Monday, March 03, 2008

The Five Obstructions

Jørgen Leth assumes a Sisyphean task, as assigned by Lars Von Trier, and descends into a creative hell of his own choosing. Leth’s assignment: Remake his own short film “The Perfect Human” numerous times using various constraints dictated by filmmaker Lars Von Trier. Leth accepts the challenge and I had to wonder how two American filmmakers would handle a similar duel. It would be interesting to see Christopher Nolan go up against Tim Burton, for example. The sparring could most easily be compared to a game of chess, were it not that Leth seems nearly gleeful in some existential way in his knowledge that accepting the challenge means he is already the loser. Or do I mean winner? Somehow this acceptance riles Von Trier all the more as he realizes that Leth’s centeredness makes him nearly impenetrable and not the target that Von Trier hoped he would be. The final obstruction finds Von Trier in an attempt to “become” Leth, as he commands that the latter pronounce dialogue written for the “perfect human,” which we now realize is Leth (according to Von Trier, anyway.) If any, or all that, is confusing it won’t be after you watch the film. Interspersed throughout, Leth’s original 1967 short film, “The Perfect Human” perfectly underscores “The Five Obstructions,” which is the best documentary I’ve seen recently.

Direct any calls to Waveland Bowl this weekend. I'll be hitting the '08 Lebowski Fest and rolling a few games. We'll be working in shifts.

{from} Life Cannons

We thaw to change and break the anger of its days,
when beaches stretch to the vision of some Goofy, who

plates a table for a last supper had by cartoon seagulls.

As when Buster Keaton stands and the framehouse falls around him,
or the singing of "La Marseillaise" in "Casablanca."

Else Snow White kissing Bashful and Dopey on the head in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Like Jimmy Stewart in "Vertigo," approaching Kim Novak across the room, realizing she embodies all of his obsessions—better than he knows.

And John Wayne putting the reins in his mouth in "True Grit" and galloping across the mountain meadow, six-shooters in both hands.

Remember Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta discussing what they call Quarter Pounders in France, in "Pulp Fiction"?

The Man in the Moon getting a cannon shell in his eye, in the Georges Melies film "A Voyage to the Moon"?

(Urgent, ringing telephone.)

Nearly identical to the way Zero Mostel throws a cup of cold coffee at the hysterical Gene Wilder in Mel Brooks' "The Producers," and Wilder screaming: "I'm still hysterical! Plus, now I'm wet!"

Marlon Brando is still screaming "Stella!" in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Jack Nicholson is still trying to order a chicken salad sandwich in "Five Easy Pieces."

However, the ambiguous pair of lips in "Citizen Kane" no longer pronounces "Rosebud."

How about the haunted eyes of Antoine Doinel, Truffaut's autobiographical hero, in the freeze frame that ends "The 400 Blows"?

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate, Cool Hand Luke.

Anne Frank said "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

We need Jean-Paul Belmondo to flip a cigarette into his mouth in Godard's "Breathless" and Moses to part the Red Sea in "The Ten Commandments."

We need to find an old dead man in a child's swing, his mission completed, at the end of Kurosawa's "Ikiru."

We need to hear the word “plastics” in the “The Graduate.”

We need "There's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick!" from Woody Allen in "Annie Hall."

We’re running down that hill with Indiana Jones being chased by 100 Pacific islanders with bows and arrows as he leaps into a plane with “Snakes!”

You are the knight who plays chess with Death, in Bergman's "The Seventh Seal."

And “We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" according to Alfonso Bedoya in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."

We need "I want to live again. I want to live again. Please God, let me live again."

We need "Forget about it, Jake. It’s Chinatown."