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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Discreet Charm of a Manhattan Afternoon


(click here for the Romanian version)

I didn't know her real name, and nobody of us knew it, on our web group of discussions. I was calling her Mrs D, as I had noticed she liked that. I was thinking at the heroine imagined by Virginia Woolf, wondering about any connections. Our meetings were exclusively on the web, each of us lived in a very different place.

We two share the memory of an afternoon spent together in New York. She was at the end of an American voyage during which she had traveled coast to coast. Now she was staying for a few days at a friend in a New Jersey town, before going back home. From that town she was coming every day to New York, by bus. The trip was half an hour long. I was living in a suburb in the Greater DC Area and the two of us had convened by phone to meet on Saturday afternoon in Manhattan. I came there in the morning and intended to leave the following day.

As I arrived I went firstly to a kind of literary café, close to the 1-st Street (for those familiar with Seinfeld, there was an episode there where the personages were looking in vain for the 1-st Street - it's true that it's hard to find it, actually it's a morsel rather than a full street). I knew that I would find there some friends I wished to say hello, poets and musicians from the artistic bohéme of the place.

I went then to a party where I needed to stay at least fifteen minutes, once that I was in town. It was near Cooper Square (in the building hosting the Village Voice, that tribune of those eternal bohemians that keep on moving from the Village to East Village, from SoHo to East SoHo, as prices are soaring everywhere, and the free spirit atmosphere of the Village is becoming a legend, and the Village is becoming kind of a panopticum where popular outlets like Milady's cannot resist any more, being replaced by snobbish expensive restaurants). I stayed at the party those scheduled fifteen minutes and then I went to meet Mrs D.

What point in New York would be the best meeting place for two people who have never seen each other? You'd say Empire State Building, for you have watched Sleepless in Seattle or An Affair to Remember - there have been about four remakes, the original with Charles Boyer has been made in 1939.

Well, not for us. We both were aficionados of classic literature and pre-classic music, so our meeting point was in front of the Public Library. And that was the place where I saw Mrs D for the first time in my life. In that city, so noisy and so aggressive, she was bringing a note, very neat, and very singular, of distinction. She was classy, oh God, she was so classy... And we walked down the streets at random, talking about anything and everything. We had a cup of coffee somewhere on the 14-th Street, then we dinned in a small Italian restaurant in the Village.

Was she beautiful? Yes, only it was a very special beauty, a charm that was letting itself to be guessed only, like a mystery. I remembered the words of someone who had known Emily Dickinson: she was not a beauty, but she had great beauties.

It was something else here, though. My thoughts were unwillingly flying toward the dilemmatic heroine of Virginia Woolf. And again I was coming back to the woman in front of me. What dilemma was hidden behind her smile?

I led Mrs D then to the bus. We lingered a bit in Times Square and she lit a cigarette. A gavroche gesture adding to her appearance a sudden note of warm familiarity. A couple of youngsters asked me to help them with some photos. We continued to talk a little bit, and there was an amusing contrast between the class of Mrs D and the total lack of sophistication of the two guys.

She then took the bus and I left, dreaming, wandering along those streets that I knew so well, those streets that now were telling me things I hadn't suspected, things about me, whom else? The next day I was back home. I opened the computer and I found an email, totally unexpected. It was to change my whole life. No, it wasn't Mrs D.


(New York, New York)

(A Life in Books)

(Virginia Woolf)

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Farmecul discret al unei după amieze new-yorkeze

Doamna T
(Camil Petrescu, Femeia enigmatică)
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the English version)

Nu i-am cunoscut numele niciodată. Îi spuneam Doamna T, fiindcă observasem că îi făcea plăcere. Mă gândisem desigur la eroina imaginată de Camil Petrescu cu care se asemuia prin enigma pe care şi-o cultiva cu grijă în grupul de discuţii pe web la care eram părtaşi amândoi.

Mă leagă de ea amintirea unei după amieze petrecute împreună la New York. Venise într-o vizită în State, văzuse o grămadă de locuri coast to coast, iar acum stătea pentru o săptămână într-un orăşel foarte aproape de marea metropolă americană. Eu locuiam pe lângă Washington, şi vorbiserăm împreună la telefon, convenind să ne vedem într-o sâmbătă după amiază la New York. Am venit acolo în cursul dimineţii şi urma să mă întorc a doua zi.

