JT LEROY – this story’s based of fake events.

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The Guardian has called it ¨perhaps the most succesful and sustained of any of the hoaxes¨. Laura Albert says: It was not a hoax.

It wasn´t a well-considered plan, or, rather, it wasn´t a plan at all. Laura Albert has adopted the identity of teenage prostitute´s son in purely therapeutical purposes, at least that´s what she claims- she wouldn´t be able to write as a woman about painfull things engraved in her own memory

Everyone knew him. JT Leroy, teenager with vague sexual identity who managed to get away from the hell of Southern truck-stop prostitution world into which his own mother immersed him and who has put his terrible experiences into writing thanks to the suggestion of psychologist dr. Terrence Owens- as it turned out, in suprisingly sophisticated form.  The doctor shared his discovert with his neighbour, editor, Eric Willinski, that one has contacted JT with his favourite poet, Sharon Odds. That´s how the first collection of short stories written under the name ¨Terminator¨has seen the light if the day and thereby the legend was born, soon growing on such a large scale that the author couldn´t disentangle herself from it.

Celebrities have fallen in love with Jeremiah ¨Terminator¨ Leroy at first reading, declairing emotional catharsis they have been experiencing with every chapter. Winona Ryder was thanking ¨from the bottom of her heart¨, Courtney Love, Bono, Tom Waits, everyone was bombarding JT´s voicemail with thank-you messages and he, morbidly shy, hidden behind huge glasses, was trying to deal with unexpected fame. Since the begining, particular voices have been defending the thesis that Terminator could never have existed, being an alter-ego of Gus Van Sant or other art world figures. The legend was swelling, the stars were swelling with pride and Albert, as british social worker called ´Speedie´who rescued JT from the streets, was appearing incognito on public readings.

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Talking with Vice, Jeff Feuerzeig, an director of the documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story stumbled across the book ¨Sarah¨ by accident. Refering to his binge read on a long plane travel, he says:

¨Laura Albert had left the clues that she wanted to tell, that she had a secret but she wasn´t ready¨

She had her reasons. During her speech recorded couple years after the true has came to light, she points out the group home where she has been living as a teenager as a place where she´s started soaking up with stories and looking for a way to express her own.

I´m on this writing classes and everyone´s looking at this one cool guy…[…] and I´m in group home, and I´m looking at him and I wanted to be him because he matches the voice and I don´t want him to know it´s me cause it´s gonna ruin it¨

Feuerzeig´s documentary features the story as unbelievable as famous Searching for a Sugar Man. However, instead of holding out on us, he puts his cards on the table, letting Albert admit: I am JT. The story is carried by her and in opposite to copybook docs her voice is not really confronted with the others. This choice of narration exposes the strongest and weakest part of all the legend created- Albert´s personality. It becomes a confession but with no regret. Albert never says sorry and never will- she’s strongly convinced she did the right thing letting the show go on.

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The books gained amazing success mostly because of one factor- their value is corelated with emotional resonance of author´s authentic  experiences. Almost every review before exposing the hoax reffered to the fact that the story is based on life of JT. As says Susan Vega, quoted in the introduction to Sarah- ¨JT Leroy has a gift ti be able to articulate his world so dearly[…] without glossing over the pain and brutality of it¨. Another quote, from Jerry Stahl, sounds a bit ironic in the new context ¨Whatever young LeRoy had to live through to write a book like this, we´re lucky he´s here.¨ Basically, Sarah and ¨The Heart…¨ lacking the root of authenticity, in the eyes of critics turn out to be a cheap story using shortcuts and threadbare archetypes: fanatic Southern Christians, degenerated truck drivers and drug- addicted hookers.

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The story of adaptation starts the same way as it did with the documentary. Asia Argento has read the book and became so attached to the character of JT that she decided to put it to the screen. Asia’ s second film as a director is filled with grotesque, brutally bombarding the spectactor with uncomfortable scenes of abuse; it lacks any ornamentations, in certain parts being simply ugly and repulsive.  Looking at her most recent “Misunderstood”, glamorous adult fairytale, it’s hard not to notice the lift at the level of aesthetics. The acting of Asia featuring title role- Sarah, abusive irresponsible mother of Jeremiah, overwhelmes as she seems to constantly fight for the foreground. New York Times has crushed the movie after the truth came out; not only ms. Argento’s skills as a filmmaker have been criticised, but the movie itself was called “well-high unwatchable” partiallly thanks to the quality of source material.

