Archive for April, 2014

‘Aceasta carte n-a fost scrisa pentru romani. A fost scrisa pentru occidentali, care, in general – chiar in sferele cele mai culte -, nu stiu aproape nimic despre trecutul tarii noastre.’ (pag. 7)

Aceasta fraza cu care incepe prefata la cea mai recenta editie (a VIII-a, ilustrata) in limba romana a cartii lui Neagu Djuvara ‘Intre Orient si Occident – Tarile romane la inceputul epocii moderne (1800 – 1848)’ tradusa din franceza de Maria Carpov si aparuta in 2013 la Editura Humanitas este o foarte necesara punere in context. Este si o explicatie despre structura cartii care evita abordarea cronologica si didactica universitara, desi face recurs si transmite o bogatie de informatii – insa aici as dori sa inserez una dintre putinele obiectiuni care mi-au trecut prin gand in timpul lecturii. O cronologie mai detaliata decat cea (si ea partiala) furnizata in anexe ar fi fost extrem de utila. Chiar si unui cititor relativ familiar cu istoria tarilor romanesti  ceva mai multe informatii biografice despre succesiunea de domnitori care s-au perindat pe tronurile Valahiei si Moldovei ar fi fost cred utila, si la fel o cronologie a evenimentelor importante din Europa acelor timpuri, sau macar a razboaielor ruso-turcesti a caror actiune s-a desfasurat in mare parte pe teritoriul tarilor romanesti si le-au influentat soarta. Merita cred mentionat de asemenea ca acest volum – dintre cele mai importante din bibliografia de istoric a lui Neagu Djuvara – a fost scris in perioada exilului, si deci se bazeaza pe documente din arhivele si bibliotecile straine – un avantaj si totodata un handicap fata de cercetatorii din Romania acelor vremuri, si (inca) o explicatie a originalitatii si diferentelor de perspective.

Cartea incepe si se incheie cu doua capitole care se aproprie de genul istoriografiei clasice. In primul este descrisa perioada de inceput a domniilor fanariote dupa sfarsitul tragic al incercarilor de desprindere de sub influenta otomana a lui Dimitrie Cantemir si Constantin Brancoveanu. In final va fi descrisa perioada de tranzitie care incepe cu un secol mai tarziu, in care este eliminata mai intai influenta fanariota, apar Regulamentele Organice si se formeaza si isi incepe cariera generatia care avea sa conduca revolutia de la 1848 si apoi sa duca la unirea principatelor, crearea statului national si intrarea Romaniei in modernitate. Intre aceste prim si ultime capitole organizarea informatiei este diferita – este descrisa piramida sociala care ii avea in frunte pe Domnitori, urmati de Boieri, Biserica, Oras, Tarani. Un capitol special este dedicat Tiganilor si aceasta decizie mi se pare complet justificata deoarece Romania si alte tari ale Europei i-au separat pe acestia intr-o clasa complet distincta si i-au tinut in robie in conditii economice si sociale diferite (si net dezavantajoase) fata de cele mai sarace paturi ale ‘pamantenilor’.

Cateva cuvinte despre stil. In multe momente – si sper ca aceasta comparatie imi va fi luata in sens pozitiv – cartea lui Neagu Djuvara mi-a amintit de ‘Princepele’ lui Eugen Barbu. Isi mai aminteste cineva despre scandalul monstru starnit in lumea literara romaneasca a anilor 70 de publicarea romanului – care apoi avea sa fie deconspirat de Fanus Neagu si de altii ca fiind in mare parte un maret colaj de texte istorice foarte putin prelucrate? Nu stiu cati din cei care isi amintesc au si citit cartea, eu am citit-o si pot depune marturie ca a fost o lectura plina de farmec, caci Eugen Barbu era si un stilist de calitate si stapanea si arta colajului literar. Pacatul lui (in acest caz) a fost ca nu a dezvaluit tehnica. Ei bine – si cartea lui Djuvara citeaza copios dar o face desigur cu rigoarea si integritatea istoricului de profesie, si anexa de NOTE merita sa fie citita in sine pentru bogatia de informatii suplimentare pe care le aduce. Cand adauga comentarii ale sale Djuvara o face cu iscusinta si uneori cu pasiune, si cateva din fragmentele din carte par a fi in continuarea directa a scriselor marilor nostri cronicari:

‘Cu umilinta si patima, cu pensula lui neindemanatica, pe scandura sau pe tencuiala proaspata de pe peretii afumati ai bisericilor, pictorul de icoane povestea, dupa canoane, istoria sfanta. Bucuria lumina rareori chipul sfintilor, caci viata este suferinta. Imaginea nu se dorea frumoasa: nu voia sa fie decat invatatura pioasa, rugaciune muta, marturie limpede a Adevarului. Dar, cateodata, din mila Cerului, icoana era daruita, pe deasupra, si cu frumusete.’ (pag. 181)

 

sursa www.elefant.ro

sursa www.elefant.ro

 

Djuvara foloseste cu iscusinta dar si cu masura talentul de povestitor si anectodica atunci cand considera ca acestea isi au locul firesc in a explica si a da culoare relatarii istorice. Capitolul despre ‘Tigani’ de exemplu cuprinde cateva asemenea povestiri – sa le zicem romantic-orientaliste – care isi gasesc loc firesc in logica scrierii.

Desi scrie despre o perioada care se intinde in cea mai mare parte a secolului 18 si prima jumatate a secolului 19, Neagu Djuvara vorbeste mult despre contemporaneitate, fara a o face mai niciodata in mod explicit. Intre Orient si Occident se afla nu numai principatele romane care isi pierdusera in secolul al 18-lea dreptul de a alege domni pamanteni, ci si Romania din totdeauna si o buna parte din Europa. Frontiera intre imperiile de rasarit – cel turcesc si cel tarist – si Europa regilor catolici si a Reformei este vazuta de istoric ca o prima Cortina de Fier si una dintre sursele diferentelor in organizare politica, economie, cultura si mentalitate care dainuie pana astazi. Metehnele politice si de comportament ale Romaniei de astazi isi au originea in mare parte in regimul corupt si aviditatea claselor de sus (straine si autohtone) din perioada fanariota.

‘Din doi in doi ani, cel mult la trei ani, Poarta ii da un nou domnitor; acesta, secatuit de cheltuielile facute ca sa-si tina rangul si de pretul dat pentru scaun, pe care nu-l poate avea decat platindu-l, vine in aceasta provincie nu doar ca sa domneasca, sa-si plateasca datoriile si sa adune alta avere, ci si ca sa-si imbogateasca neamurile, prietenii si pe toti cei ce-l slujesc.

Asadar, din trei in trei ani, o noua legiune de astfel de vampiri ajunge in Moldova, saraci cu totii, amariti, si din trei in trei ani, pleaca de aici incarcati de aur si de bunuri, lasand dupa ei doar amintirea necazurilor si gustul pentru o nepotolita lacomie pe care vrednicii lor urmasi o vor arata negresit. ‘ (pag. 39)

Desi din context judecata paturii fanariotilor este aspra, Djuvara da cuvantul si unor opinii alternative. Dependenta fata Inalta Poarta era un fapt inca inainte de curmarea domniilor principilor pamanteni. Unii dintre fanarioti au adus cu ei o cultura rafinata care imbina orientalismul cu traditia greceasca si cu legaturi pana la sincronicitate cu gandirea occidentala a vremurilor. Cativa dintre ei au introdus reforme care au imbunatatit (local, temporar, limitat) starea claselor de jos. In ansamblu insa fanariotismul a fost o frana in evolutia istorica si un moment de ruptura si izolare fata de pregatirea ideologica si izbucnirea pe strazi a revolutiei burgheze de la sfarsitul secolului 18.Rezultatul este un moment de abis in nivelul de trai al majoritatii populatiei din clasele putin privilegiate, o intarziere care avea sa se perpetueze pana in a doua jumatate a secolului 19 in crearea unor clase autohtone de meseriasi si a unei burghezii industriale si financiare stabile, precum si depopularea tarilor romanesti (aspect care mie imi era necunoscut) in pofida unui influx permanent de exilati dintre romanii de dincolo de munti si dupa caderea rasaritului Moldovei sub stapanire rusa si de dincolo de Prut.

 

sursa www.badpolitics.ro

sursa www.badpolitics.ro

 

Nu neaparat structura sociala si de proprietate este pusa pe banca acuzarii ci mai degraba moravurile aduse de fanarioti si preluate si de boierimea locala:

‘Se vede deci foarte limpede din toate aceste exemple, ca nenorocirea taranului roman nu se trage numai de la un regim funciar nedrept – dimpotriva, acest regim era, de foarte departe, cel mai liberal din toata Europa Centrala si de Rasarit -, ci de la cererile nesabuite ale fiscului, de la rechizitionarile necontenite si arbitrare ale puterii si de la metodele inumane de strangere a darilor …’ (pag. 304)

Neagu Djuvara semnaleaza insa si o trasatura de caracter eminamente pozitiva atribuita romanilor din toate clasele si aceasta este desigur si ea in parte o conditionare a istoriei, dar una care explica multe – refuzul de a colabora cu puterea straina (in acest caz turceasca):

