FC Barcelona in a Game of Chess

Culture, Sport
Pep Guradiola's Barcelona: Lifted 14 trophies from the 19 competitions

Pep Guradiola’s Barcelona: Lifted 14 trophies from the 19 competitions

I have been watching Football since I was a little kid, and in my lifetime, I have never seen such perfection and mastery in playing Football as watching FC Barcelona play for the past four years, they were and are in my opinion and that of many the greatest team ever played the game, especially under Pep Guradiola, the club lifted 14 trophies out of  19 competitions, a record that will never be broken, nor a team like that will ever to be seen again playing the beautiful game, they are one football team that I love and admire most.

"What has been will not be Again"

“What has been will not be Again”

Pushkin once said, “What has been will not be Again”, it is true for this beautiful team also, despite annihilating all their opponents in La Liga this year, and ahead of their main rival, Real Madrid by 16 point, therefore, already in the driving set for another La Liga title, yet, some questions has been asked as to Barca’s “ending era”, for in the past few weeks, the team lost two match, one very crucial, the away game of the Champion League to AC Milan, losing 2-0, and last night, a less significant match, losing to their arch rival, Madrid in el clasico, 3-1,  for all the talks of Barcelona’s era ending, it is total nonsense, for the same players who won everything under  Guradiola can do the same again under a brilliant tactical coach, and they were doing it under Guradiola’s assistance and Barca’s new coach, Tito Vilanova, but since his temporary departure from the club and treatment for Parotid gland cancer, Barcelona had suffered unlike before, the team is lacking something, they are missing a coach, a tactical one, and that only made their opponent to out maneuver them tactically and therefore defeating them even if Barca were the better of the two team.

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Snow in Sulaimani

Culture, Update & News

A few weeks ago it snowed in Suli, I took my camera to the roof,  and took some pictures, snow is perfect for photography, for the texture of the snow itself work as a light reflector, even at night, the landscape is flooded with light,  when shooting indoor, it is a perfect source of soft light. After taking the picture,  added some over the top filters from Photoshop, the result is not bad:

© Karzan Kardozi

© Karzan Kardozi

© Karzan Kardozi

2012: Film Diary

Film Diary, Film Review

 

Alyonka (Boris Barnet, 1961)

Alyonka (Boris Barnet, 1961)

Looking back at my film diary for 2012: I managed to watch 384 films, that is more than an average of one film per day, not bad, could have been more. Beside films, read many books, watched every single football game of FC Barcelona, they are nothing short of watching a piece of Art in motion, but that is another story.

Here are my picks for the best films of 2012, from what I have seen so far:

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012) Put Tabu beside Carax’ Holy Motors as two self-conscious film in meditation on the art of cinema, equally beautiful and poetic  F.W Murnau’s Tabu, Gomes’ Tabu is the story of two films; one sound, one silent. The first part of the film is the sound one, titled, Lost Paradise, almost a Pedro Costa take on the modern day Lisbon, or even better;  Pedro Costa’s imagery and de Olivera’s subtle acting, in which Portuguese Colonialism is a past memory that no one talk about, but the legacy is still present in the old grumpy Aurora, she still prefer to refer to her black maid as a “Witch”, and still talk about witchcraft. But to make up for old grumpy Aurora, you got  the silent Miss.Pilar; you don’t find characters like her in many films nowadays, she is so gentle, so simple, caring for others is her top priority, even if those others are thousands of miles away, she cry for no reason but for feeling for others, she pray every night before she goes to sleep, always for others and not herself. The second part of the films is the silent one, the most poetic, and the most beautiful, simply titled, Paradise; The times is the days of Portuguese Colonialism in Africa, the style of the film is that of silent cinema; no dialogue, the music of the soundtracks is a perfect silent film accommodation, those long dissolve from one shot into another, silent acting, no title cards, the only sound are the narrative of Gian Luca, minimalist  experimental use of sound, beautiful, lyrical black and white imagery, long tracking shots. Miguel Gomes is a poet of filmmaker, every word of Gian Luca describing his youth is in prose; the story of young and beautiful Aurora, in a  tragic love affair, from strangers, to lovers, to the story of two lovers on the run, then distance tragic lovers, in which two lover’s only communication now is lover letters; “If I curse the day I met you, it’s because it was followed by the one when we separated”, pure imagination is at work here, it is not circumstances, but the desire for a tragic ending that make the two lover separate forever, “And despite this love, never buried or defeated, I decided not to look for her”, Gian Luca Ventura is a coward of a characters, he neither can get what he desire, nor get away from it, he live in a times of indecision, as for young Aurora, she live, but with regrets, ” I have to exist, because the life I carry demands so”. Beautiful film.

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012) In his book, Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud write about the three thing that mankind never could escape from; The interaction with the society we live in, the interaction with other people, and our bodies, that is; sickness, old age and death. Amour is the story of  sickness, old age and death, the inescapable facts of life, and the interaction with each other, we rarely see the outside world, the only time we do, is when the husband and wife interact with other people from that outside world, we are stuck in a little apartment, with two people, two old people, the only thing they have is to reflect upon the past and the outside world via books, newspaper and radio (they don’t even have TV), but let us put aside Freud and the story of Amour, rather, let us talk about the style that make this film a meditating watch. If you look at the early silent films of the great Yasujiro Ozu, you will find it very stylish, many scenes in which the camera move, high angle, low angles shot, formal style of filmmaking that we rarely associate with Ozu, and if you look at early and middle Haneke, you find them also very stylish, especially 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, but with Amour, he is becoming almost  perfect in taking his style to the simplest, back into a formal style of filmmaking, almost to the silent era. Such style is needed for a film that take place inside a closed space of an apartment. Shooting in interior is always a challenge, for giving the limited space, the director does not have enough choice to maneuver the actor around or the camera, that is why the limit use of space is always a challenge for a good Mise en scène; Hanaek solve is brilliantly, going back to the style of Ozu, by using the furniture, doorways, the walls and the characters to block and change the size of the shot within one camera setup; the two old coupe walk into the house, the camera is setup to a two cowboy medium shot, as they go to hang their cloth, away from the camera, the shot become a two long full shot, even when the characters leave the space, he does not cut, but hold the shot. As for camera movement, the camera follow the behind characters in the corridor when in search of something, or to build up suspense, a little pans, a tilt,  to adjust the character’s position and framing, or to change the shot size, the same camera movement is repeated multiple times, giving an overall unity to the style in the film. At times, as the character leave the space, the camera stay, it is the off-screen sound that tell the viewer the present of the character within the frame. Most of the time, we observe the wife through the subject POV of the husband, almost a Hitchockaian use of the shots; we see the husband, he looks, shot of what he see, back to his reaction, at times, his POV shot become an objective of an establishing shot, as he walk into the frame. Perhaps simpler in style, is the coverage shot; when the dialogue is not interesting, Hanake hold the establishing shot for a long time; when it is interesting; after  the establishing shot, he cut to two over-the-shoulder shots, back and forth, when it is emotional, it is back and forth medium close up shot of each, couldn’t get simpler, but formal in style than that. You even have the pillow shots of Ozu, not as glamors, nor as poetic; still life shots of the interior of the apartment as transition from one sequence into another. As for the wide shots, there are very few, but when there is one, the space is used like a theatrical stage, characters spread out in one layer, the only time there is depth within the frame is when a character move toward or away from the camera, almost back to the early day of silent filmmaking, with one different; you got dialogue, sound effect and music in Amour, masterful.

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012) After more than a decade since his last feature film, Carax is back stronger than ever. Take a limousine ride around Paris with Monsieur Oscar on the back seat and Ciline driving, Carax’s a modern day Alphaville take on memory and reflection of cinema, watch it on the big screen, it is not made for TV or Computer screens, and if one has a strong memory of cinema, one will appreciate the genius of the film more. Carax’s most personal film to date is his love poem to cinema, to the past and the future of cinema, the beautiful past, and the future in which cinema become a CGI factory, but he does not reject the future, he only reflect upon it beauty; it is more glamorize to show the the technique of CGI than hiding it, but the emotion can’t be registered truthfully, the actor muse use stylized gestures and movement of the body, Denis Lavant’s dance in the room bring back memory of the ending of another film on the memory of cinema, Clair Denis’ Beau travail. Holy Motors is a combination of short films, each a tribute to a different cinema, it has one thing that many today’s film lack, less dialogue and more visual, cinema that once were cinema. Carax’s memory of cinema reflect upon copying of imagery and characters; the old man from the end of 2001, the factories from Ozu, roads of future from Solaris, Godzilla, the hair from Psycho, sound from Alphaville, Resnai’s Last Years at Marianbad, Rivett’es Umerbela of Chernburg, Hollywood’s musical, perhaps no other is as clear as Edith Scob at the end of the film becoming Christiane again, she is at home once again as if in Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, putting the mask on, “I’m coming home”. The one other film that I could think of with its structure being the memory of cinema is Pedro Costa’s O Sangue. Even the acting in each sequence is in line with cinema’s progress; the Monsieur Merde sequence is pure expressionism, re-carnation of Jekyll and Hyde, Nosferatu, a mix of King Kong and Hunchback of Noter Dame, Lon Chaney alive again, heavy orchestra of silent music on top of it, you even got the iris closing in on the details, Monsieur Merde’s behavior lack logic, like a silent character, he knocks down a blind man out of dozen who sees. What is more classical than a woman lightening a cigarette for a man and vise-verse, the old cliché of Hollywood, the beauty light it for the beast, Monsieur Merde break down cultural perception of what is normal, to him it is normal of a having Hijab fashion show. The file in the car that tell Monsieur Oscar his next assignment is a movie script, the car is like a transition from one sequence into another, moving in time, to the past, to the future, in which even the graves, even when one is dead, one express, “Visit my Website”, the address on the stones. The film open with an audience being hypnotized, they are watching a film, cinema as a hypnotizer, the man is born out of a projector room. You even have an intermission in the middle of the film, Even music is present within its historical content, masterful build up of instrumental music from the basic. Characters are re-creation of a creation, they take over each other’s personality, the murder scene; the murder take over the identity of the victim and vise versa. When the director ask Monsieur Oscar if he still enjoy his job, that of acting, “I’m asking, because some of us think you have looked a bit tired recently. Some don’t believe what they are watching recently” Oscar answers, “I miss the cameras. They used to be heavier than us, then they became smaller than our heads, no you can’t see them at all. So sometimes I too find it hard to believe in it all”, as cinema used to be visual, nowadays they only need microphones than cameras. The director ask again, “Isn’t this nostalgia a bit sentimental?”, It is indeed, if one truly love what cinema once where, one can’t help feeling nostalgic in reflecting upon it. Denis Lavant is a great actor, he act with his body, his eyes, with gestures only, a twisting in the eyes, a move of the shoulder, a perfect classic actor, very few of them around nowadays. He is perfect as Monsieur Oscar, an actor stuck on the screen, each day is a new one but its actions is one that is rehearsed, each night a different house become his home, different characters his wife, lovers, children, friends and enemies, be it real, surreal, abstract, or even plain pure fantasy, he is a man with 11 lives and counting, he is cinema’s creation and nothing more, the most beautiful and deceptive of a manipulative in emotions of all arts. A Masterpiece.

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012)

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012)

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012) Ah, the good old love melodrama of the 50s is back with a touch of Davies; the overexposed lightbulb, the rainy pavement, the flashbacks, the good oldies pop music playing on the background and those characters with those lines that are only possible in the realm of the fictions, that can become laughable if it were not at the hand of masters like Sirk, Fassbinder and in the case of The Deep Blue Sea, Terence Davies. Marvelous, in class with the classic melodramas.

