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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Catalan Universe

La dibujante Pilarín Bayés lleva la historia de Catalunya al iPad
(Sketcher Pilarín Bayés quita la historia de Cataluña en el iPad)
no copyright infringement intended

(La Española - or Hispaniola)


La Española (or Hispaniola)

A tale of Two Ships
Una cuenta de dos carabelas
(shared from Hornblower page)
no copyright infringement intended

Había una vez, no uno, sino dos carabelas que tenian el mismo nombre: La Española (o Hispaniola, lo que ocurra primero).

There was once not one, but two caravels carrying the same name: Hispaniola (or La Española, whichever comes first).

Posts under this title belong to all Iberic space, in Europe and America

Mensajes bajo este título pertenecen a todo el espacio ibérico, en Europa y América

Posts sob este título pertence a todo o espaço ibérico, na Europa e América

Missatges sota aquest títol pertanyen a tot l'espai ibèric, a Europa i Amèrica

Izenburu honen pean Mezuak Iberic espazio guztiak sartzen dira, Europan eta Amerikan

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Edmund Charles Tarbell

In many American museums, near the cloakroom there is a living, with some large armchairs to rest a little, and to meditate at the paintings you have seen. A fireplace is there, with an impressive mantel, the way mantels were designed in the past. Some tableaus hang on the walls: images of the past curators of the museum, sited on large armchairs, like the one you are resting on, near the same fireplace.

The photo above was taken when Edmund Charles Tarbell became the principal of the Art School at Corcoran in DC. He didn't stay there for too long, but came back to Boston, to have a position of responsibility at the Museum School. He had had such a position also prior to his Corcoran period. So pervasive was his influence on the generations of Bostonian painters that they would be dubbed The Tarbellites. A true son of New England.

Tarbell was a member of The Ten, and is considered as belonging to the American Impressionism, with a touch of duality though: his formative years in Paris had exposed him to the Old Masters on view at Louvre, as well as to the Impressionists who were at their pick by then. In his late years he became influenced by the works of Vermeer.

(The Moderns)



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Friday, August 29, 2014

Prosper Mérimée: La Vénus d'Ille

Prosper Mérimée wrote this story in 1835. It's definitory, I think, for his entire oeuvre: his passion for the cultural artifacts of Greek-Roman antiquity, even his desire to make their universe alive again, at any cost; his empathy for local folklores, his voluptuousness in pushing the imaginary to become reality;  his courage to find the evil dimension of the ineffable (lesson absorbed from Pushkin?); his balance of the story between rational and irrational; and his superb balance, superb mastership, of the phrase.

Was he a faithful Christian? Far from that. But, instead of faith, doubt: and nihilistic obsession for a mysterious presence of something beyond. Mysterious, capricious, incomprehensible, evil.

You can find the text here:

(Prosper Mérimée)


Catalan Universe: a Fragment from Canigó

let's try a bit of Catalan: a fragment from Canigó, a poem by Jacint Verdaguer i Santaló:

Lo Canigó és una magnòlia immensa
que en un rebrot del Pirineu se bada;
per abelles té fades que la volten,
per papallons los cisnes i les àligues.
Formen son càlzer escarides serres
que plateja l’hivern i l’estiu daura,
grandiós beire on beu olors l’estrella,
los aires rellentor, los núvols aigua.
Les boscúries de pins són sos bardissos,
los Estanyols ses gotes de rosada,
i és son pistil aqueix palau aurífic,
somni d’aloja que del cel davalla

Here is an English rendering:

The Canigó is an immense magnolia
that blooms in an offshoot of the Pyrenees;
its bees are the fairies that surround it,
and its butterflies the swans and the eagles.
Its cup are jagged mountain chains,
colored in silver by the winter and in gold by the summer,
huge cup where the star drinks fragrances,
the airs freshness and the clouds water.
The pine forests are its hedges and the ponds its dew drops,
and its pistil is that golden palace,
seen by the nymph in her dreams descending from heaven.


