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If you ever met him, you know that he was completely unforgettable. And he was someone everyone wanted to know.

Walt was a remarkable artist and an amazing person, There is no way he can be forgotten.

I’ve posted a few of his photographs below.

 

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Self Portrait Walt Cessna SF 09

Walt Cessna’s photography captured the erotic and the beauty. The work is immediate, sexy, honest, fearless and always human. Nothing was hidden, but some mystery always lingers. It sometimes feels that he is daring us to look closer.

If you are unfamiliar with his legacy, seek it out.

(and read his book!)

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FUKT 2 START WITH SHORT STORIES & BROKEN WERD by Walt Cessna, 2012

 

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Rica Shay photo-set by Walt Cessna NYC 12

 

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William Spangenberg photographed by Walt Cessna Bklyn 11

 

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Chad Ferro photographed by Walt Cessna NYC 10

 

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Shawn photographed by Walt Cessna NYC 10

 

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Self Portrait Photograph by Walt Cessna FL 12

 

Walt Cessna (1964 – 2017)

RIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching, thinking and studying from all perspectives. Separation Jane Arden Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

Watching, thinking and studying from all perspectives.
Separation
Jane Arden
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

The collaborative work between artists and lovers, Jack Bond and Jane Arden, had become the thing of legend. While all three of their feature length films had been acclaimed and considered to represent two of the most important voices in British Cinema, this was largely thanks to the film reviews that lingered on long after they had screened. Jack Bond was coasting on the British New Wave film scene of the 1960’s seemingly destined for great success when he met Jane Arden. She proved to be the perfect match for the talented filmmaker both personally and professionally. Jane Arden was an actor and frequent BBC talking head when she met Jack Bond. Eccentric, intellectual, beautiful, talented, innovative and always controversial — Jane Arden flourished to great heights after she met Bond. Neither of these artists were content to go with the flow of their time. Arden proved to be an outspoken Feminist, provocateur and filmmaker. Jack Bond’s views often matched hers and while every bit as experimental as Arden, he seems to have possessed a key eye for editing that lent itself to giving shape to Arden’s visionary work.

Pain, Rage and Sanity are pushed to extreme limits. The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Pain, Rage and Sanity are pushed to extreme limits.
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Jane Arden committed suicide in 1982. Devastated by her death, Jack Bond quickly set out to secure and store all copies of their 3 feature length films and impressive short feature within the vaults of the British Film Institute. He did so with the legal restriction that none could be screened or released. It is easy to imagine most film artists rushing to promote and celebrate their work, but for Jack Bond these films were far too intimate, personal and revelatory. It was not until some 20+ years had passed that one of Jane Arden’s children contacted Jack Bond. It was her youngest son who convinced him to reconsider his infamous decision to lock away the films. It would not be until 2009 that these three films would be screened and another one to two years before BFI could distribute the newly restored prints to DVD/Blu-ray. Even still, this work remains largely lost to American audiences — and a good many Europeans as well. It was only in the last several months that I began to slip into the worlds that Arden-Bond co-created.

A totally unique cinematic language form this disorienting and disturbing psychological thriller... Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

A totally unique cinematic language form this disorienting and disturbing psychological thriller…
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

These films are all available via the British Film Institute on region-free Blu-ray. They can be found on Amazon or BFI‘s own website. If you truly love innovative, challenging and remarkable Film Art — viewing these three films is essential. Each film stands alone, but all three share a common thread of searching for equality, understanding and full formation of identity. The purpose of this blog post is to promote this work so that it can reach the audience who has not yet discovered it.

Transcendental Meditation and Video Experimentation lend toward an attempt to understand self and environment. VIBRATION Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1975

Transcendental Meditation and Video Experimentation lend toward an attempt to understand self and environment.
VIBRATION
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1975

I will do my best to not provide spoilers. I will also do my best to restrain my enthusiasm so that this is shorter. I will rely upon more than a couple of images from the work. It is key to note that imagery is of utmost importance to the work of Arden-Bond. But it is also crucial to note that their work was not style over content. The content of these films is rich and urges repeated viewings. These films were made by rebellious thinkers and none fit neatly into categorization.

Separation

London's Swinging '60's is explored with equal amounts of intellectualism, style and unique innovation. Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography | Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

London’s Swinging ’60’s is explored with equal amounts of intellectualism, style and unique innovation.
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography | Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

While Jack Bond is credited as this film’s director, it is clear that Jane Arden was closely involved with almost every aspect of the film. Considered to be one of England’s first truly avant-garde films, Separation is actually a great deal more. Once the viewer adjusts to the film’s often dated but striking innovative method of storytelling, this experimental movie is a highly effective study of a woman falling apart — or away from life.  A middle-aged woman’s emotional and mental crisis results not so much from a failed marriage or poor choices — but from the societal and cultural judgements made against women as they age. Ideas of “reality” and “fantasy” are constantly blurred. Most certainly surreal but never dislodged from logic or realism.

The future, the present and the past all whisper our leading lady further into conflict... Iain Quarrier, Jane Arden and David de Keyser Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

The future, the present and the past all whisper our leading lady further into conflict…
Iain Quarrier, Jane Arden and David de Keyser
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

This is as close as Arden-Bond got to “light cinema.” It could be argued that the majority of this film takes place in the female protagonist’s inner self. As viewers we can only ever be certain of her past. Her present and future slip between what feels like cerebral fantasy to an alienated realism. Has she left her husband or has she left what appears to her idea of an out-dated Patriarchal Institution? Has she abandoned her child or has she lost the child? Is this good-looking, young and eagerly hip dude her new lover or imagined? And what of this other women who populate the film’s non-linear storyline?

Forever late or too early... Jane Arden Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

Forever late or too early…
Jane Arden
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

For a film shot on the streets of the ever-styling streets of late 1960’s London, Separation does not look like most of the British films that came out of this period. The editing is never self-conscious or overtly eager to confuse the eye. Procul Harum provide a good deal of the film’s music and Mark Boyle’s celebrated Pop Art lava lamp-like projections jolt the film with sporadic uses of vivid color. Unlike most movies of this era and place, these are not used to trip us out — but almost more to stumble us further into the protagonist’s crisis. Much of the film is filmed in lush black and white.

Groving by force or choice? Jane Arden Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

Groving by force or choice?
Jane Arden
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

At turns naturalistic and stiffly artificial, Separation brims over with ideas and theories. Jane Arden’s Feminist Theory has started to take form but is still growing. This is largely a film of questions, doubts and fear. Our character is falling apart, but it is unclear if this is headed toward Nihilism or hope. There is a strong possibility that Jane Arden’s character is not so much falling apart but might have already broken into pieces. She might actually be in the process of reformation from the ruins of oppression and conformity. This magical film is sharply focused toward the struggle of Feminist Equality. It is sometimes sad, but often quite funny. Separation offers more insight than can be caught in one viewing. The film’s power grows with repeated viewings. It is a cinematic work of surprises and insights.

Looking deeper into the self than the viewer might anticipate. Jane Arden Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

Looking deeper into the self than the viewer might anticipate.
Jane Arden
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

In many ways, Separation can be viewed as Jane Arden’s first step into understanding the self from both the intimate and cultural perspectives. She has latched on to the ideas and the importance of Feminism, but is still aching to understand how to grab it without breaking into a million tiny pieces. Jane Arden wrote the film and stars. Jack Bond’s hand as a filmmaker pulls all of it together into a cohesive cinematic work. Truly brilliant and way ahead of its time.

The battle of the sexes takes a darkly comical turn... Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography | Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

The battle of the sexes takes a darkly comical turn…
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography | Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

An artistic and Nihilistic study in Feminist Theory takes a truly cinematic dive into a woman’s subconscious. This film is fascinating, intellectual and surprisingly current. Tragically it was given a rather limited release after it was made. It says a great deal that the reputation of this film survived as the movie itself sat on shelves in the dark corner of The British Film Institute‘s vault.  If you like films that make you think and take you to unexpected places, this is not a film to be missed.

A man's death offers a woman a way out. She put a pretty ribbon on "it" Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography | Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

A man’s death offers a woman a way out. She put a pretty ribbon on “it”
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography | Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

Whether Jane Arden’s fictionalized Self is falling together or apart is debatable, but one thing is most certainly clear: she is separating herself from the constraints of her society and culture. She is looking outward for equality and refusal of oppression. She is looking inward for understanding her self and why her identity is so fragmented and torn. Another important element which has already taken form in Arden and Bonds’ philosophy is the teachings and theories of Jacques Lucan. Most correctly called Lucan Theory is most often referred to as The Anti-Therapy Ideology. This rejection of typical Freudian and psychoanalytical thought is certainly hinted at within the frames of Separation. Ideas of symbology, the real, the imaginary and the power of the mirror are present thought the film, but Arden-Bond would soon be pulling their audience full-on into these concepts with their next film.

Symbology, projection, imaginary and real mix to form not only a film, but an entire philosophical approach to the art of filmmaking. Iain Quarrier, Jane Arden and home movies... Separation Jack Bond, 1968 Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

Symbology, projection, imaginary and real mix to form not only a film, but an entire philosophical approach to the art of filmmaking.
Iain Quarrier, Jane Arden and home movies…
Separation
Jack Bond, 1968
Cinematography| Aubrey Dewar & David Muir

As I’ve already mentioned, Separation was a critical hit at the time of release. Arden-Bond made a film that captured the Counter-Culture and Swinging London of the day but made something far more than a time capsule piece or celebratory work. It could have pushed both forward into the world of cinema, yet neither chose to go in that direction. Instead both continued their mutual and individual personal journeys. It would be over four years before they re-entered the filmmaking world. Arden focused on theatre. Her focus was the thing of legend. Never afraid or shy of controversy or public self-examination that she felt was important for other women as well as men, she wrote, directed and acted in several notorious experimental theatrical productions.

The most important of these were Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven and, most importantly, Holocaust: A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches. While these plays were carefully scripted, Arden loved collaboration. She encouraged her actors to follow their instincts. Improvisation and audience participation happened. These experimental pieces were controversial and pushed well past the British Theatre boundaries. Yet they were successful. Constantly on the verge of being banned and/or jeered, these performances are as discussed as the work of Joan Littlewood. Yet whereas Littlewood was concerned with finding ways for lost teens of East London to channel their anger, boredom and frustration into art, Arden was deeply and profoundly concerned with pushing forward Feminist Theory.

What is identity? The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

What is identity?
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Tied up within Lacan Theory as well as her own personal demons she felt and saw reflected back to her from the Self-Mirror, this Feminist work was more focused on shaking off the pain, rage and cruelty of centuries patriarchal oppression. Sexuality was discussed full-on and often turned from sex objectivity to sexual confrontation. Pain and Rage were explored from both the practical and a growing ideology of Arden’s in which she connected the oppression of women directly to colonialism. These two plays would lay the groundwork for a number of important artists and careers. Of the artists, Sheila Allen was become the most prominent. Natasha Morgan would go on to play a crucial role in the British Women’s Liberation Movement and is now a respected and sought-after psychotherapist. Both of these women gave oral histories for BFI at the time that Arden-Bonds’ next film was restored and re-issued. And what a film it is…

The Other Side of the Underneath

Born out of both of her successful experimental theatre pieces, this film was intended to a combination of both plays. Jane Arden wrote the screenplay and insisted that Jack Bond give her full reign as the film’s director. He would go on to participate as cinematographer and “actor.” He would hire David Mingay as the film’s editor. Both Arden and Bond worked closely with Mingay as the film was pulled together. Bond would also take on the responsibility of getting the funding and all the required “items” for filming. These “items” included a brown bear, participation of local Wales coal miners, community members, a band of roaming gypsies, participation of actual mental hospital patients, several mentally/physically challenged individual from government institutions and most famously — Bond would secure a steady supply of LSD. The production of this film is notorious.

