Posts filed under ‘Page Turners’

Broken People


Control, A Film By Anton Corbijn, 2007
Photo: Google
Joy Division – Love will tear us apart

Control by Anton Corbijn. Ian Curtis. Joy Division.
I feel “irretrievably” broken after seeing the excellent Anton Corbijn´s film on Ian Curtis. I was one year old when Ian committed suicide. What a lost… And yet aren´t we also to blame for? The pressure and expectations we put on others everyday, putting them on a pedestal… Ian was diagnosed epilepsy, according to his daughter he was mentally instable and showed violent humor swings. For the rest of us, who will always admire his music he will keep on disturbing our peace of mind…
He was only 23 years old when he died but he gave us so much…. and so does the film. Thank you Anton! I cannot even talk about it…

More:
Anton Corbijn talking about Joy Division´s influence on his own life, his love for technique and the adventure of becoming a filmmaker >>>>>>

Declarations on occasion of the Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival 2007 >>>>>>

July 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

Wie Man wird, was Man ist/ How one becomes what one is

Ecce Homo, the last book written by Nietzsche (1844-1900) before he lost his reason in early 1889, adopts an unusual megalomanic tone. At a certain point he declares: „I am not a man, I am dynamite“. For long many philosophers didn´t consider this specific work when analysing the german author´s corpus. Only recently, given several translations in the english language, the work has received more extensive attention.

In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche proposes to write his own biography, but doing so in a very unorthodox way, deliberately subverting the conventions of the genre. As observed in the introduction he fails to speak of periods of his life and is not accurate when it comes to dates. But this only happens because Nietzsche is speaking more about his ideas than about himself, and in a tone of exagerated self-esteem purposefully choosen in opposition to socratic humiliation.

Nietzsche wrote Ecce Homo as a sort of explanation for the overall of his work, in order to make some points clear enough just before the work he was projecting, which was supposed to be the major work of his carrer but never saw the day of light.

„Wie Man wird, was Man ist“, „How one becomes what one is“ is Nietzsche´s central thesis here. There´s a passage where the german philosopher states that he never fought for things in a combative manner but just learned to accept them as they came into his life. I was surprised to read this, for Nietzsche was frequently sick and achieved little recognition during his life time, which would lead one to think that he could have felt miserably.
But somehow he endured, and this is connected with his theory of the eternal recurrence and the idea of amor fati, which speaks of the acceptance of the events that occur in one´s life, despite all the suffering and pain. One needs to live life in such a way that one could accept its eternal repetion, cheerfully.

As a coincidence, I just saw Aeschylus´ “Oresteia” on stage this week. A theater play that speeks of the ethic of revenge, revenge being exactly the opposite of accepting one´s life calmly. In Aeschylus´ play, our deepest sense of any possibility for enduring justice in our community is deeply violated, we are submitted to a never-ending cycle of retributive killing and over-killing. And this had the interesting effect on stage, of making me think how theater is sometimes stronger than life itself.
Thought written before the advent of Christianismus but ruled by a similar metaphysical logic, the “Oresteia” seeks to come in terms with it. Aeschylus proposes that traditional goddessess of vengeance be incorporated in the justice system and not ruled out. He also says that though justice should move beyond pure personal emotion, ultimatelly it will not work if it doesn´t take our personal feelings into consideration somehow.

While Aeschylus is convinced that we cannot remove the Furies from our lifes, Nietzsche´s cut is of course of a radical kind, as he proclaims himself as the Antichrist for announcing what is to come, the transvaluation of all values. Interesting and coincidentilly, they seem to share the same view that we must move beyond our brutal and unworkable traditions. And this point revealed very important to me, as lately I am wondering about how one can be free, think and act freely.

February 11, 2008 at 7:03 pm 3 comments

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

A Woman Under the Influence

Talking to me, S. came up with this image: walking with your hands and a french baguette in between your legs. I knew immediately that a great image was born to stay, for it speaks of all the things and options that lay in between a simple black and white, a yes and a no, all the various laugthers and ironies as alternatives to escape control.

