Night Eight on the Road
Proper internet access today for the first time since leaving Sydney eight days ago. Last night was seven days exactly since I watched a movie. I had to squeeze one in – a big one – so I chose Ugetsu Monogatari (1953).
It was a matter of plugging a 256GB USB stick into a SONY Bravia television and discovering that after an hour of tinkering and reloading AVI and MP4 files, that nothing was going to play on Jeff and Rosie’s tv. I then watched on a Surface Pro, 20x13cm screen, the smallest physical screen size on which I’ve ever viewed a film, one of cinema’s greatest films.
It wasn’t amazing. Very few of these films are amazing on first viewing. It was very different in the style of direction, editing and the positioning of the camera – as in the height of the camera from the ground in relation to the height of the actors and the buildings which framed the actors. Long shots and constant reframing of actors within a single camera movement was like Hitchcock at his best.
I wrote a bunch of thoughts down on my iPhone, took my pills and fell asleep.
Before that, however, every part of my being, and every part of my fiber, knew that it should have been Jean-Luc Godard (not Kenji Mizoguchi) as my next port of call.
Godard ties in with Antonioni and Kubrick and the entire French period of Bresson, Truffaut and Renoir, which spanned before and after the first few years of Godard’s first feature films.
It makes no sense to watch the second, third or fourth highly regarded Godard film, without watching the first, which is – generally – the most highly regarded of them all.
I bought it on Amazon, the Blu-Ray edition, two weeks ago, from the Criterion Collection. I have access to no other copy and I’ll be damned if I start doing Godard without watching the film which broke a lot of accepted rules, which probably – maybe? – possibly? – would have made him or broken him, depending on how accessible his film was to the public and academics and how his weird sense of narrative was received. History show It made him. And like the greatest artists, he bet everything on his peculiar approach finding someone, anyone, who could accept it and embrace it cheerfully.
I know I watched Mizoguchi last night but I’ve written on my iPhone about Ugetsu for hours already, and now I’m still thinking about Godard and fretting and regretting not undertaking my two weeks in Godardland.
I don’t know if he set out to develop his first feature film screenplay on-the-fly, intending to think up business for his actors and crew as the ideas came to him, but it was bold and ill-advised,
I don’t know if interviews recorded with him looking back at how that first film was made thirty or forty years ago can be approved as accurate, or agreed upon as a reliable source of fact, describing what ACTUALLY happened.
The brain, and the process of recalling events, even with a vigilante approach to err on the side of telling it from the other person’s point-of-view, more than your own, is still tainted. The cliché is that in a memoir or autobiography, you can and you can’t rely on it as fact. It’s a curious state where a person’s memory – which they would swear as fact, on a stack of bibles or their favourite first edition, child or mother – is just plain wrong. Dates don’t add up. Legal records don’t correlate. It’s an inaccurate memory.
Despite the downside, and as much as I hate clichés, I love them.
Clichés are the things which guide us through what has been overused and needs to be avoided – at all cost; which tells us – as a dialectic – what is real and can’t be avoided.
By virtue of the fact that there is nothing new under the sun (a clichéd sentence containing a cliché) we have the confirmation that we can’t do a great deal about the cliché when we create something that we want other people to understand, no matter how hard we want to make them work to come to that understanding of it. Therefore, the only thing we can do is to accept the fact that it’s all been done before, accept the cliché and be clever in the way we choose to reveal it, show it, express it.
Some of the most annoying attempts to disguise the cliché is the pretense that it will be A by indicating it can’t be B – and then switching it, or by indicating it will be Denouement Cliché #1 and then by sleight of hand make it Denouement Cliché #2, then undercutting that resolution by a cleverly revealed – often illogical – 3rd twist, which is unsupported by anything the viewer has had presented in the previous three Acts.