eisenstein he’s watched while uncomprehending and mediocre men have fucked up, mutilated & destroyed his private visions. These 3 are the great innovators–defining and encompassing the entire mainstream of cinematic grammar in 3 amazing films and they can be forgiven anything.
THE IMMORTAL STORY has a script (by Welles) so awful that had anyone save himself directed it the damage would have been irreparable. Taking a light, ironic story by Isak Dineson, Welles treats it as tho it were more portentious than THE SEVENTH SEAL. Most of the acting stinks/Jeanne Moreau is once again grossly miscast/the track out of sync/the length is totally inappropriate, resulting in half-assed development which could been dropped along with 15 minutes or rounded out in an extra half hour–but it was made for a one hour slot on French T.V. and Welles has to take work where he can get it/the color is poorly processed/& the sets are shallow and inadequate.
But none of these things matter much–Welles could make a solid movie out of one-minute toothpaste commercial & it’s good to see him back in circulation. His feeling for lighting & angles, depth & composition (while no different from anything he invented for CITIZEN KANE) is assured & mellow. If he’s no longer the most inventive movie-maker around–that is to say, if after 25 years & innumerable hassles he is not still young Tom Edison, he more than makes it as old Tom Edison.
I would give the entire Festival proceeds towards the production of Welles’ next film. It would be nice if (for once) some nice rich sugar daddy came along & supplied Welles with all the time, money, & actors he needed, & financed the real sequel to CITIZEN KANE. (This mythical patron might stipulate Robbe-Grillet or someone comparable as a script assistant on the flick.)
2 Young Masters:
Jacques Rivette & Bernardo Bertolucci are 2 of the best (& in direct proportion, least known) directors going, each with a well-realized & imaginative work screened at the Festival. Neither film has a U.S. distributor & both were generally ignored by the media.
Rivette’s LA RELIGIEUSE has been banned in France since its completion 3 years ago. It’s a faithful adaptation of Diderot’s famed anti-clerical shocker of the 18th century & the graphic portrayal of sadism & lesbianism in various convents offended both Mme. de Gaulle & the Catholic Church–hence the ban. Rivette’s theme is the nature of freedom & the film is a plea for tolerance.
In another sense, LA RELIGIEUSE is a homage to Griffith (who was filming his own 18th century melodramas in 1920)–Lillian Gish would’ve been a natural for the title role. (As it stands, Anna Karina’s performance is beautiful.) Rivette’s manipulation of color & space is striking & the creaky plot is directed so deftly that it might be Rivette’s 22nd film & not his 2nd. Unfortunately it seems destined for the obscurity of his first feature, PARIS BELONGS TO US (1958), which preceded BREATHLESS & THE 400 BLOWS as the first New Wave work. Tho widely admired by those who’ve seen it it has never been released abroad.
Bertolucci is the latest of the impressive talents that have come out of Italy in an unbroken stream since World War 2. PARTNER is his 3rd film & it’s a considerable departure from the neo-neo-Realist tone of his earlier things. The screenplay (upon which Gianni Amico of TROPICS collaborated) is a free updating of Dostoyevsky’s “The Double” injected with heavy doses of Godard, the Living Theatre, & the new European radicalism. They’re potent influence & hard to digest & so PARTNER is kind of a mixed bag of tricks–some brilliant & some lousy. Still it’s an exciting film & Bertolucci (even if he occasionally strains) is hip to where film is heading. I dug it when I saw it but the next day Godard’s new stuff was screened which diminished PARTNER retrospectively & which I’d like to get into having saved the best for last. (Just one more thing) Pierre Clementi (he was the gold-toothed gangster in BELLE DE JOUR) gives a remarkable performance (& looks like the new Belmondo) as the double & his double.
Remember that I said Griffith, Eisenstein, & Welles were the big 3? Well, add Godard & you’ve got the big 4–he’s that good. His 2 films screened (footnote 4) (2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER & WEEKEND) were not only the best flix at the festival but the best films by any commercial film-maker since L’AVVENTURA & MARIENBAD. (The press showings, ⅔ empty for every other film, were packed for Godard & even Andy Warhol was there. Tho the man himself never came people awaited his rumored appearance the way those at this summer’s Newport Folk Festival hung around hoping for Dylan.) Unlike the big 3, there’s no one film in the Godard canon synthesizing his contribution, but there are enough ideas tossed off in 2 OR 3 THINGS & WEEKEND to keep everyone frantically assimilating for at least 5 years.
