Jan’s mossy days are here again
31 Sunday Jul 2011
31 Sunday Jul 2011
27 Wednesday Jul 2011
Posted Acrobats, classical music, metroscapein
Just got back from Ghenady Meirson’s free concert version of Tchiakovsky opera Iolanta at AVA with a fine cast of wonderful voices. It is always instructive to hear Tchiakovsky when Ghenady is at the piano. There are two more chances to hear some great voices singing this rarely performed masterpiece. Rarely performed because of its length 90 minutes- It was originally was on a split bill with the Nutcracker- and the complexity of the score, Ghenady said afterward, rubbing his hands.
Russian week continues two nights later with the first every appearance in Philly of the Russian National Orchestra playing Shostakovich, Khatchaturian, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka and of course Tchaikovsky. Some of the selections accompanied by Cirque de la Symphonie, the mostly Eastern European troupe of acrobacts and aerialists.
The Mann Center was pretty jammed for a sultry and overcast night, with a game crowd, young and old. A most surreal moment came when Jarek and Darek, two strongmen in gold body make-up and Grecian corinthian briefs, posed on a platform and executed a an adagio gymnast routine set to Shastakovich’s Symphony no. 5- one incredible movement had Darek aloft in a one-arm handstand on Jarek’s head- doubly impressive because his body was splayed past any vertical balance, it was a purely strength move.
Not to be outdone, RNO was so vibrant that the performers in front of them didn’t completely steal the show. The highlight for me was the Borodin’s Polovisian Dances, surpassing its famous theme ‘Stranger in Paradise’ which was just enfolded into such a rousing, very earthy, very Russian epic.
Continuing Russian week to stave off the hot weather, I’m reviewing a new novel set partially in St. Petersburg and other winter wonderlands. Although I can’t divulge the book because it isn’t out ’til Sept. I can say that it is a fantasia of cultures, countries and conflicts as lived and recounted by the gay brother of famed 20th century Russian novelist. A fabulously inventive and unexpected novel, which could easily slide into the pantheon of classic gay literature.
22 Friday Jul 2011
Corner of the field by Jan
A time sketch faintly summoned
from someone else’s dream
lyric in sense memory
the pulse of escape
Trapped inside a buried motive
repelled in jaundiced objects
forgotten figures rewound out of the room
Sometimes fragments of music
fade in and out
Sometimes new blood cells
Sometimes shadows dance in private temples
commemorating the wombs of the dead
collapsing arc shadow
overture of soundproof grief
foretelling the concert of the days
Heralded by leafcurls
I saw the
your gardens from
the glare that opened
this gate to let me float out
sometimes the lyre lingered with
me down that path.
20 Wednesday Jul 2011
When in 1999 we lived
echoing or enfolding
quietly, lighted in
remembering what surreal
gone by elsewhere
sometimes, a terminal luster
on a missed eclipse
of forecasts, unapocalyptic
As a test of secular faith
As a wire that all
is forgiven in flight
or forgotten by the promontory
of water and shadow
ashrouded, swept back in
a hollow tide.
(the scribbles of the dooms are
for selfcursed minds)
I wouldn’t have been
able to imagine
that the lilac would
dance out through the
breeze in quite this way.
or that there would be that suspension
of clearness that is
caught in the eye on
in a windstream that carries
the resolution of Bach’s notes
that go forward to
the handless fire
hover on buried sand
When I thought all
there was to do to survive was
Scarred and empty without
the fight that made us
drowned, not condemned
then, I recall nights.
for Jan and Jack
18 Monday Jul 2011
16 Saturday Jul 2011
Out director Scud is part of a new wave of film auteurs who makes stylish,, sexually explicit, often violent but character driven films. Born in China, Scud has produced, written and directed four films in four years. At Qfest he looked more like an international star than a director, presenting his last two features- “Amphetamine” and “Love Actually…Sucks“which was premiering at the festival because of censorship in Asia.
