Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind: "I
was incredibly moved by your words"
I just found your article on Montien and I wanted to let you know that I
was incredibly moved by your words about Montien. Of all of the articles I have read about
his work, you appear to have a profound understanding of his work. I work for the Asia
Society as the installation coordinator and spent time both here in New York and a month
in San Francisco installing the show with Montien's two most senior assistants, Apisit and
Tawatchai. I feel very fortunate to have been in the right place and the right time to
work on a show of an artist such as Montien and what you wrote captures his spirit very
well. Thank you.
New York, NY
from Danang: "honest and
I just read the review of Daughter
from Danang and am thankful for such an honest and moving piece about the film. As an
adoptee who was separated from my natural family for over 34 years, I can relate to the
agony that Heidi, who was separated from her mother and taken in by a single female
adopter, must have gone through. Your review deals honestly with the emotions of adoption.
Thank you so much for writing it!
Tricia Shore, M.A.
Reunited Adoptee and Natural Mother
Founder, Truth In Adoption
Van Nuys, CA
"Laura especially let me go
I just read your review of a film I did in
2001 - Focus. Thank you so much for your kind words about the costume design. It
was a labor of love - the cast were an absolute delight. Laura [Dern] especially let me go
nuts, and at times I was afraid I went over the top - the character required it, but
there's a fine line between character and drag queen!
It's good to get an objective opinion.
American Hardcore: "harmful to our legacy and to our
future involvement in music"
I wanted to write in agreement with your critique of American
Hardcore and also add a point. In the book the writer refers to the New
Hampshire band The Bruisers as a "white power" band. As an original member of
the band who struggled as a non-racist skinhead through the racially charged atmosphere in
the mid to late 80's and on into the 90's I was shocked to read that characterization.
If you've never heard of the Bruisers, we were an American Oi! and street-punk band
from New Hampshire with records on various labels over the years. We were never racist or
affiliated with racists and the slander this book paints us with is potentially harmful to
our legacy and to our future involvement in music.
Bruisers '88 - '96
Moulin Rouge: "a deliberately
over-the-top camp film"
Moulin Rouge a
deliberately over-the-top camp film. The shallow plot is classic high opera; the doomed
love story is every 19th century novel French ever written-- Flaubert, Balzac, and
Baudelaire run riot in the subtext and visuals of the film. The overall look is a kind of
manic underworld, hysterical and on the brink of horror--they are all children of the
underworld (Les Enfants d'Paradis comes to mind). What I find most brilliant, the
film is a postmodern vehicle which sets forth with a great deal of genius the whole gamut
of romantic, decadent, sexualized, gay camp pop culture of today, demonstrating how
clearly it all is a direct outgrowth and evolution from Toulouse-Lautrec's Paris. Moulin
Rouge has a clearly Australian sensibility, which does not always sit well with
American viewers because it's somehow not an American movie. But it is not a
"sophisticated" European "art house" flick either. Nonetheless, it
reminded me of Children of the Lost City, My Twentieth Century, Brazil,
and Grand Hotel.
Dr. Les K. Wright
Innocence: "a bunch
of new age sentimental crap about old age"
I thought I was the only one in the world
who thought Innocence was a bunch of new age sentimental crap about old age. Why
is it that just because something hasn't been dealt with much before, it has to be revered
even if it's awful? This was so bad, and I kept thinking, "Oh, if only Pauline Kael
were here -- Pauline would understand how idiotic it is."
Anyway, thanks so much; you're the only one, even
of the very few critics who didn't like it, who mentioned the cowardly way it deals with
is an interesting mess."
AI is an interesting mess. There
are moments in the film when it threatens to pull the viewer into extraordinary
psychological and sensory terrain, but it never quite makes it. There is visual artistry
here--artistry foiled by self-indulgence and ultimately, I'm afraid, Mr. Spielberg's
rather limited philosophical and psychological insights. One rather simple fix could have
made this a much better film: Take out the "aliens" and have young David's last
day with his mother be the dream-life he finally achieves as he sits in his watery grave.
