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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:35 pm 
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Eclipse Series 31: Three Popular Films by Jean-Pierre Gorin

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Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, widely known for his early-seventies collaborations (including Tout va bien) with Jean-Luc Godard in the Dziga Vertov Group, established his singular voice with this trio of accomplished, fascinating, and nontraditional documentaries, made in Southern California after his relocation there. Poto and Cabengo (1978) is a compelling visit with two young San Diego twins who have invented their own language. In Routine Pleasures (1986), Gorin conjoins the story of a group of model train enthusiasts in Del Mar with a meditation on the work of critic and painter Manny Farber. And My Crasy Life (1992) is an expectation-shredding exploration of a Samoan gang in Long Beach. With these three films, Gorin excavates hidden communities that are a part of everyday American life, and shows himself to be a major chronicler of what is eccentric and beautiful in our common culture.

Poto and Cabengo

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Gracie and Ginny are San Diego twins who speak unlike anyone else. Living largely cut off from the world, the two little girls have created a private form of communication that’s an amalgam of the English and German they hear at home. Jean-Pierre Gorin’s free-form, polyphonic nonfiction investigation into this phenomenon looks at the family from a variety of angles, with the director casting himself as a sociological detective of sorts. It’s a delightful and absorbing study of words and faces, mass media and personal isolation, and America’s odd margins.


Routine Pleasures

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What do a group of model-train enthusiasts and the legendary film critic and painter Manny Farber have in common? These two lines intersect in cultural inquisitor Jean-Pierre Gorin’s lovely and distinctly American film, which takes as its subject singular passions (the locomotive aficionados’ elaborately designed worlds in miniature; Farber’s teeming canvases) and expands to something richly philosophical, meditative, and surprisingly funny. Routine Pleasures is a masterful tribute to our hobbies and obsessions.


My Crasy Life

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Jean-Pierre Gorin’s gripping and unique film about Samoan street gangs in Long Beach, California, is, like other works by the filmmaker, a probing look at a closed community with its own rules, rituals, and language. Part observational documentary, part fiction invisibly scripted and shaped by the director, My Crasy Life, which won a special jury prize at Sundance, is a resolutely unglamorous yet intensely compassionate examination of violence and dislocation.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:50 pm 
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Why is this called "Three Popular Films"?? A majority of people never heard of them, so what makes them popular?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:51 pm 
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It's a joke. Also my head exploded. Even if these came in a flaming dog poo bad let alone that garish blue I'd be willing to pay anything for these.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:09 pm 
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Cinephrenic wrote:
Why is this called "Three Popular Films"?? A majority of people never heard of them, so what makes them popular?

Criterion's actually had that title in mind for over five years.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:11 pm 
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They have also had that title on his "top 10 Criterion films" list on the website.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:40 pm 
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Jeff wrote:
Routine Pleasures

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What do a group of model-train enthusiasts and the legendary film critic and painter Manny Farber have in common? These two lines intersect in cultural inquisitor Jean-Pierre Gorin’s lovely and distinctly American film, which takes as its subject singular passions (the locomotive aficionados’ elaborately designed worlds in miniature; Farber’s teeming canvases) and expands to something richly philosophical, meditative, and surprisingly funny. Routine Pleasures is a masterful tribute to our hobbies and obsessions.

I'm not familiar with this, but in noting that it apparently touches on model train enthusiasts...is, or was, Neil Young ever involved with this production, even tangentially? He is, after all, such a huge model train fan he bought the Lionel company.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:56 pm 
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It sounds as if Routine Pleasures would make a nice companion with Track 29! :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:25 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 8:29 pm
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Tribe wrote:
Jeff wrote:

I'm not familiar with this, but in noting that it apparently touches on model train enthusiasts...is, or was, Neil Young ever involved with this production, even tangentially? He is, after all, such a huge model train fan he bought the Lionel company.

I don't think so. I've actually seen the film, and it is rather enjoyable.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:31 am 
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I'm among those who've been waiting on this set for years. Blind-buy-o-rama!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:44 am 

Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:20 pm
It might be irony but I think its called Popular films because «Populaire» in french have different definition... It might means cinema of the people. And an other example were populaire can be used in French is the expression «Soupe populaire» which is according to wikipedia "A soup kitchen, a bread line, or a meal center".

Since he seems to film people in his film it might be the "belongs to people" definition rather than the "accessible". Criterion might have decided to translate word by word a possible Gorin expression...


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 2:35 pm 
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And if you compare these films to Gorin's DVG stuff, they're wildly 'popular'. These are terrific, entertaining films, with Poto and Cabengo a masterpiece. If you like Errol Morris's early stuff, this set should be right up your alley.

And it's not necessarily Gorin's fault that nobody's heard of his films: let's be optimistic about the 'popular' designation.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:30 am 

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Tribe wrote:
I'm not familiar with this, but in noting that it apparently touches on model train enthusiasts...is, or was, Neil Young ever involved with this production, even tangentially? He is, after all, such a huge model train fan he bought the Lionel company.

This film has less to do with model train enthusiasts than it has to do with Manny Farber and cinema. It's not a survey of model-train hobbyists.

The reason it's called "Three Popular Films by..." is because JP has a sense of humor. Of course they're "films populaires," but I wouldn't stare too hard into it. It's called "Three Popular Films" because it's funny. If you have to explain the joke...