‘Putem spune in jargonul nostru contemporan, ca, vreme de patru secole de stapanire otomana, romanul a indurat multe dar n-a “colaborat”. Este o trasatura de caracter la care se cuvine sa meditam.’ (pag. 178)

In alte cuvinte (si se va intampla asta si in perioade si imprejurari de dupa timpurile acoperita de carte) – romanii au acceptat cand nu au avut incotro vasalitate ideologica si uneori aliante militare care s-au dovedit a fi nefaste, ba chiar si numirea de conducatori impusi, dar nu prezenta ocupantilor, si nici nu au existat practic ‘colaborationisti’ co-optati in conducerea imperiilor.

Evreilor nu le este dedicat un capitol separat, dar sunt incluse cateva pagini ci informatii consistente in capitolul despre Orase. La fel si armenilor a caror prezenta activa in economia si viata sociala a principatelor incepe tot in aceasta perioada. Datele statistice despre numarul si indeletnicirile evreilor din Muntenia si Moldova dau o imagine a preocuparilor si ocupatiilor diverse ca si a rolului jucat de ei in economie in conditiile deja explicate ale intarzierii dezvoltarii unor paturi autohtone de burghezie industriala sau comerciala. Un aspect anecdotic care imi era necunoscut era cel legat de originea in parte evreiasca a lui Vasile Alecsandri, un fel de confirmare ca evreii convertiti sau descendentii acestora furnizeaza uneori o plamada excelenta pentru antisemitism.

Recomand lectura acestei carti pasionatilor de istorie in primul rand, care vor gasi in ea o multitudine de informatii care sa le satisfaca interesul si o viziune originala, clara si echilibrata in cea mai mare parte a cazurilor fara insa a fugi sau ingropa controversele. Este si o carte frumos scrisa si editata, plansele de ilustratii adaugate dupa cate inteleg in ultimele editii nu sunt legate direct, dar la fel ca si anexele ofera o completare utila textului din centrul cartii. Orice iubitor de cultura romaneasca cred ca va gasi multe motive de interes in acest volum, care se incheie intr-o nota apreciativa fata de generatia care a condus Romania spre unire si independenta, si a intors din nou fata tarii spre Europa:

‘Asa s-a intamplat la noi cu barbatii nascuti, sa spunem, intre 1800 si 1830, si pe care-i putem numi “generatia de la 1848″. Erau doar o mana de oameni, insa luptau manati de o credinta netarmurita in destinele tarii lor. Au lepadat, ca pe niste vechituri, obiceiurile, institutiile, pana si vocabularul impuse de o putere straina. Au sorbit cu nesat din izvoarele culturii apusene; au adoptat institutii noi, au innoit limba, au creat pe de-a-ntregul o literatura de valoare universala, au inceput, in liniste, un proces democratic, intr-un ritm nemaicunoscut de vreo alta tara din Europa; au fixat, pentru generatii, cu indrazneala si realism, marile obiective politice ale neamului si au determinat Europa sa tina seama de ele. Ei au facut toate acestea. Au facut chiar mai mult: au faurit Romania.’  (pag. 392)

I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures is watching from time to time a movie like RED 2. I mean a movie that is made just for the purpose of entertaining, mixes action and comedy, brings to screen funny characters played by great actors, and is not shy about what it is meant to be. A movie that when watched feels like the actors and the team had themselves fun making it.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1821694/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1821694/

 

Such a film is RED 2, the second in a series which if you ask me can go on and on. Yeah, there is a story here which does not really follow the path of the logic as we may know it. The cold war may be over, but our retired (or pretending to be retired) hero-spies continue to fight it, and its aftermath, among other a non-detectable weapon of mass destruction of yesterday which risks to fall in the hands of the bad guys of today. No fortress, spy agency HQ, prison or government palace remains un-penetrable for more then 100 screen seconds. In any city they travel to they leave a pile of corpses and a trail of destruction that would have granted them centuries of punishments under any jurisdiction – no charges are ever pressed, of course, because this is the world of the action comedy which has its rules or lack of rules of its own.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS Trailers)

 

I do not feel at all bad for this guilty pleasure of mine. Without any over-analysis I believe that I like these movies because they are sincere in their explicit intentions of entertaining – no more, no less – but actually this is very much. Then when well written and acted as it is the case here such films have a logic of their own. We actually do understand these retired spies and their run for thrill. The dialogs are well-written and funny in many moments, the situations follow well one after the other, and director Dean Parisot’s succeeds to make a film that does not look at all as the work of a prime timer.  All the big stars gathered on the same list of credits – Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins Catherine Zeta-Jones, Marie-Louise Parker – seem to enjoy themselves and this fact crosses the screen. If I am to recommend a fun and non-pretentious entertainment at the movies this would be one of them.