(Catalan Universe)

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Catalan Universe: Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer

Jacint Verdaguer i Santaló (1845-1902), poet and priest, was one of the greatest figures of Catalan literature, of the Renaixença, el Príncep dels Poetes Catalans, the Prince of Catalan Poets. Pope Leo XIII received him in audience in 1878, and they talked about Verdaguer's L'Atlàntida (I mention this, as  the memory of a great friend of mine comes to mind: he was considering Leo XIII the most important Pope in modern history).

(Una Vida Entre Libros)

(Ramon Casas)

(Catalan Universe)

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Catalan Universe: Ramon Casas i Carbó

Ramon Casas i Carbó, self-portrait, 1908
drawing - charcoal, sepia and white lead, pastel and gouache on paper
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
(Google Art Project)
no copyright infringement intended

Tackling a bit the Catalan universe, here is about an artist of Barcelona, Ramon Casas i Carbó (1866-1932), known as a portraitist, sketching and painting the intellectual, economic, and political elite of Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, and beyond; he was also known for his paintings of crowd scenes ranging from the audience at a bullfight to the assembly for an execution to rioters in the Barcelona streets (wiki).

(The Moderns)

(Catalan Universe)

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Prosper Mérimée

I'm always coming back with great joy to my reading passions of my youth, the French authors of the 19th century. Their building of sentences is perfect, their French is the noblest. It cannot be more than that.

A bit about Prosper Mérimée. He knew Greek, Spanish, English, and Russian (the first who gave French renderings of Russian classics). He was an eminent archaeologist, with a great love for the arts and with a keen interest for mysticism and history. His stories show his passions, and his imagination is superbly impregnated with a particular spin for the unusual and beguilement (and what else is mysticism and history so often other than unusual and beguilement?).

(Le Parnasse des Lettres)


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yukon Kings

Yukon Kings, 2013
no copyright infringement intended

The Yukon River draws into its mouth the largest migration of chinook, chum, and coho salmon stocks in the world. For the chinook, or kings, the river offers passage from the Bering Sea to spawning streams across Alaska and Yukon Territory all the way to British Columbia. The iconic fish run is one of the longest freshwater fish migrations on earth. Because the kings will not feed once they enter the river, they must build up tremendous oil reserves beforehand. Burning only this fuel, some of the Canada-bound kings will ascend the river over 2,000 miles, climbing 2,200 feet, fighting the Yukon’s powerful current for up to two months. Consequently, with oil levels reaching more than 30 percent of their muscle weight, Yukon kings are the richest salmon in the world. More oil means more moisture, more flavor, and a lusher taste. Many epicures say these salmon have no equal. They’re like blocks of butter, says one Yukon River fisherman.

A nine minute documentary made by Emanuel Vaughan-Lee, telling the story of nowadays King salmon of the Yukon River. It's the most celebrated variety of salmon, now in danger of going into extinction. Historically, the average Yukon king run was around 300,000; but in the 16 years since 1997 half the run has disappeared; the average harvest is only a third what it was (Alaska Journal of Commerce). The fish is shrinking in size and in weight: evolutionary biology predicts that if a population is subject to significantly increased mortality, earlier sexual maturity will result, and breeding will occur at a smaller body size (Alaska Journal of Commerce). The ecological danger is tackled by the movie somehow obliquely: an old fisherman would love to have his grandchildren take over the trade (and pass the knowledge further, to future generations). His tone seems though far from optimistic. Under his plea there is concern. And so, the fisherman wish for his grandchildren becomes an elegy for an occupation that is in danger to disappear together with the Yukon king.

(Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee)


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun
no copyright infringement intended

I bought today two novels written by Hamsun. I had entered the bookstore nearby to find another author, and I discovered there Pan and Victoria. I will come back to them (and to Hunger, of course). Speaking about his political opinions: were I to live in that epoch, I would have been politically and morally on the opposite side (as I am also now). I must say, too: when it comes to analyze a person, I believe in the healing virtues of time. Let's say it other way: time brings perspective. Speaking about his importance as a writer: his works were seminal.

