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October 08, 2010

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Ryland Walker Knight

He's a smart guy, but I don't know if I buy that he tried to make an ideologically "free" film. I'm _really_ curious to hear him talk about the picture, though, since it's one of the few films ever where I think its maker might offer a truly interesting reading of it; where learning the "real" motivations behind the project might enrich the result. The most curious thing about the picture is precisely that Carlos is set up as a rock star, and that belies if not a valorization then an affinity. My most generous take on the thing is that the film/s take on the figure of Carlos as it/they progress: each episode is ten minutes longer and the final episode's great joke is that he gets nabbed wishing he'd've had liposuction cuz he got so big; that is, it embodies his bloat. In any case, consider me curious!

Glenn Kenny

Well, somebody's gotta pick up this thread. Ry, I don't think the film sets up Carlos as a "rock star" at all; I think Carlos himself exploits what he perceives as his own charisma and makes himself a media star and I don't think Assayas buys into that at all; he just re-simulates the process. And yes, we do talk about that in the interview. I think you're really off-base in your estimation that the film valorizes Carlos, and good God, Assayas hardly identifies with the guy, which is what I get in your suggestion of an affinity. What Carlos represents for O.A. is an opportunity for him to tie together a bunch of themes that have occupied his work for a decade or more; I think A.O. Scott did some strong work in demonstrating this in his recent New York Times profile of the director.

Ryland Walker Knight

Brain tingling! I probably meant affection for not affinity with and I probably have more of a problem with this whole myth thing than anything because it kinda-sorta seems like Edgar Ramirez believes it a bit; but maybe that's just a sign of really good acting. In any case, he's definitely a big O.A. dude: always looking to get out of his current situation, always moving, and forging bonds across the globe. O.A. is great at getting at the network of things. Thanks for getting back at me, GK.

Ryland Walker Knight

I also want to say that I love _Boarding Gate_ more and more and think it's really the film of his from the 00s that should be remembered. And partly because its messiness isn't a goof, like with _demonlover_, which I'm ambivalent about but had a laugh-along fun time with; and partly because _Summer Hours_, tho lovely and tho I know it supporters will likely dislike this construction because of a certain interplay, is kind of only about one thing (intentionality) with some more interesting things at the fringes (economics); and I haven't seen _Clean_ or _Les Destinees_; and I know this tossed off stuff's not fair. But that's what a blog thread's for, right?

Looking forward to seeing the interview in full and, I'd hope, seeing the film anew.

Enrique

'I don't think the film sets up Carlos as a "rock star" at all'

This is right. Surprised how many reviews have said otherwise. By not using the name 'Jackal' (for one thing) isn't Assayas getting away from all that?

Kent Jones

Ryland Walker Knight, I will not pretend to be objective here, but you seem to be applying some awfully complex and knotty standards and restrictions to OA's work. To each his/her own, I guess.

Glenn, as an aside, there was a remarkable open letter from Carlos to Edgar in Le Figaro when the film premiered in Cannes. Which ended with something like: "Vive la revolution! God is the greatest of all!!"

Glenn Kenny

I gotta look for that, Kent. And I was just thinking, it would have been useful if IFC had been able to get a conditional temporary parole granted for Carlos, and send him as an ambassador to the Hamptons Film Festival.

Victor Morton

To say that "economics" is "at the fringes" of SUMMER HOURS is as objectively incorrect as statements about a work of art get (excepting stuff like running, B?W or color, credited director, etc.)

Kent Jones

Glenn, here's a rough translation:

"Almost 500 years ago, the Spanish conquistadors discovered a mine that had been opened by the Amerindians, where they founded Lobatera, the oldest city in the State of Táchira in Venezuela. A conquistador named Ramírez is our common ancestor, his descendents having colonized other territories, of which La Grita - your branch of the family - and Michelena, founded by my grandfather and his friends, are very close to Lobatera. The Michelenas are known in contemporary Venezuelan society and history as professors, pharmacists, lawyers, military men, engineers... Ideologically speaking, they run the gamut from the conservative right to the communist left. Not one has betrayed our country by working in the service of foreign powers. Not one of them has dishonored our family. Why, Edgar, have you agreed to participate in a historical travesty? Why lend yourself to a work of counter-revolutionary propaganda which defames the most famous of the Ramírez? I stand firm and intransigent on the principles passed on by my father, refusing to sell myself to the decadent empire. Edgar, don't let the ephemeral glories of Hollywood distract you from what's important. Media-driven fame is a fleeting thing. It is no substitute for respect, honor, reality. Long live our Bolivarian Venezuela! Long live the sacred land of Palestine! God is greatest.

Carlos, Poissy, 14 mai 2010. »

Ryland Walker Knight

Consider both feet to taste unpleasant, guys!

Ryland Walker Knight

However, I still think _Carlos_ is puzzling/problematic. And I still think _Summer Hours_ tells you the same thing in each scene, tho it's lovely that each scene is another angle on that same thing, like turning a pane of glass (one way or two) to see different shapes of the same light reflected around a room.

