Antony Dunn: A poem and an interview

From The Hill of the Muses
Antony Dunn: Born in 1973, gifted with instinct and aura of joy…

From The Hill of the Muses
This is how I take you with me;
by saying to the empty seat
beside me, Look! how orange is
the sun above the sea. Now squint
to squeeze its circle from the glare.
And look! over your shoulder, how
the Parthenon squares up to it
and whelms itself with orange light,
before the sun, the heat and you
and I all go down together.
I take it you are lost for words
through pines and aloe vera to
the streetlights and the orange trees
as I watch your steps and wonder,
What d’you think? What d’you make of that?

Questions and Answers : an interview around poetry

Giving a symbolic use to nature - sun par agonised to a missing face- may lead to a romantic way of writing. Aren’t you afraid of being criticised about that?

A.D: Perhaps this poem is unusual for me. While I was writing my third collection, Bugs, I promised myself that none of the poems in it would be about me. Some of them are, of course – in indirect ways. This poem is one of the first half-dozen I’ve written since Bugs, and I’m allowing myself to write some more directly personal poems. It’s a romantic poem, sure. And no, criticism is something I stopped being afraid of after the first review of my first book made me burst into tears in a bookshop...

Orange is the dominating colour all over the poem. It prepares the reader for the heat and therefore for love, until it ends as a tree, like the fulfilment of love. In some way, the structure of the poem does not surprise. Is it your aim while writing? A poem does not have to attack the reader's expectations?
A.D: I’d like to think that my poems did surprise their readers. But I do like to write the occasional poem that’s apparently very simple and plain.

The streetlights and the orange trees: the first image refers to a night snapshot but the orange trees somehow refer to daylight. Is this contrast an effective means of expressing your next state of being puzzled as you wonder?
A.D: Not really. As I walked back into Athens from the Hill of the Muses, in the dark, I was struck by the orange of the streetlights and the oranges hanging in the trees. If the image makes the poem’s readers feel a sensation I didn’t intend, then that’s brilliant.

How inspiring the imagined relationship of writer-reader can be for you?
A.D: Very; particularly in a case like this, where the poem is written for a specific person, and then published for everyone. I do like to imagine my poems being read by real people.

When people ask about you, do you tell them you are also a poet?
A.D: I don’t, normally. I tell them I work in arts marketing, which I do. I’d really love to say that what I am is a “Poet” but it’s only part of what I am. I actually have to gather my courage before using the “P” word, for some reason. Maybe it’s a British thing. Many of us worry that ‘lofty’ words like “Poet” sound self-important or pretentious, which is sad. We should all be bolder.

Poetry refers to primitive joy for you or it is also enjoyment?
A.D: There’s something primitive, for me, about writing poems, because it feels like an instinct. I write because I can’t help it. And a lot of the time I don’t actually enjoy writing. It’s hard work, and frustrating, and it brings me face to face with my limitations all the time. Sometimes, though, it’s the most amazing pleasure. And I love reading other people’s poems. That’s enjoyment.
Do you adapt cinema images or paintings in your poems? Is your memory good?
A.D: Well, I can think of a couple of cinema images, yes. There’s a poem in my second book called Breaking News, which grew out of a shot in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the shot, there are three white suitcases, stacked beside a door. They made me think of a wedding cake, and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. That whole poem was a way of using the image so that I could stop thinking about it, I think. I have a good memory for some things: where I was when I heard a particular song; what something smelled like. I’m terrible with names, though.

Which poets do you read? What are your influences?
A.D: Too many to list, but my big influences when I was starting to write were Norman MacCaig (1910-1996), Ted Hughes (1930-1998), Matthew Sweeney (1952-), Adrian Henri (1972-), Andrew Motion (1952-). Not enough women there, are there?
Current favourites are Kathleen Jamie(1962-), Colette Bryce(1970-), Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), Matthew Hollis (1971-), Michael Symmons Roberts (1963-), Don Paterson(1963-), and Simon Armitage(1963-),. Far, far, far; they are too many to list.

From your experience how difficult is to be published in England? Do you pay for your first publication?
A.D: No. Never pay for publication; Ever. I don’t know if it’s harder to be published in the UK than it is anywhere else. It’s not easy. My first book was rejected six or seven times before Oxford University Press published it in 1998. But that’s because the early drafts were simply not good enough. Brilliant writing will find a publisher in the end. The sad news is that plenty of really bad writing finds a publisher, too.

