Archive for April, 2015

‘Pandorum’ is not a very inventive or original film. Horror stories about space-ships overtaken by horrible monsters were already told a few times. The ‘Alien’ series is probably the most (deservedly) famous item of the genre. ‘Pandorum’ has no Sigourney Weaver in the lead role, and no HR Giger designed the sets – yet it’s quite a pleasure to watch with no dull moments, of course, only if you are an adept of the genre.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1188729/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1188729/

 

The century is the 22nd and mankind succeeded – as we all know by now that it will happen, especially if we watch many apocalyptic movies – to make planet Earth almost inhabitable. The only hope for mankind is a huge space Arch of Noah traveling in search of other habitable planets. Cryo-hibernation is the only way to survive the length of the trip, but the technology has some side effects which are used in a smart manner by the authors of the story. The lead heroes will have to fight not only the hideous monsters but also themselves or better say the psychological effects of the long and cold sleeping periods.

 

(video source HD Quality Movie Trailers)

 

Such reasonable (in science-fiction terms) premises set the stage for an entertaining confrontation which is well filmed and reasonably acted (by Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster). German director Christian Alvart sets the right pace and adds a tone of Gothic horror to the whole story. The sets and the cinematography fit well and add to the atmosphere. I could not find any visible flaw to this film well made according to the rules of its genre.

 

 

I am afraid that am developing a slight phobia for post-apocalyptic films genre, and The Road directed by John Hillcoat pushed me one step ahead down this hill. Some of the movies that belong to this category are mostly action movies, while a few try to be different. Most of them are pessimistic about the short term chances of mankind but entertain a ray of hope on long term, of course after we have learned the lesson. Many of them try to provide dire warnings about what we do with our planet and with ourselves. Cinematography participates in creating the warning tones with rendition of how the deserted landscapes and destroyed cities of the planet will look the day after. Bible names and quotes are widely used. ‘The Road’ is a little bit of all these while trying to be more. While I appreciate the effort I did not enjoy the results of this try.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/

 

About ten years after the Apocalypse what is left of mankind seems to be the only surviving species on Earth in the film inspired by a book by Cormac McCarthy. Neither did any vegetation survived, so looking for canned food (do not ask about the expiration date) seems to be the only alternative for the good guys other than the cannibalism adopted by the bad guys. A father and a son try to find their way to the ocean in order to survive another winter.  I will not tell much more, and one of the reasons is that much more does not happen, at least action-wise.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS Classic Trailers)

 

Sure, this is not meant to be an action film. Much of the intended value should be in the post-apocalyptic landscape (good camera work in more than 50 shades of real gray) and in the building of the characters. This is where in my opinion the film fails. Avoiding to romanticize is fine with me, but I cannot say that I knew much more at the end of the film than I knew after the first five minutes.  of ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame and the kid actor do both a fine job. and add their names to the credits but their fans will be disappointed about how little time they spend on screen. The film is not only dark but is also dull, seemed to me much longer than it really was and the ending – because any film has an ending – could not avoid the melodrama that the director tried to avoid in the making. I would recommend this film only to the post-apocalyptic genre aficionados.

 

Jewish artists played an important role in the development of the Romanian art, and artists from Romania played an important role in the history of Israeli art. For the Israeli Independence Day I chose to present a short selection of Israeli artists (painters and sculptors) who were born in my native Romania. Some have brought an important contribution to the development of the Israeli artistic movement and acquired fame both in Israel and world-wide. A few are still active today, and of course, I must have missed many.

I chose one work from each of the eight artists in this list. This is certainly only a specific section of the complex universe of the Israeli art, a proof of its diversity, and a testimony of the path artists born in Romania melded the education and traditions of their native country into the melting pot of the Israeli art.  This is an invitation for entering the worlds of each of these artists and for adding more names to the list.

Happy Independence Day! Hag Atzmaut Sameakh!