A final achievement of humanity, in other words. For in dreaming he has become a
"real boy." (That is, it seems, the ultimate message of the movie, right?)
And that's the rub. How can a film with such a
huge budget and so many presumably talented people have been allowed such a painfully
silly cartoon ending?
Perhaps we are bearing witness to the worship of
Mr. Spielberg. No one dared interfere with his "genius" even if it meant
allowing him to make a childish mess of an otherwise powerful and interesting vision.
Thankfully, the film has its pleasures and, just maybe, will get a wider audience open to
the mental pleasures of movies that are designed to do more than sell Happy Meals.
David W. Bertoni
"Absolute Thanks for An Absolutely Delightful
Review" - from the author of An Uncertain
You have no idea (a generic statement, actually
you well might have an excellent idea) how gratifying it is when a reader "gets"
An Uncertain Currency. I'm intrigued by the way readership seems to split down
the middle. Those who want a plotty page-turner are annoyed by the lyricism, digressions
and asides. As youve discovered, those who want something more substantial and
are willing to invest the time are more than amply rewarded. I suppose it depends on
whether youre in the mood for a chateaubriand or a Big Mac. Bless Avocet for its
willingness to take those risks and the mystery realm for being broad enough and congenial
enough to encompass all literary appetites.
Clyde Lynwood Sawyer, Jr.
New York, NY
appreciation of Unbreakable
Like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable
cloaks a deeply personal, philosophical message in an entertaining plot. But just like The
Sixth Sense isn't about ghosts, Unbreakable isn't about superheroes or super
villains. The Sixth Sense was a film about how many of us are walking dead,
especially in relationships. It showed us how we take each other for granted, and often
only come to grips with our sleepwalking lives when it is too late. So, too, Unbreakable
is about middle-age, about growing up. Bruce Willis' character has reached that point in
his life that so many of us do--beaten down by time, beaten down by responsibility, swept
up in complexity. It is that strange middle-ground in life when you've forgotten the
youthful indulgence, that you are special, that your life has a meaning, a purpose. It
strikes at the same emotional vein (though clearly not as well) as The Sixth Sense.
It speaks of the modern anomie of adults in a secular, materialistic society robbed of
mystery and basic human dignity and spirituality.
David W. Bertoni
An author's response on the review of her book
pleasure to find Bob Wake's review of my new book, Into
the Tangle of Friendship, on your virtual pages. Rare is the reviewer who takes
the time to look beyond the words and stories themselves and imagine where they came from,
how they were provoked, how a writer has grown--and grown aware of growing--between books.
I write reviews myself; I know the myriad quandaries they present. And I feel enormously
grateful when someone with Mr. Wake's clear wisdom and intelligence sets his mind to work
on books such as mine. Deepest appreciation
dissent on American Beauty
The popular and
critical response to American Beauty is very reminiscent of the furor around
Antonioni's Blowup in 1966 and Zabriski Point in 1970. Those praising these films
said they were trenchant commentary on the anomie of modern life; those attacking them
said they were morally backrupt, glorifying corrosive antisocial behavior. Everyone said
they were technically masterful, and for some that was itself enough. If technical mastery
were enough, American Beauty would claim all five of my own critical stars.
Yes, this is a beautiful film -- the windblown
plastic bag will rival Fellini's image of a peacock in the snow as an all-time classic.
But that very beauty gives the title an added ironic dimension: the American ideal of
beauty is glossy and superficial, with the unsubtle mentality of a 17-year old -- a male
at that. As such, there is much less new here than has been claimed. The most that can be
said is that it formally announces the onset of the male Baby Boomer's national midlife
crisis -- complete with revisitation of male adolescent fantasies hoping to capture some part of them before it's too late,
and ending with the obligatory crash-and-burn. There is, in fact, a familiar contempt for
adults in this film that reduces them to unpleasant if highly detailed and much-stylized
cyphers. Only the character of neighbor Rickie has any originality or credibility. Lester
and Carolyn verge on the suffocatingly symbolic, and for some of us, even with the
extraordinary direction of Mendes and the exalted acting of Spacey and Benning, they are
still hard to take.
