Cinema Current Events Criticism Architecture Thought

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Apropos Watching Godard's Notre Musique Last Nigh

Now that I think back on watching the Godard film last night - probably the most memorable aspect of it - beyond the actual film - which was everything one could say about a great work of art (except that it was made for 'enterntainment' purposes) - was that the cinema itself was empty!!!
At 7:30 pm empty. Empty except for me and three other viewers. And this in the what we and many others consider the present cultural capital of the world. A work of art so engrossing, so bold, so interesting and profound. Layered, cultured, provocative, stimulating, poetic and inspiring. And the theater was empty.
Go figure.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Godard's "Notre Music "

Godard's Notre Music is one of the most fitting closing thoughts to the 20th century and a good thing he took his time to make it.
A broad Dante like reflection on the nature of human interaction, this film meditates on the possiblity for rebirth after the trauma of war.
Dense, passionate, honest, clear and at once cryptic, this film is, in the tradition of Godard, a visual and aural essay on the nature of being alive, being human, being man, and thus it is both depressing and uplifting at the same time.
It is a intense reflection on the power of the image, or the dialectic nature of human action and thought and and all together exhilirating exprience which transcends film as entertainment and assures us that it is still an art, breaking barriers as a tool of thought.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Discussing Trends in Hollywood and other 2004 Cinema

The two main NY Times film critics - A.O. Scott and Manhola Dargis discuss movies, films and cinema in the last year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag is Dead

It was with great sadness that I read that Susan Sontag died here in Manhattan today. She was a towering figure in late 20th Century thought and a controversial figure who did not give up. I read "On Photography" and "Against Interpretation" at NYU and based two essays, one on the relationship between Theater and Film and the other on Godard's Vivre Sa Vie based on her essays. These works were a real inspiration to me.
Being that I am a New Yorker, I do have my own personal Susan Sontag story.
Immediately after 9/11 she took a vocal stand (as a panelist on Nightline) against the idea of labeling the terrorists who attacked the US on that day as cowards.

"In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of (the) slaughter, they were not cowards," she said.

It was a principled stand of great sanity in a time of hysteria and what emerged as a manipulative war - of coures - those 'pure patriots' labelled her anti-American. I remember that evening as a great act of intellectual heroism.
A few months later, I was sitting at my favorite Japanese restaurant, Hasaki, on 9th Street between 3rd and 2nd Ave. and I saw her. Just as iconic as the photos - a mane of black hair with its signature streak of pure white. She was having an dinner with a friend. I watched her animated conversation, full of gestures and intense talk. I watched and tried to listen, but couldn't hear a thing over the hum, but before I left the restaurant, I walked over to her table and stretched out my hand to shake hers and said to her "I admire you for your brave stand right after 9/11 - you are one of the heros" and she said "Thank you, and who are you...?" I told her and she said Thank you again. And I said "No, Thank YOU" and left.

Monday, December 27, 2004

MoMA's New Home, for Better and Worse

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The New MoMA

A visit to the rebuilt Museum of Modern Art in New York City was my Christmas Eve treat.
The most famed and venerable museum of the 20th Century has now been reopened in a new home - an expanded its spatial framework that will allow it to be prepared for another century of leadership in the art world.
There has been a huge amount of anticipation in advance of this opening. Not just because a major new building was about to become a part of NY urban environment, but because MoMA was missing during the 4 years that it was closed to the public in Manhattan, missing from the life of the city. I know I missed it.
Missing an institution may seem bizarre to some people - but when the institution is the MoMA, with its incredibly familiar and intimate collection - the sense that MoMA was missing was palpable to us living here in NYC.
On top of all that, Yoshio Taniguch's first building in the US is an event on its own - remembering the intense competition to choose the architect, a spanking new cultural building in the heart of NYC. Exciting.
So the verdict is - amazing architectural experience - both sublime, exciting, poetic, bombastic, monumental, subtle- a great achievement to create a space that is both exiciting and somehow timeless. It is a huge envelope that allows for the new MoMA to emerge. And emerge it does.

