Annakarinaland

Annakarinaland
Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou

2009-03-29

Vivre Sa Vie: Living "the life"

Vivre Sa Vie: Film en Douze Tableaux (1962) is one of J L Godard's earliest films starring his wife at the time, Anna Karina. The form of the film is twelve tableaux or chapters, a narrative convention in several Godard films. The twelve chapters follow the evolution of Nana's metamorphosis from wife to prostitute - "the life". (The English translation of the title, My Life to Live, betrays the meaning of the title).

There are frequent gazes by Anna Karina at the camera, and shots of Paris as a moving image tour by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, in medium and long shot. The reverence with which Godard frames his young wife is captivating.

Anna plays Nana Kleinfrankenheim, a young 22 year old woman from Flexbourg near the German border with three brothers and two sisters. Anna Karina born in Denmark also bears an outsider name: Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer.

Out of financial desperation Nana becomes a prostitute in Paris. Godard's preoccupation with the theme of prostitution is well known. An opening quote sets the stage, "Il faut se préter aux autres et se donner a soi-mème by Montaigne -"lend yourself to others and give yourself to yourself" (Man ska låna sig åt andra och ge sig åt sig själv). Ironically Nana is never able to do this. She is caught in the world of assumptions about women, which inevitably involve sexual metaphor. "If you say something coarse to a woman and she protests, she is a slut", says a man in a café, "but if she smiles, she is a lady". To stand apart from the ordinary prostitute, Nana is quickly established as a lady when a pimp tells Nana that her hairstyle is ugly, and she smiles. She soon turns to prostitution after she is locked out of her apartment for not paying rent.

1 Un bistrot - Nana veut abandonner - Paul - L'appareil a sous. (At a bistro, Anna wants to leave Paul, flipper, pinball game)
The film begins with Nana breaking up with her husband Paul and leaving him and their child. She has fallen out of love because he doesn't seem to notice her and she thinks he is mean. She wants him to loan her 20 francs, her rent, and he refuses. He has taken photos of her which she wants to see. She tells him that she has met someone who thinks she has a chance in movies. When she meets this man he shows her models of his work with scantily clad photos of women that he claims he sends to producers. She also asks him for 20 francs.
In real life J L Godard wanted to put Anna Karina in Breathless (1960) but she refused to star naked. He argued that she had already taken off her clothes for Palmolive as a model. Anna Karina was indignant and said that she was wearing a flesh toned bathing suit and accused Godard of undressing her in his mind.



2 Le magasin de disques- deux mille francs - Nana vit sa vie (at a record shop, two million francs, Nana lives her life)
3 La concierge - Paul - La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc - Un journaliste (The concierge, Paul and The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc, a journalist.)
Nana works in a record shop where a clerk owes her 20 francs. At night she goes to the movies and in one scene she watches The Passion of Jeanne D' Arc by the Danish director Carl Dryer (1928) with classic closeups of Maria Falconetti's face. In the scene Jeanne is interrogated by priests including the sympathetic father played by Antonin Artaud who tells her she is going to die and will be burned at the stake. One of many premonitions on the death of Anna.

4 La police - interrogatoire de Nana (the police interrogate Nana)
Nana is arrested for theft from a woman who "drops" 1000 francs. Though she offers to return it, the woman presses charges. She has now lost her apartment and claims she lives with friends. The police asks her what she is going to do and she replies, " I don't know, I am someone else". Already Nana has separated from her authentic self.

5 Les boulevards extérieurs. Le premier homme - La chambre. (The suburbs, the first man, the bedroom).
Nana goes to the suburbs of Paris where other prostitutes gather. Later she is propositioned by a man for sex. She is repulsed by her first encounter, a man who forces him to kiss her with an open mouth.

6 Recontre avec Yvette - Un café de banlieue - Raoul - Mitraillade dehors (Meeting with Yvette, a café in the suburbs, Raoul, shooting outside)
Nana meets Yvette, a housewife with children abandoned by her husband who has become a sex worker. Nana remarks that everyone is responsible for their actions. J L Godard may imply that Nana is not a victim, but freely chooses her lifestyle. Yet in almost very encounter with men she is a commodity of exchange that works against her will. The necessity of prostitution for the buyer is articulated. A French in the background tells the story of a man who lives with his wife in the suburbs, where his wife doesn't wear sunglasses and works in a factory in Créteil. They live a domestic life and only see his godmother, and never go to the Riviera. Anna looks straight into the camera. Nana meets Yvette's pimp, Raoul, who tells Nana her hairstyle is ugly. In Godard's Band à Part, Arthur first gets Odile's attention (Karina) by telling her that her hairstyle is ugly.

7 La Lettre - Encore Raoul - Les Champs Elysées (the letter, enter Raoul, Champs Elysées)
There is a closeup of Raoul's financial ledger with the women he pimps. A man is shot outside the café. As the police rush up, Nana runs away to another café overlooking a large boulevard. She writes a letter to get work in a firm on referral from a friend, and offers to send a photo. Raoul who has followed her tells her she can make much more money as a prostitute. He begins by telling her that she radiates goodness and that he is her friend. Nana wonders what category of women he has put her in. He replies that there are three categories: women with one, two and three expressions. After the conversation Raoul blows smoke in her mouth and she blows it out with a smile.

8 Les aprés-midi - L'argent - Les lavabos (bathroom sink) - Le plaisir - Les hôtels (afternoon, money, pleasure, hotels)
A series of off screen questions between Raoul and Anna establish the nature of her work: how much she will earn, what happens with the police, etc. He tells her the law. Before 1946 known prostitutes were registered with the police and health board and since 1947 only with the health board. In 1958 prostitutes are not supposed to walk back and forth on the streets, and stay away from Bois du Bologne and Champs Elysees. The establishing shot for this line of questioning is the Arc d' Triomphe on the Champs Elysees, then shots of Nana in a car, her hands receiving money, and shots of fully clothed clients and fixtures in hotel rooms.

9 Un jeune homme - Luigi - Nana se demande si elle est heurese A young man, Luigi, Anna wonders if she is happy
10 Un trottoir - un type - le bonheur n'est pas gai (A sidewalk, a particular type of man, happiness is not gay)
Frequent artful closeups of Anna Karina's face used by Godard created her legendary iconography. One poster shots for the film is Nana standing in a sunlight in front of a billboard on a street smoking before she meets a trick. She leaves with a man, un type, who changes his mind about whether he will pay for sex or not in a threesome.
Anna Karina loved to dance and sing, and in this sequence Nana dances to a jukebox for Raoul and his men in a billiard hall and a young man she falls for. Raoul promises to take her to the movies but changes his mind. As part of the ritual used to establish prostitution, she swings around a pole, with the lyrics of a French tune "swing swing swing" in refrain.

11 Place du Châtelet - L'inconnu - Nana fait de la philosophie sans les savoir (Place du Châtelet, the unknown, Nana unknowingly, ovetande, engages in philsophy)
Nana asks an old man to buy her a drink in a posh café. In real life this is the philosopher Brice Parain. They speak about the regulating function of words. References are made to Plato and The Three Musketeers. The philosopher says one lives another life by not speaking and has to go through death. During the conversation Nana looks at the camera. Knowingly.