Mai întâi m-am dus într-un soi de club literar nu departe de Strada Întâia (pentru cei care au văzut serialul TV cu Seinfeld, ţineţi minte episodul în care personajele căutau în draci Strada Întâia - aşa este, e foarte greu de găsit, e de fapt o ciosvârtă de stradă, nu una întreagă). Ştiam că acolo vor fi ca întotdeauna câţiva amici pe care voiam să-i salut, poeţi, muzicieni, din boema literar-artistică a oraşului ăstuia. Am plecat repede apoi spre o sindrofie unde trebuia să fac act de prezenţă pentru vreun sfert de oră, odată ce eram în oraş. Era undeva pe lângă Cooper Square (în clădirea în care sunt şi birourile ziarului Village Voice, tribuna tuturor acestor veşnici boemi care se tot mută din Village în East Village, din SoHo în East SoHo, căci chiriile o iau razna peste tot, şi aşa atmosfera boemă din Village devine o legendă, iar Village-ul devine un soi de panopticum în care localuri ca Milady's nu mai pot rezista şi sunt înlocuite de mici localuri cochete în stil italienesc sau franţuzesc cu preţuri pe măsură, doar nu credeţi că lucrurile merg alandala numai pe Damboviţa - dar divaghez prea mult). Am stat la sindrofie doar un sfert de oră aşa cum îmi propusesem, şi am plecat repede spre locul de întâlnire

Unde se pot întâlni în New York doi oameni care nu s-au vazut niciodată? O să spuneţi că pe terasa din vârful lui Empire State Building, fiindcă aţi văzut şi voi Nopţi Albe în Seattle sau An Affair to Remember - au fost vreo patru remake-uri, originalul era cu Charles Boyer şi fusese făcut prin '39. Dar nu, nu m-am întâlnit cu Doamna T la Empire State Building. Aveam amândoi cultul cărţilor de calitate şi al muzicii preclasice, aşa că ne dăduserăm întâlnire în faţa Bibliotecii Publice. Şi atunci am văzut-o prima oară în viaţa mea pe Doamna T. Aducea în oraşul acesta agresiv şi zgomotos o marcă foarte clară şi foarte singulară de distincţie. Ne-am plimbat apoi pe străzi la întâmplare, am tot discutat despre tot şi despre toate, am băut o cafea împreună pe undeva pe Strada 14, iar apoi am fost la un restaurant, italienesc desigur, prin Village.

Era frumoasă? Da, însă o frumuseţe specială, farmecul i se putea mai mult bănui, oprit de zâmbetul ei şi îmbrăcat în taină. Îmi aduceam aminte de spusele cuiva care o cunoscuse pe Emily Dickinson, she was not a beauty, but she had great beauties.

Dar aici era altceva. Gândul îmi zbura fără voie la enigmatica eroină a lui Camil Petrescu. Şi iarăşi mă întorceam spre femeia din faţa mea. Oare ce enigmă se afla dincolo de zâmbetul ei?

Am condus-o apoi la autobuz, locuia cum zic într-un orăşel pe aproape. Pe drum, ne-am oprit pe lângă Times Square şi ea şi-a aprins o ţigară. Un gest gavroche care adăuga deodată prezenţei ei distinse o notă de surprinzătoare familiaritate. Am intrat în vorbă cu o pereche de tineri new-yorkezi, un el şi o ea, ne-au rugat să îi fotografiem, ţin minte episodul pentru că eu, aflat deja de oarece vreme în America, făceam cumva legătura între clasa indiscutabilă a Doamnei T şi felul foarte nesofisticat al celor doi.

Ea a luat apoi autobuzul şi eu am plecat, visător, rătăcind pe străzile pe care crezusem până atunci că le ştiu bine, dar care îmi spuneau acum lucruri pe care nu le bănuisem, despre mine, că despre cine altcineva? Ajuns acasă, am deschis calculatorul şi am găsit un mesaj. Avea să îmi schimbe viaţa cu totul. Nu, nu era dela Doamna T.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Alberto Sordi and the World of His Movies

Alberto Sordi in the role of Guglielmo il Dentone
I Complessi, 1965
(http://www.toutlecine.com/images/tag/0005/00051908-sketch-guglielmo-il-dentone.html)
no copyright infringement intended

As I was chatting with a friend on Facebook (this was a couple of days ago), we started to change jokes between each other. Not any kind of jokes - we were trying to be specific: funny trap-questions. I knew such a trap-question from an Italian movie watched sometime in the seventies. It was about a city whose name sounded very German, to answer whether it was situated in East or West Germany. Actually the city was Brazilian.

Well, I remembered the question from that movie, while I realized that I had totally forgotten the name of the city. And a joke about a city without knowing the name of that city was impossible to be considered a joke. I started to look on the web for such a Brazilian city with a German sounding name, and I came pretty soon on Manaus (actually the name had no German origin though it sounded so German: it was rather about an indigenous population, the Manaós).

