Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spotlight on .... Blake Butler 300,000,000 (2014)





'I've been told a thousand times that I could change the world if I really wanted it. That I needed to change my attitude first. Change my perception of reality. It's a piece of lazy and hollow advice that's never lead to any world-changing endeavors from anybody I've ever known. It's just a mantra that people chant to themselves, in order to feel different, enlightened. Blake Butler's new novel 300,000,000 looking through the vapidness of contemporary living with weapons far more sharp and dangerous than cynicism. It's a violently original thriller, a courageous literary novel and an abstract meditation on the thinness of the veil we call reality. It's also the first literary event in the post-David Foster Wallace era. It's a novel with fang and claws and it's going to fuck you up.

'Troubled police detective E.N Flood is in charge of the Gretch Gravey investigation. The man is charged with the murder of 440 people, including some of his own followers, teenagers looking for cheap drugs and quick thrills, who found a little piece of transcendence alongside the madman. Flood is going through the journals of Gravey, trying to find leads for his investigation, but what transpires of his researches is a madness that goes way beyond what you think madness can mean and what happens after that is a horror that goes way beyond what you think horror is. It's not madness. It's not horror anymore. It's the end of the world as we all know and love it.

'The first name that came to mind when reading 300,000,000 is Vladimir Nabokov. The structure is reminiscent of PALE FIRE (annoted text), which I believe served two purposes: 1) clue you in on the nature of Gretch Gravey's crimes and 2) break your natural defenses to believe that Gravey is a meaningless madman, because the analyzed text is not insulated the person analyzing and eventually become part of the same reality. Detective Flood's obsession with the Gravey case is going to reveal the true meaning of the cult leader's action and as Flood starts losing perspective on his investigation and becomes a part of it, Blake Butler adds more investigation notes from different authority figures that give you a creeping sense of the endgame of Gretch Gravey's ambitions.

'What if I told you I was Gretch Gravey? That I was you and you were me. That everyone I killed was by your hands as I had moved inside you, or just the opposite: you through me. That Gretch Gravey was not a person but a feeling.

'300,000,000 is an angry and terrifying novel, and I expect it to piss a lot of people off. It's an all-out, metaphysical declaration of war against the notions of bullshit individuality that paralyzes most of Occidental society into self-indulgent beatitude. I consider myself an angry person in general and reading 300,000,000 had the energizing effect of an ice bath on me. The ambitions of Blake Butler with this novel go beyond the narrative realm, as exposed by the long, high-flying, scattered passages of abstract storytelling. 300,000,000 is meant to challenge the sense of false security and moral righteousness that you've been lulling yourself with. I would call it ''of Nietzschean ambition'' but I don't think Blake Butler is nearly as idealistic as Nietzsche.

'I gotta say, it's a complicated and fractured read. I had a couple of ''what-the-fuck-am-I-reading?'' moments. 300,000,000 is that kind of novel, one that demands extra effort. If you can't stomach abstraction and sudden thematic departure, you gotta know that this is heavyweight stuff. 300,000,000 comes full circle though. It's not a vapid exercise in style, every detail matters and while you might find the conclusion to be a wild and chaotic departure from the original premise, your irritation might be rooted in the fact that you let your strong sense of morals dictate what you believe the conclusion of a thriller should be. Open up your mind and fall into Blake Butler's abysss, I say. Salvation is not necessarily on the way up.

'Every time something terrible happens in North America, some pundit is going to play the ''meaningless violence'' card and renounce the duty of trying to understand the crawling oblivion. Enter Blake Butler, literary alpha dog, and 300,000,000, a novel of systematic violence and apocalypse that's inspired by Vladimir Nabokov, Georges Bataille, James Ellroy and Sigmund Freud. Your excuse not to look into the abyss is invalid. Your faith in the fabric of reality is based on empty promises. 300,000,000 is a middle finger raised at the status quo and I fully expect the righteous to raise pitchforks at it. I also expect it to forever change the way we talk about violence in literature.' -- Dead End Follies



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Further

Blake Butler @ Twitter
G D C S + S W D P
Blake Butler's articles @ VICE
Blake Butler @ Harper Perennial
'Blake Butler's Waking Life'
Blake Butler's articles @ Fanzine
Blake Butler inteviews Brian Evenson @ BOMB
'For author Blake Butler, it’s an abstract world'
Podcast: Blake Butler interviewed by Brad Listi
Blake Butler 'Insomnia Door'
'I Do Love God' by Blake Butler
'Bleak House: Blake Butler taps into suburbia's gothic undercurrents'
Blake Butler and Sean Kilpatrick talk
Book Notes - Blake Butler "Sky Saw"
'A Ribbon of Language: Blake Butler'
'The Situation in American Writing: Blake Butler'
'13 Inspiring Quotes From Blake Butler’s “Sky Saw” That Will Give You Faith In Humanity'



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Readings & Eating


Blake Butler reading from "Sky Saw"


Blake Butler reads from "There is no year"


Blake Butler reading from "Ever"


Blake Butler reading from "Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia"


Blake Butler reading from "300,000,000"


Blake Butler eats Page 1 of "Scorch Atlas"



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Death Update
from DD




My password for coldegg.com is organwindow1991. I’ve activated the secondary login option, after I got hacked a while back, so you’ll also need to know that my first pet’s name was Sand. She was a hermit crab, but you don’t need to know that to log in. When I got hacked all they did was replace all my information like my name and location and occupation and relationship status to read MY Dear one Remain blessed in the Lord. They put a picture of a dead horse where my picture was; its eyes were open. I left it up that way for weeks.

My password for my email account is organwindow1999. I used to have a lot of different passwords but now I just change the number at the end when I feel it’s been used enough times that I should change at least a part of the password but don’t want to change the whole thing because I’ll forget. Feels like all the space inside my brain I used to use for things like remembering passwords has been eaten up by something else. Even the years will stick together, so they are special. 1991 is the year I was born. 1999 is the song by Prince. Other years that are important include 2004 and 2005, but for reasons I don’t feel like listing. I don’t know why organwindow. It’s just what came into my head the first time I had to make a password and now I have to think it almost every day.

I'm writing this all down in case I die. I've been having the feeling lately I'm going to die soon. I haven’t told anybody else. I don’t know who to tell. In my email drafts you’ll find a list of things I’d like to have be given to who if something does happen. I wish I knew an email to send it to besides just having it as a draft but I don’t so if no one finds this then I guess they’ll just do whatever they want with my stuff. It probably doesn’t matter, but maybe it does.

Sometimes it’s like I get this feeling that something is above me in the sky. That something is coming down so hard and fast at my head from somewhere way beyond the earth, and has been traveling for longer than I even know to get here. I used to duck out of the way and cup my head and try to see it but now I’ll just freeze and wait for it to hit. Nothing ever happens, but then the feeling always comes again, and each time when it comes again it’s like it’s closer now, and bigger now. I can’t imagine how much closer or bigger it needs to get before it’s here. It’s only aimed just right at me.

When I’m inside the feeling comes on in the opposite direction. It’s like there’s this point deep down between my ribs, a sharp low numb that’s easily ignorable but also keeps getting wider through my chest. It’s black and tingles and seems to have things also there inside it, like tendrils that connect back to wherever it begins. Maybe it begins at the same point the thing that seems from overhead did. I know the color black contains all colors. I can still walk around like nothing’s in there when it happens and be looking normal on the outside but something’s in there, and it’s alive. Then it’s gone. Last time I could not feel either of my arms or right down beneath my waist where my pubic bone begins and up my neck meat near my chin. I don’t know what will happen when it spreads across my brain.

I wonder if the blackness has a password, and can I guess it.

Anyway, what I’m saying is if I die, which I think I might, and might be soon, please get on coldegg.com and post a status update saying that I’ve died and that I saw it coming and that I’m okay with it and, well, goodbye. Also, please post posts on each of the people’s profile’s who I’ve left stuff to (again, see email drafts) and let them know what’s theirs and where they can come and pick it up. In some cases, for these people, I’ve also attached more private messages I’d like to have sent saying specifically thanks for being cool or fuck you for being a fuck or hey I always had a crush on you and couldn’t figure out how to say it or remember that one time, and so on. After that get on my mail and send out an email to my top contacts relaying the same thing as my status update was, with a note also that it’s not necessary to write back because I’m not going to get it.

