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— Errata Movie Podcast —

I don't often blog about my shoes. Outside of holidays, I mean. But today I'm making an exception. I'm amending the by-laws.

I don't drive much, but I walk all over the place. I have a pair of shoes that I've worn for a year or so. They're the kind with the removable cork insoles that conform to your feet over time. I've broken them in.

Yeah, but not long ago I got a new pair of shoes. They're the same brand as the old pair, and although the style is different, the insoles are the same, except, of course, that they're new and rigid. I feel their supports pressing against my arches.

I rotate my shoes daily for variety. No, not clockwise. I mean one day I'll wear the new ones, the next the old ones. They feel very different, the two pairs, but I've gotten used to the difference. It'll diminish.

Recently, though, I pulled the insoles out of both pairs and swapped them. No, not left for right. Old for new. I don't know why, but I did it. So lately I've been walking around with old scuffed shoes that have strong new supports and stiff new shoes that feel perfectly formed to the soles of my feet.

Strangely, it feels like I have two totally different pairs of shoes than before. The ages of the shoes are now indeterminate; which came first is hard to say.

I remember reading about the movies of Leos Carax before I'd ever seen them. Sometimes reading about movies you've never seen can be frustrating. I make mental notes about the titles, but my head only holds so many. But the ideas about Carax, about a poetic cinema that takes its cues from silent movies, were so intriguing that I read on.

I eventually saw them: Boy Meets Girl, which I liked, Mauvais Sang, which I really liked, and Pola X, which I wasn't crazy about. I skipped over The Lovers on the Bridge because it wasn't available anywhere.

So the recommendation paid off reasonably well, but more than that a seed was planted. The centerpiece of Mauvais Sang — which is called Bad Blood in English, but I like the rhythm of the French title better ? is Denis Lavant's run/dance down the sidewalk while David Bowie's "Modern Love" fills the soundtrack, a moment of such joyous release that I tried to find something similar elsewhere at the movies, any movies, which led me to Beau Travail in which Lavant — the same actor — is a tightly coiled spring that eventually bounds free. Beau Travail was my introduction to Claire Denis, who is now among my favorite filmmakers, someone whose movies are perfect examples of poetic cinema even if the book that started the quest didn't prefigure this particular destination.

Earlier this year, The Lovers on the Bridge, Carax's third movie, the one that I skipped over in my initial survey, was released on DVD. Like Mauvais Sang, it stars Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant, and I've been looking forward to seeing it for a long time. But just as I never saw Denis's movies outside of the context of Carax's, I also can no longer step back into Carax's filmography without carrying Denis's movies with me.

It's the way of movie experience. Chronology is only one axis, and it's not always very descriptive of what ideas and sensations a movie contains, because the movie contains nothing; it only triggers the ideas and sensations in the viewer's head. Thus context is important, but highly nebulous. Beau Travail features a character from Godard's Le Petit Soldat, a movie made 35 years earlier, and the character is even played by the same actor, but since I saw Le Petit Soldat after seeing Beau Travail, who's to say which movie is referring to which in my head?

What I also notice about my shoes — oh yeah, the shoes — is that I'm a delayer. It's why I rotate them. It's why I swap their insoles. It's why I eat the half-cashews out of the bowl first even though I prefer the whole ones (naturally). It's why I haven't seen Lovers on the Bridge, yet. Patience.

Sometimes you have to give in to fistfuls of snacks. A year ago, I'd never seen a movie by Ozu. Now I've seen more than 20. But when you're at the mercy of film distributors, you're presented with stark choices, between seeing them all when the opportunity arises and waiting years for someone to release them on DVD. Luckily, Ozu's movies are so unhurried that even packing them into a few weeks makes them no less soothing.

Other times a slow savoring is more appropriate. Carax is much less prolific than Ozu, and transcendent moments like Lavant's acrobatics in Mauvais Sang and the last thirty seconds of Beau Travail, are too brief and too rare to gobble down.

You can watch such a moment again, sure, but you only get one chance to see it for the first time. Approach it as if it's the precarious cliff that it is.

And now back to a blog not about shoes...

Posted by davis | Link
Reader Comments
March 31, 2004, 06:50 PM
Greg White


You make me feel almost too inarticulate to even write a comment. But thats a good thing.

April 1, 2004, 10:59 AM

Hi Greg.

Comments are always more than welcome. As you know, I stammer inarticulately pretty much every day in person. If I'm flowery in text every now and then, it's just another way of finding balance and/or delaying the inevitable.

But thanks. :-)

April 8, 2004, 09:51 AM

Yes, that was a fun and inspiring read. I'm bumping Beau Travail up on my To See list on account of it, a film I realize I have no business delaying my exposure toward.

April 8, 2004, 11:08 AM

Doug, I'll be curious to hear what you think.

