Archive for January, 2012

I know that the program of the opera season must be established years in advance, so it must be a happy coincidence to see ‘The Rise and the Fall of the City of Mahagonny’ set in Tel Aviv at the New Israeli Opera in an original staging directed by Omri Nitzan, one of the best directors of classical theater in Israel, and also the author of several successful performances on the stage of the local opera. The subject of the libretto written by Bertoldt Brecht with its strong anti-Capitalist message sounds more than actual after the summer of the tents and of social discontent that crossed Europe and the whole world and did not spare Israel either.




Yes, the text is more actual than ever in 2011 and 2012, but for me it receives a double significance here in Israel, which it seems to me did not escape director Nitzan, as the motto about the city of Mahagonny existing because the evils of the world around applies up to a certain point to the country we live in. The merge of music, danse, theater and cabaret that is specific to the works of Brecht and Weil create the premises of modern and attractive show, and the staging in Tel Aviv was up to the expectations.


(video source OperaOfTheYear)


Israel is not the only opera house which found fit to stage Brecht and Weil’s work this year, here is a promo of the version which was broadcast by Mezzo – and also entered the contest of the best operas of 2011 in Europe – put on stage at the Royal Theatre in Madrid.


(video source chocolateheroine)


On the lighter side, here is a version of one of the best known songs in the opera – ‘Alabama Song’ sung by … David Bowie


(video source IsraeliOpera)


Here are conductor David Stern and director Omri Nitzan talking about the work and the production. Director Nitzan added to the melting pot of arts that is ‘Mahagonny’ cinema and television, and this worked well and gave a dynamic and contemporary touch to the whole screening. The NIO version of the City of Mahagonny is a City of Sin that can blossom in any Capitalist desert. German singer Wolfgang Schwaninger and Swiss soprano Neomi Nedelman gave good performances in the principal roles, and David Stern directed the orchestra in a way that was both exact and fun. The side turn taken by the Israeli Opera relative aside from its classical repertoire was successful.

Late Bloomers is about aging, about coping with growing old, about getting close to the Big Six-Zero. I confess being in love with Isabella Rossellini since I realized that Ingrid Bergman had a daughter, and seeing this film I just realized that this story about people getting close to 60 and having a hard time accommodating this reality speaks to me a lot because I am also getting close to 60. So is my liking this film also a sign of age? Maybe, but then my favorite actress and his wonderful partner in this film William Hurt are also part of the same generation as I am, so we are all aging beautifully and making fun by making movies or watching movies about getting close to 60. Life is good!




There is a wonderful scene in this film that resumes it all and explains why the film works. The two heroes (he is a formerly famous architect, she is a formerly dedicated wife) decided to separate temporary as part of the aging crisis. They meet at the opening of the art exhibition of their younger son, one of these noisy events taking place in an over-crowded gallery with loud music that kills the reality of sounds and light effects that distorts the reality of visuals. They are far away, they can hardly see each other, they can hear nothing because of the loud music. They need not any of these, as with their looking into each other eyes and a few gestures they can tell each other what happened in the weeks or maybe months since they had separated. These weeks and months are nothing compared to the more than thirty years spent together, and no separation can cancel their love, and no words are needed to communicate.


(video source gaumont)


Of course, the scene relies on the wonderful acting talents of Rossellini and Hurt. So does the whole film. Director Julie Gavras (yes, the daughter of …) received in her hands a script that has a very Woody Allen look, with just an extra touch of sweetness or less cynicism. She decided to put apart or minimize many of the side themes or characters (like the dilemma of the architect faced with a project which maybe exceeds his own capabilities, the agonizing of the three grown-up children of the couple faced with the risk of their parents separating after a life spent together, or the secondary romantic stories which are neglected to the point of making the two characters who enter in relationships with the heroes just pawns in the action) and focus on the coming to the third age story, with all its sweet and bitter consequences. The result is pretty charming, and this is due mainly to the superb acting and to the very inspired music score. Late Bloomers is not a masterpiece, but a minor movie that succeeds to generate genuine emotion, and not only make the audience feel good. Almost unknown to the audiences, hardly distributed, ignored by critics (only five IMDB reviews one year almost after the first screenings at the Berlin Festival!) this may prove to be one of the best ignored films of 2012.