If you feel like it, after that, you could post a thing also on cubecube.org and iloveyouifyouloveme.com and post the same. The passwords for both of these accounts is organwindow0000, which that number doesn’t stand for anything at all.



__________________
Blake Butler's playlist to stop thinking to
from Dazed Digital




SOMETIMES I CUT MY PENIS OFF IN MY SLEEP

I only want to listen to music that makes me unable to think. This must be interrupted with an advertisement for the company who will kill your parents. You shouldn’t have to be the one to kill your parents. We’re only ever really ever listening to unreleased Madonna.

If you can still keep thinking then it didn’t happen. I can’t believe I’m typing. I can’t believe I have to have hearing still.

Don’t listen to anything. Don’t read. Don’t do anything but eat so much food you can’t move and the uncreation is all inside you like 87687qyw o8ed7aoiusedfi uayspiud fp;iuahsi o;dufha;ksj df;kjhas;l djfh;lajkshdl ;fj a;lskjhdf ;ljahs ;dljfhao;js dhlfij asiludhfao ;iusyd ;ofuhas ;odiuyf powu8yeo f8uywpeo;ifu ;aousyd f;ouahs;o df;ajskhfk jahds lkjfh lkasjhdf lkjahs difuhaops udhf pouasdpfouyepw9oerufypauyd pfiuay spdoufy aosdfy.

This soundtrack is for sunlight on the elderly.





_________________
Blake Butler interviewed by Shane Jones
from Berfrois




Shane Jones: There’s a growing stress on first person narratives, female writers/feminism, and in general, socially and politically conscious fiction. Do you worry that a book like 300,000,000 will offend readers, or worse, is arriving in a shifting literary landscape?

Blake Butler: Is it growing, or was it always like this? I don’t put new emphasis on the desire of many to put practical, reality-based factors into play in a system of art that for me was always about blowing reality out of the way. There are training wheels all over the place, and there are holes. If I’m a hole, I’ll be one. And personally I’m glad to see the strikes against the brutal penises of old blowhards; if reality is your game you should at least not be a bro. Do I worry about offending readers, having no readers? I honestly don’t even think about it. I try to challenge myself to make something that would otherwise not exist if I did not exist. If anyone enjoys it, thinks about it enough to enjoy it or get angry, that’s a celebration. But it’s not the thing. Only time honors. Tumblr won’t exist in two years. MyRealSexLife.com will always out click poetry in the realm of not-yet-dead.

SJ: Do you identify with any group? Are you religious?

BB: I am not religious in the churchgoing sense or probably even many other senses, though I do believe in god, at least where the idea of god could be some force that exists outside reality. I do not necessarily understand why any human would imagine an illimitable entity and then think they can have a relationship with it as a human. My spirituality is more like silence, which is holier to me than wafers and wine. I don’t believe in voting because I don’t believe in acknowledging the lesser of two evils, which are both to me still evil. I would probably be killed in war, though I’m ambivalent to violence often when left alone in front of the computer. In general I try to keep my actions and opinions faithful to a private moral stricture that is maybe entirely arbitrary but to me seems more functional than any label; space is elastic, there are no real rules, though I try to have as much faith as possible, both in people and in fate as it appears over time. For the most part all of this leads me to spending a lot of time in a relative fantasy land, more often offset than aligned, which I guess is how my personality drove me into fucking with books instead of math.

SJ: We communicated on a regular basis while you were working on 300,000,000 and I remember at some point your editor at Harper Perennial, Cal Morgan, sent you a 20,000 word document of edits and suggestions. How did the book change from the version you had and the final version after Cal’s edits?

BB: It was 27,776 words, yes, all mapped into sections with page numbers and notations, including headers such as: What Really Happened?, Why Did It Happen?, Why Is Flood Trapped Twice?; a index of symbols and themes with a list of all pages interplaying into such themes as America, Cities, Corporations and Brands, Dementia, Flood’s Wife: Murder vs. Cancer, Getting Paid To Write The Book, Josh, Magic Eye, Money, Movies/Films/Tapes, S-shape, Seven shapes, Writing/ Books/ Language, etc.; as well as a long consideration of voice in the book and specific mechanics of the language; all in all it was like having a statistical readout on the last 4 years of your life, annotated by a brilliant eye who probably knew what was actually on the paper way better than I did by that point. Honestly I wrote the first version of the book, and more than 20 subsequent full drafts over three years, in such a maniacal state of relative emotional hell that by the time we got to the official editorial process I didn’t even know what was there anymore, and had to in some way begin again. A lot got deleted, a lot got added, the total framework was rearranged countless times, and most every sentence was interrogated until I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. With Cal’s study, his intuition and willingness to enter alongside my manias, and ultimately his total faith in the text and my ability to go through another 30 full-scale revisions of the book during the nearly two years we carried on, I don’t know that this book would have ever been anything but a long death note to myself on some burnt out hard drive. Having someone hand you a map of your heart and persona and say, here are the questions that will lead you to answer that will make the whole thing ten times more powerful for those outside you is the greatest gift you could ever receive.

SJ: Your father was suffering from dementia during the writing of the book and he passed during this editing period. You’ve mentioned before you would write at your parent’s house, where your father was. Did his deteriorating state and his death affect the book in any way? And the hand of Cal Morgan, seems to me, almost fatherly in a sense – tough and loving and wanting to do everything possible for the book and for you.

BB: Most of the time I was working on the book I was going up to my Mom’s to help her with Dad, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and needed constant supervision, daily care. I went up there and worked so my Mom could get out of the house, and so any time I took a break I’d go and check on him, interact with him, an increasingly surreal exchange. In some ways the state that took him over felt very similar to how I felt writing the book, and maybe it was a guideline of sorts; an actual madness, prolonged. I think maybe a lot of the rage in the book is channeled from grappling with understanding what was happening to him, and to those of us around him, not to mention my own troubles. I don’t think I could have worked anywhere else, as being around was like a time shuttle; there was nowhere else to be, during the day. And at night I would go home and spend time with Molly, my girlfriend, the appearance of whom had a wholly other sort of effect on certain stages of the revision; what forms of relief the book contains in many ways resolve through her, and from rallying with my sister and brother in law and mother to help Dad to the end as gracefully as his body would allow.

If I remember correctly, and I may not, I turned in the final edits of the book late in the evening at my Mom’s house on the day before my Dad passed away. He was bedridden for the last several weeks at least, in the final stages of the death process where the person no longer eats or drinks, and the last days or so felt very long, every breath of his possibly the last, and I remember feeling super insane at the computer, but in a calm way, typing in the very last edits then, and going back to sit with my family and him for the last time.

Honestly I thank my luck for my artistic relationship with Cal Morgan every day; there are few who would have given me the faith he has; he changed my life.

SJ: My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s and I remember the last days – how they hand over that little booklet with “dying instructions” that felt so alien and crushing. I’ve thought about this because it runs in my family, but do you ever think you’ll suffer from Alzheimer’s as well? Do you still travel to your Mom’s to write?

BB: Mom has made a point to let me know multiple times that Alzheimer’s isn’t passed from father to son, though whether or not that’s true or verifiable, who knows. I try not to think about it, but it’s hard already to not feel demented and distracted by the world across the board, and probably the inability to recognize its happening to you is the most terrifying factor of it all. There aren’t many other ways I’d less prefer to die. It’s terrifying, right? Your whole life stripped out from underneath you, little by little, while those you loved try to hold on. I won’t waste time in the interim fearing it, though. If anything, it’s motivation.

It’s been really hard to get out of that habit of going to Mom’s, as for so long I did it without question, because I was needed. And I feel now that I need to get out of the house to do my work; to stay there in the same place where I sleep and eat to do this kind of work seems difficult to me, or has become so. But I just went under contract on a house, and will be moving before the year’s out into a new home, which I see as a chance to reset my path, do something new. I need that, because most days since finishing 300,000,000 I’ve felt I’ll never write another book again. I remain hopeful to discover otherwise, or to discover what another new kind of thing for me could be.

SJ: HTMLGIANT, a literary blog you founded in 2008, recently decided to call it quits. As an original contributor, I felt a combination of sadness, sentimental reflection, and relief because the site in the past year often felt dead to me, or that something had significantly changed from the early days. Do you think the site was suffering from interesting content or is there any specific thing you can pinpoint that made you want to end its run?

