Wednesday, June 19, 2013

by way of an introduction

Q. What is Not Unlike Jean Yanne's Sideburns?

A. I envision this blog as a repository for my thoughts about film and filmmaking, with various other interests of mine creeping in from time to time. Those thoughts might take the form of long essays, small fragments, images, podcasts, or video essays.

Q. How'd you come to this point?

A. I've been a cinephile for about a decade now, and what one might call a "serious" one for the last 6 years.  I've taken some film courses, but much of my real education in cinema has been autodidactic, consisting first of all of watching bushels of movies, from daunting art films to grubby exploitation flicks. I've gorged myself on the work of the many passionate and perceptive film writers who've sprung up online, and have occasionally tried to make films of my own. I now feel at a point where I can make my own contributions to the conversation with some degree of confidence.

Q. Have you written about film before?

A. This is hardly my first attempt at it. There are bits of juvenilia scattered about the web on forums and blogs, and I've written a lot about film in an academic context. Probably my most notable effort was a brief stint as a weekly critic for a small and now-defunct website about 5 years ago. I was all of 19, and my overweening desire to prove myself as a writer often tended to get in the way of my actually saying anything. I think I'm over that. I think.

Q. Who do you like to read?

A. On film I try to read as many people as I can who have smart things to say and don't contribute to the image of film criticism as a frivolous vocation consisting largely of watching movies and then making up doofy puns about them. Jonathan Rosenbaum, Kent Jones, J. Hoberman, Manohla Dargis, Dave Kehr, almost everybody who wrote for The House Next Door during its heyday, the MUBI crew (esp. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky), Glenn Kenny, Michael Sicinski, Richard Brody, the AV Club sometimes. B. Kite is amazing. I prefer Sarris over Kael, but not by much. Robin Wood. Manny Farber. The original Cahiers gang. If I ever write anything a quarter as good as these people did and/or do on a regular basis I'll be fulfilled as a human being. On music I'm a Robert Christgau acolyte, probably to a fault. I don't play many videogames anymore and tend to feel guilty about it, but I try to keep up with Tom Bissell's Grantland column so I at least have some idea of what's going on in that culture. When I read fiction I tend to skew towards teeth-gnashing density, dunno why exactly. It's possible there has to be an attritional quality to the reading experience for me to get fully invested in it. So Melville, Tolstoy, Joyce, Faulkner, Nabokov, Pynchon, and Wallace are the main dudes for me. This is a way more comprehensive list than is necessary.

Q. What are your favorite movies?

A. Jeeziz, you know how bad I am this.

Q. No, I mean, what's been ringing that inner bell for you?

A. Godard's gargantuan for me--I've seen at least 60 of his films, and only 4 or 5 don't do much for me. Cassavetes, Cronenberg, Lynch. Lately Renoir's been doing something real good to my soul. Bresson, Hawks, Scorsese, Naruse. I've developed a bit of a thing for Hal Hartley, though occasionally he just irritates the hell out of me. Carax, Denis, Desplechin, Fassbinder, Fincher sometimes, Kiarostami. Tarr, Tsai, Yang. Wong Kar-Wai. Wes and Paul Thomas. Apichatpong. Rivette from '69 to '74 might be a more extraordinary period than even Godard from '60 to '67.

Q. You said you've tried to make films of your own...

A. Yeah, and you're never going to see most of them. I did, however, recently complete a half-hour film in my last semester at St. Mary's College of Maryland that I'm not at all embarrassed by. It's probably too clever by half, but I'm pretty proud of it, and it's played well when I've screened it.


Q. Any other material floating around out there you might want us to know about?

A. I've been sporadically recording a podcast called This Is Not A Film Podcast with fellow cinephile and SMCMer Nick Byrne, who co-chaired an unofficial on-campus film club with me. With my graduation and his spending his next semester abroad, the club is now basically out of service (lists of last year's screenings can be found here and here). The podcast, however, may well go on. There are 4 episodes online, and one very long one in the pipeline. It's messy, rambling, probably self-indulgent stuff, very much the result of socially awkward college students sitting around over a couple beers and yakking away, but we try to crack enough jokes and draw weird enough connections between subjects to render it worth the listener's time. I also have a Twitter account, on which I snark and effuse.

Q. Why Jean Yanne's sideburns?


Interview conducted by Gene J. Fuss.

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