Category Archives: Film

Catch-up Photographs II

Here’s some more snaps, mostly from Pawn’s birthday.

From an exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood
From an exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood
V&A Museum of Childhood
V&A Museum of Childhood
V&A Museum of Childhood
V&A Museum of Childhood
V&A Museum of Childhood
V&A Museum of Childhood

Following the visit to Museum of Childhood, Pawn reprised a stroll up Cambridge Heath to Vyner Street, first taken a decade ago. Where once there were scads of art galleries and artist studios, now evidence exists of just a couple of each.

Artist studio on Vyner St. The door was open, and a friend of the artist, at work with a sanding block, invited me in.
A sign of the times, from Vyner St.
Creative graffiti along the roadway,

Last evening took Pawn and friend Miss R to dinner and a show, at Barbican. The show, as shown below, was works by composer Steve Reich, and a film, to a score by Reich, by Gerhardt Richter.

The first piece, Runner, was compelling and classic Reich. Richter’s film, with Reich’s score, was dense yet dreamy. It was like William Morris wallpaper was having illicit sex with an Egyptian scarab & a flapper’s beaded dress, in the eye of a kaleidoscope. You know what I mean. Like a huge oriental rug which just couldn’t decide how it should look, so keeps trying on new ones. Like that.

Manifesto! The Velvet Reunion!

As mentioned in an earlier post, this is the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, but it’s also the commemoration of the student uprising of 1974, a full 15 years earlier, and a communist crackdown which followed on the heels of that.

So I went to the National Gallery, and caught my tram, the number 17, suitably enough, on 17 Listopadu, (17 November) street, so named for the more somber commemorative event.

A plaque there reminds us, in English & Czech

This, combined with my early morning hectoring (see a couple of posts down), served to jog my brain’s connective tissues and I suddenly realized why there were no performances at area theatres, etc. this evening.  The Velvet Reunion is today!  That explains those temporary stages I saw being put up in Wenceslas Square yesterday!

Doh!

So I caught my tram up to the Trade Fair Palace, which houses the more modern portion of the Czech National Gallery collection (it’s scattered about among several museums, the main one of which is closed for renovations until 2019).  This building, about a century old, is a functionalist marvel, and pretty darn cool.  Makes a good museum, too.

Turns out that this being the Velvet Reunion day, admissions to national museums is free.  Cool!  Still have to pay for the temporary exhibit I want to attend, but at 150 CK (about $6.50) I don’t mind one bit.  Less than the cost of a matinée at your local movie theater.

And that’s a bargain, since what I’m going to see is the Julian Rosefeldt film Manifesto, as it was intended to be seen, on thirteen separate screens, in one large room, all going at once.  Splendid!!

Those of you who were lucky enough to see this during the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival, or on DVD (Netflix has it, which is how I saw it, thanks to X) you already can imagine where this is going.  For those of you who know not of which I speak, allow me to summarize.  Actually, allow the mystically translated words of the National Gallery serve that purpose:

The 13-channel film installation Manifesto pays homage to the moving tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos, ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today. Manifesto draws on the writings of Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxus artists, Suprematists, Situationists, Dogma 95 and other artist groups, and the musings of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers. Passing the ideas of Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Elaine Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, and other influencers through his lens, Rosefeldt has edited and reassembled thirteen collages of artists’ manifestos.

Performing this ‘manifesto of manifestos’ as a contemporary call to action, while inhabiting thirteen different personas – among them a school teacher, a puppeteer, a newsreader, a factory worker and a homeless man – Australian actress Cate Blanchett imbues new dramatic life into both famous and lesser known words in unexpected contexts.

In the anteroom of the gallery is an exhibit of manifesti (what is the plural of Manifesto?), many of which are featured in the film.  Here’s some unartful snaps of them; pardon the glare:

No, I didn’t read them all.  But, the photos are actually pretty hi-res, so I probably still can.  I did enjoy listening to the Czech-lish descriptions of them all from the multi-lingual tour guide who’s group was lagging a little behind me as I browsed.  It was especially fun to hear him explain such concepts as Fluxus, Dada and such in the context of today’s “Fake News!” world (his citation, not mine).

