The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Mark Rappaport Day

 

‘Mark Rappaport is on the very short list still for the greatest living American filmmaker because of the absolutely essential work he did, first in his early fictional narratives from 1974’s Casual Relations up through 1985’s Chain Letters, then in a second phase of fictional autobiographies of movie stars that have an utter lack of use for the tenets of realism that’s inspiring, especially seeing how they were made parallel to the dire trend in more commercial US cinema of “realist” (re: swearing and torture scenes) genre films that proliferated in the early 1990s.

‘Rappaport’s stance on the narrative and “psychological” shibboleths that loiter, tired but possessed with insidious powers of seduction, in the dire waiting room of the vast majority of American and world cinema collecting gilded dildos and money in a manner that inclines one to agree with the psychoanalytic tendency to trace the origins of such tendencies to the infant’s urge to play with feces, is revolutionary because it doesn’t violently reject such things in search of the real, but deflates them so they’re no longer gods to be venerated or scorned but half-remembered scraps in the junk pile ghost story of consciousness. While often screamingly funny, they’re just as often uncomfortable as listening to a recording of one’s own voice. Frequently in the same segment.

‘While his early shorts are amusing, especially Blue Movie, the best place to come to an appreciation of Rappaport’s distinctive style is his first feature Casual Relations, a collection of around 12 shorter meditations on the place of boredom, apathy, and in-between moments. It doesn’t have quite the same Jamesian complexity of his later narratives but is, as these sorts of things go, straightforward, hilarious, and more digestible. Casual Relations establishes Rappaport as perhaps the only American filmmaker to understand the artistic potentials and the specific textures of what’s been crudely dubbed “the postmodern condition”-he’ll use outdated stylistics for his own purposes and switch them out frequently and without concern for reveling in or directly and narrowly commenting on them-they’re language, and language is a tool that he’s free to use however he sees fit and established style something he can pick up or discard at whatever tempo he chooses. An especially memorable sequence superficially resembling Rashomon perhaps best sums up this peculiar film whose greatest asset is its lack of a center. A stabbing or shooting occurs, and we see it in various states of revision until it comes up against the void of meaninglessness and becomes more and more absurd. Pluralism isn’t the keyword but rather the emergence of something more sinister, more given to dangerous laughter, something more all-encompassing, a trap perhaps…it’s no accident the film ends with Martha and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run” playing over a blank screen and then credits…

‘The later films tie their strands together in more complex ways than simply a shared theme make them more complex. It took me three failed runs through his later Local Color before I could allow myself to be ensnared in it’s internal logic, but on the third time it was sheer delight, dread and awe that the movies could do such things. The film, his third (I’ve yet to track down a copy of Mozart in Love though it’s now available on Fandor and I hope to review it here soon) is his masterpiece, though in a body of work this good that means it’s a split second finish. A story of incredible complexity and one of the only, maybe the only, besides Rappaport’s own The Scenic Route, film to take the innovations of the greatest post-war writers in prose, the Pynchons and Barthelmes and Gaddises, and employ them to film on the same level to and sometimes even surpass them. To recount the plot here would be to miss the point; the plot is so byzantine and winding that it seems so on purpose so as to force the viewer in being overwhelmed to let go and stop reading it the way they’ve always read films; as things with characters who have goals and represent eternal melodramatic forces. Nothing is so cut and dried here. Character isn’t a matter of surface level coherence but of self-contradiction, petty urges with unknown origins, layers of masks draped one over the other like thatch over a pit. Attempts have been made to imitate the power and unusual tone of this film in later films to such dire effect it would be insulting to Local Color to mention them here. Some of these attempts were by filmmakers I’m not even sure saw Local Color, maybe the impetus came to them half-digested in dreams. Such things happen.

‘The second phase of Rappaport’s career involves the fake auto-biographical films that started with the classic piece of film criticism Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, a film that despite its many technical issues (the sound desperately needs to get remixed if it’s ever rereleased-Mark I know you’re reading this) redefines the boundaries of both the single subject historical documentary and the film-as-film criticism, and offers incredibly useful reinterpretations to some of the major tenets of postmodern criticism. Like the rest of his films, it’s screamingly hilarious.

‘Through the novel technique of using an actor to play the deceased Hudson who then guides the audience through a collection of clips from Hudson’s films Rappaport brings seasoned viewers to uncomfortable problems of film criticism rapidly and with gleeful abandon. By positing that Hudson was expressing his closeted homosexuality in his choices as an actor, both in scripts and performance, the cinema so straitjacketed into misreadings of French auteur theory, is broken up into an almost inconceivable spectrum of subjectivity; reading film is no longer the bitter struggle with a jigsaw puzzle of images in hopes for the imperialist domination of the “final reading”, the “director’s intent”, a flag of interpretation to hoist up, a meat thermometer to stick in so as to have the satisfaction of saying “It’s done”, but an act of imagination with no possibility of triumph beyond hard to articulate resonances. That the actor playing Hudson looks little or nothing like him, a fact driven home repeatedly by his literally being posed next to pictures of the actual Hudson, works because it shows the intent is not to bring Hudson back to life in the creepy necrophile manner of so many bio-pics obsessed with the actor’s superficial resemblance to the deceased.

