Archive for May, 2010

Prietenul meu Radu-Ilarion Munteanu cunoscut in lumea internetica si sub pseudonimul de rim a avut interesul de a raspunde notelor mele de lectura la ‘Adio, Europa!’ si bunavointa de a accepta ca raspunsul sau sa fie publicat pe blog. Raspunsul sau este mai mult decat un comentariu, este un adagio documentar care mi se pare cu atat mai valoros cu cat rim a fost editorul primei editii digitale a cartii la Editura LiterNet. Textul ii apartine si il preiau in intregime, cu mici corecturi editoriale din varianta internetica.

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Am citit notele de lectura ale danromascanului la cartea – piatra unghiulara, daca nu cheie de bolta a literaturiii celui care a fost ion d sirbu, fie odihnit. D vine de la Dezideriu, ceea ce nu poate fi de natura sa va mire. Nu comentez notele de lectura ale lui dan, un text de bun simt nu are nevoie de comentarii.

Ii multumesc insa pentru mentionarea aces(a/i)bilitatii online a textului cartii in biblioteca editurii liternet. Atat in plan obiectiv, cat si subiectiv. Pentru mine chiar conteaza ca o informative pe care am furnizat-o repetat e preluata obiectiv intr-un text coherent si in cea mai mare masura exact.

Ca unul pentru care reeditarea digitala a cartii a fost unul din proiectele vitale (nu glumesc) ale implicarii si integrarii in echipa LiterNet, daca nu cel mai important, datorez cateva informatii in completare, cu scopul de a pune notele de lectura ale lui dan intr-un context.

Pana acu’s 4 ani aparusera 4 editii, toate, inerent, postume. Prima, pe hartie de ambalaj, la “cartea romaneasca”, in 1992, ultima, la grupul editorial “corint” (unde era atunci director criticul si conferentiarul universitar Daniel Cristea-Enache, cel mai talentat dintre literati, (4 cunosc eu) care au produs teze de doctorat in I D Sirbu), in 2006. Am uitat care e a treia, insa tin minte ca am fost nevoit, la lansarea ultimei, sa-l corectez pe tanarul critic Paul Cernat, care omisese editia LiterNet la numaratoare.

Cartea a facut obiectul primei lansari publice, derulate chiar la Petrila, simultan cu data nasterii scriitorului, cu prilejul ultimei editii a festivalului “om rau”, organizat de artistul graphic Ion (Noni) barbu, in prezenta sotiei scriitorului si a Mihaelei Schiopu, autoarea celor diua coperti pe care Dan le-a inserat in articolul propriu. Trec acum peste problemele formale, pentru a pastra firul. In statistica descarcarilor, primul volum ocupa locul 3, cu aproape 20000 de descarcari, dupa scenariul lui Dan Mihu preluat abuziv de Cristian Mungiu pentru celebrl si premiatul sau film 4,3,2 (si care a facut un salt major de impact dupa protestul public al autorului real al scenariului, necitat pe genericul filmului si dupa o carte de critica a lui Daniel). Din peste 250 de carti publicate. Sigur, descarcarea nu dovedeste lectura, dupa cum nici cumpararea din librariei n-o dovedeste. Oricum, fara a putea evalua statistic acesti coeficienti de randament real, editia online s-a dovedit competitiva ca impact public fata de toate celallte 3 tiparite. Spe sa fie sesizat faptul essential ca datele de mai sus nu sunt motivate de lauda de sine, care m-ar descalifica. Implicarea mea in editarea cartii trebuie interpretata atat obiectiv, si opinia lui Dan sustine rostul implicarii, dar, de ce n-as recunoaste-o, in mai mare masura subiectiv. Ca o datorie de cosntiinta fata de spiritul tinutului meu natal. Care e tinutul natal al scriitorului.

Desi acesta a avut abilitatea de a nu oferi indicii de recunoastere, modelul ascuns al isarli^kulii e Craiova, unde scriitorul si-a petrecut ultimii ani ai vietii, ca secretar literar al teatrului national local. Si unde a scris si una din piese, “arca bunei sperante”, jucata in anii 70 la teatrul de comedie.