BB: There was no real definitive impetus that made us want to end it; more like there has been a long ongoing train of effects, from the hellscape like assault that populated much of the comment section, for which a lot of the reputation of the site got beat up in many minds, as well as a general feeling of the landscape of the internet changing. I mean, when we started it felt like there was so much to be done; we were younger and still fiery in the spirit for discussion and overflowing; the beauty seemed worth the bullshit. Not that that disappeared, but the center of the site in some ways slipped out from under itself, as people moved on and comment culture in general became spread more widely thin, and honestly I don’t at all get the feeling I used to from the internet; so much now feels so petty, ego-beating, click-bait-y, overrun. The body was alive but the spirit died. In the end Gene just texted me and basically said, “This isn’t fun anymore, no matter what we try to do it gets attacked, I don’t want to be attacked.” When that’s the case, it should be done. I love what was made and the time it was made in and what it led to for many people but at the same time I just no longer have the same kind of will, and would rather focus my fire on offline life, creation.

SJ: There was a fury of rape and abuse allegations concerning several writers associated with the site and some people connected the closing of HTMLGIANT with these allegations.

BB: It wasn’t part of our reasoning for closing the site. Perhaps it contributed to a general negative feeling regarding the social arenas surrounding the culture, which for me has been growing less and less palatable for some time, but we wouldn’t stop doing what we do because of other people’s actions. It was a website, about art.

SJ: There’s a great line in Thomas Bernhard’s novel Correction: “I have built the Cone, I was the first to build the Cone, no one did it before me.” While reading 300,000,000 I thought several times, “this is Blake’s Cone” in that you seem to pushing yourself harder and further than ever before and when talking to a friend of mine about the book he said something along the lines of “I’m not sure what Blake does after this book.” It just feels so big and exhausting. So what’s next writing wise? And will there be another literary site you’ll start up?

BB: Bernhard’s cone is definitely something I have aspired to; the sublime object more infernal than yourself, representing something nameless and immaculate in its reflection of death as a state of being. To be honest my goal when writing the book was to burn out everything I had so hard I would have nothing left to live for. The last line of the book in the original draft was “The only way for me to complete this book is to kill myself” without a period. Part of the process of revising the book from that old endpoint involved me changing my life, my future outlook, my desires, so in that way the final incarnation of what is there is not only terror and murder but a state beyond that, beyond exhaustion.

And since then I’ve had a really hard time writing anything else, honestly. Which I think means that I have cored through an era of my life, and when I find the edge of the next era it will be different, and I am ready to be different. I’ve thrown away a lot through the last two years. Right now I’m kind of deep into something that is taking a much different set of skills and thoughts than where I’ve come from, much longer stretches between every word, and yet when I think about finishing it or what I would do with it I am more and more liking the idea of never ending, letting the world of the book continue to mutate on and on forever, through thousands of worlds. Or maybe I’ll get bored and start writing about lasers. I don’t know.

I hope I never take part in another website unless it’s pure joy.



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Book

Blake Butler 300,000,000
Harper Perennial

'An unforgettable novel of an American suburb devastated by a fiendish madman—the most ambitious and important work yet by “the 21st century answer to William Burroughs” (Publishers Weekly).

'Blake Butler’s fiction has dazzled readers with its dystopian dreamscapes and swaggering command of language. Now, in his most topical and visceral novel yet, he ushers us into the consciousness of two men in the shadow of a bloodbath: Gretch Gravey, a cryptic psychopath with a small army of burnout followers, and E. N. Flood, the troubled police detective tasked with unpacking and understanding his mind.

'A mingled simulacrum of Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Thomas Harris’s Buffalo Bill, Gravey is a sinister yet alluring God figure who enlists young metal head followers to kidnap neighboring women and bring them to his house—where he murders them and buries their bodies in a basement crypt. Through parallel narratives, Three Hundred Million lures readers into the cloven mind of Gravey—and Darrel, his sinister alter ego—even as Flood’s secret journal chronicles his own descent into his own, eerily similar psychosis.

'A portrait of American violence that conjures the shadows of Ariel Castro, David Koresh, and Adam Lanza, Three Hundred Million is a brutal and mesmerizing masterwork, a portrait of contemporary America that is difficult to turn away from, or to forget.' -- Harper Perennial


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Excerpt
from Fanzine

Gretch Enrique Nathaniel Gravey is apprehended by authorities in XXXXXXX on August 19, 2XXX, at 7:15 a.m. He is found facedown in the smallest room of his seven-room ranch-style home with legs bound at the ankle by a length of electrical wire, apparently administered by his own hands.

He is unresponsive to officers’ commands or to the touch.

When lifted from the ground his eyes remain open in his head, unblinking even to the sound of the canines, the men.

The light inside the room is strong. It blinds each new being at their admittance, bodies shielding eyes and swinging arms until the space has been secured.

Gravey is dressed in a white gownlike shrift affixed with reflective medallions that are each roughly the size of an eye and refract light in great glare. No underwear, no ornaments.

His hair has been shorn sloppily, leaving chunks and widths around his ears and the back of his head, an amber lob of curls the color of beer.

An open wound cut on his left breast appears to have been also self-administered, though not deep enough to require stitching; his wet blood has soaked a small head-sized oval parallel to where he lies; from the pool, traced by finger, the word OURS appears writ in the ink of blood along the mirror-covered carpet.

Questions and actions delivered to the suspect do not seem to occur to him as sound; he does not flinch or turn toward the shouting, the splinter of their entrance, canines barking, the commands.

The meat around his eyes seems to be caving, black and ashy.

There are no other living persons apparent in the house.

Gravey is unbound, cuffed, and taken to a local precinct to be booked, processed, and held.

His eyes in motion do not open, though he is breathing.

He does not speak.

___________________________________________________________


DETECTIVE E. N. FLOOD: The above and the following are my ongoing log of the time following Gravey’s arrest, and the ongoing investigation, over which I have been appointed lead. I have given electronic access to specific colleagues assisting in the case for their perusal and review.

SERGEANT R. SMITH: These notes were discovered in Flood’s shared files online sometime shortly after he disappeared. Several of the quoted sources claim to have not written what they are said to have written. I myself remain uncertain.

*

The front foyer of the mouth of the entrance to Gravey’s home is caked up with shit nearly a foot high; human shit, packed in tightly to the face of the door, which has been barricaded and blocked over with a paneled bureau full in each drawer with ash. Testing reveals the ash is burnt paper; among the powder, lodged, the leather spines of books, photographs overexposed to blotchy prisms, fingernail clippings, mounds of rotting cat-food-grade meat, plastic jewels.

The same ash found in the drawers is found in larger quantity in a small den down the hall, along with the metal rims and scorched remainders of a drum kit, bass guitar and amplifier, small public address system with corresponding speakers, and fourteen seven-string guitars all of the same make, each variously destroyed by flame to disuse but still recognizable as instruments.

A small sheet-stand holds up an empty tabbing book, which on some pages has been rendered with whole glyphs of blackened scribble, matching the front color of the house.

Inside the house is very warm, caused in part under the concentration of the sun’s heat on the black paint even-handedly applied to the north, east, and south faces of the home. Only the west face remains its original cream-tan, the same shade of roughly one in four houses in the neighborhood.

The lawns of both houses on either side of the Gravey homestead are overgrown high enough to nearly block the windows. Gravey’s lawn is dead, a radial of whites and yellows like the skin of a giraffe. An ant bed in the side yard of the unpainted side of the building is roughly the size of a very large sandbox, pearling in sunlight, though there are no ants among the runnels to be found, their turreted bed evacuated.

The majority of the other rooms in the Gravey home are bare. Furniture, adornment, and objects have been removed or were never there. The walls are covered for the most part with lengths of mirror that seem to have been gathered from local dumps or flea markets or trash: platelets sized from that in a bathroom washstand down to the face of an armoire down to the eye-sized inner layers of a blush case or a locket have been affixed to the drywall with a putty adhesive that leaves the rooms smelling synthetic. Many mirrors have crisped to dark with more flame or cracked in spindles from impact with perhaps an elbow or a fist, or having been dropped or otherwise mishandled prior to their installation. The mirrors’ coverage is extensive, leaving mostly no inch of the prior wall’s faces uncovered; even the ceilings and in some rooms as well the floors receive a similar coverage treatment. In many places, too, the mirrors have been applied doubly or triply thick, sometimes to cover something ruptured. Large smudges dot many arm’s-length sections of the more central rooms’ mirrored dimension, rubbed with handprints, side prints, whiffs of sweat, and in some cases traces of lipsticked mouths, running saliva, feces, blood, or other internal and sometimes inhuman synthetic materials, all of it Gravey’s, incidentally or by cryptic, unnamed logic spasmodically applied.

