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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Israeli Movies

(image source: Haaretz)
no copyright infringement intended









(Cinema asiatic)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nikolai Ekk

Nikolai Ekk
1902-1976
(image source: Poemas del rio Wang)
no copyright infringement intended


He made very few movies (just six in all, throughout a long career, spanning from 1828 to 1967). Despite this so small number of films, he keeps an important place place in the history of Soviet cinematography: Nikolai Ekk produced their first sound film (Road to Life, 1931) and the first color one (The Nightingale, 1936).




(Russian and Soviet Cinema)

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Abram Room, Bed and Sofa, 1927

Третья Мещанская (Bed and Sofa), 1927
film poster
(image source: movpins)
no copyright infringement intended


We'd expect a Soviet movie to be framed in some Soviet canons. Well, with many Soviet movies of the twenties, simply it's not the case. Look for instance at this Третья Мещанская (Bed and Sofa), created by Abram Room in 1927. It's the story of a ménage à trois à la russe, started (and keeping on) due to the huge housing problems of those years, and evolving into something that could suggest kind of a same-sex resolution.

It's Moscow of the twenties, housing problems are huge, it's far from the period of continuous development of huge ugly projects with myriads of small anonymous apartments. Right now it's just that, an old city with an ever growing number of people coming in, and it's impossible to find a dwelling for everyone. It comes that anyone finds a solution on its on, sharing bed and sofa and even more.

Some say that this movie alludes to the tempestuos story between Majakovsky and Lilya Brik. I don't know whether it's the case. Simply the Soviet mentalities of the twenties were unexpectedly free when it was coming to the gender issues, putting men and women on an equal footing on anything related to family, attitude toward sex, conjugal fidelity and ejusdem farinae. All this would radically change a few years later, but by then it was just the decade of the twenties. Anyway a wonderful comedy, full of tempo, and full of warmth, of sympathy for each hero, the wife and the two men.





A bit about the actors. Let's mention firstly Lyudmila Semyonova, playing with wonderful subtlety in the role of the wife. I saw her also in a much later movie, from 1961, The Steamroller and the Violin, the first oeuvre of Tarkovsky. Nikolai Batalov was in the role of the husband. He was an interesting actor, unfortunately he died too young and played only in ten movies throughout his life. I already watched three of them (and maybe I will come here with the fourth). His namesake, Aleksey Batalov (no relation between the two) would make a much, much longer career. And Vladimir Fogel in the role of husband's friend and competitor, he was one of the leading actors of his generation (the best, as Pudovkin would state later). He died tragically in 1929, being only 27 years old. Despite his brief life he played in fourteen movies.



Lyudmila Semyonova
(image from Bed and Sofa)
source: listal
no copyright infringement intended






(Abram Room)

(Majakovsky)

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Chris Doyle, Filming in the Neon World

Chris Doyle (杜可風, Like the Wind)
(image source: 10 things about Chris Doyle)
no copyright infringement intended



in his own words: whatever film I take on, it’s not about the script, it’s not about… certainly not about the money, it’s not about my so-called career; it’s always about the people; they are friends first


Chris Doyle is one of my heroes.








(Wong Kar-Way and Chris Doyle)

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Forty-First

(image source: © ozon)
no copyright infringement intended

Сорок первым должен был стать на Марюткином смертном счету гвардии поручик Говоруха-Отрок. А стал первым на счету девичьей радости.


It's during the Russian Civil War; she is a sniper in the Red Army; he is an officer at the Whites and her prisoner; she must shoot him is he to escape; these are the orders; suddenly a storm leaves them alone on a deserted island; the two fall in love (you'd say it's kind of Stockholm syndrome avant la lettre, somehow turned upside-down, whatever); the occasion for him to escape arrives, will she follow her orders or rather her heart? add to this his uncanny gift of retelling the story of Robinson; add to this the strange magic of the Karakum desert - blue sky infinite over yellow sand infinite - and of the Aral sea - yellow sun infinite over blue sea infinite; all this magic can make you falling madly in love, or simply falling mad.



(image source: © otzovik)
no copyright infringement intended


Boris Lavrenev wrote this story in 1924; it was published in Zvezda (a literary magazine led by that time by Ivan Maisky, who would later become one of the most outstanding Soviet diplomats of the epoch); in 1927 Yakov Protazanov adapted the story to film; Grigori Chukhrai made a remake in 1956.






