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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which Nothing Blows Up To Our Considerable Chagrin

A Colder War Than Usual


Atomic Blonde
dir. David Leitch
115 minutes

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is fond of ice baths, brunettes, and cigarettes. She smokes seventeen of them in Atomic Blonde, which is quite the feat considering she never buys them and none of the other characters arranged in Berlin in 1989 ever offer her one. When two people enjoy smoking in the way that Lorraine and Percival (James McAvoy) do, you would think they would have a lot in common. At first, Percival believes they will.

By the end of Atomic Blonde, McAvoy and Theron have only had about three conversations with each other. Even though I appreciate the idea that they were simply not romantically inclined towards each other, Atomic Blonde runs so far away from this possibility that you wonder if the two actors ever saw each other on set. They don't touch at all during the movie's running time, at least not on the skin. Once, Percival takes her jacket.

McAvoy is a deft and exciting performer, and his supercharged supporting role as an English spy gone rogue is essential to this moody nothing-piece, because without him the only bomb going off would be the alarm at the conclusion of this feature-length nap.

Ms. Theron looks dramatically better as a brunette, or even bald. Blonde hair makes her look a bit goofy, really, but director David Leitch is keen to distract us from this fact by placing Lorraine in her undergarments as often as possible. She is nude in no less than five scenes, which has to be some kind of record. Despite this titillation, Atomic Blonde is rather dull, although that is not to say it does no attempt to make things interesting.

The film's central sequence is a set piece where Lorraine and Percival attempt to transport an East German man (Eddie Marsan) and his family to the West. Unfortunately, Leitch's budget did not really accomodate a crowd scene larger than 100 people. The action gets more chaotic in an apartment building nearby, where Lorraine fights for her life against members of the KGB. This is the closest we ever get to believing she is in serious trouble on her mission, but the drama is rather toned down because of the fact a frame story makes it quite clear she's alive and well except for a black eye.

For a spy thriller, absolutely everything is what it seems in Atomic Blonde. The four other contacts Lorraine makes in Berlin are a KGB agent, a British agent, a French agent named Delphine (Sofia Boutella) and a Swede named Merkel (Bill Skarsgård). None of them, including McAvoy are anything different from what they appear to be. This has the consequential effect of meaning that Lorraine never has a moment where she is taken by surprise, and as an audience neither do we.

More troubling is the absolute lack of a feast for the senses present in Atomic Blonde. Sure, the movie is pretty to look at, which is a major and important concern. But none of the characters ever smell, taste, touch or hear anything in each other's voices outside of a moment where Lorraine is critiqued for her poor German. How could anybody tell? She only speaks one line in the language.

The music of Atomic Blonde is an endless churn of 80s pop. Except for when Lorraine is fighting, she constantly has this lame soundtrack purring around her, with the resonance of the lyrics striking the rare thematic aspects present in the story: e.g. "Voices Carry" and "Father Figure." The songs are all way too familiar to be dropped into these mien, a fact that Leitch amusingly confesses to when he has Lorraine watch an MTV clip of Kurt Loder investigating the phenomenon of sampling.

Kurt Loder seemed absolutely ancient to me when he was on television, and Atomic Blonde does a good job of turning Berlin's atmosphere into something that can be called modern when viewed through this future lens. In a few fleeting moments, we get a sense of Lorraine as a kind of disturbed alien temporarily visiting on a planet of beings that might as well be ants to her: she is that far above them. This is possibly true.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Meet Our Friends In New Orleans

Bye Girl


Girls Trip
dir. Malcolm D. Lee
122 minutes

Ryan (Regina Hall) gives out two lectures at the beginning of Girls Trip. The first is to her white assistant Liz (Kate Walsh) who uses a lot of African-American slang and buzzwords around her boss. Since they will be spending the weekend at the Essence Festival in Louisiana, she warns Liz to stop saying these racist things, since she will be around people who might be offended by them. Liz accepts her admonition, while saying farewell to Ryan by stating, "Girl, bye."

The second speech is to her friend Sasha (Queen Latifah) who runs a gossip blog. She criticizes Sasha for abandoning real journalism in her crusade for clicks, posting negative stories about celebrities that are sometimes nasty and unkind. Sasha does not really justify her occupation, but explains that she does this work in order to pay the rent on what looks to be a $4.5 million apartment.

In this lavish home, Sasha has no less than three desktop computers next to each other. Since she has nothing in the way of a staff, it is unclear what she uses these different terminals for. Ryan invites her to the Essence Festival, where she hopes to find a juicy story that will increase her pageviews. Fortunately, this bizarre character motivation is not really a huge part of Girls Trip, and Sasha later shuts down her blog, unhappy with her choice of work.

