Thursday, December 22, 2011

Savannah Solstice 2011

Forsythe Fountain

Our stay in Savannah has been rejuvenating. Mornings of meditation on our terrace have given me new perspectives to inform days ahead as we return to Atlanta and move on to the mountains of Tennessee. The Solstice  is sacred to me, not because of the birth of Jesus, or Mithra (same day) or any other particular incarnation of godhead. It is sacred to me as a Pantheist, as the seasons shift like Yeats' Gyres, and the longest night passes. The shadows change. There is a noticeable alteration and we all sense the beginning of a New Year. I feel a sort of completion as the Solstice passes.

To be here in this warm, sunny climate, drinking tea in the courtyard, or sipping champagne on the porch, reading Murakami in the spacious living rooms, surrounded by paintings, and decorative arts, is to be transported to an Epicurean garden where the wars, famine, capitalist conquests, political posturing, and man's inhumanity all momentarily dissolve. I recall Lars von Trier's Melancholia, and wonder if the world will meet its doom in 2012, after all, as some say the Mayans predict. What should one do if the world is going to end? I can think of nothing better than a walk along the shore, breathing sea air, watching the waves roll in.

Of course the Winter solstice is a time for feasting and merriment as well, right? We have done that too. Day and night after day of seafood. Wine. Good company. It is a time to let go of the planet's woes and just "Let The Sunshine In," to quote a wonderful play I saw in New York some 40 odd years ago.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thoughts and Reviews-- the Film, Shame

My view is the film should have been named "Desperation," not "Shame," since the main character never seems to show or to feel shame about anything. There is much to ponder here, and to tell the truth, the film is profoundly disturbing. I suppose it could also be called "Alienation," since there has never been a man more alienated from other people. Here are some reviews and other comments from my Facebook page:

    Yet another great review. Love the ref. to William's Sonnet #129 which I'll post below. Amazing.
    In “Shame,” the new feature from the British artist turned filmmaker Steve McQueen, the protagonist is a handsome, youngish Manhattanite who is hooked on sex.

    William Shakespeare - Sonnet #129
    The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action; and till action, lust
    Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, 
    Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
    Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight;
    Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
    Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
    On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
    Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
    Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
    A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
    Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.

    All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
    To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

    Another Excellent Review:

    "Recorded in explicit but never pornographic detail, this is some of the most joyless sex ever put on screen, a compulsion to climax in which emotional connection plays no part. It's the fixation of a tortured individual aghast at the self-destructiveness of his addiction but unable to change his actions or escape the shame they cause."
    ‎"Shame" is a dispassionate treatment of a disturbing topic, and therein lies its power. Sexually graphic enough to earn its NC-17 rating yet made with a restraint that's both unflinching and unnerving, this is a psychologically claustrophobic film that strips its characters bare literally and figuratively

    Magneto lets it all hang out. Michael Fassbender — the German-Irish Adonis of the art house, who also played the young Magneto in this summer's X-Men: First Class — is on full-frontal display in the grinding sex drama Shame.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Rilke's Birthday

A poem from Rilke:

Love Song

How can I keep my soul in me, so that
it doesn't touch your soul? How can I raise
it high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote
lost objects, in some dark and silent place
that doesn't resonate when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin's bow,
which draws one voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, November 29, 2011



Bodhidharma and Huike

Years ago A Zen Monk gave me a Koan to meditate upon. The Koan was, "Who is Jack Miller?"
A Koan is a rung on the latter to enlightenment. I am still here on the first step. So far, I have reached preliminary answers. First, in my case, "Jack Miller" is nothing. The name does not name me. If I have a name, it is Jack Jameson. Elsewhere in this blog I have answered the question from Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name?" By citing my academic accomplishments and giving an account of my history. Am I my history? Not if Simone De Beauvoir and her beau are right. 
I share thoughts with another Zen Master-to-be these days who has given me the same Koan: "Become the person you want to be." The phrasing of course is different, wiser actually, more to it. Again, preliminary answers come to mind-- writer, lover, poet, philosopher. 
Part of the answer may also be who I am not now. I am not a Zen Master, and I write about this in a poem:

I have not resolved if a Zen Master is the person I want to be; and I suspect that saying, "in the future," is what De Beauvoir calls "Bad faith or mauvaise foi." 

