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Archive for October 30th, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

      Although this film, from 2018, proceeds with an English lexicon, it is most important to comprehend the French title. Une Vie en Hauteur, translates as, “a haughty, superior, arrogant approach toward others.” What sort of intransigence could be in play within our film today? There is, as we all know at some level, a distemper underway between amateurs of reality and those professionals regarding the former as having failed to digest the ultimacies already in full flower, namely, religion, humanitarianism and science. (All of which, seemingly, despite little tiffs, well embarking unconditionally all three of them at once.) With her film, High Life, filmmaker, Claire Denis, has squarely ventured into that latter buttress, science, whereby she stands (in many eyes) to be embarrassed by the “hauteur” of her betters. Moreover, let’s not kid ourselves that such “ladies” pastimes will be merely met with droll tolerance.

Our helmswoman here does have up her sleeve the resources of a guy who posthumously maintains a filmic action as far from “ladies concerns” as you can get, namely, Ingmar Bergman, an avatar of very high problematic. She has deployed for our considerations a film which, on the surface, has nothing to do with science, namely, The Seventh Seal (1957)—a biblical concomitant which leaves room for heresy during 12th century Sweden, bristling with witch-burning, flagellation and a far-reaching plague. A couple, Jof and Marie, itinerant circus entertainers, choose to be not fans of the regional leadership (just back from a crusade), who obsesses about living forever, by somewhat odd but actually usual means. The couple—but Jof definitely in the lead—see in their infant son a budding acrobatic genius and juggler the likes of which the world has never seen. Those latter gifts will reappear in our matter before us, in a scenario millennials’ into the future, whereby the march of (bored?) science has dreamed up travel far beyond the Solar System to transport death-row killers into the range of the nearest black hole, and others’ beyond, in hopes of some miracle. During this time-bending amazement, one protagonist, Monte, the highest flyer, another Jof, but very different, what with the bloody Jacobean melodrama blazing, encounters another such craft from that site of inspiration, but this time with a crew of dogs. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Russian Ark, a 2002 historical drama film directed by Alexander Sokurov presents at the outset an unnamed narrator who drifts through the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.  He explains that he is a ghost drifting through the rooms, where he encounters various real and fictional people from periods in the city’s 300-year history.  A similar dramatic device was employed by Thornton Wilder in his classic work of Americana, Our Town, where a first-person narrative is sustained by an on stage narrator.  In Robert Burleigh’s biographical picture book Hi, I’m Norman: The Story of American Illustrator Norman Rockwell  the author negotiates a comparable expedient  by having the iconic artist escort the reader on a tour of his art studio, which segues into a breezy autobiographical account concluding with the artist -still alive and well- informing the reader he must step back to attend to his latest creation.

Americana and picture book master Wendell Minor are synonymous.  The veteran illustrator has imparted his ravishing tapestries in works written by astronauts, historians and environmentalists.  His focus is exclusive to nature, the world around us and iconic figures from our past who have impacted our culture.  He has collaborated with Burleigh several times, perhaps most memorably on Edward Hopper Paints His World (2014), their prior exploration of a seminal artist and purveyor of realism through oils and watercolor of modern American life.  The critical success of a book on a subject they mutually revered no doubt led the pair to move forward on another venerated figure, one equally as resonant in the national consciousness. (more…)

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