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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:57 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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For fans of the early childhood linguistic aspect of Poto and Cabengo, I'd heartily recommend Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer. The book details the case of "'Genie' the Feral Child," a young girl who spent the brunt of her childhood left alone in a bare room tied to a child's toilet during the day and strapped into a crib at night, developing drastic sensory obfuscation, altered motor functions (mostly manifesting in her "bunny walk"), and impeding proper age maturation. Rymer's book not only gives insight into Genie's abuse and subsequent recovery (which, as the title suggests, does not have a happy ending) but the very nature of linguistics, early childhood maturation, &c. You can watch a rather sensationalistically titled Nova special on Genie via YouTube here, but the book should be of particular interest for those intrigued by the scientific rather than social concerns of Gorin's film.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:16 pm 
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Here's a brief bit I wrote about ROUTINE PLEASURES. I'll have more on the rest of the box soon.

I've been picking back through the set as I make notes for my reviews. It's another gem.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:06 pm 
I just ordered the three film boxed set. I am curious about other posters' ability to access these films before this/last week. I thought that Criterion just relased them. When were the films released?

Gorin's film from the early nineties of Peter Sellars' staging of Messiaen's opera about Saint Francis of Assisi is quite good and is available for free with Italian subtitles on Youtube. I understand that Gorin became interested in the relationships between musical structure and film structure and was going to explore this after the film on Sellars came out. Does anyone know what happened with those explorations?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:43 am 
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Fantastic set. Plowed through all three today and I have to say much to my surprise I found My Crasy Life the most enjoyable. I find it's tackling of language (as Kent Jones notes it's a very serious connecting tissue) absolutely unique and it helps to make it's probably even at the time run in the ground subject refreshing. It's not something that's discussed in the film, but he subtly places emphasis on how the words build the society and I think it works as a comment on more than these gangbangers. Here and really throughout all three he uses these tools that these various nuggets of society have shown him and seems to explain the larger society that they must confront better than looking at those broad strokes alone would have. It's all very revealing of the American existence in a way that isn't immediately obvious. All three are great in such different ways though that I don't think comparisons would do justice. Poto and Cabengo had me expecting the films to be very Godardian, but that's not how things worked out at all with the grand finale going the other way and reminding me as Zedz said of Morris (though with a little of Ron Peck thrown in). Hell I don't even know what it was I watched with Routine Pleasures and still had a ball just absorbing everything.


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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 1:25 pm 
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A couple weekends ago in the midst of a short trip to San Diego we dubbed "Beercation 2" my s.o. and I stopped by the Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park http://www.sdmrm.org/. Naturally, when we got back home we had to watch Routine Pleasures, where you can see the guys who started it all, back when they had their digs in a hangar on the Del Mar Fairgrounds instead. I agree with all the praise this film has gotten. It's my favorite of the set. And I say that as a huge fan of Poto and Cabengo who's been waiting to scrounge a copy of that film since I first saw it years ago in college.

Orson Welles once remarked of the apparatus of filmmaking that "This is the biggest electric train set any boy ever had!" And the analogy is certainly not lost on Gorin who obviously sees himself in these obsessive world-makers, regardless of the outward trappings of their politics. Gorin has a genuine respect for the model railroaders and the precise and ordered worlds they create. Their imagination may be more conservative, less interrogative and searching than Gorin's friend and colleague Manny Farber's, but the hobbyists' aim in both pursuits -- the paintings and the railroads -- isn't so much about nostalgia as it is about placing themselves in space and time existentially, making sense of the out the cultural and historical landscape in which they belong. Gorin's presence in the film, in voice-overs and sometimes in front of the camera, never feels indulgent to me the way it might in the hands of a lesser director. Routine Pleasures is personal and discursive in the way that the best literary essays are. It's certainly among the best essay films I've ever seen. And the photography of the models is first-rate.

My Crasy Life actually struck me as the weakest of the three. The most impressive thing about this film is the access Gorin gets to his subjects. But he doesn't seem to know what to do with it. Even excusing missteps like the HAL-computer voice of the cop car and the sitdown interviews in which gangbangers patronizingly repeat to each other the same obvious questions that members of straight society might, I'm never clear on what Gorin's interest is in this subculture. The language stuff is interesting. As are most of the reenactments (like what Flaherty might do), save for the silly white boy wallet theft. But it adds up to less than the sum of its parts and feels too long by at least 30 minutes. Comparisons to The Interrupters seems superficial at best, as the James film is more clear on its own intentions.

