Archive for Film Forum

Culture Clash: Our City Dreams, Beirut, the Third Mind

Posted in art, film, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I have been overwhelmingly silent lately on the blog front. It’s not that I haven’t been going out, I have. It is just that I have been overwhelmed by stimuli, potential topics, definite un-topics and when I’ve tried to sit down and review I found that the reasons were wrong.

So how about a fresh start in this fresh weather. Digest style: I want to give some shout outs to the culture I’ve been sampling lately.  I saw a great film, truly beautiful, at the Film Forum, called Our City Dreams. It tracks 5 female artists, through a year or so in their lives , recording each artists relationship with the city. The director, Chiara Clemente, profiles Kiki Smith, Swoon, Ghada Amer, Nancy Spero and Marina Abramovic. A jazz soundtrack supports the film and the cinematography is infectious, it reminded me of super 8, rainy, home video.  Although each artist is in a different stage of their life and career, all seem to be at a stage where they are receiving lots of props.  Swoon goes from street art to a show at Deitch to having work at MOMA, while Marina Abramovic has a major retrospective at the Guggenheim. Ghada Amer is probably the most interesting character to watch. As she hand stitches and weaves large canvases, she tells us that she was very depressed before she became an artist. It saved her life. Kiki Smith, the daughter of a successful artist also recalls that she started to work only in her late 20s after her father died. She couldn’t take herself seriously as an artist until then. Abramovic  details her fascinating performance art-making practices. They involve starvation, cold and self-injury.

A few days after the film,  I found myself at the Guggenheim myself for the opening of The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia. Go see it and tell me what you think! I am not so sure myself. I enjoyed seeing an annotated manuscript page from The Waste Land and some of Ginsberg’s old photos, not to mention a few beautiful Asia inspired paintings by American Artists. My friend however, thought that discussion around cultural appropriation was dangerously absent from the exhibition.

Well, speaking of un-apologetic cultural appropriation, it’s on to Beirut. I have to say that the concert at BAM on Friday night was not only beautiful, but it was also lovely, harmonic, poetic, inspiring. If I could have removed most of the shouting hipster audience from the scene it would have been even better, but hey the band themselves are hipster-esqe so not all Williamsburg-dwellers are bad. The crew of young guys, headed by a 22 year old Angel in plaid, are a band that sounds consistently like gypsy music to me, yet def. delves into brit-pop, french chanteuse  and Indigenous sounds that span multiple continents. I’m not a hater, and I won’t bag them for sounding like pretty Americans, who’ve spent some time camping in Bulgaria.  I love their music and have to take the culture clashing for what it is.

-Robyn. Brooklyn Socialite in residence again.

“Silent Light”- Review by Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey with tags , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Silent Light’ (Stellet Licht) is a film that takes it time, carefully and with extreme poise.  Set in a Mennonite community in Northern Mexico that established its roots after WWI, ‘Silent Light’ employs the extraordinary beauty of wide rural landscapes and the rigid and quiet gestures of the Mennonites to tell a story about yearning, love and hurt.

Johan (played by Cornelio Wall Fehr) is a soft-hearted man who grapples with betraying his wife Esther (Miriam Toews) and family in his love affair with Marianne (Maria Pankratz), the woman he knows to be his heart’s true match.  The films opens with a stunning time-lapse shot that magically feels merely like an ever so gradual tilt from a black star-filled sky to a flattened horizon filling with orange light and the wild sounds of morning.  We are drawn slowly to a house where an old clock ticks loudly on the wall.  In total silence and stillness, a thin, pale and blonde family prays before their morning meal.  Johan opens his eyes to look at his wife Esther.  A moment passes.  Esther opens her eyes to look at Johan who has now closed his eyes.

The finesse of ‘Silent Light’ lies in the balance between muted emotions and erratic bursts of deep, piercing expressions handled gracefully by the largely non-actor cast.  There is a tension that lies sharp under an thick layer of peaceful-looking stoicism among the three main characters.  When each of the three bursts open, however, their pain is all too real.

Alexis Zabé’s cinematography is decadent.  Shallow focus often puts the viewer uncomfortably close to the characters, their low whispery voices resonating loudly, their odd and awkward features magnified. Characters walk out of frame or only take up only part of the frame and Zabé leaves us lingering in this negative space, among gorgeous detail whose silence speaks loudly.  The perfectly timed camera movement is extraordinarily graceful and is a pleasure to watch.  There are dozens of unbearably beautiful moments in this film thanks to Zabé’s daring style.  Zabé and Reygadas together pull the viewer into a totally self-contained world where supernatural rural beauty mirrors complex emotional landscapes; where pain lies in honesty, honesty cannot divorce itself from love, and love necessarily trembles from fear of loss.

In the end, a magical realist finale subverts tragedy as a gesture of pure love on Marianne’s part brings Johan and Esther back to one another.  The camera turns back to the sky in a last time-lapse shot almost rendering this stark Mennonite microcosm a dream-like vision from a planet far away.

It is no wonder ‘Silent Light’ won the Jury Prize at Cannes among two dozen other awards.  It takes some patience–or at least a deep breath and commitment to getting comfortable–to absorb ‘Silent Light’.  And that commitment is the beauty of great cinéma.  ‘Silent Light’ is well worth it.  See it at the Film Forum from January 7th to the 20th.