Archive for the ‘The Story of Claude and Me’ Category

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Star Wars: The Death of Cinema

May 4, 2010

Ok, so, during the course of our budding relationship, Claude, who I must admit is a few years shy of a decade younger than me, tells me that Star Wars was, in effect, the “death of cinema.”  Claude:  “It theoretically and ephemerally signaled the death knell for the great cinematic experiences we had all (meaning him and his 2 friends) come to know and cherish up until that very moment.”

“Wait,” I protested as I spit out my glass of wine.  “Star Wars?”  I remember so clearly being 12 when that movie came out, the first summer I was really interested in boys, and could go to the mall and hang out for hours with friends unsupervised by scrutinizing eyes of parents.  “Star Wars was the first movie I ever attended where I held hands with a boy!” I decried.  “Well, I loved it too, THEN, and I held hands TOO…”  (and then he mumbled…) “.but I was five and it was with my mother.”  (volume increase) “ Then I got older, and saw it for what it was REALLY worth – a huge masturbatory opportunity for one George Lucas who is still in love with himself – hell, I bet he’s in the closet with R. Kelly right now.”

“Wait,” I protested again, and made some argument about how if George Lucas were in love with HIMSELF, he probably wouldn’t be in the closet with R. Kelly.

Claude:  “Just think about it for a minute.  All the great movies with their non-computerized special effects, GREAT films…”

Me:  “Like Mouchette?”  She’s in the damn river, boy…”

Claude glared at me.  I took another sip of wine and batted my eyelashes.  “NOOO,” he protested.  “Like the whole 70’s oeuvre, you know, Bonnie and Clyde, all the Altman stuff, Shampoo, Don’t Look Now, the Peckinpah neo-westerns…”

I agreed that a lot of those were, in fact, good movies, but Star Wars was an EVENT for my generations, which I have recently learned is NOT the tail-end of the Baby Boomers, but rather “Generation Jones”, because we wanted to keep up with the Joneses.  Well, my maiden name is Jones, so I guess people were keeping up with us.  I’m not sure why.  We had ugly green shag carpet and brown appliances and my mother found some crazy seamstress to make all our clothes and we often looked mildly retarded.

Star Wars was, for Generation Jones, what the arrival of the Beatles was for the Baby Boomers.  It signaled something.  It was likely your first date movie.  The visuals were stunning, and fast-paced.  There was a love triangle.  And a big furry thing, who, if you were lucky, you could imitate to the delight of your friends.  Everyone I knew had the soundtrack on vinyl (the cover was black, it had a gatefold, I’ll never forget it).  And, crazily enough, I believe the movie holds up well even today.  It’s not 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I know is a stretch for many, many people to watch,.  But 2001 was truly groundbreaking in its use of special effects (hence the Oscar)  but very hard to understand in the plot department.

Ok, back to Star Wars.  I digress.  Especially about 2001, which I reviewed in another post.  How could this film be the “death of cinema”, as Claude suggested?  What about all the other movies that came out after it that were good and not sci-fi and not directed by George Lucas (or Stephen Spielberg who is also on his shit list)?  What about  All That Jazz or A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy or Valley Girl or Apocalypse Now or The Shining or ICE CASTLES???…I mean, I just couldn’t imagine that Star Wars had made it so that we should have shuttered the theatres and burned all the celluloid a la Fahrenheit 451.

Finally, Claude, after several more glasses of merlot, came around and admitted that there were other good movies after Star Wars, but, by God, that didn’t mean that Lucas didn’t deserve the same punishment as Jim Caveziel in The Passion of the Christ for his misdeeds.  And for the same 2 hour time-span.

Postscript:  The above was written about two years ago.  Over the weekend, I was going through some stuff and found a vintage 1977 official Star Wars C3P0 necklace.  It wasn’t mine.  Proof, as Claude said, that he loved Star Wars as a kid too.  But  he was five when the film came out, so it’s understandable.  And after learning more about Lucas through an unnamed source, I’m going to have to break down and agree with Claude’s sentence of punishment for Lucas.   What a wookie.

Postscript Postscript:  Claude says, “George Lucas is a turd.  So there.”  ‘Nuff said.

