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New IndianAuteur; Cultish Movies in NYC Today

The Auteurs Daily

Kamal Swaroop

Issue 8 of IndianAuteur, which can also be read as a full-screen E-magazine, features an interview with Kamal Swaroop, "the director of the greatest Indian film to have never been seen, Om Dar Ba Dar," as well as Adrian Martin on Miguel Gomes's second feature, Our Beloved Month of August, Ignaity Vishnevetsky on James Lee, "probably Malaysia's greatest filmmaker," Srikanth Srinivasan on the Berlin School, Jit Phokeaw's introduction to 20 young independent Thai directors and more.

 

EVENTS

As part of its series Tim Burton and the Lurid Beauty of Monsters, MoMA is screening Bride of the Monster this afternoon, followed by Glen or Glenda. For entertaining takes on Ed Wood and these two beasts of his, turn to Henry Stewart and Michael Atkinson in the L Magazine and Bob Calhoun in Film Salon.

Also in New York this afternoon and evening, but at Anthology Film Archives: "A slight but stylish and oddly watchable stew of urban deviance from the grindhouse alleys of yesteryear, Joseph Cates's Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965) may never acquire the cult it still seems to beg for - and maybe the perception of begging is the problem," writes Michael Atkinson, again for the L Magazine. "But what makes Teddy Bear interesting is its spot on the continuum between A Streetcar Named Desire and Taxi Driver, dramas of degenerated masculine frustration, building from ordinary misogony to slaughter." Earlier: Melissa Anderson's interview with Elaine Stritch for the Voice.

Image: Detail from the cover of the new IndianAuteur: Kamal Swaroop.

For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS).

