Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chris Marker on memory and filmmaking


First in French, then in English translation... taken from chrismarker.org. The still is from Le fond de l'air est rouge.

"Dans nos moments de rêverie mégalomaniaque, nous avons tendance à voir notre mémoire comme une espèce de livre d’Histoire: nous avons gagné et perdu des batailles, trouvé et perdu des empires. A tout le moins nous sommes les personnages d’un roman classique (’Quel roman que ma vie!”). Une approche plus modeste et peut-être plus fructueuse serati de considérer les fragments d’une mémoire en terms de géographie. Dans toute vie nous trouverions des continents, des îles, des déserts, des marais, des territoires surpeuplés et des terrae incognitae. De cette mémoire nous pourrions dessiner la carte, extraire des images avec plus de facilité (et de vérité) que des contes et légendes. Que le sujet de cette mémoire se trouve être un photographe et un cinéaste ne veut pas dire que sa mémoire est en soi plus intéressante que celle du monsieur qui passe (et encore moins de la dame), mais simplement qu’il a laissé, lui, des traces sur lesquelles on peut travailler, et des contours pour dresser ses cartes."

"In our moments of megalomaniacal daydreaming, we tend to view our memory as a kind of History Book: we have won and lost battles, found and lost whole empires. At the very least we are characters from a classic novel (’My life is such a novel!’). A more modest and perhaps more fruitful approach would be to consider the fragments of memory in terms of geography. In every life, we would find continents, islands, deserts, swamps, overpopulated territories and terrae incognitae. From this memory we can draw the map, extract images with more ease (and truth) than do stories and legends. That the subject of this memory is found to be a photographer or a filmmaker does not imply that his memory is more interesting than that of any passing gentleman (or moreover, than that of the lady), but simply that he has left traces with which one can work, and contours to help draw up the map."

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mark Rothko, John Ford and automatic calligraphy


A piece of the catalog text Howard Putzel wrote for Mark Rothko's one-man exhibition (1945) at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery:
"Rothko's style has a latent archaic quality which the pale and uninsistent colours enforce. The particular archaization, the reverse of the primitive, suggests the long savouring of human and traditional experience as incorporated in the myth. Rothko's symbols, fragments of myth, are held together by a free, almost automatic calligraphy that gives a peculiar unity to his paintings -- a unity in which the individual symbol acquires its meaning, not in isolation, but rather in its melodic adjustment to the other elements in the picture. It is this feeling of internal fusion, of the historical conscious and subconscious capable of expanding far beyond the limit of the picture space that gives Rothko's works its force and essential character."

Reading this on the Taschen book on Rothko, I thought it was true for all great art, but especially John Ford and his The Horse Soldiers came to my mind. Let me repeat the same paragraph, replacing "Rothko" by "Ford", and "paintings" with "films". The word calligraphy has a more obvious correlation to Rothko's paintings of that period, but I find the word very descriptive of good film-style.
Ford's style has a latent archaic quality which the pale and uninsistent colours enforce. The particular archaization, the reverse of the primitive, suggests the long savouring of human and traditional experience as incorporated in the myth. Ford's symbols, fragments of myth, are held together by a free, almost automatic calligraphy that gives a peculiar unity to his films -- a unity in which the individual symbol acquires its meaning, not in isolation, but rather in its melodic adjustment to the other elements in the picture. It is this feeling of internal fusion, of the historical conscious and subconscious capable of expanding far beyond the limit of the picture space that gives Ford's works its force and essential character.



In a letter to the New York Times, Mark Rothko and his friends Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman wrote (1943):
"It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints, as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing. We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess a spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art."

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

from Jerry Lewis' "The Nutty Professor" (1963)

Dr. Hamius R. Warfield: Mr. Love?
Buddy Love: Buddy, to you... What's your moniker, kid? What do they call you? Mortimer? Harvey? Norman? Homer? Which is it?
Dr. Hamius R. Warfield: You may call me Dr. Warfield, young man.
Buddy Love: OK, doc it is. What kind of doctor are you, by the way, sweetie? Sawbones, is that the idea? Or a head shrinker? I went to them once. You dig? Head Shrinker. He told me I had a dual personality, you know, split, schizo and all that jazz. Then he lays an 82 dollar tab on me. So I gave him 41 bucks and I said get the other 41 from the other guy. Haha!

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