I took contact with the three oeuvres in reverse order. Firstly I saw the movie of Chukhrai, sometime by the 1960's. I had already watched his Ballad of a Soldier and Clear Skies and I was very impressed by his his way of telling the stories, distancing from the official artistic dogmas, being simply natural. Obviously I was interested to see also The Forty-First, made earlier than the other two. I wanted to make a comparison, to see if his attitude towards life had been free at the same degree. As for the movie of Protazanov, it was impossible to find it.


(image source: © otzovik)
no copyright infringement intended


The memory of Chukhrai's movie came to my mind recently, and I watched it again, on youTube. A great director, a great cinematographer (Sergey Urusevskyi) producing hallucinatory imagery. And Oleg Strizhenov was unforgettably telling the story of Robinson, setting with it the frame for the magic.

This time I watched immediately also the movie of Protazanov on youTube. Another great director, another great cinematographer (Pyotr Yermolov, I did not know much about him). Ivan Koval-Samborsky was in the role of the White officer, an actor with a dramatic biography.

Surely I wanted to go further, to the original story. I found a very well written summary on the web, then I ordered an English translation of the book on Amazon. I read it in one day. Though I knew now the plot very well, the book could not be left up to the last page.




Lavrenev, Protazanov and Chukhrai, three artists telling the same story, while contemplating it differently.

Let's begin with the movie created by Chukhrai. It was his first movie, made in 1956. The Soviet society was beginning a painful process of freeing itself from the Stalinist referential, of opening the windows toward fresh air. Though this process was tightly controlled and had very strict limits, for many people living in those years the effort was genuine. And the movie of Chukhrai was trying just that: to find out what was beyond the political datum. The director set the story under a deep humanist credo: Soviet musts could not be absolute - beyond them life was claiming its rights to exist. The story of love, yes, that was absolute, and it was tragic, because the political chains could not be broken. The tone of the story seemed very personal: the effort of the love story to liberate itself from the political realities was the same with the effort of Chukhrai to go beyond the dogmas of the regime.

Lavrenev's story (and Protazanov's film) had a different tonality: a fact of life observed from afar and told with a good dose of detachment. This time the political realities constituted the absolute, with their two totally separated universes, the Reds and the Whites. Anything that appeared beyond, like the story of love, was just absurd. But this meant that life in general was absurd, which ultimately implied even the political reality. The two universes were not only hostile, each one was perceiving the other without any correspondence in the reality. It was not clear at all (to use Anthony Loyd's way of telling things) whether they were fighting the good cause for the wrong reason or the wrong cause for the good reason. His Holiness the Paradox seemed to be in control of the whole circus. There is in Lavrenev's story (well reproduced by Protazanov's movie) a subtle sense of Swiftian irony.


(image source: © otzovik)
no copyright infringement intended


But all this irony is greatly balanced by a feeling of empathy for each personage and each fact. From the story author, as well as from the movie director. As absurd as they could be these facts and these people, everything is observed with a great science of the human - human naivete, weaknesses, illusions, absurdity - the whole is wrapped by something like a charm.

And actually this charm links all three artists, LavrenevProtazanov and Chukhrai, beyond their different tonalities in telling the story. The magic of the infinite dialog of the sun with the sky, the desert, the sea. Paradox at Lavrenev/Protazanov, tragedy at Chukhrai, it is beyond the same magic, following its unknown laws, maybe unaware of our struggles, however sending us, through these artists and their books and movies, discrete signals of sympathy.


Лавренев родился в зеленом, «уютном, ласковом», Херсоне. Близость Черного моря, старинные крепостные укрепления, излучающие поэзию исторических воспоминаний, широта степного простора вокруг, голубизна южного неба над головой — эти впечатления детства во многом определят темы, место действия, краски, самый стиль будущих произведений писателя, их жизнелюбивый пафос, их праздничную приподнятость, их яркую живописность.
(source: otzovik)





(Boris Lavrenev)

(Yakov Protazanov)

(Grigori Chukhrai)

