by Mark Neil Balson
L’Eden et après (Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1970)
We sometimes go on as though people can’t express themselves. In fact they’re always expressing themselves. The sorriest couples are those where the woman can’t be preoccupied or tired without the man saying “What’s wrong? Say something…,” or the man, without the woman saying … and so on. Radio and television have spread this spirit everywhere, and we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. What we’re plagued by these days isn’t any blocking of communication, but pointless statements. But what we call the meaning of a statement is its point. That’s the only definition of meaning, and it comes to the same thing as a statement’s novelty. You can listen to people for hours, but what’s the point? … That’s why arguments are such a strain, why there’s never any point arguing. You can’t just tell someone what they’re saying is pointless. So you tell them it’s wrong. But … the problem isn’t that some things are wrong, but that they’re stupid or irrelevant. That they’ve already been said a thousand times. The notions of relevance, necessity, the point of something, are a thousand times more significant than the notion of truth. Not as substitutes for truth, but as the measure of the truth of what I’m saying. It’s the same in mathematics: Poincaré used to say that many mathematical theories are completely irrelevant, pointless; He didn’t say they were wrong – that wouldn’t have been so bad.
— Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations (via extratruefacts)
He soon plunged into deep thought, or rather, into a kind of oblivion. He walked on without noticing his environment, without wanting to notice it. Every so often he would mutter something to himself. It was that propensity for monologues he had already acknowledged as a peculiarity of his.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Crime and Punishment (via alcools)
He is taking a course on Marxist ideology. What people can’t possibly tell from the footage on TV I inherited my communist manifesto, I know what the price of smashing the system really is, my people already tried that. It is easy to say “revolution” from the comfort of a New England library. It is easy to offer flesh to the cause,
He says, “The only real solution is to smash the system and start again.”
His thumb is caressing the most bourgeois copy of the communist manifesto that I have ever seen,
He bought it at Barnes and Noble for twenty-nine U.S. American dollars and ninety-nine cents,
Its hard cover shows a dark man with a scarved face
Waving a gigantic red flag against a fictional smoky background.
The matte finish is fucking gorgeous.
He wants to be congratulated for paying Harvard sixty thousand dollars
To teach him that the system is unfair.
He pulls his iPhone from his imported Marino wool jacket, and leaves.
Is that the water cannon feels like getting whipped with a burning switch.
Where I come from, they fill it with sewer water and hope that they get you in the face with your mouth open
So that the hepatitis will keep you in bed for the next protest.
What you can’t tell from Harvard square,
Is that when the tear gas bursts from nowhere to everywhere all at once,
It scrapes your insides like barbed wire, sawing at your lungs.
Tear gas is such a benign term for it,
If you have never breathed it in you would think it was a nostalgic experience.
What you can’t learn at Barnes and Noble,
Is that when they rush you, survival is to run,
I am never as fast as when the police are chasing me.
I know what happens to women in the holding cells down there and yet…
We still do it.
It has no cover—
Because my mother ripped it off when she hid it in the dust jacket of “Don Quixote”
The day before the soldiers destroyed her apartment,
Looking for subversive propaganda.
She burned the cover, could not bring herself to burn the pages,
Hoped to God the soldiers couldn’t read,
They never found it.
So she was not killed for it, but her body bore the scars of the torture chamber,
For wanting her children to have a better life than she did,
Don’t talk to me about revolution.
The price of uprise is paid in blood,
And not Harvard blood.
The blood that ran through the streets of Santiago,
The blood thrown alive from Argentine helicopters into the Atlantic.
When it is not yours to give.
He is taking a course on Marxist ideology.
What people can’t possibly tell from the footage on TV
I inherited my communist manifesto,
I know what the price of smashing the system really is, my people already tried that.
It is easy to say “revolution” from the comfort of a New England library.
It is easy to offer flesh to the cause,
Catalina Ferro, “Manifesto” (via dialecticsof)
I feel like people do need to remember that there is a very real, very painful, very human element to the word “revolution”.
Smoking Weed with the President of Uruguay: Full Length
Sange Meel Se Mulaqat (Meeting A Milestone)
Director: Goutam Ghose
[ed. note: another terrific guest post from Phong Tran!]
"With this meeting and this film, my conception of art and life completely changed"—Goutam Ghose
Onto this 1989 Goutam Ghose (b. 1950) beauty produced by Films Division’s powerful sister branch,the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC). Ghose, like his mentor Satyajit Ray, is another Bengali autodidact who is adept in film, photography, music and theater. Indeed, the cinematography shot by Ghose himself is the eye to the soul of this brilliant documentary on Ustad Bismillah Khan. Ghose was ably supported by Ain Rasheed Khan, who wrote the script, conducted the interviews and provided the commentary.
Bismillah Khan (1913-2006), maestro of the double-reed shehnai, singlehandedly brought the instrument into the limelight of 20th century Hindustani music. From humble roots in Dumraon, Bihar, he settled in his beloved adopted Banaras and never really left it. His old world shehnai bridged the gap between the common folk and the elite rasikas in enthralling all with its intoxicating, haunting contours.
Although Bismillah blew his way into the consciousness of raga lovers the world over, he remained at heart a simple, humble Banarsi. This innate alchemy between the musician and the city is the focus of Ghose’s film. From the luminous opening shots of the dawn slowly unfolding over the Ganga to the departing tracks leading away from the city at dusk, this thing bleeds Banaras blue. Ghose’s deliberate camera beautifully frames this eternal city of life and death in a loving embrace. Meanwhile, the soundscapes of the city resonate their daily rituals throughout the famously winding galis, the temple bells, the ghat activities, the dhobis’ rhythmic beating.
Although Ghosh has stated that the film is not a biopic, the illuminating interviews do provide a moving window into Bismillah’s views on ragas, religion (devoutly syncretic and especially poignant vis-a-vis the contemporaneous Ayodhya-Babri Masjid dispute, the Banaras of yore, gharana styles (Agra—>Kirana—>Dagar—>Banarsi), the ustad-shagird bond, fakirs … these and more charming anecdotes. He comes across as a gentle old soul, especially when he gesticulates and vocalizes in demonstration. All it takes is witnessing the Ustad’s melting facial expressions throughout the film to be won over: such profound lines of experience.
Indeed, it’s a privilege to witness the fantastic scenes (e.g. 18:10, 43:33) featuring the full thunderous group, intimately shown in baithak and never on the concert stage. There’s an especially wondrous sequence of the Ustad in teaching mode with a smaller group in a garden setting that segues into the full elephantine power of the ensemble. Then behold the solemnity of noha on the 5th day of Muharram, when Bismillah leads a haunting street procession in lamentation.
سب قتل ہو کے تیرے مقابل سے آئے ہیں
ہم لوگ سرخرو ہیں کہ منزل سےآئے ہیں
— Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Bonus: trip to these lovely shimmering screens from dhrupad.
Phong Tran’s previous post was on Rajat Kapoor’s Tarana.
The Man Who Left His Will On Film (Nagisa Oshima, 1970)
"Hollywood is the reason I make the films I do. Because I hate it. And I would never go there or waste my time watching their films because… well, I am a lousy film-maker, this I admit. But I refuse to make shit. Bad films I can make. Shit, no."
Born April 4, 1957
wouldn’t ya know.