Garrel x 2

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Thanks to Zeitgeist Films and The Film Desk, two more films by Philippe Garrel have recieved subtitled releases:  his 1989  “Emergency Kisses” (“Les Baisers de secours”) and his 1991 “I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar” (“J’entends plus la guitar”).  Both are highly, almost intimidatingly personal “diary” films that deal, in fictionalized form, with Garrel’s relationship with the German singer Nico (who apparently introduced him to heroin) and its aftermath — in which the filmmaker appears to have been rescued by a strong-willed, motherly actress, Brigitte Sy, who got him off drugs and gave him a son, Louis (who grew up to star in Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” as well as in Garrel’s own account of the 67-68 student revolt, “Les Amants reguliers”).

I haven’t seen nearly enough of Garrel’s work to form a coherent opinion about it, but I hae offered a few observations in this Sunday’s New York Times.  Compared to his swaggeringly assertive contemporaries Maurice Pialat and Jean Eustache, Garrel can seem passive to a fault (he loves to depict himself being dominated by the women in his life, as well as by his real life father, Maurice Garrel, who makes a powerful appearance in “Emergency Kisses”).  But there is also a sweetness and helplessness in his work that is quite touching.  Perhaps Garrel is the true precursor of Mumblecore.

423 comments to Garrel x 2

  • Brad Stevens

    “By the way, I’m sure you saw STANLEY’S GIRLFRIEND. A very interesting film.”

    I regard it as a minor masterpiece. In many ways, it’s a reworking of TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, with two men who compensate for their inability to acknowledge the sexual nature of their relationship by sharing the same woman…who ultimately decides to simply walk away from the whole mess.

    Monte is about to start shooting a semi-autobiographical film called ROAD TO NOWHERE. I’ve read several drafts of the screenplay (including an early one in which the central character is actually named ‘Monte Hellman’), which is quite wonderful.

  • Blake Lucas

    “The emperor’s new clothes” was my thought about STRANGER IN PARADISE, his first film. He was new then–the film was a critic’s darling. I haven’t liked any of the others any better. Mannerism and hipsterism is pretty much what I see there.

    But let me add this–he does follow his own way, and isn’t just soaked up by the Hollywood machine. So I’ll acknowledge he isn’t the ideal example of what we’re talking about. Someone like Michael Mann might be a better example of someone who seems overrated to me, but I am less inclined to name him because I have enjoyed some of his films, at least moderately, and in some sequences of HEAT, more than that.

    But if one put him up as an equal of say, ANTHONY Mann, I would scream.

    I don’t know why I brought up the Nicholas Ray connection. I really don’t. Maybe because I’ve seen people reach for it, as if to say Ray in some way mentored him so that validates him. Jarmusch did say some careless, ill-informed things about Westerns when DEAD MAN came out, one of them a reference to JOHNNY GUITAR (as an example of the genre he liked as opposed to Ford–but his reasons didn’t seem very deep) and the other that DEAD MAN was the first black-and-white Western since THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (very simply, it wasn’t). None of that is a reflection on the film, of course.

    I’m sure you’re paying attention enough to know that I didn’t say one negative word about SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR or late Godard, and I only mention this because you casually mentioned these in the same post. No need to take up for SECRET because so many others have done it so well, but I want to say emphatically if there is one person whose work in the world we are now in really stands for something in cinema, it’s Godard.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Robin Wood once wrote that going to the cinema was once a pleasure but it is now a punishment. Since I’m not a “massachrist” as William Bendix calls Alan Ladd in THE GLASS KEY – notE that great studio reference! – I just don’t go frequently any longer but see most things on DVD, unless the film is worthwhile such as GRAN TORINO. Clint generally does not disappoint in terms of quality and I always see his films theatrically when I can – unless Kerasotes do not show them in BLACK ROCK as with WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART and BIRD.

    Adrian is furnishing some great alternative titles such as Mann’s very underrated MANHUNTER, generally neglected on first release and remade as RED DRAGON featuring that Port Talbot ham Anthony Hopkins. I would also mention George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) but that was a Laurel Group production and was slammed on initial release. It was also an oppositional anti-Reagnanite, anti-military film.