For now I would give here just a fragment from a movie made in 1966, based on his most celebrated novel. I think it is a good start to enter his universe.

fragment from Sult (Hunger), movie made in 1966
(video by schokone)

(German and Nordic Literature)

(German and Nordic Cinema)


On the Hunting Ground (Lie chang zha sha), 1984

...their traditions and rituals are often left unexplained, simply let play out for themselves in front of the camera. Like in all his movies, the landscape at times becomes the very subject. His long takes emphasize its vastness, its beauty, and its dangers...

... high-speed, fast-paced, uninhibited wild hunting scenes...

I learned about this movie (also about director Tian Zhuang-Zhuang) from Asian Cinema, an extensive monograph authored by Tom Vick. I used to live by then in DC Area and quite often I was going to the Freer Gallery, where Tom Vick was organizing sometimes screenings of Asian movies. I bought his book at the gallery bookstore, after such a screening. A splendid monograph covering the cinema across the whole Asian continent. The information Tom Vick was giving about Tian Zhuang-Zhuang showed me one of the greatest moviemakers of the Chinese Fifth Generation, in the same rank with Zhang Yi-Mou and Chen Kai-Ge (whose movies I already knew about). One of the first movies made by Tian Zhuang-Zhuang (actually the first made for the big screen, prior to this he had worked for television) had been On the Hunting Ground, in 1984. There was in the book a sentence or two about it: an experimental document/narrative hybrid about a traditional hunting society in Inner Mongolia. The movie was mentioned again by the end of the paragraph: in Tian's movies not only actors had to play, all else was left to play by itself, the universe of traditions and the surrounding landscape becoming active part in the whole, and this way understanding the language (or having it translated) somehow was no more so important - people in On the Hunting Ground were speaking Mongolian and there were no subtitles, not even in Chinese (while the movie was to be screened in China).

During the following years I was able to get most of Tian's movies, some of them on DVD copies, some others found on youTube: not On the Hunting Ground. Each of his movies was a great esthetic experience; with each one I deepened my understanding of his art, his exquisite treatment of everything surrounding the actors: each element plays an active role in his movies, furniture, landscape, magic of rituals - thus the lack of understanding the language (or the lack of translation) is really compensated by the way these elements are put in play. And with each of his movies my desire to watch the others was getting bigger. I was finding then another one, and so on. But On the Hunting Ground was no way to be found. No DVD, no video on youTube, nothing. I was thinking at it with melancholy. The first movie of Tian, spoken in Mongolian, with no subtitles, showing a hunting community far from the modern civilization. I could only imagined it.

A week ago I started to look again for it on the web. It could not be found by his international name (On the Hunting Ground), nor by its Chinese name in Pinyin transliteration (Lie chang zha sha). An idea came to my mind suddenly: to look for its Chinese title in hieroglyphs! I didn't know it, but there was a way I decided to try: using Google Translator, I could get the Chinese translation for On the Hunting Ground. I knew that Google Translator provided also a transliteration for the non-Latin alphabets, so I could compare the result with the Pinyin that I already had! I made several attempts till I got the transliteration: not the order of words as in the Pinyin title, however close. I tried then to change the order of the hieroglyphs till I got the matching title!

I started then to look on the web with the four hieroglyphs, and Gosh! I found the movie: four consecutive videos on a CCTV site!

no copyright infringement intended

All this being said, let's discuss a bit the movie. If you are against animal cruelty, then don't watch it. The hunting scenes are real, in all their mercilessness and ferocity: a team of hunters on their horses, some with rifles, some with bows, some with maces, their dogs, monuments of brutality; and the abundant prey walking innocently on the abundant grass, deers, rabbits, big birds, without any chance to escape, dying without understanding what's happening to them and why. Nietzsche would have loved it.

But that's their life, of that community of hunters, doing it since immemorial times. That land has always been hunting ground, the imperial family was coming there in bygone times,  for huge parties of riding their horses, running their dogs, killing the prey... the emperors are no more, the villages of hunters are still there and will remain.

