Tag Archives: Kathleen Cleaver

VARDA BY AGNÈS AT THE AERO

Three words are important to me: inspiration, creation, and sharing… I don’t care if my films make money. I care that my films are seen and are loved. Agnès Varda

“My mother was very funny—left wing but not politically correct. We traveled a lot together. She was so curious and she loved gossip. Qui baise qui?

“Agnès was 89 when we started VARDA BY AGNÈS. She had lung cancer and we could only work three hours a day. This film was so difficult, going from the editing room to the hospital to the editing room…

“My mother would say, Don’t complain too much. Do it. We work hard, but it should look easy. We should not show the ‘work.’ Rosalie Varda, Agnès’ daughter and a co-producer of VARDA BY AGNÈS, in conversation with Ava DuVernay*

Agnès Varda didn’t like or use the word “master” to refer to herself or her work—what she called her cinéma écriture—but VARDA BY AGNÈS, her final film, is undeniably a master class in cinema, and a “characteristically playful, profound, and personal summation of the director’s own brilliant career.”

Now playing at the Aero Theatre, these American Cinematheque screenings of VARDA BY AGNÈS will be introduced by a variety of guests, including Illeana Douglas, Julie Delpy, Chloe King, Lisa Blok-Linson, Lynne Littman, Jim McBride, and Peter Debruge. See link below for details.

VARDA BY AGNÈS

Through December 11.

Aero Theatre

1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica.

*Rosalie Varda and Ava DuVernay in conversation, Array 360° Film Series, November 2, 2019, Array Campus, Los Angeles.

From top: Agnès Varda on the set of Uncle Yanco (1967); Varda, behind camera, shooting her first feature La Pointe court (1955); Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret in La Pointe court; Alain Resnais and Varda editing the film; Corinne Marchand, Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962); Le Bonheur (1965); Varda, Visages Villages (2017), co-directed by Varda and JR; Varda and Jean “Yanco” Varda, Uncle Yanco; Kathleen Cleaver in Black Panthers (1968); James Rado (left), Viva, and Gerome Ragni in Lions Love (…and Lies) (1969); Varda by Agnès (2019) (2); Jeanne Moreau (left), Hanna Schygulla, and Michel Piccoli (as Simon Cinéma) in One Hundred and One Nights (1995); 72nd Festival de Cannes tribute poster, 2019; Varda by Agnès. Images courtesy and © Ciné Tamaris, MK2, Criterion, and Janus Films.

STAGING THE WHITE ALBUM

Everyone knows the opening sentence of Joan Didion’s 1968–1978 essay “The White Album”:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

The 40-page piece jump-cuts through the undefined haze of Didion’s version of the 1960s in California. Stories are told, interpretations are made, impressions and coincidences noted, but verifiable sense and significance remain elusive:

We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while.

For Didion, things began to change in 1966:

I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling… During these years I appeared, on the face of it, a competent enough member of some community or another… This was an adequate enough performance, as improvisations go. The only problem was that my entire education, everything I had ever been told or had told myself, insisted that the production was never meant to be improvised: I was supposed to have a script, and I had mislaid it.

Didion—who lived during this period in a large rented house on Franklin Avenue, in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described by one of my acquaintances as a “senseless-killing neighborhood”—takes us to a recording session with Jim Morrison and The Doors, and to the murder trials for the killers of Ramon Navarro and Sharon Tate. She spends time with the Black Panthers—with Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver in their home and with Huey Newton in jail:

As it happened I had always appreciated the logic of the Panther position, based as it was on the proposition that political power began at the end of the barrel of a gun… and I could appreciate as well the particular beauty in Huey Newton as “issue.” In the politics of revolution, everyone is expendable, but I doubted that Huey Newton’s political sophistication extended to seeing himself that way: the value of a Scottsboro case is easier to see if you are not yourself the Scottsboro boy.