In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012)

In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012)

In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012) There is an honesty in examining relationships in Sang-soo Hong’s film, that very few filmmakers manages to achieve, like Eric Rohmer, he is a distance observer, never forcing himself as a director in manipulating character’s behavior, same is true with the dialogues, it flows out of the character’s mouth and not a written script, improvisation is the trick, like his use of zoom in and out, he examine these relationship, be it a husband to a wife, or total strangers to each with little details, combined with a improvisation in the dialogue, and the acting, that is almost as gestural as in a Tati film, it create comic scenes in which the adults behave like children, even their cruel behaviors are funny, they live in a world of behaving, one person can have multiple identity from once scene into another, that is why Anne (Isabelle Huppert) play different role with each character and within each scene, at times cruel, at time gentle, it is no surprise that she play different role in the film, repeating of the same scenes and characters, but each time differently; she is an actor first, playing a role in “please be my friend” game, as she is chased by two men, she is running away from both, but respectfully, then she is a rich wife, having an affair, playing “follow the leader”, that is, in her imagination, the third one, is a combination of the two, the quite one and the imaginative one, that is where the best scene occurs; Anne having a rhetorical and dialectical conversation with a monk that define what the film is all about. Priceless.

Caesar Must Die aka Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, 2012)

Caesar Must Die aka Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, 2012)

Caesar Must Die aka Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, 2012) Shakespeare and Cinema are very fond of each other, but it takes great courage for a a filmmaker to renew and adopt Shakespeare to fit the time, so it is with Caesar Must Die, one of the best adaptation of any Shakespearian play that I have seen in a long time, with its simplicity in use of sets, non-professional actors and realism that put to shame the over-the-top and glamorous Hollywood and Kenneth Branagh’s recent adaptation of Shakespeare. The intertwining of documentary, fiction and a play within a play in not something new, but to have it done in a real prison with real inmate, that is something special. The black and white cinematography, the interior of the prison, the raw faces, the amateur performance, it all give a realism in brutality to the film that fit best Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar, it give it a truth that one rarely find in a play, as the performance on the stage became as real as the one on the screen.

The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach, 2012)

The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach, 2012)

The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach, 2012) Loach’s cinema can be cruel, but comically cruel, his masterpiece, Kes, is a tragedy in comedy with not a so happy ending, The Angels’ Share is also a tragedy in comedy but with a happy ending, something that Loach rarely does in his films. When in 2011, during the UK youth riot, the debate raged on, on both side, some condemning the young “thugs”, others defending the “dissatisfied youth”, but none wanted to understand these youth, but Loach understand them, and The Angels’ Share is an examination of the inner-city youths, be it a group of young Glaswegian, the story could have been in London or any other town in any other place, they live in a world in which they struggle to find a decent place to sleep, but a world, in which the price of a bottle of whiskey can go as high a £100,000, in a world in which social appearance and character’s one’s past mistake can hunt one forever.

Great ones from 2011, that I watched in 2012:

Faust (Alexander Sokurov, 2011)

Faust (Alexander Sokurov, 2011)

Faust (Alexander Sokurov, 2011) There are many film adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, the best that I had seen had always been F.W Murnau’s Faust, for it is a fantasy adaptation with no desire to be realistic or true to the book. Sokurov’s Faust is equal in power to that of Murnau, it is a film that only a philosopher of a poet could make it, as complex in nature as Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Sokurov create a world that on the surface seems like a realistic portrayal of the world of Faust, but underneath, it is a metaphor for Faust’s inner dilemmas, so what you end up seeing on the screen, is a world of two, always in conflict with each other, that of the reality and that of the poetic, the outer illusion of what you see, and the inner conflict within it, the battle instead of good and evil become that of the inner and the outer realization of a metaphorical world within Faust, it is a majestic and hypnotizing watch.

Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2011)

Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2011)

Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2011) Zvyagintsev tell a story like a novelist, if he had been born centuries earlier, before the age of cinema, he could have a masterful novelist, perhaps equal in psychology to Doestvosky and in detail to Turgenev. As much as the critics in the West tried their best to make a political film out of Elena, or to describe the world of the film as existing only in the streets of Moscow, it is not so, the streets, the characters and the houses could have been in any modern city of any country in today’s world, Zvyagintsev never been a political filmmaker, rather, his films are an examination of characters in relationship with each others, on the outside pretending to be something, but deep down, they are in turmoil; in The Return, is an examination of a Father’s inner turmoil relationship with his two sons, in The Banishment, a husband to a wife. In Elena, the inner turmoil of the wife is not only psychologically driven by her world being inferior to that of her husband, for she comes from a proletariat class compared to her rich husband, but there is also a mysterious motive of love in her, the love for her children and also the hatred for her husband’s daughter that drive her to commit murder. It is a murder that arises from inner motive hidden inside her, she is not Raskolnikov, she has never imagined, nor planned to murder, it arises from a moment of passion, a split second decision that she think is an act of righteousness. We never truly understand the protagonist in Elena, she remain a mystery, psychologically, we only understand her through her little actions; cleaning the room, cooking, watching TV, shopping, walking, taking a train, it is these little action that show her characters, same is true for the Father in The Return, and the husband in The Banishment, they are mysterious characters that we get a short glimpse of in the cinema cinema of Zvyagintsev, a world with its look dominated by the colors of blue, yellow and white, beautiful cinema. Masterpiece.

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011) I have to make a confession; I cried at the end of Le Havre, the miracles of a wife being resurrected, a cheery tree blooming in mid winter is Kaurismaki’s optimistic vision of the cinematic possibility of a miracle, if Chaplin has made a film today, it would had been Le Havre, for the heart and the deep rooted sentimentality of the film is pure Chaplin, one good deed from one person can have a profound impact on others, and that is why, the ending of Le Havre is as powerful as that of City Light, we as the viewer are faced with truth that is hard to accept, but we know it is possible, the most optimistic work of Kaurismaki do date.

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011)

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011)

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011) Two years ago, Belcourt Theatre in Nashville showed 35mm print of Tarr’s Satantango, more than six hours in length, it was shown in two part with a break for lunch between, it was a great experience in watching one of the best  film of the 90s. As for The Turin Horse, I had if for more than a year, a Digital copy of the film, but I did not watch it , for I waited for a the blue-ray version of the film to appear, because it is a sin to watch Tarr film in a low quality version, or on a computer screen, you miss the beauty of it. The Turin Horse is supposedly Tarr’s last film, and no, it is not a story about Nietzsche, and neither it is it of a horse, like the big whale in Werckmeister Harmonies, the horse is only a character that our main characters evolve around it, almost like a pivot, it is the story of a Father and the Daughter, but more than anything, The Turin Horse is an examination of little details that made life once life, little action define the Father and the Daughter; cutting of the wood, building the fire, cooking the potato, washing the cloth, removing the skin of the hot potato, eating the potato, drying up the cloth, getting water from the well, getting dressed, getting undressed, loading a cart, and unloading it, feeding the horse, etc. There is also the action of doing nothing, just sitting and staring, it is a beautiful artificial world that only cinema can produce, and Tarr is bold about it; it is windy, everything in the frame move by the wind, but the trees on the background are not moving, artificial, those long tracking shot that seem to be pushing the character away from us, yet, always following them, beautiful black and white cinematography, the wide room that is a cinematic stage, every prop in it place to utmost detail, like Dryer’s composition, very clean. There is purity in the look of the film, either black, or white, with a light shade of gray. Everything has weight of equal significant in a Tarr film; a character walking, talking, doing something, doing nothing, his face to us, his back to us, a room full of characters or an empty room, a leaf flying amid the wind, it is all equally giving the same time and space on the screen, he is not as a perfectionist as Hitchcock when telling a story, he is rather imperfect of storyteller, but such a lack of perfection in the narrative make his films ever more a meditative watch that leave you with lasting impression, just as Hitchcock always let the viewer knows as much as the characters in the film or even more, when characters look, we see what they are looking at, or a times, we see things that the character never see, we are ahead of them, Tarr does the opposite, we never know what the characters know, let alone know more than them, when they look, they stare, but we never know what they are staring at, we have to guess it, but they are both master filmmakers, because they use the tool of the trade to the extreme edge, in doing so, they reach perfection. What emotion the characters lack in the film is made up for it by the music of Vig Mihaly, almost a silent film orchestral music accommodating the film. As for the dialogue, there are few, for the Father and Daughter in the film live by action and not dialogue, when a visitor talk about the philosophical edge of doom, after a long talk, the Father simply tells him, “Come on, that is rubbish”, words mean nothing to them, only action.  Tarr should have been making film in the 50s and 60s, in the days when the giants of cinema made their best, he belong with them, with; Bresson, Bunuel, Ozu, Bergman, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ford, Hawks, Welles, Ray, Dreyer, Antonioni, etc. Tarr’s last film, his farewell to cinema is a beautiful one, and he shall be missed.

Drive (Nicholas Winding, 2011)

Drive (Nicholas Winding, 2011)

Drive (Nicholas Winding, 2011) What makes Drive such a thrilling watch comes down to its smart combination of genres and styles, characters right out of American cinema of 70s, story of a loner out of European cinema of 60s, a musical soundtrack of 80, mix it with the stylish influence of Wong Kar Wai, combine all that with a tragic Greek play rather than a story, and in Drive you get a thrilling watch, despite the few flows in the film in which the violent is stretched to the limit, it is one to watch.

Another Earth (Mike Cahill, 2011)

Another Earth (Mike Cahill, 2011)


Another Earth
(Mike Cahill, 2011) Well, now you know what it is like to mash together Stanley Kubrick and Krzysztof Kieslowski, you get Another Earth, with its psychological power to grab the viewer into a tale of guilt and redemption mashed into a science-fiction genre with masterfully staged scenes that are equal in power to 2001: A Space odyssey, it has been a while that a film could move a viewer into the edge of wonder watching a scene so powerful and other worldly as the first contact scene between this Earth with Earth 2 in Another Earth, equally powerful to that of Hal 9000 in 2001. For a small budget film, produced, directed, acted, edited and shot with only a handful staff, it is a truly a wonder film to watch, emotionally powerful as it is intellectually manipulative that put to shame a million time a big-budget film like Melancholia. Another Earth is not to be missed.

Meeks Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2011)

Meeks Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2011)

Meeks Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2011) It has been more than a decade that I had seen a Western so fresh, new and revisionist as Meeks Cutoff. One has to go back to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995), as the last great western. A genre never die, but a great film in a genre should always reinvent itself, and it takes Reichardt to do so. With a story-line that mix between Wellman’s Yellow Sky and Ford’s Wagon Masters, Reichardt add a new dimension to the story, that of knowing, asking questions at every turn, just like the history of the West, with its dark tragic past, its brutal treatment of the Native, the guilt of that history that is that nothing short of genocidal, always hidden, rarely questioned with it’s muddy historical accuracy, the film almost become a mediation into that history, a road taken with no end in sight, and the only vision is that of a Native Indian, in which we are unable to communicate, yet it lead us into that unknown territory.

