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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bucharest 2011: La Danse de la Chèvre

We met flutist Ion Bogdan Stefanescu for the first time by pure chance. We were visiting an exhibition (Watercolors by Olga Morarescu-Marginean) opened at Galateca, a Bucharest art gallery situated not far from the Atheneum. We had just entered the gallery, my cousin and I, he was there talking to the artist. A discussion about art, about ancient and modern artists, about beautiful and ugly art, the place of beauty and the place of ugliness in painting, in music, in poetry.

Olga Morarescu-Marginean was telling about her sources of inspiration: her watercolors are playing between background and foreground, branches of bushes, flowers, little birds, rendered in a diaphanous calligraphy reminding the Chinese hieroglyphs, reminding also the iluminuras from the Middle Age books of prayers; were those birds, or those flowers, the heroes of the artworks, so to speak, or just the support of a sacred text, unseen, while floating around? The splendid Freemantle edition of the Psalms came to my mind.

(Musical Background: Bach, Fugue en Ré Mineur BWV 903, artist Lise de la Salle)

At a certain moment Ion Bogdan Stefanescu said that the following day he would perform at the Atheneum. We had just bought tickets for the concert next day at the Atheneum!

So we met him the next day for the second time. He was now on the stage: a Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra by Mozart. The harpist was Ion Ivan Roncea. They offered an encore, a superb piece by Handel that brought me tears, so beautiful it was.

The program included also one of Haydn's symphonies, and then Eroica, performed with great heart and a formidable sense of keeping the balance in exploring the depths of Beethovenian structures. There is pathos in the musical world of Beethoven, while also a strict rigor. Every note there has its logic, every development. The conductor was Brian Wright.

Here is a piece of incidental music, La Danse de la Chèvre, composed by Arthur Honneger for flute: a good opportunity to meet yourself with the performer, Ion Bogdan Stefanescu. And I dedicate this post to Daniela, my cousin who came from Germany for a few days in Romania.

La Chèvre se
réveille ...danse
...se repose ...danse encore
enfin fatiguée ... elle se
prépare à dormir

(Musica Nova)


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bucharest 2011: Heart of a Dog

Bulgakov's Собачье сердце (Heart of a Dog) at the Bucharest National Theater. Can you get the New Man? For Bulgakov it's like transforming Sharik in Poligraph Poligraphovich Sharikov: you transplant a new pituitary gland and a pair of new testicles, et voilà! Sarcasm and fantasy, think Мастер и Маргарита, you are on the same terrain. Is it applicable only to Homo Sovieticus? What about the Brave New World organized by some European bureaucrats?



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NY Times: Fatah and Hamas Said To Reach Deal

Palestinians rallied for an end to the division between Fatah and Hamas in Ramallah, March 15
(photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

According to Egyptian and Palestinian officials, Fatah and Hamas reached a deal on their divergences, agreeing to the formation of a temporary unity government and the holding of Palestinian elections.

Read more in NY Times:

(Zoon Politikon)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Started to Read the Forty Rules of Love

After The Saint of Incipient Insanities and The Bastard of Istanbul, I started to read, right now, The Forty Rules of Love. I haven't comment here none of them yet. After finishing The Saint of Incipient Insanities I was eager to read The Bastard of Istanbul, I thought I would comment both of them after. Well, now I postponed again the comments, eager to read The Forty Rules of Love. I should go to bed, though, it's one o'clock in the night. Tomorrow it's another day!

(Elif Shafak)


Monday, April 25, 2011

Strawberries for Yoko

There are many ways of eating a strawberry. You can be cool, or you can be hot. Yoko is absolutely hot. You can speak while eating, or you can keep quiet. Yoko is definitely speaking. You can do just that, eat a strawberry. Yoko is taking the advantage to teach us also some good Japanese. Well, what to do? If you are too impressed by Yoko, the risk is to be not careful to the Japanese pronunciation any more. Difficult Choice!

(The Thousand faces of HANAFUBUKI)


Sunday, April 24, 2011




Paste Fericit

Hristos a Inviat! Χριστός Ανέστη! He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

I got this message from my friend David, minister at a church in Arlington, VA:

Christ is Risen and Christ is Fabulous!

The traditional Easter morning greeting tells us everything we need to know about our God and about ourselves: God is lord of life, and we are a resurrection people.

Death does not get the last word, and we rise up, again and again and again throughout the length of our days.

