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Film Flummery

In November of 2013 I posted this blog under the title Up, Up, and Away.

While reading a review of Falling Upwards: How We Took To the Air, Richard Holmes history of ballooning in the 18th and 19th centuries, a white rabbit hopped across my mind and slid down a black hole deep into my subconscious. I quickly gave chase. I’m not quite sure what happened next, that’s why I’m telling you all this. Perhaps you might understand better, help me get a handle on the neuro/illogical stuff that goes on down there.

I began to spark on the story I was in the midst of reading; two French brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, initiated the first hot air balloon flights in Paris in 1783. From then on balloonists, untethered,o were able to view our world anew, some early daredevils even soaring to heights of 10,000 feet.

Then, in 1858, the great French photographer Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) departed terra firma in a hot air balloon, camera in hand. He might have been the first person  to have taken aerial photographs, depicting the world as we’d experienced it up till then from a new and quite different POV.

Who knows what happened on a molecular, neurological, phenomenological level to our minds once we were able to escape the pull of gravity, both physically and by proxy, through the photographic image.

Jumping ahead to 1895, another pair of French brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, are credited with presenting the first public movie screening at the Salon Indien du Grand Cafe in Paris. As the story goes, the Lumieres had photographed, head-on, a steam locomotive, smoke billowing, entering the Gare du Nord train station. The experience, some claim apocryphal, so unhinged the audience gathered, that many ran from the theater, fearing for their lives.

Paralleling this story is the story of the magician George Méliès, who in 1888 purchased the Theatre Robert Houdin from Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the famed French magician, who is considered the father of the modern style of conjuring. As I understand it, Méliès rented office space in his newly purchased building to Auguste and Louis Lumière. Still following? After the Lumieres made their groundbreaking presentation Méliès chucked his magic gig, [taking] his place in history as  cinema’s first fantasist. Martin Scorsese paid homage to all this in his wonderful film Hugo (2011).

And here’s the kicker. A slew of professional magicians, mountebanks, and grifters immediately appropriated the Lumiere’s invention as their own and scattered to the four corners of the earth introducing new populations to this brand new medium, cinema.

Movies, mountebanks, and balloonatics; concepts to conjure with.

So it was with much interest that I learned about Nadar’s When I Was a Photographer (Quand j’étais photographe), now translated for the first time into English, which offers us the opportunity to revisit a bizarre and compelling character, active and present at the inception of the cinema. (

La Ronde

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Cats & Lies

There is a Coven in the White House. The Coven assembled in the presence of their HighPriest aka our Insane  Clown President himself to chant his praises : Pence, Sessions, Bannon, Kushner, Ivanka, Ross, Ryan, McConnell, Spicer, Sanders, Miller, Conway…


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Bewitched, Bothered, & Bewildered

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Cats & Lies

Certainly,  it’s a witch hunt.

There’s an Insane Clown/man witch residing in the White House. So, who else could it be? After all, his mentor Roy Cohn hunted witches and warlocks his entire life.

A good case could be made for a “mouse” hunt? But, we’re talking POTUS…not lumbering Mike Pence…or Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

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A Chimes For Our Times

I was reading a review in which the reviewer noted that the director, though good at directing actors, wasn’t much of a visual stylist. In part this is why certain movies can be good but not great. Certain films are good yet not filmic. There are films and there are films. It’s a critical component of why certain films rise above others.

Criterion has just released a brilliant restoration of  Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight (1965). It is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in recent memory. Chimes actually never got a proper release. It is like watching a new Welles film for the very first time. Not only does it belie the notion that no great work came from Welles in his later years, but here we have one of our greatest directors, in his late period, working at the height of his creative powers.

Welles took material from five of Shakespeare’s plays and shaped them into a screenplay about the relationship between Sir John Falstaff and Prince Hal, who would become King Henry V.  It had deep psychological significance for Welles, this “surrogate” father and son story.

