The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Joy Williams The Quick and the Dead (2000)


‘A few years ago, the writer Joy Williams’s favorite church needed to dispose of a few extra pews after a renovation. Williams attends the church only in April and October, when her frequent cross-country drives take her to Laramie, Wyo., but she wanted a pew anyway. She borrowed a trailer, got a friend to help her load the pew and drove a thousand miles, pulling it behind her enormous Bronco, her two German shepherds in the cab with her. Now the long, dark pew lives in her house in Tucson.

‘When Williams was a child, her father was a minister at a Congregational church in Portland, Me. ‘‘He gave a beautiful sermon,’’ she said as we hiked through Arizona’s Santa Catalina foothills on trails she walks every morning. I asked if she had ever considered being a preacher like her father: Her stories often reveal themselves as parables, and her writing on the environment is equal parts fire, brimstone and eulogy. ‘‘Oh, no, I’m too shy,’’ she said, before lapsing into a companionable silence, the only sound her Chuck Taylors’ crunch on the trailbed. ‘‘Maybe that’s what I need,’’ she cawed suddenly. ‘‘A pulpit that I take from reading to reading with me.’’

‘Williams is wiry and tanned, her hands and face biblically wrinkled. She is 71. Years ago, she lost her eyeglasses before a university appearance and had to wear prescription sunglasses at the lectern; appreciating, perhaps, the remoteness they facilitate, she has worn them ever since at all hours of the day and night. Not unlike that church pew in her living room, the sunglasses seem like an act of disregard for everyday comfort, an eccentricity that makes everyone else uneasy but Williams more secure.

‘It was just after dawn, but already the air was stifling. We reached a summit, and Williams drank from her dogs’ scratched and dented water bottle. Fat black ants swarmed into a crevice near our feet. Atop a nearby hill stood a trio of saguaros, the bottoms of their trunks black from some recent fire or decades-ago disease. Miles away, a single impossible thunderhead dropped rain in curtains over the Sonoran Desert. Nothing we could see cared about us.

‘To call her 50-year career that of a writer’s writer does not go far enough. Her three story collections and four darkly funny novels are mostly overlooked by readers but so beloved by generations of fiction masters that she might be the writer’s writer’s writer. ‘‘She did the important work of taking the tight, minimal Carveresque story and showing that you could retrofit it with comedy,’’ George Saunders told me, ‘‘that particularly American brand of funny that is made of pain.’’ …

‘The typical Williams protagonist is a wayward girl or young woman whose bad decisions, or bad attitude, or both, make her difficult to admire: She drives away while her husband is paying for gas, or ransacks a houseguest’s room to read her journal. In Williams’s precise, unsparing, surprising prose, her characters reach for the sublime but often fall miserably to earth: ‘‘Sam and Elizabeth met as people usually meet. Suddenly, there was a deceptive light in the darkness. A light that blackly reminded the lonely of the darkness.’’ She has a gift for sentences whose unsettling turns — ‘‘While she was thinking of something perfectly balanced and amusing to say, the baby was born’’ — force readers to grapple, just as her characters grapple, with the way life will do what it wants with you. Other writers I spoke to about Williams’s work expressed a sense of awe at the grandeur underlying her stories of weirdos and misfits. ‘‘She’s a visionary,’’ Karen Russell told me, ‘‘and she resizes people against a cosmic backdrop.’’ …

‘With the 2000 novel The Quick and the Dead, Williams’s work took a sharp turn into a new landscape: Arizona, where she and Hills had bought a house. Williams flings her characters — ghosts and teenagers and seekers — across the desert with a kind of narratorial rage. And the characters give as few damns what people think of them as their creator does. In The Quick and the Dead, Williams’s sense of place came from the earth, the air, the plants and animals, the killing heat — and the inconsequence of human endeavor within that world. The stories she was writing around that time similarly revel in the way the desert places each character on a knife’s edge; in ‘‘Charity,’’ a single snake crossing the New Mexico highway sends a car smashing ‘‘with a snapping of axles’’ into a pocket of ‘‘sacred da­tura, a plant of which every part was poisonous.’’ The accident happens because a boy grabs the steering wheel, trying to run the snake over. Even in the frightening chaos of the crash’s aftermath, Williams finds comedy: ‘‘I just wanted that snake so bad,’’ the boy moans.

‘Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize,  The Quick and the Dead reflected Williams’s new environmental fervor, which was stirred in 1997 while she was reporting for Harper’s about the animal rights movement. Her feature, ‘‘The Inhumanity of the Animal People,’’ was republished in a bracing 2001 collection, Ill Nature. While her use of the natural world in her fiction is evocative and harshly beautiful, these essays were jeremiads — blunt and furious and uninterested in being even a bit reasonable. ‘‘You have made only brutal contact with Nature,’’ she says. ‘‘You cannot comprehend its grace.’’’ — Dan Kois



Joy Williams’s Refractory Brilliance
Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223
Joy Williams Explains How to Write a Short Story
‘Another Season’, by Joy Williams
50 Reasons Why You Should Read Joy Williams
The chillingly honest world of Joy Williams
‘My First Car’, by Joy Williams
Podcast: Joy Williams on Bookworm
‘Good Writing Never Soothes or Comforts’: Joy Williams on Writing
What If the Lord Came to Dinner Uninvited?
Karen Russell on how Joy Williams writes the unspeakable
‘Souvenir’, by Joy Williams
Our Heroes Simply Write: Joy Williams, Unedited
Living in a downward spiral
More with Less
Joy Williams shows the dark side of the short story
Language to transcend
Christine Schutt on “Brass” by Joy Williams
Joy Williams: Never a Dull Moment
Addressing the Impossible
Buy ‘The Quick and the Dead’



Joy Williams reading “George & Susan”

Joy Williams reading her essay ‘Why I Write’


from Bookslut


In your story, “Yard Boy,” from your first story-collection, Taking Care, and in many stories since, you talk about being enlightened, about seeing things without preconception, which means allowing the possibility that inanimate objects have feelings and thoughts, that everything is relative and arbitrary, and other concepts involving “enlightenment” such as that the physical world is an illusion and that nothing can be “known.” In those worldviews “morals” seem irrelevant, or aren’t addressed, since they require assumptions and those worldviews tend to not want to assume anything. In your nonfiction, though, you seem to have morals, and seem to be “against” certain things like hunting, cruelty against animals, destroying the environment, etc. How do you reconcile that in your life? When you are making choices in your life, like choosing whether or not to pay more money for food or transportation that won’t destroy the earth, what do you think about? Do you more live your life like a work of art (fiction), or like a work of rhetoric (nonfiction) or some other way?

You can get away with a lot more writing nonfiction (I’m not talking lies as has been the trend but attitude) than you can writing fiction. In a work of rhetoric you can take a stand, make a case, inform and inspire, scream and demean. You can’t be angry in fiction — it’s all about control. You create worlds in order to accept them. You create worlds open to interpretation. Facts have limitations. At the Univ. of Wyoming where I’m in residence for a year, there is this wonderful little geological museum wherein there is THE FLUORESCENT MINERAL ROOM. There are maybe thirty rocks in there sitting quietly on shelves, modest rocks, nice rocks, but nothing lovely or extraordinary about them. But when you flip a switch — Press Switch Here — the room goes dark and the rocks blossom into the most intense and varied colors. They are really expressing… something. Now the explanation for this is helpfully posted on the wall: Certain stimuli, such as ultraviolet light, disturbs the atomic structure of certain minerals. The energy released as the structure returns to normal results in the emission of visible light.

