Monday, May 26, 2014

Cahiers du Cinéma (N.700)

For their 700th issue, Cahiers du Cinéma, which started in 1951 and has experienced many lives since then, got many guests to contribute an intimate experience and strong emotion – Stéphane Delorme, citing Franz Kafkfa, a film that “must be the axe for the frozen sea within us” - related to cinema. This is where the magazine is at now.    

Mathieu Amalric highlights the initial difficulty of this task, “We are skeptical of emotions.” But luckily the contributors can take up this challenge.

The directors had interesting things to say. Andrei Ujică describes a childhood experience of watching Godzilla and the screen being blurry, which got his grandmother realize that he needed glasses. Ira Sachs describes watching films at a queer porno cinema. Pedro Costa submitted a photo-collage. Hong Sang-soo describes being blown influenced by a Cézanne painting, and Mia Hansen-Løve describes seeing the paintings of David Hockey. There is a creepy Trash Humpers photograph by Harmony Korine. Raymond Depardon has a picture of Auschwitz ("I was born on 6 July 1942"). Francis Ford Coppola sent a picture of himself with a lot of his grandchildren.

The layout of the issue is interesting too. There are correspondences between the pages, and the background switches sometimes from white to black if the subject is older films. For example, it opens with two pieces on Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon and how Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse gracefully dance (Jean-Luc Nancy describing this scene is especially good). Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Darezhan Omirbayev and Benny Safdie all write on A Man Escaped. João Pedro Rodrigues describes seeing Amor de Perdição and across the page there is Manoel de Oliveira’s entry. David Cronenberg writes about being scared of the death scenes in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now while beside this Bertrand Bonello writes about The Brood. There is a screen-grab of David Gordon Green who has a cameo role in Born on the Fourth of July, which in describing the experience acknowledges that it inspired him to become a filmmaker.

There are new directors and those from a younger generation, too. Christoph Hochhäusler, Ramon Zürcher (on Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman), Kleber Mendonça Filho, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Xavier Dolan (on Elephant), and Denis Côté (on Teorema and L'important c'est d'aimer). The classics are accounted for as Martin Scorsese writes about Citizen Kane, James Gray on Vertigo, and Joe Dante on The Night of the Hunter. There are nice odes to Steven Spielberg by Pierre Trividic (Close Encounters) and Peter Farrelly (Jaws). It is surprising, though, how nobody cites any films by the past New Wave directors like François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard or Éric Rohmer.

It includes musicians: Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore's piece is really good and very personal, and Will Oldham describes the pictures that he has up on the wall of his office. The French author Éric Chevillard describes laughing so hard at a scene in Bananas. There are actors, too. Nicolas Maury in a sweet manner describes a scene in Jean Eustache's Mes Petites Amoureuse. There some people that thank Cahiers and which appear really sincere. Thelma Schoonmaker (who has a great piece on Colonel Blimp) on the behalf of her and Scorsese, and Lalo Schifrin’s piece is really nice too. Takeshi Kitano and Jacques Nolot troll as they hate on films in general. And there are interesting hints at how different films stocks and film-going experiences (e.g. the cinema vs. DVDs) contribute to creating these strong impressions.

The older generation film critics and programmers (Bellour, Jacob, Rissient, Brody, Moullet, Toubiana, Douchet, Žižek, Père) have interesting things to say and which speaks to an older time. The choice of guests is interesting, but one wanders what was the selection process? Why aren’t some of the other greats included like Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Matt Porterfield, Jean-Marc Vallée or Tsai Ming-liang? (Doesn’t matter too much, you can find their comments on the Internet). But what one takes from this special issue, which surprisingly doesn't include any of their standard texts (there aren’t even any reviews), is its positive gesture and goal to bring out the best in people - getting people to be more emotionally honest is the first step in trying to make the world a better place.

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