Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #31.1


End Of The Week Shorts #31.1

Today's Shorts: Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth (2004), Yeelen (1987), Scenario du Film ‘Passion’ (1982), Passion (1982), Scenario du Film ‘Passion’ (1982), The Battle Of Algiers (1966), The Wedding Party (2016), Interior. Leather Bar. (2013)

Dave Chappelle's For What It's Worth's punch wears away with time and re-watches. 
I remember laughing quite hard when first seeing this, and can still see the mechanics of a strong hour quite clearly with effortless audience interaction, a great stage presence and a well structured (edited) set with a few call backs that still got me laughing. However, knowing where all the jokes end left Chappelle's delivery feeling somewhat contrived. Whilst you may consider him a dirty comic, it usually feels like he's saying something he thinks it naughty; there is no true commitment, seriousness or strength that comes from Chappelle's stage personality; he's clearly a comic's absurdist creation, one that is used perfectly, but lacks a genuine, real force of personality behind it. 
I would usually agree without a thought that Chappelle is one of the greats, but I don't think he holds up too well for me.

Yeelen (or Brightness) is often considered one of the strongest and uniquely-voiced pieces of world cinema - and it's easy to see why. 
Though this has some pacing issues around the elongated mid-section, Yeelen is a highly immersive projection of Mali mythology. In such, this narrative installs specific cultural symbols into universal tropes of mythology most will be familiar with: the story of a son confronting a patriarch, of establishing a family, of journeying into the wilderness in the name of a matriarch, of magic, prophecy and premonition with themes of birth, re-birth and fertility and tropes of the magical totem (often a sword, staff or piece of jewellery) and spiritual animals. This is then a film that is deeply embedded into its own culture, but nonetheless accessible and meaningful to anyone familiar with traditional narrative structure and conventions. Highly recommended for those interested in word cinema.

Scenario du Film Passion is a semi-solid experimental 'making of' video in which Godard explains and reflects on the script writing process of his film Passion. 
Having not seen Passion yet, I can't judge exactly how good this is, but Godard is relatively focused and precise with his use of imagery and dialogue here. Whilst I believe this could have been boiled down to a short essay that captures the essence of what he communicates, Godard's ideas of seeing and describing and finding a balance between reality and metaphor, between labour and love, spliced in with some expressive sequence of sound montage, make this a worthwhile watch.

Simply tedious, Godard's Passion is an emotionless and distant rumination on what it means to work, to love, to love your work and to work for love. So, in a way, this narrative is just a drab mouth piece for Marxist ideology with strokes of existentialism. 
This only comes through thanks to repetitious aphorisms and Godard's experimental making of film that accompanies this - which reduces further the purpose of this film.
Though I didn't understand the intertextual references to paintings with the numerous 'tableaux vivants' (living paintings), these sequences were the most affecting part of Passion with Godard capturing the lines and textures of bodies beautifully in the camera--though not with his mise en scène as the composition is never evocative--and with much support from music. 
All in all, this really didn't speak to me and I can't recommend it.

Having seen Godard's Passion, I can appreciate this as supporting material - and in a way, I think this is more substantial than the film itself 
However, this is primarily evidence for Godard's focus on form and style. Godard is very clearly far from stupid, but he lacks character and heart. More often than not, Godard feels like a shell that consumes art, philosophy and cinema, but hasn't got anything to really provide to the forms. Of course he is an important auteur of the New Wave who brought (somewhat) new grammar to the fore - and he continues to do this to this day. However, Godard merely presents possibility - which is, in a way, something he consciously aims to do. It is a shame, nonetheless, that Godard is only potential; that his intellect doesn't produce substantial art - or, at the least, it produces art that I see very little purpose in consuming as more than a theoretical and intellectual venture.

The first time I saw The Battle Of Algiers I simply didn't connect to it and found it a little tedious. However, on this re-watch, I saw a very different film. This is fast paced and finely tuned; there is very little fat on this story and every thing is captured with articulate cinematic language that overshadows some of the technical problems within. Though all of the characters grow to mean very little in an emotional sense, this narrative constructs a poignant depiction of revolution. In such, The Battle Of Algiers shows that the rebellion and war depicted is justified by the people in their present context, but that their acts and the situation they are in are nonetheless unjustifiable. There is then a condemnation of the abstract throughout this film; it is hard to point to black and white villains and heroes; everyone has dirt on their hands and everyone believes they are doing what is right. 
For this, I'm glad I got to revisit The Battle of Algiers and must urge anyone who doesn't like it to give it another go.

Bursting with energy and emotion, it is quite understandable that The Wedding Party is the highest grossing Nollywood movie of all time. 
Knowing that this was going to be predictably structured, knowing that the melodrama and acting would be profuse at points, I think I went into this film with the right mind-set. Accepting the tone and style of this film as conventions of the mainstream Nollywood picture left this highly enjoyable and quite funny. Though many jokes don't hit, there are a plethora of distinct characters placed throughout this film and a good handful that are quite likeable. Added to this, the direction and cinematography are solid - though, there is a leaning towards odd mise en scène that unfortunately gives rise to many continuity errors. Despite the faults of this film, many characters are charming, and the strict structure pulls you through the run-time pretty smoothly. Recommended to all those interested in world cinema.

Interior. Leather Bar. is such an ingenious film. It assumes the forms and philosophies of many reflexive filmmakers (Godard especially), but brings character, fallibility, dimension and honesty to its questioning. In such, this docu-drama is about a group of gay people attempting to represent themselves by re-representing an older film, but lead by, and in cooperation with, many heterosexual filmmakers - James Franco for instance. All of the absurdity and stupidity that is attached to this results in a constant questioning of: Why? Why are they trying to make this film? Why are we watching it? What on earth is going on? 
These questions produce no simple answer, rather give incite into the minds of archetypal characters: this is a character study of many contemporary personas. For the manner in which this is constructed, I still have to say that this is a masterpiece that everyone (no matter how squeamish - and as long as you are not a child) should try to see.

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End Of The Week Shorts #31.2

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