Archive for October, 2010

I know Alvin Ailey’s company for a very long time. It was this company and choreographer and the one of another great artist Alwin Nikolais and his ‘Nikolais Dance Theater’ who came in tours in Romania at the beginning of the 70s and opened my eyes and soul to the world of modern dance, starting an interest in this form of art that continues until today.

While Nikolais’ company is gone after the death of his founder, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater founded in 1958 continued the tradition of its founder under the direction of Judith Jamison and is today one of the better known dance companies in the world. I have seen another performance of theirs a few years ago, in a theater on Broadway around the 51th street. Last night was my third opportunity to meet with their art. America changed radically since the company was founded and the world of dance changed as well, pushed ahead by artists like Ailey among other. If in 1958 the idea of a multiracial company was a novelty, as well as the use in modern dance of music and themes descending from the Afro-American tradition, today such groups are to be found almost any place around the world and jazz and gospels and blues and popular American music are an integral part of their creations. While Ailey created many of the performances of the theater, he also raised and opened the stage for many other creators to research, create and express their voices in the company performances. The expressiveness of the body as a whole which Ailey saw and developed starting from Martha Graham‘s style and the freedom that dancers express exposing their own perspective while remaining part of the ensemble, a method driven by Ailey from jazz music had become part of fundamental alphabet of modern dance.

The program last night at the Opera House, closing the fall dance festival in Tel Aviv, included an original creation by Ailey, another classic work from the 70s and two works from the last decade. Luckily I found on youTube fragments of all performances for me to remember and for the readers of the blog to get a glimpse of the wonderful experience that we enjoyed. The success was tremendous, the knowledgeable dance audiences in Israel spoiled with almost everything that modern dance can offer including a hot and innovative local scene know how to appreciate such a combination of high professionalism and attractive programs.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The performance started with one of the recent works of the company – Dancing Spirit created in 2009 by Ronald K. Brown – en exploration of the African roots of the Afro-American music and dance melted in a modern style and ambiance.

(video source danceconsortium)

Suite Ottis was created in 1971 by George W. Faison, a young choreographer at that time who further developed and became a well known creator and founded his own dance company. It’s a tribute to the music of Ottis Redding and a good opportunity of nostalgia for those who love the soul music of the 60s.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The shorter piece named Unfold completed the second part of the performance. It’s a duet on an opera aria which was interesting to watch not only by its own concentrated beauty but also as an indication of the direction the company may take in the future, as the choreographer is Robert Battle who will take over the direction of the company in the summer of 2011.

(video source andithankyou2)

The last part of the performance included the classic creation of Ailey Revelations. When created in 1960 it was one of the first pieces in the history of American dance to bring directly to stage the music and spiritual experience of the Afro-American community. Since then it became a classic and a reference piece, with new generations bringing their own perspective within the framework drawn by Ailey. It certainly is a crowd-pleaser any place in the world where it is presented, and an excellent closing for an evening of modern dance to remember.

The Web site of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater can be accessed at

The new season of the Hot Jazz series at the Tel Aviv Art Museum has a larger (eight concerts) and more ambitious and more promising program this year. If we are to judge after the first concert last night, it has good chances to be a season to remember.

(video source erwigfilms)

Warren Vache was born in 1951 in New Jersey, and he had the chance to play as a young instrumentalist with Benny Goodman. He plays trumpet and horn, and sometimes mixes voice pieces in his concerts, although last night in Tel Aviv he chose to play the trumpet and in only one piece (a composition of his own in the style of humorist blues) he sang vocals. He played in different bands of his own or as a member of the group, as varied as big-bands and small ensembles, polka orchestras or Dixieland bands. He recorded for a while at the legendary Concord label.

(video source jazzbobop)

Vache appeared in concerts in big jazz festivals all over the world. Some of the clips that I found on youTube were filmed at such events – for instance at the Toronto festival in 1977 and at the Bern festival in 2001.

(video source jazzbobop)

The program was composed of many jazz anthems which Vache takes and freely translates them in dixieland style. Some other came from unexpected sources, like ‘Night in Moscow’ – a tune too well known to Russian and East European audiences. While creating the framework for each of the songs in the show, Vache does not impose his presence, his instrumental parts are not longer then those of the other instrumentalists, and  he gives them the opportunity and leaves them the time to express themselves with their own vision of the tunes. More than that, one of the things Vache did in the concert last night was leaving the scene (properly) and letting the other run the show for one song each – saxophonist Morton Kam, pianist Nitai Hershkovits and trombonist Jonathan Wolczuck received such opportunities last night. Kam and Wolczuk used them beautifully, Hershkovits disappointed me last night.

