CP Goes to the Philippines: Featured author R. Zamora Linmark

zamora linmark

R. ZAMORA LINMARK was born in Manila. He is the author of the poetry collections Prime Time Apparitions (Hanging Loose Press, 2005) and The Evolution of a Sigh (Hanging Loose Press, 2008) and the novels Rolling the R’s (Kaya Press, 1995) and Leche (Coffee House Press, 2011). His next poetry collection, Pop Verite, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press. He also recently completed a third novel titled These Books Belong to Ken Z. He has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at the Universities of Miami and Hawaii.

Linmark has been a regular contributor to Contrappasso. Some of his poems were reprinted in our special issue Writers at the Movies (2015). Here Linmark  introduces and reads his poem A Letter to Claire Danes from a Fan in Manila:

Two other poems appeared in Writers at the Movies:

After Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind

Twelve Short Takes on Montgomery Clift

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Linmark’s short story ‘Dear Jesus’ appeared in Contrappasso #6 (2014). It begins:

Dear Jesus:

My worst nightmare is about to come true. Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor approved the same-sex marriage legislation bill. 20 to 4. And now it’s up to the House of Representatives to kill the bill. But what if they, too, flew over the cuckoo’s nest? That’s why I’m flying there tomorrow. I’m going to withdraw whatever money I have left in my checking account, take the first flight to Honolulu and give these loonies a piece of my mind. That’s right. Hold on, Jesus, I’m now on the line with a Hawaiian Airlines ticketing agent from, of all places, Philippines. Dear Lord, Honolulu is only half hour away by plane from here and I have to call someone in the Philippines to book it…. Just got off the phone. They’re charging me four arms and six thousand legs as if I’m Imelda Marcos. What a rip off. And they don’t offer Senior Citizen discount. So much for Aloha Spirit… Calm down, Marie, calm down… Screw it. I’m willing to overlook the astronomical cost of this ticket due to the gravity of the matter. Otherwise, I’d tell them too to go choke on my monthly SS! I’d rather go hungry for the next couple days than allow this bill to be passed. I don’t care if I have to testify three, four, five thousand times. I won’t stop until these so-called progressive legislators wake up and realize that they’re doing more harm than good. This is not in the best interest of the peoples of Hawaii. I know it. The majority knows it. Come tomorrow, they will know who Marie Machado is and what she stands for.

Marie Machado, Hana, Maui.

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 Dear Jesus:

I have two mommies. Am I greedy?

Alexander Rosales, 3rd grade, Kapalama Elementary.

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Dear Jesus:

Did I wake up in the wrong state? Is today Halloween, October 31, 2013? It is, right? All this talk of gay marriage makes me want to puke. That’s what I want to do right now. Puke the bowl of kim chi chigae I ate last night all over the grounds of State Capitol. This Senate Bill 1 makes me sick to the bone. I should call in sick. But I can’t afford to miss a day’s worth of work. I already got written up twice for being late. But this is more important than ushering losers to their seats or telling them to get their toe jams off the seats or picking up their trash or shining the flashlight on their faces to shut their snoring up. If that fat cow Shawna fires me, so be it. I’ll miss the free movies and fifty percent off of popcorn and hot dogs. Fuck it. This is not the only job in the world. There are a thousand more out there I can get fired from. My sick call is legit. It’s an act of sacrifice, me as the lamb willing to sacrifice his bread and butter just for you, Jesus, because I love and believe in you. All I ask is that you help me write the most convincing testimony, because I’d hate to make a fool of myself in public, especially since Olelo cable TV is live-streaming the entire hearing.

Charles Kwon, McCully.

[TO READ THE REST OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE]

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Writers at the Movies: A conversation with Emmanuel Mouret (French version)

Frédérique Bel, Emmanuel Mouret, and Fanny Valette in Changement d’adresse (2006)

 

[Editor’s note: My recent conversation with French filmmaker and actor Emmanuel Mouret was first published online in an English translation at Bright Lights Film Journal and subsequently in the new print edition of Contrappasso: Writers at the Movies.

Emmanuel Mouret has written and directed seven feature films. He is best known for his romantic comedies Changement d’adresse (Change of Address, 2006), Un baiser s’il vous plaît (Shall We Kiss?, 2007), Fais-moi plaisir! (Please, Please Me!, 2009), and the ensemble film L’art d’aimer (The Art of Love, 2011). Mouret’s new film Caprice has just opened in France.

