Browsed by
Month: January 2009

The Fall

The Fall

Visually stunning, with a brilliant, imaginative surface, The Fall (2006) is a movie made for polarities. Viewers will love it, hate it, find it exotic and intriguing, shallow and boring, but probably not many things in between. It was made to appeal to the director, Tarsem, it seems. The audience might just have been an afterthought.

It’s the story of a paralyzed stunt man, Roy Walker (Lee Pace), convalescing in Los Angeles, cerca 1915. He meets a five-year-old Romanian girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who is also convalescing there, from a badly broken arm. They strike up a friendship and Roy begins telling her incredible stories of heroes, villains, lost loves and revenge. The fantasy mirrors Roy’s own predicament, though with grandiose proportions, wild scene changes, and obvious mythic elements included. Roy wants to commit suicide. He thinks his life is over. He’s lost his livelihood, possibly forever, and his girl. The fantasies reflect the despair, the anger and the desire … Click to continue . . .

All Things Vanish

All Things Vanish

The Darkroom of Damocles Novel by Willem Frederik Hermans. 1958
The Darkroom of Damocles
Novel by Willem Frederik Hermans. 1958

 What you see is often not what you see. In wartime, borders vanish, buildings, people, loyalties, trust. Vanish. Morality, ethics, the truth. Vanish. Not for everyone, at all times. But for many, and for most of the time. The god of ambiguity loves war. Perhaps as much as he loves love. As much as he loves the way people alter their behavior when faced with moral dilemmas. Strife, fear, hatred, betrayal. War feeds all of that. More often than not, we want to see things in black and white, but we really get shades. Or think we do. Blurring, in and out of focus, sharp over here, dull and fuzzy over there.

If war has music, it thunders all too often. It shrieks and rises into crescendos and then tanks. Collapses of its own weight. Too many sharps and flats. Too much atonality. But even there, even in the ear, … Click to continue . . .

Dimensions: More Than Spatiality

Dimensions: More Than Spatiality

Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. 1912
Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. 1912

Below, we have a new essay by Robert Mueller. He deals with two fine poets, Barbara Guest and Jill Magi, with imagination and verve.

Jill Magi’s author’s page over at Shearsman Books can be found here. Jill’s homepage can be found here.

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

The topic of poetic space on the page is an interesting one. How it looks alters our reception and perception. We read it differently to ourselves depending upon topography.

Poetry is both spatial and aural. Traditionally, poetry was heard, not seen, passed down to us from bard to bard, from shaman to shaman, registering across the centuries in the ear, as we imagined the words and their referents with our inner eye. With the advent books, of the printing press, and much later, the multimedia revolution, things changed radically. Kept changing. Back and forth we go now, different schools of thought … Click to continue . . .

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest and Jill Magi

Robert Mueller: Barbara Guest and Jill Magi

Barbara Guest, Now Jill Magi in brevi

by

Robert Mueller

 

Shearsman Books, which seems to specialize in poets on their way, recently brought out a fine collection of poetry by Jill Magi, her second full volume, titled Torchwood. This collection is assembled uncharacteristically, even for a time when in poetry books great attention is paid to the presentation. For Magi, it started with the patchwork of historical and personal documentation of her earlier volume Threads (Futurepoem, 2007), and is extended here in a sequencing and a selection that are beautifully realized. The poet nurtures a light touch, sometimes a homey touch, and almost always the quick and sure calibration. Challenging and disciplined, her techniques because of this superb touch freely allow the open space she seeks, while the variety of styles and forms delivers panache without sacrificing the elegance of each. All in a parade of parts kept separate and distinct, bringing to mind a collage that has been Click to continue . . .

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan!

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan!

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

 

It’s Edgar Allan Poe’s 200th birthday! The grandfather (by way of Baudelaire’s translations, among others) of Modern Poetry in English. What would Eliot, Pound and Yeats have been without the man whose ghost I once saw at UVA? Would there have been a Symbolist Movement without him?

 

His last poetic composition, written in 1849:

Annabel Lee

 

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love —
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this Click to continue . . .

Appaloosa: Time Constraints and Film

Appaloosa: Time Constraints and Film

One of the great things about watching DVDs is the chance to see the film-making process in action, to hear the directors and stars, to go over again what they cut out and why. In several cases, the best perhaps being Blade Runner, additional scenes, deleted scenes, make the film stronger when included. Generally, the deletions occur because of time constraints, though directors often say they cut the scene because it hurt the flow. My guess is that in many cases they really don’t want to admit that they had to conform to theater guidelines and general population tastes, to our short-attention-span culture. In the case of Appaloosa, the theatrical release was nearly two hours, so they must have felt more scenes would have pushed the limits.

But the film itself would have been better with additional material.

It’s a story that harkens back to John Wayne’s Rio movies, and to Lonesome Dove, though it has … Click to continue . . .

Freedom to Swing

Freedom to Swing

Django Reinhardt and company. Photo by Dietrich Schulz-Koehn
Django Reinhardt and company. Photo by Dietrich Schulz-Koehn

While doing some research for a new novel, I stumbled on a fascinating story. WWII, Occupied France, and Django Reinhardt, one of the great Jazz guitarists of his era. Many elements make the story fascinating, but perhaps the most unusual aspect of the whole thing is that Reinhardt was a gypsy. The Nazis included the Roma in with other minority groups it sought to destroy, killing hundreds of thousands of them before their reign of terror ended. According to Michael Zwerin, who wrote Swing Under the Nazis, Reinhardt rose to prominence in occupied Paris despite being a gypsy. A German officer from the Luftwaffe, Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, protected him because he liked Django’s music so much. This obviously went against official Nazi policy, which was adamantly and dangerously opposed to that art form. Though the Nazis weren’t above using Jazz, “hot music” and Swing to advance their own propaganda, there is no … Click to continue . . .

Q & A With Author Niccolò Ammaniti

Q & A With Author Niccolò Ammaniti

Over on the World Literature Forum, a Question and Answer session is taking shape. The site is always worth a visit, but tomorrow brings us a chance to speak directly, in a virtual sense, with Italian author Niccolò Ammaniti. Click here to add your questions . . . .

Ian Thompson, had this to say about Ammaniti’s new novel in his Guardian UK review:

 

Ammaniti’s best-known novel, I’m Not Scared, was a fable of adult cruelty and lost childhood innocence that sold more than 200,000 copies in Italy, later becoming an equally successful film. The book drew you in like The Blair Witch Project; I could not put it down. The Crossroads, his latest novel, unfolds in a provincial backwater in northern Italy, where teenagers are adrift and isolated in a world of internet porn and Metallica worship.

The book borrows from the cartoon violence of Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon as well as

Click to continue . . .