The plot assigns to Carolyn, in particular, the
first-cause blame for all of the troubles in the family. Her ambition is, at core, the
reason why Lester isn't getting any -- not enough sex, not enough attention. Allan Ball's
script gives Carolyn some seriously unbelievable reactions that Benning can't quite
overcome. Her half of the couple's mutual isolation is reflected in her tentative
willingness to accept Lester's tentative tenderness in an impromptu couch rendezvous.
Seconds later, it is she who short-circuits the connection in ostensible concern about
spilling beer on the upholstery -- a cliche of the classic anti-Mom streak in American
media and one that just doesn't jibe with Carolyn's state of mind at the moment. The
suggestion is that had she only ignored the upholstery, Lester would never have turned to
the daughter's friend and all would have been well. As it is, Lester's eventual
dinner-table rant and all subsequent outrageousness become a glorious and justified
tantrum of victory over stultifying husband-and-father responsibility, with damnation
personified in pseudo-liberated Carolyn and redemption in the child-magdalene, Angela.
But to achieve either final damnation or final
redemption, standard operating procedure is to die, and so of course Lester has to die --
preferably in the most anti-heroic way possible. Again, Ball's script makes this soulless
moment one of beautiful glory, in the most heavy-handedly Freudian way, and director
Mendes is a willing
accomplice. When Elvira Madigan threw up during moments in extremis,
it was the prettiest vomit ever seen on the big screen; when Lester blasts his brains and
blood across his kitchen wall, it's a Jackson Pollock Valentine from Mendes.
It is this kind of intellectual, social, and
aesthetic inversion that typifies the film's failure -- or achievement, depending on how
you look at it. But to deem it ground-breaking is to vastly overestimate its significance.
Undoubtedly it will hold a place in American film history, but not for what has appealed
to most critics. Like Blowup and Zabriskie Point, it will come to
represent a moment in American emotional culture of slightly mindless rebellion, designed
to provoke but equally to offer an attractive media product. Above all, it will stand as
one of the classics of cinematic hypocrisy in which artistic and moral self-indulgence
masquerades as criticism of the very thing indulged, not unlike the huge collection of
pornography held in the possession of the outraged moral critics.
Priscilla Coit Murphy
Chapel Hill, NC
A defense of Eyes Wide Shut
I got into Stanley Kubrick's work when about 25
years ago. I read everything I could about his career and loved every one of his movies,
except for 2001: A Space Odyssey because everyone I knew worshiped it. I felt
honored to be a knowing adult at the moment of Kubrick's last word in the cinema: Eyes
Wide Shut. This is a story about a marriage at it's most vulnerable: the exact moment
when husband and wife are most driven to temptation and betrayal. Kubrick tells a story
about the terrors of infidelity (HIV, death, misery).
It moved slowly, but remained perplexingly engrossing. I
noticed the 'implausibilities' that everyone decried. There was no failing in this film.
Some of the greatest flicks ever, including all of Kubrick's, featured unlikely events.
Isn't that what 'suspension of disbelief' means? As for expectations of hot sex and horror
film histrionics, we knew we were getting a film about a marriage on the rocks; not a
porno or a horror film.
I soon realized that bad reviews of EWS were the result of
1990's culture. Modern Western living is stewing in toxic fallout of our generation's
guttural desires. We're in a film culture that praised Jane Campion for showing the back
of Holly Hunter's vagina and the front of Harvey Keitel's penis. Pulp Fiction Junkies seek
bad TV in the form of big, horrible movies. Kubrick's scenes are almost uncomfortably long
in an era where attention spans are so short that television shows end and begin without
commercial or credit interruptions.
Was there any hope of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
satisfying the public's hunger for more when we know what dress Monica Lewinsky wore when
fellating the President of the United States? I think that Kubrick was very aware of
the world's sexual desensitization when he edited this film.
