Wednesday, September 4, 2013

CINEFESSIONAL: I'VE YET TO SEE A SINGLE OPHÜLS PICTURE

Please, Father, hear my confession...



Whenever I have something to get off my film geek chest, particularly an unfashionable opinion, I come here to whisper it through the lattice. Whomever will hear will hear. I am fully aware that words I say in these segments will dampen my (albeit minuscule)  reputation in the film community, but honesty is a policy I revere and mirror. Most importantly, my deep, dark cinematic secrets will surely help one better understand the movie buff I am, if not threatening my very status as one. 


(Curator's Note: The above still comes from In Bruges, the modern masterpiece with a most memorable scene revolving around a confessional. I also stumbled upon this unique list over on The Film School Rejects when looking for that frame, "The Top 10 Confession Scenes in Modern Film.")

Today's confession:

Father, I've yet to see a single (Max) Ophüls picture.


Who?


If you said "Who?" then at least I'm better off than you, which is good news for me and bad news for you.


Explanation


I really wasn't planning on confessing this. In fact, I didn't necessarily feel that it needed confessing, that is until I watched a certain video courtesy of the Criterion monthly newsletter.




It's a video I'm starred, favorited or otherwise stored away (on a never-shrinking list of URLs thanks to my internet-drenched life) to one day look at but mostly likely never would have... And yetI found myself watching Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA, quite possibly my favorite American filmmaker) analyzing some of the cinematography on display in The Earrings of Madame de..., the penultimate film in Max Ophüls' filmography. To be fair, I think we should also give a shout out to cinematographer Christian Matras (whose work I have seen in Le Grande Illusion). Here's that video now:




I've referenced this before, but perhaps the only worthwhile tidbit I received from rapper Young Jeezy's debut album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, came from the second track, "Standing Ovation." In the first verse (before we reach this winner: "That's why I got this glass pot and this triple beam, I tell 'em Money Talks like Charlie Sheen") Jeezy announces, "Now I'm ya favorite rapper's favorite rapper." I've thought about that in terms of filmmaking (among other things). PTA is one of my favorites. Ophüls is one of his.


A co-worker told me about Anderson's philosophy on film school, I don't know when/where he supposedly said this, but it's simple to relate. On Day 1 of film school you, the professor, shouldn't show them the Odessa steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 tour de juxtaposition, Battleship Potempkin. You show them whatever is particularly new, popular and demonstrates considerable craft. You get them excited about film and if they are truly scholars of the art they will trace the roots back, take the Odessa steps as it were, to De Palma's The Untouchables (maybe firing their intellectual wad with The Naked Gun first) and they will slowly and surely make their way back to Eisentein and beyond - likely not without some professorly guidance though. One of my instructors in the media arts program at BYU would quote a tenant in regards to this manner of exposing a pupil's mind. "Milk before meat," he would say, especially when it came to dealing with matters of "content" in media, a touchy subject at my particular and religious alma mater.

(Curator's Note: I see the merits of this educational concept but have some differing beliefs of my own. I started to expound upon them here but found they were taking this post in an entirely different though still valuable direction. Another time then.)


Anderon's ontology have proven themselves through my own experience with his films. Of his I think I first saw Boogie Nights, on the surface it's a provocative and thrilling ensemble piece about the porn industry of yesteryear. Beneath that is an incredible calculated character casserole set in the San Fernando Valley, depicting the cultural migration into the 1980s, scrutinizing the potential of parenthood, begging the question of finding success in our lives, all while providing a greater commentary on the evolution of the very medium of film. I went in for the premise (and possibly the poster). I stayed for the substance. I moved, not so much laterally or longitudinally but a combination of the two, through his body of work before taking the necessary steps to Robert Altman, an artist whose portfolio I've still got as a looming pile on my desk to work through - two confessions for the price of one, Father. Max Ophüls is now on my agenda. That's how it works for active-filmgoers, that's how is must work.


I first heard of Max Ophüls due to Filmspotting, of which I should really have a framed picture of their podcast logo on my wall beside my diploma from BYU. Both were astronomically important in my film education. Thanks to a Filmspotting marathon back in 2006 I became infatuated with the work of Werner Herzog (again, not without an easier stepping on point in the form of Grizzly Man) who has grown to become one of my single greatest influences in all things cinema, both as a theoretician and a practitioner.  Some seven years later they've done a Max Ophüls marathon after which they gave out The Dollies. Ophüls is in part known for his tracking/dolly shots, probably what initially caught PTA's eyes and interest as it's known he's a big proponent of using in his own films (sneak a peek at the existence of one in Inherent Vice). I've listened to all the episodes pertaining to the Ophüls marathon, with little-to-no reference of what they were discussing. Nonetheless, it still became a pressing matter on my mind. A niche to fill. A blind spot to rectify. Another auteur of which to become a connoisseur  But first, this confession to tell. That education courtesy of Filmspotting was the gathering of firewood. PTA's video was the flamethrower.

Oh, great. I just tried adding Letter From an Unknown Woman to my Netflix DVD queue only to find out they do not have it... But they did have this one.


Until next time, Father. Stay positive.

1 comment:

Trent said...

Looks like I have to go watch every film of his quickly so I can laud that over you ;) (I haven't seen any of his either but a fair number are in my to watch list)