A STAR IS BORN

A Stra is Born

Who needs another remake? It turns out we do. As a rule, I generally eschew remakes. In this case I made an exception. The trailer looked good so I gave it a chance. And friends, I am glad I did. This film is fresh and original in its interpretation. Bradley Cooper proves himself an adept director and makes a lot of smart choices in the presentation of this material. Lady Gaga is a wonder. The thing about Gaga for me has been she always wears a mask and we never get to see the real person behind the persona. Here we do. A very satisfying portrayal of an insecure character with a lot of personality and a load of talent.

Bradley Cooper is very good as the alcoholic country rock star who is in decline and fighting his own demons. The chemistry between the stars is palpable and their love story believable.

I liked the camera work and the production values are superb. It’s not an unqualified success, but Bradley Cooper hits this one out of the ball park. Two thumbs way up!

Christmas Cheer

Last night I went to a party put on by the Third Street Association here in Louisville, Kentucky. It was in a beautiful old Victorian home. For while I thought I was lost in the Ingmar Bergman film, Fanny and Alexander or the Short Story The Dead, by James Joyce. Such was the beauty of the home I went to and the magical quality of the experience.

Both the stories were about a Christmas celebration among family and friends in spacious beautiful old homes decorated for the occasion. Both stories were a celebration of the love of family and friends and the human nature we are all heir too.

The House on Third was full of great Christmas cheer, fun, and laughter.

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Third Street Association – Photo by Benn Bell

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Fanny and Alexander a Film by Ingmar Bergman

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Third Street – Louisville

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Don’t shoot me I’m the piano player

Fanny and Alexander

From the Movie Fannie and Alexander

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Third Street

Fann and A

From the Movie Fanny and Alexander

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Third Street

The Dead

From the Movie The Dead Directed by John Houston

 

“His soul swooned softly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

-James Joyce from his short story, The Dead

Antony and Cleopatra

A Review

Cleopatra

Sophie Okonedo as Cleopara

If you ever get a chance to see a production of National Theatre Live you should. The next best thing to live theatre is live telecast theatre. The play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare is my fourth foray into this domain and it didn’t disappoint. Watching fine British actors like Ralph Fiennes who plays Mark Antony, and Sophie Okonedo  who plays Cleopatra, is a delightful pleasure like none other.

Harold Bloom, writing in his masterful work, Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human, says, “Of Shakespeare’s representation of women, Cleopatra is the most subtle and formidable.” And I would say Sophie Okenedo’s portrayal of her is by far the most superb interpretation of this magnificent creature. She is by turns moody, funny, bitchy, sexy, powerful, and above all regal. Ralph Fiennes holds his own with her as the Roman General who is in decline. Antony, like empires, is a study in decline and fall. The very hairs on his head rebel against the aging warrior. “My very hairs do mutiny; for the white reprove the brown for rashness, and they them for fear and doting.” You will see in him, one of the triple pillars of the world, transformed into a strumpet’s fool.

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes as Mark Antony

In an interview Ralph Fiennes says of the pair, “He’s not an idealized warrior and she’s not an idealized princess. They’re full of temperament and tantrums and mood swings, and I think that combination is very moving to people.” Are Antony and Cleopatra in love? Well they certainly appeared to me to be in love. They certainly were not bored with each other.

Director Simon Godwin kept the action moving in this modern dress rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Costume designer Evie Gurney created designs for Cleopatra that were not just costumes but high fashion. They had to communicate not only her physicality but project power as well. The dyes used in the fabrics were made with Sophie’s skin tone in mind so that she would exhibit a golden glow. The Saffron dress was inspired by Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. So, it is not too great a stretch to say a costume fit for Queen Bey was also fit for Queen Cleopatra.

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Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo

The set design by Hildegard Bechtler was imaginative and ingenious. It was fluent and moving as the scenes changed in a smooth fluid manner. The center stage revolved from one scene to another, actors walked off into darkness others appeared in light. It was a miracle of rare device, changing swiftly from Egypt to Rome and back again. And at one point a submarine conning tower miraculously arose from the stage floor. And in Egypt a turquoise tiled pool. This magnificent play plays superbly well when properly directed and acted. It is too large for just any stage, but London’s Olivier is just the ticket!