We spent the morning yesterday at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. The focus was on the two exhibitions of photography that are scheduled to close this weekend, we visited a few more, actually all had photography as their only or principal means of expression.


(video source ScottishParl)


World Press Photo is a foundation that supports high quality photo-journalism and documentary photography. It organizes each year a contest where the best photos published in the press are being gathered and get recognition through prizes which are probably the most important in photo-journalism. The exhibitions with the best photographs of the year are organized world-wide.




The show in Tel Aviv presented exhibition 2011 – the winners and their works can be seen at The photography of the year was the portrait of the young Afghan woman Bibi Aisha disfigured as a punishment by the Taliban for fleeing he husband’s house after being subjected to a forced marriage, photo taken by the South African Jodi Bieber for the cover of TIME Magazine. An interview with the photographer can be read at




I was impressed by the striking picture which got the first prize in the Nature category, took by Thomas Peschak a contributing photographer to National Geographic representing a Cape gannet landing during the nesting season.




The majority of the photos in the exhibition present a distressing view of a world full of violence, conflicts, natural catastrophies than men are unable to cope with, or made worse by human. I have chosen to show here a less graphic picture (there are pleny of those, you can see them on the Web site) by extremely expressive taken by the Italian photographer Ivo Saglietti which gethers the attention of the viewer on human grief.


source Shmuel Lesched


The World Press 2011 exhibition is joined in the same pavilion by the Israeli replica Local Testimony 2011 (see also which shows the best journalism and documentary photos taken in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The reality shown here is complex and violent, full of conflicts and oddities. Have a look on the Web site! I have chosen a photo by  Lior  Patel whose Web page can be accessed at It shows a character and tells a story which I believe is so significant for the place where we live. The man in the photo is Shmuel Lesched, he is a Holocaust survivor aged 100, who callks himself Der MusikClown, making a precarious living on the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv.




A Yemenite Portrait is another exhibition which opened recently, telling a different type of story. It gathers photographs (some of striking quality and expressiveness) and documentary material from the history of the Yemenite Jews, telling the story of a community which started to return to the land of Israel at the end of the 19th century, but also of the relation with the more majority (then) Jewish community of immigrants from Europe who were also the photographers who took most of the pictures.

More information and reviews of the exhibition can be found at




Aproximately in the same period were taken most of the photos in the exhibition named Images from the Land of the Bible The photographers where the Christian inhabitants of the American Colony, the photos where taken between 1898 and 1935, and many of them ended  in the US Library of Congress as one of the latest photographers took them to the US at the end of the 30s. The technique is colored printings of the originally black-and-white photos, and they present a different angle then the pictures taken by the Jewish inhabitants of the same period which focused on the life of the Jewish settlers working and fighting to turn the Zionist dream into reality. The American Colony photographers took mostly pictures of the Arab inhabitants, with an idealistic view that projected their way of life against the Biblical landscape. As the Yemenite portraits exhibit this was another variant of the Orientalistic approach.




The last exhibition we saw yesterday was ATA – Factory, Fashion and Dream which introduces the visitors into the history of one of the factories that marked the industrial development of Jewish Palestine and later Israel in the first decades of its existence. Founded by the Czech Jewish family Moller in the 30s, ATA was in its half century of existence a model of Zionist entrepreneurship, of early Israel development, capitalist accumulation and work conflicts, symbol of local and international fashion. By the mid 80s the realities of the fast progressing modern industry pushed ATA as the whole textile industry in crisis. I remember (this was in our first years in Israel) the protests, the dismay, the way it ended. One of the Israeli legends.

The 4th concert of the Hot Jazz series at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art played on much more traditional ground than the previous concerts, bringing on stage a couple of well known and experienced American instrumentalists – saxophonist Jesse Davis and drummer Victor Lewis.  The concert itself was a homage to another two musicians of the previous generation – Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Stitt. Let me start with a few information about these two, and of course, some of their music. The style both excelled in was hard bop which can be considered as an evolution of bebop enriched by influences of blues, soul and R&B.

