Tuesday, 26 August 2008

One film I had problems with: The Book of Revelation. A young male dancer finding his feet again after being abducted and sexually abused by three women. Perhaps the director dwelt too much on the scenes of abuse, which were in effect flashback. They slowed down the story, his struggle to deal with what has happened to him and get back to work again. But then they were real enough to him. A difficult story and a difficult film. I had problems in that it didn't quite fit together, yet it is an immensely powerful and immediate story, one that deals with difficult and painful issues. The treatment doesn't quite seem to get it right.

No problem with the Bill Douglas trilogy. First off, how well scripted: someone who learnt from those who grew up in the silent era, who knew how to make visual films. Dialogue is very much secondary to the moving image, and there's little enough of it. There are great gaps in the story telling: Jamie runs away and is rejected even by his relatives in the bleak Scottish town. What is he going to do now? The desert from a moving truck. Palm trees waver by. A hesitating dialogue: 'Wha's yur name?' Slowly we realise he's joined the forces. The suddenness of a new life.

The story is autobiographical and heavy: the children brought up by a grandmother who dies, whose mother is insane and whose fathers don't care. Jamie becomes increasingly an outsider, a miss-fit, emotionally blank. Friendship with a young serviceman in Egypt slowly brings him back to being a human being, with interests beyond survival. Made in 1972 -8, dealing with the early 50s. The trilogy begins in 1945.

The Scottish background was partly familiar: my grandparents were not that poor, but the cast-iron hearth with the oven to the left, the doors with latches, and made from vertical lengths of wood, were very familiar.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Trouble Every Day and Bataille... It could almost be Angela Carter, although her horrors are grim ly humorous, and Denis's vision is surprisingly cold and analytic. AC's The Bloody Chamber: short stories based on stories like Bluebeard. Grimly humorous and poetic: actually quite unlike Trouble Every Day, which is cold, analytic and despairing. And surprisingly brutal. But the film world isn't the real world. Murders go unreported and undiscovered: victims (at least the chambermaid at the end) don't scream or knee their (male) attacker.
Two weeks ago I ended up having a great time with an Argentinian tango partner... & last week, same venue (the Dome) I asked someone I'd danced with at the class. I knew she was hesitant but OK with all the basics -- and again I had a great time, different, but very enjoyable, perhaps more personal, since it's necessary to take more care of a partner who isn't so practiced, and since she will be more surprised and pleased. We started out in a relatively open embrace but as she relaxed she found it comfortable to be closer. & I began to get the sense I only get with some very practiced dancers that I am placing her feet, especially in ochos, which means I have better control of the direction we travel in. I can probably do this with anyone: it just means turning and being very clear.

Seeing L'Aventura again: all I could remember of it was Monica Vitti's hair in the wind. Seeing it again, I wonder if that might be the best part of it. OK, it's a long and ambitious project, but I suspect the screenplay isn't well-realised. The film seems static and episodic in a rather dull way. Great sets - the Aeolian Isles, and Sicily, but very static. At least Monica Vitti's hair moves! The film involves characters, but they are one-dimensional and rather unbelievable.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Trouble Every Day - Claire Denis again. I realised at the first shot I saw it a while back and couldn't quite make it out. No indication where the story comes from: like L'Intrus it seems to be her own. Perhaps the attitude to the horror is key. It's not shock-horror, the horror intended to be scary. Instead, there's something very matter-of-fact about it, which comes over in the very clear way it is presented visually. Although the visual details are fairly extreme there's a sense almost of weariness, inevitability; this is something we can't escape. Unfortunately no 'Extra' interview with Claire Denis, so Beatrice Dalle's comment 'It's not about cannibalism... I thought it is a love story' must suffice. She, Denis, does work from philosophical premises and this film, for all its gory details, seems to have the rigour and distancing of a thesis, or a story intended metaphorically.

Denis's style: she excels at telling a story visually, rarely using words or dialogue unless essential. She seems to withhold information if possible, drawing the viewer into interpretation, leaving events with as little explanation as possible to give us space to be involved. Visually immaculate in detail and in sequence of scenes, in montage, and always beautifully shot.

Amazing: thought-provoking seems a wrong description since the effect is of a space we are invited to visit and revisit in recollection, a space that has similar points to our everyday 'reality' and yet has points completely unlike it. In the end it's so irrational that thinking isn't relevant, and yet that irrationality is why it is so close. If L'Intrus came out of reading Nancy, Trouble could have come out of reading Bataille.
...but I have to conclude I didn't dance too well on Saturday largely, I think, because I danced a lot. Sitting out and watching for a few tandas is great for seeing/remembering movements and connections, for refreshing the attention and hearing. Otherwise it gets seriously repetitive and I don't enjoy it.

& I wrote that I really like some partners, as if there were some I don't really like, which isn't the case. Partly, I tend to dance with partners I know, and those I've got to know better tend to be those I like more, inevitably. But it's worth noting that it seems possible to like everyone at a milonga: perhaps it goes with the territory. There are partners I wouldn't dance with but that's usually for technical reasons like they don't seem to hear the compas clearly or are just too proficient for my level. & I hesitate to dance with tall partners because it's not always comfortable to dance closehold with a tall partner, although it can be good.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

For once I'm thinking about tango, after a whole evening dancing, from 8.30 very nearly till 1.30 and only a few breaks. I think there were more women than men so it wasn't hard to stay busy. It might be useful to log some general comments on partners to try and express something of what tango dancing is like, its attraction. Some partners can't always keep attention: it must be strange to be physically active and yet mentally passive (if that's the right word), at least receptive all the time to the leader's movements. Some feel they ought to add ornaments, while I think ornaments should arise out of relaxed movements rather than being added on top. And some dance effortlessly, in varying degrees according really to experience. I wonder if hearing the music is key. If you can immerse yourself in the music you can lead/follow: it takes time and practice, but that's where it comes from.

