Letter to Jane

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Introduction to Faces by John Cassavetes
“Society must chuck its petty prejudices and false idols and if necessary start again from a new beginning where men as well as women can be kind to themselves.” 
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Roland Barthes - The Death of the Author
I know Barthes interests very few these days, but this is essentially the document that formed this magazine, site, all my work, etc. I recently came back to it after reading Maria’s Popova’s recent post about her seriously flawed motives (read: Curator’s Code) where she likened internet curation as a form of authorship. It’s sad that today we still use the term author in the context of control instead of creation. I don’t argue that curation is a form of authorship, but that as authors we should be focused on starting a conversation and not on controlling the message. I could get into the context of the beauty of art and expression in regards to all of this, but there’s no point because 1) The curator’s code is never going to take off and 2) the curator’s code is all about money so there’s no point in arguing over values. 
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In his story Sarrasine Balzac, describing a castrato disguised as a woman, writes the following sentence: ‘This was woman herself, with her sudden fears, her irrational whims, her instinctive worries, her impetuous boldness, her fussings, and her delicious sensibility.’ Who is speaking thus? Is it the hero of the story bent on remaining ignorant of the castrato hidden beneath the woman? Is it Balzac the individual, furnished by his personal experience with a philosophy of Woman? Is it Balzac the author professing ‘literary’ ideas on femininity? Is it universal wisdom? Romantic psychology? We shall never know, for the good reason that writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing.No doubt it has always been that way. As soon as a fact is narrated no longer with a view to acting directly on reality but intransitively, that is to say, finally outside of any function other than that of the very practice of the symbol itself, this disconnection occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his own death, writing begins. The sense of this phenomenon, however, has varied; in ethnographic societies the responsibility for a narrative is never assumed by a person but by a mediator, shaman or relator whose ‘performance’ - the mastery of the narrative code -may possibly be admired but never his ‘genius’. The author is a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as, emerging from the Middle Ages with English empiricism,
French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation, it discovered the prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the ‘human person’. It is thus logical that in literature it should be this positivism, the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the ‘person’ of the author. The author still reigns in histories of literature, biographies of writers, interviews, magazines, as in the very consciousness of men of letters anxious to unite their person and their work through diaries and memoirs. The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions, while criticism still consists for the most part in saying that Baudelaire’s work is the failure of Baudelaire the man, Van Gogh’s his madness, Tchaikovsky’s his vice. The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author ‘confiding’ in us.Though the sway of the Author remains powerful (the new criticism has often done no more than consolidate it), it goes without saying that certain writers have long since attempted to loosen it. In France, Mallarme was doubtless the first to see and to foresee in its full extent the necessity to substitute language itself for the person who until then had been supposed to be its owner. For him, for us too, it is language which speaks, not the author; to write is, through a prerequisite impersonality (not at all to be confused with the castrating objectivity of the realist novelist), to reach that point where only language acts, ‘performs’, and not ‘me’. Mallarme’s entire poetics consists in suppressing the author in the interests of writing (which is, as will be seen, to restore the place of the reader). Valery, encumbered by a psychology of the Ego, considerably diluted Mallarme’s theory but, his taste for classicism leading him to turn to the lessons of rhetoric, he never stopped calling into question and deriding the Author; he stressed the linguistic and, as it were, ‘hazardous’ nature of his activity, and throughout his prose works he militated in favour of the essentially verbal condition of literature, in the face of which all recourse to the writer’s interiority seemed to him pure superstition. Proust himself, despite the apparently psychological character of what are called his analyses, was visibly concerned with the task of inexorably blurring, by an extreme subtilization, the relation between the writer and his characters; by making of the narrator not he who has seen and felt nor even he who is writing, but he who is going to write (the young man in the novel - but, in fact, how old is he and who is he? - wants to write but cannot; the novel ends when writing at last becomes possible), Proust gave modern writing its epic. By a radical reversal, instead of putting his life into his novel, as is so often maintained, he made of his very life a work for which his own book was the model; so that it is clear to us that Charlus does not imitate Montesquiou but that Montesquiou - in his anecdotal, historical reality - is no more than a secondary fragment, derived from Charlus. Lastly, to go no further than this prehistory of modernity, Surrealism, though unable to accord language a supreme place (language being system and the aim of the movement being, romantically, a direct subversion of codes-itself moreover illusory: a code cannot be destroyed, only ‘played off’), contributed to the desacrilization of the image of the Author by ceaselessly recommending the abrupt disappointment of expectations of meaning (the famous surrealist ‘jolt’), by entrusting the hand with the task of writing as quickly as possible what the head itself is unaware of (automatic writing), by accepting the principle and the experience of several people writing together. Leaving aside literature itself (such distinctions really becoming invalid), linguistics has recently provided the destruction of the Author with a valuable analytical tool by show ing that the whole of the enunciation is an empty functioning perfectly without there being any need for it to be filled with the person of the interlocutors. Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance writing, just as I is nothing other than the instance saying I: language knows a ‘subject’, not a ‘person’, and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it, suffices to make language ‘hold together’, suffices, that is to say, to exhaust it.The removal of the Author (one could talk here with Brecht of a veritable ‘distancing’, the Author diminishing like a figurine at the far end of the literary stage) is not merely an historical fact or an act of writing; it utterly transforms the modern text (or - which is the same thing -the text is henceforth made and read in such a way that at all its levels the author is absent). The temporality is different. The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after. The Author is thought to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecedence to his work as a father to his child. In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with the book as predicate; there is no other time than that of the enunciation and every text is eternally written here and now. The fact is (or, it follows) that writing can no longer designate an operation of recording, notation, representation, ‘depiction’ (as the Classics would say); rather, it designates exactly what linguists, referring to Oxford philosophy, call a performative a rare verbal form (exclusively given in the first person and in the present tense) in which the enunciation has no other content (contains no other proposition) than the act by which it is uttered-something like the I declare of kings or the I sing of very ancient poets. Having buried the Author, the modern scriptor can thus no longer believe, as according to the pathetic view of his predecessors, that this hand is too slow for his thought or passion and that consequently, making a law of necessity, he must emphasize this delay and indefinitely ‘polish’ his form. For him, on the contrary, the hand, cut off from any voice, borne by a pure gesture of inscription (and not of expression), traces a field without origin-or which, at least, has no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins.We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture. Similar to Bouvard and Pecuchet, those eternal copyists, at once sublime and comic and whose profound ridiculousness indicates precisely the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. Did he wish to express himself, he ought at least to know that the inner ‘thing’ he thinks to ‘translate’ is itself only a ready-formed dictionary, its words only explainable through other words, and so on indefinitely; something experienced in exemplary fashion by the young Thomas de Quincey, he who was so good at Greek that in order to translate absolutely modern ideas and images into that dead language, he had, so Baudelaire tells us (in Paradis Artificiels), ‘created for himself an unfailing dictionary, vastly more extensive and complex than those resulting from the ordinary patience of purely literary themes’. Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred.Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. Such a conception suits criticism very well, the latter then allotting itself the important task of discovering the Author (or its hypostases: society, history, psyche, liberty) beneath the work: when the Author has been found, the text is ‘explained’- victory to the critic. Hence there is no surprise in the fact that, historically, the reign of the Author has also been that of the Critic, nor again in the fact that criticism (be it new) is today undermined, along with the Author. In the multiplicity of writing, everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered; the structure can be followed, ‘run’ (like the thread of a stocking) at every point and at every level, but there is nothing beneath: the space of writing is to be ranged over, not pierced; writing ceaselessly posits meaning ceaselessly to evaporate it, carrying out a systematic exemption of meaning. In precisely this way literature (it would bebetter from now on to say writing), by refusing to assign a ‘secret’, an ultimate meaning, to the text (and to the world as text), liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases-reason, science, law.Let us come back to the Balzac sentence. No one, no ‘person’, says it: its source, its voice, is not the true place of the writing, which is reading. Another-very precise- example will help to make this clear: recent research (J.-P. Vernant) has demonstrated the constitutively ambiguous nature of Greek tragedy, its texts being woven from words with double meanings that each character understands unilaterally (this perpetual misunderstanding is exactly the ‘tragic’); there is, however, someone who understands each word in its duplicity and who, in addition, hears the very deafness of the characters speaking in front of him-this someone being precisely the reader (or here, the listener). Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted. Which is why it is derisory to condemn the new writing in the name of a humanism hypocritically turned champion of the reader’s rights. Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature. We are now beginning to let ourselves be fooled no longer by the arrogant antiphrastical recriminations of good society in favour of the very thing it sets aside, ignores, smothers, or destroys; we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.

