Archive for February, 2011

The Oscar goes to … ‘Strangers No More’ for the Best Documentary Short Subject – a film about a very special school in Tel Aviv, a school that gathers children from 48 countries whose parents are foreign workers in Israel.

(video source Israel)

From the official site of the film – http://www.strangersnomoremovie.com/

In the heart of Tel Aviv, there is an exceptional school where children from forty-eight different countries and diverse backgrounds come together to learn. Many of the students arrive at Bialik-Rogozin School fleeing poverty, political adversity and even genocide. Here, no child is a stranger.

Strangers No More follows several students’ struggle to acclimate to life in a new land while slowly opening up to share their stories of hardship and tragedy.

With tremendous effort and dedication, the school provides the support these children need to recover from their past. Together, the bond between teacher and student, and amongst the students themselves, enables them to create new lives in this exceptional community.

The Wikipedia page of the film is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangers_No_More_%28film%29

Una dintre placerile mele marturisite este de a-mi ghida prietenii in cele doua spatii pe care le consider ale mele, de a-i introduce in istoria si prezentul, realitatile fizice si cele spirituale ale tarii in care m-am nascut si ale tarii in care imi traiesc viata de mai bine de un sfert de secol. Jean Velicy, autorul frumoasei carti pe care tocmai am terminat sa o citesc pare sa impartaseasca aceasta placere si descrie in cateva randuri calitatile principale cerute de indeletnicirea de ghid: ‘Un ghid de calitate, gandesc dupa ce am avut parte in calatoriile mele de calauze de toate facturile, trebuie sa indeplineasca trei conditii esentiale: sa cunoasca limba in care prezinta subiectul (accentul nu are importanta; chiar dimpotriva, as zice, un accent “culoare locala” poate fi o calitate, un plus, o savoare de cultivat), apoi sa cunoasca subiectul si, in fine, sa fi reusit sa trieze esentialul intr-o povestire cu farmec, care sa imbine marea si mica istorie a locului cu inteligenta si har, adaptata publicului care il asculta.’ (pag. 19) Daca la aceste calitati se mai adauga una si anume dragostea fata de spatiul in care isi joaca rolul de calauza, cei care au norocul de a beneficia de serviciile unei astfel de gazde in spatiul calatoriei lor pot beneficia de o experienta care imbina cunoasterea cu trairea locurilor pe care le perinda. Iar cand astfel de experiente sunt puse in scris rezultatul este o carte cum este Dincolo de paduri, Ardealul… a lui Jean Velicy.

Mai este inca o experienta pe care o impartasesc cu autorul cartii. Sa spun insa pentru conformitate ca Jean Velicy nu imi este un necunoscut; desi nu l-am intalnit inca niciodata in persoana, am avut sansa sa-l cunosc in spatiul virtual al forumurilor internetice de limba romana. Jean este originar din Transilvania, si traieste de doua decenii (sper sa nu gresesc in aprecierea perioadei) in Franta. Cu putin timp in urma si-a luat colegii din asociatia medicala pe care o conduce si a facut din Transilvania natala tinta uneia dintre calatoriile anuale ale grupului. Era desigur vorba pentru el de mai mult decat o calatorie intr-un spatiu turistic oarecare. Am trait si eu o experienta similara cu jumatate de an in urma, cand am parcurs unul dintre itinerariile excursiilor mele din vremea studentiei, reintalnind in timp locurile care au ramas acolo dar s-au schimbat atat de mult in acelasi timp. A fost o experienta cognitiva si emotionala complexa. Nu am pus inca pe hartie sau pe medie internetica notele acelei calatorii, dar probabil ca daca as cauta un model de referinta cartea lui Jean ar putea fi unul dintre ele.

