Tag Archives: Jean-Luc Godard

The Decembrists & The Bagman’s Gambit

Salvador DaliI ran across an atrocious attempt to do Godard, post-Weekend. It was a David Spade infomercial for the pitiful AXE campaign, parading as an indie contest to make The Dirtiest Film in the World. Spade played a Salvador Dali impressario with the contrived posture of a Tanqueray ad.

In any case, then on the radio I chanced to hear a musical piece with all the film imagery, sans images, with the melodious nakedness of Major Tom Coming Home. It’s by the Decemberists, (where have I been?) and the song is called The Bagman’s Gambit. The lyrics are below, but you’ve got to hear it.

The Bagman’s Gambit
On the lam from the law
On the steps of the capitol
You shot a plainclothes cop on the ten o’clock.
And I saw momentarily,
They flashed a photograph, it couldn’t be you.
You’d been abused so horribly
But you were there in some anonymous room.
And I recall that Fall
I was working for the government.
And in a bathroom stall off the National Mall
How we kissed so sweetly.
How could I refuse a favor or two?
For a tryst in the greenery
I gave you documents and microfilm too.
    And from my ten floor tenement
    Where once our bodies lay,
    How I long to hear you say
    No, they’ll never catch me now
    No, they’ll never catch me
    No, they cannot catch me now
    We will escape somehow
It was late one night
I was awoken by the telephone
I heard a strangled cry on the end of the line.
Purloined in Petrograd
They were suspicious of where your loyalties lay
So I paid off a bureaucrat
To convince your captors they’re to secret you away.
    And at the gate of the embassy
    Our hands met through the bars
    As your whisper stilled my heart
    No, they’ll never catch me now
    No, they’ll never catch me
    No, they cannot catch me now
    We will escape somehow
And I dreamt one night
You were there in fours
Head held high
In uniform.
It was ten years on
When you resurfaced in a motorcar.
With the wave of an arm
You were there and gone.

Bergman and Antonioni circa 1959

With the coincidental deaths of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman, I was reminded of another synchronistic moment the two shared at the magical close of the 1950s. This nouvelle golden age of film rose amidst the literary milestones Naked Lunch, Goodbye Columbus, Tin Drum and Sirens of Titan. The monumental films from that season could fill two top ten lists, including Avventura and Virgin Spring.

Though the TOONS online database is down momentarily, I was able to assemble this list. Have I omitted any?
L’Avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni
The Virgin Spring, Ingmar Berman
Black Orpheus, Marcel Camus
Never on a Sunday, Jules Dassin
La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini
Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard
Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks
Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock
Spartacus, Stanley Kubric
The World of Apu, Satyajit Ray
Hiroshima mon Amour, Alain Resnais
The Magnificent Seven, John Sturges
The 400 Blows, Francois Truffaut
Touch of Evil, Orson Welles
Some like it Hot, Billy Wilder
Ben Hur, William Wyler

And for cineastes, these too:
Le Trou, Jacques Becker
The Young One, Luis Bunuel
The Cousins, Claude Chabrol
Kagi, Kon Ichikawa
Zazie dans le Métro, Louis Malle
Peeping Tom, Michael Powell