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February 10, 2011


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Tom Russell

Please let this be a regular feature.

The Siren

Are you going to have Godardism subsets, like "witty," "inscrutable," "provocative" or, here, "flat-out wrong"?

Stephen Winer

I'm with The Siren on this one. Perhaps you can call this feature "Legends Say the Darndest Things!" or "Best Laffs from Cahiers!"


Sh*t my 'Dard says.


Is not that quote the plot of CONTEMPT?

The Siren

"Sh*t my 'Dard says."



"Best Laffs from Cahiers!"

Including the unforgettable "I'm not interested in watching a film about Indian peasants who eat with their hands", plus "'Way of the Dragon'/'Mission to Mars' -- one of the best movies of 1985/2000!"


Context (historical, within the interview, etc) probably helped the comment make "sense" or some other buzzkill nonsense. J'sayin'.

Glenn Kenny

I dunno, I put it up because I thought it made absolutely perfect sense completely on it's own. I mean, the Siren is not wrong in characterizing it as "flat-out wrong," but in the larger scheme of things, I'd say it's absolutely dead-on. It's all about a feeling, you see...

And now that I think of it, I don't think that as of 1962 he actually WAS entirely wrong. Yes, French films had screenplays, but the (mostly) men who wrote them did not, in large part, identify themselves as "screenwriters." They were poets, novelists, journalists, even, who also wrote screenplays. See Prevert, Queneau, and so on. Not a John August of Eric Roth or, more to the point, Herman or Joseph Mankiewicz in the bunch.


You're forgetting about Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost.

The Siren

Glenn -- I dunno, there were also a lot of screenwriters in Hollywood who also would have identified themselves as some other kind of writer before they admitted to being a screenwriter, because screenwriting wasn't exactly prestige-enhancing in their eyes. Mind you, I love Godard (pre-1968, but then I love everyone best before 1968, doncha know) and enjoy the hell out of his utterances even when, or especially when, he's being obstreperous. But I suspect--and do tell me whether or not I am right--that if you brought up the context of which Jaime speaks, it's just another instance of Godard being deliberately insulting to the French old-school filmmakers he was ostentatiously rebelling against.

LIke, as Yann says, Jean Aurenche. See, the "feeling" I got from the quote was oh good grief Jean-Luc, will you lay off poor Autant-Lara...

Glenn Kenny

Well, as I don't want anyone to get too agitated on behalf of Autant-Lara, here's a larger version of the quote, which demonstrates that Claude was the last thing on Jean-Luc's mind as he formulated his amusing aperçu:

"The Hakims asked me to do 'Eva.' To begin with, I didn't like the actors they had in mind. I wanted Richard Burton. They agreed in theory. They said 'We'll call him.' I said, 'There's the telephone.' 'Yes, well, it's awkward...he may not be at home.' So I knew they didn't want him. The woman I saw as someone like the Rita Hayworth of five or six years ago. At all events, the actors had to be American. Film people are pointless if they aren't American. What does it mean if a Frenchman says 'I'm a scriptwriter'—no such creature exists. Whereas it doesn't matter with an American if it doesn't exist; things American have a mythical element which creates their own existence."

Two things: It's funny that by this time Burton was sufficiently ensconced in Hollywood that Godard thought of him as American. Also, I imagine Godard was thoroughly frustrated by his inability to get Burton into one of his films; he wanted Dick and Liz for 'Pierrot le fou' a few years later, let us recall.

The Siren

HA! I like the quote a lot better as a paragraph--too funny. All righty, off to create my own mythical existence, doll.

Eric Stanton

"he wanted Liz and Dick for 'Pierrot le fou' a few years later, let us recall."

Okay, that goes into my personal pantheon of alternative movies I would kill to see.

Jason LaRiviere

Has Brody's man-love for Swanberg become officially pathological: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2011/02/in-berlin.html#entry-more
"I’m waiting for the usual detractors to howl that Swanberg is no Bergman and to offer a challenge to watch, say, “Persona” and “Art History” side by side."...your move Glenn

Jason Melanson

That's some nice deck stacking from Brody. He says: "to put the thirty-year-old Swanberg’s work beside Bergman’s at thirty gives the advantage to Swanberg in terms of the personal imprint on the medium." Clearly comparing Swanberg to Bergman, but then later he says: "Of course, Bergman made “Summer Interlude” at thirty-three and “Monika” at thirty-five, so the bar is high—so high that nobody should be forced to measure up to it."