Documentarea este unul dintre secretele unei excursii reusite, si Jean a facut in pregatirea acestei excursii mai mult decat face turistul bine informat. Simtindu-se raspunzator fata de colegii sai nu numai cu completarea informatiei dar si cu adaptarea ei la specificul audientei, a citit mult, a filtrat si a ales acele informatii care sa fie relevante pentru colegii sai si sa puna in context informatia si privelistile cu date familiare din formatia si spatiul de acasa al vizitatorilor. A pune date in contextul istoric al francezilor, a-l sincroniza de exemplu pe Mihai Viteazul – cel cunoscut de orice copil roman dar nesemnificativ pentru majoritatea intelectualilor francezi – cu Henri al IV-lea, ce este mai simplu sau mai evident, dar cati dintre ghizii profesionisti fac asta? A adapta experientele culinare cum ar fi consumarea tariilor alcoolice sau a branzeturilor cu obiceiurile de masa ale francezilor vestiti pentru rafinamentul lor culinar – pentru asta iti trebuie nu numai initiativa ci si o experienta de viata care sa imbine trairile in ambele spatii cu respectul pentru particularitatile fiecaruia in parte. Jean Velicy cel pe care l-am cunoscut pe listele romanofone ca pe un fin cunoscator si povestitor al culturii si vietii din tara sa adoptiva le-a fost colegilor francezi un la fel de competent ambasador al obiceiurilor transilvanene, si a facut-o sunt sigur cu placerea impartasirii si cu zambetul pe buze, asa cum il simti de multe ori cand ii citesti scrisele.

Intregul periplu a durat doar patru zile, in care Jean Velicy si colegii sai au vizitat trei orase – Clujul, Sighisoara si Sibiul – si inca cateva obiective pe drum. Relatarea calatoriei rezulta intr-o carte de calatorie usoara la lectura si interesanta in detaliile sale. Marturisesc ca am aflat multe lucruri pe care nu le stiam despre Ardeal, istoria si oamenii sau dar desigur, am scuza ca sunt bucurestean. De exemplu amanunte despre istoria aviatiei si despre faptul ca Air France are o ascendenta romaneasca intr-o linie aeriana comerciala franco-romana de imediat dupa primul razboi mondial; sau ca unul dintre curentele pricipale ale Reformei, biserica unitariana isi are originea in Cluj; sau despre instrumente muzicale specifice mai cunoscute (tambalul) sau mai putin cunoscute (de hidedeaua cu tolcer ati auzit?); sau despre personaje istorice ca Johann Kelp (Kelpius) sau Johann Sachs von Harteneck pe care istoriografia invatata in scolile comuniste ii cam trecea sub tacere datorita rolului lor in miscari religioase sau a nationalitatii lor. Audierea de muzica romaneasca pregatita de Jean pentru cele cateva ore de strabatere cu autobuzul a unor drumuri pe sosele se transforma intr-un capitol exemplar care valorifica o alta pasiune a sa pentru muzica si isoria muzicii. Cateva informatii mi-au fost confirmate – stiam de exemplu despre prietenia lui Traian Vuia cu compozitorul Coriolan Brediceanu si despre faptul ca primele modele ale aeroplanului lui Vuia au fost proiectate in Lugojul natal al mamei si bunicii mele. Il cunosteam si pe fantasticul fotograf Brassai (‘brasoveanul’), cunoscut colegilor lui Jean pentru splendidele sale fotografii ale Parisului pe care le cunoscusem si ma fascinasera nu intr-un alt loc decat Manhattan-ul si al sau fabulos Metropolitan Museum. Sectia de pictura romaneasca de la Bruckental a fost si pentru mine punctul de maxim interes in vizitarea muzeului. La fel ca Jean am comentat si eu in periplul meu romanesc de anul trecut (care a inclus si el Sibiul, dar si nordul Moldovei si Bucovina) falsa standardizare ‘specific romaneasca’ a menu-urilor in majoritatea restaurantelor in dauna preparatelor cu adevarat locale si traditionale. In schimb intr-un loc am avut se pare mai multa sansa decat el – la Sibiu, in Piata Mare am mancat in toamna trecuta amandine si ischlere intr-o cofetarie probabil deschisa intre vizitele noastre in oras.

