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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mattie - A Love Letter to Ozu

If you know Ozu's movies you'll be amazed by this video authored by Mattie. It's incredible: it's like Ozu came to Wednesbury to make these images.

Mattie is producing unbelievable videos.

(Vlog of Mattie)

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The Mexican Suitcase

A great discovery, the Mexican Suitcase: three cardoard boxes with over 3,500 negatives from the Spanish Civil War; authors: Robert Capa, his wife Gerda Taro, David Seymour (Chim). The negatives are now at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Gerda Taro died in the Spanish Civil War in 1937: During her coverage of the Republican army retreat of the Battle of Brunete, Taro hopped onto the footboard of a car that carried wounded soldiers when a Republican tank collided by its side. Taro suffered critical wounds and died the next day, July 26, 1937 (Wikipedia).

Robert Capa died in the First Indochina War in 1954: Capa decided to leave his jeep and go up the road to photograph the advance. About five minutes later, Mecklin and Lucas heard an explosion; Capa had stepped on a landmine. When they arrived on the scene he was still alive, but his left leg had been blown to pieces and he had a serious wound in his chest. Mecklin screamed for a medic and Capa was taken to a small field hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He had died with his camera in his hand (Wikipedia).

Chim died in the Suez War in 1956: he was killed (together with French photographer Jean Roy) by Egyptian machine-gun fire, while covering the armistice of the 1956 Suez War (Wikipedia).

An article about the Mexican Suitcase in NY Times, written by Randy Kennedy:

When the three weathered cardboard boxes — known collectively, and cinematically, as the Mexican suitcase — arrived at the International Center of Photography more than a year ago, one of the first things a conservator did was bend down and sniff the film coiled inside, fearful of a telltale acrid odor, a sign of nitrate decay.

But the rolls turned out to be in remarkably good shape despite being almost untouched for 70 years. And so began a painstaking process of unfurling, scanning and trying to make sense of some 4,300 negatives taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour during the Spanish Civil War, groundbreaking work that was long thought to be lost but resurfaced several years ago in Mexico City.

Woman and child at Spanish refugee internment camp, Argelès-sur-Mer, France - March 1939, Robert Capa

What the center’s scholars have found among the 126 rolls over the last several months are a number of previously unknown shots by Capa, one of the founders of the Magnum photo agency and a pioneering war photographer, and by Taro, his professional partner and companion, who died in 1937 when she was struck by a tank near the front, west of Madrid. But more surprising has been the wealth of new work by Seymour, known as Chim, that was in the cases. Another of Magnum’s founders, he was known not for his battle photography but for penetrating documentation of Spanish life in the shadow of war.

This really fleshes out for the first time our picture of Chim in Spain, and the work is truly a great accomplishment, said Brian Wallis, the chief curator for the center, which is planning a retrospective of Chim’s career to open in September 2010. Roughly a third of the negatives found in the cases have been determined to be by Chim (pronounced shim, an abbreviation of his real surname, Szymin), who was killed in 1956 while covering the Suez crisis. We were bowled over by how much of his work was in this, Mr. Wallis said.

Dolores Ibárruri speaking before a crowd of Republican soldiers and civilians, Spain - July 1936, Chim

While there was some initial hope, the negatives did not end up laying to rest a question that has long hovered over Capa’s career: whether he staged perhaps his most famous picture and one of the defining images of war, The Falling Soldier, which shows a Spanish Republican militiaman reeling backward at what appears to be the instant a bullet kills him near Córdoba. The boxes contained none of the series of photographs taken that fateful afternoon of Sept. 5, 1936, though several surviving images from the sequence have been published previously, and Richard Whelan, Capa’s biographer, has made a persuasive case that the picture was not faked. (A negative of the shot has never been found; it has been reproduced from two vintage prints.)

What the boxes have provided, said Cynthia Young, the curator of the center’s Capa Collections, who has been most closely involved with the images, is a much deeper understanding of how Capa, Taro and Chim worked during the relatively brief period in which they were collectively creating the archetype of the modern war photographer. The find has also fleshed out important stories from the war, like Capa’s coverage in March 1939 of the notorious internment camps for Spanish refugees in southwestern France, a subject that is the focus of increasing historical research.