Countless light sources in each of the major rooms fill the plugs of long electrical strip outlets or are attached to generators and arranged around in the space in no clear manner, studding the ceiling and the ground. Burnt out or burst bulbs have not been replaced but hold their dead eyes unrelented in the space filled by the rest. For hours into days the light will remain burned on the eyes of those who’d entered before the knobs were turned to end it.

Officer Rob Blount of __________, thirty-five, finds himself frequently at lengths lost inside the shape. More than several times, even with the excessive lighting fixtures lowed, he finds himself rendered staring off into the conduit of mirrors creating many hundreds of the house and him, and therein, something behind the reflection, a wider surface, until he is jostled by outside sound or a fellow officer’s inquiring arm. Through the remainder of Blount’s life inside his sleep he will many nights find himself approaching in the distance a square black orb, endlessly rotating in a silence. The dream of the orb will fill his mind.

Gravey’s kitchen contains a more colorful decor, if little else of more substantial means of living. The refrigerator, like the front room’s bureau, is stuffed with ash so thick it obscures the contained light. Buried in the ash here are occasional remnants of what might once have been intended for consumption: a full unopened carton of whole milk, several sealed cans of tuna, cardboard encasements for packs of beer, fourteen one-pound containers of store-brand butter riddled with knife divots, a water container full of something white. Later, teeth will be discovered buried in the chub of certain of the butter tubs’ masses, way underneath; the teeth will be later identified as dogs’ teeth. The freezer remains empty beyond a cube of ice forming a globe.

The surrounding floor is likewise thickened, albeit higher than the foyer’s, with used food wrappers, tissue, and containers, as well as many unfinished portions of the food. The pyramid of rotting glop and Styrofoam and cardboard stands nearly five feet high at the room’s far wall, trampled down into smoother avenues and valleys in the mix. The stench is intense, weaving many different modes of rot into a kind of choking blanket. Somehow the stench seems not to leak into the house’s mirrored sections.

Underneath the junk, in excavation, the men will find a massive ream of loose eight-millimeter film. Each frame of the several miles of exposed framework, unlike the other tapes found in the house, will show nothing but a field of pure black, of no star, as if the film had never been exposed. The soundtrack of the film, when played, if played, will feature a sound resembling a young man speaking in reverse, though when played in reverse the language sounds the same, word for word.

(cont.)




*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Very happy to see you say that about Jost. I totally agree. Yeah, the one I thought was dreadful is the 'unofficial' newer one, and Louis Garrel, whom I usually like, gives a truly awful performance in it, but the character he's asked to play is so one-dimensional and off-putting that I doubt it's his fault. Gisele was just telling me yesterday that there's an apparently very good new documentary about YSL, but I don't know its title or director. Yes, I did get the Barbara Steele stuff, thank you (!), and I'll get that sorted and scheduled and let you know later today. ** Jeffrey Coleman, Hi, Jeff. Ha ha, that was awesome, man! ** Steevee, Gotcha on why 'Birdman' is a critical hit. Makes sense. 'Bell Diamond' is one of the Josts I haven't seen, but he's very, very good and singular. ** _Black_Acrylic, Cool, glad it was of interest, thanks! Very best of luck down in Leeds on the YnY work (yay!) and with every other general Leedsian activity. ** Ken Baumann, Ken! Wonderful to see you, you multiplicitous maestro, you! My deep honor on posting the stuff around Mark's book, obviously. It's mega-great. I'm really good, thanks. Yeah, sorry for not getting back to your email. I think it arrived when I was really sick for a couple of weeks wherein everything kind of disappeared around me. Zac and I were talking you about just last night, missing you and wishing we could see you. I wonder where that photo Frank has of me came from. One of my duties on Zac's and my film was that I was the official clacker, so in the raw, pre-edited footage of the film, I seem to have as much screen time as the stars themselves. My health is fine now, yeah. Zac and I are off to NYC briefly next week then onto a 12 days-long adventure exploring Iceland, so I'm very excited about that. Man, I really do hope we can meet somehow somewhere. No chance you'll pop over to here good olde Paris? Lots and lots of love to you and A.! ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff. Thanks! After 'Sure Fire' ... hm. I quite like 'The Bed You Sleep In'. 'Over Here' is very beautiful. His most recent one, 'Coming to Terms', is very good, and this might just be a personal thing, but, even though their work is very different, I've always had this strong association in my head between Jost and James Benning, and Benning is the star of 'CtT", and I found that combo/collab. really interesting. Yes, new Sleater Kinney album! How about that! Cool. I'm behind on the Gisele piece, but it's getting there and it will get somewhere/there soon. Probably it'll be easier to talk about when it's not mixed up in my head with a bit of stress at being behind schedule. I'm excited about it. It's very, very different than anything we've done before. ** Keaton, Wow, beautiful tribute to Frank Wolf, man. I still feel really sad when I think about him. Deep bow. Everyone, Keaton's Halloween post for today pays tribute to young Francis Lapointe, an original and beautiful and very stylish 20 year-old Canadian who killed himself in 2013 because of the bullying he received for being original and beautiful and stylish. Visit. ** Sypha, Hi. It's on life support, but it's alive. New Sypha Nadon! I thought you retired him. Glad you didn't, obviously. Let us know when we can hear it, pretty please. ** Misanthrope, You giving Sypha a hard time? How unprecedented, ha ha. Definitely Satan. That's the only logical explanation. I feel your broken espresso maker-related pain. May lime be God. ** Mark Gluth, Hi, Mark! I'm really glad you saw Joel. I don't think I know Flore, but it sounds extremely knowable. Your two companions are out of their cotton picking minds, but that's okay, I guess. Wait, 'cotton picking minds': what a weird homily that is. I don't think I like where it's coming from now that I actually about the space behind the numbing cliche. I take that back. Oh, I wasn't directing in that photo, I was only holding the clacker board thing so Zac could direct. I was a utility player. You take care too, and enjoy the rest of LA, and I hope everything goes really great in SF, and I'm sure it will. ** MANCY, Hey, man! I may have already told you, but I will tell you again how beautiful your trailer for Mark's book is! I'm very well, and I hope you are too, man. ** Craig, Hi, C. Yeah, I think they're doing pretty good at tennis these days. Hence, the heightened interest, no doubt. And I think the French rugby team suddenly got top-notch in the last few years, causing the popularity upswing. But a Buche is a super traditional thing too. If you do a classic one that looks like a log, I'm sure they'll be excited and, at the same, comforted. Logs will do that. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. I heard the Cave doc is good from a bunch of folks. I wish I was more interested in him, but I'll see it and see if that ups his ante in my taste buds or something. Still hoarse? Wow, maybe you should keep it? ** Rewritedept, Hi. Bermuda, weird. My parents used to go on holiday to Bermuda. But I never hear about Bermuda anymore, and I thought its vacationing possibilities were out of fashion. It's like an island, right? And that Triangle must be near there. And people must wear Bermuda shorts there. Glad your boys projecting is stoking fires on FB. I've heard of Bob's Burgers, but I can't remember what it is. My guess would be ... one of those Adult Swim animation series. Was I right? ** End. Today the blog and I are celebrating the new novel by Blake Butler which is really fucking incredible and really recommended to you. See you tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jon Jost Day





'A figure like Jon Jost probably won't come along again anytime soon. Whether this is a good or bad thing for independent cinema in the U.S. is, quite frankly, an open question. What would the Sundance and Weinstein universe do with someone who has so little use for money, authority or the polite bourgeois pieties that grease the contemporary film industry? Here's a man who would rather walk away from the material trappings of success, so vitally important to so many, in order to make the work he wants to make. Jost works small, so that he can work true.

'And yet he is no romantic Luddite. Everyone adapts. If you go to the website of Jon Jost, one of the most fiercely independent filmmakers the U.S. has ever produced, you will find statements on the virtue of digital imaging tools, along with information about renting or purchasing his films and videos from him directly. This includes recent works, made specifically in and for the DV medium, and Jost's older films, which were shot and edited in either 16mm or 35mm film. While many artists quite understandably lament the inevitable loss of celluloid as a means of aesthetic communication, Jost isn't looking back, except to get those early works out into the world.