(video source JazzVideoGuy)


Florida-born saxophonist Cannonball Adderley played with John Coltrane and Miles Davis in the late 50s, and then he formed his own group which experimented with the new forms of expression on the roads opened by free jazz. His most famous tune is probably Mercy, mercy, mercy composed together with Joe Zawinul who played in his band. Here is an interview from 1958 where Cannonball talks about Charlie Parker and plays “Tribute to Monk” and “Jeannie” together with Nat Adderley at trumpet, Jimmy Cleveland at trombone, Mundell Lowe at guitar and Billy Taylor at piano.


(video source zemry)


Sonny Stitt (also a saxophonist) was born in Boston and is considered to be the greatest disciple of Charlie Parker and himself a fine performer of blues and ballads. Above you can hear him together withJJ Johnson and H. McGhee, playing Charlie Parker’s composition  ‘Now’s the Time’.


(video source ducdeslombards75)


It took me less than 30 seconds to fall under the charm of Jesse Davis. He is born in New Orleans and seems to have in his blood the rhythm and joy of playing of the jazzmen in the city of jazz. Here he is playing a couple of years ago with the Leo Parker Quartet at the Duc des Lombards jazz club in Paris, near the George Pompidou Center (yes, I was there last June, this is where I have seen and heard David Reinhardt – OMG, Wynton Marsalis is playing tonight there, Captain Picard, where is that transporter!!).


(video source hkhakase)


I think that Victor Lewis is not for the first time in Israel, but I may be mistaken. Born in 1950 he is one of these drummers who understands well tradition and adds both rhythm and musical substance to the bands he is playing with. Above he is engaging in one of these solos that make you understand the real place of a good drummer in a jazz performance. He engaged in a few of those last Friday.



The performance last Friday was built of two sets of four ample pieces each, most compositions and music played by Adderley and Stitt, but also one (excellent) piece composed by Victor Lewis. It is always interesting to see musicians from abroad and especially experienced musicians coming from the American schools of jazz working with young Israeli musicians. In these case Lewis and Davis were complemented by Gilad Abro at contra-bass who succeed in a few solos to raise at the level of his American partners on the stage in Tel Aviv. I was less impressed by New York based Jonathan Riklis. Overall it was a solid and well balanced evening of jazz.

At last I succeeded to get to Jerusalem and visit the exhibition I have already read so much about, witnessed so many discussions and disputes, and even written about its catalog, or better say the catalog of the first staging of the exhibition at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. Now it is the turn of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to host the exhibition, named here Jewish Avant-Garde Artists from Romania, which is open until April.




All the disputes set aside, the works in the exhibition make a strong and credible case about the role of the Jewish artists from Romania in the Avant-Garde movements of the first half of the 20th century. The three exhibition halls include enough solid pieces of art that bear witness about the quality of the artists and their perfect integration with all the main streams of the period including post-Impressionsm, Dadaism, cubism, expressionism, surrealism. This exhibition does not need to demonstrate influences, it actually proves that the Jewish artists from Romania were a significant part of the revolution in art that was happening and that especially in the 20s Bucharest was one of the principal centers of the avant-garde.

The visitors need to pay attention where they start their tour, as the main entry of the exhibition seems to be in the second hall. Actually it is the first hall with the the poster and newpapers poll and the window including some of the representative journals of the Romania avant-garde where the journey starts. Unfortunately there are too little background explanations and most of the visitors of the exhibition may be quite uninformed about the history of Romania (as were a group of three younger folks I met there who were wondering when was Romania occupied by the Nazis). The informative timeline in the catalog would have been so useful.

Arthur Segal‘s works are presented in the first room. I would not really include Segal in the avant-garde, as he belongs to an older generation, but his works connect to some of the important trends of the beginning of the century like post-Impressionism and Pointillism.  Woman Reading is one of the best examples. His work and teaching influenced some of the artists of the next generation.




The Dada moment is amply represented in the exhibition with documents and works of Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco (Iancu) that include the ball scenes at the Cabaret Voltaire (which I like a lot) and some of the masks created for the theater there that remind and connect to the curiosity of the artists of the period for ‘primitive’ art and its different forms of expressions (we find works with similar themes at Brancusi and Modigliani realized at about the same time or a couple of years earlier).




As I was guessing from the catalog, the revelation of the exhibition are the works of M.H. Maxy (above you can see Nude with Veil). His Cubist paintings from the 20s show a strong and original artist, exuberant in colors and sure on his means, exploring and breaking the reality in pieces to mend it back into sophisticated mosaics of geometric forms and striking colors. The fate of this artist invites to a reflection about how artists make compromises and bend under the hard times. His deplorable work made in the 60s when he tries to reconnect with the revolutionary art he was part of 40 years before but cannot exceed the limitations of his own compromises with the ‘Socialist Realism’ makes the strong backwards point of reference.



The same second room includes several of the early works (from the 1920s) of Victor Brauner. A few double side painted canvases draw the attention, as well a few works brought from the Eco-Museum Research Institute in Tulcea (city located the Western edge of the Danube Delta). I wonder how these paintings got there, this may be an interesting story. I was a bit disappointed to see none of the major works of Brauner from his Surrealist period included in the exhibition.




Another artist who compromised with times and had his own period of abandoning revolution in art for the mirages of the Communist revolution was Jules Perahim. He is present is Jerusalem with a few works from his young days (including  Organic Lanscape) in the third and last room which is largely dedicated to younger generation of Jewish artists who appeared in the 30s to be brought down by the persecutions of the World War to re-surge shortly in the mid 40s just to be buried back by the Communist taking over Romania. That was the end of the Avant-Garde, and the Jewish artists made no exception although the personal destinies of the artists in the exhibition were quite different.  Janco came to Israel in 1941, at the time of the darkest period in the history of Romania and of the Jewish community, to become a leader of school in the Israeli painting and head of the artists community in Ein Hod. Tzara and Victor Brauner were living for decades in Europe and never returned to Romania. Maxy and Jules Perahim stayed in Romania (Perahim emigrated later) and compromised in order to survive as artists. The pages in the history of the European art that include the contributions of the Jewish artists from Romania were closed, but their work survives and this exhibition is a proof of their quality and importance.



I sat to watch Super 8 with the expectation of seeing  the science-fiction / fantasy film of the year. The director is after all J.J. Abrams, the director of the last Star Trek and the producer of my previous favorite science-fiction series Lost and of my current favorite Fringe.  No other than Steven Spielberg is the producer and rumors have that he had quite an active part in this production. And yet I was disappointed.




Super 8 has a very spielbergian look, colors and cinematography-like. It is set in 1979, at the same period when Spielberg’s great science-fiction films were made. Kids are in the center of the action, and Spielberg likes and knows to make movies and maybe understands better kids than women for example. The first 15-20 minutes when we get to know the heroes are pure fun, as a gang of kids get together to make a film, kind of an homage to the films noirs of the 40s – all is fine as in a good Spielberg film. But, hey, wait a moment, this is a J.J. Abrams film, isn’t it? And actually trouble starts exactly when the aliens and the rest of the grown-ups world interfere. I mean trouble for the heroes, but also or merely for the film.


(video source movingpicturesnet)


Here is the problem of this film as I see it. There are too many Spielberg ideas here, and too little of J.J. Abrams. It looks like the master threw a basket of ideas, many ideas, good ideas, and the apprentice did not really succeed in putting them together in a convincing one story line. There are too many quotes in this film, from Humphrey Bogart passing through the special effects a la 50s and reaching to E.T. Many pieces of magic, a few scenes to remember, but here I am a few weeks after I saw the film and I cannot remember well the story line, which means that it did not really matter. Many people will like the film, and I also liked the passion for cinema and for alien encounters, but the overall impression is of a collection of beautiful scenes wrapped in a conventional and unconvincing story. A miss, maybe a miss to remember, but still a miss.


I confess that I do not like at all Angelina Jolie. As an actress she does not seem to me to have done anything that uses more her acting talent than her looks, and her looks … well, she is not my genre and I am probably not her genre, and I cannot care less about her romance with Brad or about their adopted children. On the other hands I deeply admire Johnny Depp, he made me watch even the pirates movies, and he is one of these actors who in my view cannot do wrong. So, I took a risk and pressed the Record button on the cable channel to record The Tourist and then the Play one to see it. Why? Maybe it was the name of the director who made me decide – it’s Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and in case you believe it’s a long German name just go to IMDb to see what his full name is – and the reason is that in his not too long record there is one of the best films in the history of post-Communist era films about Eastern Europe – The Lives of Others.




The Tourist can not only be made by another director than The Lives of Others but could actually be produced on another planet. It’s a tourist trap, and I fell into it semi-willingly. It’s yet another thriller about hidden identities, with a story which starts in Paris to be continued in Venice via a high speed train, with much too many quotes from Hitchcock and his followers and too little real thrill and emotion. The bad guys look so cartoon-like that we feel no joy or sorrow when they are taken down in a few seconds.


(video start ClevverMovies)


Would I recommend this film? Do I consider it completely wasted time? None of these actually. Angelina Jolie acts as I expected, in other words as a beautifully-shaped wooden doll. Depp is not at his best, seems slightly amused to be in the film, but at the end of the day he succeeds to save the film from total loss.  Story is not that bad and the cinematography and setting are good enough to allow for this film to be called fair entertainment. Not my first choice or recommendation, but neither a film to avoid.


Al doilea episod din amintirile de calatorie ale lui Gica Manescu in Italia este dedicat Venetiei. Intamplator tocmai am vazut un film al carui actiune se petrece aproape in intregime in orasul gondolelor si al carnavalului (si al festivalului de film), voi posta cronica lui probabil maine.


Am  gasit zilele trecute la ARTE un documentar scurt despre Piata San Marco si persoanele intalnite acolo. Cum fusesem in  decursul anilor trecuti de trei ori in orasul din Laguna  Adriaticei am scos amintirile din minte si vi le redau.

Nu mi-am propus decat sa descriu unele aspecte si impresii care m-au miscat si mi-au atins  mintea si sufletul. Istorie si geografie fac altii mai bine decat mine.

Noutatea a fost ca n-am mai avut bataia de cap sa schimb, in minte bine inteles, preturile din lire, in shekeli sau $.Totul era in Euro, dar in unele locuri se mai afisau preturile vechi in lire.

Apa lagunei tot tulbure, vaporetti si barci cu motor – taxiuri strabat canalele in toate sensurile, iar gondolele legate de debarcader, leganandu-se, asteapta clientii sau lento, lento, strabat  canalele.




E  singurul oras din lume unde exista profesiunea de gondolier, chiar si prin mostenire.

De turisti n-­am ce spune. Intr-o localitate cu ceva mai mult de 400.000 locuitori, intra si se perinda in fiecare luna, cam doua milioane de turisti. Din toata lumea si e o incalceala de limbi  ca la Turnul Babel.




Calugarite si elevi italieni cu ghizi, nemti, japonezi marunti, dar de o mobilitate desebita, cu aparatele foto in actiune permanenta si  rapida. N-au lipsit, ca pretutindeni, isralienii. I-am  intalnit grupati, in fostul ghetou si la sinagoga veche, cladire de muzeu. Alaturi este un  camin al Comunitatii evreesti venetiene, pentru cei  batrani.

Curios mi s-a parut si nu am stiut, ca e  un  oras cu multe biserici renumite si un cult pentru sfinti. Am gasit strazi si statii de vaporetti, cu numele lui San…

Locul de “adunare” e Piazza San Marco. E  singura cu aceasta denumire, altele sunt “Campo“. Acolo se nasc si cresc mii de porumbei. Am  vazut un  fotograf, care de 40 ani isi face meseria si are un porumbel  de care nu se desparte si pasarea il  recunoaste.

Oboseala turistilor e potolita, prin pauzele sezande pe podetele stivuite, folosite la inundatiile dupa ploi.

Vanzatoarea de seminte pentru pasari, nu pridideste cu ambalarea si vanzarea lor.