And there you don’t have it. Far better to have a fictional Yard Boy, prone to love and awe, come to his own understandings which he certainly would have had if he had been fortunate enough to find himself in the Fluorescent Mineral Room at the University of Wyoming.

When I read your stories I feel that everything becomes more accurately balanced out and then I feel calmer, I feel “better.” There is an attempt, I feel, in your writing, to not give anything more “importance” or “weight” than anything else, and to not “rule out” anything. It is like how a child sees things — without preconception. Or more accurately, maybe, how a robot or tree would see things — without even the preconception of consciousness. Do you write or read to feel calmer, to feel less scared of death and other mysteries, to feel less “bad”?


You write about nonexistence a lot, about being either not-yet-born or “dead,” and have been focused on this pretty steadily, in your writing, for more than 30 years — speculating on what it actually is (to not exist), making jokes about it, and “trying out” ways to feel and think about it. Has this affected your life in concrete reality, do you think, as opposed to someone who thinks less, and less creatively and originally, about not existing?

Annie Dillard quotes someone who ventured that “the worst part of being dead must be the first night.” The themes you mention are in the new novel I’m working on as well. Back to the non-expressible. I so wish I were smarter! All art deals with the peculiarity, the strangeness of our situation. We do all this stuff — we think, we marvel, we despair, we care — and then we die. That makes no sense. Surely we should be spending our time differently since that is the case, but how? With the injustice, the political stupidity, the destruction of the natural world, it is tempting to believe (in our non-believing) that things are not what they seem, that there is a link between the dead and the unborn that can replenish the void we know awaits each of us and all we love.

What things have made you feel excited in your life?

Excited? Why do you ask?

You said about The Changeling, “That book was just destroyed. It was an awful experience. […] I felt at the time that some of the reviewers wanted me to die. They just wanted me to stop writing. They were saying, ‘We have other writers out there who we have to deal with and all the writers yet unborn, so please go away.’” Your recent novel, The Quick and The Dead, however, received a lot of praise from almost every reviewer and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Why do you think “critics” reacted differently to the two different novels?

The late ’70s were a tough time for women novelists. We were supposed to be feminist, engaged, angry. It was really, weirdly, a very conformist time. (Of course, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon came out around then and she avoided those problems profoundly and beautifully.) The Changeling is about a guilty young drunk named Pearl on an island with feral children. The prose is lushly stark and imaginative, the method magical, even demented. Feminism did not need a guilty drunk! The Quick and the Dead had larger, more charming and annoying characters and a bigger theme. It’s a better book. It was published in 2000, a millennium baby. Maybe people were more willing to contemplate the straits between the living and the dead. Still, the critics didn’t like it that much.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s there was a term, “K-Mart Realism,” or “Minimalism,” that journalists used for a group of writers you were sometimes mentioned with — Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Frederick Barthelme, etc. Did — and are — you interested or excited by work from that “group” of writers?

Of the ones you mention, it’s Carver who’s the stand-out, and he very much disliked the term minimalism as it was applied to his own work. The editor Gordon Lish was the maestro of minimalism and under his uncanny pencil, many an ordinary story became a very good one. Minimalism as a productive style can be very affective, alarming and satisfying, but I don’t think there ever was a pure strain of it. For a time, it was just a kettle into which many a strange fish were flung. Now with America’s miniaturization of not irrelevance in the world, it might return to the short story in grim and freshened renewal. Certainly the days of the giddy blowhard are over. I hope.

I feel like your writing has become more concrete and less abstract over time. There are more scenes and more of a narrative, I feel, especially in your last two books, The Quick and the Dead & Honored Guest, than in your first books, specifically State of Grace & The Changeling. I like your writing more with each new book. It seems funnier and calmer now to me, I can picture things easier, the sentences feel to me more interesting like you spent more time selecting each sentence that is allowed in each story. I feel like most writers become more abstract over time, you seem like the exception to me. Do you ever think about this? Why do you think you became more concrete over time, or do you not think (or have not thought about) that?

A writer is always seeing pitfalls inherent in a skill he thinks he’s already mastered. You write, you change, everything changes. The pressures on language fail to evoke the desired effect. The “gift” you feel you may have undeservedly received can’t be used for everything. The dependable friend has become untrustworthy. Your ear goes, or confidence that the delivering word will appear, erodes. You get sick of fulfilling your characters, your ease with Time evaporates. Endings, beginnings, impossible. Strategies change. It never gets easier, that’s for certain. Abstraction in fiction is supposed to be bad, but it can be just the struck match that illuminates. Much of a writer’s work is to unexpress the expressible as well as the opposite. And the “concrete” is essential to both.

At the end of one of your essays on writing you said, “None of this is what I long to say. I long to say other things. I write stories in my attempt to say them.” Is there mostly just one thing that you long to say, so that you try, in each story, to “say it all,” to express that one thing, or are there different things that you long to say, each requiring a different story?

The conundrum of literature is that it is not supposed to say anything. Often a reader can enjoy a story or novel simply because he can admire the writer’s skill in getting out of it.

In Corinthians there is this passage: Behold, I show you a great mystery: we shall not all sleep but we will all be changed… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… This is one of those terrifying Biblical passages, though not as terrifying as many others, that addresses the unspeakable heart of our human situation and commands us to be aware. The best stories, I think, always contain this annunciation of awareness, no matter how cloaked. Emerson said, “No one suspects the days to be gods.” Stories can’t be gods of course. Maybe little godlets.

Do you have an “ideal” that you strive for (some already existing story, novel, movie, or song that you think of) when you write a short story? A novel?

No. The first note must be sounded and why have it be another’s? To name an ideal and then seek to riff it anew is an exercise for writers’ workshops.

What story or novel writers, if any, do you feel are (or were) trying to “get at” the same things you are?

I can tell you who I admire greatly — writers who always move and trouble me — Sebald, Coetzee, Delillo. They are rigorous, merciless novelists of great beauty and integrity.

Do you like to be around people and go to parties and drink alcohol?

Not really. I’m shy.



Joy Williams The Quick and the Dead

‘Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, each a motherless child, are an unlikely circle of friends. One filled with convictions, another with loss, the third with a worldly pragmatism, they traverse an air-conditioned landscape eccentric with signs and portents–from the preservation of the living dead in a nursing home to the presentation of the dead as living in a wildlife museum–accompanied by restless, confounded adults. A father lusts after his handsome gardener even as he’s haunted (literally) by his dead wife; a heartbroken dog runs afoul of an angry neighbor; a young stroke victim drifts westward, his luck running from worse to awful; a sickly musician for whom Alice develops an attraction is drawn instead toward darker imaginings and solutions; and an aging big-game hunter finds spiritual renewal through his infatuation with an eight-year-old–the formidable Emily Bliss Pickless. With nature thoroughly routed and the ambiguities of existence on full display, life and death continue in directions both invisible and apparent. Gloriously funny and wonderfully serious, The Quick and the Dead limns the vagaries of love, the thirst for meaning, and the peculiar paths by which all creatures are led to their destiny.