When Cruise and Kidman finally come close to on-screen
sex, it's an exchange of titillation in front of a mirror, nude. I don't even like looking
at me and my husband in front of a mirror, and I don't suppose the Cruises would've jumped
at the opportunity for any other film maker. Their fear and awkwardness shows, but it
loses itself in passion-cracks here and there.
What of the infamous censored orgy scene? Why was it
necessary to see more than a woman's head and torso jiggle and rock as she's being
serviced on a table in front of a room of masked strangers? The images of that orgy
have continued to sneak into my head. EWS was not in any way destroyed or harmed by the
digital addition of figures that are unnoticeable (unless you spent the entire scene
looking for them). Kubrick's control of the film is complete.
His use of a floating camera takes us through halls,
stairwells, streets, wooded roads, corridors, and rooms. It's dizzying; giving the
whole film surreal energy and a visual vibration. It's the charged current that runs
through otherwise static scenes. You almost wish EWS had been filmed in black and white,
even though Kubrick's artfulness with light and setting was never better. A grand
staircase is painted with white Christmas lights; their apartment is draped with red
velvet. The orgy mansion is bigger than possible, appearing as exotic as the graphic
grunting and strutting going on. The home of the main characters, Manhattan, hospitals and
doctor's offices and grand townhouses are all warped with color, size, ornamentation, and
shadow in pursuit of underlying emotional changes in the story.
Sex is deglamorized in the film early on. This is an
effort to show that the sexual betrayal and desires that tempt the couple are not just
horniness. Nicole Kidman pees and wipes after her perfect nude tush is flashed in our
face. Cruise examines an exquisite looking naked woman after she overdoses on heroin. Not
once does he look aroused. He acts very fatherly.
The very weird scene of the hooded ceremony has been joked
out of the press, but it does what it's supposed to. You worship the bodies encircling
you. Each one, close up, devoid of fear of being seen as a voyeur in the dark of the movie
theater. You're oogling and ahhing; women and men alike as the music reverbs in your
Kidman's initial subordination to her husband spurs her
insecurity, which forces her to reveal her sexual fantasy, which is too realty-based for
both of them. Throughout the story, Cruise is a man haunted by his wife's hurtful
revelations. It proves he doesn't have the power over her that he believed he had. His
virility is chipped away daily, by street thugs who think he's gay, by a fifteen year old
prostitute, by a hooker with HIV, by his patients, by this bizarre orgy club, by thugs who
follow him. They agree that neither a fantasy nor the reality of one night or two is the
total truth of a marriage. "What do we do about it?" The answer lies
somewhere between, "Wow, that was close!" and "Let's
fuck". The film ends, the great music hits you as does Stanley Kubrick's name.
He leaves you without the closure and the non-story stuff that the actors do while the
credits roll. No out take reels. Just OUT! And GOOD LUCK NOT THINKING ABOUT IT!
In twenty years, Eyes Wide Shut will be seen as the
cool beauty of a thinker that it is. It will sit alongside Who's Afraid Of Virgina
Woolf? as one of the great movies about marriage - coincidentally, a film starring a
real life couple, also bringing their real life marriage into the story.
Studio City, CA
Marcus on Eyes Wide Shut
Lust, that universal animal-human instinct, like a wildcat
cub set loose, but on a leash; allowed to roam, but within a defined
perimeter. Like a plaything, libido is explored and poked at, but
rather passionlessly, almost mathematically, with detachment
and reserve. It's teased and tested, as if by a bored child playing with a new Christmas
present, who, at the end of the hour, when the fun and novelty have worn a bit thin, when
it's time to brush his teeth and get undressed for bed, puts it back in its box, places it
back on the shelf.
Sexual, libidinous freedom is summoned only to be
dismissed, bourgeois sexual mores challenged only to be quickly confirmed, so that the
demons conjured are only let out for the fun of it, for a scare, like those of a carny
fun-house, all mirrors and smoke, pop-up cut-outs and prerecorded ghouls' laughter -
nothing to really get upset about.
Kubrick, that take-no-prisoners maker of mischief
responsible for Dr. Strangelove and Clockwork Orange, has lost his fangs.
