ads without products

london, for free

with 7 comments

Hey, I didn’t know that Patrick Keiller’s London is available on-line… You have to watch it very, very small though.

Strange thing, how centrally important this film is over here, how relatively unknown it is on the US side. (I have to admit, I’d never heard of it before I arrived…)

(I hope this link works outside of the UK – please do let me know if it doesn’t…)

A question for another day: why is it that New York City seems to resist or at least has proved unfertileground  for the production of psychogeographic / hauntological materials? Is it simply the relative youth of NYC as a city? Does it have something to do with the wider arc of political aspiration / disappointment that exists in London? An issue of the co-location of political and economic and cultural power in London, whereas NYC only has two of the three? Or is the answer more material, more architectural? London’s weird (to me, anyway) chaos of hub-and-spoke villages provokes more ruin sifting than the rectilinearity of NYC? Or does the significant difference lie at the site of intellectual production, the funding of a documentary culture in the UK that’s missing in New York. (The exception, in a way, proves the rule on this point – as WNET has made forays in this direction…. such as this series, but it’s still far too sunny and touristical to qualify). Or, there’s the last chapter of Marshall Berman’s generally under-appreciated All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, which is far far closer….

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 20, 2008 at 11:15 am

Posted in distraction, movies

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. A question for another day: why is it that New York City seems to resist or at least has proved unfertileground for the production of psychogeographic / hauntological materials?

    If this seemed to be true, it’s changing. My own current book is in about the middle phase of drafts but is almost exclusively exactly ‘psychogeographic/hauntological’ materials, and I wasn’t really thinking of that when I split open the materials. It has included, most recently, interviews with people in Washington Heights to find out about the Pumpkin House, a most astonishing townhouse at Overlook Terrace whose height is perhaps 2/3 buttressing against a sharp drop with untouched vegetation-especially insofar as even the owners would have to engage in rock-climbing to cavort in it. Given the middle-class nature of Washington Heights, the house recently sold again for about a quarter what something not even this exotic would sell for at Sutton or Beekman Places. It was part of the Paterno Estate and goes back to 1925, and I only discovered it by accident. You can only see it by finding the crosswalk from 181st Street and walking up 4 blocks from Geo. Washington Bridge. This is actually all I do right now, but there must be many others that I don’t hear about.

    I would say that your ideas for ‘why this hasn’t happened in new york’, to whatever degree that has been true and however lesser that may still be are closer to the mark with the ‘material and architectural’ shapes, although ‘cultural power’ is important insofar as even some of the most vacuous forms of the latter hold tremendous hypnosis over the newly-well-heeled throngs. London is relaxing and can feel like home (to me at least) when just visiting it, but New York can always feel alien even if you’ve lived here for decades, because the tension is always reproduced even after there have been attempts to turn the electricity into just some electronic hum so that the tourists can come here without feeling inferior any more. So that these ghostly things can only be concentrated on at fairly great risk–you have to have immense amounts of leisure time, take a lot of chances–because you are right that it is not in the air of the place as an old enough ruin for this kind of endeavour to seem legitimate here. And, of course, the layout discourages even minimal relaxation compared to London–although this is true of Paris too, which is much more centered. Along the same lines, Los Angeles is also easier to write about (even though much, much younger) because of the way it does not induce constant nervous tension and guilt if certain forms of ambition are not always paid tribute. To do it, though, I think requires at very least the inclusion of the other borough (with the exception of Staten Island, whose character is somewhat hostile to the New York City part of its identity, they were even trying to ‘secede’ back in 1990, and I wish they could have…), so that much of what I’ve been concerned with has included the Rockaways, Ft. Tilden, Queens, old theaters refitted for new functions in Brooklyn and Queens, although most of this is to ‘give space in the mind’ to be able to find these old haunts in Manhattan, because the task can be daunting. When there are documentaries as for PBS, they often have a lot of febrile ‘movie-preview music’ to keep them in the current era, but you can also find documents of old Manhattan haunts in non-doc old films like ‘The Panic in Needle Park’ and there is even some that isvery good in the recent ‘American Gangster’. There is profoundly none in such films as the musical ‘Rent’ (I barely made out a Nobody Beats the Wiz’) and such overtly trashy items as ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. You can now probably think of a lot more fictional films which have a great deal of Manhattan mythology to be seen in their original photography even if new docus don’t do so much of it. Things like ‘Broadway Melody of 1929’ and ‘The Sweet Smell of Success’, with Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, and Barbara Nichols from the mid-50s will supply with much hauntology even if hasn’t yet been appropriated as such, not yet called ghostly especially. Again, though, it’s also true that we often think New York has entered a permanent ‘ruin state’ when for some reason, however vulgar or graceful, it rears its head again and ushers in ‘bustling vitality’ and pushes out the poetics of ruins. There’s a good quote from Godard in one of his films about the poetry of ruins, but I can’t remember it exactly nor the movie it’s in, although it may be ‘Pierrot le Fou’.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    June 22, 2008 at 3:40 pm