Poto and Cabengo I've yet to see again on DVD, though I've loved it since that first screening on 16mm. I agree with domino about the Genie book being a worthy supplement.

All in all this set makes me wish there were more Gorin available. Even his supplements, like his contributions to the Chris Marker set, are well worth your time.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:08 pm 

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warren oates wrote:
My Crasy Life actually struck me as the weakest of the three. The most impressive thing about this film is the access Gorin gets to his subjects. But he doesn't seem to know what to do with it. Even excusing missteps like the HAL-computer voice of the cop car and the sitdown interviews in which gangbangers patronizingly repeat to each other the same obvious questions that members of straight society might, I'm never clear on what Gorin's interest is in this subculture. The language stuff is interesting. As are most of the reenactments (like what Flaherty might do), save for the silly white boy wallet theft. But it adds up to less than the sum of its parts and feels too long by at least 30 minutes.


I agree with this. But I absolutely loved Routine Pleasures and really liked Poto and Cabengo.

Trivial sidenote: The "What's a ____ ?" section of MCL is sampled in the Cabaret Voltaire song "Low Cool". I had always wondered where that came from.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:08 am 
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knives wrote:
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.

I'm trying to think of a music album with a similar ironic title; I'm sure zedz can come up with a few off the top of his head
(Talking Heads 'More Songs About Buildings and Food' is close, but no cigar)

My order might not be quite 'winging' its way to me as I type, - more likely, since its from Barnes & Noble, it's likely to be taking the scenic 'slow boat to China' route. :-"
Either way I'm looking forward to 'enjoying' this set before the year is out


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:19 am 
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Yojimbo wrote:
I'm trying to think of a music album with a similar ironic title; I'm sure zedz can come up with a few off the top of his head
(Talking Heads 'More Songs About Buildings and Food' is close, but no cigar)

Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:21 am 
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antnield wrote:
Yojimbo wrote:
I'm trying to think of a music album with a similar ironic title; I'm sure zedz can come up with a few off the top of his head
(Talking Heads 'More Songs About Buildings and Food' is close, but no cigar)

Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats?

Sounds like it could make the cut


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:40 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:57 am
Jean-Pierre Gorin’s three Southern California movies are so militantly unclassifiable that terms like documentary or essay film seem as hopelessly out of sync with the recalcitrant and frequently exhilarating works themselves as a Marxist harangue in a Burger King. Movie criticism is ill equipped to deal with these ecstatic operations, which get high on their own cunning strategies.
http://www.criterion.com


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:26 am 
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Yojimbo wrote:
antnield wrote:
Yojimbo wrote:
I'm trying to think of a music album with a similar ironic title; I'm sure zedz can come up with a few off the top of his head
(Talking Heads 'More Songs About Buildings and Food' is close, but no cigar)

Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats?

Sounds like it could make the cut

Not an album but there was the book a few years back - The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:37 am 
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NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Not an album but there was the book a few years back - The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan.

Fnnily enough, although that was meant to be ironic, Dutch proved to be quick on the draw during his time in office, such as his 'on the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia' quip, following the attempt on his life.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:40 am 
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Yojimbo wrote:
antnield wrote:
Yojimbo wrote:
I'm trying to think of a music album with a similar ironic title; I'm sure zedz can come up with a few off the top of his head
(Talking Heads 'More Songs About Buildings and Food' is close, but no cigar)

Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats?

Sounds like it could make the cut


Big Black's Songs About Fucking.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:16 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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Finally finished this set with My Crasy Life and I side with those who found it the best of the lot. Though Gorin's insertion of clear fictions can be distracting (The HAL car, the "WWII Boots" guy), the willing nature of the participants in the fictions presented meld perfectly into the egocentric "building up" of their image central to the personal narrative of everyone pictured. The film addresses the artifice of not just the documentary format, but of its subjects, and the inability to distinguish the observable from the observed is blurred. Plus it doesn't hurt that it's all exceedingly entertaining!