    But I think the point has been made already that whereas the 70s was still an an era one could welcome most studio releases, the mainstream Hollywood productions of the 80s of the Lucas-Spielberg ilk instituted a period of decline in terms of quality. Whether we use the term “Reaganite Entertainment” or not, the corporate mentality began a stranglehold over what films could be made. However, there was a lively alternative in the works of many directors outside the system whether in the USA (independent film) or south-East Asia that compensated for the decline in quality of studio era productions.

    I’d love to see THE PUPPET MASTER on big screen but since an annual Black Rock student film festival makes perverse choices such as showing HOOK on 35mm (along with other worthy items, of course) rather than the Taiwanese New Wave or running 2001 at a late night show with the projector breaking down so the audience leaves at 4.40 a.m. I must resign myself to the fact that seeing Hsou’s film in DVD/VHS is much better than not seeing it at all.

  • Kent Jones

    Blake, regarding Jarmusch and the comparison with Michael Mann, I agree. And that’s very well put on Godard.

    Tony, a 35mm print of HOOK? And someone CHOSE to show that? Is it because A BEAUTIFUL MIND and THE ROCK weren’t available? Oy…

    The 80s…the more I think about this and read everyone, the more I’m convinced we’re talking about post-1983. And that we’re also talking about the experience of watching everything deterorate one day at a time, inside and outside the theater.

    One name that has not been mentioned here and whose films were oases, was Bill Forsyth. Truthfully, I think they’re all good, from THAT SINKING FEELING right up through GREGORY’S TWO GIRLS. It strikes me that Forsyth has something of Monte’s difficulty, only in his case it really IS a question of temperament. he just doesn’t have the heart for the business.

  • Kent, you’re absolutely right – Forsyth is an underrated figure, and HOUSEKEEPING is one of the greatest films of that great cinema decade: the 80s! (I see I am a retro-prophet in the wilderness here.) It would have been intriguing to see what his original plan for that strange BEING HUMAN project with Robin Williams was all about.

    Also, in my never-ending list, Eastwood did some great stuff in the 80s: HONKYTONK MAN, PALE RIDER …

  • John M

    “It’s nice to see people come out this way about RAIDERS–I wish you all had been around when I was saying how much I hated that film and people were posting here saying what was wrong with me that I didn’t like this wonderful adventure film by the great Spielberg.”

    Don’t worry, Blake, some of us are still here, and still think you’re wrong. (You’re not crazy about opposition, are you?)

  • Tony Wiliams

    Kent, I can only think that HOOK was chosen to compensate for not getting an advance print of HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE the one that rumor ascribes to Jonathan Rosenbaum finally deciding to retire from reviewing films every week.

    If ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS represented the only viable studio project for Hellmann, one can understand “temperament” all to well.

  • Brian Dauth

    Two comments stand out for me: Dave K”s about the change in the relationship between the artist and his audience that occurs with RAIDERS, and Kent’s observation that films do not seem to be in dialogue with their audience any more.

    I think these comments are accurate and intertwined, and also related to Blake’s feeling that current contemporary films are “less” than their predecessors.

    The way I would cast this change is that the usual aesthetic experience offered when watching a movie now is less robust than the one I receive watching a film from the Classical Hollywood period. For example: I have been watching a lot of Cukor lately (a wonderful thing to do). Each film is interesting in itself in terms of form and content, but there are the addtional enrichments of the ways that the film reaches out to: all his other films; the society/culture/audience of the time he was making it; and the very structure and mechanisms of the Classical Hollywood industry itself. As I watch THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, Cukor’s other films are playing my head along with the iconographies of its stars (and any deviations); the societal reality of 1940; etc. When this mutlifaceted dialogue was broken, the aesthetic experience shrank, and it is quite possible that later films seem less than those of the previous era.

    There is also the increased difficulty in getting a film made. Are artists going to have careers that span 50 films or more as with Hitchcock and Cukor? Now it seems that 10-12 films is a good output for a director, so that the cross-referencing that goes on during spectating will take place on a diminished field.