'Much of the so-called independent cinema of today wouldn't really be possible without Jost, who spent the 1970s making poetic experimental narratives like Last Chants (for a Slow Dance), Bell Diamond and Slow Moves, usually for a couple thousand dollars apiece. These were films that excavated dominant mythologies, particularly the twin icons of rugged masculinity and the American West, while also finding the time to direct audience attention to the conditions of their making. Actors momentarily slip out of character; a sliver of documentary information disrupts the diegesis; Jost's own voiceover discusses the filmmaking process, etc. Although none of these films ever made it big, Jost managed to get them seen by enough people around the world to make a name for himself. Prominent international critics considered him a rightful American heir to Jean-Luc Godard.

'But Jost never became a Godard-level auteur, for reasons too complicated to broach here. Suffice to say, Jost always has been and undoubtedly remains a complicated and difficult person. This difficulty, and Jost's attempt to contextualize it in a broader social and political sense, is the crux of Speaking Directly. His debut feature is a kind of rigorously self-examining essay film, in which Jost pulls apart the very foundations of who he is, what a film is, and whether communication between a filmmaker and his audience is even possible. Deeply frustrating at times, the film aims to frustrate, to make the most basic aspects of the filmgoing act thick with communicative resistance.' -- Nashville Scene


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Stills


























































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Further

Jon Jost Official Website
Jon Jost @ IMDb
Jon Jost's Weblog
'6 Filmmaking Tips Directly From Indie Pioneer Jon Jost'
'Jon Jost Retires (Sort Of)'
'Coming to Terms: Diary of a film'
Jon Jost @ Twitter
'The Big Circus' by Jon Jost
Jon Jost's films @ Strictly Film School
'Notes from Practice' by Jon Jost
'PLAIN SONGS: ESSAYING AMERICA'
'Except for a handful of movies Hollywood is fake'
'Seventy years of Jon Jost'
'Never let Mark Rappaport or Jon Jost leave their junk at your house'
'A “Digital Art Revolution” Interview with Artist Jon Jost'
'American film maker accuses Portugal's press'



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Extras


The Director Talks: Jon Jost


Jon Jost's portrait by Gérard Courant (1982 - silent)


Digital Dancing with Jon Jost


Sequence from Jon Jost's 'Swimming in Nebraska'


Jon Jost interviewed in 2013



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Interview




Your approach to narrative filmmaking is really interesting for its production method: having no real hard and fast script that actors have to follow, but also, using a lot of non-actors.

Jon Jost: Sometimes.

Oh, yeah?

JJ: Well, I've made tightly-scripted ones too.

Oh, I didn't realize that. But you do use a lot of non-actors and usually that's associated with a sort of documentary aesthetic. Did you ever perceive it as such?

JJ: I'm not certain what I perceived at the time I made them. For example, when I say I made tightly scripted films, most of my earlier films-the short films, not the very first short films, but the ones where I started working with sound-were tightly scripted essentially for economic reasons because the first take was always "the" take unless something horrible technical thing happened and made it unacceptable. A practice which I continued with because I think if you prepare right, your first take should be the good take. So I started that-the surest way to be able to make the film-with what were the very, very limited means I had. Then, you know, Speaking Directly, is not a fiction film, it's an essay film-it was essentially all written visually; it wasn't all completely preconceived. Angel City (1977) was all scripted except for one deliberately improvised sequence. And then Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977) was more or less completely improvised around a careful plan. You know, here's the five scenes we're going to do, and this is going to do this, and this is going to do that. There was writing involved, but it was a sort of mixture: some of it was written, some of it was to be left open.

And I discovered that I could improvise. If I did the improvising right, I didn't have to do more takes than I did with a script. And then I saw the virtues of improvising: I got things that I saw immediately that I would have never gotten if I had written it and they'd practiced it. There were usually things I found that were in effect more attractive and interesting to me. I then veered off towards improvising in a very open way. I think that a lot of people when they watch these, they would never imagine they were improvised because they don't see anything sloppy or out of control. It's a very clean, lush, seemingly highly controlled work which never had a word on paper about it. Some of the best scenes in it were absolutely wide-open improvising and on the first take. The kind of thing where if you try to do it again, you would just fuck it up-the first take has the magic.

But then The Bed You Sleep In (1993) was scripted, or it was mostly scripted. The word part, like the script, was the dialogue for a handful of scenes without any visual thing; the visual stuff was lots of photographs done with lots of thinking about what to do and how to do it. Maybe little sketches on paper, but never really done while shooting. The actual thing was more spontaneous: "Okay, now we have this very clear idea, lets go find the shots that look right for this thing." For a period I was adamant about only improvising, and now I like whatever works. We're doing this scene tightly scripted, the whole movie tightly scripted-whatever works best, I do that.

Working with non-actors wasn't thought of so much this way at the time. The non-actors were my friends who were willing to be in a movie for free. Later on, I saw what I liked in working with them and got where I liked it. I liked what happened when we juxtaposed a non-actor with an actor. Often times the non-actors feel insecure because they have this supposed professional who supposedly knows what they're doing. I like what the amateur does to the professional because real professionals are essentially lazy. They have their little grab bag of actoring tricks and if you put them with another actor they'll ping pong back and forth their little actor tricks, something I don't like very much. Whereas when you put an actor up with an amateur or a non-professional, he can't assume that if he throws out a riff he'll get back the corresponding actorish thing. So suddenly actors have to start thinking and quit being lazy because they basically have a loose cannon opposite them. I like the shift that it causes in the actors, eliminating the kind of predictable things that they would do if they were working with other actors. It gets sort of jostled around a bit and makes them work a little harder.

Obviously your interests as a filmmaker have gravitated towards narrative modes and I have two questions starting with that point. One is why you made Speaking Directly? It seems like a blip, a diversion compared to where you seemed to be going everywhere else.

JJ: Well, if you saw my short films you would see they are very much connected to that one. They're just sort of loose, lyrical, sort of urban or place portraits. The one that I'm also in is a kind of vague self- portrait. You know, it's like just before I went to prison: I did the portrait of Chicago in my sort of depressing-but-at-the-same-time- lyrical style. And so I would say the early, or the short films wandered between either completely abstract things, the sort of people-in-a-place type of thing, and attempts at some kind of essays or little stories. Usually the stories were crossed over with essays and Speaking Directly is pretty much an amalgamation of all those things. If you saw my short films, and you saw Speaking Directly, you'd see that there was a pretty natural progression that got me there.

Angel City was a narrative inside some kind of essay/documentary about Los Angeles. That's why The Last Chants for a Slow Dance is more of a straight, experimental narrative-I kept with the narrative, and had a little less essay. And then there is Chameleon (1978) which is again a more or less narrative work, and then Stagefright (1981), a very experimental essay. So it alternates, part of it just to make it interesting for myself. I keep feeling like I got to shuffle the deck, because otherwise I'd get bored. I'm always mentally or literally working on two or three things simultaneously: films, plus painting, plus whatever it is I can manage to do and. Teresa (my wife) can't understand how I can juggle all of these things-she has to sit there and say, "Okay, I'm going to think about 'X' for the next year and a half and do that." I'm just the opposite. I don't have that capacity to concentrate on one thing-to keep it interesting for me, I have to do a bunch of things at the same time, otherwise I get bored.

The other question I have deals with the fact that most people who have economic concerns as artists usually turn to video pretty quickly, but you've only done this very recently. And, at least as far as I know, you've embraced digital video in a big way. But before this did you have a kind of repulsion to the video image that so many people have?

JJ: I didn't have a repulsion, or I didn't think I did. On Plain Talk & Common Sense (1987, shown at YIDFF '89), for example, there is a kind of raggedy sequence of multiple video screens, which was just a cheap way to get multiple images that I could do at the time. I had a VHS camera at the time that I took around America when I was filming. I didn't shoot much with it, I confess. I got Hi-8 cameras more or less as soon as they came out and had very much the same idea that some people did. George Kuchar made these all in-camera edited things because you have insert editing, and I had exactly the same idea, though a completely different approach. I find his approach much more interesting than mine was.

We showed Cult of the Cubicles at the last Festival.

