Just read Christophe Blain’s latest comic, the western romance Gus. Beautifully drawn, well-told, cool 70s-style colouring, nice poetic mood, utterly unambitious. Blain is one of the most naturally graceful draughtsmen of current French-language comics and amongst the prime movers in what has been regarded as the revitalisation of the traditional album format over the last ten years or so. His award-winning series Isaac le Pirate has been one of the more significant successes of the kind of genre comics for adults that has characterised this “nouvelle bande dessinée.” Yet, his works : for all their grace and charm : are essentially trifles. Why bother putting such wonderful energy into work of so little consequence?
Saw Inland Empire by David Lynch yesterday. I loved it. Probably my favourite since Blue Velvet (no shit). A sprawling spectacle stretching over three hours, and not letting up for a second, it is so loaded with bewildering imagery and ambiguous motifs that one might initially feel distracted from its deceptive simplicity. In a way, it is Lynch’s clearest resounding work since, well, Blue Velvet. Sure, it has all the mindfuck we have come to expect of him post-Lost Highway in spades: analog circularity, dissolution and transformation of identity, ontological sundering of veils, time out of joint, plenty of scotophobic appeal, a Polish Bob, and, uh, rabbits in suits, but at its heart it is a straightforward film about living with the unknown.
While it is obviously carefully structured and surely rewards repeated viewings, I ultimately think it would be a misunderstanding to treat it like a puzzle to solve. Part of the point is that the pieces seem to, but do not quite fit, leaving our imagination to deal with whatever it is that lurks in those incessant murky doorways or beyond the insistent close-ups that fill so many of the frames. The formidable, and puzzlingly underused, Laura Dern acts as our proxy on the prolonged journey into fear that is the heart of the film. If there is one weakness in all of this, it is that she is such a cipher that you are not as invested in her emotions as you perhaps should be for the terror to become fully internalized, but individualising her more than is done would be besides the point: she is us. And in any case, the moment of catharsis, when it occurs, packs a punch.
This just in: Philippe Val, editor-in-chief of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, who published the notorious Muhammed cartoons from Danish daily Jyllands-Posten – along with a number of others, produced for the occasion – in February of last year, has just been acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Parisian Correctional Court. The court stated that the most infamous of the cartoons, the one showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, seen on its own is an offensive image, but that it needed to be judged in the context in which it appeared, and that the publication as such is protected by the freedom of the press. Val could, if convicted, have faced up to six months in prison and fines of up to â‚¬22.500. Of the plaintiffs, the French Union of Islamic Organisations (UOIF), the International Islamic League and the Great Mosque of Paris (GMP), the former have announced that they are appealing the ruling.
To mark the release of New York hip hop veteran, innovator and impressario El-P’s second solo album, and first solo effort in nearly five years, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, the Metabunker re-presents an in-depth interview yours truly conducted with El-P and fellow innovator and Def Jukie Aesop Rock in El-P’s home/studio back in the winter of 2003, originally used for an article in the Danish weekly newspaper Weekendavisen and published in edited form and translated into Danish at Rapspot. This, however, is the works – word for word, part I of III (here are part II and part III).
I hope you are reading Lewis Trondheim’s comics blog “Les Petits riens” – while at first sight perhaps seeming slight, it marks an exhilarating departure for his drawing and, by extension, his taking in of the world around him. As always laconic, he says he started the daily strip journal to teach himself watercolour, and that’s actually as good a rationale as any: while in terms of narrative content it is a continuation of his Carnets de bord, he allows himself more time with these journal entries. Always having focused on clear and effective narration, it is wonderful to see him spending more time observing things and rendering them in his well-known vivacious line, enriched by his much less expected lush watercolouring.
One of the discontents of art historical connoisseurship is how we, the practitioners, have been trained to hunt for the prototype of any given invention. We are so used to seeing precedents everywhere, even when dealing with some of the most original and inventive artists ever, that we sometimes forget how unpredictable art, and creativity, can be. If an earlier likeness of a given detail in a work of art can be identified, it seems the latter has to derive from it. This sometimes results in daring feats of historical contortionism on the part of scholars trying to establish how the artist can have seen and copied, or at least internalised, the prototype. As if coincidence is impossible and he could not have come up with it himself.
In the wake of the closure and demolition of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen almost two weeks ago, the streets of Copenhagen have been hit with a wave of political graffiti and street art. Rapspot impressario and photog Klaus Køhl has been around, trying to take it in – check his reportage here.
Check earlier commentary on Ungdomshuset here and here, sign the petition put out there for a pluralistic Copenhagen, get the other side of the news at modkraft.dk and check this resource page, linking to a large number of news stories relating to Ungdomshuset.
Because I think at least bits of it are worth a second look, this is just to follow up on the discussion about modernism, high and low in art, and how all of this pertains to comics that Comics Journal critic Noah Berlatsky and I, amongst others, have conducted here and on the Comics Journal messageboard. Noah answered my critique of his article on the Chicago comics scene with the following message board post:
“It’s not the rise to prominence among the artistic elite, but modernism itself that’s screwed over the novel (somewhat) and poetry (thoroughly and completely.)
I think you’re right when you say that high vs. low culture is a strawman; I just don’t think it’s my strawman. It’s modernism and its bastard children that are obsessed with the distinction; I’m just reporting.