‘A panorama of contemporary life and an endlessly surprising tour de force: penetrating and magical, ominous and comic, this is the most astonishing book yet in Joy Williams’s illustrious career.’ — Vintage



The winter had not brought rain and there were no flowers, there would be no flowers. Still, the land in the spring of the year when Alice would turn sixteen could not be said to be suffering from drought. The desert knew no drought, really. Anything so habitual and prolonged was simply life—a life invisible and anticipatory. What was germinative would only remain so that spring. What was possible was neither dead nor alive. Relief had been promised, of course.

For more than a month now, after school, Alice had been caring for six-year-old fraternal twins, Jimmy and Jacky. They lived with their mother, who was away all day, cutting hair. Their father was off in another state, building submarines. Hair, submarines, it was disgusting, Alice thought. She did not find the children at all interesting. They cried frequently, indulged themselves in boring, interminable narratives, were sentimental and cruel, and when frustrated would bite. They had a pet rabbit that Alice feared for. She made them stop giving it baths all the time and tried to interest them in giving themselves baths, although in this she was not successful. She assisted them with special projects for school. It was never too early for investigative reporting. They should not be dissuaded by their teacher’s discomfort; to discomfort teachers was one’s duty. They were not too young to be informed about the evils of farm subsidies, monoculture, and overproduction. They should know, if only vaguely at first, about slaughterhouses. They shouldn’t try to learn everything at once—they’d probably get discouraged—but they should know how things come into being, like ponies, say, and how they’re taken out of being and made into handbags and coats. They should get a petition going to stop the lighting of athletic fields, since too much light obliterated the night sky. Excessive light was bad. On the other hand, some things perceived as bad were good. Wasps, for instance. They should not destroy the wasp nest they discovered in their garage with poisons because wasp-nest building was fun to watch in a time-lapse photography sort of way. They should marvel at the wasps’ architectural abilities, their insect awareness of a supreme future structure they alone were capable of creating. Wasps were cool. The queens knew how to subsist in a state of cryogenic preservation in the wintertime. Jimmy and Jacky could get special credit for their understanding of wasps, agribusiness, slaughterhouses—just to name a few possibilities.She was willing to make learning interesting for them.

But she didn’t help much with homework. Mostly the three of them just hung out. Little kids didn’t instinctively know how to hang out, Alice was surprised to learn. Sometimes they’d walk down to the Goodwill store and see the kind of stuff people had wanted once but didn’t want anymore. She usually didn’t buy anything because she didn’t believe in consumption, but once she bought a nun in a snow dome. The nun was only fifty cents because the snow had turned brown and clotted and fell in revolting clumps when you turned the thing upside down. What was a nun doing in one of those snow domes anyway? Alice had never seen anything like it. The twins had never seen anything like it either. But Goodwill was only good for once or twice a week. The rest of the time they’d sit around in these tiny plastic chairs the boys had in their junk-filled room and Alice would discuss things with them, chiefly environmental concerns. Alice liked talking about animals and excess packaging. She opened their small eyes to the world of drift nets, wetland mitigation, predator control, and overpopulation. She urged them to discuss the overpopulation problem with their mother. Sometimes their attention wandered. They had a bunk bed in their room, and they both slept on the bottom bunk. When they were seven, they’d be permitted to sleep on the top bunk. They could hardly wait.

Their mother hadn’t paid Alice yet, and near the end of the second month Alice asked for her money.

“Yes, yes, sure,” the mother said. “I have to go to the bank tomorrow. How about Saturday?”

She appeared Saturday morning at Alice’s house in her big sloppy station wagon. Alice and her granny and poppa were sitting on the patio drinking coffee and watching the birds at the feeder. Actually, only Alice was watching the birds, since her granny and poppa were talking avidly about compost. Alice couldn’t talk about compost so early in the morning, but they could. Compost was as munificent as God to them, just as interesting as God certainly. They said that the reason healthy plants repel pests is that they have such intense vibrations in the molecules of their cells. The higher the state of health, the higher the vibrations. Because pests’ vibrations are on a much lower level, they receive a distinct shock when they come into contact with a healthy plant.

Why not? Alice thought.

Alice sauntered down to the station wagon, which was packed with luggage. “You taking a trip?” she asked.

“Didn’t Jimmy and Jacky tell you? Oh, that’s right, I swore them to secrecy.

Let’s go out and have some breakfast. I’ll buy you a donut.”

The mother gave Alice the creeps. She wore large, shapeless dresses she called her “jelly bags.”

“I’ve had my breakfast,” Alice said.

“I’d like to talk to you,” the woman said. “Breakfast really isn’t necessary. Why don’t we go out to the state park—that’s a nice ride.”

Alice looked back at the patio, but her granny and poppa had gone inside. She shrugged and got into the car. Cars had never charmed her, and this one seemed particularly vile. They sped off to the park about fifteen miles away. The lovely, lovely mountains tumbled across the horizon.

The kids’ mother moved one big arm and groped around in the backseat. The car veered down the road, Alice staring stoically ahead, until she retrieved what she was after, a cocktail in a can. “Want a pop?” she said. Alice shook her head. “Sure?” the woman said. “It’s mostly fruit juices.”

I want . . . a scar, Alice thought. A scar that would send shivers up peoples’ spines but would not elicit pity. She didn’t want that kind of scar.

“Where are Jimmy and Jacky?” Alice finally said.

“With a babysitter.”

Alice looked at her.

“I’m trying out somebody new just for the morning, then we’re leaving. Back to the husband. We’re going to be a family again.”

“You owe me three hundred dollars,” Alice said.

“I do? Those hours added up, didn’t they?”

“Do you want a receipt for tax purposes?”

“I’d love a receipt,” the mother said.

They entered the park. A small deceased animal was lying in the road, and the car ahead of them ran over it. They ran over it. A herd of men in fluorescent shorts jogged by.

“God, I hate this place,” the woman said. She rummaged in the backseat for another pop.

“Why did we come here, then?”

“I mean the whole place, the state.”

She turned abruptly into a parking lot. There were some benches and a few little structures for shade. She turned off the ignition and got out of the car. “Gotta tinkle,” she said. Alice sat and gazed at the mountains. When you climbed, you’d move from cholla to juniper and pinyon, then to firs and aspens. Zero to eight thousand feet in forty miles. To live in a place where you could do something like that was sensational, like living exceptionally fast or living in two different bodies. The little animals of the desert didn’t know that the little animals of the mountains, only moments away, even existed. Or the big animals the big animals for that matter.

Alice looked around the littered seat for paper and pencil to compose her bill, her legs sticking to the stinking vinyl of the car seat. She got out and stood in the shade. A tinkle, she thought. The awful woman was probably taking a dump. At last she and her jelly bag appeared. She had red hair today, though sometimes it was chestnut. She was a genius with hair color, there was no denying that.

“You know what keeps going through my head?” the woman said, “DAK’s incredible blowout price. . . . We’re getting a new stereo. Can’t get it out of my head.”

Alice handed her the bill she’d tallied. “It’s in crayon, unfortunately, but I’m sure it will be acceptable. You could give me a check, though I’d prefer cash.”

“That’s what’s going through your head, huh, like DAK’s incredible blowout price?” The woman laughed and dropped the piece of paper to the ground. “If you think I’m paying you, you’re crazy. Pervert. Bitch. You’d better watch out.”