Now into the main gallery.  The darkened room is quickly filled with light from a large projection screen, which is filling with licks of flame as the first of the manifestos is spoken in voice over by Ms Blanchett.  I am drawn not to sit before this screen, however, as I want to get a sense of how the whole thing is laid out.  I enter further into the space.  The walls are all blacked out, as are the pillars.  All that’s not black are the screens and the benches before them.

The screens are scattered around the space, and not too close together.  Not all of the screens have sound on all of the time.  Some have sound throughout, but others only have sound at the “golden moment” (as I’ll call it). Back to that shortly.  Each screen is showing a segment in a loop.  All of the loops are the same length, and all have just the right kind of beginning and ending that they loop seamlessly, more or less.  I hadn’t recognized this when seeing them all strung together into a sequence, in the film.  But it becomes quite clear when you’re watching one and all of a sudden realize that you’ve come around full circle.

You can generally hear some sound from other screens around you, but it’s not intrusive.  Some of the characters voices carry more than others.  The high-strung, severe choreographer, for example, can be heard just about anywhere in the space, as can the vagrant with a megaphone atop the ruins.  The mother saying grace (sort of) is fairly quiet, as is the woman saying a eulogy.  But then the Golden Moment arrives.

This moment comes about 2/3 of the way through the loops, I think, but it’s not really clear to me that all of these loops start and end at the same moment; just that they’re synchronized with each other,  That much is clear.  At this moment, every screen is taken up with a close up of Blanchett’s face, who is staring straight into the camera, and speaking in a high-pitched, almost robotic voice.  Each iteration of Blanchett is speaking words which belong with that incarnation’s manifesto, but there is an almost unison effect between them.  As I’ve previously stated, this is the only time when all of the screens have audio, so it can be quite arresting when the stock trader you’ve been watching in relative silence suddenly is starring straight at you and barking out some pith.

I spent over an hour in this space, wandering about, standing and watching, or sitting on a bench.  I loved the entire experience!  The multi-lingual tour group from the outer exhibit found their way around, and tended to sit, as a group, before each screen, whilst the guide flitted about stage whispering to them in different languages.  I noticed one couple, man and woman in their 20s, just sat side-by-side in front of the puppet maker screen for at least four or five loops.  They were enthralled with it (easy to understand).

What a great way to spend part of my Friday!  I love this stuff.

There was a lot more to see in the museum, and I did thoroughly enjoy my visit.  Didn’t even drop any dough in the gift shop, because it wasn’t a gift shop, it was a book shop, and I don’t read Czech! 🙂

More photos from the day later.

O Egg
GREAT EGG!
OUTSTANDING EGG!
BONJOUR!

2015 MKE Film Festival picks

It’s been a few months since the end of the 2015 MKE Film Festival, and many of the films screened are now available, either in theatres or via streaming or disk. Here’s my 4 and 5 star selections. There are trailers available for most of these films on <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzr864NSWigv-oX2u_zyrXQ”>MKE-Film’s YouTube channel

Four Star picks: ****

  • The Russian Woodpecker

A quirky documentary follows a tenacious Ukrainian activist as he seeks to bring a Cold War Russian intelligence scheme to light, all while a revolution plays out in Kiev.

  • Stockholm Stories

Five interlocking stories weave in and out over the course of a few rainy days. Clever and visually lush.

  • Almost There

Moving documentary by two friends who discover an “outsider” or naive artist living in the same dilapidated house he grew up in, a house which is tumbling down around him. Thus begins an 8 year effort to save this man from himself, and bring his art to a broader audience. Several interesting turns await.

  • Nicola Costantino: The Artefacta

Biopic of the Argentinian artist provocateur as she prepares new work for the 55th Venice Biennale. Very lovely to watch, strange art and sometimes inexplicable acts.

  • Magicarena

Documentary tells of a Spanish theatre company, La Fura dels Baus, presenting Verdi’s Aida on the bicentennial of his birth, in the 1st century Verona Arena. They recruit people from the area to serve as supernumeraries, technical & stage hands, grips, and prop makers. A beautiful setting, visually stunning presentation and engaging story.

  • Villa Touma

An orphaned teenage girl goes to live with her upper-class aunties, Palestinian Christians, in their closed and stultifying household, following her parent’s deaths. A deeply moving portrayal of life in an odd temporal bubble, a disappearing part of Palestinian life. This film was made by Palestinians, with Israeli support, but both countries have disowned it.