In his 1974 film „A Woman Under the Influence“, John Cassavetes brilliantly writes and directs Mabel´s story – interpreted by his own wife in real life -, and how her madness polarizes everyone around her. She is a force of nature.
Curiously, one never comes to a conclusion as to which influence Mabel is under, if alcohol, drugs, her family, her husband, society in general… in the end of the movie the question remains as open as in the beginning, together with the impression that we´ve only witness an excerpt of their on-going long story. And such story is made of routine, trust and love.

Their unconventional marriage and family life is the center of the plot. We are introduced into their core and we get to see how the outside world interferes and changes their codes everytime. This is a story of two people, that though disfunctional to the outside world, manage to get along together. It is about how they are strangely saving each other on an every day basis. The curtain of their bedroom literally functions as a stage curtain, which is opened and closed as guests come and go and situations change and tension explodes.

Mabel is a fascinating character, challenging conventional representations of madness in cinema. She is coached by her husband to act in a certain socializing, understable way while in the presence of guests. In these moments, she tries to control her emotions and ticks in a way which is sort of aceptable for others. And this is when she says: „It´s working!“. She is aware that in order to live one has to act according to already established social rules. The problem is she hasn´t lost her capacity to play, on the contrary to most grownups. Except, she finds no way to balance it. And so her eccentricity escalates, leaving her husband with no choice but to committ her to a mental institution for several months.

When Mabel finally returns, she’s a mere shadow of the woman she used to be. Gone are her chattiness, her warmth and naivety — and basically her personality. Nick, in his own typical inarticulate, brutish manner, tries to get his wife to return to the way she used to be. He keeps inciting her to „be herself“, to go back and do her assorted ticks, be spontaneous once again.

Cassavetes is an amazing director and screen writer. But some of the film´s brilliancy has to do directly with Gena Rowlands´magnetic performance and the psychological complexity of her character. Many of the scenes were born of the improvisation work between the actors, always under the spell of Rowland´s compelling performance and personality.

January 21, 2008 at 7:26 pm Leave a comment

MY REVOLUTIONS, Hari Kunzru

I´m only half way through but here are my favorite quotes:

The more I thought, the clearer the moral landscape appeared. There seemed to be two worlds. One was basic and sensual, a human-scale place of small tasks and pleasures, building things and eating good food, lying in the sun, making love. In this world, human relations were very simple. The desire to dominate, to own and to control, just didn´t arise. The other world, the world of Law and War and Institutions, was a strange and abstract place. In this mirror-world I was a violent person and had to be punished because violence was a monopoly of the state. I´d somehow authorized the British government to distribute violence on my behalf, which it did through various branches of officialdom – the army, the police, the Pentonville screws.The problem was that I couldn´t remember giving my consent. What paper had I signed? Where had I said I wished to regulate my habits and govern my sexual behavior and strive for advancement in various abstract games whose terms had been set before I was born? The state claimed it was an expression of the democratic will of the people. But what if it wasn´t? What if it was just a parasite, a vampire sustaining itself on our collective life, on my life in particular?

If you believe in free love – not in the sense of promiscuity, but in its true sense – as the release of libidinal energies from any restraint, any check whatsoever, the barrier between desire and action becomes terrifyingly thin and permeable. I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires. How many of us could actually live like that? Is that even possible?

November 24, 2007 at 7:42 pm Leave a comment

ON DESIRE

“THE BODY” by Hanif Kureishi

“If other people´s bodies get too much for you, you can stop them by stabbing or crucifixion. You can shoot or burn them to keep them still or to prevent them from saying words which displease you. If your own body gets too much – and whose doesn´t? – you might meditate yourself into desirelessness, enter a monastery or find an addiction that channels desire. Some bodies are such a nuisance to their owners – they can seem as unpredictable as untamed animals, or the feeling can overheat and there´s no thermostat – that they not only starve or attempt to shape them, but they flagellate or punish them”.

Wandering around bookshops, I just recently came across Hanif Kureishi´s book “The Body” and decided to buy it. I was specially attracted to the fact that he was appointed Writer-in-residence at the Royal Court Theater in London in 1982 and has won several awards including the Chevalier de l´Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Kureishi´s work includes plays, screenplays, fiction and non-fiction books. The curiosity for his writing also led me to discover Patrice Chereau´s “Intimacy” (winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001), since its script was based on a Kureishi´s short story. At the time I was also reading “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams, and I suddenly realize that they all share the same subject. Kureishi´s short story, Chereau´s Film and Tennessee Williams´play investigate deeply into the territory of human desire.