Yes, the hunting scenes in the movie are dreadful, but one cannot make otherwise a documentary about the real life there, within that community so remote from the references of modern civilization. Apocalyptic images: the camera follows uninhibited the hunters, the dogs, the prey, and captures perfectly the rhythm, the dynamic of the whole. We are told this way an essential story, about the primary instincts defining our nature: the fight to kill and to survive. In contrast, the scenes showing the village life, and the animal farming, are quiet, serene, slowly following sunsets and sunrises over the immense pastures, populated by flocks of cattle and sheep: here is another story told, the coexistence of man and nature. Hunting and farming, like two universes in a fragile balance.

And like in all these movies of Tian Zhuang-Zhuang, a spiritual sense sublimated in the story. The hunted deer is beheaded, and the trophy is hanged on a post. Then hunters bow in deep worship: the paradigm of deity accepting in innocence to be sacrificed for redeeming the world, a primary truth beyond any religious convictions and affiliations, just that: you kill the innocent, you kill the divine, and the divine is revealed.

(Tian Zhuang-Zhuang)


Friday, August 22, 2014

Yasushi Inoue

Yasushi Inoue
(image from Talented Reader, A Literary Journal)
no copyright infringement intended

famous for his serious historical fiction of ancient Japan and the Asian continent, his work also including semi-autobiographical novels and short fiction of great humor, pathos, and wisdom (wiki), he published 50 novels and 150 short stories (Talented Reader, A Literary Journal).

(A Life in Books)


Delamu (The Tea Horse Road), 2004

Delamu (Cha ma gu dao xi lie), 2004
no copyright infringement intended

There is no place like home, as the word goes. Well, sometimes it's different. For Tian Zhuang-Zhuang, one of the greatest Chinese film directors, home seems to be one or other of those regions at the border, as remote from the center as it can be, whose inhabitants still live following ancestral rhythms, sometimes speaking an idiom of their own, unknown even in the neighboring regions, sometimes observing traditions and rituals long time forgotten anywhere else, almost totally  decoupled from what's going on in the rest of the country. One of his first movies, On the Hunting Ground (猎场在狩, 1984), was a docudrama about a traditional community of hunters from Inner Mongolia. His next film, The Horse Thief (1986) was unfolding its plot in Tibet in some indefinite time (a year, 1923, specified in the first scene, while everything there breathing the eternal). A movie made much later, The Warrior and the Wolf (2009), definitely immersed in legend: a story of longtime ago, taking place (again) at the border, with people becoming wolves when falling in love...

Parajanov comes to mind (first of all his Тіні забутих предків, but also his other works, maybe not so directly). I would call this kind of movies cinematic anthropology - observing traditional societies not yet altered by modernity, as a way to better understand our own identity, where we come from and who we are.

And this anthropological flavor can be noted also in other of Tian's movies, not dedicated to faraway regions: Springtime in a Small Town (2002) revives a forgotten masterpiece from 1948 of Chinese cinema; The Go Master (2006) is a deconstruction of a Chinese genius of Go who has spent all his life in Japan. The same tendency to go away in time or in space, in a quest of understanding our collective and individual identity. Well, we know what happened when Tian tackled the recent history of China, in Blue Kite (1993): he was banned from making movies for ten years.

Delamu, made in 2004, is a documentary dedicated to the Ancient Tea-Horse Road, a mule caravan path used for more than two thousand years, connecting Yunnan (the origin homeland of tea, it seems) and Tibet, from there opening its gates toward India and Western Asia, and ultimately toward Europe. The name comes from the trade of Yunnan tea-bricks for Tibetan ponies, and it is through this road that tea spread across the world. It can be considered an alternate Silk Road.

Anyway, this Ancient Tea-Horse Road is an extremely dangerous route, winding through high mountains, on narrow paths sometimes carved between vertical slopes and precipices, traversing gorges on very unstable suspended bridges, or even on ropes stretched between the two sides: men and animals tied to these ropes.

So it is not for everyone to make the Tea Road, while it is the occupation of people living there, in the tiny villages from the region. An occupation passing from one generation to another, since the very beginnings. They make a living from traveling on this route with their mules, carrying tea, salt, grains, bartering them in the other villages.