  • Second Mother

Brazilian look at class and work. We meet Val, live-in housekeeper for a wealthy family — a Reality TV star, her Art Professor husband and spoiled-brat son. Val’s own daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in ages, having sent her to live with relatives, comes to town to enroll in college (the same haughty school as the brat son). This disruption lays bare the compromises Val has chosen to make in her life in order to make money, and the truth of her feelings for her own kin versus the sense of importance she gleans, reflected, from her employers.

  • Hallahalla

A middle-aged woman tries to put her life back together having been left by her husband for a younger woman. Disrespected in her work in the local hospital, desperately seeking a new grip on a life she no longer feels connected to, in a suburban (Swedish) world she never wanted to inhabit, Disa slowly finds her way through episodes both comedic and tragic.

  • 30 Seconds Away

This documentary by local film maker, and former federal agent, Faith Kohler, exposes the reality of life lived on the streets of Milwaukee, focusing on a handful of mostly middle-aged men struggling to survive in spite of societies’ efforts to help them, however altruistic, intrusive or ill-advised such efforts might be, and in spite of their own efforts to sabotage any do-gooders they encounter. A deeply effecting, but ultimately, to me, incomplete and reductive film.

  • Breaking a Monster

A fun and music filled documentary about a heavy metal band of teenage African-Americans from Brooklyn who make it big after video of them performing in Times Square goes viral in 2007. They go on to be signed by Sony, play Cochella, open for Metallica… It’s a whirlwind ride and we get coach seats. Wildly engaging and loads of fun.

  • Imperial Dreams

An ex-con, recently released, tries to hold on to his son and some kind of life after his girlfriend goes to jail. He struggles to stay away from the same dark forces which left him behind bars in the first place, and to keep his son and himself free.

  • A Ballerina’s Tale

Biopic on Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal performer for a major company (American Ballet Theater). A well made, engaging and compelling film.

  • Theeb

A young Bedouin boy joins his much older brother to guide a British surveyor in the remote reaches of the Ottoman Empire as the Great War and the Great Arab Revolt encroach from all sides. The men are slain by bandits, and the boy must learn to make his own way without camel, water or adults. A tale of betrayal, distrust, danger and revenge, Theeb could have been made by John Ford. Rich, lush and parched.

Five Star picks: *****

  • Safety Last

No chance to see this as we did, sorry to say. This is a classic Buster Keaton silent feature screened with live organ accompaniment on the Oriental’s lovely Kimball organ. An all out joy; thrilling and hysterical.

  • Beatles

Norwegian coming of age drama set in early 60’s. Beatlemania hits and a group of youth imagine themselves as the Fab Four, each taking as his idol a different Beatle. This engaging and touching film brings us inside the lives of these four kids, mostly focusing on the young Paul McCartney wannabe. While such films are often predictable and pat, this outing manages to both hold one’s attention and reveal truly unexpected and sometimes dark aspects of the young protagonists.

  • The Wonders

Magical Thinking comes of age in this “Felilini-esque portrait.” A young girl is being groomed to take over from her beekeeping father. Her family lives in an idiosyncratic outpost along the Italian coast. Both parents are dreamers, little anchored to reality, but for the imperative of the constant filling of buckets of honey by the centrifuge. A reality TV show seeking to find Italy’s “Most Traditional Family” while shining a spotlight on the region’s natural food products, comes to town and brings with it a disruptive spirit and an enchanting hostess. This was my favorite of the festival, and left me with a warm glow.

  • Romeo is Bleeding

An amazing documentary focusing on a youth diversion program in suburban Richmond, CA, “RAW Talent.” A young poet, Donte Clark, himself just out of high school, leads a group of similarly detached and disaffected youth in a production of Romeo & Juliet, but this is not the version you read in high school. The kids in this gang infested city know all too well the meat of the story — the two feuding families, forbidden love — as Central Richmond and North Richmond have been engaged in a gang feud over two decades old. Even the old-timers can just barely remember why the gangs are fighting. The students rewrite Shakespeare’s story in their own words, raps and songs, weaving their own stories of love and loss into the fiber of the tale, amidst a rising death toll all around them. Easily the best documentary of the festival, and the winner of multiple awards, I cannot express enough just how good and moving this film is.