Centuries of Cruelty projected on to the face of a bride... The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Centuries of Cruelty projected on to the face of a bride…
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Most shocking is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any distortion or untruth in its infamy. The bear would break free and threaten the safety of the tripping cast, the locals would break into fist fights, the mental patient and the mentally retarded would run away. And the actors would trip out. Led by a drunken but self-assured Jane Arden, these trips often took dark turns. She seems to have been able to lead them all through it. The ethics of this film production are most certainly questionable. But this was also what Arden-Bond and friends were after: A deadly pursuit of understanding the pain and rage of the oppressed and repressed.

"Mine! Mine! Mine!" "She has a pretty face!!!" Sheila Allen taunts with her human puppet... The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

“Mine! Mine! Mine!”
“She has a pretty face!!!”
Sheila Allen taunts with her human puppet…
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Armed with an endless supply of wine and cigarettes, Jane Arden secured a number of volunteers to appear with her in front of the cameras. Both Sheila Allen and Natasha Morgan were present. The idea was that the entire cast and their director would live “on set” in a decaying old farm house for the duration of the filming. They also agreed to wear their costumes, Victorian Era type nighties, for the duration. Oh, and they also agreed to drop Acid repeatedly throughout all filming. Sheila Allen refused to live on set or to trip out on LSD. Accommodations were made for her to stay at an inn a few miles away. Natasha Morgan was initially hesitant to participate. She agreed to come along as the casts’ cook. However, she changed her mind and joined in. These two actors would figure prominently in the film. Penny Slinger was another actor and activist of import who participated. The lead role was given to an unknown woman who was new to the whole scene, Susanka Fraey. She would end up playing the leading character of the piece.

Susanna Fraey is the Protagonist... The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Susanna Fraey is the Protagonist…
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Sally Minford, a Cellist, and her daughter would also participate. Obviously the child did not receive drugs. And as far as I can tell, Ms. Minford declined to take part in the LSD tripping. However, her role was limited to that of Cellist. She would compose and perform the film’s musical score throughout. Clearly skilled, the musical goal here is not beauty or melody but danger and threat.

I do not view it as a bad thing that I have had to watch Jane Arden’s The Other Side of the Underneath three times before I could form a solid opinion. Quite the contrary, I love the fact that this film’s complexities run so deep that it requires a great deal of thought. There is nothing “easy” about this bold work of film art. This profoundly disturbing film goes places to which I’ve never seen filmed before. Reckless, Dangerous and Bad To Know, this movie rattles more than just cages. This film amps its way from frenzy to hysteria and on to a sort of free-form descent into hippie dystopian vagrancy. The film pulls no punches as it is far too busy bluntly plummeting the subject matter and the cast into a submission of unfettered pain and self-examination. This is a particularly collaborative work and everything in the film depends upon the female cast members who agreed to participate.

The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Decidedly not plot-driven, this film does present us with a protagonist. A young woman “played” by Susanka Fraey is “fished” from a lake where she has attempted suicide. She quickly finds herself in a sort of mental asylum where all the women are dressed in Victorian style nightgowns and roam about freely. Both patients and gate keepers, it almost appears as if this insane asylum is self-contained. Only one person seems to be “in charge” within this madhouse and that is a firm psychiatrist played by Jane Arden herself.

While the film is largely concerned with the Anti-Psychiatry Movement evolved from Jacques Lacan, it is actually far more concerned with the seemingly unbearable rage repressed within the women that takes on an epic level. The strong feeling is that this rage and pain has been individually and universal-shared history of oppression and patriarchal cruelty. Our unnamed protagonist is forever roaming the corridors, hidden spaces and grounds of a madhouse that is truly “mad” and in mortal danger from the pain it all seems to inflict. She along with her fellow inmates are searching through the wreckage of self and shared identity / identities. There is a constant and unrelenting energy conveyed which is full of menace and danger. Nothing feels “acted” and everything we see takes on an importance that is hard to grasp and often even more challenging to watch.

LSD Manipulated to project the deepest pain... The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

LSD Manipulated to project the deepest pain…
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Sheila Allen serves is a sort of evil Court Jester who uses patients as a puppets and torments everyone with mind-numbing insanity. She also morphs into a Burlesque Stripper From Hell who uses her sexuality and body as a threat instead of an object. Her voice and performance haunt the entire film. This was a long way from The BBC or Harry Potter. Susanna Fraey is almost ever present and carries a great deal of presence on the screen. Possessed with a haunting face and effortless beauty, she is at once victim and victimizer. Penny Slinger gives a particularly potent and oddly focused performance. It is opposite Slinger that we see our protagonist’s as a source of danger.

A Mirror Identity Game to the Death... Penny Slinger & Susanka Fraey The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

A Mirror Identity Game to the Death…
Penny Slinger & Susanka Fraey
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Utilizing the Lucan Mirror Theory, the two young women sit opposite each other with large splinters of mirror all around them. What begins as a sort of Identity Game to the death, it is clear that Slinger is intending to murder Fraey, but with a sneak of a tender kiss she is able to throw Slinger off course. Intended killing swept away by tenderness, Fraey had trapped her in her own glass web. Just as the kiss ends, her knife slips into Slinger.

The film is built around a long sequence that is a sort of support group / open therapy. Tripping out on acid and under the guidance of the project built from the stage productions — these women have been led to a place while in mind-expansion mode. The melt-downs are intense, horrific and almost unbearable. It is here that Natasha Morgan’s participation would become most valuable. Her emotional break is at once horrific, painful and almost unbearable. At the same time, it is here that the film presents itself at its most human. Mixing with all of the production challenges, these pseudo group therapy sessions add to the movie’s intention of pure hysteria.

A victim of her own game... Penny Slinger The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

A victim of her own game…
Penny Slinger
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

As these women demonstrate their emotional pain and personal rages/horrors — our protagonist is led into a danger game of mirrors, sexuality, psychic death and crucifixion. Sexuality is explored in various ways. At times the female body is shown as an object for men to rape or harm. Other times it is shown as pleasure born from pain and fear. And then it is also shown as something beautiful, pleasing and erotic. According to the record of production, Arden decided late in the filming to have her lover/collaborator make love to actress, Penny Slinger. Pushing them to extremities, this scene is tender, soft and erotic. Jack Bond’s “character” clearly understands female anatomy and brings pleasure — not threat, rape or pain.

Unscripted, Arden has her lover make love to one of the inmates. Jack Bond & Penny Slinger The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Unscripted, Arden has her lover make love to one of the inmates.
Jack Bond & Penny Slinger
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

As the film amps its way to conclusion, the protagonist’s journey feels more ours than hers. We follow her through a house and landscape of pain, horror and sometimes promise to abject confusion. In the end the question of identity and self-acceptance is tossed onto a dirty cold slab of a floor. Is there to be redemption or healing? More likely it is a struggle that has only just been recognized and has a very long way to go.

As erotic desire is expressed the audience holds its breath only to discover that the male lover understands the woman's body. Jack Bond & Penny Slinger The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

As erotic desire is expressed the audience holds its breath only to discover that the male lover understands the woman’s body.
Jack Bond & Penny Slinger
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Intentionally unpleasant and contradictory, Jane Arden created a film that demands your attention. This is less a movie and more of a cinematic experience. Not for the faint of heart, this is a grim and repulsive study of female identity that refuses to let you go. Strange, darkly comical, surreal, horrifying, raw and truly unforgettable — Jane Arden’s film floats somewhere between Jean-luc Goddard and Ken Russell, but with an entirely different goal in mind. The horrors she and Jack Bond captured are all the more devastating because we realize that beneath the surface — what we see is real.

Going mad... Sheila Allen The Other Side of the Underneath Jane Arden, 1972 Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

Going mad…
Sheila Allen
The Other Side of the Underneath
Jane Arden, 1972
Cinematography | Jack Bond & Aubrey Dewar

The next couple of years found Jane Arden and Jack Bond exploring further into the self with use of Transcendental Meditation, Chanting and the aid of Gurus and other mystics. One gets the sense that Jack Bond followed his love on her quest to grapple with her own depression. The result of these mystical exorcises would be put to use in their short film, VIBRATION. To 21st Century eyes, the videography feels grounded and dated. However when one realizes this film was made in 1975, the artistry must be admired.

Jane Arden had developed her own theory regarding the self and coping against repression and anxiety. I will not go into detail, but she called this idea RAT. Essentially the idea was to reject all rational thought. Arden’s life’s journey begin to slip away from Feminism and toward The New Age ideology of Humanism. The problem was that both she and Bond could see how this ideology was not only threatened by a larger control — plans seemed to already be falling into place to control not only individual actions, but our thoughts as well. What might have seemed paranoia rising above the slams of inflation and PUNK, turned out to be somewhat prophetic.

"This is my Anxiety Survival Broadcast ensuring a past future programing. My brain is recreating a negative repeat pattern." Sebastian Saville Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

“This is my Anxiety Survival Broadcast ensuring a past future programing. My brain is recreating a negative repeat pattern.”
Sebastian Saville
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

Keep in mind that the final film made by Arden-Bond was before anyone in England knew about CCTV which would soon be filming almost every human movement in the country.

Anti-Clock

Unlike Separation and The Other Side of the Underneath, Anti-Clock less concerned with Feminist Theory than that of retaining humanity in the face of cultural and societal oppression  as the standpoint for understanding identity. The exploration of Self had culminated toward a Humanist ideology. The central character of this highly experimental “thriller” is a suicidal man played by Arden’s son, Sebastian Saville.

"Life force cannot be controlled by your little brain machine." Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

“Life force cannot be controlled by your little brain machine.”
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

Filmed in London during Great Britain’s dark economic dystopia and the rise of Punk Rock, this film is interestingly disengaged from that history. Even more interesting, is the contradiction that it would be hard to imagine a more “Punk” film. Decidedly more punk than anything Alex Cox or Derek Jarman made at the time, Arden and Bond had not let go of their anger and rebellion against societal and cultural repression, but this film crafted a whole new sort of cinematic language. A linguistically intelligent use of carefully filmed and found video/film material forms something altogether new and unique.

As our suicidal protagonist works toward trying to survive, he is “assisted” by an archetypal psychiatrist (also played by Saville) and a group of scientists, mathematicians and others who rely upon constant video surveillance to monitor his every movement. Most fantastically, they are using these transmissions as connection into his cerebral logic. It is fairly clear that these persons are connected to the government. Less assisting and more studying in an attempt to control their subject, Joseph Sapha. Joseph quickly becomes suspect of these who claim to want to help him. It is particularly chilling that this film was made just a few years prior to the creation of CCTV.

"open your eyes." "they are open." "then why can't you see?" Sebastian Saville Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

“open your eyes.”
“they are open.”
“then why can’t you see?”
Sebastian Saville
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

The style/styles of the film may not seem as cutting edge as they must have some 30+ years ago, but this film retains a subversive, disturbing and unsettling impact. It is also still very sharp. It is a film experience to be handled with a careful eye and ear. One missed action of sound and the viewer can become lost in Joseph Sapha’s delima. Watching Anti-Clock is not an easy film. But unlike I anticipated, it is NOT a pretentious work of art. It is a clever manipulation of the medium to convey a story that is not only horrifying but alarming relevant to the 21st Century.

