November 4–14, 2004

In spite of making “an effort” in the direction of world cinema, the American Film Institute (AFI) Festival still remains a middlebrow festival, a testing ground for the distribution market. This year I had two specific complaints. First, while African cinema gave us, among other films that did the round of the festivals this year, the splendid Moolaadé (by Ousmane Sembene, the “father of African cinema”), the curators chose to represent an entire continent through two films from South Africa only. Ramadan Suleman’s Zulu Love Letter (2004) is a well-meaning film on an important subject (the scars left by Apartheid and the possible/impossible reconciliation) marred by an imprecise direction and uneven acting. On the other hand, Darrel James Roodt’s Yesterday (2004) – produced with support from the Nelson Mandela Foundation and South Africa’s official Oscar selection for Best Foreign Language Film – is a subtle, luminous film that follows the plight of a young woman from a remote village when she discovers she is HIV-positive. Raising alone her little girl as her husband ekes out a living in the mines of Johannesburg, the heroine (called “Yesterday”) fights and survives the village’s ostracism through the support of other women – the overworked country doctor and, especially, the school teacher, whom she initially met, as in an African folk tale, on the long, dusty road leading to the clinic. Then her husband, who had first refused to believe her, comes home, too sick to work anymore, and Yesterday has to learn how to prepare him – and eventually herself – to die. Eschewing sentimentality and pathos, Leleti Khumalo’s acting is flawless, and gives a deeply moving “human face” to the plague that is destroying the continent.

Africa was also present through three co-productions – shot there by non-African directors, such as Alberto Venzago’s Voodoo, Mounted by the Gods (2003, Benin/Germany/Switzerland), or Aaron Matthews’s A Panther in Africa (2004, Tanzania/USA), the simpatico-but-slim portrayal of a former Black Panther member, wanted in the US for what he claims are trumped charges, and who has lived in Tanzania for over 30 years. And the AFI organised the US premiere of Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda (2004, UK/South Africa/Italy), which has since opened commercially in the USA and gave every journalist and their uncle an opportunity to talk about genocide, civil rights and humanitarian issues. This in itself is not a bad thing, except that the American press had so far ignored the Hutu massacre of more than a million of the Tutsi population in Rwanda, and that the film is a sort of Schindler’s List for Africa, opening similar ethical issues. How is it possible to represent genocide? (Answer: you can’t – and the film does not). Isn’t there something slightly obscene in asking spectators to hold their breath, hope for, and cheer at the rescue of 1,200 people by a Just Man – when so many died?

My second complaint stemmed from the section titled “Asian New Classics”, that included eight titles. Bride and Prejudice (2004) is directed by the UK-based Gurinder Chadha, who made Bhaji on the Beach (1993) and Bend it Like Beckham (2002), and whose artistic roots are within the East Indian/British community. The film, which deals with cultural hybridity, globalisation and inter-racial marriages, is shot in English, and it’s a misnomer to call it “Asian” – especially at a time when East Indian cinema is undergoing interesting changes. Joseph Cedar’s Campfire (Medurat Hashevet) (2004) comes from Israel – and while it sounds like a challenging outburst of creativity to consider it an “Asian” film, I’ve never heard of such a categorisation before and I’m not even sure the director would be happy about it. More appropriate, of course, was the inclusion of the three instalments of the Hong Kong action blockbuster Infernal Affairs (Wu Jian Dao) (2002/2003) by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak – an exhilarating thriller with a stellar cast (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Andy Law, Eric Tsang, Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Leon Lai). Yet the triple screening reeks of commercial interests: Miramax has bought Infernal Affairs I for distribution in the US, as well as the rights for a remake (by Scorsese?) combining all three episodes in one with an English speaking cast. So – look now, but don’t touch. Episodes II and III are going straight back to Hong Kong and you’ll never see them again (the DVDs are available on E-Bay, though), but, screened at the AFI, they made a nice trailer for the upcoming Miramax “product”.