12 Encore le jeune homme - Le portrait ovale - Raoul revend Nana (Enter a young man, The Oval Portrait, Raoul sells Nana).
Godard in voice over quotes The Oval Portrait by Edgard Allen Poe (Oeuvres Edgar Poe) while the young man Anna has fallen in love with reads in bed. In the passage an artist paints his wife and in its perfection realizes she must die. Anna is going to quit working for Raoul and move in with her lover. Raoul grabs her as the husband of the concierge does when she tries to get the key to her apartment. She is taken for a ride in a car with a bunch of thugs. She asks what she has done wrong. Raoul tells her she has refused customers, and she responds that they disgust her. In a set up she is for the final time exchanged for money with another group of thugs. Raoul shorts them 1000 franc, and they don't hesitate to shoot her. Afterwards Raoul completes the execution and shoots her. The film ends.

As Godard explores prostitution, he postures his own wife as a commodity throughout the film. After her first film with him he didn't want her to work anymore, ironically a typical scenario when a customer falls for a prostitute, and the ultimate commodification through total ownership. It is not unlike a pimp taking control of an independent prostitute.

Karin left Godard seven years later, and he was so indignant that he cut up her clothes. Their marriage can be described as highly toxic, with periods of calm, fighting, possessiveness and desertion. After years of this, their final collaboration was Made In U.S.A, where Anna Karina shows her defiance of this liaison to the camera, a film that signifies the end of the relationship.

Les Tableaux
1 Un bistrot - Nana veut abandonner - Paul - L'appareil a sous.
2 Le magasin de disques- deux mille francs - Nana vit sa vie
3 La concierge - Paul - La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc - Un journaliste
4 La police - interrogatoire de Nana
5 Les boulevards extérieurs . Le premier homme - La chambre
She goes to the exterior for her first job. Maillot Palace
6 Recontre avec Yvette - Un café de banlieue - Raoul - Mitraillade dehors
7 La Lettre - Encore Raoul - Les Champs Elysées
8 Les aprés-midi - L'argent - Les lavabos - Le plaisir - Les hôtels
9 Un jeune homme - Luigi - Nana se demande si elle est heurese
10Un trottoir - un type - le bonheur n'est pas gai
11 Place du Châtelet - L'inconnu - Nana fait de la philosophie sans les savoir
12 Encore le jeune homme - Le portrait ovale - Raoul revend Nana.

2009-03-27

Créteil 31 Honors Anna Karina

Here is a photo of Anna Karina. You may not recognize her. Her face is hidden, behind a camera. The camera eye eclipses the wide eyes that have become immortalized. In the interview below, a photographer claims that it was Anna Karina's eyes that set her apart from other models. These eyes which have become Karina's trademark are behind the agency of a lens. As réalisatrice (director), she does the observing, she looks at us. Though we know Anna Karina as J L Godard's muse, some years after she broke up with him she went on to make a movie, Vivre Ensemble (Living Together)in 1972. There is only one copy of the film in the world, and I saw it at Créteil Films de Femmes 31. (13-23 March) at Cinema La Lucarne in Créteil.
The film, like Vivre Sa Vie, (Living "the life") has a tableaux form. It can be seen as a response to Godard's film. It is the story of Julie (Anna Karina), a hippie girl with a lifestyle involving drugs and alcohol and casual sex who enters into a relationship with a teacher, Alain (Michel Lancelot). He quits his job to be with Julie and slowly becomes a part of her world, leaving his business suits and proper manners behind for a new bohemian life. In the process he becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. Julie's values change when she becomes a mother, but Alain slowly deteriorates, giving private lessons to children while drunk. In Vivre Sa Vie, Godard's Nana says that we are all responsible for our actions. Although her husband tries to blame Julie for his decline in Vivre Ensemble, Karina emphasizes that he makes his own fate as does Julie but is sympathetic to Alain and the existential angst of his life. Set in New York and Paris, there are many enchanting moments that capture the spirit of the 70s with the political activism, flower power and posture of just letting people be. Karina has made a poignant film that is both whimsical and melancholic.
Anna Karina was honored with a retrospective of films at Créteil this year which includes the first one that she made at 14 in Denmark: Pigen og Skoene - the Girl with the Shoes (11', 1959). The director IB Schmedes noticed Anna on the street dancing and singing. The film won a prize at Cannes at 1959 as the best short. Pigen og Skoene features a tall and very mature Anna sporting a pony tail who spots a pair of high heels that she wants to wear on a date. The shoes cause great pain for her feet and make her late. So her comfortable pumps catch up with her so that she can run to meet her boyfriend. In this film, Anna Karina, born Hanne Karin Bayer in Copenhagen Denmark in 1940, shows how she was ready for the camera. In films with Jacques Rivette, George Cukor, Luchino Visconti and J L Godard she shows a sensibility and wit that have made her an art house icon. Anna Karina continues to make films and her latest feature Victoria caught the attention of Korean youth who skipped school to see it where it debuted at the Pusan Film Festival in 2008, the 30th Florence International Women's Film Festival, 2008 and the 31st Créteil Films de Femmes Festival, 2009. Victoria ,
is directed and written by Anna Karina with music by Philippe Katerine. It is an experimental musical road HD video about a mysterious mute woman, Victoria, Louis' boss who gets gigs around Quebec for two musicians in drag, Stanislaus and Jimmy. Victoria's connection with Stanislaus turns out to be karmic. The film is low budget with artful invention and a clever narrative style.

Below:
  • Exclusive interview with Moira Sullivan and Anna Karina at Créteil on Movie Magazine International, April 1, 2009, 9pm PST, 90.3 FM San Francisco, national webcast from April 3-9th.
  • Exclusive interview with Moira Sullivan and Julie Dash at Créteil on Movie Magazine International,March 25, 2009, 9pm PST, 90.3 FM San Francisco, national webcast from March 27 - April 2.


2009-01-20

Obama's and Michelle's Dance

Finally, an inauguration worthy of watching, finally inaugural balls worthy of watching, finally a presidency that commands respect. Finally an African American in the White House. This moment, this dance, this president is the strongest, most dignified and most gifted leader we have had in a long time - and alongside every powerful man, is a powerful woman, and now we have both. A thinking man and a thinking woman. We have waited a long time, for this moment , this dance! But remember Obama is not a messiah and it will take a long time to undue the wreckage of Bush Jr.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
Barack Obama, January 20, 2009.

2009-01-12

Good Gravy for Tina Fey

Its a great year for Tina Fey who reminded everyone at the Golden Globes tonite that the Internet can always cut you down to right size if everything seems to go too well.
And for good luck she told cyber scrooges "babs in la crosse", "cougarletter" and dianefan to "suck it".
This was Tina Fey's night, even if she almost tripped on the red carpet going up for her award. The comedienne who comically brought out the very worst on Sarah Palin was voted best actress in a TV comedy on January 11 by the Hollywood Foreign Press.