  2. neglected to add that I saw London in 1994 at film forum, and it’s one of my favourite films. I’ve been very influenced by it and also last year watched Keillor’s ‘Robinson in Space’, which does some other parts of modern Britain. It’s less pretty, but also interesting, and I find they have to be watched twice at least, or you miss a great deal. In ‘London’, you find an aural ‘musique concrete’ of the city, which makes certain of the moments seem very immediate, as when the queen goes to switch on the electricity. In some of Rohmer’s films, even though they tell fictional stories, you hear the sounds of the streets somehow more than usual–as in ‘Rendezvous de Paris’ and there is a section of ‘A Tale of Winter’ in Nimes (I believe) and also parts of ‘Summer’ from back in the mid-80s, in Biarritz, where the recorded sound of the place has more life than I’ve noticed in most films. This makes it so only a little aging makes the films have old haunted sounds–I don’t think I’ve read much about this kind of thing, where the surrounding street and environment sounds haven’t been filtered out.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    June 22, 2008 at 4:28 pm

  3. Patrick,

    Very, very nice comments. While you’re right that there is a relatively minor strand of it in NYC, I still wonder about why it’s such a dominant brand of work here. I think your ideas are in the right direction, though… And you’d agree that Keiller isn’t much know in the US, right? I don’t think his stuff is even available in region 1….


    June 23, 2008 at 9:56 am

  4. Yes, I think Keiller’s films are nearly impossible to get. Even in 1994, ‘London’ lasted at Film Forum only 2 weeks, and a few years ago I wanted a copy of it and it stayed on that ‘watch for list’ thing at eBay a whole year. It could be that part of the reason that’s so popular here is contained in the very end of ‘London’, when Scofield says something about how “London has become the first city to have died’, or something like that. Hyperbole, of course, in a practical sense anyway, but maybe the ‘sense of urban death’ is more widespread there, as in ‘we live on, obviously, but still, it’s irreparable’. In New York, on the other hand, every time somebody says “Broadway is dead”, it’s usually only a matter of months before somebody goes out and gets the big bucks, usually for another piece of loud trash with 10 climaxes in it–but then they’ll also still come up with the big surprise once in a while, as in the new show of Lin-Manuel Miranda ‘In the Heights’, which won all the Tonys this year. This should be the first really good ‘score-show’ since ‘Urinetown’. And always in between, the shit keeps selling.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    June 23, 2008 at 4:59 pm

  5. that’s so funny – I hadn’t heard about it – but it seems almost inevitable that it’d be a musical about washington heights that would be the one this year.

    they should have corcoran tie-ins. they probably already do. free kitchen upgrade when you sit in the expensive seats.


    June 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm

  6. any guesses about the next locale? reading the New York mag thing about Brooklyn a couple weeks ago, it seems like Sunset Park is the new Prospect Heights or whatever. Miss Saigonishness, a Channel Seven newscopter landing ontop of a vinyl siding place next to the BQE, airlifting the lovelorn hero to the Costco parking lot etc.


    June 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm

  7. Now, now, aren’t we a bit too cynical–if only because too much might be inaccurate. I can’t prove to you otherwise, but I gave this one as an example of something that does not fit the inevitable narrative. Most things that open do–I suppose we could still say the exceptiion proves the rule, but this one is weak on plot and character, but strong on music, which is why I think this one was written, as opposed to ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘The Color Purple’, etc. What it might also prove is that when raw talent gets you a huge splash, the requirements are that you be the hyper-energetic Martha Stewart of whatever domain it is, and so there are at least 20,000 B’way types who couldn’t get a chorus job and only one Mr. Miranda. But I was impressed with him. You can read a bit of the isherwood review if you like.

    Did you hear about Sue Simmons’s on-air f-bomb? That is the funniest clip I’ve ever heard, I think. They had cut to a commercial…but not quite…and all of sudden Sue yells ‘…the FUCK are YOU doing?!!!’ She is a phenomenon, no noticeable aging after 30 years and a real beauty, and was herself a character in that old 80s musical about Ed Koch. She paid no attention to it, and only allowed a wry grin for this one…

    Oh yes, New York Magazine is the world’s silliest piece of shit. They always have a “New York is Back” article, it’s either every few years or just every year by now. I think gluttonous Gael Greene may even still get paid to go trough in Chinese restaurants in Queens. I hate the New Yorker too, though. I’ve seen your pieces on the ‘coming new neighborhood’ and agree with the way this is done in a deliberate way, but I think someone pointed out that in London this is also the case. Yes, pretty sure of it, and will see if I can remember the particular neighborhoods which always have many new restaurants with notably emaciated ‘new food’. By far the worst thing that has happened in New York, though is not ‘quaintification projects’, but rather the destruction of about 2 miles of perfect beach at Far Rockaway, and hardly anybody woujld notice why it happened: When the plane crash occurred a few weeks after 9/11, it was at Rockaway, a mostly Irish and middle-class area, there’s the Playland there. So Giuliani decided to use this moment just for immediate gratification only. What he then did was propose to turn this stretch of beach in a completely different neighborhood (at least 2 miles from the crash and Far Rockaway is a much poorer neighbohood, they have almost nothing to do with each other), which had been left undeveloped for 100 years and was full of pheasants, rabbits, and wild roses and scrub pine all over the place, I loved it–into new housing projects–and call it ‘bringing Rockaway back to life’, even though Far Rockaway and Rockaway are two totally discrete neighborhoods. Reminds me a little of the description of the Iraq invasion, when people have used metaphors of being attacked by China and nuking Mexico in retaliation. It still took them 4 years to complete the total ruin of this beach, which had been used as a Piping Plover Refuge and was as wide as any of the Jersey or Long Island beaches–and so in summer, 2005, which was a terrible year for me, I went out there and discovered that they had indeed over a few months destroyed this rather miraculous habitat, and I even acted like some Pitiful Person for awhile.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    June 24, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: