Friday, February 23, 2018

Wild Strawberries

Even reading a Wikipedia summary of Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries you’re filled with wistfulness, then a twinge and at times even a wrenching sadness. Many books movies and even paintings gain their power from the shock of recognition. But the catharsis created by this particular masterpiece derives its power  its universality. Old viewers can easily put themselves in the position of the film’s protagonist, a professor on his way to receiving an honor, who in a sequence of reminiscences finds himself confronting the most painful memories of his past. One that is particularly trenchant is that of a girl he once loved who ended up with his brother. If you've seen Wild Strawberries when you were young, revisiting the movie, which is being revived today, as part of Film Forum’s centennial Bergman retrospective, will itself act like a metaphor for the very journey that the Bergman’s hero takes. It also should be noted that the film was the last furlough for the famous Swedish actor Victor Sjostrom who played the academic, Isak Borg. It’s always said that at the moment of death your whole life is played out before you, but on a lesser level the closer you get to the awareness of one’s mortality, the state of authenticity that Heidegger alludes to, the more you live out Bergman's narrative and while the details of every life are different, the bittersweet feelings are remarkably the same.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Seeking Nothing in Montpelier

"Montpelier," watercolor by Hallie Cohen
February 18 marked the beginning of the Tibetan New Year and Shambhala Montpelier celebrated the day with an event that included an hour long meditation and pot luck. Visitors who didn’t feel like doing anything were able to show their affinity with the ideals of the group by turning off Fareed Zakaria’s GPS in the fitness room of the Capitol Plaza, a venerable Federalist structure on Main Street, in the shadow of Montpelier’s incredibly tiny capital gold capital dome (Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the country and has the smallest capital dome) and set the timer of their iPhone to an unchallenging 10 minutes of quiet time. During this period, they were suddenly able to hear things that they might not normally notice, a toilet flushing, the hum of a water cooler, the swishing of cars along the slush filled streets. People spend their lives in practices comprising Herculean feats of stillness and so simply tipping one’s hat to ancient endeavors in such a seemingly off-hand way can seem like a gratuitous act. But even when they’re solitary most human beings in our internet-of-everything world rarely have the experience of being alone and literally striving for nothing. The next time you’re in Montpelier or anywhere for that matter, try taking 10 minutes out of your day in which you're not running errands, making repairs, or vacuuming the inside of your car and assume a meditative posture. Though your eyes will be closed, it will be an eye-opening experience.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bukkake at the Shelburne

"Creme Brûlée" by Ivan Alifan (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
“Deserted” (2016) and “Crème Brûlée"(2015) are his and her paintings that are part of "Sweet Tooth: The Art of Dessertexhibit at the Shelburne Museum, just down the road from Burlington. Both are what in the porn world is known as Bukkake which are facial cum shots employing icing and whip cream imagery with almost classical sexual nuance. There’s nothing new to making an alluring body delicious. Here is what the Russian artist Ivan Alifan has to says about his works: “To have a painting that can exist as an alluring object and shift into an eroticized figure disarms and naturalizes the modern gaze, decriminalizing sex in art. Whether the individual sexualizes the figure, or becomes embarrassed and nervous, by the mere suggestion, this is all a process which occurs independently from the painting, breaking down barriers in the different modes in which the body can exist in social spheres and contemporary art.” When you think about it, it all makes a lot of sense, but then again as Freud putatively said, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The News of Waterbury, VT

Remember Bulle Ogier who played the staring role in the La Salamandre (1971). Alain Tanner directed the John Berger script about a character who has been accused of shooting her uncle and who works in a sausage factory. The sausage factory itself has become a popular metaphor. You’ll never eat the sausage if you go to the factory where it was made. In other words,  “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” You might remember back to the film and the two characters in the narrative, the journalist and the poet who're commissioned to write a screenplay about the mysterious woman at the center of the action the next time you visit the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury, Vermont.  Considering it’s ubiquity Ben and Jerry’s is less an ice cream than a utility and so visiting the factory is one way to get a bird’s eye view of the way many Americans live, at least in terms of how their consumption of ice cream is concerned. Even in the middle of winter the place is packed. In the popular movie, which won an Academy Award, the idea was to determine whether or not a crime had been committed. By visiting Ben and Jerry’s you may get some insight into the origin of your sweet tooth.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Talk of Milford, CT

If you’re having car problems on 95 and you’re in the Milford area around exit 40, you may want to stop at Dr. Nick’s where they will test drive your vehicle and take a look under the body for no charge. But beware they don’t deal with tires. For that you’ll have to take six minute drive to Firestone. Both Dr. Nick’s and Firestone have nice waiting areas by the way, where you meet people. At Dr. Nick's a truck driver had set up camp while waiting for the fuel pump to be replaced on his Chevy. His father hailed from Rumford, Maine near the White Mountains of New Hampshire and had some French Canadian blood. At Firestone, there was an evangelical preacher who was asking his Siri for the definition of the word “sheaf” from Leviticus. The impresario at Firestone was a bearded chap who looked like a mullah and whose brother-in-law had made money on stock called Nvidia which profits on gaming and AMD, the chip maker. Shades of the Coen Brothers were also apparent in a hyperactive little girl who tripped her mother and whose chainsmoking grandmother didn't put up a fight when her credit card was declared invalid. Within an hour you’re "on the road again" to quote Willy Nelson, taking 91 through Hartford, Springfield to parts unknown.