"Thoughts hang around for a very long time. To be precise: forever." Sebastian Saville Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

“Thoughts hang around for a very long time. To be precise: forever.”
Sebastian Saville
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

A sort of Proto-Punk exploration into humanity and a government that dares to study, manipulate and control those who dwell within its borders. Joseph is a young sort of “Every Man” who, like many of us, has had a troubling childhood and life. As this experimental and innovative film pulls us into the video and sound-looped world, the experience is an intellectual, surreal and disorienting jolt to the senses. Slowly the viewer becomes a part of the film’s strange logic. As Joseph grapples with his sexuality, guilt, loneliness and vexing non-purpose in life — the past, present and future are filmed and played discordantly against the idea of order. In a profoundly confused and desperate state of identity crisis, the “help” being offered is not aiming to provide what he anticipates.

But “they” and “he” are all led to a truth that is chilling and unforgettable.

"The patterns inside me were beginning to disconnect. By patterns, I mean those cycles or spirals of thought or behavior which i have been taught to call 'myself.' This 'I' is simply space. And where the strands of energy costs is a dot. And this dot is the delusion called 'my identity.'" Sebastian Saville aims the gun. Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

“The patterns inside me were beginning to disconnect. By patterns, I mean those cycles or spirals of thought or behavior which i have been taught to call ‘myself.’ This ‘I’ is simply space. And where the strands of energy costs is a dot. And this dot is the delusion called ‘my identity.'”
Sebastian Saville aims the gun.
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

NOTE: The BFI disc contains a newly re-edited version of this film by Jack Bond. Bond re-crafted the film in 2005 in an attempt to make the film more clear to modern viewers. Skip this version. Bond does not improve the film or create a more coherent film experience. If anything he saps a great deal of he and Ardens’ exceptional creativity. To be honest, his 2005 re-edit reminds us how crucial Jane Arden was the vision.

This movie may not be everyone’s idea of a thriller, but it is a powerful work of art. Anti-Clock also serves as a fitting end to the Arden-Bond collaboration. These three films form a logic circle of journey to Self. It is a provocative, controversial, difficult, dark and brilliant cinematic journey. It took Jack Bond close to two years to edit the film together. Filmed with various forms of media — largely 1970’s video cameras of different sorts. Very often he applied chemical “treatments” to video footage to gain new and very unique images. These are interlaced with old assembled footage of dictators, monarchs, war, propaganda and a constantly unrelenting manner of sound editing.

"There is a continuum which links all living things together so that the smallest cell does not pulsate without its effect being felt in the furtherest reaches of the solar system. So, everything being one is not some romantic ideal, but an indisputable scientific reality. When this information seeps into our consciousness, it must change the moral structure of society and destroy the value system of the rational world." Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

“There is a continuum which links all living things together so that the smallest cell does not pulsate without its effect being felt in the furtherest reaches of the solar system. So, everything being one is not some romantic ideal, but an indisputable scientific reality. When this information seeps into our consciousness, it must change the moral structure of society and destroy the value system of the rational world.”
Anti-Clock
Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979
Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

The look of this film remains oddly potent and totally unique in the way it has been assembled. This odd and disturbing film was championed in 1979 as a brilliant psychological thriller. However, it only played in a few cities in the US and a very brief run in London. It also served as a connector to French Film Master, Claude Chabrol, with whom Arden was to work. By the time the film opened Jack Bond and Jane Arden had ended their relationship. It might have seemed that Jack Bond was lost while Jane Arden was on her way to a new artistic vision in France. This was not the case.

Jane Arden would take her own life in December of 1982 at the age of 55. Jack Bond would go on to work as a documentarian for the BBC. He remains an artist of note in Great Britain.

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Anti-Clock Jane Arden & Jack Bond, 1979 Cinematography | Jack Bond (Uncredited)

The film work they co-created remains vital, powerful and very much alive.

Matty Stanfield, 12.30.2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Béatrice Dalle first came to cinematic fame in 1986 when she played the female lead in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s controversial but very successful, 37°2 le matin or Betty Blue as it was titled for release outside of France. Prior to that she had been working as a model. In retrospect I realize that I should have known that her beauty would age oddly. Or, maybe that is unfair. Now, at 50 years of age she still carries a distinctly unique sort of beauty. And if I remember correctly, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s did say that he saw “something different” about her. It was that “something different” that led him to cast this unknown and untrained woman as the tragic female lead — which was loaded with challenges. But he sensed a sort of erotic energy that almost scared him. At the time she was involved with Jean-Hugues Anglade, the highly skilled actor who would be in the lead role. A few years after the films release, Beineix’s mentioned that he wanted to capture the intensity of their erotically-fueled relationship. Apparently neither minded that aspect of their jobs in the film.

Beatrice Dalle French Elle Magazine Photograph | David Lynch, 2007

Beatrice Dalle
French Elle Magazine
Photograph | David Lynch, 2007

Jean-Jacques Beineix’s ultra-erotic story of love, passion, obsession and tragedy shared between a simple repairman and a mentally fragile young woman quickly captured the psyches of two generations of American and UK youth. Betty Blue was beloved equally by both sexes in the late 1980’s. The reason that we loved it so much was tied into the frantic fusion glossy colors, intense romance and graphic sexuality in ways that appealed as much to young women as it did to young men. An odd occurrence. And, none of us had ever seen what appeared to be unsimilated sex mixed with dire romance. And in such vivid and pretty colors?!?!

Beatrice Dalle and the stylish Betty Blue poster found a place on more walls than can be imagined.

Beatrice Dalle and the stylish Betty Blue poster found a place on more walls than can be imagined.

For a while young people projected romance and depth onto Betty Blue in the same way that young girls often project misplaced romantic notions onto Sylvia Plath’s work. In my memory it seems like nearly everyone I knew had the Betty Blue poster in their bedrooms, dorm rooms and apartments well into the mid-1990’s. I had only ever seen it once in 1987. But I saw it again in 2010 and just recently. It still somehow feels important. But through my adult eyes Betty Blue feels exploitive and cruel. And, it is more than a little worrying how Jean-Jacques Beineix romanticizes both the uncomfortable obsession and mental illness all at once. Béatrice Dalle and Jean-Hugues Anglade share an erotic chemistry that still wants to melt the plasma monitor of our big screen TV.  Both actors carry disarming cinematic presence, but not in the way I had remembered. Anglade is kind of sexy in a more grounded way that we were not accustomed to leading men in American or British film.

Jean-Hugues Anglade is a very real and sweaty looking leading man for 1986. Betty Blue, Jean-Jacques Beineix. Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

Jean-Hugues Anglade is a very real and sweaty looking leading man for 1986. Betty Blue, Jean-Jacques Beineix.
Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

Béatrice Dalle is not as beautiful as I remember thinking in 1987. Through my adult eyes she still oozes sexuality, but there is seems to a something remotely odd about her that I didn’t notice when I was 19. Is it her teeth? Maybe her eyes? Most likely it is the charismatic, but worrying energy she brings to the screen.

Beatrice Dalle and that something different make their entrance in Jean-Jacques Beineix's Betty Blue, 1986. Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

Beatrice Dalle and that something different make their entrance in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue, 1986.
Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

And, yet, close to 30 years later — I still can’t take my eyes off either of them.

Beatrice Dalle & Jean-Hugues Anglade in the morning. Betty Blue, Jean-Jacques Beineix.  Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

Beatrice Dalle & Jean-Hugues Anglade in the morning. Betty Blue, Jean-Jacques Beineix.
Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

But that same erotic intimacy along with the odd mix of actual penetrative sex, love, obsession, insanity and grotesque resolution now border on the offensive. I still can’t pull myself away. Part of it might be nostalgia, but I think there is just “something different” about the movie. I doubt today’s teens would even put up with more than a few minutes. But, I will always hold Betty Blue close to my heart. However, I threw my poster away when I left home in 1990. I would not see Beatrice Dalle again until her memorably unsettling supporting turn in Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day.

Beatrice Dalle about to start a fire in The New French Extreme. Trouble Every Day, Claire Denis, 2001 Cinematography | Agnès Godard

Beatrice Dalle about to start a fire in The New French Extreme. Trouble Every Day, Claire Denis, 2001
Cinematography | Agnès Godard

I mentioned this film in my last post regarding The New French Extreme that emerged in the late 1990’s and into the 21 Century. It wasn’t until the credits rolled that I realized that I had just seen “my” Betty Blue do everything from cannibalism to self-destructive pyromania.  Trouble Every Day is an exceptional film. It may go a bit too far, but Denis has her reasons. Mainly, I had to face the fact Beatrice Dalle no loner looked like Betty Blue. Or did she?

Fresh, young, not so innocent and more than a little different. Beatrice Dalle as Betty Blue, Jean-Jacques Beineix. 1986. Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

Fresh, young, not so innocent and more than a little different. Beatrice Dalle as Betty Blue, Jean-Jacques Beineix. 1986. Cinematography | Jean-François Robin

Let’s be fair, it had been 15 years since I had seen her in anything. And yes, I know what you are thinking. No, I somehow missed Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth. Not sure how, but I did. Anyway, I know I changed a lot in 15 years. But is is disorienting when we see our movie stars age. Though it is probably far more disorienting for them. Beatrice Dalle would be cast in another key supporting role in Claire Denis’ L’intrus and in Michael Haneke’s Time of the Wolf. While she fit perfectly into Denis’ challenging film world, she seemed a bit out of place in Haneke’s movie. She gave a solid performance, but something about it seemed disconnected from the rest of the cast.

It wouldn’t be long before she re-entered the area of The New French Extreme again. This time Alexandre Bustill and Julien Maury reportedly begged her to star in their brutally surreal À l’intérieur / Inside. Putting the controversies of this film aside, you would be hard pressed to find a more effective actress for the horrific role of La Femme who only utters a few lines throughout the “ordeal” of horror / torture she inflicts. When Beatrice Dalle growls, “Let me in.” — it is truly terrifying. Despite the fact that Bustill and Maury

Beatrice Dalle wants to be let INSIDE, Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo, 2007.  Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Beatrice Dalle wants to be let INSIDE, Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo, 2007.
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

take the film to a level of disgustingly realistic gore. Before it is all over the gruesome onslaught escalates into an unspeakable act of brutal cruelty. Inside was a major sleeper hit. It has made even more money via the DVD/VOD markets. Inside is so cruel in its violence that I hesitate suggesting it to anyone. But it must be noted that Bustill and Maury created one of the most unnerving, scary and entertaining movies of that year. It is a surreal examination of guilt that has no appropriate boundaries.

"Let me in." Beatrice Dalle in INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo &  Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

“Let me in.” Beatrice Dalle in INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

"Let me in!" Beatrice Dalle in INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo &  Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

“Let me in!” Beatrice Dalle in INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

It may go way too far for many, but for those who can stomach it — one hell of an intense, horrifying and surprising ride awaits. A ride that is as metaphorical and surreal as it is repulsively shocking.

Beatrice Dalle & Alysson Paradis's arm in INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo &  Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Beatrice Dalle & Alysson Paradis’s arm in INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Beatrice Dalle and Alysson Paradis are both outstanding in their respective roles, but the real success of the film is found in Dalle’s full-on ‘ownership’ of her disturbing presence. It is a slow, steady and all-too human level of insanity that Dalle channels into her character,  La Femme. It serves as a true gift to the filmmakers who utilize her allure to escalate the horror with each movement and minimal comment Dalle makes or states.

Beatrice Dalle's La Femme takes a cigarette break before she invokes more vengeance. INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo &  Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Beatrice Dalle’s La Femme takes a cigarette break before she invokes more vengeance. INSIDE, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

This is one film that is not easily forgotten. In 2010 Dalle once again lent herself to Bustill and Maurys’ world of horror. Released in 2011, Livide failed to achieve the level of success and acclaim that Inside enjoyed. Livide is not extreme, but it is a disturbing and entertaining exorcise in horror. In a supporting role, Dalle once again leveraged her allure to help the filmmaker’s achieve their vision of a post-gothic blood lust.