JJ: I like his stuff. I particularly like one called Weather Diary-it's like a 90-minute thing completely done in-camera. It's a stunningly beautiful piece of work. Vulgar, as usual for him, but . . .

Toilets, Godzillas, and toenails.

JJ: But a lovely piece and with a completely different mentality than mine. Mine was "Okay, now you can do this"; it was like I was reverting to the way I started making sound films. It was like, we program very clearly what we want; we have a little latitude about when to cut in and cut out and we can go drop something in the middle. But I never made anything. I've had four Hi-8 cameras and I more or less gave them all away to people, to filmmakers who could no longer afford to make films but whose work I liked. I would end up giving them a Hi-8 camera preaching how good it was and get them to try it out. To my knowledge it didn't succeed. It sort of succeeded with one but her camera got stolen about four months ago. She had it for a number of years and she did thank me for getting her her eyes back. She is very poor and she hadn't shot something for some time and I gave her the camera; she has nice vision of some things and she did a fair amount of footage.

While I had these cameras I shot a little bit, but I never seemed to be able to concentrate. I convinced myself that the problem was that I was so habituated to the economic clip of filmmaking that when it wasn't super costly, my brain took a walk. So I was convinced that the reason I couldn't really do something on the Hi-8 was because I'm not worried about spending money.

Interesting.

JJ: Well, that was the logic I had and I promise you that I was 100 percent convinced that this was the explanation. I would tell my friends how good Hi-8 was and I was proselytizing for Hi-8 for the reason that you could blow it up to 35mm if you want and it looks good-which it does. But since I never did anything with it, I constructed this rationale that said I don't like what I'm doing with it because I'm not working hard on it.

And then DV came out. Well, DV tape cost marginally more than Hi-8 tape, but not much, and all of a sudden I'm going, "Wow." Obviously I didn't think Hi-8 looked as good as it should. You know, the quantum jump from Hi-8 or even better forms of video to digital video is so big. That's why I don't like it when people here say about London Brief, "You have this video." I cringe, not because I have something against video, but because I would much rather say, "I see you did a new digital piece." I would like to get rid of this because when people think video, they think a particular look, either a raggedy, horrible VHS or equivalent look from an artsy angle or the Betacam, normal TV sterile look. As far as I'm concerned, digital video just doesn't look like that. I don't like to have this sort of albatross of the word "video" stuck on it because people have an instant pre-conception.

Sounds like a repulsion to video to me.

JJ: Well, no, I don't mind video. Well, frankly, let's put it this way. It isn't that I don't like video for aesthetic qualities. What I don't like about most video is that I don't think much of it is very good. Because video is relatively cheap, it isn't punishing from a financial standpoint, and thus it doesn't squeeze out people who are no good. Basically it is that brutal. And so you get an awful lot of bad video. I'm not interested in wading through a hundred hours of bad video to see one good hour, and that's really the kind of ratio you get when you hit video. With film, it's more like twenty hours to get one good hour. The ratio is pretty different. And lots of it is because video is more accessible for financial reasons. Therefore you get people sticking around in it and getting away with it for a long time. I could name a few right here. Ricky Leacock for example. He doesn't have an eye, you know. He's been proselytizing for Hi-8 for a long time. Trouble is I'm not interested in looking at pictures of his friends, of completely mundane images. It's like the democratic idea that since pencils are cheap, everybody can write. But not everybody is a good writer. Frankly, I'm not interested in reading bad writing, I'm interested in reading the good writing.

I'm not sure I buy your ratios. There are certainly a lot of bad films.

JJ: I agree. But I think just for pure economic reasons, you can make a bad video for twenty dollars. You cannot make a bad movie for twenty dollars. I mean a bad, feature-length-type movie. If you make one or two bad movies, you'll get tired of spending your own money and getting no reward for it. Or other people will say, "We gave you money once, we gave you money twice, and you gave us a piece of shit once, you gave us a piece of shit twice. And we're not going to give you any more money."

I've been on the festival circuit for years and the hot kids of 1970, 1980, 1985, and 1990 are usually around for three years and I never see them again. Because maybe they made one interesting quirk film and then that was it. Festivals show lots of bad films: the kid went through the festival circuit this year and then you never see him again because he made another bad film and nobody is interested. There's always a new kid coming up. You never see them because they don't do it again: the reward didn't work. I think the people who hang on in the film world are much more restricted; it's more punishing because of the money and because it's literally far more complicated and cumbersome to do film.

Any kind of film is complicated while you can easily tape.

JJ: Right. With film, you've got to buy the film, you've got to put it in the camera, you've got to shoot, you've got to carefully take it to the lab and hope they don't fuck up, and you've got to get it back. And you have to have a support apparatus even if it works. It's punishing if it isn't rewarding. Whereas, you know, with video, you've got your sound and you've got your picture for the price of pushing a button.

You know, I like the fact that you brought up Kuchar because I think what's really special about him is that he's the person using Hi-8 who has really figured out what it's all about. And you can tell it in his work. Everything he does with it is so specific to Hi-8 and not any other medium. It's just spectacular. So, now you're making a distinction here between Hi-8 and digital video. What do you see that is specific about digital, especially the way you've used it?

JJ: Oh, image and sound quality.



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12 of Jon Jost's 36 films

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Speaking Directly (1973)
'Jon Jost’s SPEAKING DIRECTLY is a feature length autobiographical essay or, as the title indicates, cinematographic notes giving a personal and political reflection on contemporary U.S. life. In particular, Jost examines the relations between our personal lives, U.S. international politics, the media, modes of discourse, and our relation to our geography, our towns and landscape. The film is divided into two major sections: I-THEY and I-YOU. In the I-THEY half, Jost traces out his and our individual connection to the externals of U.S. life. He traces the geography that impinges on us—Jost’s rural Oregon and Vietnam. He examines the concept of home—both one’s house and the United States as a whole. And he traces the connections between oneself and the people one knows directly and indirectly—Jost’s personal acquaintances, and Kissinger and Nixon. We see the “there” of Vietnam, the artifacts of U.S. culture, Nixon and Kissinger, and U.S. economics and imperialism in images which make us question the media representation of these aspects of our lives, realities which our society makes it so hard to grasp directly. Jost contrasts one’s experience of reality with the reified media version of it. Where SPEAKING DIRECTLY works the best, we not only criticize the media versions but also question our and others experiences.' -- Julia Lesage, Jump Cut



Trailer



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Angel City (1977)
'Jost's outsider is Frank Goya, a guy with a red shirt, a far-fucking-out-in-the-morning-man delivery, and a fist full of Polaroid snapshots. Ever-cool Goya peers into the camera, announces that he's a motel-haunting divorce-dick and from then on Angel City is kabuki Raymond Chandler. Hired by the chairman of the world's largest multi-national conglomerate to investigate the death of his wife (a former Plaything centerfold who only "came after you hit her"), Goya drives around LA, interviews a bartender, is seduced by the chairman's mistress, solves the case, and gets beat up for his bother.' -- J. Hoberman, Village Voice



Trailer



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Slow Moves (1983)
'Fascinating, oddly gripping and often visually stunning. It's not unlike a Peter Greenaway mystery translated to the dry dusty heartlands of Malick's Badlands, although here the emphasis is on spiritual paralysis rather than Greenaway's elegant intellectual conceits. Written backwards from its explosive end, the real Slow Moves doesn't actually start until you're leaving the cinema.' -- John Gill, Time Out, London



Trailer


Excerpt



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Rembrandt Laughing (1989)
'This film is a portrait of the passage of one year in the lives of some San Francisco friends, circa 1988 (before the dot.coming of the city), a slow marijuana hazed story which drifts like the fabled fog, encompassing the quirks and habits of a generation that made the city theirs, if only for a while. Very obliquely Rembrandt Laughing sketches the time and place, encompassing the AIDS epidemic, the casual sexual revolution, the debris of '68 lingering in the air. A quiet, very San Francisco comedy of life among a small group of friends. Rembrandt Laughing was improvised over the period of about a month by Jost and his friends, mostly acting non-professionals.' -- JJ



Watch the trailer here



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Sure Fire (1990)
'With David Lynch and Gus Van Sant, Jon Jost is one of the three great U.S. filmmakers currently working. This stunning film, about two interlocking families, marshals an array of avant-garde techniques to convey the inner turmoils of its characters. (More than any other American filmmaker, Jost refutes the idea that interiority is off-limits to cinema.) Yet, Jost also brings documentary realism to Sure Fire. It’s a visionary work that fashions a metaphor for American dismay and desolation out of what may seem initially an unhappy case far afield from our own (presumably) solid, secure lives.' -- Dennis Grunes