2008-12-02

Gus Van Sant Gets Milk Nearly All Right

If Gus Van Sant's new film Milk about the late Harvey Milk had been released before November 4th maybe it might have made a difference towards defeating Proposition 8 which takes away the rights of gays and lesbians to marry in California. Certainly in his lifetime, the late gay supervisor successfully rallied against the Proposition 8 of that time, the Briggs Initiative - Proposition 5 - which would have taken away the rights of lesbians and gays to teach in schools and ANYONE who supported them. This was the time when ex beauty queen Anita Bryant worked to get such an ordinance passed in Dade County Florida. Harvey Milk believed that if you didn’t register to vote you were giving away your rights and he pounded that home at the Civic Center during Gay pride 1978 a high point of the film. I heard Milk and registered for the 1st time after his powerful speech.
Gus Van Sant has done an excellent job of making a completely well crafted movie about the life and times of Harvey Milk who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone in San Francisco on November 27th 1978 - and tomorrow it will be exactly 30 years since Dan White, an ex fireman executed these two men in their offices under the influence of Twinkies. The film premiered earlier last month in San Francisco on October 28th and all the actors were on hand with Gus Van Sant to usher in the film at the Castro Theater.
Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk and he is totally convincing in every scene in representing this wonderful and enthusiastic supervisor who knew about people and their needs and how to successfully implement policy by building grass root connections. Harvey Milk energized the gay community and helped make the Castro a booming mecca for gay men. Though lesbians preferred to hang out in the East Bay or in the Mission, according to activist San Francisco educator Sally Gearheart Milk was concerned that lesbians were represented in every issue and brought in Anne Kronenberg ( Alison Pill) to run his campaign. Its hard to not fall in love all over again with Milk and thanks to the efforts of Sean Penn he is made real down to his truly humble happy and hard working persona. Josh Brolin plays Dan White brilliantly, a homicidal man Milk believed was a troubled latent homosexual. Despite his childish excesses Harvey Milk continued to fraternize with White even seconds before he was shot. Less successful in the film is Diego Luna as Milk’s lover Jack Lira. In real life though he was caught up with helping distressed men his long-term relationship with Scott Smith (James Franco) endured even after they went separate ways.
The film is not only the story of Harvey Milk but the galvanization of the gay community in San Francisco and while Milk would have been quick to point out that there are very few lesbians in this film – something that Van Sant seems to miss - he would have been happy to know that things changed during his life for the better. It is not always easy to make an historical film that rings true to life but Milk is one of those films that seems to get it mostly right.

Movie Magazine San Francisco Airdate November 26 2008

2008-11-05

Obamaland USA

San Francisco, November 5th 2008
Its an incredible win for Barack Obama, no, incredible is not the word. Its credible. This victory shows that the old paradigm has shifted because we have evolved. The limited blue state, red state argot created out of the aftermath of the last eight year administration is soon to become obsolete just as other significations seem to have marched on. Remember when a red state was a Marxist state?
The color scheme this time seems to be a purple united states. At least that is how Obama envisions it. His victory speech on election night has to be one of the most powerful he has made to date, and of any politician of recent time for that matter, revealing so much more of his core. Obama is also a writer. Nobel prize recipient Toni Morrison points that out. He writes his own speeches and is not dependent on ghost writers. Clearly he won't be needing them for his inaugural address either. I recall the last inauguration that I watched in transit at Logan Airport in Boston. I was excited about a new time that promised a different kind of change. Poet laureate Dr Maya Angelou afterwards called Bill Clinton the first "black" president. Barack Obama is the real first. But he is far more than that. His refreshing ideas are what make him stand out more than anything, as well as his cool and refusal to stoop to manipulation and bating. He also picks his own staff and his running mate. He doesn't have to stiff it to anyone like the McCain camp who is already hanging out Governor Palin. As if to say that if McCain lost it was because of a woman. Obama shows every sign, so far, of making his own decisions and being comfortable in the driver's seat.
But now we come to another issue on election day that did not go so well. California Proposition 8, a deftly worded bigoted Mormon funded proposal to ban gay marriage passed by a small majority (5000 votes). One of the most expensive campaigns on a single issue in US history. How can it be, and of course the answer is inherent in the question, that we can embrace change on so much but not on the subject of marriage rights for lesbians and gays? The time has not come? What comparisons can we make here? Repealing Roe/Wade is not going to happen in this presidency, but perhaps gay marriage will not either. Civil rights for all is the paradigm waiting to shift, and perhaps San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is the person that will make that happen as he steps into the national arena. Could he be the "first gay mayor" for making it known that this was a real election day defeat in a blue state that is far from the color purple.

2008-10-21

Journalist Ulrike Meinhof: From Theory to Practice


Veteran Swedish journalist Steve Sem-Sandberg takes issue with Uli Edel's film The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany 2008)
based on Stefan Aust's novel. He believes there is insufficient background provided for how Ulrike Meinhof turned from political analysis to political activism and violence.
Sem-Sandberg's study of Meinhof - Theres (1996) discusses in depth how Ulrike Meinhof was working on a screenplay about young women in the
Eichenhof correctional institution called Bambule, a film that was silenced when Meinhof became identified as a member of the 1970's terrorist group RAF - Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction). Bambule is briefly mentioned in Edel's film. Sem-Sandberg argues that for Meinhof this institution where women were repressed and silenced at an early age was a microcosm of the new Germany, a politically repressive machinery built out of the wreckage of Nazi Germany, transformed into a modern police state which violated civil liberties. Meinhof not only had an intellectual understanding of the fascist nature of Germany, claims Sem-Sandberg, she had witnessed it first hand at Eichenhof and in the gender hierachy of society. Bambule allowed her to engage in political action and stop writing for the cultural political journal konkret where her estranged husband Klaus Rainer Röhl served as editor. It is not easy to understand how Ulrike Meinhof became one of the most wanted criminals in modern German history but Sem-Sandberg claims its out there waiting to be re-discovered.

The Baader Meinhof Complex suggests the genesis of Meinhof's activism came from the public attention she garnished covering the pompous state visit of the Shah of Iran and his wife on June 2 1967, representing a country of vast illiteracy and poverty (the film's introduction). Though Iran was far away from Eichenhof, she witnessed the protests of young Germans against this visit who were beaten and shot. Here it is implied that Meinhof is only a step away from acting on her ideals.
Two years later Meinhof is interviewed (above), a single mother of two young girls. She discusses oppression in the home where women are caregivers who serve their husbands and children. She is aware that a major source of conflict for women is how to combine their political life with a personal life. She also stressed how important it was to maintain a power balance at home - something she had a hard time experiencing in her marriage
. On a small scale beginning in the home, she provides an astute and insightful analysis on the politics of repression based on personal experience as a young woman.

In The Baader Meinhof Complex,
Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) has a privileged position as a journalist, a position that she uses to later help free Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) from prison in 1970. She has him transfered to a building with minimum security under the pretext of conducting an interview. The rescue plan includes having young women from Eichenhof gain access to the building and later let Gudrun Esslin (Johanna Wokalek) and Holger Meins (Stip Erceg) into the building. When the situation becomes violent and guards are shot, Ulrike Meinhof decides to escape through the window with the rest of the group - a pivotal move into a world of armed violence and political analysis and the beginning of the Baader Meinhof group. Sem-Sandberg claims that this event is shown without context and trivialized in Edel's film just as Bambule.