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) Margaret is a film about guilt, the inability to face one’s guilt, one of the basic emotion of human, and the opening credit of the film set the tone for it; Tarrega’s lyrical music, Recuerdos de la Alhambra set to the slow motion of a crowd walking the street of NY, the camera is in search of a protagonist, one among the crowd, we find our protagonist, not on the street, but in a classroom, Lisa, a teenager becoming an adult, like all other teenager in the film, she is emotionally in turmoil, unstable, a snub, always arguing for the opposite view just for the sake of arguing, she love debating, love letting other people down, she have a prejudice and limited view of others, even racist when it comes to her view of Arabs and Muslims, she doesn’t like Californian, telling her father, “I don’t go for the Californian type”, as if all the Californian were the same, she even hate Opera, because she “don’t like that kind of singing”, she generalize everything, but she know nothing, she call people “strident” without knowing what the word itself means, if someone is kind to her, she think they want something from her, but if someone ignore her, she is attracted to them, she exchange the boy who is in love with her for a guy for a one night stand, she calculate all her moves, yet always end up in the wrong, a simple search for a cowboy hat bring ever lasting grief not upon herself only, but countless others, she become a different person. The bus incident is the heart of the film, everything in the film evolve around it, that is why it is shot so realistically compare to the the artificiality of other scenes, poor woman, she has been hit by a bus, at first she think she is dead, she is in shock, but when she realize she is dying, she does not want to go, it is hard to portray death, or the moment of dying, that is why the dialogue is so important between the woman dying and Lisa, it get the viewer’s empathy for the two of them, the only time that the viewer sympathize with Lisa, for seeing one dying in front of you is more shocking than hearing about it, when it is a stranger, it is less emotional, as one hear daily of many victims of war, famines, car crashes, murder, etc,  they are a mere number, but when face to face, they are human being, and not just a number, that is why others have a hard time relating to the incident as Lisa does, for grief is personal and comes from one experiencing it, she has a hard time herself dealing with it, because she has never cared for anybody or anything truthfully,  and those few caring emotional moment with the woman become a paradox for her, her action to erase that guilt for the rest of the film make it even hard for the viewer to sympathize with her, she becomes more of a despicable of a character, because she can’t face the reality in herself, she always pretending, full of fakery, but others see through her, and when they do, all she has to show, is anger, because she is incapable of loving, her mother is no better than her, she is an exact copy, she care more about the first day opening of her play than her daughter’s emotional turmoil, both selfish, caring only for oneself, and her father is another snob, every time he call her, he ask her about “the boyfriend situation”, dysfunctional family at its best, they are cold and heartless, and New York is also cold in the film, distance, and emotionless. The guilt of Lisa is what drive the film, because she was the cause of a death, that guilt make her to lie, not in order to save the driver from punishment, but as a small token of redemption for herself, but its no redemption as she find out, and being a snob, she want to find something to pass the guilt to, for she can’t face the reality within herself, of being guilty, of the inner punishment, she goes as far as to ask the driver to share her guilt equally if not more to lessen her burden, when she fails, she wash one guilt with another one, by wanting to punish the driver, to make him suffer her guilt, to take her responsibility,  that is her inner struggle that clashes with outer world, of being guilty and wanting to escape from it, she is annoying not only to everyone in the film, but also to the viewer. Lisa, she is evil, just as nobody in the film want to understand her, so it is with the viewer, she is one character that the viewer love to hate, one of the most despicable character of recent films, and when she lose, her breakdown of confessing to the guilt become a triumph for the viewer; watching the guilty pleasure of her downfall, as more guilt is added to what she suffers from already, at the end, it is the music of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman that closes the film, again the camera searches, this time on the stage, its camera searches among the crowd again, but it easily find Lisa, she is sitting there, she has become one of the crowd.

Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)

Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)

Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011) You may call Young Adult a modern day take on Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; Quixote is a middle aged woman, Mavis Gary, Panza being a former high school friend of her, now on crutches, and Dulcinea del Toboso is her former high school boyfriend whom she now chasing.  Mavis pretend to be a successful writer, when not busy writing stories for teenagers, she is watching TV, and the television is always on some reality show on teenagers, she still live in a world of of her high school days, but her friends, and her former town passed that stage many years ago, she take a journey back to her town, to get her former boyfriend back.  One of the best  scene in the film is when she driving around the town, looking for a decent place to eat dinner, as she looks, it gets worse, all she sees is KenTacoHut; KCF, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, and her face drops more into a dreary mood, shaking her head in disbelief.  She was once popular in her little town, in her high school, now living far away, in Minneapolis, she seem to belief that she is leading a fast life in a big city, think of others who are leading a normal life in her former small town as boring, she is a snob, or pretend to be one, she is all appearance, leading an empty life, even if she is a failure, she pretend otherwise, she is always faking it, never could face reality, even when in a bar, she pretend to be busy with her cellphone, typing gibberish, but deep inside, she wishes to be in their shoes. To her love is like in the movies, like The Graduate, she still listen to oldies music, she write for teenagers, she is still a teenager lost in the body and mind of a middle aged woman, so it is no wonder that she can’t expect the fact that the guy she was once in love with in high school is married now and has a child,  worse, she can’t imagine he would love his child and his wife, for she think, everyone is selfish like herself, she still think he is meant to be for her, as she shout, “Love conquers all”. She get ready for her date with the guy, put on her best dress, does her hair, manicure, massage, like a first date, but the guy live in a different world, after so many years, meeting again, he invite her to meet in a sport bar, he walk into the bar wearing his home dress, unshaven, sleepy, yet, she still want him, she talk to him romantically, repeat the same sentences she hear from teenager in the street. She star spying on him and his family life, with his old body from high school, both perfect as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; she is a Quixote who is always fantasizing, but Panza alway bring her back to reality, but despite being such a snob and liar, toward the end, like Quixote, you  can’t help feeling sorry for her, as her fantasy world become the cruel reality she has been running away from all her life, but as it turn out, her fantasy world might just as well be equal if not better than the reality of the people that live in at her small town pretending to be happy.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011) Watching We Need to Talk About Kevin feels like watching an experimental music video; from orchestral, to bluegrass, country, folks, pop, chorus, classic, rock, classic rock, to the great Lonnie Donegan and Buddy Holly,to Zen, back to bluegrass, with the most memorable of all the tracks being; Washington Phillip’ Mother’s Last Word To Her Son. Coming from Lynne Ramsay, a former photographer, the images in films are still photographs in motion, making the film a combination a dozen or so bits and pieces of experimental filmmaking; with tomatoes and red color being the pivot between the shots, be it tomatoes, catchup, Campbell tomato soup, or egg and tomato omelet, no kidding. It is a bizarre film on a dysfunctional family seemingly leading a normal life. The story of a woman that hate being a mother so much, that she prefer the sound of a drilling machine to that of her baby son crying, Kevin and her Mother seem to be competing as to which one of them is the most despised person in the film, like mother, like son. An arty version of The Omen in the examination of a hate relationship between a Mother and a Son, even the society, the people surrounding the two seem more abnormal than the two, but Kevin, spoiled brat, stand up above the rest, he has to be one of the most despicable character of recent films, yet, after committing the atrocities, he comes out into the spotlight, like a rock star, a decent portrayal of a society in love with violent.

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011) Alexander Payne set out in The Descendants to make a film about a character who is in a coma, suffering, yet, she is the one that causes the most pain upon the others, making her the most unattractive character in the film. Unlike the many heavy handed sentimental films about the same subject, common to the genre, at the end of The Descendants, Payne arrives at creating one of the most sentimental film of the last few years, for the characters are real three dimensional figures, they all have their faults, cruelty and inner most darkest desires, shown in the most cruelest and humors ways, that reminds one of the cinema of Fellini, but at the end, when the sentimentality arrives, they do care, and we do care, and it is those sincere moments of showing of caring produce an emotional ending to a dark film of a comedy, and we, as viewer, feel it, even if its a short glimpse.

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011) There is a short story by Anton Chekhov titled The Duel; in which the the main character in the story is in a relationship with a woman whom he care deeply about, but despise her even more, while eating lunch, he suddenly notice the way she is eating the food, he is displeased by her “white open neck and the little curls at the back of her head”, and a sudden hatred in despise arise him, at that second he recall Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “And he remembered that when Anna Karenina got tired of her husband, what she disliked most of all was his ears, and thought: ‘How true it is, how true!’”, and a feeling of contempt in him lead him to sympathize with those who kill their mistress, but he does not go that far, but Bernie does, poor Bernie; a man who everyone love, everyone want to be with, one that seem to be only capable of loving others before oneself, but end up with the one person (Shirley MacLaine is brilliant in the role of the cold, old, rich widow) who is incapable of love, and a split second  is enough for Bernie to act violently; that split second is seeing her chewing the food more that is take to be chewed at lunch table, that is the officially story of the film that everyone in the town love to tell; but can a man like that really exist?, or was he really a monster of an actor that managed to fool a small town and also fool the viewer, as the prosecutor puts it , “There is no doubt in my mind Bernie Tiede is a calculating evil actor”. The genius of the film is the script, the mashing of the holy and the absurd, when a character talk seriously, suddenly a punch line underline the seriousness in the dialogue, when Bernie is been integrated, he confess to the crime “I shot poor Mrs. Nugent four times. With the armadillo gun”, the Sheriff asks, “Then what?”, “Well, then the Lord called her Home”, or when one of her old lady friend try to disclaim the rumors that Bernie might have been a “queer”, because he wore sandals all the time, and he was not married; “Our Lord and Savior always wore sandals and he never married. And he had 12 disciples, and I don`t think any of them ever married. And you never heard anybody in the New Testament say that they was a bunch of queers”, but the genius of Linklater is to take the documentary genre and twist it to a degree that is still manipulative, not to to a degree of a mockumentary, but a fictional take on a narrative story of a  film that uses all the manipulative tool of a documentary; the direct interview, the  juxtaposition in imagery, newsreel tradition, take on mondo films, mixing of the experiential strand and the interview strand, to create a masterful film of a black comedy, with genuine realistic characters of a fictional creation. I lived in the South and I could pinpoint many of the character in the film as some that I have one encountered, and I couldn’t help but murmur to myself, “How true it is, how true!”

………………………………………………………………………………

Cinematic ocean is so deep that as you dive to it, you come upon gem after gem, here the precious gems that I discovered (re-discovered) the past year:

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925) I vividly recall the first time I watched The Big Parade; I checked the film out of the library, it was an old VHS tape, and from the first frame of the film to the last, I was glowed to the screen, for two hours, I did not move from my place, and when the scene came along of John Gilbert in the trenches captures the German soldier, he has already wounded him, for the first time he sees the face of his enemy, he want to kill him to revenge his friends, but he realize he is just a man like himself, and this realization only lead him to more contempt; he light a cigarette to the dying German solider, all the time, pushing his head back forth as if telling him, “You are just like me, why is that? Why should I kill you?”, as I watched that long take of the two of them in the trench, one dying at the hand of other, neither knowing why, nor on how to behave. I could not help repeating to myself loudly, “What a scene, what a genius Vidor is, what genius filmmaking”, and when the end scene came along; the son return, with one leg missing, the poor mother, old and gray, as they embrace each other, flashback over the scene of the son as little child taking his first step, I could not help being moved to the edge of tears, such beauty, honesty and truth in a film is hard to find in today’s cinema, and those battles scenes, even today, more than 80 years later, they are still among the most beautifully choreographed battles scenes ever to have been captured on the screen, they are like symphonies, beat by beat, they build up into a harmonic climax. Genius film.

By the Law aka Po zakonu (Lev Kuleshov, 1926)

By the Law aka Po zakonu (Lev Kuleshov, 1926)

By the Law aka Po zakonu (Lev Kuleshov, 1926) As a kid, I was madly in love with the world of Jack London, in cold winter nights, I used to read his works under a lamp or a candle light, what a great feeling it was, I must have read White Fang at least three times. The world of Jack London is exotic, but it is cold, not just the snowy landscape, but also the inner soul of his characters, he was not a writer who could write about the inner demons of his characters in such prose as Doestovsky or Turgenev, instead, he wrote naturalistically, using the landscape and the natural forces as a reflection of that souls, human struggle for survival against not only extreme natural forces, but also one another, even if escaping the law of society, man cannot escape the law of other men in condemnation, as it is in his short story, The Unexpected, in which By the Law is based upon. Even in the remote landscape of Yukon, human condemn others in the name of law and religion, in the hand of Kuleshov, Jack London’s story became a psychological struggle within the soul of three characters, the extreme natural forces in the background only awaken the demon in them more, into a point of becoming unbearable to tolerate one another, even there, Queen Victoria condemn men to death, the law of the jungle seem more tolerant than that of humanity, just under an hour in length, By the Law is among the best of silent Kuleshov.

The Holy Mountain (Leni Riefenstahl, 1926)

The Holy Mountain (Leni Riefenstahl, 1926)

The Holy Mountain (Leni Riefenstahl, 1926) All praise to Leni Riefenstahl as a film director, but what a lousy actor and a dancer she is in The Holy Mountain. What she lack in acting and dancing in the film is taken care of by the beautiful and lyrical cinematography in the film, what a beautiful film. The story of the sea, the mountain, the snow, add to them a triangular love affair and man’s conflict and harmony with nature. Cinema by nature is a medium that once took its inspiration at birth from theater, the horizontal space is what most directors like to photograph and stage their mes-en scene, but in The Holy Mountain, Riefenstahl does the opposite, everything seem to be photographed and composed vertically, even the depth staging is vertically stages, Riefenstahl goes to the extreme as to mask the frame into vertical lines, that is what give the unique beauty to the film. Not to be missed.