Excerpt



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All the Vermeers in New York (1990)
'The woman pauses before a painting by Vermeer, and looks closely at it - she seems ready almost to disappear into it. The man observes her. He follows her from one room in the museum to another. Then back again. It is a quiet, subtle chase something like the long opening sequence of Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill, but this is not a thriller, it's a strange, introspective cat-and-mouse game by Jon Jost, whose All the Vermeers in New York is the kind of film you have to think and think about, and then finally you realize you admire it. Jon Jost has been making films since 1974, at first with the anti-war collective Newsreel. I've seen only a few of his films, and thought of him as an "underground" filmmaker, if that word still has any meaning. But this film, beautifully photographed and acted with calm grace, is frankly aimed at the commercial theatrical market; in approach and subject matter, he falls somewhere between Woody Allen's non-comedies and Eric Rohmer.' -- Roger Ebert



Excerpt & interview with Jon Jost



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The Bed You Sleep In (1993)
'Created by one of America's most prominent independent filmmakers, THE BED YOU SLEEP IN is an unforgettable, beautifully structured and exquisitely photographed epic tragedy set in a small lumber town in Oregon. Ray (Tom Blair), a struggling lumber mill owner, and his wife Jean (Ellen McLaughlin) receive a letter from their daughter at college accusing Ray of shocking sexual abuses. As the family is torn apart by surfacing secrets and lies, the cataclysm echoes throughout the community and ultimately reveals the apocalyptic betrayal of America.' -- Fandor



Excerpt


Excerpt



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6 Easy Pieces (2000)
'6 Easy Pieces is a compilation of shots and sequences made over the period 1996 - 1999, which seemed to find themselves draw together by a kind of gravitational attraction. The work is intended as a kind of sampler of the potential aesthetic range of DV and consumer-level NLE systems, though, of course, it is not merely a technical or aesthetic demonstration. It is also a commentary on contemporary arts, past history, creative energies, society, and, shall we say, a grab-bag of the author’s interests, from social observations to the usage of symmetry in religious architecture and music. The work was, more so than the two previous works done in DV, a deeper exploration into the shifts which digital media provoke - not only aesthetically, but, owing to the radically altered financial aspect, to the mode of working and thinking itself. I did not intend to make 6 Easy Pieces: not one shot was made with any intention of using it in a film or with an a priori idea. Rather they were made in process of experimenting with the medium, and it was only after they had been made, and were sitting in the back shelf of my mind that that found a connection and meaning for themselves. This mode of working and of approaching “work” has been for me invigorating creatively and, if you will, spiritually.' -- JJ



Watch the trailer here



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Over Here (2007)
'A long shot with a kind of grunge music hovering over it of a distraught man's face. A young man sits in a coffee house observing. A few people talk with a French man about politics. A businessman gets a call and must go away on urgent business. A woman closes her notebook and takes her coffee cup to the counter. The young man deftly moves and steals her computer. On a Saturday morning a business executive sits listening to sports and gets a call canceling a game; his associate sits in a cubicle typing distractedly. The two have a conversation about the webpage, about a young man the worker has picked up "to help." The boss is revealed to be a Vietnam vet, and tells his associate he's a copyrighter, not a social worker and to get the young man out of his house. The young man lounges around in a nice house, drinking whiskey and watching to TV. His host makes coffee and frets in the kitchen. He then comes to ask the young man to look harder for a job, to help keep the house clean, and he asks where his telephone card and I-pod are. The young man is angered. Later while the young man is on a massage lounger the copyrighter comes to tell him a long family story and then says he's missing an heirloom and he can no longer trust the man. The young man attacks, strangling him on the floor while cursing "fucking hadji" and leaves the man, perhaps dead. The young man visits his home, sitting silently with his inarticulate parents. In a triptych reminiscent of a religious altar piece, the young man breaks down while his parents look incomprehendingly on offering a mute love, but the young man leaves. The young man is seen under an overpass, homeless, with a young woman sleeping in his lap; he looks guardedly around, and then directly to the viewer.' -- JJ



Trailer



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Parable (2008)
'Jon Jost’s films have always tended toward parable. Now this is the case again with Parable, the jewel of his Fuck Bush (He Fucked Us) Trilogy. (This overarching title is mine.) Homecoming (2004) homed in on the aftermath of a returning dead soldier; Over Here (2007), of a returning living soldier. Now Jost turns to the Bush-Cheney & Co. assault on individual rights and freedom, its devastation of these, and the linkage between this war at home, on the American citizenry, with the illusory nature of American hopes and promises predating Bush 43. Jost’s parable is a perfect one: crystal-clear, yet elusive, mysterious, irreducible, unfathomable. It was videographed in Lincoln in, as Jost puts it, “the Time of Bush.”' -- Dennis Grunes



Trailer



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The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima (2012)
'A year after Japan’s major earthquake and tsunami, art about the event is beginning to emerge. The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima, a documentary by American film artist Jon Jost, takes an oblique, even elegiac approach. Combining shots of Japanese island landscapes, Japanese poetry, and interviews with island residents who lived near the quake’s epicenter, The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima is as much a portrait of a place as it is of the people who make their home there. With this moving film, Jost has given us a window into their experiences from an unexpected and compelling angle.' -- nwfilmforum.org



Trailer



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Coming to Terms (2013)
'In 2013, Jon Jost had been active for 50 years as a filmmaker. This led him to wonder whether there had been any point in it all, and Coming to Terms is the indirect answer to that question. An old man (filmmaker James Benning) calls his broken family back together: his two sons with whom he hasn’t spoken for years, as he was unable to accept their choices in life, and their two mothers. While the sons and mothers wonder why they have been called together, the father prepares for their arrival. Jost throws off traditional narrative conventions in order to penetrate to the emotional core of this meditation on death. The conversations between the family members, reproduced in unusual digital compositions, are juxtaposed with tranquil, deserted shots of houses and streets in an undefined American city. It gives the film a grand allure and ensures that the story is implicitly about the greater American family.' -- Rotterdam Film Festival