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Le Pour et le Contre







Récemment Gallimard prit la décision de sortir une nouvelle édition des trois pamphlets (Bagatelles pour un massacre, L'École des cadavres, Les Beaux Draps) écrits par Céline en 1937, 1938 et 1941 respectivement; une vive controverse s'ensuivit (même si l'édition allait être accompagné d'un épais appareil critique), due au caractère fort antisémite de ces ouvrages; comme toujours chaque argument vient avec le pour et le contre; le lecteur doit avoir la possibilité de connaître le travail d'un auteur dans son intégralité pour faire ses propres jugements, pour en tirer ses propres conclusions; eh bien, ça se passe dans un univers idéal, le nôtre est différent; il y a toujours des questions sensibles qui reclament des limites à ce qu'on peut être publié et ce qu'on peut pas; faire publier Bagatelles pour un massacre après tout-ce que s'était passé pendant la guerre aurait été une disgrâce; mais quand on parle limites on parle censure; et ça a aussi un effet perverse; censurer n'importe-quoi ne fait que susciter la curiosité publique, c'est la temptation du fruit défendu; alors un livre censuré circule bel et bien en samizdat (et aujourd'hui l'Internet rend inutile même le samizdat); quand même, la décision d'une maison éditoriale signifie une prise de position; bien sûr, le moment aussi est important; il vient un temps quand un tel livre doit être publié tout court et laissé au jugement personel du lecteur; à toute chose sa saison, un temps pour jeter des pierres, un temps pour les ramasser, au moins c'est la parole de l'Ecclésiaste; (et bien sûr, il y a beaucoup d'autres considérations à faire, tirées de l'Ecclésiaste ou d'ailleurs); bref, pour le moment Gallimard renonça au projet, estimant que « les conditions méthodologiques et mémorielles ne sont pas réunies pour l'envisager sereinement. »






(Céline)

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Grigori Chukhrai

Григо́рий Нау́мович Чухра́й
1921-2001
(image source: film ru)
no copyright infringement intended


Grigori Chukhrai made just a handful of movies, each one memorable. I already talked here about Ballad of a Soldier (Баллада о солдате), which is a masterpiece, and I intend to talk soon about The Forty-First (Сорок первый), a remake after a Protazanov's film based on a story authored by Boris Lavrenev. I mentioned here all three names, as each of them treated the same subject in a subtly different manner. I'll come back (hopefully soon).







(Russian and Soviet Cinema)

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Yakov Protazanov

Я́ков Алекса́ндрович Протаза́нов
1881-1945
(image source: MUBI)
no copyright infringement intended


Protazanov was one of the funding fathers of Russian cinema. Between 1909-1919 he directed 90 movies. From 1920 to 1823 he worked abroad, then he returned to homeland and made other 18 films. His last one, Nasreddin in Bukhara, was made in 1943.





(Filmele Avangardei)

(Russian and Soviet Cinema)

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Silvio Rodríguez, Ojalá

Ojalá
(fuente: Discogs)
no copyright infringement intended




Ojalá: from Old Spanish oxalá, from Arabic وشاء اللّٰه‏ (wa-šā’ allāh) ("and may God will it"). Compare English inshallah, Portuguese oxalá, Maltese jalla (source: wiktionary)


Ojalá que las hojas no te toquen el cuerpo
Cuando caigan
Para que no las puedas convertir en cristal
Ojalá que la lluvia deje de ser milagro
Que baja por tu cuerpo
Ojalá que la luna pueda salir sin ti
Ojalá que la tierra no te bese los pasos

Ojalá se te acabe la mirada constante
La palabra precisa, la sonrisa perfecta
Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto
Una luz segadora, un disparo de nieve
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte
Para no verte tanto para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos en todas las visiones
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones

Ojalá que la aurora no dé gritos que caigan
En mi espalda
Ojalá que tu nombre se le olvide a esa voz
Ojalá las paredes no retengan tu ruido
De camino cansado
Ojalá que el deseo se vaya tras de ti
A tu viejo gobierno de difuntos y flores

Ojalá se te acabe la mirada constante
La palabra precisa la sonrisa perfecta
Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto
Una luz segadora, un disparo de nieve
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte
Para no verte tanto para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos en todas las visiones
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones
Ojala pase algo que te borre de pronto
Una luz segadora, un disparo de nieve
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte
Para no verte tanto para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos en todas las visiones
Ojala que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones
(fuente: letras)






