September 2011

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Tell us a story from before we remember
Yesterday, I finally got the chance to watch Terrence Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE. As soon as it was over I watched it again. I'll probably see it a third time before long. Our time on this earth is short, but some stories do bear repeated viewing.

More often than not, I feel that prizes given to movies, directors, and performers in Cannes (where Malick's movie won the Palme D'or this year) and at other film festivals, not to mention at just about any award show in the world, result from wrong-headed choices based more on political, personal or public relations-driven factors than on the purely creative merits of those anointed as winners. Once the promotional fairy dust settles and eventually vanishes, usually 6 months to a year after such awards are given, one wonders how candidates that obviously were more-deserving could have so frequently been overlooked in favour of adroitly-hyped mediocrities. On further reflection, time usually tells us some of the truth about who might have been the more just candidates or winners, but the damage will have been done and there is nothing movie fans can do but move on. Move on, that is, to a new season likely to see critics, jurors and regular moviegoers all letting ourselves be hoodwinked at some point, followed by seemingly endless debates over the many poor conclusions we consequently drew in the heat of the marketing moment.

I personally feel that THE TREE OF LIFE has deserved the official recognition and rewards for its extraordinary qualities. It is the kind of cinematic accomplishment that stands apart from other movies, if not necessarily above all of them. Stands apart from aspects of other works that can reasonably be compared. Seems part of another genre, another medium. Some critics have complained in so many words that this movie, though beautifully filmed, is all over the place and tries too hard to be profound. Sean Penn, one of the principal players in this story, has recently spoken out publicly against the editing choices made by Malick, lamenting in particular the way his character ends up coming across (or not coming across) in the final cut of the movie. I found no fault with Sean's or any other actor's performance, no fault with the photography, music, story-telling. All was just as it needed to be, just so and so true. All elements appeared to have melded, to have been carefully synchronised by Malick in a work of art that stands miraculously and effortlessly alone. It is, in my opinion, a movie story even more profoundly moving than the promotional trailer and early word led us to hope it might be, well beside the negative critiques that some have attempted against it. A sincere and well-enacted study of compassion with endless mercy and love of life in every frame. What's there to rail against here? Who other than Malick could have told a story with such meticulous attention to detail and musical timing, such graceful boldness, unpretentious dignity and undiluted affection for people and things?

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.
-Karen Blixen

Needless to say, I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who has not seen it, and also to anyone who has seen it but perhaps did not take much inspiration from it on first viewing - or was swayed by the more negative reviews it received from some journalists.
-Viggo Mortensen

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Study in Orange and White
I knew that James Whistler was part of the Paris scene,
but I was still surprised when I found the painting
of his mother at the Musée d'Orsay
among all the colored dots and mobile brushstrokes
of the French Impressionists.

And I was surprised to notice
after a few minutes of benign staring,
how that woman, stark in profile
and fixed forever in her chair,
began to resemble my own ancient mother
who was now fixed forever in the stars, the air, the earth.

You can understand why he titled the painting
"Arrangement in Gray and Black"
instead of what everyone naturally calls it,
but afterward, as I walked along the river bank,
I imagined how it might have broken
the woman's heart to be demoted from mother
to a mere composition, a study in colorlessness.

As the summer couples leaned into each other
along the quay and the wide, low-slung boats
full of spectators slid up and down the Seine
between the carved stone bridges
and their watery reflections,
I thought: how ridiculous, how off-base.

It would be like Botticelli calling "The Birth of Venus"
"Composition in Blue, Ochre, Green, and Pink,"
or the other way around
like Rothko titling one of his sandwiches of color
"Fishing Boats Leaving Falmouth Harbor at Dawn."

Or, as I scanned the menu at the cafe
where I now had come to rest,
it would be like painting something laughable,
like a chef turning on a spit
over a blazing fire in front of an audience of ducks
and calling it "Study in Orange and White."

But by that time, a waiter had appeared
with my glass of Pernod and a clear pitcher of water,
and I sat there thinking of nothing
but the women and men passing by--
mothers and sons walking their small fragile dogs--
and about myself,
a kind of composition in blue and khaki,
and, now that I had poured
some water into the glass, milky-green.
-Billy Collins

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Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.
-Sigmund Freud

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Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.
-Sigmund Freud

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The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.
-Sigmund Freud

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Time spent with cats is never wasted.
-Sigmund Freud

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All the world complains about the bad weather, and no one does anything about it.
-Johann Nestroy

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You can't legislate against rumour.
-Johann Nestroy

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Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.
-Carl Jung