The list cannot begin with another name than …

 

source http://jancodada.co.il/pages.asp?id=175&lan=100

source http://jancodada.co.il/pages.asp?id=175&lan=100

 

Marcel Janco

(or Marcel Iancu) as the Romanians spell his name. By the time when he reached the shores of Palestine under British Mandate in 1941, Janco was a well-known artist who has contributed to the birth of the European avant-garde and specifically of the Dadaist movement, and a famous architect with tens of buildings designed in Romania (some of them can still be visited in specialized tours in Bucharest). He also was a Jew running for his life from the continent that had fallen under fascism which did not spare Romania, at that time under the rule of the Iron Guard and of nationalist and antisemitic dictator Ion Antonescu. He re-created himself in Palestine and then Israel, started to paint in a new palette and vision, and founded the artists community in the village of Ein Hod, which continues until today.

 

source http://www.israelartguide.co.il/activities/tel.shtml

source http://www.israelartguide.co.il/activities/tel.shtml

 

Reuven Rubin

Born in Galati in a religious family, Rubin came for the first time to Palestine (still under Ottoman rule) in 1912 and was a student at the Bezalel Academy founded by Boris Schatz. He was not very happy with the academic approach of his teachers, and continued his studies in Paris, returned to Romania during the First World War, then came for good to Israel in 1923. His portraits and landscapes are exquisite, as witnessed by the beautiful ‘Safed’ dated 1938. He became part of the Tel Aviv intellectual and art circles, and after the foundation of Israel in 1948 was the first official Israeli diplomatic envoy (minister) to Romania.

 

source http://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/SELF-PORTRAIT/EA86709D73DF83D7

source http://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/SELF-PORTRAIT/EA86709D73DF83D7

 

Avigdor Arikha

I first encountered a large selection of Arikha’s works at the British Museum to whom he had donated about 100 of his works for an exhibition. A few years later a big retrospective was organized at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art bringing back into the center of the attention an Israeli artist who was living abroad for about half a century. Born in Radauti, he was deported during the war to Transnistria, where his father died. His drawings as a teen who had seen death and horror attracted the attention of the Red Cross that saved his life and brought him to Palestine in 1944. As Rubin (but many years later) he first studied at Bezalel, and then in Paris. His career can be divided into two: a first abstract period and a second figurative in which he painted mostly portraits and especially self-portraits like the one here.

 

DSC05559

Tuvia Juster

In a few days there will be ten years since Tuvia Juster passed away. Born in 1931 in Braila, Juster studied in Bucharest and was influenced by the works of Constantin Brancusi, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. His work is in danger to be forgotten here in Israel. Only one exhibition was organized at Ein Hod, the artists village founded by Janco, where Tuvia Juster also had his home. A larger retrospective would put his works and contributions to the Israeli art at their right place. I hope that this will happen rather sooner than later.

 

source https://iamachild.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/portrait-of-a-smiling-boy.jpg

source https://iamachild.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/portrait-of-a-smiling-boy.jpg

 

Sandu Liberman

A few decades ago the name of Sandu Liberman was quite well known. Born in Iasi in 1923, he studied in Romania and was well known especially as portraitist, until 1962 when he came to Israel. He continued his activity here, painting portraits and scenes from the traditional Jewish life. His best works as this ‘Portrait of a Smiling Boy’ show empathy and skill in rendering the feelings of his subjects, and continuity with the portraits tradition in the Romanian art he grew in as an artist.

 

source http://www.judaica-mall.com/shlomo-alter.htm

source http://www.judaica-mall.com/shlomo-alter.htm

 

Shlomo Alter 

Shlomo Alter’s parents owned a restaurant in Romania and his first drawings described the atmosphere of that place. He came in Israel in 1948 at the age of 12, and oscillated between art (student of Aaron Avni and of Janco) and engineering, to dedicate himself completely to painting after 1975. His works are beautifully colored in the tradition of the fauvism, while representing the local landscape in a pseudo-naive manner.

 

 source http://www.midnighteast.com/mag/?p=6347

source http://www.midnighteast.com/mag/?p=6347

Philip Rantzer

Born in 1956 (in some sources I found 1958 as his year of birth) Philip Rantzer came to Israel as a small child, so all his education and formation as an artist happened here. He had tens of exhibitions in Israel and all over the world, represented Israel at the Venice Biennale in 1999, and exposed amng many other places in Bucharest, at the Musuem of Contemporary Art in 2003. I picked to show here his ‘Big Cart’ work because he is combining in it the theme of the Wandering Jew with a landscape which is maybe Jaffo, or maybe a more generic shtetl.