Prezentarea aspectelor istorice ale Ardealului nu putea ocoli aspectele legate conflictele nationale pe care acest pamant le-a trait vreme de veacuri. Jean le-a descris colegilor sai de excursie in mod exact si echilibrat istoriile paralele ale aceluiasi tinut revendicat de doua popoare inclusiv controversele legate de primordialitatea uneia sau alteia dintre populatii in spatiul transilvanean. In Cluj observa cu fina ironie existenta circuitelor istorice diferite ale orasului, de limba romana si de limba maghiara, cu un singur punct de intersectie la casa in care s-a nascut Matei Corvin. Dar pana si numele regelui Ungariei de obarsie romana aflam ca este subiect de disputa. ‘In fapt regretul privind istoriografia Transilvaniei e ca ceea ce s-a scris timp de secole sunt istorii paralele. Intre istoria scrisa de autorii romani si cea publicata de confratii lor unguri diferentele sunt atat de importante incat, daca te-ai inversuna sa-i citesti si pe unii si pe altii, ai trage concluzia ca e vorba de tari diferite. Transilvania romanilor si Transilvania ungurilor sunt doua carti de istorie care se petrec si nu se intersecteaza decat ca sa tasneasca scantei. Descoperirile arheologice si scrierile de epoca, rare, sunt comune celor doua istoriografii. Dar citind concluziile unora si altora, ajungi sa cunosti doua tari diferite, care par sa se ignore, desi, coincidenta, impart totusi, in aceeasi epoca, acelasi teritoriu!’ (pag. 124) Speranta tuturor optimistilor si oamenilor de buna credinta este ca respectul diversitatii si optiunea convietuirii intr-o Europa a pacii sterg treptat urmele si sechelele conflictelor din trecut. ‘Personalitatea Transilvaniei, peste tot ceea ce valurile istoriei au dus si adus, unicitatea ei in lume, asa cum spuneam, e tocmai ceea ce unii si altii au tendinta sa neglijeze: un colt de lume in care neamuri au trait impreuna, au conlucrat si au creat in beneficiul tuturor. Mai mult decat o apozitie, in pofida unor pareri adesea formulate, chiar osmoza coexistentei, interferenta, interconditionarea, defineste cu adevarat Ardealul.’ (pag. 130-131)

Editata de CIMEC – Institutul de Memorie Culturala, cartea ‘Dincolo de paduri, Ardealul…’ este si o carte frumos editata si placuta la citire. Ilustratiile ii apartin autorului si demonstreaza ca prelucrarea digitala a fotografiilor a ajuns sa dea rezultate demne de penitele celor mai iscusiti ilustratori. O carte frumoasa deci, si o invitatie la calatorie, la cunoastere, la construirea de punti intre culturi.

Infiintat in 2007 Teatrul ‘Metropolis’ din Bucuresti este o aparitie recenta in viata teatrala bucuresteana. Nu am ajuns inca sa vad niciun spectacol la sediul lor din strada Eminescu din Bucuresti, dar pe Web site-ul http://www.teatrulmetropolis.ro/ se poate citi ca este vorba despre un teatru cu un repertoriu ambitios si de calitate din care nu lipsesc nici piese clasice cum ar fi ‘Hamlet’  ‘Azilul de noapte’, sau ‘Visul unei nopti de vara’, nici repertoriul modern, iar echipa actoriceasca include nume pe care le cunosteam de pe scena romaneasca de acum 30 de ani si mai bine ca Olga Tudorache, Alexandru Repan, Tamara Cretzulescu, actori in plina maturitate ca Razvan Vasilescu sau Dana Dogaru pana la generatia mai tanara pe care eu nu am cunoscut-o. Din fericire Tesu Solomovici a adus ‘Podu” una dintre reprezentatiile acestui teatru in Israel si nu pot decat sa regret ca evenimentul nu pare sa fi fost anuntat in afara comunitatii de limba romana din Israel. Este un spectacol de nivel cel putin egal multor altora al teatrelor care vin in turneu pe aici, si cred ca ar fi putut trezi si interesul publicului care nu cunoaste limba romana cu conditia ca spectacolul sa fi fost titrat in ebraica.

source www.teatrulmetropolis.ro

Autorul piesei este Paul Ioachim (1930-2002) actor, dramaturg si fondatorul teatrului ‘George Ciprian’ din Buzau. Piesa adaptata si regizata de Horatiu Malaele care in versiunea sa originala se numea ‘Podul sinucigasilor’ este una dintre acele creatii de sertar a caror soarta a fost sa ramana necunoscute publicului romanesc in toata perioada comunista, nereusind sa treaca bariera cenzurii in ciuda interesului unor teatre ca Nationalul sau Teatrul de Comedie din Bucuresti si a unor regizori ca Sica Alexandrescu, Lucian Giurchescu sau David Esrig. Abia dupa schimarea regimului politic piesa vede lumina scenei la Teatrul National din Bucuresti pentru a fi readusa la ‘Metropolis’ de catre Horatiu Malaele.

