Saturday, March 28, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
And now, on to more sleep deprivation...
Legendary Ballet Russes Makes it to the Silver Screen
“What would you call ballet?” asks Boris Lermontov, director of the Russian Ballet in the film The Red Shoes. “For me,” he continues, “it is a religion.”
Before Center Stage and Save the Last Dance, there was The Red Shoes, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger—the classic 1948 film that kicked off the third event of the Harriman Institute’s “Celebrating the Ballets Russes” program last Tuesday.
An ode to the ballet and the music accompanying it, The Red Shoes was the ideal complement to the program, which is also spearheaded by the Barnard music and dance departments. The semester-long series features films, presentations, lectures, and exhibits relating to various aspects of the Ballets Russes, an early 20th century ballet company based in Paris and under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. A testament to the Ballets Russes’ influence outside of dance, only one ballet performance is included in the program: Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Fawn on April 25. Marking the centennial of the Ballets Russes, The Harriman program is a celebration of one of the greatest dance companies in history.
This Thursday, the Harriman Institute will present an evening of “Diaghilev-era Russian Dancers on Film,” and will play two films: the 1916 feature The Dying Swan and Victor Bocharov’s documentary Belated Premiere, continuing a series of on-film reflections on the Ballets Russes. Other upcoming events include an art exhibit on display from March 31 to April 22. Curated by Regina Khidekel, it will show 25 works by Russian artists depicting and paying homage to the Ballets Russes, with a reception to follow on April 16. Lynn Garafola, renowned Barnard dance professor and one of the organizers of the program, said, “The celebration is meant to show some of the legacy of that company [the Ballets Russes].” This legacy certainly comes through in
The Red Shoes, a film that glorifies ballet and the dance medium, while also providing convincing psychological drama.
In the film, an ambitious American socialite who believes “to live is to dance,” is discovered by a dictatorial director of a world-class ballet company. She soon falls in love with the rising composer for the company.
Together the three work on The Red Shoes, a ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, in which a girl puts on a pair of magical red dancing shoes that never allow the wearer to stop dancing. But soon life begins to imitate art, and the woman is unable to stop dancing herself. She must choose between her all-powerful director, who can turn her into the greatest prima ballerina of all time, and the man she desires.
In The Red Shoes, art and life are blended beyond recognition. Surrealistic special effects make it clear that The Red Shoes is an extremely psychological drama, based not only on ballet but also obsession. As in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, obsession becomes the protagonist’s downfall.
Even with its intense and poignant melodrama, The Red Shoes’ talented dancers make the movie enjoyable to watch. Garafola was all smiles after the film ended: “There are some wonderful dancers! And [star] Moira Shearer was just radiant.”
Even the students in the audience were pleased, and seemed to share professor Garafola’s enthusiasm about dance. Lindsey Staley, BC ’10, commented, “It’s fun to see such an old movie! I’m taking two dance classes, and it’s great to see how dance has evolved. It’s a classic dance movie.”
Monday, March 9, 2009
I am absolutely obsessed with Watchmen, which I read over the summer, as you can see here. I didn't have much room to discuss it in the article, but there were really great points to the movie, little references to the book that only die hard fans would catch. For instance, Snyder always lets us know that he understands the book completely, and needs to get rid of a few plot points to allow the movie to flow easier-- for example, the newspaper vendor and the boy, and the comic book/meta-fiction interweave in the novel. But they appear, if only for a few seconds. They say: "I exist! I am not forgotten!" and are quickly disregarded. Also, sometimes the music itself copies the end-quotes of each chapter, such as Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" (Snyder used the Jimi Hendrix version). However beautiful and however passionate the movie was, the music really ruined it for me. I snorted every time a song came on.
Well, on to the actual review...
Watchmen Jumps From Page to Big Screen, But Not Without Stumbling
It is the only graphic novel to date ever to win a Hugo Award or make Time’s 2005 list of All-Time 100 Novels. By making a movie of a brilliant comic, director Zack Snyder attempted the impossible.
In an imagined America threatened by nuclear holocaust, where Richard Nixon is still president and we won the Vietnam War, a group of vigilantes wiped the streets of crime and became America’s superstars. Now in 1985, their heyday is long gone, and when one is found murdered, a new generation of “Watchmen” suspect conspiracy.
Snyder is reasonably faithful to both plot and artistry—although over two hours long, many plot points are eliminated, though the narrative meat remains on the bones. But even if it was highly entertaining, the movie seemed a little useless in relation to the graphic novel. Could it ever meet our fanboy expectations?
Isaiah Everin: An inevitable fact of adapting any artistic work is that an adaptation is not the same as the original. Although a cinematic translation of Moore’s work is a beautiful thing to see on the big screen, the ethical concern of whether it should have been adapted in the first place is moot to Snyder.
