Monthly Archives: March 2013

Autumn Fire
US, 1931
by Herman Weinberg

What presumption, that Hollywood.  And what gullibility, when we endorse or proselyte Hollywood’s version of the story.  If sound came in and 1927, and everyone but Chaplin was using it from 1929, then what do we with Weinberg?  Maya Deren?  Stan Brakhage?  The industrial part of the story is okay, until it becomes the only story.  Then it’s a lie.  A presumption, more like, or even a crime.  The fact that there was no place for and that hardly any one ever saw this exquisite thing, or all the exquisite things like it, pretty well proves the inadequacy of market worship, even the iniquity of the market.  Only the philistines could claim that if this were worthy then it would have found a place, or that something so worthy wouldn’t be besmirched in that particular commercial space.  And Steinway pianos (exquisitely overpriced products for plutocrats; Note by Note… [2007]) are no answer either.  It’s all a scandal!

As for Weinberg’s film, it’s a lovely, melancholic fantasia on the themes of absence and longing.  It quite resembles that sundered part of Vigo’s L’Atalante, and it compares favourably therewith.  It makes me think about Maurice Tourneur (Rex Ingram, Clifford Brown, Michael Powell) and the pictorialist tradition in film.  We usually think of pictorialism as being in a traditional Raphaelian mode.  But as Weinberg’s terrific picture sense (composition, duration, juxtaposition, and all adding up to a story that’s both conceptually and emotionally clear) demonstrates, there’s plenty room for a more modernist pictorialism.  Indirectness, fragmentation, more than a nod to the apparatus.  Colin Low was right.  Twenty minutes is the perfect length for a film.


The Bakery Girl of Monceau
France, 1963
by Eric Rohmer

Here he is.  As with the courses comiques of the first years of cinema, this has tremendous documentary value, over and above the plot and enactment.  These Parisian places and people register powerfully, burstingly, even imperishably.  As for Rohmer, he seems to have found his method, and hit his stride.  We’ve got a trifle of a situation, agonized over with poignant hilarity by his reflective and deluded protagonist.  The excessive narration works wonderfully: in the first place it is consistent with the character, and in the second, good talk is as cinematic as good pictures.  Also, and in connection, nothing is trifling when you elaborate upon it.  (Plus the film was shot silent.  This is a cheap way to flesh it out.  Why not?)

The conclusion here is kind of chilling.  Schroeder’s character takes the next step with this working girl, so that harmless flirtation borders on actual engagement, and the ethical commitment that should go with.  Then, when his previous quarry reappears—a satisfying solution to the mystery of her disappearance—he just dumps the shop girl.  So far, so caddish, and maybe not so big a deal.  Until he tells us that it’s a moral decision, which is how he justifies himself and leaves the world corrupted.  A crafty, glancing epilogue tells us that the proper consummation of all comedy has taken place.  But there’s no joyful resolution, no tonic cadence in this marriage.  Wrong person, for the wrong motive, with the wrong values reinforced thereby.  Piquant!


TMA 114, pairing tragedy and comedy, Greek and otherwise


Week 7: The Tragic Mode

Read: Andersen, Under the Willow Tree; Chekhov, Heartache (Misery), Typhus, (

Listen: Roy Orbison, “Only the Lonely,” Byrds, “Plane Crash at Los Gatos,” Del Shannon, “Sister Isabelle,”  Tracy Chapman, “Fast Car”

Discuss: Aristotle and Arthur Miller, fate/hubris/nobility, the sparrow’s fall, the nihilistic option, activism and the mythical, compassion

View: de Hoog, The Wall; Becker, Casque D’Or

Supplementary, books: Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Anderson, Thieves Like Us, Clarke, Childhood’s End, Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, Gide The Immoralist, Golding, Lord of the Flies, Greene, The Power and the Glory, Hardy, Jude the Obscure, Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, Ibsen, Ghosts, Kafka, The Trial, Lowry, Under the Volcano, O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, Shakespeare, Othello, Wilde, De Profundis, Zola, La Bete Humaine