Beatrice Dalle instructs her pupils in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Beatrice Dalle instructs her pupils in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Livid failed to even gain release in the US/Canada. Though, it has attained a cult status in France and the UK. Rumors of a big budget Hollywood remake continue to spread.

Beatrice Dalle can still see you in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Beatrice Dalle can still see you in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Dalle is one Ballet Instructor you do not want to ignore in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Dalle is one Ballet Instructor you do not want to ignore in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

Though, Dalle is given little screen time in Livid, it’s all the time required to set the tone of menace and tension.

To be fair, Beatrice Dalle did warn her little ballerina in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury Cinematography | Laurent Barès

To be fair, Beatrice Dalle did warn her little ballerina in Livide, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Cinematography | Laurent Barès

But, Dalle found her way in the leading role of Patric Chiha’s Domain. Released in France in 2009 and the US in 2011, this film perplexed many film critics. In France it was greeted with mixed reviews but generated discussion around the power of Beatrice Dalle — and, perhaps most interestingly, the focus of mathematics’ impact explored within the framework of Chiha’s detached cinematic study. The main reason I sought this film out before it was actually “released” in the US was related American Rebel Film Artist, John Water’s passionate praise. One must understand that much of what John Waters likes about this film is exactly why many will hate it. I loved this movie, but not for anywhere near the same reasons Waters praised it.

Beatrice Dalle stars in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.  Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Beatrice Dalle stars in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Patric Chiha’s DOMAIN generates disarming level of tension and the inappropriateness that is constantly brewing beneath the surface as the movie takes the audience on a series of walks. The relationship is between a bored and openly gay 17 year old nephew and his admittedly eccentric aunt, Nadia. Nadia is a respected Mathematician who seems to approach math as a more of a philosophy than a science. Her obsession with the interplay and precision of numbers and logic seem to do more than influence the way she approaches life — it seems to trigger something far more worrying within her psyche. Instead of falling on the Hollywood-like caricature of mathematician or scientist as being “crazy” — Chiha uses Nadia’s mathematical obsession to point out the fact that Nadia is all too aware of her looming descent toward self-destruction which could  be fully induced by her obsessive ideas as easily as by her growing alcoholism. Nadia is not insane, she is surprisingly self aware. Nadia clearly understands that her obsession with the deductive and/or formal theory of the axiom / theorem has inverted and greatly limited her grasp of logic as it relates to daily life. While Chiha is wise is never fully articulating Nadia’s mental and addictive disorders because it allows the audience to specutlate on wether or not Nadia’s fears based in mathematical elements are grounded or have created a perverse manifestation into her inertia and dangerous addictions. It is within the distorted framework of Nadia’s reality that Chiha achieves a perfectly matched level of tempo with his leading lady that lends an even deeper of layer of tension. There is a consistent feeling that her nephew’s love and his need to slip into her life that could potentially lead to her deepest fear: this could be the ideal combination to set off a literal  chaos theory from which she might never escape. Further to the point, that element of chaos could also pull her nephew into a virtual black whole.

Beatrice Dalle's Nadia's love of mathematic theory sets the pace of her long walks in  Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.  Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Beatrice Dalle’s Nadia’s love of mathematic theory sets the pace of her long walks in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

The pace is often purposely slow. It is thanks to the pace that Nadia and Pierre bond forms in a believable way. Their shared walks through Nadia’s favorite areas of Paris, began to offer the audience insight into her fragile grasp of reality. The walks gradually intensify as Nadia begins to elaborate on logic-based theories that have no rational relationship to the surroundings and topics she discusses. Pierre, just on the cusp of a full adulthood formed within the protective cocoon of the upper-middle class, is still too naive to understand Nadia’s ramblings. To Pierre, his aunt in an enchanting and brilliant woman. It is to Beatrice Dalle’s skill that we pick up the sense that as much as she doesn’t want to pull her nephew into life — His adoration and attention are too enticing for her to reject. Instead of recognizing the vacancy and suspect nature of Nadia’s “friendships” Pierre begins to eroticize them. It is within the confines of what appears to be a gay dance club that the film dips its toe into the surreal.

Nadia leads her nephew into a deceptive world of glam that seems to almost slow to the most minimal level of dance movement. Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009. Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Nadia leads her nephew into a deceptive world of glam that seems to almost slow to the most minimal level of dance movement. Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

It is as if Pierre has slipped into a whole other level of reality as he attempts to find a groove into not only the beat of the dance, but into Nadia’s deconstructed interpretation of the electronic music. As Pierre discovers his aunt’s beat, his perception of reality begins to twist. What appears to be a seedy gay dance club mixes with the cigarette smoke and morphs into an erotic world where everything slows down to equate itself to Nadia’s perverse Theorem. From Pierre’s limited perspective, Nadia is the primary center of this world. It is at this point that an uneasy and inappropriate bond forms between aunt and nephew. Pierre has become a key component in Nadia’s skewed logic of reality. This is a reality ruled entirely by Nadia’s twisted Mathematical Theorem. Once again, she is aware of the problem her life’s equation has created, but there is no turning back for her or Pierre as they begin a danger-fueled and perverse dance. The blunt editing, Pascal Poucet’s self-conscious cinematography, Beatrice Dalle’s performance (in which her strange beauty is just as essential as her casually corrupt read on Nadia) blend seamlessly with the naturalistically innocent charm Isaïe Sultan brings to Pierre and forms into a cinematic stew.  It is stew that tastes a great deal like something from the cinematic alchemy of Chabrol or Hitchcock. This comparison might insult certain lovers of  both iconic filmmakers, buy it rings true.

Beatrice Dalle lost in the pulsating rhythms of number logic in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.  Cinematography |  Pascal Poucet

Beatrice Dalle lost in the pulsating rhythms of number logic in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography |
Pascal Poucet

 

So much walking, thinking and precise living to be done, so little time to waste on comfort. Beatrice Dalle & Isaïe Sultan in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009. Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

So much walking, thinking and precise living to be done, so little time to waste on comfort. Beatrice Dalle & Isaïe Sultan in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Béatrice Dalle sensuously pulls Pierre into the slips and slides in her world of mathematical obsessions, perverse pleasures and addictions. For a while his unconditional devotion seems to propel his aunt forward. And despite his mother’s concerned warnings and Nadia’s own instinct to pull away, Pierre is hooked to Nadia’s tragic flamboyancy. As the audience begins to really feel the ever-growing danger. This odd woman is capable of harm. Harm that could come at any moment. It is impossible not to note that over the years Béatrice Dalle’s once unique beauty has taken on an unsettling quality. It is so easy to get lost in her face, movements and voice. Her beauty and eroticism give the feeling that it could all unhinge into something ugly and verge into a Chaos Theory of a whole new logical dimension. It would be foolish to underestimate Béatrice Dalle skill and Patric Chiha’s movie walks, stumbles and titters its way to a conclusion that, depending on the viewer’s sensibilities, could be correctly interpreted as either benignly abrupt or alarmingly horrific. It is to Patric Chiha’s benefit that he applies the same level of precision that Nadia so admires in the measured way he gives us the exact amount of information to pull us in.

Isaïe Sultan gently kisses his aunt, Beatrice Dalle in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009. Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Isaïe Sultan gently kisses his aunt, Beatrice Dalle in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

And he carefully dispenses too little for us to really know for sure where he has taken the aunt and her adoring nephew. It is a surprisingly potent conclusion.  Domain has held my attention since I first saw it. I often come back Domain. I always discover new aspects relating to mathematical theories, perceptions, philosophy, cinematography and vexing performances that do more than just engage us — these actors, Béatrice Dalle most notably — threaten us.  The film takes on an almost hypnotic quality.

Beatrice Dalle leads Isaïe Sultan on a series of walks that become more worrying with each step in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009. Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

Beatrice Dalle leads Isaïe Sultan on a series of walks that become more worrying with each step in Domain, Patric Chiha, 2009.
Cinematography | Pascal Poucet

And Patric Chiha’s clever manipulation of tone is consistently creeping with tension and ever-present danger.My admiration for Domain has continued to grow. I’d be surprised for anyone to find it boring. I’d be even more surprised if someone found anything about it that is particularly familiar beyond the clear but loose thread to Chabrol or Hitchcock. Domain occupies its own quirky place. As does the woman who once adored more dorm rooms that we could count.

Béatrice Dalle Paris, 2007 Photograph | Kate Barry

Béatrice Dalle
Paris, 2007
Photograph | Kate Barry

I want to stress that this should not be taken as a direct quote, but I do know that Béatrice Dalle was once asked how she goes about choosing her roles, films or filmmakers with whom she wants to work. This is from my memory and I haven’t had time to search the Internet to get the actual quote. I seem to remember this question was in relation to the promotion of Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day. But I’m confident in providing a summation of her response which was both immediate and and interesting:

I don’t choose the director as much as the director chooses me. And you must trust the artist and follow where that leads. 

 

Ideas around “origin” and “truth” have always proved to be challenging throughout the history of history. The truth is often difficult if not impossible to be certain within the context of the manner in which human beings communicate. And, as we move further into the beginning of the 21st century the reliance on the Internet, the already unsteady concept of truthful communication is growing ever more obtuse.

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The reason I am starting this post with this bland observation is that I have never been sure if I really understand the truth and origin of a term that I have found to be not merely problematic, but an all too casual sort of dismissive attitude to some very skilled artists.

I love film. And, from about the age of 10 I became almost obsessed with seeing as many movies as I could. I turned 10 in 1976. That was just before mainstream Hollywood would discover the idea of “blockbuster” and it would not be too long before the creation of the cineplex approach to movies.

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I was not the 10 year old who latched on to the “mainstream” the way so many of my friends did. Though I certainly enjoyed JAWS and STAR WARS — movies like ANNIE HALL, NASHVILLE and 3 WOMEN were far more interesting to me. Depending upon your point of view, I was born to parents who often seemed to be challenged by “appropriate boundaries” —  this was especially true of my father. He took me to everything he wanted to see. I think I was the only 10 year old I knew who had seen NASHVILLE and CARRIE.

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And, if you’re doing the math, I was 10 when those films played in my hometown. There was something far more intensely interesting to me about these movies that only played little South East Texas town than the ones that were on my friends lunch boxes.

I never had any interest in pursuing film as profession. But I am still mystified at the magic that a film artist can create. I was at the perfect age for the resurgence of what we started calling “Independent Cinema” — Out of college and the restrictions of the Bible Belt —  I was able to see game changing work as it was happening.

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Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

Close to 30 years later many of those late ’80’s / early ’90’s filmmakers are still creating interesting work.

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But sadly, most of these once innovative artists have either sold out, lost energy or most probably — have not been able to remain fully connected to the culture in a way that allows them to explore ideas of value.

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It is quite interesting that it was during the 2005 South by Southwest Film Festival that Eric Masunaga, a sound editor, unknowingly gave a label to a group of young film artists that was very quickly and permanently plugged into our culture. Steven Soderbergh and Gregg Araki are the first two that pop into my mind. These two filmmakers started their careers exploring corners of the human experience in new and provocative ways. I no longer trust them enough to pay to see what they are now making.

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So after this rambled mess of an explanation, I first remember reading the term “mumble core” was in indieWIRE magazine. During the 2005 South by Southwest Film Festival a writer from that magazine asked a sound editor if he/she (?) could explain the connection shared by several important films that premiered there. This film artist probably had no idea that when she/he said “mumblecore” that it would end up taking on such significance. But it has.

I continue to be puzzled by the way critics and audiences use that term. This new group of filmmakers are every bit as relevant as the late ’50’s / 60’s La Nouvelle Vague.

