Monday, May 20, 2013
I finally saw this film the other night, and although not a masterpiece (though it comes very close to being one) it’s hardly the piece of shit that many have said it is. Thanks to the beautiful new Criterion restoration the complete film and vision of its director Michael Cimino is now available for us to watch and ponder. Spanning time from 1870 to 1903 the film opens with a leisurely wonderful and beautiful sequence of a late and running Kris Kristofferson rushing to his graduation ceremony at Harvard that ends with an intoxicating swirling waltz on a lawn to the music of Strauss. This opening alone is enough to make one sit up and take notice, to maybe even swoon a little. The film then moves forward in time some 20 years to Wyoming where Kristofferson is now the marshal of a county where a shocking war that is sanctioned by the government and run by the nasty land baron played by Sam Waterston is being waged against the newly arrived immigrant settlers and this is where the film really begins. It’s very loosely based on the actual Johnson County War but don’t go looking to this film for a history lesson. Vast and beautiful it’s also complex and layered, which some found dull and incompressible. That may be true for some, but I found it compelling and impressive in its narrative and pictorial flow. It certainly is not a film for the multiplex popcorn chewers, it’s way too demanding and sometimes unclear, with characters who are do not always conform or behave the way we want or expect them to, but I like that sometimes in a movie. The large cast besides Kristofferson and Waterston includes Jeff Bridges, Christopher Walken, John Hurt and the magnificent Isabelle Huppert as the town whore who is deeply loved by Kristofferson and Walken. I think one reason that it never found its audience is that many were expecting an old fashioned western and this is not what Heaven’s Gate is dressed up for. There are of course good guys and bad guys but they are not wearing black and white hats and the characters are all flawed and somewhat unlikeable to a degree. It simply does not do what we want and expect our Westerns and indeed our movies to do. It’s not linear and there are too many ands and ifs and moral fussiness lurking among all those grand and magnificent vistas. It also paints a critical picture about the greed and destruction that fermented and oozed out of our country at the end of the 19th century just as the second industrial revolution was gearing up and is in some ways a political indictment against the policies of our country which still hit home more than 100 years later and 33 years after the film’s initial release. Then there is all that heavy baggage the film carries, the way over budget and long delays in the filming, the extravagant and some say unnecessary production costs and that long running time, which the studio forced Cimino to cut making it even more incompressible to most viewers and critics alike on its initial and troubled release. One of the ten best films of 1980.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Jack Goldstein at The Jewish Museum
Wow talk about your emperor's without clothes, this show that was originally scheduled for The Museum Of Contemporary Art in L.A. but was canceled by the new and controversial director Jeffrey Deitch (good move Jeffrey) has now arrived in all in its boring glory at The Jewish Museum. Why this work is being given any attention is beyond me, maybe because he killed himself or because he was a Jewish druggie, or because to some like the New York Times art critic Karen Rosenberg, this dreck is hip and cool, smart and brilliant. Am I being to hard on this show, maybe but there is to my mind not one compelling or intriguing piece in this entire dismal exhibit to warrant one minute of viewing time. Much has been made of his little movies, I caught one or two of them today, and I quickly moved on. And what about his so called paintings. These are large photographic like images of "spooky" sci-fi like scenes that are smooth and without any entrance point for anyone to enter. They're like those generic things that hang in motels or other public spaces giving off their vapid nothingness. The show ends with a display of his text based digital work that consist of 17 volumes that are supposedly his autobiography, but since we are only shown the covers and a few examples of his ordinary looking "digitally dull drawings there is no way for us to know if this "autobiography" by this inflated 80's art star has anything to say to us or as the pompously written hand out says is "a disjointed and incomplete narrative, ultimately cryptic." You can cut the hype with a knife, and easily one of the worst exhibitions of 2013 and its only May.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Photography and the American Civil War
I saw this exhibition today at the Met, and I found it to be a little too lttle for my tastes. The show is made up of 200 photographic images, most of them small and intimate that were really hard for me to focus in on. Maybe I need better glasses. The lighting is dark and gloomy as befitting this kind of an exhibition and the look of it was over designed. The walls of some of the galleries are covered in canvas to simulate the look and feel of the kind of tents that were used to house the troops, too cute and clever for words. There are lots of small wallet sized portraits, tintypes and daguerreotypes that are presented in upright positions in glass cases, the better to make them look and feel like paper dolls ready to salute us. To be sure there are many touching and sad images included, and I was surprised by the minimal use of photographs of the dead on the battlefields. However the show makes up for this by presenting some really ghastly photographs that a doctor documented of the horribly wounded soldiers that made me gasp out loud. A sign warning of these images should be posted to let mothers and fathers with small children know what they are about to see. Many of the photographs are familiar to me, having seen them reproduced over and over again in books and in Ken Burns magnificent series “The Civil War” which gave me a more powerful and visceral experience of this dreadful war than this exhibition did. And no I did not take in the Punk show, instead as I usually do at the Met I just wandered around and found myself in the magnificent African wing, The Gallery for the Art of Native North America and the Oceanic Art collection which is housed in what has one of the most spectacular spaces in this or any other museum. And finally I saw the small but beautiful Paul Klee show-Path To Abstraction which I loved. I took lots of photographs but the ones posted here are from the Met's website.