Was that Manaus the only Brazilian city with a German sounding name? Were also other Brazilian cities like this one? Maybe yes, maybe no. Brazil is pretty big after all, and surprises are not excluded. Was Manaus the city mentioned in the movie, or was it another city? Well, only that movie knew the answer.

I remembered the subject pretty well. The hero was a very sympathetic guy, witty, extremely knowledgeable, a polyglot (fluent in eight languages, Arabic and Hebrew included),  possessing a great voice making him ideal for a news reader. The only issue was a physical one: his horse-like teeth. He entered a contest for a position of TV anchor, and an uninterrupted chain of comical situations followed, as everybody considered his teeth a no-no, while he was totally unaware of that, and generally very sure of himself. Against all odds eventually he won the contest and started presenting the news each evening (then enjoying the time together with the Kessler Twins).

I was almost sure that the lead actor had been Alberto Sordi, But here was the thing: I was almost unsure about the title. I wondered if the title in Romanian (as I had watched this movie in Romania) was not Dinţosul  maybe? I was far from being certain, and more than that, I had to find the Italian and/or English equivalent. I had at hand only the Google Translator, and it was not of great help in this case. No way to get a translation for dinţos. After many tries, with dinte/dantură/dinţat - dente/denti/dentata -  tooth/teeth/toothed I decided that the Italian title should be a variation for Dentata.

Based on this assumption I started to browse the list of movies featuring Alberto Sordi. No success. I was beginning to be not sure anymore about Alberto Sordi. Maybe another Italian comedian? But, as far as I remembered, it had been him, no other. I was totally confused.

I asked some friends for help. It was Deborah who found on youTube a copy of the film. Rim found it too, on imdb. It was Alberto Sordi and the title was Guglielmo il Dentone. As for the city, it was Manaus indeed. So I had been pretty close. The only thing I had missed was that this Dentone (Big Tooth) was not a whole movie! It was a sketch in I Complessi, a film from 1965, consisting in three separate segments, each one starring another great Italian actor: Nino Manfredi, Ugo Tognazzi, and of course, Alberto Sordi (who was accompanied by Franco Fabrizzi and the Kessler Twins among others).

Some consider this Dentone a cult classic of Italian cinema (wiki). I totally agree.



Guglielmo il Dentone
I Complessi, 1965
(video by solo70e80)


I must say that browsing the list of movies featuring Alberto Sordi was a great experience. Old memories came to my mind, movies that I had watched decades ago, along with other movies that I missed: Policarpo, ufficiale di scrittura from 1959, where Alberto Sordi had a minor role - this was a movie that I read a lot about, while not having the chance to watch.

The list is enormous: Sordi played his first role in 1937. You find there La Grande Guerra (The Great War), where Alberto Sordi made a duo with Vittorio Gassman. And Il Vigile (The Traffic Cop) from 1960, where the duo was with Vittorio De Sica. And Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines from 1965, where Alberto Sordi was no more no less than a pioniere del volo, a flight pioneer. And Venezia, la Lunna e Tu (Venice, the Moon and You) from 1958: this time Alberto Sordi was a gondoliere.

I had the surprise to find in the list a movie that I had enjoyed enormously as a teenager, while not being aware at all that Alberto Sordi had played in it: Quatre Pas dans les Nuages (Sous le Soleil de Provence, The Virtuos Bigamist) from 1956. The star was here Fernandel, and he had a splendid role (the ending of this film is what going to the movies is about - cranker).

There is in this movie a scene taking place in a local bus connecting villages in Provence: the bus is full, the passengers are impatient, the driver is delaying the course, nobody knows why - actually the driver's wife is in labor, and he wants to know whether it's a boy or a girl. Finally the good news comes, it's a boy! The driver tells this to the passengers, a bottle of wine moves from one passenger to another, everybody starts to sing, while the bus begins wobbling on the road. It's Provence, où tout est pris à la légère! Well, the bus driver is none other than Alberto Sordi!



(Italian Movies)

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Domani è troppo tardi (Tomorrow Is Too Late), 1950



Domani è troppo tardi (Tomorrow Is Too Late), an Italian movie from 1950. I watched it sometime in the second half of the fifties. I was in a middle school summer camp, spending two weeks of vacation, together with my classmates. The boys and girls in the movie were about our age, and the action was taking place in a summer camp, too. Their naiveté, their inquiries and tribulations were the same as ours. One of the boys in the movie was telling the others about another film he had watched sometime: a man had kissed a lady, and in the next scene the lady was with a baby in her lap. Pretty simple, it seemed. So, if we wished to have a kid, that was the thing to do, kiss one of the girls there. Well, the girls in the movie seemed more mature, and their questions were consequently more serious: could a girl get pregnant by staying on a toilet seat previously visited by someone else? Truth is that caution is always advisable. Like these boys and girls, we, too, were to discover life's secrets and lessons day by day. Like them making stupid jokes to the girls we actually were attracted by, like them naive and braggart, like them discovering the miracle of first love.