Textul initial a fost scris in anii 60 si este vizibila influenta teatrului absurdului si a unor dramaturgi ca Ionesco sau Becket, si chiar a unor ecouri ale neuitatului spectacol cu ‘Asteptandu-l pe Godot’ cu Gheorghe Dinica si Marin Moraru din anii 70. Textul insa are originalitatea si puterea sa expresiva si comica proprie si ideea raportarii personajelor dezabuzate de viata la sinucidere impinge limitele intr-o directie mai putin explorata. Pe un pod al sinucigasilor trei personaje isi petrec ceea ce va fi poate ultima ora a vietii lor. Sunt trei dezamagiti ai vietii, a caror disperare vine fiecare dintr-o directie diferita. Unul este Neintelesul (Horatiu Malaele) intre ale carui idei si vise si lumea reala exista o bariera de comunicare de netrecut. Infricosat de perspectiva apocalipsei isi aduna filozofia si inventiile de o viata intr-o carte, pe care o traduce in … ebraica, pentru a o face lizibila la finele zilelor macar de catre Fiul Domnului. Al doilea este Indragostitul (George Ivascu), arhetipul vesnicului tanjitor, care are insa nesansa de a fi mic de statura, si nici vitaminele si nici rigorile meseriei sale (metrolog – deci stapanind dureroasa stiinta a masurarii) nu il pot ajuta sa-si surmonteze handicapul si sa cucereasca inima singurei fiinte care conteaza. Trioul este completat de Artista (Meda Victor) a carei incercare de a crea si de a intrupa se izbeste de neputinta concretizarii. Trei personaje ale caror esecuri in viata reala legate de lumea visului si intelectului, de cea fizica si emotionala se amesteca pe scena intr-un dialog comic spumos si absurd, si intr-o suita continua de gag-uri in care comicul si disperarea se amesteca in doza potrivita pentru a produce momente de teatru sublim amestecat cu aproape neintrerupte hohote de ras.

(video source kolearautu)

Cei trei actori reusesc fiecare in parte performante remarcabile pe masura talentului lor individual, si lucreaza in perfecta sincronizare ca echipa. Horatiu Malaele este de mult un nume de marca pe scena romaneasca, care aduce in orice spectacol in care joaca o imagine proprie construita in timp, amestec de cabotin si de rezoneur blazat. In ‘Podu” el adauga o dimensiune filozofica si umana care il face sa domine spectacolul si sa apara ca personajul capabil poate sa-i salveze pe ceilalti sau macar sa le descifreze ceva din sensul dezamagirilor lor. Pe George Ivascu nu l-am vazut cred pana acum in niciun spectacol pe scena, si mi s-a dovedit a fi in acest spectacol un actor de o mare expresivitate, cu talent comic si cu fior dramatic (de notat ca el este si directorul teatrului ‘Metropolis’). Meda Victor furnizeaza contrapunctul feminin si le da replica celor doi mari actori cu prezenta scenica, vitalitate si sensibilitate. Scena de la Centrul Leonardo din Tel Aviv nu este poate cea mai profesionala scena pentru spectacole de teatru, dar are o configuratie care o inalta fata de public si care s-a potrivit excelent ideii spectacolului. A fost o dupa-amiaza de teatru de calitate, din acelea din care un iubitor de teatru isi doreste sa aiba parte cat de des.

I have first heard and seen Florin Niculescu in the concerts dedicated to the memory of Stephane Grapelli and then Django Reinhardt whose centenaries where celebrated in 2008 and 2010. Florin is considered to be their follower and this is by itself a huge compliment. The virtuosity of Grapelli as violinist and the spirit of Reinhardt the greatest jazz manouche (Gypsy jazz) musician ever seem to have met in the person of the musician born in Bucharest in 1967. Florin lives in France since the 90s. I have seen him a few weeks ago in a jazz-symphonic concert recorded on the stage of the Athenee Hall in Bucharest. A detailed biography and some fine music can be seen on his Web site http://www.florinniculescu.eu/anglais.htm. Below are a few special music pieces that I found on youTube.

(video source alex333x)

The couple Biréli Lagrène-Florin Niculescu met in the 90s and is considered to be a successor to the legendary couple Django Reinhardt – Stéphane Grappelli who created the guitar-violin dialog in jazz in the 1940s. Here they are in ‘Rue de Pierre’ a spirited dialog which allows to both of them to prove their fantastic skills, filmed and recorded at the Vienne jazz festival in 2007.

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

(video source Xiphosss)

This part belongs to a formula which is close to the one that he played in the recent concert in Bucharest, with the exceptional guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg and the Kristiansand Simphonic Orchestra. After an improvisation by Rosenberg follows ‘Tears’ by Reinhardt with Florin Niculescu at his best.

