Thursday, November 26, 2020

November 2020 mixed on paper


 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

David Dinkins 1927-2020


 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Jan Morris 1926-2020

The Apu Trilogy

 





If you've never seen the Apu Trilogy you've never seen cinema.


Sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes coincidence follows me around. Last week I watched all three films of the remarkable Apu Trilogy which  consists of 3 stand alone masterworks that were made in India by Satyajit Ray between 1950 and 1959. I had seen the films separately through the years in fair prints on dvd and now we have the luxury and beauty of the recent new Criterion release of the films which have been incredibly and miraculously restored. This restoration is a thing in itself and gets its own telling in the terrific supplements.

But first the sad coincidence of the great indian actor Soumitra Chatterjee who starred in the last film of the trilogy “Apur Sansar” which translates as “The World Of Apu” dying a few days after I viewed the film. His life was rich. Did his soul leave his body as I watched his performance.  This time around instead of beginning with the first film “Pather Panchali”  “Song of The Little Road” I started with the last film for a silly reason not even worth mentioning. For first time viewers, you should of course begin with “Pather Panchali”

I had memories of all of the films, including “Apur Sansar” and my loving memories of it were still somewhat fresh in my mind. I knew what was coming more or less and I still broke down in tears at the ending.  Truth be told I actually broke down in tears at the end of all of the films. Tears come easily these days.

In “Apur Sansar” Chatterjee plays Apu who we first meet as a child in “Pather” and is now a young rudderless late 20’s man who is out of everything, money, school, a job and no love in sight. He lives in a terrible little room and can’t even afford the rent on this hovel when an old friend arrives on the scene and changes his life. Chatterjee is wonderful, not a perfectly handsome man, but attractive and hopeful two attributes that we demand our movie heroes have, or at least I do.  

The trilogy’s first film is “Pather Panchali” where we meet the child Apu and see his world through his eyes and gaze. Actually the first thing we see of this beautiful child is his eye.  Set in the 1920’s it is a poor world this rural community where Apu lives with his mother, sister, his ancient auntie  and his often gone but loving father who is a writer and a Hindu priest traveling around the country.  Everything is falling down or apart and mud is everywhere. Yet even with these hardships Apu is still a boy and he is on a voyage of discovery and awe. All the things of life come to this sad but strong family: love, loss, death and recover.  The Matriarch Sarbajaja played beautifully in the two first films by Karuna Banerjee is sometimes harsh and mean but she is also loving and strong and is the glue that holds this family together. In another words she is the mother of us all.

The second film “Aparajito” picks up with Apu now ten and living in a new environment the holy city of Varanasi then known as Benares and the family is still living in dire poverty with more loss to come. Apu is played  by another child actor who is still lively and inquisitive. The city is crowded and bustling and Ray with his artist’s eye shows us so much that it’s hard to take everything in.  In the wink of this eye Apu is now a young man on his way to Calcutta to begin his education having gotten a scholarship to further his studies. Every one of us who ever left home at an early age will relate to this part of the trilogy including the sadness of his mother as she bids farewell to the last love of her life. It’s a hard thing to watch as she releases her son to his own life. The beautiful young boy has grown into a somewhat callous self centered young man, but he is industrious and quite brilliant in his studies. The ending of this 2nd film ends on a sad note as well. I’ve not mentioned many of the details of the trilogy because to do so would take away your pleasure in discovering them for yourselves.  Pather Panchali was Ray’s first film and he also wrote all the screenplays for the trilogy that were based on the popular novels by Bibhutibhusan Banerjee. Also of note is the original music for all of the films that was composed by the great Ravi Shankar when he was still unknown , and the lovely cinematography by subrata mitra who had no film experience at the time of filming “Pather Panchali.” A remarkable accomplishment all around, and one of the great masterpieces of the 20th Century.     








 

Frederick Weston 1946-2020



 

Friday, November 20, 2020

November 2020 Mixed on paper


 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Life Ahead 2020.


What can I say? I am a sucker for Sophia, and at 86 she is still a force to be reckoned with. At first its a shock to see her at this age, how could it be? She can't be 86. The film will be familiar to some, its a remake of the Simone Signoret weepie "Madame Rosa", and there is enough here to please even the most jaded of us. The movie is directed by one of her sons and he lavishes love and attention on his mom and everyone else in this somewhat short film. It also looks great bright and colorful and I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did, so that is good. It's a connect the dots story, no surprises you can see where its going, and the casting of a transgender actress as Loren's best pal is a nice touch on the director's part. Listen I would watch Loren in anything, that's how much I love her so as my mom use to say, what's not to like.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Soumitra Chatterjee 1935-2020

The Great Indian actor has passed. Known for his films with Satyajit Ray and is brilliant in Apur Sansar the third part of the Apu Trilogy. Odd that I just finished watching all three films of the trilogy last week, and was of course floored once again by this great masterwork of the 20th Century. If you've never seen the trilogy you've never seen cinema.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Lewis Warsh-1944-2020


 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Josephine Quarterly

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Godless 2017

 



I don’t know about you, but sometimes I crave a good western. The sound of the horse’s hoofs, the big skies, the good guys and the bad, the determined women trying to make a go of it in these God forsaken places. The cowboys and  the Indians. This brilliant 7 part series from Scott Frank who this year gave us “The Queen’s Gambit” wrote and directed this startling original take on the Western with many twists and turns but keeping lots of the  points and references of westerns both in  truth and fiction that have filled our movie and tv screens since film began.

There are the usual stereotypes but here they get a whopping with respect and love, especially Native Americans who are treated with admiration and awe. I can’t say that I’ve always love Westerns, certainly not as a kid, I was more into comedies and musicals along with Hitchcock and mayhem and the Indians always scared me which was the purpose and point of those mean and racist depictions in the first place. That’s what brought in the kids at Saturday matiness, a rip roaring cowboy movie with the slaughter of Native Americans followed by cartoons. How The West Was Torn.

 I didn’t even like them on the tube except for the leading young actors who wore tight jeans and nice hats. But again the Indians were mean and cruel and the women were flat, simple and useless. As I grew up I realized that some of the Westerns were worth seeing for their poetry mainly supplied by the great director of the genre John Ford, who usually brought a sensitive touch to his Westerns even though many were still tinged by racist prejudice. The debate about Ford continues to this day. The series is rich with references to many Westerns of the past including “The Searchers” “Shane” and even “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” but Frank opens his tent to include not only strong women, but people of color including a small community of former “Buffalo hunters” ex slaves who fought during the civil war and who have now set up an isolated community that is not very welcoming to outsiders. The main setting for the show is the town of La Belle that has been void of most of their men because of a terrible mining accident and is now inhabited by their widows and other women folk including a former prostitute who is now the school marm and her occasional female lover played superbly by the great Merritt Wever who won an Emmy for her performance. Her brother is the local sheriff  acted with great charm by Scoot McNairy widowed with 2 kids and is slowly going blind but his love is not blind for a local widowed female rancher played by Michelle Dockery yes that Michelle Dockery of Downton Abby who shares her life with her Indian spiritual mother in law Lyoui  and her half native son Truckee  who is played by Samuel Marty and is also marvelous.  Dockery is rough, and wounded, lovely and vulnerable and has a perfect American accent. Also in the white hat group is the terrific Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the sheriff’s lovable but pretty much clueless deputy, and you might recognize him from his role in “The Queen’s Gambit”.

 

Now if you are going to have a western you have to have some villains, and this show has one  the likes of which we have never seen before who roams the wild western reigning down buckets of hell, murder and violent deaths that might be hard for some to take, much less watch. Played with brilliant flair by Jeff Daniels who won a supporting Emmy award he is a patchwork quilt of every horror that we have dreamed of and maybe even more. With his nasty gang of killers and thieves they roam the land killing and burning as they go. They are hunted and hated of course and the series opens with one of the most horrific sequences I think I’ve ever seen. Daniels complicated character also has compassion for the less fortunate and it’s not easy to get our heads, and indeed our hearts and souls around this. He is also hunting down his young protégé Roy Goode who turns the tables on him and steals a lot of money from him and runs and hides on the ranch owned by Michelle Dockery. The handsome young man is played by another Brit Jack O’ Connell who also has a perfect American accent and a strange past that slowly comes out in flashbacks. Daniels who lost an arm by getting it shot and amputated carries it around with him until it is rotten beyond belief, two of his young horrors are evils who massacre their own family. These two fucks are played by real life brothers Russell Dennis Louis and Mathew Dennis Louis, and these Devlin boys are the devil. You might also recognize them from The Queen’s Gambit. There are other abominations but you should see them for yourself along with a shoot out to end all shoot outs. The cinematography is breathtaking, has anything as beautiful as this series ever been seen on television?

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Alex Trebek 1940-2020


 

Postcards. November 2020 mixed




 

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

The Queen’s Gambit 2020 Netflix streaming

 





When I was around 12, my old dying scary bubbie came to stay with us in our cramped apartment in Brooklyn for a few weeks. She was really sick and it was summer and it was hot. My parents made me stay home and watch over her while they were working at our luncheonette a few blocks away. I didn’t like her, and I certainly didn’t love her but I was trapped. We had no air conditioning that summer and to help me with this awful business my cousin Butchie who was maybe a year older than me came over from his house in Carnarsie to keep watch with me. We were bored and hot and one day we found my older brother’s chess set. Neither of us knew how to play, but we decided we would teach ourselves the game with the help of the book that came with the set. We did the work and we did teach ourselves the rules more or less of this complicated game. Over the years I would casually play with whomever I could wrangle to sit down with me. I didn’t play a lot. Not too many friends knew how to play or wanted to learn how to play, so I tossed the game into my memory box and didn’t think much about it. All of this chess stuff came back to me the other week as I watched the 7 part series “The Queen’s Gambit”  streaming on Netflix that is based on a novel by Walter Tevis the same guy who wrote “The Hustler” this time using chess instead of pool as a metaphor for life’s challenges that are mostly filled with despair and heartbreak. 


The series opens in 1967 with a startling scene of a young woman rising out of a bathtub drenched and confused, rushing to get dressed and out the door for an important chess tournament. I have to be careful now not to give too much away so that all the pleasures and charms of this series will be yours to discover and enjoy. The background story of the heroine is almost Dickensonian in the details. A frail fragile gentle young girl is left motherless by a terrible accident and on top of that she is also abandoned  by her father. She is placed in a  typical nasty orphanage for girls somewhere in Kentucky. The young child named Beth Harmon and played with great cheek and sorrow by Isla Johnston is bewitched for some reason by chess and is taken under the wing and watch by the handy man janitor who is a good player of the game. Acted by the marvelous character actor Bill Camp we are put off a bit by him, I mean what is he up to in his spooky cellar at the home.  He’s gruff and off-putting and also impatient and weary of giving lessons to the child but he finally gives in and becomes her teacher and mentor.

Its now a few years later, and the child is now a young teenager, a young woman even and in a strange bit of affairs she is adopted by a middle age couple and once again we are left to wonder exactly what is going on. The mom is looking for a companion, a friend and she is wonderfully  played by Marielle Heller who is superb, wounded and sad. Heller is also a writer and a director  (she did “Diary of A Teenage Girl” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” “And A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood.”) Again a father leaves and the adopted young girl and mom bond in some startling and touching ways, and these sequences are some of the most moving mother-daughter impressions I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. The years move on and the young girl starts to enter chess tournaments and starts to win them, becoming a chess star but she is also becoming addicted to drugs and booze which some have said is not a good match for playing chess. I don’t know. Its only a movie Ingrid, and a smart, funny and good one at that. Beth is now played  by Anya Taylor-Joy, in what is commonly called a breakthrough star making role and a quick glance at her IMDB page shows that her dance card is indeed booked up for a long time to come. This is a great performance, rich in nuance and substance and it’s so much fun just to watch her move and walk, change and struggle, survive and win. People come and go, chess friends, all men, some lovers, male and female and trips and voyages around the world and in her life. Old friends re-appear and the story closes in a somewhat melodramatic predictable storybook way. The look of the film and the period details should please, especially so with the clothes which are lovely. I did have a problem with the wigs which sometimes looked ill fitted and obvious, but the interiors and the filming itself is lush, colorful and eye catching. Written and directed by Scott Frank who is mostly known as a screenwriter, this series is heading for lots of love and awards. 

 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Connery, Sean Connery 1930-2020







 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Dogs Of Berlin 2018 Netflix

 A fast and furious cop series set in a distraught crime ridden neighborhood of Berlin that is covered  with drugs, murder, and especially racism. The show opens with a corrupt ex-nazi cop screwing his mistress when her young son interrupts them with the news that her infant smells and needs changing. Ok. Raw and  real including the explicit nudity. If you like big beefy nude male butts this is the show for you. The cop Kurt Grimmer played by Felix Kramer changes the infant and cuddles the child has he smokes a cigarette on the balcony. Suddenly something catches his attention and off he goes down to a crime scene  with the baby in his arms. This is clearly a great opening and I was caught up and hooked. It seems that a Turkish-German superstar football (soccer) has been murdered and this sets all the warring groups off and on fire. Grimmer is a gambler, in big debt and corrupt as the day is long and has a mother from hell and younger brother who are deep into a neo-nazi group. In order to investigate the murder, which has a surprise and pretty good solution his bosses on the police squad give him a Turkish German partner Erol Birkan who is also out gay, morally upright and the opposite of Grimmer and is well acted by Fahri Yardim. This is a nice and unexpected touch but brings the usual homophobia and danger to him including a terrible beating at the hands of his new partner and his rough house homophobic pals on the force. The action proceeds at a fast clip and involves all the scum, crooks and racists including the neo-Nazis, the Berlin mafia, the Lebanese and Turkish nationalists and the crooked police, quite a stew. There are also side bars with melodramatic soap like problems with wives, mistresses, boyfriends, cheap thieves both young and old and the city of Berlin itself. Some of it blends and some of it rises to the top scalding hot and bitter, but it does move and has lots of color if no charm. Its visually arresting with neon color, loud rap gangster music, fast moving cars and chases and a boiling hot street fight involving the Turkish nationalists and the Nazi’s. Oh yes there are also some dogs. Not for everyone, but if your taste runs to rough and raw this 10 part series might do it for you.  Subtitled. 




 




Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Germany Year Zero 1948





The final film in Roberto Rossellini’s “War Trilogy” takes place in a devastated Berlin after the defeat of the Nazi machine. Once a glorious city it is now a unrelenting rotting ruin. The focus of the film that almost has the feel of a documentary, a given with Neo-Realist films is a sad family trying to survive among all the horrors of what Nazi Germany has brought down on their heads. The family is sharing a cramped apartment with many others and should bring to mind what the victims of Nazi Germany had to live and die through, and how our feelings or at least mine were torn between hatred for them, and despair for the 12 year old gentle boy who is the focus of the film. 12 year old Edmund prowls among the ruins of the city trying to find some work and food to bring home to his family and in one searing moment he tries to get some meat off a dead horse as it lies in the street and that is being picked apart by other desperate Berliners. His father is sick and helpless and will eventually meet his fate at the hands of his young son who shares this horrible place with a pretty sister who also prowls among the bars and night hours of the city trying to find substance and hope while flirting with the possibility of prostitution. The final member is the oldest son a soldier on the lam who is a lout and a loser having escaped from the final days of defeat and now lives in fear of being arrested. All are former Nazi’s including Edmund who was no doubt indoctrinated in school and the Nazi Youth gangs.  The film is a river of sadness and despair and the scenes of the bombed out city shock. Edmund is constantly put upon and set upon by various predators including a Nazi pedophilic former teacher of his, and teen age crooks, prostitutes and black marketers. He has no peace as he climbs on the rotten ruins of the city. There are a few other films that have showed the ruins, rot and destruction of Germany including the black comedies “A Foreign Affair” and “I was a Male War Bride” but neither one has the brutal hammering of this masterwork by Rossellini. Cast with non professional actors this is a great addition to films about the perils of childhood that include “Night Of The Hunter” “The Little Fugitive” and “Curse of The Cat People among many others. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Diane di Prima 1934-2020


 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ming Cho Lee 1930-2020





 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Marge Champion 1919-2020



 

Two more new postcards October 2020 mixed 4" x 6"



 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

two new postcards October 2020 mixed 4" x 6"



 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Rhonda Fleming 1923-2020


 

Suburra Blood On Rome. Netflix 2015-2020












From the first scene of a nude priest at a private orgy falling down from a heart attack, we know we are in a strange land. That land is the eternal city of Rome and the neighborhood of Suburra that dates back to ancient times where corruption still hovers over this very old neighborhood like miserable pigeons crapping on our heads. Everyone here is corrupt and in this new Netflix series, the violence, betrayal and murders come at a terrifying speed. The focus is on three so-called friends all who are young, somewhat attractive, nasty and corrupt as can be. They include Alessandro Borghi the only known actor to me who made a strong impression in “On My Skin” as the braying and volatile Aureliano who is at war not only with the other drug cartels but also with his father and sister who run the family business of nightclubs and drugs. Aureliano all tatted up with dyed blond hair and later on with a beard and a natural do is the leader of the group. There is also Lele, lanky and confused the son of a policeman who is molded and pushed into doing drastic turns of deceit and murder and finally Alberto “Spandino” the youngest son of a gypsy dynasty who is a closeted gay and dangerous. He dresses like a tacky teenager and moves like a dancer or at times a reptile with his Mohawk like haircut. Played by Giacomo Ferrara he is the most compelling, an heir to Richard Widmark in “Kiss Of Death his weapon of choice is a switchblade. There is nothing any one of them would not do to stay in power. The women are also ruthless and mostly without conscience. Standouts include Barbara Chichiarelli with her tight jeans and gnocchi face as Aureliano’s sinister sister and Paola Stogiu as the gypsy matriarch (if looks could kill).   On top of that there is also the dirty politicians, the church and the Mafia who are huffing and puffing trying to blow the other’s houses down. The focus of all the criminals’ plans is on Ostia and their desire to turn this ancient harbor of Rome into a modern day Las Vegas.  Played to perfection by a brilliant large cast and with glorious on location cinematography of Rome, which has never looked more beautiful and lived in, a local bus drives by the Coliseum with everyday panache, over decorated bourgeois apartments mingle with run down cafes and cobblestone streets and the beauty of Rome is everywhere.  This sprawling epic of blood and violence was directed by Stefano Sullima and a third season is coming soon. A movie version also exists, but see the series first.  Also notable is the throbbing score.             

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