‘How much of self is social? How much of the social self is noticed even if it is? When taking the text on its own terms what sorts of rabbit holes might we stumble into? If trying to find the author (in this case Hudson) is a doomed task of endless supplements and uncomfortably off doubles must this be viewed with the bitter taste of having been betrayed by stories of the possibility of truth? Or can the lack of “truth”, of recovery of the dead, be seen on its own terms as a new aesthetic path defined by an almost unlimited potential?’ — Dan Levine

 

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Stills























































 

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Further

Mark Rappaport @ IMDb
The Strange and Sad Saga of How Filmmaker Mark Rappaport Lost His Movies
Mark Rappaport on His Movie Archaeology: “If I get pretentious with this, slap me senseless”
MEDIUM FOR A DEAD PERSON: MARK RAPPAPORT COMES TO FANDOR
Mark Rappaport Fires Back at Ray Carney
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE WORKS OF MARK RAPPAPORT
Man on a Shoestring: An On-Location Report on Mark Rappaport’s IMPOSTORS
all that editing allows
Mark Rappaport: Snapshots of the Man Wearing the Mask
Mark Rappaport on Proust and Marienbad
Image and Voice: The Audiovisual Essays of Mark Rappaport
Podcast: Mark Rappaport on Fresh Air
‘Rock Hudson’s Home Movies’ Hits Criterion: Seeking the Hidden In the Evident
Mark Rappaport’s From The Journals of Jean Seberg
AN ESSAY BY MARK RAPPAPORT ON PHANTOM AND DISSOLUTION
Podcast: Film Essayist Mark Rappaport, Directorial Left Turns

 

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Extras


Breaking Through the Screen: Movies by Mark Rappaport


Mark Rappaport | Interview at Curtocircuíto 2016


Continuidades e descontinuidades na obra de Mark Rappaport

 

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Interview

 

When you read pieces by people like me calling you “the father of the modern video essay,” what do you think? Do you say, “What the hell are these people talking about?”

Um, no. I think I know what they’re talking about. It makes me feel very old indeed, but no, I kind of get it, because in some sense, these sorts of films are the kind of thing that [Jean-Luc] Godard, 24 years ago, pointed the way toward, with new technology that was not available to me.

Are you talking about “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” now, specifically, or a different one of your films?

“Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” and “From the Journals of Jean Seberg,” both. The new technologies have made that way of thinking more possible. I’m very glad that I’ve lived to partake in all of these technologies, because before the VHS player, you were kind of at the mercy of your memory and repertory theaters. VHS and subsequently DVDs and Blu-rays and Internet has made [my] kind of reconsideration of our recent past possible, and that’s very gratifying that this stuff can be made, and can be made available very quickly.

When I made “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies,” I had to transfer it to film in order to have it seen, period. And it was very expensive, making the transfer from video to a 16 mm film, and then you had to mail out the prints [to theaters]! Of course now, with the Internet all this stuff is right there, it’s like one-stop shopping. You do it, you click on it, it’s out there, so this is quite amazing.

My parents were a lot older than most people’s parents, and I always wondered how they made the transition from horses to automobiles, from nothing to radio and then to televise, and I feel that I’ve been living on a similar time of the transition technologically, going from TV to means of reproduction where you could have all this stuff in your house—that is to say, your favorite movies on VHS and then DVD, and now at your fingertips, on your two-way wristwatch.

I’ve just watched—I had never seen it before—your short film, “Mark Rappaport: The TV Spin-Off.” That’s from 1978. It starts out with you—I guess you’re just physically leafing through stills—and talking about these images in close-up. And then you start talking about your movies, and it hit me all of a sudden that this is basically the narrated video essay as it is practiced today, except we’re ripping DVDs with HandBrake and ripping them in Adobe or Final Cut Pro or something like that. But you’re just a guy moving pictures around with his hands and talking, and I guess either you or someone else is triggering the music that plays in the background behind you, right?

Yeah.

Is what you were doing in 1978 a more basic approach to the same kind of idea?

Yeah, yeah! Well, I think I’ve always been very limited, I guess we all are—we see things from one perspective and basically we live our lives from that one particular perspective, but I think I was talking to somebody fairly recently. I said, “I re-saw the first movie I had ever made, and everything in that movie is there, and I will draw on it for the future, and things that I made today relate to that movie.” You know, like people against a background of a huge still. And I was just shocked when I realized that, because it was almost fifty years ago that I made that!