Aceasta Piata lunga de 170 m si larga intre 56  – 82 m. este locul cafenelelor cu sau fara formatii muzicale – Florian in frunte – a magazinelor deosebite si a fost in  trecut locul activitatilor politice sau religioase, fiind flancata de Bazilica San Marco din 1094  si Palatul Dogilor.




In Bazilica, cu o taxa mica, se poate admira “Altarul de aur“ o capodopera artistico-religioasa din sec. 14.




Mi s-a recomandat sa vizitez biserica San Zaccaria, unde o pictura din 1505 a  necunoscutului mie, Giovanni Bellini,  reprezinta pe “Maica Domnului cu pruncul in brate”. Mama cu o privire deosebita spre prunc si admiratoarele din jur.




Peste drum  de statia fluviala, pe  bratul opus al Canalului Grande este  mareata Bazilica Santa Maria della Salute ‚ a sanatatii. Cu constructia octogonala, din marmora alba, cu sute de simboluri ale Mariei, e o perla arhitectonica, de admirat.

Un pod e la dispozitia pietonilor.

Palatul dogilor, maiestuos, estre vizitat de sute de oameni pe zi.

Adoptand tehnica moderna, are un lift care ne urca pana la etajul 4, coborarea pe scari, e mai usoara.

Patrunderea in salile uriase, impresionante prin picturile si tavanele aurite te aduc parca in alte locuri. De-a lungul peretilor banci din lemn  lustruit te invita sa te asezi  pentru odihna si meditare.


Sunt in deosebi de admirat cele doua picturi, semnate de Tintoretto in sec.16 – „Judecata de apoi”. Pacat ca lumina zilei patrunde greu si sursele de lumina artificiala sunt insuficiente.

Daca este un motiv  sa fie asa, nu stiu.

Piese de mobilier nu exista, lasandu-i–se fiecaruia libertatea de imaginatie.




Prin culoare si coridoare inguste, se ajunge la usa “Puntii suspinelor” prin care comdamnatii intrau in drumul  fara intoarcere.




Podul  Rialto, construit intre 1588 – 1591, la o parte ingusta a Canalului Grande,  facea o legatura intre partile componente ale orasului si e loc de activitati diverse.

Nu ma interesau si alta data nu am dat atentie, magazinelor cu papusi, masti si tot felul de accesorii de Carnaval,  care are loc in februarie. Preturile sunt piperate,  lucrari de arta si probabil, clientii sunt turistii straini.

In urma cu ani nu tineam seama unde urc sau cobor si peste cate podete ale canalelor, paseam.   Data asta, s–au mai adaugat niste ani in carca  si am numarat. O  idee anormala. Au fost 400 de poduri, totalizand 150 de trepte. Sunt  sigur ca am mai  gresit.

Acum, prin usoarea febra musculara a gambelor, le-am simtit existenta,  dar nu ne-am dat batuti.

A venit si ziua plecarii. Vremea ne-a favorizat . Programul comod, si nu am repetat ce stiam si vizitasem anterior, cum sunt insulele Murano, cu productia de obiecte din sticla,  de o varietate incomensurabila si  Burano, cea cu dantelariile si ale carei case multi colorate  sunt asemeni cuburilor de joaca.

Am ajuns in  25  minute la aeroport, convinsi ca soferul taxiului acvatic,  impertinent dar cotcar, ne-a ridicat pretul. Am inghitit galusca, in tacere.

Cu o aterizare de o ora la Viena, austriecii ne-au adus la Ben Gurion.  Eram  acasa.


2012 is an electoral year in the United States, and every electoral year is preceded by a few months by the electoral films year. It must be a few months in advance which makes the electoral films year be a little different than the calendar year, but, hey, we do have the financial year, not to speak about various religious years and all are different. There are at least two good reasons for the electoral films year being different than the calendar year – the Oscars season, of course, and the fact than by June or September the real thing becomes too interesting for the Americans to care about movies any longer. So the time to watch electoral movies is about now, and The Ides of March is probably the first significant movie of electoral films year 2012.