At a university protest, she clocks the privilege of some of the participants:

Here at San Francisco State only the black militants could be construed as serious… Meanwhile the administrators could talk about programs. Meanwhile the white radicals could see themselves, on an investment of virtually nothing, as urban guerrillas.

Didion is beset by neural damage, and an attack of vertigo and nausea, [which] does not now seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968.

But the drift is more profound:

I was meant to know the plot, but all I knew was what I saw: flash pictures in variable sequence, images with no “meaning” beyond their temporary arrangement, not a movie but a cutting-room experience. In what would probably be the middle of my life I wanted still to believe in the narrative and in the narrative’s intelligibility, but to know that one could change the sense with every cut was to begin to perceive the experience as rather more electrical than ethical.

Sound familiar?

Lars Jan and Early Morning Opera will make theatrical sense of Didion’s essay in the CAP UCLA presentation of THE WHITE ALBUM, a staged performance at the “intersection between observation, storytelling, audience participation, choreography, and architecture.”* Mia Barron, as Didion, recites the entire essay from memory, while a group of actors and recruited audience members flesh out Didion’s famous take on “accidie.”

THE WHITE ALBUM*

Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6, at 8 pm.

Saturday, April 6, at 3 pm.

Sunday, April 7, at 7 pm.

Freud Playhouse, UCLA

245 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles.

All italicized passages are by Joan Didion, “The White Album,” in The White Album (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), 11–48.

From top: The White Album, by Joan Didion, performance created by Lars Jan / Early Morning Opera, image courtesy CAP UCLA; Joan Didion, photograph by Julian Wasser; Kathleen Cleaver and Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers in 1969, photograph by Bruno Barbey; Huey Newton, (center right); Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate; Jim Morrison, photograph © Joel Brodsky, 1967.

MR. SOUL! — LA FILM FESTIVAL

Ellis Haizlip—black, gay, and deeply invested in the African-American liberation and equality movements of the 1960s and ’70s—was the producer and host of the short-lived but seminal public television show Soul!, which aired from 1968 to 1973. Sui generis in its approach and impact, Haizlip’s Soul! gave black voices an unprecedented platform at a crucial time.

Directors Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard have brought the life and work of this catalyst to a new generation with the documentary MR. SOUL!, screening this week at the LA Film Festival in its local premiere.

Included in the film are rare interviews and performances by James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Harry BelafonteAl Green, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Odetta, Stokely CarmichaelMerry Clayton, Betty Shabazz, George Faison, Toni Morrison, Patti LaBelle, The Last Poets, and many more.

 

MR. SOUL!

Wednesday, September 26, at 7:30 pm.

Writers Guild Theater, 135 South Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills.

Above: Ellis Haizlip interviews Melvin Van Peebles in 1971. Soul! director Stan Lathan looks over a camera operator’s head.

Below: Haizlip, Kathleen Cleaver of the Black Panthers, and a Soul! sound engineer.

Photographs © Chester Higgins Jr.

LES ANNÉES 68

TheFrench Institute-Alliance Française will remember May 1968 with a monthlong film series curated by Delphine Selles-Alvarez. Opening night will include a screening of the American premiere of Don Kent’s two-part documentary LES ANNÉES 68, a global look at the rise of civil and political activism fifty years ago.

Featuring Régis DebrayJudith ButlerMarco BellocchioToni NegriKathleen CleaverGreil Marcus, and Ralph NaderLES ANNÉES 68 will be followed by a panel discussion with NYU professors Mary NolanPaula Chakravartty, and Pedro Monaville, and Holy Family University professor Madigan Fichter.

 

LES ANNÉES 68

Tuesday, May 8.

Part 1 – LA VAGUE, at 4pm.

Part 2 – L’EXPLOSION, at 7:30pm.

Florence Gould Hall, FIAF

55 East 59th Street, New York City.

See: multitudes.net/toni-negri

Above: Champs-Élysées, Paris, May 1968.

Below: Protests by Sorbonne students on the rue de Rennes, Paris, May 7, 1968. Photograph by Marc Garanger.