Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today, woke up to find that there had been a derailment on the R line, so that meant delays (the derailment happened in Manhattan and i'm in Brooklyn, but any excuse for delays seems to be the modus operandi of the MTA), so i knew i wouldn't be able to make the press screening of Visconti's "Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa" on time, so i decided to stay home. Tonight perhaps i'll go to the AICA lecture by Holland Cotter (i did RSVP, so that shouldn't be a problem, just as long as the subways are running, you never know, the morning commute was a mess and perhaps the same will happen this evening).

However, i have been going to see things, and i did see some enjoyable things and some utterly wonderful things. Among the enjoyable: Mario Monicelli's "The Passionate Thief" with a screenplay co-authored by Suso Cecchi D'Amico (the Film Society of Lincoln Center is doing a small retrospective; the woman was incredibly prolific and any series can only hope to show a portion of the voluminous number of films she contributed to; that was also why "Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa" was being screened, though the Visconti movie i'm really dying to see again is "Conversation Piece" which is also in the series). Totally charming, with sweet performances by Toto and Anna Magnani (at one point - a truly magical moment - they do an old vaudeville number) as a couple of down-on-their-luck performers who are trying to find a way of having a good time on New Year's Eve. It was made in 1960, the black-and-white cinematography of Rome was gorgeous, the plot was outlandish (involving Ben Gazzara as a thief) and it was delightful. Monicelli has a talent for letting the humor of these situations come out without going overboard, this can make his films seem a bit tentative, but it's a lot better than getting hit over the head for boffo laughs. And it allows a performer like Magnani to show a less volcanic register. This is similar to the languid humor of "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (which was probably Monicelli's biggest hit internationally). Among the wonderful: Bruce Conner's films, and the Judson Dance Theater concert.

I've seen a lot of things in the past two weeks, including a panel discussion at the Judson Memorial Church about the performing arts there, as well as the dance concert commemorating the Judson Dance Theater, with work by Toby Armour, Remy Charlip, Carollee Schneemann, Aileen Passloff, and Yvonne Rainer. (These events were in conjunction with an exhibit at NYU's Fales Library about the Judson Church's various arts programs since the 1950s.) Some films i've seen include Eugene Green's "The Portuguese Nun" (which i found delightful, but i'm a sucker for his work) and Edward Bland's "The Cry of Jazz" (amazing!) which were at Anthology Film Archives; "Kawasaki's Rose" at Film Forum; the first program of the Bruce Conner films at Film Forum. I also went to see "For Colored Girls" which was playing at the local movie theater.

I also saw the big Abstract Expressionist show at The Museum of Modern Art, the Paul Thek retrospective at the Whitney Museum, as well as the Edward Hopper show at the Whitney. I think the Hopper show is a considerable exhibition, but it's also a canny move on the part of the Whitney: it's a perfect show for the holiday season, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, sure to delight a wide audience. As for the Abstract Expressionist show: it's MoMA's greatest hits, and it's a deliberate reiteration of MoMA's essential position vis-a-vis American art since World War II. It's unsurprising but it's also impressive. It's hard for me to criticize the show, because this was the story of American art that i learned when i was growing up. It's hard to repudiate it, since my sensibility was formed by this work, and by the specific narrative about American art that MoMA fostered.

My lecture on the Judson Dance Theater is now online in Germany. I should include the link.


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