Destroyed typewriter after bombing, Gijon, Basque region - January 1937, Chim

For Capa and Taro the newly discovered negatives are providing a way to make sense of their jumbled archive of images from the Spanish Civil War, in which dates, sequences and even attributions have remained uncertain. Much of their known work from those years was organized in nine notebooks of contact prints with little identifying information. (One of the notebooks is at the center; the others are at the French national archives in Paris.)

Because the rolls in the boxes show sequential shots from much of all three photographers’ most famous work from the war, it also allows scholars to see how their eyes were working as they shot these stories, Ms. Young said. And I really think that’s the most interesting thing in this project, to see their thought process.

Bottles and glasses on a table, Basque region - January 1937, Chim

The job of carefully scanning all the 35-millimeter images could not begin in earnest until several months after their arrival in New York, when Grant Romer, a conservation specialist from George Eastman House in Rochester, helped develop a special holder through which to run the negatives for digital scanning without damaging them.

Even now that the images have been brought to light, the story of how they wended their way from Capa’s Paris studio to Mexico has not become any clearer. From what Mr. Whelan, the biographer (who died in 2007), and other experts have pieced together, Capa apparently asked his darkroom manager to save his negatives in 1939, after Capa fled from Paris to New York. The boxes probably made their way to Marseille and at some point ended up with Gen. Francisco Aguilar Gonzalez, a Mexican diplomat stationed in the late 1930s in Marseille, where the Mexican government was helping antifascist refugees from Spain emigrate to Mexico.

Man in beret with swastika, Basque region - January 1937, Chim

The negatives also made the trip to Mexico, where after the general’s death they came into the possession of a filmmaker in Mexico City, Benjamin Tarver, whose aunt was a close friend of the general. In the 1990s, Mr. Tarver made the existence of the negatives known, and in 2007, after fitful negotiations, he agreed to give them to the International Center of Photography, which was founded by Capa’s brother, Cornell Capa.

In addition to new images by Chim that will be exhibited at his retrospective, the center is now planning a major exhibition of much of the work from the Mexican suitcase for sometime in 2010, Mr. Wallis said, adding: We consider this one of the most important discoveries of photographic work of the 20th century.

Gerda Taro, Paris - 1935, by Fred Stein

Crowd outside morgue after air raid, Valencia - May 1937, by Gerda Taro


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oshima, Third Encounter, Max Mon Amour

Max Mon Amour
, the movie made by Oshima in 1986: this time it's Buñuel who's coming in mind (and Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie). Anyway, the screenwriter is the same (Jean-Claude Carrière) for both movies.

But it's more than that. After watching Max Mon Amour I realized suddenly what Buñuel meant in the creative world of Oshima: it's like the famous we all came out of Gogol's Overcoat; here the overcoat was Le Chien Andalou. All Oshima is there, in the Chien Andalou, his attitude toward classics, towards cinema, himself, us, towards the system, all.

This time, in Max Mon Amour, he is unexpectedly mild. A farce that becomes grotesque and remains mild and just funny, in the same time. A great balance.

A family of the upper class. Monsieur (Anthony Higgins) is a British diplomat, in service at Paris. Madame (Charlotte Rampling) is a very cool French. Each one has a long-term extramarital affair. The lovers are so to speak part of the family; they attend the festive dinners, among the other friends.

Only, for some time Madame has a peculiar behavior. Each day she disappears for a couple of hours. A detective (Pierre Étaix) is hired and finds some data: Madame rented a small apartment where she goes daily. Monsieur gets the address and finds her nude, with an unknown partner in the bed. Could it be sex? Monsieur asks, Madame refuses to give explicit details.

Monsieur invites Madame to bring the new partner home, so it would be better for all. The question remains, whether there is sex or not, but eventually Monsieur realizes that this is irrelevant: Madame loves him anyway. The perfect ménage a trois.

A small detail: the new partner is a chimpanzee.

(Japanese New Wave)

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The Picks of Joe Wright

Joe Wright created Atonement, which is a great movie. He is also the director of Pride & Prejudice and of The Soloist. Here is his top of five (Newsweek):

  1. Brief Encounter (JW: such a delicate film, so perfectly judged in Noel Coward's writing and David Lean's direction, and it has one of my favorite performances ever, by Celia Johnson)
  2. Blue Velvet (JW: David Lynch's masterpiece of raw, modern cinematic poetry that proves acting can develop beyond Lee Strasberg)
  3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (JW: it seems to exist in a rare place between entertainment and the profound)
  4. The Apu Trilogy (JW: because the details of life can be more illuminating than the grand sweep)
  5. Synecdoche, New York (JW: because Charlie Kaufman is a great artist and should be respected as such)


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

African Easter Eggs


Tunnel Entry

Capital Crescent Trail: the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue.

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Mattie - A Homage to Humphrey Jennings

You should watch this video, St. George's Day, made by Mattie. I tried to put it here, unfortunately it's not fit with the available with in the blog.

So I captured some images from it. Mattie presents it as his really pathetic attempt at being like Humphrey Jennings.

I think is a very good video and it captures the spirit of Jennings. The images speak for themselves. But you should watch the video: it has a perfect rhythm, and this cannot be rendered by a few disparate images.

And here is a film made by Humphrey Jennings in 1938. Lindsay Anderson said that Humphrey Jennings was the only real poet that British cinema had yet produced.

(Vlog of Mattie)


Monday, April 27, 2009

A Homage to Kiarostami

When I saw this multitude of ants I thought immediately at the last scene of Kiarostami's 10 on Ten. This video is a very humble homage to the great Iranian movie maker

(Capital Crescent Trail)

(I'm in the Mood for Kiarostami)

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Just Reeds

You'll say it's jungle. Or some delta, on Danube, or Nile, or Amazon. It's not.

It is on the Capital Crescent Trail, the portion between Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues. The Navy Golf Club follows:

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who's That Knocking at My Door? (Korea, 2007)

Thanks to this passionate lover of Asian cinema who signs on the web as AsianVirusNet, I am now able to say a little about a Korean movie that's not yet registered on imdb.

Who's That Knocking at My Door? is made by Yang Hae-Hoon (양해훈). You'll find the director on imdb as Yang Hea-Hoon, with only one ten-minute movie (My Dear Rosetta), made in 2007. There is more info about Mr. Yang on a Korean movie data base (Han Cinema).

Well, My Dear Rosetta was followed in the same year by Who's That Knocking at My Door? You'll find info about the movie on the same Han Cinema. Here is the synopsis:

There are five lonely souls: Je-hwi, who hides himself from the world. Jang-hui, who is obsessed with certificates of qualification; Byeong-cheol, who believes that he has a fatal disease; and the lovers, Pyo and Romi. One day, a woman who committed suicide suddenly appears before them.

Says AsianVirusNet, this intriguing film revolves around five lonely urban souls driven to unpredictable extremes by alienation, trauma, and the jostle for revenge; as the story gains momentum, YANG's confident direction and strong cinematic sense leads to powerful moments full of visual ironies.

(Korean Cinema)

House on the Trail

It is on the trail between Bethesda and SilverSpring, Maryland.

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Erotica in the Fifties

What was considered porno in the fifties has today a milder name: erotica. I found these two images in a Weekend Pass. Beside the erotic subject, they are finely drawn. They appeared in the mid fifties in a magazine named Nights of Horror. The magazine was considered infamous and the publisher was jailed: they were very serious about such matters. The artist kept low profile and escaped.

Now, comics historian Craig Yoe believes that the artist was Joe Shuster, who had created the Superman in the thirties.