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:10 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 10:42 pm
The best part is you can purchase the box set and take it down to UCSD and have him spit in your face then reluctantly autograph it.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:31 am 
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This was discussed in another thread some time ago, but it seems like a good opportunity to revive Gorin's Rate My Professors entry...


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:34 am 

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Nice find! Lord that link is priceless....


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:38 pm 

Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 1:47 pm
I'd argue that Poto and Cabengo could have gotten a Criterion release. Not only was there apparently a follow-up special done in 2007 to see what the two girls were up to lately, but there was a lot of media attention and the like that the extras and/or some commentary could have talked about. There's really a lot here that could be discussed.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 7:37 am 
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Got my screener for this on Friday and finally watched POTO and ROUTINE PLEASURES last night. Wow.

The former is definitely the more accessible (despite Gorin's reliance on some tiresome A/G tropes/affectations). Underlying it is a heartbreaking rebuttal of the American dream, especially the scrappy immigrant version of the tale. Like jojo said, it warrants some follow-up supplements but any follow-up would be a major downer.

I fell madly in love with ROUTINE PLEASURES while my wife dubbed it a "stupid fucking six-hour boring movie about model trains." So to each their own. I love how Gorin describes the train enthusiasts in terms of a "conservative imagination." He's really hit on something here and right now I'm too tired to explore it further. I'll be watching the third film tonight and (hopefully) posting all my thoughts over on my blog at some point in the next day or two.

Needless to say, this is a must buy for anyone who A) is a doc or experimental aficionado or B) wants to see a less esoteric/more playful version of a lot of Godard's later essay work. The image quality is really great, too. I'll be posting frame grabs in my piece.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:08 pm 
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I got through the first two as well (haven't made it to My Crasy Life yet, probably tonight) and I was surprised by both but was especially thrilled with Routine Pleasures. I watched it, enjoyed it, found it to go by incredibly fast (so I must say I'm shocked by your wife's reaction to it) and then, when it was over, realized I couldn't even tell anyone what it was actually about if I wanted to try. I have no idea what Gorin was going for yet I don't think I actually cared. Any other director and this would have been tedious I'm sure, but this was a lot of fun, despite how jumbled it is. He takes two very different subjects, finds ways to link them, and moves from thought to thought without much of a focus. It seems like a movie about the imagination of men, then it's about the mind set of the type of men "that would vote for Reagan", and then be about an America of the past, then the movies, and then be something else entirely.

I have to watch it again now that I know what I'm in for, and maybe I'll get a better impression of what he was doing, if anything specific, but so far I'm thrilled with this set and excited to see what I'm in for with the next film.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:20 pm 
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One of my favorite cinematic moments in recent memory is the two men speaking in measured rapture about the train field recording LP. That's just one of those moments you're lucky to see. If it was in a fiction film (by, say, Christopher Guest) it'd immediately come off as condescending or glib. But there's such a purity in that exchange that I can't laugh at them, just grin with them.

I was going to attempt MY CRASY LIFE tonight but it's looking like I have to watch Kinski's PAGANINI for something that's due tomorrow. Really looking forward to more Gorin!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:55 am 
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Hail_Cesar wrote:
It might be irony but I think its called Popular films because «Populaire» in french have different definition... It might means cinema of the people. And an other example were populaire can be used in French is the expression «Soupe populaire» which is according to wikipedia "A soup kitchen, a bread line, or a meal center".

For what it's worth Jones' notes for the set use "Popular" in this fashion.
Kent Jones wrote:
But above all else, these are "popular" films, in the French sense of the term--populaire, or "of the people."


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:31 pm 
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So... After finishing MY CRASY LIFE, the first thing I wrote down was "richest film in the set." Immediately, I went to read the liner note and encountered this:

Kent Jones wrote:
My Crasy Life is the least appreciated of Jean-Pierre Gorin's Southern California films. It is also the spookiest, and perhaps the richest.

I'm not sure what makes this film so "rich" (beyond the fact that J-PG seemed to be better funded; he was able to travel to Hawaii and Samoa, etc.). The subjects are mostly inarticulate man-boys, the milieu is (by now) a bit tired (gang bangers boasting to the camera, going to prison, getting killed, etc), and the concept is straight forward enough: attempting to connect the dots between the Sons of Samoa and their ancestral home/traditions.

But I found it deeply moving and, as Jones indicates, very haunting. A week ago, I checked out Steve James' INTERRUPTERS and the two films paint a perfect picture of a culture of death (most of these young men won't see 30) and thin hope of "interrupting" the recidivism of the streets.

I like how Gorin took a (often literal) back seat here, using the bizarre onboard computer and Samoan interviewer as his surrogates.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:33 am 
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HTForum review


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:50 pm 
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dvdbeaver review


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2012 7:26 pm 
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I thought some might enjoy as much as I did this letter from Raymond Durgnat to Gorin a couple years after Routine Pleasures. It ends up making some surprising connections (though perhaps not as surprising to me as Tooze saying the films evoke Wiseman's work!). Seems like Durgnat had quite the amazing letter-writing style!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:19 pm 
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Fantastic to see great clear transfers for Routine Pleasures and My Crasy Life. With this and the Allan King set I am quite thankful for the Eclipse series (and many others, like Late Ozu). One can only hope Criterion can get their hands on some work by Robert Kramer, Route One USA is a pure masterwork and the DVD is quite pricy. Also he has some films not available with subtitles but have fine transfers out there. One can dream!


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