Archive for March, 2015

It is very difficult to judge this film without referring to politics. One can just read the viewers opinions in IMDB.

One of the first scenes in ‘American Sniper’ defines the world of the hero. It’s a childhood scene. The hero as a kid sits at the family table with his father, mother, brother. The father tells his view of the world. It is divided in sheep, heard-keepers and predators. Predators try to kill, sheep risk to be slaughtered. Nobody in this family will be a sheep. The ‘yes, Sir’ typical to the traditional American way of kids addressing fathers follows. This is the same ‘yes, Sir’ used in the Army.

Clint Eastwood makes films with a talent that is in competition only with his skills as an actor. My problem with many of his films is that his heroes are so far of my world that I cannot avoid detesting them, as much as I admire Clint’s artistic skills. True again for this film about the most decorated sniper in the history of the US Army.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2179136/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2179136/

 

Now, the issue is that the hero described in Clint Eastwood’s most recent film is a real character. The authors of the script did not even change his name (it’s Chris Kyle) and many of the facts and situations described are taken from a book inspired by reality. We are shown a young man who decides to switch from rodeos to becoming a soldier after seeing the news on TV about the American embassies being blown up at the end of the 90s. 9/11 follows (again as a piece of TV news) and this is enough to convince him that his tours of duty in Iraq serve the noblest possible cause. If he ever asks questions about the policies of his government, if he ever has any doubts about his life being torn to shreds by the conflict between his duties as a soldier and the duties to his family – these are never shown on screen.

There are two other memorable scenes I took from the film. In one of them an Arab kid takes a rocket launcher and almost fires it. The hero prays that the kid drops the weapon so that he would not be obliged to kill him. His prayers are heard. Later in the film an Army shrink asks him whether he has any regrets about what he did during his service (he is credited with 160 enemies killed in action as a sniper). ‘No, Sir’ he answers, the day he will face the Creator he will have clean conscience about each of them. I could not avoid asking myself the question – what if that kid would not have thrown the weapon and would have been the 161st?

 

(video source Warner Bros, Pictures)

 

Can soldiers involved in the bloodiest of the wars ever come home?  Mentally, with their souls intact? Such questions are asked by many films and are asked implicitly by ‘American Sniper’ as well. Apparently the film takes no position while it describes a real life character who can be read both as a hero and as a casualty of war. I can but admire the splendid acting of Bradley Cooper who simply brought back Chris Kyle to life of screen. Eastwood’s story telling skills are exquisite, and while I am no big fan of war scenes I liked the way he staged these. I liked less the one-sided view of the conflict and the situations in Iraq, but let us recognize that this is a film about an American soldier and his perspective of the war. The fact that this is the kind of hero glorified by the society tells more than anything about the world we live in.

 

Did I already say that I love cooking and films about cooking? I probably did. For food lovers talking, reading, watching TV shows and – why not – seeing movies about food and the people behind food just amplifies the pleasure of enjoying good food and enriches the experience. We have been blessed with a few good movies on this topic, some older (who can forget Louis de Funes in L’Aille et la cuisse?) some recently like the American Chef with an almost identical title as the French comedy Le Chef.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1911553/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1911553/

 

We may of course expect a lot from a French film about ‘haute cuisine’ – the subject should be part of the national expertise after all. Director and script co-writer Daniel Cohen has taken the easy path with this lighthearted comedy about a famous chef (Jean Reno) who is obsessed with keeping his three Michelin stars intact and an unemployed aspirant (Michael Youn) trying to find his way in the world of high-end cooking. Everybody has a good time and especially Reno who abandons for a short while his tough guy mask and lets us know that he owns a carefully suppressed comic talent.

 

(video source Fresh Movie Trailer)

 

There is some serious background behind the light comedy which should not be omitted. Great chefs nowadays need to fight increased competition from street food and from the modern trends like ‘molecular food’ (which incidentally I hate as much as the folks who wrote the script of this film). Fighting kitsch or pretentious avant-garde artistic challenge that is not encountered only by artists in cooking but by many other fields. So are the crisis of creativity, the loss of inspiration, the need to change and do something else in certain turning points of lives and careers. None of these subjects are absent but none is explored to deeply either in ‘Le Chef’. The result in culinary terms is a ‘souffle’ – light and pleasant when eaten but not leaving persistent memories after the consumption. I mentioned the American movie ‘Chef’ which also dealt with a famous cook in some crisis in his life and career turning to street food. Well, the food in the American ‘Chef’ may not have been as classy as the food in the French ‘Le Chef’ but the film that resulted was better.