One is always a prisoner of one’s own life, in a sense. But that’s a good sense.

If had wished for something 20 years ago, I would have wished for Final Cut Pro, but I am not a visionary, and I could want things, but I couldn’t invent them, any more than I could invent VHS or DVDs or the delivery of movies to your home though the Internet.

Could you walk me through your evolution as a filmmaker in regards to your storytelling devices? Specifically, the point at which you decided to use actors to represent stars, such as Rock Hudson and Jean Seberg? They are not speaking dialogue that is supposed to be Rock Hudson or Jean Seberg as we might think of them in a docudrama.

I have no idea! I don’t remember quite at which point I was going to make “Rock Hudson.” It was always going to be a first-person narrative, and obviously that person is dead and wouldn’t, in all likelihood, have the insights into his life and work that I might’ve had. I don’t know, I think when I had to write stuff up for film festivals, I decided on this format called “the fictitious autobiography.”

Yes, I remember you using that phrase when I interviewed you in back in ’95.

Oh really? [laughs] Oh god, how dull of me.

No no! It just stuck in my mind because it’s a great phrase. I was struggling—I had asked you to help me to describe what you were doing in films like “From the Journals of Jean Seberg” and “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies.” I was writing for a pretty wide readership, most of who had probably never seen anything like the work you were doing at that time. When you watch those movies, you are seeing Rock Hudson and Jean Seberg as you might see them in a biography, but at the same time, they are saying things that those people would never say because Rock Hudson and Jean Seberg don’t have the knowledge of a film historian or a critic.

That’s right. They couldn’t have an overview of their careers before they died.

I was saying “fictitious biography” even back then, when you first interviewed me, because I had written something for film festival catalogues, and they want to know what the artist’s intent is.

They never ask real filmmakers about this, they only ask experimental types. “Tell me what it means, the author’s intent.” Has anyone ever asked Stanley Kubrick, “What does it mean?” I don’t think so.

[laughs] No, probably not.

They would be afraid of getting bitten in half, anyway. “What does the bone turning into the spaceship mean?” I give up. Shrug of shoulders.

Stephen King once said—he was in a particularly grousey mood—something along the lines of, “I’m so sick of people asking me where I get my ideas. The next time someone asks me that, I’m going to tell them that I subscribe to a magazine called, ‘Ideas.’”

[laughs] Yeah, well I get my ideas while watching movies. It’s very relaxing and very stressful at the same time. Gives me a lot of space to think. The worse the movie, the more I think.

Interesting. So during bad movies your mind wanders and you come up with ideas or solve problems?

Yeah. I don’t pluck daises and sniff them. I’m writing reviews at the same time. The first time I saw “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” I said, “Oh my god, this is my life story.” You’re sitting there practically screaming out at the screen, “No no, don’t open that box,” or, “Don’t go in the closet, don’t go in the cellar,” or finishing lines of dialogue before they’re said.

So I think that, in a sense, “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” and “From the Journals of Jean Seberg” come out of that. I’m yelling back at the screen, but in retrospect.

You’re also at times—or at least it seems to me—you’re entering the movie.

You’re really not altering the dialogue, you’re not altering the lighting, you’re not altering the gestures and the facial expressions of the actors. You are presenting the scene, and all that you are adding is a perspective and a point of view, however jaundiced or far away from the intent of the original makers it may be, but the scene itself, you can’t really argue with it.

Like I was telling you, in most film criticism, certainly before the invention of VHS, everybody would get everything wrong all the time because they couldn’t go back to check it before publication, and one of the real whoppers is Raymond Durgnat describing “Under Capricorn” in his writing, and then Francois Truffaut taking Raymond Durgnat’s description in the “Hitchcock/Truffaut” book and getting everything all wrong. He’s the cousin, not the nephew! He gets everything wrong, and this is in the book. But no critic was able to really verify anything that they said because you saw a movie once, and then you had to wait until next time it came around in repertory theaters or in a 16 mm print in your class. So this is not lying in the sense that I’m presenting a scene that already exists, of course I’m lying a little bit in the angles that I’m approaching it from.

 

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11 of Mark Rappaport’s 21 films

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Casual Relations (1974)
‘I watched Casual Relations just days after seeing Jim Jarmusch’s charming enough Only Lovers Left Alive. It’s an enjoyable film that tries to explore, among many other things, the importance of how we digest art and culture. Like Rappaport’s film, Jarmusch is interested in how his characters respond to art, particularly music in this case, but his film ends up falling short of what Rappaport’s film accomplishes. Jarmusch doesn’t illustrate the link and instead, the film, while quite funny does nothing more than feel like a collection of cultural references used to further the alienation felt by their aging hipster vampire protagonists. Rappaport, on the other hand, has used art and popular culture to help contextualize his protagonist’s feelings. We never really “know” much about them, but that’s kind of the film’s point. Their opaque characterization give us something of a clean piece of paper, and the art and culture we seem them experiencing is used to project and even express their anxiety. Like Stuart Hall, Rapapport has argued on behalf of taking pop culture as the serious, vital phenomenon that it is. Hall himself said that pop culture is “where we discover and play with the identifications of ourselves, where we are imagined, where we are represented, not only to our audiences but to ourselves.” Rappaport’s character are seeking themselves out through popular culture and the arts. This is why the film ends on a character, who we know very little about, intensely studying a painting.’ — Cinema Talk