(video source grandboucheguitar)

And finally watch and listen to Florin in an exceptional performance at the 2007 festival in Samois dedicated to Django. Image is not the best but you get the music and the atmosphere. The spirit of the manouche music is burning under his fingers.

PS – after reading this entry a colleague on the mail list dedicated to the memory of Cornel Chiriac pointed me to Hot Club Radio – a radio station dedicated to jazz manouche. Thanks and Enjoy!

O noua contributie a prietenului meu Gica Manescu – un fragment de amintiri si note de calatorie inedite

—————-

Titlul nu se refera la anul 1947,  in Romania, cand eram cu totii milonarii saraci.

Se refera la Turcia de acum mai multi ani. Cum  e azi, dupa cate stiu, tot  inflatie. Cat e valoarea lirei turcesti nu m-am informat, ca n-am interes si nici nu plec. Cand ne-am dus spre poartata – gate-ul, de imbarcare, era un aparat de schimbat bani. Pentru 20 dolari USA , am primit  un milion si jumatate de lire. Era  ceva in jur de 70 sekeli. Nu stiam valoarea acolo, dar a fost buna, pentru straini. Cand la un restaurant de clasa superioara, am vazut nota de plata, m-au trecut fiori. Dar revenindu-mi  si socotind, erau  30$.

source www.universes-in-universe.de

La Istanbul, la un hotel foarte luxos, calm, spre periferie,  am fost foarte bine primiti si tratati de gazde si de o israelianca, ca indrumatoare. Pentru iesiri colective, cu un  ghid vorbitor de franceza , calatoream cu un microbuz sau taxi.

Am decolat din Levantul cel mic si am aterizat in cel mare

Orasul enorm, cu o intindere de vreo 350 Km , cam  de la Haifa la Ashdod, cu peste 12 milioane de locuitori, dintre care, pe atunci, erau doar 15.000 evrei, deci ceva mai mult de 0,1 %.  Nereligiosi, traditionalisti si cu totii faceau afaceri. Pe firma unui magazin, in centru,  cu obiecte de aur, am citit numele – Goldenberg. In alta parte, articole din piele, “Beged or “. Cum era la “Polgat” in Tel Aviv.

Orasul nu are personalitate, nu e impregnat de nici un stil architectonic, de nici o randuiala. S-a construit cum s-a putut, cum au dorit cetatenii sau proprietarii. Umblam ore intregi in anumite cartiere, si parca ai fi fost la Petah Tikva sau Rehovot . Pe strazile in panta eram ca in Tzfatul nordic, de aici.

Circulatia, inebunitoare. Admiram totdeauna la noi, soferii de taxiuri si autobuze. In unele privinte, cei turci ii intrec. Ma enervez cand la noi vad cum se traverseza de pe un trotuar pe altul cand semaforul are lumina rosie. Acolo, unui trecator grabit, soferul i-a deschis usa in mijlocul traficului, ca sa poata cobora si strecura prin sirul de vehicule, pana pe trotuarul de peste drum. Sunt grabiti. Parca si la New York  pe strazile din Manhattan, pietonii merg parca fara rabdare, Pasi repezi, fuga. In Romania, grabitilor, la orice, li se spunea sa fie calmi, ca “ nu vin turcii “.

Prin gradini, sali de asteptare, cei ce nu gasesc un loc pe o  banca, un scaun, se chircesc, stau “turceste “. cum o faceam si eu in copilarie, cand ma jucam. Pe un  vapor de croaziera, unul de langa mine  fuma tigara de la tigara,  “ca un turc “. In vitrina unui magazine de armurarie, am cautat sa vad un pistol ca un  turc. N-am putut. N-am stiut ce fel este si n-am inteles zicala “ Cum e turcul, e si pistolul “.

source tripadvisor.com

Istanbul e un oras sui-generis. Nu m-am asteptat sa gasesc monumente istorice si opera de arta, in sensul stiut de noi. Moscheele, sa citez doar doua, Sf. Sofia, azi muzeu, si “Albastra”, sunt minunate si cuprinzatoare. Palatele , marete. Topkapi, imens, plin de averi ca si Dolmahbace, majestos, elegant, curat.

Toate orologiile sunt fixate la ora 9:30, timpul zilei cand a murit Kemal Ataturc, fondatorul Turciei moderne, laice. Mi-am amintit, ca de la” Poarta”  (nici azi nu stiu ce Poarta ) au venit Domnii “nostri” fanarioti, dar Fanarul o parte a orasului, nu ne-a interesat.

