It turns out there’s a very beautiful copy up at YouTube. (I’d been looking for one for a while.) This has never been my favorite Alain Resnais film, though I’m not sure why. Something about it doesn’t work for me, and yet at the same time, I’m frequently drawn back to thinking about it, and am always eager to revisit it. Because certainly the concept underlying it a brilliant metafictional conceit. Put very simply, John Gielguld plays an author who spend a long night making up a new novel starring his family. He’s especially nasty in his feelings toward them, and spends much of the time revising the text so as to torture them.
Then, the next day, his family comes to visit him…
Jeremy M. Davies’s Rose Alley has been on my mind as of late, so this one’s for him. I asked Jeremy why he chose to name the first chapter “Evelyn Nevers,” a direct reference to the film. He replied:
The first thing we see in Hiroshima is Elle/Nevers’s naked flesh, scattered with ashes (as I recall—anyway, it should be). Except that it’s almost certainly a body double, since no faces as visible. (Again, as I recall–I might be Eberting this.) Plus, Nevers is a (real) place, yet a very unlikely surname for a real French person (like naming a character “Sacramento” or “Des Moines” … not impossible, probably, but peculiar). And in Hiroshima, Elle is dubbed “Nevers” because she and Lui/Hiroshima don’t use their proper names during their affair; they become stand-ins for their hometowns, both of which were destroyed (morally in one case and literally in the other) by the war. They cannot communicate, culturally, and as such become emblematic of their cultures to one another.
So, nudity (degraded) + introducing a shallow and Rousselian “misunderstanding” of France … I can see why it felt right, for me, at the time. Plus, it’s univocalic, if you don’t mind the y (Perec), and of course the main thing with all the names was euphony …
Happy early birthday, Jeremy! I present to you an online copy of HMA …
Easily one of the best films of the past seven years, by one of the greatest living filmmakers, Apichatapong Weerasethakul.
A funny story: I actually knew him, when I lived in Thailand (2003–5). I was given his cell phone number by a mutual film friend. One day I went to visit him at his studio in northern Bangkok. We sat around for a while, talking movies. Finally I asked what he was working on. [Note that this was in 2004, by which point I had seen only his first feature, the brilliant exquisite corpse Mysterious Object at Noon (2000).] He told me that he was finishing a new film, trying to get it ready in time for Cannes. “If we finish in time, we go,” he said. “If not—mai pen rai” (“no worries”).
That film turned out to be Tropical Malady (2004), which went on to win Cannes’s Jury Prize, effectively launching Apichatapong’s career. I’m glad I didn’t distract him overmuch!
Two years later, Apichatapong followed it up with a film some consider even better. (I myself rank them about the same, which is to say that they are both essential masterpieces of contemporary cinema.)
[Last weekend, en route to Madagascar, Jeremy M. Davies swung by my Chicago atelier to hear my neighbor perform Mahler’s "Quartet for Strings and Piano in A Minor" on his singing saw. Fifteen minutes in, two other friends stopped by, bearing bootleg DVDs of three new films: Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, and X-Men: First Class. The singing saw forgotten, I fired up my video projector, and a marathon viewing ensued. Hours later, our guests departed, Jeremy and I recorded the following conversation.]
A D: Jeremy, when did you give up on Woody Allen?
Jeremy: Small Time Crooks.
Flaming Creatures (1963), directed by Jack Smith.
Noticing last September that the Features section of this site was blank, I began embedding there feature-length films that are available in their entirety at YouTube. At the moment there are links to:
- L’année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) (1961), directed by Alain Resnais, written by Alain Robbe-Grillet, starring Delphine Seyrig;
- Flaming Creatures (1963), written and directed by Jack Smith (the last two minutes are missing, for some sad reason);
- A New Leaf (1971), directed by Elaine May, starring May and Walter Matthau;
- Little Murders (1971), directed by Alan Arkin, written by Jules Feiffer, starring Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, Alan Arkin, others;
- India Song (1975), written and directed by Marguerite Duras, starring Delphine Seyrig and Michael Lonsdale;
- Ni na bian ji dian (What Time Is it There?) (2001), written by Yang Pi-ying and Tsai Ming-Liang, directed by Tsai Ming-Liang, starring his usual cast.
You can find much better copies of Marienbad and What Time Is It There? on DVD, but the others are trickier to come by. There’s a great DVD of Little Murders, but it’s currently out of print, and not many video stores stock it. India Song finally got a US DVD release last year, but it’s not the kind of film you find lying around. A New Leaf was issued on VHS and is now severely out of print. Flaming Creatures never got any kind of video release to my knowledge (which is a terrible shame, as it’s one of the greatest films ever made). (No doubt the fact that it was seized by the police upon its premiere, and ruled obscene, has played some part in its inaccessibility. Censorship sadly sometimes works!)
Amazingly, all of these films are still up and running at YouTube. I’ll add others as I stumble across them…
Let’s consider the truth behind advertising.
[This can be considered a response to this post, and its comments thread.]
You’ve just become the fiction editor of a small journal. You open your email and see that you’ve received 1,000 unsolicited submissions. The first ten were sent by:
- Carlos Shirley
- Jeanne Goss
- Jack Livingston
- Christine Stribling
- Melissa Mathieu
- Benjamin Tatro
- Tao Lin
- Ryan Monk
- Naomi Foltz
- Matthew Orosco
Which one do you open and read first?