Golden Chicken 2

And then what? In terms of “new classics”, 2003–2004 was an interesting time for Hong Kong cinema, with movies ranging from the insightful (and underrated) Goddess of Mercy (Yu Guanyin) (2003) by veteran New Wave director Ann Hui to Edmond Pang’s dark comedy Men Suddenly in Black (2003) to Samson Chui’s Golden Chicken 2 (Jin Ji 2) (2003), the second instalment of one of the most successful recent comedies about Hong Kong low-life, starring the splendid Sandra Ng as a golden-hearted, foul-mouthed prostitute, to yet another film by the successful tandem team Johnny To/Wai Ka-fai, Running on Karma (2003), to sensitive dramas with a female touch such as The Floating Landscape (2003), Carol Lai’s second feature, and 20:30:40 (2004) by the great star Sylvia Chang, to William Kwok’s moody, visually arresting psychological horror film shot in the mainland, Darkness Bride (2003), to the sassy, exhilarating and incredibly complex cartoon McDull Prince de la Bun (2004). Yet, the only other Hong Kong film shown at the AFI was an ambitious, yet hopelessly flawed horror film, Koma (2004), by Lo Chi-leung, whose claim to fame is Inner Senses (Yidu Kongjian) (2002), Leslie Cheung’s last film before his suicide. In Koma Lo mixes exciting ingredients – two rising stars of the horror genre: Angelica Lee (star of The Eye) and Karena Lam (Cheung’s love interest in Inner Senses); female rivalry; traffic of stolen organs – and then manages to botch the final result by overcomplexifying the plot, as if he didn’t trust his original material. The underlying narrative theme was the love/hate/attraction/competition between two women – the stuff some of the best horror films are made of, from Robert Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1963) to Barbet Schroeder’s Single White Female (1992) – which Lo manages to suggest in some telling moments, such as Lee running after Lam with an axe in a medical laboratory, or the high heel shoes of the heroines appearing and disappearing in the chase scenes as tantalising fetishes. Yet, being neither this nor that, the film ends up as an unappetising, confused smorgasbord that was a box-office flop.

2004 was an especially auspicious year in mainland China – from Jia Zhangke’s masterpiece The World (Shijie) (2004) to experimental films shot in DV to ground-breaking documentaries; films that either did the round of the European festivals or were waiting to be “discovered” (a horrible, ethnocentric word that nevertheless reflects a certain truth to the international film market) by curators, but, looking at the AFI line-up, you wouldn’t know about it. Nor would you know what is currently happening in South Korea, Japan and Malaysia – countries that have recently produced a few excellent movies that will become “classics” in no time. The only country that was more or less well-treated was Thailand, represented by two films. By now you could probably have guessed that none of these could have been Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (Sud Pralad) (2004), whose sublime minimalism is miles from the aesthetics promoted by the AFI. Malady was bought by a US distributor, though – the always-adventurous Strand – but they organised the LA sneak preview at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, which, I grant you, was a much better place for it. One of the Thai films was another horror piece, Yuthlert Sippapak’s Rahtree: Flower of the Night (Buppa Rahtree) (2004), which I missed, and the excellent Ong Bak: Thai Warrior (2003) (bought in the US by Magnolia) by Prachya Pinkaew, who displays an uncanny talent to feature everything that makes a Hong Kong action film exhilarating – breathtaking chases, daredevil stunts, really good martial arts fights, flying in the air, good versus evil, cute boys with nice muscles, a mixture of action and comedy, props, sets and passers-by swept away by the mayhem of the chase – with a seductive lightness, a touch of class and, more importantly, a touch of heart. At their most brilliant, the recent films by Tsui Hark – such as Tide and Time (Seunlau ngaklau) (2000) – strike me as strangely empty, as if the filmmaker had no longer anything at stake, while there is a compelling earnestness in Ong Bak, that appears in some minute details of the mise en scène. The action is triggered when a low-life swindler (trafficking in drugs and antiques) steals the head of the statue of Buddha (Ong Bak) in a small village. The young hero, Ting, has just been trained in the Thai martial arts by a holy monk who has made him promise not to use it (how zen!) because it is lethal. Yet, as he’s the only one who can recover Ong Bak, he sets out for the mean streets of Bangkok.