How often do you write? Do most of your poems cover one page, so that verbal economy leads to a better result regarding feelings?
A.D: Not often enough. But, like all writers, I have periods of writing a lot, very quickly, and then months and months when nothing happens at all. That’s hard. And yes, most of poems are relatively short, probably because one of the things I really love about poetry is the way it can be so compact. I like a poem to be bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

I recommend you visiting http://www.antonydunn.org/ so as to learn more about Antony Dunn 
first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/2008/11/antony-dunn-poem-and-interview.html

Jim Greenhalf/ Britain: A poem and an interview

All happened so normal. First I read by chance a poem of Jim Greenhalf published at the London Magazine while being at the flat of a very estimated and beloved Greek poet. I was so much excited by the writing that later was looking online for more information so as to enrich the meta-feeling – like metamorphosis- caused by the poem with some kind of knowledge. I was lucky. I found the email of Jim Greenhalf and the e-mail correspondence did start.
Days ago, it was a pleasure learning from Jim that my poem ‘‘Gardener’’ reminds him of the movie Being There, with the late Peter Sellers playing the part of a gardener called ''Chance'', who came to be thought of as a man of great wisdom. It was a pleasure because if poetry is the spur for cross-thinking, a lot of good things can happen. Here comes the poem ‘‘Socrates’’ by Jim Greenhalf as well as the interview I had online with him.

Jim Greenhalf


The struggle is to live with quiet gladness
in spite of weather, rent rises,
power bills, stock market fluctuations,
stupid or cowardly governance;
bad faith, cheap grace;
circumstances, time;
young blond barmaids
with plunging necklines.
Midwife of the questing mind,
professor of ignorance.
The way to wisdom is not
for those with secrets to hide.
The authorities got him
for immoral aiding and abetting,
as the English got Joan of Arc
for the heresy of cross-dressing.
More of a gargoyle even
than Paul Verlaine,
but purer than democrats and tyrants.
He had no possessions, no loot,
no off-shore investments in Persia.
What he had was shared with friends,
and when Athens was under military threat
he fought as a foot soldier.
He was sent to shine a light through posterity.
A thorny old bastard bare-heeled
among potsherds and
the broken amphora of history.
He accepted the state's poison ruefully.
The greatest discovery you can make in life
he said, as he wiped the hemlock from his mouth,
is yourself.
Jan/Feb 2008