‘ They called me fake fiction writer’ she laughs in her speech.  People were angry, offended and craving for revenge for making the fools out of themselves. But at the end, how does it matter if JT exists if these devastating child stories have and will exist and Albert has put the light on it.

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Moloch! Poetry on the screen.

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We all remember that scene: Robin Williams a.k.a John Keating cleaning his tutor desk and his students standing to attention, saying goodbye with ´´oh captain, my captain´´, famous Walt Whitman´s verse. Dead Poets Society, however gloppy it was, remains one of the most famous movie on poetry and poets. Poetry is fotogenic, but dangerous too- it´s easy to fall into all these corny schemes. These are the ones that didn´t.

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Argentinian movie seems to be a bit otherworldly. The director hasn’t been afraid of the kitsch, with different results: sometimes we’ll be amazed by the poet’s monologues, sometimes we’ll look away with embarassment. Here the poet talks with his poems, lives his poems and absolutely believes in his mission which turns out to be enlightening the society about the misery of life. His chase for a perfect muse and his walks with death portrayed as a black dressed, reasonable, 90s dressed woman (sic!) are at the same time a journey through the misty side streets of Buenos Aires . The poet declaims his verses from behind the windows of the cars waiting on the red light and to confused cashiers in the bank. The film captures the thing that suprised me travelling through South America- the art meets the everyday life, as on every bus there is someone singing, rapping or turning their life failures into slam-like monologues. The main character, like a modern Werter, wanders around gin mills of la Boca shady port neighbourhood with an anguished face and a cigarette in his mouth, being very much reminiscent of an intersection of Wojaczek and L’homme qui dort.

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A little dose of kitsch never harmed anyone; even if a talking cow and the flying couple cumming together is a fatal overdose, I’d still recommend the movie as an insight to Argentina’s culture.

WOJACZEK

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Speaking of Wojaczek, the polish movie named after the poet is one of the most extraordinary biographies of my homeland literature figures. Rafał Wojaczek, the representative of postwar generation of poets, has been living shortly and intensively; quarrelsome lifestyle filled with alcohol and meds has led him to few suicide attemps- the last one, at the age of 27, has ended his life. The movie features his evolution as an artist starting from the teenage years at his silesian postindustrial town Mikołów, where he has been constantly agitating a provincial community with his vanguard behaviour, to life in Wrocław- the last german stronghold reattached to Poland after hundreds of years and total demolition at the end of second world war. Paradoxically it flourished as a place of artistic initiatives, gathering the most outstanding personages of literature and other fields of art.

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The use of black and white suprisingly adds a subtle elegance to the grey reality of early communist period. The artists get wasted in honky-tonks and declaim their pieces on the tables and it´s not fun anymore, it´s a cry for help. Picturing the sad but important episode in polish history, the movie is at the same time an introduction to the fascinating poetry of Wojaczek, often compared to Rimbaud and Lautréamont- vibrant and vanguard, using the body metaphores with all its hideous sheath to reflect the emotional states.

PATERSON

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Paterson, named after the town where he was born, where he is living and working as a coach driver, writes poetry. In typically Jarmush style we observe seven days of his life, day after day, repetitive as Groundhog Dog’s. As director claims, this repetitiveness comes from his fascination for duality starting from when he was a child.

¨I love the repetitive verses in poetry, he says in an interview with Wyborcza, the structure of Bach´s compositions, multiplied canvas of Andy Warhol, he says. That´s why I wanted to do a movie in which every upcoming day is a copy of the last one- with one different element.¨

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In contrary to majority of movies on the subject of artists, neither anyone discovers Paterson nor his life changes anyhow- his poetry stays safe and sound in his closely guarded notebook, to the great dissatisfaction of his girlfriend hungry for his and hers success, convinced that his voice has to be heard. Instead climbing to the top, Paterson just craves for his own peace. Poetry here is rather a tool for a contestation of reality and observation of casual occurences. It also may be perceived as a terapeutical tool. Paterson´s past lingers through the film, mostly locked in photographs;  as we can see, before moving back to his hometown and starting his driver´s jobs, he had been an apprecciated solider. The instictive reaction of taking the plastic gun away from the actor in one of the bar scenes and the way he organises the life itself- without suprises, with an unshakable routine might be a veiled clue to PTSD syndrome, which is self- treaded with writing, especially if locked in the sock drawer.