    Also, the amount of time it takes to get a movie made can alter the rhythm of an artist’s career. Instead of exploring one facet of her talent through a series of films, and then moving on, artists get hamstrung. Unlilke poets or painters, they cannot just keep writing/painting until they have exhausted a subject. The development of an artist is constrained by her inability to practice her art. Again, the result may seem a body of work that is thinner than those made of the past since she was afforded fewer opportunities to delve into her talent on a regular basis.

    So if today’s filmmakers seem to be “less” than their ancestors, maybe it is not because they are inferior artists, but because both the understandings under which films are made as well as the opportunities to do so are radically changed, and make the full flowering of talent much harder than the Classical Hollywood era.

  • John M

    Brian Dauth’s comment is one of the most refreshingly empathetic I’ve read on this site.

    The Contemporary Director as Human. What a concept.

  • Kent Jones

    Brian, John Carpenter once said that he wished he’d been able to work in the studio system. I think your comments point toward why someone might just feel that way.

    Newer films, even the ones made by people I like, feel…lonelier. Lonelier because they don’t have as much company with other films in the director’s body of work, and lonelier because there’s very little common ground shared among films and filmmakers. Positive common ground, that is. There’s a great deal of shared distrust and paranoia and disenchantment, very little else. And then, of course, directors are obliged to act as their own producers, or at least in some capacity as their own advocates, and as you say, it’s a struggle to get a film made, for everyone. And finally, movies do not occupy the same place in people’s lives that they once did.

    I recently looked at THE PHILADELPHIA STORY again myself, for what may be the 150th time. And it seemed to have grown even richer. That wide shot of Katherine Hepburn standing alone by the pool as the model of the boat she and Cary Grant had built floats before her…the shimmering close-up of Grant nuzzling up next to Hepburn in the car (“You look beautiful, Red”)…James Stewart suddenly turning to Hepburn: “You can’t marry that guy…” Cukor, Philip Barry (and Donald Ogden Stewart – Wally Shawn is right, the screenplay is better than the play), Joseph Ruttenberg, the actors, MGM and Hollywood and the very idea of movies in America, working in beautiful harmony.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Yes, I fully agree with what Brian and Kent have said.

    Also, I forgot to add one important 1980s film that is oppositional both in form and content to the corporate studio system – Sam Peckinpah’s THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (1983), a film still remaining neglected in most areas of criticism.

  • Kent Jones

    Tony – I haven’t seen it since it came out, but I was quite struck by it at the time.

  • Tony Wiliams

    According to Stephen Prince, Sam made it to get back into Hollywood and did not have creative control. He regarded it as a failure but I think it is his most Brechtian examination of technology and power.

  • Barry Putterman

    I can’t believe that this is still going on over here.

    Remember way back when I said that the Renaissance ended and Elizabethan drama ended? Well, part of the reason that those periods existed in the first place is that there were convergences of artists at single times in single areas that formed communities of artists who could share ideas and lear from each other. I might add New Orleans in the first part of the 20th century for jazz as well.

    It could also be claimed that Hollywood was such a place for a certain period of time and then dissolved for many historical reasons. So hail to thee o Louis B. Mayer! We will not see your likes again for many an eon—if we’re lucky.

  • Brian Dauth

    Kent: I like the idea of films become lonelier (which in turns makes the act of spectatorship lonelier as well).

    Barry: Hollywood was like a medieval town that had different fiefs producing their particular, but related products. We will not see Mayer or his likes again, but we will also miss out on the vast network of artisans and experts who Cukor, Minnelli, Mankiewicz, and all the rest could draw on in their work. That overflowing table of gifts in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY — there for a few moments, but necessary to the overall effect/mood/feeling of the film. In the contemporary world of distrust/paranoia Kent describes, people do not work together in the same way and films suffer for it.

  • Tony Wiliams

    I should be moving on but Brian’s comment about multi-faceted associations rang a bell with me last night when I watched the 1960 Wagon Train episode “The Colter Craven Story” (1960) directed by John Ford. Rather than go OT elsewhere, I thought I’d add it here.