One aspect of the film that really struck me was that you can watch Chimes with the sound turned off and still appreciate its greatness. Welles’ expressive command of the film language is that good. The viewer can silence the words of Shakespeare and still savor the achievement of the filmmaking. It is a lasting testament to Welles’ command of film syntax. It’s why Welles tops most people’s list of the world’s great filmmakers.

Truth At 140 Characters A Tweet

Cinema is truth at twenty-four frames a second. – Jean-Luc Godard

How old school. That from one of cinema’s great French (née Swiss) intellectual con men.

These days I struggle to wrest reality from alt. reality. Add to this that for many years I’ve sat in darkened rooms watching many, many films. It was my window onto our world.

Then, the election of 2016 happened and everything got turned on its head.

How could narrative film or the rapidly morphing world of “documentary” ever hold a candle to the surreal “narrative” that’s overtaken Washington?

We have an Insane Clown residing in the White House surrounded and buoyed by his grifter offspring and coterie of enablers.

With the flash of a thought jumping across a synapse, his tweets seismically disrupt the earth beneath a lot of people’s feet.

So I  find myself preoccupied with my political wonk side. I tend to my political blog, Cats & Lies, Fracking the body politic (, more than to my long running film blog.

Addicted, afflicted, conflicted. Only a mere 6-months ago we were basking in the “glow” of an Obama/Biden “Pax Americana.” In comparison that is.

I’m blogging less on f/stop while insinuating more film references into my overactive, over/reactive political blog, Cats & Lies.

Please pardon. This too will pass.

On the film side of things, Criterion’s restoration of Welles’ Chimes at Midnight is the film to watch.

And please remember to check each complete entry with media attached at

(What’s the difference between a cat and a lie. A cat has only nine lives. – Mark Twain)


Is the medium still the message?

Do you yearn for those days when you could lose yourself completely in a movie?

These days the world is too much with us. Who has the time?

It’s difficult to keep up with what’s happening on the Croisette with all the dramatic narrative that’s streaming out of  Washington. Even as audiences attend screenings at the world’s most famous ode to cinema, most eyes are casting a look over the shoulder; from Ryad to Jerusalem, Rome to Brussels, Manchester to Palermo.

The collective hallucination of the 20th century, red carpets and all, is taking a back seat to the hyper-reality “show,” unfolding early 21st century style.

Where once the movies gave us Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, we currently have Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.

In the 50s, Roy Cohn went hunting for “commies,”; now, his Insane Clown protege hunts one single Comey.

People cringed when Ellen Burstyn watched her movie daughter Regan’s head spin. Now first daughter Ivanka is the mistress of spin.

We all guffawed at the antics of Moe, Larry, and Curly, but now just 20-feet from stardom, Pence, Spicer, and Conway perform their own theater of the absurd vomiting alt. facts. at an incredulous press corps.

We all know “based on alt. true events” is in our future, so, who beside an already cast Insane Clown President as well as a Spicer w/ his motorized podium, Bannon, Ivanka, and Conway, do you think should be cast as Jared?

We live in an age of sex, lies, soundbites, and photo-ops; welcome to the brave new/old world of entertainment.


f/stop site…

Get On The Bus

Adam Driver plays a character named Paterson who drives a bus for the city of Paterson, New Jersey, in Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson. Paterson seems perfectly content living a life routinized by work, coming home to his loving, stable marriage. He also leads a more introspective second life as a poet.

Paterson’s stay-at-home wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), fills her days with multiple creative pursuits: interior design, clothing design, baking, and music.

The anecdotal nature of Paterson gives the film a poetic shape of its own as it subtly explores the various ways creativity manifests itself in individuals.

Each day Paterson and Laura awake from their dream world. They go to work; Paterson to drive his bus, all the while listening to the world around him, ciphering this world through his poetic lens.

Laura is a whirlwind of creative energy operating full tilt in the creative laboratory she’s turned her home into. Her hours fly by.

Paterson and Laura’s inner and outer lives co-exist in a richly fulfilling minor key, just across the river from the Big Apple, a magnet city of dreams.

Garden state dreamers tending their distinctive garden of creative delights.

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