Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of poets and painters and filmmakers: a short entry

While browsing a new book on Rothko, I learned that Antonioni the filmmaker, while in New York presenting his L'eclisse, paid a visit to the painter. Rothko brought out his art one piece at a time and was full of anxiety due to Antonioni's silence for an hour or two, when the latter finally spoke through an interpreter saying that they both had the same subject matter: nothingness. Another version has it that the filmmaker said, "Your paintings are like my films. They are about nothing . . . with precision." Antonioni's Il Deserto Rosso was made after his meeting with Rothko and is considered a departure from Anotonioni's singature style of filmmaking. Then later today I happen to read a William Logan's review of Selected Poems by Frank O'Hara in New York Times Book Review and couldn't help admiring a photograph of Artists at the Cedar Tavern, 1959, with the following caption, "We often wrote poems while listening to the painters argue," Frank O'Hara recalled.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ulysses' Gaze: a dialogue between color and history

On a certain level I am still trying to understand the film, its wider implications: its use of long shots (reviews suggest 60 shots for entire film), a mix/switch of languages in the same conversation as if Keitel's character understands different Balkan languages, contours of Balkan history, metaphor of undeveloped film roles, use of cold colors (the most interesting aspect) pitched against human tragedy, use of water, rain, snow and fog, the use of an American character/well-known actor and so on. I'll write as I get more time. Be patient.
A question pops up in mind: Why does the backward journey start with Greece? Is it because Greece (victim of European snobbery) always has to prop up its claim to "the cradle of western civilization"? Cineaste, the film periodical, carried several excellent articles in various issues. Dina Iordanova, in Summer2007, Vol. 32, Issue 3, points out: " . . . all important films from the region ultimately deal with historical memory." More importantly, the new Balkan cinema is also deconstructing the grand narrative of national purity that gripped these states as they acquired their new political indentities. Should the viewer question the choice of a male voyeur in Ulysses' Gaze? a nagging question lingers.
I accidently discovered that Ulysses' Gaze is connected to Angelopoulos' previous film, Weeping Meadows, in that the character Harvey Keitel plays as someone who has returned even if as a tourist, and it is this return that links the story to Alexis' character who in Weeping Meadows departs for America leaving Eleni behind "to bear the brunt of Greek war, political repression and civil war." But Ulysses' Gaze was made in 1995 and Weeping Meadows in 2004.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Middle Ages?

While reading an older SF Chronicle (June 18, 2008) for work related matter, I read the following letter to the editor, Welcome to the Middle Ages: Editor - Your
article on the declining numbers of people able to retire ("Comfortable retirement a
fading dream for many," June 16) is consistent with other indicators such as war,
famine and plague that we are entering into a New Middle Ages.
As the American empire crumbles, the barbarians hordes establish their fiefdoms.

The common man becomes a lifetime serf to the corporate aristocracy that uses its
wealth to fund misguided crusades.
Media, in the role of the Church, offer solace through illusion, while heretics are

burned in the headlines.
Most fascinating of all is what form will the coming Renaissance take?
Steve Abney -

San Francisco

The other piece of news that continues to disturb me since I first read this bit on the day of the issue was published. The heading read: Inaction in boy's beating called justified: Experts say witnesses are understandably scared and confused (June 18, 2008)

Something is weirdly wrong with our society. I will share my reflection as I find time to sit down in front of my computer.
Came home and saw this on CommonDreams via The Toronto Star: Haunted by Iraq War. (Read the full story here http://www.thestar.com/News/World/article/456877 )
It is a story of one Private Dwyer celebrated as a hero for saving an enemy's child. At home a father kills his two years old by kicking and punching him over hundred time by a roadside and people driving by stop and watch in horror. No one intervenes for the fear he might hurt them. Wonderful! They say they had nothing to stop him with. How about getting in your car and crushing him? I wonder what role media has played in creating such a society that we have come to embrace? For one thing, they justified and continue to sanction a cruel, inhuman war and turned it into a video game as opposed feeling horrified. The sensitized the war by showing images of (not carnage our soldier committed on a foreign people) but by displaying images of humanitarian gestures by the US soldiers, some of whom are now dying by sniffing aerosol spray cleaner. The media has truly turned us into a passive spectator of murders. Media, instead of going after the Neocons who devised the war and exposing their criminal side, turned us into weightless dumbells. Steve is right on when he calls them the new Church.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Something that caught me eye

There is an excellent review by Yvette Biro on Tsai Ming-liang and Jia Zhang-Ke's films in the Summer 2008 issue of Film Quarterly. What really impressed me in Biro's Tender is the Regard: I Don't Want to Sleep Alone and Still Life is the following:

'Tsai rightly states that he is not simply an observer. He touches the depth of sensation, fleeting desires, and instincts but he never does so from a position that is too close to his subjects. Instead he stands back in order, with his exquisite precision, to pay attention to specific details. The lightless, sombre images are nevertheless rich, saturated, despite their repetitive, minimalist components. Although the camera always remain distant, it is clear that man adn environment are indivisible, identical living vegetation. We have time not only to see, but also to live through the micro-life revealed thanks to the patience of the penetrating, immobile camera composition. The bleak, dreary, and narrow walls, the miserably small windows, or the blatantly barren concrete jungle of the city are the unhomely home of people, where human action is restricted to the most trivial, physical activity.

Tsai understands the language of the body, the naked mother tongue of daily existence best. The normal, simple life functions of our being, the everyday rituals: eating and urinating and washing, teeth-brushing and masturbating - devouring and relieving oneself, the "cries and whispers" of hurried sexual intercourse. This is the common, natural timetable of daily life: waiting silently, then feeding, "downloading" . . . and starting again; doing what has to be done, whatever the body requires, for as long as it is possible, before it is necessary to move again. The solitude of heavy dreams cannot be soothed even with a pillow . . . '

Folks, this is sheer poetry! We must salute such sensitive readings of pieces of art.