(Icon and Orthodoxy)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Bunnies

and a lamb


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chris Marker: La Jetée (1962)

La Jetée (The Pier), a 28 minute short made by Chris Marker in 1962: after WWIII everything is destroyed and radioactivity has made life on Earth impossible. Survivors live in underground shelters, winners and defeated together. The defeated are enslaved and used in horror experiments, causing eventually death or madness. They are forced to voyage in time, in search for solutions (somewhere in the past or future) for the present. One of them proves particularly fitted for these time travels, as he is obsessed with an image from his remote childhood. He was only four or five years old when it happened. He was on the pier of a big airport (Orly in Paris), he noted a beautiful woman and a man who was running toward her. The man suddenly fell down and died.

Now in his forced journeys in the past he is trying to find the mysterious woman, maybe also to elucidate the enigmatic death he had witnessed. A strange love story emerges between him and the woman. A story without history, without projects, without development: it begins each time he is sent in the past. In the end he will arrive on the pier at Orly, a small boy will look at him, the woman will be there, he will be killed by a policeman sent from the present to keep an eye on him. The image obsessing him for all life was the moment of his death.

A movie of 28 minutes offering multiple levels of interpretation: SF, dystopia, love story. Behind and beyond, a poignant meditation on the power and limits of remembrance. The power of the images we keep from the past, our quest to understand them, to fill the gaps, to be in control, to accomplish, to escape out of time - through our imagination, through our dreams. Our impossibility to escape.

Chris Marker used for this movie exclusively still photos! A photo-montage edited very skilfully: the impression of movement is suggested by the rapid succession of the still images. Over them the voice-off of the narrator. That's all! Past is just that, a succession of stills, you cannot act again there, you can be only a viewer. There is an episode when the two, man and woman, are visiting a museum of petrified animals, and their feelings are as mutually close as it can be: as he realizes that this is all he can get, moments now petrified.

There is however a moment, only one moment, when the movie leaves the stills. The woman gets awake, her face bathed by the light of the sun. She notices his presence, she is blinking: the only blink in the movie. Their love has won over the laws of time. For only one instant.

This movie reverberated in many other cinematic works. The best known example is Twelve Monkeys, openly inspired by La Jetée, but the idea of trying to enter your memories, to be there again, just to be stopped by reflecting mirrors or petrified stills obsessed also Tarkovsky, also Mira Nair. La Jetée was in turn created on the reverberations of Vertigo. And Chris Marker will go further with Sans Soleil, in 1983.

(Chris Marker)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bucharest 2011: The End of the Beginning

Sean O'Casey at Bucharest National Theatre with The End of the Beginning (S-a Sfarsit Cum A Inceput): a great performance!


Chris Marker

Peter Blum Gallery is the host of PASSENGERS, a Chris Marker exhibition: over 200 photographs taken by the French artist between 2008-2010 in the Paris Métro. The exhibition is hosted at both NY locations of Peter Blum Gallery, in SoHo (99 Wooster Street) and Chelsea (526 W 29th Street).

A few words about Chris Marker: he is a documentary maker who reinvented the documentary, a film director who created some seminal movies, a writer, a photographer, a multimedia artist. His La Jetée, made in 1962, reverberated up to Mira Nair's Namesake. As for his Sans Soleil, made in 1983, someone said that to name it a documentary would be like naming the Sistine Chapel a ceiling! I will talk soon about La Jetée: I watched the movie exactly today!



Monday, April 18, 2011

Aleksandr Petrov: My Love (2006)

After his success with The Old Man and the Sea (Oscar in 1999 for Best Animation), Aleksandr Petrov returned to Yaroslavl and started again working on masters of Russian literature. After Platonov, Dostoevsky and Pushkin this time his choice was a writer from the emigration: Ivan Shmelyov.

Maybe the most impressive of Shmelyov's novels is Солнце мертвых (The Sun of the Dead), written in 1923: it takes place in the Crimean peninsula during the Russian Civil War. The White Army of general Wrangel just left and people are waiting for the Bolshevik terror to come. Meanwhile hunger is sovereign. Everything gradually dies against the background of the loveliness of nature, on the shore of the azure sea, under the rays of a golden sun — the sun of the dead, because it illuminates an earth on which everything has been eaten, drunk, trampled—on which poultry, animals, and men are all dying (Wikipedia).

Petrov took another of Shmelyov's novels: История любовная (A Story of a Love). It was written in 1927, when the author was already set in France. A boy of sixteen encounters his first love, in all innocence. It's tempting, and it's unknown chart. He falls for the household maiden, he is also troubled by the mysterious young lady from the house nearby, he doesn't know which way to follow, so he advances quirky on both. He will fail, of course, and the memory of the first love will accompany him for all life, with a very unclear feeling of guilt. Or sorry? For the girl, or the girls? For his innocence? For the time that never comes back?

