Tuesday, March 29, 2011

catching up with the films of 2011

It's still early in the year but there have been many notable film releases. Here are three I thought were quite good.

Jane Eyre - There have been film versions of Bronte's classic tale ad nauseam but the gloomy and striking version by young filmmaker Cary Fukunaga's feels fresh. Meticulous production values and a top notch cast including Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, and Amelia Clarkson (playing a young Jane). And the script by Moira Buffini made me marvel at Eyre's feminist virtues.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - A Cannes Palme d'Or winner, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's tale of a man dying of kidney failure, visited by the ghosts of his past in various forms (including a glowing-eyed monkey) is at times murky, surreal and confounding, and also gorgeous (the serene jungle and its insect sounds are hauntingly captured). Influenced by Thai cinema, Weerasethakul employs various styles and indulges in long takes of "nothing happening."

Of Gods & Men - French film directed by Xavier Beauvois based on the story of a group of French Trappist Monks from an Algerian monastery who were kidnapped and found beheaded. A cold, sometimes aloof film, and a bit too lugubrious at times, I wondered if the film would have had a stronger impact with some cutting. I also couldn't decide whether it was straightforward in its intentions or was offering a more ambivalent argument about religion and colonialism. I try to put faith in the latter which makes the story all the more perplexing and compelling.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

last summer

Released a few years after the Summer of Love, Frank Perry's Last Summer centers on a bizarre love triangle of pretty, emotionally stunted and privileged youth and an awkward misfit who enters their circle. I'm always on the lookout for authentic films that are more concerned with behavior than plot, with characters trapped within a certain time period. Like his cinematic version of The Swimmer, Perry's film definitely delivers the goods in that regard.

A beautiful and vicious Barbara Hershey plays Sandy who exploits the attraction of two friends Peter and Dan (Richard Thomas and Bruce Davison in early roles). The three of them quickly form a sort of gang-like solidarity. Rhoda (an unforgettable, wrenching Catherine Burns in an Oscar-nominated performance) happens upon the group on the beach. Her gawkiness and passiveness is preyed upon by the trio who eventually commit an act of violence.

Wonderfully dated (late sixties rock fills the soundtrack) and filmed on location in Fire Island in an appropriately gauzy, hazy, color-drenched stock (the camera lens seems glazed with Vaseline), Last Summer feels achingly stuck in 1969. Full of close-ups, the film never really strays much from the main characters (parents and adults are mainly on the fringes--voices in the background) and their strand of beach. It's not until a stirring monologue by Burns that someone else is vividly realized--the ghost of Rhoda's mother (in a red swimsuit) on the night of her drowning. Like Rhoda, the film itself, based upon Evan Hunter's novel, perfectly captures young anger, passion, ambiguity, and pain. ***1/2

japan earthquake relief options

Click for a list via Huffington Post of relief options for the earthquake in Japan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

north haven

Thursday night's Wilde Boys salon discussing Elizabeth Bishop has this poem "North Haven" on my mind right now.


In Memoriam: Robert Lowell

I can make out the rigging of a schooner
a mile off; I can count
the new cones on the spruce. It is so still
the pale bay wears a milky skin; the sky
no clouds except for one long, carded horse's tail.

The islands haven't shifted since last summer,
even if I like to pretend they have—
drifting, in a dreamy sort of way,
a little north, a little south, or sidewise—
and that they're free within the blue frontiers of bay.

This month our favorite one is full of flowers:
buttercups, red clover, purple vetch,
hackweed still burning, daisies pied, eyebright,
the fragrant bedstraw's incandescent stars,
and more, returned, to paint the meadows with delight.

The goldfinches are back, or others like them,
and the white-throated sparrow's five-note song,
pleading and pleading, brings tears to the eyes.
Nature repeats herself, or almost does:
repeat, repeat, repeat; revise, revise, revise.

Years ago, you told me it was here
(in 1932?) you first "discovered girls"
and learned to sail, and learned to kiss.
You had "such fun," you said, that classic summer.
("Fun"—it always seemed to leave you at a loss...)

You left North Haven, anchored in its rock,
afloat in mystic blue...And now—you've left
for good. You can't derange, or rearrange,
your poems again. (But the sparrows can their song.)
The words won't change again. Sad friend, you cannot change.

-Elizabeth Bishop

Friday, March 4, 2011

on removing the wedding band

I love this poem.

On Removing the Wedding Band

As though undreaming the mountain
from the sea or tweezering hands from
a watch, a quick-fix change of regimes:
a democracy lost to a monarchy, an empty sudden
village, and elsewhere the wedding party lining up
like a lost tribe of refugees. As though a reverse
whisper of vows into a pageant of elegant ears
when the heat in the O cooled its “till death do us,”
and the storm inside seething below
the flowers, gowns, and cake, its own Institution.

-Major Jackson

from the collection Holding Company

listen to the poem here

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

where do you go when the record is over

I have a new poem, "Where Do You Go When the Record is Over," in the latest music-themed issue of Burner Magazine.

The magazine is really cool and the editors do a fabulous job. Poetry, photography and some great interviews with Yoko Ono, Saul Williams and others. Check it out!