Jeff Fuchs, the Canadian mountaineer and author, was the first Westerner to  trek the entire Tea-Horse Road, covering six thousand kilometers around there, and writing a book that I intend to read. And Tian Zhuang-Zhuang spent some months there, together with a  small film crew, befriending the people, quietly listening to their stories, patiently trying to understand their traditions and their ways, following them on the Tea Road with the camera. It resulted a gorgeous documentary. The people are approached with great empathy, it is a universe very different from ours, in the same time a world where anything can happen, and the sole rule is to expect the unexpected. Two brothers are married with the same woman, they explain that it's only normal, as each of them is missing long time with the caravans. A priest considered lost during the Cultural Revolution lives there. A family of devout Catholics lives in the village (actually only one of the spouses is Catholic, the other is Buddhist, and everybody's happy). An old woman (seemingly older than hundred) tells how she kicked off her lazy husband and found another one (presumably less lazy). A female schoolteacher wants to leave her job and go out to find the ideal man (who knows how to talk to her, and how to love her - a toxic mix, if you ask me). As one can see, the simplicity of life hides a certain sophistication of spirit.

People rely on their mules for their travels on the Tea Road. This creates a formidable bond between human and animal. The movie takes its title (Delamu) from the name of a mule: it's a Tibetan word meaning Peace Angel.

And above all this, the landscape, a road toward the transcendent. The journey to decipher all our unknowns starts here.Splendid movie!

However, there is something essential about this movie that I haven't said anything about. Like in all his other works, the contemporaneity is actually present (sometimes elusively, here directly). A large auto road is in construction, and the Ancient Tea Trail will disappear; the caravans on the perilous paths will become useless, and the raison d'être of these people will die. The mules of the last caravan on the Tea Road carry materials for the construction site. This movie is an elegy for a vanishing universe.

(Tian Zhuang-Zhuang)

(Jeff Fuchs)

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem
on the banks of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY
(uploaded on Wikimedia Commons by Dreamyshade)
no copyright infringement intended

Es una pena que no pueda publicar directamente en segunda mano; soy un verdadero apasionado de los libros usados, no de los nuevos (Jonathan Lethmen, quoted in El País)

[It's a shame I cannot publish directly for resale; I am a truly aficionado of used books, rather than first editions]

novelist, essayist and short story writer; his first novel (Gun, with Occasional Music, mixing SF and detective fiction) was published in 1994; Motherless Brooklyn (published in 1999) gained mainstream recognition; The Fortress of Solitude, from 2003, entered the NY Times Best Seller List; and he wrote many other novels and short stories; his books are kind of genre bending (mixing SF, detective, and autobiography); El País has in today's issue a column consecrated to Jonathan Lethem (El perfil izquierdo de EE UU), speaking about his most recent novel, Dissident Gardens, from 2013 (translated in Spanish, Los Jardines de la disidencia); his Chronic City, from 2009, is also mentioned in the column; you should read also Contracultura y caricatura, also from El País (Jonathan Lethem afila su pluma frente al activismo político en Los jardines de la disidencia); if they say so...

and another quote from the guy: los americanos son un pueblo ahistórico, los europeos no se lo pueden permitir

(A Life in Books)


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Refranero español

it's not what you know but who you know
no copyright infringement intended

(La Española - or Hispaniola)


Cada loco con su tema

no copyright infringement intended

The greatest value from learning the idioms, I think, is learning the actual literal meaning of the sentences in the original language, because then knowing the suggested idiomatic translation gives insight into how the new language works

Cada loco con su tema

Cada cabeza es un mundo

À chacun son sujet

Each madman on his high horse

Vienas apie batus, kitas apie ratus
(Lithuanian - literal translation: one about the shoes, the other one about the wheels)

Jeden o koze, druhý o voze
(Slowak - literal translation: one about goat, another one about carriage)

На вкус и цвет товарищей нет
(Russian - literal translation: on taste and color there is no comrade)

Каждый сходит с ума по своему
(Russian - literal translation: everyone is foul on his own)

Fiecare cu aia'mă-sii

Te poţi ... în plăcerea omului?