Supplementary, films: Bergman, Cries and Whispers, Bong, The Host, Borzage, A Farewell to Arms/The Mortal Storm, Brittain, Volcano, Carné, Le Jour se Léve, Chabrol, La Ceremonie, Chaplin, City Lights, Clayton, Room at the Top, Cronenberg, Dead Ringers, Cukor, A Star is Born, de Sica, Shoeshine/Bicycle Thieves, Eastwood, White Hunter, Black Heart/Unforgiven, Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter, Ford, Four Sons/They Were Expendable, Forman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Frankenheimer, The Manchurian Candidate, Frears, Dangerous Liaisons, Freund, Mad Love, Fuller, White Dog, Gad, The Abyss, Godard, Vivre sa Vie, Kalatozov, The Cranes Are Flying, King, The Gunfighter, Kozintsev, Hamlet, Kurosawa, Throne of Blood, Lang, Scarlet Street, A. Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, S. Lee, The 25th Hour, Leone, Once Upon a Time in the West, LeRoy, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Makhmalbaf, The Cyclist, Mamoulian, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mann, The Furies/The Fall of the Roman Empire, Mikhalkov, Burnt by the Sun, Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front, Mizoguchi, Women of the Night/Sansho the Bailiff, Panahi, Crimson Gold, Pasolini, Accatone, Polanski, Chinatown, Polley, Away from Her, Polonsky, Force of Evil, Powell, The Spy in Black/Peeping Tom, Ray, They Live By Night, Ray, Pather Panchali, Renoir, Rules of the Game, Rossellini, Rome, Open City, Saura, Carmen, Scorcese, Taxi Driver, Scott,  Gladiator, Sembene, Black Girl, Stevens, A Place in the Sun, Takahata, Grave of Fireflies, Tourneur, Out of the Past, Von Sternberg, The Last Command, Wajda, Kanal, Welles, The Magnificent Ambersons/Chimes at Midnight, Wenders, The American Friend, Wilder, Double Indemnity/Ace in the Hole, Wise, The Set Up, Wyler, Detective Story, Yimou, To Live, Zhuangzhuang, The Blue Kite

Week 8: The Comic Mode

Read: Chekhov, Green Scythe; Leacock, The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias, Thurber, The Catbird Seat (; Twain, The £1,000,000 Bank Note

Listen: Frank Sinatra, “Come Fly with Me,” Kate and Anna McGarrigle, “The Swimming Song”

Discuss: Aristotle and the low man who rises, Aristophanic critique, commedia’s catalogue of human character, Shakespeare and heterosexual union, French classicism and sexual scruple, modern modes, joy

View: Clampett, Kitty Kornered; Lean, Summertime

Supplementary, books: Amis, Lucky Jim, Aristophanes, Lysistrata, Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, Congreve, The Way of the World, Coward, Private Lives, Forster, A Room with a View, Greene, Our Man in Havana, Hammett, The Thin Man, Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor/Twelfth Night, Shaw, Major Barbara/Misalliance, Sheridan, School for Scandal, Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Wodehouse, The Inimitable Jeeves/The Code of the Woosters, Wycherley, The Country Wife

Supplementary, films: Allen, Annie Hall, Anderson, Rushmore, Ashby, Shampoo, Aubier/Patar, A Town Called Panic, Bergman, Smiles of a Summer Night, Boetticher, Buchanan Rides Alone, Bogdanovich, What’s Up, Doc?, Brooks, Lost in America, Capra, The Strong Man/Lady for a Day/It Happened One Night, Clair, Le Million, Cukor, Pat and Mike, Del Ruth, Topper Returns, Eastwood, Bronco Billy, Edwards, The Great Race/The Return of the Pink Panther, Frears, The Snapper, Germi, Divorce, Italian Style, Hawks, Twentieth Century/Bringing Up Baby/I Was a Male War Bride/Monkey Business, Hitchcock, Stage Fright, Horne, Way Out West, Howard/Asquith, Pygmalion, Ivory, A Room with a View, Kanin, My Favorite Wife, Kaurismaki, Ariel /The Man Without a Past, Koster, It Started with Eve, Kurosawa, Sanjuro, Leisen, Midnight, Lester, A Hard Day’s Night, Lewis, The Nutty Professor/The Family Jewels, Lubitsch, The Oyster Princess/Ninotchka, Mackendrick, Whisky Galore/The ‘Maggie’/The Ladykillers, MacLeod, Monkey Business, May, A New Leaf, McCarey, Ruggles of Red Gap, Minnelli, The Pirate/The Long, Long Trailer, Morandini, Big Deal on Madonna Street, Nichols, The Graduate, Ophuls, La Ronde, Oz, What About Bob?, Ozu, I Was Born, but…, Renoir, Boudu Saved from Drowning/The Golden Coach, Ritchie, The Bad News Bears, Rohmer, Pauline at the Beach, Sandrich, Top Hat, Stevens, Swing Time, Sturges, The Lady Eve/The Palm Beach Story/The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, Tashlin, Artists and Models/The Disorderly Orderly, Tirard, Le Petit Nicolas, Wilde, The Kid Brother,  Wilder, Some Like it Hot, Zinneman, Oklahoma!