 

‘Aerul pe care il respiri’ aparuta in 2014 in frumoasa colectie ‘Raftul Denisei’ a editurii Humanitas Fiction in traducerea Corneliei Radulescu este prima carte scrisa de scriitoarea catalana Care Santos (pe numele adevarat si complet Macarena Santos i Torres) pe care o citesc. Aerul pe care il respira o parte din eroii cartii este aerul anticariatelor, al cartilor vechi, frumoase si diferite, al cartilor de valoare si al cartilor care starnesc pasiuni, carti in jurul carora se infiripa povesti de dragoste si de moarte cum este si saga desfasurata de-a lungul a doua secole care constituie actiunea principala a cartii. Este vorba despre penultima carte a scriitoarei a carei bibliografie destul de prolifica de altfel combina si alterneaza romanele si povestirile pentru adulti cu cele pentru copii si adolescenti, cu incercari in domeniile poeziei si eseisticii.

Romanul scriitoarei catalane va atrage in primul rand atentia iubitorilor genului de fictiune detectiv istorica. Scris cursiv, se citeste cu placere si cu interes si fanii lui Dan Brown sau Steve Berry (si ma includ aici si pe mine) se vor delecta cu o versiune iberica a romanelor care le umplu timpul. Povestit la persoana intai de o scriitoare din Barcelona de astazi, alter-ego al autoarei, cartea descrie episoadele trecutului pe masura ce avanseaza ancheta pornita pe urmele unei colectii de carti aduse in nordul peninsulei iberice de un demnitar francez purtat in Barcelona de valul revolutiei franceze si al razboaielor napoleoneene. Ancheta va genera o carte – cartea pe care cititorul de astazi o tine in mana. Povestea imbina istoria Barcelonei si a Spaniei, iubiri si tradari, bunatate angelica si rautate malefica si o doza sanatoasa de erotica pornind insasi de la colectia celor treisprezece carti interzise apartinand genului erotic, repudiat moral (si legal prin unele locuri), carti imprastiate de hazarduri si a caror recuperare si reunire constituie scopul cautarior eroilor de-a lungul a doua secole.

 

sursa http://www.elefant.ro/carti/fictiune/literatura-contemporana/aerul-pe-care-il-respiri-226862.html

sursa http://www.elefant.ro/carti/fictiune/literatura-contemporana/aerul-pe-care-il-respiri-226862.html

 

Numitorul comun al personajelor in rastimpul descris in roman este raportarea la carti – o pasiune care se transmite din generatie in generatie. Pentru unii cartile reprezinta profesie si iubire, pentru altii doar valoare si obiecte adaugate colectiei de vanitati pamantene.

‘Si nu era doar ideea de a face dreptate. Era ceva mai mult. De parca aceste carti ar fi fost niste fiinte vii, iar el trebuia sa le gaseasca un tutore, un ingrijitor, un iubitor. Exista persoane nedemne de a poseda anumite carti, dupa cum exista carti care isi merita stapanii. Argumente de librar batran pe care prea putini le puteau pricepe, o stia bine. Dar asa era el: un librar batran, romantic si invechit.’ (pag. 109)

‘Brancaleone spunea mai putin decat stia. nici nu-i trecea prin minte sa-i impartaseasca emotia traita in zilele din urma cand rasfoise carti de o frumusete unica in lume, precum editia din 1470 de la Venetia a Operelor lui Vergiliu, o minune cu litere gotice, chenare si ilustratii cat pagina. Sau cand tinuse in mana o marturie a adevaratei dragoste de carti: indicele bibliotecii manastiresti scris si ilustrat de mana, realizat de carmelitele de la San Jose, care cuprindea titlul fiecarui exemplar, autorul, numarul de pagini, caracteristicile, data si locul cumpararii si pretul platit atunci. Sau adniratia pe care i-o trezisera vinetele cu mult rosu ale Ordenacions de Pere el Cerimonios, un manuscris din secolul al XIV-lea pe foi de pergament. Delectari pentru degustatori exegenti, nu pentru cineva pentru care cartile erau doar obiecte cu care sa se impauneze. In alta ordine de idei nu i-a spus nici ca un bibliofil autentic n-ar fi expus in ruptul capului biblioteca sa luminii soarelui, care ar fi riscat sa decoloreze volumele in doar cativa ani. Si nici ca obsesia pentru Biblia lui Gutenberg era o nerozie tipica pentru cineva obisnuit sa obtina totul si ca virtutea principala a unui colectionar adevarat e rabdarea. Rabdarea de a astepta, caci cartile sunt capricioase, apar tarziu sau cand nu te astepti, cand e deja prea tarziu pentru cel ce le-a dorit.’ (pag. 272-273)