In “The Body” Hanif Kureishi tells the challenging story of an aging playwright, who is offered the chance to have his brain transplanted into a younger body, this way changing “container” but keeping his mind, all for the benefit of mankind. In his mid-sixties, partially deaf, with back and knee pain, hemorrhoids, ulcer and cataracts, spitting bits of tooth while he eats, he is a brilliant mind producing some of his best work but he is stuck in an old body. And so, he cannot resist trading his “half-dead old carcass” for a “stocky”, handsome, “lightly toasted, with a fine, thick penis and heavy balls” sort of body.
He simply cannot let go of live. And he cannot resist the offer, of becoming more attractive to others, more desired and therefore, loved. As a Newbody he goes into the world seeking for new experiences and plans to return to his old “facility”(former body) after six months. The only sure thing is that he will have to live with the consequences of his choice.

At one point he says: “I had always taken it for granted that I was a person, which was a good thing to be. But now I was being reminded that first and foremost I was a body, which wanted things”. It is obvious that “The Body” was written under the strong influence of Deleuze´s writings – Kureishi read Philosophy at King´s College in London. Indeed, “The Body” stresses how bodies are not free, how they are legally, financially, culturally and medically restraint. And it is about human appetites, what escapes the control, how we all have desire(s) and how we coup with and handle them.


“INTIMACY” by Patrice Chereau

On its hand, Patrice Chereau´s film “Intimacy” speaks of brute desire. Two strangers met every Wednesday to have sex without sharing a single word. They meet, have sex and go their way. He is a musician who abandoned his home and family in a day just like any other, never to return. Since then, he lives in an wrecked house crammed with garbage and sleeps on a thin filthy mattress on the floor. This is the scenario where their bodies battle their frustrations and release their desire. We are not told how the two of them met. Their situation changes when, he spontaneously decides to follow her one day and from then on every time a bit further. And so he finds his way into the woman´s close circle, hanging around the places she lives and works, having conversations with her husband.
He comes to realize but doesn´t admit that she has given him something to wait for every week, thus installing a need that already existed in him but that he had channeled and disguised differently before. His level of anger increases as he cannot make sense of her actions, he cannot understand why she looks him up every week and what meaning these encounters have for her. Later she will say that she hadn´t wished anyone in very a long time until she meets him. The language their bodies speak becomes insufficient as he is obsessed in telling her what he feels and in cross-examine her to find out what it means to her.

“A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE – Tennessee William´s play and Elia Kazan´s film

A Streetcar Named DesireA Streetcar Named Desire
source Google

Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”, says Blanche as she lifts up from the floor and accepts the Doctor´s arm. He is there to take her away into an insane asylum without her knowing it.
In Tennessee William´s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Blanche is a desperate lonely woman hiding from her past, seeking for love and attention. She´s looking for a safe place as her life is coming apart.
She tries to hide the conflict between her horny appetite and her sensitive propriety as she knows this to be her last chance. Either she finds protection in a Mr. Rightguy´s arms or she will be totally lost.
Blanche, is a very interesting and complex character, she has both good and bad qualities which only make her human.

In her youth she deeply loved a young poet. But she had sensed that there was something that she couldn´t give him. She always felt like she failed him in some mysterious way and wasn´t able to give him the help he needed but couldn´t speak of. One day, accidentally, she finds him in another man´s arms. And later she cannot help herself and cries: “I know! I know! You disgust me… “. And so, he runs out, stucks a revolver to the back of his mouth and blows it away.

