I love that there is nothing flashy going on here, stylistically speaking. The simple scenes that revolve around the piano suffice to fly.
I can see something true through the camera that is not immediately visible. If I start from you and your expectation as a participant of what cinema should be, you will start staging yourself, you’ll start acting out an idealized image of yourself, you’ll start acting out the fantasies that you hold of yourself. And I’ll be able to know how you dream of yourself, how you imagine the world. And that’s also how I tried to use the camera, especially in The Act of Killing. And I think that’s the state of nature for the non-fiction camera. If I put a camera on anybody, they start to perform. And from that performance we can see how people want to be seen. And we can infer how they really see themselves. In short, we can see the role of fiction storytelling and fantasy in constituting our apparently factual reality.
When a public luminary leaves us suddenly, it hits hard because they never withdrew from their vital role in present-day humanity. Today I thank: David Bowie, Oliver Sacks and Karen Schmeer. Their stars will never dim.
Bliss in an art gallery goes something like this: scores of gregarious zebra finches free in a room full of rock instruments. It's called 'from here to ear v19' and it's a captivating installation/live show by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. What I found most surprising was the level of activity in the room, not coming from us transfixed human spectators but from the birds themselves: hopping on guitar strings, feeding, singing, attempting to build a nest on a guitar, snoozing in the sand... the whole had an air of purposefulness and order far from the disarray I had expected to find. Here's a great article in Slate that clarified some questions I had. It even goes into how birds of the same species can develop different dialects based on environment, something I've always wondered about since observing urban chickens and wondering if they would develop different calls to cope with the loudness of the city.
I was lucky to catch Jennifer Castle performing at the Hemlock Tavern this past September. I've been meaning to write a post about her because she is one of my favorite singer-songwriters working/touring today. Stuart Berman at Pitchfork says it better than I can:
Jennifer Castle is an enigma hiding in plain sight. On the surface, she’s a Canadian singer/songwriter like so many others, often performing with just a guitar and a stool, singing songs that conjure bygone country, folk, and blues traditions and that are lyrically steeped in richly detailed agrarian scenery and the travails of being a working mom. But Castle’s music is not so much of the earth as floating above it, untethered to the natural order of time and space and often eschewing typical verse/chorus/verse structure to roam according to its own wandering spirit. As Lou Reed famously sang, “between thought and expression lies a lifetime,” and that’s where Jennifer Castle’s songs live—that grey area where observation mutates into rumination, and where the physical world dissolves into psychic terrain.
Alone on the tiny backroom stage with her semi-acoustic guitar, she plunged us into the vibrant world I had previously encountered through her recordings. I highly recommend any of her LPs. Her latest, Pink City, is one of those records I keep going back to on cold nights with warm lighting. Here is a song (and video) from that record:
Just got a flashback of this understated documentary I caught back in 2012. It's about 80-year-old Sayyed el-Dawwy, the last living interpreter of the Sira, the most significant Arabian epic poem. He knows all its 5 million verses by heart and performs it around Egypt like a rockstar. The shows he puts on are dazzling to my foreign ears. I wonder if he will succeed in passing on the tradition to his grandson and what it will sound like coming from a generation more influenced by Pop music and soap operas. Sequel please!
Sparse highlights from the great spinning sphere of publication.