His bite sits on the night table in a glass of water.
The same visual and stylistic vocabulary of his other
films is here, but is leaden, and ever so deliberate and premeditated, ever so under
control. Ligeti is used in the soundtrack as in 2001. The slow, deliberate pacing
and the long, hushed lapses of dialogue recall both that film and The Shining.
There is strict control of background reds just as in The Shining, and these are
meticulously contrasted to blues; red is primary until supplanted by blue in the
denouement. Even a sociology book on a hooker's shelf is meant to reveal she is a wayward
If anyone in real life drew out their words as slowly as
Kidman does, they would drive you crazy. Cruise is stiff,
wears his social mask so uncomfortably as to seem neurotically repressed. He is most
unconvincing as a doctor. These are all symptoms of Kubrick's fanaticism for control, for
The evil conjured is of the same cut as that of The
Shining. That brief glimpse of depravity seen there through a door in passing where
fellatio is being indulged by a couple in animal costumes is here expanded into the full
regalia of a medieval, pagan, Satanic ritual, extremely formal, quite dreary. Satan is as
proper as the Pope.
The plot coincidences and thematic connections are
strained. No sooner does the wife confess in one scene a secret, past yearning for a
strange man than Cruise becomes in the next scene the subject of another woman's identical
passion. You just know that when Kidman begins describing a dream it will coincide to what
Cruise has just been through awake. The symmetry is artificial, overdone.
Sexual freedom is so intently weighed with taboo as to
recall Hitchcock, whose films can be studied for their fear of women. Eroticism is allied
with death, nonconjugal sex allied with AIDS, drug use, homophobia, and homosexuality. The
pot of sexual pleasure at end of the rainbow promised at the beginning by a pair of nubile
models turns into a costume store named "Rainbow" whose owner sells his willing
daughter for sexual favors. The world is naughty in a way only a nun could see it. I - and
everyone else, I'm sure - only wish.
Kubrick, whose moral compass was dead-on in Paths of
Glory, lost his way.
The trick is to see these failings for what they are, to
recognize the weakness of the intellectual content, the drafty holes in the meaning. They
may not be so easy to spot. Kubrick was a master of his medium. Underlit stock is
saturated with bleeding, dark, sensuous color. Every detail is tastefully laid out: the
art on the wall of the Cruise-Kidman apartment is redundant with life-affirming flowers,
colors, and such; while the masks of the death-sex ball are dilutions of Hieronymus Bosch.
Shostokovitch's Jazz Suite No. 1 heard repeatedly in the background is pleasant and
eerie. The dialogue bears a similar burnish. But, please, don't be fooled. This is
definitely more style than substance.
El Cerrito, CA
Run Lola Run - before Mr. Marcus catches you...
Trying to be the cinematic equivalent of
techno music, in fact just like the techno music of its soundtrack, this film beats
you into submission via mechanical repetition, in effect detaching you from yourself,
depersonalizing you and itself. Here the medium is the message, and the techno medium by
definition is tedium.
A work of the imagination has to be very careful about
reneging on the traditional, implicit contract with an audience, the unspoken
understanding wherein the latter suspends belief and the former is allowed to lie. Once it
is forfeited, it is gone; the loss is irreversible. (That's the shortcoming of magic
realism, which is neither magic nor realism.)
Totally en vogue, trendy chic from soundtrack to
hairdo's to tattoo's, indulging itself with all the techno tricks of a music vid (jump
cuts, spliced animation, slo mo, yaddy yaddy yah); and fully postmodern to the roots of
its Day-Glo dyed hair, the story is deconstructed, torn down and retold thrice, leaving us
with the feeling that anything is possible because everything is arbitrary, downright
capricious. The audience laughed at the film rather than with it.
The technology, the structural engineering of the thing,
both cinematic and narrative, outweighs, overshadows, its content, calling attention to
itself like a sophomore art student's self-conscious first attempt at the avant-garde.