Interview with Mr. Jim Greenhalf: About Wisdom and Poetry…
When did you write your first poem?its title?
J.G: At secondary school, when I was about 14, I wrote a comic poem called Fludd. In later life I was astonished to find that Robert Fludd actually existed; I think he was a minor English philosopher - I could be wrong. Round about age 18 I wrote a poem called Lesley Mitchell Day, a disingenuously innocent lyric on the subject of unrequited love. Lesley, by the way, was a girl. In England there is a masculine first name variation - Leslie. This 12-line piece opens my collection The Dog's Not Laughing: Poems 1966-1998.
Poetry doesn't have so many themes although the number of subjects may be astronomical. In my experience, poetry that survives the time of its creation, has the ability to cross national and cultural borders.
In which artistic movement would Socrates belong?
J.G: Ah, Antigoni, what an inquiring mind you have my lovely Greek; if only I had the scholarship to respond adequately to your question. Ignorant as I am - no false humility intended - my conviction is that I don't believe the old goat would have pastured on anyone else's hillside. He left the grassy slopes of Parnassus to egotists and fancy young men in love with their own reflection. Plato too, I believe, took completely the opposite view of poets to the pose affected by Shelley - that they are the unofficial legislators of the world. Only a spoilt young man living on unearned income would even think such a thing, let alone say it. Socrates was like the North Star, a loner in the firmament, but a guide to all Mankind.
Have you been translated? Do you believe in poetry translation or you are an amateur of the original sound as well as rythm?
J.G: I believe there is a lady professor of French literature at Charles University who has translated at least two of my poems into French. She saw and heard me perform them at a concert with Jaroslav Hutka, at the Literary Cafe in Prague, on May 11, 2007. The poems were: Frederick the Great and Voltaire Debate Truth and Beauty and The Difference Between Poetry and Everything Else.
Without translations where would any of us be? What would English literature be without the dramas, comedies and satires of the Greeks and Romans? Where would French literature be without them? What would James Joyce have done without The Odyssey on which to model the structure of Ulysses? By the way, I think it's a pity he used so much artifice to do it; contrivance can get in the way when it's over-done. Where would Boris Pasternak have been without his beloved Shakespeare? If nation is to talk into nation let them do it through their arts, not through the artifice of technocratic idiocies such as the European Union - empire building without the save grace either of a spiritual dimension as in the Holy Roman Empire or the political vision of Napoleon. Hitler is another matter.
Which question you hate to be asked? Was it included in the previous ones?
J.G: The question is most revile goes something like...What inspires me to write? Oh, you know, I would love to write but I just don't seem to have the time. How do I do it? I go away and die. Writing is not the ultimate purpose of Mankind, or humankind if you prefer. Serving, healing, feeding, supplying, repairing, defending, advancing, maintaining, loving, worshipping - these are the great purposes of life on the blue planet. I write because I'm, I have no head for heights and I can't swim; I write because no one taught me how to be a soldier or a missionary or an engine driver; I write because I never made it as a footballer. I write out of failure; but writing is no longer just therapy: I left that behind when I turned 40. Beckett said: "Fail better". And that's what I try to do: fail better next time.
What symbolises Socrates for you?
J.G: A goat. A goat feeds on nettles and water. A goat has no fear of heights and no fear of depths. A goat knows how to follow a difficult path, or create one, and live at peace with its lot under the clouds. Those born under the baleful sign of Capricorn are goats. I am a goat, although it does not follow that I am Socrates. I wish I had played football like Socrates, the great Brazilian star of the 1982 World Cup. But my style was more, shall we say, sporadic than Socratic.
How a city could be poetic?
J.G: 'How a city could be poetic?' is like your 'early of September', Antigoni: not quite correct gramatically, but all the better for being innocently wrong. If you had asked: 'How can a city be poetic?' I would have laughed. Europe is filled with consultants advising city authorities how they can regenerate using business and the arts (a little) to attract big bucks from the European Union and other sources. Well, a city may gain all the glory of the world and in the process lose its soul. If a city whores after the kind of free-market liberalisation that has caused so much damage to the United States, the United Kingdom and to other parts of the world, it will certainly lose much more than it gains in fast food franchises and apartments that few can afford.
Cities evolve through time. A street or a square may be planned and constructed; but the soul of a place cannot be designed on an architect's elephant board or computer screen. Berlin, Paris, London, Bradford each in its own way inspires poetry; but few would describe Bradford as 'poetic' the way they would Florence or the skyline of New York City.
A poet usually lives in the shadow, behind celebrities as poetry refers more to an existential identity rather than to a role playing game. Do you agree?
J.G: Yes. Poetry is about sinking wells into the oil fields of experience and pumping up the crude. Writing is the art of refining the crude - but not over-refining it.
Poetry can get benefit from information? You are also a journalist with a variety of awards.
J.G: You have placed 'poetry' and 'journalism' together, perhaps in juxtaposition to accentuate the difference between them. I would only say that journalism, which the late Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski and Anselm Hollo sometimes come close to - with great skill and panache is a more public function than the writing of poetry. However, the act of writing both requires common disciplines: writing to purpose and to measure (not necessarily rhyming and scanning); using appropriate words to deliver the meaning; editing out words that are either superfluous or grandiloquent.
As to information, well, I could say 'Your eyes are brown' or 'Auschwitz was a murder factory', or 'the EU is a political tyranny'. But if I say, 'Your eyes are as brown as Amontillado', then I am imparting something more to mere fact. The same applies to the other two examples.
Moral courage is subject to ethics (ethical action) instead of being applied on moral sense?
J.G: By definition 'moral courage' is active, not merely an intellectual category. 'Moral sense' may mean knowing the right thing to do; but knowledge alone does not always result in right action. The conflict between these two things - knowing and doing - is at the heart of almost all of Shakespeare's tragedies. And then what about doing the morally wrong thing - killing someone - for an ethically impeccable reason - to rid the world of a terrible threat? For me, courage is active, whether it means facing up to illness or distress or risking bodily injury by going to another's rescue. It also means dealing with the idea of mortality. The Socratic method, at least to this bear of alarmingly little brain, rests upon an inner strength derived from coming to terms with the fact of death. I believe Boethius took the same road, before the Roman state killed him.
Under which circumstances you write?
J.G: Usually the least propitious: in a noisy, germ-trap of an office; and alone after work, at weekends and while on annual leave. Unlike Mahler, I do not have three months of bliss every summer by a alpine lake; nor is there a dacha waiting in a leafy Moravian glade. I think as I walk city streets - me, my own private lyceum; I write as I work, letting disparate ideas and images come and go while I concentrate on something else; and when I am neither thinking nor writing, I wait for that little hidden light to come on, like the light in a fridge, to set me humming. These answers were first written out by hand this morning in the busy Diner of Salts Mill, Saltaire (google it). I write less at work than I used to because there is more work to do but fewer people to do it. Most of my writing is done at home, a rented apartment in Ilkley. 