Thalassemia: Shadow of Death

Culture, Update & News

©KarzanKardoziI have seen many houses in my time, traveled many places, many cities, towns and villages since my childhood, and each time revisiting the places, I had noticed many changes in them, from tragic to that of joy, but one of the houses that had always kept a vivid memory in me, the changes in that  house, of the people in the house, has been so tragic, that just thinking of it make my heart heavy.

The house, or rather, the mud house that once were, is located in the upper northern part of the Shadala village, a 45 minute care ride from the city of Suliaimani now, but in the old days, it took half a day to reach it; the house with its mud roof, gray walls and big rooms looks upon the whole village as towering figure. The first time I visited the house was many years ago, I was a little kid of seven, I remember vividly playing Football on the roof of the house with other kids, every few minutes the ball would roll down into the ground, down into the village, across the streets, one of the us had to make the long journey of bringing the ball back.

Every summer, with my father, we would make a journey to Shadala village, for my grandmother was from the village, and most of my Father’s distance relative reside there. The house belonged to kak Ahmed, he was a distance cousin of my father. It was my first visit to the house, and I remembers it very distinctly.

©KarzanKardoziWhen we got to the house, my Father left me alone in a little room, as he went with kak Ahmed to visit the village, I sat in a corner, shy, not knowing what to do, until a little woman of forty, the wife of kaka Ahmed walked into the room, seeing me sitting alone, she shouted to his little son, who was playing outside, “Come and play with Haji Sharif’s son”. Everyone in the village, then, and even know, referred to me as “Haji Sharif’s Son”, for my father is almost like a cult figure among the people of the village.

Her son, Rejan, was of the same age as me, skinny with green eyes, he seemed fragile and pale, we became friend right away. He told me about a beehive they had, and being mischief of a boy, I wanted to see the hive, he took me to it, all the time telling me on the way not to touch it. I picked up a stick, into the hive, suddenly, bees everywhere, attacking, a few bite here and there, I started to cry as loud as possible, all the time, Rejan trying his best to comfort me, “It is nothing, look, I got bitten many times”, he took a handful of mud and put it on the places where I was bitten, comforting me, “It is nothing”

Five minute later I was sitting on a big soft carpet, eating lunch with the family. There were smell of freshly baked bread, goat milk and chess, sweet honey and hot tea. On the mud walls, hang three portraits; two young boys and a little girl, on the corner of the room, the mother was sewing little socks for Rejan, now and them, she would look at us with a smile.

After dinner, I could not help but whisper to my Father; as to whom the people in the pictures were? “They were the children of kaka Ahmed”, but as I looked across the room, there were only Rejan, his older brother, Ibrahim and younger sister, Sazan, and the pictures on the wall were not of them, “Where are they now”?, I whispered again to my father, “They are dead”, he whispered back to me.

On the way back home, my Father explained to me the tragic story of kak Ahmed; As a young man, he had married his cousin, and living in the countryside, the place lacked medical facility, and even in the cities back then, there were no such things as “screening tests” or “blood testing” nor “genetic testing” for newly weeded couple. The tragedy is that their blood did not match, whenever they had children, they’ll have thalassemia, an inherited disease occurring primarily among people of Mediterranean descent, that is caused by defective formation of part of the hemoglobin molecule, it cause in increasing numbers of red blood cells, the only cure is to have blood transfusions every month in order to keep the children alive. They had three children, and each of them died when they reached the age of 18, a painful slow death, for the multiple transfusions needed to sustain life lead to an iron overload throughout the tissues of the body and eventual destruction of the heart and other organs. But, they kept having children, hoping; at least one of them would be born healthy, but none were. Each month they had to have blood transfusion for the children, but even that was helpless, for by the time they reach the age of 18, they would die a slow painful death. “Will Rejan die when he is 18?”, I asked my father, he was silent for a while, then in a whisper, “God only knows”.  I felt desperate and sad, knowing that the young boy whom I had just become friend, so full of life, will die when he is 18, and no one could do anything about it.

Shadala in 2005

Shadala in 2005

I left for America few years later, forgetting all about Rejan. 11 years later after my first visit, I returned to the house again with my father, the same mud house, with the roof looking down on the village, as I entered the house I heard the same “Haji Sharif’s Son” echo through it, they recognized me at once, the mother kept looking at me, “You are grown so tall”, sadness in her voice, her green eyes full of sorrow, her hair was already getting grey. There was the same smell of freshly baked bread, goat milk and chess, sweet honey and hot tea, but yet, there was a change; beside the portrait of three children, hung a portrait of little Rejan, his death had occurred a year before. Reminiscences began, as I looked at the portrait; I recalled Rejan’s smiling face, and his ringing voice, comforting me when I was bitten by the bees, “It is nothing”. I had to walk out of the room, as I knew if I had stayed any longer, I would burst into tears. Maybe I reminded the mother of Rojan, or maybe she knew about my grief, for as I left the room, she began to shed tears, I could hear her crying.

At dinner, I sat beside Ibrahim, despite being older than Rojan, he had outlived him, he was 23, but he already looked like an old man; his face wrinkled, yellowish, with no color in his skin, yet, he was as cheerful as Rojan, laughing all the time in a ringing voice that reminded me of Rejan. His younger sister, Sazan also looked much older than her age; she also had beautiful green eyes, just like Rejan and her mother. Each month, they both needed new blood transfusion.  I looked at the mother on the corner, she was breast feeding a new baby, a new girl, kaka Ahmed kept saying that the Doctor had told them that his new girl needed no blood transfusion, was healthy to live a long life, but the doctor was not sure nor was kak Ahmed. When we drove home this time, I did not ask my father any question, we both kept silent.

Shadala in 2012

Shadala in 2012

A few days ago, once again, I visited the little house, alone this time; it was for the wedding of kaka Ahmed’s nephew, I had promised the groom to take picture at his wedding, and as I was busy taking pictures, a beautiful, green eyed little girl of 7 ran up to me, with her ringing voice, she shouted to me, “Are you Haji Sharif’s son?”, “Yes, I’m, and who you might be?”, “I’m Suzan”, “Well, Suzan khan, who is your father?”, “My Father is Ahmed?”. There it was, little Suzan, she had the same green eyes as that of Rejan, the same cheerful smile. “Can you take some picture of me? Please”. I took more than a dozen pictures of little Suzan, all the time a dreadful though in me kept growing, is she also sick? That evening, I went back to the house, no longer a mud house; a two story modern brick house, with all the modern convenience furniture decorating the place. Walking to the room, I saw the mother, she was sitting on a sofa sewing, the television was on, little Suzan was watching a cartoon of Tom and Jerry, on seeing me, the mother stood, “Haji Sharif’s Son”, her hairs all gray now, she was already an old woman.

©KarzaKardoziI sat beside kaka Ahmed at dinner, the room was crowded, many people from the wedding party coming in and going out of the room, laughter and cheerful smiles. I had the burning desire to ask kak Ahmed about little Suzan, was she was sick or not? but I dared not too. Looking at the portraits on the wall, there were now seven pictures, beside Rejan, there were also Ibrahim and Sazan and another little girl that I did not recognize. Seeing me observing the pictures, kaka Ahmed asked, “You were friend with Rejan and Ibrahim?”, “Yes, I was”

 I felt uncomfortable, and trying to change the subject, I asked him, “I didn’t know Suzan was your daughter, I took some great pictures of her at the weeding, from whom did she get such beautiful eyes?”, “From her Mother’s side of the family”, kaka Ahmed said with a smile, looking at her wife.

©KarzanKardoziI found him a cheerful man, always smiling, despite the fact that he had to live with  the agony of losing seven children. “You know, my little Rejan had the same eyes as hers, he was beautiful like her, and he was so smart, he had the brain of a grownup man. One time I took him to the city to get a blood transfusion, it was during the time of Iraq-Iran war, we went to all the civilian hospital in the city, none had any blood, and my little Rejan was already weak, he couldn’t walk, I had to carry him on my back, I feared for his life, and I became desperate, searching from one hospital to another, but he kept comforting me, ‘”we will find it daddy”’, he kept saying. I managed to get a piece of paper from a Doctor, allowing me to get blood from the military hospital in the city, back them, the Azadi park was an Iraqi military hospital. We had to walk an hour to get there, all the time carrying Rejan on my back, and he kept kissing me on the neck, ‘”we will find it daddy’”. When we got to the hospital, the place was like hell on earth, Iraqi choppers flying in and out, brining in the wounded and carrying out the dead, the road leading to the hospital was like a bloody river, red from blood of wounded and dead soldiers laying around. When I saw that, my knee gave in, I told Rejan that they will never give us blood with all the  wounded soldiers laying around, but he kept saying with a smile, ‘”we will find it daddy”’. I went to the head doctor in the hospital, at first he refused to give us the blood, but when he saw Rejan, his heart got soften, he took us to a refrigerated room, and gave us two bags of blood. When he gave me the bags, I shed tears of joy, knowing my little Rejan will live another month. He was so full of life, always happy and smiling. He liked chocolate candies, and there was a shop in the village that sold it. One day he told me to buy him some chocolate candies, I took him to the shop, there were a group of Iranian Peshmerga forces stationed around the village back then, one of them was in the shop, when he saw Rejan, he started to hug him and kiss him, “I have a little son just like him in Iran”, Rejan reminded him of his son, he took him to the shop and told him to get anything he wanted, “I will pay for it”, but Rejan would not pick anything, he did not want him to pay, when he left the shop, then he picked the chocolate candies, and I paid for it. That is how he was; he always cared for others more than himself. A week after he died, when the same Peshmerga heard about his death, he came to our house, before he reached the front door, he went down on his knee, in the mud, shouting and crying, hitting his fist to the ground, I had to go and comfort him, “Come on now, you should be comforting me, I’m the one who have lost a son, but instead, I’m comforting you.” He was crying all day, telling me that he had seen many of his friend die in battle, but never cried like he did for Rejan, “Why did God take him away, he was so innocent, so full of life”, but God’s will is God’s will. Every Friday until the day he left back to Iran he visited his grave, I wish to know where he is now, he was a gentleman, Rejan reminded him of his son, that is why he was so taken by his death”

As I looked at Suzan, with her beautiful green eyes watching the television, I could not help but ask kak Ahmed the burning question, “Does Suzan also needs blood transfusion every month?”, “No, thanks God, she is healthy. God gave her to us healthy”. Just then, little Suzan, knowing we were talking about her, ran to his father, gave him a big hug, her little arms around his nick, I could see kak Ahmed’s eyes smiling with joy, “Do you know who this young man is who has come to our house?”, he asked her, pointing to me, “Yes, he is Haji Sharif’s son”, she whispered into his ear, they both laughed.

I could not bear it anymore, at that second, the tragedy and the joy of life combined were too much to bear, I picked up my camera and walked out of the room; into the cold, windy, dark night, and my heart was heavy.

The Most Beautiful: Expression in Time

Art and Literature, Culture, Music

The Most Beautiful: Expression in Time / True Heart Susie (D.W. Griffith, 1919)

Ah, the face, the expression of the face is a beautiful thing, captured in time, it is the most beautiful thing in the universe. You may say, what is expression of the face captured in time? It is those little split of second, when only the visual expression is capable of connecting the emotion that one is hiding, as time slows down into eternity, at that split of a second, language become secondary to the visual in connecting one’s deepest thoughts, almost like a magnate, both side are at the end of the receiving, giving and experiencing the same feeling.

Albert Camus (1947) © Henri Cartier-Bresson

If you ever been love, if you ever been out of love, meet the one you love most again, but unable to talk, you use expression in time in showing your emotion, you maybe be talking in language about Nuclear Physic, but your face express your emotion more than your deceiving language, as time slow down into eternity.  Ever been guilty of something and the person you talk to know your guilt, but both avoid talking about? or ever lied to someone and the one knows you are lying? or ever expressed a moment in which your life in a danger, you think you will die any second? as time stops, everything slow down, and you expression is lost in time, language in unable to express you emotion at those times, your memory became almost like a mirror reflecting the imagery in your expression, that is the most beautiful, because it is the only time in which one can tell that the ultimate truth in communication is reached.

