Jean-Luc Godard’s film Goodbye to Language

Traffic jam scene, Jean-Luc Godard’s film Weekend

“What Is to Be Done?” — Jean-Luc Godard

“What Is to Be Done?”

by

Jean-Luc Godard

Translation by Mo Tietelbaum

First published in English and French in Afterimage, 1970


  1. We must make political films.

  2. We must make films politically.

  3. 1 and 2 are antagonistic to each other and belong to two opposing conceptions of the world.

  4. 1 belongs to the idealistic and metaphysical conception of the world.

  5. 2 belongs to the Marxist and dialectical conception of the world.

  6. Marxism struggles against idealism and the dialectical against the metaphysical.

  7. This struggle is the struggle between the old and the new, between new ideas and old ones.

  8. The social existence of men determines their thought.

  9. The struggle between the old and the new is the struggle between classes.

  10. To carry out 1 is to remain a being of the bourgeois class.

  11. To carry out 2 is to take up the proletarian class position.

  12. To carry out 1 is to make descriptions of situations.

  13. To carry out 2 is to make concrete analysis of a concrete situation.

  14. To carry out 1 is to make British Sounds.

  15. To carry out 2 is to struggle for the showing of British Sounds on English television.

  16. To carry out 1 is to understand the laws of the objective world in order to explain that world.

  17. To carry out 2 is to understand the laws of the objective worlds in order to actively transform that world.

  18. To carry out 1 is to describe the wretchedness of the world.

  19. To carry out 2 is to show people in struggle.

  20. To carry out 2 is to destroy 1 with the weapons of criticism and self-criticism.

  21. To carry out 1 is to give a complete view of events in the name of truth in itself.

  22. To carry out 2 is not to fabricate over-complete images of the world in the name of relative truth.

  23. To carry out 1 is to say how things are real. (Brecht)

  24. To carry out 2 is to say how things really are. (Brecht)

  25. To carry out 2 is to edit a film before shooting it, to make it during filming and to make it after the filming. (Dziga Vertov)

  26. To carry out 1 is to distribute a film before producing it.

  27. To carry out 2 is to produce a film before distributing it, to learn to produce it following the principle that: it is production which commands distribution, it is politics which commends economy.

  28. To carry out 1 is to film students who write: Unity—Students—Workers.

  29. To carry out 2 is to know that unity is a struggle of opposites (Lenin) to know that the two are one.

  30. To carry out 2 is to study the contradiction between the classes with images and sounds.

  31. To carry out2 is to study the contradiction between the relationships of production and the productive forces.

  32. To carry out 2 is to dare to know where one is, and where one has come from, to know one’s place in the process of production in order then to change it.

  33. To carry out 2 is to know the history of revolutionary struggles and be determined by them.

  34. To carry out 2 is to produce scientific knowledge of revolutionary struggles and of their history.

  35. To carry out 2 is to know that film making is a secondary activity, a small screw in the revolution.

  36. To carry out 2 is to use images and sounds as teeth and lips to bite with.

  37. To carry out 1 is to only open the eyes and the ears.

  38. To carry out 2 is to read the reports of comrade Kiang Tsing.

  39. To carry out 2 is to be militant.

28 still frames from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive

From Mulholland Drive, 2001. Directed by David Lynch with cinematography by Peter Deming. Via FilmGrab.

Twelve-year-old Cormac McCarthy starred in a 1946 agricultural documentary called Dairying in Tennessee

Redditor Jarslow posted the short film Dairying in Tennessee today on the Cormac McCarthy Reddit page. The short film was posted on Vimeo by the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound yesterday,  where the organization notes that “A year earlier, McCarthy was on the shortlist to play Jody in Clarence Brown’s film adaptation of “The Yearling.” Of McCarthy’s audition, an MGM representative told a Knoxville Journal reporter, “This boy has personality plus, and he’s done a good job living down jests tossed at him because of his name.” The role ultimately went to Claude Jarman, Jr.”

