Category Archives: film

Mother and Son

Among the many highlights of Marcel Proust’s magnum opus In Search of Lost Time is the death of the writer Bergotte. Despite a potentially life-threatening case of uremia, Bergotte goes to a Parisian museum to view a favorite painting (Johannes Vermeer’s View of Delft) after a local art critic points out a heretofore unseen detail, a patch of yellow wall “so well painted that it was, if one looked at it in isolation, like a precious work of Chinese art, of an entirely self-sufficient beauty…” As Bergotte, increasingly lightheaded from his illness and mistaking it, rather comically, for indigestion, stares at and contemplates this new discovery he says to himself, “That is how I should have written,” then repeats “little patch of yellow wall” several times before being fatally felled by a stroke.

Aleksandr Sokurov’s Mother and Son is itself a “little patch of yellow wall,” a film to die to. The brilliance of Mother and Son is how it turns perspective and perception against us. Inspired by 19th century German painter, Caspar David Friedrich, this is a film compulsively aware of itself as two-dimensional; through the use of special distorting lenses, Sokurov collapses foreground, middle-ground, and background, erasing the illusion of depth. A static blur hangs, like an immovable fog, around the sides of the frame, effectively eliminating peripheral vision—and perhaps foreshadowing, as an artist’s work is wont to do, Sokurov’s recently rumored, slowly impending blindness.

This collapse of perspective applies equally to Mother (Gudrun Geyer) and Son (Aleksei Ananishnov), both of whom, as is clear from an opening scene in which they recall having the same dream, are elemental presences playing out an intimate and ritualistic death-rattle pas de deux. And yet there’s a strong subversive undercurrent running through Mother and Son, suggesting its protagonists are somehow in collusion, attempting to cheat and ultimately escape divine law. This only becomes explicit in the film’s final scene when the Son attends to his Mother’s corpse and whispers, “We will meet where we agreed. Wait for me.”

Full review at Slant Magazine.

Image: Sunflowers, © Jan McCartney, 2011


The Monoliths

Zombie faces don’t scare me, but the Monolith, with its mindless determination and relentless advance, makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. The stuff of dreams, and there is no escape. The stuff of reality as well.

2011 – A Space Odyssey: In the most literal narrative sense, the Monolith is a tool, an artifact of an alien civilization. It comes in many sizes and appears in many places, always with the purpose of advancing intelligent life. Arthur C. Clarke has referred to it as “the alien Swiss Army Knife”; or as Heywood Floyd speculates, “an emissary for an intelligence beyond ours. A shape of some kind for something that has no shape.”

(thanks, Wikipedia!)

Image: Monoliths, © Jan McCartney, 2011

Caught: The Paintings of Heiko Müller

I’m inspired by painter Heiko Müller whose work turns over the log of Mother Nature and exposes quite another world. His work is informed by renaissance and flemish art as well as comic culture, and you will find hints of Durer and Ensor.

This one, though, caught my attention today as I look forward to the opening, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, of the paintings of Jack Chambers, a local artist whose art film, The Hart of London, exposed our uneasy relationship with nature as our towns encroach on habitats. This is particularly poignant today as we read about the 50 animals from an exotic zoo in Zanesville, Ohio, most of whom were summarily gunned down by police after their owner set them loose then committed suicide.

Like the doe that was hit by a car then shot four hours later by police a few blocks from my house last month. Like The Hart of London.

Le Flâneur: Paris at Night in 2,000 Photographs

The elegance of Paris is captured in a stunning time-lapse video by Luke Shepard, a student at The American University of Paris.

The undergraduate student’s two-minute video titled Le Flâneur has gone viral since the Boston-native posted it on the popular video networking site Vimeo earlier this year.

The video is composed of 2,000 photographs which Shepard, 21, shot at night and in the early hours while roaming the French capital. Over the course of a few months, Shepard snapped photo after photo with his trusty Nikon D90 camera strapped to a tripod to prevent any unnecessary movement.

The video is set to the song Intro by The xx, an English indie pop band.

“Ever since I’ve been in Paris I’ve been wandering the streets at night either by bike or by foot,” Shepard told the Toronto Star.

“There is a very eerie feeling about it (at night). I wanted to tell its story through pictures.”

Excerpted from the Toronto Star, May 5, 2011.

Interview with Luke Shepard.

Laika’s First Snowfall

Need to get to your Buddha Place? Here’s Laika the husky puppy.

The Gypsy Wife

Legendary Canadian troubadour and poet Leonard Cohen has won the ninth Glenn Gould Prize for lifetime achievement in the arts and communication, it was announced Friday at a ceremony in Toronto.

Cohen, 76, is the third Canadian to take the $50,000 international honour, established in 1987 to commemorate the life and work of pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) and sometimes called “the Nobel Prize of the arts.” He is famous for such songs as Suzanne, Bird on a Wire and Hallelujah and books such as The Spice-Box of Earth and Let Us Compare Mythologies.

Globe and Mail, April 1, 2011

I’ve heard all the wild reports, they can’t be right
But whose head is this she’s dancing with on the threshing floor
whose darkness deepens in her arms a little more

And where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?
Where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?

Ah the silver knives are flashing in the tired old cafe
A ghost climbs on the table in a bridal negligee
She says, “My body is the light, my body is the way”
I raise my arm against it all and I catch the bride’s bouquet

And where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?…

Too early for the rainbow, too early for the dove
These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood
And there is no man or woman who can’t be touched
But you who come between them will be judged

And where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?…

In Waltz Into Darkness, a 1947 noir crime novel by Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish) weaves a beautiful, terribly tragic tribute to the intricacies of human relationships and the depths that we are willing to sink to if we think worthy the person we make our descent with. This is, in essence, a romance novel under the guise of a noir crime tale.

Louis Durand is a man not accustomed to the ways of love and finds himself overwhelmed by the extreme emotional states that accompany it. He could be argued as a weakling and a coward, but any true romantic (a category under which I myself likely would fall) will be moved by his unchanged, unshakeable devotion to the woman that he has his heart set on. He compromises his own morals and safety and way of life to win her over.

The character of Julia Russell and her successor is the true star of the novel. She is a woman hardened by the world that has turned its nose up at her and throughout the novel grows out of her cynical, loveless, deceitful shell and evolves into a woman that she before was so afraid to become.

The novel is one of the definitive dark love stories of literary history, richly written by a brilliant author who clearly has personal stakes in the story. The novel will bear a much greater significance to those well versed in the ways of love and its darker faces. Detractors of love, cynics, and the naive in the world of relationships should steer clear, but for those who don’t fit those descriptions and those who are looking for a tale of truly moving love and lack thereof, pick up this novel immediately.

Book review shamelessly cadged from Amazon.

Softbank Dog

Night Sky:



More Softbank Dog videos by Tsuresu

H/T to The Misanthropic Shiba!