Alice looked at the piece of paper. What was wrong with it? It just lay there.

“My boys say you say the world would be better off without them. They say you killed a pony and a farmer and that you make them eat lettuce-and-rabbit-pellet sandwiches. They say you hate nuns and say not to flush the toilet every time when it’s only yellow water. But it was the wasp nest that did it. I’m excessively susceptible to the stings of bees and wasps and could go into anaphylactic reaction and die. And they shrieked at me when I sprayed the damn thing. It was as big as a beer keg. They cursed me for destroying a thing that could have killed their own mother.”

“Fatal anaphylactic reaction is actually rare,” Alice said.

“Half the stuff they told me is even on the list.”

“What list?” Alice said. Her voice sounded peculiar. You could give me a check, though I’d prefer cash kept sliding through her mind.

“The checklist of symptoms of satanic ritual abuse compiled by an after-midnight radio psychologist who’s a nationally recognized authority on the subject. The list includes but is not limited to preoccupation with feces and death, questionable acting out, talk of mutilation and dismemberment, and fear of being normal and cooperative.” She ticked them off on her fingers.

“Why, that’s just stupid,” Alice said.

“You’re the one who’s stupid, dumbass,” the woman said, “thinking I’d pay for your time. I’ve got better things to do with my money.”

“Jimmy and Jacky misinterpreted my remarks a little,” Alice said. It was probably the hair and submarine emphasis in their background that made them somewhat wobbly in the comprehension department.

“You’d better watch it,” the woman said. “Get away from me.” Alice hadn’t moved. “You’d better watch it,” she said again, laughing, as she got into the station wagon. Then she drove away.

A black bird, a phainopepla, rocketed past and alighted on a trembling mesquite bush. Alice felt that the desert was looking at her, that it kept coming closer, incuriously. She stared into the distance, seeing it as something ticking, something about to arrive. A brief, ferocious wind came up and a Styrofoam cup sailed by and impaled itself upon an ocotillo. She started back toward the park’s entrance, walking not along the road but through the desert itself. Cars and vans occasionally passed by. Tiny heads were what she saw, behind closed windows. She walked quickly, sometimes breaking into a run, through the gulleys and over the rocks, past the strange growths, all living their starved, difficult lives. Everything had hooks or thorns. Everything was saw-edged and spiny-pointed. Everything was defensive and fierce and determined to live. She liked this stuff. It all had a great deal of character. At the same time, it was here only because it had adapted to the circumstances, the external and extreme circumstances of its surroundings.

Plants were lucky because when they adapted it wasn’t considered a compromise. It was more difficult for a human being, a girl.




p.s. Hey. ** Have ANiceLife, Hi. Oh, yeah, duh. I do really like ‘Platform’, and it was indeed on that list. The file I have of that album doesn’t have track titles, and that, plus spacing,  was the culprit. I didn’t know about the conceptual intent. I was interested by and liked the track and just thought it was a kind of 2nd person experiment, I guess. I’m interested to rehear it now that I know its scoop. Thanks a lot for your patience. ** Chris Cochrane, Ah, man, I’m so sorry. Even if it’s the right thing to do, that stuff, being wrenched from that kind of intimacy and trust, is rough no matter what. Is it inappropriate to be glad that you guys got to share that incredible trip during your time together? Hugs, Chris. Cool, I’m glad you also get why I was so amazed by Arto Lindsay’s guitar playing. It just seems so masterful, so knowing and refined and yet so continuously alert and curious/loose about what can happen. I knew his work, and yeah, am not entirely into everything he’s done, but I didn’t expect to be mind-blown by his technique. Thanks about the ‘secret’ project. It’s just, whoa, the needing to work on it relentlessly and trying to wreak interesting havoc from a tired brain, and that kind of stuff. Lovely to see you, my dear pal. Lots of love. ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, indeed! Everyone, one chapter of David Ehrenstein’s great book ‘Film: The Front Line — 1984’ is devoted to yesterday’s blog star Luc Moullet, and reading that chapter is one of the many, many reasons why you should read David’s book if you haven’t yet. Get it. ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. Yes, cool, happy you really like those films too. Re: ‘Love, Simon’, it’s so exhausting: all these blabber-mouthing perfectionist control freaks who can’t let a positive step, however small or however non-ideal, stand and do its thing. I’m so tired of people who think every film that gets released, for instance, needs to be their own personal ideal birthday present. That attitude, which is so fucking pervasive right now about politics and personal issues and everything, is disastrously non-productive. I’m so sick of it. I took a little taste of de Pettero’s music, and, yeah, it’s not my thing at all. ** Bill, Hey. Well, jeez, I’m always sorry to hear that you’re so frequently swamped with work that isn’t your own. Oh, I know of that John Kelly collaborative performance. I saw a clip online, it looked good. Johns pretty much always great. I hear you re: opening acts. As an early to bed guy, I hate the choice of, like, do I go on time and risk waiting through two terrible sets before the one I want to see, or do I wait and go at, like, 10pm or 11pm, in which case, I’ll usually just end up blowing it off?  ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! No, I know, I didn’t go, and it sucks, but let’s go together next year, yes! Let’s pencil that in! Based on my experiences, I wouldn’t worry if what you write doesn’t seem initially to fit. I’m a big believer in chasing what drives and excites you, and you might find how it fits later, or, ‘worse comes to worse’, you’ll have something new and separate that will lead somewhere else. Go for it. Yeah, heavy work day. Getting there. As I think I’ve mentioned, this project is in three parts, and I managed to get an initial draft of the whole third part finished to send to Zac, which means we have fairly solid drafts of all three parts now that still need a lot of work, but that’s good. More work today and probably not much else, but if there’s an else, I’ll tell you what it was. How was your day? Did you write more and/or … ? ** Jamie, Yessir, Jamie! I am fine, semi-brain dead, ha ha, but fine. My groove is still here, not that I have any choice, but, yeah, it’s happening. Oh, guest-posts are always a glorious thing to have for this blog, and in the current situation, even more so, so … yes! Let’s see … gifs. I guess either send them as attachments or link me up to them and I can grab them myself, and let me know the order/ formatting/ etc. you want. Does that make sense? You have my email, no? If not, it’s denniscooper72@outlook.com. Coolness. For me, man, I would love to go that loopy, and, wow, share that loopyness. You would all be rich, rich, richer than in your wildest dreams! How was your today? May it cause you not to do this. Hot sassafras love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, okay, I set it up using the first version you sent, so I’ll go see what the discrepancies are and update it, and I’ll write to you with the date, etc. Thank you so much! It’s wonderful! ** Misanthrope, Here too. Not a palm tree in sight. Mm, it’s sounds like I’ll let you be the Cameron reader. Oh, okay, yeah, that experience does sound both heartwarming and like something I will avoid like the motherfucking plague, ha ha, yikes. But that’s interesting. It’s like opposite of how it was when I originally saw ‘The Exorcist’ in a theater the first week it was released and the audience was vomiting and passing out and stuff. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. I have not seen his recent films, no. I want to. Oops, hm, no clue as to why that R-G still was in there. Maybe he had a connection, or more likely it was just some mistake I made originally. I’ll extract that. Thanks. No, I don’t know Bilge Karasu. Interesting. Of course I’ll go see what I can find out. Thanks a lot, buddy. ** Kyler, Cool. Cool heads prevail or something or whatever they say. Hm … no, I haven’t seen ‘For Ever Mozart’. Huh. Interesting. Well, if it’s by Godard, it’s always worth watching. Let me know how it was. ** Kea7on, Hi. I can only imagine. I think I used to remember my dreams when I was, like, younger. Someone had a theory that when you become the kind of person who needs coffee to wake up, which I became in the 80s, there’s some kind of dream/ memory interference that happens. But I know plenty of coffee drinkers who are always describing their dreams. I don’t know. Friday! Give me a shout when shouting becomes the right thing to do! ** Okay. I was, and still am, in the mood to let the blog shine some love on one of my very, very favorite fiction writers, and specifically on arguably her best novel. If you don’t already read Joy Williams, she is a total master, and I urge you in her work’s direction. See you tomorrow.

