Tuesday, June 24, 2008

heep see

Husbands dir. Cassavetes

A friend sweetly and unexpectedly bought me a bootleg copy off of eBay of my favorite John Cassavetes film, to this day not available on DVD (thanks AAAA). The only noticeable effect of such a transfer is that there's this weird artifacting on the black fabrics, which makes the funeral scene turn slightly psychedelic. This marked my fifth time through the film, and I realize that the promise I made to myself a decade previous upon my first viewing of the film --that I would one day be as sartorially unfuckwithable as Mssrs. Cassavetes, Gazarra, and Falk-- has still not come to pass. I also lament that there's no sort of Smell-O-Vision here, especially as the bender the three husbands indulge in stretches on ever longer. If only you could get a whiff of Peter Falk's vomit and cigarette breath.

Seriously though, click this and sign the petition to have Husbands released on DVD.

Battle of Algiers dir. Pontecorvo

Since the Iraqi War is no longer front-page news, it may be best to learn about our enemy via a forty-year-old documentary-style story on how Algeria threw off French occupation. The Criterion set is heavy, revealing that the film was made less than five years after liberation, on the very streets that were covered in blood and rubble but a few years previous and including a roundtable discussion with Richard A. Clarke (author of Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror) about the movie's effects. Mandatory viewing for both Al Qaeda recruits as well as US special ops.

While the film's depiction of both torture and terrorism tactics (see women hiding their bombs in their baskets or police using live wires on suspects) are chilling and spot-on, there's something else at work. We see how effective both strategies are, in that the bombs kill hundreds of innocent civilians, rally Algerians to their cause, and entice the oppressors into more self-defeating policies, while the gruesome torturing of captives allows the police to capture/ kill the insurgents and their leaders. Yet at movie's end, both terrorism and torture fail. And yet, due to some intangible movement that the camera does not register, liberation still occurs. Even the film itself professes to have no answers as to why independence finally comes, why the populace finally rallies and throws off the French. It is, as Clarke states though, about an invisible war, a war of ideas.

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her dir. Jean-Luc Godard

Perhaps it's as Godard intended, to have the Law of Diminishing Returns enacted on celluloid. While my first viewing of this film imparted a giddy and heady rush, each subsequent viewing has turned into more of an pedantic slog. It's also incredibly noisy, with a near-constant clamor of construction work and a clanging pinball machine. There's still whispered Brecht, mere reportage of the senses, 'Nam polemics from the mouths of babes, endlessly quotable lines like "Language is the house man lives in" and "If you can't afford LSD, try a color TV," but it tells of things to come (like the execrable Le Gai Savoir, which we also suffered through. That said, it has two of his most poetic visual musings, one involving the play of tree-dappled light atop a candy-red car hood, another of that cosmic cup of stirred coffee.