Wednesday, February 6, 2013
THE CONFRONTATION (Miklos Jancso, 1969)
In formalist terms, The Confrontation comes across as a dry-run to Miklos Jancso’s superior Red Psalm (1971). Both are musicals, or rather dramas with musical numbers, about revolutions and the cycles of violence that they promote. In fact, the same song about peasants attacking is sung in both films. And as is customary for Jancso during the 1960s, everything is staged in elaborately complex long-takes with fluid camera movements.
The difference ends there however. Whereas Red Psalm at least has a celebratory tone with its musical numbers and peasants rebellions, The Confrontation is a bleak and detached film. Its plot can be summarized rather quickly. A group of revolutionary communist college students invade a monastery claiming they want to debate world views with the priests and students. It becomes clear though that the revolutionaries lack cohesion and subsequently splinter into debates amongst themselves about whether they should engage in terror against the monastery or honestly dialogue about divergent ideals and philosophies. All the while the genuine representations of state-power, the police and other authorities, occasionally appear on the scene.
For most of the film the students desiring terror gain the upper-hand. Jutka, the female student leader expresses philosophies about the necessities of violence and terror. In a clear comment on the nature of Hungarian totalitarianism, her supposed anti-fascist ideals are really tyrannical as she advocates shaving the heads of monastery pupils, before being reminded by someone that would be too similar to what happened at Auschwitz. This is one of two Holocaust references the film makes. In another: a monastery pupil confesses he is Jewish and is appreciative of the Christians who hid him during World War II. The film seems to be set around 1947.
What is especially bleak about The Confrontation is that it sets up debates about revolutionary violence but answers in them with complete cynicism about the nature of power. For Jancso, the students seem to be playing at revolutionaries rather than trying to enact any genuine change, unlike the peasants in Red Psalm, who recall, are aiming for specific reforms to agrarian policy. There is no consequence to any of their actions. They debate, excommunicate each other, and taunt the monastery students but the film ends where it begins with the same exact image of the back of Jutka’s head. There has been no historical progress.
And yet however much Jancso satirizes the students, they are preferable to the ominous state authorities. As one of the bored police officers tells the students “I think you’re basically misunderstanding something. You have too romantic a view of these things. You’re sons of peasants, like me, and intellectuals. I think you aren’t hard enough. Revolution is hard and ruthless. Be careful so you really don’t come up against me one day.” It’s easy to read that as a broadside directed at the student uprisings of the 1968 which failed to overthrow capitalism. It’s a different authority, though, who expresses the most evil belief in the film. He tells Laci, the student who believes in debate and dialogue, that “History is not a game in order to be able to make history. We must remain in possession of power. Perhaps even at all costs.”
Jancso understood that history was mostly a cruel and meaningless procession of exchanges of power and acts of violence. He is the consummate Anti-Marxist Marxist. Perhaps that’s why he never caught on in the West as much as Godard and other directors committed to revolutionary aesthetics. His vision was too bleak for those who wanted to believe they could shape history through their ideals and wills.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
9. High on Fire- Snakes For The Divine.
8. Patty Griffin- Downtown Church
7. Triptykon- Eparistera Daimones
6. Iron Maiden- The Final Frontier
5. Atheist- Jupiter
4. Anathema- We're Here Because We're Here
3. John Zorn- The Goddess; What Thou Wilt; Interzone; John Zorn/ Fred Frith-Late Works; Masada String Trio-Haborym: The Book Of Angels - Volume 16
2. Killing Joke- Absolute Dissent
1. Midlake- The Courage of Others
Monday, November 15, 2010
7. Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives
6. Jackass 3D
5. Film Socialisme
4. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
3. The Ghost Writer
2. Toy Story 3
1. Certified Copy
I also admired Splice but I do think it has many problems and I am not sure I have the stomach to sit through it again any time soon.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
So here are 20 albums (no, I couldn't think of just 15) that changed my ideas about music:
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention- Absolutely Free
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band- Trout Mask Replica
The Stooges- Fun House
Led Zeppelin-Led Zeppelin III
Gang of Four-Entertainment!
