Godard, Bolaño, and Things in Between

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The past few years have seen different themes. Last year we were talking and studying jazz music and its relationship to issues of performance, creativity, history, hypertext, and new media. This semester, we’ve picked up a new or more elaborate theme: film, new media, hypertext, and performance: we’ve gone from Roberto Bolaño through to Anthony Braxton, connecting items along the way. This has all in many ways played out in 100 Days 2009 and will continue in 100 Days 2010.

I remember John Timmons visiting and showing me work he’d completed on one of his recent film projects. His sense of screen space is sensual and evocative and much of his study (how he thinks about it by making films) of the camera reminds me of the way Bolaño dramatizes character, but it is recalls Godard’s existential vision of “cinema as life” and what this may mean in literary craft and music.

Carol Maso in The American Woman in the Chinese Hat plays will different methods of narrative, often inviting the metaphor of the camera into her work, as, I would argue, a counterpoint to the aesthetcs of conventional point of vew: how can Catherine “run away” from the eyes of the reader? And then there’s Coover’s A Night at the Movies, where the old cinema screen is perforated and comes alive. Much of the work we touched on Contemporary Fiction plays with visual apparatus. The image of projectionist is cast against the dying world of the theater become moving, mechanical photography, ad thus a part of sculptural memory. In Bolaño’s novel Distant Star, the vision of the historical study of the dim characters of political coup, which is a facet of the study of human memory, is problematic because of what we chose to turn into a fiction and that fiction’s epistemological context. I contend that Bolaño’s is a Borgesian method, a persistent act of examination of the images we think we know well, such as those images created by Garcia Marquez, those images that are so powerful they impinge on the real. The unnamed narrator of the novel does not imagine the death of the murderer/poet Carlos Wieder ,but he is free to dramatize the death of the Garmendia sisters, two acts of image making that frame the novel’s travel and the narrator’s becoming. In 2666, the critics’ subject is a random agent; his novels are the critics’s only anchor but they are a foam anchor in turbulent seas.

I’ve watched Godard’s film Vivre sa Vie to get a feel for Brody’s elaborate examination of the work. In the film, Nana makes a decision to pursue an acting career only to take up prostitution as a means (we assume) of making a living or as a means of pursuing curiosity, slowly moving from one to another complex choice. But Godard’s method is both intimate and objective (objective intimacy? Sure). In context, Godard makes it difficult to interpret Nana’s actions as why something happens is either unknown (not on screen but suggested perhaps through dialogue, text, or dance) or should perhaps be obvious; we don’t really know why Nana wants to be in films as this would suggest absolute or pure circumstance. The film doesn’t negate interpretation or meaning, however. Priests don’t swoop in and save the day. We know that much.


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