2 OR 3 THINGS has no conventional plot–it’s a sociological essay on dehumanization, specifically in the newly built housing complexes of Paris (the “her” of the title) & with special attention paid to the young matrons who take up part-time prostitution in order to pay the rent. However, the sound-track could be erased & 2 OR 3 THINGS would still be a great & revolutionary film. For one thing Godard has subjugated (cinema)scope & the impact is enormous. Another thing is the quality of the color–there have been a lot of fine color flix but Godard’s color is magnificent. Godard pans infrequently, generally employing series of short static shots. His compositions are a whole new thing (the only word I can think of that fits is abstract-expressionist) & he’s capable of alchemy: converting the most banal & ugly modern architectural landscapes into poetry while simultaneously impressing you with their banality & ugliness. There also is plenty of Godard’s famous alienation devices (direct interviews/“pure” camera movements/titles &etc.) This film is formally so rich & inventive that literally 100s of films can come out of it. (PARTNER already has.)
WEEKEND is technically quieter (no screenfilling closeups of a cigarette tip burning or scopic zooms over a cup of coffee) but even more revolutionary, being an apocalyptic vision of Western Civilization’s suicide-strangulation in a mammoth traffic jam & a call for our culture’s bloody destruction/renewal. It’s a brutal film & when I saw it a lot of people were put up tight by what was on the screen. There’s never been anything like it–it’s playing in New York right now & if you care about movies or final things you shouldn’t be reading this, you should be on the bus.
The shorts screened were almost uniformly awful, largely cute Czech cartoons & their cuter imitations. There were a few exceptions: THE BED, James Broughton’s lyric & hilarious hymn to procreation; Stan Vanderbeek’s first color computer film (POEM FIELD NO. 1) & A DAY WITH JIMMY PAGE (David Hoffman), a documentary of an 8mm Mozart. Also interspersed thru the screenings were 8 or 9 short silent CINETRACTS–anonymous works allegedly made by Resnais, Godard & other leading French directors during the Spring Revolution. Using newspaper stills, cartoons & slogans (without any moving footage) whoever made them has made the most effective radical polemics I’ve ever seen.
All Czech films shown are now playing in New York along with WEEKEND & LES BICHES. THE RED & THE WHITE, TROPICS, HUGO & JOSEFIN & BEYOND THE LAW have U.S. distributors & should open by the year’s end. TONI will be making the Bleeker St.-New Yorker-Thalia revival house circuit. Of the other 12 films only FACES’ press notices were sufficient to guarantee its eventual distribution. The remaining 11 could show up any time from 1969 to never (& the latter is more likely). Dig that this (in general) is a crime & in the cases of LOLA MONTES, the Welles film, MOUCHETTE, SIGNS OF LIFE, the Bach film, LA RELIGIEUSE & 2 OR 3 THINGS, it’s a sin.
1. Amos Vogel, Richard Roud (author of the book “Godard”), Andrew Sarris & Susan Sontag.
2. Another one of those bullshit meaningless terms like “non-fiction novel.”
3. This school is also engaged in an interesting & important investigation of the nature of documentary itself. (Anything photographed on celluloid is in some sense real–this is to say that BEACH BLANKET BINGO is really a documentary of actors acting on movie sets, arranged (thru editing) in a Proustian achronological order.) The seminal works provoking this investigation are Jonas Mekas’ THE BRIG, which treated a theater piece as spontaneous reality & Shirley Clarke’s pirandellian THE CONNECTION, which is a fictional film about a documentary-in-progress. In straight documentaries everything is additionally complicated by the mere presence of a camera (which totally alters any “real” series of events.) Ex: DON’T LOOK BACK, a documentary which makes no refernce to the camera–thus pretending that it doesn’t exist–is basically fraudulent because the Bob Dylan it claims to show au naturale is obviously acting for the camera & thus the film is in a sense a filmed theatre piece. I can feel myself entering chinese boxes so I’ll cut this short but dig that there’s a dynamite PhD thesis in here for someone.
4. Godard’s latest opus & first in English (completed this summer), ONE PLUS ONE, which stars the Rolling Stones & has a soundtrack by them, was initially scheduled & then cancelled due to difficulties in processing the color print.