Jacqueline Brookes 1930-2013
Monday, May 13, 2013
Saturday, May 11, 2013
At the Galleries
The two Jeff Koons extravaganzas now on at David Zwirner and Gagosian Galleries will no doubt satisfy his admirers and collectors for they are more of the same. I am not an admirer of his, I find his work (and these two fun house exhibitions) to be vapid and dull. The works are vulgar in subject matter and techniques and big in size, so the idiots buying these things feel that they are getting their millions worth. I don't want to dwell on these shows, instead I would like to mention the shows on now that are worthwhile and intriguing to me as an artist. The best show on right now is the wonderful show by Richard Serra of his early work also at one one the Zwirner galleries (there are so many of them out there). These are big pieces yet many of them are graceful and delicate. I especially love how he used materials that we think of as hard and static and molded and twisted them into sculptures that breathe. The main big gallery is filled with 18 of his sculptures covering the walls and floors, and the back gallery has his famous lead prop pieces that are beautiful and scary at the same time. They weigh tons. Upstairs is a nice show of the late artist Blinky Palermo's delicate small drawings, that are quick and loose and I liked them. Other shows that I liked are the two Ellsworth Kelly exhibits of his clear clean and beautiful minimal shaped canvas's that he is known for. Anselm Kiefer's very big and overwhelming paintings of flowers that the press release says are photographs that he painted on, these are mostly dense and dark, there are also two weak sculptures that he should have left out, they do nothing but distract from the paintings which are after all sculptural in their own right. His work usually gets a lot of flack but I always find his stuff exciting. Also a small show of paintings by Beauford Delaney whose life was rough and tumble at Levis Fine Art, Ugo Rondinone's big rough figures made out of stacked blocks of stone that fill the Gladstone gallery, you can't help but be impressed by these, although some might find them facile and repetitive which they are but I still liked the show. A nice but uneven show by the late Victor Pesce at Elizabeth Harris, and a show of Phillip Taaffe's very colorful and decorative paintings at Luhring Augustine. Also a small show of George Sugarman's at Gary Snyder. I've always liked his work and wish it was a bigger exhibition. And finally an interesting large show of Benny Andrews at Michael Rosenfeld, some of the paintings are a little too "expressionistic" but still this is a show worth seeing. I sure I left out some shows, and I promised myself that I would not mention the many shows that I didn't like, other than the Koons.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The R Train
I hate the subway, and I particularly hate the R line, which is the train that services my Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge. I live near the next to the last stop (or the first stop depending if you’re going to the city or coming back from the city. I’m a native New Yorker, Brooklyn born and raised and when I was growing up we always referred to Manhattan as the city, we went to the city to go to a movie or to shop, and we never said anything else. The R line runs from the south end of Brooklyn, near the great Verrazano Bridge, which I see every morning when I leave my house, it looms over 3rd avenue, and is one of the reasons why I decided to move here, that and the sound of the fog horns on rainy foggy nights that I love listening to. I live 3 blocks from the water. The R line runs all the way to Queens. It slowly makes it way up 4th avenue through Sunset Park, Downtown Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Soho the Village, midtown and then on to Queens. I could change for an express train at 59th street in Brooklyn but I would never get a seat and besides all the stops that I usually need are all local, and since I get on at 86th street which is the next to the last or first stop (please see above) I always get my favorite seat. I know exactly where the train will stop so I can hop on and get my two seater, and I always take the seat on the right side so I’m protected from people pressing their fat asses and backs in the opening that is on the left side. Sometimes there is someone sitting in my favorite seat when I get on at 86th street and I get all sullen and mad. Sometimes I get lucky and no one sits next to me for most if not always the entire trek into the city, but not always. I dread it when an overweight person will try to squeeze their full figures in the narrow space next to me, and sometimes when this happens I will be so uncomfortable that I get up in a huff giving the overweight man/woman a dirty and glaring look as I move directly to the two seater for disabled people directly across from them. Of course most of the riders never pay no mind that these seats are for people with disabilities and they will plop down in them, so I have no qualms about sitting there since I am 66 years old. Its a long ride into the city as the R train toddles along at a snail’s pace. The N train is nice because it runs over the bridge and you get some spectacular views of lower Manhattan that the tourists love. After the early days of 9-11 the R train had to also run over the bridge and we would gaze at the missing space and the dust and haze that still hung over the lower part of my city. The subway car would always get silent until we went over the bridge and back into the tunnel, it was a daily memorial service. I always have to have something to read, and since moving back to Brooklyn I now do most of my reading on the subway. I’ve read what seems like 100’s of books, newspapers and magazines, and Heaven help me if I don’t have something to read to pass the time during this long and boring subway ride. Sometimes