At that age we could not understand the movie beyond a very basic level. That story with middle school boys and girls was actually talking to adults. How to deal with the erotic awakening of those kids? The simplest seemed to be tough, zero tolerance. Was it the best way? And how to deal when a boy and a girl made a mistake (or a big mistake)? Condemn and exclude them? Or, by the contrary, be on their side, help them find again the balance in life? Regardless of all precepts and restrictions, the sexual development of a child is taking place anyway. They come sooner or later to the questions you don't allow, to the temptations you demonize. They are human beings, not puppets.

The movie was giving the answer, with passion and conviction: they must be prepared for life, the truth must be told, tactfully and responsibly, without delay. Tomorrow is too late.

Of course, things have changed a lot since then. Sexual emancipation has gone so far that for a hero of the 1950 movie today's Earth would seem an alien planet. The same goes for today's viewers: for them the universe of Domani è troppo tardi would definitely seem very strange.

This movie remained into my mind for so many years because of the personage created there by Vittorio De Sica. I would see him later in many movies, as I would watch many movies directed by him. Unforgettable in Il Generale Della Rovere, And among the great masterpieces of cinema, Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves).

However, this remains my most precious memory of Vittorio De Sica, his role in Domani è troppo tardi, the superb professor Landi, teaching his pupils with dignity and responsible determination about the great secrets of human nature.

I looked for a copy of the movie on the web, without success.  I found only a few excerpts, and I rediscovered a great beauty: Pier Angeli, playing with such genuineness the purity of a girl living her first love. It was the second role in her career, she was only eighteen by then. After a few years she started playing at Hollywood, where she met James Dean. It was, as the story goes, her great love. Pier Angeli died prematurely in 1971. She was 39 years old.



Domani è troppo tardi, 1950
scenes from the movie
(video by Coralie chérami)




Domani è troppo tardi, 1950
scene from the movie
(video by PierAngeliChannel)




Domani è troppo tardi, 1950
scene from the movie
(video by Marcos Pedini)



(Italian Movies)

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bird Bath and Sunflower

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6q5msSRc6g)
no copyright infringement intended


Northern Cardinals taking a bath. Birds at the feeder, butterflies, bees and sunflowers (thanks Marcia for sharing it).




(America viewed by Americans)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Four Poems by Yeats In His Own Reading



listening to Yeats, again that vibrant, gorgeous Irish "r"- I feel mesmerized, and happy (Florette)




1. The Lake Isle of Innisfree ... 2.01
2. The Fiddler of Dooney ... 4.01
3. The Song of the Old Mother ... 5.06
again The Lake Isle of Innisfree ... 6.00
4. Coole and Ballylee (two stanzas) ... 7.06
click here for more info
(video by brychar66)


The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand by the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.




The Fiddler of Dooney

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Moharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With Here is the fiddler of Dooney!
And dance like a wave of the sea.

(http://castlebaycds.com/notes3.html)
no copyright infringement intended

The Song of the Old Mother

I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
And then I must scrub and bake and sweep
Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
And the young lie long and dream in their bed
Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
And their day goes over in idleness,
And they sigh if the wind but lift up a tress:
While I must work because I am old,
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.

My Old Mother's Song by Mihály Munkácsy ca 1865
(http://spad1.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/the-song-of-the-old-mother/)
no copyright infringement intended

Coole and Ballylee

Another emblem there! That stormy white
But seems a concentration of the sky;
And, like the soul, it sails into the sight
And in the morning’s gone, no man knows why;
And is so lovely that it sets to right
What knowledge or its lack had set awry,
So arrogantly pure, a child might think
It can be murdered with a spot of ink.

Sound of a stick upon the floor, a sound
From somebody that toils from chair to chair;
Beloved books that famous hands have bound,
Old Marble heads, old pictures everywhere;
Great rooms where travelled men and children found
Content or joy; a last inheritor
Where none has reigned that lacked a name and fame
Or out of folly into folly came.






(William Butler Yeats)

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

James Joyce

Joyce in Zürich, c. 1918
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Revolutionary_Joyce_Better_Contrast.jpg)
no copyright infringement intended


Let's start with two recordings: Joyce reading from Ulysses and from Finnegans Wake. The first record was made in 1924, the second in 1929. Seemingly these are his only two recordings. You'll find more info here.