Bazarul acoperit e o imensitate de coridoare si magazine. Iti iau ochii. Lumina stralucitoare se revarsa peste produsele variate, tentante, frumos randuite. Ne-am oprit si am cumparat rahat, de diferite gusturi, arome si culori. Apoi, “ La botul calului “- statul in picioare si esti servit-ne-am oprit la baclavale. Eram la “ mama lor “. Am cumparat cateva. Cuburi mici in care negustorul a infipt o scobitoare, cateva pe un carton, oferite si cu un servetel. Ieftine si delicioase.

source photography.nationalgeographic.com

Am vizitat subsolul, ca o pivnita enorma a unei cladiri, cu tevi si coloane, apa pe jos, aerul rece. Apartine instalatiilor de aprovizionare cu apa. Ni se spusee ca nu e potabila, si se consuma doar ce minerala.

Limba dificila si desi scrisa cu litere latine, are o pronuntare greoaie pentru noi si am reusit sa tin minte  (imi notasem), cikis= iesire, in afara de cele stiute de acasa: huzur, bacsis,musaca, halva si rahat, pe care le-am mancat la propriu.

Pe o strada de langa port, un magazin cu condimente egiptene si din alte tari musulmane. Nu vazusem, nu invatasem si era doar o curiozitate.

In grupa noastra erau si cateve evreice-egiptene, femei instarite, dupa cumparaturile lor (bijuterii, blanuri, s.a.)    S-a programat o excursie cu vaporul, pe Marea de Marmara, cu o oprire pe Insula Printesei. Ghid, un japonez tanar, vorbitor de franceza, dar cu accentul deosebit. Extrem de serviabil si priceput. Am patruns, coborand din vapor, intr-un mic rai pe pamantul turcesc. Din locuitorii din ceruri, n-am dat de nimeni. Vile, palate,gradini, flori, verdeata, liniste. Nu circula nici un vehicul motorizat. Pentru plimbari, (am facut cu alta pereche) se folosesc trasuri confortabile, trase de doi cai robusti.  Strazi curate,rareori cate un biciclist. Uneori miros de “ produse cabaline” Doar si caii au tub digestiv si aparat urinar.

source europetheeasyway.com

Imi inchipui ca unele sau tot ce scriu sunt cunoscute multora dintre cititori. Pentru ei, ca si pentru mine, e o rememorare a unor zile frumoase , placute si de imbogatire a cunostintelor,  a incantarii ochilor si a destinderii.

Azi, din cauza relatiilor dusmanoase, la capatul opus al celor prietenesti si de colaborare, pana nu de mult, nu imi inchipui ca israelieni evrei, isi fac vacante si cheltuiesc bani in tara cu tendinta islamica anti-israeliana, chiar si  antisemita. Prietenia stransa cu Iranul, Siria, etc. o  arata. Sotia Presedintelui, nu umbla cu capul fara acoperire – fisiu – sau cum se cheama. Legea islamica. Ei  ar vrea sa intre in CE. Dar tari ca Franta, Germania, Anglia,s.a,se opun. Si bine fac. Le ajunge cati au la ele si unde e o problema grea integrarea.

Revenind acasa, ne-am bucurat, am avut de dat jos cateva kg, puse pe noi si multumiti, n-am spus “ hai sictir “.

_________

Dr.G. Manescu

Februarie 2011.

From time to time I am getting back to the kind of books that I loved to read when I was a kid and a teenager, and actually I never stopped loving them. Action books with historic background or even better contemporary adventure books solving enigmas from the past which somehow impact our present. This is a genre which despite the rumors was not invented by Dan Brown (whose books I like very much to the horror of some of my friends) although Brown became kind of the reference for the genre. Even this last book I read has as a banner ‘Berry pulls a Dan Brown, throwing the reader right into the action‘. I guess that when a writer’s name becomes a common name this should be considered a compliment.

source www.bookreporter.com

One can learn about Steve Berry and his books from http://www.steveberry.org/. He is born in 1955, lives in Florida and studied law so no wonder that many of his heroes (as John Grisham’s also a lawyer by formation) come from the same profession. His literary breakthrough came around 2003 and I had read his first novel ‘The Amber Room’ and liked it. ‘The Romanov Prophecy’ is his second.