These elegant comedies typically concern amorous misadventure in a timeless Paris. Mouret is also an actor, and his accomplished comic persona – a bumbling, shy, genial romantic – sets the tone of the films in which he chooses to appear. He frequently collaborates with the actors Frédérique Bel, Ariane Ascaride, Judith Godrèche, Virginie Ledoyen, and Dany Brillant. 

Below is the original French conversation, conducted in the winter of 2014-2015 with the assistance of Arthur Chaslot. Or you can read Theodore Ell’s English translation – M.A.G.]

MÉLANCOLIE COMIQUE: UNE CONVERSATION AVEC EMMANUEL MOURET
MATTHEW ASPREY GEAR

MATTHEW ASPREY GEAR: Les critiques cinéma anglophones classent souvent votre travail dans la tradition d’Eric Rohmer et Woody Allen. C’est probablement du journalisme paresseux. En tant qu’acteur et réalisateur quelles sont vos influences, tant françaises qu’internationales?

EMMANUEL MOURET: Mon admiration pour Eric Rohmer et Woody Allen n’est pas fausse, mais d’autres maîtres m’influencent ou, plus précisément, me stimulent énormément. Je pense à Ernst Lubitsch, dont les films constituent une sorte d’absolu, face à ses oeuvres nous nous sentons en communication direct avec un esprit qui nous rend plus intelligent et tolérant que ce que l’on pensait être. J’éprouve une immense sympathie pour certains films de Blake Edwards ou de Billy Wilder. Les comédies de Jacques Becker et notamment Edouard et Caroline, les films de Sacha Guitry, ceux de Truffaut, Ophüls, et beaucoup d’autres. Cependant je dois confesser que j’ai également un goût très prononcé pour le mélodrame, en particulier ceux de Douglas Sirk, John Stahl et bien évidemment Leo Mac Carey qui réussi tout aussi bien dans les deux genres.

ASPREY GEAR: Comment êtes-vous devenu réalisateur?

MOURET: Grace à un désir, que j’avais enfant, de faire du cinéma. J’ai fait très jeunes des court-métrages, j’ai étudié le scénario, l’art dramatique, puis je suis entré à l’école national de cinéma (la FEMIS). Mon film de fin d’études a été remarqué (Promène toi donc tout nu, [1999]), ce qui m’a permis aussitôt de réaliser mon premier long-métrage [Laissons Lucie faire!, 2000].

ASPREY GEAR: Pouvez-vous expliquer comment vous développez vos script? Par exemple, pouvez-vous raconter les origines de Changement d’adresse?

MOURET: Je ne me souviens plus très bien. Je passe beaucoup de temps sur la mécanique du récit, les articulations, la structure, puis je rédige assez vite pour retrouver une certaine fraîcheur. Souvent je pars d’une situation fantasmée et j’en imagine les conséquences. Pour Changement d’adresse, cela devait être : Et si je vivais en colocation avec une jeune femme aussi fantasque, que se passerait-il ? Ou encore : Et si l’on tombait amoureux sans s’en apercevoir, se trompant même de personne ? Mes personnages en général essayent de bien faire les choses, mais leurs sentiments , leurs désirs les tirent ailleurs, alors ils doivent « négocier » avec eux mêmes. Et ça m’intéresse parce que je me reconnais, ça peut être très compliqué et drôle comme douloureux.

ASPREY GEAR: Vous apparaissez rarement en tant qu’acteur dans les films d’autres réalisateurs. Être acteur est-il une priorité pour vous?

MOURET: Pas du tout, je ne me sens pas acteur. J’avais joué dans mon film de fin d’étude (Promène toi donc tout nu) pour faire comme les cinéaste-acteurs, pour voir ce que ça faisait. Mais le premier producteur avec lequel j’ai travaillé voulait me produire un film à condition que je joue dedans. Je l’ai fait, mais pas pour mon deuxième film [Vénus et Fleur, 2004]. Lorsque j’ai donné dans des essais la réplique à Frédérique Bel pour Changement d’adresse, le producteur (celui avec qui je travaille encore aujourd’hui) a insisté pour que je joue dans le film. Je l’ai fait. Depuis je joue assez régulièrement dans mes films. Mais il s’agit d’une exclusivité, je n’ai pas envie de jouer dans d’autres films.

ASPREY GEAR: Pouvez-vous parler des avantages et des difficultés de travailler dans l’industrie du cinéma français en ce moment?

MOURET: Le système de financement français permet pour l’instant la création d’un nombre de long-métrages bien supérieurs à nos voisins européens. Ce système fonctionne plutôt bien, mais il repose évidemment sur une volonté politique qui impose à des chaines de télévisions un investissement de leur chiffre d’affaire dans le cinéma français. Espérons que cette volonté demeure à l’avenir, et que la perte de vitesse de la télévision face à internet soit compensée par ces nouveaux médias, qui par ailleurs diffusent énormément de films sans contre-partie.

