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As one of America's leading independent filmmakers, Jon Jost's activities and ideas are always of interest to me, and I assume to anyone who cares about the art. Since the site has been in hiatus (see the bottom of page 101 for information about that), I am in catch-up mode, so am sharing excerpts from Jon's two most recent newsletters with readers of the site. And for a dash of black comedy, I include the final paragraph that Jon has attached to all of his emails in the last couple years. In his life as in his work, Jon is never shy about letting you know how he feels about the state of the nation. Thank you for that, Jon. There's too much censorship -- and self-censorship. Too many artists are afraid to say what they really think for fear of alienating someone. I'd also call attention to Jon's upcoming visit to the States. Look for his work at a local theater near you. Just kidding. That's my own touch of black comedy. -- R.C.
From Jon's summer newsletter:
.... it took some time to get the drift of just how Yonsei functions, or at least my department, the Graduate Department of Communications and Arts. And how the students in this upper-end place work. The department is basically up for grabs - teach what you want, no coordination between professors or what is taught; no guiding overseer, no apparent supervision. Naturally the consequence is a random sequence of courses from which the students can in effect draw straws. I made an attempt to see if doing something a bit more coherent was maybe possible, but no evident interest. The students, mostly from well-off families, have a sense of entitlement: they are due an A+ no matter what because they paid for it... A "B" is considered an insult. The background reality is that they are here to network among their class, make contacts, get set up in some professional job track that way, nevermind whether they actually can perform. In some places this might be called "corruption." Somehow it seems familiar to what I've glimpsed in similar institutions in, oh, Italy, America and... Perhaps it is endemic to the academic world? Anyway for the most part my students did pretty good work, though I can't really make a measurement since I don't know what else they do, how much time they have, and so on. Several of them in one course, made very good half-hour films, of which I also made one (with Marcella editing), with students as actors, who were excellent. It was improvised, per usual for me, working in Korean, and the Koreans who've seen it all say it is very Korean. Go figger. We sent the 3 as an omnibus "feature" to Venice festival and await word.....
.... PARABLE is finished, chopped down to 73 minutes, and seems to work quite well, though it is rather weird and I think rather very American - not so sure how foreign viewers will see it. OVER HERE (2006) and HOMECOMING (2004) will both screen at a festivals in Boise Idaho (Steve Taylor's hometown, where he can go for whatever local glamor is to be had) and another in Rome, Georgia. These will be first screenings of these films in US festivals, having been turned down in the last years by other American ones, I think owing to the politics and the climate of fear. Now with Obama rolling, and the whiff of a change in the political air, I guess it seems safe to show a few films that tackle the Homeland homefront, and which call for the impeachment and trials for war crimes of Bush, Cheney et al. Not so alone anymore....
.... Thinking vaguely something in the States in a year or so from now, though there are too many variables in our lives to anticipate much so far in advance. Such as will we be in a depression? Or having gone to war with Iran as a last good-bye-kick-in-the-balls from Mr Bush, will the US be in martial law condition, with dissenters being packed off to Halliburton KBR re-education camps?....
And from Jon's second autumn, start-of-the-fall-term newsletter:
Fall in a few days is officially upon us, though it arrived with a full moon last week in the form of Chusok, the lunar calendar autumnal holiday here in Korea and elsewhere in Asia. We're now back at university, getting settled into the term's classes. Also getting settled into our new down-market little home, an apartment on top of a hillside in middling neighborhood a good ways from the center of Seoul where we previously had a "luxury" apartment bill footed by Yonsei. Now we are paying ourselves, and found this small somewhat funky place for the equal of $370 a month, more in keeping with our usual life-style and our intentions here - save as much as possible for future rainy days, though given the death-spiral of the dollar, which the Won is seemingly joined to at the hip, watching those savings shrink 13% in the last 8 months makes such sensible frugality seem less sensible. However...
