Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Illuminated Manuscipts...

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Fables - Many by Gherardo del Fora.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

San Francisco Strikes of 1934...

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Throughout much of 1934 in San Francisco they had general strikes including a Longshoreman strikes.
There was organizing and many picket parades.

For the Big Strike of May 1934 the city brought strike breakers in on boats as well as the National Guard. They bullied the strikers. There was violence. And there were victims.
And even though some of the photos seem staged there were deaths and funerals.

This particular strike has meaning to me personally because my grandfather was in the strike. On May 29th he was struck on the head by a policeman on horseback. Could this be the policeman who struke my grandfather?

Eventually everything settled down and the strike ended. But we shouldn't forget it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cannes Film Festival...6th Dispach

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Marie Antoinette - Sofia Coppola
The matrimonial disharmony in "Marie-Antoinette" was more casual and light-hearted than the usual pitched, furious battles of most of the spouses at odds in [other films in] the festival. Marie-Antoinette is a blond, and she fulfills many of the stereotypes--ditzy, a little simple-minded and innocent, but harmless and good-hearted. The film starts off with great promise of portraying the life at the time with telling detail as she is ushered off from Austria to France and taken possession of at the border, where she has to disrobe and exchange her Austrian clothes for French and even give up her dog Mops.
The film, however, does not go beyond the superficial detail of her sumptuous, luxurious court life. There is not a hint in the world that the guillotine awaits her.

Jindabyne - Ray Lawrence
Laura Linney and Gabriel Bryne are the couple imploding in the unsettling Australian feature. Linney is her usual brilliant self playing a wife greatly upset with her husband. Bryne and his pals discover the naked, dead body of an aboriginal woman in the river they are fishing on. Rather than immediately alerting the police, they wait for two days until their return, which seems implausible. The men's action is headline news in the newspaper and the talk of the town. In time the aboriginals become enraged, trashing the homes or businesses of all four of the men. One nagging issue undermining my full appreciation of the movie was how nasty everyone is in this movie, not only husbands and wives, but the so-called buddies. Nor is the murder resolved, though we see it happen.

Fuck – Steven Anderson
This is a thoroughly comprehensive examination of the origins and history of the word. George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Eddie Murphy and Hunter S. Thompson are also heard from as are Pat Boone and Miss Manners. There are clips from a couple of dozen Hollywood moves, including Scarface, in which the f-word was used 182 times. Kevin Smith was proud to say his "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" used it 278 times, just beating out South Park. Among the users are Dick Cheney on the Senate floor, Lyndon Johnson complaining that panty hose brought about the demise of finger-fucking, excerpts from the Nixon tapes, and on and on. There were many examples from cinema. The documentary claims the first Hollywood movie to include the word was M.A.S.H.

Zidane: a XXI Century Portrait
Zidane is the greatest French soccer player ever and the man who led them to the World Cup Championship eight years go. He is a god here and this film was meant to further deify him. It follows his every move in a game he played for super team Real Madrid by training 17 cameras on him, most in close-up. The movie is the game from first whistle until the final kick of the ball. There is no commentary, just the thud of the ball and cheering and occasional grunts. This film will win no converts to the game. Any American who does not appreciate the game will use this as evidence to prove how boring it is, as Zidane spends a lot of time just shuffling about. But for the soccer fan, this could be pure bliss.
Vintage Advertising...