Of course it's hard to say how things will evolve when the dust settles (and they remember to clean off some of the hand prints left on the walls by workers from the last minute work done to complete it on time for the opening), but right now, my general response was not great. Again, it's not like the building isn't impressive - it is - but first, the sense of initimacy is gone and instead we have a power play. A clear exhibition literally of the massive collections endless bounty, with more attention to quality of quantity then to the ability of an individual to feel comfortable in the building. This used to be a place you could enjoy in an afternoon, now there was just a sense of being overwhelmed.

So the good news is that the contemporary exhibition on the second or third floors is very impressive, very current and quite airy. The largesse of the space is quite appealing and it really has the feel of a grand indoor public square where great art resides and people mingle, juxtaposed. The other great space and hanging is the post-war (mostly) American Art on the 5th floor. The ceiling height, the density, the choice of work. Excellent. But that is as far as it goes.
The 'historic' collection of early 20th Century art was relegated to a floor (number 4, I think) whose relatively low ceiling height and density of hanging left us feeling claustrophobic and suffocated, rushing for higher ground. The drawing and etching section, dense, the design section like a design superstore. Just felt like everything was so commercialized that the sense was that we were experiencing an Artistic Disneyland overwhelmed us (I am sure the pre-Christmas crowds didn't help).
Even the store felt devoid of depth - and I guess that's the bottom line. The mass commodotization of art in the late 20th Century finally get's it's ultimate expression - a Big Box Musuem for the Home Depot Generation.
It's a disappointment.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Sevilla, Spain December 18, 2004

On the very last leg of my most intensive European trip yet. Almost 3 weeks on the road - with so many stops in so many countries it's hard for me to even remember where it all started. But I will remember tomorrow, as I head back to Paris to pick up the late night flight on Monday back to NYC. The blur of European cities is racing in my mind - Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Koln, Munich, London, Madrid and now, Seville.
So I could go back and try and recount the intensity of all the travel and all the meetings and the multitude of restaurants and bars, of hotel rooms and and checkin countersm airport security checkstrains to the airport and taxis to the meetings, the endless procession of gates and airplane seats (window and aisle); the countless times I said something to so many different faces in so many different places, but I won't.
I will say that Seville is the opposite of my travels and so it is strange to end up here - to walk the well trodden streets of centuries and centuries of continuity - here things are lively and yet still. Lively with crowds spilling out of every bodega, of every cerveceria and restaurant chatting and drinking to the middle of the night, alive with the hidden squares and the shoulder wide alleys revealed in a crack between buildings that you would miss if you blinked as you scanned the buildings, vibrant with the happenstance of a flamenco singer, his guitarist and dancer, pouring their heart out into the night in a shed filled with smoke so thick that after an hour you stumble out into the clean air with a sense of liberation that makes you want to scream for joy. But this vibrancy is also a stillness - of timelessness and everpresentness of a place where each generation fills the human void left by those that came before to inhabit the physical environment that has a solid continuity whose weight cannot be described. So I am feeling very light and transient, very transcendent and disconnected, very ethereal almost physically none existent - I have no placeness. No physical location anywhere, I feel like I am a spirit of movement and non-rootedness. In a good and also a melancholy way. And then I encounter Sevilla with it's massive Girlada and Catedral, it's Belen nativity scenes and it's stand-ins who all look the part of South Spaniards that it's scary. Total rootedness, total here, now, then, in the future, total physicality.
It's an intense contrast for the transient traveller, one that kind of makes me sad. Strengthensing my sense of temporariness.
It's a beautiful place in the winter.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Amsterdam Saturday December 4th 2004

I am sitting in De Jaren...deemed my favorite cafe in Amsterdam. It is a placial modernist place, sprawling over two floors next to the Hotel D'Europe and with floor to celing windows looking onto the River Amstel, for which Amsterdam is named. Multitudes of people fill the place with a constant buzz of conversation in a full array of languages. The warmly lit multi tiered open space with a huge two story bar can be clearly seen with all it's splendour from outside and the environment is nothing but warm and inviting,. It seems so democratic with people of all ages and from all places filling it's small modern twosome and communal tables - such a mirror of this place. Still free - still open - despite a darkening shadow of xenophobia and fear.
I love Amsterdam for it's low key classiness and this openness. And the Dutch are overall a beautiful people; seeming almost universally bright, with their astounding command of the English language, the quality of which strikes me as better than many places in the States. Everyone and I mean Everyone speaks English (usually along with German and Frenc) and that is probably one of the reasons I think these people (along with the Danish, probably) as a whole are the most linguistically sophisticated in the world.
Drinking tea, looking at the other cafe goers, this place is always a great great stop.

