Catching up… I watched this three weeks ago, and the only note I took says:

Unfun intellectual/political word games

Obviously it’s a complicated (if unfun) movie, so a one-line review will not do. This is where my lack of biographical knowledge on Godard (and lack of interest in 1960’s politics) holds me back, because this feels like an escalation of ideas about consumerism and radicalism and societal ills from 2 or 3 Things and Weekend… but it also feels like a parody, its characters deluded comic-book Mao radicals. This doesn’t seem right, since the ideals of our main characters seem similar to Godard’s own, in his later, more boring works.

Feels like we spend forever in the primary-color apartment with young commies Jean-Pierre Leaud, Juliet Berto (her first year in film) and Anne Wiazemsky (star of Au Hasard Balthazar the year before). But there’s also an assassination attempt, a guy exiled from the group, suicide, some fun self-reflexivity, and an endless train conversation with a philosophy professor. Literature references abound, apparently, and name-dropping of Katy’s favorite theorists.

Played Venice the year Belle de Jour won, tying China is Near for a jury prize.

The soothing voice of Thandie Newton reads us soothing philosophy from The Prophet.

From the description, Tarn “traveled around the world with his 16mm and HD camera and filmed people, situations and places that resonate with, rather than illustrate, the text’s themes.”

Watched to get in touch my my Lebanese roots. Actually I planned to double-feature with the animated version but didn’t get to it. I didn’t usually love the photography, but the cumulative effect of it with the voiceover worked for me.

Some really beautiful, extended clips from great films.

Nice to sit for 100 minutes and watch the clips. Frustrating, though, that I have no bloody idea what this movie’s point was. I’ve never understood Deleuze – his books The Time-Image and The Movement-Image have promising titles but I’m not smart or patient enough to read them through. Andersen doesn’t help, using no narration, just short scraps of written quotes. Just as I played guess-the-movie with the clips, which aren’t identified, I suppose film theorists can play guess-the-context for the quotes.

J. Cronk:

The Thoughts That Once We Had, in accordance with its analytical subject matter, is less a work of criticism than of classification and philosophical contemplation … The director describes The Thoughts That Once We Had as a “musical film,” and there is indeed a sequence dedicated to the movie musical, as well as interludes devoted to the allure of Maria Montez and Debra Paget, the differing though equally magnetic intrigue of Timothy Carey and Marlon Brando, and the use of blues music in American film—there’s even an extra-cinematic consideration of Hank Ballard and Chubby Checker’s nearly identical versions of their signature hit “The Twist.” As in his prior films, there’s a joy to be had in simply watching the clips unfold and comment on each other in alternately humorous and shrewd fashion, and Andersen seems particularly inspired here when diagramming the symmetry between images of a certain spiritual accord, even as they date from diverging periods.

Great sequel to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. I liked this one better – less psychoanalysis and more social/political discussion. Again we’ve got clips from films and new stories and music performances, with Zizek talking for the entire runtime, having been placed inside the sets from some of the films (“feel-ums”). Would be worth watching this a few times, a la the Adam Curtis movies, in order to grasp it all, but it’s simply less enjoyable than an Adam Curtis movie. Maybe if they got Craig Baldwin to edit the visuals and Mark Cousins to re-record the voiceover… but I digress.

Some Things:

Good idea to open with They Live. Besides the obvious bit with the clear text commands beneath billboards and magazines (“consume”) he discusses why the fight scene has to be so long and difficult.

Zizek speaks from inside They Live, The Sound of Music, a Coke commercial, A Clockwork Orange (I think), Jaws, Triumph of the Will (heh), The Fall of Berlin, one real location (an airplane graveyard), Taxi Driver, Full Metal Jacket, Brief Encounter, Seconds (good one) and Titanic (including a great post-credits stinger where he plays Dead Leo DiCaprio)

“The basic insight of psychoanalysis is to distinguish between enjoyment and simple pleasures. They are not the same. Enjoyment is precisely enjoyment in disturbed pleasure, even enjoyment in pain, and this excessive factor disturbs the apparently simple relationship between duty and pleasures.”

He uses Kinder Eggs (“a quite astonishing commodity”) as a metaphor about layers of enjoyment. I think by his logic that Edgar Wright movies are Kinder Eggs.

He defends Rammstein, showing concert footage that has been likened to nazi imagery. Actually, nazis come up a lot in this movie, and there’s a long section about Beethoven’s 9th, Ode to Joy (also feat. A Clockwork Orange).

Seconds:

How to properly mock communism: in Loves of a Blonde and The Fireman’s Ball, Milos Forman “mocks precisely the ordinary people in their daily conformism, stupidity, egotism, lust, and so on. It may appear that this is something very arrogant, but no, I think that this is the way to undermine the entire structure of the Stalinist universe, to demonstrate not that leaders are not leaders – they’re always ready to say ‘oh but we are just ordinary people like you’ – no, that there is no mythic people which serves as the ultimate legitimization.”

“How come it is easier for us to imagine the end of all life on earth, an asteroid hitting the planet, than a modest change in our economic order? Perhaps the time has come to set our priorities straight and to become realists by way of demanding what appears as impossible in the economic domain.” Seems that Zizek is advocating for revolution.

