You should have showed up at my house with flowers. For my birthday. Because you should do anything. Everything. If I said the things that people say. That you said. If I asked them to believe me when I say it. I would do anything. Everything. Everyone always begs me to believe them. Lancelot begs Guinevere to believe him. Last weekend a friend said, “It’s because you’re embodied. That’s why you’re this way.” Then we agreed that no one has real integrity. “Like three people have it,” we said, then laughed. Three people in the whole world. We were sitting in a booth at a loud bar/club in Brooklyn having an intimate intense conversation. Not drinking or dancing. Raising our voices over the pounding music. I was sweating in my heavy coat, which I never took off. When she called me cynical earlier that night, at a quiet, polite party in Williamsburg, I should have said what Bresson said when he was accused by an interviewer of being pessimistic, and to whom he promised the answer to only one question:
“Seeing clearly isn’t necessarily pessimism. You are confusing pesssimism with lucidity.”
I should have replied, “You are confusing cynicism with understanding.” It bothered me, hearing that, being called cynical or just being reduced to contradictory descriptions (too idealistic, too cynical; too romantic, too jaded, too bitter; too trusting, not trusting) because it is not true and maybe even unfair. I’ve kept the flame going for a long time. For myself and for other people.
I know how things are. Or, I know how people are. I even tried not to know it. Tried not to believe it. Tried anyway. How people always are. How they apparently can’t help being. How fatiguing it is. Other people’s constant fatigue. But I have always hoped for an alternative. I always hold out.
I keep thinking how ethics is this weird word no one uses or thinks about anymore. When I taught Bresson to my students the other day, they asked what “the ethics of the image” meant. This was the focus of the class. I explained, of course. But also just wanted them to feel it? To recognize and to know it when it shows up. To feel it when they see the German Shepard yelp and run up and down the stairs at the end of L’Argent when Yvon kills everyone in the country home. Bresson films the dog mourning. Vigilant. Beside himself. He made the dog look at Yvon and plead for him not to kill the old woman right before he does. Levinasian. He fills an entire frame with an open hand. He makes sound an event. He makes everything present and material. He makes matter matter. He thinks glass shattering is the equivalent of trauma. A broken heart. Ethics, ethics. I cry when I watch Bresson’s ethics at the center of everything.
Bresson’s interviewer (from the above screenshots) wasted his one wish with a stupid flagrant question. Over a payphone, requesting the interview repeatedly, the young man desperate for the interview with his idol, asked Bresson if he could ask him just “one question,” and then this is what he came up with.
Bresson being Bresson honored the wish, answered the question as promised, and then refused to say more.
Like a parable.
You got your wish. But you blew it.
Crossposted with Love Dog.