YONA

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We constantly follow her on the screen, her fuzzy hair and wandering eye, she leads us through following stages of her unstable life- Yona Wallach, Israeli poet who became famous because of her adamant work stuffed with sexual metaphors. The people she meets on her way are portrayed taking her into account, dimmed with her authoritarian personality and although it could generate opinions that it´s hard to identify with her story, that goes well with her poetry- written in first person, often seditious ( her poem Tefillin published in 1982 combined sex and religious artefacts and was widely commented by media and governement figures). The only typically biographical movie in my compilation has been nentioned here mainly because of a stunning performance of Naomi Levov. Yona herself has been a ready-made material for a movie as her life filled with sexual experiments and creative crisises has driven her to the brink of insanity. The poems reflect it- complex but formally negligent, they hadn´t convinced me at the first glance. This movie is a proof to the power of interpretation. The passion that Naomi has put into Yona´s work made me discover a new quality.

HOWL

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The movie, instead of portraying the life of the artist with the poetry in the background lets us look deeper into his personality  put in the perspective by deconstructing his most famous artwork- Howl. Three-level narration allows us to simultaneously observe the obscenity trial launched 1957, the series of interviews with Ginsberg and the poem illustrated with a breathtaking animation echoing his chaotic style of writing. This uncommon construction, at the beginning a bit confusing, helps to fully understand one of the most influential American poems and the flag work of the Beat Generation. With all due respect to Daniel Radcliffe, Franco becomes a Ginsberg, playing with his specific mimics and voice modulation. The animation turns out to be a great formal choice when it comes to the dense language and the context of the epoque captured in the poet. Mary Louise Parker is another highlight.

There is no Beat Generation- claims Ginsberg in the interview. Apparently, there was and the lecture of the poem is the cherry on the top, when it flows and hits- with the beat. Obligatory movie for everyone fascinated with the beat culture.

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FUTURE STARTS SLOW: over L´Avenir by Mia Hansen-Løve

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When two years ago I was about to choose the courses for my upcoming erasmus semester, what drew my attention first was the cinema one. I was even more interested considering the fact, that the course tutor, during the opening day, refering to my forever-love-France-and -french-culture-and-people declaration, has foretelled: You´ll hate it. I hate it.

I hadn´t known yet, that instead of cinema, the course will focus on the society captured with a watchfull eye of the camera. Until then I associated french cinema with poster screenshots from A Bout de souflle, fringes and over-the-top monologues recited by grumpy characters with cigarettes held in mouth. However, watching the profesor´s selection of movies, the society issues was an important, but still, background. In raw, sometimes lazy narration I´ve found the rightest approach to the human being itself.

Human and mechanisms of his winding thoughts have always been the center of interest for the seventh muse, especially for the french one, and that´s why it´s so easy to hate it or love it- the action has been given up for the dialogue and the prosaic pictures of everyday life, where outwardly insignificant element can ruin the fragile equilibrium. In all that plot simplicity there comes a real challenge; put yourself in the boots of other ordinary person, with all her or his spectrum of imperfections and try to assimilate his emotions in its purest form.

This is what Mia Hansen-Løve does in her newest film, aprecciated at the festivals all over the world. The true-born woman portrayed with unearthly naturality by one of one of the best living actresses Isabelle Huppert, has to deal with the series of unfortunate events- her husband leaving her for another woman after 25 years of marriage, pschycotic episodes of her ill- balanced mother and unprofitable changes including her own publication. Being used to associating the maturity rather with looking back, we can´t help but feel a sting of resentment when discovering that for the teacher, catastrophical changes are a prelude to liberty. The future hides in a loss and lack of certainity, as her beloved Descartes used to emphasize.

