In the last two years I have made three essay films – What is This Film Called Love?, A Story of Children and Film, and Here be Dragons. In the next year, I will make two more – I am Belfast and Stockholm My Love.
In making these, and watching many more – by Anand Patwardhan and Agnes Varda, for example – and after reading Philip Lopate’s book on the essay, I started to make a mental list of the elements of, and the principles behind, essay films. This list is a kind of manifesto.
1 A fiction film is a bubble. An essay film bursts it.
2 An essay film takes an idea for a walk.
3 Essay films are visual thinking.
4 Essay films reverse film production: the images come first, the script, last.
5 Filming an essay is gathering, like a carpenter gathers wood.
6 A fiction film is a car, an essay film is a bike; it can nip up an alleyway, you can feel the wind in its hair.
7 A road movie has outer movement, an essay film has inner movement.
8 An essay film is the opposite of fly on the wall.
9 An essay film can go anywhere, and should.
10 Two essay films should be made every year. Why? Because, after F for Fake, Orson Welles said this to Henry Jaglom during lunch at Ma Maison: “I could have made an essay film – two of ‘em a year, you see. On different subjects. Various variations of that form.”
11 Commentary is to the essay film, what dance is to the musical.
12 All essay films would be improved by a clip of Dietrich (see Marcel Ophuls).
13 An essay film cannot create the atmosphere of Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard; A fiction film cannot explain that atmosphere.
14 Even Hollywood makes essay films – look at DW Griffith’s Intolerance.
“Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it - that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing - an actor, a writer - I am a person who does things - I write, I act - and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”—Stephen Fry (via ablogwithaview)
scusatemi l’uso esplicito del tumblr ma ho bisogno del vostro aiuto. Come alcuni di voi sanno sono coinvolta attivamente nella campagna per Pippo Civati Segretario del PD. Premetto che NON SONO QUI A SCASSARVI LE BALLE SU CIVATI MA SU UN DIRITTO CIVILE DEGLI ITALIANI ALL’ESTERO - UN FATTO DI DEMOCRAZIA PURA E SEMPLICE, CHE NON HA NULLA A CHE VEDERE CON L’OPINIONE POLITICA.
Come tanti Italiani all’estero l’anno scorso ho votato online alle primarie del PD. Quest’anno il PD dice che non ci sono i soldi per fare la votazione online. Se abiti all’estero sono fatti tuoi, e se vuoi esprimere una preferenza politica (come è tuo diritto) devi andare di persona al seggio più vicino. Il seggio più vicino a casa mia è a 10 minuti di bici. Culo. Però se io fossi a Oxford, Leeds, Nottingham, Glasgow, Belfast, il seggio più vicino sarebbe lo stesso a Londra, e cioè a 1 ora di treno da Oxford, oppure 4 da Nottingham, 6 da Leeds, poi 9 da Glasgow, e poi 2 ore di AEREO + treno da Belfast. La logica è che sono tutte città del Regno Unito, e quindi vai a votare nel seggio per il Regno Unito. Ora, come si capisce, tutto ciò è un’assurdità: immaginate abitare a Milano e dover andare a Palermo per votare, tanto è in Italia. Pensate un attimo agli italiani che sapete in India, Australia, USA, Argentina…
I dettagli ve li spiega questo post di Emanuele Dolce citato sul blog di Civati. A quanto pare non ci sono 50,000€ per permettere a milioni di cittadini di esercitare un diritto. (Notare che la cifra è sparata un po’ così, e che il PD ha una piattaforma online esistente con la quale pre-registrarsi alle primarie. L’infrastruttura c’è già, va solo messa a disposizione, quindi il costo presunto di questa cosa è un mistero. Se il post è vago è perché vaga è stata la spiegazione: una decisione dall’alto con la solita trasparenza all’Italiana che non aiuta NESSUNO. A questo punto, senza fare del complottismo, viene da chiedersi se qualcuno si senta minacciato delle opinioni e dai diritti degli italiani all’estero, chissà.)
Ma c’è di peggio. La mossa di eliminare il voto online per l’estero alle primarie del PD potrebbe essere strumentalizzata da chi ci vuole levare e/o quantomeno modificare il diritto di voto politico dall’estero (sta già succedendo, c’è un incontro a Londra per discuterne lunedì 2 dicembre nel contesto del piano per l’eliminazione dei deputati esteri dal parlamento), dando un chiaro segnale che a) noi cittadini Italiani all’estero siamo insignificanti per l’Italia e b) dovremmo fregarcene di quello che succede nel nostro paese
La mia bellissima esperienza ‘politica’ di questa campagna mi sta invece coinvolgendo sempre più, e se non ho ancora rinunciato alla mia cittadinanza italiana dopo anni di prese per il culo un motivo ci sarà. (A proposito di questo, un mio articolo ‘di parte’ per chi fosse interessato.)