I want to be on the path for now. The person I am and want to be is alive, full of passion, growing in compassion, knocked over with feelings of emotional pain and pleasure-- melancholy and joy. The person I want to be is learning to want less to attain a higher awareness.

File:Huike thinking.jpg

According to the Denkoroku, when Huike and Bodhidharma were climbing up Few Houses Peak, Bodhidharma asked, “Where are we going?” Huike replied, “Please go right ahead---that’s it.” Bodhidharma retorted, “If you go right ahead, you cannot move a step.” Upon hearing these words, Huike was enlightened.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Because the following review is so well written and accurate, I will forgo writing my own review. Instead, I want to add that I found the film to be a look into the heart of homosexual love. There is something unique and wonderful about two men loving one another that is not the same as heterosexual love. This film reveals what that is in a way that is authentic and moving. Both kinds of love have their own beauty and truth, but there is a fascinating difference we are often too ready to overlook or deny. Weekend gives us a more profound understanding.

Weekend – review

A lo-fi, tremendously convincing account of contemporary gay life
4 out of 5
weekend film still
Something urgent to say about the windows of opportunity in our lives … Weekend
"Weekends, like life, are short." That melancholy reflection from Kind Hearts and Coronets does justice to some of Andrew Haigh's unassumingly excellent lo-fi feature: a boy-meets-boy love story extending over a single weekend, and filmed with a kind of real-time realism. There is sadness here, as well as romance, and a sense that sexual experience is not merely exciting for its own sake, but an adventure in defining one's sense of self: what one character here calls finding both partner and your self as a blank slate. Weekend has something urgent to say to both gay and straight audiences about the windows of opportunity in our lives.

Russell is a gay guy in his 20s who seems happy enough. We see him first at a party being thrown by his straight friends, with kids. He leaves early – to his hosts' disappointment – claiming to be tired, but on his way home on the bus he stops off at a gay bar, and meets Glen, who works at the local art gallery. They go home together for what both assume will be a fleeting, pleasurable fling. But in the morning, their conversation continues, and they wonder if they might have a future together. But first, they have to make some decisions on the subject of monogamy and what they want from life in the first place, and they discover they have far less time to make these decisions than they thought.
Russell is gentle, thoughtful, introverted; Glen is bold, worldly and a little confrontational in his need to assert his gay identity. In these roles, Tom Cullen and Chris New give tremendously relaxed and utterly convincing performances, very well directed by Haigh. It is the kind of film-making that looks easy, but isn't. For a lot of the time, nothing much is actually happening. Glen and Russell are hanging out, or drinking, or doing drugs, or having sex, and all these activities have an unselfconscious reality to them.
A more traditionally conceived "issue" movie would have included a scene of gay-bashing, but Haigh takes what looks like a conscious decision to defuse this particular dramatic firework. Glen yells at some gay-baiters from Russell's 14th-floor window, and on a railway platform, and he gets into a row with a straight guy in a pub, but there is no violence. Haigh's concern is always to refocus our attention on to a lower-key, but in its way far more sensational, subject: how Glen and Russell are going to work out their problems and find love. It is a tender, humane film, with an easy, unforced cinematic language: a film that doesn't need to try too hard.


Sunday, November 20, 2011



On seeing Melancholy...