 

Cakes made at the Mendl’s patisserie play an important role in this film. They are sweet round things, with an appetizing and improbable shape and pastel colors which emanate sugar. They are made by a sweet girl and delivered to the Grand and Imaginary Budapest hotel on the peak of the mountains of an Europe that ceased to exist, or maybe never existed but in the imagination of writer Stefan Zweig and later taken over, amplified and brought to screen and to us by director Wes Anderson. A reverence to a world of beauty and aesthetics, of culture and respect, of honor and pleasure of living which is crushed by history, same as the world of Jewish Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was in the events of the  second world war.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/

 

The story written by Wes Anderson freely develops the themes and atmosphere of Zweig’s writings without being specifically based on any one, in a fantasy which extends beyond the historic boundaries of the life and works of writer. Europe survived the war but could not recover its history, its style, it’s human quality. If buildings survived they are condemned to decay, if men survived they are reduced to their shady selves. What is left is to remember the world that was – now retreated back in a past that looks more and more like a fairy tale. And fairy tale is what we are served on the screen, albeit a very fun and entertaining ones, and there are many reasons to like this picture even without philosophizing too much about its deeper meanings.

 

(video source StreamingTrailer)

 

One of these reasons is of course the cast – one of these exquisite gathering of stars that usually get together only on the Academy Awards night. Shining over all is Ralph Fiennes in the lead role, and I will stop here but I ensure you that even if you recognize some of the faces you will find out that most of them do something different and in a different manner that you always knew (Edward Norton may be the notorious exception). Second is the amazing visual world created by Anderson which coupled with the camera work gives the viewers sometimes a 3-D feeling (although no special spectacles are involved), and in other cases seems to play with the dimensions of the rectangular screen extending them at will. Third and neither last nor least the settings contribute to passing to viewers the flavors of well-being of the times that went away.

Stefan Zweig did not survive the war. When the world he loved crumbled crushed under the boots of the Barbarians he committed suicide. This film can be read like some kind of revenge. At least in the fantasy space created on screen by Wes Anderson a world similar in feeling, manners, colors, smells and tastes to the one Zweig loved survives. A world like Mendl’s cakes. Almost poisonously sweet.

 

We know about the great musicians of the past only from written stories if they lived and played until the end of the 19th century. We can only imagine and read the stories of the contemporaries about the sound of the violin of Paganini, or the piano under the hands of Chopin or Liszt. Sound recordings started to be available at the end of the 19th century, and film rendition soon after, with film and sound synchronized since the end of the 20s. The great advantage of the artists playing today is that their music is available – if they allow, of course – for the times to come on recordings and films. More recently their lives and careers became also subject of documentary movies. Form now on not only their music but also their lives, characters, loves, families crisis can be documented for the posterity – if they allow so (or even if the do not, I guess).

 

source welltempered.wordpress.com

source welltempered.wordpress.com

 

 

I have seen three of them recently, all made in the last two years. The first was the closest to the traditional documentary genre retracing the life and career of the Hungarian-born conductor George Solti. The second one focused on how the Chinsese pianist Lang Lang grew up under the strong influence of his father and how he built a world-famous career starting from the very improbable career of a Chinese workers one-child family. Today I have seen Bloody Daughter, the documentary that Stephanie Argerich dedicated to her mother, the famous Argentinian pianist.

 

(video source EuroArtsChannel)

 

If somebody wanted a proof that it is practically impossible to live the life of a great artist and build a normative family with happy partners and children, Bloody Daughter is certainly one. Stephanie is the younger of the three daughters that Martha Argerich had with three different partners, and much of the film is dedicated into bringing together the pieces of the biography of a pianist who was another of these wonder children, raised and educated to be an artist – but also a beautiful woman, with a strong and unconventional character who decided to live her life as she wished to, placing her career at the highest priority. She is also a woman who does not have much of verbal communication skills, so although there is a lot of private footage of her on screen she talks very little about her art (and no great wisdom results) or even about her private life or feelings – we understand more from her looks, her facial expression, her eyes.