 

 

source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belu-Simion_Fainaru

source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belu-Simion_Fainaru

 

 

Belu-Simion Fainaru

Born in Bucharest in 1959, Belu-Simion Fainaru came to Israel in 1973. He studied at Haifa and continued with studies in art in Italy and Belgium. He lives and works in Belgium and Israel. His earlier work ‘Sham’ (‘There’) from 1966 represents one stage in the evolution from monumental sculpture to the mixed media objects. He exposed in Israel, Romania, other countries in Europe. In 2015 he founded AMOCA – the Arab Museum Of Contemporary Art in Sakhnin (an Arab town in Israel) the first of its kind here, promoting co-existence between Arab and Jewish communities, opening gates for art that is inclusive and collaborative.

Modului in care a fost predata si prezentata istoria Rusiei in Romania comunista merita sa ii fie dedicata o carte. Poate cineva a scris-o sau o va scrie. Cartea ar prezenta evolutia istoriografiei romanesti de la adulatia neconditionata la perceptele staliniste din primii ani dupa preluarea puterii de catre comunisti, trecand prin relativul echilbru al deceniului de dupa dezghetul cauzat de destalinizare, pana la un amestec ciudat de ortodoxism ideologic de suprafata datorat faptului ca regimul comunist al lui Ceausescu era in multe privinte mai sovietic decat cel din Uniunea Sovietica, insa dublat intotdeauna de doza de antisovietism mocnit (uneori prezentat unora in ‘sedinte inchise’ sau in materiale cu ‘circulatie controlata’) care a caracterizat politica national-comunista a lui Ceausescu. Din aceste motive am luat in mana si am citit cu mare interes cartea dedicata istoriei Rusiei in secolul XX de catre istoricul David R. Marples, profesor la Universitatea Alberta, din Edmonton, Canada. Este un fel de manual universitar, care incepe traversarea istoriei recente a Rusiei cu perioada ultimului tar si continua pana la sfarsitul primelor doua mandate prezidentiale ale lui Vladimir Putin. Publicata in versiune originala in 2011, tradusa in romaneste de Miha-Dan Pavelescu si aparuta in 2014 la editura Meteor Press, cartea are si subtitlul ‘In cautarea stabilitatii’. Voi reveni asupra acestui subtitlu care isi are importanta sa in modul de abordare si felul in care sunt descrise si interpretate anumite aspecte ale istoriei ruse si sovietice a secolului care a trecut. Remarc si exceptionala bibliografie cu zeci de titluri de referinta care mai de care mai interesante la fiecare capitol. Cateva casete bine plasate completeaza cu informatii despre personalitati ale culturii, artei, vietii politice a tarii. Ilustratiile sunt insa mult prea putine, si referirile la ilustratii sunt cateodata surprinzator de inexacte.

Primul capitol al cartii acopera perioada de evolutie de la tarism la revolutie, expunand slabiciunea regimului tarist si in special slabiciunea personala a ultimului tar al Rusiei intr-o maniera care ma face sa ma intreb de ce este acesta atat de adulat de unele sectoare ale societatii rusesti de astazi. Sunt prezentate in destul de multe amanunte situatia economica, conflictele sociale si lipsa de traditie politica democratica. Cand in anii 90 Rusia avea sa incerce sa ia calea democratiei liberale occidentale ea nu avea aproape nimic in ce sa se sprijine in istoria pre-comunista. In schimb erau deja bine inradacinate traditii negative cum ar fi gasirea de tapi ispasitori in dusmanii interni si in special in populatia evreiasca, politica diversiunilor antisemite fiind o politica de stat incurajata de tari si de politicienii aserviti lor. Apar surprinzator de putine detalii despre cultura rusa a acelei perioade – nici cultura clasica (cu exceptia notabila a lui Lev Tosltoi) si nici avangarda care a produs in conditii infernale lucrari de referinta in special in al doilea deceniu al secolului nu sunt trecute in revista.