Says the historian, Joe Shuster was at the height of his powers; when he drew that first Superman story, he was still a teenager; this is a mature artist; the compositions are flawless, and there is beauty and grace in these figures.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


عود: يا مسافر وحدك- محمد عبد الوهاب
(video by OudProff)

I arrived at this song after a long journey that took me from the web to Tehran, from there to Bucharest, then to Istanbul, to Tehran again, to Kabul, and then back to the web, where I found an oud player with a curios nickname (no more no less than Oud.Proff). His song was about a lonely traveler (Ya Msafir Wahdak). The transliteration of Msafir varies: in other versions is Msafer, or Mossafer, or even Musafir.

Was that song about me? Surely not (though I was a lonely traveler in my own right, another Msafir Wahdak so to speak).

Well, let's define the space of my journey: it was kind of imaginary, not crossing the borders of my laptop. I was just tracing one word (you could guess it by now: the Mossafer).

I had started from one of Kiarostami's movies, Mossafer: about a small boy and his huge love for a soccer team playing in the neighboring city. The boy was doing everything in his power (it means cheating and stealing) to gather money for a bus ride and a match ticket.

The title of the movie was inciting for me: the word exists also in Romanian, Musafir: only the American translation of the movie gives The Traveler, while in Romanian the word means Guest. I wanted to know which was the correct meaning of Mossafer in Farsi (the language of film director Kiarostami).

The Romanian word is borrowed from Turkish. I needed to go to Istanbul then. I had with me a set of old photos of the city; it was a gift from a nice lady living far away, in a small American town some place in Massachusetts. It was interesting: the cop in that town was speaking Romanian! So, another mystery, isn't it? Well, some mysteries can be explained: the cop was a Romanian immigrant. But let's not digress! Here is the set of photos:

(video by Can)

Well, the photos were fine while what I needed was a dictionary. I found one in an old second-hand bookshop. A look into this English-Turkish dictionary gave me for Guest the following translations:

Misafir, Konuk, Davetli, Asalak Canlı

So the word has in Romanian and Turkish exactly the same meaning (by the way, for Traveler, the English - Turkish dictionary sends you to Yolcu, Gezgin, Seyahat Eden Kimse, Seyyah, Pazarlamacı, which is another animal).

Only the language in Kiarostami's Mosaffer was Farsi :) So I had to go further, to Tehran, while meditating at the journey of the word: Mossafer (or Musafir, whichever) had departed from some distant place in Persia or the Arabic Peninsula, had surely stepped by in the Thousand and One Nights, had befriended Sindbad, had then admired the dawn on Bosphorus (I'm sure the word had met also Evliya Çelebi, maybe even Piri Reis), and eventually remained as a honored guest in my Romanian language; meanwhile I was following the opposite direction, towards that distant place still unknown to me.

Tehran was kind of familiar to me, from some Iranian movies. Finding an Iranian-English dictionary was not difficult either; the tricky part was the Arabic alphabet, used in Farsi.

I tried firstly the word Traveler and it gave me مسافر. I tried then the Farsi word and I got some very clear information, about similar words:

I found then the word also in Pashtu, and I realized that this Mossafer started actually the journey from Arabic. It spread all over Muslim world, and suffered a little change of sense in Turkish: Traveler and Guest are, after all, very close in meaning.

Romanians took the word from Turkish, along with many other terms. Musafir has in today's Romanian an archaic flavor. The word much more in use is Oaspete.

(Iranian Film and Poetry)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Johan Halvorsen - Entry March of the Boyars

Johan Halvorsen - Entry March of the Boyars. A very likable orchestral sketch; I heard it many times, as it is often aired on the ARTS TV channel. Here is a fragment from a review published by Answers.com:

(It) is an example of what might be termed spatial orchestral writing. Bojarenes inntogsmasrj (to give the piece its Norwegian title) opens with a softly enunciated theme on solo clarinet, played very quietly at first, and sounding as if it were coming from a considerable distance. Next, Halvorsen creates the impression of the approaching parade by simply adding succeeding instruments to the texture until the full brass section presents a stirring march theme fortissimo. A jaunty new idea soon follows in the upper strings, later embellished by lively woodwind figurations, until a side-drum tattoo summons a fresh call to attention. This leads back to the main march theme on full brass before a new digression announces a polka-like idea played by the violins. As this closes, the music leads back to a restatement of the opening, softly played clarinet solo and a block repeat of most of the first section of the work, virtually unaltered in its scoring. The piece ends with the main brass idea on which this orchestral march is largely based.