The violent story of the Baader Meinhof group weighs heavily in the film. Through a montage of historical footage and re-enacted events such as the shooting of civilians in Vietnam, Uli Edel shows the power imbalance and oppression in society that creates terrorism. Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz), the head of the Bundeskriminalamt (German bureau of investigation) tries to piece together why young people are becoming terrorists in Germany, naïvely intellectualizing the violence - a phenomena that Meinhof had spent years studying before becoming an activist. It is Herold who lights up like a Christmas tree when he connects the protests over US military imperialism in Vietnam, the generous supply o f US weapons to Israel, and the search for oil in the Middle East - to the bombings and gun power of the RAF. As military police he knows that terrorism is a reflection of power imbalance and his strategy is to make it larger and crank up the volume full blast to squash any resistance, thereby creating an über police state with tacit support of the German population. In response Ulrike Meinhof quotes Mao who states that a clear line of distinction is created when the enemy tries to squelch the truth by blacklisting the protest(ers). When she is incarcerated and isolated at Köln-Ossendorf she is aware of the effect this has on the psyche. When she later interacts with Gudrun Esslin at Stammheim to get their case prepared for trial they turn on each other. But although Esslin was considered the leader of the RAF it is actually Meinhof's analysis of repressive political systems that sets them apart from senseless young hooligans, and which motivates their cause and conviction. Esslin no longer can make sense of Meinhof's analyses that have served the RAP before their incarceration. She insists that RAF take full responsibility for their actions - and that a rescue mission be set into operation to get them out.

The Baader Meinhof Complex is Germany's contribution to the Best Foreign Language film category for this year's Academy Awards. It is a riveting chronicle of events from June 2 1976 to several bank robberies and bombings and the incarceration of several members of the RAF. Events leading up to the trial of astonishing legal impropriety and the presumed execution of Meinhof, Esslin and Baader reveals a bungling intelligence apparatus gone haywire that just wants to make it go away, anyway. There has been a distinct glamourization of violence and sexuality up until this point. The Baader Meinhof Complex is after all aimed at young people who weren't born at the time, and older people who were young at the time. At Stammheim it stops. Gone are the devil may care rides on the freeway at top speed, the spirit of collective action and the intoxicating suspense and high of several planned attacks that consume the film almost until the end. Yet the incarceration of the RAF leaders encouraged more young people to continue their cause. The execution of members of the Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972 is linked to the RAF, further evidence of the proverb that if you cut off the head of a dragon more will grow in its place. Bob Dylan's song at the end that "the answer is blowing in the wind" describes how little Germany understood its youth and their rebellion. The Baader Meinhof Complex articulates the mind and muscle behind political violence and it resonates deeply for those trying to make sense of terrorism today.

2008-10-07

Lesbos Remains Lesbos

The transliteration of the name of the Greek island Lesbos (Λέσβος) in the northeastern Aegean is Lesvos. The classic Greek letter [β -beta] is pronounced [v-vita] in modern Greek. The inhabitants of Lesvos are Lesvians and it is not really accurate to refer to them as Lesbians because of a Beta/Vita confusion. To get around this some islanders call the island Mytilini, the name of the capital city, and are sensitive about being associated with Lesbians who are gay women. In fact Dimitris Lambrou, the Greek editor of the right wing journal Davlos brought the issue to court in Athens to forbid the use of the name Lesbian by gay women claiming that Lesvians have the exclusive right to it. The Athens court ruled against the measure on July 18th and fined Lambrou $366 dollars, a token sum considering the ridulous fuss. For it is not only the use of the word lesbian that Lambrou wants to limit to the residents of Lesbos but even who is or isn't a lesbian - such as the poet Sappho who was born on the island.

The island of Lesbos was named in antiquity after the Thessalian hero Lesbos, husband of Methymne, daughter of Makar. The name Lesbos is thought to come from the poet Sappho who was born on the island in 7 BC and who wrote romantic poetry to women. Some islanders strongly disagree that she was a lesbian and there are rumors that lesbians who visit the island to honor Sappho scare away tourists. But it seems to be the consensus of most islanders that tourism is on the increase because of international lesbians.

Don't these people have something better to do with their time? Whether Sappho was a Lesbian or just a Lesvian? Whether its Lesbos or Lesvos ? For example helping the wildlife (Lesbian spelled with a B) - or birdwatching on Lesvos spelled with a V when the birds first land after winter migration.

Note: I have regularly visited Lesb/vos for the past 12 years and have made films on the island which have been shown in Sweden, Greece and France.

2008-10-03

"No Tears, No Applause, No Ontoward Outburst..."?

There was only one clear issue in the "debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin that both Democratic Republican VP candidates agreed on - according to moderator Gwen Ifil. But having done that, why did it prompt hearty laughter from the conservative Washington University student body in Missouri? Was it comic relief, or was it such a clear cut choice that it was non-polemical? The entire round of exchange took probably tops 3 minutes - and we're on to "foreign policy".

"IFILL: The next round of -- pardon me, the next round of questions starts with you, Sen. Biden. Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples?

BIDEN: Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That's only fair.

It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.

IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that's sometimes where those steps lead.

But I also want to clarify, if there's any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue.

But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.

But I will tell Americans straight up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means.

But I'm being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non- support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.

IFILL: Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?

BIDEN: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.

The bottom line though is, and I'm glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that's the case, we really don't have a difference.

IFILL: Is that what you said?

PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.

IFILL: Wonderful. You agree. On that note, let's move to foreign policy." (Laughter from audience).

Palin and Biden are consistent in one respect: "infantalizing" same sex partners via limited civil rights. The Alaska Governor is known for "Palinisms" (not unlike Bush Juniorisms) - circuitous often indirect and nonsensical mumbo jumbo. Let's look at it Sarah: Gwen's question to you was whether you supported gay marriage and "your answer is not the same as Joe's and it is that you do not". You explained that some of your "friends" would not be happy that you are "tolerant" of everyone's right to choose a partner. You admitted you have a "diverse" group of friends ( gay?). But that you are skeptical of same sex partners having hospital visitation and contractual rights. That in approving this you are concerned that we would be moving closer to the definition of marriage that is operationally "defined" as a union "between a man and a woman". BTW your colorful "folksy " superlatives: "bless their hearts, " the Feds" , "I betcha"," heck of a lot", and " darn" - and your Joe Six Pack and Hockey Mom analogies and beliefs on Russian foreign policy and climate change - will go down in history.

Joe, your "diplomatic " sanction of gay "civil rights" may appear more liberal. Maybe that is because you didn't have to imply "some of my best friends are gay" or "my other friends would not be happy about my position". But leaving the responsibility of same sex marriage up to "faiths" and "people who practice faiths" in a nation with a clear legislative separation of church and state is not far from cornball. Amen.

2008-10-01

Tieing the Knot in San Francisco after 55 years, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

"On June 16, 2008 lesbian rights pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married in the first same-sex marriage ceremony since the California Supreme Court ruled in May that it was unconstitutional for the state to deny the right to marry to gay or lesbian couples".

This video of the wedding by Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff shows the ceremony officiating by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Phyllis Lyon died only months after the wedding.
“Registered partnership” - not marriage - has been legal in Sweden since 1995 and exists in several countries today. The clinical phrasing makes it easy to create and dissolve partnerships, like registering a business. The first partnerships were often created as expressions of political victory – a milestone for so-called “equal protection under the law”, but which does not come close to the meaning of honor and commitment in marriage. This was a hard earned victory in California shot down in 2004 and which still risks extinction on the ballot in November 2008. Massachusetts paved the way in the USA to make it happen. Hopefully one day it will become Federal law and we can sponsor our partners wherever they reside. There are seven “nations” in the world today that acknowledge marriage including Massachusetts and California. The right to marry should be a fundamental right and certainly is embodied in what is meant by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Neither of the Presidential candidates sanction marriage. Nor did Hillary (or Bill) Clinton. Certainly Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon showed the world love and endurance for 55 years. And as more “nations” legalize marriage let these two women’s love be a shining beacon. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is one of the most courageous and forward thinking politicians we have today. The words he read for Del and Phyllis about marriage express that it is something that should be carefully considered. For sure this is what these two lesbian pioneers did and they waited over two generations for the right to legally marry.