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Belles de Pub

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cannes Film Festival...5th Dispatch

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Lights in the Dusk - Aki Kaurismaki
Kaurasmaki's entrance to the Palais for his afternoon screening nearly upstaged his movie. He has had to make that promenade up the red carpet many times, and no doubt doesn't appreciate the protocol of having to linger for several minutes while a legion of photographers blast away. Rather than posing, he grabbed one of his actresses and began dancing. This was all on the big screen in the theatre for those of us seated, awaiting his arrival. The rest of his cast followed suit, so there were five couples clutching each other and twirling about to the music that plays pre-film. There was laughter and applause in the theatre.
He lit one last cigarette as the cameras followed him into the theatre. He peaked around the doorway and then backed off, as if he was nervous about coming in. This drew even greater laughter. He repeated the routine several times. This was all entertaining, but it was delaying the start of the movie, and most of us have our day planned to the minute. His antics were squandering crucial time. He finally relented, making his entrance and taking his seat, cigarette still in hand. Thierry Fremaux, festival director, had to pry it from his fingers.
"Light in the Dusk" was the final film of his trilogy on the plight of the Finnish working man. The film does not upstage any of his previous films, nor does it diminish his reputation. There were less comic moments than he is known for, but he remains the master of the droll

Babel - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
This isn’t a film about terrorism, but rather about innocent acts and slight misunderstandings that lead to catastrophic results. The film brilliantly interweaves four stories, two in Morocco and the other two in Japan and the Mexican border. Inarritu, whose two previous films were "Amores Peres" and "2l Grams", could well earn best-director here for this very mature effort. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Gael Garcia Bernal and Cate Blanchett, as a consummate bitch of a wife, right up there with Sandra Bullock in "Crash." Her husband Pitt is one of the few characters in the movie who responds to crisis with some sense, but he too is driven to the brink. Characters are in peril in all four stories. Inarritu's pacing perfectly switches from one story to the next, as the tension builds in all.

Flanders - Bruno Dumont
This is a tale that begins in the northeast of France and ventures off to an Arabic war zone, where his French conscripts go berserk inflicting holy terror upon the innocent and undeserving. But before they are sent to war, Dumont depicts rural life with the gritty realism that marked his much-acclaimed "Life of Jesus" and "Humanite." This film doesn't probe the insidious depths of those films, but it still is an unapologetic study of man's inner recesses.

The Real Santa – Péter Gárdos
The lone film of the thousand plus here whose write-up mentioned a bicycle. The film's opening shot is of Paris in l994 with snow falling and two bikes parked in front of a bar. We get to feast our eyes on those bikes for several minutes as the credits roll. The pianist is shot in the leg during a robbery and the movie fast forwards to ten years later in Budapest. The pianist has become a disheveled bum. He is enlisted to fill in for a Santa at a mall, who was snowed in. His job is to wander around the mall and the streets outside singing and passing out candy. That is when a young girl starts haunting him, demanding a bike. They eventually become pals and he considers trying to rustle up the money to buy her a bike. They get in and out of trouble, but in the end he not only gets her a bike, but gives bikes to everyone in the mall. Hundreds of people flock from the mall with bikes all singing a rousing song of joy celebrating the bike--"Life is a bicycle. It won't go by itself...with wheels that always turn so keep your eyes on the road."

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Ronald Kurniawan [via the Jaf Project]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cannes Film Festival... 4th dispatch
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Southland Tales - Richard Kelly
This much anticipated follow-up to "Donnie Darko," is the festival's first significant disaster--two hours and forty minutes of juvenile claptrap, some pandering, most just nonsensical. This woeful misfire of a movie will find few defenders, even among those legions who gave "Darko" cult status. People were bailing out of this movie from the very start. The only surprise was those who stuck around didn't boo. It wasn't even worthy of that.

Charley Says - Nicole Garcia
If it weren't French "Charley Says" may not have been included among the 20 or so films in competition. It was an ambitious film attempting to combine a hodgepodge of stories with the common theme of loneliness. It takes all too long for the many story lines to sort themselves out and begin to interweave. Not all of them are necessary and are not fully integrated or resolved, padding the movie to 2 hours and ten minutes. This film could be saved with some aggressive editing.

Red Road - Andrea Arnold
No editing is necessary in this masterful film by first-time Scottish director Andrea Arnold. She is the only first-time director in competition and could be the discovery of the festival. Likewise her lead actress, who could well walk off with best actress honors for her sterling performance of a 30-something woman who has yet to recover from some unknown tragedy in her life.