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p.s. Hey. ** Kiddiepunk, Hey. Punkster! Thank you. Is London rockin' due to you? Yes. xx. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, David. Oh, you know how my posts work. I speak through my borrowings, but I'm very happy to talk about her with you too. 'Severed Heads' looks super interesting, thank you! Everyone, courtesy of Mr. E., why not click this and go see/read a little something called 'Photographing the Guillotine'? I'll go check my email as soon as I'm out of here. ** Derek McCormack, Derek! I'm thinking about you big time during this pale Parisian version of the Halloween season. I'm going to see David A.'s retrospective tomorrow. Excited! Are you great? Yes. ** Sypha, Hi, James. Little House on the Bowery is on a long hiatus, but it's not dead. There's just came a point where I realized that I don't have the time and energy to devote myself to the series in a way that seems fair to the books that I would publish, and I don't want to do it if I can't support the books full-on. Akashic wants me to continue it, and we've been in contact in the last month to talk about how we could do that, and hopefully we'll sort something out because I do love doing the imprint. ** Etc etc etc, Hi, Casey. Sure, having stuff pre-pubbed always helps a mss., though I don't think it's as important as it used to be back when journals and mags were strictly IRL. But yeah. I've never heard of 'Listen Up Philip. Hm, sounds a real mixed blessing. I don't know. I'll find the trailer and try to see what's what. Yeah, looking forward to NYC, even if it'll probably a weird, repeating sideswipe-type of thing, but yeah. And especially for Iceland right afterwards. Holler back! ** Steevee, Hi. Glad you slept. That does sound quite Von Trierian, ha ha. You hated 'Birdman', interesting. Okay, so why do you think it is that so many critics are going so crazy about it? Really, I've read raves of a rare, very rave-y nature about it. I don't think I'll see it, but, as I said, I like Michael Keaton, so I am happy that he's getting so many props after so long. ** Bernard Welt, Holy shit, Bernard! You're here! You'll be at that 30th thing! I'll get to see you albeit in a stressed state! Cool! I've been super wondering what was going on with you and the Corcoran based on reading what I've been able to able to about the takeover, etc. So far, so nervously okay? I know, I haven't seen in a billion years, it sucks! What don't you cook up that Paris in the summer scheme 'cos I really want to see you a lot better than I will in that glance on the 30th? Apply for a Recollects residency, why don't you? I can't get you in, snap! I think of you always too, my pal. Big love, me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. It will be awfully nice to finally get to see the much, much vaunted and anticipated thing at last, wow! ** Jeffrey Coleman, Hi, Jeff. Cool, I haven't heard Martin's new album. I'll get it if he doesn't send it to me. Or, wait, bandcamp awaits either way. I like David Peak's writing a whole lot. He's great. And I've been wanting to read 'Glowing in the Dark' very much. I'll take your mention as the symbolic button to push re: ordering it. Jesus, what kind of sentence was that?! Best to you, man. ** James, Hi. Yeah, editing a film is easily as laborious as editing a novel. Or it is in this case because our film will be a lot about the editing, which needs to be very intricate and timed carefully and thought out. It's in the contract that the film has to be feature length, which means at least 70 minutes. I have no idea how long it will end up being. We'll find out. It won't be really long, that's for sure, because both Zac, who makes the final decision on the editing, and I are very into concision. I have a lifelong shortish attention span re: books. Not with movies so much. I could watch a film doing basically nothing for hours and hours if the right director did the nothing. Thanks re: the editing. We've had so many delays, and I'm very excited to start too, any minute/day now. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul! Thanks about my Halloween build-up! Decorated! Pix per chance? Find any Halloween things out in Tokyo yet? ** L@rstonovich, Larsto! Buddy boy! Oh, man, I'm sorry to read about the not great mentally thing. If you want or need to blab or share or anything, I'm your ears, now and eternally. Lots of love from me! ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T. Oh, interesting, cool, about the performance artist interview. I would imagine that your imagination took care of it. Don't let the real get in its way. Tinker, tinker, man! My weekend was nice, thank you, and yours? ** Mark Gluth, Hi, Mark! Thank you again so incredibly much for letting the blog be one of your novel's welcome mats! And the novel is just mindbogglingly great! Wish I could've been at the launch, duh. R&R stuff in LA? Wow. Well, you know I'm all about Halloween, and the place is currently beset with spooky houses, so, you know ... Will you see Joel? He'll know stuff. Man, have the greatest time! ** Jebus, Hi, J! Really great to see you, man! It's an extraordinary novel, you'll see. All does sound very well there, and it resembles here, where things are also very well. Cool. Take care! ** Kier, Hi, ... oh, shit, my cleverness is still in hibernation. I'm going to write up a name game list for future reference. Make sure that the pie is heated and has that scoop of vanilla ice cream. If there was any justice or a God or whatever, 'Brando' would be the number 1 single in every country in the world, I reckon. Everything black? Ooh. Those photos of the installation that you put on Facebook were awesome to see! My weekend was ... hm, what happened? Kind of blurry. Work and stuff. Making plans. It was weirdly summery here in the good way. But not a huge amount actually happened, I don't think. Oh, there was this boy staying here with his family for a while. I might have mentioned him here, I can't remember. He was a skateboarder. Italian. He accidentally skateboarded onto the canal. He always asked me for cigarettes, and I was a bad guy and would give them to him even though he was, like, 14 years-old or something. Anyway, he and his family moved out on Sunday, and he left the Recollects a gift: this really large, like, 6 feet tall sculpture that he just planted next to the front door. It was crazy. Multi-tiered, and he took all these glass plates and added to them and connected them with I guess blown glass and melted glass drippings and made all these Minecraft figures and tableaus and interspersed them in the sculpture. It was amazing. I don't know what's going to happen to it when the janitor arrives this morning. So, that was a highlight. Oh, and I saw a really bad movie: that new biopic of Yves Saint Laurent. I think it's just called 'Saint Laurent' or something. There wasn't a single interesting decision or shot or performance in the entire movie. It was dumb and boring every second. I don't recommend it, ha ha. Mm, hm, yeah, I guess I didn't do very much because I'm drawing an almost total blank. I think I just worked on stuff mostly. Weird. Stuff's happening today, though, so I'll tell you about that. Did Monday bring about anything of interest or even non-interest in your world? ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff! Welcome back! Very, very cool about the productive time at the residency and about all the novel progress! Maine, interesting. Good old Gregory. Give him my hugs. 'Tabu' sounds vaguely familiar, but that's about it. Huh. I'll seek it out for sure, thank you! The novel is basically still on hold by necessity until I get the new Gisele piece pretty much finished because I know if I start working on it, I won't want to do anything else. It's burning a huge hole in my head. I hope to be going wild inside it again very, very soon. ** Damien Ark, Hi, Damien. I hope you're doing great! ** Schlix, Hi, Uli. Yeah, I'm way busy, work-wise. It's taxing, but it's very cool for sure. It would be really great if you could see the premiere in Halle. It would be so nice to see you! I'll have to ask Gisele about the other future dates for 'The Pyre', I don't know. It has proven to be a toughie for touring because the stage set is so massive and technologically complex that it costs a lot to move it around. So that's been a problem. And that's one of the reasons we're making a new piece whose only set is a bunch folding chairs, ha ha. ** Keaton, Ooh, another great one! Your Halloween thing, I mean. You should really do a big, expensive coffee table art book of these or something. Everyone, Halloween's unfolding continues apace over at Keaton's where the spooky, saucy 'Ew Ew That Smell' has just been born. Get it while it's fresh! Oh, good, the all-words copy is the best. Mostly the case with copies of everything, weirdly. If I was in LA, I would ping-pong between haunted houses and Taco Bells. I would. In your honor. Well, in mine too, I guess. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Was I? Are you? Nice going on the Pad Thai, even with shrimp, eeeuw. Yeah, I think I've gotten those red dot things. I think they just go away one day. I've never looked into them. They're just like weird benign Satanic visitors. ** Cal Graves, Hi, Cal. My hoodoo producing aspect is mightily proud. Oh my God, Orson Scott Card is such a dick. I've never read him though. I'm sure I must have seen movies based on his things. Your novel sounds really good. I like everything about it. That 'much more than meets the eye' thing is tough, but, I don't know, I think maybe it's mostly about editing. Like you initially write everything that's going on, and then you edit out the stuff you want to be mysterious and more hidden, and the resonance from that stuff ends up still being there in the novel hinting away in the parts you've left in place, if that makes any sense. My weekend was all right. No great shakes. Yes, Iceland, amazing, right? We (Zac and me) are going to drive all over, which means around the island's circumference, just looking at and exploring as much as we can for 11 days. You buy these tour-type things where they give you a 4 wheel drive car, and they make hotel reservations for you, and then you just do whatever you want every day and aim for the hotel you're staying in that particular night. We're going to, like, explore ice cubes and go snowmobiling and hike and see volcanoes and the Northern Lights and all kinds of as-yet-unknown stuff. Should be crazy great. Sincerely, me. ** Craig, Hi, Craig. Well, France, like all of Europe basically, is really, really into soccer. That's the really big deal sport here. And rugby has become quite popular here in the last five or six years. Those are the biggies. And of course bicycling 'cos of the Tour de France. And they do really like tennis too. Oh, don't sweat it about my past. It'll all kind of leak out over time. That inexpensive movie theater sounds really convenient, yeah. Mm, I just saw a bad movie that I told Kier about. I haven't been going to the theater and seeing new movies as much lately just 'cos I've been so busy. I mostly look at older stuff online, I guess, like the films of the guy I'm spotlighting today, for instance. Awesome that you have your place! That makes such a difference, right? And the Xmas Eve hosting event sounds really fun. I hope you'll take pix when the time comes. A Buche! Great idea! Oh, hm, I'll have to think about touches you could add, hm. Luckily we have some time. Hm, interesting. I'm doing good, and I hope you are too! ** Rewritedept, Hi. My weekend was okay. That was a good word for it. Your project involving murdered boy portraits sounds very interesting, no surprise. I used to collect them, and I guess there's actually a lot of them in that 'Gone' book. Novels move slowly, that's for sure. I hope your Monday rules too! ** Okay. Today I'm spotlighting the films of Jon Jost who has to be one of the most under-known great American filmmakers of our time. His 'Sure Fire' is one of my all-time favorite films. Anyway, I hope it's of interest. See you tomorrow.