Archive for December, 2009

Au hasard Balthazar

This movie had been sitting around on my desk for about three months. I had heard many great things about it, but I kept not being in the mood to watch it. Although I like to think of myself as Someone Of Taste — someone clever and intellectual who appreciates poetry and wisdom and culture and that gnarled, migrainy branch of philosophy that has absolutely no bearing on daily existence — nine times out of ten, I will pick the technicolor movie with the bad-ass soundtrack* over the slow, grim, B&W, biblical-allegory French film. My hesitance was only increased by the fact that I had already seen “Mouchette,” another film directed by Bresson. In other words, I knew very well what I was getting into.

I finally hunkered down and gave the gloomy little disk a go tonight. “Au hasard Balthazar” is beautiful. It is Art, but it’s the stirring, living, breathing kind, not the dead, passive, “analyze me” kind. It’s about the parallel lives of a donkey and a young girl named Marie, but of course it’s not really about that at all.

I love how the narrative was approached. The storyline is not hurled at your face like it’s the only thing that matters, but it’s also not ignored or obfuscated. It pieces itself together slowly as though you, the viewer, were living in the small town where the movie takes place, listening to gossip and spying through windows. Here, a murder hangs half-unresolved in the narrative’s periphery while the camera focuses on the foreground of the two lives it’s charting — the broken bottles, the kicked-up dirt, the hands and the feet, and the sad donkey eyes.

Incidentally, I never realized before just how beautiful and expressive a donkey’s eyes are.

This movie guided me towards that place that is the closest approximation of “religious” this not-so-religious girl experiences. I probably would have shed a tear or two, but I don’t cry during movies unless they’re “Stand By Me.”

*Okay, okay. Upon re-reading this post, I want to make it clear that I do think Schubert is bad-ass.

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Kristin Hersh

I wonder if most people don’t have one single musician (or group of musicians) who they’ve loved for all of their adolescence and adulthood, whose songs continue to evolve with the person as they grow older, taking on new meanings like a rolling die — meanings that maybe were always there in the musician’s original conception of the song, but that only chance situations and life experiences will reveal to the listener.

I marvel at the power of a song that manages to pack into just four minutes the roaring gush of thought/emotion that follows a person’s preteen behind all the way up to their eighty-seventh birthday, somehow managing to adapt to the changing terrain and stay relevant though the notes, rhythms, and (if they’re present) words never change.

Although Prince quotes litter my Facebook profile, I was Prince for Halloween one year, I have a fantastically gaudy pair of love symbol earrings, and “uh, I like Prince a lot” is my standard answer when asked what type of music I listen to (so that I can avoid telling them more than they probably want to hear), for me this musician would be Kristin Hersh — Kristin Hersh’s solo career and her work with the band Throwing Muses, more specifically.

The emotions carried by the pitch of the voice and the snakelike guitar have always made sense intuitively and I could spot patches of meaning peeking in the spaces between those dark impenetrable words I couldn’t understand. Paradoxically, the abstract waftiness clung to my twelve-year-old self, but the concrete foundations it was built on floated away. Only as I get older am I really learning what the songs are “about.”

Anyway. I love this woman’s music a lot. I also love that reading interviews with her got me into ’80s punk and old country. I also-also respect that she cut all her ties with record companies and has been innovating a new business model that works better for her.

Meandering thoughts aside, I thought I’d post some Youtube links.


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self portrait

I need to figure out a way to look at my art through the eye of a casual viewer. Though I like the over all feel of this, I keep looking at it and focusing on the too-brown shadows under the lips and left eye, the slightly-off shape of the lips, the white patches in the hair, the flatness of the left eye, and so on. Sadly, with colored pencil there is a limit to the amount you can go back in and fix things.

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The Naked Face

I read this article a while ago, but it resurfaced in my mind recently and I remembered that, huh, that was a really interesting read, wasn’t it?

The Naked Face. Basically, it describes the science of decoding facial expressions and the career of psychologist Paul Ekman who has traveled around the world, analyzing and documenting them.

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Little Maggie

This is one of my favorite songs. I’ve yet to hear a version of it I don’t like (though I’m sure they’re out there).

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Today’s fun site is Gridcosm, which is basically a virtual fractal design-tower. Or something. I’ve been interested for a while in uses of the internet that inspire international artistic collaboration. SITO has some pretty interesting stuff.

The brief description on their site:

Gridcosm is a collaborative art project in which artists from around the world contribute images to a compounding series of graphical squares. Each level of Gridcosm is made up of nine square images arranged into a 3×3 grid. The middle image is a one-third size version of the previous level. Artists add images around that center image until a new 3×3 grid is completed, then that level itself shrinks and becomes the “seed” for the next level. This process creates an ever expanding tunnel of images, the newest level a direct result of the previous level which is a result of the previous level… and so on.

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I have a great big hulking art-crush on Léon Spilliaert. His stuff has so much stylistic variety yet there’s this awesome dark, hallucinatory quality that ties it all together. Check it out. (Those self portraits look a bit “Eraserhead,” don’t they?)


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