(Refranero español)


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo

Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo

El diablo no es malo por diablo, sino por viejo

Ce n'est pas aux vieux singes que l'on apprend à faire la grimace

There is nothing like the old horse for the hard road

Nu vinde castraveţi grădinarului

Sluga veche, mascara bătrână

Şi dracul pare frumos când e tânăr

Cine n-are bătrâni să-şi cumpere

Găina bătrână face zama bună

Note: diablo in Spanish could mean also smart, cunning, stuff like that, not only devil

(Refranero español)


Amigos son los amigos

En la necesidad se conoce al amigo

Un vieil ami est un cheval harnaché

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Друзья познаются в беде

Prietenul la nevoie se cunoaşte

(Refranero español)


Isle de Jean Charles

Early houses on Isle de Jean Charles
made from bousillage (mixture of mud and moss)
no copyright infringement intended

Families have lived there for generations, making their livings on the surrounding waters. Time moves more slowly there, and a person’s sense of home, family and community is deep-rooted.

Isle de Jean Charles is a tiny place deep in the bayous of South Louisiana. From the beginnings it has been an incredible realm of biodiversity. It is now a vanishing island, the scene of an ecological drama. Each hurricane brings narrower the moment when this island will be swallowed by the Gulf of Mexico. The effects of climate change are disastrous everywhere. Here they are just obvious.

An op-doc published in NY Times explores the dramatic realities of this island. The text is along with a ten minute movie. I would name it a great cinematic experience: an elegy for a disappearing paradise, told with dignity and restraint by its inhabitants. The author of the text and movie is Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee.

Here is a link to the text from NY Times:

Isle de Jean Charles, 2014
a documentary directed by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
(video published in NY Times)

A levee system is being built to protect communities along Coastal Louisiana, but will bypass Isle de Jean Charles because the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the State Restoration Plan has determined it is not cost-effective to extend it to include the island (http://www.isledejeancharles.com/)

(Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee)


Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

no copyright infringement intended

His film work has been featured on PBS, NY Times, The Atlantic, Outside Magazine, exhibited at The Smithsonian and screened in theaters and festivals. Previously he performed with some of the biggest names in Jazz, as well as releasing two records under his own name.



Wukchumni Language (Marie's Dictionary)

(Tule River Tribe Official Website)
no copyright infringement intended

Throughout the United States, many Native American languages are struggling to survive. According to Unesco, more than 130 of these languages are currently at risk, with 74 languages considered “critically endangered.” These languages preserve priceless cultural heritage, and some hold unexpected value — nuances in these languages convey unparalleled knowledge of the natural world.

I read in today's NY Times an op-doc telling the story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language, creator of a Wukhumni/English dictionary. It is a wonderful story, about an admirable woman fighting for her native language against all odds: against age, against poverty, against the unknowns in using computer. Fighting against all this and overcoming them, with hard work and splendid genuineness.

Along with the text there is a short documentary. Author of the text and of the short movie is Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, a filmmaker and musician living in California. The titles of his other films look very interesting (like Laugh Clown Laugh, like Youkon Kings, like Isle of Jean Charles). I would like to know more about them. Actually, as I was writing this, I just found the Isle of Jean Charles. I will come back to it.

For now, you should read his op-doc about Marie Wilcox and the Wukhumi language:

Marie's Dictionary
a documentary by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
(video published by NY Times)

(Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee)


Friday, August 15, 2014

Jeff Fuchs

Jeff Fuchs, sipping tea
just minutes after completing the circumambulation of Amne Machin
photo by Nupgong6, May 17, 2011
no copyright infringement intended

explorer, mountaineer and author, preoccupied by the relationship between mountains and indigenous cultures, the first westerner who made the entire Ancient Tea Horse Road. His book, The Ancient Tea Horse Road: Travels with the Last of the Himalayan Muleteers (2008), documents his endeavors across the Himalayas, covering six thousand kilometers and a dozen cultures.