Scud admitted to a few drinks at Tavern on Camac, but held a lively talk with the audience after the screening. Later, I got a chance to speak to him for a few more minutes.
“ I was a little disappointed that “Amphetamine” was not sold out. Because it has been doing so well at the other festivals, but the audience response was overwhelming and I was happy that we sold out “Love Actually“last night.
“Amphetamine” starts with a naked man on the ledge of a building and “ Love” starts at a wedding where the bride shows a celebratory film that includes the groom having oral sex with another man. It gets bawdier from there, even though in both cases the sexual content is so natural showing the sexual lives of his characters as well as their social and family lives. Because, or despite that, he is censored in China
Although both films have completely different cinematic looks with a lot of outdoor locations and elaborate effects. Scud shot Love in 19 days, but there was a year of postproduction. “Depending on the content and the story I want to tell. I will try to find the best person to do it. Even for music, it depends.” Along with high concept cinematography, the director is very careful with the music and sound effects he uses for his movies. In fact, he said he wish he would have been a composer.
The filmmaker is just starting to take “Love“ on the circuit. The film is a mash of characters plots overlapping ala Robert Altman. “The Hong Kong audiences are looking forward to “Love Actually.” I have the biggest line-up for my films, even with censorship. If I give in enough, I can still screen it. I was born in China in 1966, when there was a huge change there, I moved to Hong Kong, after Mao died, because my mother was a citizen there. I don‘t mean to be a Chinese filmmaker- or not a Chinese filmmaker- this is a universal language. ”
Scud (his name meaning swift moving in Chinese) he has won awards in Hong Kong, his films face censorship there. “Hong Kong is become more and more conservative. That has more impact on the censorship. We were the most open society in Asia. That is changing” but he said, “His films “don’t have much political content.” even though the social backdrop in Amphetamine’s central gay love story is the international financial crisis set off by the 2008 US stock market crash and Obama election.
Scud told the audience that his many overlapping stories could be confusing to American audiences “several people have told me they preferred “Amphetamine” because it focuses on one story. I wanted to tell many stories with “Love Actually…Sucks“, but it becomes more demanding on the audiences. But…I had so many stories to tell with this subject.“
16 Saturday Jul 2011
Posted Jan Carroll, LW poetry, photographyin
in warring weather
untractable and unnamed
the integrity of the winds
heralds clearer to
untimed movement in the trees
withered, hidden out
may be an oasis
or a trap or a canopy for bug continents
or livid bioscape
gold and mud of reed marsh in that dream
sordid and violent
unconsciously a primal document
a lewd imprimatur
for always, peace is disturbed.
15 Friday Jul 2011
Posted classical music, composers, metroscapein
The Pittsburgh Symphony last performed in Philadelphia in 1976 and they were back last week at the Mann Center for nothing less than a triumphal return for an evening of Beethoven. PSO immediately stated their musical authority in their Egmont opening, with strings that just retooled the acoustics at the open air Mann Center, which has more than one traveling wormhole. When the humidity is high, as it was on this night, there can be string haze and wayward horns, but if conditions were not ideal for these musicians, they weren’t showing it. PSO looked smaller on the Mann stage, than the home team, but size isn’t everything and this orchestra carved a huge, cohesive and sustained sound. Egmont was instantly vibrant, the strings just sliced through the air with power and dimension and the horn heralds had such dramatic impact. Conductor Arild Remmreit wanted to be inside the subtleness of Beethoven, not rely on the classical theatricality alone, his pacing thrilling and the fanfares built on a humming orchestral drive.
The exuberance was tamped down for soloist Teo Gheorghui, the Swiss-Canadian 19-year old studying at the Curtis Institute in Philly with Gary Graffman. His entry into the Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 seemed too soft, tentative, as opposed to subtle and for some of the 1st movement seemed detached from the orchestra, with one or two vaporous hand-offs. But, presently, he was just fully engaged, past virtuosity and with luminous interpretative skill. He completely entranced with his encore of a piano transcription, Fritz Keistler‘s Lebenstand, in an altogether magical performance, so filled with artistry and humanity.