Melancholy will pass us by... such is the prediction of science in Lars Von Trier's stunner of a  film, Melancholia. Following the opening celestial prelude to Melancholia featuring the very music I have been listening to recently and sharing with those close to me, Wagner's wondrous Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, comes what many of us think of as the antidote to sadness, a wedding. Gathered in a grand lodge, complete with eighteen hole golf course, are all the family, friends, and colleagues of the voluptuous bride, Justine. She and her groom arrive late, delayed by the over-sized limo making the ascent to the lodge. Should I write "spoiler alert"? So many things in this film are so foreshadowed that only the dullest of viewers will fail right away to know what is coming. For Von Trier the devil is in the details; and in the details reside his genius and the profound view of life that is his vision.
Suffice it to say that the wedding is not a success. The groom makes a ridiculous, bumbling attempt at a speech, the bride's mother discourses on her contempt for marriage, and the bride herself leaves the bride chamber to fuck a possible future colleague who is voluptuous himself, out on the golf course. The emptiness of money and corporate greed all manage to play their part in the failure of the ceremony.
 Meanwhile Melancholia approaches.
We learn early on that Melancholia is so vast, so substantial, that it has taken the form of a planet, once hidden by the Sun, that is headed straight for the Earth, though most of the reasonable scientists assure everyone that the rogue planet will not impact the Earth, but rather be a near miss. Von Trier is not giving us believable astronomy and clever science fiction here; he is giving us the power of metaphor. The amazing thing is how well it works. What we see in the darkness of the multiplex theater is something far different from what the prisoners in Plato's cave saw, not mere images of images from the empirical world, but rather the archetypes themselves, the very Forms of reality Plato thought invisible.
We see the very real archetype of Melancholy and no, it will not pass us by after all. How do we face the collision? The main characters embody the possibilities. Justine's response is cynicism, or at best, irony, even as she constructs  a cave (Plato's?)to protect them. Her sister swoons with Romanticism and anxiety, sweeping up her innocent, uncomprehending son with her. Her husband gives us nihilism. And Von Trier gives us one of the most philosophical, psychologically penetrating films I've seen in years. Among an audience quiet and horrified by what they were witnessing, my philosophically-minded friend and I found ourselves laughing aloud, repeatedly, at the raw, dark behavior of the multitude of poignant characters, Justine's capitalistic, fascist boss, the cursing of her mother, the outrageous scene of the bride in full gown riding a golf cart over the grounds, catching her dress on the cart, as Tristan and Isolde swelled on the soundtrack. Romanticism warred with cynical irony, over and over, until the final cataclysm of the two sister planets.
If you think film should be about vision, this is the film to see. If you want to be dazzled by metaphor... well, you get the picture.

Jack, 11/20/11

BTW,  Yes, the acting was superb. There is much praise from  the critics, and if that is what you crave, let me suggest:

Or more simply, the NY Times review, well-written at:

And for the most brilliant pan of the film, and I submit, reasons for its brilliance, despite the contempt of old Rex,
Read this after, repeat, after, seeing the film. It is part of the reason we laughed so hard at times viewing the film.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unfettered Capitalism is a Dead End (even for CEOs)

The Occupy Wall Street and Beyond actions offer a glimmer of hope for taking control of the country (and World) away from Bankers and Corporations (which are not even remotely people). The Guardian offers a comprehensive overview of the events and the meaning of the protests and the organizations forming:

Occupy international

Latest comment


Latest from Occupy Wall Street

Latest from the Occupy movement worldwide

How it started

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

George's Guitar

Martin Scorsese's film--

is a revelation of how artists create great music and songs. It is also a profound look into the evolution, first of the Beatles, and then of Harrison, as they all search for meaning beyond material success. Whether it is LSD, Reefer, going to India, learning from Ravi Shankar, meditating with the Maharishi, or bringing the genius of Eric Clapton in to play My Guitar Gently Weeps, we see the progression toward personal enlightenment and achievement as the film presents so many aspects of their lives from many perspectives. And that is just part one.