Requiem for Billy the Kid - Anne Feinsilber
Festival director Thierry Fremaux may have had extra incentive to include the film in the festival as it drew a comparison between Billy and Rimbaud, who both lived at the same time and both had six-year careers, one writing poetry and the other killing, which overlapped. This film too had pleasing landscapes of west Texas and southern New Mexico. I didn't need to yearn to bike its roads, as I just did six months ago.

Climates - Nurge Bilge Ceylan
Turkish director has a cult following [for] those who like slow-paced, contemplative art films with no action. And he delivers again. Ceylan, for the first time, turns the camera on himself in a starring role. His wife in real life plays his wife in the film, and his parents, as parents, have brief cameos as well. Ceylan plays a professor whose marriage is falling apart. He and his wife split, he has a brief affair and then tries to get together again with his wife. And that is that. It is a bit of a travelogue, as he travels to various places in Turkey, from the snowy mountains to Istanbul. It also has plenty of depth and gives plenty of space for quiet meditation.

The Road - Zhang Jiarui
This Chinese film was market filler for me. This film about a rural bus driver no doubt received an A-plus from the Chinese censors. But more important than the postcard scenery, to the censors, would be its continual honoring of Mao.... There is loads of stunningly spectacular mountain scenery on dirt roads with little traffic that I'd love to bike.
Cannes Film Festival...3rd Dispatch
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George gives us his review of Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth

The trailer for this documentary on global warming says it received three standing ovations when it premiered at Sundance this past January. It can now add Cannes to that list.
Gore, wearing a tux with a bow tie, received a standing ovation when he joined the film's producers on stage after being introduced.
He gave lame, haphazard high-fives to the men and quick kisses to the two women. He said, "I never thought in a million years that my slide show would get me on the red carpet at Cannes." He then joined Tipper in the second row to sit through a lecture that he has given hundreds of times so he could take the stage again after the film and acknowledge another standing ovation.
The filming of his slide show is interspersed with footage of Gore's home in Tennessee and many of the sites he comments on in his lecture from the North Pole to dried-up lakes. It does not bog down at any point. He cites one alarming trend and statistic after another, but in such a buoyant manner, it doesn't convey the sense of doom and catastrophe that it ought to. Nor does he take the American consumer to task for the peril it has placed the planet. It is much more of a feel-good experience than it should be.
He does ask towards the end of the film, "Are you ready to change the way you live." But Gore doesn't press the issue, as he wouldn't want to make demands on others that he wouldn't want to comply with himself. We see him flying around the world first class and being driven around in limos. There is not a mention of the bicycle as an alternative travel option until the very end when the film lists a handful of things people can do to alter global warning. The list includes recycling, using one's thermostat, using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, buy a hybrid car, or "when you can, walk or ride your bike." Prayer is also mentioned.
It is still an important movie that everyone should see.
Sketch Blog...

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Lotte Klaver [check her archives too]

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cannes Film Festival...2nd Dispatch

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Ten Canoes - Rolf de Heer's
A remarkably original film telling a timeless tale of aboriginal lore with an entirely aboriginal cast off in their aboriginal lands. If nothing else, it is a fascinating ethnographic study, showing the aboriginal way of life--hunting, gathering, stripping bark to make canoes, constructing platforms in the trees to be safe from crocodiles, death dances sending the soul on its final journey, justice meted out, passing down their wisdom from generation to generation. It is narrated by the great David Gulpilil with only occasional aboriginal exchanges. Four of the cast members were in attendance, looking not entirely comfortable in formal attire.