The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (Charles Dawrin, 1872)

Charles Darwin wrote a brilliant small treatment on Expression of Emotion, not just in Human, but all other creatures, it is a recommend reading; The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)

Setsuko Hara in Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1954)
“When the emotion became too much to carry on silently…”

In life, those precious seconds passes in real time for an observer, stored in the subconscious, it is the task of Art to capture it, and above all the arts, it is Cinema that can capture that split second of magic of the human face so brilliantly, and no one, and I say it loudly, no one can capture that magnificent emotion like the great Japanese master, Yasujiro Ozu. The last 10 minute of Tokyo Story (1954) is a text book of capturing Human Expression in Time, such masterly in little calculation of gestures, actions, and movement of the face, just watch the great Setsuko Hara, how she avoid in language showing her true feeling, but the expression on her face communicate her emotion to the audience as if in whispers,  it is such a universal language in communication that you could read all her thoughts, and you can’t help yourself bursting into tears with her in the train, at the end of the film, as finally, the emotion became too much to carry on silently.

Boy carrying a wine bottle (Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954) ©Henri-cartier Bresson

After cinema, it is Photography that manages to freeze those tiny moment in time, to me, Henri-cartier Bresson comes to mind, once in high school I saw his famed photograph,  Boy carrying a wine bottle (Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954) in a textbook, and the happy expression on the  face of that little boy, carrying those wine bottles was stuck in my mind, so stuck, that even now, I could clearly recall his happiness; so pure, innocent and gentle, and that little girl behind him, mouth wide opened, clapping, eyes full of laughter as if saying, “oops, I’m in the picture”, the images spoke the language of emotion.

A Girl at a Window (Rembrandt, 1645)

Portrait of a Boy (Rembrandt, 1665-1660)

There is also Painting, the master of capturing expression in time is no other than the Dutch master, Rembrandt, at times, looking at his painting, one could hear sounds, language spoken in gazes of the eyes alone, or the little twisting the lips, whispers, communicating a world full of secretes.

Audrey Hepburn as Natasha in War and Peace (King Vidor, 1956)

Then comes language, describing that magic moments in literature and poem, for poetry, Poe is the master, for he speak in images. For literature, it is no other than my favorite author, Tolstoy. The moment that always comes to my mind is from War and Peace; when Natasha meet Prince Andrew, after so many years, she meet the wounded and dying Prince Andrew; he got little tome to live, and Natasha, well, Natasha is incapable of expressing in word what her emotion express:

War and Peace (King Vidor, 1956)

From War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, 1869)

“….and she saw Prince Andrew clearly with his arms outside the quilt, and such as she had always seen him.

He was the same as ever, but the feverish color of his face, his glittering eyes rapturously turned toward her, and especially his neck, delicate as a child’s, revealed by the turn-down collar of his shirt, gave him a peculiarly innocent, childlike look, such as she had never seen on him before. She went up to him and with a swift, flexible, youthful movement dropped on her knees.

He smiled and held out his hand to her.

Prince Andrew collected all his strength in an effort to recover his senses, he moved a little, and suddenly there was a ringing in his ears, a dimness in his eyes, and like a man plunged into water he lost consciousness. When he came to himself, Natasha, that same living Natasha whom of all people he most longed to love with this new pure divine love that had been revealed to him, was kneeling before him. He realized that it was the real living Natasha, and he was not surprised but quietly happy.

Natasha, motionless on her knees (she was unable to stir), with frightened eyes riveted on him, was restraining her sobs. Her face was pale and rigid. Only in the lower part of it something quivered.

Prince Andrew sighed with relief, smiled, and held out his hand.

‘You?’ he said. ‘How fortunate!’

With a rapid but careful movement Natasha drew nearer to him on her knees and, taking his hand carefully, bent her face over it and began kissing it, just touching it lightly with her lips.

‘Forgive me!’ she whispered, raising her head and glancing at him. ‘Forgive me!’
‘I love you,’ said Prince Andrew.
‘Forgive…!’
‘Forgive what?’ he asked.
‘Forgive me for what I ha-ve do-ne!’ faltered Natasha in a scarcely audible, broken whisper, and began kissing his hand more rapidly, just touching it with her lips.
‘I love you more, better than before,’ said Prince Andrew, lifting her face with his hand so as to look into her eyes.

Those eyes, filled with happy tears, gazed at him timidly, compassionately, and with joyous love. Natasha’s thin pale face, with its swollen lips, was more than plain, it was dreadful. But Prince Andrew did not see that, he saw her shining eyes which were beautiful.”

Sebastopol Sketches (Leo Tolstoy, 1855)

A year ago, I experienced  a near death incident, and for a split second in time, everything stopped, it is hard for word to describe that feeling when one’s life is in danger to someone who had not experienced it, for it is beyond the law of Science and Logic, time seems to stop; as I was running, in the span of a short time, covering no more than 8 feet, so many different images and emotion flashed one after the others in my mind. Let Tolstoy describe best that split seconds of expression in emotion as time stops, how masterful the following description is of the last 5 second in the life of Praskukhin, only 5 second in time, but eternity in emotion:

Siege of Sevastopol (Franz Roubaud, 1854–1855)

From Sebastopol Sketches (Leo Tolstoy, 1855)

Praskukhin, who was walking abreast with Mikhaylov, had just left Kaliigin, and was beginning to revive a little, as he approached a less dangerous spot, when he saw a flash gleaming brightly behind him, and heard the shout of the sentry,” Mortar!” and the words of one of the soldiers walking behind, ” It will fly straight to the bastion!”

Mikhaylov looked back. The bright point of the bomb had just stopped in his zenith, when by its position it was impossible to determine its direction. But this lasted only a moment: faster and faster, nearer and nearer, so that the sparks of the fuse could be seen and the fatal whistling could be heard, the bomb was settling down straight over the battalion.

” Lie down,” cried somebody’s voice.

Mikhaylov and Praskukhin lay down on the ground. Praskukhin closed his eyes and only heard the bomb’s thud against the hard earth near by. A second passed, — it seemed an hour, — and the bomb did not explode. Praskukhin was frightened: had he been cowardly for nothing? Maybe the bomb had fallen some distance off, and he only imagined that the fuse was hissing near him. He opened his eyes, and it gave him pleasure to see Mikhaylov lying near his very feet, motionless on the ground. Just then his eyes for a moment met the burning fuse of the bomb spinning around within three feet from him.

Cold terror, which excluded all other thoughts and feelings, — terror seized his whole being. He covered his face with his hands.

Another second passed, — a second during which the whole world of feeling, thoughts, hopes, and recollections flashed through his imagination.

” Whom will it kill, — me or Mikhaylov ? or both of us ? And if me, where will it be ? In the head, — then all is ended ; but if in the leg, they will amputate it, and I will insist on their giving me chloroform, and I may still live. And, maybe, it will kill only Mikhaylov: then I will tell how we walked abreast, and how I was bespattered by blood, when he was killed. No, it is nearer to me — I will be the man!”

Here he thought of the twelve roubles which he was owing Mikhaylov, and of another debt in St. Petersburg, which he ought to have paid long ago; the gipsy melody which he had sung the night before passed through his mind. The woman whom he had loved appeared before his imagination in a cap with lilac ribbons; he recalled a man who had insulted him five years before, and whose insult he had not yet avenged, — though inseparably from these and from a thousand other recollections, the feeling of the present, the expectation of death, did not leave him for an instant.

” Still it may not burst,” he thought, and, with desperate determination, wished to open his eyes. But at this moment, even while his hands were closed, his eyes were startled by a red fire; with a terrible crash something struck his chest; he ran, tripped over his sabre, which was dangling between his legs, and fell on his side.

“Thank God! I am only contused,” was his first thought, and he wanted to touch his breast with his hands; but his arms felt as though fettered, and his head was as if in a vise. In his eyes flashed the soldiers, and unconsciously he counted them: ” One, two, three, soldiers ; and the one with his overcoat rolled under him is an officer,” he thought. Then a lightning flashed in his eyes, and he was wondering what it was they were firing, — a mortar or a cannon. Then they fired again; and there were more soldiers: five, six, seven soldiers passed by. He was suddenly horrified at the thought that they might crush him. He wanted to cry out that he was bruised; but his mouth was so parched that his tongue cleaved to the palate, and terrible thirst tormented him.

He felt that it was wet near his breast; this sensation of wetness reminded him of water, and he wanted to drink even that which caused that moisture.

” I must have braised the flesh as I fell,” he thought, and, beginning more and more to succumb to the fear that the soldiers, who continued flashing past him, would crush him, he collected all his strength, and wanted to shout, ” Take me !” But instead of this he groaned so terribly that he was horrified at the sound he himself made. Then some red fires leaped in his eyes, — and he thought that the soldiers were putting rocks on him; the fires leaped about ever less frequently, and the rocks pressed him more and more. He made an effort to push aside the rocks, and he no longer saw, nor heard, nor thought, nor felt. He had been instantly killed by a splinter that had struck his chest.

Tristan and Isolde (Jean Delville, 1887)

How about Music, the most abstract of all the art, can it capture human expression in time? Yes it can, when music speak in images, Richard Wagner does it best, he uses silence in order to stretch the time, painting pictures in Music, those magnificent long chords in Tristan und Isolde, stretched into eternity.

Halabja Documentary: Nasrin’s Story

Culture, Politic, Recommended Reading

Nasrin and John Simpson

I’m currently working on a documentary with John Simpson for the BBC on the 25th anniversary of the chemical attack of Halabja in 1988. John was the first Western journalist to report on the attack, ignored by many in other Western media outlet, he flew on his own in an Iranian chopper from Tehran to Halabja.

Listen to BBC Radio 4 program below

Yesterday, we met Nasrin, one of the survivors the attack. She was 16 years old when it happened, she lost 17 relatives, including her  Mother, Father, two Brothers and two Sisters. She told us a tragic story of how she managed to escape the city, carrying with her three little children, two of them on her back, carrying the third one on her arms, by the time she managed to get to safety outside the town, the children and herself went blind from the effect of the mustard gas that was used.

She told us that she did not know that Sarin gas was also used, which made many of the victim lose their mind and consciousness, becoming delirious before they died, “I thought the children were sleeping on my shoulder and dreaming,  for the kept calling their mothers, one of them was repeating, ‘I haven’t done my homework, I have to finish my homework’, before they died, they keep saying that they can’t see anything, that everything was dark, and I thought they were talking in their sleep, I keep telling them to go back to sleep, “You will see when you wake up from the sleep, it won’t be dark anymore”

We interviewed her by the same cellar that many of the victims had died. She told us that the effect of the gas could still be felt, John and the cameraman, Duncan, went into the cellar, they stayed for a few minute, when they came out, with eyes red, running nose, they told us that there was a cat hanging on the wall, seem to have died recently from the effect of the gas. I myself felt the effect later, as I was standing by the entrance to the cellar, doing the interview. After 25 years of the attack, you could still feel it. Nasrin told us that once they put chickens into the cellar, in less than a week, all of them were dead. They no longer used the cellar,  for it was too dangerous. Later, when we asked an export about our running nose, red eyes and that tickle in our throat, he told us that were were exposed to a very light dose of mustard gas, and it was of no danger. He examined another cellar at a short distance from Nasrin’s house, and indeed found small dosage of mustard gas, he had a detecting devise with him. The effect lasted for about two hours, we were advised to wash our face, we went into a mosque and washed our faces, still, the headache lasted for another six hours.

Nasrin

This is Nasrin’s story, the way she told us, in her language ….

I was 16 years old when Halabja was attacked. All that day, on March 16, 1988, the town was under heavy artillery bombardment from the Iraqi army. Many people had taken shelters in basement and cellars. Like the days before, a war between Iraq and Iran was raging. Daily bombardment was taking place between the two countries. Halabja was a border town, close to the Iranian border. To shelter ourselves from the bombs, daily, we would take refuge in cellars and basements. On that day, we thought it would be a usual day of bombing, we had no knowledge that a catastrophe would take place. We came down to this cellar, which belong to my family. My own house was at a distance from here. I was not the only one to take refuge here, I could say that there were more than 300 people who where gathered in the cellar; relative, neighbors and strangers. We took shelter here waiting to see what would happen. The place was crowded, my mother told us to get some food prepared for those who were staying.

