|RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource|
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
|Tapestry of King Arthur|
Is taking foreign visitors captive the way that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, earns his battle stripes (“Another American Citizen Is Arrested in North Korea,” NYT, 11/20/13)? Is it the way he carries on the divine right of Kings, North Korean style. Is it the way he claims his throne and his position as the rightful heir to the glory of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung? Is taking foreign visitors hostage and ignoring the pleas of major powers the way the reputations of the Eisenhowers and MacArthurs of North Korea are created? Maybe this David versus Goliath strategy is how Kim Jong-un attained the credibility to oust the uncle, (“North Korea’s Leader Is Said to Oust Uncle in Power Play,” NYT, 12/3/13), Jang Song thaek, who was appointed to look after him, when he took over in he wake of his father’s death, only two years ago. Jang Song-thaek according to the Times report is the husband of Kim Kyong-hee who was the sister of Kim Jong-il and the Kim Jong-un’s aunt. Whether he called her Auntie Kyong was not reported in the Times piece, though the piece did speculate on the fact that the fall of Jang Song-thaek rather than bolstering Kim Jong-un’s power could destabilize him further and cause him to have to up the ante to maintain his power. “Some analysts…worry that Mr. Kim might resort to militaristic provocations to divert attention from domestic instability.” The most interesting thing about the whole matter is that it conforms to Santayana’s famous saying, “those whose cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As the Times commented, “Mr. Jang would not be the first No. 2 or the first uncle of the Northern Korean leader to lose power. Kim Jong-il plotted a purge of his own powerful uncle to solidify control after the death of his father, the North’s founding president, Kim Il-sung.”
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The Descendants was a complex movie, but the word for Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s latest outing, is good intentioned. Not since Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels has a director been able to insinuate the presence of so much goodness in such a stark American Gothic setting. The fact that the film is shot in black and white is almost confusing. It adds a nourish quality that at first belies the emotions at hand. It’s like the macguffin that never amounts to much. Nebraska starts with Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) and his son David (Will Forte) leaving Billings, Montana for Lincoln, Nebraska and the beaten town of Hawthorne where much of the action takes place is filled with the kind of freaks and criminals that populate Coen Brothers movies like Fargo (one of these, a garage owner named Ed Pegram played by Stacey Keach, allows Payne to place two veteran actors in a showdown). “See Us Fo Your House Loan,”reads the highway ad for one of Hawthorne's banks. But then the plot takes over and Payne demonstrates the ability to turn caricature into something more universal. Woody, who is suffering from a mixture of wet brain and senile dementia, has received a sweepstakes notice sent out by a magazine subscription service and is convinced he’s won a million dollars. It’s apparent to David that it’s all a merchandising scheme, but he goes along with his father’s delusion, realizing that “the guys just needs something to live for."The role of Woody is a brilliant creation since it cuts a large enough swathe to encompass the delusion, the life-lie, the pipe dreams that are the essence of the human condition. David humors his dad, but also uses the journey they set out on to get to know the man who continues to be an enigma. At one point David asks, “Did you ever want a farm like your dad.” “I don’t remember and it doesn’t matter” is the only response. Woody and David exhibit the mixture of estrangement and intimacy that characterizes many father/son relationships, even though this pair are particularly lacking in communication skills. The coup de grace lies in the discovery of Woody’s simple, but touching motive. Suffice it to say that while he doesn’t end up getting what he’s come for, he gets everything he wants.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
|Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. during the Mercury-Atlas 6 Spaceflight|
Monday, December 2, 2013
One of Jean Cocteau’s most famous films was Le sang d'un poete. Cocteau makes a posthumous appearance in Leos Carax’s l986 Mauvais sang currently being revived at Film Forum. One of Carax’s characters looks at the back of a white haired man and says that’s Cocteau only to be informed that the famed playwright, poet and director is dead. But actually the kind of poetic cinema Cocteau advocated is alive and kicking in Mauvais Sang which is literally about blood. The movie could have referenced another work with blood in the title, De sang- froid, In Cold Blood, to the extent that it’s about both murderers (the death of the youthful gangster in the end recalls the poetic ending of Godard’s Au Bout du Soffle) and blood itself. However it must be said that for all its hot blood, Carax maintains a cool esthetic distance or heartlessness throughout. The plot concerns a retrovirus, STBO, that is created by people who “make love without love.” This is literally the bad blood of the film’s title and the blood imagery continues as Anna (Juliette Binoche), one of the film molls (the other is played by Julie Delpy) describes herself as not being able to stop crying and suffering from hemophiliac tears. Carax creates little campuses of imagery. When Alex (Denis Levant) meets with Marc (Michel Piccoli) and his other crony Hans (Hans Meyer) they remove their shirts in an almost viral way, as if they’d contracted a new ailment, lighting up cigarettes bare chested from then on. Alex, a strange and silent kid who his parents named the Chatterbox, has grown up to be a ventriloquist. You can parse the double entendres and metaphors that run through the film the way you’d analyze a poem. The work of another renowned avant-gardist, David Bowie, “Modern Love” is part of the soundtrack.