2008-09-30

Palin for President? OMG!


There wouldn't be much point in spotlighting women in the media if a few moments weren't spent on Sarah Palin, much as I dislike having to do it. The woman N.O.W will not endorse, the woman that is a Vice Presidential candidate to a Presidential candidate that will slash all federal spending except to veterans and troops overseas. The woman who said " bet they're sorry now" to the Democrats for NOT choosing a woman, i.e. Hillary Clinton.
This election was so clearly Hillary Clintons' but maybe the goofuses in the Republican party headquarters who couldn't read the signals correctly put just any woman on the ticket. Hillary Clinton was often the brunt of jokes about her gender, and Sarah Palin is no different. But while the arguments leveled by Clinton had foresight, Palin seems to be winging it alone, hit or miss, mostly miss on a variety of topics that makes it clear that any old woman isn't the same as someone who knows what she is doing. A Christian right candidate with a ready made constituency that opposes Roe Wade, evolution and stem cell research is the last thing we need. And if the senior McCain were to pass on, "bet we'll be sorry now".

These positions were expressed by Palin in speeches during the past few years:
  • Rejected sympathy for Down's Syndrome son, as gift from God. (Aug 2008)
  • Opposes embryonic stem cell research. (Aug 2008)
  • Only exception for abortion is if mother's life would end. (Jul 2006)
  • Opposes explicit sex-education programs. (Jul 2006
  • $7 billion savings plan for education & transportation. (Dec 2007)
  • Marriage only be between and man and a woman. (Nov 2006)
  • No spousal benefits for same-sex couples. (Jul 2006)
  • Teach creationism alongside evolution in schools. (Aug 2008)
  • Pledge of Allegiance with 'Under God' is good enough. (Jul 2006)
  • Global warming affects Alaska, but is not man-made. (Aug 2008)
  • Hunts as much as she can; freezer-full of wild game. (Aug 2008)
  • Health care must be market-and business-driven. (Jan 2008)
  • Visiting injured soldiers in Germany was trip of a lifetime. (Sep 2008)
  • Energy is a foundation of national security. (Sep 2008)
  • Miss Congeniality in statewide beauty pageant in 1984. (Aug 2008)

By far the biggest blunder is illustrated in the latest edition of The New Yorker: since Russia is within a bird's eye view of Alaska Palin feels she has qualified foreign policy experience. This may only amount to cooperating on trading missions across the border - such as exchanging wild game or whatever but the claim will land her in the Idiot Hall of Fame. Too bad she is a woman. It makes it worse. It may be true that dumb politicians resonate with voters such as George Bush Jr, and maybe its just a ploy to play dumb. But stupid is as stupid does.
Let's not forget George Jr reading a book upside down at a school for young children, or appearing on camera like a deer in highlights when told about the WTC on September 11th.
There is something remarkably similar about the recent utterances of Sarah Palin. Aren't they enough of a red flag? No wonder Obama wants to target funding for early education.
Katie Couric's soon to be legendary scoop with the "executive of" the state of Alaska reveals a riled up often incoherent and bumbling fool at work.
I sincerely feel for Sarah Palin, I truly do because she is doing the best she can, the best she thinks she can, though she could do far better if she were another person altogether, which she isn't.
Fifteen hundred women in Anchorage Alaska aren't particularly happy with the "executive of" and protested her nomination two hours after it was made, an event nowhere in the media. And remember the woman mysteriously escorted out during the nomination?

Truly women don't vote for a woman just because she is a woman. Are we learning yet? At least Sarah Palin should know something more about politics than being a poor Hillary imitation for Vietnam war veteran John McCain.

2008-06-29

Tilda Swinton, Isaac Julien and Derek Jarman


On the closing day of San Francisco Pride, a day full of a grand parade through the streets of San Francisco one of the most brilliant films of the Frameline LGBT Film Festival, Derek screened to an audience at the Castro Theater. The artistic director of the festival Michael Lumpkin had wanted to show one of Jarman's films, which were impossible to find in a 35mm print in the USA. That is something to take note of since Derek Jarman and his films reminds us of a time in British filmmaking that no longer exists, a combination of the political, the artistic and, with a focus on gay sexuality in several complex films such as Sebastiane (1976) and Caravaggio (1986). Jarman served as production designer for Ken Russel's fascinating treatise on sexuality and the repressed clergy - The Devils. (1970). And without Jarman, Tilda Swinton said her industry career would never have taken off. She was asked to deliver a lecture on Jarman, a lecture that turned into a documentary film that she produced and wrote and which was beautifully directed by Isaac Julien.
Swinton is featured in the documentary, staring at times straight into the camera as she did in Sally Potter's Orlando. "Here I am, and this is what I believe. So what do you think? Her and Julien's appearance in the film personalizes it and is never out of place. It allows for the material to update, and for the memorial to take place. And when we look at the images, we do miss Derek Jarman.
Jarman was productive at a time before Margaret Thatcher and while the lucrative funding the British Film Institute gave to artists to develop their own voice in cinema was intact. Looking at some of his work it is with melancholy that one notes that this kind of film is not being made, this kind of film is not screened at Frameline, for after all Frameline simply culls from what is out there and is a showcase of the latest in LGBT cinema. Jarman marched in gay parades, just as we did today and when diagnosed with HIV gave a voice to his illness. Recall the years when Pride parades were virtually non existent in the 80's. His last film Blue with a voice over on his illness set to a blue screen was made just before he died in 1994.
Derek is an outstanding collage of the work of Jarman, his films, music videos, and a lengthy interview with Colin McCabe in 1990 at his home Prospect Cottage in Dungeness which serves as a voice over to his images. His artistic sensibility is so incredibly rich and dynamic that it is impossible to not be inspired by his work and appreciate his contributions to cinema, art and set design. Swinton and Julien's homage hits home.

2008-06-27

Barbara Hammer is the Reigning Lesbian Filmmaker Par Excellence

You could say that Barbara Hammer has usually been involved in some kind of corporeal cinema, in one way or another. Her early films on lesbians go where no other filmmaker dared to go in exploring sexuality. Not only among the young and beautiful but the aging. She has successfully used found footage in her films, to bring to public attention old films about lesbian sexuality and presented to us closeted lesbian histories. She has used x-ray photography to show us the insides, and now the outsides in her latest film presented for the first audience ever at the Frameline LGBT Film Festival in San Francisco, A Horse is not a Metaphor. Intriguing title. I would actually say that for this film, a horse is a metaphor. But maybe that is an implied intention. Barbara is probably one of the most provocative and youthful directors anywhere. The film uses old rodeo footage, with young cowgirls wrestling with the cattle, as she so clearly seems to do when presented with her diagnosis of uterine cancer. There is also lots of footage of Barbara on a horse, and one horse in particular with eye and groin cancer, who after a sturdy diet begins to recover. This film is about Barbara's bout with cancer, which she successfully battled and is in over 18 month's remission. But it is also about reclaiming power, and the images of horses, shiny and sleek, with life running through their magnificent bodies evokes this. It takes courage and conviction to bring a film so personal and intimate to the screen. We see Barbara in the hospital, Barbara with short hair after chemotherapy, Barbara's scar from surgery, Barbara naked walking through the forest. Powerful Barbara Hammer who is not afraid to have us look, empathize and learn. That gives us life on life's terms.

