terça-feira, 18 de outubro de 2011

sábado, 15 de outubro de 2011

" 'The Tree of Life': Great Events and Ordinary People" by Adrian Martin

Grand Prix 2011

"The Tree of Life": Great Events and Ordinary People
By Adrian Martin

Cinema cannot escape its essence. It can achieve the eternal only by unreservedly searching for it in the exactitude of the instant. (André Bazin, April 15, 1944)
Why should we be so scared of a cosmic or cosmological ambition in cinema? It has always been part of the potential — and destiny — of film to mix the smallest with the largest, the immediate everyday with the longue durée of grand history, the microscopic with the macroscopic. This drive has most often expressed itself — as in Murnau or Dovzhenko — in terms of an interplay between human affairs and the natural world: a meteorology of the emotions, a vast swirl of events grand and miniscule happening simultaneously but in different time-zones (temporalities, as we say today), at different speeds, projecting different worlds. Charles Laughton's sublime The Night of the Hunter (1955) — a film much admired by Terrence Malick, I gather — gives us an immortal image-thought about this, in its juxtaposition (within a single, magically tricked-up frame) of the two children floating down a river, escaping a malign destiny, and the frogs, owls and rabbits inhabiting the bank. Robert Bresson gave the image another, grimier kind of resolution in The Devil, Probably (1976), in which found footage of the planets (taken from experimental cinema) mixed with the barren lives of lost, beautiful teenagers. Jean Luc-Godard, especially in his work of the 1980s and '90s like Hail Mary (1985) and Puissance de la parole (1988) enthusiastically articulated and explored the micro/macro relation. Stan Brakhage (an enormous admirer of Malick) tackled it all in Dog Star Man and many other works; the avant-garde has frequently gravitated to it.
Today, this ambition to mix the great events of the cosmos (or often large-scale History) with the everyday lives or ordinary people is everywhere in cinema. Sometimes the result has an avowed religious aura, and sometimes it does not — and the slippery zone of ambiguity between these two options on screen is what makes some of these films so captivating and intriguing, as it did decades ago in the work of Dreyer and what Jonathan Rosenbaum called his 'cinema of doubt' (in which there were, nonetheless, miracles). We find the trace of all this, in various ways and at various levels, in Bruno Dumont's Outside Satan, in Lars von Trier's Melancholia, in Patricio Guzman's Waiting for the Light, even in Mysteries of Lisbon by the much-mourned Raúl Ruiz.
The Tree of Life is a veritable meteor in the sky of contemporary filmmaking. Many of the negative comments made about in the already thousands of pages devoted to it in print and on-line — alongside the often equally inarticulate reams of praise — are deadeningly normative. You just can't do that in a film, they cry! Do what? Mix the grand frame with the miniature vignette, the birth of the world with the birth of a child, the eons of time that attach to a scale of material becoming with the human time that attaches to the generations of a family. Mix the impersonal emanations of light and atoms with the painfully personal (indeed, nakedly autobiographical) fluctuations of feeling between three brothers and their parents in a house. Mix the historic dinosaurs with the toys and the lamps and the storybooks.
Those dinosaurs. If you can't go with the dinosaurs, The Tree of Life is lost to you as an experience. Let's get this straight, right here and now. The scene is fantastic, and presents the entire movie (or at least the strata of it relating to interpersonal, intersubjective experience) in a microcosmic nutshell — here, more than even in Days of Heaven, Malick manages to make each fragment of the work a total encapsulation, a reflection or refraction or recreation of the whole. What do we see? A dinosaur, seeming pretty sure of itself, plods along until it sees a smaller, obviously weaker creature lying down. What does it do, what is its reflex? It stomps on the neighbour, his foot to its head! Then takes the foot away, but keeps it hovering. Some movement from the poor creature below. More gently — but still definitely — the foot gets put back on the head. Then, even more gently removed. It's established, finally: no real threat in this 'first contact' (we're back to The New World …), this encounter. The bigger dinosaur goes on its way.
All interactions in the film rather like that: apprehension, doubt, fear, the ever-present hint or threat of violence; as well as some tenderness, consideration, maybe even compassion. Has this got anything much to do with a God, a deity of any kind watching over and planning out the moves? Not really. As has been observed, Malick has made a timely film that appears to bring both the wondrous 'first moment' of Creationism together with the wayward, hands-off, unregulated path of Evolution. Logic and Chaos combined. Because in Malick's universe, as in the philosophy of Simone Weil, a God may be in the deep background somewhere but he is a long, long way off, and not intervening at all. Not answering our prayers. And all we have in the Here and Now — which stretches to Infinity — is a cycle of suffering, inexplicable suffering.