Ong Bak

From the outset, Pinkaew makes it clear that he shares the values of his protagonist, and that the theft of Ong Bak is more than a narrative ploy a la MacGuffin. We are, after all, living in a world that has witnessed the destruction of Buddha statues by the Taliban – and Pinkaew refuses to take part in that desecration, even at the apparently benign level of filmic representation. The severing of Ong Bak’s head takes place off-screen, and there is no reverse angle shot displaying the beheaded statue. Pinkaew here demonstrates that he believes both in the power of cinema and in the values of Buddhism. There is an iconoclastic trend in American cinema that some spectators may find cute and uproaringly funny – unless we start wondering if such lack of respect for the artefacts of other cultures does not betray a lack of respect for other nations, period (remember the Museum of Baghdad?). We see clearly this clash of values in a telling moment of Rush Hour (1998), Jackie Chan’s first US film, in which he is paired with comedian Chris Tucker. As the two partners chase the bad guys in a building holding an art auction, Jackie saves a huge Ming cloisonné vase by stopping its fall with his foot. In the next shot, however, the vase is smashed to smithereens – for laughs. After all, it’s an American production, Jackie does not have the last word.

Ong Bak is a Thai production, which means that the director, the protagonists and the local spectators are still entitled to express cultural pride and respect for religious art. Ting’s trip to Bangkok at first resembles the typical plight of the country bumpkin in the city – when he visits a young man from his village, the latter, who has become a street hustler and a card shard, robs him to go gambling – but it turns into a story of redemption, and this is what, ultimately, makes it so exhilarating. The gang holding the severed Ong Bak head is pillaging the country’s cultural resources for profit; Ting has to sell his sacred martial arts skills for money, but, at every twist and turn, the film is about reinstating the self-respect that Thailand is in danger of losing by prostituting herself to commercial interests or to foreigners. It’s about forcing the head gangster to recognise that men are willing to die to recover what he considers a worthless piece of stone; about stopping a brutish American martial artist to abuse local women; about giving a sense of dignity back to a couple of petty hustlers. All of this in a highly entertaining action film – watch out for the hilarious and imaginatively choreographed taxi chase scene!

So the AFI Festival has to be taken for what it is – a window, sometimes clogged by US cultural provincialism, that nevertheless may open onto priceless vistas. Two of the most exciting films of the year – Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique (distributed by Wellspring) and Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education (distributed by Sony Pictures Classics) were premiered before their commercial release in the US – as was Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s witty-yet-moving adaptation of Sebastian Japrisot’s thriller taking place in the aftermath of WWI and starring Audrey Tatou, A Very Long Engagement (Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles) (2004, distributed by Warner Independent Pictures). Chances were also taken with films without distributors – the most extraordinary being 20 Fingers (Beest Angosht) (2004), the first feature of Iranian painter/videomaker Mania Akbari, better known for her starring role in Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (2002). Teaming with London-based actor Bijan Daneshmand, who produced the film and co-stars with her, she wrote a tight screenplay based on seven one-to-one interactions between a man and a woman that all take place (with the exception of a tense discussion between a husband and his wife at a restaurant table) in a moving vehicle. Shooting in digital, cinéma vérité-style (one take per episode), the camera follows the body movements, the minute changes in the faces of the protagonists and produces the harrowing impression of being the uneasy witness of the most intimate corners of the gender malaise in contemporary Iran. Yet the placement of the camera, the choreography of the bodies, the construction of the cinematic space – all of this suggests that Akbari-the-director left nothing to chance. Yet, as in Cassavetes’ mature work, the extreme professionalism, the elegance of the acting gives the impression that everything has been improvised.