Of all the films at Frameline, an evening with experimental work is a night to remember. From a woman who learned how to make movies at San Francisco State. And when she went to school she saw the films of only one woman: Maya Deren: the filmmaker that chose to make experimental, personal films.
Its time to wash away the made for TV scripts, the lesbian love that is unrequited, and the women who kills themselves because they can not have the one they love. There were several films this year at Frameline. Are we learning yet? Are these retrograde themes harking back to Sandy Dennis being felled by a tree in The Fox or Susannah York being forced to eat Beril Reid's cigar in The Killing of Sister George a metaphor for something that is happening to lesbian identity today? Even if so, Barbara makes us remember that its beautiful to be a lesbian at any age, and that the experimental format is a powerful tool of expression.
Here is a film that uses metaphor, to show an incredible joy for life despite a life threatening experience at the risk of alienating the public. "How has this film been received?", asked someone in the audience. "I don't know, you are the first audience", answered Barbara. As one of the first spectators I can only ask, what would the world be without Barbara Hammer? She has brought to lesbian filmmaking a uniqueness, a passion, a daring challenge to see and experience, sit and squirm , feel uncomfortable and provoked, and afterwards feel that you have gone through an ordeal into visionary and auditory realms that have made you richer for the experience. The choice of music by Meredith Monk, another incredible veteran artist , empowered the film and sent it soaring. "I always wanted to ride a horse", says Barbara, who took to the saddle faced with the acknowledgement that life is precious and can be cut short, so you better darn well enjoy all you can.

2008-06-26

4th Queer Women of Color Film Festival in San Francisco

The Queer Women of Color Film Festival is probably one of the most unique festivals for queer women out there. Here we can definitely take note of the new directions of filmmaking each year as each filmmaker comes to terms with the latest in technology for low budget production. Out of a series of scripts and a desire to make movies, several women tell their story with passion, dedication and purpose. The event is free and held at the Brava Theater in the Mission district of San Francisco. Directors Madeline Lim and T Kebo Drew run an excellent venue. In essence, the festival is a training ground for filmmakers, and once the film wraps it becomes part of the festival. In QWOCMAP's training program filmmakers are on a strict schedule to produce an intimate and relevant project to their own lives. They are guided by the award winning filmmaker Lim, and act and serve as crew in each other's films. Community partners include Pink and White Productions, which helped to host the Sunday afternoon "Sexually Subversive" centerpiece screening, and Trikone , a non profit organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of South Asian descent. Sponsors include Linda Harris of the Harrison Team, a real estate agency which services the LGBT community. Harris is on the board of directors for Frameline.
There is a trained staff of volunteers that usher in the block long length of women, and if you are on time there is no problem with a seat. The tradition of the festival is to serve food, also free, to make everyone feel at home. The feedback that each filmmaker gets from her film is enough to keep the images rolling for a long time, for the crowd is generous and knows what it likes.
To celebrate this event, a representative of Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke about how the festival is appreciated and honored by the City of San Francisco. With the new passage of legalized marriage in California and a conservative backlash already in gear to try to defeat the measure in November, strong community action is underway to get people out to vote. According to the representative, "let's get the measure passed, then worry about deconstructing the institution of marriage". Right on. Activism is a key component to the Queer Women of Color Festival (QWOCMAP), with leaflets in the vestibule for signatures to Mayor Newsom, "I support having a city owned Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center in San Francisco", and to Governor Schwarzenegger, " I recently attended the QWOCMAP Film Festival that was part of the Unisted States of Asian America Festival and National Queer Arts Festival". In California, public support of the arts is 3 cents per person, whereas the national average is one dollar.

This year Pratibha Parmar was the special invited guest to the festival, a British Indian who was born in Kenya and grew up in London in a working class neighborhood. She never went to film school but has made several films, one of which won the public prize for the best film at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival - Khush, a film about gay and lesbians in South Asia, and those interviewed came out for the first time . "Khush" means "ecstatic pleasure" in Urdu.

Parmar was interviewed by the award-winning journalist Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. Two other films were shown in a retrospective of Parmar's work: Bhangra Jig and Wavelengths. The films are archived by Women Make Movies in New York, an organization that rents films to schools and universities. Parmar noted the quality of the films on video and is planning on a DVD release of her work in the near future. Of particular interest is Parmar's latest film Nina's Heavenly Delight which has won several top awards at festivals in Fresno, Tampa and the Cineffable Lesbian Film Festival in Paris. Parmar plans to spend more time in the Bay Area with her partner of 16 years.

Programs were divided into three themes this year in addition to the special Sunday screening "Sexually Subversive": "Kindred Spirits", films about family relations, and "Delectably Yours", a pageant of films on food.
Highlights of some of the films this year include: Labels Are Forever (Jinky de Rivera, 2008).The opening titles reads like the introduction to Star Wars in this humorous saga about 007 Secret Agent J. Wong. Wong is sent by her boss to investigate how labels are used by a group of women only to discover that the assignment is bogus.

Luna Han takes a look at The Cock: Lesbian Owned & Operated (2008).

Han was also the better half in One in a Million by Monifa Porter (2008) a playful journey into the twists and turns of a lesbian fertility rite. If you click here you can see the festival's secret agent on duty.

Renacimiento de una bruja (Zemaya, 2008) is a spiritual oddyssey by a woman with the earth and her ancestors.

Queering My Mother (Lourdes Rivas, 2007) tells the story of mother that polices her daughter too much especially when she has met that special woman. As the title suggests, the evolution of awareness by the filmmaker's mother is at stake, and she does it in style.
Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe (Amber Field, 2008) is about a young South Korean woman comes to terms with her adoption in the USA while also questioning celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie who have adopted children from developing nations to give them better lives. The evolution of the young woman is traced as she comes to terms with being a lesbian and also a martial artist.

In Too Much Plain (Caroline Le, 2008) A young woman tries to figure out what's wrong with all her girlfriends with her best friend, only to discover that its because she wants to be more than best friends with her confidant.

A handful of the films were also shown at the Frameline32 LGBT Film Festival June 19-29 in a section called "Magical Promise", which is precisely what you can say about so many gifted directors at QWOCMAP.

2008-06-02

61st Cannes Film Festival

The 61st Cannes Film Festival ended on May 25 after a 10 day run, the festival which is one of the most prestigious and which is known for screening artistic world class films. What was really refreshing about this years Cannes was the choice of the jury president, Mr. Sean Pean, a man who has worked hard for films with social issues and who has really come into his own. Other jury members included Natalie Portman and Alfonso Cuaron.

The Palme d'Or this year when to The Class by Laurent Cantet and was presented by Robert De Niro. This is the first time a French film won the top prize in 21 years. The film is about a teacher who tries to prepare a junior high school class in a rough neighborhood in Paris for the future, though the students challenge the way that he goes about it. The story is autobiographical and the teacher, François Bégaudeau, plays himself. The jury chose this film unanimously and Sean Penn said it is the young people of today who have the responsibility for the future of the planet.

Two veterans received the special Prize of the 61st Festival de Cannes the so-called ex-aequo awards.

Catherine Deneuve for A Christmas Tale by Arnaud DESPLECHIN also starring the French-Italian actress Chiara Mastroianni, the daughter of Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni.

