Monday, 9 June 2008

The Hips of J.W.



To begin with João César Monteiro utters "I dreamed that John Wayne had a wonderful way of swinging his hips at the North Pole". This film's narrative is about an old sea dog wanting to get his way to the North Pole to witness John Wayne swing his hips. Let's not delve into the heteronyms here because it seems like there are at least three at play. I worked out, and am somewhat befuddled, but João César Monteiro as Pierre Cementi plays Paul Henrique, he also as Joao o Obscuro plays Max Monteiro - in "God's Comedy" João César Monteiro as Max Monteiro plays João de Deus but there is also a João de Deus playing ... ah fuck it ... I'll work it out sooner or later.

One film theorist compared Monteiro's work as being the same and yet at once opposite of that of Sades (de Marquis), in one physical sense being that with Sade's work, one can hear the slaps in the writing, whereas with Monteiro he uses the caress, but for the same purpose, in order to bring ritual to triviality by hypnosis - the triviality being what cinema essentially is, showing us the extra ordinary in a most extraordinary way. Thus Monteiro 'penetrates' this world of triviality and at once makes it 'divine'. For me, this 'elegance' (the culmination of tempo, beat etc) through-out his films is undoubtedly a fixture of corrupting corruption to achieve at once innocence and guilt; in other words "impish".

The image already, a corruption of reality, in the sense that the real is debased, it's innocent etherealness sent hurtling back to us like echoes of memory and dreams sculptured in light and sound. So, Monteiro comes along and gives it a final twist for good measure, by placing a last minute and seemingly unrelated object within the echo making it an altogether unexpected revelation. He allows no misgivings in his behavior of characters, as we see when he sits in the restaurant with Jean de Dieu openly haggling with a prostitute over figures on what he gets for what she is asking, whilst two kids sit giggling at a nearby table at the foul-mouthed suggestions.

His manner is to request a 'fuck' behind the curtain because it seems too much work for the price to go back to his boarding room, and being that he "is too old for a three-course meal" which is "cunt, arse, and mouth for 3, 500 escudos", he settles on just "cunt" but with "breasts flying", of which she proudly states that "She would never deny anyone that". Monteiro uses music through-out his films in the most interesting manner. I liken him to Peter Greenaway in pace, mise-en-scene, and sound but where Greenaway implants his music within the narrative, stroking the movement and shifting of objects and time within the frame, Monteiro uses counter-point sound turning the most benign moments into virulent seizures of sight, although what we may be looking at is an empty room and where we might be going is a cobbled lane way.

Music is used like Cummings uses grammar, running nouns into adjectives etc, so Monteiro turns a vase into suspense. After the old sea dog, Henrique suddenly vanishes off a pier; the second half of the film becomes a reading of the first half of the film by way of a play rehearsed in a country home. Finally the duplicate of Henrique, another actor in the theatre company who looks identical to the man , instead of taking on board the part for him which was to play Henrique, ends up embarking on the very same journey, mule and all. Followed by the theatre company's director who has the same dream about the "Hips of J.W." - this is Don Quixote as if he ended up in an Ibsen play, a digress of dreams and the pursuit of those dreams no matter how ridiculous. The reason for John Wayne's 'hippness' is explained several times through-out the film making the apparent fantasy even more ridiculous by way of rationalising the insane.

Monteiro comes across for me as Woody Allen slash Charles Bukowski figure of the cinematic stage, at once his presence is like having the conductor of an orchestra walk amongst his musicians, and so he potters around the frame playing with the props and location as if rehearsing alone in his own created environment, and at the same time he is not ashamed to stand, cock in hand, pissing on the floor - as he does after his encounter with the sex worker, full view of the camera, enjoying a heavy and hearty piddle.

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