James Joyce reading from Ulysses, 1924
(video by Dor Shilton)






(A Life in Books)

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Monday, January 20, 2014

KameraKollektiv NYC



The KameraKollektiv is a group of established cinematographers based in New York City, passionate about cause-driven, social change projects, be it commercial, narrative or documentary. Their filming style combines a cinematic approach to storytelling and lighting, with spontaneous, freewheeling cinema verité (Wolfgang Held)



(Wolfgang Held)

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Nicholas Shakespeare


When your name is Shakespeare you cannot be but a writer, to follow Will's trade. And that's what Nicholas Shakespeare is, a novelist and a biographer (the same goes for Mateiu Caragiale or Aleksey Tolstoy, to name just a few).

Born in England in 1957, Nicholas Shakespeare grew up in the Far East and in South America, following his father's assignments as a British diplomat. His novels place ordinary people against a background of significant events (wiki) and were translated into 20 languages.



(A Life in Books)

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Priscilla, a Book by Nicholas Shakespeare

the author’s cousin gave him a box of documents about Priscilla Thompson
(photo from the book)
no copyright infringement intended



Priscilla Thompson had survived the Nazi occupation in France and people talked about the courage then, it was said that she had fought in the French Resistance. However, she was very discreet about that period, for the rest of her life. She hadn't encourages the legend, she hadn't denied it either.

Long time after she died, her nephew decided to find what had really happened. It resulted a picture with some lights and many shadows. Priscilla had just survived the war, like so many others. And Nicholas Shakespeare, the nephew, put the findings in his book, not embellishing, not judging either.

There is an excellent review in NY Times Books Update:




(Nicholas Shakespeare)

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Adrian Maniu, Alt cântec, Autre chanson

(http://vimeo.com/3920379)
no copyright infringement intended


Sufletul meu, nufăr pe ape,
Gândul de-acum, val moleşit,
Viaţa-n zadar vrea să mă-ngroape.
Totu-i sfârşit.

Dragostea mea, apă înceată şi verde
Între nămoalele moi,
sufletul meu, albele foi îşi pierde,
albele foi …

Cad înserări, triste, -n târziu lâncezite;
palide zări. Soare rănit
trimite nopţii pe nesimţite
somn veştejit.

Stelele, vechi luminiţe de ceară,
dorul trecut din pierdut înnoiesc,
moarte destine din tine-au să ceară
jocul firesc.

Sufletu-nfrânt – intră ca nufăru-n ape,
Tot mai adânc, în el adâncit ;
Totu-i departe, totu-i aproape … tot
În sfârşit.
(poezie românească din ultimele doua secole)

Mon âme sur les eaux, nénuphar pur
Pensée soudaine, vague assoupie,
La vie en vain veut m’engloutir.
Tout est fini.

Mon amour, eau lente couleur de jade
Entre les vases à vue d’oeil,
mon âme, ses blanches feuilles perd en panade
ses blanches feuilles …

Tombent des vêpres, tard morfondues, tristement,
aubes pâlotes. Soleil meurtri
envoie au nuit, subtilement
sommeil flétri.

Etoiles, menues chandelles en cire,
l’envie passée du manqué renouvellant,
tes destinées elles vont les occire
le jeu évident.

L’âme brisée – sombre comme un lotus dans le gué,
Au plus profond, cherchant le torrent ;
Tout est si loin, tout est si près …
tout      Finalement.
(traduit du roumain par Cindrel Lupe)

(Adrian Maniu)

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Leitourgia

Detail from liturgy book - Holy Trinity
(http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-detail-liturgy-book-image22769093)
no copyright infringement intended


My friend David, the pastor of the Clarendon Presbyterian Church (the wee kirk - progressive, inclusive, diverse) has, as he says in his most recent message, a bit of an obsession with a few Greek words. Liturgy is one of them. Says David, the word comes from the combination of two Greek terms (leos, or people, and ergo, or to do, as in work or duty). And he continues, originally, leitourgia referred to a public duty or a service to the commonwealth: in the Septuagint, the 2nd-century BCE translation into Koine Greek of the Hebrew scriptures, the verb form, leitourgeo, was used for the public service of the temple - from that usage emerged the word as we use it now referring to worship services. Thus, concludes David, liturgy is our common work.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian let me add that the liturgy has one more dimension: the worship gets a response - the sacrament of the Kingdom (Father Schmemann) - Last Supper and Cross are two unseparated moments (Father Boris Raduleanu in Holy Liturgy and Apocalypse expounded by the Words on the Cross ).

