Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Notes On A Committed Cinema
October 28, 2007, 3:06 am
Filed under: notes, quotes


“For a while I was like the students — emotional,” he confessed. “But now I realize you have to know who you are, where you’re starting from. Each place has a specific struggle. I can’t describe anything except what I know. In France the main battle is at the moment ideological. In America, the Black Panthers may be justified in taking up arms, or not. I don’t know, and I won’t prescribe policy for them. Movies are only a screw in the mechanism of the revolution, a secondary part. But for us in the Dziga-Vertov Group right now, filmmaking is our main activity (for others it may be time to take a gun).”

– Jean-Luc Godard, in an interview with Andrew Sarris for the Village Voice in 1970 (reprinted Jean-luc Godard: Interview)


“The death of an artist is too high a price to pay for the birth of a revolutionary, even when the revolution seems to make more sense than ever before.”

– Andrew Sarris, addressing his reader at the conclusion of the same interview, critical of the turn Godard’s career had taken.


“At some point or other, every leftist cinephile has had to decide to devote him or herself to the aesthetic realm, to engage with representations, to take on faith that “work on the text” has material repercussions and that, pace Marx, interpreting the world is at least a partial means towards changing it. Gianvito’s work does not disagree. Profit motive is, after all, a radical work of art and by no means a pamphlet. Any attentive viewer will immediately perceive Gianvito’s faith in the capacity of art to motivate through both beauty and intellection. But, like a select few others in history of film—the gadflies and conscience-prickers, like Peter Watkins, Straub/Huillet, and Jon Jost—Gianvito makes work that asks a delicate, crucial question again and again. What can film do? And when is film not enough? If you are roused to action by Gianvito’s film but find that inspiration strangely disconcerting, perhaps it’s because it both prompts you to take to the streets, and asks you to reconsider the reasons you may have given yourself for not doing so.”

– Michael Sicinski (website), at the close of an interview with filmmaker John Gianvito about his new film Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, loosely inspired by and a tribute to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.


Reflections On a Committed Cinema
An e-mail dialogue between John Gianvito, Paul Chan and Pablo de Ocampo

– [I think the entire exchange is highly relative to the topic so I’ll forego a quote]

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Open Letter to
Filipino Artists
(by Emmanuel Lacaba)

A poet must also learn
how to lead an attack.
– Ho Chi Minh


Invisible the mountain routes to strangers:
For rushing toes an inch-wide strip on boulders
And for the hand that’s free a twig to grasp,
Or else we headlong fall below to rocks
And waterfalls of death so instant that
Too soon they’re red with skulls of carabaos.

But patient guides and teachers are the masses:
Of forty mountains and a hundred rivers;
Of plowing, planting, weeding, and the harvest;
And of a dozen dialects that dwarf
This foreign tongue we write each other in
Who must transcend our bourgeois origins.

South Cotabato
May 1, 1975


You want to know, companions of my youth
How much has changed the wild but shy young poet
Forever writing last poem after last poem;
You hear he’s dark as earth, barefoot,
A turban round his head, a bolo at his side,
His ballpen blown up to a long-barreled gun:
Deeper still the struggling change inside.

Like husks of coconut he tears away
The billion layers of his selfishness.
Or learns to cage his longing like the bird
Of legend, fire, and song within his chest.
Now of consequence is his anemia
From lack of sleep: no longer for Bohemia,
The lumpen culturati, but for the people, yes.

He mixes metaphors but values more
A holographic and geometric memory
For mountains: not because they are there
But because the masses are there where
Routes are jigsaw puzzles he must piece together.
Though he has been called a brown Rimbaud,
He is no bandit but a people’s warrior.

South Cotabato and Davao del Norte
November 1975


We are tribeless and all tribes are ours.
We are homeless and all homes are ours.
We are nameless and all names are ours.
To the fascists we are the faceless enemy
Who come like thieves in the night, angels of
The ever moving, shining, secret eye of the storm.

The road less traveled by we’ve taken-
And that has made all the difference:
The barefoot army of the wilderness
We all should be in time. Awakened, the masses
are Messiah.
Here among workers and peasants our lost
Generation has found its true, its only home.

Davao del Norte
January 1976

Comment by Alexis

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