Make no mistake, this is commercial hype, despite altie aspirations and
In such callused hands, amid all the hoopla, the only
things one can still feel, the only drama left, are death and violence. Thus the
relentless presence of guns and dying. The intended subjects--the evanescent unfolding of
fate, destiny's gossamer web, and the intangibility of human bonds--are far too airy and
elusive to be effectively represented by such heavy, dead hands.
El Cerrito, CA
structure of The Red Violin
The story of The Red Violin is told much like
a symphony. The main "theme" is the violin itself. I disagree that the
movie is in five segments. I see six, each a part of a symphony:
Introduction - birth of the violin
Movement I - Monks
Movement II - Gypsies
Movement III - Pope
Movement IV - China
Coda - rebirth of the violin (auction)
It may be set up in other ways as well. I also
believe that the music evolves and develops during the course of the movie, much as a
symphony does. We hear the main musical theme from the voice of the violin maker's wife.
As the violin travels through the centuries, it's theme develops and reappears in other
"movements" much as a main theme reoccurs in a symphony.
I saw the movie for the first time last night, and now I
want to see it again to capture all of its intricacies and layers. I am sure that I will
see it many times this summer. I agree that this is "filmmaking of the highest
order," but I also believe this movie takes filmmaking to a new height.
The Red Violin is beyond incredible because of its
intricacies and layers. I do believe that an understanding of music helps to identify
Jonel M. Slack
Besieged: Childlike simplicity, everything
pure, unalloyed, nothing ambiguous; good is good, bad bad; love is strong and needs not be
Operatic intensity, everyone one the edge, poetic, extreme
and easy to read from the back row. In short, a fairy tale, conceptually meager, but told
almost exclusively visually, with a minimum of dialogue, which is why you should see this
The eye of the camera sometimes (not often enough)
caresses its subject; there is a joy in SEEING. Why is this so rare in a visual medium?
But it is. Which is what makes this film so special; it scrapes layers of waxy buildup
from the viewer's eyes, reminds him/her how alive one feels when allowed to see on the
screen something almost as rich as what one can see off it. Film stock is saturated with
color, soundtrack with music. (Contrast the stale, hermetic world of Star Wars, one
shaped entirely by our own expectations, in our own image, a tailored fit of our own
fantasies, a lifeless fabrication.)
The dissonance between the decaying classical art of the
old world (read European, white) and the vitality of the folk forms of the third world
(read African) reverberates thematically throughout, and, wouldn't you know, eventually
resolves into harmony.
The film even has the audacity to underline its message by
putting it in the mouth of a sermonizing preacher who quotes the bible (just as in The Winslow Boy, where the father quotes the bible at
the very start of the film): when Lot leaves Sodom, the Sodomites' delusions, addictions,
distractions, etc. are destroyed, thus freeing them. The hero here, wouldn't you know, is
set free by ridding himself of all worldly possessions for a just cause, for love.
Formulaic redemption? Like I said: a fairy tale. A nice film, for a change. Really. Not
profound or especially imaginative, but nice.
El Cerrito, CA
Disappointed by Tea With Mussolini
Zeffirelli is truly not deep. Another criticism of this
annoying film is the spottiness of the actors' training. Dench, Smith, and Plowright are
classically and beautifully trained. Cher is terrible and the plastic surgery has
succeeded in preventing her from moving her engineered face. Lily Tomlin gleefully leaps
onto everyone's lines. No timing at all! I can imagine M. Smith sneering about "those
Americans". Also, what is with the teenager's two plastic central incisors? Did
they do that in 1935? The teeth shone like beacons.
It wasn't the most overwritten piece of verbosity
I've ever seen, but close. I particularly liked it when those nice Nazis didn't blow up
those sweet English ladies. So dumb.
Patricia E. Watson
From an admirer of Rushmore
If you consider Rushmore a
comedy, you are not going to laugh. While it does have some very funny moments, it is not
a comedy. The laughter is mostly over the fact that this precocious tenager and successful
middle-aged tycoon are drawn together and the extremes they are driven to over something
so trivial as "Ms. Cross". It's an offbeat drama, not an offbeat comedy.
Most of those who are dissapointed with the film are expecting comedy.