One of my favourite TMA 114 story types…


Week 6: Typicality and Process

Read: Andersen, The Old Street Lamp; Chekhov, The Bishop; Hemingway, The Three Day Blow, Big Two-Hearted River (I & II); Stockton, The Bee Man of Orn; Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Illych; Whitman, “Song of Myself,” pt. 33

Listen: Van Morrison, “Coney Island/I’m Tired, Joey Boy”

Discuss: to-do lists and counting your blessings, Burnsian and Wordsworthian Romanticism, literary naturalism and milieu, scientific naturalism and data, anxious engagement and dews distilling, the threshold of significance

View: Renoir, La Bete Humaine, Becker, Le Trou, Oliveira, I’m Going Home; Wong, In the Mood for Love

Supplementary, books: Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest, Calvino, Marcovaldo, Confucius, Analects, David B., Epileptic, Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Garfield, The Apprentices, George, My Side of the Mountain, Grahame, The Golden Age, Green, Living, Herr, Dispatches, Hulme, The Nun’s Story, Ishiguro, Remains of the Day, Joyce, The Dead, Kafka, Metamorphosis, Kerouac, Dharma Bums, Kipling, Captain’s Courageous, Le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, O’Dell, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Soseki, Botchan/Kusamakura, Thoreau, Walden, Traill, The Backwoods of Canada, Travers, Mary Poppins, Walton, The Compleat Angler, White, Stuart Little, Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Wilder, Farmer Boy, Wordsworth/ Coleridge, The Lyrical Ballads

Supplementary, films: Akerman, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Cmmerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Anderson, There Will Be Blood, Armstrong, My Brilliant Career, Axel, Babette’s Feast, Becker, Le Trou, Bergman, Winter Light, Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, Boyle, 127 Hours, Bresson, A Man Escaped, Burnette, Killer of Sheep, Clouzot, The Mystery of Picasso, Dardenne, The Promise, Davies, Distant Voices, Still Lives, de Sica, Umberto D., Engel, The Little Fugitive, Flaherty, Nanook of the North/Moana, Forsyth, Breaking In, Godard, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Greenaway, The Draughtsman’s Contract, Hawks, Hatari!, Huston, The Asphalt Jungle, Jennings, Fires Were Started, Kiarostami, Where is the Friend’s House?, Kubrick, The Killing, Lester, Juggernaut, Lewis, The Bellboy, Low, The Hutterites, Majidi, The Color of Paradise, S. Makhmalbaf, The Apple, McQueen, Hunger, Melville, Le Cercle Rouge, Menzel, Closely Watched Trains, Minnelli, The Clock, Oliveira, I’m Going Home, Pakula, All the President’s Men, Panahi, The White Balloon, Philibert, Etre et Avoir, Pollack, Jeremiah Johnson, Preminger, Anatomy of a Murder, Puiu, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Renoir, La Bete Humaine, Ritchie, Downhill Racer, Rivette, La Belle Noiseuse, Rossellini, Stromboli, Rosi, Salvatore Giuliano, Rosson, The Hustler, Saura, Blood Wedding, Spielberg, Lincoln, Stoney, All My Babies, Straub/Huillet, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, Tati, M. Hulot’s Holiday, Truffaut, The Wild Child/Day for Night, Varda, Cleo from 5 to 7, Vertov, The Man with a Movie Camera, Watkins, La Commune, Wilder, The Lost Weekend, Wiseman, Basic Training/Hospital, Yimou, The Story of Qiu Ju