Luc Moullet Day *

* (restored)


‘Many of you, perhaps most, have never heard of Luc Moullet. So much the better. Not all news gets into newspapers, and not all movies get into theaters. The sculptor Paul Thek once proposed an interesting solution to the newspaper problem to me: Get rid of all of them, except for one edition of one daily paper (any would do), and pass this precious object from hand to hand for the next hundred years –- then the news might mean something.

‘Living, as we do, in a time and culture where cinema is becoming an increasingly occupied and colonized country — a state of affairs in which a few privileged marshmallows get saturation bookings all over creation while a host of challenging alternative choices languish in obscurity –- the need for legends has seldom been quite so pressing. Such are the established channels nowadays that even avant-garde films come to the viewer, if at all, in a form that is almost invariably pre-selected and pre-defined, with all the price tags and catalogue descriptions neatly in place. Given the need for legends that might gnaw at the superstructures of these official edifices, the adventurous filmgoer has few places to turn. Even in specialized magazines, one is most often prone to find duplications of the choices available elsewhere; and unless one lives in a megalopolis, the mere existence of most interesting films today is bound to seem almost fanciful and irrelevant.

‘Within this impossible setup, one is obliged to construct a pantheon largely out of rumor and hearsay: at one big state university, stories still circulate about the one time that a few students got to see half an hour of Rivette’s 252-minute Out 1: Spectre.

‘Needing an emblem, agent provocateur, and exemplary scapegoat for a legendary cinema that by all rights should be infinite and expanding, I nominate the figure of Luc Moullet, patron saint of the avant-garde B film. Whether or not anyone chooses to second the motion is beside the point. …

‘“Our Jarry,” Rivette calls him. And when I asked Straub in Edinburgh two years ago which contemporary filmmakers he admired, he cited Mizoguchi, Ford, Renoir, Lang, Godard … and then Luc Moullet: “I am willing to defend him until next year — things can change — even against all those who accuse him of being a fascist, which he is not. He’s the most important filmmaker of the French post-Godard generation…especially for Les contrebandières more than for the other two.” …

‘Manny Farber — whose termite category could have been invented for LM — asked me a couple of months ago how formal analysis could account for the tenderness Straub displays towards the young waiter in Not Reconciled; I asked in turn how a proper formal analysis could avoid it. It would seem, from the available evidence, that LM has shown a comparable tenderness towards everyone he’s ever filmed, and yes, Virginia, this is “work on the signifier”. It’s the signified of commercial cinema that gets short-changed in The Smugglers — not its production of meaning, which is indicated in virtually every shot. This makes some people angry because they want to forget they’re at the movies. LM starts with the assumption that you want to be there.

‘Nevertheless, at one time or another, LM’s films have defeated distributors, exhibitors, spectators, even projectors. At Filmex in Los Angeles last March, people who arrived to see Anatomie d’un rapport — not very many — were essentially informed that the 16 mm projector refused to contend with the film, and those who wanted to see it had to come back the following day. When I returned, along with an even smaller group of people, the projector grudgingly complied this time, but not without a couple of spiteful breakdowns. Every time I’ve seen Les contrebandières, the projector has obstinately refused to keep all of the image in focus at the same time; the gate usually seems to shudder and flinch at the very prospect.

‘Maybe cameras rebel against LM’s cinema too; consider the awfulness of that still I cited from Les contrebandières. I wonder if the breakdown in representation implied by it may, after all, be a fair indication of what his films are all about: not a breakdown of the people and things represented, but of the sort of guff that money and idealism dress them up with. All I know is that the longer I look at that still, the more it inspires me. Like the best of LM’s cinema, it is priceless — language that isn’t theft, because it takes nothing from anyone, but offers, rather, a gift that anyone can have. If anyone will let us have it.’ — Jonathan Rosenbaum





Luc Moullet @ IMDb
Luc Mouleet @ New Wave Film
‘Filmmaker, Film Critic, Enfant Terrible. Luc Moullet offers his thoughts on cinema past and present.’
Luc Moullet @ Senses of Cinema
‘Luc Moullet and Parpaillon’s Pataphysical Theatre’
‘Luc Moullet : “J’aime la manière dont mon frère, assez primitif de nature, découpe son steak”’
Interview with Luc Moullet by John Hughes and Bill Krohn
Luc Moullet @ France Culture
‘Luc Moullet tracks the Origins of a Meal’
Video: Tracks: Luc Moullet – Poulidor du cinéma français’
‘Est-ce que ta grand mère fait du vélo?’
‘Seven Comedies: The Films of Luc Moullet’
Luc Moullet interviewed @ VICE (France)
‘Luc Moullet’s 10 favorite films 1957-1968’
‘Portrait(s) de Luc Moullet’


Rockefeller’s Melancholy
Luc Moullet on Michelangelo Antonioni


Drifting is the fundamental subject of Antonioni’s films. They are about beings who don’t know where they are going, who constantly contradict themselves, and are guided by their momentary impulses. We don’t understand what they feel or why they act as they do.

Psychological cinema could be defined in this way: it is psychological when you don’t understand the motivation of emotions and behaviors. If you understand, it means it’s easy, immediately, at a very superficial level… The filmmaker must therefore let it be supposed that there are a pile of mysterious, secret, deep, and unlimited motivations, as much in the characters as in the filmmaker (who maybe doesn’t exist). You can ramble on at your leisure about them (cf. the bottle of spilled ink in L’avventura, the tennis game in Blow Up). It’s a way of bluffing the viewer, particularly noticeable throughout L’avventura and La notte, which is very National Enquirer (or Us Weekly, or Star, or People), dignified by an Edward Hopper emulator.

Drifting reveals two facets, one that is positive, one that is negative. First, the positive: it directs the film towards an unusual and surprising elsewhere. It’s the road movie (Zabriskie Point, The Passenger, L’avventura). The beginning of that last film is centered on the couple of Léa Massari/Ferzetti, and then on the disappearance of Massari who will be looked for in vain, very slowly and boringly, by the new—rather disappointing—couple of Ferzetti/Monica Vitti, and then on a semi-documentary and off-topic (but is there even a topic?) stroll through Sicily that, after an hour and a half of yawns, gives us the best (or the least bad) part of the film: the piercing gazes of the men on Monica Vitta alone in a small village square, the flirtation with the maid on the train, the prostitute’s press conference, Vitti imitating the bellboy, suddenly singing and dancing, passages that I am maybe overestimating because they happen after 100 very monotonous minutes. This kind of drifting film – a backpacker’s, a wanderer’s cinema – will come back later in Two Lane Blacktop (Hellman), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Cassavetes) and Wenders’ Kings of the Road, with the frequent submission to chance – natural and organized—that is equally present in Blow Up. This path will also be found in The Passenger, Identification of a Woman, and L’eclisse, objects in that film definitively replacing the protagonists in a revolutionary ending that happily gives a new twist to a film until then filled with drunks and common places (especially about the stock exchange).