Wisdom and self-consciousness: what's their relationship?
J.G: Self-consciousness evolves through the natural processes of cognition. I believe that we are born with innate propensities, for language, for example. I have always felt antagonistic to the Behaviourist school of psychology which attributes human development to personal background and environment. Art usually defies the circumstances of its creation. How else could Van Gogh, personally penniless for the ten years in which he drew and painted until he killed himself at the age of 37, how could he had painted all those sunflowers and sunsets and pictures of fruitful nature? Behaviourists say that we only act in our own best interests. But that simplistic explanation is contradicted by prison. If human beings only acted in their best interests only prisoners of conscience and the persecuted would be in jail. I do not believe we are born as blank sheets of paper which life then encodes with a script we cannot change. Were this the case, children would not surprise (and sometimes alarm) adults by uttering words and phrases they have neither heard nor been taught.
Wisdom, however, can only come about as the result of lived experience. Received wisdom, like epigrams - 'Cynicism is knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing' (Oscar Wilde) is something different. A child may make adults weep with a glance and a prodigy may cause gasps of astonishment with amazing facility to play music or work through complex mathematical formulae; but the genius at the keyboard or log table is likely to be inexperienced and vulnerable in the way that Socrates was not. Wisdom is a construct that evolves from experience rather than a flash of intuitive insight. But intuition is NOT the polar opposite of rationality; it is, instead, another way of reasoning - with jump leads instead of deductive cause and effect and inductive effect to cause (the difference is rarely clear to this bear). Intuition is a flash of fire from the gods. Prometheus is another hero.
Dear Mr. Greenhalf , Thank you very much indeed.
*poems of Jim Greenhalf can also be read online: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=10078
Also visit:

*first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/2008/10/jim-greenhalf-britain-poem-and.html



While the garden was running to weeds
They decided to have
Their first breakfast together
In that green air
The affinity they felt for each other
Was very quick
Instead of handshakes
They changed milkshakes
And their talking was running to the garden

It was a pleasure watching them
From his moody room
With his fingers entwined
As if he was not alone any more
It was then he slightly realized
How damn used to acting he was

Looking at the garden was interrupted by rain
He fiercely closed the spotty window
While rain spots were dripping into
The unfinished milkshakes on the wooden table

The couple was kissing under a burst of clouds
With hands in gloves entwined at the top
Like a yellow penthouse
Goodbye smelled anemones in the rain
The next day he decided to take on the duties
Of the garden
He announced his desire in front of us
Everyone in the hostel should do something
And he chose to keep an eye
On the weeds

It was a pleasant offer for all of us
Some need to be
Observers in life
I couldn’t deprive him of his right to be

He was made for gardening.

*first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/search?updated-max=2008-10-17T20:21:00%2B03:00&max-results=7


Le passé/ The past by Asghar Farhadi: a pitch of excitement

There is much to say about “The past” by Asghar Farhadi but above all its highlight is definitely the strong and articulate scenario that follows the lead of an exciting movie despite the soberness of the story and the emotive co-issues it approaches regarding the effects after an attempted suicide as well as after a divorce on both children and adults. Farhadi’s movie should be seen by some Greek directors who “play” internationally in between languages of melodramatic banalities without adding anything new in the contemporary art and culture.   

It is true that any kind of divorce robs us of the daily grind of family; like a “short or sudden death”, a divorce leaves hollow places in hearts. However, problems can be alleviated by accepting the reality so as to attain reconciliation with our past. This is the secret key of any emotive issue: reconciliation. In general, the movie “The past” (“Le Passé”) by Asghar Farhadi narrates the way to reconciliation even when the passage through grief is inevitable, from the beginning of rain drops at the airport until the end of two hands linked together like wings of a “hand-painted” life. The well constructed scenario of this physical-made movie is a proof that emotive issues can be approached by skilled directors who know how to make a difference and exploit all the data they have for the spectators’ needs.

