Went to see the OMA Bejing CCTV exhibit at MOMA yesterday. The exhibit was only one room, but it tried ot do a lot in the small space including tying the CCTV building into the history of utopian architecture and modern Chinese development. Koolhaas is (according to MOMA at least) rethinking the important building and making the gradioise gesture of superiority be about architectural bravado (a radically new design) instead of being merely a pissing contest about the height of the skyscraper. Pretty interesting stuff.
I was particularly fascinated by two aspects of the show:
1. How much of the exhibit talked about the speed with which the building was being completed (thousands of workers are apparently at it twenty four hours a day). Not to get all…um, lefty, but the style/means of the production of the building is in this show almost as important as the look of the building. There are giant photos of some of the workers, numerous passages about the scale and cost of the project, and a lot of talk about the larger construction boom in China. Here we can marvel at the creative Dutchman and the work ethic of the Chinese all at the same time.
2. Not surprisingly, there was no talk about the contradictions inherent in this building. Here is this revolutionary piece of architecture, which hopes to rethink both the nature of an important building (stressing form over height) and the interrelations of the people within the building (mixing workers, managers and tourists together in interesting new ways) but the building is being built for state controlled television… and I wonder about the bargaining power of the workers whose photos adorn the MOMA. I am not going to say that western architects should boycott China, but I wonder to what extent (and I think Koolhaas talks about this somewhere) the building of a theoretically democratic building will in anyway effect the nature of the political system in China.
I have been on a bit of a movie binge since leaving school. Three movies in four days and all of them worthwhile.
1. Inland Empire (David Lynch)
David Lynch needs an editor. If this three hour plus feature had been forty five minutes shorter it could have been up there with Mulholland Drive as one of Lynch’s best works, but at its current length, it is bloated and take experimental to self-indulgent proportions. Still, if you’re a Lynch fan, you’re going to see it, and you’re probably going to like it. It plays with identity and the send up Hollywood much in the same way Mulholland did, but is far less linear. I am really happy that Lynch is still willing to take so many chances, and that the humor hasn’t left his films* but I hope he can show just the slightest self restraint in his next outing.
2. The Case of the Grinning Cat (Chris Marker)
I love me some Chris Marker. I was trying to explain Chris Marker’s documentary films to a friend the other day and the best way I can describe them I think is to say, they’re sort of like WG Sebald’s early work. Sort of autobiographical, sort of historical rambling, sort of fiction. The Case of the Grinning Cat is Marker on post 9/11 France, and the post 9/11 french left in particular. Its hilarious, and great fun if you’re idea of fun is obscure jokes on Trotskyist political parties and experimental film techniques. When I saw this one at Film Forum, they were playing with a number of Marker’s animal based shorts which were so fucking dreadful, I took out my book.
3. The Good Shepard (Robert DeNiro)
Spies. I love ‘em. This one is slow and methodical, people say that there is no soul to the movie, but I think that is the freaking point. Damon’s character is supposed to be devoid of emotion, he’s a freaking spook. This film is all about the spy as the bureaucrat, shuffling papers and watching the torture with detachment. It also demolishes east coast WASP culture, and I am always a total sucker for that. I can feel a renewed interest in the dirty deeds of the men in suits coming on.
* Hello art film fans, dudes in bunny suits are funny, and Lynch knows they’re funny. Please don’t give me the cineaste glare when I laugh)
A rather poorly done documentary about movie obsessives in New York that is worth seeing only if you think obsessives are entertaining.
There were some good moments. The movie focuses on five people, four men and a woman. Three of whom are on disability and really truly mentally ill and therefor not that amusing. I’m not going to make fun of someone who takes medication to survive and who sees movies as an escape from a pretty messed up life. OK, I might laugh, but I will feel bad about. The other two, a young man who inherited a load of cash allowing him to spend all day, every day watching movies at the various art houses in new york and an under employed middle age philosopher who has business cards printed up saying his name and underneath it “continental philosophy and cinema” aren’t the pictures of normality either but they are pretty fascinating.
The rich kid has a theory that it is merely convention to privilege the “real” over the experience of the cinema and there is no objective way in which you can say he is wasting his life. He also eats a purposefully constipating diet so as to avoid having to use the bathroom which would cut into his movie watching time. Seriously.
Mr. Continental philosopher talks about the need to sacrifice for the passion of film to mean anything, he has sacrificed his life for cinema and that, he argues, is noble.
North by Northwest seems a little too cold war for me now. A little too much espionage and too little of the interpersonal messiness that I love about Hitchcock films such as Notorious. Its hard to imagine what a big deal the crop duster scene must have been when this was released. Now it seems like a good Hitchcock film but no longer one of my favorites.
Tie Me Up Tie Me Down is not my favorite Aldomar movie. Yes the scene with the little diver guy is pretty cute, but I’m more than a little unnerved by the lesson of the film. Kidnap women and they fall in love with you. I know Aldomar would have little time for my moralizing, but still that how I feel.
I also think as far as construction it doesn’t hold up to later works like Talk to Her which shares the same concerning views on relationships, but is a so beautifully done…
When I was a horny teenage film nerd, this was the holy grail of european naughty cinema. It was supposed to be arty, political and dirty. I really, really wanted to see it. Now thanks to netflix and criterion I can. Its ok, I guess as a period piece about political and sexual awakening. It’s too long and too preachy and not all that dirty. You can skip it without losing out on a gem of filmmaking, but I wasn’t so bored that I turned it off. if that isn’t a luke warm endorsement, I don’t know what is.
I saw Astra Taylor’s documentary Zizek! last night. It was a lot of fun.* I think Taylor does a good job of allowing the hilarious nature of Zizek’s public performance to take center stage without totally forgetting about the serious parts of his work.
There’s a bunch of wonderful bits in the movie, including classic Zizek riffs on the difference between the way shit is represented in Germany, France and the US, an excellent dig at Judith Butler and a lot of talk about Stalin. Its worth seeing if you have any interest in the Zizek.
The talk of Stalin continued into the discussion after the film with Zizek and Taylor.The first part of the talk was a sort of disclaimer on the film, and that while it portends to give us an insight into his personal life, it does not. He claims to a great extent that it is all performance, and I think it probably is, but I think it is a performance he cannot completely control. There is a lot to be said about the introduction of capitalism into the Eastern Bloc, nerosis and parody when thinking about Zizek’s public preformance. But I think I’ll save that for another day.
After the bit about the film, Zizek went into a fairly serious bit about what a Lacanian ethics would be. After much back and forth and couching and blah blah blah, as Zizek would say, he came to the example of one of the woman caught up in the famous “doctors plot” in Russia who though it was almost pointless exercise, and she was doomed to be executed refused to confess. Zizek see this commitment to continuing, even when it is not rational, as a form of ethic. He quoted the classic Beckett line, “I cannot go on, I’ll go on” as a summation of what a Lacanian ethics might begin with, and I liked that very much.