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Mulitlevelness of this simple story allows everyone to find their important lesson. Talking with her ex student, she refers to the marriage breakdown. It´s not easy, she says, but fortunately I have a rich intelectual life. For me, what´s brought to the fore in the movie, is passion. As in previous Hansen´s-Løve movie, Eden, we can observe the evolution of it; this time, instead of young dj, the mature teacher sheds some different light on it. Philosophy pushes Nathalie to reorganise her life without an unnecessary drama, becoming her magnifying glass. With a cartesian rationality she observes how her former life collapses into pieces and doesn’t try to put it back in the same order. It doesn´t mean that she hasn´t her moments of weakness. However, she  gets up and embraces what future brings. Some would call Nathalie cold. But seeing in everyday life all these woman imprisoned in their airless relationships, where partner is the main point of interest, I find her rather a free person. As Mia Hansen-Løve claims in the interview with Indie Wire, that was her objective:

I am telling a story about a
character who is free, in all ways in which she can be free. It’s really about
freedom, about a woman who loses everything, and at the point when she’s lost
everything, she finds herself. It is about how inner freedom can help you
through the hard times in life. It’s about faith, strength and it all depends
on freedom. Philosophy is really about that, too.

Philosophy, as it often happens, could be an obstacle for the general perception of the movie, but here it´s rather an integral element of Nathalie large-scale portrait. Confronted with the dillemas of her former favourite student and other young anarchists, building an alternative little community on the province of Rhone-Alpes region, she says: I´ve been there, but doesn´t get involved in a further conversation. She avoids giving a statement on the student´s protest against the reform. Just let me work, she repeats all over again. She loves philosophy, but until her world tears apart, she does not really have time to apply it in real life.

 

The main reason why Things to Come amazed me, is the fact, that you choose your own punch line.

BARCELONA : BOSTIK FILM FEST 24-26/02

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WHEN: 24, 25, 26 of February 2017

WHERE: Carrer Ferran Turné, 11, 08027 Barcelona (metro station: La Sagrera)

The last week of February there is a chance to take part in a little film festival- BOSTIK FILM FESTIVAL– organised in the heart of vibrant artistic postindustrial barrio of Barcelona. Some of you might have visited the place already, as monthly event of EAT STREET is settled in the bostik´s warehouse area. This time, it will transform into the temple of short-metrage.

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Besides the official selection screenings, you can expect the cinematographic karaoke, carnival party, discussions and meeting, including one with the representants of Barcelona´s ZUMZEIG, which will explain the new cooperative model of management, sneaking into the world of cinema. Another debate will focus on the development of Northern American cinema of last decades, its influences and conotations with politics.

you will find official blog of the festival here.

 

ode to LA LA LAND

 

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“Well, yeah, it was a pretty movie” my Mamma-Mia loving mother said.
“Pretty?” I repeated with disbelief.
I feel obliged to confess – La La Land simply stole my heart, and I don’t think it’s simple.
Thankfully, Damien Chazelle hasn´t become a drummer as he pursued, and he keeps on sharing his fresh viewpoint on music with us. Thankfully Whiplash, the writer´s block side effect, the reflect of director´s own experience kept for long in the drawer has been created, paving a way for his newest La La Land.
This time Chazelle, instead of making a movie about music, has directed a musical. My first thought was, why? – no one makes musicals anymore (Well, that’s not true- check out recent polish the Lure, horror-musical-drama about two sirens in the world of cabaret. I still remember the faces of elderly couples coming out from the cinema, expecting a communist-era themed comedy..).  What is undeniable is the fact, that no one makes this kind of movies anymore. As he pictured his intentions in the interview for firstshowing.net:

I guess that was the hope that would be the thing that we hadn’t seen before. That obviously we’d seen elements of this stuff in other movies, but we hadn’t seen it wedded together in this way. And in a contemporary setting. At least that was the hope.

In La La Land, in spite of all the fashion for naturalism, and drama, and pain, Chazelle embroils a hint of the naïve magic of old Hollywood, and when we finally immerse ourselves into the alternative, ethereal world, the sound of smartphone pulls us brutally out of the dream. The other time, it´s just life. The director is not afraid to draw from the masters; La La Land is larded with references to iconic musicals, but contrary to the lion’s share of critics’ opinions, it’s a deliberate tribute rather than a calque. With all of them, Chazelle seems to respond to his own character’s question” How can you be revolutionary when you’re a traditionalist?” as he manages to get away from the trap of the derivative thank-you- card, creating something fresh and one of its kind.