To start with, it is commonly deduced that dealing with death in life is very significant. As a whole, life in motion is also a retrospection of death issues when past and present tend to be interwoven. “The past”, then, explores aspects of a death-dealing culture, whereas we are exposed to a death-denying culture of a greedy and affluent society in the real life. The movie is a mixture of difficult cases: first, a couple –Marie Brisson (exceptional Bérénice Bejo, i.e. “The artist”) and Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) - gets a divorce after their leading a separate life. This is the main issue. However, there are following co-issues to blossom out. One of them regards the new relationship of Marie Brisson with Samir (Tahar Rahim) followed by the attempted suicide of his wife. The reasons why she took this decision are to be looked into especially by the teenager Lucie (Pauline Burlet), daughter of Marie. Next, the children’s moods – as they live under these conditions and shape their own personal attitudes of anxiety, fear, anger or/and grief- relate to another issue to be examined closely, with respect to each character, according to the script. For instance, Fouad (Elyes Aguis), son of Samir, is nervous because he has undergone an emotional overdose comparing to his age. This is another subject that the movie handles successfully by showing the actions of which the sheath is the essence of contradictory emotions.   

Thus, it would be interesting to recall the five steps of grief defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s: these are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As a result, the masterful performance of Bérénice Bejo and all the cast, portrays the limits of the emotions when things aggravate and we realize how we get embittered because of confusion. Furthermore, the way that lights are used is also an indicator of a masterful construction, which doesn’t stick to the problem representation but surpasses it artistically. This turns also to be a suggestion for people to savor life fully and throw caution to the wind, as it is about their own, one and only life. In conclusion, Farhadi digs deeper into human psyche; he creates beauty and truth, if it can be put in words. Until the end, there is another corner of the problem to be seen clearly, as if making cinema were as enigmatic as the rest of a life based on matching incongruities.   


The tin drum by Volker Schlöndorff

The movie version of The Tin Drum directed by Volker Schlöndorff -twenty years later after the novel by Günter Grass (1959) - ends as it begins, with a tribute to the importance of responsibility examined through the eyes of Oscar Matzerath (exceptional David Bennent), who never grows up. In reality, Oscar symbolizes every man that keeps going in an uneducated and superficially innocent society, instead of taking the plunge into a responsible political life. Following Oscar’s childish eyes, as Günter Grass has mentioned, Schlöndorff just tells the story on one line. This is the success point of the movie that won both the Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of that year, in 1979, whereas its aesthetics partially calls up to German expressionism. Until today The Tin Drum has the power to make us reflect upon the past of Nazi history, indicating we are a sum of multiple perspectives upon our past and present; Grass knows it very well, for his past reconsideration made him choose the road to his present activism, that is, give vent to a strong voice against Nazism, German austerity measures and peoples’ repression. Overall, the sound of the tin drum in the movie is the counter-balance of this annoying social sleep; the tin drum awakes the spectre of memory, the importance of which is priceless so as to attain real endurance and joy.      


Big bad wolves by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papuchado: all for revenge.

“Big Bad wolves” by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papuchado is a revenge thriller of strong bloody controversy with quick hand-held shootings and eye-catching photography. Based on the fear-some archetype of wolf, its title brings to the fore the issue of pushing somebody-a potential criminal- into revealing the truth as well as the way this process needs to be done. From one side, we all remember the quote: “the end justifies the means”. On the other hand, how long will it take to elucidate the murder mystery instead of spreading violence and dispersing its seeds like those dead leaves of September?

Miki the cop (Lior Ashkenazi), Dror the suspect and also schoolteacher (Rotem Keinan) and Gidi the father of the last victim (Tzahi Grad) stay together, down in a remote basement until the tortured suspect decides to disclose the secret place where the head of the little dead girl has been kept or buried. In this concentric circle of violence, except for Gidi, his father Yoram (Doval'e Glickman) also gets involved in a more austere manner, cultivating the entrenched belief seen in some old cops that harder is better and better means harder. No mercy for the guilty.

Until the end, “Big Bad Wolves” is a movie worthy of attention because it manages to keep its question marks, whilst –from time to time- the camera takes our look high gradually to trigger anxiety and make the story more intricate so as to captivate us. In general, the recurrent intense music of Haim Frank Ilfman keeps pace with the script story successfully and so it is well incorporated in the plot. In conclusion, the movie is not so frightening but don’t go if you are a passionate lover of mushy romantic novels. There’s “blood” here, the existence of which may be repulsive sometimes.