Urmeaza capitolul despre revolutia zisa din Octombrie si preluarea puterii de catre bolsevici. Pentru cei care au fost indoctrinati cu versiunea sovietica a istoriei lectura acestui capitol constituie un punct de vedere proaspat si inedit. Este demitizata contributia lui Lenin si readusa in prim plan cea a lui Trotki si a altor ‘tovarasi’ din conducerea bolsevica eliminati pe rand de catre Lenin si apoi de Stalin. Sunt prezentate in adevarata lor lumina persoanele si personalitatile care au devenit mai tarziu fie statui idealizate, fie ne-nume in cartile de istorie continuu rescrise pana spre sfarsitul istoriei Uniunii. Este prezentata si adevarata esenta a sovietelor care au simulat puterea populara inlocuind parlamentele alese democratic, dar nu au reprezentat niciodata altceva decat unelte de manipulare si justificare a totalitarismului.

 

sursa http://www.meteorpress.ro/carti-1191-Rusia_in_secolul_XX.php

sursa http://www.meteorpress.ro/carti-1191-Rusia_in_secolul_XX.php

 

Cele doua capitole care urmeaza descriu procesul de tranzitie dintre leninism si stalinism, instaurarea dictaturii si a terorii, colectivizarea fortata, si cultul personalitatii care au decimat intreaga societate sovietica inclusiv clasa conducatoare de la varful piramidei. Sunt prezentate luptele interne si eliminarea treptata a tuturor tovarasilor de drum care ar fi putut prezenta vreun pericol pentru dictatorul Stalin. Istoria incepe sa fie rescrisa:

‘Numele lui Trotki avea sa devina o anatema in propaganda sovietica, iar rolul sau in cadrul Revolutiei nu a fost doar uitat, ci sters din paginile de istorie, odata cu fotografiile sale. Diferenta dintre Stalin si Trotki rezida mai mult in personalitate decat in program: ba chiar, in scurt timp, Stalin avea sa adopte politici sustinute multa vreme de Trotki. Cei doi contemporani au intruchipat versiuni diferite ale revolutionarului bolsevic; unul dintre ei a fost un intelectual elocvent, un vizionar pe care vointa lui Lenin l-a convins sa se alature cauzei bolsevice, pe cand celalalt a fost un ins cu radacini in imperiul rus, care a privit lumea in termenii luptei pentru putere, dar rareori din perspectiva internationala. Pentru Stalin destinul comunismului si destinul Rusiei erau strans legate.’ (pag. 108)

In afara de rescrierea istoriei gasim in aceasta epoca multe dintre caracteristicile care cu cateva decenii mai tarziu aveau sa fie ‘exportate’ in statele din Estul Europei cazute sub dominatie comunista: teroarea organizata la nivel generalizat cu dubele care opresc in miez de noapte si ii ridica pe cetateni in mod aparent arbitrar spre destinatii necunoscute, cincinalele indeplinite inainte de termen cu raportari minicinoase caci altfel urmau imediat acuzari de defetism sau sabotaj economic, proletcultismul cu formalismul conservator dominand cultura si arta angajata, nevoia de a gasi si daca nu sunt gasiti de a crea in permanenta dusmani interni a caror demascare sa semene teroare intre oamenii nevinovati prevenind orice tentativa de impotrivire. Politica aceasta impreuna cu pactizarea (tactica probabil) cu Germania nazista a dus la slabirea capacitatii de aparare a Uniunii Sovietice in pragul celui de-al doilea razboi mondial si la pierderile uriase din prima parte a razboiului. Si aceste pierderi insa aveau sa fie folosite de abilul Stalin in scopuri de propaganda, numai ca de aceasta data este vorba despre mobilizarea pentru apararea patriei atacata si aflata in razboi.

