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Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.

— William Blake

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Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

🦋 Chauvet Lions

Alas! It looks like Sylvia and I are not going to make it in to the city to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams before the end of next week, when its run will be ending. I am hoping against hope that it gets a broader distribution, either now or at Oscars time -- how could something like this not get nominated? If not, well, I guess we'll watch it at home, without 3D... Julian Bell's review in the current NY Review of Books makes it sound unmissable.

posted evening of May 4th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Werner Herzog

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

🦋 Not understanding the dialog

While we were in China, 20th Century Fox's Rio had its premiere worldwide. By happy coincidence, Michael's House, where we were staying in Beijing, is right around the corner from the China Film Art Research Center and its attached first-run theater; so Sylvia and I got to watch Rio dubbed into Chinese. (To be specific, dialog was dubbed into Chinese; song lyrics were left in English and subtitled.)

It was, well, a really good movie to watch in a language you don't understand. The plot and characterizations were broad enough, the motivations and emotions corny enough, that we had no trouble following the story by just watching the zany, pretty charming animation -- and I'm pretty sure I would just have found the dialog and the non-visual jokes annoying, that they would have hampered my enjoyment of the movie.* And watching it in a language you don't understand is way better than watching it with the sound turned off -- the clues you get from gibberish dialog about who is speaking and what their mood is, and the clues you get from the soundtrack about the direction of the movie, are important.

(I wondered, and have no idea, whether the Brazilian characters were speaking Chinese with a stereotypical Portuguese accent.)

* (Sylvia enjoyed the movie in Chinese but wants to see it again in English. She will probably get more out of the jokes than I would.)

posted evening of April 24th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Language

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

🦋 Cien años de incesto

I now believe that what most interested me in the novel, was to tell the story of a family obsessed by incest.

— Gabriel García Márquez
Interview with Claude Couffon, 1968

Incest is all over the place in 100 Years of Solitude, practically every narrative block contains an incestuous relationship or one that hints at incestuous desires. I wonder what it is doing, what it is signifying? I've always sort of thought of this novel as being about the history of Colombia and about the Spanish conquest of Latin America; I'm not sure what role incest (or inbreeding, or incest and inbreeding as metaphor) plays there. Likely, of course, not a simple metaphor...

It was interesting to watch Máncora last night, a recent Peruvian film about (among other things) an incestuous relationship, and have García Márquez in the back of my mind while I was watching it. Not much similarity at all between the two works or between the uses of incest in the two works, but fun to think about how the two different authors are using this device for their own ends. Looks like it's a bit of a central theme for this filmmaker, Ricardo de Montreuil; his other movie is called My Brother's Wife.

(...and now all of a sudden I am thinking about Ada...)

posted evening of March 27th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Cien años de soledad

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

🦋 Madagascar

Roy's 2011 Oscar predictions are up... I'm glad he's betting on his personal favorite Madagascar: Carnet de Voyage for best animated short -- it's the first I had heard of it. A real treat of a movie.

posted morning of February 27th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Animation

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

🦋 Let's listen to

Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

Narration by the Coen brothers.

posted evening of February 20th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Music

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

🦋 Zen in the art of laundry*

What do you think of this? I find it astonishing:

It is プロの職人によるアイロンがけテクニック(ワイシャツ) , for which Google Translate gives "Professional techniques by skilled craftsmen: ironing (shirts)" -- I can only hope this title implies it is part of a series.**

*(While researching the title for this post I found a very intriguing paper by Yamada Shōji, The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery, which I am thinking I will spend the rest of the evening reading.)

**Here are some more Professional Techniques by Skilled Craftsmen videos: プロの職人によるテクニック

posted evening of January 20th, 2011: Respond

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

🦋 Illumination

Sylvia and I watched a lovely movie this evening, "The Secret of Kells." References a hugely diverse set of source materials from My Name is Red* to Alice in Wonderland/​Golden Compass/​Chronicles of Narnia to Borges (specifically "The Theologians" but also "The Immortal" in places), and of course to the Book of Kells itself... And on top of it all, a real treat of a story in itself -- highly enjoyable without reference to any of these parallels I'm thinking of being necessary.