Sursa personajului Olimpia (jucata remarcabil de dana dogaru in serialul tv) e insasi Lizzy, sotia scriitrului. De fapt a doua. Prima divortase de el cand era in inchisoare, la fel cum se intampla lucrurile in romanul “cel mai iubit dintre pamanteni” al monserulu Preda. O femeie remarcabila. Daca structura umana a personajului literar e mai greu recognscibila pentru unul care n-a vazut-o decat odata, in 28 iunie 2004, cu prilejul lansarii, pe femeia batrana in care se simtea taria de odinioara, am cules destule marturii din cercul apropiatilor pentru a proba identitatea caracterologica a personajului cu sursa lui.

In 1982 Aparuse, in volumul de proza “soarecele b si alte povestiri”, o nuvela care s-a dovedit in timp a fi o ebosa, un embrion, o “statie pilot” a romanului, de fapt insusi romanul, in nuce.

Referirea lui dan la LiterNet ca sursa de lectura ma indrituieste sa repet invitatia de a citi in foileton prima parte, cea biografica, si de fapt cea mai reusita, a teei de doctorat al lui Daniel:

http://atelier.liternet.ro/arhivarubricii/54/De-la-Petrila-la-Petrini-Viata-lui-Ion-D-Sirbu.html

ordinea fragmentelor e de jos in sus. Sunt numerotate.

Textul integral ca unul din cele doua capitol mari ale tezei dezvoltate, apare in volumul “”un om din est”, de Daniel Cristea-Enache, ed Curtea Veche, 2005.

Un fragment din carte este de gasit la:

http://atelier.liternet.ro/articol/3742/Daniel-Cristea-Enache/Un-om-din-Est.html

in arhiva rubricii fragmentarium.

Sub fotografia, habar n-am din ce motive pierduta, probabil cu ocazia transferului pe noul server (nu e singura gaura de gen), cuvantul scris cu rosu “cronica” e hyperlink la cronica dubla a cartii: semnatari Dumitru Micu si Horia Garbea.

Raspunsul la intrebarea finala a lui Dan e incitant. Ca unul care a trait anii astia, ma simt obligat sa reflectez. Raspunsul cel mai probabil insa ar fi unul trist. Pastrand absolut toate proportiile, s-ar putea spune, deocamdata cu prudenta, pana ce voi incerca sa raspund intrebarii lui Dan, despre Gary Sirbu ce s-a spus in mediul familial despre bunicul meu patern, in urma cu 2 generatii: a fost asa de inteligent incat a murit la timp. Scutit sa moara de inima rea.

Denis Hopper died yesterday. He acted in more than 200 films, and directed eight. Some of these films were milestones in the development of the American cinema, some of them were trash. He was a fabulous actor and a man of his time who lived a controversial life. When I think of him two films come first of all to my mind.

(video source IzwergShkiv)

The first one is a film that I got to see more than 35 years after it was made, but about whose theme and music I knew scores around the time when it was made. Easy Rider was often present in the radio broadcasts of Cornel Chiriac from Radio Free Europe, and Cornel – the mentor of our generation and our teacher in music and freedom – was talking about it and playing its fabulous music. I wonder if Dennis Hopper ever knew what kind of impact his anti-capitalist establishment film had made for the youth of the Communist countries, who were reading in the film and in its music the same elements of revolt and thirst for freedom common to the young generation on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

(video source pulpmur)

When David Lynch’s Blue Velvet was out I was already a free man, and this was one of the first films I have seen after my emigration. I was building from almost zero my cinema culture, and living, surviving, absorbing the culture shock of meeting a film art developed in freedom to say what it wants and how it wants (or almost, as I was to learn in time). Lynch’s brutal symbolism, his world full of shades and mysteries, populated with dark, grotesque, pathetic characters had found in Hopper the perfect actor to fit the director’s mind waves.

Andy Warhol's Portrait - source commons.wikimedia.org

By one of these unique coincidences that makes you wonder, the European TV channel ARTE broadcast the German documentary Dennis Hopper: Create (or Die) just three days before Dennis Hopper died. The film was made in 2003, so it misses the final years of Hopper, which is maybe better as these years included personal dramas like his divorce and the fight with the malady that eventually defeated him. We are taken though the principal milestones of Hopper’s biography, including his debut start in Hollywood, the meeting with James Dean and the influence he played upon him, his insubordination on sets and conflicts with the Hollywood directors which led to his black-listing, the years in New, the making of ‘Easy Rider’ with the road trip he took in open space America under the influence of the French New Wave directors, the filming of milestones like ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘Colors’, his fight with dependency on drugs and alcohol. We come to know Hopper as a complex artist, a valuable photographer who had always a camera on him, and whose portraits or American life shots figure among the best in the genre, but also a rebel painter (who may still be rediscovered and become famous in posterity) and exquisite art collector. I found the Frankfurt actors class sequences to be extremely interesting, as they present the concept that stands behind Hopper’s technique based over all on the truth of the artistic experience. If you would not die without creating, better go and do something else than being an artist – this is the message that he left to his students and fans.

You will be missed, Dennis Hopper. Easy Ride!

Ion D. Sirbu stia ca ‘Adio, Europa!’ nu are sansa sa vada lumina tiparului in timpul vietii sale, cel putin atata vreme cat viata sa se trecea in timpul dictaturii comuniste. O culegere de fotografii si documente adnotate de scriitor pe care am gasit-o pe YouTube sun titlul ‘The Life and Times of Honorable Sirbu’ include o fotografie de la inceputul anilor 80 cu un comentariu ‘am devenit seriosi, ne scriem opera postuma‘. Este drept, nu mult a lipsit ca scriitorul Sirbu sa supravietuiasca dictatorului si dictaturii care i-au strivit viata, dar cancerul l-a luat dintre cei vii in septembrie 1989. A ramas dupa el insa – postuma cum o prevestise – poate cea mai buna carte despre anii dictaturii si despre regimul totalitar comunist din Romania. Cea mai buna pe care am citit-o eu pana acum, in orice caz.

(video sursa ocsiche)

‘Adio, Europa!’ se bazeaza pe o imensa parabola, imediat evidenta oricarui cititor care cunoaste istoria Romaniei. Numele tarii nu este mentionat niciodata explicit, iar dominatia comunista si ocupatia fizica si spirituala sovietica sunt inlocuite de o fanariotizare ideologica dusa la extrem, in care Inalta Poarta joaca rolul Kremlinului. Personajul principal – profesorul de filozofie Desideriu Candid corespunde biografic autorului, cu o cariera universitara inceputa in anii de dupa al doilea razboi mondial, curmata de excluderea din invatamant si apoi de contactul cu inchisorile ca urmare a refuzului de a se alatura noului regim si a-i deveni complice denuntandu-si mentorii. Ca si Ion D. Sirbu, Candid este o victima a istoriei, ajunsa la maximul posibil al schizofreniei. Eliberat din inchisoarea fizica, redus la rol de functionar neinsemnat intr-o lume in care norocul cel mai mare este cel de a trece neobservat, Candid si sotia sa Olimpia (Limpi) vor deveni victime ale unei tragedii suprarealiste, care ar fi comica daca nu ar fi scrisa in teama si sange, declansata de un ras necontrolat al eroului la vazul unui afis de propaganda in care numele lui Karl May este transcris gresit Karl Marx, si parintele marxismului (si el suspectat pentru originea sa nationala si sociala) categorisit ca autor stiintifico-fantastic. Cine a trait in lumea presei si cenzurii comuniste stie ca pacatul nu este departe de a fi capital in lumea care se revendica descendenta a ‘Capitalului’.

sursa - http://editura.liternet.ro/

Structura cartii este cea a unei serii de discursuri si dialoguri hiperbolice intre Candid si personaje care par sa aiba ca principal scop darea replicii personajului principal. Toate personajele fara exceptie, fara deosebire de origine si pozitie sociala par sa fie cunoscatoare ale adevaratei stari ale unei lumi create si mentinute prin frica si minciuna. Niciunul dintre personajele cartii, nici tortionarii sau functionarii cu pozitiile cele mai importante in pashala^c nu crede nicio o iota din propaganda regimului, toti sunt angrenati intr-o perpetua lupta pentru supravietuire in care ca intr-o groteasca piramida darwiniana pestele mare il poate oricand inghiti pe cel mai mic, care il poate musca la randul sau inapoi si impinge in afunduri cu un denunt otravit. ‘Nimeni nu e nevinovat: toti suntem martori si acuzati in acelasi timp‘ (p. 335, vol. II) zice unul dintre personajele cartii situat pe treptele inalte ale ierarhiei sultanatului. Scrierea este frumoasa si suculenta si primele capitole ale primului volum sunt o delectare la citire, cu trimiteri istorice, anarhisme si turcisme care descriu metaforic unde ajunsese Romania epocii de aur. Pe masura ce avansam in lectura satira levantina din primul volum face locul unei incercari de salvare a eroului si poate si a societatii care traieste in spatiul mitic al satului, incercare esuata, caci eroul reintors in orasul exilului va avansa gradat si inexorabil spre un destin tragic imposibil de evitat.

sursa http://editura.liternet.ro/

Viziunea istorica a lui Ion D. Sirbu este cea a unei Romanii abandonata si tradata de o Europa de care incearca sa se ancoreze in mod disperat si inutil. Unul dintre personajele pozitive ale cartii incearca sa duca trei fieruri de plug in marile capitale ale continentului de care este cea mai legata istoria romanilor – Viena, Paris si Roma, in incercarea de a evita deriva spre abis. ‘Peste o tara primitiva si subdezvoltata – dar curata, plina de frumusete si de spirit – s-a fost zidit un Babel-agroindustrial, un colos de fier si beton, peste care, cu o faraonica incapatanare utopica, s-au instalat minciuna, nepriceperea si hotia organizata. Debandada si harababura de stat. Deasupra acestei piramide reale, straluceste Portretul Lui … Pentru acestea – si multe altele – m-am gandit ca e bine sa ne ancoram de trupul Europei, din care si pentru care ne-am nascut ca popor si ca speranta …’ (pag. 241, vol II). Situatia in care se afla Romania in deceniul ultim al dictaturii este vazuta ca o consecinta a pacatului si tradarii originare petrecute la Yalta: ‘Totul a inceput cu Yalta, la Yalta – si Yalta trebuie sa ramana in memoria popoarelor ca cel mai cretin, iresponsabil, si criminal act din intreaga istorie …’ (pag. 190, vol. II). Istoria devine un balast, ‘Trecutul ne este dusman‘ (pag. 358, vol. II) si ocupantii se schimba unul cu celalalt, perpetua fiind doar adaptabilitatea ocupatilor ‘acum … ne rotim, lepadandu-ne de fesuri si apucand care cum putem, o caciula de samur peceneg‘ (pag. 332, vol. II).

sursa http://www.bookblog.ro

Exista speranta dincolo de aceasta viziune cinica si disperata a istoriei? Ii va fi iertat autorului la momentul in care scrie ‘Adio, Europa’ profundul pesimism. Si totusi, exista un fragment (pag. 205-206, vol. II) unde este trasat programul politic al unui posibil risorgismento:

‘ – Sa nu mai mintim.

- Sa nu ne mai laudam.

- Sa nu mai aplaudam (nici la teatru, nici la circ).

- Sa cerem iertare pamantului, cerului, vietatilor toate, pentru crima ce am facut-o impotriva firii si a Creatiunii.

- Sa ne iertam dusmanii.

- Sa ne fie mila de paznicii si turmatorii nostri.

- Sa declaram lauda injurie penala, iar lingusirea celor puternici ca un act de infamie si sacrilegiu: chiar si lauda bunului Dumnezeu trebuie suspendata pentru un secol.

- Sa ardem in piata portretele si dosarele toate.

- Sa interzicem pentru o suta de ani cuvintele “erou”, “revolutionar”, “fiu al poprului” etc.

- Sa invatam dascalii sa invete, sa reconstruim copilaria si tineretea, ca varste ale visului si gandului liber, dar temator de Dumnezeu si urmasi

- Sa refacem curatenia apelor, muntilor si vorbelor noastre

- Sa asteptam biserica lui Hristos; pana atunci, fiecare sa se roage singur Dumnezeului pe care l-a gasit si pe care il merita…’

Oare ce ar fi scris Ion D. Sirbu despre lumea si Romania de astazi? Ce metafora superba ar fi putut gasi pentru Romania la 20 de ani dupa caderea sultanatului?

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Cartea este accesibila pentru descarcare si lectura la:

http://editura.liternet.ro/descarcare/90/pdf/Ion-D-Sirbu/Adio-Europa-vol-I.html

http://editura.liternet.ro/descarcare/91/pdf/Ion-D-Sirbu/Adio-Europa-vol-II.html

I have discovered Otto Dix a few years ago in Dresden. I knew almost nothing about him, and when I say his extraordinary anti-war triptych at the Dresden Art Museum I was immediately stricken by the force of the expression and complexity of the composition. Dix was certainly an exponent of his times, his best years of creativity were the years of the Weimar Republic, and his work is as much an expression of the hope, the fears and the contrast of these times as the one of contemporaries Lang or Remarque. He started ny being influenced bu Nietzsche, then the first world war experience marked his life, played with Dada and participated in their first shows, to join the ‘New Objectivity’ group which was trying to take the artistic style beyond Expressionism, while sharing many of the themes.

Neue Galerie Entrance

Since discovering Otto Dix in Dresden I sought more information and found out that he is little known out of Germany, and no major books or albums can be found. One of my queries was made two and a half years ago in the Neue Galerie which is located on the 5th Avenue, on the Museum Mile, just one block uptown and vis-a-vis from the Met. It’s half a museum, half a gallery, and the best place place to meet German and Austrian artists in Manhattan (they were having a haunting exhibition of Alfred Kuhn at that time). The bookshop vendor told me ‘no – unfortunately we have no books about Dix, but you know, by spring 2010 we shall be having an important retrospective of him, the first big exhibition of his works in North America’. Lucky me, the IESG meeting this week was hold in New York, and I had the opportunity to see it.

from The War cycle - source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Dix

The exhibition covers the two most prolific decades of his creation – the 20s and the 30s. It starts at the second floor with the terrific cycle of 40 lithographs ‘The War’ which may be the strongest anti-war statement in the genre  after Goya’s ‘Horrors of War’. In a way it exceeds Goya’s limits, as the degree of human insanity increased in the century since the Napoleonic wars until WWI. It is not that Otto Dix was necessarily a pacifist, but he lived through the war experience (where many of the sketches were made) and he had as he witnessed ‘to take these out of him’.

The Skat Players - http://www.ottodix.org/index/paintings

The ‘Skat Players’ dates from 1920 and belongs to the same thematic group. The view here is more sarcastic, as Dix depicts the war invalids, which together with the war widows forced into prostitution by the economic after-war hardships were the principal subjects of his works in the first years of the 20s.

Dr. Fritz Glazer's Portrait - source http://www.neuegalerie.org

The pressure released Dix established himself as one of the well known painters of the period, and changes tone going into portraits as principal genre without ever abandoning to mix the human and the social aspects when approaching his subjects. One of the striking portraits of the period is the one of one of his mentors and supporters, a Jewish lawyer named Glazer. The lawyer never liked the portrait because of the flagrant Jewish traits but Dix meant it actually this way, and the projection of the character on the desolate urban landscape gives it the feeling of anguish and premonition. Although not Jewish, Dix hated anti-Semitism and fought it most of his life, as some of his later works will show.

The Dancer - exhibition poster

Another famous portrait of the period is borrowed by the poster of the exhibition. ‘The Dancer’ represents Anita Berber, a well known figure of the boema of mid-20s Berlin, a beautiful woman often filmed, photographed and painted in nude. Dix who was a personal friend of Berber paints her dressed in a red dress, that just enhances her femininity.

Self Portrait with Naked Model - source http://www.tendreams.org/dix.htm

The contact with the decadent life of the artistic milieu of the time put Otto Dix in trouble with the censorship or even law authorities. In response he painted the ‘Self Portrait with Naked Model’ where he tries to describe the separation between art and life, between vice as a theme and the real personality of the artist. These are actually the years of greater success and stability in his life, the years his family life flourishes as he marries the ex-wife of a client and his three children are born.

The Seven Cardinal Sins - source http://www.mess.net/galleria/dix/

The coming to power of the Nazis ended the international career and the teaching life of Otto Dix. The author of such allegoric works as ‘The War’ and ‘Metropolis’ triptychs (not present in the exhibition) or of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ which represents Hitler as a mask for Greed could not be liked by the National Socialist regime. A few of his works will be exposed in good company in the exhibition of ‘degenerated art’.

Vanitas - source http://www.tendreams.org/dix.htm

Yet, he decides not to leave Germany as most of his colleagues did. He moves to a small city to the South of Germany, and continues to paint, changing themes and style. He now focused on allegories and landscapes, many of them in the style of the old German Renaissance and baroque masters. While ‘Vanitas’ above is still modern in style and classical just in theme, the ‘Saint Christopher IV’ below could belong to a late Renaissance master.

St. Christopher IV - source http://www.mess.net/galleria/dix/

The theme of the Jewish persecution comes back even in these dark years. One splendid works in the exhibition which I could not find a reproduction for is painted in Flemish style and represents and old and ruined Jewish cemetery under a frozen sky – a somber statement about the fate that the Nazis reserved for the Jews of Germany and Europe.
Otto Dix outlived the war, despite being sent again to fight as a soldier in the final months of the war and being a prisoner for more than one year after the war. He was one of these artists who continued to travel and share time between East and West Germany until the late 60s. Yet, his major works are those created in the two decades presented in the current exhibition at the Neue Galerie, and I recommend it for a visit for anybody who lives in New York or close or happens to be in the city in the next couple of months. The Web site of the museum can be accessed at http://www.neuegalerie.org/

New York on Monday

This was one of the craziest trip that I have taken. I flew out on Sunday night to New York for the two days IESG retreat meeting and flew back home on Wednesday night. What was common to the two flights besides being long transatlantic red-eyes was the fact that both landings were with almost zero visibility. New York welcomed me with a thick morning fog which made impossible the classical view of the Manhattan skyline, while in Tel Aviv a sandstorm reduced visibility to a few meters. The El Al pilots were probably less impressed than I was.

Highway #1 near Tel Aviv on Thursday

S-a-mbracat în zale lucii cavalerii de la Malta,
Papa cu-a lui trei coroane, puse una peste alta,
Fulgerele adunat-au contra fulgerului care
În turbarea-i furtunoasa a cuprins pamânt si mare.

The Maltese Knights dressed themselves in shining armors …

Such retells Mihai Eminescu, the Romanian national poet an episode in the heroic resistance of the Romanian prince Mircea (the Elder) against the Turkish expansion, and this verses learned by heart by any Romanian pupil are stuck in the common memory. Yet, mentioning the Malta Knights or the Knights of St. John in a poem about a battle that happened in 1395 is just a poetical license. Actually it’s only more than one century later, after 1531 that the knights arrive in Malta!

historical fresco in the State Rooms - the Siege of Malta

The Knights Hospitaller is one of the religious orders founded in Jerusalem during the period of the Crusades, more exactly in 1023, with the principal goal of taking care of the pilgrims in the Holy Land. It became a military order (as the Templar or the Teutonic knights) in the centuries to come. With the defeat of the Crusaders the St. John Knights had to abandon the Holy Land and settled in Rhodes but two centuries later that island fell under the Turks, so by 1531 there was no other new home for them in an Europe caught in the conflicts of the Reformation, but to resettle them in Malta. The Turks came after them, but the famous siege in 1565 put a stop to the Ottoman expansion in the Mediterranean, in a military event event that marked and remained as milestone in the history of the island.

Grand Master de la Valette

The knights now completely ruled over the island for more than two centuries. They built the fortified city of Valletta with its historical buildings, impressive churches and picturesque streets. They managed the economy and ruled the island based upon the support of the pope and of the Spanish kings, until Europe and the church itself ran into social crisis in the 18th century culminating with the French Revolution and the ascension of Napoleon.  When the French army occupied the island in 1798 they encountered almost no resistance. Part of the knights found refuge in Russia electing for a short time the Czar as Grand Master, the rest found refuge in Rome where the order is headquartered until today, focusing on welfare and hospital activities. Their presence in Malta nowadays is just symbolic.

Grand Master's Palace

A good place to learn about the history of the knights and the relation with Malta is the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. It is located on the main street of Valletta, not an imposing building seen from the exterior, but with quite an interesting interior. It was one of the first palaces built in the city in the year 1571 by the Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette. The building houses today the office of the President and the House of Representatives of Malta in the State Apartments, and the Palace Armoury in the separate wing. The very impressive corridors are decorated with frescoes and portraits of the Grand Masters, as well as with elaborated ceilings with the symbols of Malta as they evolved in history.

ceiling of the State Rooms

office of the President

interior court of the Grand Master's Palace

The Armoury hosts an impressive collection of weapons and military equipment from the period of the knights. There are some impressive pieces acquired by the knights from the best manufactures of the Western Europe of the period, or captured from the battles with the Ottoman archenemies. The gathering of metallic pieces of armoury or helmets sometimes give the impression of the remains of an ancient field of battle cast in metal or maybe testimony to the visit of an alien race in these places. This is maybe what the knight of St. John were in their passing on the island.

Palace Armoury

helmet

'alien' helmets

I belong to a small and despised minority. I like Dan Brown’s novels and I declare it openly. Yes, I came out of the closet as they say. I liked ‘The Da Vinci Code’ book (not so much the film) and I said it. I was immediately buried under tons of sarcasm, irony, pity. What can I do? Historical mysteries are one of my preferred genres since I read Jules Verne’s books or Constantin Chirita’s ‘Ciresarii’ (Romanian speakers may know what I am talking about).

source www.imdb.com

‘Angels & Demons’ the book was written before ‘The Code’, but the movie comes after, so there is no need to explain too much about the expertise of professor Langdon (Tom Hanks) or why he is called to solve historical mysteries with religious symbols implications. It’s good that it’s so, because the last thing the script in this film has is credibility. Yes, I enjoy historical riddles, but they need some plausible justification to be inserted in the script, and this justification lacks here completely. Luckily I buy easily the conventions of such movies, so I sat back in my chair and enjoyed the action, which is a combination between James Bond and ’24′ with Rome and papal intrigues replacing Los Angeles (or New York in the last ’24′ season) and the US presidency, but with corpses popping up each round hour. Moreover, seeing again the beautiful setting of the streets of Rome one and a half month after my last vacation there was also cool.

(video source blacktreemedia)

This certainly does not make enough for a great film, or even for a great action film. My main problem with Ron Howard’s ‘Code’ was the fact that he turned the great actors that are Hanks and Tautou unto just good but not very interesting actors. Here Hanks  still looks at least as amazed to be in this movie as his character is to be in the middle of all this action, while his partner is now the Israeli actress Ayelet Zorer, which I respect very much for other roles, and I am happy that she got such an opportunity to play with Hanks in a blockbuster but I do not think that they let her use it too well. Maybe in the next film in the series Hanks will be more lucky with a partner to be of interest to him :-) Overall, not a bad action film, not the best either, at parity with ‘The Code’.

This episode  should have been about a place that I did not get to visit – the Mediterranean Film Studios. Resource-challenged Malta offers locations, studios, ans a special effect studios for sea scenes with two sets – one out in the sea, and one in the studios which provided just in the last decade the sets for making films like Munich, Troy, Gladiator, or Pirates of the Caribbean. A special government agency – the Malta Film Commission – is charged with supporting the local film services for the international film industry.

(video source filmmalta)

If we did not get to see the studios I could at least take some pictures in the coffee shop in Mosta of posters of classical films that were filmed on the island – witness to the fact that the history of film making here did not start in the last decade. So I decided to make of this episode a review of the milestones of the Filmed-In-Malta history of cinema.

Malta Story

(video source MaltaflyVideos)

Inspired from the history of the Maltese heroism during World War II, Malta Story made in 1953 and staring Alec Guiness brought up the island – then under British rule – to the attention of movie fans and especially of film makers all over the world. Locations, mild and predictable weather, inexpensive and English and Italian speaking crews made of Malta a location of preference especially for the genre of historical super-productions then emerging in the industry.

Il Colosso di Rodos / Ursus

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMVon3ULHV8

(video source MsNickym1)

I do remember having seen Il Colosso di Rodi when I was a kind, it may have been at the Patria cinema where the first cinemascope screen in Bucharest was installed around 1960, and this may have been the first time I heard about and saw a fim of Sergio Leone, later to become the king of the spaghetti westerns.

The Robe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sZcL1ooHK0

(video source HistoryOfWidescreen)

I do not remember however The Robe, the first in a series of films inspired by the Roman antiquity and filmed in Malta. It was starring young star Richard Burton, and was made in the year I was born.

Spartacus

(video source cinemaart)

But then I could not miss Spartacus – the Stanley Kubrick deep dive in the history of the antiquity starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov. What a feast it was.