Handel's Passacaglia - Lola Croitoru and Cristian Florea

Chisinau, March 2007: Lola Croitoru and Cristian Florea perfoming Passacaglia by Handel (Halvorsen's adaptation).


Arnold Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht

I watched yesterday on TV an excerpt from Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. I was amazed to realize how nice it sounded for me, and I meditated at the long road that atonality went over all these long years, to tame our sensibility.

I looked today on youTube to find Verklärte Nacht and I had the joy to discover these three videos: Cristian Florea conducting the Moldavan Chamber Orchestra from Chisinau.

(Musica Nova)


View on East River

(New York, New York)

Yellow Car on King Street


Monday, April 20, 2009

Robert J. Samuelson: Our Depression Obsession

Is it as bad as in 1929? Another question should come first: is it a crisis of the same kind? Robert J. Samuelson in today's W. Post:

The Great Depression of the 1930s was the most momentous economic event of the 20th century. It was a proximate cause of World War II, having fed the Nazis' rise in Germany. It inspired a new American welfare system as a response to mass misery. Everywhere, it discredited unsupervised capitalism. Given today's economic crisis, our renewed fascination with the Depression is natural. But we ought not stretch the parallels too far.

The Depression was exceptional in its economic ferocity. As Liaquat Ahamed writes in his book Lords of Finance: During a three-year period, real GDP [gross domestic product] in the major economies fell by over 25 percent, a quarter of the adult male population was thrown out of work. . . . The economic turmoil created hardships in every corner of the globe, from the prairies of Canada to the teeming cities of Asia.

Anyone who wants to know why should read this engrossing book. Ahamed, a professional money manager, attributes the Depression to two central causes: the misguided restoration of the gold standard in the 1920s and the massive inter-governmental debts, including German reparations, resulting from World War I.

His story builds on the scholarship of economists Milton Friedman, Anna Schwartz, Charles Kindleberger, Barry Eichengreen and Peter Temin. But Ahamed excels in evoking the political and personal forces that led to disaster. His title refers to four men deeply implicated in the era's perverse policies: Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England; Benjamin Strong, head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank; Émile Moreau, head of the Banque de France; and Hjalmar Schacht, head of Germany's Reichsbank. Their determination to reinstate the gold standard -- seen as necessary for global prosperity -- brought ruin.

Under the gold standard, paper money was backed by gold reserves. If gold flowed into a country (normally from a trade surplus or a foreign loan), its money and credit supply were supposed to expand. If gold flowed out, money and credit were supposed to contract. During World War I, Europe's governments suspended the gold standard. They financed the war with paper money and loans from America. The appeal of restoring the gold standard was that it would instill confidence by making paper money trustworthy.

Unfortunately, the war damaged the system beyond repair. Britain, the key country, was left with only 7.5 percent of the world's gold reserves in 1925. Together, the United States and France held more than half the world's gold. The war had expanded U.S. reserves, and when France returned to gold, it did so with an undervalued exchange rate that boosted exports and gold reserves. Meanwhile, German reparations to Britain and France were massive, while those countries owed huge amounts to the United States. The global financial system was so debt-laden that it cracked at the first pressure, writes Ahamed.

That came after a rise in American interest rates in 1928 forced other countries to follow (no one wanted to lose gold by having investors shift funds elsewhere) and ultimately led to the 1929 stock market crash. As economies weakened, debts went into default. Bank panics ensued. Credit and industrial production declined. Unemployment rose. Weakness fed on weakness.

Sadly, this tragedy has modern parallels. Like the 1930s, a worldwide credit collapse is a danger. Global stock, bond and bank markets are interwoven. Losses in one may prompt pullbacks in others. Money flowing to 28 emerging market" countries in 2009 will drop 80 percent from 2007 levels, projects the Institute of International Finance. Currency misalignments have, as in the 1920s, distorted trade. China's renminbi is clearly undervalued.

