So, haven’t even gotten Into Darkness digested & I went to see the French flick In the House. great opening sequence, interesting start of film, nice jump Into a bit of surreality & time/space mind game-age, but the pace changed & every time our lead character would write ” to be continued” I couldn’t help but think about the old joke about jackasses & suspense. The character of young Claude has never heard of the importance of editing, & neither apparently has the writer. Shorter & better is better than 2 hours . Longer – not so good. Though it wAs me & that I was tired from e turning & driving all around ny but the informal franco film exit poll showed that, no, it wasn’t me being tired – people were a bit over the film. More on this as it relates to art class-past & present…
A great comparison between a modern interpretation of friendship, trust & responsibility as seen in Star Trek: Into Darkness and hypocrisy, integrity & honor as written by Hollywood Blacklist writer Dalton Trumbo.
So when Constantin ( or Konstantin, depending how authentic you feel like being) Brancusi pushed the boundaries of sculpting by reducing works down to their ultimate essence, he was removing the extraneous line & limiting what he felt was unnecessary to completed work. Filmmakers would do well to heed Brancusi’s m.o.
While a film like the recently released Tom Cruise film is interesting it seems like no one was sure what it really was -the action sequences are at odds with the concept, & the whole film could have done without the ending. Do we American film audiences really need to have very film have a feel good ending? Granted Tom Cruise is a great looking guy, & an good actor but …
I think the pitch for this film must have gone something like:
Ok, so it’s like Wall-E meets Castaway meets Multiplicity meets the chase scene in the Death Star from Star Wars meets Inception meets Armageddon … But with a lame ending.
So the themes linking this week’s film & art segments- passion, sexuality, repression & obsession- all weave in & out of the life of artist Gustav Klimt & the characters in Margaret Mazzatini’s novel turned Italian film -Don’t Move.
So, last night, Friday, December 28, 2012, I was honored to introduce the last film of 2012 for Cabaret Cinema, a fantastic cinema series at Manhattan’s Rubin Museum of Art. The place was hopping, the restaurant was full, the bar was packed, the music series ended and Tim spoke about the upcoming winter series and then introduced me. The house was packed and the film that I was asked to introduce was Roman Polanski’s masterpiece, Chinatown. The theme of the series was Happiness, and so my task was to introduce the film and discuss my own personal take on happiness. For those of you who didn’t make it down last night, I thought you would find it interesting.
Thank you Tim and Mishel for having me here tonight. I am so happy to be here, at one of my absolute favorite museums introducing one of my favorite films of all time.
I’m so happy to be here….I’m so happy…We say that all that time – I’m so happy…but really, how do we measure happiness? How happy are we really?
It’s such an elusive thing – happiness. I lecture on film and teach all over the world, and that makes me happy. Movies and all the things that they encompass, make me happy: title sequences, scripts, cinematography, special effects, lighting, acting, editing, and the story arc, character development and symbolism of a well-made film – all make me happy. Even the audience reaction to a film, a communal experience like we are going to have here tonight -makes me happy.
Teaching film, writing about film and watching film – makes me happy. A film, like Roman Polanski’s 1974 gem, Chinatown, considered by many to be possibly the best film ever made, nominated for 11 Oscars, winner of only 1 (best original screenplay) makes me happy, although only 1 Oscar win did NOT make Bob Evans, one of the producers of Chinatown, happy. Gritty private eyes in the Los Angeles of 1937, crosses and double crosses, scams, dames and broads in a city where anything can happen and thousands of gallons of water evaporate into thin air – that’s a film that makes me very happy.
But what is happiness in general? Overall, day to day, how do people define what makes them happy?
Over the past month, in anticipation of this event, I’ve asked my college students and lecture audiences that question and the answers were so varied – from the obvious – like money, success, love, health and family, to the obscure – running a 4 minute mile, being able to memorize Shakespeare’s “To Be or Not to be“. Some people were happy as long as their children and spouses were happy, while others wanted independence and to be alone, in order to be happy. Some wanted food: A night of peace and quiet watching TV on the couch with a beer and a pizza ; or a sublime smoked salmon at the café here. Others wanted less food and to lose weight in order to be happy.
Answers encompassed the comedic, the serious, the Zen, and even the nihilistic. One woman very simply said, when I asked what would make her happy: Nothing.