(Psalter)

(Church in America)

Monday, January 13, 2014

8 1/2 (Otto e mezzo), Fellini, Mastroianni, 1963


I found this photo by chance, and it wasn't carrying any indication about the personages. It was clearly related to an Italian movie, I didn't know which one. Both guys seemed very well-known to me, only I wasn't able to guess the names. One of them seemed to be Mastroianni, I wasn't hundred percent positive. Frankly not even forty percent positive; but this was the first name that crossed my mind. Anyway, if it were Mastroianni, this was a very atypical image of him. I looked at other images of him, I remained unsure. As for the second guy, that was much harder. I tried to think at other actors, also at some movies, only to realize that I hadn't watched too many Italian movies, that I hadn't watched many of the most celebrated Italian movies, and anyway all Italian movies watched by me had been very long time ago.

My wife came to help: she was sure about Mastroianni and I started again a search through his images. Eventually I found again the photo, in a blog dedicated to movies (Le Mot du Cinéphiliaque): Federico Fellini and Marcelo Mastroianni in a moment of respite during the shooting of Otto e mezzo. Wow!

8 1/2 (Otto e mezzo)  - one of the many great Italian movies I missed. I had read one or two things about it and it had been on my bucket list. Well, not that dramatic, rather kind of: a movie that I wanted to watch sometime. During the years my interest had shifted toward the Asian cinematic universe, toward the great Japanese, Indian, Iranian, Chinese / Taiwanese / Hong Kong film directors - maybe it was now time to visit again Fellini and the other Italians.

I looked for a copy of Otto e mezzo on youTube, and the first video I found was dedicated to its score, created by Nino Rota. I loved Nino Rota's music, since the day I heard on my old record player one of his concertos. A concerto for bassoon that sounded a bit classic and a bit modern. I looked then for other works by him, to realize that the Italian cinematic universe could not have been what it was without Nino Rota's scores.



The video included movie posters, images of Fellini and Rota, also of some famous actors playing in it (among them Cardinale, Aimée, of course Mastroianni), and stills from the movie. Some of these stills were extraordinary: it seemed to be the Felliniesque universe pushed to the absolute, a movie to challenge all movies.

The next video I found was the opening scene of the movie: a nightmare having the main hero caught in a traffic jam inside a tunnel. The jam is absolute, no car can move at all. The hero is inside his car seemingly chocking, trying unsuccessfully to open one of the windows, writhing spasmodically, while the people in the other cars either don't care, or chase him, sometimes vaguely malicious, sometimes like watching a film. Eventually he succeeds to get out of his car and starts flying slowly in the air, the nightmare getting into an enchanting dream - till he is pulled down to earth by a person who awakes him.



Otto e mezzo - opening scene
(video by asanisimasa666)

As I was watching this scene I began to remember that I had seen it several times during the years, included in some extras documenting important moments in cinema history. My need to watch the whole movie was getting more and more acute.

As I was looking further for the movie, I found some short references. According to Lechuguilla, Otto e mezzo was not for everyone; like a Zen koan, inviting frustration; above all else a celebration of ambiguity and abstraction. For Alexandar, 8 1/2 was an inner-space Odyssey. As for Asa_Nisi_Masa2, this movie taught him a new language. I was looking further for a copy of the film.

I found instead  a review made by Roger Ebert, very polemic: what we think of as Felliniesque comes to full flower in La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2; the earlier films, wonderful as they often are, have their Felliniesque charm weighted down by leftover obligations to Neorealism. And later in the review: (the critic Alan Stone) deplores Fellini's stylistic tendency to emphasize images over ideas; I celebrate it; a filmmaker who prefers ideas to images will never advance above the second rank because he is fighting the nature of his art; the printed word is ideal for ideas; film is made for images, and images are best when they are free to evoke many associations and are not linked to narrowly defined purposes.

Now, if I think about the net difference Roger Ebert makes between film and printed word (language of images, language of ideas), maybe he is not totally right, as he does a bit of injustice to the printed word. I would say there is a nuance blurring the difference: the printed word is not just ideas, rather ideas supported by implicit images. T.S.Elliot emphasized this nuance in his essay about the objective correlative. And, after all, any language sends ultimately to images. More than that: it is born from images, it is supported all along by images, it sends to images.

Well, as I was advancing that day in reading more and more about Otto e mezzo, I realized that it was becoming one of the many movies I knew a lot about without actually having the chance to watch. Finding it was now critical. And finally I succeeded. I found the movie on youTube. Its embedding being disabled by the video author, I can give you here only the link:


A film director nel mezzo del cammin. Behind there are eight movies and a half, now he is about to start a new one, and everything's getting derailed. It's the midlife crisis, the age when any of your certitudes are vanishing. The escape is a universe of dreams built by your illusions, competing with a parallel universe of nightmares built by your demons. Both challenged by reality,

Actually Fellini had in that moment eight movies and a half behind (kind of: there were seven films plus two segments in collective productions)  and Otto e mezzo was his new movie. Mastroianni was playing the alter-ego of Fellini, and Otto e mezzo was a meditation about the making of that very movie! Putting forth all avatars torturing the artist throughout the process of creation.

