Artistic Nostalgia & Longing

July 17th, 2011 § 0 comments

A musician friend of mine called Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris (2011), “Woody Allen light,” a perfect way to describe a film of little substance but full of longing: artistic longing. The story follows a frustrated contemporary screenwriter named Gil Pender, who is engaged to a shockingly shallow woman Inez, as they vacation with her insipid parents in Paris. One of the most beautiful, wistful, and nostalgic cities in Europe, Allen’s Paris is one that makes anyone who has ever been miss it immediately. The opening credits capture still images of dreamy cobblestone alleys that recall old Paris, Atget’s Paris, as well as the comings and goings of modern day Parisians. The film’s protagonist, Pender, is hopelessly absent from his own stifling reality, and dreams of Paris in the 1920s, when it was brimming with expats, artists, intellectuals, and writers. Lost, drunk, and alone one night, Pender is greeted by a car full of drunken strangers, who happily drive him to the 1920s at the stroke of midnight.

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Published—Warhol’s Motion Pictures

March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments

It was the lovely and overlooked film by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere (2010), that started me thinking differently about a trend I have been seeing in too many art shows over the past few months. The catalyst for my latest review is the shocking realization that Andy Warhol’s Motion Pictures, exhibited now at MoMA, feels fresher, newer, and more thought provoking than anything else I’ve recently seen. That I would want to write about Andy Warhol had never occurred to me, and that I would find some aspect of his work new seemed impossible. All I have been seeing from young artists this year, however, has consisted of clever remakes of older artwork, and it’s been one Cindy Sherman (to use a popular candidate) reference after another. A critic friend of mine said he was going to start writing more “negative reviews” simply because he was finding it impossible to find something he actually liked. I was glad to know other people were having a similar problem, but this doesn’t explain why new art seems determined to reference old work. Perhaps in trying to avoid the term “derivative” artists have started making exact replicas of other artists. Watching Somewhere put a different spin on the idea of remaking in an older tradition. Coppola’s film, so simple and fresh, reminded me of the films I was seeing reshown in galleries, such as Warhol’s Screen Tests and Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Though Coppola seemed to be drawing from older styles of filmmaking, her reasons for doing so were tied directly to filmmaking today. In an NPR interview Coppola talked about the decision to make her film so spare:

I hope it’s refreshing for audiences. I just feel like in movies today we are so bombarded with fast editing and song after song, that I wanted to have more breathing room, to just have a pause. Even modern life, with everyone in contact and on BlackBerrys, I feel like it’s nice to have a break from that, and to be alone with the characters.

The Death of a Producer

July 27th, 2010 § 1 comment

pride & prejudiceWhile pondering who might be the current audience for foreign films about familial drama, I found myself wondering why is that the intricate narrative of family life is considered to be a female form of entertainment. Like those books girls read as teenagers—Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Mrs. Dalloway—that boys (and later men) are sure to dismiss, understanding the treacherous but fascinating web of family is of interest only to us. What is most frustrating in a post feminist society is not that our contributions are still dismissed, undervalued, and exploited. These problems in the late 20th and 21st century have taken on a good bit of elasticity, in that we are less dismissed, undervalued, and exploited. The problem for my generation of women is one of interest, or what seems to be a shocking inequality of it. While most women enjoy the tastes and interests of men, after centuries of having no choice, so little effort is made by men to enjoy the tastes and interests of women. In the case of filmmaking it could be said that our stories, and the perspective from which we tell them, might receive the proper critical attention—Bright Star, The Hurt Locker, Lost In Translation—but they also garner unnecessary anger and more often complete indifference from mass audiences. Preferring anger, the disinterest is a stinging snub with a subtext of, we don’t think you make bad films because we won’t even watch them. Less than nine percent of directors in Hollywood today are women, and if their movies go unwatched, be they about poetry, war, or intimacy, should we be fighting for more representation or more interest? Obviously both.

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Our Suspension of Disbelief

October 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments

Watching the new documentary made by and about The Yes Men forced me to remember that it is easy to confuse something’s popularity in nyc with its popularity throughout the country. For most people, The Yes Men Fix the World probably needs a lot more background explanation than most other documentaries. While nyc, especially after the New York Times prank of last winter, is full of enthusiastic supporters of their political pranks—film audiences here were lead off after certain screenings to perform late night, humor based vandalism—I usually find myself explaining the group to others elsewhere.

the yes men

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“Après moi, le déluge.”

April 11th, 2009 § 0 comments

valentino-the-last-emperorMatt Tyrnauer: “There are a lot of people who say no one could replace you.”
Valentino Garavani: “Après moi, le déluge. Do you know what that means?”

I wondered as he said it if a king of France, Napoleon, or another figure of wealth and power had been the author of such a sentiment—it was Louis XV who said, “after me, the flood.” Valentino: The Last Emperor is an indulgent documentary about the Italian couturier Valentino Garavani. The film has shown with unsurprising popularity for the past few weeks at one of Gotham’s independent film houses. The screenings have been coupled with a Q & A with the director Matt Tyrnauer, and the editor at large for Vogue, André Leon Talley. Though the film itself does not address any aspect of the couturier’s life—his role in fashion history, his style, or his notions of beauty—in a deep or terribly engaging manner, Valentino’s life seems to be about two things; beauty and excess, and in that order.

Valentino’s sense of beauty reminded me of visiting Europe. I remember traveling through Italy with M, and her amazement at the obsessive and undeniably extravagant effort that went into creating the works of art, architecture, and ornament that were gloriously scattered from city to city. Watching Valentino fuss over his designs I thought of the different colored marble lining the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica. Every stitch, seam, and embellishment on a Valentino dress is done carefully and thoroughly by hand. It is a certain kind of beauty that Valentino fell in love with as a young man, a certain ideal he evokes with his garments, and it is a beauty that transcends the ordinary, it is an ageless, timeless beauty. Despite his tantrums, his ego, his fussing and frustrations, it is undeniable that his dresses sometimes resemble works of art rather than new pieces of runway fashion. “I love beauty,” he says, “it’s not my fault.” But it is not simply beauty that Valentino loves, he loves a certain class, glamour, and character to go along with his sense of beauty. What do women want? “They want to be beautiful,” says Valentino, stressing all the syllables of the last word.

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