(video source libbyvideo)

Warren Vache’s Web site is

It’s for the second time that one of my favorite science-fiction series is canceled after the first season. Luckily it happens once every 15 years. Last time it was Earth 2, a space travel saga on an alternate Earth world which was not too happy to receive visitors. This time it’s FlashForward, one of the fest of the few science fiction TV series that were left last year on screens, of course, excluding Lost which is also over and was in a league of its own.

(video source screenslev7n)

Maybe the comparison with Lost and the fact that some of the producers were the same damaged to a certain respect the impact of FlashForward. Sure, FF is different, both as concept, and also at the level of the execution. Based on a novel by Canadian science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, the show combines the story of a planetary catastrophe caused by scientific experiments fallen under the wrong hands with a FBI team type of story and with soap opera. As the whole planet blackouts for two minutes, every man on Earth is capable of seeing a glimpse of their future six months ahead, and then needs to deal with this future, try to live it or to avoid it, to fix or to welcome it. Excellent premises for several parallel stories about how men deal with their destinies and how they control their lives and relations, in the conditions where some of the unknown becomes known, and when time gets one more relative dimension. Both the scientific and the phylosophical grounds of the story are sound. 

(video source SerialeFW)

The first season of FlashForward was far from perfect and its development during the 22 episodes could not keep the pace and the interest built in the first quarter. As the season advanced the amount of soap opera and of stereo-typical situations grew at the expense of the intriguing questions about the roots of the events. Not all characters were interesting to the same extent and many of the events became predictable not because of the blackout but because they just belonged to predictable TV. Yet, there was enough good stuff all along, acting was good (Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Sonia Walger, Dominic Monaghan – the last two also acted in Lost) and the ending just opened the gate to further questions. This show has the promises of developing into new and interesting territories, as the different alternate future paths that the story tells about. It deserves to be continued. Please bring it back!

Best Western hotel in Strasbourg

By the end of the 5th day of our vacation we had reached Strasbourg. This was the first stop in the trip where we decided to stay two nights, with one day in-between fully dedicated to visiting the city. The hotel that we chose was the Best Western on 38 rue du fossé des Tanneurs – an old building from the 17th century, well renovated and brought up to all modern needs and amenities. It’s an ideal location for folks who plan to stay in the city at least one day, leaving here the car in the valet parking and taking the city by foot. This is exactly what we did.

Petite France

The touristic center of Strasbourg is all located on the Grande Ile between the river Ill and the Fosse du Faux Rempart a deep channel that constituted one more obstacle protecting the old city from the invaders. It has two principal areas, one around the Notre Dame Cathedral and the other in the area named Petite France, once the fishermen and tanners district. The Best Western is located close to the later.

channels and bridges

It’s an area of channels and bridges, with old buildings that combine French and German styles, and remind strongly the Netherlands because of the water landscape around. Restaurants can be found all over the place. The weather was beautiful (after the storms of the day before) and so it was to stay for the next few days, so that evening we had dinner on a street terrace. I will tell more about the restaurants and the food in one of the next episodes.

lurking through the window

We strolled in the streets that evening, enjoying the nice weather, and admiring the houses and even the interiors through the open windows.

place de la Cathedrale

Next day, the 6th of our vacation we took the streets of Strasbourg. I will write separately about the Cathedral and about the museums that we visited. Strasbourg is a beautiful city, one of the most beautiful in France. The combination of German and French styles in architecture, food, language and behavior of the locals works well. It is said to be a crowded city, invaded by tourists in summer and by European parliamentarians and bureaucrats the rest of the time, but we were lucky to catch it in between the two seasons. It was the end of the summer, peak vacations seasons was over and the politicians were not yet back. The city was all ours.

taking the boat trip

We love taking boat trips on city located on water. Paris, London, Bruges, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Berlin, all these cities revealed to us special angles when seen from the boat. We took confidently a trip boat on the Ill, the river that crosses Strasbourg and we were not disappointed.

Ponts Couverts - medieval Strasbourg seen from the Ill

Mentioned since the times of Julius Caesar, Strasbourg is located at the crossroads of Europe, close to the place where the German and French areas of political and cultural influence as well as the religious influences of Catholicism and Reform have clashed along the centuries and not far from the border with neutral Switzerland. All invaders one way or the other stumbled on Strasbourg, which had to build in time not only a resilient character but also a fabric of tolerance to changes of the dominant culture which helps her today to play the role of bridge in the new Europe.

old Strasbourg home

The streets are dominated by German architecture, at least the area built until the end of the 18th century, although the city was annexed by France since the times of Louis XIV. The city however kept a strong German influence and the Lutheran University founded in the 16th century continued to function until the Revolution, the only such institution in France.