  • Bang Bang Baby

This was a fun romp, silly and stupid, and just loads of fun. Many people will not like it, but I sure did. A blend of 1950s musical and schlocky Si-Fi. Stepphy is a high school girl with big dreams of making it big in music and winning the heart of performer Bobby Shore. But industrial disaster, purple haze and walking dead threaten her happiness.

  • Very Semi-Serious

A documentary of New Yorker cartoonists and cartoons. Well made and hilarious.

  • Hotell

A Swedish film telling the tale of a group, a Group Therapy group, who decide the venture out of the community center and into a hotel, where they expose their deepest secrets and desires to each other, and allow themselves to try to live their dreams in the safe embrace of each other’s trust and support. A very strange view of the group dynamic, and a reflection on what we allow of ourselves when we just let go.

  • No One’s Child (Nicije Dete)

A Serbian film which deals with a difficult time in that nation’s history. Based on a true story, this bleak film starts with the 1988 discovery of a feral child living in the Bosnian wilderness, literally raised by wolves. He is institutionalized in Belgrade, in an orphanage, where he struggles to adapt to shoes, clothes, language and eating utensils, not to mentions other kids. With the death of the dictator Tito and the collapse of the Yugoslavian state, he faces ejection from Serbia and a return to Bosnia. This film reveals a countryside as desolate as the war and a child with an indomitable will and incredible cunning. One of the most powerful films of the festival.

  • The Wrecking Crew

A documentary literally 20 years in the making, this film tells the story — not yet complete — of the greatest session outfit of all time. “Their music won the Best Record of the Year Grammy six consecutive years. Their hit records span decades and number in the hundreds…” began the program description. These musicians made records with everyone from the Birds to the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra to Sam Cooke. There is just so much good music in this, you’ll be tempted to get up and dance more than once. A great double feature with 2013 festival favorite 20 Feet From Stardom.

  • Run Boy Run

In the spirit of Europa Europa, this German/French film tells the true story of a Polish boy, a Jew, who is left to fend for himself in the countryside during Nazi occupation. Srulik takes a Christian name, hides with people of great warmth and love and with people of opportunism and caprice. He takes charge of himself and nearly loses touch with his history and the legacy he represents. Pair this with No One’s Child for a double feature of Oprahesque dimensions, and make sure to have plenty of tissues on hand.

Okay, so I went a bit overboard I guess. I hope you can find and see a few of these. In retrospect, I guess it was a better festival than I thought, as 2/3 of the films I saw I ended up rating 4 or 5 stars!

I didn’t mention here the major studio films which were also part of the festival. Those were Youth, which is now in theaters; starring Michael Caine and Harvey Kietel as aging best friends, one a retired composer and conductor, the other a film maker looking to redeem himself after artistic and critical failure. Set in a Swiss resort in Davos, this film is beautifully shot with wonderful scenery. The minor characters are a treat, as are the supporting roles played by the likes of Paul Dano, Rachel Weiss and Jane Fonda.

Also on the program as the Member’s Only screening was Mississippi Grind, starring Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds. Mendelsohn plays Garry, a down on his luck gambler and Reynolds a free spirit who seems like a winner and befriends Garry when he’s down. This is a road film of sorts, with many twists and turns, and a few detours along the way. Fun, and not too formulaic…not as formulaic as you fear it will be. A great performance by Mendelsohn, normally relegated to supporting roles but allowed to shine here.

Frances Wha?!? (contains spoilers)

If only this were indicitive of the movie we were to see. Alas, not.


Went to see this latest meandering from Noah Baumbach and can’t quite bring myself to believe the reviews. Huh?!? What a sniveling bit of naval-gazing tripe. If Frances were even the least bit sympathetic, were her life even the least bit plausible, maybe. But as it is it’s just a bunch of coddled twenty-somethings laying about living off the fatted parent (or roommate) and whining or lying about their lot.

I mean, really! Flying to Paris for a weekend!?! Gimme a break.

And the ending, what the hell was that? Suddenly Frances finds a spine and enough financial backing to assemble a large cast dance show? Where the hell did that woman come from? That certainly wasn’t the Vassar educated mushy pile of self induced ennui we got to know in the first 75 minutes of the film.