Excerpt

 

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Mozart in Love (1975)
‘Funnier and altogether more assured than its predecessor, Rappaport’s second feature respectfully lays waste to the inflexibility of grand opera. WA Mozart’s casual/ intense relations with the three Weber sisters are the pretext; Mozart’s own arias are the soundtrack; the actors wear costumes, stand in front of backdrop projections, and mime to perfection. Inspired.’ — Time Out (London)


Excerpt

 

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Local Color (1977)
‘What are the things that make us sad, that disappoint us? The things that make us cover our faces because we’re exhausted and long for a bed to fall asleep in and hide from everything else? It might be failed relationships, the rent, hating your job, not having a job, paying the rent, or even death. Sometimes it’s none of these things, sometimes it’s just the crushing weight of our daily routines This sounds like a rather heavy and ominous way to introduce a film, but Mark Rappaport’s Local Color is a study of that kind of exhaustation. Calling it listlessness seems like an understatement, for as much as Rappaport’s characters live and breathe in an exciting and functional world, it is that same world that severely limits their movements and censors their happiness.’ — Cinema Talk


Excerpt

 

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The Scenic Route (1978)
‘Mark Rappaport makes movies that look, sound and feel like nobody else’s movies. He is an original. He has discovered and recorded his own universe in the same sense that William Blake, Lewis Carroll, J. R. R. Tolkein or Charles Addams have. You enter it on his terms, because it’s his fantasy, but you get caught up in it immediately. It’s a universe in which a handful of central characters adapt postures and attitudes towards each other in the midst of the broadest possible melodramatic structures. Their stories are bizarre or sad or overwhelmingly banal, but their visual universe is meticulously controlled: The art direction on a Rappaport film (by Lilly Kilvert this time) is as important as the script or direction. n his new “The Scenic Route”, he gives us three primary characters: Two sisters, Estelle and Lena, and a young man named Paul who lives first with Estelle, then with Lena, and then with both. Lest this sound like a steamy scenario, I should point out that Rappaport’s characters rarely move very much, and tend to find themselves in formal tableaux.’ — Roger Ebert


the entire film

 

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Impostors (1979)
‘In Impostors, Chuckie is played by Charles Ludlam, founder of the celebrated Ridiculous Theatrical Company and a superb mimic, continually trying on fresh faces, voices, and stances. Mikey is played by Michael Burg. He performed in the original off-Broadway production of The Passion of Dracula for a year and a half, and he is proving to be an effective partner in this unusual black comedy team. A note on the characters Chuckie and Mikey in Rappaport’s script — written with Ludlam and Burg expressly in mind — specifies that their constantly shifting relationship “must be played like an amalgam of the Marx Brothers and Peter Lorre, the Three Stooges mixed with Dostoevski. There is also a broad streak of amiable Mel Brooks vulgarity running through it. In short, they are always playacting But underlying it all is a menacing dead seriousness that is unsettling — two psychopaths, refugees from trashy horror films, on the loose.”’ — Jonathan Rosenbaum


Homage to ‘The Imposters’

 

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Chain Letters (1985)
‘I still tend to think that best films are the ones surrounded with a certain mystery that never reveals itself – you could easily put this film to the category of Robert Altman (Short Cuts or Three Women), Edward Yang (The Terrorizers), Jacques Rivette or Patrick Tam. This also reveals us the fact that 80s is belittled by only those who have no clue about anything. Even American cinema is ready to offer surprises that no one or rare has heard about every now and then – of course Rapport has reputation but Chain Letters seems to be one of his little seen films. The paranoia intertwines with the strange web of chance (nothing seems to be fate or destiny here), people are more or less familiar to each other and even when they are completely stranger, there is something in their presence or traits that leaves an impression. Everyone is terribly lonely but the city also feels like an alienated outer-space – machomen and Vietnam vets rule this landscape, everything is filmed with minimalist precision; actually the whole film feels like a painting in its progress of slowly opening or not opening at all. Eventually it explodes to our faces while at the same time hiding its true feelings.’ — Valtteri Lepistö


Excerpt

 