Earlier that day, in the morning, Iraqi choppers were flying over Halabja. I saw the choppers flying overhead. I was here in the garden. One of the chopper was flying very low overhead. I knew it was Iraqi chopper, because one of the door had an Iraqi flag on it. One of the crew by the door was taking pictures of us. This cellar was crowded, and the children didn’t realize the danger, I remember, the children waved at the choppers, waved to the pilot. The chopper kept going around, taking pictures, the flash of the camera was hitting us. Some of the people told us that we should take shelter, it was not normal that something like that was happening, we should be scared. We should all go down to the cellar, but the house was crowded and we could not fit everyone into the cellar.

Some had to stay up here to prepare the food and what was needed. I, myself, with two of my sisters were preparing the food for the people. It was around 11 AM, toward afternoon,we were ready to serve the food, ready to eat.  My uncle’s family came to our house and told us that it was very dangerous, we heard unfamiliar sound of bombs falling.  They told us that in the northern part of the city, around Sarai Halabja, heavy bombs were falling, we could hear the sound, and the grounds was shaking under our feet.


Then, I heard a sound that was unfamiliar to me, I never had heard such a sound before, sound of a bomb falling to the ground near our house. Suddenly, the cellar became dusty,  heavy smoke filled the place.  I ran out of the cellar. Because there was no water and no electricity, we had brought up the water from the well  to use it. When I came up, I saw the water, it was black, what look liked black powder covered the water. The food plates that were prepared for lunch was covered with what looked like black ashes. We had birds, partridges in our  garden, they were jumping up and down. I picked one of them from under the trees. They were dying, trying to take their last flight, taking their last breath. I didn’t know what was happening, I told my brother about it, he told me, “Nasrin, leave them, come down to the cellar”. I went down to the cellar, everyone in the cellar had red eyes, they were vomiting.

Before the bombs had fallen, some of the people from the cellar went outside to a field across from the house. When they had seen the smoke and the bomb falling, some of them came back to help us, one of them was my husband. When he came to the cellar, he shouted , “For God sake, come outside, we have been attacked by chemical weapons”. At that time, he was a doctor at the military hospital. He was trained on chemical warfare and the use of gas masks. He was aware of what precaution to take.  He told us that Halabja is under Chemical attack, that the smoke was that of a chemical weapon. When we came up from the cellar, we notice that our place had a different smell from the one across the street. The wind was coming upward, bringing the smell here, you could notice by the smell that the air was poisonous.

As I mentioned, because of the daily artillery attacks, we never predicted a chemical attack. When we came out, we tried to escape, to get way from Halabja. The gas smelled like that of a rotten eggs, apples, from times to times, the smell would change. Apple, other time a rotten smell. We looked for a car, we didn’t have one ourselves, we tried to find one and take the people away. We couldn’t find any car. One of the man who was in the cellar had a tractor. He told us that he would bring his tractor and take away the children, old people and those who were severely wounded.

We put the old people and the children into the tractor. Some of us went with them to help, myself, my brother, Luqman, the wife of the driver of the tractor and a few others, we went along, the tractor was crowded. It was getting late, toward evening when we started to leave. We had plan to go outside Halabja, to Sarkani Tawera, to stay there and see what would happen to Halabja. We never expected to leave Halabja, we had plan  to go to the edge of the town, hoping to return once the attack was over. When we went up toward the northern part of the town, a bomb hit the road, the driver had to make a turn. I saw that many people were laying on the roads, I couldn’t believe that they were all dead. I thought they were asleep, or had walked in their sleep to that place. It was not just one or two person, there were so many, they all looked asleep, no wounds or blood on them. At first when we saw few of the bodies, you could imagine they were dead, but when you saw so many of them, on the road, laying down there, you couldn’t believe they were all dead, it was hard to believe.


When we escaped, just outside of the town, the driver of the tractor, because of the effect of the gas could not drive anymore, he could not concentrate, as if losing his mind, he told us that he could not drive anymore, the engine of the tractor turned off, he tried hard to start it again, but he could not. We had no choice but to get off. By now it was dark, it was nighttime. At that place where the tractor broke down, we had an Old Man with us by the name of Hama Khan, to this day, we don’t know what happened to him, he was lost. We had a plan to meet my Mom, my Dad, my brothers, sisters and my cousins in Sarkani Tawera, because of that, everyone in the tractor wanted to go to that place to meet our relative again.  We were not familiar as to where we were at, because it was dark and we were in a desperate situation. We had planned to save the children in the tractor, each person would carry two children, one on the back, and holding the other in our arms. Then, we took on the road, to escape, but we we could not find the place, we couldn’t. Someone came and asked us as to where we were heading? We told him that we were heading to Sarakani Tawera. He told us that we would not make it to Sarkani Tawera. He told us to go toward the lights that we could see in the dark, a place called Ababaili.


We took the road toward the light, a village called Ababaili. Once we got there, we saw that the place was deserted, it was also attacked. Because we were in a desperate situation, and on the road the children kept vomiting, and they were walking in their sleeps. I didn’t know what was happening, on the road, some of them kept saying, “Sister, I have to do my homework”. I didn’t know that the nerve gas had made the children lose their mind. I thought that they were asleep and were dreaming, talking in their sleep. No matter what, we had to carry them with us. We arrived in Ababaili, there was a house, half destroyed. We tried to get inside, on the other side, a door was open. We called out to the owner to come out, we didn’t know it was empty. There was nobody in the house, I told the other that we have no choice but to go inside and take refuge until next day.

When went inside the house, you could tell the place was crowded before, there were signs of life. We went into a room, all tired, wounded and in pain. We had come by the road, with the children, as if walking in a sleep, vomiting all the way, tired and confused. We put down the children in a room, they crawled to a corner. I went searching to get the children something to eat. I looked around, I could not find any food ready to eat. I opened a top of a container, it had milk in it. I tried to get the milk ready for the children. I could hear one of them shouting, “My eyes, I can’t  see, I’m blind”, I thought that she was exhausted and wanted to sleep, that is why she was saying, “I’m blind”. Another one shouted that he was also blind, then, everyone kept shouting that they were blind. They kept asking me how I could see? I told them, trying to comfort them; “No, you all are tired and sleepy, you are not blind”, I didn’t know what was happening. When I was about to warm up the milk, it didn’t take long, I went blind also. I sat down on, crawled into the room, joined the others, and from that moment on, I lost consciences.

Hawraman, Ashna and Awesar

There were nobody around to help us. Next morning, when my family had arrived at the place that we were supposed to meet, they could not find us. My husband started to search for us, he had looked everywhere, asked around. He had visited the Mosque in the town, and they had told him that there were some people in that house. When he found us, he thought that we were all dead, he came into the room crying. My brother, Luqman shouted to him that we were not dead, that we were alive, but all blind, we could not see anything. He took our hand, took each of us to the Mosque. He washed our eyes and face. Told us that this had happened to all the people in Halabja, we were not the only ones, that we had no choice but to escape to Iran.

After all the suffering in the hospital, and living in Iranian refugee camps, we always had a dream of coming back to our homeland, to return to our homes. After the death of all our relatives, all the suffering, we had no choice but to return to Iraqi Kurdistan again. We returned, the story of our return is as tragic as the attack on Halabja, it will take along time to tell it.

This is Halabja. This house is not the only example, in many places of Halabja, the same weapon was used. You see  all over Halabja, houses like this. We lived here for many years, now it is empty, it is empty because nobody want to come and live here. If you look closely into my eyes, you could see that I’m still wounded in the eyes. The wound that I have in my eyes is under constant doctor’s watch. I have lost my lungs, they no longer function. I have to get a surgery for my eyes in the future or I will go blind, there are many victims who had to get eye transplant because they were going blind.

Hawraman, Ashna and Awesar

Among the many who died in the cellar, from my family, I lost four of my sibling, two brothers and two sisters. Hawraman who was 8 years old, Ashna who was 10 years old, Wazera, who was 11 years old and Awesar who was 9 years old. I lost my Mom, my dad, and 17 other relatives. The final result that we got from hospitals,  22  victims from the cellar died in Iranian hospitals.

Every one want to live, to continue on living. But, what kind of life? A life without pain. We, in Halabja, after all that had happened to us, 25 years later, our suffering and pain still goes on. Everyday we live the day of the attack, because we are wounded, psychologically and physically, there are scars all over our bodies. The pain is still in our hearts, deep down, I suffer each second, remember that day on March 16, 1988, the day I lost everything that I cherished in life.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Here is also links to a few documentaries that I worked on in the past year:

Survivors of Iraqi Mass Graves aka One Thousand and One Apples (Taha Karimi) POST-PRODUCTION

Dress in Iraqi Kurdistan (Fulvia Alberti)
WATCH HERE

The Dark Side of Democracy in Iraqi Kurdistan (BBC)
WATCH HERE

Sulaimany Protest (Baudouin Koenig)
WATCH HERE

To Each a Season

Art and Literature, Recommended Reading

Four Seasons

As the Seasons change, so does my taste in reading, a taste that I developed from the early days of my boyhood, as I would lock myself in Winter to read and in Summer to be outdoor, observe. Nowadays when it comes to reading, I take on non-fiction works on Spring and Summer, and reading fictions on Autumn and Winter. Same is true when it comes to Film, I could only watch a Bergman, a Tarr, or a Tarkovksy film in Winter, the opposite is true for Ray, Hawks, Wilder and Peckinpah, they are for Summer viewing. As for Music, Spring and Summer are for Jazz, Techno and Rock, Autumn and Winter for the Classical music.

Spring by by Alexey Savrasov (1870s)

So, it is with this mood that I decided to take a shot at reading Classic Russian Literature this Autumn and Winter, the goal is (thanks to my e-book reader) to read and re-read the complete works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, and Ivan Turgenev. Putting aside their major novels (which I have read more than once), I have concluded that if I could read 150 page/per day (my e-book reader page, that is!), dedicate two hours of reading time a day, I could finish them off within a span of four month and a half. The reading is done chronologically, from the first to the last work of the author.

A Winter Road by Alexei Savrasov (1870s)

As I re-read these work; I could recall  images, emotion and even sound of the times that I once read the works. Take the short paragraph below from Tolstoy’s Boyhood, I read the work on a rainy winter day in Dalton, Georgia. I was so obsessed with Tolstoy’s description of his boyhood (for it seemed so familiar with that of mine), that I could not help, but re-reading that short paragraph more than a dozen times, and I kept saying to myself, “I could have written that.”

Summer Landscape with Windmills by Aleksey Savrasov (1859)

For you see, in my boyhood, , I too felt that; “Death awaited me at any hour and at any minute, and wondering how it was people had not seen this before me, I decided that man cannot be happy otherwise than by enjoying the present and not caring for the future“, but  I did not go and spend all my saving on “honey cakes”, rather, I spend them on a chewing gum that I was very fond of, for beside the gum, you would get a playing card of a Football player, each numbered to complete a set of collection. I spent all my money on the chewing gums; chewing them under the shadow of a tree one windy summer afternoon,  sitting there, matching the card’s number one after another, care free of the world, living the moment. Thinking of it now, I could still taste that chewing gums, they were the best I ever  had, and so many of them. As for the cards, I still have them, they are collector’s item now, a complete set of them, whenever I look at them, I remember that  summer afternoon, so care free, then.

Autumn Landscape with a Swampy River in the Moonlight by Aleksey Savrasov (1871)

Boyhood by Leo Tolstoy: Ch. XIX

BOYHOOD

People will hardly believe what the favorite and most constant subjects of my thoughts were during the period of my boyhood, — for they were incompatible with my age and station. But, according to my opinion, the in-compatibility between a man’s position and his moral activity is the safest token of truth.

In the course of the year, during which I led a solitary, concentrated moral life, all abstract thoughts of man’s destiny, of the future life, of the immortality of the soul presented themselves to my mind, and my weak childish reason tried with all the fever inexperience to elucidate those questions, whose proposition marks the highest degree the human min d can reach, but the solution of which is not given to it.