 

(video source mmoynan)

 

(video source DieVogelQDU)

 

Stephanie Argerich wanted this film to be not only about her mother but also about herself, her feelings, the relationship with her mother. There are implicit questions that she seems to want to ask her but never dares to. The puzzle of the family relations is carefully built in the first hour of the film, with the story of each one of the three daughters retraced and brought to its place. I would have personally wanted to dig more into the Jewish past of the family, but this seems to be a subject that neither Stephanie, nor Martha queried too much – maybe this is not that important to them, something buried in the past of Martha’s parents for unknown reasons never asked about. The last third of the movie does not bring too many new and interesting information about the great artist, and instead of the redundant family footage more music would have been preferable. Of course, this is just a personal opinion, but it might be shared by the many of us who love her art.

 

 

Maybe too many pictures were already made about that city and that period and they look too much one like the other. Or maybe after Ang Lee made one of them (Lust, Caution) there is not too much to say about this subject, even of that was not even Lee’s best. In any case Shanghai made by Swede director Mikael Hafstrom does not succeed to be more than routine and confusing, and looks much less authentic than other attempts which were part of the same stream.

 

source en.wikipedia.org

source en.wikipedia.org

 

 

The story is set in the few months before the entry of the US in the war against Japan, and actually the heroes (some of them American agents) seem to discover preparations about Pearl Harbor and the breaking of the war in the Pacific, but they do not seem to care very much, as they are busy with their personal intrigues and revenge, as well as romantic stories, none convincing, all confusing, and certainly lacking the burning eroticism in the film by Lee. Actually never had John Cusack looked to me so uninvolved emotionally as in this film! I personally have a lot of sympathy for this actor, but he really seemed by himself unconvinced about what his character is supposed to do, so he failed to convince us as well.

 

(video source ClipsFever)

 

Besides Cusack we have in this movie Li Gong, one of the greatest stars of the Chinese-speaking screens who makes all efforts to create something credible and worth remembering but eventually fails as well because of the lack of clarity of directing intentions. Ken Watanabe on the other hand is such huge an actor and has so much charisma that he looks convincing and deadly dangerous all over the film, with a human twist by the end. He may be actually the only reason for which the sentimental turn taken by the story towards its end does not look so bad despite the (bad) cartoonish Shanghai in flames.

 

The Jewish people faced many dark moments in its long and troubled history. What happened in the night of July 16, 1942 in Paris – the arrest of more than ten thousand Jews, men and women, young, old and children, their detention at the Velodrome d’Hiver, followed by their deportation to transit camps in France and then to the death camps in Poland – was one of these dark moments. It is for the French nation however that I dare say this was maybe the darkest moment in their history. Never has France – or at least modern France – abandoned the principles of tolerance and generosity to the weak and prosecuted who knocked at its gates as did that night Petain, Laval and the other collaborationists who were accomplices to the sending to hell and death of so many innocent people.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1382725/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1382725/

 

I have used a few film reviews back the term of ‘docu-melodrama’ and I guess that I can use it here as well, adding maybe the adjective ‘historical’ in front. ‘La Raffle’ ambitiously retraces the story of a few Jewish families of all conditions living in Paris at the time of the German occupation in 1942 and falling victim to the deeds of the German occupiers and of their French collaborators. Although the characters may be fictional the stories are essentially true, and the film starts with a written message attesting the historic accuracy of all the extreme situations that are being described. The fiction parts are interleaved with a few documentary sequences, as well as with re-enacted scenes from the headquarters of the German army and French police, of the discussions between the French leader Petain and prime minister Laval, and between Hitler himself, his faithful executioner Himmler and other people in his entourage. The script written by Rose Bosch (who also directed) takes good care to balance the acts of the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ French but the horror of the situation of the descent of a whole people from trust and hope into fear and despair is the strong message that cannot get lost.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS Trailers)

 

There is great acting to be admired in this film – first of all Jean Reno as the Jewish physician trying to face an impossible situation, alleviate sufferings, save lives, while knowing about his own faith. Melanie Laurent is sensible and credible in the role of the nurse that aims to represent what was left good and human among the French in those times. Some of the supporting roles are also memorable such as the Trotskyst family father played by Gad Elmaleh, a victim of a double disillusion. I liked less the historic background scenes, especially the ones related to Hitler’s environment, and the actor playing Hitler who was badly miscast and directed, undecided whether he should be evil or operetta-ic.   Overall the film has however very strong scenes, some of the best in the Holocaust movies and asks the right questions about the French role in the tragedy of its Jews. Is this melodrama? yes – but very strong and well made, impressing to tears and nothing is wrong with this – there are no bad genres, just bad movies and La Raffle is certainly not among them.