Marcella and I spent the last 2 weeks of August in Vietnam, visiting Ha Long Bay, a stunning geological realm of 900+ islands leaping out of the warm jelly-fish filled waters, for a few days of echt tourism (the place was great, the necessary swarm of tourist though put a ding in the pleasure), and then did a workshop for the Viet Nam Film Dept, whatever that is, for 6 days in Ha Noi. It was a mix of things, not our best workshop, having to do with equipment limitations, the nature of those participating, expectations (Mr Jost, where is the magic wand that will make us into the local version of Spielberg whereby we will become famous and rich and rich and famous?) Suggesting that they should first learn some rudiments of how to make a film seemed to be an affront. Anyway it was an interesting 6 days, more so for the city than the workshop. Ha Noi was a vibrant, very particular city, unlike any other I have seen. Not many new taller buildings, though they seem on the way. Rather a dense low-rise, 4-7 story, world with fanciful architectural facades and top floors adorning a fixed very narrow front that goes on in domino shape back. The tops had varying seeming embellishments of quite an interesting variety. The streets buzzed with tens of thousands of motor bikes, in Ha Noi rather disregarding left-right sides of the road, making for chaotic patterns and horrendous air. We went on for several days in Hue, a small provincial former imperial capitol, and back in 1968 scene of some major fighting. Then to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, bigger than Ha Noi, clearly richer, more like Manila, where sections of LA seem to meet "developing world" in a clash of old and new. Again the hordes of motorbikes, foul air, but again very interesting. Food very good.
And then we came "home" - to say to our new pay-the-rent-yourself Hwagok-dong digs. Small, but now things are crammed neatly away, and it is fine. It's nice to be in another section of the city, very different, and get a feel for another version of Seoul.
School started and I have 2 classes, each with 4 students. A bit absurd in my book, but I don't manage the university. So far though it looks like they'll be good classes with eager and perhaps talented students. Hope so. Meantime Marcella is auditing 2 classes at Yonsei, both technical classes, one in animation and the other in some electronic something I don't get yet. She's also auditing a course on "The Beats" at another university and if all goes well she hopes to sign up for a free twice a week continuation of learning Korean. So she is busy! She just finished a very nice editing job on RANT, docu-portrait of Steve Lack. I'm working now on other film shot in Lincoln, SWIMMING IN NEBRASKA, though it's going to take some time - like another year - to finish up. Lots of dense technical aesthetic stuff, though when done it should be amazing.
Thanks to university recently received new very nice fancy HD camera, a SONY EX-cam which records to a chip, and is "state-of-the-art" (in an art that does a full change over every 6 months it seems). A 7K camera. I told myself if I got it I was obliged to "make a masterpiece." We'll try...
Come mid-October I'm off for a quick and I suspect arduous US jaunt: flight from here to NYC, 6 hours later back to Chicago to go to Omaha to Lincoln NE for screening of PARABLE (10/17) and some other things there; then back to Chicago for screening at FACETS (10/19), then for a lecture - the original juicy-pay lure for the trip - at Rowan Univ. near Philadelphia (10/22), then NYC for a screening at the Lincoln Center Film Society (10/24), and a final gig downtown on 25th (workshop and screening) and early morning flight back the next day. It doesn't sound like fun to me, but Marcella is jealous of the idea. She stays here as the trip's function is fiscal. I get to see old friends and new, but it'll be a grind. Hope perhaps to see some of you.
Meantime we anticipate a winter trip to Europe to attend some festivals (Rotterdam, perhaps Berlin, and maybe Sundance enroute ); for Marcella to see her family and for us to get some archival work done in Amsterdam. Then back here for a final term and pondering what next.
The world also seems to be pondering "What next" as the US economy caves in on its transparent fraudulence. Recession my ass, it will be a depression. See my current blog item for an in depth commentary on it, as well as fuller description of Viet Nam journey. www.jonjost.wordpress.com Also things on www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com.
Hope all's well with you, and if time and desire allow, drop us a note, short or long. We'd appreciate it.
best and hugs from us
jon & marcella
Professor Jon Jost,
Graduate School of Communication and Arts
134 Shinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu
Seoul 120-749, Korea
WARNING: Due to presidential executive orders and signing statements, and provisions passed by the previous Republican-controlled Congress, the National Security Agency may have read this posting, as well as and any other private correspondence of mine, and may listen to my private phone conversations without warrant, warning, or notice, and certainly without probable cause. They may also arrest me without telling me of any charges against me, even transport me outside the United States, and hold me secretly and indefinitely in an undisclosed location without notifying my wife or relatives, and deny me access to an attorney. They may take my property under the executive order of July 17, 2007, never to be returned. They may torture me without fear of penalty or repercussions to them for their actions. They may do all these things to me, or to you, with little or no judicial or legislative oversight.
This danger became ever more apparent, and ominous, on Sept. 19, 2007, when the U.S. Senate failed to reinstate habeas corpus as an inalienable right of American citizens. I/We have no recourse nor protection save to call for the impeachment of the current president and vice-president, and voting to remove all rubber-stamp Republicans and neocons from office, as well as other elected officials acting only in their own interests instead of those of the People and the Constitution, be they occupying local, state, or national positions of authority.
