Kiju Yoshida and Mariko Okada at the Centre Pompidou

May 11, 2008 at 11:25 pm

The retrospective of Kiju Yoshida, the Japanese New Wave director (listed at the IMDB as Yoshishige Yoshida) has been going on at the Centre Pompidou since the time of my arrival here in March, but it is only a few days ago that I attended the screening of The Affair (Joen, 1970), a film closely related to Antonioni and Bergman’s aesthetics and themes of the same period.

The film was introduced by the director and his muse/wife, famous actress Mariko Okada, who are both 75 this year. While Yoshida spoke of his memories from the shoot, Okada referred to the beauty of the kimonos. Both clad in Yohji Yamamoto-style deep black loose clothes, the venerable couple possessed this uniquely exclusive air of intellectual superiority, finesse, poise and elegance that places the Japanese beyond compare.

Carlotta films, who have organized the retrospective, have released ten Yoshida films in two DVD packs, Coffret Kiju Yoshida, vol. 1: une vague nouvelle 60-64, which includes Good for Nothing, Akitsu Springs, Bitter End of a Sweet Night, Blood is Dry and Escape from Japan and Coffret Kiju Yoshida, vol. 2: contre le melodrame containing Flame and Women, A Story Written with Water, The Affair, Affair in the Snow and Woman of the Lake, as well as a separate DVDs of his famed Eros + massacre (a film which even has a book (Desser) and a blog named after it). As it is usually the case with DVDs released in France, they are only available with French subtitling.

Yoshida worked with Ozu and made documentaries about him. His book Ozu’s Anti-Cinema is translated into English and available from Amazon.

© Dina Iordanova
11 May 2008

Michel Piccoli

May 10, 2008 at 2:47 am

At the French Cinematheque the other night, at the opening of Humbert Balsan’s retrospective, director Serge Toubiana (who writes an interesting French language cinema blog) called to the scene Michel Piccoli, to say a few words about Balsan. For me this was an unexpected appearance. I was thrilled to see the actor in person. He is now an old man, in his 80s, and if I passed him on the street I probably would have never recognized the man that I know from so many films.

A real titan indeed. His filmography includes more than 200 titles, and he still takes on roles. Showing to students a clip from Godard’s Contempt in an introductory cinema class (the moment in the screening room, with Fritz Lang and Jack Palance), lets me encounter the young Piccoli at least once a year. In my mind, however, Piccoli is engraved rather with his powerful presence bordering on a madman, full of sexual intensity. At least, this is how I have come to think of him from his best performances in films by Bunuel (Diary of a Chambermaid, Belle de Jour), Marco Ferreri (La Grande Bouffe), and in lesser-seen gems (Francis Girod’s L’etat sauvage, Youssef Chahine’s Adieu Bonaparte, Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse, Manoel de Oliveira’s I’m Going Home). Piccoli is certainly a perfect candidate for the title of a cult actor!

Late one night last month I came across a film with Piccoli on one of the French TV channels. It was clearly something from the 1970s, judging by the visual style. A truly engaging viewing, one could not get away, a film that had no talk, the characters were only making sounds and yet communicating perfectly and everything was clear. Piccoli, the protagonist, was a working class man who goes mad and rebels against society, sexually and morally. He goes on a self-styled strike, a sort of siege of his semi-destroyed apartment. Some neighbors are outraged but some like it and join in; the police (shown as stupid and corrupt) cannot do much to get him out of the barricaded room; it is all resolved at the end with the arrival of a lovable mason, played by Patrick Deawaere, who puts everybody at peace with his friendly whistling. It took me quite a bit of time to search the next day to find out which is the film, but I finally identified it as Themroc, directed by Claude Faraldo, a film that seems to be available only in the UK on a very limited basis for the time being (so buy it). It is a potential cult classic that has been shot simultaneously or just before the making of La Grande Bouffe, a film that fully unleashes Piccoli’s dark manly force.

Piccoli today. He looks pretty much like this in Manoel de Oliveira’s short at Chacun son cinéma. There he plays Nikita Khrushchev!

© Dina Iordanova
10 May 2008

Portfolio Grader: Navellier

May 4, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Louis Navellier’s The Little Book That Makes You Rich: A Proven Market Beating Formula for Growth Investing, endorsed by Steve Forbes, struck me as a really helpful and insightful guide to the principles of growth investing. It gave me a much better understanding of some of the underlying principles of stock picking and portfolio management. Ultimately, however, the book reads as one extended advertisement for the services available from Navellier’s company, which publishes four investing advice newsletters, the subscription to each costs about $1000 per annum. There is a web-site, Get Rich With Growth, that has been created for the readers of the book, which is now free (but not clear for how long).

The site contains a Portfolio Grader that allows you to enter the codes of stock you are considering buying. Once you do this, it rates the stock against the eight main categories which Navellier uses for assessment, and gives it a fundamental and a quantitative grade (fundamental grade is weigthed at 70% and the quantitative grade – at 30%), as well as an overall grade which translates into a recommendation, A- Strong Buy to F – Strong Sell. The site also rates your overall portfolio, from A to F.

I worked to create a tentative portfolio for myself, aiming to get an overall grade of an A for all the stocks I am planning to invest in. But I also did something else: I went to the Stockpickr web-site which lists the content of various people’s portfolios (probably with some delay in time but a very interesting reading nonetheless). I got all the stock codes for what was listed as the contents of Navellier’s portfolio and entered them into the Portfolio Grader on his own site. The surprising thing was that of the 30 or so stocks only a handful came out as A-rated in Navellier’s own system. Quite a few had fundamental grades of B and quantitative grades of C, and the overall grade for the portfolio itself was a B. Surprising, indeed, provided this man is a growth investor — why would he invest in a confirguation that does not seem, in his own ratings, to be geared to supply the best results? Especially as he writes in the book that if a stock falls below fundamental grade of A or below a quantitative grade of B it is immediately sold (p. 125). True, he is discussing the so-called ‘quantum’ stocks in this part, those of aggressive growth potential; he may not be interested to have many of these in his portfolio during the currently volatile period. Still, I feel there is a contradiction here.