Victor Morton

What, exactly, is that "same thing" of which SUMMER HOURS is nothing but a series of differently-angled views?

Victor Morton

Ilyich Lenin Ramirez Sanchez wrote:

"Edgar, don't let the ephemeral glories of Hollywood distract you from what's important."

Because, hey, nothing says "selling out to Hollywood" like a five-hour Olivier Assayas movie. No doubt Edgar will continue his descent into Tinsletown whoredom by learning Hungarian for the starring role in the SATANTANGO sequel, opposite Patton Oswalt and a CGI Garfield.

Kent Jones

Victor, apparently the one thing that SUMMER HOURS is about is "intentionality," and BOARDING GATE is the only OA film of the decade that "should be remembered" because its "messiness isn't a goof," as opposed to DEMONLOVER, whose messiness presumably is a goof but with which one can have a "laugh-along fun time."

Glenn, do you get to decide what "should be remembered" from this thread?

Glenn Kenny

@ Kent: I suppose in the final analysis, I do. But right now I'm too busy with that transcript...

@ Victor: Hey, Edgar's ALREADY been in a Tony Scott picture, so Ilyich's admonition is too late by several years!

Victor Morton

Ah thanks ... his earlier comment hadn't sufficiently registered.

I guess I have two things to say to that, (1) one of the three or four Big Things SUMMER HOURS is plainly and unquestionably about is death/obsolescence/time-passage -- which is not only not "intentional" but is the paradigmatic case of something non-intentional. As the old saw goes, taxes is the only other thing as certain; and (2) I can't think of a dramatic narrative work that ISN'T about intentionality. Characters have motives that drive their actions, i.e. intentions, and drama is how those intentions play themselves out, i.e., intentionality viewed from several perspectives, like light in a room, etc.

Victor Morton

And it just dawned on me -- the other inevitable thing in life (taxes) ALSO plays a significant role in SUMMER HOURS. You could even see the film as a critique of the death tax as anti-family, anti-culture and reducing all other values to the cash nexus.

Ryland Walker Knight

Quickly, before I go to work: Kent, that was a good zinger, my flip comments probably deserved it. Victor, however, I don't get why you're so angry with a tossed off "evaluation" by somebody you don't know. And do you really think I'd be so dumb as to think "intentionality" is strictly that actions have intentions? It's about how the mind is directed at objects of thought, which is a wide net to cast, and the film does plenty to address how each mind in the film is directed at each literal object of thought, and that's the beauty of the film, how subtle the storytelling is, and how OA integrates this purpose into the storytelling. But that's my issue: that he keeps telling us this in every scene. And I just didn't LOVE this film the way you three appear to have.

And, fwiw, my friend Daniel Coffeen summed up the beauty of _Boarding Gate_ better than I can:

"BG gives us the two economies, the two bodies: of of finance, quantity, consumption; the other of emotion, quality, enjoyment. Poor Asia: she does what she does for love, for pleasure, for her enjoyment. She doesn’t kill for money; she kills out of love for one man, love/hate for another. She won’t touch the money in the end.

And, of course, she is disappeared."

And, of course, the narrative structure is fascinating in a manner very similar to _Contempt_.

Anyways, here comes another work week and I better get cracking.

Glenn Kenny

@ Ryland: Uh-huh. So now you're trying to weasel out of the argument by having a JOB! Nice try...

I kid.

Mr. Knight is a friend and a great guy and a more-often-than-not very astute writer on film and other things...and I kind of hate to see him get batted around like Wilmer at the end of "The Maltese Falcon," off-base or not! (And I do think he's off-base here.) C'est la guerre, though. Anyway, I just finished up the touch-ups on the interview for The Daily Notebook, which will, I hope, go up before the film's Friday New York opening, and that'll be commemorated here, and would be a good point for the struggle, I mean conversation, to continue...

Victor Morton

Mr. Knight:

I assure you I am not angry, not even close. If you want to see me angry, bring up Andrew O'Hehir and HORSERACE OF THE WILL. (Or don't actually.)

Stephen Cone

This is my first comment here. I just want to say that I'm glad this comment thread had a happy ending. I like all of you guys.

Eric Stanton

Might be relevant to note here that "Carlos" is showing on the Sundance Channel this week. Part One tonight, with the following two parts tomorrow and Wed eve. Mr Kenny may not want his blog used as a bulletin board in this fashion, and if so, my apologies.

bill

Shit, I was just getting ready to point out what Mr. Stanton has just pointed out. But I wanted to be the big hero!!!

Fabian W.

Bill, please tell me, do you know if and when the Sundance Channel is going to air all three parts of CARLOS?

bill

Why yes I do. Last night, tonight, and tomorrow, at 9:00 PM, and then I believe again at midnight. Oh, if only you'd asked me earlier!

Fabian W.

Much obliged! And thank G'd I own a time machine. Because I totally do! (I would do that Louis CK-bit now, but I'm too ashamed.)

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