19th Athens International Film Festival “Nychtes Premieras”


Les yeux sans visage, 1960, de George Franju : pas seulement classique

C’est de ce film merveilleux de Franju –« Les yeux sans visage »- que va s’inspirer Pedro Almodovar pour créer son film « La piel que habito ». Voilà l’histoire classique qui traite le problème de sauver notre peau au détriment des autres. Le film nous présente plusieurs champs de réflexion sur les rapports, les sentiments et même sur les instincts. En tous cas, il convient de dire que c’est le thème de l’emprisonnement qui nous a le plus attiré l’attention. Puisque l’emprisonnement constitue la mort symbolique, la fille du docteur Génessier(Pierre Brasseur), Christianne (Edith Scob), « perd » toujours, enfermée dans sa chambre sans miroirs afin qu’elle ne puisse pas voir son visage détruit après un accident grave. En même temps, son père travaille avec sa « secrétaire », une femme complice. Elle (Alida Valli) sait ce qui se passe avec les filles aux yeux bleus qui ne rentrent jamais si elles arrivent à la maison - laboratoire du docteur.     

Dans « Les yeux sans visage » de George Franju nous assistons au destin tragique de Christianne (Edith Scob), qui ne peut plus supporter sa vie secrète : pour les autres, sauf son père et sa secrétaire complice, elle est officiellement morte. Pour elle-même, elle est un objet caché. Donc, la narrative du film l’expose comme une fille tragique, privée d’amour, privée d’espoir. C’est pourquoi, à la fin, nous voyons sa réaction agressive au nom de la liberté. Elle ne veut plus être coupable, elle devient « capable ». Lorsque elle réagit comme ça, le poids retombe sur son père, le docteur Génessier(Pierre Brasseur), qui a commis des crimes inacceptables. En guise de conclusion, l’histoire du film est pour la justice et la défend à travers la solution animale, c'est-à-dire à travers les animaux qui représentent le monde des instincts. Le docteur fait preuve d’orgueil, reconnu par la société, mais à la fin, sa mort le rend le personnage le plus tragique : c’est un professionnel et un criminel en même temps. En fait, le docteur est la vraie personne sans visage, aux yeux criminels, celui qui n’a pas hésité à transgresser la loi! C’est un film exceptionnel qui nous montre que nous devons aimer le cinéma et ses moments particuliers. Musique amusante, photographie très intéressante. 

19th Athens International Film Festival “Nychtes Premieras”


The Congress by Ari Folman: conceptual animation

Based on the science fiction and satirical novel “ The Futurological Congress” of Stanislaw Lem, “The Congress” directed by the Israeli Ari Folman indicates he has a knack for creating a surrealistic kind of conceptual animation so as to cover even hard sociopolitical aspects of his subject in a cultural framework. Five years after “Waltz with Bashir”, Ari Folman considers his new movie as being his naughty kid, a hellion, who causes problems everywhere. On the other hand, he loves this child very much as the most representative piece of him. That’s what he said to the audience, at the 19th International Film Festival of Athens, “Nychtes Premieras” yesterday evening.

“The Futurological Congress” is a symbolical novel of political character. It regards the way power works and controls people. Polish Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006), whom we know better from Solaris, wrote a satirical text of political insinuations where industry is the power that confirms its value by deceiving –and, thus, damaging- the individuals treated as isolated but also as productive and profitable units.

So the story existed. Moreover, Folman had a personal experience relating to a former famous actress, who was not recognizable recently in Cannes due to her age. He included the feeling of this fact in the script. Whereas, the essential, for him, was to focus on the actress who would incorporate his vision to make a movie even for his personal status, by broadening the novel subject into a wider cultural scale so as to approach the issues of age and sadness in time, of compromise, decay and deception after all. Luck supported him and, given that he had the chance to meet Robin Wright at an international meeting, he proposed her acting in his movie by showing her excerpts as if the script were made exclusively for her. We know what followed.   

“Release your chemistry to the world”: this could be the motto of any enterprise, any collective source of images and patterns, so as to control people by seducement and bet on both their sexuality and libido nature. Robin Wright is the actress who goes through this adventure of becoming somebody else. She is an aging woman and so, this is an important reason for lending her image to Miramount Studios. There, they will convert her into a digital actress with a scanned body of an everlasting youth. No wonder. This is the profitable slogan: “for ever young”. Less powerful, less beautiful, less attractive is painful. And Wright pays the price.

