Godardiana

22 05 2008

S.B. & I popped by Film Forum last week, thinking to catch 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle during the monthlong Godardfest, but I’d misread the dates, so we wound up dunked in the Mao of La Chinoise. Far be it from me to complain. I loves me my Godard. His ludic, manic invention begs us to read his films against their apparent didactic frontload… a sort of “unreliable didactation,” (do you take didactation?) if you will. The effortlessness of his filmmaking seems to supply, on the fly, all the traditional cinematic exaltations even as his characters espouse away. To our surprise, Richard Brody, a New Yorker film editor and Godard nerd, was introducing the movie. Is there no end to art house hijinks (preserved posters on the walls in foreign tongues, the carefully curated review clippings yellowing under glass)? The bushy-bearded eminence, Shavian in his glee, wrapped up his remarks with “His sense of cinema was… innate. The man… couldn’t make a bad film if he tried–though after this one, he started trying a lot harder.” Elephantine red columns flank the cramped rows of the Film Forum’s screening rooms, every seat of which honors a sponsor with a small plate on its back.  Rather fittingly, the podium remained at the head of the room, a hard shape in the dark—too short, thankfully, to be silhouetted against the silver screen, though sometimes the small brass lampshade caught the light that fell from the luminous faces of the stars.





Valley Girls

26 01 2008

The song “San Fernando Valley,” made famous by Bing Crosby late in War II, has been on my mind since breakfast today (chocolate chip pancakes). A highlight of living alone is you can sing anywhere, not just the shower. The song’s blithe and merry 40s jauntiness is given a whole new subtext both pointed and poignant by that titular farmland’s transformation into suburb and subsequent porn capital. For instance,

I’ll forget my sins (yes yes), I’ll be makin’ new friends (yes yes),
where the West begins
(yes yes) and the sunset ends
Cause I’ve decided where yours truly should be
and it’s the San Fernando Valley for me.

Somewhere, some latter-day Wildean soul is delighting in the facile subversion of this very song played over footage of a footloose woman, young and buxom, westward bound in pink halter top and tough jean cut-offs with a jacket over her shoulder, clicking the heels on the very kind of boots Nancy Sinatra claimed were made for walkin’. It’s the kind of wink wink nudge nudge on the simple past we wised-up postmods so enjoy. More fun than reviewing old Scooby episodes for Mary Jane in-jokes.

In my curiosity, I got hold of the radio episode of Autry’s Melody Ranch featuring his rendition of the song. I’ve always wanted, as a nod to the naked geriatric trampoline philosophizing in Ninety Two in the Shade (one of my favorites—not the movie), to score a sex scene with Autry’s genial warbling of his signature “Back in the Saddle Again,” only to have the lady involved call a screeching halt to the proceedings because fucking to this music is just too weird—more ludicrous than naked men in socks. It’s hard to tell, listening to the delivery on Melody Ranch—two cigar store Indians could not give more wooden readings—whether the bland songs are an excuse for the inept Wrigley gum pitches, or vice versa, for the two alternate with leaden regularity. Avis à tous ces littérateurs qui aiment tant proclamer que la condition humaine n’a changé en rien depuis Tolstoy : oh yes it has. Take advertising—please.





I Jump Aboard…

3 11 2007

… translating Archaia Studios Press’ series The Killer by Jacamon (art!) and Matz (words!), with issue #5,

Archaia’s The Killer, Issue #5

released back to back two weeks ago with issue #6

Archaia’s The Killer, Issue #6: Part II of “The Debt”

to grateful exclamation. The start of this new arc, “The Debt”, is a good place for new readers to jump on. Reviews have been ecstatic, especially over the NY scenes in #6, though not a single critic has neglected to bewail Archaia’s lateness in delivering what seems their best-loved translated title. Nor am I privy to what editorial congestion held up timely publication–but it wasn’t this translator! Writer Matz provided Archaia with his own translations of his work, which they asked me to brush up. Working on this series has been a crash course in concise dialogue. The other two Archaia series I work on, Okko and The Secret History, the former with its flourishes of formal diction, and the latter with its historical freight, both allow more leeway in narration than the clipped tone of The Killer. The rule of thumb that English is 15% more concise than French does not apply to slang (and in my experience applies more to the formal French of nonfiction and newspapers than to the literary idiolects authors invent to express largely personal concepts). Read the rest of this entry »





Notes toward a revelation, Part II

21 10 2007

Do you know, you go along for years thinking nobody’s onto you, and then… I mean, you think because you’ve had a thought but never mentioned it to anyone, even in passing, that no one knows what you’re talking about, and you’re one of the few to have thought it. Then, there it is in print. Listen to this: “By a back-derivation typical of pop revivals, the fantasy glamour of the original songs is translated into a description of the era in which they originated: in the case of the old-new Bacharach craze, as if life in the early Sixties had been a live-action Dionne Warwick song, with deft periodic accentuation by oboe, xylophone, or celeste.” A Geoffrey O’Brien piece from the NY Review of Books, which unfortunately you can’t read without paying. Read the rest of this entry »





Rataphooey (RaT-A-phOO-ee)

20 07 2007

Here’s what a few week’s (in)digestion has produced on the Pixar flick:

Clearly, of all the dishes over which his army of animators had lavished loving digital attention, dearest to Brad Bird’s writer-director heart was the one prepared from Anton Ego’s own words, served back to the vicious critic after his ceremonial defanging, which he savored with a chaser of humble pie in that end monologue as seemingly fair as it was covertly vengeful. I could muster up little more than a beseeching roll of the eyes at this revenge, so far removed from the proverbially called-for cold that a great cloud of hot air rose up from it during the spectacle of its consumption. Never had a critic been happier to eat his own words than Ego, spoon-fed them by an artist indulging himself in delicious wish fulfillment whipped to frothy confectionery heights, defying the gravity of disbelief, and cherry-topped to boot. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down indeed. Yummy, mommy, I want some more! Read the rest of this entry »





The Pirate Bay Presents

13 02 2007

Belated backdated post, now that it’s safer to link to the site that inspired it:

This is the way to do it. Make sure you read the fine print at the bottom. No, really–it’s the best part. I’d post it, along with a photo of Oscar the Buccaneer, if I didn’t want to draw probably unwanted publicity to what is still, despite the number of people who engage in it, a clandestine endeavor. The contemporary definition of “clandestine endeavor” is “carried on behind closed doors, with the cameras on”. Try it. It works for sex, spycraft, and filesharing. It doesn’t have to be illegal, though in all three cases often is.

I wish the brisk world trade in ripped goods were as exciting as plying the high seas and pirate routes, but “intellectual property theft” just doesn’t have the gleam and heft of stolen gold doubloons: for want of a cutlass, perhaps, or a square-masted galleon, or the menace of a dagger between the teeth? No one bites a DVD to see if it’s real. O pirates who never leave their houses. O brave new world, that has such people in it!

As for the section entitled “Legal Notes”:

“To those worried about downloading in case they get sued: by our calculations, your chances of getting nailed are way less than your chances of winning the lottery. Don’t think twice about it.

To all intellectual property landlords: we are aware that OscarTorrents might annoy you — but contain your righteous indignation for a while, and think: we’re only linking to torrents that already exist. Face it: your membrane has burst, and it wasn’t us who burst it. Your precious bodily fluids are escaping. Read the rest of this entry »