19th century architecture

The French Revolution is the milestone that changed the fate of the city and made of it a bastion of French culture and identity. It is here that Rouget de Lisle composed La Marseillese. All 19th century architecture is of French inspiration, despite the fact that after 1871 Strasbourg fell under German rule until the end of the first world war.

Palais d'Europe

Today the city not only bridges between the two cultures, languages and styles so much impregnated in its history, but became the symbol of the new multinational Europe, co-capital of the European Union, and host to many of the principal institutions of Europe. The boat trip takes the visitors to the Palais d’Europe and the other modernistic buildings of the European government complex hosting the European ministries, court of justice and Parliament.

the ARTE TV station

Another symbol that I could not miss was the building of the European culture TV channel ARTE TV. Started 20 years ago the bilingual (French and German) station is building cultural bridges not only between Germany and France, but also between all nations of Europe, a symbol of the possibility of coexistence in a city that was that much in the past a symbol of hate and division.

In spatele titlurilor unora dintre cartile lui Andrei Oisteanu nu se afla exact ceea ce s-ar putea astepta cititorul. De exemplu Imaginea evreului in cultura romana ascunde o adevarata istorie a antisemitismului romanesc, nu numai a celui cultural, probabil cel mai extensiv si complet studiu publicat pe aceasta tema pana la ora actuala. La fel si Narcotice in cultura romana aparuta in acest an in colectia Plural a editurii Polirom ( cuprinde mai mult si mai putin decat s-ar astepta cititorul. Mai mult pentru ca definitia ‘narcoticelor’ in aceasta carte este destul de elastica, ea extinzandu-se (desi nu in mod consecvent) de la leacurile populare trecand prin ceea ce in acceptiunea comuna sunt numite narcotice sau droguri si pana la tutun, alcool si cafea. Mai putin pentru ca desi titlul vorbeste despre ‘cultura romana’ abordarea diferitelor domenii si fatete ale culturii este inegala. Daca literatura este acoperita in mod consecvent si constant de-a lungul dezvoltarii sale istorice si domenii ca istoria religiilor (domeniu de expertiza al autorului) sau experimentele medicale gasesc o reflectare consistenta, alte domenii ale creatiei culturale cum ar fi artele plastice (cu exceptia capitolului dedicat lui Corneliu Michailescu si a participarii sale in experimentele doctorului Gheorghe Marinescu) sau muzica sunt aproape complet ignorate. Toata perioada folkului si rockului romanesc a anilor 60 si 70 de exemplu este complet ignorata, doar o singura trimitere la o nota in penultima pagina a cartii mentionand-o ca pe o ‘pata alba’ in cercetarea in domeniu, obiect de studiu si completare poate pentru o viitoare editie a cartii.

Narcotice in cultura romana preia si continua lucrari ale autorului din ani si decenii precedente, fiind evident rezultatul unei cercetari extensive si a unei preocupari stiintifice si culturale care se extinde peste cateva decenii. Prima parte al cartii extinde un studiu publicat inca in anii 80 descriind diversele feluri de ‘plante psihotrope’ (in limbajul cu caracter cripto-aluziv al epocii) folosite in diverse perioade istorice in spatiul romanesc. Este o buna introducere in tema, clasificarea si descrierea plantelor si a substantelor derivate fiind foarte utila neinitiatului in domeniu.  A doua parte (care acopera cam trei sferturi din text) urmareste evolutia narcoticelor si halucinogenelor in cultura romana, dela contactele cu Orientul indepartat si obiceiurile sale ale spatarului Milescu pana la cele mai recente romane si texte hip-hop ale ultimilor ani. Unele capitole continua si dezvolta texte publicate in avanpremiera in revista ’22′ (pentru a testa reactia ‘pietii’ in legatura cu tema cum se exprima undeva autorul). Senzatia de ‘colaj’ exista in unele momente, prima parte de exemplu incepe si se termina brusc, ea ar fi putut beneficia de putina grija scriitoriceasca in a adauga o introducere si o concluzie care sa elimine senzatia de abrupt la inceputul si sfarsitul lecturii (este unul dintre amanuntele care in opinia mea fac diferenta intre studiul stiintific si o lucrare care se adreseaza unui public mai larg, cum are ambitia aceasta carte). In alte locuri este greu de perceput logica incluziunii unora dintre texte in capitole – dece de exemplu textul despre “ravagiile alcoolismului” a fost apendat capitolului despre Cioran si Ionesco? (in general cred ca dependenta de alcool este tratata tangential si nu isi prea gaseste locul in carte, poate lasata ca subiect al unui viitor studiu despre ‘alcool in cultura romana’ – si asta in pofida capitolului despre ‘Vita de vie si iedera – Zamolxis vs. Dionysos’ care este savuros ca disputa istorica).

