30 January 2010

The Man Who Skied Down Everest.

Like the world is a faulty piece of electronic equipment, and somewhere a person is turning dials, consulting a manual, calling a helpline, etc, smacking the machine etc, trying to smooth out the irregularities. Because just the other day my friend Richard and I were talking about nature, and anthropocentrism, and I told Richard that, largely due to watching Planet Earth on Blu-ray, I've recently begun to think of myself as sort of this upward growing mountain, or that my life is analogous to the growth of a mountain, and my hardships are the natural result of erosive elements, the wind, the melting snow, the rain, etc*.

And then last night I watched The Man Who Skied Down Everest. The film was recommended to me by a friend. She told me, "It's funny, like Night of the Lepus." It's not, or I don't get the joke. It's a serious film in which a man, Yuichiro Miura, confronts nature manifest, Mount Everest.

The film is narrated by Douglas Rain, ostensibly from material recorded by Miura in a journal during the expedition, and the intention is for the viewer to consider all the thoughts to be Miura's. The film begins with preparations for the journey. Joining Miura on his trip is a massive, eight-hundred person beast of a crew, including the filmmakers, press, scientists, and local and Japanese mountaineers. The crew dwindles during the ascent, and when Miura skis down the face of Everest only six other people are at the altitude with him (not counting the filmmakers, and I can't tell where the filmmakers are most of the time, though they seem rather gifted mountaineers).

The skiing is a hugely suspenseful final moment, but it's not the film's only great moment. The trip up the mountain is sometimes spiritual, meditative, adventurous, and humorous. Miura's journal entries lift the film above the neutrality of a nature documentary. There are terrific moments in mountainous villages and campsites, including the final village, a village of Sherpas of course. Miura's group also passes by an Everest alumni, an elderly man who tells Miura that if he was younger he'd join him on his trip, and he tells Miura that "Challenge is what makes men." Etc accumulations of introspection and existential contemplation. There's a severe tragedy. There's practicing skiing down a mountain with a parachute.

* The Long Day Closes has a classroom scene in which the teacher lists the six causes of erosion. It's either the longest scene with the least relevance, or Davies knew I'd watch his film in the future and planted it there for me to receive, so I wouldn't feel so alone in the universe. The latter is more likely I think.

26 January 2010

The Long Day Closes.

There's this story about inviting Kendrick to a movie, Van Helsing, and you show up to the movie theater approximately on time, and then right when the movie's about to start Kendrick's family shows up but Kendrick isn't with them. Where is he? Who knows. You don't see him until three days later and by then you've forgotten the episode, because it wasn't really a big deal, but then the memory pops up when other similar Kendrick stories are being shared. A lot of people have Kendrick stories like this. You tell your Van Helsing one, someone else tells a similar story, laughs are shared, and then later the two stories get told together again. And time passes and other more important things happen in your life, and you tell the Van Helsing story one day at a dinner party and someone stands up across the table and says, "Didn't that happen to me, not you?" and neither of you are really sure. You sort it out, and yes, it is your story, but did it happen in 2003 or 2004 (it was a summer, Van Helsing is a summer movie, it was definitely a warm evening...let's IMDb Van Helsing, okay 2004...), but did it happen in Beavercreek or Centerville (I remember the parking lot was expansive, but I can't remember what it expanded towards, and there were lights out front...)...

And what I've done here is approximated the experience of seeing The Long Day Closes, which will surely blend into my dreams and memories, and uses the magic of cinema to express the magic of life. The protagonist is a small boy, a stand-in for a young Davis, and it's always clear that the story is being told in the present, by Davis looking back. The story feels like it's being told while Davis lies on a couch with his eyes closed, with various records and movie samples being played to accompany the storytelling. It's not a story really, he's just opening up to you. His thoughts drift (the camera drifts). The moments are scattered, the people (characters) disappear and reappear, and the impressions are strong. He tells you that he remembers believing, because of a teacher probably, that when you shine a flashlight into the sky the light travels on forever. He remembers staring out the window at a bricklayer who smiled at him. The smile vaguely confused him, and below his mother yelled at him to bring down a sheet, which he dropped onto her head. Etc.

The Long Day Closes is part of a trilogy. I haven't seen the other two. I don't know how/when I'll get the chance to. I'd like to see how they connect together and learn if the characters develop, what themes are shared/explored, and what the narrative scope is meant to be. Isolated from its siblings, it's a beautiful film full of mystery and strong emotions.

14 January 2010


Is it true that the moon is a detached piece of the Earth? If it isn't, believe anyway that it is, just for a moment. The relationship between most normal mainstream cinema and Daisies is the same as the relationship between the moon and the Earth. Chytilova's film was formed by the materials of cinema, but it exists solitarily, orbiting a greater mass.

This is a liberation of a different sort, not for example exclusively liberated from one thing. Because it's so impractical and impertinent in nature, it feels critical, maybe it's slightly critical, owing to its political context, but I don't think it's a critical film. I think that its total liberation lends itself to the idea that the film is a sponsorship for anarchy. How cute! Two girls, inviting older men out to dinner, and then ditching them at train stations, and in between discussing men, invisibility, etc, and going on crazy adventures, can be interpreted on deeper, more sinister levels.

Say that about a contemporary American comedy. Just try it.

These two amiable, adorable Czech girls, who go on a series of hilarious, entertaining escapades, are the conduits for the film's extraordinary, expansive depth. The reason Daisies feels framed within greater dimensions is because the quest of the two Maries is the essential point of anarchy: lawlessness, independence. Their terrain is limitless. How do you know you exist Marie, you aren't registered, you don't have a job. I exist Marie, because I am here with you. Essentially.

The narrative is anecdotal, and the filmmaking is playful. A shade of green in apples becomes a green-tinted image of the girls. Green apples in water become green apples on a plate. A trip becomes a sit. A train journey becomes a magical, colorful segue. Scissors cut into the film, rearranging the characters on screen. The girls seem to be able, in part, to manipulate the reality of their existence. The control they exercise in their narrative journey to become bad is sensational, surreal, and alluring. It is ultimately enough to provide them a final escape from themselves. However, the nature of this escape still follows the logic of reality, which requires that we pay for everything.