There are pockets of ambiguity in the telling of The Tree of Life that catch up its viewers and reviewers in intriguing ways (the same thing happens with Claire Denis' films). Like with the put-upon soldiers in The Thin Red Line, it's not always easy to tell who is who, whose voice we are hearing on the soundtrack, or be able to tell near look-alikes apart. That kid who dies swimming, is he one of the central three brothers? I immediately found myself straining to catch a glimpse of all three of them alive again, as the shots and the bodies flew past me. A terror or dread in this, which unfolds from end of the film to the other. And likewise, ambiguities in the shuffling of chronology, and in the quite frequent recourse to imaginary, dream-like images — visions of the purely possible (mother floating, boy in an open grave, a chair moving, the house full of water … ).
Near the start, tragic news is delivered: the death of a beloved son. Then we go back and, for a long time, on my first viewing, I figured it was the particularly sullen kid, so prone to bad moods and inchoate rages, who was the one marked for death. Wrong. The mark of death, in the universe of this Distant God, hovers over all of us and picks its victims with a randomness that will never make any good sense. And most of the religious talk we hear snatches of in the film (church scenes, sermons, platitudes of faith and belief) is just the sum of what distracts us from this senselessness. Forget the 'way of grace and the way of nature'; Malick's films have always erected such binary categories only to demolish them, confound them, reveal their subterranean connections and complex interrelationships.
The Tree of Life is about what the great filmmaker Ken Jacobs once called the 'mystery of personality': why does one person pull through the endless hard times that a lousy world bequeaths us while his/her brother or neighbour or best friend does not? Anyone — and not the one you necessarily expect — can take a wrong turn in this film, a swirl or an eddy amidst all those cosmic waves, be transformed by a mood, by a 'bad thought'. A Spinoza-ist film in this sense, like those of Philippe Grandrieux. Incredible scene of the father and son finding their way to playing music together, a simple but lovely piano and guitar duet — but then the brooding brother, off to the side in the yard, excluded from the rapture.
Moments of illumination can come, too, fleetingly, when it is least expected: out of nowhere — and epiphanies are always like this in Malick's cinema, never signalled or underlined or prepared for, easy to miss, in fact — the father speaks in his voice-over of having dishonoured it all, missed the glory …
A lot of normative nonsense is declared about how the characters here lack detailed, three-dimensional psychology, how their rapport is as facile, stereotypical and predictable as in The Great Santini or somesuch. But films don't need those kinds of characters: not Malick films, anyhow. All that's required — it has been enough for Godard, Tarr, Carax, Bartas, Ferrara, Jancsó and so many others — is that a character be a figure and that the actor have some presence. Meaning: their role is, from the outset, known, a repetition, a type, an icon ('father, brother, mother': we hear this litany of names and roles frequently in Malick). Meaning: what the living performer brings to it, in contact with all the material properties of film on the move, is a constant transformation, constant metamorphosis. Who needs psychological backstory when you're so close to the raw affects of solitude, of pain, of desire? In this first Malick film to offer any kind of conscious, anthological recapitulation of his past work, there is the scene — the scene of first love, first desire, between boy and girl in the classroom — that takes us right back to Kit and Holly in the leafy, wide, suburban street in Badlands: always, Malick starts from what is larger than real life, 'eternal' in Bazin's sense, in order to immediately plunge right down into the tiniest world of sensations, of moment-to-moment identity-change. And The Tree of Life comes further into this realm of the microcosmic self than he has ever dared go before.
The more I watch The Tree of Life, the more I am astounded by its tightly woven, poetic structure. It's an utterly free but also extremely controlled film. Poesis in cinema is not a matter of tasteful music selections or pretty cinematography (to which some have regularly tried to reduce Malick's work — too pretty by half, and what a mix-tape of modern classics!). Beyond the metaphors and symbols that act, here and there, as familiar anchors — birds in the sky, open doorways in a landscape, water, air — there is all the more elusive stuff. This is an astonishingly rapid film, never lingering, flying on and past so many years, so many feelings, so much experience. It takes on an entire developmental gamut from birth to adulthood, with every pot-hole in-between delicately mined. The enigma of the Other and the motif of Encounter, for example — as announced in the dinosaur scene — takes on many shapes and variations, from bewilderment to brotherly trust, from murderous or just plain callous cruelty (put your finger in this electric socket, or against the tip of my air gun) through to the disconcerting, social experience of the crippled or the dispossessed out along the town's main strip.