What happens, anyway, when people still think, deprived of action and creativity? They are sad and need pills to survive. Although Robin Wright sold her movie rights to Miramount, her decision made her suffer, because she promised not to act again. Instead, she got a computer-generated character. This is the first level of decay, when action has nothing to do with you but with your icon. This is the first compromise.

After 40 minutes around, here the book reference title comes: the congress. Twenty years later, Robin goes to attend “the Futurological Congress”, where Miramount Studios highlight their brand-new technology. It’s about the second level of decay, when your mind gets rotten and lacks in originality, creativity, space actually! According to the movie, people can now transform themselves into animated avatars like that of Michael Jackson appearing later in the “Chemical Party”. Their salvation is hidden in a pill. Miramount Studios now bet on Robin’s giving people the right to become her avatars. First, Robin makes the insane agreement but, all of a sudden, she realizes that she consented to become a product in a pill. So she denies officially before the public and, thus, saves herself from being killed by enemies of technological monopoly. Then, Miramount Nagasaki Police imprison and are about to execute her, but later a modern protector appears and takes her to the “Chemical Party”. On the other side of this chemical world, of course, there is…truth. Robin explores the new condition but still misses her son and wants to find him, years later, looking for his presence in time.

In conclusion, “The Congress” is a symbolical movie about the human composure beyond –and except for- the technological insanity. However, according to Julia Kristeva[1], sadness, the depressive emotion, can be interpreted as a form of defense against the process of cutting-up. It is claimed that sadness reconstructs and reunifies the “ego” that regains unity through this emotion sheath.

Consequently, “The Congress” has a closer look at time, from a subjective aspect, when things are occasions of a personal trip and reconsideration in time. That’s why this “hellion”, this naughty kid, is beloved by Folman. It is a mirror of his feeling – I won’t define it as stress, for it is much more- towards his course in time. From this symbolical standpoint, Robin is a Muse, a soul, and Aaron is her son who awaits and seeks an answer like a modern Telemachus. Why sadness? Why truth? Because –otherwise- we would not have started from a denial to end up in a kind of deception and judge the deceptive side of life as well as of things. Because –otherwise- we would not have pursued our creativity so as to release this body adventure confessed by the emotion. Sadness indicates detachment. It is an impulse for addressing ourselves to symbolism so as to correlate experiences of reality together.

(Well done Mr. Folman, but no pills provided after your movie…) 

[1] Julia Kristeva, Soleil noir, Dépression et mélancolie, Gallimard, Paris 1987.


Fatal by Lee Don-Ku: a Korean counter movie

Here the counter-cinema comes, which means no famous names appear but ordinary ones that bet on performing the difference. “Fatal” by Lee Don-Ku is a good reason for having a closer look at excerpts of distant culture that build an ethical code on guilt and responsibility. However, the inevitable of the script could be shown from scratch instead of watching something predictable. Playing with time and movie scenes could attain better results perhaps in an after all interesting filmic approach that comes from South Korea.

The subject of the film regards the rape of a young girl, Jang-mi (Yan Jo-a), by a gang of youths who know each other. This fact is going to mark their lives, even though the boys act in a sense that life goes on. Among them, Sung-gong (Nam Yeon Woo) makes the difference because he feels guilty and needs to be forgiven for that night. His looking for Jang-mi’s life, as soon as they meet each other out of the blue, ten years later, in a church group, is constant. The lasting impression on spectators is that he is tortured by memory burden and wants to be released by telling the truth to Jang-mi. However, he shares nothing with her but some slight insinuations about his pain. When Jang-mi expresses herself in a night gathering, Sung-gong decides to become her voice of fulfilling her desire. The future is unknown and the end always near, to remember Jim Morrison. “Fatal” has a very powerful scene of night confession that leads to the end of the story, whilst the good interpretations are among the good points of the movie. Moreover, the crazy dreams of Sung-gong make us predict he is going to take Jang-mi’s role in order to punish her torturers as well as himself in an attempt to be excluded by his past and mind. It is a way to split his mind and soul from his body. However, what could be constructed better is the sequence of action. On the other hand, “Fatal” is worthy of note to open a dialogue regarding the way countries construct their profile and cultural codes through cinema and movie production.    

Also for Korean films:

19th Athens International Film Festival “Nychtes Premieras”

The Conjuring by James Wan: a blockbuster of horror

Inspired by a true story of the 70’s James Wan directs a strong movie of slamming doors, dead animals and demonic forces located in a lonely farmhouse. Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) live there with their five daughters, when mystery develops itself gradually up to the point of intimidation. They seek help and so they ask from a couple of paranormal investigators, Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), to solve the mystery of their unexpected guest in the house after showing them the ropes.