20 Fingers

The opening sequence, shot from the back of a moving car, is extraordinary. A man and a woman whose faces are never seen are chatting about childhood memories. It sounds innocuous, even playful at first. Then one realises that, while the woman is having fun, it is the man who is asking the questions – and they all revolve around sex (“Did you play doctor?”, “Did he touch you?”) as the car gets deeper and deeper into a desolate, deserted, dark landscape. The car stops, the lights are turned off, there is a scuffle, some groans, a muted cry. Then, the tearful voice of the woman: “Why did you do this? What I am going to tell my mother?” “Tell her you had your period”, replies, coldly, the man who wanted to check “for himself” that his intended bride was indeed a virgin. Covering a large social range – from the well-to-do couple in a cable car on their way back from a party (why did she dance with her best friend’s husband?) to the family struggling to pay bills, the film draws a tight, complex, yet precise portrait of the relationship between men and women in contemporary Iran – and the result is surprising. Women indeed are stuck within rigid social constraints as their hair is hidden under the headscarf, but they fight back, talk back, speak their minds, ask tough questions, make demands, reassess their position within the relationship with unexpected freedom – or their silence is eloquent, as the moment when a woman is asked by her husband what would she do if she were a man… They talk about female desire, abortion, adultery and even homosexuality. The “no-exit” situation is broken twice. Quarrelling with her husband about wanting an abortion so she can go back to school, a woman jumps off his motorcycle with her small child, hops into a cab in the middle of a traffic jam, is forced out of the car by her husband’s antics, stays on the road, and eventually climbs back on the bike. In a train, upon hearing that his wife has had sex with another woman, a man rushes out of the compartment. The importance of 20 Fingers is not only that Akbari made a film that “gives voice” to women in Iran, but that she coined a rigorous filmic language to express them. (Not surprisingly, the film has not been shown in Iran).

From Latin America, two other films are worth mentioning. Andrés Wood’s Machuca (2004) revisits a site of trauma (the 1973 coup that put an end to Salvador Allende’s socialist experiment) through the filmmaker’s childhood. Growing up in an affluent middle-class family that is leaning toward the right (mostly through his too-beautiful but spoilt, privilege-conscious mother), 11 year-old Gonzalo discovers the class divide through his friendship with Pedro Machuca, a boy from the slums, who has been admitted into his private school by a progressive teacher/priest. The film subtly analyses the irreconcilable ambiguities of his position, as he’s tossed between friendship and family, father and mother, Catholicism and his blossoming sexuality, what he likes and what his class status dictates, and finally between friendship and fear – as both his family and the country dissolves. The camera catches the eye of a wife watching her husband packing a whole set of winter clothes as he’s going on a “short business trip” in Venice in the summer. She knows he won’t be coming back – their marriage is dead. Similarly, after Gonzalo has yielded to fear and betrayed Machuca by telling the soldier who wants to arrest him that he does not belong to the slums, that he’s from another class, another part of the city, he knows their friendship is over (Machuca’s life as well, for all we know, as he’s taken by the Militia) and that he’ll spend the rest of his life mourning it.

Another shimmering play on ambiguities – familial, emotional, sexual – is Rolling Family (Familia Rodente) (2004), the latest opus by Pablo Trapero, the director of the splendid El Bonaerense (2002). With a keen eye and ear for the body language, speech mannerisms, customs and foibles of the Argentine lower class, Trapero stages a splendid spin-off from the classical situation – a family of heterogeneous and conflicted members trapped in a closed space, in this case a trailer going across unpredictable country roads to attend a wedding. The architect of this madcap trip is the matriarch Emilia, who basically wants to return, one last time, to the distant village near the Brazilian border where she came from and where her sister still lives. More or less summoned to take part in the trip, her relatives experience a crash course in Argentine social structure, the etiquette of living on top of each other, and the powerful disturbances created by desire, unrequited love and the lingering memories of past romances.

Gay Republicans

Also worth noting is the spirited documentary, Gay Republicans (2004), by the one-of-a-kind Wash Westmoreland. For years, “Wash West” was known as one of the best directors in the gay porn business (his trademark was using models who looked as if they really fancied each other, and a certain sophistication in the narration). He combined that experience with his first love for “art cinema” in The Fluffer (2001), an ironical deconstruction of the porn industry co-directed with another indie filmmaker, Richard Glatzer. Gay Republicans does not break any ground in terms of film language – it’s mostly talking heads – but its subject matter is highly provocative, especially in the hangover days following the US Presidential elections. What could make gay men and women vote Republican, at a time when their own party denied them the right to marry? The answers are surprising, and surprisingly varied. It’s not always (only) a question of self-hatred, but of increasingly complex patterns of identification and political alignment based on culture, class, income, even geography. As it shows gay people who decide not to endorse Bush and feel betrayed by him, or conversely those who feel vindicated by his view of the world, Gay Republicans will contribute an important element in the political debate of the next four years, as it has become clear that it’s issues of “lifestyle” and “moral values”, rather than of international policy and economics, that determine the way the “majority” is thinking about the US government.