It seems to me that the human mind in its evolution passes in every separate individual over the same path on which it evolves during whole generations ; that the ideas which have served for the basis of distinct philosophical theories form inseparable parts of mind; and that every man has more or less clearly been conscious of them long before he knew of the existence of philosophical theories.

These ideas presented themselves to my mind with such clearness and precision that I even tried to apply them to life, imagining that I was the first who had discovered such great and useful truths.

At one time it occurred to me that happiness did not depend on external causes, but on our relation to them; that a man who is accustomed to bear suffering could not be unhappy. To accustom myself to endurance, I would hold for five minutes at a time the dictionaries of Tatishchev in my outstretched hands, though that caused me unspeakable pain, or I would go into the lumber-room and strike my bare back so painfully with a rope that the tears would involuntarily appear in my eyes.

At another time, I happened to think that death awaited me at any hour and at any minute, and wondering how it was people had not seen this before me, I decided that man cannot be happy otherwise than by enjoying the present and not caring for the future. Under the influence of this thought, I abandoned my lessons for two or three days, and did nothing but lie on my bed and enjoy myself reading some novel and eating honey cakes which I bought with my last money.

At another time, as I was standing at the blackboard and drawing various figures upon it with a piece of chalk, I was suddenly struck by the idea: Why is symmetry pleasant to the eye ? What is symmetry ? It is an implanted feeling, I answered myself. What is it based upon ? Is symmetry to be found in everything in life ? Not at all. Here is life, — and I drew an oval figure on the board. After life the soul passes into eternity; here is eternity, — and I drew, on one side of the figure, a line to the very edge of the board. Why is there no such line on the other side of the figure ? Equally, what kind of an eternity is that which is only on one side ? We have no doubt existed before this life, although we have lost the recollection of it.

This consideration, which then appeared extremely novel and clear to me, but the connection of which I can barely make out now, gave me extreme pleasure, and I took a sheet of paper and intended to put my idea down in writing; but such a mass of ideas suddenly burst upon me that I was compelled to get up and walk about the room. As I walked up to the window, my attention was drawn to the horse which a driver was hitching to a water-cart, and all my thoughts centered on the solution of the question, into what animal or man the soul of that horse would pass after her death. Just then Volodya crossed the room and, seeing that I was deep in thought, smiled. This smile was enough to make me understand that all I had been thinking about was the merest bosh.

I have told this memorable incident only to give the reader an idea what my reasoning were like.

By none of these philosophical considerations was I so carried away as by skepticism, which at one time led me to a condition bordering on insanity. I imagined that nothing existed in the whole world outside of me, that objects were no objects, but only images which appeared whenever I turned my attention to them, and that these images would immediately disappear when I no longer thought of them. In short, I held the conviction with Schelhng that objects do not exist, but only my relation to them. There were moments when, under the influence of this fixed idea, I reached such a degree of absurdity that I sometimes suddenly turned in the opposite direction, hoping to take nothingness by surprise, where I was not.

What a miserable, insignificant mainspring of moral activities the human mind is!

My feeble reason could not penetrate the impenetrable, and in the labor which transcended its power, I lost, one after another, those convictions which, for the happiness of my life, I ought never to have presumed to touch.

From all that heavy moral labor I carried away nothing but agility of mind, which weakened my will-power, and a habit of constant moral analysis, which destroyed the freshness of my feeling and the clearness of my understanding.

Abstract ideas are formed in consequence of a man’s ability to grasp, consciously, the condition of his soul at a certain moment, and to transfer it to his memory. My inclination for abstract reasoning so unnaturally developed my consciousness that frequently, when I began to think of the simplest thing, I fell into the inextricable circle of the analysis of my thoughts, and I no longer thought of the question which occupied my attention, but I thought of the fact that I thought. If I asked myself: Of what am I thinking ? I answered: I am thinking of thinking. And what am I thinking of now ? I am thinking of thinking that I am thinking, and so on. Keason was lost in empty speculation.

However, the philosophical discoveries which I made flattered my vanity very much: I frequently imagined myself a great man who was discovering new truths for the good of mankind, and I looked upon all other mortals with a proud consciousness of my dignity. But, strange to say, whenever I came in contact with these mortals, I grew timid, and the higher I placed myself in my own opinion, the less I was able to express the consciousness of my own dignity before others, and could not even get accustomed to not being ashamed of every simplest word and motion of mine.

One World at a Time

Art and Literature, Recommended Reading, Short Story

Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)

It has been reported of Thoreau, when he lay dying, his answer to all the talk of hereafter was , “one world at a time”, it is quote that equally could apply to Leo Tolstoy, when it comes to his views on life and religion.

The great Tolstoy that we now remember for his epics, Anna Karenina and War and Peace, was a moralist, a humanist who loved preaching about love of others, and Tolstoy’s real works, those close to his heart came later in his life, decades after his epic works, as he wrote simple short stories, many in forms of fables, to educate the newly freed serfs, the simple peasants living in the countryside, he gave up writing for the intellectuals, in order to write for the  mass.

Happiness

On his deathbed, the great Ivan Turgenev wrote Tolstoy a passionate letter; begging him to write another War and Peace, to get back to real writing, but Tolstoy never listened,  for about the year 1880, he buried himself in theology and the philosophy of religion, topics that he was obsessed with since his youth,  “I felt the need,” writes Tolstoy of his youthful period, “to be known and loved of all the world; to name my name, the sound of which would greatly impress everybody, so that they would troop round me and thank me for something”, that something was his moral teaching on life, love, and religion, the idea of founding a new, practical, earthly, dogmaless religion,  “a practical religion, not promising future bliss but giving bliss on earth.” All notions of immortality to Tolstoy was absurd, and his scheme in life was entirely to make men happy here and now, in the present moment; live now, not in the past, nor in the future.

“There is no greatness when there is not simplicity”

In What is Art?  Tolstoy went as far as refusing to label his early works as “works of art”,  he claim them as having no place among examples of good art, except for his late short works, considering them as an example of “universal art”. “‘The artist of the future will understand that to compose a fairy tale, a little song which will touch, a lullaby or a riddle which will entertain, a jest which will amuse, or to draw a sketch such as will delight dozens of generations or millions of children and adults, is incomparably more important and more fruitful than to compose a novel, or a symphony, or paint a picture, of the kind which diverts some members of the wealthy classes for a short time and is then for ever forgotten”

Leo Tolstoy

I will like to share with you two short stories from his late works, two of the best examples of Tolstoy’s  view on religions and life; in The Coffee-House of Surat, Tolstoy reject  all organized religion in favor of man’s individual spiritual belief, a simple tale, yet signify an examination of moral dilemmas that over centuries philosophers and scientist tried to prove or disprove; the existence of God and the meaning of God. Tolstoy was a spiritual man, not a religious one, he despised organized religions, and to him, spirituality and faith signified one word; love. Like a Sufi, he was always preaching and searching for  that little word, so you may say that the character of the Chinaman in the story, the student of Confucius is no other than Tolstoy himself preaching to us, the reader.

Love

In Three Questions, it is love of life, of the present moment, that Tolstoy is preaching about, not regret for the past, not hope for the future, nor search for happiness in hereafter. Live the moment the best you can, for you only live now. The character of the hermit in the story is a almost a nihilist, and his view;  a nihilist point of view in life; “Remember then: there is only one time that is important — Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power”. Live one world at a time, my friend.

Here is to wise Tolstoy:

A Humble Life

                                                   THREE QUESTIONS (1903)

IT once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his bodyguard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: ‘I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?’

The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.

‘You are tired,’ said the King, ‘let me take the spade and work awhile for you.’

‘Thanks!’ said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said:

‘Now rest awhile — and let me work a bit.’

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:

‘I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.’

‘Here comes some one running,’ said the hermit, ‘let us see who it is.’

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound. When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep — so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

‘Forgive me!’ said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.

‘I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,’ said the King.

‘You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!’

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

‘For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.’

‘You have already been answered!’ said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

‘How answered? What do you mean?’ asked the King.

‘Do you not see,’ replied the hermit. ‘If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important — Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!’

                                         THE COFFEE-HOUSE OF SURAT (1893)

IN the town of Surat, in India, was a coffee-house where many travellers and foreigners from all parts of the world met and conversed.

The Cinema of Nicholas Ray

Art and Literature, Film Diary, Film Review

And the cinema is Nicholas Ray

After watching Nicholas Ray’s Bitter Victory in 1958, a young French critic by the name of Jean-Luc Godard was moved so much by the film, that he declared; “There was theater (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray”

François Truffaut’s tribute to Ray in The 400 Blows (1959)

More than a half a century later, the name of Nicholas Ray is rarely mentioned with the other giants of cinema, few critics praise the man now that once the young French New Wave filmmakers admired him so much, he was one of the influence, a driving force of inspiration behind cinema’s greatest movement, that of the French New Wave. Looking at recent poll by Sight & Sound magazine, out of the top 50 films, not a single Ray in it. Truly, Nicholas Ray top the list of the forgotten giants of auteur cinema.

Nicholas Ray: A Forgotten Auteur

I had a chance to complete my viewing of Ray’s films last night. after watching his final experimental film, We Can’t Go Home Again (1972), here is a look back at my film diary for the man who’s cinema I adore:

They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948)

They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948) They Live by Night was  Ray’s first dive into cinema, and a what dive, one with a big splash, a splash that felt all the way in 1959, when Jean-Luc Godard made Breathless, a frontrunner to many films that followed, with the theme of two lovers on the run, two lovers doomed to eternity, full of giveaway moments and quotation that later many will copy into their own domains. “This boy, and this girl were never properly introduced to the world we live in”, so goes the introduction of the two lover.

Knock on Any Door (Nicholas Ray, 1949)

Knock on Any Door (Nicholas Ray, 1949) Humphrey Bogart’s first collaboration with Ray is a courtroom-melodrama film about juvenile delinquency, but at the hand of Ray, it become a personal film, with Ray’s favorite themes; Friendship between men is tested by circumstance out of their own reach, the lonely outcast character who’s fate is doomed from beginning, yet, he keep going ahead, full speed, to face that destiny of a rebel, Nick Romano said it best,  “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse”. Priceless.

A Woman’s Secret (Nicholas Ray, 1949)

A Woman’s Secret (Nicholas Ray, 1949) Made in the same year as Knock on Any Door, Ray’s adaptation of Baum’s Mortgage on Life  is among the only film in which Ray uses flashback to tell a story, more in the style of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the story of a singer accused an attempted murder out of jealousy. The battling of two woman, bigger than life, will take center stage a few years later in Johnny Guitar.

In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)

In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950) In a Lonely Place was my first encounter with Ray’s  cinema, and there it all began, my love with his films. Among the most honest examination of morality, a self-examination of a famed celebrity falling from grace. The second and final collaboration between Ray and Bogart is perhaps Bogey’s greatest  performance, and it is Ray’s most personal film,  one of the most truthful examination of joy and pain of a love relationship. With In a Lonely Place, the screenplay at the hand of Ray become nothing short of a book in proses, “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”

Born to Be Bad (Nicholas Ray, 1950)

Born to Be Bad (Nicholas Ray, 1950) Joan Fontaine put to shame even the Devil itself in Born to Be Bad, with a killer smile and a charm, she can make a fool out of anybody, as she does the audience and many poor suckers in the film. If there is such thing as the Coolest Evil Women, then it is Joan Fontaine in All About Eve, but in Born to Be Bad, she is  thousand time more of an evil, for she trick us with her charms, for we never know whither her emotions are sincere or is she faking it? She manages to destroy everything she comes near, with only a smile. Robert Ryan is being fooled into eternity, poor guy, he is hopeless in front of that beautiful face. One for the ages.

