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The Noteworthy: 105!!!, "Fireflies", Garrel on Naturalism

Manoel de Oliveira turns 105, Philippe Garrel talks about naturalism, Olaf Möller writes about the Rome Film Festival, and more.

Edited by Adam Cook

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  • The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has trouble choosing, in this tie-filled list of 2013 award winners.

Finds.

"KELSEY: Your films are also very naturalistic. When you work with your actors, do you give them much direction or a finalized script? How do you work with them?

GARREL: I know very well that parts of the films are naturalistic, but I try to avoid that. As for the rapport between the actors, I have returned to written scenes with partly improvised dialogue in written situations. In writing my last film, Jealousy, I began to let the actors improvise. There was dialogue for them in order to learn their roles, to define the situations well, but I let them improvise parts of scenes. Now, as when I made films that were too autobiographical, the problem is how to escape naturalism. If you tell a strictly true story, because the way you are telling it is false, it creates naturalism. We improvise as well, and we end up capturing more of real life. There are gushes of unconscious attitude in the situation. But at the same time, I also become a naturalist. And to become a naturalist is something I avoid, in fact. It is fake life—that is the problem. It is because we are familiar with situationnisme, and the critique of the spectacle, et cetera, which is a very fair criticism. People who have no life, and who watch this fake life on a screen—it's a very alienated situation. And that's what situationnisme is about.

But I'm not able to completely escape naturalism. It's very difficult to escape from naturalism without being too dry. That's what I try to do in my cinema—escape naturalism and do films that are, at the same time, realistic but have a lot of fantasy. It's very difficult in cinema to get away from what life is about, from real life. The way the actors work has to be realistic—you can't do Baroque acting—so it's very complicated. And, we're human beings, so we're not perfect. I'm trying to do something different, but it's a complicated question."

  • For Film Comment, Olaf Möller writes on the Rome Film Festival and lists his ten favorites.

"Everyone gets a little bit lost in their own delusions in American Hustle, and there’s something endearing about that, because those delusions are, by and large, so modest. Coming at the end of a year flush with portraits of amoral climbers short-circuiting their way to the top (Pain & Gain, The Counselor, The Wolf of Wall Street), Russell’s movie seems almost quaint in its depiction of loan sharks swindling suburban schmoes for a few grand, and politicians taking low-five-figure bribes—penny-ante stuff in the era of Bernie Madoff and the Wall Street bailout. Even junior G-man Richie just wants to make a name for himself in the Bureau, to do something important, and to feel movie-star cool—a sentiment driven home by the unforgettable sight of the character pleading his case to mom in their outer-borough kitchen, while a cascade  of plastic curlers set his naturally straight hair into tightly coiled ringlets. The clothes may make some men, but in American Hustle, it’s all about the hair."

From the archives.

  • Above: this past Monday was John Cassavetes' birthday, and Cinephilia and Beyond commemorated the day with this piece written by Jim Jarmusch (excerpted from Tom Charity's John Cassavetes: Lifeworks):

“There’s a particular feeling I get when I’m about to see one of your films — an anticipation. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen the film before or not (by now I think I’ve seen them all at least several times) I still get that feeling. I’m expecting something I seem to crave, a kind of cinematic enlightenment. As a film fan or as a filmmaker (there isn’t really a clear dividing line for me anymore) I’m anticipating a blast of inspiration. I want formal enlightenment. I need the secret consequences of a jump-cut to be revealed to me. I want to know how the rawness of the camera angles or the grain of the film material figures into the emotional equation. I want to learn about acting from the performances, about atmosphere from the light and locations. I’m ready, fully prepared to absorb ‘truth at twenty-four-frames-per-second.’

But the thing is this: as soon as the film begins, introduces its world to me, I’m lost. The expectation of that particular enlightenment evaporates. It leaves me there in the dark, alone. Human beings now inhabit that world inside the screen. They also seem lost, alone. I watch them. I observe every detail of their movements, their expressions, their reactions. I listen carefully to what each one is saying, to the frayed edges of someone’s tone of voice, the concealed mischief in the rhythm of another’s speech. I’m no longer thinking about acting. I’m oblivious to ‘dialogue.’ I’ve forgotten the camera. The enlightenment I anticipated from you is being replaced by another. This one doesn’t invite analysis or dissection, only observation and intuition. Instead of insights into, say, the construction of a scene, I’m becoming enlightened by the sly nuances of human nature.

Your films are about love, about trust and mistrust, about isolation, joy, sadness, ecstasy and stupidity. They’re about restlessness, drunkenness, resilience and lust, about humor, stubbornness, miscommunication and fear. But mostly they’re about love and they take one to a far deeper place than any study of ‘narrative form.’ Yeah, you are a great filmmaker, one of my favorites. But what your films illuminate most poignantly is that celluloid is one thing and the beauty, strangeness and complexity of human experience is another.

John Cassavetes, my hat is off to you. I’m holding it over my heart.”

very interesting the interview with garrel, its talk about situationisme is very in the spirit of time. Howevere, i think its movies lack of sensibility/sensuality – how can i better say … the feeling you find in an almodovar film just to try to be more clear. I thought about it for years, it’s a feature that you can dig up even in rohmer movies where it’s clear that the meditation about love is reconducted to a geometricalization of love. Maybe Garrel has understood that the communication based on the speaking is unsuccessful, but i feel he is wrong to believe that the communication itself is such. About it, i can’t keep myself away from quote what Georges Bataille said about its philosophical work: i’m trying to remove what the language has added to world.
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