(A Life in Books)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Roma città aperta (1945)

La storia del neo-realismo italiano in tutte le sue origini (Covo Tivù)

You can find many flaws in this movie. We are no more in 1945, we know that Rossellini had some loaded past with the regime of Mussolini and we could suspect him of a bit (?) of dishonesty to pass quickly on the good side. But I think that anyone else would have made the movie in 1945 the same way. Everything had been too recent, the wounds of a world conflict were far from being healed, everything was judged in exclusive terms, good side versus bad side. Some use still today the same dichotomy, ignoring all that happened since, and transforming the tragedy of the past in blah-blah demagoguery. History is repeating itself in a tricky way. Ironically, it comes to one of the Germans from the movie to say the universal truth ... (we) simply refuse to believe that people want to be free... we can't get anywhere but kill, kill, kill... we have sown Europe with corpses... and from those graves rises an incredible hate...

Having said that, it is a great film, a superb lesson about courage, about partisans and their fight against evil.

Roma città aperta, 1945 (storia di un film)
(video by Rada Prod.)

(Italian Movies)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)

Uncovering the drama in everyday life, the wonderful in the daily news (Vittorio de Sica in La fiera letteraria, February 6, 1948)

What makes this story so great? The answer is not that simple. Take the social level of the story. You'd say it is no more relevant. You'd say a bike (the crux of the story in this movie) is nowadays just a bike, nothing else. Actually the social level of the story goes beyond the relevance of the bike. Let's translate it in nowadays language: it's about our ambition to be middle class, the craziness of our ambition to be middle class, our impossibility to be middle class. Once a picaro, always a picaro (would say Alarcón). Once a no-have, always a no-have. The bike is but a myth, says the movie: the middle class is but a myth.

And the story goes beyond its social level: it's the personal drama of a no-have guy against a universe of no-haves like him, completely indifferent to his drama. Nobody's innocent in this story, while nobody's guilty: everyone fights to make ends meet, everyone is indifferent to the big picture.

And above all these, it is the eye of Vittorio de Sica, his extraordinary empathy for this universe of no-haves (a lesson learned from the movies of Chaplin). A universe of a superb picaresque quality: so real, so everyday, while every now and then exploding in surreal.

And Enzo Staiola, the kid always standing by his father, against all odds. And the lesson the kid gets in the end: your father is not a hero, rather somewhere between hero and jerk like everyone else, nevertheless he is your father. Great lesson!

(Italian Movies)



Limelight (1952)
no copyright infringement intended


Poveştile noastre stârneau interes. Cândva. De mult. Acum nu le mai înţelege nimeni. Sunt alte poveşti acum, alte ritmuri, alte interese.

Glumele noastre stârneau hazul. Cândva. De mult. Acum nu le mai gustă nimeni. Sunt alte vremuri, lumea glumeşte cu totul altfel, râde şi plânge pentru cu totul altele.

Priceperea noastră stârnea admiraţie. Cândva. De mult. Acum meseria noastră nu mai există. Sunt alte tehnologii. Alte industrii. Alte specialităţi. Alte profesii.

Dar noi visăm încă la luminile rampei - avem încă nevoie de luminile rampei. Şi câteodată noaptea, reluăm acelaşi vis, încă odată şi încă odată, suntem pe scenă în plină glorie şi stârnim ropote de aplauze. Şi visul se termină cumplit. Deodată sala e goală, prăfuită, întunecată. Ne trezim şi poate ne îmbătăm cu mult alcool, să ni se pară că suntem din nou cuceritorii lumii.

Şi deodată, în calea noastră apare cineva mult mai tânăr, care are un moment de rătăcire şi are nevoie de ajutor.

Şi atunci reîncepem să trăim. Ne dăm seama că viaţa noastră nu s-a terminat. Că toţi anii care s-au scurs au avut rost. Am învăţat înţelepciunea. Şi tandreţea. Şi căldura. Şi generozitatea. Şi răbdarea. Şi le revărsăm pe toate, cu infinită fericire pe fiinţa care are nevoie atunci de noi.

Şi de fapt, realizăm că ne-am îndrăgostit. Că inima noastră de clovn bătrân a rămas tânără. Că vrem încă să fim fericiţi.