Kings of The Road
This essay by Wim Wenders really connected with me about how I’m feeling while working on this next issue. 

This film is the story of two men, but it doesn’t take a Hollywood approach to the subject. American films about men - especially recent ones - are exercises in suppression: the men’s true relationships with women, or with each other, are displaced by story, action and the need to entertain. They leave out the real nub: why the men prefer to be together, why they get on with each other, why they don’t get on with women, or, if they do, then only as a pastime. My film is about precisely that: two men getting on together, each preferring the other’s company to that of a woman. You get to see the shortcomings of both of them, their emotional insecurity; you see them trying to be mutually supportive and to hide their faults. But with the passage of time they’re no longer bothered by these faults, and when they know each other well enough they begin discussing them. As a consequence of that, they split up. They split up because, on their journey across Germany, they’ve suddenly grown too close. It’s a story that you’re not often told in films about men. The story of the absence of women, which is at the same time the story of the longing for their presence!
Doing the recce for False Movement, I kept coming across locations I couldn’t use because that story didn’t call for them. In the end I saw so many places that I liked in Germany that I wished I didn’t have a fixed story to follow. So I decided to make my next project a travelling film where I could put in anything I liked, where I would have the freedom of making up the story as we - literally - went along. A film that, even when we were halfway through shooting it, could still change totally.
The idea of the truck came to me somewhere on the Autobahn I think between Frankfurt and Wiirzburg, when I had to drive along for miles behind two trucks which kept overtaking each other. I felt pretty angry with them, but when I finally managed to pass them I got a glimpse of the guys inside. It was a hot day and one of them was dangling his leg out of the window, and they were talking. It struck me that it must be quite pleasant, rolling along in a juggernaut, slowly and steadily; sleeping in it at night. I stopped at a lorry-drivers’ caff, and I liked the atmosphere there a lot, the way they were with each other, their politeness and attentiveness. There was this snug and secure feeling. I thought I might make my film about lorry drivers driving across Germany. To begin with, I thought of a travelling circus or a fair. But that would have entailed long stopovers in each place, and I wanted the film to get a move on. Later I had the idea of somehow using village cinemas in the Elm, and then suddenly it all clicked. It even gave me the fixed points for my itinerary: cinemas.
From the distributors I got a large wall-map of Germany marking all the places with cinemas, and I drew up a route with over eighty cinemas on it, just along the border with East Germany, between Luneburg and Passau. I chose that route because it’s a long way off the main north- south routes in Germany. I took a fortnight and looked at all the cinemas. Many that were still listed on the distributors’ map were already gone. I took photos of cinemas like a maniac and barely looked at anything else. When I got back, I made a selection of twelve cinemas, almost all of which appear in the final film. Then I went on a second trip with Mike and Robby, my executive producer and cameraman. We looked at the twelve cinemas again and saw what else there was to see, in those places and on the road. Finally, just before we were about to start filming, I went off on a third trip concentrating on the landscapes and the people. But I abandoned that, because there was just too much. And then we started shooting. We had a storyline for the first few days, no more. Thereafter, there was just our route with its fixed points: a few village cinemas in Lower Saxony, Hessen and Bavaria.
There was no screenplay, which was just what I wanted. But when we were about to start shooting I suffered nights of anxiety - should I structure the thing a bit more? And then a couple of times, in a panic, I started writing some feeble conclusion. Even after we started shooting I was still afraid that everything would go wrong. Then, in Wolfsburg, we got the bad news that the whole of the first week’s filming was unusable on account of a fault in the stock, and we’d have to reshoot it all. At first that floored me, but when I’d taken it in, it was suddenly liberating: what else can possibly go wrong now? Now we can go flat out! Our shooting schedule was completely useless anyway because of the mishap of the first week. Now we were ready for anything. We decided that a group of five of us would write the story: the two actors, the cameraman, my assistant and me. And for a while we managed to keep that up, but it meant it was two or three in the morning before we had the next day’s scenes ready. It exhausted us. We didn’t get much sleep, but the really shattering thing was trying to weld five imaginations into one. That really took it out of us. We meant to carry on, though, and it was only our growing tiredness that forced us to change tack. So from about the third week of shooting I did the writing in the evening with Martin, who typed, and then we went over the new scenes in the morning with the others. We kept that up until the seventh week, admittedly with lengthening pauses to recuperate. Finally we all felt completely physically wrecked. We had a two-week break in the filming. We’d covered just half the route. The end was miles off, and it looked more uncertain than ever.