It's been a crazy week for us at TOA, with travel abounding and many new potential prospects - I managed to break my own record for travel going from NYC to Pittsburgh and back and then on to Paris and Brussells all in the course of less than 24 hours. And within 12 hours of that on to Amsterdam. The enormously increased pace was due mostly to the feeling of urgency of the end of the year and the need to conclude it with a bunch of new prospects on the table. And I think that we did that nicely. Three new potential clients on the table in France and in Belgium made the coming of this weekend a much needed but greatly deserved time. Next week on to Germany and the UK.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

For a student of film, which officially I still am, I can say that I am not obsessive about the medium I love. I can go for a while without seeing a movie, and somehow function just fine. I never feel like I am going cold turkey or giving up something essential. I think that is how I have kept film relevant and magical all these years, despite the academic interest and involvement. I can still approach it as the ultimate of immersions and escapes and forget about the mind element, allowing me to look with fresh, not fatigued, eyes at every film I see.

Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
strikes a deep chord of relevance in the heart of the hurt.
Who of us has not wished to overcome the huge burden of sadness that a loss (especially the loss of a lover) leaves us with, who has not cursed the moment we met someone, or the day they were born, not out of hate, but out of profound pain?
So it is an especially seductive notion that is presented by Charlie Kaufmann and his collaborators - the idea of being able to go to sleep and to erase the memory of a relationship gone bad. And though this notion might quickly run our to steam, the particular brand of narrative structural virtuosity which has become the Kaufmann hallmark, and here finally comes together in it's fullest manifestion, makes this quite a fulfilling intellectual and for the first time, emotional experience.
In previous Kaufmann films (as we can now assuredly call them - his work having been realized now by more than one director - maintaining the particular Kaufmann spirit through and through) it was never any question that we are up against a profound talent, whose sense of contemporary structural theory was innate and whose combination of dramatic (and comic) vision was distinct. But Adaptation and Being John Malkovtich though good intellectual ticklers, lost it about 2/3 of the way through and for lack of new brain teasing ideas, fell apart in an absurd way and most sadly, left me cold.
Not only cold, but almost disdainful. It wasn't that they didn't exude respect, they did, but they also ended up trying sooooo hard, that they seemed to me absurdly empty, more trick films than real statements, despite many delightful moments.
Not so with this one.
Maybe it's the fact the he has put Spike Jonze behind him. Maybe it's the great cast of actors who give it there all, maybe it's just the 3rd time lucky (and I know this is really the fourth, but Human Nature was by no means an A film like the other two), no matter what the reason, this one seems to have done it: creating a film that is both mind bending, structurally pleasing intellectual teaser AND a film with deep emotional resonance.
Carry finally almost nearly makes the grade of breaking through the wall of being himself, putting a performance of subdued depth and sensitivity and Kate Winslet brings together that unique brand of full bodied smart modern woman potential that was always an integral part of her appeal and here really becomes a central palpable pilar of the film.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


Though I usually don't write about technology (I don't know why I am totally into it...), I have to write about Skype. I have been using it for a few months now to talk to family and friends, near and far, and but for a few gliches and some moments of lower quality, Skype has been AMAZING!!!
The notion that you can download a piece of software that was designed by some real geniuses and then talk to people around the world for free...Well that's not new...but the efficiency and the UI are excellent...but most importantly the quality of the sound. Impeccable, glorious, fantastic and every superlative I can think of. It's way better than a phone, even better than local call quality (like someone standing right next to you in the room and talking into your speakers ). Since I downloaded it and had my family and friends download (I am a classic example of the perfect viral marketing participant...) I have not made one single long distance call.
The total annihalation of the telecom industry as we know it is on it's way. If you don't believe me, ask Michael Powell , Chairman of the FCC.

Skype is happening and it's happening big!