Late Notes on Amour
One of the striking things about Amour was that it generated a critical discourse around the idea that Haneke had somehow moved away from his typical ‘cruelty’ and toward ‘love,’ as though these two ideas were somehow mutually exclusive. Amour seems no less cruel to me than any of his other films, but it does seem to violate the notion of bourgeois norms more directly than any of his previous films. Haneke is known for his cold, sterile violence, but you can only kill someone in a long take so many times before it becomes mere style.
Amour is painful not because it engages in a typical long-shot imbued art house assault upon predetermined patterns of thinking about violence, but because it reveals these patterns by sneaking in through the physical structures that solidify an imagined sense of pride, satisfaction and security. The name tells us this is a film about love and promises us the faces of an elderly couple as portrayed by some of the most illustrious names in French cinema.
All of these things carry with them great cultural cache. So does the expensive apartment complete with figurative painting and visits from world-class pianists. Hell takes up stake in this world not in the traditional dens of criminality, but in the bourgeois home, overloaded with primly arranged significations of class (in whichever sense of that word you like). Yet the locked in property starts to terrorize its inhabitants at precisely the moment that the illusion is shattered - people can still break in and death, uninvited, might still take up residence. We begin with a terror that is visited upon certain groups of people more frequently than others - police breaking down the doors and violating private space. The false security of property that is “ours” is made brutally apparent. When the police break the seal and flood inside, all they find is a corpse.
Note: The image above, courtesy of Interiors Journal, details the floor plan in Haneke’s Amour.
“After all, you could not remake the movie Red Dawn after the Berlin Wall had fallen; you had to wait until after the fall of the Twin Towers and the rise of China and the ‘Axis of Evil’ made an attack on America thinkable again. Not plausible, of course, but Red Dawn was never actually plausible.” - Aaron Bady, ‘Zero Dark Geronimo’
“Baudelairean spleen - or disgust as a poetic channel - was always connected to an idea of modern beauty, was maybe even its preferred medium. Any channeling of beauty today would have to occur in relation to crisis and the sublime of viral insecurity.” - John Kelsey, ‘Next Level Spleen’
“Aside from the possibility of having better sex with one’s husband after he has assisted with household chores (work makes everything better, including sex!), Sandberg does not mention pleasure. Sandberg assumes instead that the feminist question is simply, how can I be a more succesful worker?” - Kate Losse, ’ Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins From Leaning In?’
”’If the question of the 19th century in the U.S. and in many places is the problem of the colour line, as DuBois writes, ‘what does it mean to be a problem?’ – the problem of contemporary austerity politics comes from the state saying that the public is itself a problem, too expensive to be borne by the state that represents it.” - Interview with Lauren Berlant
“Be it blacksites or other militarized spaces, mobile tracking units and helicopters, or even bin Laden’s compound, the West reaches any space where their familiar bodies exert control and identify otherness.” - Lindsay Jensen “It’s Biology,” Zero Dark Thirty and the Politics of the Body
Trompettiste de Free-Jazz
A black man, a free jazz trumpeter, comes to earth from another planet. He searches for the truth of this world, but doesn’t know which path to take. He wanders various roads, kills monsters, and finally discovers the three truths: music, wisdom, love.
Don Cherry and Anthony Braxton go to Paris to do Don Cherry and Anthony Braxton things.
Letting Go of Terrence Malick: On Beauty and To The Wonder
We all have our artists. Read any critic, or talk to any fan, long enough and they will make themselves felt. If you spend enough time with me, you will know mine are Godard and Cassavetes and then, one step below: Scorsese, McQueen and Bergman. But in addition to these artists who serve as guiding lights in my attempt to carve out a space in cinema that I might call “good film,” there are those who I have desperately wanted to include as one of ‘my artists.’ Malick is foremost amongst those. His aesthetic obsessions are close to mine and I have wanted little more than to honestly say Malick was making good, important work. With the release of To The Wonder I feel forced admit that the director never was, nor ever will be, included in my collection of cinematic saints.
Beyond The Hills Review [Double Exposure]
The clashes between religion and secularism, often inaccurately broken down along a right-left political divide, are easiest to discuss in generalities. We can track the rising or dwindling numbers of churchgoers, the number of times “god” is invoked in a speech, or the rationale for policy proposals. Yet religion is much knottier than either the cynics or the devout would lead us to believe. Faith is certainly a question of the link between the individual and a hereafter, but in the here-and-now it is often a phenomenon of congregating bodies and beings. Christian Mungiu’s newest film, Beyond The Hills, treats religion in exactly this manner. Set almost entirely within the confines of a monastery on a hill, Mungiu never passes judgment on the veracity of these Orthodox Christians’ beliefs. This is merely a community at work, albeit one whose labor has been assigned transcendental value. The designation of sanctity is a frightening one, for in removing something from the realm of the mundane it is not only placed beyond reproach, but its position ushers in a new level of power over what is left behind. What Beyond the Hills demonstrates is that the clash between the believer and the non-believer is not merely about values, but also competing claims to authority.
On Rap Iconography
One day I will write a long piece on representations of America(n flags) in contemporary rap videos. Until then, look at Pusha T saying “this shit sound like God, don’t it?” in front of a window that sort of looks like an American flag.