So to summarize: Swanberg is better now than Bergman was at thirty, but it's not fair to hold him to the standards of Bergman at thirty-three. But of course if we are going to play the "Swanberg is less experienced than Bergman was" game, you could say Bergman directed his first film in 1946 and directed SUMMER INTERLUDE in 1951. Swanberg made KISSING ON THE MOUTH in 2005, and his latest "masterpieces" in 2010. But I digress...

Glenn Kenny

Thanks, Jason and Jason. I am not going to join in the predicted "howls of derision;" disappointed by the deck-stacking you cite, among other things, I'm finished trying to debate Brody on Swanberg, or on anything else for that matter. I DO like this bit from Brody's description of "Silver Bullets:" "[...]his [Swanberg's] attention to color, to shadow, to framings, to glaring touches of color that heighten an emotion. It’s also true that his attention to these matters, over the years, hasn’t always been equal, and, paradoxically, some of his best work (such as 'Hannah Takes the Stairs') is far more devoted to character and performance than to the visual world that his actors inhabit." "Hasn't always been equal;" yeah, that's ONE way of putting it. Brody, Sallitt, and Keller's championing notwithstanding, the case of Swanberg is pretty simple: though not really so bright, he discovered in college that he could get certain women to strip for him, and even to let him touch their girl parts, if he pretended he was a filmmaker! And over the course of his work, it's possible to follow his continuing, erm, attention to these matters without having to read all that hard between the lines: see the progression from "LOL" to "Hannah" to "Nights and Weekends" and make particular note of the role Swanberg casts himself in in that last film. (For some reason that Ruttles song "Cheese and Onions" is running through my head right now.) See also "Hot American Bodies," or whatever it was called, in which the slathering of fake observational irony barely camouflaged the true nature of what was Swanberg's most overtly Joe-Francis-inspired endeavor.The problem for Swanberg recently has been that now he has to MAKE A CAREER out of impersonating a filmmaker. And with Brody's help, it may just work out. I'm curious to see "Silver Bullets" because of the bullshit Swanberg spouted about David Foster Wallace being "on his mind" as he conceived and shot the movie. (I've said words to this effect before, but given that Swanberg moves his lips when he texts, I can't imagine he's actually penetrated much of Wallace's actual work, and is more likely just consumed with morbid preoccupations about artist suicides.) Beyond that, I am likely to pass.

Evelyn Roak

Well said Jason M.

1) I am struck by comparison to Bergman.
2) Come come detractors but my comparison is not what I am saying.
3) But, let us compare them at 30 and Swanberg is the winner.
4) I will continue to compare them when it benefits my argument.
5) But, no, you can’t compare them when the bar is high. That isn’t fair.

Starting the discussion and preemptively dismissing responses to the flailing assertions one made themselves….well, hopefully there is some uniformity to the position that this is a fallible and unproductive mode of discourse, stubborn, faulty and unopen to actual conversation.

Dismissing anything about Swanberg or Bergman this is simply shoddy criticism and writing. Strawmen and fake interlocutors and failure of logic and inconsistencies abound. It is either obtuse or insincere. The continued reliance on writing against the fictitious conservative critical cabal and that concern trumping writing about the movies, critical positioning over criticism, just makes no sense or has no weight. To then make logically faulty, inconsistent arguments on top of that baffles.


Coming to the SyFy Channel -- the makers of DINOSHARK, SHARKTOPUS and MANSQUITO bring you a terrifying vision of another unholy hybrid -- SWANBERGMAN!


I like how he's comparing directors to each other at given ages, as if they were baseball players. Preminger didn't make a great, or even good film, until LAURA, when he was 39 - but by the time he was 45 he had made 5 classics (I count WHIRLPOOL). So is one supposed to value Swanberg over Preminger in a childish baseball card collecting sense because he's made more okay films than Preminger did at the age of 30? Or is it supposed to mean that Swanberg will go on to be a greater director than Preminger was because he's more precocious (though of course, Preminger spent the comparable years in question being the best theatrical director in Vienna, so you can't really fault him for being a slow starter)? I guess it's more one of those things that he knows doesn't mean anything but throws out anyway.


Brody seems to be forgetting that Bergman is dead, which automatically makes him better than Swanberg. :)

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