This just came in from Peter Quinn -- some thoughts in response to my recommendation of Rossellini's Viaggio in Italia on Mailbag page 110. On the same subject (the depiction of profound pain and suffering, and the transformation of sadness into something else in the process of being depicted), I also wanted to recommend Carl Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud (in addition to the Dreyer film I already mentioned on page 110: Two People).
All of these films offer a lesson to Hollywood: They represent some of the most intense and moving depictions of pain and suffering in all of cinema, but there is not a scream or a shout in any of them. There are no actorly "star turns" in the Jack Nicholson vein, no scenery-chewing, and no stylistic pyrotechnics. The great artists know that the most intense states of suffering can take place in silence and stillness, under the surface, almost invisibly. But it takes a genius to know how how to use understatement and quiet to break our hearts; a hack needs a Steadicam, ominous music, kick-lighting, wild-eyed emoting, scariness, and suspensefulness. -- R.C.
Subject: Viaggio in Italia
I very much agree with your comment about the way a great artist like Rossellini in "Viaggio in Italia" can show the depth and nuances of suffering, and how this witnessing itself becomes part of the redemptive process. In a way, this witnessing is reflected by the two main characters in the film and the way they torment each other. Katherine and Alexander Joyce are like two dead people, full of mutual recrimination, both locked into the past, living out of idealized memories of the past. Neither is able to experience each other fully in the present. They are blind to both each other and the wonderful landscape they travel through. Their love for each other in the immediacy of the present moment has been completely stifled. I think that part of the 'miracle' of this beautiful film is the way the two characters in the film, by the intensity of their witnessing come into the light of mutual recognition and love, perhaps for the very first time. This subtle yet seismic "seeing" allows them both to let go of their mindless slavery to the past and move into a true awareness of their love for each other, and the value and fragility of that mutual love in the vastness of the universe. They finally wake up. It is a miraculous film in every sense, one that I understand and appreciate more and more after every viewing. There is joy at the end of their pilgrimage.
A notice from the Museum of Modern Art about their Fall 2008 Conversations with Contemporary Artists screening and discussion series. I have not seen these films and do not know these artists, but will be glad to print responses from readers who attend the events. Tell us how the Museum of Modern Art is doing. Are they picking the best, most exciting, original, and intelligent filmmakers or going for "box office," fashion, and cultural hype? (See my blue note and the press release that follows it near the top of Mailbag page 70 for background. Rajendra Roy has now been in his position as head of the Film Department for fifteen months -- long enough to have put his personal stamp on MoMA's programs from this point on. He runs the most important film program in the United States, and perhaps the world. What does this series tell us about his vision of film?) - R.C.
Conversations with Contemporary Artists
in complete world
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Screening & discussion
Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, will moderate the discussion.
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Screening introduced by the filmmaker
Theater 3 - The Celeste Bartos Theater
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building
4 W. 54 Street
New York, NY
in complete world is a 53-minute documentary made up of street interviews shot throughout NYC. Mixing political questions (Are we responsible for the government we get?) with more broadly existential ones (Do you feel you have control over your life?), the film centers on the tension between individual and collective responsibility.
The film can be seen as a user's manual for citizenship in the 21st century, as well as a glimpse into the opinions and self-perceptions of a diverse group of Americans. It is a testament to the people of NYC in this new millennium, who freely offer up thoughtful, provocative and at times tender revelations to a complete stranger, just because she asked.
Conversations with Contemporary Artists is curated by Laura Beiles, Associate Educator, The Museum of Modern Art. Other events in this series: Larry Fink, October 1st, Marshall Reese and Antoni Muntadas, October 30th
A note from Ray Carney: A local Boston event at the Museum of Fine Arts. Sounds like it might be fun. (Or at least good for a good group groan.) Who can resist Steven Spielberg's recommendation? -- R.C.
Don't miss the ultimate fan remake, showing this Thursday night at 10pm at College Night at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Free for College Students with their student ID
About the Film:
After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, three 12 year old friends, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, began filming their own shot-by-shot adaptation in the backyards of their Mississippi homes. Seven years later their film was in the can.
Fourteen years later, in 2003, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin Texas was proud to announce the theatrical world premiere of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.
Steven Spielberg enjoyed the film so much, he invited Chris, Eric and Jayson to his studio.
And in 2004, it was announced that Hollywood producer Scott Rudin (the legendary producer-from-hell -- R.C.) had purchased the life rights of Eric, Jayson and Chris to make a biographical film about their experiences making Raiders: The Adaptation. Writer Daniel Clowes is currently working on the screenplay, and the film will be released by Paramount Pictures.