    Carlton Young played the title character with Anna Lee (amongst a midst of Ford regulars) playing his wife. He is an alcoholic doctor scarred by memories of those patients who died under him in the Civil War and Major Adams (Ward Bond) tells him the story of General Grant so that he can return to responsibility.

    The episode conveys many of those pleasurable moments of the classical Hollywood text of a certain period. When Adams refuses Bill Hawks (Terry Wilson) to partake in refreshments, the actor has the same expression that Jeanette Nolan will have in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) when she chalks up another meal for Andy Devine. At a fort Adams encounters a Clanton family with yokel son (Ken Curtis) berated by his father (John Carradine) for not shooting when he pulls a gun.

    The episode is uneven but there is a a brief homage to the mountain crossing of WAGONMASTER as well as Young astonishingly lit up to look like Will Rogers when he tends a young boy.

    Then the film moves into its moralistic flashback with Adams berating a gossip (played uncredited by Hank Worden) at Grant’s humiliating return to Illinois in the 1850s. Grant’s moralistic father is played by Ford’s favorite windbag Willis Bouchey and his mother by an uncredited Mae Marsh. During the drill sequence loosely modeled on the one in FORT APACHE we see none other than Jack Pennick as one of the recruits. Wayne appears in shadow acting under the pseudonym Michael Morris in a scene anaticipating Ford’s contribution to HOW THE WEST WAS WON.

    As Brian points out in his last sentence, “people do not work together in the same way and films suffer from it.”

  • Blake Lucas

    Tony, the main reason I’m posting this is just to let you know someone read it. As someone who occcasionally has posted something late in a thread and wondered why as discussion seemed over, I tend to look back every three or four days and see if the count looks different.

    I liked your comments and personally liked this best of Ford’s TV episodes–he certainly all he could to make it all his own, beginning with the casting. I’ve commented elsewhere that although he is always capable, I prefer Carleton Young in sympathetic roles rather than the sometimes less sympathetic ones he seems to be more often assigned (prosecutor in SERGEANT RUTLEDGE for example). This is a good example, along with the one-armed confederate officer in THE HORSE SOLDIERS. One doesn’t expect him in these roles and he is very effective in them.

    If by any chance you don’t know, Tony, you will want to know this: this episode was the final acting of Ward Bond–how wonderfully appropriate that Ford directed him this last time.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Thank you Kent, for these very affirmative comments.

    I did not know that the episode was Bond’s last appearance and also fully concur with you here.

  • Blake Lucas

    Tony, as Harry Carey Jr. kept saying to Widmark in CHEYENNE AUTUMN, “The names Smith, sir.”

    I should have added that “The Colter Craven Story” aired after Bond’s death. It must have been highly affecting to anyone who had followed his career and knew of his deep bond with Ford.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Yes, I’ve read that in Gary Yoggy’s book THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TELEVISION WESTERN but he says Bond appeared in another WAGON TRAIN episode before he died.

  • Blake Lucas

    The last source I read (can’t remember what it was) said that though another Bond episode of WT aired after “Colter Craven” the Ford episode was filmed last of the ones Bond was in.

    I’m not an authority. I read this recently, but not sure where, though must have been online. It’s nice to think it was Bond’s last work. Maybe this is a case of “Print the Legend” (and we know what “Colter Craven” leading actor said that famous line).

    Tony, have you read COMPANY OF HEROES by Harry Carey, Jr.? The chapter that deals (in part) with Ward Bond’s death is very moving–it’s the TWO RODE TOGETHER chapter. I still haven’t forgotten it. I won’t say what’s there because I’d like others to have the experience I did reading it. In fact, the whole book is a must for Ford fans.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Yes, I have COMPANY OF HEROES at home along with Yoggy’s book so I will look up the reference and cite it later this afternoon.

    Yes, it would have been nice if it was Bond’s last work.

  • Tony Wiliams

    According to Yoggy, Riding the Video Range, p.267, The Beth Pearson Story “was the last one Bond filmed and was in fact broadcast almost four months after his death.”