I have heard and read many engaging, inventive attempts to say what The Tree of Life is fundamentally 'about' — not like a secret to be uncovered, more like a guiding thread to be discovered, somewhere in the weave. Curious details insist, and differently so on each new viewing, as if a slight alteration in one's own angle changes the perception of the whole (how the word 'experiment' comes up twice, in two different time-slices, for instance). It is (for instance) a film about running, about movement: Murnau with a Steadycam. It is a film about a house, or rather the metamorphosis of a house (a home) into many houses: filled, emptied, packed up, left behind, refilled, remade. Precisely the film of a domestic, familial interior that, so far, Malick has resisted shooting in his career, perhaps because (as Neil Young sang in 'Helpless') "all my changes were there". 
Every individual open to the film finds — often in a delighted shock — some miniscule detail directly from their own young lives (for me, it's when Dad at the dinner table asks: "And what have you learnt today, my fine-feathered friend?"). What joy in the scene when the kids — suddenly free of the crankiness and forbidding ways of the Father — tear loose and run wildly from room to room, slamming doors, bringing in lizards, roping their mother (despite her civilised reluctance) into the infectious sense of abandon.
Again, the whole film is summarised there, just as it everywhere: the superb editing that whisks us into and out of gestures and movements with hardly a second to register them, the overlay of Couperin's 'Les Barricades Mistérieuses', the physical improvisation (how many superbly unreadable gestures there are in this film, as if little Edmund from Germany, Year Zero had been resurrected, or indeed never died, and remained an inscrutable, solemn child, playing in the ruins, eternally).
It's curious to me that some champions of the film try to tie it down to a schematic, reductive kind of sense, shape or form: it's all inside a guy's head, cosmic visions and all! Actually, there are clues to that feed such an interpretation (just as there is some evidence for the film being a kind of Owl Creek all-life-rushing-past-at-the moment-of-death vision), especially when a boy asks his mother something like: "Tell us a story of from before we can remember" – and, of course, The Tree of Life, in its totality, is something like that very story, a tale of origins and the effects spiralling out of from every small existence (the Butterfly Effect!). But why do we need such a frame to rein the film in and explain it? Movies should be made to get us out of heads (especially our own), not lock us inside one. Or, better: films should dwell and dance in what Raymond Bellour called (his example was Ritwik Ghatak, another micro-macro artist) the "ever-tested limit, so difficult to touch, between interior and exterior, realist image and mental image, perception and hallucination".
Most articles on Malick (mine included) like to heavy-hit from the outset with a prefatory nod to a Great and Deep Philosopher: Heidegger, Plato, Weil, Cavell … Yet, while we know that Malick has swam in these waters, I wonder whether, with the years, he has also worked (this is pure speculation) to divest himself of some good deal of this apparatus of learning, this cultural and intellectual sophistication. In any rare report of public speech, he only wants to talk innocence, freshness, spontaneity, childhood perception. Like Brakhage or Grandrieux again: Eden before the animals were named, before our adult identities are fixed, badly congealed, inescapably neurotic. It is like reading Daniel Stern's The Interpersonal World of the Infant, with its system of 'emergent senses of self' all co-existing in the same growing child, and lurking around forever despite our best efforts at erasure and repression: those superimposed selves takes in the most abstract rushes and washes of affect all the way to the most powerfully symbolised moments of ethical choice and destiny-formation.
Malick, it seems, always has a plan (some kind of launch-pad script) but the plan flies off. Like Wong Kar-wai he (as Cronenberg's composer Howard Shore once described the process) 'starts wide', explores all possibilities, then contracts, filters, shapes. It is as noble as any other way of working, and riskier than most of them. Industry-norm types like to mock directors who hack out whole streams of material in this manner or produce multiple cuts: they just don't know what they're after, what a waste of resources! But I like it that Malick names his film after a Miltonic Tree of Life that we see planted by Dad when one of his children is young (classic set-up for a Kazanian developmental narrative: A Tree Grows in Waco), but (as far as I've noticed) we never return to — just as Sean Penn's character's apparently crumbling marriage is no more than a bitter bedroom glance and a postural lassitude of the body. But why linger? The Mother-figure in Anne-Marie Miéville's twin-film to Hail Mary, Le Livre de Marie, said it well: "When a thing stops moving, it's dead".