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In re: "Ignaity Vishnevetsky on James Lee, “probably Malaysia’s greatest filmmaker” " — wow, super: a completely clueless article by someone who has apparently never seen any Malaysian films besides Lee’s.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Chuck. I know my Malaysian cinema fairly well, but, as I mention at the outset, putting someone in a national context doesn’t really interest me. Unless, of course, this is just a “this person’s opinion is different from mine, and therefore they must be poorly informed” argument.
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Jit Phokeaw’s informative, insightful piece on Thai indies is, by contradistinction, completely awesome!
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Sorry Mr. V, but trying to dodge a bullet isn’t the same as not getting hit by it: you make absolutely no reference to any Malaysian filmmaker other than Lee in your article (despite that fact that Lee is at least as busy collaborating with other Malaysian filmmakers in any given year as he is making films of his own), so how is one to gauge your rather wild assertions about his filmmaking, or your knowledge of Malaysian filmmaking generally? I didn’t say anything about “opinions”. You’re the one making wild — and wholly unsubstantiated — claims: about Lee, about “Malaysian life”, and many other things. I’ll leave your apparent cluelessness about “Surrealism” alone for now; the hole you’re already digging yourself is deep enough.
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“…putting someone in a national context doesn’t really interest me.” Yes, that might get in the way of your specious associations and dead end proclamations.
1. Though the Malaysian film industry isn’t very large, there is no place — nor should there be — in that piece for information on the Golden Age of Malaysian cinema, the scaling back in the mid-20th century, P. Ramlee, the resurgence towards the end of the 20th or even my opinions on Amir Muhammad, etc. As I said, I’m not interested in Lee as a “Malaysian filmmaker.” As the title indicates, what interests me, what fascinates me, about Lee is the approach towards cinema as a sort of appliance, as essentially a camera, with film history not being terribly different from the special featu1. Though the Malaysian film industry isn’t very large, there is no place — nor should there be — in that piece for information on the Golden Age of Malaysian cinema, the scaling back in the mid-20th century, P. Ramlee, the resurgence towards the end of the 20th or even my opinions on Amir Muhammad, etc. As I said, I’m not interested in Lee as a “Malaysian filmmaker.” As the title indicates, what interests me, what fascinates me, about Lee is the approach towards cinema as a sort of appliance, as essentially a camera, with film history not being terribly different from the special features that come bundled with a camcorder (however, I regret deleting a paragraph that dealt specifically with Lee’s beloved camcorders — which he used to document on his site — all of them bought in the sort of consumer electronics stores he’s fascinated with filming). 2. I make absolutely no statements about Malaysian life. I do use the phrase “Malaysian life” at one point, but not in the context of making any claims about it. So not sure what you’re talking about. 3. A man who fears making wild, unsubstantiated claims has no place writing about cinema. I don’t really see any dead end proclamations there, nor do I see any of my assessments or associations as very specious. Does Lee love Tsai and Godard? The films make it fairly obvious, but so do his catalog descriptions (which cite Godard’s influence) and site (which lists Tsai amongst favorites). 4. Don’t get all Breton here. No one owns Surrealism.
But you know what — you’re right. It would get in the way of my associations and proclamations. Have fun putting my comments into the context of the history of Russian criticism!
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in re 1. So glad you were able to Wiki those tidbits about Malaysian cinema together in such haste. in re 2. “Instead of undermining our assumptions as to where the plot will go, Lee undermines Malaysian life….” Please, let us enjoy your understanding of this so-called “Malaysian life” and the ways Lee “undermines” it. in re 3. Your dead end associations begin with Fassbinder (about whom you seem to think that fecundity and “truth-telling above storytelling”, whatever you think that means, are the limits of that giant’s endeavor), and extend to Jia Zhang-ke and (hilariously) Miike. in re 4. One scarcely needs Breton’s assistance, particularly when lines like this are being bandied about: “Surrealism functions in painting, sculpture and literature because there is only one reality…” The very word Surrealism puts the cluelessness of that assertion to the test.
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“Have fun putting my comments into the context of the history of Russian criticism!” Might as well put your comments in the context of Canadian fly fishing: they’d have as much relevance, and carry as much weight, there.
Actually, Fassbinder isn’t a dead end at all — similar production methods, certain overlapping interests and opinions on drama, and (during a certain period — namely, the early to mid 1970s) a similarly constrictive sense of framing and approach to mise-en-scene (the dramatics and structure of Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant sets up a good half-dozen Lee films). Obviously unlike you, I think of Miike as a major filmmaker, and I cite him no differently from how I’d cite Jean Renoir. But, in the end, every response I’ll give will further convince you that I am either an idiot or a fraud. And I’m alright with that, because culture was built by idiots and frauds. But the argument we’re essentially having here, on the most basic level, is about the history of cinema, and how cinema should be presented and explored. And so, rather than fiddle around with what you do or don’t believe about me (and, remember, I have total faith in you), let’s get down to brass tacks and have the actual argument. What you prefer is a compartmentalized view of film history that bases itself around geographically / historically related points of reference, and what I prefer is an anti-national view of film history that has no problem drawing on historically unrelated traditions if they are related in terms of ideas or aesthetics.
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You don’t need my help proving yourself a fraud or an idiot. What you seem to know about me or my ideas about cinema is even more limited than your knowledge about James Lee’s filmmaking (and its rather urgent and essential context.) Just for starters, I was writing seriously about Miike a decade ago. I like film history that is informed, and can base its assertions upon the foundations of that knowledge. You appear to like great gusts of wind which blow you from location to another, without ever touching down with any sort of accuracy anywhere. Still waiting for your observations on “Malaysian life” and Lee’s desire to “undermine” it.
I do know that Asian cinema is a specialty of yours. I was unaware that you’d written much on Miike. I look forward to reading your writings on him. I like a film history that shifts, like the tumblers in a safe dial. But I also think that great cinema is great cinema anywhere, and good films don’t require a context to either be appreciated or for someone to explain why they should be appreciated. And I’ll admit that I prefer an honest confusion to a clarity I can’t agree with. I know you’re a bit worked up, but at the very least try to be civil. Whatever hyperbole you’ve accused me of, you’ve more than tripled it in your comments.
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Worked up: not really, or at least, only when writers who continually duck the factual and historical deficiencies in their own work try to turn things around by projecting their own insecurities on me. Perhaps you could use your camera as a slide rule and show us the formula you used to calibrate the tripling of my hyperbole, or the relative quotient of my civility to your boobery. Personally though, it’s true: I prefer a clarity I can agree with over the maunderings of the clueless.
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“…good films don’t require a context to either be appreciated or for someone to explain why they should be appreciated.” And to think, someone might have mistaken you for a film critic!

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