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…And, strikingly similar when one considers the restrictions of shoe string budgets and an intense need to turn attention more inward.

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Le beau serge 1959 rŽal : Claude Chabrol Collection Christophel

Le beau serge
1959
rŽal : Claude Chabrol
Collection Christophel

This was a generation as it was emerging from the impacts of World War and entering the impact of looming cultural fears of the nuclear age and what would soon be obscured by the tragedies of The Algerian and Vietnam conflicts. Yet the label of “La Nouvelle Vague” never seemed to be dismissive.

But as hard as I try to never use “mumble core” as a label for these filmmakers who have found truly unique and innovative ways to not only make their art, but to continue to find equally unique and innovative ways for it to be seen.  Filmmakers such as Andrew Bujalski, Lynn Shelton, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig, Kentucky Audley, Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Rick Alverson, Josephine Decker, Onur Tukel, Dustin Guy Defa, Alex Ross Perry, Lawrence Michael Levine, Kevin Barker and Sophia Takal among others are all lumped together under the label “mumble core” — And, yet each of the above and others bring distinctive viewpoints, ideas, style and often unexpected potency.

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Both Amy Seimetz and Shane Carruth find powerful and unexpected ways to pull their audiences into the horror and paranoia of people in crisis. SUN DON’T SHINE and UPSTREAM COLOR could not be more different from each other. One is like being absorbed into a cinematic puzzle of survival that is as beautiful as it is horrific. The other, SUN, is a whole new take on two lovers on the lam but a bold, gritty and unnerving glimpse into an almost alien-like take on the Florida Everglades.

While I do understand what “navel gazing” means, I find that it almost offensive that the idea of artistically exploring “the self” and the complexity of humanity has become a point of criticism.

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Both of the above films are intensely intimate portraits of the characters captured. While Audley, Swanberg and Gerwig are experimenting in different ways — both of these films explore the complications of human connection in distinctively original ways. It is the artist’s choice to determine how far he/she wishes to reach regarding any issue. And, to be honest, it is work that is intimately communicated that offers the most insight into culture and societal issues.

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It is so restrictive to refer to any of these film as “mumblecore” — Most especially the intense examination of erotic desire, obsession and the perverse in Josephine Decker’s truly masterfully made THOU WAST MILD & LOVELY —  which is about as close to cinematic poetry I’ve ever seen. It also unnervingly disturbing. Nothing is “mumbling” here. At any rate, call it what you like. But it was starting in 2006 that I really began to note a strong spark of hope in the power of film that was stepping away from the openly sadistic strain of the French Extreme and not restricting itself to the lazy film language cranking out from the likes of Ron Howard and Spielberg and totally side-stepping away from the cartoon-like special effects laden movies that have so over-populating cinemas. The films grouped into “mumblecore” actually share little in common other than none of them have hardly any budget. This seems to give these movies an added level of energy — even when the director intentionally paces the film slowly.

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Most of all, I am very impressed by the way this generation of filmmakers are approaching media platforms of streaming to get their work out and be seen. Film Festivals have always been tied up in politics and commerce as much (or even more) than they are interested in film as art. And, while the major studios grapple with how to “control” the Internet instead of the content and quality of the movies that they green light — these people are focusing on creating the work that interests them and getting out to an audience.

A highly gifted experimental filmmaker and a skilled actor who goes by the name, Kentucker Audley, has created a simple website he calls “No Budge”

Kentucker Audley  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Kentucker Audley
(Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

From what I can tell he is the sole curator of the site. I have found some of the most amazing work to watch here. He accepts submissions and then chooses the films that appeal to him the most to be streamed online for free. These “screenings” are often set with a specific window of time to help the filmmakers get the work out and seen. Then, they can have their films taken down once they find a way to distribute and make a bit of money.

Eleanore Pienta is Mona in Drew Tobia's See You Next Tuesday

Eleanore Pienta is Mona
in Drew Tobia’s See You Next Tuesday

For example I would have never known about an amazing movie titled SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY directed by Drew Tobia and co-written with his leading actor, Eleanore Pienta. I saw this film during it’s screening window time for free. I was so amazed that such a low budget film could entertainingly lace quirky, profane, crude and often silly scenes to form a truly complex and potent examination of the challenges marginalized women over come to form bonds of friendship and love. Quite a feat.

synt25

And, here lies the beauty of Audley’s site. I saw the film for free, but purchased a legal download of the film via iTunes. Now I can watch it and hopefully the artist has made a little money. There have been several films and filmmakers I’ve discovered here that I have been able to seek out their work and purchase or rent it legally. The current film on the Audley’s site that has my attention is IN MEMORIAM, a 2011 movie by Stephen Cone. I would have never had the opportunity to see it or even know about Cone were it not for this site. This film, like many made by these artists, is almost brimming over with clever twists and turns in tone and mood.

A still from Stephen Cone's IN MEMORIAM

A still from Stephen Cone’s IN MEMORIAM

Here is a link to Audley’s site:

http://nobudge.com

Not that many people stop by here anymore, but in case you have — check it out. There is cinematic treasure to be found here.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice | 1981

The Postman Always Rings Twice | 1981

The Postman Always Rings Twice
Jack Nicholson | Jessica FUCKING Lange
Bob Rafelson | 1981
Sven Nykvist | Cinematography

Next month, the infamous and controversial remake of Tay Garnett’s 1946 Film Noir classic will be issued on Blu-Ray.

In 1981 I was I was 14 when my father took me to see Bob Rafelson’s gritty and darkly erotic take on an Old-School Hollywood movie. I was fascinated by the film. I remember thinking I would be bored, but it drew me like a moth to a flame. I remember thinking that I had never seen an actress so charged as Nicholson took her on that dirty kitchen table.  And, I remember thinking it odd that I found myself rooting for the drifter and the sultry wife as they attempted to get away with murdering her immigrant husband. And, I recall being so shocked when Nicholson’s character beat Jessica Lange up to aid in their “cover” for the murder. I also remember feeling conflicted about the way the film ended.

At the time, I had never seen the original 1946 movie. But it wasn’t too long after I saw Rafelson’s take on it that I caught it on that “thing” we used to call “The Late Show” —

The Postman Always Rings Twice | 1946

The Postman Always Rings Twice | 1946

— and I was so very bored and disinterested with it.  John Garfield seemed kind of gay to me and I thought Lana Turner looked sort of like a drag queen. There was a lot of style to it as this was classic Hollywood Film Noir, but it just bored me. There was no heat. And, I know I felt that it didn’t have that interesting look that, as I became older, realized was the style of Sven Nykvist. The lighting and the camera angles were so interesting to me at 14. Nykvist’s work still fascinates me.  The difference is that now I understand why. I think I even told a friend that the old movie seemed flat and that everything about the lust or desire seemed like a bad play.  Where was the passion? Where was the heat? Where was the frenzied obsession?

Nicholson and Lange hit it on the table...

Nicholson and Lange hit it on the table…

Years later, I attended an Art House Cinema screening of the Tay Garnett movie when I lived in Boston. Seeing the film in my late 20’s was an entirely different experience. It still felt fake, but the style of the camera work and the lighting was amazing. Garfield and Turner were beautiful to me.  But I was still unable to “buy” in on their supposed erotic attraction. It felt as fake as the backdrops. The glam of it all seemed to get in the way of the story.

John Garfield & Lana Turner about to hit it??!!?

John Garfield & Lana Turner about to hit it??!!?

I saw this screening with a pal of mine at the time and mentioned the remake I had seen with my father.  He was about ten years older than me and had seen it when it came out as well. However, he saw it with the eyes of a newly graduated college dude. He told me that he liked the remake but found it transgressive and borderline soft-porn. I didn’t remember it like that.  He laughed and told me I was a kid when I saw it and then led me into a discussion about why would a father take his 14 year old son to see a movie like that. Blah, blah, blah…

Jack Nicholson & Jessica Lange most definitely about to hit it...

Jack Nicholson & Jessica Lange most definitely about to hit it…

I have not seen the Bob Rafelson remake since I was 14.  I’m quite curious to see if it lives up to my memories of the carnal obsession and lust I seemed to literally feel. I wonder if I will, as middle aged man, believe the desire gushing from Jessica Lange. Or, will it feel fake? Will it feel like a movie trying to be edgy as cinema moved out of the free-range 1970’s into the more controlled and restrained 1980’s?

Will it feel as staged and phony as the 1946 movie? Will it be as cinematically beautiful as the 1946 original film? Will late 1970’s cinematography trump 1940’s Hollywood Film Noir?

The Postman Always Rings Twice | 1981 Lobby Card

The Postman Always Rings Twice | 1981 Lobby Card

I don’t know. But, I can’t wait to secure a copy of that Blu-Ray and find out!

 

 

 

There are still a couple of movies scheduled for release this year, but I don’t hold very high expectations. However, one can’t close his/her mind.

Thus far – these have been my favorite films of 2012:

Lee Daniels’ transgressive The Paper Boy

THE PAPER BOY/Lee Daniels

Rian Johnson’s brilliant puzzle of a movie: LOOPER

LOOPER/Rian Johnson

Todd Solondz’s surreal DARK HORSE

Dark Horse/Todd Solondz

Haneke’s gut puncher: AMOUR

Amour/Michael Haneke

Paolo Sorrentino’s unexpected THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

This Must Be The Place/Paolo Sorrentino

Ridley Scott’s beautifully flawed and thought provoking PROMETHEUS

Prometheus/Ridley Scott

The Queen of Versailles/Lauren Greenfield

Timur Bekmambetov’s Lincoln: Vampire Hunter so earnestly silly that I loved every over-the-top moment.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter/Timur Bekmambetov*

Colin Trevorrow’s SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED seemed to come out from nowhere and managed to work on all levels.

Safety Not Guaranteed/Colin Trevorrow

*(I know it was incredibly stupid, but the absurdity of it all made me love it!)

Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson almost made my list, but it somehow just felt too slight for me. However, it was worth the price of admission.

Wes Anderson’s MOONRISE KINGDOM almost grabbed me, but all those great cinematic moments just didn’t add up to much more than a trifle.

Thus far, the two performances by actors that totally blew me away were:

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

Michelle Williams fills the screen with heartbreaking power in Take This Waltz

and

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

Joaquin Phoenix delivers an unforgettable and transformative performance in The Master.

(tho, I didn’t really care for either of those movie — those two actors wereAMAZING in them!)

Looking back, 2012 was one of the worst years I can recall at the cinema. However, there were a few gems. Thus far, these are the ones that most glowed for me. 

I thought I would supply my answers to the following questions:

Chabrol photographed by Pierre-Olivier

What is your all-time favorite movie?
It would have to come down to the following films:
Belle de Jour
Breathless (1960)
The Exorcist/Rosemary’s Baby
Nashville
Manhattan

Belle de Jour

The Exorcist

Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE

Rosemary’s Baby

Jean-Luc Goddard’s Breathless

Woody Allen’s MANHATTAN

Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet

In The Mood For Love/2046
OldBoy (Korean Version)
Hesher/Bellflower
The Big Lebowski
Dogtooth
Weekend
3 Iron

OldBoy

HESHER

DOGTOOTH

In The Mood For Love

Weekend

Kim Ki-duk’s 3 Iron

What is your all-time top best movies list?

Belle de Jour
Nashville
Manhattan
Blue Velvet

The Wizard of Oz

Harold and Maude

The Godfather

Don’t Look Now

The Wizard of Oz

Harold and Maude

The Godfather Parts I and II
Don’t Look Now
In The Mood For Love
O Brother Where Art Thou?