ASPREY GEAR: Votre dernier film Une autre vie marque un changement de direction par rapport à vos précédentes comédies romantiques. Que pouvez-vous dire de votre prochain film Caprice? Quels sont vos plans futurs?

MOURET: Caprice est clairement un retour à la comédie, même si certains y trouvent une mélancolie héritée du film précédent. Actuellement je prépare une nouveau film qui s’appelle, pour l’instant, L’amour à deux… quand on est plusieurs. Une mélancolie comique, librement inspirée de la Ronde d’Ophüls.

Contrappasso Extra: Interview with Richard Misek (Rohmer in Paris)

An Interview with Richard Misek

Richard Misek is film-maker, media theorist, and educator. He has a professional background as a video editor and motion graphics designer, and is a former Knox Fellow at Harvard University. His teaching focuses on digital film-making, and encompasses fiction, documentary, and experimental forms. His current research explores the interstices between cinema and digital media, and extends across traditional scholarship and practice-based research/film-making. He is the author of the book Chromatic Cinema (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) and of numerous articles on moving image aesthetics and technologies.

Misek is also the director of the feature-length documentary Rohmer in Paris (2013), which has screened in five continents and received widespread critical acclaim.

I recently caught Rohmer in Paris at the BAFICI film festival in Buenos Aires. Richard and I swapped some emails on the new documentary.

MATTHEW ASPREY: What was the process of making this film?

RICHARD MISEK: I’d just come out of a very happy four years in which I’d been working on a film PhD in Melbourne, and I was now starting a job teaching film history at Bristol University. It was a miserable wet autumn, and I was in temporary accommodation in a new city, bored and depressed, with just a laptop for company and the university library two minutes’ walk away. Over the course of three months, I watched almost the entirety of the library’s video collection. They didn’t have much, but they did have a complete set of Rohmer’s films, so I watched them night after night, voraciously, and gradually found myself drawn into his weirdly unchanging world.

What most interested me about the films, beyond the fact that they transported me somewhere more interesting than Bristol, was the spatial fidelity that Rohmer displayed towards Paris. He was so loyal to the city’s topography that he couldn’t allow himself to do what most film-makers do, which is to cheat physical space to fit the narrative requirements of their film. So, for example, Rohmer would film a scene that involved someone walking down Rue de Lévis with strict physical continuity. Like his characters, his actors and his camera crew would move step-by-step down the street. It’s such a ridiculous but also admirable constraint for a film-maker to impose on himself, and the result is a kind of spatial ‘truthfulness’ very rare in cinema. I don’t think it necessarily makes the films any better, but it provides an extra layer of interest.

So Rohmer in Paris initially took the form of a straightforward academic project about Rohmer’s relation to the topography of Paris – I presented seminars, and gave conference talks on the subject, and started to draft a book chapter about it (it’s now in a book called Mapping Cultures edited by Les Roberts). At the same time, for a long while I’d been interested in the idea of using film to interrogate film. Given the technology that’s now available, why should film critics and historians still restrict themselves to using only text? So I began to work on a short video essay on Rohmer’s Paris. Within a few months, I’d made a 15-minute work called ‘Mapping Rohmer’ but it felt too short to do justice to the complexity of Rohmer’s relationship with the city, so I just kept on going. Three years later, I finished the film!

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MA: Your film isn’t a traditional documentary but rather an essay film on Rohmer, on his vision of Paris, on your obsession with his work, and on the ultimate futility of cinephilia. And it’s also a love letter to the late director; at one moment you stop to confess to him, ‘I love you’. How do you define Rohmer in Paris and did you ever consider a more traditional documentary?

RM: I like that it’s a difficult film to define, so I don’t define it. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t even consider it to be a film, never mind a documentary. But then at some point, I’d spent so long with Rohmer’s footage that my own life as a viewer began to be reflected in it, and what had been a research project turned into something else. I don’t quite know when it happened – maybe after a year or so – that I realised there was a narrative there too, and that what I was actually doing was making a film. But by that point it was already such a hybrid, that it was too late to make it a traditional documentary. I remember there was a moment, after I’d first showed the film to friends and many of them really didn’t like it, that I thought ‘Screw it, maybe I’ll just make a straight doc on Rohmer and try to sell it to a couple of TV stations’. But that would have been a terrible mistake – a compromise that nobody had even asked me to make.