Part Two follows Harrison into the post-Beatles years-- never idealizing him however much his wife or son might. His ties to Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and a host of others from Monty Python to car racers to his ongoing work with Ravi Shankar is viewed with remarkable insight and humanity. The handling of his death, Ringo Starr shedding a tear but keeping his humor, the accounts of others, and an ending in keeping with Harrison himself works well, I thought. Eros and Thanatos again and all the creativity they inspire... I've added another review Dar sent me from Salon. But, Hell, see the film first.
From Rolling Stone:

George Harrison Hits the Big Screen in Scorsese Doc

Epic new film illuminates the inner life of the most enigmatic Beatle

george harrison wife olivia london 1983
George Harrison and his wife, Olivia, in London, circa 1983.
Tom Wargacki/WireImage
As Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison dug through their archives to assemble the Beatles Anthology documentary in the mid-Nineties, Harrison made a private vow to his wife, Olivia: "One day, I'll do my own anthology." The ex-Beatle, who died in 2001, never got the chance, but his wife made sure his wish came true in grand fashion. In October, HBO will debut Martin Scorsese's two-part documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World – and Olivia has compiled a lavish companion book packed with unseen photos and letters. "I'm fairly awed by what Marty has put together," says Olivia. "It's a story that truly captures the essence of George."
The project had its start in 2005, when Olivia attended the London premiere of Scorsese's Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home. She shared her hope for a similar movie about her husband with the film's producer, Nigel Sinclair. After discussing possible directors for months, the pair "delicately approached" Scorsese. "To our surprise and delight, he said he was very intrigued by George's story," Sinclair recalls.
The center of the film is Harrison's spiritual quest, a search for meaning in life that began with a Beatlemania-era reve­lation that material success wasn't necessarily accompanied by fulfillment. "He was trying to find a way to simplicity, a way to live truthfully and compassionately," Scorsese says. "It was never a straight line, but that's not the point. I think he found an understanding: that there's no such thing as 'success' – there's just the path."
The documentary includes new interviews with McCartney, Starr, Yoko Ono, George Martin, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton (who recalls watching Harrison write "Here Comes the Sun") and many more. But Scorsese and his team relied heavily on archives kept by Harrison himself: footage of the Beatles on vacation; a recording of Harrison's first sitar lesson with Ravi Shankar; home movies of Harrison fooling around in his recording studio with his son Dhani. "We set up a little production office in our house," says Olivia. "George lived in the house for 30 years, and he would just throw things in this drawer and that drawer. So every cupboard had something in it." The production team set up research offices in New York and London, working for years to find footage and photographs, including every filmed Harrison interview they could track down.
From their sleepless Hamburg days to their Let It Be-era squabbles, the Beatles' story has been told again and again, so Scorsese took great pains to use rare or unseen footage for the first part of the film. "The scenes of them running from hotel rooms and airports and such are just a little bit different than the ones you've seen," says Sinclair. "He approached the Beatles story from George's perspective, so it becomes a more inside, more first-person experience."
The film doesn't shy from Harrison's darker side, showing footage of a ravaged performance from his 1974 solo tour, and hinting at challenges in his marriage. "He never said he was a saint, but he always said he was a sinner," says Olivia. "He wanted to do everything in life. He really did."
The surviving Beatles provide some of the film's most powerful moments: McCartney makes an impassioned argument that anyone who thinks only he and Lennon were important in the group is wildly wrong; Starr begins to weep when he recalls visiting Harrison as the guitarist battled terminal lung cancer.
The post-Beatles section of the film has the most surprises, from intimate footage of Traveling Wilburys jamming to Olivia's harrowing account of a 1999 home invasion by a violent, deranged fan. It also gives equal weight to Harrison's nonmusical ventures: his work as a movie producer; his motor-racing fandom; his loving efforts to restore his country estate. "George thought hard about how to live his life after being a Beatle," says Sinclair, "and what I take away from this film is that he figured it out."