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Fellini’s 8½
3 Iron

3 Iron — weightless love…

Rosemary’s Baby
The Exorcist
Oldboy

Fellini’s 8½

What is your personal favorite movie?
Only ONE?!?!?  I could never limit to only one:
Tommy/OldBoy/A Star Is Born (1976)/The Wizard of Oz/Ma Mere/3 Iron/Wild At Heart/For Pete’s Sake/Survive Style 5+

Ken Russell’s TOMMY

A STAR IS BORN

SURVIVE STYLE 5+

David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART

Diane Ladd in WILD AT HEART

Laura Dern as Lula in David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART

Who are the 5 top most important film makers thus far?

A virtually impossible question to answer as art is so subjective. I am unable to limit it to only five filmmakers
Claude Chabrol
Jean-Luc Goddard
Luis Buñuel
Orson Welles
John Huston
Kim Ki-duk

Kim Ki-duk’s DREAM

Federico Fellini
Robert Altman
Hal Ashby
Roman Polanski
The Coen Bros
Bernardo Bertolucci
Alfred Hitchcock
Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire

Woody Allen
Pedro Almodóvar
David Lynch
Wong Kar-Wai
Paul Thomas Anderson

PT Anderson’s Magnolia – this sometimes happens…

Steven Spielberg
Martin Scorsese
Park Chan-Wook
Lynne Ramsay
Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums
Takashi Miike
Lars von Trier
David Fincher
And, although I am not a fan of his work I think one must list George Lucas as a key film director

Star Wars

Who are the 6 most interesting/talented film actors – male and female?
Male: Brando/Fassbender/DeNiro/Newman/Hardy/Choi Min-sik/Asano
Female: Streep/Theron/Morton/M Williams/Huppert/B. Davis/Hepburn
Which emerging filmmakers interest you?
Evan Glodell
Yorgos Lanthimos
Lena Dunham
Andrew Haigh
Spencer Susser

Evan Glodell’s BELLFLOWER

Which actors gave the most powerful film performances?
Brando: Last Tango
Huppert: The Piano Teacher/Merci Pour le Chocolate/Ma Mere

Isabelle Huppert in Ma Mere

Theron: Monster/Young Adult
Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams: Blue Valentine
Fassbender: Hunger/Shame
Jean-Paul Belmondo: Breathless

Jean Belmondo in Breathless

Hepburn: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
Julianne Moore: Safe
DeNiro: Taxi Driver/The King of Comedy
Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver
Bette Davis: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?/Now Voyager/The Little Foxes
Ruth Gordon: Rosemary’s Baby
Choi Min-sik: OldBoy
Shelley Duvall: 3 Women

Shelley Duvall as one of Robert Altman’s 3 Women

Malcom MacDowell: A Clock Work Orange
Tom Hardy: Bronson

Tom Hardy as Bronson

Dennis Hopper: Blue Velvet
Vivien Leigh: A Streetcar Named Desire
Jeff Bridges: The Big Lebowski
Laura Dern: Wild At Heart/Citizen Ruth/Inland Empire

Laura Dern transforms – this time in David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE

Jessica Lange: Real Men Don’t Leave
Peter Sellers: Being There
Jennifer Jason-Leigh: Georgia
Gary Oldman/Chloe Webb: Sid & Nancy

Chloe Webb & Gary Oldman as SID & NANCY

Madeline Kahn: What’s Up Doc?/Young Frankenstein
Tony Leung: In The Mood For Love/2046
What is the most important factor regarding the making of a movie?
Editing
Do you read film reviews prior to seeing a movie or after seeing it?
Only the first and last two lines of a film review — and, only then if I am on the fence about whether or not I want to see it. Those 4 lines from a solid film critic will either make me want to pay to see it or skip it.
What are the biggest omissions by the Oscars?
A rather stupid question and there are far too many to list, but…
Gary Oldman/Chloe Webb: Sid & Nancy
Jack Nicholson/Shelley Duvall: The Shining

Jack Nicholson with too much work in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING

Holly Hunter: Raising Arizona/Broadcast News/Crash
Tom Hardy: Bronson
Michael Fassbender: Shame

Fassbender/Mulligan: SHAME

Charlize Theron: Young Adult
Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams: Blue Valentine
Piper Laurie: The Hustler/Carrie/Hesher
Jared Leto/Marlon Wayans: Requiem for a Dream
Ellen Burstyn: The Exorcist/Requiem for a Dream

Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream

Jim Carrey: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Julianne Moore: Safe/Magnolia
Mickey Rourke: Barfly/The Wrestler
Ruth Gordon: Harold and Maude
Vanessa Redgrave: The Devils

Vanessa Redgrave in Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS

Bette Davis: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Peter Sellers: Being There/Glenn Close: Fatal Attraction
Faye Dunaway: Momie Dearest/Sandy Dennis: Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean
Elizabeth Olsen: Martha Macy May Marlen
Laura Dern: Citizen Ruth
Jeff Bridges: The Big Lebowski

The dude abides. Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski

Klaus Kinski: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Kathleen Turner: Crimes of Passion
Jessica Lange: Men Don’t Leave/Titus
Bill Murray: Lost In Translation

Bill Murray in Lost In Translation

Kim Cattrall: Meet Monica Velour
Tony Leung: In The Mood For Love
Angie Dickinson: Dressed To Kill
Ewan McGregor: Trainspotting

Ewan McGregor in TRAINSPOTTING

Chris New: Weekend
Tilda Swinton: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Mysterious Skin
Michael Fassbender: Hunger/Shame
Nicolas Cage: Wild At Heart
Carrie Mulligan: Never Let Me Go/Shame
Burt Reynolds: Starting Over/Semi-Tough/The Longest Yard
Jennifer Jason-Leigh: Georgia

Jennifer Jason-Leigh in Georgia

Is there any movie you’ve not seen that you would like to see more than any other?
There are two:
Health by Robert Altman

Robert Altman’s H.E.A.L.T.H.

Welcome to LA by Alan Rudolph

Welcome to LA

What are the most interesting cinematic mistakes?
Lisztomania
Valley of the Dolls
Mommie Dearest
Moment by Moment

Lily Tomlin and John Travolta are passionate lovers in Moment By Moment. Viewers are still in recovery…

Blade Runner (brilliantly filmed and hypnotic, but ultimately it never quite works)
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Synecdoche New York
Watchmen

Ken Russell’s Lisztomania

The Tenant
Possession
La Luna

Bertolucci’s Luna …fascinating cinematic mistake.

Fellini Cassanova
Mahogany
Diana Ross as MAHOGANY...
Roller Boogie
Crash (1996)
Funky Forest: First Contact

Funky Forrest: First Contact

What movie most surprised you in 2012 and which movie most disappointed you?
Surprised: THE Paperboy
Disappointed: The Master

Lee Daniel’s The Paperboy

Macy Gray in Lee Daniel’s THE PAPERBOY

At some point in your life, unless you are very young or have lived under a rock, you have probably heard someone say something like this: “I swear! They looked like they had just stepped out of a Fellini movie!”

The characters depicted in Federico Fellini’s films are quite memorable. The most memorable of the Fellini bunch tend to be those characters with the least amount of screen time. Take Eddra Gale as an example. Eddra was cast as La Sarghina in Fellini’s 8 1/2  and the facial exaggerations she makes and movements of her dance on the beach are forever seared into pop culture consciousness.

Eddra Gale as La Saraghina in Fellini’s 8 1/2

Fellini did not cast Eddra Gale for her beauty, grace or talent. He cast her because he found her facial movements fascinating. And, the dance of La Saraghina on the beach is at once erotic, comical, disturbing and oddly beautiful. It is a screen moment that has been admired, copied and haunted millions of viewers.

By the time Federico Fellini’s films moved into the mid-60’s he was losing interest in narrative plot and seemed to be more concerned with the images he captured. One of the challenges facing those new to Fellini in the 21st Century is that nearly all of his films are dubbed. And, they are dubbed badly. Most of these films were made during the time when there was a great curiosity around the idea of International Cinema. European directors were scrambling to cast a Hollywood actor in one of their films. Very often, in fact most often, the American actors did not speak the language used for the movie in which they had been cast. Art House audiences were used to dubbing. However, Fellini appears to have reached a point when the actual sounds of voices and actions no loner mattered to him at all. Fellini was about the images.

Federico Fellini

Many cite that Fellini spoke of an LSD trip he took that forever changed his view of life that changed his films from the “unusual” to the downright “bizarre” but I feel that concept could easily be debated. Fellini grew as an artist. He was literally a clown who found himself a filmmaker. And, he just happened to turn out to be one of the major geniuses of cinema. He was far from Surreal. While his shots might be off-center and strange, his films are very much grounded in both reality and humanity. Fellini created some of the most striking portraits of humanity we are likely to see. And, he made them at a time when realism in movies was very much in its infancy.

Fellini filming. Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark

Even when Fellini took a wrong turn such as with his adaptation of the life of Casanova, the movie stands up for the simple reason that there are so many interesting characters to simply watch. Donald Sutherland was badly cast and even appears confused as he wanders through the sets of Fellini’s Casanova, but you are never bored because there is always an actor who captures your attention. Or, even a character who appears to be looking at you.

Donald Sutherland and A True Character in Fellini’s Casanova, 1976

Fellini’s films are filled with extras. His camera spends a great deal of time showing the audience these other characters. Even as the main character’s mouth moves and some disembodied voice speaks, you often find yourself looking to the left or right or even behind to see the unusual assortment of amusing characters.

Fellini Satyricon, 1969

In 1981 Christian Strich edited and published a book titled Fellini’s Faces. It was published in the US in 1981 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston Owl Books. It is comprised of “Actor Head Shots” which were kept in an “archive” at Fellini’s office in Italy.

From the very beginning of his film career, Fellini was obsessed with finding actors who envisioned those who he felt conveyed what he wanted to convey. By 1967, Fellini was far more concerned with how an actor looked or moved. Most often, this was more important than talent. In an all too brief introduction Fellini wrote for Strich’s book he explains that actors are more like puppets to him than collaborators. He knew what he wanted and the actor was to be manipulated for that purpose.

No matter where Fellini was or what he might be there to do, he was always in casting mode. It reached a point where he would set aside one day a week to simply sit and chat with anyone interested in being in one of his movies. These meetings happened everywhere from Italy to Hollywood to Paris to remote villages in Europe. Fellini enjoyed people and he loved to be around those who were fun or/and interesting.

He would meet with anyone as long as they agreed that he had the right to photograph them. People were encouraged to bring a photo of themselves but he usually always took an additional photograph at the time of the chats.  He met people from all walks of life: professional actors, beggars, prostitutes, strippers, drug dealers, bored housewives, business men and anyone who would just want to talk. It was almost without question that his casting decisions for his extras and many larger roles were based on something about the way the person looked, carried themselves or some unique thing that caught his eye or intellect. And, sometimes it might just boil down to the fact that he liked a person’s choice of hat or glasses. The book notes that he sometimes only photographed the hat or the glasses.

Fellini Satyricon, 1969

Quite often he would cast someone simply because he enjoyed his/her company. If he met someone who made him laugh, he might cast that person on this fact alone.

After these meetings, Fellini would have his photographs developed and create a file consisting of the photograph(s), the individual’s contact information and any notes or illustrations he might have made during the meeting. He then gave the files to his assistants who placed them in an organized Face Archive. These archive became quite huge over time. Consisting of over a thousand files, Fellini would consult his archive as ideas, concepts or plots for films came into his mind.

Christian Strich was allowed access to the Fellini Face Archive and chose 400 to put in the book. Please note that Strich cataloged each photograph so that the reader could find the name of the individual. I decided to not list the names of the people. I do wish that Strich had been able to identify dates and whether or not the photograph had been taken by Fellini. Many of the photographs are blurry. These portraits are not about photographic art. They are about the faces and personalities captured.