Capitolul al 5-lea acopera perioada dintre 1941 (atacarea URSS de catre Germania nazista si intrarea in razboi) si 1953 (moartea lui Stalin). Este cel mai amplu capitol al cartii acoperind ceea ce rusii inca numesc Marele Razboi pentru Apararea Patriei, tratativele intre aliati de la sfarsitul razboiului, impartirea Germaniei si a Europei si primii ani ai razboiului rece. Aceastei perioade ar fi meritat probabil sa ii fie dedicate doua capitole separate. Analiza sfarsitului de razboi pune in evidenta cresterea rolului Rusiei in ansamblul Uniunii Soviectice:

‘… dupa 1945 identificarea rusilor cu sovieticii a devenit obisnuita. Rusii erau considerati forta conducatoare in societatea sovietica si li s-a recunoscut rolul principal. Realizarile lor au fost amplificate si exagerate, iar altor nationalitati li s-a cerut sa manifeste recunostiinta fata de rusi pentru ca le eliberasera de ocupantii fascisti … Rolul aliatilor occidentali a fost in general ignorat. Victimele Holocaustului evreiesc pe teritoriul sovietic n-au fost niciodata identificate ci incluse anonim printre mortii sovietici.’  (pag. 234)

 

sursa http://www.ciuspress.com/authors/138/david-r-marples

sursa http://www.ciuspress.com/authors/138/david-r-marples

 

Prima jumatate a secolului XX acopera cam 60% din carte si pe masura ce ne apropiem de perioada contemporana stilul pare ca devine mai accelerat. Capitolul urmator este dedicat perioadei Hrusciov si aici judecata este pentru mine surprinzator de aspra. Aportul lui Hrusciov in procesul de de-stalinizare, relaxarea regimului si disparitia terorii politice extreme par a fi minimalizate in raport cu tarele personale ale lui Hrusciov, manierelor sale grosolane si modului sau de comportament care a produs ‘mai multe anecdote decat despre toti ceilalti lideri sovietici’ (pag. 257) Mi s-a parut si inadecvat pusa in evidenta cresterea Uniunii Sovietice la statutul de putere mondiala si nu exista nicio referinta in acest capitol ca aceasta s-a datorat si spolierii resurselor interne ale tarilor satelite est-europene cazute sub influenta comunista de la demontarea si transportul in URSS al unor fabrici germane pana la ‘exportul’ fortat de cereale din Romania obligata la plata ‘datoriilor de razboi’. Razboiul din Coreea este descris in amanunte, dar lipseste o analiza si o descriere clara a surselor conflictului dintre URSS si China lui Mao (si dintre partidele comuniste sovietic si chinez), conflict declansat tot in perioada Hrusciov.

Brejnev si cele doua decenii de stagnare care au urmat isi au capitolul lor, urmat de cel dedicat perioadei Gorbaciov cu glasnost, perestroika si destramarea Uniunii Sovietice. In 1984 Uniunea Sovietica este descrisa de catre Gorbaciov insusi ca o tara in criza si inglodata intr-un razboi fara iesire (cel din Afganistan):

‘… tara isi pierduse calea. Partidul nu mai constituia marea forta calauzitoare a societatii, ci era tot mai indepartat de cetateni. Societatea isi pierduse solidaritatea faurita in momentele marete ale istoriei sovietice, asa cum fusese Revolutia, planurile cincinale, si Marele Razboi de Aparare a Patriei. … Gorbaciov nu-si pierduse incredera in sistemul sovietic, dar simtea ca unele atribute si fostul spirit trebuiau reinviate si restabilite.’ (pag. 364)

Judecata lui Gorbaciov de catre David R. Marples este mult mai putin pozitiva decat a multor altor istorici si exegeti, desigur diferita de cea pe care Gorbaciov insusi incearca sa o promoveze in memoriile sale. In viziunea istoricului, Gorbaciov a intrat in programul de reforme cu intentia clara de a salva sistemul si a fost pur si simplu depasit de evenimente. Cele scrise la un moment dat despre politica externa sunt valabile in general pentru apreciera politicii lui Gorbaciov pe toate planurile.

‘… la un moment dat, Gorbaciov a pierdut controlul politicii externe; fortele descatusate de pozitia lui moderata au capatat o forma proprie.’ (pag. 402)

Partidul comunist a constituit in viziunea lui Marples forta care a asigurat coeziunea Uniunii Sovietice. Incercarea de trecere la un sistem democrat a insemnat cedarea ‘rolului conducator’ al partidului si disparitia factorului de stabilitate. In plus Rusia insasi condusa de Eltin (care are parte de o judecata dintre cele mai aspre) a fost un factor destabilizator, acesta punand rolul Rusiei pe primul plan in detrimentul Uniunii care inceteaza sa existe la sfarsitul anului 1991, cand Eltin preia puterea in Rusia si rolul lui Gorbaciov se incheie.