Also at College Night:
PLUG Award winner Annie Clark and her band St. Vincent, plus Garageband's Female Acoustic Vocalist of the Year and Berklee College student, Liz Longley, a free dance party featuring Northeastern grad, DJ Ghostdad, plus raffles, artist demonstrations, a scavenger hunt and of course, art!
Doors open at 6 pm. Admission free for students with their student ID.
Subject: Husbands extended footage posted to Youtube?
I know you don't usually view Youtube videos, but:
http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=u4lpPGkiPuI is worth checking out.
Maybe I'm not as well versed in the available versions of Husbands, but based on the R2 DVD release, the singing in the bar scene ends with Falk taking off his clothes, correct?
The video posted to Youtube:
A) Has no subtitles as in the R2 release
B) Continues beyond Falk taking off his clothes and Leola Harlow's surprised face, i.e. (Falk saying "I broke my zipper!", the trio counting off to 11 before jumping into the song again, putting a cigar in Leola's mouth, etc.)
Is it possible this footage is just sourced from the documentary shot during the filming of Husbands? I apologize if I'm confusing this footage with something else, I don't remember all the details of what was cut.
Hope I'm not treading over old ground, and thank you for everything Ray, your work has changed my outlook as a writer and filmmaker forever.
- Matt Fiorentino
Rembrandt as Saint Paul (1661)
RC replies: Thanks Matt. As you note, my thirteen-year-old Mac can't (or won't!) access video. It screams and makes faces at me when I try! So I can't personally verify the link you are passing along, but I am sure some site regular can (and will!). I hope you've located a print of the uncut film. (I have it on video myself of course, as a gift from Cassavetes; but that does nobody but me and my friends any good.)
As an aid to whomever does the dirty work of checking: The missing footage from the video release (from all video releases of Husbands that I am aware of) is more than ten minutes in length, and includes much more of the interaction with Leola Harlow, including much abuse of her by Cassavetes, and the singing of two entire songs by John "Red" Kullers ("Brooklyn" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"), during which Kullers and the three husbands sing together and interact. The singing scene then ends and the film goes on to the beginning of the men's room scene with a minute or two of footage involving shots of Falk and Cassavetes in one of the toilet stalls and noises of vomiting and farting being heard on the soundtrack (these bodily sounds were what Gena objected to, the reason she said she thought the scene was in bad taste, and the reason it was cut from the print UCLA sceened at their Festival of Restoration). So you are looking for ALL of the preceding material, between ten and eleven minutes in all. (There is one other smaller discrepancy between the film and the video releases, in another scene, but it would take me too long to describe.)
Good luck! You know we're nuts? I'm apparently the only "grownup kind of person" in the world who has noticed or cares about any of these things, but maybe if we keep talking about them, we can start a political party and run for President and Vice President. Who knows--maybe we can start a revolution. Cuts in Cassavetes' work (and there are many others in other films by him also, by the way) would certainly be more interesting as a subject to discuss, debate, and argue over for journalists than whether pigs wear lipstick or whether hockey Moms act like pit bulls. That's the kind of debate American journalists are interested in doing interviews about..... We have to save them from themselves!
And, more seriously, thanks so much for the kind words at the end of your letter. I need to hear them. That sure isn't how the site is viewed by Boston University administrators and faculty! I need all the praise I can get!!!
From one of my favorite former grad students who is now teaching film at the college level, with a link to a film she made. I love Kate's excitement about her teaching. It's the reason I went into this profession so many eons ago. The students' enthusiasm, the excitement of their discoveries and insights makes it all worthwhile. Every teacher knows this feeling, and this is the way it still is for me too. So thrilling. So interesting. So challenging. So wonderful. I never get tired of it. (Note: I have omitted two paragraphs of personal communication at the end of her message.) -- R.C.
It's been too long! How are things with you? I hope you're enjoying work & life....despite these troubling times.
I'm teaching American Independent Film this semester (my third go-round) and to prepare as best I could for screening Cassavetes to the students, I read both The Films of John Cassavetes and American Dreaming over the last few months. I LOVED them so much. I feel as if I'm gobbling up the words - you're a page turner! Please know that these works have been invaluable to me - a veritable tutorial - and for whatever reason, this semester, these students are engaged. It's a pleasure to go to class.....if we're all under Cassavetes's spell, then it's a damned good thing.
I'm also still making films - zero budget, underground style - and still love the process. Besides finishing "Trip" (which was accepted by one and rejected by a gazillion other festivals), we also completed a 20-minute doc called "21st Century LP" (about a friend and his record store in its 21st year of business), and a short called "Johnson Hall" that's posted on YouTube here .....