Archive for January 22nd, 2020

 © 2020 by James Clark

         I seldom remark upon the actors in the films I touch upon. Of course, many of them are geniuses in striking the tones to propel a cinematic vehicle. My interest, however, is the entirety of the work; and that is the domain of a screenwriter/ filmmaker.

Why I cite the actor, August Diehl, a protagonist in the truly majestic film here, namely, A Hidden Life (2019), is his resemblance to long-departed star, Henry Fonda, and specifically the Henry Fonda of the film, Twelve Angry Men (1957), directed by journeyman, middle-of-the-road, Sidney Lumet. That latter melodrama is light-years distant from Terrence Malick’s production of uncanny hiddenness; but they share the format of a solitary investigation daring to negate a fondness that is catastrophically wrong. The film today, however, casts Diehl not merely casting umbrage about the Nazism of Adolph Hitler, but (only feebly understood), all of world history. That a hidden life transcending the news could obtain here characterizes this film as a communication far from moralistic and sentimental dogma. (Fonda, bucking  relatively simple odds, wins over the hearts and minds of his fellow jurymen-detractors. Diehl, far from eliciting expertise in face of his challenge, tears apart not only himself, but his family and an encouraging cosmos.)

Before he became a filmmaker, Malick, as a young philosophical academic, had impressively attempted to deal with the disarray which was the edifice of the philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). In his, “Translator’s Introduction,” to the Heidegger essay, The Essence of Reasons (1969), Malick underlines the peculiar difficulty of the sense of “world.” In the text therewith, Heidegger comes to a showdown of sorts with the phrasing, “The decisive origins of ancient philosophy reveal something essential to the concept of world. Kosmos does not mean any particular being that might come to our attention, nor the sum of all beings; instead, it means something like “condition” or “state of affairs,” i.e., the How in which being is in its totality. Thus, Kosmos houtos does not designate one realm of being to the exclusion of another, but rather one world of being in contrast to a different world of the same being, eon (being) itself kata kosmon (in relation to the cosmos). The world as this “How in its totality” underlies every possible way of segmenting being; segmenting being does not destroy the world but requires it.” (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

A catalyst of an entire culture and the symbol of the indomitable spirit of indigenous Americans is a food item so basic that it seemingly can offer nothing more than sustenance, yet as posed by author Kevin Maillard in the all-encompassing Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story the culinary side of what turns out to be a cosmic proposition is more emblematic than elemental.  Maillard’s comrade-in-arms in this melting pot of the cultural, sociological and astronomical is the exceedingly gifted Peruvian-American, Juana Martinez-Neal, who just last year won a Caldecott Honor for her sublime illustrations in Alma and How She Got Her Name, a loving chronicle of familial connection, spurred by curiosity, but leading to an understanding of the past and the people who molded their children, grandchildren and nieces.  Fry Bread likewise showcases the family as from which all else emanates and for which everything owes its incubation to, but it brings the entire experience of life to bear on what taken at face value is the most embryonic activity for a family unit.

Fry Bread is Food.  A quintet of spirited children on a mission dance their way over to a family matriarch recalling the selfless grandma in last year’s award-winning Thank You Omu! who holds an ornate bowl and a toddler sucking on a serving spoon.  Like the small-town denizens in Marcia Brown’s Caldecott Honor winning Stone Soup they are decidedly proud their sponsored ingredient will play a vital role in the day’s big culinary event.  Never before has flour, salt, yeast corn meal and sugar taken on such an epic role in the scheme of things or so it might seem to this feisty clan.   Martinez-Neal’s maiden double page canvas in Fry Bread like all that follow is etched in rich, colorful acrylic and graphite that burst off the page with the major complicity of cream-colored hand-textured paper that is a delight to the fingers.  Fry Bread is Shape.  A baking bonanza that would surely delight King Bidgood in the Caldecott Honor winning book examining that incorrigible monarch’s excessive propensities, makes a persuasive case for “shape” as an integral essence of any immersion into the baking process.  Martinez-Neal’s vision is an irresistible work-in-progress, a contention enforced by the curly haired Nana to whom Maillard connects by comparing the concoction’s “puffiness” to her “softest pillow.”  Fry Bread is Sound.  Like the crackling of eggs (Classic television fans may recall the Our Gang episode when Stymie tells his friends that eggs can “talk” while being fried) there are “pops” as the bubbles sizzle after the dough is dropped in the pan zeppole-style to the three intoxicated young attendants it is music to their ears. (more…)

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