It is a story full of nostalgia. For the time that never comes back, for that past lived in Russia, lost for always. For everything that hasn't happened, for everything that could have been different.

And it's a delicate and noble story, calling in mind the delicate and noble pages of Turgenev: nostalgia for the Russia of Turgenev, for all that could have been so beautiful and remained unaccomplished, abandoned, destroyed.

Petrov worked five years to make this animation. Maybe it is the perfect match. The delicacy of the story by Shmelyov couldn't find a better rendering than this one: the delicacy of the pastels of Petrov. As someone has said, from now on I cannot dream but in the pastels of Petrov.

(Aleksandr Petrov)


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Favorites at Principle Gallery

(Principle Gallery)

An Article by William H. Freehling in Today's NY Times

Historian William H. Freehling is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Kentucky. His focus is on the events whose unfolding led the Southern states to decide the secession from the Union and to face the Civil War. Among his books, The Road to Disunion (Oxford University Press, vol I 1991 and vol II 2007), Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860 (Oxford University Press, 1992), Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836 (Oxford University Press, 1992), The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1994).

I found in today's NY Times a column in which Prof. Freehling discusses the way the events took place in Virginia. The name of George Wythe Randolph is mentioned: he was the grandson of President Jefferson, and a convinced secessionist, a Secretary of War of the Confederacy. It is an example of how dramatic was the split of the American society in the times of the Civil War


(A Life in Books)

Storm Deaths in VA, NC

Brutal spring storms kept up their fury as they raged across the East Coast on Saturday, flattening businesses, flipping cars and destroying homes, killing more than a half dozen people in North Carolina and Virginia. In all, 25 people have died in six states since the storms started wreaking havoc some four days ago. And the death toll was likely to rise.

Read more at:

(Washington, District of Columbia)

A Smile at Principle

The pet is Georgia. The master seems to be Clint Mansell. But who's Georgia, you'll ask me. Well, she's a visiting doggy, so to speak. You could find her at Principle always when her parents are in Scotland.

By the way, I was in a mall nearby here where I live now and several bunnies were visiting there :) Kids were playing with them. I remembered when I was a little kid: during the months of summer I was staying some place in the outskirts of Paris, at the Thomas family (Meme, and Simone, and Yvette, and Jean-Pierre), and I was playing with bunnies. I have just a few memories from Paris. This is one of them. We left France when I was three.

Coming back to Georgia, I met her once or twice during my visits at Principle. I was coming many weekends in Alexandria, I was walking along King Street and I was always entering the gallery at Principle.

(Principle Gallery)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Case Vechi pe Calea Mosilor

Casa din 1894

Am trecut astazi pe Calea Mosilor, portiunea dintre Bulevardul Hristo Botev si Piata Sf. Gheorghe. Sunt acolo case care sunt declarate monumente istorice, si care sunt intr-o stare deplorabila. In special casa construita de catre negustorul bulgar Hristo Gheorghieff in 1867 m-a impresionat: o casa care nu mai are nici macar putere sa planga!

Este greu sa numesc lipsa de grija a primarilor altfel decat nesimtire.

Casa din 1894 - gangul de intrare

Hanul Evreilor - Sec. XVIII

Hanul Evreilor - La Belle Boutique, de inchiriat

Hanul Evreilor - Magazinul Crai Mont

Casa Gheorghieff - 1867

Hanul Evreilor si Casa Gheorghieff
(pe trotuarul celalalt se vede Biserica Razvan)


Aleksandr Petrov: The Making of His Movies

Aleksandr Petrov talking about the making of two of his movies: Rusalka, and The Old Man and the Sea.

Part 1/2
(video by Niffiwan)

Part 2/2
(video by Niffiwan)

(Aleksandr Petrov)


Sufis - Piety and Poetry

- An Ascetic -
India, Deccan Plateau, 17th century
Watercolor, ink, and gold on paper

Muslim Sufism approaches the divine through visual art, music, poetry, self-discipline, and contemplation. It is a remarkably diverse approach and it has been interpreted in various ways both within and outside Islamic world.

A conference exploring the Sufi identity in South Asia (where their presence has been for almost a millennium) will take place in DC at the end of this month (Johns Hopkins University SAIS on April 28, Library of Congress on April 29, Freer Gallery on April 30).

