Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iranian Cinema and Democracy

Film - Iranian Directors Like Abbas Kiarostami Foreshadowed Current Tension -

I watched Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry last night -- fantastic -- and today noticed this in the Times...

"No national cinema is easily summarized, and movies are always an imperfect window on the world. But to watch, say, “The Apple” (1998), Ms. Makhmalbaf’s first film; “The Circle” (2000), “Crimson Gold” (2003) and “Offside” (2006) by Mr. Panahi; the more tenderly sentimental films of Majid Majidi (including “The Color of Paradise” and “Baran”); and Bahman Ghobadi’s tough, poetic films about Kurdistan — and this is a very partial list — is to encounter images and stories that add depth and meaning to the raw videos and tweets of recent weeks. You see class divisions, the cruelty of the state, the oppression of women and their ways of resisting it, traditions of generosity and hospitality, and above all a passion for argument.

A typical Iranian film can feel like one long series of family quarrels — a clatter of competing opinions and interests that is at once contentious and courteous, violent and fraternal, but that never seems to end. Democracy can feel that way, too, and in that respect the Iranian cinema of recent years offers a foreshadowing of what is happening now, beyond the screen."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pedro Costa -- on process

“At one point I just left the script behind, because I thought that if I’m going to try and shoot this girl in this new place that’s foreign and dangerous, then I have to shoot it from her point of view. So when I would meet with people on the way up to the volcano, I tried to learn more of the language, the history, or the music. There was a lot of improvisation each day, and then I hoped that the next day maybe a miracle would happen, and of course I had this open structure already: this girl didn’t know what she was going to find, so she could find everything.”

“In the beginning when I started making Vanda it was pure documentary —it was the worst documentary ever made. I was there trying to catch things with my camera, and then slowly I realized I was there to lose moments, not to catch them. [...] not to try and catch reality, but to try and lose reality in a way.”

Steve McQueen (not the one you're thinking of)

McQueen’s films are frequently about the body, about replicating the intensity of physical sensation; they are also predominantly silent, more visceral than verbal. “There are so many people who sit in a cinema or look at art, and they’re numb to it,” McQueen says. “We are very sophisticated viewers. In a way, I’m trying to break that barrier. I’m interested in pushing language and physicality to their extremes. It’s not a gimmick. I’m not trying to fool people. I’m trying to engage them.”

One of his most refined works is also one of his most famous. In 2003, the Imperial War Museum appointed McQueen as official war artist to Iraq. The result was Queen and Country, which was bought for the nation by the Art Fund and is touring Britain. It consists of wooden cabinets filled with sheets of facsimile stamps bearing photographic portraits of 155 dead British soldiers chosen by their families. McQueen considers the work unfinished until the stamps are officially issued by Royal Mail.

“The second-in-command of the Ministry of Defence said to me, 'We’re not against the stamps, but why can’t you do landscapes?’ And I said, 'Are you ashamed of these people?’ The whole idea is to give them visibility. They need to be present, not just a number. This isn’t a pro-war or an anti-war project. It’s not about Left or Right, or right and wrong. It’s about allowing this situation to reach the general public, not through the sensationalism of the media, but entering the everyday, entering people’s lives when they bend down and pick up their mail.”

richness (amidst the crisis)

“I call that man rich,” Henry James’s Ralph Touchett observes in “Portrait of a Lady,” “who can satisfy the requirements of his imagination.”

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

2 poems from, and 2 photos by (and of), my friend Arnold

Black and White
(This is a poem about male bonding)
He—the subject—is black and white.
Even his clothes are like telephones.
Sometimes I think he’s suspiciously “clear”
in the Scientology sense.
Other times that he has no way to defend himself.
I think he thinks me cheap; a vegetable; perverse;
out to get him where it hurts;
and sometimes I think he’s a
seagull—in an oil slick.

Black leather and white, white hothouse flowers.
Gardenias, camellias, and the things
that come out of his mouth and
words, whether printed or written in letters
or spoken, are all black and white;
even he’s a word, that loves itself, that loves other
words because they are as colorless; therefore he and
I love the same things, all words, and himself, and
that which is black and white:
footprints in the snow—piano keys—busing—
Sometimes I think he’s entirely a fool.
Sometimes I think he just wants to be adored.
Sometimes I think his waist—a thin, blue, imaginary
membrane—the only thing that belongs to him
that all the rest is mine.

And because he wants the same thing I do
Vatic shimmer like a nest of bijoux
I forgive him all his flaws
and I call him a cloud—picked out by jackdaws.

— Kevin Killian

The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air – The edge
cuts without cutting

meets – nothing – renews
itself in metal or porcelain –

whither? It ends –

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry –

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica –
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses –

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end – of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
laboredness – fragile
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching


The place between the petal's
edge and the

From the petal's edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact – lifting
from it – neither hanging
nor pushing –

The fragility of the flower
penetrates space

-- William Carlos Williams

((see ))