Sunday, January 29, 2006

While Cullen and perhaps everyone else has been out watching films, I spent a filmless week. Not one film since last Sunday night's Outfoxed...or was that two weeks ago (this must sound to some of you like not eating or sleeping for a week)? Books I ordered, though, did arrive, so now I can bemoan not to have read in addition to not to have watched...I am eager, though, to read the essay you recommended, Cullen, Phillip Lopate's "In Search of the Centaur: the Essay-Film," which I've skimmed, and its first sentences sound like exactly what I've been hoping to find:

My intention here is to define, describe, survey and celebreate a cinematic genre that barely exists.
As a cinephile and personal essayist, I have an urge to see these two interests combined through the
works of filmmakers who commit essays on celluloid. But, while there are cinematic equivalents to
practically every literary genre, filmmakers tend to shy away from the essay, and that in itself is
intriguing. (Totally Tenderly Tragically New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1998: 280)

Love the verb "commit"! A frustration is that even though end matter in the paperback tells that this essay was first published in The Threepenny Review, no date is given...even if you guys didn't know already how I feel about this, isn't this frustrating? When Lopate writes about films that might or might not be essay-films, don't we want to know if this was written in 1998 or maybe 10 or 15 years earlier? The latest film Lopate discusses is from 1990, but there's an afterward, undated but possibly written for this paperback in 1998, in which the latest film he cites is from 1993. So I am left wondering if anything has changed...after all, 1998 is eight years ago!! Blogging explosion aside, think how much has changed in eight years! So, has the number of essay-films increased? Has the term come up more? Has anyone categorized My Architect as an essay-film?

Lopate gave me an idea for a candidate for our next documentary/essay-film, Nanni Moretti's Caro Diario, which Lopate discusses on pp. 338-39 of the same book (and possibly elsewhere)--he made me want to see it.

Also, casing the local library for more things I won't have time for, I brought home Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960), which the video box matter says was "voted the second greatest film of all time in a poll of international film critics by Sight and Sound Magazine." [What was the first??] Should have brought it home on DVD if it existed--now the argument in our one-TV home of whether or not to turn the TV on at all, turn it on for this, etc. When I set up my little computer and external DVD drive w/headphones, no compromise necessary. Still, also, want to see the new Woody Allen film, around in local theatres.

Went kind of wild when ordering the Lopate book--also bought Jack C. Ellis's and Betsy A. McLane's A New History of Documentary Film (New York: Continuum, 2005) and Liz Stubb's Documentary Filmmakers Speak (New York: Allworth, 2002)...anyone know about either of these? Have barely glanced inside so far.

Hope some of you can join Cullen and me Tuesday! (see email)

Margaret

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