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Criterion Paranormal Intervention

March 19, 2010

Claude and I have noticed that there is a plethora of paranormal shows on (formerly) respected channels such as A&E, Discovery, History, etc.  Paranormal State, Paranormal Cops, Ancient Paranormal, Paranormal Intervention. That’s my favorite one because the title suggests that it would combine paranormal with another favorite of ours, A&E’s Intervention.  But it doesn’t.  I digress again. (I do that a lot.)  Intervention is, of course, about addiction and the intervention process.  They have three interventioners that they round-robin, and they all have the same pat phrases.  Our favorite is “There’s just a heck of a lot of love in this room,” which is the opening line for one particular interventioner.

Well, I’ve been thinking lately about calling Intervention.  Claude has a little bit of a “problem”.  He is addicted to Criterion Collection DVDs.  For those that don’t know, Criterion is a company dedicated to taking the finest in film and DVD extras and putting out extraordinary DVDs of the finest movies ever made.  Unfortunately, they are also now trying to skew to a younger crowd and have started putting out titles such as “The Aquatic Life of Steve Zizzou” and “Dazed and Confused” and “The Rock” and “Armageddon.”  Yeah.  Thanks, Criterion.  Anyway, Claude’s goal is to own every Criterion ever released.  The current count in the catalog is well over 500, and we have about 100.

Every weekend, we have to make a trek to the local used book/movie store to “hunt down Criterions” like some wildebeest.  I usually sit in the car, sometimes for an hour or more, while the hunter seeks the hunted.  Claude has this unusual behavioral change when he is around books or DVDs in a store – he becomes very excitable, sometimes his forehead shows beads of sweat, and he runs from aisle to aisle like a silver ball in a pinball machine.  I often worry.

So how does one break this Criterion addiction, especially since Claude, who is a graduate student, is secretly competing with a very bright young undergrad who has about 350 Criterions.  He’s even taken to buying these off his friend, like a dime bag, surreptitiously, after class, and sneaking the Criterions into the house in his bookbag.  Funny, his eyes are usually red, too, when he does that.

I can see the scene playing out in my mind from Claude’s Criterion intervention:  We’ve all gathered at some non-descript hotel – myself, Claude’s parents who have never watched a movie more high-brow than what you find on the Sci-Fi (or Sy-Fy) channel; his smug undergrad friend who, of course, doesn’t want to be bested, and our favorite local band, just for support and possibly a tune or two.  His parents are crying.  “Claude, why can’t you just be content to watch Mansquito? Or even Black Hole?  You know Judd Nelson plays an ASTROPHYSICIST (now there’s a bit of casting) and he SAVES Minneapolis!” wails his mother, clutching a handkerchief and her rosary beads.  “Yeah, don’t you remember 2012?  All those EXPLOSIONS!  It was so GREAT! And all you want to watch is this black-and-white crap that no one can understand!” booms his father.

Interventionist:  “There’s a heck of a lot of Criterions in this room….”

Letter reading begins.

Dear Claude,

Your Criterion addiction has affected me negatively in the following ways.  First of all, I never have any money anymore.  You watch every Criterion you get like the Zapruder film, and all the extras and all the commentary tracks, which leaves like zero time for me, personal hygiene, help with a chore or two, or reading my Facebook posts, and most importantly of all, it keeps you from looking at my ICanHazCheezburger cat pictures which I hold so dear.  You need to know if you do not accept this gift of help today, there will be consequences.  I will stick objects such as silverware and half-chewed gum in the DVD player.  I will erase all the stuff you’ve had taped for 2 years on the DVR.  I will no longer accept your emails that say things like “Watched Empire of Passion, an Oshima film that forms an informal diptych w/ In the Realm of the Senses, which you bought for me here awhile back. Very different in execution but equally fascinating.”  Mainly because I can’t understand what you’re saying, so I’m just sayin’.  What is a diptych anyway?  (Claude’s mother wails in agony).

At this juncture, Claude runs out of the hotel room and away from the intervention in angry protest.  He has to smoke a cigarette (he doesn’t smoke).  He’s not getting on that plane to whatever rehab center Intervention has in mind.  90 days, no Criterion, no way.  Claude runs outside the hotel and begins rolling around in the grassy area, wailing.  I try desperately to console him by pulling out a copy of Criterion’s Lola Montes and rubbing it on his face, soothingly.  It doesn’t work.  “It HAS to be a BUNUEL!” he shouts at me, angrily.  I stop to think what films of Bunuel’s might be on Criterion…honestly, I don’t know.  I would think Discreet Charm would be on Criterion…just not sure.  I struggle with how to placate Claude sans Bunuel.  People are stopping in the parking lot to stare at this spectacle.  “Will Bergman do?” I ask in my sweetest, meekest voice.  “BERGMAN??? NO!!!  Wait…YES!!”  His choking sobs start to subside as I give him Smiles of a Summer Night. The interventionist approaches.  “I think you’re on the wrong A&E show,” he says.  We look at him, puzzled.  “Have you ever heard of a little show called ‘Hoarders’?  It comes on right after I do, on Monday nights.  Ten o’clock.”

