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MCN Columnists
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Pride’s Friday 5 (July 6, 2012)

1. Margaret

 

So: Margaret. A couple reviewers out east have tweeted camera-phone pictures of shiny new Blu-Rays. I’ll have to wait until Tuesday’s street date for the package “available exclusively at Amazon for a limited time.” As the press release put it, “the two-disc Blu-ray set includes the theatrical version as well as a bonus DVD featuring the never-before-seen extended cut.” So what is this 3:06:12 DVD cut? Is it a finished, fully sound-mixed version prepared by Lonergan as a first assembly? A third, a tenth? The reputed Schoonmaker-Scorsese cut? Will the big third-act moral turn cut from the theatrical version have the punch it has in the 185-page script? The recent Sunday New York Times Magazine article judiciously sidestepped small details as if the writer were also under legal injunction from speaking. Fox Searchlight has organized free showings of the extended version in New York and Los Angeles; Lonergan may finally be able to define the differences himself at the July 9 screening at the Sunshine, sponsored by indieWIRE as a first-come, first-served free-for-all.

Next week, then: “The profusion of life, of life in Manhattan post-9/11, of life that eddies in all directions, is novelistic in ambition, Dickensian in a welter of cracked legalisms. Paquin brandishes a bravura performance—shrill, feral, emphatic, self-dramatizing, self-cautioning, self-aware, self-immolating—that is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Available Tuesday, July 10, only from Amazon.

2. The Battle of Algiers

Honoring the fiftieth anniversary of Algerian independence, the great Battle of Algiers is showing this week in New York and Los Angeles. Not only have filmmakers that came after learned from Gillo Pontecorvo‘s documentary-styled study of  violence, but politicos think they have as well, as this BBC talkfest suggests.

And only if you’ve seen the movie, and aren’t seeing it again any time soon, a link to the masterful tension of the bombings sequence (6’01”).

Film Forum, NYC, Friday, July 6 – Thursday, July 12.  The trailer and a ton of cogent links are at FF’s Now Showing page.  New Beverly, Los Angeles, July 6 and July 7.

2. China Heavyweight

Yang Chung‘s terrific second feature, China Heavyweight, opens Friday, July 6 at IFC Center in NYC. I want to enjoy it a second time before writing about it at any length. It’s a worthy successor to Up The Yangtze. Synopsis from the press release: “Chang follows the charismatic Qi Moxiang, a former boxing star and state coach who recruits young fighting talent from the impoverished farms and villages across Sichuan province. A select few boys (and girls) are sent to national training centers, with the hope of discovering China’s next Olympic heroes. But will these potential boxing champions leave it all behind to be the next Mike Tyson? Their rigorous training, teenage trials and family tribulations are expertly intertwined with Coach Qi’s own desire to get back in the ring for one more shot at victory.”

3. The Overlook Hotel

Lee Unkrich brought us Toy Story 3. He also maintains an exhaustive Tumblr account of all things The Shining: Kubrick minutiae in glorious excess.

 

5. Contempt

In Jean-Luc Godard‘s 1963 masterpiece, Michel Piccoli plays Paul Javal, a playwright who needs money, and producer Prokosch is embodied by Jack Palance, that heavy among heavies, waving a packet of cash in Paul’s direction to doctor a script of the Odyssey that is to be directed by Fritz Lang. “I like gods,” Palance purrs, “I like them very much.” Paul has a beautiful young wife, Camille, played with momentous petulance by Brigitte Bardot. Paul asks whether he should write the script. Camille tells him it’s fine. Later she feels he hasn’t shown enough concern when Prokosch has been forward with her. No matter what Paul does, it will not be enough. Camille seizes on excuses, any excuses, to dismiss Paul’s adoration. She remembers the love she once thought they had: “Everything used to happen instinctively, in complicitous ecstasy.” For a good third of the movie, the couple bicker, contradict, cut at each other in their brightly colored, unfinished apartment. The world is reduced to Paul and Camille. Man and Woman. The furniture is as bold, as blunt as sculpture. A cerulean chair, a sunflower-colored throw, a red couch. Statues. Bardot. Her body rebukes the viewer, Paul. “Do you love my breasts, my eyes, my knees?” she asks, as the camera, transfixed, goes beyond objectification into blunt fetish. “I love you totally, terribly, tragically,” is all Paul, smitten, ever-equivocating, can tell her. At the end, the camera looks out onto the ocean, the horizon. Limitless possibility or infinite distance? The space between you and I, the space between a man, a woman. The sparkling azure of the sea is the crashing gulf between them. It is unfathomably huge. Contempt is the most tragic, piercing, hopeless of modern love stories. Youth, beauty, cinema—they will damage you. In his screenplay, Godard wrote, “In contrast to Paul, her husband, who always acts on the strength of a complicated series of rationalizations, Camille acts nonpsychologically… Though one might wonder about her, as Paul does, she never wonders about herself. She lives full and simple sentiments, and cannot imagine being able to analyze them.” And in an interview he elaborated, “Perhaps it is better not to understand too much.”

At LACMA in Los Angeles, Friday, July 6.  Also on Blu-Ray.

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MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

INTERVIEWER
Do you outline plays before you start to write them?

PINTER
Not at all. I don’t know what kind of characters my plays will have until they…well, until they are. Until they indicate to me what they are. I don’t conceptualize in any way. Once I’ve got the clues I follow them—that’s my job, really, to follow the clues.

INTERVIEWER
What do you mean by clues? Can you remember how one of your plays developed in your mind—or was it a line-by-line progression?

PINTER
Of course I can’t remember exactly how a given play developed in my mind. I think what happens is that I write in a very high state of excitement and frustration. I follow what I see on the paper in front of me—one sentence after another. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a dim, possible overall idea—the image that starts off doesn’t just engender what happens immediately, it engenders the possibility of an overall happening, which carries me through. I’ve got an idea of what might happen—sometimes I’m absolutely right, but on many occasions I’ve been proved wrong by what does actually happen. Sometimes I’m going along and I find myself writing “C. comes in” when I didn’t know that he was going to come in; he had to come in at that point, that’s all.
~ Harold Pinter

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