 

Watch John Carpenter’s student film, Captain Voyeur

Watch the trailer for Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film

 

Licorice Pizza will be in theaters around Thanksgiving.

23 still frames from Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer

From The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 2017. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos; cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis. Via FilmGrab.

“Pretty Fly” | Scene from + short riff on The Night of the Hunter

I watched  The Night Of The Hunter (dir. Charles Laughton, 1955) last night for the first time in at least fifteen years. Robert Mitchum’s Bluebeard-preacher figure is the main thing that stuck with me from earlier viewings. He’s the awful, captivating, horrifying and paradoxically ever-moving center of dread in a film that is essentially about despair and hope (qualities simplified to tattoos of “LOVE” and “HATE” on his hands). Watching it last night though, I was surprised at how beautiful, even tranquil the film is at times–a kind of tranquility underpinned by the natural world’s flat indifference to humanity’s suffering coupled with Mitchum’s character’s sinister avarice. The long scene of the children escaping on the river at night, guided in part by their own music is particularly moving, a strange interplay of chiaroscuro expressionism and documentary naturalism. The voyage echoes the film’s direct allusions to Moses’ escape in the ark of bulrushes (as well as hinting at Twain’s Huck Finn). It’s a lovely transition to the film’s final third, wherein Lillian Gish’s stern but loving maternal presence overtakes the narrative. My memory had swallowed her eminence, but I don’t think I’ll forget this time that it’s her character who gets the last hopeful words: “ They abide, and they endure.”

My Oscars: I give meaningless awards to films that I had never seen before 2020

This morning in my Twitter feed I saw that the 93rd Academy Awards will happen tonight. I realized that I could not name a single movie that was likely up for an award. Like many people who love films, I do not give a fuck about the Oscars, but am nevertheless aware of the buzz around certain films. This year though, I have no clue.

So I googled it. It turns out there are 56 films nominated for Oscars in the 93rd Academy Awards. I have seen three of them: OnwardSoul, and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. None of the three are particularly memorable (apart from that one scene in the Borat film–you know, that scene with that guy).

The last year has been a weird one, to say the least. I’m pretty sure the last film I saw in a theater was Uncut Gems, way back in January of 2020. (I did see Beetlejuice at a drive-in last October.) Despite (or maybe because of) the glut of streaming options, I ended up watching almost no films that came out in 2020, including films by filmmakers I’m generally interested in, like Spike Lee and Charlie Kaufman.

Early in the pandemic, I rewatched a lot of old favorites. I’ve decided not to add any of them to My Oscars below. Instead, I’ve limited My Meaningless Awards to films that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t seen until 2020 (or early 2021). I followed the hierarchy that the Oscars follows, but led with their end point, best picture (you get the idea). I tossed out some categories that seem meaningless to me (like best foreign-language film), as well as the short film categories, which has always seemed a bit hard to define to me.

Anyway: Here are my stupid Oscars:


Best picture: Melancholia, directed by Lars von Trier (2011)

Best actor: Robert Pattinson, Good Time (2017)

Best actress: Renée Jeanne Falconett, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Best supporting actor: Elliott Gould, California Split (1974)

Best supporting actress: Lisa Eichorn, Cutter’s Way (1981)

Best directing: Jean-Luc Godard, Week-end (1967)

Best original screenplay: Bruce Robinson, Withnail and I (1987)

Best adapted screenplay: Ari Folman’s adaptation of The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem, The Congress (2013)

Best cinematography: Manuel Alberto Claro, Melancholia (2011)

Best production design: François de Lamothe, Le Samourai (1967)

Best editing: George Hively, Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Best original score: Daniel Lopatin, Uncut Gems (2019)

Best original song: “The Dead Don’t Die,” Sturgill Simpson, from The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Best costume design: Antonio Castillo and Marcel Escoffier, Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Best makeup and hairstyling: Hagop Arakelian, Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Best visual effects: René Clément, Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Best animated feature film: Angel’s Egg, directed by Mamoru Oshii (1985)

Best documentary feature: Robby Müller: Living the Light, directed by Claire Pijman (2018)

35 still frames from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life

From It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946. Directed by Frank Capra; cinematography by Joseph Walker and Joseph Biroc. Via FilmGrab.

