Tuesday, September 30, 2014

John Coltrane -- Offering: Live at Temple University

Pleased to have gotten this two-disc set right off the bat: John Coltrane, Offering: Live at Temple University -- November 11, 1966, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (Verve, 2014).

Coltrane fans will recognize the Coltrane sound in an instant -- seriously, in less than one second. And from beginning to end, it's one wild ride. 

Disc one is frenetic and demanding and disc two starts that way, too, until "Offering" and "My Favorite Things" -- tracks that calm down long enough for even newcomers to catch what feels like a more patterned and coherent flow of beatific music. 

Overall, Offering makes an otherworldly impression -- really out there at times, like intergalactic -- some strange numinous frequency.   
Apparently Allen Ginsberg was floating around the main campus of Temple University on the same evening as the Coltrane performance. I would imagine that he would have attended if he knew about it -- and maybe he did. More will be revealed. Can you dig?  

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Spanish Civil War: A Documentary (Part II)

The Spanish Civil War (Brother Against Brother) Written, Produced, Directed and Narrated by Mike Leighton; Cromwell Productions, 1995 (2001 DVD). The Last Great Cause. Continued.

This documentary cites four poets, all of them fatalities as a direct result of the war.

Antonio Machado (1875-1939)'s “El crimen fue en Granada / The Crime Took Place in Granada” is an homage to Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), murdered with apparent relish by a Francoist goon squad because he was gay as well as pro-Republic. 
From John Cornford's (1915-1936) “Poem” (to Margot Heinemann):

And if bad luck should lay my strength
Into the shallow grave,
Remember all the good you can;

Don't forget my love.

In the course of the film, Cornford's “Full Moon at the Tierz” is also recited.
Two poems by Miguel Hernández are featured: “Recoged esta voz  / Hear This Voice” and “Vientos del pueblo me llevan/ The Winds of the People” It's all very sad, the human condition.  

Today's Rune: Wholeness. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Spanish Civil War: A Documentary (Part I)

The Spanish Civil War (Brother Against Brother).  Written, Produced, Directed and Narrated by Mike Leighton; Cromwell Productions, 1995 (2001 DVD). With informal subtitle: The Last Great Cause.

This is another good documentary on the conflict that's packed with archival footage. Includes interviews with British survivors of the International Brigades, and historical context by Richard Robinson, author of Origins of Franco's Spain: The Right, the Republic and the Revolution, 1931-36 (1970). An additional slant is in the use of poetry to accompany war images. As in many complementary documentaries, there is an absence of pro-Franco interview footage, something that would be equally fascinating to ponder.  
Pictured here: defenders of the Republic in Madrid, 1936. Franco's side was far more conservative in its approach to the "proper role of women in society." As of 2014 -- with the victorious Franco dead for 39 years -- one can again see in Madrid significant numbers of women in uniform: police, museum guards, transit workers and so on. Franco must be turning in his grave!

Here's a chapter breakdown for The Spanish Civil War, which runs just under an hour:


1. Introduction
2. The International Brigades
3. The Anarchist Movement
4. Franco Declares Martial Law
5. Siege of the Alcázar in Toledo
6. The Battle of Madrid
7. Las Pasionaria [Dolores Ibárruri]
8. Italian and German Air Strikes
9. The Non-Intervention Policy
10. Terrible Conditions of the War
11. The Bombing of Guernica
12. The Battle of Brunete
13. Dispelled Idealism
14. The Republican Attack on Teruel
15. The Italian Bombing of Barcelona
16. The Battle of the River Ebro
17. The Munich Agreement
18. Ernest Hemingway’s Role in the War
19. Republican Defeat
20. Credits

Today's Rune: Growth. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pedro Almodóvar: Todo sobre mi madre / All About My Mother (1999)

Pedro Almodóvar's Todo sobre mi madre / All About My Mother (1999) won top film awards in Spain, France, the UK and the USA, and it was a financial success, too, with a relatively small budget and big payout.

It's mostly about women, gender identification, motherhood and existential choices. Set primarily in Madrid and Barcelona, with nods to earlier movies, plays (Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire in particular), and other cultural touchstones. Very colorful in all senses of the word.
In All About My Mother (1999), taking a train back and forth between Madrid and Barcelona is a major plot point --  a "geographic." 

In the synchronicity department, a key date -- the only calendar date shown during the film -- is September 26. Without having any idea of this beforehand, I happened to watch it on September 26, 2014. The odds of this occurrence -- unless someone can better determine such things -- are one in 365.2425.

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Alfonso Cuarón: Y tu mamá también (2001)

A road movie with its own twists and turns, Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También / Y tu mamá también (2001) is a small budget independent production that makes a big impression. However, certain "earthy" scenes involving drugs and sex may scare people, even some who are perfectly complacent about seeing mass violence on the screen or in "real life."  Why is that? 
Its narration gives Y tu mamá también considerable weight and depth, even beyond the basic narrative arc -- more like a novel's. The way it's done is this: from time to time, background music and ambient noises are suddenly hushed, melting into silence as narration kicks in. Reminds me of Jean-Luc Godard in that way. We learn a lot of things that happen before and after the events that unfold visually during the film, providing context and a philosophical edge. 

Y tu mamá también, already part of the venerable Criterion Collection, may float around in one's consciousness for quite a while. And man, it's not like Alfonso Cuarón is some obscure figure. For example, maybe you've seen or heard of at least one of these other films he's directed: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Children of Men (2006), Gravity (2013). If not, is it possible that you're dead and just haven't realized it yet? 

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pedro Almodóvar: Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces (2009)

Pedro Almodóvar's Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces (2009): stars Penélope Cruz and is set partly in Madrid and partly on the spectacular Canary Islands / Islas Canarias, off the northwest coast of Africa. 
In this film, Almodóvar uses flashbacks and the present, bits of a documentary about another movie that is like but not exactly Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios / Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), and that film itself, as if Mujeres was re-shot in a parallel universe and now called Chicas y maletas
Broken Embraces: Lena (Cruz) and her obsessive, bad-tempered sugar daddy (a Howard Hughes type) about to exchange words -- among other things. 
Lena prepares soon-to-be-spiked gazpacho for Ivan during a scene made for Chicas y maletas -- a sight as colorful and sharp as the full arc of the rest of the story.  

Today's Rune: Movement.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Julio Medem: Lucía y el sexo / Sex and Lucia (2001)

Set mostly in Madrid and on the little Balearic Island of Formentera off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Julio Medem's Lucía y el sexo / Sex and Lucia (2001) has an offbeat David Lynch vibe and a cool lead with Paz Vega playing Lucía
Because Sex and Lucia seems to revolve around not only Lucía but also her paramour Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa), a writer, it can be tricky figuring out what exactly is "real" in the plot and what is imagined -- or happening in a parallel world.  Lorenzo is working on a novel, or two novels, on a computer in Madrid, but he's also corresponding with a woman on Formentera via the same computer.  Do all of the characters even exist? It's worth noting that Pepe, Lorenzo's literary agent, is played by Javier Cámara -- the same guy who plays "the weirdo" in Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella / Talk to Her (2002).   

I come away from this wondering: is the island really "hollow" or "floating?" How many rock holes are there, for God's sake?

Sex and Lucia looks good -- nice work by cinematographer Kiko de la Rica. The music (by Alberto Iglesias -- another direct link to Almodóvar) fits in well, too.

Today's Rune: Signals.