Cel mai in largul sau pare autorul atunci cand subiectele au consistenta, cand includerea unei anumite personalitati nu necesita un exercitiu de echilibristica sau arheologie deductiva in text dublata de decriptari, necesare in multe cazuri datorita implicatiilor multiple legale si morale ale subiectului. Evolutia atitudinii sociale fata de droguri si reflectarea lor in productia cuturala este excelent prinsa, incepand de la analiza celebrei metafore marxiste care alatura religia opiumului intr-o conotatie care s-ar putea sa nu fi fost in contextul jumatatii secolului 19 (cand stupefiantele erau o medicatie cvasi-unanim acceptata si un mod acceptat legal si chic din punct de vedere social de a evada din realitatea cotidiana) atat de negativa cum suna astazi. Aflam de exemplu si ca prima lege pentru combaterea abuzului de stupefiante a fost legiferata in Romania interbelica doar in 1928, si tema consumului si efectelor sale este pe larg reflectata in proza romana interbelica. Capitolul dedicat lui Mateiu Caragiale adauga semnificativ nu numai temei cartii ci si exegezei caragialesti. Analiza ‘Rigai Crypto …’ ca si intreaga sectiune dedicata lui Ion Barbu sunt stralucite. Experimentele avangardistilor din perioada romana interbelica si alaturarea care pare ciudata astazi dar era logica in epoca a extremei drepte la experimentele cu substante halucinogene sau auto-inhibante sunt excelent redate. Detaliile si analiza diverselor perioade ale evolutiei lui Mircea Eliade, interactia acestuia cu narcoticele si momentul de sincronicitate intre interesul culturii occidentale fata de istoria religiilor si eliberarea sociala si comportamentala promulgata de miscarea hippie ii prilejuiesc lui Oisteanu scrierea poate a unuia dintre cele mai consistents si mai interesante capitole ale cartii. Evolutia interactiei istorice intre tarile romane si Inalta Poarta in secolele 17 si 18, si apoi Romania in devenire si in primele sale decenii de existenta si Rusia si apoi Occidentul (in special cel francofil) in secolul 19 este reflectata prin influenta specifica a fluxului de obiceiuri din fiecare sfera de influenta culturala care a inclus componenta sa legata de narcotice. Personaje marcante ale istoriei noastre culturale clasice precum Eminescu, Macedonsky, Odobescu dezvaluie la o cercetare atenta influente vizibile ale unor experiente directe sau indirecte cu narcoticele de difereite feluri si multe dintre informatiile si asocierile cuprinse in aceste capitole vor fi inedite pentru multi, interesante mereu la lectura.

Sunt si momente amuzante in carte cand este descrisa insasi abordarea temei de diversii istorici si oameni de cultura romani – dovada a unei evolutii istorice si a inerentelor implicatii moralistice si a politizarii subiectului – de exemplu polemica istorica dintre Odobescu si Bolliac in legatura cu inhalarea (sau nu) de care traci a fumului unor plante halucinogene, continuata mult mai recent de istorici contemporani in disputa cu Eliade si Culianu pe aceeasi tema.

O bibliografie extensiva insoteste cartea, impreuna cu un numar de materiale relevante, fiecare interesante in sine la addenda, inclusiv doua inedite – unul un fragment de roman apartinand lui Ioan Petru Culianu, si celalalt un text scris special pentru carte de Mircea Cartarescu. Editia prezenta este ilustrata, ceea ce adauga calitatii si satisfactiei lecturii, in special portretele desenate de artisti ca Marcel Iancu ale unora dintre personalitatile luate in discutie avand valoare documentara si artistica in sine. O carte imperfecta, care ar putea beneficia la o viitoare editie de o ‘rotunjure a colturilor’ din punct de vedere stilistic si structural, dar fara indoiala o contributie interesanta si cu mult miez si in unele locuri fascinanta in legatura cu una dintre fatetele mai putin dezvaluite si analizate ale culturii romane.

The itinerary of the second part of the fifth day of our vacation included Saverne with the intention to visit the castle (we ended by just taking pictures from the outside) and was aimed to end in the evening in Strasbourg – the first city where we planned to spend two days, one of them fully dedicated to discover the city.

chateau de Saverne

It was however the stop that we made in the early afternoon that was going to represent one of the most moving discoveries and interesting encounters of our vacation – the Musee Judeo-Alsacien, the Museum of the Jews d’Alsace in Bouxviller.

Musee Judeo-Alsacien in Bouxviller

Bouxviller is one of the many picturesque small cities North of Strasbourg, with German names and style in the buildings witnesses of the complex history of the area. It was also the place where a flourishing Jewish community estimated at its pick to several thousands people lived for many centuries. Yet, a few decades after the second world war there were no Jews left in Bouxviller and the building of the principal synagogue of the city built in 1842 was due for demolition in 1983 to clear the place for the parking of the adjoining supermarket. And then a small miracle happened. A Jewish miracle.

with Mr Gilbert Weil

When we entered the building of the museum we were welcome by a young lady who asked us where we come from. When we said that we are from Israel she immediately shouted – ‘monsieur Weil!’. Monsieur Gilbert Weil immediately showed up and the conversation that followed was a fascinating trip in time, not only in the history of the museum but also through the whole history of the Jews of Alsace, and his personal history. Gilbert Weil is the man who saved the building in 1983. With a few days left until the demolition he fought the red tape of the bureaucracy and got a special permit from Jack Lang, the minister of Culture of Francois Mitterand that avoided the demolition. The condition for saving the place was to include it in the national patrimony of France as a building destined to become a museum. So a museum it will be decided monsieur Weil, and he started to let people in the area and institutions around France and the world know that a museum of the history and culture of Jews in Alsace is in becoming. Most of the objects in the collection were gathered from the donors in the Jewish homes of the area. If no Jews are living any longer in Bouxwiller there are chances that the place will become the source of knowledge and memory for the Jewish community that existed here more then eight centuries. Monsieur Weil lives part of the year in Bouxwiller and part of it in Jerusalem (our conversation mixed French and Hebrew). The museum is open between Easter and mid-September (Rosh Hashana I guess), for the rest of the year visitors need to call and arrange for a special appointment in order to visit it.

expulsion of Jews from France (12th-14th centuries)

The rooms of the museum are ordered in an ascending spiral shape, starting with a corridor where the first centuries of the Jewish presence in the area are documented. While Jews are mentioned with certainty starting with the 12th century, their presence is assumed to be older. France was already in the medieval period one of the places were persecutions and segregation of Jews was widely practiced, and the decrees of expulsion of Jews from France predate the 1492 expulsion from Spain by several centuries.

1349 - autodafe in Strasbourg

1349 was an especially dark year in the history of the Jews in Alsace, and of their relation with their Christian neighbors. February 14 that year 2000 Jews were gathered in the Jewish cemetery and burnt alive on the stake, as the inhabitants were hoping to avoid the city being hit by the Plague. Five month later the epidemic hit the city. Following that traumatic incident, the life of Jews in Alsace developed mainly in smaller rural communities like Bouxviller, which gave a specific direction to the Jewish culture and history of the area.

sefer Torah from Jerusalem

The French revolution liberated the Jews from persecutions and ghettos, and made of Jews equal citizens. Together with Jews in all France, the Jews of Alsace were among the first in Europe to be awarded full and equal rights with all other citizens. They developed a strong attachment to France and Jewishness came second in the definition of their personal identity. Yet, rabbis continued to keep the flame of the faith, which became for most of them more of a private issue. Jews at home (where objects like the Torah book above were kept and used), equal citizens in the city.

Jewish Holidays and Customs

The continuation of the museum alternates the historical information with the customs and ethnographic data. It’s a good and balanced mix, which allows for the non-Jewish visitors to be introduced in the Jewish customs and way of life, and has enough local information to be of interest also for the Jewish visitors.

explaining Passover

Each of the Jewish holidays and principal moments and aspects of Jewish life and institutions have dedicated windows – here is the one explaining to the visitor the spiritual meaning and the ceremonies related to Passover.

photographies documenting the Jewish life

As the trip in time continues we can see documents and photographs that describe the Jewish life in the small cities of Alsace. Part of the areas fell under German rule after 1871, but most of the Jews of Alsace stayed faithful to France. Among them an officer named Alfred Dreyfus.

Alsacian Jews supported the beginnings of Zionism

The Zionist alternative to the life in Diaspora triggered the interest of part of the Jewish community in Alsace. Delegation of Jews from Alsace participated at the first Zionist congresses and Jews from Alsace were associated to the agricultural projects of the baron de Rotschild in Palestine at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Living in rural communities many of them had more knowledge about agriculture than most of the other Jews in Europe, so they also contributed to the founding of the first agriculture schools in Eretz Israel.

