Archive for May 11th, 2010

by Joel Bocko

#59 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.

“Again one hand filming the other hand, and more trucks. I’d like to capture them. To retain things passing? No, just to play.”

In Agnes Varda’s documentary The Gleaners & I (a more literal translation from the original French would be “The Gleaners & The Gleaner”, or even “The Gleaneress”) play, investigation, and contemplation are all intricately yet loosely wound together – each element distinct yet forming an unpretentiously ambitious whole, much like the found-object artworks Varda highlights throughout. Her subject, as you might have gathered (no pun intended), is gleaning:  in all its forms. We are introduced to the classical gleaners, the peasant women who would follow the harvest by crouching and stooping through the fields, rummaging for leftovers once the more illustrious agricultural bounty was carried off. We see such gleaners in famous French paintings, and meet one or two who reminisce only – it seems that this more traditional form of gleaning has fallen by the wayside: mechanized reaping has become too precise and so few crops are left behind these days. This we learn in the first five minutes of the 90-minute film; what follows is an eager, inquisitive investigation of gleaning in all its latter-day manifestations…


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coffee messiah

Michael Harford's most recent banner at his 'Coffee Messiah' blog

Note:  This is the third entry in an ongoing series that honors bloggers who have really made a difference, raising the bar for quality and productivity on the cultural front.

by Sam Juliano

While blogging means a number of different things to its often tireless players, and it’s more often than not a running archive of reviews, trailers, and industry information that covers film, theatre and music among those with cultural interests, it’s a rare treat to encounter a true renaissance man with just the right world view and effervescent demeanor.  Michael Harford, who presently resides in Indiana with his wife, is known in the blogosphere as the ‘Coffee Messiah‘ and this disarming title not only defines his passion for our national beverage, but in the spirit of ‘coffee table’ discussions, he brings way more to the table than most.  Michael is a seasoned veteran with endless creativity and an astonishing appreciation for anything from history to the arts, to politics, to nature and to philosophy.  The ‘Coffee Messiah’ blog is unlike any other place in the blogosphere, combining song ditties with graphic art, collage, montage, philosophical quotes, sage advice, and a free-spirited approach to whatever message, value or appreciation one can derive from any aspect of the multi-faceted presentation on display.

Michael was born in San Francisco, and lived there for 44 years, where he won a scholarship to the Academy of Art in 1971.  He and his wife opened a coffeehouse, which he ran for four years, and even spent a little time at Starbucks, giving him an acute understanding of various blends and how to brew a peerless cup of java.  If ever an online pen name fit its protagonist to a tee, Michael Harford is such a case.  But coffee is only a small part of the equation, and anyone whose interests aren’t rigidly etched in a singular focus, there’s a wealth of enlightenments and challenges that await those who click on Michael’s blogsite, where invariably they will always see a healthy number of regular commenters, who have always connected with the Coffee Messiah’s special brew of positive thinking and a deep appreciation of beauty and creativity, nurtured over years spent on the west coast in all kinds of educational interests.  I knew from the very first time I clicked on Michael Harford’s blogsite that I was in for something special, as his free-wheeling approach and affable demeanor matched his special appreciation of the subjects he broached on at least three new posts per week.  Michael isn’t like some of the rest of us with our severe obsessive-compulsive disorders and stringent approaches to blogging, and his interests have a healty diversity and a seeming appreciation of life and all that it offers.  Another great thing about the ‘Coffee Messiah’ blog is that it’s a veritable treasure chest of unexpected jewels from all directions.  The grab bag approach gives the place a freshness and vitality that’s maintained from day to day, week to week, and month to month. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Taiwan 2007 103m) DVD1

Aka. Bangbang wo ai shen

Betel-nuts for all

p  Vincent Wang, Tsai Ming-Liang  d/w  Lee Kang-Sheng  ph  Lian Peng-Jun  ed  Lei Chen-Ching  m  Fumio Yasuda  art  Tsai Ming-Liang 

Lee Kang-Sheng (Ah Jie), Ivy Yi (Shin), Jane Liao (Chyi), Dennis Nieh (Ah Rong), Tracy Chou, Stacy, Tiffany, Amy, Fanny, 4Girls,

Help Me Eros wasn’t a film I was looking forward too much when I first heard about it.  It sounded like a film influenced for the worse by some of Tsai Ming-Liang’s more outré sexual shenanigans in The Wayward Cloud.  That’s no surprise really when one considers that Kang-sheng is Tsai’s favourite leading man, and Tsai gave his services as executive producer and art director for Lee’s film.  What I saw, however, was something rather different, not afraid to push the envelope in different ways to Tsai.

            The director plays Ah Jie, a thirty-something man who loses everything on the stock market.  He returns to his apartment, realising that he soon will be in no position to pay for anything, and proceeds to spend his time selling off what possessions he can at second hand shops to feed himself and allow him to look after the marijuana plants in his cupboard that allow him to continue with a marijuana habit.  With increasing bouts of desperation he rings up a local suicide counselling line where he speaks to Chyi, a plump woman married to a man who uses her as a front for his homosexual love-life.  Ah Jie imagines Chyi a shapely young doll, and begins harassing who he thinks is Chyi for a date.  When getting knocked back, he sets his sights on Shin, a girl just moved into the group of betel-nut beauties who work the betel-nut stand below Ah Jie’s apartment.  (more…)

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