But, the marquee draw of this concert was Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 and PSO delivered nothing less than its metaphysical and visceral power. Easy to anticipate the symphony’s theatricality, but Remmreit illuminated the many aspects of it that are easily missed by its grandeur.
Maestro Remmrelt didn’t have to rely on the 5th known profundity, he gave it all the organic transcendence that puts it on a category of its own. Beethoven hanging in the sultry air under a hazy moon with the city skyline glittering in the distance made this a magical night in Philly. Remmreit looked exhausted at the end of it and as he moved through the orchestra to present each section, the applause was lusty and expressing warm appreciation that the Pittsburgh Symphony was back in town. .
13 Wednesday Jul 2011
Last night at Qfest for Argentinian film Absente, a character study about a swim coach who is being stalked by a 16 year old student. A hothouse gay Lolita, pretty flimsy, lots of leers and threats of shower scenes, but with good performances. Had to get out of the filmy clamminess & biked down to Penn’s Landing jetty for a magnifiscent hot, breezy dusk. The pink, grays and blues reflected off spare clouds over the CC skyline, with the almost full moon hanging high in some southeast summer haze. The water glistened and from a distant dock someone singing a Sinatra knockoff version of All the Way.
Speaking of All the Way, 20 minutes later back at the festival those New Jersey college students Matty and Bobby who broke (at the time) the Guinness BOWR for a kiss, clocking in at 33 + hrs, were on hand to present an Our Lips Are Sealed, a classy, independent documentary of the event. Even though the gay friends (not lovers) met all of the Guinness rules~ even streaming live on the internet for global audience, they were never given official acknowledgement by Guinness. Meanwhile, their real reason for going for it was a simple message of GLBTQ visibility in all aspects of life. kudos & kisses fellas.
12 Tuesday Jul 2011
First time writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green has been to 20 or so cities to present his movie Gun Hill Road at film festivals around the world. He was leaving for Germany last week and couldn’t remember if he was scheduled to be back in Philly for Qfest when I got to speak to him.
The film is a tight family drama about a Bronx family dealing with two crises– a father adjusting to freedom after a three-year prison stay and the courage of his teenage son transitioning to female. Strong performances by Judy Reyes, as Angela, the mother trying to hold the family together, Esai Morales as the ex-con and a breakout performance by Harmony Santana, as Michael/Vanessa.
“Audiences have been connecting to it. They feel like it’s a realistic depiction of subject matter of the Bronx and a realistic depiction of a transgender teen.” Rashaad said. “It’s a very realistic depiction of a transgender teen. It’s also rare that a transgender character is portrays by a transgender person, at least in a leading role. So it‘s a more authentic perspective.” Green started out as an actor and he writes tightly structured scenes in the movie, from that perspective.
“I wanted to avoid the indie-film feel.“ He said. “I try to write scenes that actors will like in ways that they can dig in. Green also wanted to use a visual style that depicts the Bronx realistically.
As for the electrifying central performance by Harmony Santana. “Actually, I didn’t have very many choices. I wasn’t able to find anybody through a casting director. I hit the streets of New York and it took about two months. I went to over-18 clubs, I went to LGBT organizations, dance workshops, Christopher Street on the pier…to find her. And I found her at Queer Pride parade, and found out she had never acted in a film before. Harmony was the right age, type, everything. She wasn’t even going by Harmony at the time. I went up to a young Latino male asking if he knew anyone who fit the description of the character and she said that she wanted to audition. Then she took off her sunglasses and I saw this beautiful, angelic face and it took me aback. And then she told me she was at the beginning of her transition, that she was Puerto Rican and Dominican.
“I told he to come back, as part of the audition, dressed as a girl. She did and she was so beautiful. One thing that added to it was that Harmony was simultaneously going through a phase of her transition. By the time production ended, only three weeks later, she was dressing as a girl all the time…I think it helped her go through it. Pretty great stuff.” He said.