The other facet is more negative. Since drifting is a way of fighting against boredom, it leads to a new form of boredom, inevitably found as soon as the center of the film is lost. Films about boredom are inevitably annoying. An inherent problem in filmmakers’ activities, one that is a vicious circle, is that, in order to make films, you have to be rich or, if not, you have to very quickly become rich. So, filmmakers only know the problems of the well-off, cutting them off from the reality of the masses and diminishing the reach of their oeuvre. But, after all, Rockefeller’s melancholy is a human reality to which it is only normal to bring attention. It’s something. It brings us back to an ancestral conception of art, one that was fundamental until around 1850. It is the expression of noble souls, men of noble births, excluding the mediocre spiritual life of the proletariat. Going back to it (Il grido) seems like a displacement of very artificial problems.

And when one is rich, one has everything—money, work (if one still needs to work in order to live), and love. What more can one hope for? From this comes the boredom, depression, and melancholy that one looks to fill in by looking at other things, left and right. A cinema that is foreign to me, that aggravates me—me, who, like the majority of people, had to fight for decades to reach a summit similar to the one that Antonioni’s characters want to forget. Maybe the height of happiness is to realise one’s ambitions as late as possible, or never, in order to avoid the agony of an earthly beyond.




LUC MOULLET: The cinema according to Luc

Essai d’ouverture: Luc Moullet

Luc Moullet, enfin cinématonné?

Questions de cinéma Luc Moullet


from mubi


You mentioned in your introduction at Cannes that Land of Madness was initially suggested to you by Edgar Ulmer.

LUC MOULLET: Ulmer wanted to produce films by young people, and when I saw him he asked me to write something, but Ulmer had great difficulties getting his own movies produced, so this ended up not being made.

Was it originally a documentary?

MOULLET: No, it was a fiction. It was too long and too expensive. Ulmer spoke a lot without really having the power to supervise this film made by young people. I took a little part of it—10% or 5%, all about madness, this little part—and came back to the documentary way of filming, which was easier and more interesting in this case. And less costly. That gave me the idea of the title.

Did you know other directors from that era? I know you interviewed many, and Fuller you worked with.

MOULLET: Yes of course, because I was writing text for Cahiers du cinéma, and I was just beginning so I couldn’t write about great, great directors; Truffaut and Rivette spoke about them, wrote about them, so I had to concentrate on other directors who were a little forgotten or not yet known, such as Ulmer and Fuller.

And now they are associated with the New Wave and Cahiers.

MOULLET: I remember when Truffaut came to New York there was a question, “who are the best American directors?” And he said Edgar Ulmer and Samuel Fuller! Which in ’59 was rather provocative since the critic who asked the question may not have known Ulmer and saw very little of Fuller. At the time, people said Kazan, or Stevens, or Zinnemann.

That’s our cinema of quality. Now not very many people of our generation watch those films any more. They are underappreciated, almost, because of their reputation for being overblown. I was very startled to see this area of France on film. The landscapes here look like many of the landscapes I see in your movies, and it occurs to me that A Girl is a Gun could have been shot in your backyard. It was interesting to see the land that exists in your fiction films take such a vivid place in your documentary.

MOULLET: There are certain landscapes for fantasies like a western film and for a true story for murder and madness, which we can see here.

There’s something really romantic about your films, which I like. They have a reputation for being austere in a way, because they deliver facts, but there’s something really romantic about the landscapes.

MOULLET: It certainly is a romantic landscape, and these are ugly stories in a romantic landscape—it’s an interesting contradiction. You could say the same about Wuthering Heights, a very beautiful landscape and a certain kind of madness. I think it might be the same as in West Virginia!

Do you look for inspiration in films that you love?

MOULLET: Yes, of course. I wrote many films about American movies, I made a book about Vidor’s The Fountainhead, and there are some influences, some borrowings from The Fountainhead in A Girl is a Gun, from Hitchcock in Brigitte and Brigitte. In Brigitte and Brigitte there’s a girl who has some difficulties finding a secret dictionary in her closet during an exam, and this was made after the end of Strangers on a Train, looking for his lighter—things like that. There’s a borrowing from The Whispering Chorus by DeMille in Le prestige de la mort; it’s a bit of a similar story. There are many things I borrow from American cinema, always in a different context because Brigitte and Brigitte is a comedy and Strangers on a Train is a suspense film. It’s always better to take things from other genres because then nobody sees them…unless I speak to you about them! There are some borrowings from Moonfleet in my short, The Milky Way.

You wrote a book in 1995 called Politique des acteurs—Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Cary Grant, James Stewart, which unfortunately, like much of your criticism, has not yet been translated into English. Could you talk a little bit about why you wrote the book, and what you say in it?

MOULLET: Actors are very important to good authorship, especially in the comical field (Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Raymond Griffith, Linder, Tati, Fields, Marx Brothers). Who remembers the official directors of their films, Clyde Bruckman, James Horne, Donald Crisp? I chose to write a book about actors because Truffaut always told me it was the most difficult thing to do, to write about actors. I liked this challenge. Before, almost nobody wrote seriously about actors.

Speaking of material unavailable in English, it is quite dismaying to see your work receive so little attention in the United States in terms of distribution. For someone unable to see most of your films, what have you been up to since the early 1970s?

MOULLET: I can tell you that I worked in many of the usual genres, comedy, western, erotic film, murder film, sociologic documentary, copying (or try to copy) the career of Hawks.

How do you see your filmmaking changing over this period?

MOULLET: I don’t know what difference one can find between a film I made in 1960 and a film I directed in 2006. Maybe there are less puns.

In the U.S. the French New Wave is almost exclusively associated with a very small group of Cahiers du cinéma critic-filmmakers—Godard, Rivette, Truffaut, Rohmer, and Chabrol. Again, due mostly to issues of distribution, access, and translation, we have seen little from other contemporaneous filmmakers and Cahiers writers such as yourself, Jacques Donoil-Valcroze, and Fereydoun Hoveyda.

MOULLET: My films have less success than those of Godard and Truffaut because I do not have their genius. I was a follower to them, a groupie, a fan. And all those who came after the Big Five of the New Wave had great difficulties during their—I mean Hanoun, Pollet, me, Eustache, Vecchiali, Straub, Rozier, Garrel. The audience had enough with the Big Five. We came too late, some months after, but it was too late.

To my knowledge, unlike many of your Cahiers critic-filmmaker colleagues you still remain active as a critic. How do you see your criticism changing since your earlier days? Do you see a difference between the way you worked as a critic-filmmaker during the first years of your career as a moviemaker and now?