Venirea la putere a lui Putin este prezentata ca o revenire la stabilitate obtinuta cu pretul renuntarii la modelul democratic occidental. Renasc incet si treptat ambitiile imperiale ale Rusiei. Se incearca regasirea legaturii cu trecutul. In capitolul final, David R. Marples enumera patru constante, elemente de continuitate in istoria Rusiei care au supravietuit peste cei peste 70 de ani de putere comunista: dragostea pentru pamant si natura, biserica ortodoxa, venerarea trecutului mai ales sub forma ceremoniilor patriotice, si cultura rusa.

Spre deosebire de multe alte studii istorice publicate in ultimele decenii David R. Marples refuza sa judece istoria Uniunii Sovietice din perspectiva analizarii unui regim totalitar, unul dintre cele doua cele mai odioase regimuri pe care le-a produs secolul XX. In niciun moment nu apare o astfel de analiza sau judecata, in schimb sunt subliniate aspecte pozitive ale vietii de zi cu zi, succese economice (cate au fost), ridicarea statutului politic al Uniunii Sovietice la rang de supra-putere mai ales in anii 60 si 70. Lipseste (si asta este destul de frustant) pentru cititorul din Europa de Rasarit o analiza a politicii externe duse nu numai de statul si guvernul sovietic dar si de partidul comunist prin intermediul Cominternului. Nu se mentioneaza nimic despre procesele staliniste care au decapitat conducerea unor tari ca Cehoslovacia in perioada lui Stalin, despre deportarile populatiei de origine germana din Europa, despre rolul ‘consilierilor’ sovietici in tarile ocupate (desi acestia sunt mentionati in mod oarecum ‘neutru’). Paginile care incheie cartea produc si o explicatie asupra perspectivei istorice pe care a dorit sa o puna in evidenta autorul:

‘… pentru majoritatea rusilor, asa cum o verifica sondajele de opinie din ultimii ani, situatia curenta este preferabila atat incertitudinii si schimbarilor perestroikai, cat si haosului economic din anii Eltin. Pierderea democratiei este mult mai putin importanta decat imbunatatirea standardelor de viata, garantarii salariilor si pensiilor. Un secol de experimente n-a condus decat la consolidarea acestei nevoi de stabilitate si securitate.’  (pag. 463)
 

It’s good to be Tom Cruise. Famous, rich, with an impressive list of impressive ex-es, and even gone through a high profile divorce. After having gone through all major role that make a bright career Tom Cruise can afford now to invest and become a producer. He can take a book by Lee Child and make the action film he wants out of it.  He can take the role a 6 feet 5 inches hero and tailor himself in it. He can afford beautiful and talented Rosamund Pike as a partner, and Robert Duvall and director Werner Herzog in the the veteran good guy and villain roles. And the result is pretty acceptable.

 

sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790724/

sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790724/

 

So, who is Jack Reacher? Ex-army investigator, a man hard to discover and trace to the point that some doubt he exists. A man dedicated to finding the truth to the extent that he is ready and willing to sacrifice anything to make justice. A man capable at any moment to fist-fight five tough guys, to put three bullets in the center of the target from any distance, to destroy the heavily arm need of armed bad guys. In other words – a super-hero.

 

(video source JoBlo Movie Trailers)

 

No need to tell too much about the story. It’s about an apparent clear cut case of mass killing in an American city that proves to be something very different that what you and everybody else in or out the film think excepting Jack Reacher, of course.  Viewers get another well done action film, Tom Cruise does his job as an actor as we expect, Duvall and Herzog have fun and so do we as viewers.   Christopher McQuarrie is a rather inexperienced director, this was only his second film, but producer and actor and superhero Tom Cruise trusted him with the new film in the ‘Mission Impossible’ series, so he must have been satisfied. So are we, if we look for good quality action entertainment from Hollywood.