Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Face Down, a good poetry film

Face Down
Poetry films can be interesting, but few hit the heart or gut. Technically, the emotional misfire comes from combining two visual media in ways that make one of them redundant with or distracting from the other. Yes, I do mean that poetry is, by itself, a visual medium.

Face Down by Mary Karr + Charlie Brand, however, works. The images on the screen and the images in the poem are, in a way, independent of one another. The screen does not simply depict things named in the poem. For example, when the poem says, "sleeping lids," the screen could have shown an image of closed eyelids, but didn't. On the other hand, the screen does not throw its own images in front of those in the poem: distraction.

But the screen and poem aren't truly independent either, as they would be if the images on the screen had nothing to do with the subject of the poem. Rather, the screen depicts the "you" of the poem, but not using exactly the same images of "you" the poem uses.

The second half really takes off, as the images on the screen give a kind of real-world anchor to the fanciful images in the poem, while the poem delivers the emotional significance of the quotidian pictures on the screen.

In Face Down, screen and poem are interdependent. And the two are buttoned together at two points where words from the poem are simultaneously shown on part of the screen. Those buttons are the first line, "What are you doing on this side of The Dark?" and "as a blinding Atomic Blast."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Mahler's Rapturous Eighth

Mahler 8

Last night, I watched a video recording of a 2011 performance of Mahler's Symphony 8, "Symphony of a Thousand," performed by the Gewandhaus-orchester Leipzig, and conducted by Riccardo Chailly.

What rapturous music! This piece requires a huge orchestra, chorus, and opera singers. It is multifarious, gigantic, and exquisitely beautiful. In addition to the enthralling flood of orchestral colors, the piece contains literary quotations of church hymns and, in the second part, Goethe's Faust. Riccardo Chailly conducts with a profound passion. The composition and performance are transporting. Mahler himself referred to its cosmic dimensions: "Just imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. It is no longer human voices that you hear, but planets and suns that revolve in their orbits." You can see in Chailly's face how hard it is for him to come back to mundane reality at the end of each movement. During the performance, he was in a trance. I was too.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Jiri Barta playing the Kodaly Sonata for Solo Cello is profoundly moving, as well as an achievement of virtuoso wizardry.