As I was watching, I wondered whether Fellini tried here to mock some of the New Wave trends, inflating everything up to derisory. Well, maybe, but  this movie is far from being just an uncontrollable play with images and phantasies. It has a subtle consistency. Think at a musical piece: the composer can make any crazy transpositions throughout it, while keeping the control, and at the end the return to the initial tonality is mandatory. The same with this movie. As unexpected a phantasy could appear throughout the film, Fellini keeps firmly the controls in hand and does not loose consistency. And as it was approaching to the end I started to feel  that watching of this movie like a blessing.




Otto e mezzo - original Italian trailer
(video by Raúl Quintanilla)

Here is the original Italian trailer, based on the movie ending.


(Italian Movies)

Old Stories from Gadsby's Tavern

shared from Joelle Morrison
(https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=693953487301784)
no copyright infringement intended


Believe me or not, I once met Benjamin Franklin. It was in Alexandria, VA, in an old winery, the Gadsby's Tavern. An old gentleman was walking slowly from one table to the other, a cane in his right hand, chatting with the patrons. Not only that he looked like Franklin, he was also dressed like him.

How are you young man, he asked me, and he went on, do you observe Christ's birthday or rather  his precepts?

I looked a bit puzzled, and I tried an equivocal answer, kind of you know, sometimes, you know, well, you know what I mean.   

No, I don't, he said smiling, so think about and I'm waiting. I have all the time in the world at my disposal.

I didn't know what to do. Fortunately another old gentleman entered. He looked like Washington and was dressed like him. Let the young fellow sip his glass of wine, Ben, and don't puzzle people here with impossible questions!

Then the two gentlemen sat down at another table, sipping wine and remembering old days.




(Alexandria)

(Church in America)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Loving Vincent - a Movie in the Making



Thanks Ion Vincent Danu for bringing this to our attention.






(Van Gogh)

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Lăutarii, un film de Emil Loteanu (1972)

Lăutarii
movie poster for the Italian distribution
(http://moldova-film.clan.su/load/drama/lautarii_1971/3-1-0-5)
no copyright infringement intended


Bogăția policromă a cântecului și dansului popular, generozitatea detaliului etnografic, ecoul baladei populare, cântecul bătrânesc cu dulceața versului lui Anton Pann ... (lăutarii) dezmoșteniții sorții bântuind stepele Bugeacului, disprețuiți și alungați, cei din urmă la spovedanie și țintirim, cei dintâi la nunți și la bucuria serbărilor populare.




Lăutarii, un film de Emil Loteanu, 1972
muzica: Eugen Doga
(video by buldangh)



(Filmofilia)

Friday, January 03, 2014

A Romantic Tamil Short Movie


Here is a short movie played and directed by Karthik Doss, a romantic story, maybe a bit too melodramatic for my taste, but definitely fresh and with a very good sense of cinematic rhythm. At a second view I'm starting to think that the melodrama is here a pretext for following a tight cinematic logic.




(Karthik Doss)

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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Gentlemen Club (à la manière d'Alarcón)

George Tomaziu, Saloon
watercolor and ink
private collection
(http://araart.ro/licitatii/licitatia-nr-3)
no copyright infringement intended


(click here for the Romanian version)

A small group of gentlemen well in their seventies, meeting any given day in a pub of sorts. Four or five of them come every day, sometimes there are one or two more. It's near an old graveyard, and that graveyard is named after the village that used to be there long time ago. That village was swallowed by the city, it happened in the forties or fifties. Firstly slums replaced the old households and gardens and swamps, much later alleys of apartment buildings came over the slums.

On the other end of the graveyard there is a market where peasants come to sell their vegetables and stuff. They talk between them in their native language, which is different from the language of the country: their great-grandparents left their own country  and settled here. This market changed names several times, more or less on each change of political regime: people always use the name that was just replaced; so the new name is like a no name; but as soon as the new name is in turn replaced, people adopt it enthusiastically.

You'd say this market of vegetables and cheese and so on has always been there; it's not like that. For many years it was a flea market in this place. A streetcar was coming from downtown, and here was the last stop. There was a statue showing a soldier that had lost his right hand in the battle, while having in his left hand a grenade. Followed a narrow street with small houses. You could guess large courtyards behind. The flea market began at the end of this street. I was there only three times: dust and misery.

That flea market vanished so many decades ago that nobody talks about it any more. Large boulevards and ugly apartment buildings came over the place and the streetcar line has now another end, far away.

