Thursday, April 13, 2006

This morning, hilarity (of a sort) on the subway. Got off the R at 36th Street (Brooklyn) in order to catch the D, but the N train came first... and one car was empty, and as people stepped in, they gagged and ran out to another car: there was a homeless man with a shopping cart full of stuff wrapped in black plastic bags, and it reeked so much that people in the station were gagging and moving away from the car! (Reminds me that i once read that man's most potent "weapon" when he was still in the jungle was the stench: "man" unwashed and totally natural has the worst odor of any animal in the world, and this homeless guy proved it!) I had to wait (a long time) before a D train came, and when it did, at the Atlantic-Pacific stop, a schizo (who seemed off his meds) came on... sure enough, he stood right next to me, muttering and suddenly screaming... and it was crowded, and it wasn't as if i could move anywhere! Luckily, once we got to Manhattan, he got off at the Grand Street stop. (Thank heaven for small favors.)

Larry's sisters came in last night: they are staying for a week. Of course, today, Barry took them out to see Rockefeller Center, etc. But he keeps forgetting that they are both in their 70s, and after walking a lot, they get tired!

But i went to see screenings at the Walter Reade Theater for the African Film Festival. "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" was pretty phenomenal (i thought): i could see why it won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival last year. (What i can't understand is why no other festival took it up before this.) Then there was a selection of shorts. Met Debbie there, and went to lunch with hre, then went down to a Tribeca screening: "Waterbuster". It's a true Tribeca film: a documentary that was developed as part of the Tribeca All-Access program. I thought it was pretty good, very solid and informational (it's about the displacement of the North Dakota plains Indian tribes in the 1950s), but then i was depressed....

Yesterday, i almost had one of my blow-ups. The reason: i was talking to some guy who has been attending a lot of the Tribeca press screenings, and he had been at the "experimental" program (Robert Wilson, Laurie Anderson, Ken Jacobs) and he thought it was the booby prize of the festival, and i couldn't deal with it: i didn't want (once again!) to be the person who "justified" Ken Jacobs. (Or Jonas Mekas, or George Landow, or Warren Sonbert, or whomever.) I don't think that a lot of those people (i know Jonas doesn't) have any idea what happened starting in the mid-1980s: i was being asked by so many of foundations and councils and so on to be the "nonwhite avantgarde expert" and if i could provide a spirited defense of those artists, they could get a grant, or they might be included in a PBS program, etc. (I know that Warren was very aware of this, and i know that Ken has always been aware of this.) And i just couldn't deal with this person.

But i have to say: Robert Wilson's "video portraits" of Brad Pitt and Isabelle Huppert were two of the emptiest things i've ever seen.

Ken's "Ontic Antics Starring Laurel and Hardy" was a digital "transcription" of the Nervous System projection piece that Ken showed at MoMA during its "exile" at the Gramercy Theater. I loved it then, and it worked reasonably well in its digital version.

Last week, Larry and i were on the subway, and this very thin, incredibly beautiful tall boy was pacing back and forth on the subway car. He was so so antsy. And Larry was watching the boy, and i turned to Larry and said, "Are you feeling nostalgic?" Because the boy was obviously a junkie who was strung out. Just like the other day, i noticed the copy of Norman Mailer's "Why Are We in Vietnam?", and i remembered Kenny's comments (what kind of a stupid book is that? it's just curse words!... i should add that Norman Mailer was Kenny's favorite writer, his favorite book of all time was "The Executioner's Song" which he read at least 12 times! and he also loved "The Naked and the Dead", but he hated "Why Are We in Vietnam?"). Of course, i can't imagine how Kenny could have lived any longer than he did, but it's hard not to miss him.

After seeing "Kettle of Fish" (pretty dismal) at Tribeca, had a really interesting discussuion with Ronnie Sheib (who's a reviewer for Variety) about these insane attempts to make old-fashioned romantic comedies. So far, in terms of Tribeca: most of the fiction films have been unimpressive, but there have been a lot of very solid documentaries.

And this ties in with my feelings of helplessness: can there be another "wave" of new filmmakers? Everything now seems geared towards documentary. And Ronnie said it: documentaries are good and informative and so on, but she misses that imaginative leap, that excitement that comes when you see a real work of art. I know that Tribeca will show a lot of exceptional restorations: "Prix de Beaute" and Renoir's "The River" and Rossellini's "Flowers of St. Francis" are certainly worth chance to see, i love those movies....

But i want something new.

Actually, two of the things i saw at the African Film Festival qualify: "U-Carmen" and "Les Saignantes" were really exciting.

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