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Archive for June, 2012

The third season of America’s most inventive sitcom begins tonight. Like anyone who cares about these things, I’m excited. “Louie” is landmark television. Where else can I get my insatiable fill of novelistic ambiguity and dick jokes? Writer/directer/editor/star Louis C.K. has created one of the first TV shows that feels like the work of a single author. “Louie” flows like a collection of short stories. Its tone resembles a piece of auteur filmmaking. And its production model — give a talented figurehead a small budget and creative control — can already be felt with the popularity of shows like “Girls.” In a few years, I hope we come to view “Louie” as a paradigm shift toward a more personal, less-manicured television.

But “Louie” has its flaws. How could a show so freewheeling and amorphous not? In re-watching the show prior to tonight’s premiere, I noticed a device C.K. uses throughout the series: “Louie” often ends its otherwise beautiful segments with cheap, simplistic punchlines. In almost all cases, these non sequiturs shatter the scene’s tone and offer C.K. a lazy note on which to end the segment. He takes the old advice and leaves us laughing. Ordinarily, that’s fine. But these laughs come at the expense of the show’s hard-earned insight and emotional core.

Let’s take three examples to illustrate. (Spoilers abound)

To begin, we have the episode from season two in which Louie expresses his love for Pamela (Pamela Adlon).

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Film is a dictator’s medium. It calls for a person who gets off on two things: Controlling a mass of laborers and controlling an audience. If those two desires burn within you, perhaps you should pick up a camera. Film directors, in essence, cut off autonomy for a living. They tell workers, “No, that car must be red, not blue.” They tell audiences, “No, you must watch this scene from this angle, not that.” They dictate orders to one mass so they can effectively manipulate another.

So, really, does it come as any surprise that Kim Jong-il had a lot to say about movies? In 1987, the glorious leader published a dogmatic manual for North Korea’s film directors. “The Cinema and Directing,” available here, is as fascinating, funny, and latently horrifying as you’d expect. You’ll find some of my favorite passages below. For anyone whose interests align with mine — film, geopolitics, propaganda — “The Cinema and Directing” is an essential read.

To begin, Kim’s manifesto has some lovely defenses of publicly-funded art (all emphases are my own).

In the capitalist system of film-making the director is called “director” but, in fact, the right of supervision and control over film production is entirely in the hands of the tycoons of the film-making industry who have the money, whereas the directors are nothing but their agents. (more…)

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