Much later another flea market appeared there, this time at the other end of the graveyard, neighboring some large vegetable gardens. I never knew who owned the gardens, it seems they belonged to some factories from the neighborhood. It remained like that only  a couple of years. Then the flea market together with the gardens disappeared (while the factories went out of business, one after the other).  The place is occupied now by restaurants trying (with limited success) to imitate the downtown atmosphere, alleys with villas for the new rich, a supermarket with a huge parking lot most of the time empty, three gas stations, a gym, a huge Eastern-Orthodox cathedral, a small Catholic settlement, an Evangelic assembly hall, two kindergartens, plus some small shops. However this second flea market left some remains: a street corner where some people still come with shabby stuff that nobody's interested to buy, and three or four small embarrassing stores exhibiting second hand clothing.

The pub I briefly mentioned at the beginning is actually also a relic of the flea market universe. All other restaurants try to pretend to be kind of brands, this one is just a hovel with cheap wine, cheap bear, and cheap vodka. Oh, I forgot the rum, some patrons mix it with the bear. Peasants come here (not many, though - there is another hovel in walking distance), also some workers (there is a body shop around), also the grave-diggers from nearby - and beside them a separate table, for the gentlemen club.

Gentlemen coming in the morning, more or less at the same time, taking their seats at the table, each one having in front of him a carafe of wine. Each one has his stories, his jokes, his opinions about soccer, women, politics, cars. Only it's been a long time since each one learned all others stories and jokes and opinions. Thus everybody's silent. It's enough to see a fugitive smile on Old Jack's face and you know what's in his mind, only he doesn't tell the tale anymore. It was told far too many times.

Nobody else stays at that table. If a newcomer enters the pub and takes a sit there, the waiter comes immediately and tells him in a whisper to move to some other table. So each gentleman arrives and sits in his chair, always the same chair. The waiter brings immediately the carafe of wine for him, and a glass, both kept cold.

The owners changed several times and each time the staff changed, too. Plus minor changes in the furniture, like new TV monitors, that kind of stuff. The gentlemen remained there, at their table, with their carafes of wine and their silence. And I never thought something will change in this respect.

Firstly Old Jack passed away. He had been in some way their informal leader, if you could talk about a leader here. Everybody respected him and his was the last word always, even in their situation where silence was the king. He had been an engineer or something at one of the factories in the neighborhood, and had been retired for about fifteen years. Neither the factory was anymore, replaced by a mall. He had two boys. One of them had moved abroad, Germany or Switzerland something, the other worked in an insurance company. And one day came when Old Jack did not appear in the pub: the beginning of an illness that plagued him for the next three months till he died. The others came to see him for the last time at the chapel: he looked like sleeping.

The second to kick the bucket was the Doctor. Actually he wasn't a doctor, only he had followed two or three years in a medical college, then he gave up and changed several menial jobs. Nevertheless it was enough to be called by everybody there a doctor. He had had his quirks while young: for instance he always drank standing up, as if he didn't want to spoil the strip at his pants. He wasn't like that any more and now he was seating in row with the others. I don't know whether he still played poker, he had been an aficionado for gambling. Nobody would have guessed how he had been in his young years, now he had a pretty humble demeanor. Still he was a chain smoker. However there were not the cigarettes that killed him, but a pneumonia.

Neither Mac the Cobbler was a shoemaker. I really don't know why they were calling him the Cobbler. He had been friends with the Doctor since their young years, sharing the passion for gambling. If it were for me, I would have called him rather Mac the Tailor, just for fun, only who am I to call names? He wasn't coming so often as the others, and always was very carefully dressed, with coat and tie and everything, only his shoes were kind of bobo. That's it, nobody's perfect. He survived his friend for only two months.

Then it came the turn of Silvio, the kindest of all of them. He had a work accident sometime in his past and never fully recovered. And he lived with the sequels for all his life. Two or three months ago he went to a doctor as he felt badly, then a surgery was necessary, and after other two weeks he passed away. As I said, the kindest in the group. Mike was always filling Silvio's glass, I believe it was a proof of sympathy. It would have been impossible not to like Silvio.

George had worked at a cigarette factory, quite away from this neighborhood. After retirement he took a partial time job somewhere, but he renounced pretty quickly. He had a sister living in the country and sometimes he was staying with her for two or three months. His death came as a surprise, nobody would have expected that, as he was the youngest in the group.

And so, Mike is now alone. Coming every day, seated at that table, the waiter comes with the carafe of wine and the glass, and he drinks it slowly. No more the other gentlemen, to keep silent together, that so full silence.

(Daniel Alarcón)

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