The film is brilliant. Bill Murray
is brilliant as Mr. Blume, who, I believe, will be one of the most memorable screen
characters of all time. Blume is very reserved; it is very hard to understand what exactly
is occuring beneath the surface. And, as the film is the slice of life that it is,
Murray plays the role with utmost subtlety. Just as we can never fully
understand what a character in our life is thinking, we cannot with
Blume - we merely have an idea. We can tell he's a miserable bastard - depressed, awkward,
alcoholic, obsessed, a successful-loser - but we can only speculate on how he got to be
that way. The character is mysterious. He has very few "funny lines" because his
character is not witty, it seems.
The funniest scene in the movie is
the elevator scene. It was the character that made me
laugh, not any line. And the character evoked true sympathy from me
for the reasons already mentioned. I'm sure Brando's character in Streetcar also
seemed empty by some when it was first released.
This comment started out being a
praise for Rushmore, but ended up being mostly about Blume and Murray. There is
much more to admire about this film: the complexity of the Max character, the plot, the
originality, the cinematography, the music, the sly dialogue, the nonrevealing feel of the
movie, the lit cigarette dangling from Blume's mouth in the family painting, etc. Anyone
who doesn't like this film after first viewing should see it again. If the person still
doesn't like it, what a shame; watch Phantom Menace again.
on The Matrix
I'm going to commit a social faux pas right now, I'm going
to attempt to talk seriously about a movie. I know that it's not cool or wise to
make much of film in this country, particularly "entertainment films", but I
can't help wondering, maybe these filmmakers have a few thoughts in their heads, and
maybe, just maybe, those thoughts make their way into films.
For example, in The Matrix, Neo retrieves his
goods from a hollowed out book Simulationand
Simulacra. This is a direct reference to Jean Baudrillard (French
sociologist and philosopher). A further reference is the page of the book, On
Nihilism, invoking Nietsche and his concept of the overman. If you use
this as your key into a Carrollian journey into the text of the film, one arrives at a
frightening conclusion. This film is a philosophical tract. A very visually
appealing, kick ass tract, but a tract none the less.
It is the reflection of a profound reality; it masks and
denatures a profound reality;
it masks the absence of a profound reality; it has no relation to any reality
whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.
In the first case, the image is a good
appearance--representation is of the sacramental order. In the second, it is an evil
appearance--it is of the order of maleficence. In the third, it plays at being an
appearance--it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer of the order of
appearances, but of simulation.
Baudrillard, The Precession of Simulacra, Simulacra
and Simulation, p. 6.
Clearly not your every day reading, but nonetheless, it is
exactly what the film is addressing. The film is not trying to create a plausible
wholistic dark future of a world in which computers have taken over. It is what all
good sci-fi is, a parable of the times. It is (or attempts to be, I dare say) a red pill,
an invitation to free your mind.
It's okay, laugh, it's good for you. Now, when
you're done, pick up some Nieztsche, some Baudrillard (Simulacra and Simulation, or
for primers) and experience the movie on a second level. I think that you may find a
holistic (as opposed to wholistic) world view, a somewhat eclectic but complete philosophy
based in eastern philosophy and some good old post-modernism. Hell, it even intones
and The Dilemma of the Camera of the Mind). But of course, in a day
and age when both philosophy and entertainment are both laughed off equally, keep
laughing. And enjoy the visuals. And, if you're really brave, look past the
image, the illusion, and attempt to perceive the real. You may learn something.
...Thumbs Down on 20 Dates
You guys were howling with laughter at 20 Dates?
My condolences. It had a few cute moments, but what could you be howling
at? It had so much dead time in between those moments. I know what he was
trying to do; he just didn't succeed is all. My guess is you have either A) no
taste, or B) you are Myles Berkowitz's mother?
...A fan of The Harmonists
I am a 37 year old lover of all things older than the
1940's, and I was glad to see the review of The Harmonists. I live in San Francisco
and I was just so happy the film even played here. This is one of my favorite groups.