April 11, 2004, 12:11 PM

Heheh, the Denis Levant dance in Mauvais Sang always strikes me a bit like a spastic version of Kevin Bacon's (body double's) dance in Footloose which isn't as much a slam on its awkwardness, but rather, a good indication of Carax's penchant for finding a kind of "unpolished", mundane beauty in the everyday. There is a great deal of freedom of movement in his films, and Lovers on the Bridge is a great example of that (I'm still astonished that it was shot on a sound stage). His films are by no means perfect, but quite attractive in their sincere, unabashed energy.

April 11, 2004, 08:17 PM

Kevin who?

I'm glad to hear that Lovers on the Bridge exemplifies Carax's energy. I can't wait to see it. "'unpolished' mundane beauty of the everyday," "freedom of movement," and "unabashed energy" — three great phrases for describing Carax's movies.

The ones I've seen have an electric quality, even when they're a bit clunky, and it's not all supplied by the actors. In my comments, I focused on Levant, but the other exhilarating aspect of the scene in Mauvais Sang is the camera's unbridled sprint down the street. What seemed like a soundstage (and might be?) suddenly becomes boundless. The end of The 400 Blows takes place outside and so you know the boy could run forever, but the scene in Mauvais Sang, despite being technically set out-of-doors, seems finite. Until that moment.

Wasn't some of Lovers on the Bridge shot on the real Pont Neuf?

By the way, I know your intention here is to establish a precedent to validate a gambit in the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, but it violates a few of the rules. I'm not sure where you compete, but Levant and Bacon cannot be thus linked in tournament play.

April 12, 2004, 05:27 AM

Hmph! I demand a recount; I could have used Kevin as an entry into Flashdance and thrown in Jennifer Beals into the mix! >:(

By the way, yes, I do remember that at least part of the preliminary shooting was on the Pont Neuf but I think most of final product is sound stage. Hard to tell though.

April 14, 2004, 09:40 AM

Rob, I know what you mean about switching out the soles of shoes. I've done it too. It's a slight discombobulation. But it's good. I try it with other things in my life too. Discombobulation is a good thing in my mind.

April 14, 2004, 07:45 PM

Hello, heathervescent.

In Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, Hazel Motes walks around with pebbles in his shoes and sleeps with barbed wire wrapped around his chest. But he's mad at Jesus. I just like being discombobulated. I also like saying discombobulated.

August 31, 2004, 07:27 AM

Brilliant piece. I often wonder whether there're others who see the poetry in Carax, in Lavant.

Thx for putting my mind at ease.

September 1, 2004, 10:15 AM

Hey John. Thanks for the kind words.

I've since seen Lovers on the Bridge. Acquarello was right. Mauvais Sang is still my favorite, but those first three movies from Carax make a nice trilogy, of sorts.

I wonder what he's up to nowadays?

October 22, 2004, 03:44 PM

I remember reading somewhere that, unfortunately, he's up to absolutely nothing after the critical failure of Pola X.

It's a complete shame. I've never seen another director who moved me as much as him. Godard, Denis, etc were all close - but Carax just amazes me. Period.

November 8, 2004, 11:37 PM

That is too bad. I didn't love Pola X, but I'd love to see him make another movie. I imagine I'll watch Pola X again one day. Maybe it'll grow on me. Incidentally, it was co-written by Denis's frequent collaborator Jean-Pol Fargeau who seems to enjoy adapting Melville. Billy Budd became Beau Travail.

April 28, 2005, 08:47 AM

Interesting. Have you actually tried giving Pierre, Or The Ambiguities a read? What a beast of a book!

The first poster was correct. Re-reading this, you are amazingly well-written.


April 29, 2005, 02:20 AM

Hi John,

Wow, thanks. I haven't read Pierre, Or the Ambiguities (For those following along, the French title of Melville's book is Pierre, ou les ambiguitiés, which can be abbreviated Pola, hence the title of the Carax movie Pola X, which was based on his tenth draft, or something).

In fact I think the only Melville book I've ever read is good ol' Moby Dick. Someone in high school said I was Ishmael. An outsider who was nevertheless aboard the ship. It's written in my yearbook, itself a beast of a book, if I recall.

December 11, 2005, 09:29 PM
Keith G

Ahhh, I'm so glad you talked about the last few minutes (well, you said 30 seconds, but...) of Beau Travail. I watched the movie the first time with utterly fixed focus and concentration, and yet was shocked by that scene. What a denouement! That scene alone has inspired me to do things with my life that I might not have done. Just fantastic.
Another completely unforgettable movie for me is Wertm?ller's Seven Beauties, in which case the opening scene of several minutes' worth of black and white film with narration is far more compelling than many entire movies. It's been many years since I've seen it, but I still breathe shallowly when I think of it.