Gary Indiana


    YEARS BEFORE I SAW ANY OF CAMERON JAMIE'S WORK, the artist Larry Johnson had told me about “this guy who does 'apartment wrestling'”—or at least performance that takes that softcore-porn subgenre as its point of departure. Eventually I met the artist and he agreed to send me a copy of his film BB, 2000, but it would be months and many missed connections-before the eighteen-minute extravaganza of suburban teenage acting-out would arrive in the mail with two shorter videos, La Baguette, 1997, and The New Life, 1996. Wildly different from whatever I'd imagined, they were truly odd, riveting

  • ROBERT BRESSON: 1901–1999

    On December 22, 1999, Robert Bresson, the director of thirteen lapidary feature films, died at the age of ninety-eight. Over the course of a career that spanned half a century, Bresson honed a laconic, intensely personal style that has influenced filmmakers from Jean-Luc Godard to Jim Jarmusch. Here, novelists Gary Indiana and Dennis Cooper and artist Stephen Prina assess the significance of Bresson’s art in their own lives and work, while film historian David Bordwell discusses the French master’s place in the history of cinematic style.

  • Movie Rites

    EVEN BEFORE ROBERT BRESSON DIED, an elegiac note had begun to sound in various essays and articles written about him. Elegiac not for him personally, but for his whole conception of cinema. The Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, for instance, worried that Bresson’s films, in which the meticulous composition of shots and the precise spatial location of sound effects are of paramount importance, translate unusually poorly to home video; and, since video is where today’s would-be cineast gets acquainted with film history, the persistence of Bresson’s vision is called into doubt. In Robert Bresson,

  • Gary Indiana

    1. The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Ray Müller, 1993) It doesn’t answer the eternal question, “Did she sit on Hitler’s face?” but this hilarious portrait proves that evil doesn’t have to be banal: It can also be insane entertainment.

    2. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998) Marks the welcome return of Louise Lasser to films that can match her anguishing drollery.

    3. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999) Anybody who doesn’t adore this movie is brain-dead.

    4. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996) A banquet of prosthetically augmented homoerotica and disfigurement fetishism that made me want to

  • Crime and Misdemeanors

    THERE WAS SOMETHING NEVER QUITE CREDIBLE about the explosion of galleries and artists that happened in the East Village in the mid-’80s. It had a feeling about it suggestive of a feral swarm, a feeding frenzy that somehow overwhelmed the thing it supposedly was about, this “art” thing that in Manhattan had always been neighborhood specific or even bar specific—I mean Cedar Tavern specific, or Max’s Kansas City specific, or SoHo specific; an element of contrivance had slipped in, something “simulacral,” to use a word very popular at the time. When you looked at the East Village before and after,

  • Gary Indiana

    1 The Horror Vacui Effect If 1997 had anything particular about it—doubtful—it may have been the baleful evolution of the horror vacui effect in what we call “mass media”: television, magazines, newspapers, and radio, working in synchronicity, refined the techniques of mass manipulation in ever-more capital-intensive ways. When a promising item began taking shape—JonBenet Ramsey, Marv Albert—it instantly became the story, cynosure of all talk shows, leviathan gobbler of all attention, churned into thrilling, earnest-yet-pornographic twaddle, by the likes of Geraldo Rivera, Barbara Walters,

  • Gary Indiana

    I saw a lot of Jack Smith during a period when I was basically a speed freak. Speed gives you fantastic obsessive energy but also enables a junklike stasis, the ability to sit in the same place for five or ten hours listening to scratched 45s and looking at photos of Maria Montez. Jack lived in an apartment on First Avenue full of colorful garbage. He could spend hours readjusting some peripheral aspect of a pile of debris, puncturing long silences only with occasional cryptic non sequiturs about penguins or a startling piece of extremely bad nutritional advice. If one could sum up Jack’s

  • Valley of the Dolls

    VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, to be reprinted next month by Grove Atlantic, was one kind of quintessential trash novel of the ’60s (another kind was Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s Candy), written with an insider’s eye on the showbiz of the ’50s. Its Ike-era prototype, Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place, describes the adulteries and out-of-wedlock pregnancies of a small New England town; in Metalious’ sequel, Return to Peyton Place, heroine Allison Mackenzie writes a book very like Peyton Place, finds a New York publisher, and enters a swirling cesspool of Manhattan glamour and corruption. Like Allison,

  • Elia Suleiman's Chronicle of a Disappearance

    “MY LIFE MAKES ME LAUGH,” Elia Suleiman writes in his notes to Chronicle of a Disappearance. “I am far from being courageous. I hate venturing. I wish to settle down and lead a linear existence, but even when I purposely attempt to conform, something is bound to go wrong.” Suleiman’s first feature film is like a diary full of such false starts, but it is animated by wary optimism. Screened in New York recently in the “New Directors/New Films” series, copresented by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, this truly thoughtful movie deserves to be seen by a larger

  • George W. S. Trow and Daniel Harris

    THERE IS AN APPLIANCE in every living room that makes people stupid. This was a widely known fact before George W. S. Trow’s essay, “Within the Context of No Context” appeared in The New Yorker in 1980 (and in book form soon after), but Trow’s impressionistic meditation on the world of television, and the world of television’s effect on mass culture, fingered the beguiling awfulness of the medium, and the medium’s message, with arresting precision—arresting not least because the essay’s form mimicked the fractured pastiche that was, in 1980, only beginning to be called “postmodernism,” a condition

  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    WHAT CAN YOU SAY about a fat, ugly sadomasochist who terrorized everyone around him, drove his lovers to suicide, drank two daily bottles of Rémy, popped innumerable pills while stuffing himself like a pig, then croaked from an overdose at 37? Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil probably said it all: “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?”

    Anyway, there’s nothing you can say about Rainer Werner Fassbinder that he didn’t say about himself (in countless interviews and the horrific self-portrait in Germany in Autumn, 1978). He was the faithful mirror of an ugly world