A Streetcar Named Desire” was shoot by Elia Kazan in the end of the forties and obviously subjected to the censorship going on in Hollywood at the time. Both the Breen Office and The Legion of Decency evaluated both the script and final cut of the movie, and so lines were changed and scenes cut off. Blanche´s “sins” had to be smoothed in the Film due to censorship reasons. And so her young husband´s homosexuality, her working as a prostitute after his death, her nymphomania and special attraction for young schoolboys, sailors and solders, and the scene of her rape are only to be truly understood if one reads the play.
In Kazan´s Film Blanche condemns her husband Allan because he cannot hold a job, because he doesn´t seem to be able to do something else except … being a poet! It is said that Viviene Leigh, playing Blanche, had a good laugh about the fact of having to condemn someone for being a poet!!! In the original play, Blanche reproaches her husband for being an homosexual.
Sure is that, due to this change, she bluntly states in the Film that she has killed him, thus admitting how guilty she feels about it. On the play, on the contrary, we can only grasp her guilty conscience through her raising lost of control and increasing madness.

Anyway, she does feels responsible for Allan´s death. It´s very interesting that in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” – also by Tennessee William – Brick is constantly being confronted with the suspicion of his supposedly homosexuality, as he doesn´t touch his gorgeous wife since his best buddy´s suicide. Furthermore, as Blanche, Brick also feels responsible for someone´s death and is completely haunted by it.

In the end of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Blanche is “taken away”, eliminated as if a mere inconvenient. Her presence and personality shook the waters and what comes to the surface is too upsetting to be accepted or comprehended. And so, she is the one being sacrificed to keep the order of things. Everyone and everything will continue as if nothing happened. Blanche is the one finding no place in life and being subtracted from it.
We cry in the end, because she is a force of nature unjustly sacrificed in name of oblivion, for the sake of convenient routine, to perpetrate the quiet hypocrite familiar state of things. We cry because she is crashed by people who abused and forced her to change. And of course, Stanley has his saying in it. Brilliantly performed by Marlon Brandon, Stanley is a brute, an ordinary and bestial bloke, who is also pure libido – making him a complex character as we cannot help to love him. He will crash Blanche like a bug both because he wants and hates her.

The complexity of Tennessee William´s play and characters is just amazing! From Blanche´s and Stanley´s complex character – at some point she states that the way to one´s heart is never a straight line – to the conflict aroused by different and conflictive desires, Tennessee William´s text is one of the strongest and most moving texts I´ve ever read.

The fulfillment of Allan´s desire lead to his death and to Blanche´s drifting. She says that after her husband´s death she had intimacies with strangers, as it seemed to be the only thing able to fulfill her empty heart. But a lost love and the need to hunt for some protection weren´t the only explanations for her unbalanced desire. The desire to live, to deny death also had a word, as Blanche took cake of the sick and watched them die. She says death is the opposite from desire – interestingly Kureishi´s main character in “The Body” says exactly the same. Tennessee William´s play starts with Blanche having to take a streetcar to get to her sister´s house, meaningfully it is called “Desire” and the one running in the opposite direction is called “Cemeteries”.
As Stella asks Blanche if she had ever been on streetcar Desire, Stella replies: “It brought me here!”. Unfortunately, together with the circumstances, it will also take her to madness and death.

September 3, 2007 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN – the book

Written in 1964 by Hubert Selby Jr. (1928-2004), “Last Exit to Brooklyn” is a profoundly disturbing book that many have just, short minded, considered to be pure and simply obscenity produced by a sick mind. It is fueled with rage, provocation and violence. Due to his blunt treatment of lust, homosexuality, rape, brutality and drug dependence, Selby Jr’s book was subjected to an obscenity trial in England and banned in Italy. For me it is a masterpiece (of grotesque), for it is both abject and human while showing human complexity. This book belongs to the category of books that have the power to disturb the world, to transform the way we see ourselves – and each other. What to think and make of it remains disturbingly open, even today.