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:25 pm 
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So in other words, you took as long to get through this set as Criterion took to release it. :P


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:27 pm 
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Hey now, he never said he was excited about it.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:33 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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I plowed through the first two films as soon as I got the set, but somehow never got around to the third. I liked all three, but they definitely suffered from unrealistic expectations due to the prolonged materialization time


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:43 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
...the willing nature of the participants in the fictions presented meld perfectly into the egocentric "building up" of their image central to the personal narrative of everyone pictured. The film addresses the artifice of not just the documentary format, but of its subjects, and the inability to distinguish the observable from the observed is blurred.
You make them sound like some super smart hip-hop moguls or something, artfully crafting a faux thug life. But most of the featured gang members are just glorified corner boys, far less aware of or in charge of their image than I think you're giving them credit for being. If anything, at times it struck me that they were kind of lazily offering up the sort of cliched words/images/actions that they thought Gorin wanted to see, a fact he seemed neither to challenge nor fully embrace.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:58 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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warren oates wrote:
You make them sound like some super smart hip-hop moguls or something, artfully crafting a faux thug life. But most of the featured gang members are just glorified corner boys, far less aware of or in charge of their image than I think you're giving them credit for being. If anything, at times it struck me that they were kind of lazily offering up the sort of cliched words/images/actions that they thought Gorin wanted to see, a fact he seemed neither to challenge nor fully embrace.

I did not mean to give them undue intellectual depth of character, so I agree with the first objection. But I think they are very aware of the image they are cultivating, to the level that they know when to push it into extremes for Gorin's pleasure, as you've pointed out. Maybe it's just collateral awareness from three years' experience of teaching students not far removed from the personalities presented in this film, but you can see numerous times the boys are presented struggling to keep up their "cred," often at the cost of basic humanity-- see the conflicted responses of the two Hawaiians to Joker's breakdown, for instance.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:09 pm 
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That makes more sense to me. Still, your personal experience is interesting to me in light of the response of a friend who makes documentary films himself and counts among his acquaintances from a former existence a few Long Beach gang members. His reaction to the film was closer to mine.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:26 pm 
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Though its more from the living side of things then teaching I have to agree with Dom (rather literally since the age of nine I have been living in San Diego where Gorin has lived for years). It's not only them though. All people are bred into a culture of rights and wrongs and react according to that. The child of the academic dresses according to that culture as much as a hood does. While Gorin is tackling a very specific culture it communicates well for the artifice of all cultures and does in my opinion a great job of asking where does humanity and personality begin and these constructs we consciously and subconsciously develop end. As to your more specific complaint concerning these masks and intelligence with regards to the conscious level every one wants to be Scarface. Own the world and all of that even with some of them are taught that by their family (I remember a friend who joked at graduation that his family was disappointed that he was getting a diploma rather than going to jail). A Lot of it as Dom notes is a peer pressure thing where you have got to be the man and you can't pussy about these thing. You act a different way in front of your friends, family, teachers, neighbors, what not.

Even the straight and narrow kids (which fortunately I was mostly surrounded by) know there's a way to talk and act in certain situations. I certainly, for instance, would never express myself in a public forum like this the way I actually do talk. You develop yourself for your audience always.


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 Post subject: PC
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:10 am 
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I found Poto & Cabengo frustrating on many levels.
- Gorin adds himself into the film and the girls life for very little payoff/reason.
- Gorin frequently flashes on the screen What Are They Saying? but never stops to asks them. The girls are learning and speaking English, but no one apparently asks them to teach/translate their private language. It'd be interesting to see if the girls would be willing to share their private language with others.
- the constant freeze frames to end scenes seemed like someone watched The 400 Blows a time or two too many.
- the explanation of their language/idioglossia sounds perfectly logical, but doesn't account for the names they gave each other, which seem like genuine made up words/names. I guess it's possible that Cabengo derives from Virginia, but Gorin doesn't explore this at all. He just accepts the linguist's explanation and moves on.
- the film just seemed scattered in its approach without probing or delving into issues.
- Gorin didn't seem to know much about children, language development, or to have put much thought into why he was there other than there was an interesting story in his backyard.
- odd choices such as showing photos of German women's faces form early in the century seemed rather pointless and/or misguided.


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