MOULLET: To write an article about a film and to do a documentary, that’s the same work—we show a reality that does exist, a film, a factory, a town. I took the same pleasure in writing the book about Vidor’s The Fountainhead and in shooting a film about Des Moiners, The Belly of America. What difference between my film criticism of 1956 and that of today? Difficult to say. I saw more films during those years. I am less interested in giving a shock to my audience. My analysis is more precise—I presume—and I am more fair with the films. Now I try to find the truth while writing my texts, and I no more try to impose a truth, a message before writing an article. The first years in criticism, we often to tried to impose aggressive judgments. After, all that is over.


11 of Luc Moullet’s 36 films

Brigitte et Brigitte (1966)
Brigitte et Brigitte is a 1966 French feature-length film written and directed by Cahiers du cinéma film critic Luc Moullet. Two girls meet accidentally at the station as they come from their oppositely remote small villages. It seems they have patterned themselves against the same model as they are identical in every respect that they can be. They become roommates and go to collage, eventually studying film because it is easy. What follows are episodes, all reflective in some way on the nature of film, either explicitly or as a matter of how life is patterned by film. Eric Rohmer plays a role. What sets this apart from other new wave projects of the era is that it sits in its deep selfreference without taking itself seriously. As it happens, the identities of these girls drift apart in terms of appearance, manner, values and place in film. Its no less consequential than others of its ilk, but seems more fun in being consciously trivial. One episode, for instance has our girls doing a survey of the three best filmmakers. One Frenchman answers: Welles, Hitchcock and Jerry Lewis. Another querent gives the same answer for who are the three worst filmmakers. The joke is that he is a ten year old boy. Worse, pulls out a list with ALL filmmakers ranked in order and he tells precisely that those three are numbers 281, 282, and 283! Moullet’s debut film, Brigitte et Brigitte was praised upon release by one-time colleague Jean-Luc Godard as being a “revolutionary film.”‘ — collaged



Les Contrebandières (1968)
‘In his follow-up to his debut feature Brigitte et Brigitte (1966), Luc Moullet further distanced himself from his Nouvelle Vague contemporaries by cocking a snook at anyone who sees revolution as an effective driver for social and political change. Moullet’s cynical view that nothing ever changes ran contrary to the thinking of other New Wave directors who, in common with a vast swathe of bourgeois intellectuals, saw revolution as not only necessary but inevitable. Jean-Luc Godard’s Week-End (1967) and Moullet’s Les Contrebandières (1968) are both wildly anarchic but their premises are diametrically opposed. Like Godard, Moullet evokes the thirst for rebellion that was rife in France in 1967/8, but his conclusion is that all that revolution achieves is to move people from one miserable, unsatisfying groove to another miserable, unsatisfying groove. Moulet’s minority view proved to be the most realistic. Ten years on from the events of May ’68, you’d be hard pressed to notice any significant change in France.’ — French Film Site



A Girl is a Gun (1971)
‘Jean-Pierre Léaud and Rachel Kesterber star in the greatest French western ever made. Never released in France but distributed in South America in an English-language version dubbed by Moullet himself, Billy’s dark tale of lust and revenge swings wildly between a slapstick insanity and a delirious experimentation that are kith and kin with Wellman’s Yellow Sky, Vidor’s Duel in the Sun, Godard’s Week-end, and Garrel’s La cicatrice interieure. In rewriting an old saw (cinema and a girl is a gun, indeed), Moullet tackles favorite themes—time, landscape, exhaustion—with relish.’ — Harvard Film Archive



Anatomie d’un rapport (1975)
‘”For me,” Luc Moullet wrote, “there isn’t intelligence and stupidity, but intelligence-stupidity.” A Cahiers critic who championed Samuel Fuller as an “intelligent primitive,” Moullet turned to directing well after his comrades (Godard, Truffaut, et al.), and has been playing catch-up ever since. With one exception, the movies in International House’s “5 Comic Films” showcase are emphatically unserious, teetering concatenations of moth-eaten gags splintered with Dadaist verve. Moullet has said his “main aim is to make people laugh,” but he lacks the killer instinct of a natural comedian. Even though his features typically run less than 90 minutes, they’re never rushed; for all their frenetic dislocations, they’re somehow restful. Fond of barren landscapes, blackout gags and Sisyphean slopes, Moullet is, like the Parisian rebels of May 1968, “Marxiste, tendence Groucho,” a slapstick anarchist who expresses his hostility to the modern world by refusing to take it seriously. The series’ most atypical entry is Anatomy of a Relationship (1975), co-directed with Moullet’s wife Antonietta Pizzorno. With Moullet as himself and Christine Hébert as an obvious Pizzorno stand-in, Anatomy dissects in painful detail the sexual dysfunction in its makers’ marriage.’ — Arsenevich




Barres (1984)
‘Funny little short film about fare dodging in Paris with a touch of magical realism, a testament to human ingenuity and imagination used to get out of paying those couple of Francs. “My main aim is to make people laugh. For me, that’s very easy: lost between the rustic peasant world whose rituals I have forgotten and the chic Parisian world into which I have never really assimilated, I am a character who is out of place; everybody finds me comical. I only need to show up for people to laugh. So it’s not because I’ve got any great skills: I take full advantage of my situation. And this comedy factor goes beyond my personal self, stretching into whatever I care to imagine.”‘ — Luc Moullet

the entire film


La comédie du travail (1987)
‘From the very beginning, film comedy focused on the world of work. From exploitation to unemployment, from adaptation to resistance, directors multiplied their points of view on survival in the modern world, especially from Chaplin on. With a humor superceding certain conventions and steering towards an eminently political dimension, Moullet follows three characters in order to build one of the blackest satires about the conflict arising from our everyday relation with work. Nobody but Luc Moullet, former witty critic of the Cahiers du Cinema, would have dared to make such a film on unemployment.’ — IMDb



Parpaillon ou à la recherche de l’homme à la pompe Ursus d’après Alfred Jarry (1993)
‘To understand Moullet’s contribution in Parpaillon, it is perhaps not pointless to ask a question at the outset that is finally quite difficult to answer: what is a gag? Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie suggest a practical definition: ‘More narrative and often more abstract than a sketch, the gag is short in form and relatively autonomous, and in itself does not necessarily belong to film (there are theatrical, and even musical or pictorial gags). In its most general form, it is characterised by the incongruous and surprising resolution of a situation that may or may not be realistic in its premises … The gag, in most cases, is less inclined to mobilise cinematic language than body language.’ The gags created by Moullet in Parpaillon seem in perfect agreement with this definition. The fragmentary nature of the film, resulting more from a narrative aesthetic than an ‘aesthetic of attractions’ – to borrow an expression devised to explain the specificity of early cinema – favours self-sufficiency in the situations being shown, emphasising their intrinsic value as gags. Similarly, all the situations in Parpaillon, however realistic most of them might be at the outset, are pushed to their most incongruous extrapolations.’ — Rouge