It is the most profane of books, since the writer himself declines his role as “God” and the reader is left with a great responsibility of what to make of it. Concerning this Hubert Selby Jr says:

“I have no right to impose myself, in any way, between the reader and the people in the story. It is my job, as a writer, to fulfil the responsibility to the story that has been given me to write. So often I will see these people making decisions, and taking actions, that will lead to a disaster and want to change the story, but I do not have the right to do that. I must simply honour their lives and allow them to follow their own path, and not interfere in the natural evolution of their lives. (…) If there was a message in the work it is in the lives of the people, their story and how they live it. Who cares about what I think of such matters”. (Selby Jr, 2004, p. viii)

All the sordid stories in it take place in Brooklyn in the 50’s by the riverbank. “Last Exit to Brooklyn” is about the struggle for survival taking place in the streets, and how such struggle dictates behaviors. The background is a long ongoing strike that represents a breach in everyday life; men are sitting in bars all day, bored, trying to avoid their wife’s whining about having to live shortly on Union provisions. The tension just keeps on rising until everything gets out of control. Despite that it becomes more and more violent and sadist as we read, we grow to see that the characters are only, poor human bastards. We cannot help but feel sympathy and disgust, for their flaws, secret and frustrated desires, ridiculous actions and petty ambitions. It speaks of the most unimaginable and horrifying things but then, it is only talking about human nature, even if of the dark side of it. Bottom line, all stories are dealing with the irruption of the grotesque, for repressed forces must find an escape.

Last Exit to Brooklyn

Harry, Georgette and Tralala, are nothing but poor human devils that end shattered by the powerful discovery of love/passion and literally end lynched, dead and tortured by it. Harry, exploiting the advantages of his new job as responsible for the strike office, literally starts buying respect and love. He is intoxicated by the power his new position gives him and the discovery of love for the first time in his life, all at the expenses of the ongoing strike. He is escaping from the tediousness of marriage life and the disgust for his wife’s touch, in the arms of a sophisticated queer. Except, this is only to last while he can afford such love. In fact, once his union boss discovers he has been taking money for his own benefit, he is dismissed and his whole dreamy world tumbles down. In face of rejection, he becomes absolutely despaired. Miserable and drunk he forces himself on a kid from the quarter, and when the kid escapes to denounce him to the local gangsters, he is left on his knees begging for the kind of love he has just recently discovered. He ends up lynched and crucified.
Vinnie, the gangster leader, is furthermore responsible for Georgette´s death, a queer that commits the error of following in love with him – and since he is a crook in need to prove his manhood by the hour, she ends up dead.
Tralala, a young and attractive prostitute, and in face of the impossibility to have real love and not being able to deal with the emptiness of her own life, goes on a descend to hell searching for self-inflicting punishment. She gets drunker than ever and free willingly decides to be screwed by every men in the bar. She offers herself as a sacrifice. She is drunk and she is laughing, and she keeps teasing the next in line. And then, she ends as a pile of meat on a wrecked car, covered in blood, semen and piss. The sickest of desire’s machines was set in motion – to hurt oneself -, and once it is released there is no stopping it until death.

By the end of the book one cannot help but wonder what kind of man imagined and wrote such a nightmare and for what reasons. Hubert Selby Jr words are very clarifying: “

I wanted to put the reader through an emotional experience. I wanted the reader to “feel” what the people were experiencing even if they were unaware of it. I did not want to limit the readers imagination, but to give them room so they could experience the story from their own POV, from their own lifes experiences”. (Selby Jr, 2004, p. ix)

The author started writing, as himself said, because he did not wanted to die without having done nothing with his life. His first piece of fiction was a suicide note, surely in result of the fact he was diagnosed Tuberculosis at the age of 18 – in a time where there was no cure and streptomycin was an experimental and very expensive drug for its treatment. He spent 3 years in bed in a hospital, had 10 ribs removed, one lung had been permanently collapsed and a section had been cut out of the other one. Selby Jr spent his life fighting for staying alive.
Indeed, the sleep of reason produces monsters and, of the most horrifying kind. And so we realize that the fabric of reason as an explanation for reality shows too many wholes in it. Enlightenment fails short. Not everything is under control, and from time to time we can grasp the “artificiality” underlying the given separation of worlds. Dante’s description of purgatory and hell, Sade’s writings, Pasolini’s movies and theater plays, Blake’s drawings and poetry, Goya’s Capricho’s, David Lynch´s films all a part of this other world always looking out at every corner, awaiting…

August 24, 2007 at 5:21 pm Leave a comment

INGMAR BERGMAN (1918 – 2007)

Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman

Unsere Beziehung zu anderen Menschen bestehen vor allem darin dass wir über Charakter und Verhalten anderer reden und urteilen. Das führte bei mir zu einem freiwilligen Rückzug…aus praktisch jeglichem so genannten sozialen Umgang. Aufgrund dessen bin ich nun im Alter etwas einsam geworden. Zeit meines Lebens waren meine Tage von harter Arbeit geprägt. Dafür bin ich sehr dankbar. Was als Sorge um das tägliche Brot begann…endete in einer Leidenschaft für die Wissenschaft”.