We nod our heads as if we’ve just received the key to Enlightenment by the Buddha himself, just to get the interventionist off our backs and keep us off A&E, which used to be “arts” and “entertainment”.  We won’t be watching Hoarders.  We’ll be watching Criterion.

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Proof

February 25, 2009

Proof

So on our way home from lunch today, Claude, obviously caffeine-fueled, starts a diatribe about French New Wave film, and I learned the following:

-French new wave filmmakers started out mainly as film critics

-French new wave film was decidedly un-Hollywood with its use of strange shot selection, whereas Hollywood was all about the invisible cuts

-The French were the first to take Alfred Hitchcock seriously
So, I drop Claude off and head back to work at my office job, and Claude sends me this, from the Onion A.V. Club (a personal favorite of Claude’s of course), just posted today (well, now yesterday).  There are no coincidences.

So now I have my proof.  Claude is a film snob.  And a geek.  This is why I love him.  Oh, yeah, and he’s real smart.  Also, I think he’ll have some choice things to say about the French New Wave himself, which I may ask him to post as a follow-up “guest” column, where he can call the well-respected Onion A.V. Club on their omission of Chabral from their “French New Wave” article found here.

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How I became the wife of a film snob

February 21, 2009

I really have to blame Yahoo Messenger for this one.
Ok, ok, I was on the Internet. Which, that night, amounted to closing pop-up windows from names I couldn’t pronounce saying “Hey, wanna see my pics?” and a link.
Then Claude appeared with a simple “Hello.” Very Dave-like, if you know what I mean. “Hello, Claude,” I’m sure I replied. A minute or two passed. Claude was parsing words. “How are you tonight?” “I’m fine, Claude, and you?”

“I see you like Welles.”

And there’s where it started.

Yes, I like Welles, I like what I have seen of Welles very much, and was proud of the fact that my profile listed such an obscure film as “The Third Man” (which wasn’t even directed by Welles, as Claude has pointed out numerous times) as one of my favorites, along with a couple of Kubrick films.

Apparently, that’s what deemed me worthy of eventually ending up at Claude’s apartment with a bottle of rum. The first night, well, we didn’t watch any movies, but after a few visits to Claude’s “lair”, I began to notice the shelves and shelves and shelves of videos, many unmarked, and DVD’s. Soon our conversations became an endless series of “Have you seen (fill in the blank)” and “but have you seen_____???”

I learned that my self-image of someone who was educated about film, hip to film, knowledgeable about film, and maybe even knew a little something about film was completely wrong. Having 2001: A Space Odyssey as your favorite movie does not put you in the Claude crowd.

Soon, conversations were going like this: Claude: “Oh, sure, you LOVE Kubrick – you’ve only seen four of his films! FOUR! And not even his best ones! And what about Bresson? And Kurosawa and Truffaut and BERGMAN, for crissakes, BERGMAN???”

So I agreed to be a pupil in Claude’s version of Film School 101. Whiteboards appeared, and I had to listen to long, wine-fueled (which I was providing the fuel, like an idiot) diatribes about the transcendental yet ethereal oeuvre Bresson and his use of non-actors as actors.

Yeah.

I tied the knot with Claude, for better or for worse, which in the case of film, in the beginning, I often thought meant for worse, but it has actually turned out better.  However, now Claude has taken to “sic-ing” his friends on me about film – particularly Steve, who teaches film on the west coast.  Steve comes for a visit in 2 weeks, and he has suggested a steady diet of Bresson for me, which I’m hoping, for my sake, he’s kidding about.  I’ve procured one of Steve’s all-time favorites (on Criterion, of course) in hopes of steering him away from that tsunami of depression and suicidal endings.

So, Claude, I may make fun of your Bresson and Ikiru, but I love so many other films and directors you’ve intro’d me to.  And I’ll stay in 101 until probably the day I die.