And Clint EASTWOOD won for The Changeling, the story of a mother played by Angela Jolie whose kidnapped son is returned but who knows it is not her son.

The Award for the Best Director went to Nuri Bilge CEYLAN for Three Monkeys, a film that like its title deals with corruption in a family that doesn’t want to see hear or speak the truth.

At the press conference for the jury it was noted that the two acting awards went to films with social relevance:

Benicio Del Toro was awarded for his performance in Che, by Steven SODERBERGH, the story of Che Guevara, the Argentinean doctor that sailed to Cuba to help bring about the downfall of Batista together with Fidel Castro. Soderbergh understands that the length all of 267 minutes, may scare off the average audience and his hope is that it can be shown in installments.

Sandra Corveloni won the other award for her role in LINHA DE PASSE by Walter SALLES, a film about the hopeless conditions for four brothers in Sao Paolo who struggle to avoid falling into a life of crime. Corveloni plays their mother the housemaid Clueza,

Other veterans who have been awarded at Cannes previously were Jean-Pierre et Luc DARDENNE who won the Best Screenplay award for Lorna’s Silence the story of an Albanian woman who acquires Belgian citizenship by marrying a Russian Mafioso.

The feeling this year was that there was a lot of good films, and not enough prizes to reward all of the good work. This was not a year when a film like The Brown Bunny, by Bad Boy Vincent GALLO stood among the talent. And Sean Penn brought a quality to the festival that will make the 61st edition stand out for a while, with a French film at the top.

Broadcast on Movie Magazine International, San Francisco, May 26, 2008.

2008-02-27

Hollywood, A Country for Old Men and Foreigners

Postscript: Oscars Numero 80
The anticipation is always higher than what the Oscars can deliver. I think Jon Stewart's opening line says it all: "No Country for Old Men, Let There Be Blood, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber?
Does Hollywood need a hug? Thank god for teenage pregnancy."
Maybe Hollywood does and maybe it doesn't. But the Oscars might need an audience, and the 80th edition had one of the lowest turnouts ever.
Word is out that at least in the USA viewing was low because not enough Americans were nominated! Looking at the actor categories its pretty awesome to note that the winners are all from outside the JUESSAY. Both Tilda and Marion gave kudos to the men that make them rock: Olivier Dahan and George Clooney and then Javier Bardem thanked his mother and Daniel Day Lewis his girfriend.
Joel Cohen revealed that what they do in No Country for Old Men is no different from their first film, Henry Kissinger on the Move, shot in Super 8. I hope that my Super 8 film on The Underwater Real Estate Twins and a human ashtray will catapult me to Oscar glory. It is really the same, yes it is. Time will tell.
The Oscars could be significantly shortened by taking out the music numbers and stop mentioning "Jack" all the time. As a role model it is unfortunate that he is the leading veteran in the house. Could we say his appearance with Boris Karloff in The Terror (1963) is actually no different from his appearance at the Oscars?
Indeed, Hollywood seems to really be a country for old men, and the men who make the women rock. And the men who decided to put them all in one arm dresses this year.
One refreshing addition to this Oscars was the thank you speech by Cynthia Wade, winner of the best short. She directed Freeheld, the true story of the terminally ill Lieutenant Laurel Hester who wanted to leave her pension benefits to her life partner - Stacie.
(PS 35,000 viewers from Sweden watched the ceremony on TV9- 45,000 average in the Red Carpet - acknowledged during the pre-event for sending email- and up from 20,000 viewers last year. Population of Sweden, 9 million.

Oscar-itis, Numero 80

The 80th edition of the Oscars are on TV9 in Stockholm this year and you have to wait until the end of the month to add cable channels. Hello? Timing?
When it comes to services, the bureaucrats of (Sweden) are fashionably late, albeit retro... not a politically incorrect statement; backwards, intentional refusal to update the world ; insistence in living in a cubicle of stubbornness. SO, I MADE the bureaucrats ADD TV9 before March 1! The "cable people". I wonder if they are really the "TV people" from Poltergeist living inside the set behind the war of the ants! Whew! This was hard, but persistence is rewarded, and this approach works! Disarm the bureaucrats before they can say no. Drive close up to their bumper and then ram! But the tailpipe may backfire: "we can't do it because everyone will want it then", or "that is not the way we do things". True customer (dis)service. Just a teenie little cultural idiosyncracy, enough to drive you to drink.

SEEING the Oscars is the name of the game! First hurdle every year, at least in Sweden. The media conglomerates keep channel switching the coverage to different hosts; only IF a Swedish film is nominated will the national channels pony up the money. OK the show is expensive, more expensive then Dallas reruns anyway. (According to Svenska Dagbladet 2008-02-27, 58% of the TV shows in Sweden are from USA, because they are cheaper). The condensed Reader's Digest version of the Oscars is broadcast two days later (subtitles included, and great to understand what Javier Bardem said about his mother!) With a speedy version of the technical and artistic achievement categories. This is really really sad.

I'll never forget the year I saw the Oscars in Paris on Canal + and the commentators talked on top of everyone the entire time, turned down the volume on the speakers so you couldn't even tune them out. Like a football game. But at least in Sweden they DON'T, and when they cut to commercials there is some pretty good analysis by some pretty good film critics. This year it was fashion expert Ellen Kling ( who left after 30 minutes into the show), program leader Pontus Gårdinger AND the popular film critic with the wirey hair, Hans Wiklund.

Best cinematography is a wonderful category at the Oscars that is awarded, the use of the camera and lighting in a film. I think the cinematography in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is excellent, bright light and soft focus, radiant outdoor shots and just incredible visual style. Hope it wins best cinematography. Director Julien Schnabel did Before Night Falls with Javier Bardem. (According to Maria Schneider, arthouse diva from Last Tango in Paris, Schnabel is one of the few arthouse directors out there). Its the six degrees of Javier this year! Javier Bardem for best supporting actor!--he is a real icon like Hannibal Lector as far as (serial ) murderers go in No Country for Old Men. How else could you describe him? That hairdo just is over the top! We will never forget him! Especially if he wins. I can bet you someone wears a Sugar Wig tonite!
I hope Atonement doesn't win anything! Actually I don't really care how a film compares to a book. It shouldn't even be considered. A film is a film, and a book is a book. Please just keep it separate. Usually book ideas don't make great films because film is not literary, its visual, so if people are SO disappointed go back and read the book. Film owes you nothing. Just your story for inspiration, that is all.

Haven't seen Juno, yet, or There Will be Blood, or Michael Clayton. But I would not be unhappy if No Country for Old Men won best picture, supporting actor and director. (and it did!)
Thought Viggo Mortensen was great in Eastern Promises, I loved that film! The great auteur David Cronenberg made it! What can that guy NOT do, and how versatile!
I am partial to Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd as best actor , a real ST fan I am! We have the advantage of the musical tradition in the USA which Sweden does not. Hard to sell this film perhaps because it is such a great musical, and well, then a musical is a musical, and a film is a film.

Torn between Julie Christie for Away From Her, a compassionate and moving film directed by Sarah Polley , a young director with such a sensitivity for the elderly, and Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf for La Môme - for best actress. Love them both. Olivier Dahan, the director of La Môme, was invited for the San Francisco International Film Festival, closing film 2007- and was a bit obnoxious, but I think he had stage fright. That is a real oxymoron.

