Monday, April 26, 2010


Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to.
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water.
Lucky you can be purified over and over again.
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone.
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life.

Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.

- "Lucky Life", Gerald Stern

(above still from Lee Isaac Chung's 2010 film Lucky Life)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the manipulation: or how I'll never be able to listen to Noah and the Whale the same again.

Tribeca kicked off Thursday night; since then I have seen a total of three films. All three viewings have been affected in some way by my deteriorating mental and physical conditions. I am eating very little these days, somewhat relying on coffee and cigarettes to get me by.

The first film I saw, Lola by Brillante Mendoza, was on Friday afternoon. I felt ambivalent to it at first, but upon reflection I think it might have been more special than I originally thought. I want to rewatch it, with a proper amount of sleep the night before, and see how I feel.

The second film I saw, The Chameleon by Jean-Paul Salomé, was on Friday night. It made me angry. Everything about it I pretty much found repulsive (not content wise, although they did sensationalize the material). It was laughable, and I do not think I would be able to watch it again if I tried.

The third film I saw, Meskada by Josh Sternfeld, was mediocre-to-bad. It was a very by-the-books crime drama, nothing special about it. Nick Stahl was adequate.

The fourth film I saw, Sons of Perdition by Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten, was actually good. My bad streak has temporarily ended. It was a documentary about subject matter that I know little about but it engaged me the majority of the running time.

My lack of sleep is due to manipulation. The manipulator doesn't quite understand me, or himself, to know what the point is, or what the outcome of his manipulation would be. The collateral damage should not be collateral damage, but this is the way it works with people sometimes. I am still myself, he is still him, and doomed to be him for the rest of his life.

I've been avoiding this English paper up until now, but I'm finding it, like I usually do with English papers, therapeutic to write. I am thankful for that. Now to get some food in my body, until next time...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Function of Marxism in Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin (1966).

French New Wave enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard’s admiration for Karl Marx and his ideas can be charted through most, if not all, of his filmography. In 1966’s Masculin féminin, however, there is a clear distinction between Godard and Marxist philosophy. One of the film’s many intertitles reads “Philosopher and filmmaker share a way of being, an outlook on life that embodies a generation.” This is, in a sense, true when looking at Godard and Marx - both were successful radicals, the former a filmmaker whose films expressed the revolutionary ideas of his generation and the latter a social reformer and philosopher whose writings similarly expressed controversial views that have been studied and accepted as reality for generations. Masculin féminin takes on a philosophy of its own that incorporates Marx’s idea on the alienation of the proletariat and his critique of capitalism with Godard’s own critique of value judgments, among other conceptions on sex, art, and politics. These critiques and theories are channeled through the characters of the film, their expression through dialogues and actions, and the telling nature of the way image and sound coalesce to create meaning beyond the frame.

Masculin féminin was released with the subtitle “15 faits précis” which translates to “15 precise facts” in English. This is only the beginning of Godard’s obsession with adopting the structural revolutions of 20th century poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht. Masculin féminin does not relay 15 precise facts about its subjects to its audience, moreover it relates a number of philosophical standpoints which are aided by intertitles, the purpose of which is for clarity but sometimes just leads to further confusion. Godard’s lens does, in fact, capture a narrative in which anti-bourgeoisie ex-army recruit Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) courts up-and-coming yé-yé singer Madeleine (Chantal Goya) to disappointing results. The film focuses on their relationship, along with Madeleine’s friends Catherine and Elisabeth. Godard frequently branches off into non-sequiturs, which allow his film to be infused with his numerous philosophies and carry with it a sense of unique urgency absent in the cinema of today.

Paul is fascinated with Marx, and lives primarily by way of the Marxist philosophy. This is not to say that he does not have his own ideas, but he is very much a slave to his Marxist doctrine. In the first scene of the film, Paul speaks to Madeleine about how he is currently working at a chemical plant. He deplores the adverse working conditions, citing the fact that management has done away with breaks to increase output as an example of how awful they are. He also abhors the life of the working class, saying that it is nothing but work, eating, sleep, and more work. Godard, through Paul, even pokes fun at the exploitation of nature, of which Marx also had a problem. Paul has no investment in what he is producing, which is in accordance with Marx saying, “the worker relates to the product of his labor as to an alien object.” Paul is conscious that he is being taken advantage of and exploited by the bourgeoisie, and he actively speaks out against it all throughout the duration of the film. Paul’s activism is a means to an end, though, which goes along with Marx saying, “For the proletarians, on the other hand, the condition of their existence, labor, and with it all the conditions of existence governing modern society, have become something accidental, something over which they, as separate individuals, have no control, and over which no social organization can give them control.” Paul, as a separate individual and as a member of specific social organizations, has no control over the conditions by which he must live.

