“Why do they always shoot Kennedy?”

Whew! The Film Fest is drawing to a close. My last film of the official fest was Agnes Varda’s LIONS LOVE, screened as part of the Shirley Clarke retrospective because Shirley’s in it, along with Warhol star Viva, her two ugly boyfriends, producer Max Raab (magnificently, sculpturally ugly), Peter Bogdanovich (walking by and hiding his face) and Eddie Constantine (trying to play a love scene with Viva but finding it impossible in view of her lack of professionalism, retires, defeated).

Shirley Clarke.

It was kind of great and kind of… not great at all. Clarke is an engaging presence but the tale of her (fictitious) attempt to make a Hollywood movie didn’t catch fire as the movie had no real existence. The self-indulgent mucking about by the menage a trois was often quite entertaining, and sometimes just annoying. Viva looks like a Pre-Raphaelite painting but her untrained screech of a voice has a marked tendency to grate. Varda’s borrowings from Chytilová’s DAISIES are very nice, but sometimes look tacked-on. The thing has an immense time-capsule value, as everything Clarke touched seems to, but there are times when Varda’s policy of simply shooting the T.V. news of the R.F.K. assassination for minutes on end makes one feel that she ought, in all decency, have offered a co-directing credit to the news team.

Shirley’s green top is HORRIBLE (such a difficult colour to wear) but her shades and “L.A. outfit” are kind of stupendous.

Best postmodernist deconstructionist moment — as Shirley considers suicide, she suddenly breaks character and protests that she would never kill herself over a film, “I don’t care if I never make a film again!” and only cares about her daughter, Wendy. Varda dons the terrible green top in order to demonstrate how simple it is to take some pills, washed down with Dr. Pepper, and Shirley relents and goes through the motions for her. How much is faked? Some? All?

Clarke’s feelings about the shoot were mixed. In Michael Auder’s CHRONICLES: FAMILY DIARIES I, screened as part of the retrospective, Clarke can be heard, barely, reminiscing about the experience: “Anyone can tell she’s a dyke, she just doesn’t want… loved Jacques romantically… they were not talking about the film in order to save their marriage… I told her, you have to score some drugs for Viva, it’s called being nice to your star..”

As the great Roscoe Lee Brown listens sympathetically.


7 Responses to ““Why do they always shoot Kennedy?””

  1. Well yes she’s the butchest thing on two legs. And yes she loved Jacques romantically — and Jacques was gay and died of AIDS. (Their son has accepted that fact, which was why he starred in Jeanne and the Perfect Guy — as a tribute to his father.) But she hasn’t.

    Really love Lion’s Love. A minority opinion I know. Clearly Viva is an acquired taste. But I’ve always adored her. She lives in L.A. now and hangs with Gore Vidal a great deal. I know he finds her tons of fun.

    I always thought the suicide-faking scene to be incredibly funny. And as for cribbing from Chytilova, Agnes is getting her own back. Do you know Les Creatures ?

  2. Haven’t seen Les Creatures but it sounds lovely. An influence on Daisies, you reckon? It’s terrible that so few Vardas are available — I assumed there was a widespread desire to explore the work of prominent female filmmakers, but Clarke and Varda are seriously underrepresented.
    However: http://www.synergeticpress.com/video.html#orn

  3. Oh that’s great news! Ornette: Made in America was Shirley’s last film. It’s barely known at all and quite innovative as a documentary portrait. Very loose and funny with all sorts of fabulous things in it — like a cartoon in which Coleman takes a trip to the Moon.

  4. I really liked Ornette and wondered if Todd Haynes had seen it before making the Dylan pic….

    Damn wish I’d seen Lions Love -this seems to be my festival to miss stuff. But did make The Cool World today. Fantastic. I’d like to see it again now with fewer people scrunching sandwich wrappers around me. I wanted to slow it down and drink in this vanished world.

  5. Actually, as of the release of the ‘Varda tous courts’ set in France, there’s actually a hell of a lot of Varda available now. All have optional English subtitles. The rundown:

    -O saisons ô châteaux [O Seasons, O Castles] (1957)

    -L’Opéra-Mouffe, carnet de notes filmées rue Mouffetard à Paris apr une femme enceinte en 1958 [The Opéra-Mouffe: Diary Filmed on the rue Mouffetard in Paris by a Pregnant Woman in 1958] (1958)

    -Du côté de la Côte [Along the Côte / Along the Coast] (1958)

    -Les Fiancés du Pont MacDonald, ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) [The Fiancés of the Pont MacDonald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses)] (1961)

    -Elsa la rose [Elsa the Rose] (1965)

    -Uncle Yanco {French-Language Version} (1967)

    -Uncle Yanco {English-Language Version} (1967)

    -Black Panthers {French-Language Version} (1968)

    -Black Panthers {English-Language Version} (1968)

    -Réponse de femmes à une question produite par Antenne 2 pour le magazine ‘F. comme Femme’ [Womens’ Response to a Question Produced by the Magazine-Show ‘F. comme Femme’] (1975)

    -Plaisir d’amour en Iran [Giddy with Love in Iran] (1976)

    -Une minute pour une image [One Minute for One Image] (1983)

    -Les Dites cariatides [The So-Called Caryatids] (1984/2007)

    -7P., cuis., s. de b… [7 R., kitch., bthr…] (1984)

    -T’as de beaux escaliers, tu sais… [You’ve Got Some Beautiful Stairs, You Know…] (1986)

    -Le Lion volatil [The Vanishing Lion] (2003)

    -Cinévardaphoto {French-Language Version} (1963-2004)

    -Cinévardaphoto {English-Language Version} (1963-2004)

    -Présenté par Agnès [Presented by Agnès] {Sixteen Short Introduction Pieces to the Short Works} (2007)

    If you then consider all of the new works she’s created to accompany each of the DVD releases of her films, between 2003 and 2006 (and I assume more now, with the Ciné-Tamaris release this month of ‘Jacquot de Nantes’), that’s another 20+ works to add to the oeuvre, and now available.


  6. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Todd knows Ornette: Made in America.

  7. Craig, that’s great news about the Varda set. I’m going to try and get Edinburgh College of Art’s library to order it. It’s the sort of thing they should have. And am definitely getting a copy of Ornette.

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