Related The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: George Harrison

George Harrison’s inner light

His new documentary about George Harrison is as serious and sometimes mystifying as its subject

George Harrison
George Harrison  (Credit: AP)
Who is your favorite Beatle? If you prize humility, generosity and gratitude — or if you’re a kid who loves the sound of his funny name –you might answer Ringo Starr. Otherwise it’s probably a two-way race between Paul McCartney, who stands for sentimentality, old-school musical craft and ceaseless productivity, or John Lennon, whose name still epitomizes rebellion, sarcasm, soulfulness and martyrdom. I’ve rarely heard anyone answer “George Harrison,” and Martin Scorsese’s two-part HBO documentary “Living in the Material World” (Oct. 5 and 6, 9 p.m. Eastern, 8 Central) incidentally suggests the reasons why. Harrison was the most studious, elusive and impenetrable Beatle. And as he got older, he became increasingly uninterested in celebrity except as a vehicle that could expose him to new experiences, and bring him into contact with artists and thinkers from whom he could learn something.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Life Imitates Art: Films that are Life Enhancing

Oscar Wilde recognized the truth that Life Imitates Art, not the other way around. His example? The Ubiquitous London Fogs brought on by the Impressionists.

Sunrise by Monet

The influence of art on life today is most obvious in film. Great directors and great films shape our perceptions of reality and alter our lives forever:

Dar, for instance, owes his personality to Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard,
to Gloria Swanson and William Holden.

Norma Desmond (click)

Films that have shaped my life and my understanding of life include:

1900  (socialism and friendship) 
(click the blue or purple ones) 
American Beauty (modern living)
Cabaret (gay 30s Berlin, Liza)
Casablanca (noble character, war)
Chinatown (capitalism, evil, making of L. A. ) 
Fanny and Alexander(it's good to be Bourgeois)
The Godfather (pure evil, crime world)
Harold and Maude (suicide, ageless love)
The History Boys (the joys and sorrows of Teaching)

 Home at the End of the World (love and threesomes)

Juliet of the Spirits(the Beauty of fantasy)
Midnight Cowboy (New York, love)
My Own private Idaho (alienation, existentialism, the Road)
Night of the Iguana (Tennessee Williams, Mexico)
Shortbus (genuine sexuality, love, and the psyche)

Slaughterhouse Five (All's bad in war)
Some Like it Hot (Marilyn Monroe, drag)
The Wizard of Oz (Yellow Brick Road)
Women In Love (D.H. Lawrence)

Akira Kurosawa
(truth is subjective)

But this is just a sampling.
It is also essential to mention the great directors whose films have shaped my life:

Federico Fellini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Werner Fassbinder, Ken Russell, Peter Greenaway,
Lina Wertmüller, Derek Jarman, Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, John Waters, Ingmar Bergman, Louis Malle, Pier Paulo Pasolini, Kurosawa, Luis Bunuel, John Cameron Mitchell... even Woody Allen
(all are clickable)

The Guardian has quite a list
of 40 current Film Directors


Current Films

Keep viewing



Monday, September 26, 2011

Rembrandt and My Mother

To celebrate my mother's 88th birthday today, I watched Peter Greenaway's film about Rembrandt, my mother's favorite painter. Twelve years ago we visited Amsterdam, Dar, my mother and I, and saw a show centered around The Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum. (click).

Rembrandt: The Night Watch (click to enlarge)

Here is a review of the film--
Movie Review

Rembrandt's J'Accuse (2009)

ContentFilm International
Jonathan Holmes and Michael Tiegen in "Rembrandt's J'Accuse."

The Man Who Watched the Watchers

“One must always apologize for talking about painting,” the French poet Paul Valéry wrote. To which, I suspect, the British filmmaker Peter Greenaway would say, “Nonsense.” In “Rembrandt’s J’Accuse,” his generally absorbing if sometimes fog-inducing feature-length documentary investigation into the mysteries of the Rembrandt painting “The Night Watch,” Mr. Greenaway talks and talks and talks as the image of his head pops on and off the screen in a box, much as Jambi the Genie’s did on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
The movie is an addendum to “Nightwatching,” Mr. Greenaway’s 2007 fictional feature about the painting that was part of a larger project of the same title that he created for the yearlong 2006 celebration of Rembrandt’s 400th birthday in the Netherlands. That project included an opera and a “re-presentation” of the painting. Mr. Greenaway was also the author of a handsome accompanying museum catalog. The “Nightwatching” project was, in turn, the first in an ambitious series Mr. Greenaway has undertaken titled “Nine Classical Paintings Revisited” that has, to date, included inquiries into Leonardo’s “Last Supper” and, as part of this year’s Venice Biennale, Paolo Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana.”
Mr. Greenaway has described the “Nightwatching” installation as “a combination of art and technology designed for an attentive audience that will be intrigued by a world of light and moving images and the single frozen moment.” That pretty much sums up “Rembrandt’s J’Accuse” and, of course, most of cinema. Certainly Mr. Greenaway’s movie will work for, or perhaps on, only the attentive. His filmmaking style, with its accretions of images and text (and words words words), requires focus. In this case some casual knowledge of Dutch and European history probably also helps, as does a level of tolerance for Mr. Greenaway’s snobbism. “Most people,” he announces early, “are visually illiterate.” This, he continues, staring hard into the camera (j’accuse!), helps explain why we have such an “impoverished” cinema.
In brief, the movie functions as an art historical investigation of “The Night Watch,” into which, Mr. Greenaway forcefully argues, “Rembrandt has scrupulously painted an indictment of guilt in paint.” A crime has been committed, the filmmaker asserts, and “it is imperative that we reopen the case.” Completed in 1642, the year that Rembrandt turned 36 (he died in 1669), the painting depicts a large group of guardsmen, along with two women (or girls or dwarfs) and a dog. The painting is said to show the civic guard about to march off to protect Amsterdam, but where others see might and honor, Mr. Greenaway sees a murderous conspiracy and other calumnies. Furthermore, he maintains, Rembrandt lost his commissions, falling into poverty, directly because the painting exposed these crimes.
Mr. Greenaway builds his case on more than 30 mysteries he himself has detected in “The Night Watch.” As he moves through these mysteries, toggling between the painting and scenes from Rembrandt’s life (with Martin Freeman as the great man, and the likes of Jonathan Holmes offering support), Mr. Greenaway trains his eye — and ours — on seemingly every inch of the canvas. Everything is grist for his analytic mill, from the Italian influence to a dead chicken hanging from the waist of one of the female figures. Here a spear isn’t just a spear or even a phallic symbol, but also Rembrandt’s commentary on the prowess and deeds of the militiaman holding the weapon. Mr. Greenaway’s verbal argument is more persuasive than his visual or, more specifically, filmmaking one, which tends to divide the image into intersecting and overlapping squares that greatly resemble software windows, effectively turning the movie screen into a computer monitor.
It’s unfortunate that Film Forum hasn’t put “Rembrandt’s J’Accuse” on a double bill with “Nightwatching.” Both have been packaged together on a recently released American DVD by E1 Entertainment.

Opens on Wednesday in Manhattan.
Written and directed by Peter Greenaway; director of photography, Reinier van Brummelen; edited by Elmer Leupen; music by Giovanni Sollima and Marco Robino; produced by Femke Wolting and Bruno Felix; released by ContentFilm International. At Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Martin Freeman (Rembrandt van Rijn), Eva Birthistle (Saskia Uylenburgh), Jodhi May (Geertje Dirks), Emily Holmes (Hendrickje Stoffels), Jonathan Holmes (Ferdinand Bol), Michael Teigen (Carel Fabritius), Natalie Press (Marieke) and Peter Greenaway (Himself/Public Prosecutor).

The film's analysis of Rembrandt's satirical portrait of Ganymede (urinating) is priceless:
Rembrandt: Ganymede from Wikipedia