Shoah - a prayer book that saved a life

The dark years of the Holocaust did not spare the Jews of Alsace. The lives of many of them were saved inititally by the fact that after the war broke Jews as well as other inhabitants close to the border with Germany were evacuated in the South of France, so they did not fall under the German occupation. This is what happened also to Gilbert Weil and his family. Surviving all the war years with no homes and no means of subsistence was not easy. However, the fate of these who were caught by the German occupants or their French collaborators and sent to the concentration or death camps was much more tragic. The life of a Jew from Strasbourg named Marcel Lorand was saved by the prayer book in the photography. When the Germans evacuated the concentration camp of Dachau they took their prisoners in a forced march where the weak ones were executed on the side of the road. Lorand was left as dead on the way, and found a few hours later by the Russian. A Russian soldier saw the prayer book that fell out of the pocket of the coat. The soldier was Jewish, he looked carefully, saw that Marcel was breathing, and he saved his life.

view through the window of the old synagogue

After the war only a minority of the Jews in Alsace returned to their homes. Many of them stayed in other parts of France, or emigrated to Israel and other parts of the world. Jews from North Africa replaced them in a few places, mainly in Strasbourg. In most of the smaller cities like Bouxviller which were centers of Jewish life for centuries there are today no Jews left. It is this museum, that keeps the place on the map of the Jewish objectives of the area, a local initiative that can be taken as example and emulated in many other places where the light of Jewish life is nowadays extinct. With its programs and initiatives that bring in visitors and especially young people from schools in the province the Musee Judeo-Alsacien will preserve at least for a while the memory of a way of life and of a culture that contributed to the history of this special place in Europe.

In his book 4 Decades, 3 Years and 2 Months with the Romanian Cinema the Romanian film critic Alex Leo Serban considers Duminica la ora 6 (Sunday at 6 o’clock) as an extreme case of difference between content and form – a story about the invented ‘heroic’ Communist past wrapped in the most modern means of expression of the cinema of the 60s. After having seen the film again many decades after its first viewings my feeling is different. I believe that Lucian Pintilie‘s first film is as daring in content and especially in its subliminal message as it is in its form which clearly shows already the hand of a skilled director, having learned and assimilated all the lessons of the French New Wave and placing them in the service of his cinematographic message.


I see Duminica la ora 6 as a beautiful love story in impossible times,  a story that can happen under any repressive regime. The art of director Pintilie is brilliant in the pacing of the action using repetitive motives (the elevator going down, the dark tunnel leading to an uncertain light which can mean deliverance or death) and in the way he directs his actors (Dan Nutu and Irina Petrescu, young, beautiful, sincere, frightened, desperate). A few scenes are worth being included in anthologies, like the ambiguous end with the run of the hero filmed from the windows of the police car, his tentative to run away towards the deep sea, his so human giving up. All is natural and well directed, with the sole exception of the few sequences were the ‘bourgeois’ police appears and the few lines of dialog which were inserted to please the censorship by locating the action in the fabricated history of the Communist resistance. Seen 45 years after the film making the contrast is too flagrant to avoid the feeling that this scenes where visibly inserted by the director (and maybe script author Ion Mihaileanu) to make the film pass and see the lights of screening – but the language is so different that they look intentionally out of context. My impression is also enforced by the very ‘modern’ look of the heroes and extras, which avoid localization and historical dating, inviting the viewers to consider the heroes contemporary to their own times, and to live the story in the present and not in the past. Again, for a director with the level of skill that Pintilie was already showing at that time, this cannot be coincidental.

Made in the year 1965, a year of crossroads in the Romanian history, the start of a short period of hope at the beginning of the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu, Duminica la ora 6 could have signaled a new start for the Romanian cinema which was still forced to use the vocabulary and thematic of the socialist-realist art but was daring to dream to new forms and freedom of expression. The political and artistic hopes were to fade out soon, and Duminica la ora 6 remains one of the few singular moments in a history of Romanian cinema whose destiny was to get back to its natural course only many decades later.

St Etienne Cathedral

The morning of the 5th day of our trip was dedicated to visiting Metz. After having listed the principal attractions of the city and the walks to be made on the streets we reached the conclusion that there was no way we can see all we want, so we better focus on the principal monument of the city – the Saint Etienne Cathedral – and leave everything else for another visit sometimes in the future.

Marche Couvert (Cardinal's Palace)

The present structure of the cathedral was built between the 13th to the 16th century, on a location where previous churches have existed, maybe as early as the 5th century when the cult of St. Etienne became popular in the Christianized area of Western Europe. A massive renovation took place in the 19th century when Metz was under German rule, following a fire caused by fireworks shot on the occasion of the visit of kaiser Wilhelm II. It is located between the Place d’Armes (see the night photo in the previous entry of the blog) and the Marche Couvert which is in fact the building that was planned to host the palace of the cardinal if the French Revolution and the Napoleon secularization would not have spoiled the plans.