Flying Leathernecks (Nicholas Ray, 1951)

Flying Leathernecks (Nicholas Ray, 1951) It is unimaginable to think that the same man who made one of the greatest anti-war film, Bitter Victory, is the same man who has made Flying Leathernecks. After viewing Flying Leathernecks, you get an illusion that it was directed by its producer, Howard Hughes, rather than Ray, for the films is nothing but a love poem for the sky, John Wayne and Robert Ryan, with a group of men, taking to the sky, fighting with the Japanese, some making it back and some not, that is the story. Hughes loved flying and making aviation film, but unlike Wings (1927), Flying Leathernecks is a nothing but a disappointment lesson in flying.

On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1951)

On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1951) Ray always managed to get the best out of his actors, in On Dangerous Ground, Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan are at their peaks, as two lonely soul in search of a companion, each bounded by circumstances bigger than them, among the most lyrical of Ray’s film, it change paces from a noir film into a lyrical poem, thanks to the brilliant screenplay from A. I. Bezzerides; a cop is lost in a jungle of a a crowded city, yet, always alone, loneliness become an ego, a search into his own soul, to find a glimpse of hope in conquering one’s own madness, from hate to love, and he find the answer in a blind woman, hidden way in a remote countryside, away from the cruel world, as she touches his face, she is the only one who understand him, she tell him, “The city can be lonely too. Sometimes people who are never alone are the loneliest.”

The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 1952)

The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 1952) Ray’s first take on a Western was with no other than the bad boy of Hollywood, Robert Mitchum. On the surface, the film seem like an action packed rodeo film, but underneath, it is the story of a group of men and their women, with a dilemma to overcome; for the love of the game or for the love of the woman? The story of the returning of the prodigal son, with a tragic past, and not so much of a bright future.

Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)

Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954) Ray’s first color film is my favorite Western and by far one of my favorite film of all time, I must have watched a dozen or more times Johnny Guitar, to a point, that many of the memorable lines in the film is stamped in my brain, rarely a film has so many poetic dialogue in, “The name is Guitar, Johnny Guitar”,  the love scenes between Hayden and Crawford, “Tell me you love me as I love you”, she answer back, “I love you as you love me”, “Tell me that you have missed me as I have missed you”, “I have missed you as you have missed me”, the attack and the counter-attack in the dialogues, “How many men have you forgotten?”, “As many Women as you forgotten”. I once was asked; if I had a choice to take 10 films with me to a remote Island, what would those 10 film be? Without hesitation, I named the 10 films, among them was Johnny Guitar, for it is a film that one always get to back it, to watch its beauty and its charm, for it is cinema and nothing more.

Run for Cover (Nicholas Ray, 1955)

Run for Cover (Nicholas Ray, 1955) Ray’s follow up to Johnny Guitar is another masterful Western. James Cagney play a stranger with a dark past,  like all of Ray’s Western, he is a man of destiny, arriving  into a new town, at first minding his own business, but when he is pushed to the limit, then, he try to change the place with the gun, only to find that changes are hard to achieve. The film is more about the relationship between Cagney and his new young friend, Davey Bishop (John Derek), whom times and times let him down only to end up in tragic a showdown, that is both brutal and romantic, a typical Ray scene, irony triumph at the end. A film that challenges the mob attitude and the individual’s failure in the face of it.

Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)

Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) Ray’s most famous film, and one that made an icon of James Dean and the word “Rebel Without a Cause”, much have been written and said about Rebel Without a Cause, all praising. Ray’s first try into into the windscreen in CinemaScope is masterful, who can forget Dean’s red jacket? One of the most popular image of last century, Jim Stark, the first rebel, the first anti-hero of modern cinema.

Hot Blood (Nicholas Ray, 1956)

Hot Blood (Nicholas Ray, 1956) A charming and a funny film from the master. It might be one of the oddest film among his, but the themes are present that represent Ray’s cinema; A strong women, examination of a relationship between two friend, and love in the center of it. Shot mostly on sets in bright Technicolor, the film has many musical numbers, the plot reads like a play, set among the Romas. A film about keeping the way of  the tradition and welcoming  modernity, Jane Russell is beautiful beyond description, for Ray knows how to photograph his leading ladies, that is for sure.

Bigger than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956)

Bigger than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956) Bigger than Life, a metaphor for the American Dream, more than a half century later, it is still the most truthful examination of an American family, an examination from inside, from beneath the dining table, the smiles, the peaceful religious morals, the chasing of the American Dream, a dream that become a metaphor, a metaphor  in a pill, a Freudian psychoanalysis in a madness of chasing a falling dream. Ray’s use of space of the CinemaScope is taken to perfection once more. Who can forget Ed Avery’s shout back to his wife, as he is try to sacrifice his son like Issac: “But God stopped Abraham”, poor woman shouts, he grim at her, shouting back “God was Wrong”, so he declare.

The True Story of Jesse James (Nicholas Ray, 1957)

The True Story of Jesse James (Nicholas Ray, 1957) If you ever get a chance to watch Ray’s The True Story of Jesse James, watch it just for one reason; how masterfully Ray uses the widescreen to compose his frames, that reason alone is enough to get you back to watching the film time over time, the train robbery scene is among the most crafted use of space ever. What set out as an all out action film, soon become the story of a rise and downfall of a man who’s name still resonate with us, as that of a rebel with a cause.

Bitter Victory (Nicholas Ray, 1957)

Bitter Victory (Nicholas Ray, 1957)  My fifth time watching Bitter Victory and it always feels as if I have just discovered this masterpiece for the first time, “The Cinema is Nicholas Ray” that is what Godard said when he saw it for the first time, and I have to say I agree with that, watching this film for the millionth times will still tantalize you with its power and beauty. Bitter Victory is the greatest anti-war film ever to have been made, it feel like watching a nightmarish dream at times, and when the film is finished you are left with a feeling of having discovered something new. A modern film, the use of music is way ahead of its time, by creating a mood that fit the film perfectly, almost an experimental use of sound . Then there is the cinematography, gray and white are preferred over black, even the night scenes are light with huge projectors,  it is not realism that Ray is going for, but rather a modish representation of reality. The script is among the greatest, every line is perfect, you could take every single line and make a poetic quote out of it. “I killed the living, and I saved the dead”, “You have the Christian decency that forbids killing a dying man, but approves the work of the sharpshooter”. All of Ray’s film are beautifully scripted, Bitter Victory is among the best of them. Let us not forget the acting, it is brilliantly acted, with Richard Burton as the intellectual, nihilistic captain and Curd Jürgens as the coward, idealistic captain, he seem to represent the law and authority, the film is a struggle between the two, the war and the mission in the background is  a secondary plot. It is a universal film that tackle the issue of war in the most pessimist manner, seen through the eyes of Burton and Jurgens, its a struggle between ideas and the notions within those ideas, the noble and cruel struggle of ideas on the screen, the landscape is raw, the heat and the sand becomes characters themselves, gestures, gaze and emotion, the film is full of it. A film that is relevance today, more than ever, I will be coming back to it again and again, for I love this film.

Wind Across The Everglades (Nicholas Ray, 1958)

Wind Across The Everglades (Nicholas Ray, 1958) A battle between two souls rage on in Wind Across The Everglades, one man against another, both against Nature, a battle between Good and Evil, only, the battle it between two faces on the opposite side but of  the same coin, a thin border separate them morally, filmed on location in Everglades National Park, it is a beauty to watch.

Party Girl (Nicholas Ray, 1958)

Party Girl (Nicholas Ray, 1958) Nicholas Ray knew how to use the windscreen and color to tell a story like no others. Just watch Party Girl, shot mostly in interiors of studio sets, and yet, you never get bored of it. Nor do you get bored of the story that is been told countless time. You don’t get bored because of Ray’s direction. One of the best film about the Gangster era during the Great Depression. Instead of focusing on violent, gang war or historical facts, Party Girl is about relationship between the characters in the film, Ray never judge, he only shows. Every character in the film has their reason and their morals, they live by it, from the crook to the sane. Beautiful film.

The Savage Innocents (Nicholas Ray, 1960)

The Savage Innocents (Nicholas Ray, 1960) The Savage Innocents is a film to be treasure for eternity, adopted from Hans Rüesch’s novel, Top of the World,  it is a moral tale on modern age, told by Ray for an audience with imagination, the story of Inuk, an Eskimo hunter, who end up learning in the curliest way the way of the modern world, take a bow  to a master at his peak, to images of epic proportion and to a  story in simplest form, one to be treasured.

King of Kings (Nicholas Ray, 1961)

King of Kings (Nicholas Ray, 1961) Has there been any other director that had managed to use the Technicolor and the Wide Screen scope to such perfection as Nicolas Ray? There have been, but rarely any of them match the mastery of Ray, Bigger than Life and Savage Innocent are two testament of his genius, but also King of Kings, such a gorgeous film to watch. There have been countless films on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, none surpassing Pasolini’s The Gospel According of St.Mathew, but the one that has the most influence on the biblical films that followed, has to be Ray’s King of Kings, with one exception, Ray does his best to add element of conflict to the film outside New Testament, there are even lines from Shakespeare in the film, avoiding the supernatural and miracles, rather, concentrating on the man himself, watch the film if  only for the mastery of Ray’s use of Widescreen and Color if for nothing else, it is worth it.

55 Days at Peking (Nicholas Ray, 1963)

55 Days at Peking (Nicholas Ray, 1963) As much as a I admire Nicholas Ray, I have to say that he had made a bad film in 55 Days at Peking, least of my favorite of his films, and  one that put an end to his career, a complete reverse of Bitter Victory.

We Can’t Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray, 1972)

We Can’t Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray, 1972) It is hard to call We Can’t Go Home Again a Nicholas Ray film, the film was made under his supervision but with a group of student from SUNY Binghamton, living together in a commune and improvising on the set, confused story line is the narrative of the film, as for the look of it, not worthy of the mighty Ray. The making of the film is well documented in Nicholas Ray: Stranger Here Myself (1974), a short documentary portrait of a the master, he is like may characters in his films; silent, lonely and angry at the same time.

Chris Marker (1921-2012): Let the Image Speak

Art and Literature, Film Diary, Film Review

Chris Marker (1921-2012): Let the Image Speak

Here is to Chris Marker, another giant of French New Wave, who left us on the day of his birthday 😦

La Jetee: Remembering a Woman’s face

Here is to my first encounter with his cinema, to La Jetee (1962), “the story of a man who is marked by an image from his childhood”, that of the face of a Woman, rather, the split second of emotion in the face of a woman, La Jetee, among the front runners of being the first film of the French New Wave.

Vertigo and La Jetee: An Obsession

La Jetee can be called the little sister of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, among the fewest films to captures the spirit of Vertigo, that of  a man’s desire to create a woman in his own vision, to go back and recreate the memory of a past. What is  human memory? That is what La Jetee asks. Marker was obsessed with Vertigo, as his short essay on the film show, more of a love letter to the film than an essay.

Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (1999)

Marker’s lyrical tribute to Tarkovsky, Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (1999), is among the most lyrical and intelligent portrait of any filmmaker, a nostalgic tribute to a man on his last dying days become a meditation on life and death, a meditation in the cinema of Tarkovsky.

The Last Bolshevik (1992)

Then there is his long magical essay on the history of the Soviet Union, The Last Bolshevik (1992): Nostalgic, lyrical, poetic, raw and cynical, only a few word to describe Marker’s masterful essays on the giant of the early Soviet cinema, composed as a letter to Alexandre Medvedkine, he reflect on Eisenstein, Vertov, Pudovkin, Kuleshov and Alexander Dovzhenko, the history of the Soviet Union in span of two hour of tour de force.  A few years later, he would take a personal journey back into the history of France in Remembrance of Things to Come (2003).

A Grin Without a Cat (1977)

More than a filmmaker, Marker was a film essayist, his cinema conceit of exploring in little sentences of images; be it Kurosawa in AK (1985), the ever evolving nature of human memory in the technical age as in Sans Soleil (1983), in A Grin Without a Cat (1977), it is global political that take the center stage, it is his most pessimistic work and one that still resonate with its lesson on the many Revolutions that once made the promises, never to be kept.  All lead to nihilism.

Chris Marker

Chris Marker was everything; a poet, a writer, a photographer, a film director, multimedia artist, a designer, and film essayist. He was a true Artist.

So, here is to Chris Marker, and some of his portraits…. Let the Image Speak: