Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"The breath goes now," and some say, "No,"

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do;

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearken after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pictorial :: Sally Mann

These photos may be distressing to some people. While I think they possess an ethereal and fleeting beauty, a beauty that flourishes like a flower planted amongst the rocks, I can understand how they may make some people uncomfortable.

One of the great things about being a student is constantly being exposed to artists of who you were previously unaware. I'm currently writing a paper on the photography of Sally Mann, whose photographs of her own children are loving, sympathetic, distressing and entirely true to the human experience. In her own words, Mann says, We are spinning a story of what it is to grow up. It is a complicated story and sometimes we try to take on the grand themes: anger, love, death, sexuality, and beauty. But we tell it all without fear and without shame. These aren't just pictures of Sally Mann's children, they are an look into the heart of humanity with all its beauty and frailty, all its hardship and cherished memories. The particular occasion may be her children but they are about all of us. Enjoy.

Jessie Bites, 1985

Jessie at Five, 1987

Gorjus, 1989

Emmett, Jessie, and Virginia, 1989

Fallen Child, 1989

Emmett and the White Boy, 1990

Mann, Sally. Immediate Family. Aperture, 1992.

Review :: Be Kind Rewind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) put Michel Gondry on the short-list of directors to keep an eye on. It was inventive, sincere, emotional and hallucinatory - but it was hard to tell how much of that film's genius should be credited to master screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) or to Gondry, who was only known as a music video director before that, working with such bands as Massive Attack and My Chemical Romance. The Science of Sleep (2006), however, proved that Gondry could not only direct great material but write it too. Now with Be Kind Rewind, he solidifies his reputation as auteur in the making; in a time when "quirk" seems to be the name of the game (see Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited or Jason Reitman's Juno), Gondry is one of that game's young masters.

When the owner of a VHS rental store (Danny Glover) goes on vacation, he leaves Mike (Mos Def) in charge with only one rule: keep out Jerry (Jack Black), Mike's friend, who has a habit of inadvertently destroying things. Of course, Jerry doesn't stay out and shenanigans ensue. It seems that a failed attempt at sabotage has left Jerry rather magnetized and his presence in the store blanks all the tapes. Now, in an effort to save face with a certain customer who could report them to their boss, they grab a camera and film their own homemade version of the movie she wants, Ghostbusters. They soon realize that despite their amateurish efforts, their movie has began to gain a certain amount of notoriety and they soon find themselves filming their own versions of favourite films, everything from Rush Hour 2 to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

While not quite as provocative and intelligent as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or as compulsively inventive as The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind is a clever and endearing look at how community is built not only around geo-political facts but also around certain intangibles, such as a shared experience or a favourite story. Be Kind Rewind continually blends these communal factors as Mike and Jerry not only create their own versions of films but end up doing so in order to raise money to save the historical, but condemned, building in which the video store is located. The film is a statement about the power of art and is a loving homage to culturally significant films, films which ran the gamut from slapstick humour to razor-sharp political commentary. Art, when it is released, becomes the property of its audience, becomes a part of the shared experience that shapes and informs our communities. Gondry perfectly captures this in Mike and Jerry's "do-it-yourself/youtube" sensibility that at once celebrates art and gives it back to us.

But the film's not perfect. At some times it is a little too given over to sentimentality, especially in the film's final scenes, which were a bit too predictable and feel a tad manipulative. Also, while the actor's are solid and for the most part wildly entertaining, Gondry has a tendency to let Black act out a bit too much, as if he simply turned on the camera and let Black take it from there, which sometimes works and sometimes does not. My feeling is that Jack Black is only interesting when a director has a tight reign on him, when he's allowed to be manic and silly but only within the governed bounds of the director's vision, as he was in Stephen Fears High Fidelity, where Black's over-the-top performance served the film instead of distracting us from it. For the most part, Gondry manages to do this, although there are a few moments when the performance calls too much attention to itself and we remember that we are watching Jack Black and not Jerry. But in the end, these criticisms are minor and don't really take away from the film's charm.

Be Kind Rewind is at its best when it simply indulges in its own brand of comic fantasy and heartfelt whimsy. Mike and Jerry's films, horribly underproduced and amateurish as they are, are the pulsing, glowing heart of this film and are a complete joy to watch. They are not spoofs or underhanded jabs at Hollywood and big budget filmmaking; they are a loving homage and appropriation of the films that entertain and inspire us. Gondry has captured the enthusiasm and the joy of artistic creation and has himself created a minor masterpiece. In a spring movie season that doesn't seem to be offering much, Be Kind Rewind is a must-see for anyone who loves film.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot

The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz -- he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer --

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hamlet 3.2

Some Hamlet now. Perhaps we can find the meaning of life in Hamlet. Perhaps we cannot. If we can or cannot, however, we still find ourselves in its text, staring back at us, as terrible and as familiar as we'd expect. Enjoy.

PLAYER KING. I do believe you what now you speak,
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity,
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree,
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
Most necessary 'tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt.
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures with themselves destroy.
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
For 'tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favorite flies;
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend;
For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, order to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.

Hamlet, Act 3, scene 2.