HEY YOU! NOGOODFORME.COM is now found at...NOGOODFORME.COM! You've stumbled upon our old mirror site instead. Please point your browsers to NOGOODFORME.COM instead and update your newsfeed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/nogoodforme/tYOS. Thanks and we shall see you at NOGOODFORME.COM!
Tuesday , December 14, 2010
The nogoodforme Astrological Guide to Arthouse Cinema: Cinematic Cleverness and Contemplation for Geminis
Everyone, THANK YOU for all the comments, emails and Tweets on each of the installments of the Astrological Guide to Arthouse Cinema so far! I didn't really anticipate how epic this is turning out, but thanks to the vastness of the zodiac and my eagerness to share my love about a bazillion movies under the sun, it's turning into a content behemoth. So far I've gotten to explore action films for Aries and sensual/foodie/visually gorgeous films for Taurus; this time, I look at the wealth of cinematic cleverness that would keep a Gemini's wonderfully intricate intellect occupied, as well as some seemingly uncharacteristic choices for beautifully quiet films that should suit the other side of complex Geminis.
GEMINI: Geminis are, hands down, some of my most favorite people in the world. On their good twin days, they are so much FUN and great to be around, full of good spirits and a certain quicksilver intelligence. They're often great with wisecracks and possess an ability to crack me up so hard I could burst open my appendix from the laughter, and they're brainiac types, possessing restless intellects that are constantly whirring and buzzing. Your favorite Twitter is probably a Gemini; so is your favorite blogger, because these people are generally born writers. (Geminis are ruled by Mercury, which is the planet of communication.) Even if they're quiet Geminis, they have a certain way with words and language. Whether it's low-key, caustic or wacky, they have that quality known as wit.
Geminis often have a bon vivant side to them; they love to get out into the world and see what life has to offer. They love ideas and experience, collecting these like a squirrel hoards nuts. They know what's up in terms of what's happening or about to happen, and if they're the Gemini to end all Geminis, they're the classic cruise director type, the person who organizes all the social activities of a posse. (I once dated a dude Gemini and I think we maybe went on five proper dates during our year together because EVERYTHING was a group activity. As a cozy, snuggly Cancer, this drove me NUTS!) You know the type of people who read three different international newspapers every morning? Or those people who do the crossword faithfully every week? Or that insanely prolific writer/blogger? That's probably a Gemini, plugged-in, clever, intellectually intrigued by nearly everything under the sun. Their flirtatiousness takes on the quality of "witty banter" or, at the very least, a high level of conversation.
Geminis are generally very cerebral people--not unemotional (we'll get to that later), but mind-oriented in that their first response is often a mental one. Because their minds are so agile, they often rely on them to process their life experience. Because of this, it sometimes takes awhile to know Gemini as an emotional commodity (indeed, sometimes they're often confused and perplexed by their emotional natures in general). Sometimes Geminis are almost too smart and clever, in the sense that they find it really easy to talk themselves into ideas and relationships that just scream of BAD NEWS, FUCKING RUN, GEMINI! They're able to construct these dense, labyrinthine structures of explanation that even they have a hard time finding their way out of, so dizzy they are with theories, suppositions, and formulas--everything but cold hard facts. Sometimes giving a Gemini relationship advice is a losing game because of this reason, and you kind of have to wait till they start talking themselves out of something to really offer anything constructive because they just won't listen to you otherwise. (You know how your words get twisted around in an argument and you're like, "THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEAN!" That's a classic Gemini rhetorical move!)
Being the sign of the Twins, Geminis also have a "shadow" side that often they don't acknowledge; so many Geminis I know, who are generally such good-spirited, bright-eyed people, have struggled with depression and self-destructive patterns of behavior. It's not that they're secretive, but it's more like there's a part of them that eludes even themselves, and their lack of acknowledgment gives this shadow side way more power and compulsion than is healthy for everyday life. It's kind of a Gemini's task as a human being to integrate this into their consciousness. And once they do, of course, they'll want to communicate and tell everyone about it. But this is their gift, their ability to communicate directly and often with such great panache that you don't mind if a Gemini does all the talking.