Happiness is at once so personal and intimate, and yet it can be so public. So general and yet so specific. How else to explain the simple feeling you get when you walk out the door in the early morning to see the golden pink hues of the perfect sunrise: the whole world is still and it’s as if that palette was painted for just for you. Or the way you smile when your footsteps leave your mark on an endless expanse of beautiful beach next to a sparkling blue ocean. Or the way a cab pulls up just for you as soon as it starts to rain in the middle of rush hour.
For some, happiness comes in ripping open the paper wrapping on a box of hand-made dark chocolates, while for others it’s holding their newborn baby for the first time. There are those that connect happiness to the attainment of material goods, to possessions, to objects, to things…while for others, there is a sense of well-being, of happiness in doing for others, in small acts of kindness and charitable good works in order to make someone else’s life better.
The question “what is happiness?” is akin to the question “what is the universe” or “why do I love you”. So nebulous, and yet, if we really, truly think about it, we can begin to find an answer.
Happiness can be profound or simple, a common experience or a unique one, an individual moment or one that is shared simultaneously by many.
So if trying to define what makes us happy is so elusive, maybe using the artist’s trick of negative space and defining what doesn’t make us happy is simpler. Again, as with happiness, there is the simple and common- The empty box of chocolate, the cab that pulls away as the rain starts just before you can get in; as well as the devastating and profound- the death of your father, the hurricane-filled sky ripping away your shoreline and your home.
So, let’s get back to happiness and what makes us happy.
For me, beyond film and teaching, it’s that simple, small sense of contentment that comes with my first sip of cold water after my morning run. It’s the sight of twinkling holiday lights that make this city and my neighborhood so joyous and warm in the dark winter.
It’s knowing that no matter how bad things may get (remember that father that’s no longer alive, and that hurricane that devastated homes); we must always try to get back up one more time than we are pushed down. So for me, happiness isn’t a simple anecdote about running into a long lost elementary school class mate years later and 3000 miles away from home in a small Italian cave that only the locals know about, although that did happen, and it did make me very happy. Happiness for me, is in the doing, in the being and in the living every moment of life, as fully as you can – whether its eating that box of chocolates, that entire box of yummy, creamy, heavenly chocolates with a few friends and a great bottle of wine…or helping to build back someone’s house after a storm.
As the year draws closer to an end, I want you to think your New Year’s resolutions a little differently: don’t think about what you are or are not going to do: but think about what does and doesn’t make you happy, and strive to do those things and be that person. Attain your own happiness – taste that incredible sip of dark, rich coffee with cream, make yourself go to see that art exhibit that always intrigued you (maybe you can explore the 6th floor’s exhibit on modern art from India) & really look at each stunning work of art.
Believe in yourself.
Since things have finally gotten back to (almost) normal since Hurricane Sandy, I can fill you in on the great art and films that I’ve been both seeing and teaching the past several weeks.
First of all, two days before Hurricane Sandy hit, I had a great class over at The David M. Kendall Art Gardens at Pepsico’s world headquarters in Purchase, NY. With several Henry Moore works, Snelson’s tensegrity piece Mozart II, Segal’s Four People on Bench and a few Wynnes ( the angular metalic Girl with Dolphin and Girl on a Horse are tied for my favorites with his massive, voluptuous stone Grizzly Bear), there is always something somewhere in the garden in an organic setting to delight you. The frog pond complete with water lilies and frogs ( both static and living), the Giacometti outside the conference room window, and Victor Salmones’ haunting work, The Search , hidden in the outer reaches of the property all factor in as my favorite works there.
Last month included screenings of wonderful Italian director Giacomo Campiotti’s bittersweet film, Come Due Cocodrille,about the ultimate in sibling rivalry, and the Mexican tour de force Amores Perros, one of a trilogy by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I’ll talk more about these films in a future post because they are so gripping in the ways that they comment on family, society and relationships.
Finally, saw a screening of Skyfall –not the most believable plot but it served its purpose in changing up the cast of characters ( if I tell you more you’ll have to kill me – for ruining the plot). All the fun Bond elements – great opening credit sequence, fun chase scenes, interesting questions of loyalty and duty, as well as an unexpected nod to the question of age and relevancy…but really, the best part of this Bond was his chest…and by that I mean, Daniel Craig shirtless. This film was chock full of eye candy for the women that go to see Bond in all his glory – Daniel Craig shirtless can never get old (see earlier comment on age and relevance issues). Thank you Sam Mendes for utilizing all aspects of your lead actor’s talent. Keep working out, Mr. Bond. Age is just a number, and yours seems to get better as it gets bigger. more later…