Monthly Archives: October 2016

Negotiating the Pleasure Principle: The Recent Work of Adam Curtis

From Film Quarterly, Fall 2008 (Vol. 62, No. 1). I’ve recently watched Curtis’s powerful and eye-opening Bitter Lake (2015) as well as his somewhat more paranoid HyperNormalisation (2016), also readily available for free on the Internet, which generally maintain the high level of the work discussed here.  — J.R.

There’s been a steady improvement over the course of the three most recent BBC miniseries of Adam Curtis – The Century of the Self (2002, four hour-long episodes), The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004, three hour-long episodes), and The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (2007, three hour-long episodes) —- both in terms of their intellectual cogency and persuasiveness and in terms of the interest of Curtis’s developing, innovative style of filmmaking. One might even contend that each remarkable series has been twice as good as its predecessor. Even so, a closer look at Curtis’s filmmaking style starts to raise a few questions about both the arguments themselves and the way that he propounds them. (Regarding Curtis’s earlier TV series — such as the 1992 Pandora’s Box and the 1999 The Mayfair Set, which I’ve only sampled, and won’t be discussing here —- one can already see some of the thematic and stylistic seeds of his more recent work there.)

I’m certainly not the first one to address these issues arising out of Curtis’s work.Read more »

On Books and Literary Matters (an index of sorts)

Here is a chronological list of many of the book reviews and longer pieces on literary and related subjects found on this web site, with links added in a few cases; capsule reviews of films are omitted, and this list is otherwise far from complete:

Review of A MOVEABLE FEAST (Bard Observer, September 1964)

Review of THE CRYING OF LOT 49 (Bard Observer, May 1966)

“I Missed It at the Movies: Objections to ‘Raising KANE’” (Film Comment, Spring 1972)

Review of JEAN RENOIR: THE WORLD OF HIS FILMS (Film Comment, January-February 1973)

Review of GRAVITY’S RAINBOW (Village Voice, March 1973)

“Raymond Durgnat” (Film Comment, May-June 1973)

Review of Dwight Macdonald’s DISCRIMINATIONS (Village Voice, Oct. 1974)

Review of Gore Vidal’s MYRON (Village Voice, Nov. 1974)

Review of Noel Burch’s THEORY OF FILM PRACTICE (Sight and Sound, Winter 1974/75)

On Jean Renoir [book review] (Film Comment, May-June 1976)

“Film Writing Degree Zero: The Marketplace and the University” (Sight and Sound, Autumn 1977)

Review of Noel Burch’s TO THE DISTANT OBSERVER (American Film, July-August 1979)

Review of Graham Greene’s DR.Read more »

Ten Sub-Categories of Dark Reflection in 4.56.20

Written for a Portuguese exhibition catalogue in Fall 2016. My affectionate thanks to Nicole Brenez for both landing me this assignment and correcting a few of my imprecisions.– J.R.

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1. On a film by Jean-Luc Godard

I’ll never forget the very strange sort of non-reception that appeared to greet the challenge of Jean-Luc Godard’s Numéro Deux when it first appeared in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The first time I saw the film, in the mid-1970s, soon after its unexpectedly wide commercial opening in Paris—a release apparently prompted by the misleading claim that it was a “remake” of A bout de souffle (premised on the fact that it had the same producer, Georges de Beauregard, as well as the same budget, without allowing for any inflation), plus the fact that it was being distributed by Gaumont–was at a large cinema just off the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, where I was startled to find myself the only person inside the auditorium. Communing all alone with that big screen containing many smaller screens was a singular experience in more ways than one.

 

When Numéro Deux was subsequently shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival, the key annual event of Marxist film theorists in the United Kingdom, many of the intellectuals associated with Screen magazine who had previously treated Le gai savoir and Vent d’est as exemplary manifestos for a political “counter-cinema”, quoting from its various speeches as if they were all graspable and teachable recipes for a revolutionary practice, abruptly dismissed Numéro Deux for its alleged “sexism” and “mystifications” (if they bothered to discuss it at all).… Read more »