Tuesday September 20 2022
This is what I tweeted when Jean-Luc Godard died.
I made a short movie in 1986 called The Take, a chaotic remake of Alphaville that used every piece of film I shot, good or bad. It lasts twelve minutes. In 1980, Chris Stein and Debbie Harry “bought” the rights to Alphaville from Godard so they could remake it with Amos Poe. Short version: they hadn’t and they didn’t.
Godard thought of his films as criticism, and said so throughout his life. The film that openly fuses the two is Histoire(s) du Cinema, an eight-part series that took ten years to complete. This two hour interview with Serge Daney was conducted in 1988, as Godard began the project. (Click on the CC box for English subtitles.) There’s lots of good stuff in there about nationalism and images and advertisements. It’s a very mellow exchange, almost silent at times. This Film Comment interview from 1996 with Gavin Smith finds Godard as the project winds down. There are extraordinary passages in the Smith interview, including this: “I’m very solitary, that’s all—I can’t dismiss it. Inside, I’m very much in communication with a lot of people and things who absolutely don’t know I’m in communication with them.” And then switch it up and try Manny Farber in Artforum, from 1968. It’s the skepticism for me: “In all the films’ expressions is the feeling of a little boy drifter, a very poetic and talented self-indulgent Tom Sawyer, who can be a brainy snot throwing doctrinaire slogans or coyly handling books so that the hip spectator can just barely make out the title.”
I haven’t seen Moonage Daydream and cannot weigh in on the state of Bowie documentaries in 2022. But unless something remarkable happens, my favorite will remain Alan Yentob’s BBC special from 1975, Cracked Actor. It’s one hour of Bowie with no voiceover, a verité nephew. We get our thin man the way we like him: coked to the rafters and riding a limo through the desert while drinking milk and listening to Aretha, cutting up bits of newspaper, and touring his closet.
In a recent TikTok, Diddy asks for help. He wants you, I think, to send him your resumé at Godswork@combsglobal.com. He is “saving the Black race,” a project which became a thing for him after an encounter with God three years ago. (As much as I am absolutely going to mock Diddy, I am not going to knock his Damascene moment.) Watch this video once and then read the comments. Let’s start with this one: “Is wrong to ask who his God is??? Just so we all on same page.”
To call this a backfire would be to undersell a cultural turning point. There is a groundswell of resistance to power in all its forms, and though I don’t think holding Diddy accountable is in the same category of historical importance as filming police brutality, it’s not nothing. The commenters, not even entertaining taking his vague plea seriously, shoot back by citing his record of not paying artists, reminding us of his general shadiness, and celebrating the feel of an overdue reckoning. Another comment: “The TRUE awakening in these comments is absolutely beautiful! 💯💯”
What Diddy wants is genuinely unclear, as he begins with “the Black race” and then downshifts to “everybody” and then narrows his target audience to “unicorn executives.” He says something about “buying Disney” and then kinda punts with a global peace call. Mase has been on TikTok talking about Diddy’s exploitation of his services (as have others) and it feels like there is more to come. Not that you shouldn’t send him your CV. Who knows?
Roméo Poirier’s Living Room is gorgeous stuff. The album opens with something that sounds like an orchestra warming up inside a defrosted ice pack and after that, it’s like Jon Hassell doing home repairs and then taking breaks in a budget isolation tank. I’m working my way through his back catalog and love most of it.
The 8-Ball community is one of New York’s finest art collectives, and there will be an interview with co-founder Lele Saveri here soon. In the meantime, you have exactly one month to order the 8-Ball Almanac, which will give you the story in the words of the 8-Ballers. Like a zine, it will not be reprinted, so get in before October 18.
Disappointed in Diddy? I have a new hero for you: a man in Tokyo who is paid to show up and do nothing. “I started wondering what would happen if I provided my ability to ‘do nothing’ as a service to clients.” Don’t stop believing!
In overlooked producer news: Jason P. Woodbury spoke to Charles Stepney’s daughters, Eibur, Charlene, and Chanté about their father’s work. Please tap in if you have ever liked a single Rotary Connection song. I am also waiting for the Tom Wilson biopic, not that I expect it soon. In the meantime, there is a new and good Wilson feature on the Universal Music blog (magazine?) and there was a two part mega-post from Mike Leander last year on his blog, The Music Aficionado. Dylan? The Velvets? Soft Machine? Harumi? Who else heard it all and pushed them to make their own connections? Wilson was clutch.
And speaking of Soft Machine, the new Tuluum Shimmering is a 37-minute cover of “Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album.” There are few weak TS tracks, but this one is special.