2 min read

Martial Memory

The "German" wrestles a gun away and shoots his enemies. Then they're called in for dinner.
Martial Memory

Three little boys run around the countryside playing war. They draw lots. The loser puts on the German helmet. The other two chase him, pretend-firing their block wood weapons. Then it's a free-for-all. They roll around on the ground. The "German" wrestles a gun away and shoots his enemies. Then they're called in for dinner.

Maurice Pialat's The House in the Woods is set in rural France during World War I. A middle-aged gameskeeper and his wife take in the children of Parisians gone off to war. It's a bucolic life for the boys but there are sinister overtones and the worst is yet to come. Their war games remind me of Philip Guston's early painting Martial Memory. His boys use trashcan lids as shields, paper bags and folded newspaper for helmets, discarded wood as weapons.

Pialat started as a painter. He made my favorite movie about Van Gogh. I'm not big on calling movies painterly but I see paintings I want to make watching his movies. Of course, I see paintings in everything. Lately I notice myself making associations across media a lot. Watching Carlos Reygadas' great first film Japon the Mexican landscape reminded me of Cormac McCarthy. I haven't read a book of his in over twenty years. Back then I had no idea I'd go on to write my own books. I picked up Suttree which was my favorite back then.


Reading McCarthy's quasi-biblical sentences and anachronistic compound words prepared me well to enjoy Pete Beatty's tall tale, Cuyahoga (I'll share a link to my review in next week's letter after the review is published). I can't always track connections and influences this way so it's gratifying when the stitches and seams are so visible.

I made an ink painting looking at my desk, bookshelves, and bedroom doorway. It came out kind of rough, unrendered. I'm okay with that. Getting a likeness or verisimilitude doesn't interest me much these days. I tacked it up on the wall next to collages in progress. It looks like it's speaking the same language, if, perhaps, a slightly different dialect.

I wonder what Pialat's paintings looked like? Why did he quit painting and switch to film? I doubt I'll ever quit. Even if I cut up all my old work and glue it back together into what I believe is something new. It'll be a continuation of that one same thing. The medium doesn't matter. You say what you have to say any way you can.

More next Monday,
Dmitry


p.s. I've started to type out pages of the new book on my Smith-Corona. Maybe I'll cut out printing altogether. How many copies do there really need to be anyway?