In the climactic scene Cleopatra asks, “Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there, that kills and pains not?”

The worm of Nilus in this production looked more like a giant coral snake, with vibrant colors of red, yellow and black, but I am sure it made more of a dramatic stage presentation than its colorless cousin the asp.

“Will it eat me?” She childishly asks.

“I wish you all joy of the worm,” is the answer.

When she is discovered by Octavius after the fatal bite, he says, “Cleopatra shall be buried by her Antony: No grave upon earth holds in it a pair so famous.”

This play is about war writ large, East vs West, and two flawed individuals passionately in love with each other and at times at war with each other too.

 

 

Suspiria (2018) Movie Review

Suspiria 2

Not really a horror fan but every once in a while one will catch my fancy. Suspiria (2018) is just such a film. It is, I would say, a notch above the rest. Maybe two notches. It has everything going for it. Great writing, directing, acting, music, dance, costuming, art direction, and social consciousness. It has been described as an extraordinary work of art, grotesque, and savagely beautiful. Others have called it pretentious drivel. But, hey, it’s horror film. What do you want? At least it’s very artsy drivel!

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, it is a reimagined version of the original Suspiria (1977), a horror film cult classic, directed by Dario Argentento, which I must say I haven’t as yet seen, but I plan too as soon as possible. This version, at 152 minutes, is 54 minutes longer than the original. So, it is not only reimagined it is also greatly expanded as well. Coming in at just under three hours is pretty long for a movie, but I must confess, I didn’t notice it at all, as I was totally engrossed for the entire time.

Suspiria

The setting of the film is in divided Berlin in 1977, when the Baader-Meinhof Group was perpetrating terrorist acts all over the city. Rain drenched Berlin and the memory of the Third Reich hang over the Markos Dance Academy which is ruled by artistic director Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) and the grand dame Helena Markos. Patricia, a young student at the academy is convinced that the place is being run by a coven of witches. She tries to convince her psychoanalyst, Dr. Klemperer, who thinks she is delusional and so writes in his notebook. She disappears. Another dancer, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives on the scene fresh off a farm in Ohio. She auditions for a place in the Academy and greatly impresses Madame Blanc who immediately slates her as lead performer in her masterwork, “Volk.” During her audition, another dancer (Olga) who stormed out over a disagreement is trapped on a floor below in a mirrored rehearsal hall and is banged around and contorted with each dance move Susie makes until she is a pile of broken bones and a puddle of urine and saliva. One of the more horrible set pieces.

Dakota

This film is a feminist manifesto after a fashion about the empowerment of women. Other than the two cops who are sent to investigate the disappearance of Patricia, there are no other male actors in the movie, Lutz Ebersdorf not withstanding. If you are not in on the joke, I won’t spoil it for you here. The women cast a spell on the detectives and humiliate them unsparingly while at the Academy, then wipe their memories once they return to the station.

Thom Yorke from Radiohead provides a hauntingly throbbing soundtrack to the horror which accompanies the dance routines. The film incorporates stylized dance sequences choreographed by Damien Jalet. Volk is a dance created at the Academy that featured Blanc in the original role of the protagonist, the part Susie was auditioning for when she turned Olga into a human pretzel earlier in the film. And it’s actually based on a performance Jalet choreographed in 2013, called Les Meduses, that was staged at the Louvre.

The title of the film Suspiria, means sigh, as in the sighing of pain, or suffering.

Tilda Swinton alone is cause enough to want to see this remarkable film. She plays three characters each of which represents an aspect of the human psyche – the id, the ego, and the superego.

Tilda

This movie is not for everyone. Not for the squeamish nor the faint of heart. But if you like a good horror show, one that makes you think, and is well crafted, and beautiful to look at and listen to, then I recommend Suspiria.

THE COLORS OF FALL

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

-Albert Camus

So, I decided to take a walk in the park, This is what I saw:

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Cherokee Park, Louisville, Kentucky

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Cherokee Park

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Cherokee Park, Louisville, Kentucky

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Cherokee Park, Louisville, Kentucky

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Pavilion at the Top of Dog Hill

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Cherokee park, Louisville, Kentucky

TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE

 

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I have crossed oceans of time

To be with you

There must be

Time enough for love….