Geminis, therefore, are perfect for word-soaked movies featuring clever conceits and often intellectual gymnastics; they love movies that have ideas at their core, that are stories-within-stories, that have playful takes on the conventions of time and space themselves. There are some directors and movies I can think of right away that have natural Gemini affinities: Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), I Heart Huckabees, even Spike Jonze's films. I'd even put David Lynch's Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive in there for the way they're Mobius-strips of storytelling, bending their tales in and around themselves so that their halves are both uncannily similar and disturbingly different. But this is straight-up foreign arthouse we're talking about! The most classic story-within-a-story arthouse film I can think of is Akira Kurosawa's legendary Rashomon. Kurosawa is one of the most influential directors that probably ever existed--one can argue that The Seven Samurai invented the action/buddy-movie template. (Heads up, Aries--you'd probably really dig The Seven Samurai.)
Rashomon tells the story of the rape of a woman and the murder of her husband in ancient imperial Japan, but from the various witnesses perspectives, which all naturally differ from one another. It's legendary for its ability to fracture the idea of truth, and by the end it's truly difficult to know which one is right because each turn of the tale is rendered so well by Kurosawa. It's also known for its mindblowing, gorgeous black-and-white cinematography. (For the amazing rain scene, Kurosawa had the water colored black so that it showed up better on film--it sounds insane, but it looks phenomenal.)
The first part of Rashomon:
Of course, the Rashomon template has been used to great effect in other films: Tom Tykwer, of course, made the excellently entertaining Run Lola Run. Taking a more somber, elegiac tone, Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais and written by the novelist Marguerite Duras, enfolds the story of a couple wandering post-atomic bomb Japan with one of the woman's experiences in WWII-time France. It's a genuinely beautiful, hypnotic movie, and the language of the film is to die for, thanks to Duras' writing. I highly, highly recommend it:
Another far-out example of this mini-genre of stories-within-stories would be Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mysterious Object at Noon, a innovative Thai film which finds the filmmaker traveling from village to village in the north of Thailand as each village tells a story, picking up where the previous village left off. (In the middle of the film, the filmmaker kind of loses his interest in this project, and sort of just hangs out with the villagers.) It's another film that uses a nontraditional narrative structure (in this case, the Surrealist technique of "exquisite corpse") to explore a rural, "country" population that isn't usually shown in Thai films.
I LOVE hearing the language of my people in Mysterious Object At Noon:
Of course, Geminis would appreciate films that aren't just structurally clever, but those that are engaged with ideas in a certain way that is playful and witty. To me, the most classic filmmaker who does this is my favorite filmmaker ever, Jean-Luc Godard. Godard's output as a filmmaker is vast and hard to nail down from this vantage point; he's still making films that can more be described as "essays," using historical and fictional sequences to explore intensely big idea. They're not easy, by any means, but highly rewarding if you can get over the need for storytelling and the conventions of narrative filmmaking. But Godard began his career in the French New Wave as the equivalent of that smart-ass, clever dude who was almost too cool for school. You know that guy who sat in the back of class and said smirky, funny-obnoxious things but was almost too smart for his own good? That's basically Godard in the high school that was European arthouse cinema in the late 50s/early 60s. I'm going to be mentioning a few of his films throughout the rest of the series, but I love his Masculin-Feminin as a quintessential Gemini movie: it's a wonderful combination of playfulness, but it's still very smart and intellectually engaged with the culture of the late 60s, mixing concerns that would make an eclectic-minded Gemini excited: feminism, the sexual revolution, consumerism, Marxism and youth culture. (Also, it's got fashion and beauty to die for, not to mention super-cutie Jean-Pierre Leaud.)