Madeleine is the complete opposite of Paul, valuing capital and material commodities over social activism. She hopes that her record sells so that she can buy a fancy, expensive car. She loves Coca-Cola and has a fondness for pop culture, especially that of the American variety. She derides Jean-Paul Sartre as reading for rich schoolgirls who do not go out “because their bourgeois parents keep them locked up.” Marx scorns capitalism, saying that, “Within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productiveness of labor are brought about at the cost of the individual laborer.” He goes on to say that, “they [the producers] mutilate the laborer into a fragment of a man.” Masculin féminin challenges the idea that two people with completely different ideologies can form a lasting relationship.

Jean-Luc Godard depicts Madeleine as a frivolous girl, but he is not completely unsympathetic to her condition, unlike Paul. Her blind consumption of American pop culture, and life in general, is seen as a crack in her very foundation by Paul, but it is also what makes her charming to Godard. He questions why Madeleine, and her Coca-Cola generation, are so apathetic to the outside world. This is more vividly and honestly depicted during a segment in which Paul interviews a young beauty contest winner and asks her questions pertaining to birth control, socialism, and war. Her response is passive, disinterested, and foundationless. The way Godard frames her, though, in front of a window with natural light flooding in, emphasizes her physical beauty. Godard, and Paul, do not detest America as much as they are fascinated by it. Paul supports the American youth’s protesting of Vietnam. The problem with Madeleine is that she does not ask questions, while Paul is always on an inquisitive prowl of sorts. The fact that Madeleine’s work is personal to her, she expresses herself through her music, makes her more of a contradictory figure in light of Marx’s philosophy.

Godard, like Marx, understands the function of capitalism in a society. Godard, unlike Marx, does not romanticize a future classless society. He understands that this is an impossible end goal. At the end of the film, he comes to the conclusion that the problem with any society will be that everyone has their own set of value judgments. He also understands that calling for the abolition of value judgments is out of the question, as then people would have nothing to believe in. The notorious quote that Masculin féminin is known for is actually a series of intertitles that arrive near the end of the film saying, “This film could be called The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola.” The more important title card, however, comes a few seconds afterwards saying, “Understand what you will.” The last scene has Madeleine being asked questions about Paul‘s death, and it is revealed that the rumor of her pregnancy is true. What is she to do with the child? Her friend recommends a “clothing rod” abortion, but Madeleine does not know what she will do. Well at least she has a choice, but unfortunately people will not be able to resist making judgments on her moral values.

[all screenshots taken on VLC media player from privately stolen Criterion disc]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

rub down that set, son.

so let me hammer this point home
i see us all as lonely fires that have burned alive as long as we remember
but like all fireworks and all sunsets, we all burn in different ways
you are a fast explosion and i am the embers
and though your flames are quick and mean, they will not last the year,
but expire like a sudden falling star
that only nightingales had seen, before migrating to southern jungles
and in this way you will come find me in December

he said he'd like to move to Nashville to master the guitar
where he would live a single day the way i live a single year
covered his body in mud, went hunting for the sun
then went swimming in the lake of holy water
oh you are too hot for me, i am too slow for you
you are a fast explosion and i'm the embers
you need the one who slowly burns, and burns to stay alive
and in this way you will come find me in December

so let me hammer this point home
i see us all as lonely fires that have burned alive as long as we remember
but like all sacrificial virgins, we all burn in different ways
you are a fast explosion and i'm the embers
and though your flames are quicker than me, they will not last the year,
but expire like a sudden shooting star
that only nightingales had seen, before transforming into bluebirds
and in this way you will come find me in December

...this is one of the most profound songs of the past decade. So for now, I am out for a night of excess. Until next time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

balancing acts abound.

In the sincerest tone I am capable of, I am sorry to all of my followers for not blogging on this blog for the past month and not even telling you all about my new blog (which is, by the way,

I will attempt to update this blog more often, but it really depends on a few things.

1.) the teetering level of interest in my schoolwork (my last final is on Monday May 24th).
2.) the teetering level of interest in my social life.
3.) the teetering level of interest I have in writing analytically on film and music.
4.) my [impersonal] working status.
5.) my [personal] working status.
and finally
6.) my memory/remembering to blog on this blog.