 

The traditional Passover posting on The Catcher is this time about the Passover movies. There are not too many movies dedicated to the Passover history or even to Passover nowadays, and I am wondering why. The Exodus is one of the fundamental myths of mankind and of the culture some call Judeo-Christian  (I am not crazy about this syntagma, but this is a different subject) – it is about national and religious identity, about slavery and freedom, and the story includes several fascinating characters. I am of course referring to Moses and Ramses, but also to those who gather around the Passover Seder table each year. Yes, that aunt too :-) So, not too many films but a few memorable ones, and at least one in the making which will be added to the list sometime later this year.

 

source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ten_Commandments_%281923_film%29

source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ten_Commandments_%281923_film%29

 

One of the first notable productions belongs to the era of the silent movies and was produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille in 1923. His first The Ten Commandments included a prologue with the Biblical story and a ‘modern’ story inspired by it. Some of the scenes in the prologue where filmed in Technicolor, one of the first big screen attempts of using this technology.

 

(video source MoviesHistory)

 

It is however the second, 1956 version of The Ten Commandments directed by  Cecil B. DeMille that became famous. Its cast included Charlton Heston (Moses), Yul Brynner (Rameses), Anne Baxter (Nefretiri), Edward G. Robinson (Dathan). It was filmed on location in the Sinai Desert, and was nominated to seven Academy Awards, eventually receiving only one. It made it however for perpetual TV programming in the holidays season.

 

(video source skinnyalley)

 

You will find a somehow different perspective of the story in Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I made in 1981, where Moses is the first of the five characters imagined and played by Brooks in his comical alternate version of the history of mankind.

 

(video source JB91283)

 

Passover is not only history but also a yearly reality for Jews who spend that one night of the year remembering (or not) the Bible, reading (or mostly not) the Hagadah, meeting (happily or not) with the family, and eating (yes, this for sure). ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’, one of Woody Allen’s films I love most includes a wonderful Seder scene with the character played by David Landau being in the situation of repenting for some very bad deeds.

 

(video source Liz Bradley)

 

Still in the US, still in SederLand, here is an example of TV comedy dealing with the topic: In a segment from the very popular (in the 80s) Anything But Love, Jamie Lee Curtis learns a few things about the Seder traditions.

 

(video source Paramount Movies)

 

An animated version of the story was realized in 1998 by Spielberg’s Dreamworks company and released as Prince of Egypt. Ralph Fiennes, Michele Pfeiffer and Steve Martin are among the actors who borrowed their voices to the characters, while Ofra Haza sang the song that won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song. At the Oscar ceremony the song was sung by Whitney Houston and Maria Carey.

 

(video source Trailer Maker)

 

The story goes on, and the number of films dedicated to the subject slowly increases. As Bible-inspired movies seem to have been identified by Hollywood as a lucrative business we will have a few of these in 2014, among which a version of Exodus directed by Ridley Scott with Christian Bale as Moses. No trailers with moving images are yet available, but in the meantime you can listen to the music and see a first poster in the clip above.

I hope that you enjoyed this review, and that you will see some good movies (related or not to Passover) during the coming vacation, and also that you will bravely face the Seder and happily survive the week of the matzot. To all:

Hag Sameakh! Happy Passover! Un Pesah Fericit!

Istoriile spaniolilor si evreilor sunt strans legate. Nu exista, poate,  un alt popor care sa fi influentat mai mult istoria Spaniei, caracterul si cultura spaniola decat evreii. Nu exista, poate, un alt popor al carui caracter, istorie si nume sa fi influentat mai mult istoria evreilor decat spaniolii. Si sunt multi concurenti la acest titlu! Jumatate din evreimea lumii se considera a fi ceea ce in limba ebraica se numeste ‘sfaradim’, ceea ce se traduce simplu – spanioli! Jumatate din evreii lumii se auto-definesc drept spanioli. Adica, originari din Spania – Sfarad – Sefarad precum in transcrierea in romana a titlului culegerii de povestiri a lui Antonio Munoz Molina, tradusa impecabil de Eugenia Alexe Munteanu si aparuta la Curtea Veche, in Bucurestii anului 2008.