I should log my own dancing too. It was a successful evening but uneven. There were OK and indifferent dances, but it was good to have a really long evening. I've practiced the tight right turn a lot and can fit it into a very small space, which is good. Must get the tight left turn working now. It gets a bit repetitive: one partner said that doesn't matter, and that's probably true for a partner, but I make those moves all evening and would like more variety. Beginning to work on getting little corridas working, which is fun and adds variety. & I still lurch a bit every now and again, but it seems that it happens less the more relaxed I am. With one partner I like very much and sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by I am less relaxed: with another who I also like very much but am very relaxed with when dancing it doesn't happen. She has danced for years, first salsa then tango, and is very sure on her feet. I find I start to turn my upper body a lot more when I dance with her because I'm confident she'll follow, and we've had some memorable dances, flying round the room. & it was she who said last night: 'At this time of night I start to follow in my sleep. Time to go home.'

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Returning to the Dome after weeks... Perhaps there's an advantage in expecting little. I just hoped to see a few old friends... get a few dances. Nothing too much as it's not been much good recently. The class, OK, so I have difficulty with some right turns, but no problem to the left. I like the beginning of classes: the moves are easy, nothing much is expected, a few simple moves and I keep to the music, make a dance of an exercise. Which may be why one one of the partners came over to me afterwards, and we started to dance right off. She used a totally full embrace from the start (slightly familiar, that one!) eager, warm, wonderfully ready to be led, a closeness and enthusiasm that weren't at all English, but to which I responded willingly. And she expects to keep the full embrace or at least chest in front of chest even in turns, So where is she from? Begs the question, where am I from, too. We had five, six, seven wonderfully enthusiastic dances and are about to part when... a vals tanda starts. We look at each other because we know what fun it's going to be, and off we go. Couldn't be better. She was from Argentina: where else. I looked out for her later: most of the evening she was talking to a thin, tallish guy I'd never seen there before. I'd never seen her there before, either, but that's tango. All of a sudden you find someone you dance passionately with, and then, all of a sudden it's as if nothing had happened.

& S was there later, and we had a few excellent dances too, as ever: she flies around. So I woke up happy this morning. Went for a first Alexander session this pm: letting the body sort itself out. It knows, naturally. So instead of stretching a stiff neck a bit forcefully, maybe look for the tensions that have created it.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Crypt: sometimes being a tango commuter gets to me. Five hours' travel for an hour or two of dance. How can I get out of this? With the economic situation it's getting harder to sell, and I've still got work to finish on this place. So I danced, badly or just unadventurously, but enjoyed some Pugliese with Kay, who knows her Pugliese too. But I was really too tired to do much. Didn't go in to tango al fresco but spent the day drawing taf onto lino to make prints for Anna's show. Hope something comes of that as I don't have much time left to finish it.
'L'intrus' Claire Denis again. The great addition of 'extras' to DVD: how 'Vertigo' was made and restored, Raoul Coutard on working with Godard, Bresson on his work, actors from Bresson films on how the making of the films affected them. And Claire Denis, at length on 'L'Intrus'. It started from a short (13 page) text by Jean-Luc Nancy, which I found and downloaded: the first few paras are his thoughts on intrusion and the intruder in general, and develops into the desperate story of the heart transplant he had, it's rejection and his subsequent struggle with cancer caused by the anti-rejection drugs. Levels of intrusion. Reading this, she said, affected her profoundly, and the film arose out of this. She says everything is in the text: Nancy himself queried this, and she says she assured him, everything. But the character played by Subor (le petit soldat) is made out to be heartless, callous, certainly unlike Nancy (who has survived all the medical complications).

The film is visually extraordinary: it seems to have time to dwell on visual detail without interrupting the story. The story is told with little narration: you have to look to find out what is happening. It is often unclear: flash backs which could be nightmares of Subor's past, which remains mysterious. What is being 'told' is the story of rejection, of death, of whose death isn't eventually clear.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Tango: a class with Alexandra and Stephano for a change, with F, who told me about it. A well-organised two hours, and a very musical approach. Last class before the August break, so the intermediate class was more social dancing. I enjoyed it as the social dancing mixed with general instruction, so there were always things to be aware of and think about. F going to Italy and the BsAs: hope to meet up for a few dances in between. So I can get a sense of before and after, as I joked.

  1. Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien
  2. by Brian Winter Reviewed by Judith Mackerell, Guardian 26 July.
Two or three things I know about her: the next Godard on the list. Background of mid-60s Paris being torn down and rebuilt: 'her' the actress and Paris. I don't remember a great deal of it, except the narrator's voice (Godard) and the extraordinary bubbles whirling round on an espress: they seem to take on characters and stories of their own. 'If you can't afford LSD buy a TV'.

Masculin Feminin: Leaud, ex-army, finding life confusing. He takes to interviewing women. The interview was taken seriously at that time: intimate questions were asked and answered. His girl friend is becoming a pop star, like Sandie Shaw. Somehow the shallowness of consumerist pop 60s is focussed by Leaud, but sometimes I had the irreverent thought that women were being interviewed for the role of the next Mme Godard. Even Bardot is there, being given instructions on how to read a passage of text. Like a series of screen tests. Yes, one of the women answers back, in the end. In the end we learn he has fallen from a balcony of a tower block. Not really a stunning film but, as usual with Jean-Luc, there's much to think about. Not Coutard, and it shows. The mono is muddy and unclear, the cool silver greys just aren't there.

& A Man Escaped. Catching up on Bresson. Slow relentless accumulation of detail, the pitiless world of prison, as dehumanised as possible, the death-defying escape. Astonishing and of course recent memory when it was made.