The Fall of the Roman Empire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f68U_Ift5No&feature=related

(video source MsNickym1)

As we all know the Roman empire fell eventually, the last great film of the historical super-production era marked the event – Antony Mann’s Fall of the Roman Empire. Alec Guinness was back, and staring by him were Sophia Loren, James Mason and Christopher Plummer. The year was 1964, the year Malta became an independent country, and the year the Mediterranean Film Studios were founded.

If anybody is wondering – no, John Huston’s Maltese Falcon was not filmed in Malta.

——

May 19, 2011

I probably need to make a correction here. It seems that none of ‘The Robe’, ‘Spartacus’, or ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ was filmed in Malta. The information was based on the posters on the walls of the coffee-shop in Mosta which I assumed (or maybe was told by the local people, I cannot remember exactly) that they describe movies that were filmed at least in part on the island. However, according to IMDB, Malta was not a filming location for any of these films, neither are they mentioned at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_shot_in_Malta.

Merci, Jean Pierre, for reading and commenting on this.

Abu Gosh and the hills of Jerusalem

It is the first time that I am attending a concert in one of the Abu Gosh festivals events. Hold during the holidays season in the Arab village located on the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem close to the capital (also famous for the best humous in Israel) the festival takes place twice a year on Shavuot and Sucot in the ambiance of the local churches.

the church at Kiryat Yearim

The location of the church of Kiryat Yearim where the concert took place has a high historical and religious meaning. It is said to lay on the place where the house of Abinabad hosted the Ark of the Covenant (Aron haBrit) for twenty years before King David took it to Jerusalem. A byzantine church was built here in the 5th century, and on its ruins the present church, with a beautiful statue of Virgin Mary on its roof was built in 1924.

the statue of Virgin Mary

The concert I attended yesterday was one in a series of four concerts given by The University of Utah Singers, the principal guests of the festival which is dedicated to vocal music. It’s a well-known ensemble, with a very wide repertoire encompassing vocal music of many periods and genres, from baroque religious music, through Schubert and Brahms, until gospels and contemporary musicals. All were represented in the program yesterday, which in one and a half hour gave us a taste of the principal genres the choir approaches. The conductor was Brady Allred, and the acoustics in the church were perfect. I think that choir music – especially religious – sounds better in churches as in any other places, same as jazz music sounds better in clubs that in any other places.

the concert in the church

I especially enjoyed the Brahms Liebeslieder Walzer, with their exquisite music and fine words, each of the 18 songs is a short poem, kind of love haiku which can be enjoyed even if your German (as mine) is not perfect.

Am Donaustrande, da steht ein Haus

Da schaut ein rosiges Madchen aus

Das madchen, es ist wohl gut gehegt,

Zehn eiserne Riegel sind for die Ture gelegt.

Zehn eiserne Riegel – das is ein Spass:

Die spreng’is, als warensie nur von Glas

(A house stands on Donaustrande

A rosy maid waiting inside

The maid is properly protected

By ten iron locks at the gate.

Ten iron locks – what a joke:

I will break them as if they were made of glass)

————-

Nachtigall, sie singt so schon,

Wenn die Sterne funkeln.

Liebe mich, gelibtes Herz,

Kusse mich im Dunkeln!

(Nightingale, You sing so fine,

Under the sparkling stars,

Love me, my heart,

Kiss me in the dark)

the singers

There is quite a lot of the fine music of the University of Utah singers available on YouTube. Here are a few of them which I hope that you will enjoy:

(all videos source UofUtahSingers)

Shavuot is the last festival in the series of Jewish holidays in spring, marking the start of summer in the geographical area of the Land of the Bible. I like this combination of sacred and earthly reasons of joy – the giving of the Torah and conclusion of harvest at the end of the rainy season, the all night study of the Bible and the tradition of the bikkurim (first fruits brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in the old days), the kabbalistic Tikkun Leil Shavuot and the eating cheese cakes.

(video source infolivetvenglish)

Here is a short video with a few Israelis describing what the holiday means for them, why they love it, and how they celebrate it.

(video source singinginjerusalem)

The clip above is filmed at the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem, where huge crowds gather each year to celebrate the holiday. Music is beautiful as well.

Hag Sameah!