Do you know where the Lubitsch sign that hung in Billy Wilder's office is today? Or who to ask? Thanks.
Hmm. Since the only photo I’ve seen of this sign (drawn by Saul Bass!) seems to be modern and museum-like, I want to say it’s hanging in the lobby of the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum in Westwood Village in southern California. That’s my guess. I wouldn’t know who to ask except the executor of his estate or his relatives.
Any readers know the whereabouts of the Lubitsch sign?
“Irene is the city visible when you lean out from the edge of the plateau at the hour when the lights come on, and in the limpid air, the pink of the settlement can be discerned spread out in the distance below: where the windows are more concentrated, where it thins out in dimly lighted alleys, where it collects the shadows of gardens, where it raises towers with signal fires; and if the evening is misty, a hazy glow swells like a milky sponge at the foot of the gulleys. Travellers on the plateau, shepherds shifting their flocks, bird-catchers watching their nets, hermits gathering greens: all look down and speak of Irene. At times the wind brings a music of bass drums and trumpets, the bang of firecrackers in the light display of a festival; at times the rattle of guns, the explosion of a powder magazine in the sky yellow with the fires of civil war. Those who look down from the heights conjecture about what is happening in the city; they wonder if it would be pleasant or unpleasant to be in Irene that evening. Not that they have any intention of going there (in any case the roads winding down to the valley are bad), but Irene is a magnet for the eyes and thoughts of those who stay up above.”—
At this point Kublai Khan expects Marco to speak of Irene as it is seen from within. But Marco cannot do this: he has not succeeded in discovering which is the city that those of the plateau call Irene. For that matter, it is of slight importance: if you saw it, standing in its midst, it would be a different city; Irene is a name for a city in the distance, and if you approach, it changes.
For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is a city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene.
'Irene' - from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Calvino would have been 90 years old today. O, how we miss him.
Five things I thought I would have by now AND five things I do have. Conclusions to be drawn by reader.
1. A house, or a flat, or a room of my own. 2. A child, or maybe three (two boys and a girl preferably). 3. A job with a regular salary, and responsibilities, and the space to be creative and professional. 4. A dog (a pointer called Chekhov, or a Labrador called John Irving). 5. A sense of knowing what I’m doing and who I am and what tomorrow is going to bring.
1. A husband who loves me, and whom I love (full range of emotions and small pleasures and unintended cruelties of intimacy included). 2. A handful of Really Good Friends I value above all else. 3. A terrifying sense of uncertainty towards the future. 4. A soft toy armadillo called Owen (after Owen Meany). 5. A dangerous tendency to swing wildly between putting myself down and picking myself up.
“The unhappy are no good to anyone. The unhappy are dangerous. The discontented and jaded become perverse or sadistic. Adulterers are not necessarily utopians: adultery merely shows the possibility of meaning, hope and love. […] And it is worth noting about the classic heroines of literature, Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, or even the characters in David Lean’s Brief Encounter, that they are not compulsive transgressors. They are asking for very little, and for everything, which, for them, is a fuller, more satisfying love. Complete happiness is a fiction, but some happiness is possible; indeed, it is essential.”—Hanif Kureishi: in praise of adultery | The Guardian
“The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.”—
-Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”
Lines for a weekend of falling temperatures. As clouds amass upon the sky and those first chilling drops of rain breach your skin, think not on your discomfort, but on Yeats’s “nine-and-fifty swans,” Keats’s “season of mist,” and Shelley’s “wild West Wind.”
“The idea of going to the movies made Hugo remember something Father had once told him about going to the movies when he was just a boy, when the movies were new. Hugo’s father had stepped into a dark room, and on a white screen he had seen a rocket fly right into the eye of the man in the moon. Father said he had never experienced anything like it. It had been like seeing his dreams in the middle of the day.”—Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (via brightwalldarkroom)
“Lord Byron gets up at two. I get up, quite contrary to my usual custom … at 12. After breakfast we sit talking till six. From six to eight we gallop through the pine forest which divide Ravenna from the sea; we then come home and dine, and sit up gossiping till six in the morning. I don’t suppose this will kill me in a week or fortnight, but I shall not try it longer. Lord B.’s establishment consists, besides servants, of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were the masters of it… . [P.S.] I find that my enumeration of the animals in this Circean Palace was defective … . I have just met on the grand staircase five peacocks, two guinea hens, and an Egyptian crane. I wonder who all these animals were before they were changed into these shapes.”—Percy Bysshe Shelley on the lifestyle of Lord Byron (via ablogwithaview)
“Jobs are vital because they put bread on the table, but they are also vital because they give you purpose and they give you an identity. If you were to pay every person who was unemployed and give them a regular wage for doing nothing, that still wouldn’t solve the psychological problem of unemployment which is you’d still have no sense of purpose or identity or individuality.”—Christopher Haydon | Exeunt Magazine
“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. It’s as though it had all just come into existence.
I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments.”—