Jeez, if I wanted to watch a bunch of implausible New York women I’d watch Girls.

Waste of $10 if you ask me.

The Clock

Chrstian Marclay's The Clock

Chrstian Marclay's The Clock

Christian Marclay’s The Clock

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is both simple and difficult to explain.  It is a 24 hour film produced by editing together bits and pieces of thousands of films from over 70 years of cinema.  The museum screens the film such that the time in the film tracks real time.  Almost every clip of film shows a clock or watch or the mention of time, or some other reference to the time.  We got there around 10:00 AM and stayed until about 12:30.  There was a wonderful building of excitement as the hour approached noon, starting at 11:40, with a clip from High Noon in which the town folk inveigh upon the sheriff to get out of town, and culminating in seemingly several terrorist acts, bank jobs, etc. all timed to commence at noon.

12:04 to 12:07

This does point up one of the oddities of the piece, which is that certain minutes seem to stretch out, such as hours (11:00, 12:00), for about 2 or 3 minutes.  Also, one does witness time shift forward and back quite frequently, as it will be, say, 11:15, then 11:18, then 11:16.  There are also odd coincidences.  It seems, for example, that a quarter past is a common time for waking up “late” in film, so at 10:15 and 11:15 we are shown scenes of people just waking up, looking at the clock, and swearing.

The sensation of watching The Clock is something else.  You get wrapped up in the action, but the action keeps shifting.  You recognise this or that scene, but then it shifts again.  Marclay’s expert sound editing makes the transitions seamless at times, and jarring at others.  MoMA is just the latest to acquire a copy of the film, let’s hope more people get a chance to see this.  X returned the next day for another 3 hours, from roughly 5:30 to 8:30 PM.  She reports that that stretch featured a lot of meal preparation, cocktailing, etc. and had longer clips of each film than the morning span we saw together.

Filmic Wonder and Balling At The McKittrick

Monday brought us to the Museum of Modern Art for the final day of their exhibit, “Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets.” This retrospective of the twin brothers’ 40 year career creating some of the most iconic and beautiful animated films in existence. We’ve both been fans for some time, X and I, but never thought we’d get to see something like this. This exhibit was the catalyst for the trip, to be perfectly honest.

It would be impossible to explain the Quay’s work in any way that would convey the beauty and magic of it, so best to send you off to search for some of it on YouTube and the like. That’s okay, do it now, we’ll wait…

Welcome back. This exhibit was quite thorough, featuring about 20 of the miniature sets used in making the films, as well as models and sketches, 2D artworks, such as a Blood, Sweat & Tears album cover produced long ago (who’d’a thought?) and reels of the short films and commercial work, such as Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. Some longer work was shown in its entirety, such as their most famous work, Street Of Crocodiles, based loosely on the Bruno Schultz book. There were separate screenings, in Theater I, of the new The Metamorphosis, based on the Franz Kafka work.

We spent about 2 hours in the exhibit, enjoying it greatly, and after a brief sojourn to the book store (50% off sale!) and acquiring tickets to the 4:30 showing of Metamorphosis, repaired to the flat for a well earned nap.

Back uptown for the film. It was not just a simple screening, but featured live piano accompaniment by Mikhail Rudy. Here’s the museum’s description:

…these screenings of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka mark the North American premiere of the Quay Brothers’ newest film. Commissioned by Russian-born French pianist Mikhail Rudy in affiliation with Cité de la musique in Paris, where it premiered last March, the film is screened with live piano accompaniment by Rudy, performing the music of Czech composer Leoŝ Janáček.

The accompaniment was fabulous, and the film good (but repetitive and obtuse in places) but the entire experience was more than this, as it really delivered a sense of completeness to the exhibit and our experience of it.

We drifted across town and back down to Chelsea for our evening’s entertainment, Crescent City Stomp, a performance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the McKittrick Hotel. First, though, a quick stop in at Son Cubano for a cocktail (quite good). The McKittrick is the fictional hotel which serves as host for Punchdrunk/Emursive’s production, Sleep No More. This environmental non-performance experience, based upon Shakespeare’s Macbeth, has been packing ’em in since early in 2011. Our show was in a new space, a speakeasy separate from the performance space used by SNM, on the west end of the warehouse block.