The whole experience does, however, strengthen my belief that we are in a period in which traditional categories (‘fiction’, ‘documentary’, even ‘film’) count ever less. Yes, the old institutional divisions between types of film, and between film and other media, still exist; but speaking as a viewer, I increasingly feel that the most exciting work occupies the liminal spaces between forms, and the most interesting films somehow try to renegotiate what film is. I think that’s what I was trying to do with my film, in my own small way.

MA: What other non-fiction films do you see as antecedents?

RM: Now I look at the film, it seems to fit quite clearly into the ‘essay film’ category, and sometimes even feels like a conventional documentary. But for most of the time I was making it, I really didn’t know where I was going with it, and I certainly didn’t have any models for what I was trying to achieve. I looked at many films – like Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98), but they typically didn’t help me solve my specific problems. I would say, though, that two works that very much inspire me are Sans Soleil (1983) and Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003). Again, I didn’t draw any specific lessons from them, but indirectly I think Rohmer in Paris owes a lot to both. Without Sans Soleil, I don’t think I’d have had the nerve to include the personal elements of the film, and without the inspiration of Los Angeles Plays Itself I don’t think I’d have had the self-discipline to make a film (almost) entirely out of appropriated footage.

MA: Did you meet the frustration film essayists often encounter when legally or financially prohibited from quoting other films for the purpose of criticism? Los Angeles Plays Itself  – Thom Anderson’s now-classic essay on cinema and a city – was also playing at the BAFICI festival, although its legal status remains dubious, effectively underground, because it was produced without permissions. These are not problems literary critics normally face because of ‘fair use’ provisions of copyright law. Was it difficult or expensive to acquire the rights to use such extensive clips from Rohmer’s films?

RM: If you work with no money and expect to earn no money, there are no constraints to what footage you can use. It would have been impossible to acquire rights to use all the clips that I used – the going rate is about €80 a second, not to mention the many hours for which you’d have to employ a legal expert to negotiate it all. I’d have needed a budget of over half a million Euros! Instead, I took the only option faced by almost all artists who draw on the media landscape – I just ripped DVDs and prepared myself to invoke fair dealing if anyone questioned the critical integrity of my project. As a result of making Rohmer in Paris, I now know so much about Intellectual Property, I’ve actually started writing about it as an academic. In fact, funny you should mention the ambiguous legal status of Los Angeles Plays Itself, as I’ve just finished writing a 10,000 article on just that subject! In short: yes, LAPI has never had a full commercial release, and there are certainly economic reasons for that, but the landscape is rapidly changing. Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film was made almost entirely from ripped DVDs, and sold to over fifty broadcasters without any major problems. I started this project feeling quite pessimistic about artists being able to use their moral right to work with found footage. I was also very pessimistic about my own chances of finding anyone who’d even want to screen it. But the last half year of exhibiting the film, and seeing how many other people are ‘getting away with’ using media in their work, has made me much more optimistic. The cultural ground is shifting, and intellectual property holders only have so much power to resist it.

MA: You explore the notion of Rohmer as a psychogeographical filmmaker. Can you elaborate on that? Did Rohmer have any connection to the Guy Debord and the Situationist International?

RM: No, he had no direct connection to them. I don’t know if he even read Baudelaire or Benjamin. Maybe he did, but he never mentioned them. Rather, my sense is that Rohmer’s spatial/urban project was far more intuitive than intellectual. There’s a great article he wrote for the 50th anniversary of Positif in which Rohmer registers his mild frustration with the fact that the train in Buster Keaton’s The General once travels screen left to screen right, and then travels screen right to screen left. He can’t say why – it just bothers him. Rohmer didn’t analyse psychogeography, he embodied it.

MA: Gene Hackman delivers a famous line in Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975) that watching a Rohmer film is ‘kind of like watching paint dry’. Do you think that is still the general attitude to his work?

RM: Personally, I find watching Night Moves to be like watching paint dry, so to each his own! I’m certainly not trying to champion Rohmer. I’m not even sure that he’s one of my favourite directors. I never made a rational decision that I liked his work, I just fell in love with him. Trying to be objective, though, I think there’s a so much Rohmer’s films to be interested in, and I look forward to future writers and film-makers seizing on aspects of his work that I haven’t even touched. There’s plenty more to explore.

MA: And finally, could you tell us which of Rohmer’s films is your favourite?

RM: L’amour l’après-midi (1972). Or maybe La Collectioneuse (1967). Or Le Rayon Vert (1986). Or La boulangère de Monceau (1963)… or…