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L'Àngel Del Sagueig
Com si la soledat dels homes i del temple
tingués mai un demà de festa i d'harmonia,
com si aquest ploviscó que creix fos un diluvi
que s'insinua amb por,
com una veu que ens vol rebuig i escàndol,
arriba l'àngel del saqueig,
rabent, ales de foc que inflamen tot amb fúria,
revela l'ànima dels llibres,
fendeix l'espai ferit de grocs i blaus i flames,
crema el desig quan surt dels llavis del desig
i marxa amb so de perles en tempesta
mentre s'ensorra el temple.
Ens resta sols un viu dolor
damunt l'altar de la memòria.
-Carles Torner

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Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy, you can't build on it it's only good for wallowing in.
Katherine Mansfield

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Time to go Home
Late and starting to rain,
it's time to go home.
We've wandered long enough
in empty buildings.
I know it's tempting to stay
and meet those new people.
I know it's even more sensible
to spend the night here with them,
but I want to go home.

We've seen enough beautiful places
with signs on them saying
This is God's House. That's seeing the
grain like the ants do,
without the work of harvesting.
Let's leave grazing to cows and go
where we know what everyone really intends,
where we can walk around without clothes on.
-RUMI (from: Open Secret, translated by Coleman Barks)

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Tú veníasNo me has hecho sufrir
sino esperar.

Aquellas horas
enmarañadas, llenas
de serpientes,
cuando
se me caía el alma y me ahogaba,
tú venías andando,
tú venías desnuda y arañada,
tú llegabas sangrienta hasta mi lecho,
novia mía,
y entonces
toda la noche caminamos
durmiendo
y cuando despertamos
eras intacta y nueva,
como si el grave viento de los sueños
de nuevo hubiera dado
fuego a tu cabellera
y en trigo y plata hubiera sumergido
tu cuerpo hasta dejarlo deslumbrante.

Yo no sufrí, amor mío,
yo sólo te esperaba.
Tenías que cambiar de corazón
y de mirada
después de haber tocado la profunda
zona de mar que te entregó mi pecho.
Tenías que salir del agua
pura como una gota levantada
por una ola nocturna.

Novia mía, tuviste
que morir y nacer, yo te esperaba.
Yo no sufrí buscándote,
sabía que vendrías,
una nueva mujer con lo que adoro
de la que no adoraba,
con tus ojos, tus manos y tu boca
pero con otro corazón
que amaneció a mi lado
como si siempre hubiera estado allí
para seguir conmigo para siempre.
-Pablo Neruda

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Kindness on the Field
Be kind to the hooker, or else in the scrum
Thy poor tender shins he will hack;
Or take the first chance that is offered to him
Of planting his foot in your back.
Be kind to the hooker, he's hidden from view,
And can work his revenge in the dark,
So if you insult him, as sure as you're born,
He'll deprive you of some of your bark.

Be kind to the half-back, he's nippy and sly,
And will grab you when rounding the scrum,
Or will collar you low, your heels up he'll throw,
And bang on the ground you will come.
Be kind to the half-back, that watchful young man,
If you hurt him he'll likely feel wild;
And if he should meet you again in the field,
You'd probably know why he smiled.

Be kind to the winger, or you he may prod
In the home of your afternoon tea;
He's fond of a scrap, and won't mind a rap
If your eye comes to grief on his knee.
Be kind to the winger, he's out for a go,
And promptly pays all that he owes;
So be careful to give him no more than his due,
Or he'll give you the change on your nose.

Be kind to three-quarters, they're heady and strong,
And can run like their master, Old Nick;
So if you tread hard on their corns beg their pardon,
Or limp off the field with a rick.
Be kind to three-quarters again let me say,
For their hatred of roughness is such
That, if you should fend them, or neatly upend them,
You'll travel henceforth on a crutch.

Be kind to the full-back or, when in his grip,
He'll handle you roughly for sure.
He's a virtuous fellow, and hates fast young men,
So take care that your language is pure.
Be kind to the full-back, 'tis kindness well spent,
Don't approach this stern player with vim;
If to score you must try, put your collar-bone by -
A collarbone's nothing to him.
-Robert J. Pope(From The Evening Post, N.Z.)

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Fins El Mai
Vull estimar el teu cos fins el mai, fins cansar-me,

fer de la teva pell corriols i estimballs,

jo, vianant d´amor si tu ets el meu viatge,

i assedegar-me del tot si tu ets la meva font.

Vull tot l´aroma fresc de la teva besada,

poder sentir els segons pels batecs del teu cor,

jo, mariner expert si tu ets la meva barca,

i amarinar-me amb tu més enllà de l´horitzó.
-Lluís Llach

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Last edited: 27 February 2012 13:17:33