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Looking more attentively, we can spot the scenes inspired with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Singin’ in the rain, Grease and many more. This fan video captures it perfectly:

In this context, we cannot but notice the reference to Casablanca in the piano motive running through the whole movie and how it builds a beautiful framing device, becoming a symbol of two characters’ passionate experiences. Chazelle winks to the fans of Whiplash as well ( Simmons’ and Gosling’s conversation in the restaurant scene). And like his debut, La La Land enraptures with the way of framing the musicians and their instruments. Dynamic camera overlaps and impressive master shots stratificate the songs, giving a moment of grace to every instrumental part.

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As the first part pulls the wool over our eyes, giving a promise of classic love story, the second becomes rather a bitter-sweet essay on how making one dream come true may require giving up on another. It also states a question – is it reasonable to keep up with your own vision, when you need to survive somehow? In the touching scene of an audition, Emma Stone sings “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem“.  The final message is simple in its naivety – don’t give up on dreaming, even though it may turn out that the dream you pursued is not yours anymore.

BARCELONA – THE ART OF CINEMA

 

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WHERE: Barcelona, Caixa Forum

WHEN: until 27th of March 2017

ENTRY: 4 euros, includes the other exhibitions of Caixa

 

Arte y cine. 120 años de intercambios ( Art an cinema. 120 years of exchanges), the exposition organised by La Caixa in collaboration with Cinémathèque française takes us for a journey through the history of cinema seen through the lens of art. With sections divided by decades, the exhibition presents a detailed analisys on how art has influenced the cinematography and how cinema has became an art by itself. Since the very first attempts to portrait the essence of movement with photography and brothers´Lumiere works till the modern recordings of water paintings, we receive the full view on the history of dialogue in between filmmakers and artists.

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As I´ve been recently interested in various approaches to the theme of dream, what especially drew my attention was the whole section dedicated for it  including the dream sequence directed by Dali for Hitchcock´s 1945 Spellbound and oneiric Bunuel´s visions. Fans of Nouvelle Vague and vintage posters shouldn´t be dissapointed as well.

TIP: Descriptions only in Spanish. My level is absolutely low, though I still recommend the visit as the fragments of movies and paintings tell their own story anyway.

new wave, old wave – MY FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

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Until 13th of February, we can become the part of an audience of My French Film- an online festival dedicated to francophone movies, offering a wide range of long and short metrage; all while remaining comfy in our own bedrooms.

The selection of festival movies reflects perfectly the direction that the contemporary french cinema has taken in last passed years : a turn into an individual, raw realism, social engagement, which we could see in Louise Wimmer, Desintegration or Tomboy. Filmmakers refer to the hot topics: racial discrimination, terrorism and its genesis, but especially to the condition of modern french family. This tendency is perfectly illustrated with the words of director Alain Guiraudie, speaking about his own newest film in the interview with Polish Dwutygodnik:

My film reflects the debates commonly present in french media and still inducing a lot of contoversy. Everytime you turn on a TV, they talk about the institution of mariage, homosexual relationships, families in which the woman raises the child independently.

My French Festival dedicates all its section to the woman and the role model that predominates within the featured characters is a figure of mother, observed from a different perspectives: of a pregnant teenager, trying to keep her child against the will of bourgoise parents or senegal wife forced to live with her husband’s new woman and their common child under the same roof.( more about the mother in the cinema in another post)

MUST SEE: La violence en reunion starring Vincent Cassel, which shines as usually in a role of a harsh excentric. Short movie, sneaking a heavy social issue theme in an intelligent way, weaving a big dose of black humour into the plot and ended with a razor- sharp punch line.

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New wave in its pure form has gone with the sixties , but its tradition still stays present in the french modern cinema. The young creators draw inspiration from the techniques of Godard and Truffaut, manifesting in subtle references but, more often, too obviously, putting form before the content. In the formal matter, in most of presented movies a camera follows the main character, observes him from a close distance. Off camera narration is still a frequent choice when it comes to the way of leading a story.

Assuming, however films are unequal, it’s worth to see them all in order to get an overview of a francophone cinema condition, especially that we can do it from any part of the globe at any hour we choose. I guarantee it’s worth to give up on Xavier Dolan and Dardennes for a while and give the other filmmakers a try.

http://www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com