Although the blockbuster’s clichés are evident, the latest movie of James Wan is a logical horror construction with an interesting rhythm and powerful image. Why see it? Because you are absorbed in the plot narrative and you forget any thoughts about objectivity and story, as this is a reason for doing so. Why not? Because some expressions dependent on clichés, such as the permission of Vatican, are somehow repugnant to make imagination roll on. We say logical but ok, not theological. Anyway, it is nothing more than a horror movie. Don’t seek daisies in the desert.   



Fruitvale station: where memory locks you in

A real tragic story -relating to the sudden death of the young Afro American Oscar Grant (exceptional Michael Jordan) shot by a police officer at Fruitvale station in the first hour on the first New year day of 2009- directed by Ryan Coogler, makes spectators empathize with the problem; no wonder why it is easy to happen when every city has at least one victim to declare in a similar case. In Athens, the sudden death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on the 6th of December, in 2008, has been kept in our memory. Anyway, this film brings into question how well you can cope with tragic and unfair life by revealing your artistic skills or talents.

Ryan Coogler who directed “Fruitvale station” has worked with imprisoned youth at San Francisco's Juvenile Hall. Maybe his experience from that period made him build a strong memory full of personal stories that needed special care and an eye on them. When the tragic death of Oscar Grant took place, cause and reason crossed one another. So, Coogler had a story and, moreover, a personal experience to be involved.

However, the way you choose to film the last 24 hours of a 22 year old victim on the last day of the year before the new one comes, is not an easy one unless you want to end up in a commonplace script. Although it is certain that real cinema makes spectators feel as spectActors and think of public issues as citizens of the world, in terms of intent and realization, this movie did not treat its subject in a more artistic way, that is, through music role or scenes’ sequence. Therefore, it did not meet the expectation to become an overall interesting movie. Given that the plot is normal and the sequence of events tends to be predictable, we just watch a story of which the end is known; no surprise. On the other hand, the interpretations are very good in order to feel what’s going on. We certainly like Oscar when he is jobless, helps an unknown woman by giving her his cell phone, takes cares of a stray dog, hugs his daughter and kisses his wife Sophina (Melonie Dias). We watch his effort to fix and take his life back without going to jail again. But all these scenes, beyond life representation, do not seem to correlate in order to give birth to something else. In a cell phone story, when one rings another, we are much embedded in reality; then we end up in metro reality before the racism hot issue comes to the fore and the “sudden” murder takes place. In conclusion, “Fruitvale station” managed to gain the audience award and the grand jury prize of the dramatic competition of Sundance but did not manage to cause something more than real empathy in a common ground. The strong personal cry of somebody in the dark before lights were turned on to make us stroll downtown in Athens is also an indication of this truth.  

19th Athens International Film Festival “Nychtes Premieras”

Sound city: listen to the myth, stay tuned to the people.

That’s an eye-catching feature documentary with music and interviews, faces and action about the iconic recording studio in Van Nuys of California named “Sound City”. The thing not to forget is: “yes, you can do it on your own, but you’ll be much happier if you do it with others”.  Dave Grohl directed 108 minutes of strong beat and catchy tunes for rock n’ roll and cinema lovers, 2 in one.

When Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana comes at the helm of the project to trace the history of the “famous Sound City”, -the iconic recording studio in Van Nuys of California- and direct a documentary of interviews and music pieces, the story starts with a great asset. Later on, while watching it, we realize why are addicted to rock n’ roll history. The reason why we love this kind of music is because it is the collective result of passion, strong will and talent that some people put together in order to make a thrill surpass their life and themselves. More specifically, Vinny Appice, -the rock drummer of Dio and Black Sabbath-, Joe Barresi, Brian Bell, Paul McCartney and Rick Springfield are some of those who appear on the big screen. In conclusion, the direction of Dave Grohl made mixed words work together, while offering rock appetizers in between. Moreover, it is clear that the outcome of the documentary leads to raise music awareness regarding how –on earth,-today, in the digital era, when we can simulate and manipulate everything, music can still remind us of something human. This is the point: how will we keep music to sound like people? Every word of those who shared a rock thrilling experience and “had no idea what they were doing” –whilst this could be their autobiography title-, is inspiring in a sense that you take life as it comes. Take action; take a step to meet others like you so as to be understandable and happy after all. 

19th Athens International Film Festival “Nychtes Premieras”