Statues on Portail de la Vierge

Portail details

The 13th and 14th building is a typical example in the series of Gothic style cathedrals that can be found in many of the mains cities of France, and the restoration in the 19th century keeps the atmosphere in what can be described as neo-gothic style. The statues and ornaments on the big gates and external facades are an argument in this direction.

interior of St Etienne Cathedral

When entering the cathedral the first thing that impresses the visitor is the height of the nave – the Metz structure is the third tallest of all churches in France.

stained-glass windows and ceiling

Then the eye is attracted by the fabulous combination between the architecture and stained-glass work. It is maybe the most impressive collection of stained glass windows that can be found in any church in France and maybe world wide, with works of masters of the genre spreading from the 13th to the late 20th century. The effect is spectacular as an ensemble, and at the same time each group and collection of windows is worth being examined closely, understood and admired.

14th century Herman de Munster's windows (West facade)

Although it is not the oldest in the church, the work on the Western wall is the most impressive of the ones dated from the 14th century. It belongs to master Herman de Munster and was created around 1384. The huge rosary has 11 meters and diameter and the images of the apostles can be admired in the windows below. For this superb masterpiece the artist was rewarded with the honor to be buried in the church, actually under his work – something very rare at that time for somebody not belonging to royalty or high clergy.

16th century windows by Valentin Bousch

The chapels in the Southern wing of the cathedral are decorated with windows created in the 16th century by Valentin Bousch. The techniques, expressiveness and care for the representation of human figures and bodies specific to the Renaissance are present in the superposed registers representing saints and bishops of Metz.

Chapelle du Saint Sacrement - windows by Jacques Villon

Jumping to the 20th century I was impressed by the windows that decorate the Holy Sacrament chapel designed by the Cubist artist Jacques Villon.  The window in the middle represents the crucifixion, on the left side the Last Supper presented as a Passover Seder, and on the right side the wedding at Cana and an Old Testament representation of Moses.

1960 windows by Chagall inspired by the book of Genesis

It is however the windows by Marc Chagall that represent the pick of the art of stained-glass windows in 20th century present in the church. I have seen windows created by Chagall in other churches in the United States and in Zurich, and I know about famous works in the genre at the United States building in New York and at the Knesset in Jerusalem. I believe that the works in Metz created between 1960 and 1963 represent some of the best such works of Chagall.

1960 windows by Chagall - Jesus, Moses, king David

The representation of Christ on the cross overlooks from the tears-shaped rosary. Most of the surface in Chagall’s windows in Metz however represent characters from the Old Testament.

1963 windows by Chagall - Genesis

The theme of Genesis dominates many of the windows in Metz – here are scenes from the book of Genesis from the Creation, life in the Garden of Eden, the original scene and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.

altar table from the period of Charlemagne

There are more interesting things and  corners to be seen in the cathedral. The crypt gathers a number of art and religious objects created during the many centuries of history of the churches that were successively built on this place. Beyond objects related to the history of the monster of Graoully said to have haunted the city for many generations, the visitor can admire even older objects, like the stone altar table from the period of Charlemagne – older than one thousand years.

medieval sculpture

A collection of wonderful wooden statues representing saints and monks date back from the 13th century, the period when the present church started to be built.

16th century descent to the Tomb

Last piece of art from the collection in the crypt that I liked and photographed is the well preserved statuary group dated from the 16th century and representing the descend in the Tomb. Original colors are very well preserved, which is quite rare, allowing for the group to be seen in a way close to the one it was seen by the contemporaries of the artists.

tryptich on pillars

Before leaving the church and the city of Metz for the next point in our itinerary (which will be one of the most moving and high interest stops in our trip) I took a last photo of a painting on three adjoining pillars building an original triptych in a style that reminds the old Byzantine icons.

I discovered Max Raabe the last winter thanks to ARTE, and it was love from the first song. Raabe and his Palast Orchester specializes in the German cabaret music style of the 20s and early 30s. He has a scenic presence that combines elegance and humor. All the members of the band and especially violinist Cecilia Crisafuli and pianist Ian Wekwerth are remarkable musicians, they seem happy to play together and they make the audiences feel how good they feel about it. I was excited to hear that he comes to Israel and it was great to be in the audience in their first show tonight.

(video source fritz5125)

Although their repertoire is not limited to music from the 20s and the 30s (but all is played in this style) the program tonight was exclusively built of compositions to that period. All German songs were written before 1933, the year of the fall in the abyss of German and Raabe dully mentioned the year of the composition together with the title of every song. My Little Green Cactus is one of the examples of the German songs written in that period that Raabe presented tonight as well.

(video source MICHELMUSIK123)

From the more international repertoire here is the originally Yidish Bei Mir Bistu Shein and a more delicate version of Singing in the Rain which was to be made famous by Gene Kelly more than two decades after its first auditions.