Silvio Rodríguez: esta canción yo la compuse dedicada a una mujer de nombre Emilia Sánchez, que podríamos decir, fue mi primer amor. Fue un amor que tuve cuando estuve en el ejército, haciendo mi servicio militar. La conocí cuando tenía 18 años, fue mi primer amor importante en el sentido de que fue el primer amor que me enseñó cosas. Era una muchacha mucho más evolucionada que yo, mucho más inteligente, más culta. Me enseñó, por ejemplo, a César Vallejo. Después nos tuvimos que separar, estaba estudiando medicina y en fin, no le cuadró. No sé por qué estudió medicina, cosa loca de ella, en realidad siempre fue de letras. Después estudió letras, se fue a su pueblo Camagüey, a estudiar eso y yo me quedé solo aquí en la La Habana, totalmente desolado. Pasaron los años y el recuerdo de aquel amor tan bonito, tan productivo, tan útil (ojo, no confundir con utilitario), enriquecedor, de aporte a uno... pues, estaba obsesionado yo con esa idea. Y porque fue un amor frustrado, tronchado por las circunstancias, por la vida, no fue una cosa que se agotara, pues se me quedó un poco como un fantasma y por eso compuse esta canción en un momento quizás de delirio, de arrebato, de sentimiento un poco desmesurado: ojalá esto, ojalá lo otro (fuente: wiki)


May the leaves not touch your body when they fall
So that you don’t turn them to glass
May the rain cease to be a miracle flowing over your body
May the moon be able to rise without you
May the earth not kiss your steps

May your constant gaze fade away
The precise word, the perfect smile
May something happen soon to erase you
A blinding light, a shot of snow.
May at least death take me
So that I won’t see you so often, so that I won’t see you always
In every second, in every vision
May I not be able to touch you, even in song

May the dawn not bring the shouts that fall down my back
May your name be forgotten by that voice
May the walls not hold the sound of your exhausted journey
May the desire follow you
To your decrepit government of death and flowers

May your constant gaze fade away
The precise word, the perfect smile
May something happen soon to erase you
A blinding light, a shot of snow.
May at least death take me
So that I won’t see you so often, so that I won’t see you always
In every second, in every vision
May I not be able to touch you, even in song

May something happen soon to erase you
A blinding light, a shot of snow.
May at least death take me
So that I won’t see you so often, so that I won’t see you always
In every second, in every vision
May I not be able to touch you, even in song
(source: to be fluent)





(Silvio Rodríguez)

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Julia de Burgos, Yo misma fui mi ruta

Julia de Burgos
(fuente: Descontexto)
no infringement intended



Yo quise ser como los hombres quisieron que yo fuese:
un intento de vida;
un juego al escondite con mi ser.
Pero yo estaba hecha de presentes,
y mis pies planos sobre la tierra promisoria
no resistían caminar hacia atrás,
y seguían adelante, adelante,
burlando las cenizas para alcanzar el beso
de los senderos nuevos.
A cada paso adelantado en mi ruta hacia el frente
rasgaba mis espaldas el aleteo desesperado
de los troncos viejos.
Pero la rama estaba desprendida para siempre,
y a cada nuevo azote la mirada mía
se separaba más y más y más de los lejanos
horizontes aprendidos:
y mi rostro iba tomando la expresión que le venía de adentro,
la expresión definida que asomaba un sentimiento
de liberación íntima;
un sentimiento que surgía
del equilibrio sostenido entre mi vida
y la verdad del beso de los senderos nuevos.
Ya definido mi rumbo en el presente,
me sentí brote de todos los suelos de la tierra,
de los suelos sin historia,
de los suelos sin porvenir,
del suelo siempre suelo sin orillas
de todos los hombres y de todas las épocas.
Y fui toda en mí como fue en mí la vida…
Yo quise ser como los hombres quisieron que yo fuese:
un intento de vida;
un juego al escondite con mi ser.
Pero yo estaba hecha de presentes;
cuando ya los heraldos me anunciaban
en el regio desfile de los troncos viejos,
se me torció el deseo de seguir a los hombres,
y el homenaje se quedó esperándome.
(fuente: Descontexto)






I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows,
and my feet level on the promissory earth
would not accept walking backwards
and went forward, forward,
mocking the ashes to reach the kiss
of new paths.

At each advancing step on my route forward
my back was ripped by the desperate flapping wings
of the old guard.

But the branch was unpinned forever,
and at each new whiplash my look
separated more and more and more from the distant
familiar horizons;
and my face took the expansion that came from within,
the defined expression that hinted at a feeling
of intimate liberation;
a feeling that surged
from the balance between my life
and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.

Already my course now set in the present,
I felt myself a blossom of all the soils of the earth,
of the soils without history,
of the soils without a future,
of the soil always soil without edges
of all the men and all the epochs.
And I was all in me as was life in me .. . .

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows;
when the heralds announced me
at the regal parade of the old guard,
the desire to follow men warped in me,
and the homage was left waiting for me.
(source: Anthony Morales)






(Julia de Burgos)

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