Derrida seems like a very interesting guy who does very interesting work. Directors Dick and Kofman, however, do not. The Singing Revolution may have been a mediocre movie about a thrilling topic, but this was an outright bad movie about a topic that’s only interesting if properly explained. Derrida getting dressed for work and refusing to answer interview questions doesn’t give us great insight into his philosphy and only reflects badly upon filmmakers who only have 80 minutes to tell us about this supposedly documentary-worthy, world-renowned thinker. Reading excerpts from Derrida’s books is a good start, but having the excerpts read dryly by a narrator over unrelated images wasn’t the way to go. In the interview included on the disc, Derrida doesn’t seem to know why he’s there, and his first statement is that he never wanted to be involved. The music wasn’t great either. Ultimately, this movie should’ve been a pamphlet or a magazine article… its value as cinema is pretty low. I’ll take Zizek any day.

Jean-Louis is a Catholic engineer with an interest in mathematics and a dislike for Blaise Pascal (the mid-1600’s scientist and philosopher). JL meets up with old long-time-no-see friend Vidal, who takes him out dancing and then to visit Vidal’s friend Maud, a single mother, at her house on Christmas night. The section at Maud’s house must be at least a third of the film’s running time. Vidal is attracted to her, but she’ll have none of that. He gets drunk and finally walks home, Leaving JL to fend for himself. They talk about life, love, religion and Pascal, JL sleeps next to Maud but they only kiss once. The next day JL meets Franciose, a girl he has noticed at church, and makes a date with her, then joins Maud and Vidal out hiking in the snow, talking like comfortable old friends. Another friendly kiss. JL gives Francoise a ride home, stays over at her place (but in a separate room), flash-forward they are married with a kid, he meets Maud, and we find out that Francoise had an affair with Maud’s ex husband, but all is forgiven and the family goes to romp in the surf.

Like a more fleshed-out story of The Bakery Girl of Monceau, but this time the women have histories and personalities, and the bakery girl (or Maud) is much harder to write off. JL has a deeper character than anyone in the first two Moral Tales – Criterion calls him “one of the great conflicted figures of sixties cinema.”

JL and Maud:
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On the film’s style, Kent Jones says “No one’s films are more ‘written,’ more narrative based, or more logistically tied to particular places and times of year.” True that, an extremely talky picture, and reliant on its snowy seasonal setting. Finely but simply shot in black and white. No real visual or plot excitement, no stylistic heightening of mood or emotion, but a deeply thought-out script and characters evolving before our eyes. This particular week from Christmas to New Year’s is one of the most important in JL’s life, and we see (or hear) his changing and challenged beliefs, principles and decisions, creating the kind of real human complexity very rarely seen in movies.

Came out a decade after its closest (so far) kin in New Wave cinema, The 400 Blows, probably the quietest and most reserved film of 1969, the year of The Gladiators, Mr. Freedom, Topaz, Satyricon and Easy Rider (but to be fair, also the year of Andrei Rublev, Passion of Anna and Army of Shadows). Third of the Six Moral Tales, the last four of which were shot by Néstor Almendros, who also worked with Truffaut and Barbet Schroeder and later shot Days of Heaven.

More Kent Jones:

What are the chances that Jean-Louis and Maud will have a life together? Based on her luck with men and his avowed preference for Catholic blondes, not so great. Based on their immediate affinity for each other, not so small. “You are a happy soul, despite appearances,” observes Maud of Jean-Louis—and the essential rightness of this observation is what makes Rohmer a greater artist than Bertolucci and also points to what gives My Night at Maud’s its special spark and effervescence. … Current fashion would favor Maud as the voice of reason when she tartly dismisses Jean-Louis’ prevarications: “I prefer people who know what they want.” Yet there’s something equally admirable about Jean-Louis’ insistence on adhering to his story and fulfilling his own platonic conception with Françoise, a decidedly unhappy soul. The necessity of choice, the pain of choice: no film is better at illuminating these two ­equally real aspects of living. There are no moments of grace in My Night at Maud’s. … Yet there are intimations of grace in the slow, serpentine movement toward intimacy between Maud and Jean-Louis.

Maud and Vidal:
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Movie picked up a few screenplay awards, but mostly beaten out by the big political films of the era – Lindsay Anderson’s If… for feature at Cannes, Costa-Gavras Z for foreign film oscar and, ahem, Patton for screenplay oscar.

Vidal – Antoine Vitez (a smallish part in Truffaut’s The Green Room).

Franciose – Marie-Christine Barrault (Queen Gueneviere in Perceval le Gallois, also in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories)

Maud – Francoise Fabian (the lawyer Lucie in Out 1 and the mother in Secret Defense)

Jean-Louis – Jean-Louis Trintignant, who worked with (in order) Roger Vadim, Jacques Demy, Alain Robbe-Grillet, René Clément, Claude Chabrol, Costa-Gavras, Bertolucci (star of The Conformist), André Téchiné, Kieslowski (Red), and Patrice Chéreau (Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train).

JL and Francoise:
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