Sunday, September 15, 2013

Letters to the Editor(s)

Film: Limite
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Dear Mario Peixoto,

It’s my understanding that Limite is your only film. I hope I’m not being too blunt when I tell you that it really looks like this was your only film. I’m not entirely sure what you were attempting in a film where virtually nothing happens for close to two hours. People sail on a boat. They don’t seem to have any particular direction or a goal in mind. They just sail. Oh, and they remember their past. But that’s really it. And that doesn’t explain the extended shots of…a spool of thread and a measuring tape? I’m not really sure. I gather these items are important to one of our characters, but did we really need to look at each one for 10-15 seconds?

I know that experimental films and art films are given a sort of license to do something different. After all, that’s the nature of experimental film. If you didn’t play around with notions of narrative or plot or character, it wouldn’t be much of an experiment. That said, Mr. Peixoto, even an experimental film has to have a point. I had flashbacks of watching Jeanne Dielmann while sitting through your film, and you need to understand that nothing that reminds me of that experience is ever a positive thing.

Oh, I get it. You should be mildly proud of yourself for pulling off this complete goof. Seriously, it’s something to be proud of. You put together a bunch of random images, concocted something that is sort of like a story but isn’t really, and evidently got the art and film world to decide that it’s something important and deeply meaningful. That’s a great scam if you can pull it off. Luis Bunuel did it a few times, too. However, when he did it, he generally had the good sense and common decency to keep the film under 30 minutes as he did with Un Chien Andalou or Las Hurdes.

I know we’ve never met and I also know you’ve been dead for more than 20 years. That doesn’t prevent me from wanting to punch you in the face for this cinematic pile.

Love,
Steve

Dear Listmakers,

I have defended both The List and the concept of The List for a good four years now. I was quite interested in the 5% (or so) remaking of the list with the latest edition. I have seen a couple of those new films, but the majority will be new to me. While I think there are still massive gaps in what is represented—no Ray Harryhausen work, for instance—I have still tirelessly made my way through each and every film. More than that, I have attempted to understand the value of each film and why a particular film might be required viewing when it seems at first blush to have little value.

You have reached the very edge of my patience with Limite, though. Your write-up of the film suggests that both David Bowie and Orson Welles are and were fans of this film. I ask you plainly what possible relevance this could have. I think John Waters seems like a guy who would be fun to hang out with, and he thinks Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the greatest movie ever made. And really, that film is complete shit. Someone else finding value here doesn’t mean that anyone else will.

I’m not going to go on a rant here, although I could. There are so many other good films, meaningful films, important films that could have been placed in the collection of new movies added to The List. Inherit the Wind, with its conflict between science and religion, is more relevant today than when it was made. 28 Days Later cleverly and terrifyingly rewrote an entire subgenre of film. The beautiful and sweet Amelie was removed unjustly and never returned. Do we get those? No, we get Limite. Did we get the existential drama of The Truman Show? No. Limite.

Instead of something intelligent, something moving, something profound, we get a film that focuses on water pouring out of a spigot, sideways shots of a street, and lingering shots of a fish gasping for breath.

This emperor has no clothes, and it parades through town for two hours. This was a bad addition and you should feel bad for including it as something people ought to watch.

Love,
Steve

Why to watch Limite: You’re a list completist.
Why not to watch: Every 30 seconds, you’ll wonder why you are spending your time watching it.

12 comments:

  1. Oh dear, oh dear, I just cannot wait.... sigh....

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    1. That which doesn't kill you makes you funnier.

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  2. I'm going to guess that the auteur was pulling a Warhol (cf. Warhol's 8-hour "Empire"), trying to see how much the viewer could endure. The full French title for "Limite" might well be "La limite de votre concentration" or "La limite de votre attention" or "La limite de votre patience."

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    1. Well, whatever the full French title might be, the director is Brazilian. I'm pretty sure he thought the whole thing was packed to the gills with meaningful-osity. It might even be, but I'm never going to watch it again to find out.

      In truth, I missed huge chunks of it, either dozing off or just letting my mind wander because there was nothing on the screen worth paying attention to. I've decided that I'm okay with that.

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    2. I would not mind co-signing those letters. They pretty much sum up my feelings on this pile of junk.
      "pointless" I think is the word that sums it up for me.

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    3. Well, at least you don't ever need to watch it again...

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  3. Your entire post had me smiling. This is one I eventually hit the fast forward button on. That's one advantage of saving the video off of Youtube to your computer before watching it. It's an advantage that I have not needed often, but sometimes I have resorted to it.

    On Letterboxd I referred to it as "if you've every secretly wished that Un chien andalou was four times as long then this is the film for you." Like you said, at least many of the other experimental films on the list have the decency to be short.

    I think Limite was added because "hey, Brazlian cinema started decades before we originally thought!" That's a "so what" for me if the film isn't worth watching. I had a snide thought that it's no wonder the director never made another film.

    And I completely agree on your point about what does it matter if some famous person likes the movie. It reminds me a lot of The Library of America books. They have biographies of the authors at the end and it's amusing when they list among the major events when the author met another author. No book, collaboration, or anything else came from it; they were just in the same room at the same time at some point. Who cares? It's just name dropping.

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    1. Well, I can't claim I fast forwarded at all, but I did doze off for a minute or two here and there and decided it wasn't worth going back and correcting. Different method, same effect.

      I get your remark about Un Chien Andalou, but this wasn't as completely random. Honestly, I might have liked it more if it had been. Anything would've been more entertaining than shots of a guy standing outside a gate or that same repeated zoom of a spigot.

      As for the "so what" comment? Yes. Emphatically yes. Who gives a flaming tin shit that some guy in Brazil made a crappy film decades earlier? Who cares who liked it? The fact that some famous and creative people liked this film doesn't change the fact that this film is dull and pointless.

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  4. Limite is another film from The List that I was sort of dreading that I ended up liking quite a bit. I'm not sure that I got Peixoto's message, or even that he had one, but I found it to be quite watchable. I'm very glad that I somehow avoided the pitfall of working myself into such a fury that I wanted to punch someone in the face just because I didn't like their movie, as if I had been forced to watch it at gunpoint.
    I found it to be poetic, as many of the best silent films are, and I'm amazed that the director - in his twenties when he made the film - was able to make such a perceptive and engrossing film. I'm not the least bit surprised that Orson Wells and David Bowie liked it.
    I'm a little bit surprised and even a little shocked by the extreme reaction in the main article and the comments. I understand that it's not for everyone. But instead of shrugging it off as different tastes, it turns into anger and resentment that anybody thought Limite was any good. It reminds me of the thread on IMDB where the guy was trying to start a petition to kick Casablanca off the IMDB Top 250 list because he thought it was boring.
    Admittedly, Limite is no Casablanca.

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    1. I think you're reading far too much into what I did here. I was just having fun and trying something that was formatted completely differently from what I normally do here.

      Had I met the director of this film, I wouldn't have really punched him in the face. Bad reviews should always have license for a bit of hyperbole and that's really all this was.

      I stand by the second letter completely, though. There are far better and far more important films that could have been added here. I still object to no Ray Harryhausen work, to no Inherit the Wind, to an almost systematic stance against modern animation and horror...and instead of correcting any of those gaps, we get something a good four times too long with "artistic" shots of water running out of a spigot.

      I stopped caring about Limite as a film 20 minutes in, but I sat through the whole damn thing.

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