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Postcards (1990)
‘A long-distance love affair is prolonged through a series of postcards in Mark Rappaport’s extraordinary short film, one of the director’s first experiments in video. The “deliciously ironic” (according to the Los Angeles Times) POSTCARDS tracks a romance played out entirely on assorted mailings written by a separated couple. American tourist spots on one side; heaving romance, misunderstandings, paranoia and sadly-fading passions on the other. Mass-produced souvenirs have never seemed so romantic, nor as tragic.’ — Jason Sanders


the entire film

 

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Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992)
‘The subject of the film is, needless to say, Rock Hudson, the iconic actor who serves as Jane Wyman’s co-star in the Sirk picture. Having died of AIDS complications in 1985 — an event which brought public attention to his homosexuality — Rappaport’s essay film is, in many ways, an attempt to show the true tragedy of Hudson: an actor who was forced into an image of hypermasculinity while only ironically revealing his true identity through these films. Rock Hudson’s Home Movies is still one of the most ingenious video essays ever assembled, using a barrage of now-standard techniques to examine the private life of a man through his public persona, in addition to deconstructing Hollywood’s own codes and conventions. Lasting a brief 63 minutes, Rappaport’s film is told via an actor (Eric Farr) playing a persona of Hudson from beyond the grave while VHS clips of his films play in the background. (One may lament that Criterion and / or Rappaport did not use better restorations for the often-shoddy VHS rips, it is all-too-suited for this underground film meant for private viewing; as Rappaport’s notes on the film explain, Home Movies needed the invention of VHS to exist.) Farr’s Hudson asks, “Who can look at my movies the same way ever again?” Rappaport’s selection of clips are what, now, ring as incredibly obvious moments: Doris Day asking Hudson in Lover Come Back why he’s in another man’s apartment; a clip of Hudson and Tony Randall comically sharing a bed; and Hudson’s anxiety over marriage, as pressured by an older, naked man taking an awfully keen interest in him. And, of course, there’s his role in Howard Hawks’s oddball comedy, Man’s Favorite Sport?, where Hudson plays a supposed fishing expert who, secretly, has never fished in his life, and must fake it through the film.’ — The Criterion Collection


the entire film

 

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From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995)
‘Jean Seberg, a miscast mess at 17 in Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan, a sensation in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless at 20 and a suicide at 40, never kept any journals. Writer and director Mark Rappaport makes up for the oversight in a mock documentary that is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. Actress Mary Beth Hurt, who was born in Seberg’s hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa, stands in for Seberg as Rappaport orchestrates a guided tour of her life through film clips and historical footage. At one point, Hurt watches a scene of Seberg as Joan of Arc and groans: “I was too short, too girlish — and that voice. Enough!” It took a series of bad movies, abusive husbands and J. Edgar Hoover — enraged at Seberg during the 1960s for her involvement with the Black Panthers and black men — to throw this Joan on the barbie. He gives Seberg her due as an actress in Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse and Robert Rossen’s Lilith, and laughs — as Seberg would — at the idiocies of Airport and of Paint Your Wagon, in which Seberg had an ill-fated fling with co-star Clint Eastwood. Hurt puts a wry sting in the barbs about the mistreatment of women in Hollywood, which reflected far beyond. Rappaport proves himself an astute social critic in a hypnotic film that blends fact, gossip and instinct to arrive at its own kind of truth.’ — Rolling Stone


the entire film (poor quality)

 

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The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender (1997)
‘Mark Rappaport’s The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender is a quirky investigation of the subtle and not-so subtle revelations of homosexuality in movies of the past. Each genre had its closeted messages, from the prissy aunties played by treasurable character actors like Franklin Pangborn, Edward Everett Horton, Rex O’Malley and ‘King of the Queens’ Clifton Webb, to all those westerns that featured ‘The Walter Brennan Syndrome,’ i.e., that crusty, asexual geezer who always made the coffee and never seemed to have a life of his own, save as eternal sidekick to the younger, hotter hero. Rappaport finds shady secrets in a ’40s potboiler like Desert Fury, which has ineffably butch Lizabeth Scott bewildered by the lack of attention she receives from either John Hodiak or Wendell Corey. The reasons are made hilariously clear in a scene in which Hodiak dreamily describes meeting Corey: ‘It was in the automat off Times Square at two in the morning. I was broke. He had a couple of dollars. We got to talking. He ended up paying for my ham and eggs. I went home with him that night. We were together from then on.’ (Rappaport’s description of the ubiquitously ‘unpreposessing, uncharismatic’ Corey, a real blight on women’s films of the ’40s and ’50s, is, incidentally, right on.)’ — Film Journal


the entire film

 