Served alongside the New Orleans riffs of PHJB was a menu of light appetizers and cocktails inspired by the Crescent City. We sampled most of the menu (having expected a proper meal here), and had wonderful corn bread, crisp muffalata croquets with tappanade, fried hominy, Brussles sprouts with pancetta and pomegranate seeds and shrimp-stuffed deviled eggs. Yum to all!

The music was stomping all right, the septet (piano, drums, tuba, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet and trombone) was tight, upbeat and having a good old time. The two sets, about 50 minutes each, were followed by a 2 song encore, by which time many of the tables had been pushed back and the floor was hopping.

The hall holds about 275 people and was full to the gills. There are an assortment of tables, from a dozen or so deuces arrayed around the stage (centered against one long wall), then 3 and 4 tops, and then larger tables and banquettes for 6 & 8. The bar fills one of the short walls of the room, and is well appointed with a good choice of liquors, liqueurs, wines and beers. Table service is fast and entertaining, the waiter and waitresses all embracing the roles of working a speakeasy.

The musicians were a treat to watch. The trumpeter, Mark Braud, looks like a more corpulent and dissolute Marsallis cousin, and belts out some grand vocals, too. The clarinetist, Charlie Gabriel, carries the aire of the old man of the troupe, while delivering some fine tunes and song. But our favorite was Clint Maedgen on tenor sax and vocals. His saxophone is painted white with fine black detailing, his hair slicked back, he could be Crispin Hellion Glover‘s louche and wayward younger brother.

Clint Maedgen & Charlie Gabriel

Clint Maedgen & Charlie Gabriel

All in all a fabulous night out!

New York – 14 April 2010

New York – 14 April 2010

“New York, I love it. New York and me.  I was born here, you know.  I left, moved away, when I was in high school.  But I came back, man, four years later.  You can leave New York, you know, but you can’t really.  There’s that thing, that bond.  You can’t leave that.

“New York, you love it and it loves you right back.  It’ll hold you tight and be all nice to you, treat you real good.  Then one day; you are down on your luck; you’re layin’ in the street, and New York?  New York’ll come up and kick you when you are down.  Kick you right in the balls.  It’ll taunt you and shit.

“Man!  New York; it can be like a woman.  All cuddly and close one minute and then all up in your face about shit the next.  It be all lovin’ you and helpful and accepting and then, BAM!, it’s kicking you in the ding-dong again.  Yellin’ and screamin’ and all down on you like you’re some piece of trash the dog dragged in.

“Shit!

“But you know, like that woman, you just can’t leave it.  You just can’t let it go even though you both know it would be for the best.  No, like the sick, poor, lovesick fool that you are you just keep trying and you keep getting back up after each indignity and you try to pretend.  The next time it shows you some lovin’, you just try to begin again.  Begin anew and…

“Yeah, you start all over.  Each time; each time you think that this time the city, it won’t let you down.  You’ll do what you set out for:  You’ll make that next audition, you’ll pass that interview, you’ll win that bet and you’ll win that woman back, and… You know what?  You know what?  I… Well, what can I say man.  I’ve had a rough ride with this bitch, but I’m not done yet.  Neither of us is done.”

James was our bartender at Clem’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and he had just explained his relationship to the city, and we did the only thing we could; we looked down at the bar, took a sip of our cocktails, and tried desperately to change the subject.

Actually, we sat back in awe, congratulated James on his flow, and recommended he reconsider the stage.

Ah, to be back in New York City again.  Pawn was last here almost exactly five years ago, and that is just too long.  Why are we, X and I, in Brooklyn?  Pawn has a well known predisposition towards Manhattan, so why Brooklyn?  Simple, we were waiting, killing time, between our inbound flight and our key pick up for the flat we’ve rented in Greenwich Village.  We had 3 hours to kill, so we started out with a prime rib lunch at Peter Luger’s.  Then came a long meandering through the Esplanade, the Lubavitcher realm, etc.  We were frankly getting a little parched when we crossed over into the more hipster zone, and finally to this innocent looking corner with an innocent looking corner bar, and we saw this nice young gentleman bring out chairs to place on the sidewalk.