Anyway, Ryan is generally upset for most of Girls Trip. Surrounded by some of the finest black actresses of her generation, Hall (Scary Movie) struggles intensely as the centerpiece of her friend group, which calls itself the Flossy Posse. It is never mentioned why these four women adopted this name in the first place, but their FP necklaces and vests are very charming in the miasma of bright colors and alcohol that is New Orleans.

Director Malcolm D. Lee displays one image of the ladies in front of the Louisiana Superdome that is particularly heartwarming at the beginning of Girls Trip; this is later contrasted with the renovation of the building and the sale of the naming rights to Mercedes-Benz.

Everything went corporate, you see, even African-American culture. Ryan's husband Stewart (a tragically bad Mike Colter) is a former NFL tight end who is cheating on her with a model named Simone (Deborah Ayorinde). He impregnates the lovely young woman.

Ryan, unaware of this development, and incapable of having children herself, smashes the woman's head on a bar at the unexpectedly violent conclusion to a dance contest. Very little attention is paid to this aspect of Girls Trip, but her treatment of Simone is pretty horrid and possibly worthy of prosecution. Ryan tries to paper over the problems in her marriage by hooking up with a bass player, although he is not super into it.

It is pretty hard to watch Regina Hall's scenes in Girls Trip, because her character is completely unlikable and seems to be kind of a nasty jab at Beyonce. Fortunately, Girls Trip is saved by the rest of the Flossy Posse, composed of Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish).

Both women are far more complicated and entertaining than their showbiz friends, and the contrast between the two types of people begins to make the parade of celebrity cameos in Girls Trip feel quite hollow. So much of the film seems like a series of segments from E! News, about people whose entire purpose in life seems to be getting publicity for themselves.

Small moments, like when Lisa talks to her children or Dina is fired from her job are absolutely the best parts of Girls Trip, where the edges of an actual film seem to encroach on the milquetoast main conflict. Haddish's raunchy humor correctly takes all the attention, but she also listens and responds to her fellow performers with adeptness and grace. Besides when Jada Pinkett Smith gives a guy a blowjob with a grapefruit on his dick, it is the most exciting things ever get in New Orleans.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which Nothing Is Here But Everything Is Permitted

Versus Godard


Is everything permitted to the one who loves? For example to spy through the slats of the blinds, or to seek in the beloved's garments the signs of his intimacy, or to rummage in his pockets to touch all the objects that, proofs of his betrayals, become proofs of his existence...

Strong in the love that I have for the cinema of Godard, I fish here in troubled waters, and I discover, precious as only the "real" can be, the "vulgarity” of Godard.

I am speaking of Godard‘s two most recent films, which I saw recently in Paris, their sound mixing scarcely finished, in the following order: Deux on trait chases que ie suit d’elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her); five minutes of recreation (those are Godard’s words, or as, laughing, he said to me "fine del prime tempo”—end of the first part); then, Made in USA.

I think Godard expects a single judgment on these two films; he finished filming Made in USA one summer Friday and began Two or Three Things the following Monday. He edited the two films at the same time, probably in two connecting cutting rooms, like two hotel rooms for an illicit couple. Another prosaic observation — the order in which Godard showed these two films lets one suppose that he prefers Made in USA projected last. (Dulcis in fundo.)

Godard must be a great devourer of newsprint; one can find the origin of his two films in last months' newspapers. The idea for Two or Three Things: comes from a news item read in Le Nouvel Observateur: a married woman (about thirty years old), mother of two children, living in some housing development, prostitutes herself each time the desire seizes her to transform herself from mother of a family to consumer of all those products that neo-capitalism offers to Frechwomen — Paco Rabane dresses, sunglasses, Polaroid cameras, and so on, all things whose acquisition her husband, an auto mechanic and radio ham, cannot guarantee her.

As for Made in USA, it is the Ben Barka affair, revised and corrected by Dashiell Hammett and Apollinaire, with Anna Karina in the role of Humphrey Bogart and Godard in the role of Howard Hawks. Comes the dreaded moment, the instant of the choice that Godard — not without masochism - imposed on us to make when he decided to shoot two films at the same time and to show them one after the other. Thus his victory will be his defeat and his defeat his victory. While Two or Three Things is at its origin a news item, Made in USA is drawn from a political assassination. Let us call to our aid Roland Barthes, who enlightens us on the difference between these two terms; the political assassination is always by definition a partial fact that refers necessarily to a situation existing outside it, before it, and around it: politics. The current event, on the contrary, is a total, or more exactly, an immanent piece of information. It refers formally to nothing other than itself.