Thus begins “Wild Strawberries”, considered to be one of Ingmar Bergman´s most important films, who just recently passed away at the age of 89. Destiny wanted that on the very same day – the 29th of July 2007 – we also lose another of the greatest filmmakers ever, Michelangelo Antonioni at the age of 94. They both shared the view that a movie isn´t merely that, but an art form of it´s own right.

Wild Strawberries” is a classical within the whole of Bergman´s work. In it we can find the existential themes that would occupy him throughout his fairly 20 masterpieces, such as tortured characters, in particular women, a love for great dramatic roles and admiration for Strindberg, a research into the meaning of life and death and men´s spiritual worries and religious aspirations. Furthermore, his films speak of the lack of communication between people and our relation to childhood and memory.

For the role of Isak Borg, the actor Victor Sjöström won the American critique award just two months before of his own death. In “Wild Strawberries” Victor Sjöström plays a Doctor about to receive his Doctor Degree for his long life´s commitment to Medicine. He dreams about his own death and a strange number of events follow. As a result of the shock of such disturbing dreams and of finding that others see him as a selfish and an extremely cold person, he is led to rethink his long life´s values and his relationship to others – including his son. This revision will lead him to his childhood´s memories, a lost love, the film ending with the happy vision of his parents by a river on a summer day. Bergman won the Golden Lion at Berlin´s Festival for “Wild Strawberries” in 1958.

But, of all Bergman´s films I saw so far, the one that most impressed me was “Persona” (1966). Making extensive use of close-ups, Bergman explores the concept of the mask, as inspiration redraw both from theater and as theorized by Jung, as something that is not fixed but adapts according to and as a defense for social and cultural circumstances. “Persona” explores, even in a claustrophobic way, Liv Ullman´s and Bibi Anderson´s faces, as the film radically puts identity into question. The plot shows how their characters come to look more alike up to a point where they exchange and even become mixed identities. It is a film with and about women, showing how their relationship of dependency escalates to madness.

Persona

Talking about tortured characters and whenever speaking of Bergman and his universe I cannot help thinking about Woody Allen, who has declared Bergman to be his favorite director and greatest influence. This is specially obvious in “Interiors” (1978) – one of my favorite Woody Allen movies.
Eve, a severe mother and cold wife, obsessed with order and discipline, with a love for the distanced neoclassic aesthetics, always dressing in monochrome and never letting her hair loose, refuses to accept the fact her husband wants to divorce her. “Interiors” is a family drama, depicted around Eve and her refusal to comprehend her husband´s decision. He is choosing life against death, exchanging her for her opposite, for a woman who is instead a force of nature and dresses in red, thus introducing the only warm color into the whole film.
Eve is a bittered woman, incapable of love, with no spirit in her. She is the image of her work as an interior designer; distanced, colorless, orderly, motionless as a marble statue in a museum. And exactly because she is unable to integrate or understand change, her severity can only bring her to suicide. She is not made for life! As a last statement of her iron will and mirroring her unbreakable character, she walks towards the ocean and drowns herself, just like that!

Eve is the most unbelievable female character I´ve came across with, her coldness and empty heart finds a parallel in another very interesting example, Erika Kohut character – brilliantly interpreted by Isabelle Huppert – in “The Piano Teacher” (2001, Michael Hanecke). Erika commits self-injury, stabbing herself in the heart, after believing she has betrayed her own moral principles by letting herself feel desire.

Indeed, tortured characters, and specially tortured women, people incapable of love, were exactly one of Bergman´s classical topics. They´ve allowed him the most fascinating exploration of people´s psychological manifolds, no wonder that some might view Bergman as the director of demons. I would say he is the director of humankind!

August 21, 2007 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment


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