Friday, March 14, 2014

affinities XVI


I. Leashed



A dog struggles against a retractable leash while a man―pressing the retract button―waits patiently for his pet's inevitable return. The small dog braces itself against the road as it's pulled; children watch, laughing gleefully as Jep, the main character, watches them watch.

Life as amusing spectacle, man as lazy, spoiled observer―or flâneur. Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (2013)




Accompanied by music, an old man walks slowly across the frame as his struggling dog―which might as well be a small boulder―is pulled along behind him. The audience watches in a state of amused horror; the dog, yelping, is tangled in the leash, and probably not very recently. The man is too old to hear or notice, and too feeble to do anything about it even if he did.

Life as tragicomic opera, man as sisyphean protagonist. Roy Andersson's You, the Living (2007)






II. Unleashed


Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)


Le Quattro Volte (Frammartino, 2010)


10 comments:

Tyler said...

The "lazy" in the first part is not necessarily meant in a negative sense.

I also mentioned LE QUATTRO VOLTE briefly in my Film Moments: 2011 post: "The first half ... sorta reminded me of what it might be like had Roy Andersson directed Sweetgrass."

Andrew Gilbert said...

It's also interesting where these images fall within the timelines of the movies. Particularly the Andersson and Sorrentino, who open their films with these shots (if I'm not mistaken). It also seems like so much about the individual director's feelings towards humanity, culture, civilization are established in their deployment of dogs (though maybe not Frammartino...)

Tyler said...

Neither film opens with a dog moment but, yes, both scenes occur very early on.

I think it's probably correct -- and interesting to note -- that the four director's feelings towards humanity and culture can be established in their use, portrayal, and treatment of dogs (at least in the films mentioned). For Frammartino it's perhaps more accurate to say animals in general rather than dogs in particular.

I wish there was a strong correlation to be drawn between the given style of the films and whether or not the dog being portrayed is leashed or unleashed... But even if such a correlation could be drawn, basic inconsistencies would render it worthless. In MON ONCLE, for example, there's another scene featuring a dog -- but tied up, this time. One would have to do a pretty convoluted reading to square everything.

Andrew Gilbert said...

Ah, it's been too long since I've seen You, the Living.

It certainly seems like Tati and Frammartino use a variety of animal types to reflect the variety of human temperaments and constructions; Tati in pretty complex ways (I've only seen the one Frammartino).

I agree it would be rather forced to come up with an involved schematic, but the subject would make a great video essay.

On an unrelated note: I'm glad to see you still blogging here. I abandoned my blogger for about a year and I'm sure why.

Tyler said...


Thanks. I took a break for about a year as well, for various reasons. Good to see you back at the kinodrome; I'd stop by occasionally to link to your writing elsewhere.

Glad you liked RENDEZVOUS. A mini-masterpiece of visceral cinema.

Andrew Gilbert said...

Thanks, I'm hoping to use it more regularly. And I'm glad my writing has been of interest. I got really into Tumblr, which is interesting in many respects, but I missed the pleasure of writing pieces, even just for myself. Also, I don't know how involved you are with other film community sites, but it just seems like blogger has an intimacy that other places lack.

Yeah, Rendezvous is breathtaking.

Tyler said...

I like Tumblr because it's a medium designed with the internet in mind, unlike Blogger, which seems to have been designed more with the newspaper or magazine model in mind (which might also explain why Blogger currently feels like a graveyard in comparison to the much more active, social and youth oriented Tumblr). I particularly like the Tumblr templates that allow for multiple posts together, sort of like panes of glass in a window (stained glass, hopefully) -- a format with a potential that is largely untapped (at least as far as I've seen).

Personally, I'm getting more and more skeptical about the validity and value of producing long form, word based content for internet consumption in general (though that's another topic entirely).

Andrew Gilbert said...

I like how Tumblr allows for a fast and easy means of exchange and recommendation. The later is how I got sucked into, as I follow mostly film blogs that post screenshots and image series. However I still prefer blogger for written pieces. I haven't had much luck finding good writing on tumblr, mostly status updates, which are their own thing.

I see your point about criticism without images, but sometimes I'm skeptical of how images are used. Sometimes it seems very rote (and I totally agree about Rosenbaum's images being dreadful. I do like a few sites that have no images, like LOLA which is often text only, or Steven Shaviro's blog, the writing is superb.

I want to see more video essay type inclusion, but thus far I find the majority of video essays to be worthless or primarily illustrated essays read by the maker, or primers for what is eventually a text essay.

Tyler said...


(I deleted some of my previous comment before you responded, which I note solely to limit confusion should someone happen to read this later. Sorry about that.)

Yeah. Tumblr is a visual medium primarily, and not at all suitable for long text pieces. Anything more than a paragraph belongs on Blogger, Wordpress, or in a book.

Most people have no idea how to use images, you're right. And it's hardly better if a picture is more or less randomly selected for decoration. As you note, the same ineptitude prevails in the majority of video essays, a format I plan to experiment with at some point. Kevin B. Lee, to name one of the more high profile examples, makes terrible video essays, yet he manages to get exposure on major film sites... I've even yelled at the screen while watching some of them, though I admit to being occasionally impressed by how much time it takes him to say nothing.

You're also right that good, text based film writing can -- and does -- exist. I just don't think that the internet is the ideal place for it, though I understand that the internet is often the best -- or only -- option. I am perhaps overzealous in my praise for images in film related work because I think they are vastly undervalued and underutilized.

Andrew Gilbert said...

I would love to see a video essay by you, and not to jump on the band wagon, but I've been struggling to put something together as well. I'm fascinated by the form and its possibilities, but so many of them are worthless in my opinion (from a guy who can't seem to make even one!)

It's interesting that you mention Kevin B. Lee. I presented a paper at a film and media symposium on video essays that place themselves in the lineage of the essay film (a somewhat false binary, I know) and discussed how the majority of video essays (citing Lee as a key example) are little more than illustrated text essays or say almost nothing about the film other than rote observations. It was an interesting experience because some of the professors, who were very kind and helpful I should add, took umbrage with my argument and defended Lee and the pedagogical possibilities of the video essay. Two of my points were that Lee usually just "adapts" a more interesting piece or sets up innumerable straw men in order to distinguish 'good' cinema from 'bad'. His Rithy Pahn/Lego Movie video had me shaking with anger. Lee also seems to frequently place himself in the lineage of the essay film, but rhetorically does the exact opposite of what those films do.