But here is Godard reversing this rule scandalously; Made in USA keeps a structure tragically closed, while the current event of Two or Three Things, which ought to have derived its beauty and its meaning—an immanent entity resolving itself into its immediate données— from itself, opens like one of those strange and ineffable flowers of dreams or of hallucinations, which never stop blooming, disclosing in their petals new existences, new vegetal contexts, unpredictable as the resonance that they were brooding over, the things it signifies and their dream duration is unforeseeable.

Now, Made in USA, a political film, a traitor to politics, paralyzed in its great freedom by an ideological conformity, its colors fading from the very fact of the magnificence of their enamels — never in cinema have reds, blues, greens, been so red, so blue, so green, and everything seems true to Atlantic City — which, like Alphaville, should have resembled Paris and on the contrary resembles Atlantic City really too much, just as the “toughs” who should have made one think of Franco-Moroccan gorillas are, more or less in spite of Godard, too "tough” and in the end are only "toughs" — and yet, Made in USA, — the one that I like the less of these two films because it is too Godardian to be able to be really good Godard, here it does have unexpected events, very violent starts, that shake its entire armature; then, its structure recomposes itself, strengthens itself again, becomes enclosed, anti-Godardian. I was alluding to the deaths of the minor characters whom Godard has Anna Karina kill, and which are the sublime moments of the film.

It is as if the old man with the odd Eastern accent, or the writer who is Belmondo's double or the parallel policeman, existed first of all thanks to the bullets that they encounter. Thanks to their blood, and thanks to Karina, who, after having fired, addresses long looks of comfort to them. Godard makes them live in making them die, one by one, and, to end with, we are encircled by these poetic deaths of minor characters.

But it was with Two or Three Things I Know About Her — "her," this is the moment to say it, is not Marina Vlady, but Paris — that I really felt the pleasure of Godard’s "vulgarity." I call “vulgarity" his capacity, his aptitude, to live from day to day, close to things, of living in the world as do journalists, who know how to arrive on events at the right time, and pay for this punctuality by necessarily undergoing the effects even of the most trivial, like the duration of a match flame. This "vulgarity" is to be a little too attentive to everything, and for that we are deeply grateful to Godard. It is for us that he risks that, because it is to us and for us that he speaks directly, to help us, men existing around him, and that is why it seems that he addresses himself always to someone who is very near him and not to eternity. Thus a monolithic current event, like that of Two or Three Things I Know About Her, which could be extinguished in itself, becomes "means," "vehicle,” of a discourse that concerns us all. The prostitution of the women of the housing developments is only the pale reflection of the prostitution to which we have all, more or less differently, adapted ourselves, but with less innocence than Marina Vlady with her animal, peasant gentleness.

This new Godard full of anger and pity at the same time makes a single gesture and embraces innumerable souls, who are behind innumerable windows of suburban buildings and whom no one would mourn if floods or the bomb were to cross them out of the world forever. The light becomes pink and blue on the resonant partitions of the low-rent apartments; It is a light that we know already, and that resonates familiarly in us; it is the sun of work days, Wednesday or Thursday, in colonies that do not know that they are colonies (in Made in USA, I had forgotten to Say so, everything seems to happen between ten o'clock in the morning and six o’clock in the afternoon one Sunday in July, the bistros almost deserted, boredom for whoever remains in the city).

During this time someone speaks alone in the next room, and the walls are so thin, that everything that he says reaches us distinctly, like the words of the priest behind the grating of the confessional. It is Godard who speaks a monologue in a low voice. like a speaker operated on for cancer of the throat, and who says the rosary of his reflections on cinema and cinematographic style, questions himself and answers himself, protests, suggests, speaks ironies, explains to us that the shots, whether they are fixed, panoramic or dollied, are autonomous, with an autonomous resonance and an autonomous beauty, and that one must not preoccupy oneself too much with foreseeing a montage, for in every way the order is born automatically starting from the moment when we put one shot after the other, and that ultimately one shot is worth as much as another (Rossellini knows that), that if they are charged with poetry, the relationship will be born in spite of everything... and when his extraordinary moral discourse is seized with a slight shaking — and that often happens — it is as if the presentiment of a tragedy were assailing us; the characters of Two or Three Things I Know About Her will end their day with death, or by turning off the lamps by their beds, either ending not making much difference.

May 1967