The tour in Israel started tonight. They will be tomorrow again at the Opera House in Tel Aviv, then on Wednesday in Jerusalem at the Sherover Theatre and on Thursday in Haifa at the Krieger Centre for the Performing Arts. As in the concert tonight I expect the halls to be full of enthusiastic yekis.

The ambitious itinerary for the rest of the 4th day was going to take us from A – Gutach via the small and picturesque city of B – Freudenstadt, the famous casinos and spas resort of Baden-Baden (C) and then across the border into France to D – Metz, the capital of Lorraine.

Marktplatz in Freudenstadt

Did I mention that the rain started to pour. Well, it was going to gain in strength for the following hours, which combined with the wind and the drop in temperatures made of the walk in the open arcade Marktplatz in Freudenstadt quite a challenging experience. It is a double squared shaped plazza reminding more the Italian Renaissance style than a German city. The town of Freudenstadt is one of the well-known health resorts in the area, a place visited in the past centuries by Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, and King George V.

Freundenstadt - the evangelical church

We bravely faced the rain and the wind and entered the Evangelical Lutheran church which to our bad luck was located on the other corner of the city than the one were we had parked out car. Built at the beginning of the 17th century the church incorporates objects from churches that functioned in the same place since the Middle Ages. As many other such monuments in Germany it was bombed and completely destroyed at the end of the second world war, and then rebuilt and renovated to its original form.

11th century baptismal font

The overall impression is of sobriety and simplicity and this only enhances the effect of the objects inherited by the church from the previous ages. Some of them are from the medieval period …

decoration from the older churches

… and some of the Gothic period.

details on the ceiling - the Tables of the Law

The more recent decorative elements contain elements related to the Ancient Testament (quite frequent in protestant churches) like these Tables of the Law.

turning right to Baden-Baden

Back to the car, we took the road for the continuation of the itinerary. The plan was to drive North to Baden-Baden, using the scenic road passing near Mummelsee which is said to allow beautiful views of the whole area.

the scenic road

As soon as we climbed the road the rain transformed into rain and fog. I had experienced such a thick fog – no more then 10 meters of visibility ahead – only twice in my life before. Once in Cornwall in the South West of England, another time in Australia in the Blue Mountains area. I was not driving that second time, but the feeling was exactly the same – I could not see anything of an area that is famous for its landscapes. We could not even turn back as trying to turn on that road was extremely dangerous and the same was stopping on the side of the road. The only option was to drive ahead and reach Baden-Baden. The fog dissipated as soon as we descended to the city, the rained continued.

Russian church in Baden-Baden

The luck was not with us that day. We were hoping to stop in Baden-Baden and walk the famous riverside promenade walked by Queen Victoria, Bismarck and Napoleon III and see the casino which inspired Dostoyevsky’s Gambler. We did not take into consideration the rain and the fact that the interesting area we wanted to walk was a no-cars area. We would have been obliged to park the car and then walked at least a kilometer, so we decided to leave the experience for the next trip in the area, and to head to France. We just took a few photos in the streets, including the one of the Russian church – a little non-typical for the place, but then Dostoyevsky was here, wasn’t he?

on the motorway in France fighting our way out of the storm

The rain was getting stronger and stronger but at least we were in the car, driving on the highway that passes North of Strasbourg (which we were planning to reach the next day) and heading West to Metz.

light ahead

The clouds were as black as you can get, and the storm allowed us for some spectacular pictures.

here comes the Sun

… and then, a few kilometers from Metz the skies started to clear, and the beautiful weather returned and was with us for almost the whole rest of the trip.

Cotes de Bourg

The hotel for the night was the Novotel Metz Centre – very well located in the center of the city, in a complex that combines new building atop of an older structure. It has a good parking, a good FNAC bookshop in the same complex and a ten minutes walk takes you to the Cathedral and Place d’Armes, the most famous objectives for visitors in Metz. We were quite hungry, as we had intentionally skipped lunch, so we ate at the hotel restaurant which was fair (fair in France being better than in other places). I do not remember anything special about the food, but the ‘Cotes de Bourg’ wine was good.

Metz Cathedrale St Etienne

We took the walk after the dinner in order to catch some of the famous night views of Metz which won the city (known as an important center of the region since the second century AD) the title of Illuminated City. As we expected, although we were for the first time in the city we felt immediately at home on the streets of Metz. Streets, shops, restaurants all seem to us friendly and familiar, and knowing the language helps so much. That’s how we feel each time we get to France, we must have been French in a previous life :-)

Metz - Place d'Armes

One of the advantages of crossing the border is also understanding the TV news. Weather forecast for the next day was good.