Sunday, May 9, 2021
Monday, April 5, 2021
A quick note, not surprisingly about a translation: SMP Records, the imprint of German improvising pianist Hannes Selig, has just issued a bountiful box set dedicated to the longtime saxophone/piano duo of Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp. Special Edition Box, as it is called, gathers an unreleased 2019 studio session by the pair, a concert film of their performance in São Paulo from later in the same year (in multiple formats), and a lengthy essay by Belgian writer/ musician/ sometimes-impresario Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg, titled 'Embrace of the Souls.' Last summer, while the global pandemic raged, I had the pleasure of translating this long text from the French over the course of two weeks. It is easily the most gratifying translation work I've done, and the result is much more than extended liner notes. Jean-Michel's essay captures the essence of one of the most accomplished ongoing collaborations in improvised music/jazz, and does so with a sensitivity and generosity perfectly suited to his subjects. I hope one day to be able to share the entirety of Jean-Michel's piece, here or somewhere else. In the meantime, the SMP box is available in limited quantities.
For French-reading fans of free improvised music, I recommend a visit to Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg's fantastic blog. His love of music, sounds, of pure creative expression, overflows in practically every post.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Still from Hatari!, 1962
Surprise! Quite generously, my friends at the Belgian film site Sabzian have agreed to publish a new translation of mine, a full-length review of Howard Hawks' ensemble adventurer, 'Hatari!' Written one year after the film's American release by Belgian writer/filmmaker Jean-Marie Buchet, it is a neat introduction to a great and under-recognized cinematic mind (Buchet's), as well as a reminder of the large-scale greatness of Hawks' film. For those keeping track, this translation is actually my first published anywhere on the web other than this blog.
If your interest in Jean-Marie Buchet's films is piqued, I highly suggest his first feature 'La fugue de Suzanne' (1974), a droll, absurdist comedy that plays like Luc Moullet crossed with Jean Eustache. It is available on demand from Avila, another wonderful resource for Belgian cinema.
Anyway, enjoy the piece, and by all means, take the opportunity to rewatch 'Hatari!'
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Still from Pattes de deux, 2010 (Vimeo)
For my latest (seemingly) random act of translation, I humbly present you with my 2020 quarantine project: an English translation of Maroussia Vossen's lovely memoir Chris Marker (The Impossible Book). Marker is, of course, the enigmatic filmmaker and media polymath best known for his twin masterworks, La Jetée (1962) and Sans Soleil (1983). Vossen (pictured above), a dancer and choreographer, is his adopted daughter. This slim edition from 2016, published by Éditions Le Tripode, is an unprecedentedly intimate look at the relationship the two shared from her birth to his death.
The French language book, which I greatly enjoyed reading and translating, can and should be purchased here. A first-time author, Vossen proves to be a deft guide to Marker's idiosyncratic world. More than a catalogue of obscure factoids (what he ate for breakfast every day, what his family life was like) or an inside look at his films (which she consciously avoids considering at length), hers is a personal story built from rich, diffuse connections, the same sorts of connections Marker illuminated across his varied body of work.
French speakers can watch an interview with Ms. Vossen here in which she discusses the book. English readers can click the cover image below to download a PDF of my translation. It was made in a piecemeal fashion in between work and parental duties, and, due to my excitement to post it, only edited lightly. Feedback is certainly welcome, but please be kind!
More importantly, enjoy!
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Having found myself with some additional free time (for reasons obvious to anyone reading this at the time of publication), I've decided to try my hand at a straight-ahead French translation, a first. The piece I chose is from the March 2020 edition of the great Trafic film journal, three letters from the vastly underrated filmmaker Jean-Daniel Pollet to his mentor at-times, François Truffaut. The two interlocutors, who connected in the late 1950's at the time of their initial successes, present an odd pair; the dynamic Truffaut, an admired critic and cinematic wunderkind who became one of the most commercially-viable filmmakers of his generation, and Pollet, a little-known New Wave outlier best known for stern, poetic works that evoked Resnais and captivated Godard. Still, there is some stylistic overlap. Pollet's more conventional comedic efforts, which he alternated with his more abstract works, approached the feel-good tone of Truffaut's most popular films. Pollet's fondness for one particular actor (Claude Melki) as his on-screen alter ego also recalls Truffaut's symbiosis with Jean-Pierre Leaud. In addition to any similarities, it seems the two shared, at some point at least, some degree of mutual professional respect.
Along with the letters, I've translated a short forward by filmmaker and writer Jean-Daniel Fargier, a long-time friend and collaborator of Pollet's. Sadly, the retrospective of Jean-Daniel Pollet's films set for March 2020 at the Cinémathèque Française (which certainly spurred the publication of these letters) has been postponed due to the unforeseen international emergency. Luckily, as a sort of consolation, Les Éditions de l’Œil has recently issued eight of Pollet's newly-restored films on DVD with accompanying booklets, as well as a sorely needed biography of the relatively mysterious director by Fargier. Each and every one of these editions is highly recommended.
Issue 113 of Trafic can be purchased here. I would certainly urge all French-reading cinephiles to subscribe. With the unfortunate recent demise of Cahiers du Cinéma, Trafic is literally peerless among film journals.
Letters to François Truffaut
by Jean-Daniel Pollet
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Saturday, December 28, 2019
I do not read or understand Japanese, but 'Farewell, Summer Light' is currently available in a French language DVD (from which the image below is taken). The original subs that I translated come from this release. To my knowledge, no acceptable English subtitles of the film exist online. Even if they do, I offer mine all the same, in the spirit of seasonal goodwill. I both enjoyed and was humbled by the experience of translating French subtitles for a Japanese film into English, even if just as an exercise. I intend to try more translating soon.
(Film + Subs)
To round out this particular project, I hope to re-rip the film and fine-tune the English subtitles, so that at some point, I can upload a screening-caliber version of this shamefully obscure gem. As such, any feedback is appreciated. (Also, please let me know if the link goes down.) Thank you, and enjoy!
** Update: As of 1/13/20, 'Farewell, Summer Light' is available to stream and download with hardcoded subtitles via the wonderful Rarefilmm.com. RF has long been a source for cinema finds, offering easy access to lost gems as obscure and disparate as Visconti's Camus adaptation, Varda's 'Nausicaa,' and Naruse's 'Wife,' all with no strings attached for viewers. Thank you for hosting Jon, and keep stockpiling these treasures!