I would like to add that, in addition to their domestic
release on ASV (what a great label), a track from the Comedian Harmonists can
be found on one of the best (and only) collections of period German music called Berlin
By Night, released on EMI in Europe, catalog
#CDP 7 96331-2. This is such an awesome collection, to use a totally Californian phrase,
and you can't locate it in any of the online record buying sites. I only mention it
because Rizzoli Books here in town has multiple copies of it available at the store. I
think it is an invaluable addition to any music lovers collection who is searching out
German music besides the usual beer drinking hoo-ha available at any stupid store. It has
a lot of great German big/dance band tracks by some artists who are not available anywhere
else (Richard Tauber and Zarah Leander excepted) - 20 tracks in all. I used it as a
soundtrack for a formal dinner party with great success. The sound quality runs from
excellent to not-so, but I love this disc! It is part of a series including
"Paris..," "Italy..," and "Brazil..," but I think this one
is the most cohesive and excellent component of the set...
If the attendance at the movie and the recent Berlin In
The 20's series at the Herbst are any indication, there are a lot of folks who might
like to have the info about this disc.
San Francisco, CA
.A comment on Mark
I work as an accompanist for Les Grands Ballets
Canadiens. Mark Morris has been up several times and I have been "subjected"
to his incredible verve and energy when he has come to workwith the company. He's a
remarkable fellow, and deserves all the accolades he has received, both from critics and
An opinion on Central
I think there is a great deal going on under the surface,
on top of the surface and even on the sides of Central Station. Dora, the lead
character, is an embittered, cynical, (and dare I say it) evil person. Time and living in
a big city can do that.
(By the way, this is commentary on life in the big city.
The ultimate comment was the street justice doled out to the thief who ripped off one of
the train station vendors; justice was swift and merciless. Contrast this with life in the
country, the open vistas, friendly, trusting people, e.g., Moses and Isaiah).
But Dora at this stage is immoral. Her defenses were not
only up, but her feelings had become steel. Who could do what she was doing and
still sleep at night? Taking the money of innocent, trusting people and then reading their
letters and tearing them up! The height of her immorality was selling that poor boy for
'filthy lucre' and then buying a stupid television. To Dora, at this point, life is not
only cheap, but its a damn tv! What a commentary on life in Rio and many other parts of
the world, including our own USofA, which is in the throes of consumerism.
But the action is the transformation of Dora which is to
Decidedly, the director is telling the gospel story. The
images are strong and sometimes a little too obvious for my taste, but they are all
around: the evangelist in the truck (by the way, there is irony here--because it is what
the little boy said he wanted to be and here it
was coming true for him). The truckload of religious pilgrims, the overnight stay in that
religious town, all worked to transform Dora into a caring, trusting, loving person again.
To say nothing of the little boy, whose persistence was enough to try a saint let alone an
encrusted sinner like Dora. He was lucky she didn't kill him! In fact, she cursed him and
said he should never have been born. That was tantamount to a death sentence for him.
You'll recall the little boy ran away from her into the sea of candles and pilgrims at
that point. Another great image.
Yes, the director is telling us the gospel story. And I
think he succeeded in telling it in a compelling, humorous, and ironic way. The irony was
in the images. For example, the iconography in the town during the religious holiday was
replete with images of the Madonna and Child. You'll recall the scene of the morning after
the night of the religious candlelight vigil. After Josue discovered Dora on the floor in
that prayer house where she collapsed, the next morning we see not Madonna and Child, but
rather Child and Madonna, he (the child, Josue) is caring, cradling and caressing her.
That's irony. A deeper meaning is in fact the theological one, in which it is Christ the
son of Mary and son of God who does in fact care, cradle and save us.
The religious elements, i.e., the theological themes (sin,
redemption, forgiveness, etc.); the names even (Jesus, Moses, Isaiah, etc.) and the
religious images (the slogans on the truck, the pilgrims, the iconography, etc.) are at
the heart and soul of this picture. Dora's transformation is visually stunning and more
than routine. It was, theologically speaking, awesome. How often does one get to see this
happen in a human being?
San Diego, CA