Two hundred years for each breast

A thousand for the rest

And if we find rubies by the Rhine

So much better love can find

The way to stitch our hearts

For we are greater than our parts.

 

Never Come Morning

BOOK REVIEW

While visiting the city of brotherly love I finished reading a novel about the city with the big shoulders. Of course I’m referring to Philadelphia and Chicago.

The novel was Never Come Morning and the writer was Nelson Algren.

Algren specialized in writing gritty tales of the denizens of Chigago’s underclass. For Algren, these individuals struggling to survive are all too human.

He wrote about the dregs of society, the convicts and the prostitutes as referred to in the Walt Whitman poem, Leaves of Grass: “I feel that I am all of them – I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself, and henceforth, I will not deny them, for how can I deny myself.”

Never Come Morning is the story about a street gang of Polish American immigrant kids always scheming always getting into trouble with the law, fighting, robbing, raping, killing, whoring, pimping, and dealing with crooked cops.

There is a whole section where one of the characters is picked up on suspicion of shooting a drunk in an alley off Chicago Avenue. He ends up doing time in the workhouse or “workie” as it is referred to in the novel.

This would be “Lefty” Bruno Bicek, who has ambitions of becoming heavy weight champion not of Illinois but from Illinois. When he gets out of the workhouse he takes up pimping at a whorehouse accross the street from the Broken Knuckle Bar run by a Polish barber, another small time crook always looking for a fast buck. Leftie did nothing to help his girl friend, Steffi, when she was gangraped by the boys and this weighed heavily on his conscience throughout the rest of the novel. She ended up working for the barber as one of the girls in the whorehouse while he was in the workie.

Lefty’s big ambition is to win a title fight and get enough money to take Steffi away from all this misery. He gets his big chance in the last chapter of the book, “Toward Evening Lands.” Here, Algren describes a fight scene between Lefty and a black fighter called Honeyboy Tucker, the sons of a Polish baker and a mulatto pig sticker. Lefty is referred to as a white hope. This chapter contains one of the best descriptions of a boxing match I have ever read. The fight goes on for eight rounds. Two minutes and 48 seconds into the eighth, Lefty is declared the winner by a knockout.

“The bleachers howled like wind through an empty shack.”

But, the victory was short-lived however, as police captain Tenczara enters the dressing room and whispers into Lefty’s ear, “Got you for the Greek, Left Hander, two witnesses.”

Lefty was led out through the middle aisles in manacles.

“Knew I’d never get to be twenty-one anyhow,” he said.

He had won the fight but lost the battle.

Bell.

10 Things to do in Philly When Your Dead

Because when you’re in Philly it’s almost like being in heaven…

 

  1. Go to South Street
  2. The Continental Martini Bar
  3. Sabrina’s
  4. Germantown
  5. Mt. Airy
  6. Valley Green
  7. Chestnut Hill
  8. Silk City Diner
  9. The Italian Market
  10. Glenside
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St. Martin’s in the Field – Chestnut Hill

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In the midst of Summer I found a glorious Winter

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Philadelphia Cricket Club

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Philadelphia Cricket Club- Founded 1854

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Continental Martini Lounge

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Inside the Continental

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The Continental Interior

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Sabrina’s

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Huevos Rancheros – Sabrina’s

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Sabrin’a’s

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Italian Market

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Mural of Mayor Rizzo – Italian Market

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Molly’s Books and Records in the Italian Market

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The Italian Market

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Anthony’s in the Italian Market

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South Street

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South Street

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Dance Macabre on South Street

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South Street

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Lorenzo and Sons Pizza On South Street

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South Street Where You Can Always Get a Piece

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Manny Browns on South Street

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Silk City Diner

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Silk City Diner

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Silk City Diner

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The Comet in Glenside

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The Comet in Glenside

 

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Telling Stories at Keswick Coffee Shop in Glenside

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Chestnut Hill

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Hanging Out in Mt. Airy

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Having a Beer at a local brewery in Mt. Airy

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VALLEY GREEN

 

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Having Lunch with Winter at Valley Green

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Valley Green

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My Baby’s Crib in Germantown