Şi începem să plângem ca nişte copii, pentru că nu vrem să fim singuri. Vrem să avem fiinţa aceea gingaşă lângă noi.

Şi atunci începe baletul fanteziei. Poate anii nu sunt o povară. Sau sunt? Poate avem dreptul la dragoste? Sau trebuie să ştim să ne retragem, cu eleganţă şi înţeleaptă resemnare?

Şi o pornim înainte şi înapoi. Suntem ba nişte bătrâni înţelepţi, resemnaţi, eleganţi, şi care ştiu să îşi ascundă nostalgia. Ba credem din nou nebuneşte într-o dragoste copilărească.

Este povestea superbă din filmul Limelight, făcut în 1952 de Chaplin - l-am văzut cu câţiva ani în urmă la Art Film Theatre, găzduit pe atunci la Centrul Kennedy din Washington.




Charlie Chaplin with doll
photo made c. 1918
no copyright infringement intended

Maybe the greatest of all times.Of course, there are some other names to compete for this honor, so better said, One of the Happy Few.

Cântec pentru Charlie Chaplin, Victor Socaciu
(video by Ion Stănescu)


(Early Movies)


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New England Clam Chowder

It's a real treat and I am crazy about this New England clam chowder. It comes from Maine, as far as I know (by the way, the Rhode Island clam chowder is slightly different, though Rhode Island is also in New England). And there is also a Manhattan clam chowder, that's not only slightly, it's quite, different.

So, yes, it originated in Maine, but I ate firstly this chowder pretty far from New England: in the Fish Market of the Old Towne of Alexandria, in Northern Virginia. I found it also in Georgetown, at Tackle Box.

And then, of course in Boston, at the Quincy Market. They have there a couple of lobster and seafood eateries, and my choice has always been the one named Boston and Maine Fish Company. Not that the others would be different, it just happened for me to go every time to that particular outlet.

And you can find this New England clam chowder in some other places, too, for instance in Lexington, at two luncheonettes I liked to frequent: Via Lago and Panera Bread.

I found today the recipe, in NY Times, here you go:


    24 medium-size quahog clams, usually rated ‘‘top neck’’ or ‘‘cherrystone,’’ rinsed
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1/4 pound slab bacon or salt pork, diced
    2 leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned, then sliced into half moons
    3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    3 sprigs thyme
    1 bay leaf
    2 cups cream
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1/4 cup chopped parsley.

Preparation (it takes 1 hour)

1. Put the clams in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add about 4 cups water, then set over medium-high heat. Cover, and cook until clams have opened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. (Clams that fail to open after 15 to 20 minutes should be discarded.) Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or doubled-up paper towels, and set aside. Remove clams from shells, and set aside as well.
2. Rinse out the pot, and return it to the stove. Add butter, and turn heat to medium-low. Add bacon or salt pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the pork has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pork from fat, and set aside.
3. Add the leeks to the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine, and continue cooking until wine has evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add enough clam broth to just cover the potatoes, approximately 3 cups, reserving the rest for another use. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.
4. Partly cover the pot, and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, chop the clams into bits about the size of the bacon dice.
6. When potatoes are tender, add cream and stir in chopped clams and reserved bacon. Add black pepper to taste. Let come to a simmer, and remove from heat. (Do not let chowder come to a full boil.) Fish out the thyme and the bay leaf, and discard.
7. The chowder should be allowed to sit for a while to cure. Reheat it to a bare simmer before serving, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with oyster crackers (that's a must).

And the article from NY Times says also that this is a basic New England clam chowder, though with leeks used in place of the traditional onions, and a splash of wine to add a floral note. Also: thyme. Very continental! It is shockingly delicious and deserves its title as best. Bacon will add a smoky note to the stew. If you use it, it may be worth it to go the whole distance and get expensive double-smoked bacon instead of the standard supermarket fare. The salt pork, which is not smoked, will take the meal in the opposite direction, emphasizing the pure flavor of the clams.

Well, enjoy!

(New England)