Snow: Kubrick style
Having just reread William Gass’s “The Pedersen Kid” yesterday morning, I decided to do a study of associations–what my brain does as I read, what I think of, what I take away–though right there I sally and this Heraclitus quote, used as an epigraph in W.S. Merwin’s The Lice, drips back into my consciousness:
All men are deceived by the appearances of things, even Homer himself, who was the wisest man in Greece; for he was deceived by boys catching lice: they said to him, “What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us.”
Is this nugget saying that which we can’t understand stays with us? Maybe. But more and more I take with me what is mysterious. The trove of Wallace Stevens poems that I’ve examined recently has somewhat sunk into me as what I write now leaks his influence. But really the conglomerate of Gass/Gaddis/Rilke/Stevens via John Madera has been instrumental in boosting the language quotient and destroying a quasi-plain style I took on after a few months with Lydia Davis. So lines or formations like, “She wouldn’t let him do what he wanted to do and this frustrated him,” become “There is a way you carry yourself, he said, quickly breaking off because evening drew on, evening and everything evening measures. Our pace, the space between canyons, this leaf living in the book on the chair.”
Well, Arthur Penn died. He was of course a great director. And of course everyone will be talking about how great Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is—and it is great. It’s one of the most important of American films; along with John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967), it essentially kick-started 1970s cinema, and that decade’s auteur-driven New Hollywood.
But, for my money, Penn’s best movie was Night Moves (1975).
Night Moves is, at the moment, my favorite 1970s Hollywood film—well, besides Days of Heaven (1978) and Annie Hall (1977)…
NOTE: This was written in the infancy of my knowledge about cinema. Surely, eight is not enough. John Ford, Carl Dreyer, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Eric Rohmer, and Jean-Luc Godard are names that must be there as well.
I love film.
I want to pay tribute to eight film directors who have changed the way I see life.
Robert Altman 1925-2006
While writing my previous post, I grew aware that I wasn’t mentioning any women filmmakers. So I’d like to add something addressing that (because of course one can find numerous examples). And along the way, I’ll also try to say more in general about the power—and limitations—of the long take.
Some of us have been discussing long takes in movies, and John mentioned that he’d like seeing a list of films that consist primarily of the beautiful things. So here is a start at such a list. (And here is another one, which like this list embeds many YouTube clips, such as the magnificent opening shot Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), the homage Robert Altman pays it in The Player (1992), and many others—including some overlap.)
But first: What’s the value in the long take?
Robert Altman and a happy Shelley Duvall before she met Kubrick
In March 2002 I woke up one morning in a trailer in the south of France, near the city of Carpentras. I worked on a fully organic farm (nothing mechanical, horse-drawn tills). There were no entertainment devices, save a transistor radio that picked up a plethora of European and Russian stations at night before evaporating during the first hour of sunlight. Though glad of the break from the tyranny of media, I knew it was still Oscar night in Los Angeles and I switched on the BBC to hear if someone Robert Altman’s Gosford Park or Todd Field’s In the Bedroom had beaten Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind for the grand prize. They didn’t.