I don’t feel like reading and I will put on my sunglasses and stare at my fellow passengers, hoping some hubba hubba guy will be sitting across from me preferably with legs spread wide and sometimes I will carefully and Unobtrusively snap a few pictures of my fellow passengers. I hate the ones who eat on the train, the smells of their friend egg sandwiches or McDonalds turning my stomach. I also don’t care much for the women who wear lots of cheap perfume. Once a woman reeking sat next to me, and I was starting to feel ill from the smell. She noticed my condition and asked me if her perfume was bothering me, yes I said struggling to get the words out as my throat constricted and my eyes started tearing. Sorry she said and got up to find another seat which I thought was very considerate of her. I won’t go into my feelings for the nail bitters and the nose pickers just use your imagination. I’ve always hated the subways even when I was a kid. I use to have a close friend who no longer lives here, but when he visits usually in the spring he will spend a day of his vacation just riding the subways, I think he’s nuts.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Jeanne Cooper 1928-2013
Meet Miss Subways
Today in the pouring rain I went to the New York York Transit Museum which is free for seniors on Wednesdays, so since I'd never been there I thought I would take advantage of the free offer. I told a woman in front of me on the ticket line that its free for seniors today, "Oh but I'm not 62, I know I look 62 or older, but thank you anyway for letting me know." Yikes. Anyway the best thing about the museum are the actual old subway cars from the 1900's and up that line the now defunct Court St. Subway Station that the museum is in. Quite impressive to walk through them, some of them I remember. Yikes again. The other thing that I enjoyed was the Meet Miss Subways exhibit. This contest ran from 1941 until 1976, and there is now a coffee table like book on it. I pursued it looking for a girl who I knew from high school who was actually a finalist in 1965, and there she was. Judith Horowitz a finalist in 1965 one year after we graduated from New Utrecht High School. She didn't win, she wasn't even a runner up, but still there she was looking down on me every time I got on the subway in January 1965. Ah Judy I hope you've had a good life and are still as beautiful as you were at 16. I never really hung out with her, after all she was the most beautiful girl in the school. I thought she was the most beautiful girl in Brooklyn so all I could do was sigh and smile whenever she walked by me in the hall during the changing of classes melting when she said hi to me. she was of course the captain of the cheerleaders, but she wasn't stuck up like many of the JAPS (Jewish American Princesses) who believe me had nothing to be stuck up about. I much preferred the Italian tough girls with their teased hair, short dresses, flamboyant eye make up and their loud laughter who were vulgar and friendly. I guess Judy knew how great looking she was, and felt no need to be stuck up and if she was I never saw it. I actually don't think I ever had a conversation with her, so she might have been an idiot for all I know, but Ah Judy Horowitz you made this rainy day in Brooklyn sunny for me.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Monday, May 06, 2013
Slippage Literary Magazine
Slippage Literary Magazine has just posted these two pieces by me.The piece on the top is from 1994 and the piece on the bottom is from 1977.
Saturday, May 04, 2013
Friday, May 03, 2013
Voyage to Italy 1954
I went to the Film Forum yesterday to see the newly restored Roberto Rossellini 1954 film “Voyage to Italy” (Sometimes referred to as “Journey to Italy”) that starred Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. They play a bored dull English couple in an unhappy marriage traveling to Italy by car (the area around Naples to be exact) to sell a house left to them by Sander’s Uncle Homer. The distaste and disgust they have for each other is palpable on both their faces and in their words and actions to each other. Married 8 years I wondered how did these two last that long. Rossellini is after more than just showing us a movie about the disintegration of an unhappy marriage, the film is certainly about that, but he uses the geography, architecture and landscapes, the exteriors and interiors of rooms and houses of Italy along with the visual surfaces and appeal of the Italians themselves to create a mood and an environment of alienation and despair for this unhappy pair to move through and about. I liked this film for the sense of place and sorrow and how he places Bergman (who he was married to at the time, and one wonders how autobiographical this film is) usually alone in museums viewing beautiful erotic sculptures, at the volcanic pools at Vesuvius, in a catacomb filled with ancient skulls and bones, in a cave that resonates with echoes and in the ruins of Pompeii. These are of course places of ancient lost, sorrow and decay nicely illustrating Bergman’s own sense of sorrow and loss. Meanwhile Sanders has absolutely no feeling, sense or appreciation of where he is, and would like to be back in London where he toils at some dull job that is never mentioned goes off on a jaunt to Capri to visit friends of the upper class with a touch of La Boheme thrown in (is that a lesbian I spotted?) where his attempt at a sexual fling with one of the guests is ironically misplaced (she is married). Bergman is beautiful with her sensuality buried as deeply as the lost citizens of Pompeii, and longs for something more than what she is getting in this sour relationship but is at a loss for finding and expressing her true self on her own journey of self-discovery. The somewhat miraculous and optimistic ending left me cold and doubtful but still this is a film that should be seen by anyone interested in the cinema.