“Are you open yet?” queried X.  “Yeah, go right on in, I’ll be right with you.” he replied.  “Hold on!” I exclaimed, spotting a familiar looking drawing on a chalkboard propped up in the window.  It was a chalkboard sketch titled “drunk girl has to pee” signed by one Carri Skoczek, 2009.  I know Carri Skoczek, I worked with Carri Skoczek, and this is indeed a genuine Carri Skoczek!

 

drunk girl has to pee

drunk girl has to pee - carri skoczek 2009

Carri did costumes and props for various shows Pawn lit, back in the olden days of doing lighting design in Milwaukee’s theatre scene.  She moved to Brooklyn about 10 or 15 years back, but what are the odds that the first bar we walk into is her old haunt.  “We all love her here.  We don’t see her so much anymore, but yeah, she used to come in here a lot.” James tells us.

Before the visit is over, James has bought us a drink and we have absorbed countless interesting bon-mot from Thomas, a visiting artist who just needs to take a little of the edge off before returning to his commission for the last few strokes of work.

We finally drag ourselves out of Clem’s and head back to the management office for our keys, and a black car ride into the city, into Greenwich Village, to commence our visit to Manhattan.  To our “Greenwich Village Love Nest” as the hosts chose to promote this two bedroom flat on Macdougal Street.

[X chimes in]
Our “love nest” is quite cozy – the beds divided by a new age frosted glass ‘bundling board’ and the toilet divided from the shower and sink in two separate rooms.  Accouterments carefully accounted for…i.e. 2 forks per bed; 2 wine glasses per bed.  How do they KNOW???  Went out to pick up the basics – fat, sugar and salt for me; wholesome items for Nic and booze for the both of us, then off to Kettle of Fish, Nic’s local here.  Met up with MKE Library colleague for drinks and 3-D movies of the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, the Blessing of the Animals at Cathedral of St. John the Devine and ‘Return to the World’s Fair’ all dutifully watched with goofy glasses and full glasses of libations of choice.  The owner, Patrick, is from MKE and his wife Adrian indulges his foibles regarding the Packers, Brewers, and, apparently, thirsty visitors from the Heartland. Back to Macdougal abode and soon to bed – big day tomorrow!
[X drops back out]

It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that James Dean and Jack Kerouac used to drown their sorrows at the same bar where we bent many an elbow this evening past.  We met new friends tonight, and introduced old friends to even older ones.  The films were a blast, and a very studious audience was very glad that a venue exists which will show the New York Stereoscopic Society productions, all made by Messrs. Meredith and Smith, a careful duo with a canny eye and a dry editorial sensibility.  We all appreciated their efforts, and their keen eye for pathos in the otherwise banal events they covered.

Oh, and nudity, adds X.

“Bronson” – Five Stars with an Asterisk

I just posted this review on the New York Times website in response to A. O. Scott’s review

bronson

I saw this film at the recently concluded Milwaukee Film Festival, and found it one of the best movies of the festival.  It is quite violent, but as A. O. Scott notes, that violence is most operatic in presentation.

While it is easy to leap to comparisons to “Clockwork Orange,” “Bronson” aspires both to much less and in some ways more.  I found myself comparing it as much to “Chicago” and some of Davind Lynch’s oeuvre.

While director Refn romanticizes, to some degree, the violence of his subject, “The Most Famous Criminal in England,” he does not apologize for him or ever ask us to forgive him.  He lets us, to the extent we wish, view the world as Michael Peterson (later renaming himself as Charles Bronson, after the American cinema star) sees it.  Through the spectacle of the music-hall scenes we are able to experience the bizarre vision Peterson has of his own place in the world.  We witness as he progresses from the “most violent” criminal in his prison, to the most violent in England, to the “most famous” criminal in “Her Majesty’s Pleasure,” and it is with relish that Peterson climbs these imagined rungs on his career ladder.

Ultimately Peterson, played by Tom Hardy, envisions himself as a performer, with a perceived audience comprised of the nation, even though it is really just him, and his jailers, who really see what he has become.

The asterisk?  Do not see this film if you cannot stomach the highly stylized violence.  If “Kill Bill” and its cartoonish violence shocked you, then this will do worse.  If you can get past the shocking violence, you will find a gem of a performance by Hardy and a beautifully crafted film from Refn.