Toujours plus (1994)
‘Aujourd’hui les supermarchés se construisent sur l’emplacement des cinémas ou des églises. Évolution normale puisque le consumérisme est la religion du XXème siècle ; les supermarchés sont les cathédrales du futur.’ — Cinematheque Grenoble

the entire film


Foix (1994)
‘C’est en 1973 que Luc Moullet fait la découverte de Foix, ville qui saute à ses yeux comme étant la plus ringarde de France. Pendant les vingt années suivantes, il garde en tête ces images de Foix qui ont impressionné sa rétine de manière indélébile, cherchant si chaque nouvelle ville qu’il visite peut, même de loin, rivaliser avec ce parangon de ringardise. Au bout de ces longues années de recherche assidue, il ne peut que conclure que Foix reste indétrônable. Désirant réaliser son hommage à la ville, il y retourne en 1994 et constate que rien n’a changé depuis cette année 73. Heureux cinéaste qui va enfin pouvoir imprimer sur pellicule ces images qui le hantent depuis deux décennies… Le principe du film est des plus simples, avec des images qui viennent contredire un discours touristique décliné imperturbablement en voix off. Le portrait est accablant. La ville est construite n’importe comment, sans aucune vue d’ensemble urbanistique, tout est empilé à la va-comme-je-te-pousse, en dépit du bon sens et bien sûr sans aucune recherche d’esthétisme. D’improbables compositions florales, des canaux inutilement tarabiscotés, des enseignes vétustes (lorsqu’il y en a, Moullet débusquant même un commerce vierge de toute inscription !) plaquées sur des façades abominables, des bâtiments d’une incommensurable laideur, des statues modernes d’une incommensurable laideur qui poussent comme des champignons… Rien n’est pensé, tout se mêle dans un fatras délirant que Moullet résume en ces termes : “La politique de l’urbanisme se fonde sur le mélange, figure mère de l’art néo foixéen.”‘ — dvdclassik.com

the entire film


Le prestige de la mort (2006)
‘Whilst seeking out locations in the South of France for his next film, director Luc Moullet comes across a male corpse. He immediately decides to use this to his advantage. By swapping his passport with that of the dead man, Moullet hopes that the world will believe he is dead, thereby ensuring a renewed interest in his work. Unfortunately, the scheme backfires, since the dead man was someone rather important. The film stars Luc Moullet, Antonietta Pizzorno, Claire Bouanich, Iliana Lolitch and Gilles Guillain. It has also been released under the title: Death’s Glamour. — French Film Site




La Terre de la folie (2010)
‘Originating from the southern Alps, Luc Moullet has been struck by the abnormally high incidence of mental disorder in the area. Accounts of murder, suicide and self-immolation are plentiful. In this documentary, Moullet examines the causes and consequences of these extreme psychiatric phenomena and arrives at some disturbing conclusions. The film stars Luc Moullet, Antonietta Pizzorno and Jacques Zimmer. It has also been released under the title: Land of Madness.’ — French Film Site







p.s. Hey. ** Have ANiceLife, Hi. I haven’t heard the Holly Herndon track, or am spacing if I have, but I’ll listen to it today, although now I know. But still. Thanks! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Really? That’s interesting. And I’ll read that piece on Aeon. Thanks very much. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Oh, wow, 35 mph, sounds fun, sorry. But I come from a land where trees largely mean palms which bend in winds ever so interestingly. Will not that guy’s domestic abuse charge help LPS? Well, 99.9% chance I’ll never see ‘Love, Simon’, but do reinforce or alter that projection. I’ve never read Peter Cameron, so I don’t know what that means. ** Bernard, Thank you kindly, B! I just made a post that includes a photo of Buckminster Fuller standing next to his bomb shelter. If you and Rick hit that 80s show, let me know how it is, or, well, how anything you guys hit is. Yeah, since you wrote what you wrote, shit has been happening over there that is causing me to join you in that fearful opinion. It does seem like an extremely treacherous moment, and I’m feeling the terror over here. The congressional Republicans are the sickest people I can ever remember living in the same world with or even imagining, which is saying something given my imagination. ** Alistair, Hi, A! I’m glad you got stuff from the post. Good, good, I’m happy you’re going to make it out there for the reading and stuff. I’m getting my travel dates arranged today and will then know how long I’ll be there, but, yeah. it should be long enough to get to see you. That would be so great! ** Steve Erickson, I’ll pop over and read or skim that ‘L,S’ review out of very mild curiosity. I assume there must some kind of celebration of St. Patricks Day in France, but it must awfully minor and culty and confined to what Irish-outreaching pubs might be around because I’ve never seen the slightest signs of it. Eddy de Pettero, yeah, he’s a huge hype over here right now. You can’t go anywhere without seeing posters and etc. advertising his album. Big French bucks behind that guy. I haven’t heard him knowingly. The vast majority of mainstream French hiphop sounds like a watered down version of what American hiphop sounded like a decade ago. Jeez, great luck re: not getting a cold. I personally don’t care one bit if Styles or Tyler are bi or gay, but good luck to those of you who do. ** Keeetahn, Good gravy. I mean about your dream. It makes me wish mine weren’t blurs. Alcohol always made me sluggish. Unless it was being drunk to mellow drug jitters. Then it made sense. When do you split? ** Jamie, Hey, hey. Cool, yeah, it brought out the stoner in me too. I sort of imagined it could turn the blog readership into dreads-sporting tokers muttering, ‘Whoa, ha ha.’ My weekend was all work, no play. Not even the zine fair was spared from my deadlining. The deadline is starting to get scarily near, and I fear I’m going to be overtaxing my brain for what will feel like forever but will not be very lengthy in fact. I’m in the groove much more than I’m in the zone, if you know what I mean. Excellence incarnate that you felt/feel your zone sweeping over you. It would be hard to describe the secret script until I can say what the secret script is for, but, if the stars align magically, I should be able to defog that project publicly this week. Yes, in fact there was a MegaMillions lottery through which someone in New Jersey won $475 million this past weekend. Can you imagine? May your Monday pour exactly the right amount of sauce onto the precise amount of your favorite pasta. Pins and needles love, Dennis. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! I know, right? I didn’t get to go the Paris Ass Book Fair, grr, because it has gotten to the point where I have so much work to do in so little time that I have to punish myself to hope to meet my deadline. Exciting that you’re going to get back into your book/project today! That is a very eerie story about that abandoned building and your near miss at being the bodies’ discoverer. Wow, I think that would have really sucked. My weekend, as I said, was just me trying to work every possible waking hour. It wasn’t a fun one. But c’est la vie as the French are supposed to say a lot but don’t actually say hardly ever at all. I hope you get to work excitedly today! Did you? ** Statictick, Thanks a bunch, N. 60, not bad. Winter has returned here for probably a brief visit, and we’re all bundled up and dodging snowflakes. ** _Black_Acrylic, Cool, thanks, Ben. Signer does someone really awesome things sometimes for sure. Great news about the Threads post! Thanks ever so much again! ** Jeff J, Thanks, Jeff. The mud fan, interesting. I thought that might get lost. Did I do a full-on James Lee Byars post? Seems very likely. I’ll forage through the archives and, assuming I did and the materials are still on my hard drive, I resurrect it. I only worked like a dog’s dog this weekend. I won’t know if there were any highlights until I find out if the project’s boss approves of what I hope were highlights. ** Kyler, That does sound windy, yes. Probably practise as much patience as you can with her. I’m imagining she has a bunch of other stuff she needs to do at the same time too. ** Okay. Since Luc Moullet is still a very interesting and under-known filmmaker, I decided to restore this longish dead post that hoped in its tiny way to help rectify that situation. See you tomorrow.

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