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The Empty Screen (2017)
‘“The screen is a two-way street. It watches the audience as the audience watches it.” Trust Mark Rappaport to always come up with idiosyncratic ways to illuminate the very nature of the film experience. This video essay published by Talkhouse is no exception. It takes meta-movie moments and scenes as its starting point for ruminations on the relation between the viewer and the viewed, between the illusion and the enchanted. The Empty Screen or the Metaphysics of Movies is vintage Rappaport, applying the highly personal contemplation of the essayist to a breadth of knowledge of film history. He frequently steps into the shoes of the characters in the films he discusses, voicing their imagined thoughts, then segues effortlessly back into a more classic, detached voice over.’ — Film Scalpel


the entire film

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever for one second understood the Elizabeth Taylor appeal/thing. Strange, obviously. That was a whole lot of interesting info about her though, for sure, thank you. But if I had interviewed her, I wouldn’t have known any of that or really had interesting questions in the slightest, and then everyone who thought I was nuts for turning down the gig would have been yelling at me for having done such a horrible interview with her. Yes, I love movie backlots, or did when they existed. When I was young I took all the official and VIP tours of all the backlots in LA that I could. The very best by very far was MGM’s in Culver City. I’m still shocked that they tore it out, although, yeah, real estate value, etc., I get it. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Thanks. The deification of ‘Get Out’ is interesting. I mean it’s smarter and savvier than that kind of film usually is, but it has a programmatic last 1/4, and while its elevation to ‘great film’ status is understandable in a way given the concerns of the moment, it also seems super short-sighted and a little delusional to me, but hey. Agree with you about those Eno albums. I would extend his great streak through ‘Before and After Science’. Well, you were pretty young in the ’80s. In my world, the hard border between rock and dance fell pretty quickly after New Wave became the dominant hip popular genre. It does seem like if you make your new film at least partly about coming from a/your current perspective on that past coupling it could be very interesting and meta, not to mention being a way to get around inaccuracies. ** Bernard, Hi, B. I didn’t get an email from you. Do you have my right address? Nice to find another Elizabeth Taylor doubter. Yes, one time, way back when, I was going to some VIP kind of event at the Shrine Auditorium in LA, and I was waiting in line, and the woman standing in front of me turned around, and it was Elizabeth Taylor, and her eyes were completely startling, and they borderline gave me an acid flashback. ** Brendan, Brendan old buddy, old pal of mine! Happy New Year to you big time! How the heck are you, man? Lots of love, me. ** Sypha, Hi. I haven’t seen ‘CMBYN’, and probably won’t, but there’s something about it and the reaction to it that really reminds me of the David Leavitt moment in gay fiction, if that makes any sense. I think trying to impose political correctness on people’s personal attitudes towards sex and its depiction is ridiculous. So many people are such intrusive control freaks these days. Everything you say about ‘Prey’ apart from the being in outer space stuff is highly compelling. I do think I’ll try it. But, yeah, I even get vertigo when Mario jumps around on floating platforms. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra! I was kind of the opposite sort of kid for some reason. Even when I was wee, I used to get really excited by the fact that the world in TV shows and movies was fake, sets. It was sad to me when those worlds became green screens, although I do like trying to find the spots where the cgi stops and the actual sets begin. Moving into a new apartment or house is always refreshing, even when it initially seems lesser than the place you left. You know, figuring out your new neighbourhood, the market that will become your market, the cafe where you’ll dawdle, the closest tabac, etc. Enjoy that part. Things on my end remain very quiet. All of my friends are out of town. I’m still just trying to work, barely going out, although today I plan to force myself to go look at some art something ‘cos stir craziness is looming. Yes, probably for worse rather than better, I keep working on the new film script and avoiding the assigned work, although I really, really have to buckle down starting today. Eek. How was your Wednesday? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I haven’t read ‘The Weird and the Eerie’. I think I will. Thank you. I know Alina Szapocznikow’s work just a little. Really interesting, yeah. I think I’ve managed to slip her work into one or more of the ‘art’ posts I’ve done here maybe? Hm. ** Shane Jesse Christmass, Hi, man. Nice to see you here! Cool, I’ll check out the Lohan/Taylor thing. Thanks a bunch. ** Misanthrope, What a creepy viewer of that innocent series you were, ha ha. Well, your bugged-ness didn’t completely disappear since we’ve been talking about your buggedness for a few days now. I get you about the directness. I don’t know, people have their self-protectiveness and worries and ways of negotiating that, and I think best thing is to deal with that and try not to take it personally. I avoid expressing my opinion on anything online — outside the seemingly, so far (knock on wood) sane and reasonable arena of this blog — like the plague. I can not see the win in that. There’s way, way too much opinion addiction out there. Man, so awesome that you’re hot and bothered-style working on your novel. That’s Guided by Voices to my ears. Okay, -5 to -15 wind chill factor is no fun. I don’t envy that. Survive. ** Lastly, may I suggest that you familiarise yourself with the work of the singular and very interesting filmmaker Mark Rappaport today? The ‘question’ aspect of that sentence is rhetorical. See you tomorrow.