Romanul scritoarei catalane m-a trimis inapoi si spre cartile de istorie. Despre perioada ocupatiei franceze si a rezistentei iberice impotriva lui Napoleon mai stiam sau imi mai aminteam ceva, datorita in special romanelor si filmelor despre viata lui Goya si desigur a gravurilor si picturilor acestuia. Mai putim imi aminteam (daca am stiut vreodata) despre deceniile care au urmat care au alternat regimuri conservatoare cu perioade mai liberale, in inclestari de multe ori sangeroase intre doua linii ideologice a caror lupta s-a prelungit adanc in istoria Spaniei pana spre sfarsitul secolului 20. Iata de pilda cum este evocata figura viitorului rege Carlos de Spania in perioada in care fusese guvernator al Barcelonei intre 1827 si 1832 – un fel de abstractizare a figurii tiranului etern, cu obsesii orwelliene:

‘Cand iesea in strada, le cerea trecatorilor sa-i arate rozariul, iar daca nu-l aveau ii trimitea la inchisoare. A interzis palariile si parul lung, caracteristice liberalilor; a interzis si reclamele pentru alifii impotriva hemoroizilor sau uleiurile de depilat pentru femei, sub pretext ca duceau la liberalizarea moravurilor. A dat ordin ca toti barbatii din oras sa-si rada mustata, iar toate femeile sa se arate supuse si rezervate. Acestora din urma le-a mai poruncit printr-un decret sa-si taie pletele, iar cele care au refuzat au fost tunse in public, pentru luare-aminte. De nebunia lui n-a scapat nici nevasta-sa: intr-o zi a uitat sa cumpere peste si a stat o zi intreaga la carcera.’ (pag. 180)

O parte dintre personaje sunt intelectuali liberali si unii dintre ei au constiinta vremelniciei:

‘- Doua sute de ani? a ras el din tot sufletul. Chiar crezi ca peste doua sute de ani se va mai interesa cineva de noi? Si chiar de-ar fi asa, crezi tu ca cineva va pricepe ceva din secolul acesta, pe care nu-l intelegem nici noi, cei care traim in el?’ (pag. 312)

Pesimismul in fata scurgerii istoriei si privirea critica asupra contemporaneitatii sunt se pare o marca nu numai a secolului 19, ci si a celor doua secole care au urmat.

 

sursa http://www.larevista.ro/fragmentarium-care-santos-despre-arta-viata-si-carti/

sursa http://www.larevista.ro/fragmentarium-care-santos-despre-arta-viata-si-carti/

 

Un alt personaj se lamenteaza intr-o epistola in legatura cu lipsa de reflectare a epocii in literatura spaniola. Din pacate nu cunosc destul aceasta literatura pentru a-l contrazice sau pentru a-i da dreptate. Exista insa echivalente in literatura vecinilor de la nord, francezi, care si-au descris cu pasiune prezentul si trecutul apropiat in scrieri romantioase publicate in volum sau in foiletoane – vezi cartile lui Dumas tatal sau ‘Misterele Parisului’. Unul dintre personajele principale feminine ale cartii pare descendent direct din ‘Contele de Monte Cristo’.

In fine, cateva cuvinte despre un alt personaj principal al cartii – orasul Barcelona. Este unul dintre orasele care imi plac cel mai mult in lume, un oras plin de farmec si de mister, frumos si ciudat, modern si dornic de viata, dar si plin de respect fata de cei care in trecut l-au infrumusetat, i-au creat numele si i-au cladit aura. Prima jumatate a secolului 19 in care se petrece partea istorica a actiunii a trait spargerea zidurilor care ingradeau orasul din epoca Evului Mediu, si transformarea axei principale (pana in ziua de astazi) a orasului – Rambla – dintr-o strada a manastirlor pioase si a inchisorilor in artera moderna, deschisa spre mare si spre lume.