Bad Education (La Mala Education) (2004) was the crowning jewel of a small tribute to Pedro Almodovar – limited, alas, to four films, starting with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervosos) (1988). As it turns out, most of the films included are distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, which also handles Bad Education. It’s a pity, because it would have been a golden opportunity to show a new generation of people who were introduced to Almodovar in the 1990s what a ground-breaking filmmaker he was in the 1980s, with films such as Dark Habits (Entre Tinieblas) (1983), What Have I Done to Deserve This? (¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto?!!) (1984) or Law of Desire (La Ley del Deseo) (1987), when he was still fighting the remnants of Franco’s ideology over Spain and worked with limited budgets. Bad Education‘s complex narrative structure, play on sexual identity and autobiographical metaphors concealed under the trappings of a thriller, actually constitute a return to Almodovar’s earlier work. In a double (triple?) role (gay, straight, drag queen), Gael Garcia Bernal projects a dark, opaque identity in which the two other protagonists get engulfed. Both desire him (while knowing he’s not good for them, and that he’s deceiving them), a representation of the erotic chaos that mainstream cinema is rarely capable of (if you want someone, it’s because you see something “good” in him/her). Bad Education seems to be directed by someone who’s read Plato’s Symposium, as reinterpreted by Lacan, and revised by Judith Butler. Man wants to be deceived, you fall in love because you want to lose something (not gain something) and sex is but a performance. The multiple nuances of the drag queen character are a gem. There is Zahara as she appears in Ignacio’s story, then Zahara as Juan (who pretends to be Ignacio) “plays” her on Enrique’s movie set, finally Zahara in the ex-priest’s narration. And in the end – what? A pure play of appearances. Juan clenches his teeth when Enrique makes love to him – and Enrique knows it. The priest realises that the cause of his past infatuation is nothing but an obnoxious junkie, that the real object of his desire is behind this image, in the one that looks like the past illusion, but is different, even more treacherous, lethal, a figure of death in a nice set of muscles. And yet – two films are made: the film-within-the-film; and Almodovar’s Bad Education, in which he unravels his own identity as a former catholic boy-turned-world-famous-director.

It is also a reflection on identity – albeit of a different kind – that makes the poignancy of Notre Musique (2004), arguably the most beautiful and most profoundly disturbing film of the year – bar none. Godard himself – no stranger to self-staging – appears and disappears in the fiction, as a rather melancholy filmmaker invited to an international literary conference in Sarajevo. As such, he is both an observer of the post-war city, and an object of spectacle, desire, and possible knowledge. As he’s giving a lecture on image and text in cinema, young people ask him if he thinks that digital cameras are going to “save cinema”. Reverse angle on his aging face. Silence. He has nothing to say about this. Yet, people want to make him talk – there is a young woman who shoots a “little film on video” and wants him to look at it. He won’t have a chance of telling her what he thinks of it. As he’s back in Switzerland, tending his flowers, the phone rings, and he learns that she has been killed in a quixotic attempt of making a political point.

Notre Musique‘s complex, multilayered soundtrack is resonant with noises of war, voices coming from off-screen, musical excerpts (Meredith Monk, Arvo Pärt, Sibelius), quotes and aphorisms that open up onto other vistas. Godard, who in the post-1968 years had embraced Maoism, makes a joke at his own expense by flatly saying that Mao Zedong, like Homer, the blind poet of the Trojan War, “wrote about what he didn’t know”. In a car driven through the streets of Sarajevo, we hear that “killing a man to defend an idea isn’t defending an idea, it’s killing a man.” And, as in the lecture given in the Malraux cultural centre, these sounds have the power to conjure images. English subtitles in Godard’s films are usually well done, here as well, except in one case. In two instances one hears: “c’est comme une image, mais qui viendrait de loin” – the correct translation being “it’s like an image – but that would come from afar” (and not “a distant image”). Where do images come from is important to Godard. In La Chinoise (1967) he had one character wonder “Where do just thoughts come from?” – an already wry commentary on the Marxist–Leninist dogma (“Just thoughts don’t fall from heaven, they come from a correct social practice.”) Throughout the rest of his work, Godard has been critical of the idea, not specifically of just thoughts, but of just images, as the following aphorism keeps coming back: “it’s not an image that is just – it’s just an image.” And “just an image”, in cinema, is a process. What matters it not so much if they are far or distant, but the formidable machine (war, the film industry, the history of visual representation, the contemporary spectacle of death and violence orchestrated by the media, publicity and entertainment industry) that has produced them. In Godard’s cinema, as in all great cinema, “truth”, if any, inserts itself in the interstice between images: when a shot is replaced by another one, when an image is conjured by a situation, a memory, or one of these little video cameras carried by the anti-heroine of Notre Musique. It comes from a place in-between, a place that perhaps we had lost, (another name for “Paradise” – hence the melancholic tone of the ending). Or – and maybe this is the same thing – a place of spiritual/political quest.

Notre Musique

The “music” of the title comes from an image (“just an image”): the sandaled feet of a young Native American woman, as she comes down some steps, look like notes on a partition. It is also a pregnant image – first the simple beauty of the gesture – demonstrating, once again, that Godard knows how to film a woman’s body. Then the incongruity – why is that woman dressed like this (she and her companions are wearing traditional Native American costumes)? What is she doing in Sarajevo? What do the survivors of one genocide have in common with the survivors of another ethnic cleansing? Godard composes a strange and beautiful collage in which young Jewish women, middle-aged Palestinian poets, elderly French diplomats, sexy waitresses, multilingual translators (“French, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese – at your service”), journalists, writers, students, uneasily coexist in a place aptly called “Purgatory”.

Echoing Dante, Godard divides Notre Musique into three parts. Hell (the prologue) immerses the spectator in an eight minute deluge of images of war – not the heroic war of the battlefield but the ugly war waged on civilians: bodies rotting on the ground, children pleading for their lives, massacres, bombs exploding, starvation – taken either from newsreels or from movies such as Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938). Then the bulk of the film, Purgatory, is set in post-war Sarajevo, a place neither here nor there, where a Palestinian poet can discuss the Trojan War with an Israeli journalist. The only thing we know about the Trojans come from the Greeks, because they had great poets, and the Trojans had none. Did that give the Greeks the right to exterminate the Trojans? And finally, Paradise, shot by an idyllic lake that’s probably in Switzerland, where young people in bathing suits frolic, surrounded by benign US soldiers. A sassy comment on “peace Americana”? Maybe one should pay closer attention to the soundtrack… Godard returns to a book he’s already quoted in the film in which many saw a turning point of his work, Numéro deux (1975), the film that marked his return to Switzerland and his combined used of cinema and video in one complex texture. There, two children quote from (a colourful French translation of) Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely: “He was in love with her… So she pumped five bullets into him, by way of saying hello. He had killed two people himself, but he was in love with her. What a world.” (1) The web-like narrative structure of the Chandler novel revolves around the identity of a mysterious redhead who pulls the strings behind the scene. Once found out – she’s now a blonde, and a rich woman to boot – she commits one last murder before killing herself (she had nothing to fight for, except maybe to protect the one man who had been good to her). Almost thirty years later, when concluding Notre Musique, Godard throws another red thread of signification toward an image that is so far that it can no longer reach us – the image of what no longer exists, a young woman gone to the other side of representation, to the side of death – by quoting Chandler’s last line: “It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way – but not as far as Velma had gone…” (2) Those who have accused Godard of rogue anti-Americanism should meditate on this last sentence – a tribute to a young woman victim of another dirty war (the Israeli–Palestinian conflict) but also to the reservoir of dreams that American pulp culture has produced for us, and that, whether we want it or not, has shaped us (so we can never be totally outside that culture). Inside/outside, Jew/Palestinian, Hell/Paradise, War/Peace, Troy/Jerusalem, Sarajevo/the world, Indian/cowboy, man/woman, cinema/video – “the truth has always two faces”, says the film, as Godard-the-lecturer gives a stunning demonstration on how to use reverse angle shots to build a discourse. Combination of images coming from afar, that vibrate within us, with the music we can still borrow from a distant god, or more modestly, from a woman descending the stairs.


  1. Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1940, p. 248.
  2. Chandler, p. 253.

About The Author

Bérénice Reynaud is the author of New Chinas/New Cinemas (1999) and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (2002). She teaches at the California Institute of the Arts. She edited the Senses of Cinema dossier devoted to Chantal Akerman.

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