I was at Odd Obssession a few years back, and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky told me he had a film he wanted me to see. It was Le monde vivant. I went home and watched it straight away. It’s an utter masterpiece.
Le monde vivant is a minimalist medieval fantasy, replete with ogres and knights, but also Lacanian witches. Its writer and director, Eugène Green, shot it in the French countryside using, for the most part, everyday dress and objects—an inverted response to Jean-Luc Godard’s science-fiction film Alphaville, which used sections of Paris in which the future had already arrived. Le monde vivant continuously illustrates William Faulkner’s famous quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
The film is also about language, and the power of our declarations to reconfigure the world. Two kids are playing, and one of them tells the other, “I am a giant.” And so he is, within that game. (He claims that it’s natural that he should be the giant, since he is bigger.) Then the kids are kidnapped by an ogre, who is an ogre within the larger game of the film. Another example, from a later scene: the ogre’s wife tells the heroic Lion Knight, “We are alone.” “It is strange that we can be alone,” he counters, “even though we are two.” She replies, “Grammar makes it so.”
I could go on about this movie all day, noting how Green conflates contemporary slang with more formal speech, or mention his deep debt to Robert Bresson—but you should just watch the thing. It’s only 70 minutes long, and consistently witty and charming, and easily one of the best films of the past ten years.
Little Murders is one of the greatest films of the 1970s—nay, of all time!—and anyone who doesn’t watch it is a scoundrel.
“What’s it about?” you ask. Warily.
Bresson's final film (1983) plays at the Film Forum from Jan. 17th-19th. It was based on Tolstoy's story "The Forged Coupon." One of the greatest works of art of the 20th Century, it contains all of Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier in it's 90-minute running time.
Still from L'Argent
The Robert Bresson Retrospective is at the Film Forum right now. But it is going to other venues in the US and Canada as well: The Bresson retrospective opens this week at Film Forum in New York; Jan. 19 at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, Calif.; Jan. 20 at the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, Mass.; Jan. 21 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago; Jan. 31 at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; Feb. 9 at the TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto; March 1 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; March 3 at the Cleveland Cinematheque and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; March 6 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.; March 9 at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville; April 4 at the Pacific Cinémathèque in Vancouver, Canada; April 13 at BAM in Brooklyn, N.Y.; May 1 at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle; and May 10 at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles. (Further venues and dates may follow.)
Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir gives a wonderful take on Bresson and at IndieWire, two illustrious critics, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Kent Jones, talk about Bresson and Godard. Rosenbaum’s great essay on Bresson: “The Last Filmmaker”
My last movie talk with Jeremy (about Midnight in Paris) made me want to rank Woody Allen’s films. Jeremy of course hemmed and hawed, but over a Millirahmstrudel I broke them down into:
- Near Masterpieces
Jeremy agreed to go along with this, albeit with certain objections.
[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.
[You click this link, you go back to the first installment, which found me and Jeremy unable to get service at an Applebee’s, following a screening of Duncan Jones’s Source Code. Increasingly hungry, increasingly desperate, we debated the nutritional value of our napkins and tablecloths, before Jeremy remembered that Applebee’s coats all such textiles in an indigestible plastic (to prevent sullen teenagers from rending or defiling them). Our gazes fell upon the Awesome Blossoms sizzling on our various neighbors’ tables.]
A D: Let’s keep talking about movies; it’ll distract us.
Jeremy: Capital! I liked Source Code better than Thor, I’d say (though not so much as Ang Lee or Bill Bixby’s Hulks). Because Source Code is a nice little movie. Though not as nice or little as Moon, Duncan Jones’s debut.