*No clips of The Secret of Kells are online besides the trailer; if they were, I would post the scene of Brother Aiden and Brendan making green ink side by side with the passage from My Name is Red narrated by red ink.

posted evening of November 28th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about Sylvia

Friday, November 26th, 2010

🦋 Camerawork in Hernán Rivera Letelier's prose

One key distinction to be made between El arte de la resurrección and a Bruegel painting, of course, is the direction, the cinematic quality of the former. If I stand looking at "The Battle between Carnival and Lent" it keeps me engaged, keeps my gaze shifting; but I am "directing" the movie by moving my gaze. Whereas here, there is clearly a cameraman showing us where to focus and what to move to the periphery. Check out this beautiful pan from the plaza to in front of the union hall, from chapter 7 -- reminds me a little of the opening shot from Heimat. The striking workers in La Piojo are waiting for their lunch, in front of the union hall:

Even from a distance one could see that chaos reigned, everything in a rambunctious disarray: a few kids, stick in hand, trying to keep at a distance the group of stray dogs that had assembled, attracted by the aroma of food, while a few well-built gaucho types were greasy with sweat, gathering and splitting wood for the fire; the group of women inside was sweating too, in their aprons cut from canvas flour sacks, their cheeks smudged with soot, they were ladling out dishes of the hot, steaming stew to the tight line of men, women, children who held out their chipped dishes, their faces long with hunger. The menu, like every day's, was a generous helping of chili beans -- one day with crushed maize, one day with peppers, which cooked on the other fire, smoking under a black skillet, seasoned with a colorful bloom of paprika.
The camera starts out away from the action, across the plaza; gradually it zooms in on the kids keeping away the stray dogs, then pans to men cutting wood (in my mental picture of this scene, the men are sort of behind the kids (vis-a-vis the pov) and a bit toward the union hall, the camera is moving across the plaza and a bit to the right) and then (continuing to the right, and swinging around) to the women cooking and to the people waiting; and the last word of the sentence is "hunger"! Then we linger lovingly on the food that's cooking, the centerpiece of this scene. (This and a passage a little later on when Christ is eating are beautiful food writing I must say -- this Rivera Letelier is extremely versatile.)

posted afternoon of November 26th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about The Art of Resurrection

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

🦋 Varda in Contexts

I'm playing the role of a little old woman, pleasantly plump and talkative, telling her life story. And yet it's others I'm interested in, others I like to film.

-- Àgnes Varda

posted evening of October 30th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about Les Plages d'Agnès

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

🦋 Tommy, Kathy, and Ruth

Ellen and I watched Never Let Me Go this evening -- I am not sure quite what to say about it other than that I think it is an extremely faithful adaptation of the book: watching the movie felt very much like what I remember of the experience of reading the book. I would certainly recommend the movie on that basis alone; I thought it was a great, great book to read. But at the same time I'm not sure how necessary the movie is -- what it adds to the book. Some of the images were very powerful, such as Ruth hobbling on her walker the first time we see her after she has started donating, and Daniel screaming at the end of the film. And it was nice to have the "Never Let Me Go" song be an actual song that you could listen to. In general I liked the filming of the second half of the movie, when they were adults, much better than the portion set at Hailsham, which did not ring as true to me. The actors who played adult Tommy, Kathy, and Ruth all did a fantastic job.

(I'm just really puzzled by Manohla Dargis' review, the only review I've read of this film, by her claim that "your emotional response to the slow-creeping horror will most likely soon die, snuffed out by directorial choices that deaden a story already starved for oxygen." This just seems really off to me in a couple of different ways. * The direction seemed to me really well-done. * The movie is thoughtful and emotional, and the thoughtfulness does not kill the emotional response, quite the contrary. * You will find it confusing in places, how to respond emotionally, not be able to figure out quite what is going on until you think it through; this is an asset of the movie, one of the best things about it (and a way in which it is very successfully modeled after the book); Dargis seems to be complaining the movie is not manipulative enough, which just strikes me as a bizarre reaction.)

(...As James Sanford notes in his review, the transition from "young Kathy" to "adult Kathy" is excellent.)

posted evening of October 16th, 2010: 1 response
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