12 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    Mark has been a friend of mine since 1965. Haven’t seen him in person in eons, alas. His evolution as a filmmaker is one of the most interesting in film history. From low-budget neo-Godardian japes like “The Scenic Route” to the turning point of “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” he’s taken on all manner of subjects in ways comparable to Chris Marker and Guy Debord but with his own special flair.
    Surprised you’re disinterested in “Call Me By Your Name.” Could it be all the blather about it? So many straights have weighed in its become for some “a gay movie for straight people” — which is a very weird idea. It’s a good movie. Not brain surgery. Not a “breakthrough” of some kind or another. And not “Brokeback Mountain” (thank goodness.)

  2. Steve Erickson

    CMBYM really does remind me of the sensibility and aesthetics of David Leavitt and that kind of middlebrow gay writing. I’ve rarely liked Merchant-Ivory’s work after the ’70s, and the fact that James Ivory wrote the script and originally wanted to direct it is a strike against it to me too – his films share that same kind of watered-down literary quality. I hope to get around to reading Andre Aciman’s novel this year and see if it’s better.

    Do you know why Rappaport hasn’t made a feature since THE SILVER SCREEN: COLOR ME LAVENDER, 20 years ago? The films about Hudson and Seberg seemed to be made under fairly cheap conditions and video technology has only gotten less expensive since then, plus almost all movies are distributed on video now, so there’s no need to pay for a 35mm blow-up. When he was making narrative films, he was obviously working with pretty low budgets too.

    If you haven’t heard it, I would recommend Lebanese-American producer Thoom’s EP BLOOD AND SAND, which was released by the Club Chai label last September. It mixes elements of Arabic music and electronic dance music in an attempt to capture what Beirut felt like post-war. There are parts that remind me of an updated Muslimgauze, but Thoom has firsthand experience of what they’re trying to sonically depict and a really strong ability to integrate sound effects like gunshots into music. This is theoretically dance music, but it would be quite difficult to dance to most of it.

    By the time I got into punk, it meant hardcore, and the openness to dance music that existed in New Wave and post-punk was long gone. The connection to reggae that early punks felt had disappeared too, although that was partially because dancehall was starting to emerge and the vibe was completely different from the warmth and positive politics of roots and dub.

    I’m a fan of BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE too, as well as some of Eno’s ambient albums (DISCREET MUSIC, APOLLO ATMOSPHERES AND SOUNDTRACKS, ON LAND.) I’ve found that the ambient albums, even the weaker ones, are great as a soundtrack for writing film criticism. THE SHIP, which was his first album to combine ambient music with his vocals over it, made my 2016 top 10 list. He’s up for a Best New Age Grammy for the mediocre ambient album he released about a year ago.

    • Misanthrope

      Steve, I though Ivory’s MAURICE was great. It really meant a lot to me in my formative years.

      • Steve Erickson

        A theater here, the Quad, is owned by a distributor that now owns the rights to all of Merchant-Ivory films and they have been doing week-long runs of some of them over the course of 2017. MAURICE played in May or June, I think., I was curious, since I haven’t seen it, but I never got around to going.

        BTW, I learned about Thoom from a Tiny MixTapes review, but it never mentions whether Thoom is a group, man or woman.

  3. Dóra Grőber

    Hi!

    I have to admit, I don’t know Mark Rappaport’s work – changes need to be made after today’s post, though. Thank you for including full movies again! I’m especially drawn to ‘The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender’.

    It’s interesting how we were so different in this aspect! I always find it exciting to hear about how others watch a movie. What they pay attention to, etc. I almost never think about the setting, I focus way more on the characters and the acting (though the more natural the actor, the more fascinated I am with his/her performance).
    Thank you, yes, this is exactly what I’m trying to focus on right now. What I gain, instead of what I lose by moving.

    Though I don’t want to be a devil on your shoulder, I do totally understand why you keep working on your own script instead of working on what you should be. Just for the agreed upon cheerleading’s sake: did you start today?
    Did you also go out to see some art? If so, how was the trip?

    I kept on packing and packing and packing today but we’re one day closer to the end of this hassle.

    I hope you had a great one, Dennis!

  4. joseph

    Hey Dennis,

    New year… all that, hope it started off well enough for you.

    Writing ’cause I recently watched “Haunted: The Art Of The Scare”, thought of your work and wondered if you’d seen it, and if you haven’t thought maybe you’d like to… in the event you haven’t I won’t talk here about what I found interesting and wonder if you’ve any thoughts if you have seen it since you’re much more versed in the art.

  5. Ferdinand

    I finished a short story I began the day before New years. I hadnt written in a while and used cut up words as a sort of promt crutch but I feel good about it-I feel like I tackled something very personal. On the not so bright side, when I read my fortune a few weeks back it gave me the tower and it gave me those two tramps outside the church but it forgot that dreadfull card with the nine or ten swords stuck through the man : /

  6. Brendan

    D-
    Hey man. Things are good, more or less. I’ve been in an art rut for a bit but I blew up my studio over the weekend to shake things up. Moved everything around through away a bunch of bad stuff – maybe just need a new perspective. Do you have a set writing routine? And do you ever break that up when things get stale?