For me this only further testifies to the humanity of Federico Fellini’s movies. And, the photographs are incredible. Sadly, this book has been out of print for some time.

The following are several of the photographs that really caught my eye. Oh, and if you are familiar with the fun world of Cult Cinema or Bad Movies, you will most likely recognize Chesty Morgan in the first photograph. I suspect that she provided this picture to Fellini as it looks like a promo shot she would have used during her Times Square stripper days.

Chesty Morgan from the Fellini Face Archive

From the Fellini Face Archive

Fellini Face Archive Subject

This woman caught my eye. I’m fairly certain she was cast in City of Women. From the Fellini Face Archive

Groovy Dude from the Fellini Face Archive

I love this photograph from the Fellini Face Archive…

Uh, oh. Looks like trouble brewing. From the Fellini Face Archive

From the Fellini Face Archive

I love this really blurry shot from the Fellini Face Archive

Gender-bending from the Fellini Face Archive

“…Now my job is to find the faces that will give it (the movie) life!”

Fellini, 1980

And, of course, Federico Fellini did just that until the end of his life in 1993.

Matty Stanfield

July/2012

Eva Ionesco’s My Little Princess, 2011

When it was announced that Eva Ionesco had written a script based upon her childhood and that she had secured Isabelle Huppert, one of the most brilliant film actors working, to star in a film Eva would direct I was quite excited. As the film industry grapples stupidly with ever-changing demands of media access, many films are getting lost in the shuffle. Eva Ionesco’s movie, My Little Princess is one of those films. Whether it was due to the subject matter, the film’s original title (I’m No Fucking Little Princess), or a perceived lack of Hollywood ‘Star Power’ — the film has yet to be picked up for US/Canadian distribution. This means that Ionesco’s film remains a curiosity for many viewers. However, if you’ve a region-free DVD player the film can be viewed right now via the UK distribution DVD.

Eva and her photographer mother, Irina Ionesco circa 1976

One can only imagine the psychological tight rope that Eva Ionesco was walking as she wrote and then filmed her version of her infamous childhood. In the event that you are not aware, Eva Ionesco’s mother became a highly acclaimed and often ridiculed photographer thanks to using Eva as the model for many of her early photographs in the early 70’s. The photographs remain controversial and debated today. The images Irina Ionesco choose to create with her daughter as a model are artistic – – possibly even poetic. However, most of the images push past what most of us would consider acceptable boundaries in the photographing of a child. Irina choose to have Eva nude and posed in sexually provocative ways. Most controversially, she allowed Penthouse Magazine to photograph Eva in a questionable manner. Because of the artistry involved in Irina’s work, she somehow managed to avoid legal persecution at the time. Of course, it was the 70’s. If ever there was a decade fueled by sexual/political confusion it was that time period. All the same, Irina and Eva Ionesco were for a brief time the darlings of the Art World. Irina’s work would go on to inspire Brooke Shield’s mother to have her daughter pose in radically controversial photographs and featured nude in the film, Pretty Baby. The difference between the photographs and work done with Brooke Shields was that it managed to never totally cross that line into pornography. Irina Ionesco’s work often seems to trip past the line into what some could easily call illegal pornography. Eva Ionesco, now well into her 40’s has never really publicly stated the impact of this time in her life. …Until now.

Isabelle Huppert and Anamaria Vartolomei as Mother/Photographer and Daughter/Model in My Little Princess. Promotional Photograph.

The challenge My Little Princess faces is the ultimate biography film conundrum: how does the director make a film about the exploitation of a child without exploiting the child playing the part? As writer/director, Eva Ionesco resolves this challenge by using dialog which discusses the graphic nature of the poses and photograph while limiting what the audience sees to uncomfortable shots of the young actor posed seductively minus any nudity or extreme costumery. This approach might have worked if Eva Ionesco had been able to tackle the difficult subject matter in a more even way.

Anamaria Vartolomei as Violetta in My Little Princess

Eva Ionesco changes the names, but this is clearly a film about she and her mother. Eva is called Violetta and Irina has become Hanna. From the moment the movie introduces us to Violetta’s mother, Hanna, it is all-too-clear that the daughter is viewed as a bother to the mother. Hanna breezes in and out of Violetta’s life like an almost comical storm of irrational emotion. Violetta has been raised by her Italian immigrant grandmother who is presented to us flatly. The character of the grandmother is no more than a prop in the film: overtly religious, doddering old lady full of superstitions. Hanna, portrayed problematically by Isabelle Huppert, is presented as shallow, tyrannical, confused, irrational, lofty, gothic, death-obssessed and narcissistic — all of these traits to the point of dark comedy. Little Violetta is presented as a sweet little girl who turns equally sour and confused as the story progresses. Hanna is given a camera by her “sort of lover” and somewhat successful painter male friend. She then discovers her true calling as a photographer. Suddenly she no longer sees her daughter as bothersome “thing” but as a beautiful model for odd and gothic concepts. And, Violetta feels the possibility of love from her mother. Hanna’s photographs of Violetta become the talk of Paris. With each photo session we come to understand that Hanna pushes Violetta to pose further and further into the realm of the unacceptable.

Isabelle Huppert as Hanna in My Little Princess

We know things are headed in a very twisted route when Hanna provides her daughter with direction as she photographs her:

“Do not smile! That is for the stupid and weddings!” and the even more telling instruction, “Look up into my eyes as if you are looking into the face of Hell.”

Anamaria Vartolomei recreating an early pose of Eva Ionesco in My Little Princess

Clothed and veiled in out-dated adult clothing and adult women’s underwear, Violetta poses at first with flowers, then religious iconography to creepy child mannequins — and, then, we are told with skeletons and ultimately nude. Though, to her credit, Eva Ionesco avoids allowing the audience to actually see the truly controversial poses. At the same time, she fails to avoid levels of exploitation with her child actress by having her act in situations that most definitely push the cinematic envelope: other adult women take her place with nudity and discussion, Hanna thinks nothing of ripping her Violetta’s normal child clothing off of her in front of her classmates in the school lobby and replace them with an odd goth-like doll dress. Hanna also instructs Violetta to dress as a “woman” — which amounts to a child in slutty clothing that gets her a fair amount of jeers from other kids and disapproving reproaches from her teachers.

“Get out of these ridiculous childish clothes!” My Little Princess

It isn’t long before Hanna makes Violetta feel that they are equals in her enterprise. She takes her everywhere with her as if they are not only co-artistes of the highest order but stylish women on the town. Before long Hana actually is the talk of Paris and the money is pouring in. Grandma is ever suspect, but happy to take the money.

My Little Princess

Anamaria Vartolomei and Isabelle Huppert walking Eva Ionesco’s cinematic tight rope in My Little Princess

Soon, a trip is taken to England where Hanna has been commissioned to photograph a rock star of the era. She entices Violetta into the trip by promising her a chance to see The Sex Pistols perform. Uh, oh. In an interesting casting choice, Jethro Cave plays the rock star. There is no ambiguity in Ionesco’s filmmaking during Hanna and Violettas’ stay in the rock stars mansion: Hanna is not above prostituting her daughter to the rock star for the job of photographing him.

Jethro Cave and Anamaria Vartolomei in My Little Princess

While the characters move in a suddle way and nothing is filmed in an unacceptable way, Eva Ionesco somehow manages to make the audience feel as if she is hitting us on the head with a hammer: Hanna is using Violetta and Violetta knows it. During their stay in England, Violetta is introduced to drugs and off-screen seduced by the rock star. Violetta’s grandmother dies and the mother/daughter relationship becomes even more complicated and confused.

Anamaria Vartolomei and Isabelle Huppert in My Little Princess

Hana finally pushes her “art” too far and the French Social Services get involved. Violetta starts to rebel against not only her mother but against all authority. Hana is faced with losing custody of Violetta.

Anamaria Vartolomei in My Little Princess

Eva Ionesco has crafted the sort of movie that falls into what I would call a sort of cinematic train wreck that is hard to not watch. Obviously, Ionesco has inherited some of her mother’s gifts for photography. My Little Princess is a beautiful looking film. The use of light, dark, color and composition is exceptional in almost every shot.

Isabelle Huppert in My Little Princess

The saddest thing about Eva Ionesco’s film is the waste of Isabelle Huppert. When the production of this film was announced Isabelle Huppert made it clear that she was thrilled to tackle a role inspired by Irina Ionesco. However, since the film was released, Huppert has stated that in all her years as an actor she had never experienced a more challenging and peculiar situation that filming My Little Princes. If one is to believe the press, Huppert has said that she knew she would need to act as a mother to Anamaria Vartolomei who was only ten years old when the movie was shot. She also knew that she would be playing Eva’s real life mother to a certain degree, but she was thrown off by the fact that she felt as if Eva Ionesco was actually projecting on to Isabelle Huppert to such a degree that she was playing “mom” both in front and well behind the camera. Huppert has also reportedly marked her concern that she is a good ten years too old for the role and there was nothing in the Ionesco’s script to explain this challenge.

Isabelle Huppert as Hana in My Little Princess

As a viewer one can almost sense Huppert’s discomfort at times. Isabelle Huppert is an infinitely talented screen actress who has always seemed to run toward the most challenging, transgressive and unlikeable characters. She has never failed to infuse the characters she plays with a reality that very few actresses would be brave or talented enough to even try to play. If there is any actresses who come close it would be Tilda Swinton, Michelle Williams or Samantha Morton. Huppert is certainly not aided in her role by the rather schizophrenic screenplay. For the first half of the film it feels as if Isabelle Huppert is channeling Jennifer Saunders from AbFabas her character is presented to us a sort of idiotic boob who thrashes her body about in boredom or frustration. And, Eva Ionesco has written Hana to be totally unaware of the reactions of others to her odd antics. “Oh, don’t worry. They are just yokels!” Hana instructs her daughter as people stare.

Isabelle Huppert hams it up for My Little Princess

And, to be honest, Huppert’s almost comic turn in the first half of the movie almost serves her scenes well. With mood swings presented in this manner it is most likely best to eat a bit of the scenery as you go along. Even still, Huppert does manage to find some powerful moments in My Little Princess.

There three key scenes that should offer the audience some insight into what must be a damaged soul of a human to take such unethical and immoral turns with her daughter. In one scene Hana makes an interesting observation about herself to Violetta: she tells her daughter that she suffers from a condition involving repulsion of the flesh. Huppert starts this scene on a roll only to be de-railed by Ionesco’s quick diversion away from the topic. That diversion is so thudding that Huppert’s brief first moment is turned into some sort of misplaced satire. Later, Hana strolls through a Parisian cemetery from which she has a perfect view from her apartment/studio. Huppert plays this scene with sly delicacy as she lays herself over a catacomb. This moment is killed by Bertrand Burgalat’s unfortunately heavy-handed musical score that would have better suited a 1940’s melodrama. The third, and what should have been the most important scene for Hanna, involves Hanna confessing to her now tainted and confused daughter, that her mother is the product of an incestuous relationship. Isabelle Huppert delivers this scene in a tender and exceptionally effective way only to be plundered by the reaction of her Violetta who delivers the last line of an old joke and “yuck”s herself away from Hanna. The viewer is left wondering if this is meant as some sort of sick joke. Left alone on screen, Huppert almost seems to be saying the same thing with her teared eyes.