Minutemen- Double Nickels on the Dime
Albert Ayler- Sprits Rejoice!
The Art Ensemble of Chicago- Bap-Tizum
John Coltrane- Live in Japan
Sonny Clark- Cool Strutin
Slayer- Reign in Blood
Einstruzende Neubauten- Kollaps!
Pink Floyd- Animals
The Birthday Party-Junkyard
Opeth- Blackwater Park
Nick Drake- Pink Moon
John Zorn- The Classic Guide to Strategy
Naked City- Torture Garden
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Last night I watched Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It got me thinking about other meetings that could have been.
Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Lewis
Abbott and Costello Meet The Residents
Abbott and Costello Meet Noam Chomsky
Abbott and Costello Meet Jim Bunning
Abbott and Costello Meet Batman and Superman
Abbott and Costello Meet George Abbot and Elvis Costello
Abbott and Costello Meet Abbott but not Costello
Abbott and Costello Meet Abbott and Costello
Abbott and Costello Meet Abbott and Costello II: Electric Boogaloo
Abbott and Costello Meet Abbott and Costello III: The Search For Costello
Friday, July 16, 2010
1. The screenplay is talky and awful. For some reason, Nolan has characters stand around, talking, and talking, and then talking some more about what they are going to do or should do. It reminded me of an extended cheesy Star Trek battle scene where they talk about how their shields are failing and they give a running tally of how close to failing they are. The movie could have easily been 50 minutes shorter if cut down on the ponderous exposition. Even worse is when characters "philosophize" about dreams or ideas.
2. This is the most painfully literal minded movie ever made about dreams. You would think, given its enormous budget, the film could find less obvious representations for delving deeper into the unconscious mind of its characters than riding an elevator down. One reason I enjoy the Hellboy movies is they aren't afraid to descend into a series of absurd and excessive images that shouldn't be taken literally. Inception, however, has no sense of dream logic at all. Suffering through it, I actually longed for the silly Nightmare on Elm Street sequels where at least occasionally some bargain-basement surrealist aesthetic would emerge.
3. The only arresting image is shown in the trailer. However, it's only arresting in the trailer since the exposition heavy film explains it way to such a degree that it looses any mystery and ability to induce awe.
4. This one is more a nitpick, but when you dislike a movie so much that's what you start to do. You don't forgive its minor flaws. In the film, characters constantly talk about the subconscious mind when they mean the "unconscious." Even more nitpicking, characters don't seem to understand what a "paradox" is. Contra what a character says, Escher's never-ending staircase isn't technically a paradox. It's merely an optical illusion. Yes, that's really nitpicky. I know.
Anyway, I should have stayed home and watched the Dokken video from A Nightmare Elm Street 3 about dream warriors. It isn't 150 mins long.
Friday, July 2, 2010
This is a crazy throw back to the manic improvisational duos that were more common in the late 70s and early 80 among the avant-garde in NYC. Here is an excerpt from a live performance:
Midlake- The Courage of Others
This is beautiful, melancholy progrockish/ folk. It's good for a depression or two. Here is a link to the song "Acts of Man"
Triptykon- Eparistera Daimones
Thomas Fischer's first record from new his post- Celtic Frost band is lovely, tortured, and very heavy. Excellent black metal! Here is "Descendant" from the album:
High on Fire- Snakes For The Divine
It's not quite as good as previous High on Fire albums mainly because of bad production. It still rocks though. Here is "Frost Hammer!"
Anathema- We're Here Because We're Here
I can't think of band whose sound has changed so dramatically. 20 years ago they were slow, gloomy doom metal. On this album they sound like, well.... have a listen to "Everything"
Patty Griffin- Downtown Church
All you need to know about this album is that she sings a song with Emmylou Harris! Seeing the two of them live a couple of years ago ranks amongst my favorite concerts of all time
Here is "Little Fire"