1492 este un an cheie in istoria ambelor popoare, dar nu cred ca este posibila o prapastie mai mare in semnificatiile acestei date, interpretarile istorice ale acelorasi evenimente, si felul in care aceasta borna istorica a ramas, s-a transmis si este amintita dupa mai bine de jumatate de mileniu in memoriile colective ale spaniolilor si evreilor. Pentru spanioli 1492 reprezinta un moment de triumf in care dupa secole de razboaie sangeroase ultimii ocupanti mauri au fost izgoniti din Peninsula Iberica. Este si anul in care Cristofor Columb pleaca in prima sa expeditie spre Indiile care se vor dovedi a fi Lumea Noua, punand bazele imperiului spaniol. Pentru evrei 1492 reprezinta insa anul groaznicului edict prin care evreii spanioli care traisera in Peninsula Iberica vreme de peste un mileniu erau fortati sa-si piarda identitatea prin convertire, sau sa aleaga calea exilului – un eveniment traumatic de o intensitate cum putine au fost in istoria bogata in tragedii a evreilor. In cuvintele lui Isaac Salama, evreul ajuns in Tanger, pe care cumplitul an 1944 il gaseste nu in alta parte decat in ochiul infernului, Budapesta lui Eichman, si a carui viata este salvata de pasaportul sau spaniol:

‘Sefarad era numele adevaratei noastre patrii, desi fuseseram expulzati de acolo acum mai bine de patru veacuri. Imi povestea ca familia noastra pastrase timp de generatii cheia casei noastre din Toledo, imi povestea despre toate calatoriile pe care le-au facut de cand au plecat din Spania, ca si cum mi-ar fi spus povestea unei vieti care a durat aproape cinci sute de ani. ‘ (pag. 123)

 

sursa www.observatorcultural.ro

sursa www.observatorcultural.ro

 

In pofida titlului (si a copertii editiei romanesti) cele 17 nuvele care alcatuiesc colectia Sefarad nu se ocupa numai de exil si de trauma istorica a evreilor spanioli (sefarzi) ci de spatiul spaniol in general. Sefarad = Espana s-ar putea spune si Munoz Molina gaseste multe paralelisme intre destinul celor doua popoare ale caror istorie comuna a creat o legatura simbiotica, si al caror divort istoric violent la mijlocul mileniului trecut a creat o senzatie de vid cutural, de lipsa a unei parti esentiale a culturii si personalitatii. Unele dintre casele vechi din orasele cetate spaniole inca poarta insemnele prezentei evreiesti si a absentei care a urmat. Evreii sefarzi poarta in ei nu numai amintirea locului in care au trait, prosperat si contribuit la crearea unei culturi comune intr-o perioada ramasa in istorie ca ‘Perioada de Aur’, ci au si luat cu ei in exil si limba spaniola si au creat un dialect (judeo-espanol) care pastreaza probabil cea mai curata si apropiata forma de spaniola vorbita in prima jumatate a mileniului. Comune sunt si experientele fracturilor istorice, ale traumelor de mari dimensiuni care au distrus generatii intregi in prima jumatate a secolului 20 si au lasat sechele adanci in istoria celor doua popoare – Holocaustul si razboiul civil.

Intreaga carte se afla insa sub tutela unui personaj care desi a fost evreu nu a fost sefard – Franz Kafka. Un citat din ‘Procesul’ serveste de motto intregii carti, si premonitiile lui Kafka par a desemna traseele absurdului sub semnul caruia s-a desfasurat istoria restului de secol de dupa disparitia fizica a scriitorului evreu din Praga. Lui Franz Kafka ii supravietuieste o femeie, o iubita careia ii fusesera adresate scrisorile sale de dragoste, cu care traise o aventura posibila sau poate imposibila la o frontiera europeana de inceput de secol. Milena Jesenska este numele ei, si destinul va face sa ii supravietuieasca mai bine de doua decenii lui Kafka pentru a-si sfarsi viata intr-un lagar din sistemul concentrationist nazist.

Cateva dintre cele mai impresionante nuvele din carte se ocupa de Holocaust si perspectiva pare oarecum recuperatorie. Spaniolii care si-au trait propriile traume istorice in secolul trecut stiu foarte putine despre acest popor care nu numai ca a lasat o decisiva amprenta istorica, dar care se regaseste si in genele culturale, daca nu chiar in ADN-ul la propriu al multora dintre spanioli. In ‘Copenhaga’ este vorba despre gari si trenuri, transformate in statii ale cosmarului si visele rele care le leaga intre ele:

‘Cum ar fi sa ajungi intr-o gara germana sau poloneza intr-un tren pentru vite, sa asculti la megafoane ordinele strigate in germana si sa nu intelegi nimic, sa vezi in departare lumini, garduri de sarma ghimpata, cosuri foarte inalte ce scot fum negru. Timp de cinci zile, in februarie 1944, Primo Levi a mers intr-un tren spre Auschwitz.’ (pag. 37)

… si in continuare legatura cu realitatile de astazi:

‘Cum ar fi sa ajungi noaptea pe tarmul unei tari necunoscute, sa sari in apa din barca in care ai traversat marea pe intuneric, sa vrei sa te indepartezi cit mai repede spre interior, in timp ce picioarele ti se afunda in nisip; un barbat singur, fara acte, fara bani, ce vine din oroarea bolilor si masacrelor din Africa, din strafundul iadului, care nu stie limba tarii in care a ajuns, ce se arunca la panant si se ascunde in sant cand vede pe sosea farurule unei masini ce se aproprie, poate cea a politiei.’ (pag. 41)

 

sursa www.escritores.org

sursa www.escritores.org

 

Nuvelele din ‘Sefarad’ creaza un mozaic divers si impresionant al spatiului spaniol si european al secolului 20. Unele dintre ele pun fata in fata tragediile Holocaustului si ale Gulagului. ‘Munzenberg’ de exemplu traseaza portretul si biografia unui personaj fascinant pe nume Wili Munzenberg, creatorul programelor de atragere a intelectualilor ‘tovarasi de drum’ in masina de propaganda sovietica intre cele doua razboaie mondiale. Tovaras si complice al lui Lenin cade el insusi in dizgratie in perioada proceselor staliniste din anii 30 si are parte de o trezire tarzie la realitate care il pune in mod incomod pe lista de dusmani de moarte ai stalinismului si nazismului in anii in care cei doi dictatori isi disputau Europa. Sfarseste tragic si in imprejurari neclare, nici pana astazi nu se stie care dintre serviciile secrete – NKDV-ul sau Gestapo-ul) a sfarsit prin al lichida intr-o padure din Franta sub ocupatie. ‘Seherazada’ este povestea unei ‘babe comuniste’, poate fiica fanaticei conducatoare comuniste Dolores Ibarruri (prietena a lui Ceausescu pentru cine isi aminteste) care la anii pensiei (in Spania desigur) isi aminteste de copilaria in exilul sovietic si de fascinatia niciodata disparuta si nestearsa de nicio realitate a secolului 20 pentru comunism in general si Stalin in special.

Alte cateva povestiri se ocupa de perioada de tranzitie a Spaniei dupa descotorisirea de dictatura. Pentru cititorul roman cel putin unele aspecte vor suna foarte familiare, caci spaniolii si Spania lui Munoz Molina par sa fi trecut in anii 70 prin aceleasi fenomene de dezorientare, pierdere a busolei morale si incertitudine economica si personala prin care au trecut romanii si Romania anilor 90. ‘Oriunde te-ai duce’ schiteaza tabloul unui cartier din Madrid in care dupa somnolenta dictaturii apar contrastele si excesele libertatii economice si individuale, dar si tragediile cauzate de lipsa de securitate sociala. Si totusi in acest infern al tuturor pacatelor se naste o incredibila poveste de dragoste. Tot o poveste de dragoste, sau poate doar de atractie si fascinatie este redata in ‘America’ in combinatie cu o alta tema importanta scriitorului – cea a rolului religiei institutionalizate in Spania din timpul dictaturii si dupa caderea acesteia. In fine, in ‘Spune-mi numele tau’ scriitorul surprinde cu remarcabila exactitate psihologia refugiatului politic din Europa de Est care pentru prima data in viata sa trece o frontiera sub pavaza unui pasaport al unei tari de drept, care ii garanteaza dreptul elementar la libera circulatie:

‘… jandarmul, fara sa se uite macar la pasaport, fara sa-i priveasca chipul i-a facut un gest grabit cu mana, i-a spus sa treaca cu oarecare mitocanie spanioleasca, si acest gest cu mana si cele doua vorbe grosolane i s-au parut primirea cea mai frumoasa ce i s-a facut vreodata, semnalul neindoielnic al cetateniei sale.’ (pag. 385)

In final voi mentiona insa inca una dintre povestirile legate de Holocaust – ‘Nerva’. Este povestea unui ofiter spaniol care in timpul razboiului ajunge pe frontul de Est si se confrunta pentru prima data nu numai cu existenta sau mai bine zis cu disparitia prin exterminare a evreilor ci si cu felul in care germanii abordeaza soarta acestora. Ofiterul german cu care spaniolul se imprietenise, cei doi fiind reuniti de pasiunea pentru muzica lui Brahms si a lui Gershwin ii descrie cu un singur cuvant scrasnit – Juden! - ceata de suboameni purtand cu ei barele de sarma ghimpata care ii desparteau de omenire si de omenie in marsul lor spre moarte. Este una dintre cele mai expresive relatari pe care le-am citit ale confruntarii oamenilor de rand cu Holocaustul, a asumarii sau neasumarii responsabilitatii fata de ororile secolului 20.