    Theres some new things I want to do but I just haven’t had the energy/wherewithal to make it happen. Hoping this will help. Also, super happy the holidays are over.

    How are you? How is Paris treating you? Any plans to visit sunny LA this year?

    B

  7. Bernard

    I’m a dope. Used an old email address. Trying the two previous ones I had. I don’t know why, but the blog hasn’t been letting me post a comment today. Trying again. Meanwhile–Here’s the message:
    Thanks for giving me the go-ahead.
    What I need is a short–it can be very short–notice from you saying I do significant writing (as a poet especially), that I’ve written and continue to write material you have esteem for, and also that having lived in the same residency with me at the Récollets, you know I’m both a good colleague and good neighbor.
    I need to submit some residency applications by January 15th, and at the same time, I’d like to have something to put into a book proposal for a New and Selected that I really, really will try to have finally put together soon.
    If you want to say that I’ve been around as part of a circle since the ’70s and have influenced others or whatever, that would be good, too. I’m going to see if there are any grants I’m eligible for, too.
    So I hope this wouldn’t take you more than ten minutes; it doesn’t need to be detailed, just an endorsement. If you’re able to do it as a pdf with your signature, that’s very good; but just a statement I can use is fine, too. You can send to: bernardwelt@gmail.com (I know; sorry.)
    OK? For Jan 12th or so?

    “The first time I saw ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000,’ I said, ‘Oh my god, this is my life story.'” Me too. Every movie I see exists in my head with extra DVD features, my various commentaries. And what’s weird is, about 12 hours before this day popped up, Amazon Prime reminded me that I have free access to Rock Hudson’s Home Movies and Color Me Lavender. Wonder how they knew.

    • Bernard

      Yay! Post worked.

  8. Kyler

    Thought I’d weigh in on CMBYN – I think I finally understand what “meh” means. I had to see it out of curiosity, but was pretty bored. It’s just one of those “beautiful” movies, nothing much to think about, IMO. Though the performance of the father (Michael Stuhlbarg) toward the end was quite touching. I finally got an external DVD drive, so the library DVD’s now work – and not just LCTG, which always worked on my computer, like I told you before. Last night I saw Gaslight for the first time – and thought it was phenomenal! I was curious to know more about the term “gaslighting,” since I was accused of it with a former bipolar friend. It seems these people have support groups to help them with their families and friends who accuse them of being “crazy,” but I tell ya, some of this girl’s behavior was truly
    crazy, and I really don’t think I was gaslighting her. Not just your average neurotic behavior like me or any of us. So I now have a better understanding of the term. Tonight I’m watching Terrence Malick’s Song to Song. Looking forward to this – don’t think I heard you mention it Dennis. Have you seen it? Not sure yet how I’ll like it, but always good to catch a new Malick. Happy Birthday in a week – I took my birthday off of FB, so it’ll be the first birthday in years that I won’t have to answer hundreds of messages, haha. I’m turning the same age as you in Feb….!

  9. Misanthrope

    Dennis, The only Rappaports I knew before today were the sports journalist Ian Rappaport and the actor Michael Rappaport. This Rappaport is…totally new to me. I think if you did some data mining on this site, you’d see that I’ve said that last part, oh, a million times.

    Haha, no, I really am not bugged anymore and really became unbugged when my friend was finally direct with me, to the point where I wondered if I should be so unbugged, which is why I’ve been talking about it here and elsewhere: to get perspective.

    Most agree with you (and me). Another friend suggested latent homophobia and that she accepts me but really not. I don’t think that’s the case. Another attributed it to the sanitization of gayness in film and on TV and suggested that’s why we need more graphic scenes of gay love. Etc.

    This friend of mine and I will be going to see “Lady Bird” Saturday and then out to dinner at an Indian place we like. We’re good. No bugged-ness at all, trust me. When I say -and I say it often- to each his own, I really mean it. The convos around the thing, though, have been interesting and I’ve learned a lot, which is what I was aiming for.

    I don’t talk politics or any of that shit online. Not publicly anyway. Maybe a little in an email. Just not worth it.

    Did someone mention David Leavitt? Isn’t he, like, the greatest gay writer ever or something? I think I actually have one of his books on my shelf, which I picked up in a bargain bin for a dollar or two. I’ve never read it. No interest, really.

    Yes, it’s important to keep up the momentum with this novel. I’ve hand-written two more sections since the first, just have to put them into Word, which I’ll do this weekend.

    Snow tonight. One to three inches. Not much, really, but it’ll shut down this area as if it had been three feet.

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