TORN between Persepolis and Ratatouile for best animated film. Tight race! Both are brilliant. Ratatouille will probably win, its so Americano/Francophilo.
Have not seen I'm Not There yet oj oj oj but hear Cate Blanchett is good as Bob Dylan (she is currently in overuse syndrome), and Heath Ledger (really sorry to see you go) but NOT Richard Gere. Oh Please!
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor but like Cate is overused in almost everything. I loved him in Capote. He could have retired after that one.

I will attempt to be glued to the set tonite, but will probably fall asleep unfortunately and wake up when the credits roll and the war of the ants begins. Its on here at 2.30am. No way around that. "Aphrodite, crowned in gold, please let this piece of luck of mine".
After the writers strike everyone will be out in droves. Hair, makeup, and tacky American ball room dresses. (Red Carpet on TV9 at midnite) I can't wait till Cannes for some real designs. Have to look at the tuxes then, usually a lot better. Alas, not sure if its a great Oscar year. But then don't we say that every year?
And what about that writer's strike? Seems like missing the Red Carpet at the Golden Globes was a fate worse than death. What Solidaritet! Could have missed the Oscars actually. Still haven't wrapped my head around the issues that need to be clarified once and for all.

As for Sicko half good, half bad. That is BEFORE Michael Moore makes his patronizing Disneyland switch to document health care in Cuba and Europe. It really fell apart after the USA report, which was great- intelligent, with the hard cold facts. Ironically, in Sweden health care is starting to become privatized!

Happy Oscars to you! Drop me a line during the show if you can any of you cinephiles!

This movie never won an Oscar, but like Ghostbusters, you can see it over and over and over and never get sick of it.
Hint: it was inspired by The Birds.

2007-10-15

Diana Rigg at the Old Vic

Is there anything Diana Rigg can't do? From James Bond's wife to a veteran stage actor in love with a lesbian drug addict, this actor has proven her versatility and extraordinary acting craft time after time. At the London Old Vic through November 24th, All About My Mother is a dramatic rendition of Pedro Almodóvar's cult film about a mother who loses her son in an accident, fathered by the transsexual Lola.
And just to prove that the attempt to dramatize the film on stage was approved, Aldmodóvar was on hand at the opening nite in London with Penelope Cruz and Cecilia Roth on September 4th, along with quite a few queer folks. Listen to upcoming review of play on October 24th for Movie Magazine International, San Francisco.

Jeanne Moreau in Stockholm


Jeanne Moreau was guest at the Swedish Film Institute on October 6th to honor Ingmar Bergman. She revealed a story about letters to Bergman sent after an unhappy love affair with Louis Malle. They planned on making a film called Monstrous Love, but when Bergman was arrested for a tax violation the film never came to be. Upcoming review of Long Live Bergman Weekend in Stockholm and interview with Jeanne Moreau on Movie Magazine International, San Francisco on October 17.

2007-09-21

Farewell Rita Chan!

September 21, 2007

Dear Sister!

There is no one that I have met that so much embodies the North American spirit than you: fun-loving and compassionate, generous and hard-working, courageous and outrageous. You had all these wonderful qualities in spades. And your light never went out. You were a constant fountain of vitality giving to Sweden your gifts, and wherever you went in the world. As you became more and more Swedish, you gave the culture a polish and shine that we will all miss. A wonderful and enchanting light has gone out, but your radiance will always be here in this country.

I am so honored to have you as a friend since the 1980’s and to keep in touch with you through the years on our journeys. I know we missed our roots in the States but we both loved Sweden and Swedish women and that is pretty close to heaven, I think we both agreed. We made this wonderful journey to Stockholm at almost the same time and stuck together through the years. You made it a point to remember my birthday and were there for many of my important life rituals.

So sister countrywoman from Sweden, I salute you, and will always. Thanks for all your networking and brainstorming and support through the years. Thanks for promoting lesbian culture, bringing Holly Near to Sweden, and all your activism for immigrant women in Sweden and the LGBT world. Our film made ten years ago is a living testimony of your humor, your vitality, and your compassion for women. I have it waiting to show you, as you requested last time we met.
You will be deeply missed Rainy. I am so grateful for our time together and in light years, I am moments behind you.

Moira, San Francisco, CALIFORNIA

My thoughts and prayers to Rita’s family: Petra and family, Kicki and Mette and Yvonne.
Tribute to Rita "Rainy" Creighton, September 21, 2007 at Nalen, Stockholm, SWEDEN.

2007-09-20

Jodie Foster is Back!

The Brave One directed by Neil Jordan stars Jodie Foster and its her best performance since Silence of the Lambs, 15 years ago. Truly this film puts her out there again, conjuring up memories of the tough girl in Taxi Driver who walks the streets of New York as a precocious preteen. Only this time she is cleaning up the streets of New York, instead of Robert De Niro's "You talking to me?"- Well she doesn’t say that exactly. But when a pimp calls her a Super -"Expletive", she lets him know that he has just met his own private hell.

Erika Bain and her boyfriend Naveen Andrews played by David Kirmani --- take their dog for a walk in the park at night. What’s the harm? There are people sitting on park benches. Well, three street thugs decide to take their dog, brutally assaulting Erika and beating her boyfriend to death. As they assault the young couple the men film the attack. Erika wakes up in intensive care after spending weeks in a coma, thereby missing the funeral of her boyfriend. She works as a radio correspondent and she does a “different” kind of show—socially relevant programs. Her special reports bring her to the attention of Detective Mercer (Terence Howard) who remembers her assault and who is investigating a parallel murder. Erika suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and takes pills for her nerves. But one day she decides she can’t live in fear. And she decides she can’t wait 30 days to get a handgun. She needs it now and badly and in a serious of random crimes she personally observes, she is let into an existence as a vigilante.

The Brave One is a female revenge vehicle and no one is more qualified than Foster. She been pimped out in Taxi Driver, sexually assaulted in The Accused , set up to weasel out information from Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs and go mano e mano with a serial murderer. But after all that, it all gets kind of tame for Foster in pictures. She’s in a western with Richard Geer and a period piece in Siam, but starts up her own production company.

Then the engines seem to roar again with the kind of visceral raw toughness that Foster has in spades. One project is with Mathieu Kassovitz to present La Haine (Hatred) about gang violence in the Parisian suburbs with yet another reference to Travis Bickle and Taxi Driver; she’s locked in a safe house in Panic Room; her daughter is abducted in Flight Plan. The woman has had it all happen to her. It’s all about defending her integrity and her right to be safe. The message of this film comes from post 9/11 New York, and it’s a grim tale about payback and justice. Erika manages to elude the police and everything thinks she’s a guy, but soon the picture starts to flesh itself out.

Death comes unexpectedly and leaves a hole in her heart. Erika needs to reinvent herself she has become another person shaken by senseless violence. Her vengeance becomes a way out and the message is not pretty.

Neil Jordan has directed The Crying Game and Interview with a Vampire. He is fascinated with American violence, as many Europeans who live in relatively safe ethnically homogenous cultures with social welfare programs seem to be. It’s a fascinating subject for the movies, and New York violence is easy to sell. The style for The Brave One is over the top: Both the camerawork and editing convey the confusion and disorder of chaos. Sarah McLaughlin is not a good choice to deliver the film theme, but the song does make it into a love story and tempers the violence. Ironically the Dixie Chicks come up in the film as being too tame for this city. But certainly not Jodie Foster.

Go to "Listening Room" started September 22, 2007 at Movie Magazine International for a broadcast based on this review.