Watch a 1970 short documentary about Alice Coltrane

Cormac McCarthy’s Cinematic Trash

The above is an unsigned New York Times article published on 8 Nov. 1998.

Cormac’s Trash was released in 1999.

In a 2001 interview, producer Mylène Moreno suggests that the short film did not violate McCarthy’s privacy:

AC: You’re also showing the short “Cormac’s Trash,” that you produced and your husband Rafe Greenlee wrote and directed, about how the obsessed fans of the elusive, reclusive El Paso resident/writer Cormac McCarthy try to smoke him out, one even going so far as to go through his trash. How did that project come about?

MM: From the moment we arrived, Cormac’s presence loomed very large. There was always a lot of buzz about him. We lived near him and were always aware of his presence in the neighborhood, though we never saw him. He was Rafe’s favorite author. The film explores Cormac’s relationship to El Paso’s artists and its literary community. As a lawyer, Rafe was interested in privacy issues, and he takes the position in the film that he’s not going to cross the line — even though the film reveals that others probably have. He was careful about revealing the sorts of things found in Cormac’s trash. He didn’t show all of what was in there.

I think we should leave Cormac’s trash alone.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: Selected Stories of Nikolai Leskov (Book acquired, 19 Sept. 2020)

NRYB has a forthcoming collection of Nikolai Leskov stories (novellas, really) called Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. The collection features new translations from Donald Rayfield, Robert Chandler, and William Edgerton. NYRB’s blurb:

Nikolai Leskov is the strangest of the great Russian writers of the nineteenth century. His work is closer to the oral traditions of narrative than that of his contemporaries, and served as the inspiration for Walter Benjamin’s great essay “The Storyteller,” in which Benjamin contrasts the plotty machinations of the modern novel with the strange, melancholy, but also worldly-wise yarns of an older, slower era that Leskov remained in touch with. The title story is a tale of illicit love and multiple murder that could easily find its way into a Scottish ballad and did go on to become the most popular of Dmitri Shostakovich’s operas. The other stories, all but one newly translated, present the most focused and finely rendered collection of this indispensable writer currently available in English.

The collection includes six novellas: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Sealed Angel, The Enchanted Wanderer, The Steel Flea, The Unmercenary Engineers, and The Innocent Prudentius.

I read a few of these stories some years back in a Borzoi collection of Leskov stories called The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories; those translations were by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (and included some much shorter tales).

I also highly highly recommend Lady Macbeth, director William Oldroyd and writer Alice Birch’s 2016 film adaptation of Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which I reviewed on this blog a few years ago.

Watch Norwood, the not-especially-good film adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel Norwood (or don’t watch it, it’s not that good)

I found the 1970 film adaptation of Norwood on YouTube and watched it this morning. It stars Glen Campbell in the title role. He’s reasonably charming but a little too handsome. Kim Darby is also in the film; she starred as Mattie Ross in the 1969 film adaptation of Portis’s True Grit along with Campbell. Norwood was also produced by the same guy as True Grit (Hal Wallis) and shared the same screenwriter (Marguerite Roberts), and it kinda sorta feels like…left overs from that production? I don’t know if that makes sense. Joe Namath and Dom DeLuise also pop up.

It has a few moments (mostly coming on Campbell’s charm delivering lines cribbed from the novel), but it looks terrible and never gets close to the wit and energy of its source material. But I thought I’d share it any way, as a kind of curio for Portisheads who might want to skim through it.

 

51 still frames from Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky

Liquid-Sky-001Liquid-Sky-006Liquid-Sky-014Liquid-Sky-016Liquid-Sky-022Liquid-Sky-025Liquid-Sky-026Liquid-Sky-028Liquid-Sky-029Liquid-Sky-032Liquid-Sky-036Liquid-Sky-040 Continue reading “51 still frames from Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky”

Buzz off

From Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 film Down By Law (full film below).