I really wish I had been young in Paris in the mid-60s...Masculin-Feminin:
Of course, Gemini is the sign of the twin, and so I've got some recommendations for the "evil twin" version of Gemini movies. If the ideal "good twin" Gemini movie is a fun, clever, inventive genre-bender with loads of witty dialogue, then the opposite are films featuring near-catatonic, repressed or edgy characters that say very little in near-silent movies. Luckily for the evil Gemini twin, I LOVE movies with these kind of characters. One of my most favorite movies in this mini-genre (and one of favorite movies EVER; I'll probably write a Movie of My Life essay on it) is Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar. There's very little plot in Morvern Callar: Morvern is a young Scottish woman who finds that her boyfriend has committed suicide in their apartment on Christmas, and the film follows her drifting in the aftermath of the traumatic event through Glasgow, sex, drugs, cheesy awful Club Med vacations and then a super-saturated Spain. Don't let the lack of action deter you--the movie is visually stunning, has one of the best soundtracks ever, and boasts a luminous, subtle performance from Samantha Morton. It's basically a character study of grief, and Geminis who need an object lesson on integrating their shadow side with their public Gemini-ness will find it strangely life-affirming.
To get a feel of how beautifully the soundtrack and the visuals work in Morvern Callar, watch this bit with "Some Velvet Morning" by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra:
Another film about a woman isolated into near-silence by grief is Francois Ozon's Under the Sand. Ozon's such an interesting director, especially in regards to women characters--sometimes I think he's scarily misogynistic, but sometimes he's amazing, as he is with the main character of Under the Sand A woman, played by the fantastic Charlotte Rampling, loses her husband one day out at the beach--he just disappears, presumably by drowning, but it's not a given since no body has been found. Charlotte's character resumes her quiet, correct, bourgeois life in Paris while she waits for news, and finds the fabric of her mind slowly unraveling. It's yet another film anchored by a phenomenal acting performance, and the richness of the film is found by what's not said or seen:
Of course, I feel like you can't really have a discussion of silence in cinema without talking about the incomparable Robert Bresson. It's hard to encapsulate in a glib, quick way how Bresson's work on you (which will probably upset Geminis--they often like everything to be quick and clear as soon as possible); the word "spiritual" gets applied often to his films. They're not particularly religious, per se, but they often focus on the inner life of a character, and there's a purity to the simplicity of his style that is highlighted by a heightened use of sound and silence. Bresson gets worshipped by cinephiles for the. Geminis who need a sense of stillness and purity to calm their restless minds should check out Bresson, even if his films deal profoundly with common human cruelty and exploitation (albeit in a very quiet, matter-of-fact way):
The trailer for Au Hasard Balthasar, i.e. the cutest donkey in a movie EVERRRR (although it will make you sad how it is treated in the movie):
Silence is used to much different ends in the work of French director Jean-Pierre Melville, who is most famous for Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge--taut, laconic films featuring very self-contained, unemotional male characters engaged in cons, heists and the like. If Under the Sand and Morvern Callar are concerned with women silenced by their grief, then Melville is about the silence of men operating in strict codes of masculinity. The beautiful Alain Delon stars in both Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge, and if his beauty isn't enough of an enticement to spend two hours in his cinematic company, then Melville's formal, rigorous direction should appeal to cinematic types--he moves the camera with such economy and care that it's masterful to watch his films.
The beautiful Alain Delon in Le Samourai:
And finally, one of the quietest yet loveliest films I've seen in recent memory is the Turkish film Climates, which charts the ebbs and flow of a relationship with such careful, delicate observation. It's truly exquisite, and while it may not fit one side of the Gemini coin, the other side will sit quietly with its beauty and contemplation.
So that's what I have for Gemini! Have to admit, it's one of my favorite groups of films so far, containing so many of my personal favorites...maybe I'm secretly a Gemini? (I do have Mercury in Gemini...) Keep your eyes peeled for Cancer, coming soon--true to the strange, beautiful lunacy that is my own astrological sign, it promises to be a mix of tearjerkers, unsentimental portrayals of children, some more foodie/family films and some bananas sex stuff as well.
Tags: Akira Kurosawa, Alain Delon, Alain Resnais, arthouse cinema, astrology, Charlotte Rampling, Climates, Francois Ozon, Gemini, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jean-Pierre Melville, Lynne Ramsey, Morvern Callar, Rashomon, Robert Bresson, twins, Under the Sand
Share | | | |