George Clooney is again here in front of the cameras as democratic presidential candidate governor Morris and behind the cameras as the director of Ides of March. I liked his work in Good Night, and Good Luck and I liked it here again. He has a precise hand, a good cinematographic feel, is inspired in casting and directs well his actors. However the show is completely stolen by Ryan Gosling, the actor who seems to dominate the season and is better and better each film I see him in. In a focused performance Gosling succeeds to bring to screen the vision, the hope, the doubts, the ambitions of political manager Stephen Meyers who in a matter of a few campaign days apparently makes the transition from idealism to real-politik campaigner and has to decide on the delicate balance between personal truth and the greater goals of politics. Philip Seymour Hoffman who has disappeared from my radar screen after a few great roles is back with a key role in the story, Marisa Tomei has a smaller role than I would have liked but it’s always a pleasure to see her, Paul Giamatti and Evan Rachel Wood are fine in a balanced and well directed cast. The Ides of March works well without being astonishing.


(video source trailers)


Passionates of the genre and of American politics, George Clooney and Ryan Gosling’s fans will all love the film. The rest of us can watch it as a reasonably well made and well acted political thriller, and as a story of political coming-to-age in today’s American system, as well as an undeniable sign that the electoral films year has really started. There is one story line which seemed all by neglected to me and this is the personal tragedy of the young intern which is just a pretext in the development of the drama of the main characters. For once I think that what this movie lacks is a small dose of melodrama.


I seldom find myself in such a deep disagreement with the rating of the viewers at IMDB as with the documentary Love, Janis directed by Ray Muller (BTW, I would love to see his two documentaries on Leni Riefenstahl). Of course, seven viewers votes is not a  good statistic sample, but then only an average of 5 for an almost perfect documentary on one of the greatest artists in the history of blues, the woman and the voice who changed the perception of people and audiences about who can sing the blues. Then I looked at the age information and I realized than only one of the seven voters was in the 45+ category, in other words he was five years old at least when Janis died. Yes, a two generations gap makes the difference. And yet …




Love, Janis is inspired by the biographical book with the same name (including also Janis’ letters to her family) written by her sister who is also interviewed in the film. In 50 minutes director Muller succeeds to bring the essential information about the young girl from Port Arthur, Texas, who rebelled against the environment and the mentality, discovered her immense talent, ran away to San Francisco, landed there at the pick of the beat and hippie revolutions, made her way in the music industry and conquered the picks of the tops and love of the audiences, fought the daemons of loneliness and personal crises, and eventually succumbed to an overdose of drugs and alcohol just when it looked like her career was getting back on track. Interviews with people like Dave Getz and Sam Andrew (who played with her in The Big Brother and Holding Company), photographer Bob Seidemann (who took her famous nude photographs), John B. Cooke her tour manager (who at that time was also working with Bob Dylan), and music critic Joel Selvin throw light on various moments of her life and career, and bring back with admiration and affection the image of a girl, a woman who lived and created with a rare intensity. The best way to describe her life and art is to say that she burned like a flame, consumed way too early. The only critic I can bring to the film is that there is too little music, but we do have other films, recordings and youTube for this.


(video source bsubejo)


Here is caught on screen (and the documentary tells something about the story of the filming) the moment of the first breakthrough of her career – the festival at Monterey in 1967. The song is Balls and Chains – try to overcome the sound problems at the beginning.


(video source Sincro)


This version of Piece of My Heart (originally recorded by Erma Franklin in 1968) is quite far from the best known version of the song, and this live feature which must be from 1968 does not have the best sound, but I prefer it as it shows Janis on stage, giving all she had to her audience.


(video source arkenciel2z)


The social component was very much part of her singing. It is more than visible in her famous a capella – the jewel called Mercedes Benz.

(video source MantasiaHater)


1969 was a year of changes, ups and down. Janis was at Woodstock (here she is singing Try) but was not at her best. We could not have imagined however the pick moment of the rock revolution without her presence.


(video source korkhammaregon)


The tour in Europe the same year was however a great success. She conquered the UK and other European audiences. Here she is performing George Gershwin’s Summertime in Sweden.


(video source warholrock93)


1970 started in crisis but later in the year she was recovering and she recorded Pearl. The destiny decided that she did not live to see it released and become her most successful album ever. There could be no better ending for the film than the sounds of Me and Bobby McGee written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster.