Last Tuesday as is my habit I went to the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village to return some dvds I had borrowed and to search the shelves for films that I might like to watch. As soon as I started looking through the stacks of movies I noticed a box that was staring out at me, like a flashing sign saying take me take me. The film was a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele”. I picked it up, read what it was about and put it down. I walked away but something drew me back to it, and I picked it up again. The notes on the back of the case told me the terrible story of Eva Kor and her twin sister Miriam who when very young were victims of the horrible experiments conducted by Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz. Eva now in her 70’s decided that she had to forgive Mengele the angel of death in order for her to heal and go on with her life. “Wow” I thought, talk about your radical forgiveness, I mean if she could forgive this evil piece of shit, I could certainly forgive Joan Petroneli my fourth grade teacher, and some members of my family, although forgiving them would prove somewhat harder and take much more work than my forgiving Miss Petroneli. What I was trying to do with forgiveness was a cinch I thought compared to what poor Eva had to deal with. So I checked the dvd out, and would watch it when I got my courage up. “Not another Holocaust movie” my friend Peter said when I told him about my latest find. “You know Ira Joel you are going to have nightmares like you always do after seeing these movies.” Nonsense” I replied. But of course that night after watching the documentary I had terrible dreams.
The Kandinsky retrospective now at the Guggenheim Museum until January. might be the most beautiful exhibition I have ever seen. A few Fridays ago on a dreary rainy day I took my friend Joe who is a painter to see the exhibition. When I got there I saw that there was a very long line of people waiting to get in. What the hell, I thought is there a show of clothes by a fashion designer or a motorcycle exhibition that I didn’t know about? Why the mob scene for Kandinsky of all artists. I found Joe waiting in front of the museum for me, and since I’m in their collection and have a lifetime pass we walked right in without having to wait on the long line as if Kandinsky was a close personal friend. “Why the big crowds, I’ve never seen the museum so crowded and on a Friday no less” I asked the young girl who was processing my pass. “It‘s because its raining” she said as she handed me the tickets. But I think that besides the rain, it was also the building that was bringing in all the tourists. After all if you are a tourist visiting New York City you have to see the funny Wright building. I’ve always loved Kandinsky’s work, all those lines and circles, and his superb use of paint and color, but I just didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed by his work. It was interesting to see the show with another artist, and Joe talked about things that I didn’t notice or just wasn’t concerned about, and I talked about things that Joe had not thought about, but we both were knocked out by the paintings. “There’s not a bad painting in the show” I said, as we slowly made out way up the ramp.
A couple of Saturday's ago I went to see the rarely seen film Wild River at the Film Forum. . A close friend of mine with ties to the Forum got me a free ticket, so that was good, because they charge $12.00. It’s unusual for me to find a film that I’ve never seen, so I jumped at the chance to see a beautiful new transfer of the film made in 1960 by Elia Kazan. Beautifully photographed and starring the once great beauty Montgomery Clift who was at the end of his career and the beautiful Lee Remick who was at the start of hers, and featuring a marvelous 37 year old Jo Van Fleet playing an 80 year old woman. It was only 3 years earlier that Remick made her film debut in another Kazan film A Face In The Crowd, in which she plays a high school cheer leader or something like that who is corrupted by the Andy Griffith character, a nasty piece of work if ever there was one. The first film I remember seeing Remick in was in 1958 when me and my mother were in Washington D.C. to visit my brother who on his way home from the army was in a bad car crash, and was recovering at the military hospital in Quantico Va. which was right outside of D.C. So of course barely unpacked we went to see the last showing of The Long Hot Summer at one of Washington‘s big old movie palaces that was practically empty at this late hour. My mother fell asleep and I woke her up, “wake up I screamed” in my 11 year old irritating voice, upon which my mother who no doubt was scared to death by my scream, slapped me across my face, the only time she ever hit me. Meanwhile back on the screen between my tears Lee Remick was glorious in color, and I soon fell madly in love with her, a love that lasted until her sad early death at 52 from fucking cancer. How I hate that word. She was a natural beauty and a natural actress marvelous in everything she did from Anatomy of A Murder to Days of Wine and Roses and Experiment in Terror. The last thing I guess I saw her do was the concert version of Follies, not in person, but on dvd. Film has a way of making one feel sad for all the lost performers and great stars, but it can also keep us forever in love with them, and Lee I will love you forever.