For more information go to:


(Smithsonian Castle)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Aleksandr Petrov: The Old Man and the Sea (1999)

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy's parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky.
Salao is the word used in Mexico and the Caribbean region to name someone who is victim of a curse - Persona que es víctima de un maleficio).

So starts Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. You have the full text at http://www.classic-enotes.com/american-literature/american-novel/ernest-hemingway/the-old-man-and-the-sea/full-text-of-the-old-man-and-the-sea-by-ernest-hemingway/.

An old fisherman (everything about him was old except his eyes), once again challenged by fate: facing the giant fish, facing his own frailty. Long time ago he had been a foolhardy sailor, facing the Atlantic, facing the African coast. The memory of those times lasted only in his dreams, populated with lions and elephants.

Now the old man starts again the fight. It is a fight of equals (he is my brother, but I must kill him and keep strong to do it). The giant marlin comes in his imagination as a brother, the same with the lions and elephants of Africa, populating his dreams. And he has to kill the marlin, the noble brother, or to be killed. There is no place for both.

Also his frailty, his lack of confidence, his lack of strength are his brothers. Because he is so old. And he has to kill them, his brothers, or to be killed.

And all these noble brothers, the marlin and his weaknesses, belong to nature. The old man is fighting brother nature: he must kill it, or to be killed.

Aleksandr Petrov worked two years and a half to paint more than 29,000 glass plates, each one four times larger than the usual A4-size. The images were finally shot with an IMAX camera.

The result is a masterpiece. It's difficult, if not impossible, to describe it in words. Hemingway's is a masterpiece of words, difficult to put it in images. Petrov's is a masterpiece of images, difficult to put it in words.

I found on the web a superb comment:

Petrov must have battled to create this just like the old man.

The Old Man and the Sea: part 1/2
(video by dgroza)

The Old Man and the Sea: part 2/2
(video by dgroza)

(Aleksandr Petrov)


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Alma Har'el : Beirut - Elephant Gun

There is a Kusturica-esque dimension in Alma Har'el's work, there is also something that belongs only to her: a science of continuous progression. Her cinematic rhythm gives you the feeling of following an endless sequence that's rising. I'm wondering whether she's using in her chaining of images the same mechanism James Tenney used to chain the musical notes in his For Ann.

(Alma Har'el)


Alma Har'el : Beirut - Concubine

I've been so tired
One child, I wait for room to spare
I can't wait, child, and ride
It's all an empire long beheaded

(Alma Har'el)


Alma Har'el



Tribeca Film Festival Turns 10

The Tribeca Film Festival is celebrating this year its 10's birthday: 47 world premieres and 104 feature film directors (27 of them women). Submissions came for 40 countries.

What brings Tribeca as its own to the world of festivals? Says Stephen Holden, Tribeca gives crucial exposure and marketing platform for serious independent filmmakers from around the world.

Among the movies selected this year for Tribeca I would briefly present a documentary made by Israeli born director Alma Har'el. It's Bombay Beach, and hopefully I will be able to watch it before long. For now I saw only the trailer:

Here is a plot summary, taken from imdb:

Bombay Beach is one of the poorest communities in southern California located on the shores of the Salton Sea, a man-made sea stranded in the middle of the Colorado desert that was once a beautiful vacation destination for the privileged and is now a pool of dead fish. Film director Alma Har'el tells the story of three protagonists. The trials of Benny Parrish, a young boy diagnosed with bipolar disorder whose troubled soul and vivid imagination create both suffering and joy for him and his complex and loving family. The story of CeeJay Thompson, a black teenager and aspiring football player who has taken refuge in Bombay Beach hoping to avoid the same fate of his cousin who was murdered by a gang of youths in Los Angeles; and that of Red, an ancient survivor, once an oil field worker, living on the fumes of whiskey, cigarettes and an irrepressible love of life. Together these portraits form a triptych of manhood in its various ages and guises, in a gently hypnotic style that questions whether they are a product of their world or if their world is a construct of their own imaginations.

To have a full image of what Tribeca Festival offers at its 10's anniversary, you should read this column from today's NY Times:


(New York, New York)

(Alma Har'el)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Walk Along Shimogamo Canal

There is a canal in North Kyoto, running between two rivers: Takano and Kamo. This is a blessed place: the Holy Shrine of Shimogamo is nearby, also the Botanical Gardens. Yoko went there on April 9, to see the cherry blossom.

(The Thousand faces of HANAFUBUKI)