Volver - Pedro Almodovar
A Penolope Cruz vehicle as much as anything. Almodovar can't keep his camera off her breasts, shooting them from every angle imaginable. He's so preoccupied by them, he even has [the character playing] Cruz's mother comment, after not having seen her in a while, "Your breasts are bigger than I remember, have you had them enlarged." The movie's plot seemed as if it had been concocted at an improv club--disposing of a dead body, starting up a restaurant, the dead return, a 200 lb prostitute, "who needs a spleen anyway." It may have frequently begged credibility and been more fluff than substance, but it was well-executed and will please those who just want to be distracted and entertained.

Taxidermia - György Palfi
This Hungarian film will please those who thrive on stylized outrageousness and fresh and original images. This three-parter notched up the outrageousness segment by segment, beginning with varieties of masturbation, proceeding to eating to excess and culminating with self-inflicted decapitation. It was all most artfully filmed--including a rooster pecking at an enlarged male member proceeding in and out of a lubricated peep hole into his coop, a baby born with a tale that is snipped, a row of gargantuan eaters slurping as much as they can into their mouths and then engaging in mass vomiting, an intricate machine designed to lop off one's head.

Unknown - Simon Brand
My foraging in the market place was amply rewarded with "Unknown", an American production starring Barry Pepper, Greg Kinnear and Jim Caviezel. [It is] a thriller about five guys who wake up in a locked-down warehouse that they can't escape from after they have been asphyxiated by a gas leak. All their memories have had their memories erased, tho they all gradually have some flickers of their pasts. They soon realize that they were involved in a kidnapping, but no one knows who were the kidnappers and who were the kidnappees and why. It was most gripping and exhilarating film-going experience. And the end does not disappoint.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cannes Film Festival...
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It's that time of year again.
George the Cyclist returns to report from the
Cannes Film Festival. He rode in on an airplane to Paris early in May and spend a couple weeks biking down 500 miles to Cannes.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley - Ken Loach
From the very start of his latest offering of social realism, Loach maintains a boiling tension and does not relent, as he recounts the brutality the Irish and the English inflicted upon one in the 1920s. Loach could not be more forthright in portraying the horror of the hostilities, as the Irish battled to rid themselves of their English oppressors. About two-thirds of the way into the film, an Irish leader tells his troops after they have ambushed and massacred a truck full of English soldiers, "If they bring their savagery over here we will meet it with a savagery of our own." The film is a non-stop series of vengeful acts. Loach offers little hope for the future of the human race. The film isn't fully satisfying, but Loach always merits viewing and commendation for the subjects he chooses.

Summer Palace - Lou Ye
A film that had yet to be approved by China's censors. I was on alert from Charles [Facets programmer], as one criticism floating around was that this two hour and twenty minute epic following several Chinese students from their college days in l980 to 2000 could be drastically cut. But we were both riveted. The allusions to Tiananmen Square shouldn't upset the Chinese censors too much, but the abundance of sex probably will. The Chinese students were no different than their western counterparts giving into their lusts and being less than monogamous about it. Of the many sexual congresses, all were conventionally missionary until the students left school. Only early on do we see any real happiness and delight in their lives, once reflected as a pair of recent lovers joyfully ride their bikes alongside each other for a prolonged spell. But jealousy and general moroseness takes over their lives. One woman jumps off a building, another is hit head-on by a truck in the rain at night on her bicycle.

No Body is Perfect - Raphael Sibilla [French documentary]
The title and write-up implied this would be about people who weren't satisfied with their bodies, and the extremes they went to improve them. There was a little of that, although not of a cosmetic surgery nature. The body alterations involved tattoos and piercings and mutilations, including one guy who had his member sliced open and another who had nipped the ends off several of his fingers and was willing to do another finger for the camera. "Come back tomorrow after six," he summoned. "I go into shock when I do it. This ought to be filmed." We had to brace ourselves for the next day, but the filmmakers declined to go that far. The bulk of the film, though, was showing the goings-on at sex and swing clubs. The film was seven years in the making, ranging from Rio to Japan. I would have thought they could have found more interesting characters in their search.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006