Adrian Martin
© FIPRESCI September 2011

IN: Fipresci - Home Awards - Grand Prix,  http://fipresci.org/awards/texts/gp11_malick_amartin.htm

quarta-feira, 12 de outubro de 2011

Art Clokey's 90th Birthday

‘Gumby’ creator Art Clokey, dead at 88, had an especially animated life

Art Clokey gets a leg up on Gumby 
Art Clokey, the creator of the whimsical clay figure Gumby, died in his sleep Friday at his home in Los Osos, Calif., after battling repeated bladder infections, his son Joseph said. He was 88. (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 09, 2010)
Clokey and his wife, Ruth, invented Gumby in the early 1950s at their Covina home shortly after Art had finished film school at USC. After a successful debut on “The Howdy Doody Show,” Gumby soon became the star of its own hit television show, “The Adventures of Gumby,” the first to use clay animation on television.
(Here’s some video from the 1960s version of “Gumby”…)
After an initial run in the 1950s, Gumby enjoyed comebacks in the 1960s as a bendable children’s toy, in the 1980s after comedian Eddie Murphy parodied the kindly Gumby as a crass, cigar-in-the-mouth character in a skit for “Saturday Night Live” and again in the ’90s with the release of “Gumby the Movie.”
Today, Gumby is a cultural icon recognized around the world. It has more than 134,000 fans on Facebook. As successive generations discovered the curious green character, Gumby’s success came to define Clokey’s life, with its theme song reflecting Clokey’s simple message of love: “If you’ve got a heart, then Gumby’s a part of you.”
“The fact is that most people don’t know his name, but everybody knows Gumby,” said friend and animator David Scheve. “To have your life work touch so many people around the world is an amazing thing.”
Gumby and Art clokey, 1985 
Clokey was born Arthur Farrington in Detroit in October 1921 and grew up making mud figures on his grandparents’ Michigan farm. “He always had this in him,” his son, Joseph, recalled Friday.
At age 8, Clokey’s life took a tragic turn when his father was killed in a car accident soon after his parents divorced. The unusual shape of Gumby’s head would eventually be modeled after one of the few surviving photos of Clokey’s father, which shows him with a large wave of hair protruding from the right side of his head.
After moving to California, Clokey was abandoned by his mother and her new husband and lived in a halfway house near Hollywood until age 11, when he was adopted by Joseph W. Clokey. The renowned music teacher and composer at Pomona College taught him to draw, paint and shoot film and took him on journeys to Mexico and Canada. Art Clokey attended the Webb School in Claremont, whose annual fossil hunting expeditions also inspired a taste for adventure that stayed with him. “That’s why ‘The Adventures of Gumby’ were so adventurous,” his son said.
Clokey served in World War II, conducting photo reconnaissance over North Africa and France. Back in Hartford, Conn., after the war, he was studying to be an Episcopal minister when he met Ruth Parkander, the daughter of a minister. The two married and moved to California to pursue their true passion: filmmaking.
During the day, the Clokeys taught at the Harvard School for Boys in Studio City, now Harvard-Westlake. At night, Art Clokey studied film at USC under Slavko Vorkapich, a pioneer of modern montage techniques.