And, of course the ultimate gut punch swing Eva Ionesco seems to take at her mother feels the most untrue. While I doubt there are very few people who would really and seriously argue that Irina Ionesco went to the point of child abuse in her photography of her child, I also doubt that anyone would dare to argue that Irina Ionesco is not a gifted photographer. She is especially brilliant in her self-portraits. So, it seems totally unbelievable when Eva Ionesco presents Hana making self-indulgent self-portraits like this one:

Isabelle Huppert as Hana with dolls. …Irina Ionesco must be pissed about this shot!

While the few poses and photographs Eva Ionesco re-creates for the camera work, this one fails. I am not trying to at all defend Irina Ionesco, but the artist would never take a photograph as lame as this one.

As Isabelle Huppert does her best to keep the film above the mess that is somehow is, Anamaria Vartolomei  makes her screen debut at the age of only ten playing Violetta.

Anamaria Vartolomei and Isabelle Huppert in My Little Princess

Vartolomei is amazing. Her performance is far deeper than any seen by such a young actor since Jodie Foster. Even when given ridiculous lines, Vartolomei delivers them in a believable manner. And, she also manages to somehow convey the joy of being admired and the repulsion of feeling exploited. Sadly, there is no exposition to explain how Vartolomei’s character is able to conclude that what her mother is having her do is wrong. We are just expected to know that this child knows it is wrong. …All of the sudden. …Out of the blue. …Little Violetta realizes that her modeling borderlines toward pornography. In moments of tantrums she convincingly says things like, “No! A party is a whore like art!” or “You are using me!” and the oddly blunt for a young child: “I’m your meal ticket!” Even still, Anamaria Vartolomei shines as Violetta. Aside from being astoundingly pretty she also manages to be a little girl playing “dress up” for her mother so convincingly that despite the fact that Ionesco goes to great pains to avoid exploiting the young actress — she carries herself believable as an abused child.

Anamaria Vartolomei wears the role brilliantly in My Little Princess

In the end, My Little Princess well outstays its welcome. At 135 minutes, it is far too long. And, the film itself has more mood swings than that of the character played by Isabelle Huppert. Perhaps the main problem with My Little Princess is that the film’s maker is just too intimate with the subject matter. It is almost as if an only half-healed victim of child abuse is attempting to tell her story — and the result is an uneven, schizophrenic and confused mess of a movie. My Little Princess is a cinematic error that almost errs enough to make it enjoyable. Fans of Isabelle Huppert, interesting cinematography or the whole Irina/Eva Ionesco history will ultimately be the only somewhat satisfied audience members.

As the credits rolled all I could think was how sad it was to see an actor of Isabelle Huppert’s stature failed so miserably by a director. On the bright side, there are more than a few things about this film that do work. Eva Ionesco has a keen eye and there does seem a great deal of potential here. Perhaps Eva Ionesco will get another opportunity and make a film fitting of her style. One thing is for certain: Anamaria Vartolomei looks to have a very bright future as an actress. And, if Isabelle Huppert can survive Heaven’s Gate – which she most certainly did – this film will not derail her.

Isabelle Huppert in My Little Princess

But one thing will stick with you if you choose to see this movie:

There is nothing quite like hearing Isabelle Huppert advise, “Look up into my eyes as if you are looking into the face of Hell.”

MY LITTLE PRINCESS

Eva Ionesco, 2011
 

With each viewing of Luis Bunuel’s classic film, Bell de Jour, the power of the film seems to just get stronger. And, as Criterion has released a pristine and fully restored original version of the film to BluRay it seems a good time to write a bit about this very important cinematic masterpiece.

If one is to comment on this film by Luis Buñuel he/she must take The Surreal Movement and the era in which this movie was made.

As a Surrealist, Luis Buñuel was not concerned with providing particularly narrative conclusions or logical explanations. As a filmmaker, his focus was on capturing both “reality” and “fantasy” in order to merge the two which creates true Surrealism.  Meaning the state of art where the audience might not ever be completely sure where “fantasy” begins or ends and in what place “reality” slips in or out. A quiet discomfort comes with the odd familiarity of Surrealism.

Personally, I think it is safe to state that Luis Buñuel viewed life as surreal.

Catherine Deneuve and Luis Bunuel on set of Belle de Jour

I believe that he and such Surrealist as Salvador Dali were on completely different planes of thought than most of their fellow established/remembered artists of their era.  Though this may not be a fair statement if one considers such artists as Jean Genet, Kenneth Anger, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Raúl Ruiz, Fernando Arrabal or Jan Švankmajer who all tap into the Surrealist filmmaking experience. But if there is any one film artist who come close to this type of thinking in the 21st Century it might most probably be David Lynch. However, even with Lynch and the other artists I’ve mentioned, there is a most definite “vocabulary” at play. Metaphor and hidden meanings run throughout the work of these artists — and even the late Fellini or some works by David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam flit toward Surrelaist concepts. But, they are not Surrealists in the true sense of the word as I understand it.

And, surreality must be kept in mind when watching Belle de Jour.

Another element that must be remembered when watching a film made in 1966 and released in 1967 is to expect the movie to be dated.

Even by today’s standards, Belle de Jour is way ahead of the cultural taste curve. Though, it is hard to imagine how most viewers responded to this French film when it was first released. The movie was considered controversial, perverse, bordering on pornography and shocking. I should think the average person watching this movie today would not feel it fits into any of those definitions. However, back when the film was released in caused a great deal of confusion within both the circles of film critics and intellectual audiences who championed it.

Catherine Deneuve as Belle de Jour

The challenge of trying to fully understand what the film is saying/showing still continues today. Even still, because of the time it was made, Buñuel’s approach to subject matter is now unintentionally confusing.

Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour bravely explores the mind of a female masochist at a time when the true understanding of such a person was not yet fully formed. In fact, it largely still isn’t. And, in 1967, while the psychiatric community and people were starting to understand the extent of what child abuse can cause later that child’s adult life — there was not a true understanding of the long term damaging aspects of sexual child abuse or the ways in which religion can further a child’s view of the world after having experienced molestation. The unarticulated and unspeakable guilt, horror, pleasure, self-loathing and desire for order and acceptance were not fully understood by most. Psychiatry was only just starting to get a firm grasp on this themselves. In the mid to late ’60’s our culture did not yet even have the ability to fully understand or accept the horrors of “shell shock” or PTSD other than for male soldiers who had survived terrible battles in war. Buñuel was charting new territory in a surreal way.

bells are ringing…

The Surrealist approach was probably his and the film’s saving grace with audiences. The mixing of a bored, wealthy and overly pampered woman’s fantasies with reality probably gave audiences a sense of appropriateness for finding humor and eroticism within the context of the story. With the lens of the 21st Century Culture, one must attempt to cleanse the collective pallet and accept that we are glimpsing into a surreal world created close to 50 years ago.

Even still, I can’t help but imagine how the average film audience must have responded to seeing French Beauty, Catherine Deneuve, in all her Yves St. Laurent and blond glory being bound, gagged, horse whipped, whoring herself out, being paid to play dead as her client masturbates below the coffin or being pelted with cow shit as her husband and lover both call her every vulgar name in the book. It is a bit startling now in 2012. How would this have been viewed in 1967? I have read one source that notes that many men and women who saw the film were not really sure if the john was masturbating or merely shaking in horror and that many misunderstood the horse dung to simply be mud.

Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour

The sheer masochistic desire of the main character is established in the first scene of the film. Without apology or explanation. It is shocking and Alice’s sexual fantasy merges with reality without warning or clue to the audience.

The “story” is simple. An upperclass young married woman is finding her marriage unsatisfying. Her husband, who looks a bit too perfect — a bit like a sexless Ken doll, obviously holds no erotic connection for her. However, it is clear she is in love with him and he with her. She is distant and cold. She is rather “removed” from her own life. Her day is pointless. And, with very clever editing  Buñuel manages to show that Alice was sexually molested as a little girl and stubbornly refused to accept her first reception of Holy Sacrament Communion — most likely because she did not feel worthy of accepting the Holy Spirit. She had already been stained and tainted. It is clear that she desires a force of eroticism from her husband that is beyond his understanding. Alice is as lost about her own desires as he would be if he knew them.

Catherine Deneuve and Jean Sorel in Belle de Jour

Alice hears about the existence of underground Parisian brothels where lower class housewives earn extra money. She ventures to explore this world. And, it is in this brothel that she discovers and has her sexual desires fulfilled. Once she finds the courage to enter the brothel she quite literally lets her hair down but it isn’t until her first client that her Madam discovers that forceis a major if not key part of her sexual appetite. This is something the brothel Madame quickly sees as ideal for some of her clients. She sternly advises Alice that she needs a firm hand.

Deneuve and Geneviève Page in Belle de Jour

A Firm Hand. Belle de Jour

Catherine Deneuve in St. Yves Laurent with bondage in Belle de Jour

Punishment. Real or Fantasy?

Catherine Deneuve as Belle working…

As Alice (AKA Belle de Jour— she can only work from between 3pm and never later than 5pm) — ventures into unknown sexual territory, she begins to learn how to assert her power as a woman. However, she is unable to name it or actually understand that she holds any power. She grapples through her reality and fantasies as if in the dark and without control.

Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour

At the conclusion of Buñuel’s movie the audience is given two endings. The two endings are literally interlaced at the beginning by visual and audio editing. Neither ending provides any resolution or clearly defined answer to our heroine’s situation. In fact, one could easily argue endlessly about which scenes are “real” and which are “fantasy”;  Did Alice actually work as a prostitute? Did anything we saw actually happen? How to explain the sounds we hear or the odd lines stated by the characters which feel so out of sync with the situation as it unfolds?

It is pointless to find any logical explanation for Belle de Jour.  This is clearly not Luis Buñuel’s intention. The merging of the “real” with the “fantasy” is the “surreal” and the perfect way in 1966  to attempt to explore such a culturally challenging topic as The Female Masochist.

Catherine Deneuve treading softly and without any clear idea of where the character is heading in Belle de Jour

If one requires a point to art – then my suggestion is to look at Belle de Jour as perfect example of an accomplished artist who desires to make his audience think and contemplate what has been seen. A key desire that our culture seems to be losing at a horrifying pace. As a world culture, we appear to be losing the ability to actually think.

Catherine Deneuve playing dead in Belle de Jour

Another curious aspect of Belle de Jour as seen through the early 21st Century lens is the way the collective culture views “beauty” “acting” and “filmmaking” : I’ve heard and read that many feel that Denueve had not yet found her footing as an actress. That is rubbish. She is brilliant in this film and delivers exactly what Buñuel wanted. She presents a vacant void of a woman who only seems to spring to life when punished or enraptured. The character is not intended to be fully formed. Alice is a stunted beauty at the mercy of those around her because she does not have the self-awareness or strength to even recognize her psychological challenges.

Catherine Deneuve and Geneviève Page contemplate options at the brothel in Belle de Jour

Additionally,  I often feel ill when I hear or read how the current perspective on the female body is viewed. The women in Belle de Jour are beyond beautiful. Sadly, the cultural collective has changed the definition of beauty in an extreme manner. Media wants us to think that beautiful women are to be painfully thin with fake boobs and little to no body shape/curve. The French actresses in Belle de jour have curves. They are not “fat” — the very idea that someone would think that Catherine Denueve was fat in 1966 puzzles me, but many do!

Catherine Deneuve’s beautiful nude scene in Belle de Jour

What has happened to us that actresses like Angelina Jolie or Kiera Knightley are considered beautiful when it looks like they are in dire need of a sandwich.

Anyway, I regard Belle de Jourof the most important films ever made. And, I’m happy to note that for once, I’m not all alone in my opinion!

Catherine Deneuve waits for her erotic senses to awaken in Belle de Jour

If you’ve not seen it — check it out. And, it most certainly should be seen by anyone who has an appreciation for film as art.

Belle de Jour

Luis Bunuel, 1967