At night, in some village hotel room, I would sometimes be overcome with terror. I would be sitting around, and it would be midnight, or two or four in the morning, and I still had no idea what we’d be shooting in the morning …and with fifteen people on the payroll! Once or twice the next day would arrive and I still wouldn’t have any idea. Then we’d all sit around on location for a couple of gloomy hours and then push off back to the hotel. I think I needed those occasions just to realize what we were about. For the first time, I made the connection between money and ideas in making a film. Normally when you’re filming you aren’t aware that ideas carry price tags. In this film, though, there was often a direct link: if I haven’t managed to finish this page by tomorrow, I’ll be 3000 marks out of pocket. And then I would say to myself, all right, stuff the 3000 marks, I’m tired, and I need time to think.
It only occurred to me to make this film because I knew I had the right team for it. The very notion of making a film with that degree of freedom depended from the start on my wanting to work with people whom I’d already worked with under different circumstances, in such a way that they could now all contribute as much as possible. I knew they too wanted to make a filmin that way, and I think that, though it sometimes got tough, everyone enjoyed it.
I wanted a completely cinematic feel. Working with Robby guaranteed that. He knew that the language of the film would be cinematic, but that it would be made under entirely new circumstances. We wanted our adventure to show in the film, but not in its style or its appearance. We did a lot of practice shoots beforehand, with the actors and the truck. Hansi Dreher devised and built a camera harness for the truck, we tried out various film stock and filters. And we used the new Zeiss lenses, which are phenomenally sharp. We were going for depth, sharpness of focus and high contrast. That was the visual style, and for that we needed an awful lot of light. Even when we were filming out of doors we used screens or lights wherever possible. The last thing I wanted was for it to look like a documentary film. That’s also why we put the camera on tracks a lot and used crane shots.
I knew from the start that the film would be in black and white. Whenever I thought of the story, it was always in black and white. A lot of that was to do with the truck, which would just have looked exotic in colour. It was orange! Ever since Alice in the Cities Robby and I had wanted to work in black and white again. It’s a pity that black and white has become the exception. It would be good for quite a lot of films if they’d been shot in black and white. For me, black and white is more realistic than colour. Black and white can be colourful, and colour can be very black and white.
I learned a lot about the condition of rural cinemas, especially from the recces. It was noticeable that most of these cinemas belonged to women, especially older women, who went on running them with a real passion, and against any economic sense. They were well aware of the fact that there was no one to take over from them and that their cinemas would perish with them. Maybe that was why they were so determined. There were women who worked hard all day running a pub, just in order to hold on to their cinema. It made no money, they even had to subsidize it. ‘Oh, but it wouldn’t be a life without the cinema.’ The distributors - those who still bothered to supply these village cinemas - treated these women like din. For instance, none of these cinemas was allowed to determine its own programme, or ask for anything: if they wanted to be supplied they had to take a whole package, all that demeaning crap that only runs in sleazy downtown areas in cities. As a result, people who go to the cinema in the country are so unused to ever getting anything worth seeing that they’ve come to accept that garbage as ‘cinema’, and that’s how the distributors justify themselves in continuing to distribute it. In their rural operation, the distributors now work only with guarantee contracts, say 80 or 100 marks per film. If the box office doesn’t bring in that much, the cinema-owners have to make up the difference from their own pockets. I doubt if there’s another business in Germany that’s as badly exploited and exploitative as that. It’s glaringly obvious that a couple of years from now there will not be a single person left who will put up with this situation and that’ll be the end of the rural cinema. Kings of the Road is also a film about the end of the cinema.
But for rock music, I’d have gone crazy. The Velvet Underground have got this line: ‘Her life was saved by rock and roll’. That’s why Bruno keeps a jukebox in the back of his truck, and a Dansette in the cab: two pieces of lifesaving equipment. In a way, the film is about the generation of men who spent their first pocket money on ‘Tutti Frutti’ or ‘I’m Just a Lonely Boy’, but who weren’t old enough to wear pointed shoes. Stand- ing wistfully around the scooters, watching some bloke riding around with his girl, pushing his hand up her shirt. They’re thirty now, ‘zooo light years from home’ just as they always were. It’s all gotta change. 
-Wim Wenders