Clokey’s 1953 experimental film, “Gumbasia,” used stop-motion clay animation set to a lively jazz tempo. It became the inspiration for the subsequent Gumby TV show when Sam Engel, the president of 20th Century Fox and father of one of Clokey’s students, saw the film and asked Clokey to produce a children’s television show based on the idea.
In the 1960s, Clokey created and produced the Christian TV series “Davey and Goliath” and the credits for several feature films, including “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”
Gumby’s ability to enchant generations of children and adults had a mystical quality to it, said his son, and reflected his father’s spiritual quest. In the 1970s, Clokey studied Zen Buddhism, traveled to India to study with gurus and experimented with LSD and other drugs, though all of that came long after the creation of Gumby, his son said.
His second wife, Gloria, whom he married in 1976, was art director on Gumby projects in the 1980s and ’90s. She died in 1998. Besides his son Joseph, Clokey is survived by his stepdaughter, Holly Harman of Mendocino County; three grandchildren, Shasta, Sequoia and Sage Clokey; his sister, Arlene Cline of Phoenix; and his half-sister, Patricia Anderson of Atlanta.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Gumby’s name to the Natural Resources Defense Council, of which Art Clokey was a longtime member. “Gumby was green because my dad cared about the environment,” his son said.
– Jason Felch
Photos: Top, Art Clokey gets a leg up on Gumby in a 1995 photo (Lacy Atkins/Associated Press). Middle, Gumby and his creator in 1985 (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

quinta-feira, 6 de outubro de 2011

Steve Jobs, Apple 'visionary', dies aged 56... RIP Steve Jobs...

Steve Jobs, Apple 'visionary', dies aged 56_ October 5, 2011

BBC News US & Canada,

Jobs introduced the iPod and the iPhone to the world

Steve Jobs, co-founder and former chief executive of US technology giant Apple, has died at the age of 56.

Apple said he had been "the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives" and had made the world "immeasurably better".

Mr Jobs had announced he was suffering from pancreatic cancer in 2004.

Tributes have been made by technology company bosses and world leaders, with US President Barack Obama saying the world had "lost a visionary".

"Steve was among the greatest of American innovators - brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it," said Mr Obama.

A statement from Mr Jobs's family said they were with him when he died peacefully on Wednesday.

An iPhone displays an image of Steve Jobs at a makeshift memorial outside an Apple Store in New York on 5 October 2011

"In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family," they said, requesting privacy and thanking those who had "shared their wishes and prayers" during his final year.

Apple said the company had "lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being".

Tim Cook, who was made Apple's CEO after Mr Jobs stood down in August, said his predecessor had left behind "a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple".

Flags are being flown at half mast outside the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, while fans of the company have left tributes outside Apple shops around the world.

"What he's done for us as a culture, it resonates uniquely in every person," said Cory Moll, an Apple employee in San Francisco.

"Even if they never use an Apple product, the impact they have had is so far-reaching."