Still, striking differences separate now from then. The biggest is that governments -- unencumbered by the gold standard -- have eased credit, propped up financial institutions and increased spending to arrest an economic free fall. The Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund have made loans available to emerging-market countries to offset the loss of private credit. Nor is there anything like the international rancor that followed World War I and impeded cooperation: In 1931, the French balked at rescuing Austria's biggest bank (Creditanstalt), whose failure triggered a chain reaction of European panics.

When countries left the gold standard -- the United States effectively did so in 1933 -- their economies began to recover. Some indicators now imply that the present decline is ebbing (glimmers of hope, says President Obama). China shows similar signs of improvement. All this diminishes the dreary comparisons with the Depression. But if these omens prove false, a more somber conclusion could emerge.

The mistakes of the Depression were rooted in prevailing economic orthodoxies, which had been overtaken by new realities. The present policies likewise reflect today's orthodoxies. But what if they, too, turn out to be misguided because the world has moved on in ways that become obvious mostly in retrospect?

(Zoon Politikon)


Bill Murcko - Brothers of the Road

Bill Murcko - Brothers of the Road

For Bill Murcko, the painting starts with the eyes; from them the tone of the whole is set: emotion, experience, individuality.

(Principle Gallery)

The Most Wonderful Easter Greeting

I was again this last Saturday on the trail between Rosslyn and Alexandria. There is a post at the start of the trail announcing the distance is 5 miles. Actually there are 8 miles if you want to get to King Street in the Old Town. But it's nice, the Potomac is near you all the time, except for a short segment where the trail goes on a long wooden footbridge over a quagmire and you feel as within a small delta.

A lot of guys come here for fishing and I tried this photo as it was there a log looking like a sleeping dog.

Somewhere after the quagmire ends and you are again near the Potomac, there is a very impressive apartment building. Behind it there are the headquarters of the Salvation Army and I was asking myself whether the apartment building had any connection with the headquarters. There were two ladies on the terrace: my first impression was of charming princesses unjustly tied behind the bars and waiting for some Prince Charmant to free them; I asked whether there was such a need; no, it was not the case. Sounds good, I said and then I inquired about the Salvation Army. No, no connection of any kind. The apartment building was just a condo.

As I was approaching the waterfront at the end of King Street, there were in front of me three persons speaking in a language that seemed to be Farsi: a gentleman and two ladies. I asked them whether Farsi was. They were surprised by my sudden question, of course. Yes, it was Farsi, and they were Afghans by origin. Naturally, they asked me if I knew their language. I explained that I didn't, but I had watched several Iranian movies and so I had begun to recognize the way Farsi sounds.

We chatted a little more about languages and populations and religions, then I said good bye to them. The gentleman answered something in Farsi, then he explained to me, whenever a stranger leaves, we invoke Allah to protect him. I felt it as the most wonderful Easter greeting for me.

(Rosslyn - Alexandria Trail)

New Stories from BUZZ

- Duality -
(whatever that means)

- Study in Light Red -

What I like at BUZZ is they live in style. I'm going there rarely, it is not on one of my usual roads. It is a place you can spend some hours on a cup of coffee, with some papers to browse, or with your laptop.

(Stories from BUZZ)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sanna Tomac - Odalisque

Sanna Tomac - Odalisque
oil on canvas

Sanna Tomac is a Croatian. She studied at the Florence Academy of Art, then was the student of Odd Nerdrum in Norway.

Along with her husband Hans-Peter Szameit, she founded the Pantura Studios in the US (in Sioux Falls, South Dakota) where they taught a good number of students.

They moved in 2006 to Sweden where they founded the Atelier Stockholm.

Is it any mutual influence between Sanna Tomac and Hans-Peter Szameit? Maybe, and it seems natural to be, only it's hard for me to give a definite answer.

(Principle Gallery)