source georgiacenterforthebook.org

The common thread between the two books is the interest for the 20th century Russian history and especially for the last Czar’s fate and legacy. Steve Berry has done here a good work of documentation, as much of the action is based on the last days of the Czar and of his family, their execution by the Bolsheviks and the legend of the survival of some of the members of the family. Real documents are being brought in the book together with other fictive documents written in the same style. The story is based on a fictive what-if scenario that never happened. Russia tired by the democratic experiments of Yeltsin and Putin votes in a referendum to restore the Czars. A commission is looking for the closest descendants of the Romanov family, and one convenient candidate that would play well in the hands of the Russian mafia, oligarchs and nostalgics of the Communist regime is the favorite. All would play well if a true direct descendant of the last Czar is not found, but of course, things will get much more complicated.

source boston.com

The book was first published in 2004, maybe it was written a few years earlier, and we all know that Russia’s history took a different turn. This does not help with the credibility of the intrigue, one of the required conditions for a successful book in the genre. While having the innocent and unprepared every-day American (you guessed – a lawyer) survive all assassination attempts and fight a small contingent of professional killers is one of the conventions of this kind of books that we learned to live with, there are some other details that are a little bit too round-cornered (for example the absence of mobile phones is not credible in the 2000s of the US and even Russia) and so are the too easy and idealistic references to the Czarist period. “What happened in 1917 was so sad. The country was on the verge of a social renaissance. Poets, writers, painters, playwrights were at their peak. The press was free. Then it all died. Overnight.” says one Russian character (pag. 232).  Well, all died indeed almost overnight, but the situation was far from that ideal even before the Russian Revolution, and any Russian knows it. So, as a reader one needs to accept these historical shortcuts and focus on enjoying the action. The good news is that Steve Berry writes well, builds the tension and keeps the pace as you expect, his characters are maybe not too deep but well sketched and the book is well sized, not too short, not too long so details are not lost. With more luck the future books may go on more credible historic or fantasy paths, so I think that I will give them more chances.

I have seen last Saturday the most recent play brought to stage at the Gesher Theater in Jaffo – Moliere’s Don Juan under the direction of the Bulgarian guest director Alexander Morfov.  Although it does not reach the peak levels I am used to expect from this theater, one of top two ensembles in Israel, it provides for a satisfying theater evening for most of the time.

source www.gesher-theatre.co.il

I knew nothing about Morfov, and the Internet information tells me that he is easily the most recognisable name in contemporary Bulgarian theatre. Fans of the Gesher immediatly will recognize that he comes from the same school of thought as theater leader and artistic director Evgheny Arie. His cut on the French classic text is cinematographic and allows for freedom of creation to gifted actors, while keeping the essence and the main philosophical lines of the play.

source www.gesher-theatre.co.il

The team of talents at Gesher asks nothing but be given such an opportunity. The result is an homogeneous and interesting performance for most of the time, with the theater star Sasha Demidov shining in another of his master roles, one that fits him and allows him to create a Don Juan of his own. The best Don Juan I have ever seen on stage was maybe 40 years ago on the stage of the Comedia Theater in Bucharest. I remember that the director was Dinu Cernescu, I forgot who acted as Don Juan. I am pretty sure that for this performance I will not forget that Sasha Demidov was Don Juan. Dvir Benedek seconds Demidov as Sganarel and it is amazing how this actor finds his potential on this stage after the great performance he gave in Revizor which I wrote about two weeks ago.

source en.wikipedia.org

The only disappointment comes unfortunately in the final scene – the scene that cuts short the path of sin and revolt against God of Don Juan and brings to the audiences his meeting with destiny in the image of the spirit of the Comandore. The stage solution for this scene makes or breaks often the whole performance and defines the work of a great director. I was disappointed by what Morfov created here. Maybe I am spoiled by the fabulous final scene created by Zeffirelli on the stage of the Opera a few years ago and expectations were too high. In any case, this otherwise good performance ended for me in an unexpected low tone key.