At the company's Shanghai shop, customer Jin Yi said Mr Jobs had created gadgets which had "changed people's perceptions of machines".
Rivals' tributes
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will remember Mr Jobs for "knowing what made sense in a product"

The heads of other leading technology companies have also paid tribute, including Microsoft boss Bill Gates, who said Mr Jobs's "profound impact" on the world of technology would "be felt for many generations to come".

"For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honour. I will miss Steve immensely."

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg thanks Mr Jobs for "showing that what you build can change the world" while Sony Corp president and CEO Howard Stringer said: "The digital age has lost its leading light."

South Korea's Samsung, which is involved in an ongoing legal battle with Apple over patents, praised Mr Jobs for his "numerous revolutionary changes to the information technology industry".

At the scene

On the pavements outside the main Apple offices is a small, simple but very effective memorial to Steve Jobs - just like many of the products he designed.
"Jobs" - spelt out in small tea light candles alongside the Chinese symbol for Steve - and then the Apple logo. And inside the candlelit design, an iPad with Steve Jobs's photo on the screen.
Late into the night in America's Silicon Valley they are still arriving to take photos, lay candles and messages. One former employee described Steve Jobs as the John Lennon of technology. Another Taiwanese-born resident of Cupertino who has never bought an Apple product said he came down to pay respects to a man who changed the world.

"His innovative spirit and remarkable accomplishments will forever be remembered by people around the world," said chief executive officer Choi Gee-Sung.

Mr Jobs built a reputation as a forthright and demanding leader who could take niche technologies - such as the mouse and graphical user interface, using onscreen icons rather than text - and make them popular with the general public.

He introduced the colourful iMac computer, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad to the world. His death came just a day after Apple unveiled its latest iPhone 4S model.

With a market value estimated at $351bn (£227bn), Apple became the world's most valuable technology company.
'Face of Apple'
More than almost any other business leader, Mr Jobs was indistinguishable from his company, which he co-founded in the 1970s.

Life of Steve Jobs

  • Born in San Francisco in Feb 1955 to students Joanne Schieble and Syrian-born Abdulfattah Jandali - adopted by a Californian working class couple
  • Had a summer job at Hewlett-Packard while at school - later worked at Atari
  • Dropped out of college after six months and went travelling in India, where he became a Buddhist
  • Launched Apple with school friend Steve Wozniak in 1976 - first Apple computer sold the same year
  • Left Apple amid disputes in 1985 but returned in 1996 and became CEO in 1997
  • Bought Pixar animation company in 1986 for $10m
  • Married in a Buddhist ceremony in 1991 - has three children with his wife and a daughter from a previous relationship
  • Had a personal wealth estimated at $8.3bn (£5.4bn) in 2010
  • Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, and after three periods of sickness leave, resigns as Apple CEO in August 2011

As the face of Apple, he represented its dedication to high-end technology and fashionable design. And inside the company he exerted a level of influence unheard of in most businesses. In 2004, Mr Jobs announced that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. He had a liver transplant five years later. In January, he took medical leave, before resigning as CEO in August and handing over his duties to Mr Cook. In his resignation letter, Mr Jobs said: "I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role." However, Mr Jobs stayed on as Apple's chairman. Despite his high profile, he remained fiercely protective of his private life. He married his wife Laurene in 1991, and the couple had three children. Mr Jobs also leaves a daughter from a previous relationship, and as an adult he discovered that he had a biological sister, US novelist Mona Simpson.

segunda-feira, 3 de outubro de 2011

Ron Mueck


on Mueck is an Australian sculptor who also utilize hyperrealist film special effects to create works of art. They are incredibly realistic, and if not the size of the sculptures would be easy to confuse them with people. Although highly detailed, these objects were often designed to be photographed from one specific angle hiding the mess of construction seen from the other side. However, Mueck increasingly wanted to produce realistic sculptures, perfect from every angle.

In 2002 his sculpture Pregnant Woman, was bought by the National Gallery of Australia for $ 800,000. Mueck was born in 1958 and grew up watching his parents build toys.