‘Barcelona, noua capitala a contradictiilor: mai suprapopulata ca oricand, dar cu o mare parte a locuitorilor in exil, industriala, dar cu fabricile in somaj fortat din cauza blocadei, cu mii de planuri de expansiune, dar silita sa ridice case peste case, inghesuindu-le una peste alta pe aceleasi strazi – caci Madridul nu emitea permisiunea de a darama zidurile -, oras cosmopolit si deschis tuturor noutatilor, dar la fel de inchis ca in Evul Mediu, posedand o banca cu un nume si cu un sediu proprii, dar mai ruinat ca oricand, cu toti cei din oras visand la orizonturi largi, dar cu toate strazile terminate in orizonturi de piatra. 

Pentru unii, sub numele de progres se ascundea insusi diavolul. Francezii semanasera in acest popor de ambitiosi si infumurati ura fata de religie, iar acum oamenii se credeau in stare de orice, sa darame manastiri sau ziduri, nimic nu era imposibil.’ (pag. 353)

‘Portinea aceasta din Rambla, cea cuprinsa intre Piata Teatrului si strada Saint Pau, a devenit promenada celor cu stare si unii inchiriaza scaune de rachita ca sa asiste la defilarea familiilor sambata si duminica, mai ales la iesirea din biserica, cand cochetele care se imbraca dupa ultima moda isi agita evataiele pentru a transmite un mesaj amoros pretendentilor fara stirea parintilor, cand fustele se leagana, umbrelele se deschid si batistele cad acolo unde trebuie sa cada, sunt culese de amorezi, cochetele prind de veste, nu si parintii care comenteaza slujba si habar n-au de nimic, saracii de ei. …

Mai zice Robles ca fara zidurile manastirilor Rambla e acum un alt loc, ca e vorba sa se deschida si porti, pentru ca prin partea de jos sa se poata ajunge la mare si pe sus, la campie. Iar toti locuitorii orasului viseaza cu ochii deschisi la ce vor face atunci. “Pe scurt, prietene draga, daca mai intarzii mult, n-ai sa mai recunosti orasul in care te-ai nascut” …’ (pag. 316)

Carti, istorie, pasiuni, dragoste si pacate mortale – totul intr-o scriere cursiva si pasionanta. ‘Aerul pe care il respiri’ are sanse sa placa iubitorilor multor genuri, inclusiv categoriei iubitorilor – pur si simplu – de literatura buna.

 

 

Purim is the first spring festival in the Jewish tradition. It celebrates a victory of the Jews and their survival against an evil enemy about 2500 years back, and has borrowed in time elements from the spring festivals and carnivals of many other people among which Jews lived during history, including carnivals with masks and costumes. My festive posting for Purim this year is about Jews and Masks.

 

source http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/oldest-known-masks-in-the-world-on-display-in-israel/2014/03/13/

source http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/oldest-known-masks-in-the-world-on-display-in-israel/2014/03/13/

 

The tradition is ancient in this area of the world. An exhibition at the Israel Museum last year presented some of the oldest masks in the world from the Neolithic period made of limestone, which were found in the Judean Desert.

 

source https://www.pinterest.com/janmccraw/masks/

source https://www.pinterest.com/janmccraw/masks/

 

The tradition of using masks and wearing costumes on Purim probably dates from the 15th century and was inspired by carnivals like the one in Venice, Yet, Jewish creativity left its trace and led to the creation of many masks remarkable in beauty and adapted to the Jewish themes.

 

source http://www.artmitoo.com/2014/12/13/israeli-natural-haven-in-ein-hod-established-by-jewish-artist-marcel-janco-nurtures-artists/

source http://www.artmitoo.com/2014/12/13/israeli-natural-haven-in-ein-hod-established-by-jewish-artist-marcel-janco-nurtures-artists/

 

Romania-born Marcel Janco was one of the founders of the Dadaist movement and of the European 20th century avant-garde. He came to Israel as a refugee after the breaking of WWII, and became one of the important painters of Israel and founder of the artists colony at Ein Hod. A beautiful mask created by Janco can be admired today in the Janco-Dada Museum in Ein Hod.

 

source http://jewishmuseum.net/ninth-annual-purim-mask-invitational/

source http://jewishmuseum.net/ninth-annual-purim-mask-invitational/

 

The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma organizes each year a festival around Purim inviting works from pupils in schools in the area. Here is the poster of this year’s event

 

source http://artodyssey1.blogspot.co.il/2009/11/alex-levin-alex-levin-comes-from-kiev.html

source http://artodyssey1.blogspot.co.il/2009/11/alex-levin-alex-levin-comes-from-kiev.html

 

To end here is a beautiful work by Alex Levin – an Israeli artist born in Kiev, Ukraine.

Hag Purim Sameakh! 

A Happy Purim!