gimme shelter

i'd never seen Gimme Shelter, but last night watched the last 1/2 hour or so. amazing. loved Grey Gardens (and the musical, as earlier posts attest). wow. the Maysles brothers know what they are about. there is one shot, in the penultimate (did i just say "penultimate"?) scene . . . the concert goers are leaving the field, the scene, looking sort of blissed out but not quite as high as the night before, which had been more than sufficiently revealed in the film. the Maysles frame a shot of a small group of people heading off down a dusty road, blankets and other concertgoing-necessities in hands, in bundles. someone is carrying a very large, blood-red flag, just a field of blood-red. the camera is magically *just the right distance* from it and the flag fills the screen, the field of our vision, and it seems to linger but is more likely the slow-motion effect of flag waving while moving in a particular direction. i imagine that this was simply a "lucky shot" but it was used to such powerful effect (not the sort of clunky flag-waving of Les Miserables, a show i love, but find also a tad bit intolerable, at times).

so that Maysles shot: "the impossible art of fatal mistakes," as Baudrillard would say . . . and i'm dying (that was my initial word choice, which i see as, um, quaint and obliquely interesting) to read and write about it in the context of filmmaking, finding these moments. speaking of just such a moment, a couple of years ago, at the Sundance Filmmaker Labs, i had the lucky and mind-blowing experience of meeting Philip Seymour Hoffman and got to gush about a tragically mysteriously wondrous moment in the masterpiece, Magnolia, where, in a scene w/ the dying Jason Robards' character (Earl Partridge), Hoffman, the hospice worker actually gives him a cigarette upon his cancer-addled request. there is this moment. i'm thinking, "holy shit, he just gave him a cigarette, . . . how tragically loving and compassionate and insane . . . " but then when Hoffman's character ("Phil" ) goes to light it, he, in Hoffman's words (i asked him if the move had been scripted by Paul Thomas Anderson), "fakes it" by miming a lighter in his hand and even makes a tiny "tschhhk" sound as though actually lighting the lighter, the cigarette. Robards' character then pretends to smoke. Hoffman says it was "something we found" in rehearsal. it becomes, in the film, a serious moment. blew me away.

we have got to make/have room for these "fatal" or maybe more accurately "happy" mistakes.

back to the Maysles' fine work: thinking that documentary film is the most important thing i can involve myself in. but that's dangerous, because my narrative film project feels equally if not just "differently" important. what's really important is to be working on a film project AS I WRITE THE BOOK about film discourses in rhetoric and composition studies (from now on, i'm going w/ "Composition"). making, thinking about, worrying, and screening my films over the past 4 years has inspired the writing i'm doing (although i'd love to simply make films, which is never "simply" anything but a fantastically engaging/enraging experience, overfull of affective registers that play out in the mind but also seriously on/in/through the body).

screening my films since my campus screening in 2004, the NCTE screening in 2004, CCCC's 2005, MLA 2005, CCCC 2006, RSA 2006, CCCC 2007, and PSU 2007 has honored me with access to conversation with audiences, talk and wonder and worry that compels me to think through the work and to continue to strive for an aesthetic i've always been after (minimalist, ambiguous, smart) and an ethics i/we can agree upon as valuable for our work as *writing* teachers or *compositionists*.


jeff said…
"I WRITE THE BOOK about film discourses in rhetoric and composition studies (from now on, i'm going w/ "Composition")"

You might be interested in a section from my book, The Rhetoric of Cool, particularly the Commutation chapter which puts Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith's films into context with 1963 and composition.
cool ;)

i have your book but have not gotten that far, so now i have new motivation.

thanks for writing, Jeff.