Monday, June 17, 2013

A week of screenings, plus a few more art events. In addition, there were encounters with friends not seen in quite a while.

I'm starting to get back into seeing things. This past week: on HBO, the documentary "Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer" by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin; "After Tiller", the Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson; two of the Hitchcock 9 (restored silent films directed by Alfred Hitchcock): "Blackmail" and "The Ring"; "Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle" a documentary of the 2011 Town Hall concert organized by the Wainwrights (Rufus, Martha and Teddy) in honor of their mother; going to the Whitney Museum to see the exhibits "Edward Hopper Drawings", "David Hockney: The Jugglers", "I, You, We" (went with my friend Vicki Patraka, whom i haven't seen in almost a decade); going to LIU Brooklyn's Humanities Gallery for the opening of Theodora Skipitares's exhibit "The Ionesco Project" (another friend i haven't seen in a long while); on CUNY-TV, Jonas Mekas's "Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania". 

Right now, i'm staying up late to watch "Route 66", one of the Glenn Corbett episodes (the last season), guest starring Janice Rule and Susan Kohner as two rich young women in competition with each other. In the recent spate of Beat era evocations ("On the Road", "Kill My Darlings"), one problem is that the attempt is to recreate the Beat epoch because of some idea of sexual liberation/sexual freedom. But the actual effect of the Beat era was directly represented in the popular culture of the time (the late 1950s), even if distorted and diluted. It was there when writers like Jack Kerouac appeared on talk/variety shows like Jack Paar or Steve Allen; it was there when shows like "Johnny Staccato", "Mr. Lucky" and "Peter Gunn" had scenes set in smoky coffeehouses, with beatniks giving poetry readings; it was there when characters like Maynard G. Krebs (played by Bob Denver) were part of shows like "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (the final declension of the Beats, from outlaw culture to the butt of the joke). Certainly, some vestige of the Beat aesthetic was there in "Route 66" with the two guys getting into a vintage Corvette and going on the road. Jack Kerouac definitely felt that, since he consulted with lawyers to find out about copyright infringement, since he felt that Stirling Silliphant's appropriation of his concept had devalued "On the Road". 

But to try to recreate the Beat aesthetic now, there must be some powerful motivation, and not just nostalgia. There must be some semblance of the passion, the tumult, the intensity which provided the impetus for the Beats, and in so much of the recent Beat evocations, that's been missing. And without it, the Beats become as quaint as the Bloomsbury circle (another Bohemian epoch celebrated for sexual diversity, but quaint because everything is so civilized, so much so that there's no real sexual passion).

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Wow! It's been five months since i've written anything on this blog.

A lot has happened since then, in terms of screenings as well as cultural events. But i'll start off by saying that one big reason i've had a hard time writing is that i wrote some articles in the last few months. I spent months trying to finish writing about the whole "Judson at 50" series; this was supposed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Judson Dance Theater, and it was held mostly at Danspace at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery (although some events were held at The New Museum). I felt very alienated from the proceedings, never more so than when i was actually seeing some of the events. But i struggled to write that piece, because it was tied up with my memories of my childhood and my feelings about "downtown" art.

And after i finished the piece, i felt depleted, really worn out. There's the sense of isolation that i have: there doesn't seem to be the same community of interest which seemed so omnipresent when we were living in Soho. With the dispersal of that community, as people moved, left, died, the urgency of discourse has become moot. The Judson Dance Theater could stand for the idea of an artistic community, which thrived for only a short time, from 1962 until 1966; by then, differing aims and ambitions would cause the cohesion of the group to dissipate. I've seen so many artistic ventures which have come and gone; some have attained near-mythic status, like the Judson Dance Theater, while many others have been forgotten. The problem (for me), what makes this so melancholy, is that, at this point, there are so many people who have died and are in danger of being forgotten.

Speaking of death: a lot of people have died in the last five months. And i'm talking about people i knew, people who meant a great deal to me. Two examples: Donald Richie (who died on February 19) and  Herbert Blau (who died on May 3). I'll have to try to devote some time to discussing how and why they were so important to me, but suffice it to say that they represented ideals of intellectual achievement which proved inspiring and influential.

I'll try to be more active in terms of writing. Right now, i've seen some films from the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival, as well as BAM Cinemafest. In the last few months, there were also screenings as part of such series as Film Comment Selects, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, the Jewish Film Festival. Certainly one important series was New Directors/New Films. So it's been a full schedule.

But the feeling of (intellectual) depletion remains. I wish there were really more interaction. Ok, here's an example: i went to the press screening of Margarethe von Trotta's film "Hannah Arendt"; i found the film to be quite fascinating, even though i had some reservations. After the screening, i talked to a few people who did not like the film. That was fine, i always listen to friends, even if i disagree. A few days later, i read A.O. Scott's review in The New York Times, and then i read J. Hoberman's review on his blog at Artinfo; their opinions were almost congruent to my own; however, i felt as if my response was in a vacuum, because i had a favorable opinion of the film, but my opinion was in a void.

Anyway, there are more screenings coming up, so i hope to start writing more.