For once the Coen brothers played it according to all the rules of commercial cinema, and no wonder they did it as the producer of True Grit is no other than Steven Spielberg. The film went out in time for the Christmas week (in the US) and for the Oscar season, and the result is 10 nominations including the one for the Best Movie, although I am not sure it will eventually get that many (it certainly deserves the one for the cinematography – the camera work is exquisite). It is also probably the most mainstream film the Coen brothers have ever made, so mainstream that I had all over the feeling that a twist in the action may happen, or a there are some hidden underground meanings that I am missing. Yet, the director brothers chose to do a very well made version of a novel adaptation already brought to screen in 1969 by Henry Hathaway with John Wayne in the main role, a classical Western with many moments of good cinema. Not little thing, just less surprising that I would have expected from them.

source www.imdb.com

Much of this story of pursuit and revenge in Texas and the Indian country relies on the actors. Jeff Bridges melts in the role of marshal Cogburn, a drunken but effective and heart-opened man of law. Hailee Steinfeld is the 14 years old girl whose coming into age is destined to be spent searching for justice in Wild West and her role has all the chances to launch a great career. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin act fine in the two supporting roles that fill in the human landscape of the film. They all do a fine job, and some beautifully written dialogs help in the way – watch the one of the bargaining of the young girl with the man that had a dept with her late father and remember it – or maybe you need not as film anthologies will help you do it in case you forget.

(video source ClevverMovies)

As in many classical Westerns the landscape and the rendering of the atmosphere of the wild country in the second half of the 19th century America play a central role. As I already said the camera work is wonderful, and it creates the right setting for this very credible story of human solidarity. I do not like many of the post action epilogues in movies, especially when told with the off screen voice of the heroes quoting from the original book (so it seems) but here it fits movingly, but this is again the combination of the image and words that enhance the human feelings. Surprises may be missing but True Grit is a piece of true (and good) cinema.

I discovered a splendid wine and I would like to share the news with you. After the Litvak Gallery and the Orna Ben Ami art exhibition I wrote about we entered to have lunch at Toto – considered to be one of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv.  The Friday afternoon business menu was up to the expectations, although prices were quite on the upper part of the scale. When we got to selecting the wine the ladies choice was for a Gewurtztraminer. They had the 2007 Yarden brand we had a few weeks ago at another restaurant in Tel Aviv but for 20 shekels more and yet at a ‘reasonable’ (for the location) price of 175 shekels they offered an Alsatian brand. I went for it and I had no reasons of regret.

Zellenberg Gewurtztraminer from Marc Tempe

The place this wonderful Gewurtztraminer comes from is Zellenberg and the name of the winemaker is Marc Tempe. I found some information about him on the Internet at http://www.marctempe.fr/. Zellenberg is located on the Route des Vins which traverses the Alsace from North to South, one kilometer afar from the touristic and picturesque small city of Riquewihr which we had visited a few months ago. The place is perfect for wine making, 300 meters altitude, and a wonderful climate. Marc Tempe comes from a family of wine makers and he started his own vineyard in 1995, adopting a method he calls ‘biodynamics’ which is a variant of organic wine making with no pesticides involved.

vineyards near Zellenberg

Alsatian Gewurztraminer is usually very good, but most of the wines of the type light and witty. The Zellenberg brand is much deeper, the color goes to amber and it has a sweetness which reminds the Grasa de Cotnari without becoming heavy. It’s a wonderful experience and I recommend it warmly. Marc Tempe also does other sorts of wine – Pinot Gris, Riesling and more – worth looking for this brand. If they come even closer to the 2006 Gewurtztraminer they are excellent.

In the hallway of the building which hosts the Litvak Gallery part of the space is used for other exhibitions which can be seen as introducing the visitor into the art shows atmosphere. These are free, so even if you do not want to pay or you cannot allow the relatively high entry price to the Chihuly glass exhibition for example you can still enjoy the art exposed here.

Together

The current exhibition there belongs to artist Orna Ben Ami, who makes iron sculptures. If there is something different or even opposite to glass as art material it’s iron the the counterpoint is extreme. About Orna we ca learn something from her Web site at  http://www.ornabenami.com/default-en.aspx. She must be in her 50s, studied History and Political Sciences at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and seems to have gotten to art quite late, while living in the US

Memories

If the material is hard to master, her style is unexpectedly light, humorous, familiar. The objects are big and the material may be intimidating, but you can imagine very easily the same works at smaller dimensions or different media.

Roots

There is irony and tenderness in works like ‘Together’ or ‘The Rag Doll’ …

Rag Doll

… social commentaries in ‘Memories’ or ‘The Chairman’ …

The Chairman

… and deeper meanings in a piece like ‘Roots’.

In her work Orna Ben Ami succeeds to make a presumably hostile material close to our souls and capable or creating emotion. No easy task, but she succeeds, and what can an artist ask more?