Cahiers du Cinema - September 1967
I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays so far. It has been a great year for myself and Letter to Jane and I want to thank you with sharing my last copy of Cahiers du Cinema in English I have left. What is so special about this issue you might ask? The issue is dedicated to Orson Wells, including an in-depth interview with the legend, nuff said. 
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Happy Holidays,
-Tim Moore

An Unwillingness To Change

In 2005, at the start of my time as a photographer, I got to witness the death of an art form first hand. Kodak, who for a century had been the king of photo supplies, announced they were discontinuing their line of printing paper. This, followed by a series of companies and film products vanishing signaled the format’s inevitable demise. Of course film is still alive physically, but it’s mind share is dead. In just six years, film has become an old fashioned speciality for the “art” crowd. This shift was never more apparent to me than when I asked fashion designer Scott Sternberg why he shot his lookbooks with Polaroids and he told me it gave him the flexibility of digital with the look of film. Nothing cements an art form’s death more than when it gets relegated to merely a “look”.

 

Giving into my desire for creative chaos I found myself in publishing, an industry also in transition, and making the same mistakes. Embracing a market with unfounded zeal, rushed production, and narrow vision is right out of photography’s playbook. The problem with photography’s transition to digital was that it was so focused on the transition itself that it was left creatively hindered for years as just a new kind of camera you didn’t have to buy film for. The devices were not programmed for the new user, they were programmed for the old photographer stuck in his ways. In the same manner, the magazine app is hurting itself by looking at the tablet as a digital version of its present-day self.

 

An iPad’s only similar characteristic to the magazine is that they are roughly the same size and shape. The tablet is a new medium built on the language of applications, not print design. This is a big reason why the initial offering of iPad magazines as “the magazine that can do more” failed. It cannot be assumed that readers will always think of a digital magazine in the context of its print counterpart. For years someone picked up a magazine to read it; it was its own object with its own meaning. Now we pick up a tablet and the magazine is just a feature of the device. For years we thought of a digital camera as just another camera, now we don’t even think of them as cameras, we just take pictures. As our devices consolidate so does our collective understanding at how specific things function.

 

This oversight has given us cookie cutter apps, where each magazine is dumped into the same lacking experience. The common excuse for this is that the proper tools for print designers haven’t been developed yet. Any truth in that explanation is clouded by what I can’t tell is either arrogance or ignorance. Is it a case of not knowing how to adapt, or the unwillingness to embrace change? Do we really need new tools to make great magazine apps, or do we need new publishing tools to better recreate the “print” experience? Is a magazine the act of swiping static pages or is it the editorial design, and the content?

 
There is no reason to think that print will die anytime soon, or that its fate is sealed. However, in the years to come the reader’s mind share will shift. They will appreciate printed materials but only if they can download them as well. They will accept a lesser experience over ease of use because overall they care about the content most of all. When that happens, and if our magazine apps are still just print doppelgangers that only retain the “look” of what we remember from paper bound together, then that just means we will have to wait a couple more years until a new generation, removed from a dominant print experience, will figure out how to really make a great tablet magazine.

Pick up a copy of Gym Class Magazine today. 



Cahiers du Cinema, February 1967
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Here’s another issue I’m sharing, and it’s my favorite one I have for one reason alone: Robert Bresson and Jean-Luc Godard talking about film for over 20 pages! There’s also a great feature on Milos Forman. 
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Cahiers du Cinema, May 1967

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This is a great issue featuring essays from Jean-Luc Godard, Bernardo Bertolucci, Andrew Sarris, and an interview with Andy Warhol. The file is in CBR format. If you have an iPad, I read these in an app called CloudReaders and it works perfectly. 
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Johnny Guitar - Nicholas Ray

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