Monday, January 23, 2012

Artistic Consumption Log, Jan. 16, 2012 - Jan. 22, 2012

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—I don't have much to say about this past week beyond what I consumed artistically, so I might as well just get right into it.

Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971)


"Bresson," all films directed by Robert Bresson and seen at Film Forum in New York
Une Femme Douce (1969)
L'Argent (1983)
Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971)
A Man Escaped (1956)
Holy shit, Four Nights of a Dreamer! It's as if Robert Bresson had seen into my soul and made a film out of what he saw. A Man Escaped, Pickpocket and Au Hasard Balthazar might be "better" films, but Bresson's take on the same Dostoyevsky story that Visconti turned into Le Notti Bianche (and that James Gray unofficially adapted into Two Lovers) shows the French filmmaker at least partially surrendering to his romantic impulses, and the result is, to my mind, as sublime as I was hoping it would be, especially in the lovely new 35mm print I saw Thursday night. Folks, I am that "dreamer"; I really don't think I can be even a little bit objective about this film, so thoroughly did I identify with its main character, for better and for worse.

Camera (2000, David Cronenberg), seen at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y.
At the Suicide of the Last Jew of the World in the Last Cinema in the World (2007, David Cronenberg), seen at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y.
These two short films—the latter a contribution to a larger anthology series called To Each His Own Cinema—were screened as part of a live conversation with the great Canadian filmmaker on Saturday. I hadn't seen Camera—which he made for the Toronto International Film Festival in 2000—before then, but it's actually a rich and wistful little meditation on cinema and aging. The second short is less rich—more a brief lark in which Cronenberg imagines himself standing at the precipice of the declining movie-going experience, waving a gun around and putting it in his mouth as television announcers do play-by-play of this momentous event—but it's amusing in its own black-comic way. Both are available to watch online, the former here, the latter here. More about the event itself below.


Introspective (1988, Pet Shop Boys)
Behaviour (1990, Pet Shop Boys)
Very (1993, Pet Shop Boys)
I mostly have Cantopop singer Prudence Liew to thank for inspiring me to get into The Pet Shop Boys; she did a cover of the British electropop duo's 1987 hit "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (a cover that substituted some of the synthesizer lines with actual horns—for those who care). I'm generally enjoying their music; there are always genuine emotional undercurrents coursing through the ostensibly upbeat, glitzy arrangements and through Neil Tennant's fey singing voice. The one that I found myself responding to most positively—ecstatically, in fact—however, is Behaviour, which has a mournful, dreamy quality to it that I viscerally respond to in something like...Four Nights of a Dreamer, actually. It also has "My October Symphony," which apparently was inspired by Dmitri Shostakovich's Second Symphony, entitled "To October." When's the last time you heard a pop song inspired by Shostakovich?

Very is also quite good, though I don't feel quite the same affection for it as I do Behaviour; still, their Village People's "Go West" is oddly affecting.


Catch-22 (1961, Joseph Heller)
I wrote a bit about this literary classic here; I finally finished it—after having to endure a week without it after having accidentally left my copy of it in a friend's purse—and its conclusion brings it all home in a rather beautiful, lightly existential and exhilaratingly irreverent way. Catch-22 fully deserves its reputation.


"Maurizio Cattelan: All," seen at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York
As a result of the ton of photos I took at this exhibition, I think this warrants a whole separate post; perhaps then, I'll pool my rough impressions of this alternately invigorating and frustrating show. Stay tuned...


"A Conversation with David Cronenberg," seen at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y.
I don't have much to say about this event, really; it wasn't exactly heavy on revelatory insights into his fascinating body of work or his working methods. (Honestly, I'm already forgetting about a lot of it, a mere day or two after the fact.) Still, it was nice to be in the presence of a filmmaker as articulate about his own work, and as formidably intelligent, as Cronenberg is. His demeanor is fully in tune with the films he's made: clinical in its fascinated gaze toward ideas and images that most of us normally wouldn't want to contemplate.

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