Wednesday, September 07, 2011

This time, it really has been more than a month, and the entire month of August was incredibly stressful. Some of the events: an earthquake hitting the East Coast of the United States (including New York City); Hurricane Irene also hitting the same area less than a week later; we're now in the midst of another rainy weather system which is causing more flooding. But if that wasn't bad enough....

I wrote about how isolated i feel in terms of going to press screenings; i realized that, since i got back to the US in August 2010, i have been isolated. Before i left for Berlin, my friend Christine was still working; now she's retired, and she's been keeping herself busy with traveling, also, since Steve is retired as well, she's spending her time with him. Debby's now working in Queens, at the Volker Orth Museum, one of the many little house-museums throughout the city; but, since she lives in Queens, that means that a lot of her time is spent close to home. But Debby and Christine have been my friends since high school: that's more than 40 years! And we used to do something (go to a concert, a movie, a museum) at least once a week. I don't think i've seen them more than twice since i've been back.

There's been a lot of bad news in the past few weeks. Today (September 7) brought the news that Jordan Belson and George Kuchar died. Last month, there were the deaths of Robert Breer and Raul Ruiz. With them, the idea of alternative cinema which had animated the most adventurous talents has become more chimerical. Closer to home, in terms of age, last week brought the news that Graham Leggat, who was the director of the San Francisco Film Society, and Jeanette Ingberman, who was the director of Exit Art, had died. (One note: in the obits on Graham Leggat that were published in IndieWire and in sf360, it was noted that his partner was Diana Chiawen Lee; i knew Graham when he was working at The Museum of Modern Art and then at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, before he moved to San Francisco to take the job at the SF Film Society, and i knew Diana when she was running the Asian-American International Film Festival, but they both moved out to San Francisco and they hooked up out there.)

The news that Jordan Belson died brings me to something that has bothered me in the past month: i was sent an advance copy of the Library of America's "The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael" edited by Sanford Schwartz. This reminded me that i hadn't gotten the Library of America's Manny Farber collection: "Farber On Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber" edited by Robert Polito. So i got it, and started reading... and found any number of errors and omissions. An example of the omissions: in the entire book (and that includes Polito's introductory essay and the chronology), there is no mention of Manny Farber's full name. (It's Emanuel Farber.) And here's a big example of mistakes which have never been corrected since the original review appeared in The Nation. The review is from October 11, 1952, and is about the Kinesis films from San Francisco: "The idea of most of the Kinesis group is to take something that is practically nothing (thick swirls of lavalike paint, etc.), make it march, expand and fade, relate it to Mozart or Dizzy Gillespie, and hope that it takes wing like music. My own feeling is that if you put as much music into films as do Gordon Belson and Hy Hirsh, you won't have a picture so much as a repetitious exercise in rhythm. Belson's new animations give the impression of a Jackson Pollock kaleidoscope set in motion to mamba sounds; the over-all effect is morbid and thick. Hy Hirsh puts on a stunning display of tricky neon-colored evolutions, but her film - Arp-like ovals deployed across the screen like a formation of airplanes through three symphonic movements - almost sent me to sleep." Ok, two big mistakes: there was no San Francisco Kinesis filmmaker named Gordon Belson, it's Jordan Belson, and Hy Hirsh was a man, not a woman (Storm De Hirsch, who was in New York City and making films at that time, was a woman). For Manny, these little details were unimportant (he was too much of a man to worry about petty mistakes), but somebody should care enough to make the corrections.

But i find that, more and more, corrections are never made, and mistakes can go on forever! And "Farber On Film" is a riot of such mistakes!

And, yes, it bothers me, but nobody seems to care. Everyone from Geoffrey O'Brien on down at Library of America is just so cavalier about these mistakes. Well, pardon me!

And i noted this attitude when i wrote about the death of Roberts Blossom: the New York Times chose to ignore Blossom's most important work as an artist, the fact that, as a multimedia (or intermedia) performance artist in New York City in the late 1950s-early 1960s, his work which mixed film and live performance influenced many people (Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, the Judson Dance Theater choreographers, Meredith Monk, Andy Warhol). And he gave up doing his own work in the mid-1960s, and devoted himself to acting and writing for the rest of his life. And he had a very considerable career as a character actor. But that doesn't mean that his contribution (which was very important) to the field of what is now called "Performance" should be overlooked.

But of course, it is overlooked, because people like Roselee Goldberg and Klaus Biesenbach have no interest in providing anything like an accurate historical overview. What they want is the hip, art world overview.

And the way this works: for example, Lucinda Childs is always grouped as part of the Rauschenberg contingent of the Judson Dance Theater, yet her early work (with its mixture of verbal text and task performance) was heavily influenced by James Waring (in whose company she danced), and, when she started to do her own choreography, she often worked with other people from James Waring's dance company, in particular, Arlene Rothlein and Freddie Herko. But for Lucinda Childs to be included in the current histories of the Judson Dance Theater, she must be included among "Rauschenberg's babies" (Shigeko Kubota's term) rather than as part of James Waring's company (a company which also included Aileen Passloff, Toby Armour, Rothlein, Herko, Yvonne Rainer, and David Gordon; since David Gordon only worked with James Waring, it's safe to say that David Gordon's work, which also involves verbal texts and task performance, was also influenced by Waring).

But James Waring was a "mere" choreographer, and Roberts Blossom was a "mere" actor, so their influence and importance (which were considerable) must be negated.

One last note: at the beginning of August, i went to my eye doctor (i hadn't gone since before i left for Berlin), but this appointment was a delay, i was supposed to go in July but i had jury duty! (And i was on a jury!) But because this was another appointment, i wanted to make sure that the referral was still valid. When i called my doctor, i found out that the referral was good for at least three months, and that my doctor was retiring! So i had to find another doctor. Well, i found another doctor, it was cleared by my insurance company, and i went to see him.

But he's a younger doctor, and he's part of a clinic, so he made appointments for me with a cardiologist and a urologist. And since then, i've had so many tests... yesterday was the last one, and i felt like Audrey Hepburn at the beginning of "Funny Face", where she exclaims, "I find myself being pillaged and plundered, well, I'll have no more of it!"


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