03 March 2014

Proust Film Questionnaire

I have wanted for a long while to fill out the FAQ section of the WTT and it occurred to me that the Proust Questionnaire might help me on my way (I ought to have learned by now that the answer is always in Proust). How else will a new visitor understand the vicious biases I nurture against certain filmmakers and the directors and actors I consider above reproach?

Imagine in each question below the invisible phrase "as it applies to cinema," as these answers differ in places from the "as it applies to your whole life" answers.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Spending an afternoon with Renoir, Ophüls, Powell & Pressburger, Wes Anderson--delights in color, movement and sound. Those filmmakers who don't just make great films, but provide great joy.

What is your greatest fear?

As a tot I worried I'd one day run out of good films, but that has passed. Now my fear is everyone else's: early death.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

How often I must remind myself that sitting around and writing about film will make me happier than sitting around and not writing.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

It's one thing to pay your money and enrich the purveyors of Hollywood blockbuster nonsense (I've seen all three Transformers in theatres)--it's another to furiously insist that Nolan's Batman films or Favreau's Iron Man films are artistically worthwhile, on par with directors aiming to provoke thought, not mere wonder.

Which living person do you most admire?

For directors, it might be Steven Soderbergh--an explorer of genres, budgets, styles and mediums who defended movie storytelling as best he could before now trying his hand at television. For actors, Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert--relentless workers and international stars who've collaborated with almost every major living director (and several dead ones).

What is your greatest extravagance?

Purchasing too many Criterion Collection DVDs...not to mention film books I don't have time to read.

What is your current state of mind?

Happy that there is room for people like Shane Carruth to make films and get them distributed, and curious about whether longform television is really "catching" film behind directors like Assayas, Fukunaga and Soderbergh.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Capital "A" acting of the kind most often rewarded with Oscars. Films are made by directors and non-actors are often as great as any star. Start with Hossain Sabzian in Close-Up and move on to hundreds of other examples.

On what occasion do you lie?

When people ask me if I know the films of the Japanese masters--Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa. And when people ask, "won't you come see the new J.J. Abrams picture?" Oh no, busy that day, and the next...

Which living person do you most despise?

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. They gave us the blockbuster and its even more odious cousin, the two hour and fifteen minute, Academy-bait drama. Look at the utter shit to win Best Picture in just the last ten years. 

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Laconism. As purveyed by noir philosophers like Bogart or Mitchum (or Belmondo in Breathless). Jeff Bailey: "You can never help anything, can you? You're like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another."

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Maneating. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Jane Greer in Out of the Past, Lars von Trier's Medea, Emmanuelle Devos in Kings & Queen, the grand dame of them all, Martine Carol in Lola Montès

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Hard to pick from all my tic-y parentheticals...maybe "longtime WTT fave"?

When and where were you happiest?

Walking out of the film survey class I took at community college while a senior in high school, having just seen Breathless for the first time--the score pounding in my ears, almost dancing my way back to the car, knowing film would be a larger influence on my life than I had previously imagined.

What is the greatest love of your life?

I find the greatest romances are Chow-san's in 2046 and In the Mood for Love. Tony Leung has a great unrequited love with Maggie Cheung, denies himself a real relationship with Ziyi Zhang because of it, and pours all that thwarted passion into writing and tree-whispering. 

Which talent would you most like to have?

To only need four hours of sleep a night, so I could always watch a film before bed. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Obviously I ought to have been born independently wealthy. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Apparently I once made 50 posts on this blog in a year, which now seems impossible. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Casa Malaparte, Capri, Italy. 

Where would you most like to live?

I need all the great movie houses and programmers in Manhattan to move to San Francisco. Then San Francisco is my answer. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

The January-February filmgoing period, when the releases aren't worthwhile and most of the new trailers are for summer blockbuster season, which now arrives in early May.

What is your favorite occupation?

Well, writing. Also my least favorite/most frightening. 

What is your most marked characteristic?


What do you most value in your friends?

The willingness to trust me again after I take them to terrible films (happened most recently with the disgraceful Liv & Ingmar). 

Who are your favorite writers?

Ben Hecht, Robert Evans, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Cormac McCarthy, Arnaud Desplechin. 

Who is your hero of fiction?

Sam the Lion. 

What are your favorite names? 

Santino Corleone, "Trashcan" Jack Vincennes, Deckard, John Grady Cole / Madeleine Elster, Camille Javal, Lola Montès, Pinky Rose. 

What is your greatest regret?

Having had a day job for all these years, when otherwise I might have spent weekday afternoons in near-empty theatres.

How would you like to die?

Just in time to be woken back up, as in Ordet or Silent Light.

What is your motto?

To pick one from all the Boris Lermontov lines: "Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on." 

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