There are liberties that must be taken to accommodate for a feature-length film, but those should not include reducing characters to sexualized Hollywood shells, as was the case with Malin Akerman’s portrayal of the Silk Spectre. And while some plot details must be chopped, this does not excuse Snyder from changing the inherent content of the story’s ending.
Not only were major scenes in the film changed entirely—with only Moore’s most apparent points arising—but the soul of the work never comes across. The most subtle emphases were crossed out with a big Hollywood Sharpie, leaving an oversimplified representation meant for a lazy audience.
Alekseyeva: But how could a graphic novel ever be represented on screen? The film and comic can never be perfectly synonymous, simply because the act of reading a graphic novel is so different from watching a film. If Snyder hadn’t created an entertaining Hollywood movie, if it was instead longer and more pensive, a significant portion of the population would be isolated. Watchmen is an accessible graphic novel, but it is still no action flick.
Regardless, I also had a few qualms about the film editing. The music directly borrows from the sound track of many classic films, using Dylan, Hendrix, and Wagner. Was Snyder paying homage to films such as Apocalypse Now and The Graduate? Regardless, the soundtrack was too much: too epic, too loud, and too self-referential.
Also lost to Hollywood was the highly intellectual feel of the comic. Moore’s comic ends chapters with quotes by Jung and Nietzsche—can one ever do this and still have a box office smash?
Everin: If Snyder is borrowing from old cinema with the soundtrack, most audience members, ironically, may not realize. To me, the music is the only thing that gives the film a place in time besides the presence of Nixon and old television sets.
Many fans will agree that subjecting Watchmen to a standard Hollywood interpretation bastardizes the original intent of the novel. The film fails to meet the nearly impossible challenge of making a movie both for the box office and with artistic integrity at the same time. It simply may not be possible to effectively render Watchmen through a camera lens—especially one as shallow as Snyder’s.
Despite these issues, Snyder did capture several of Moore’s characters flawlessly and created a film that the audience can enjoy. Maybe the extended director’s cut will let the spirit of the novel return.
If this comes back to haunt me in a few years, I will actually find it very funny.
This is the artwork reviewed:
(It's a little troubling that the reviewer didn't recognize the figures as Oscar Wilde... although I'm quite impressed by her analytic work [none of which I actually considered when drawing this old thing, over two years ago])
Postscrypt Hangs Dirty Laundry
The secrets, contributed anonymously, range from hilarious and goofy—“My best friend loved dog food as an afternoon snack”—to serious and confrontational—“I am a lesbian and embarrassed by this ... no one knows.” Inspired by the PostSecret Web site that blogs confessions readers send in on postcards, these secrets from the Columbia community reveal that everyone has something to hide.
Crowded into a small room in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel, the secrets overwhelm the viewer with a sense of cathartic urgency. The abstract artwork in the exhibit visually articulates this need for expression. Columbia College junior Julia Alekseyeva’s Apologia interweaves modern figures with Greek and Romanesque statues painted with smooth lines and watery colors. Words frame the faces of the contemporary figures, who, staring directly into the viewer’s eyes, ask us to question the origins of identity.
In contrast, an untitled series of drawings by Jason Patinkin, CC ’09, exposes the disturbing side of the inner self with crude ink sketches of distorted bodies and violent monsters. A series of photographs by Paris Haber, CC ’12, also explores the grunge that lies beneath polished exteriors. Entitled House of Cards, the gray and sepia tone photos display an empty room with chipped and decaying walls, a solitary house, and a decrepit staircase.
The curator of Skeletons in the Closet, Kavitha Surana CC ’11, explained that the concept for the exhibit was inspired by the ideal, uptight Victorian family who hides perversion behind its perfect façade. Surana transformed the gallery into a space reminiscent of the fictional family’s secret attic with two unique installation pieces.
On the left side of the room is a beautiful antique desk covered with old photographs, candlesticks, and a knitted shawl. On the right, a rack of vintage dresses is surrounded by an old typewriter, books, and a brown box cleverly labeled “Grandpa’s old stuff.” Compiled by both Surana and Jenny Lam, CC ’09, co-president and secretary of Postscrypt, these random items create a mysterious ambiance and remind us of objects that are hidden in our personal closets.
While all of the artwork in Skeletons in the Closet is wonderfully executed, some of the pieces do not clearly relate to the main theme. A photo album of past trips by Lisa Danackzo, CC ’10, is more familiar than secretive. The album is attached to the wall with a matrix of white strings and push pins which seems like a last-minute attempt to add more quirks to the display.
Yet in a world where so much is hidden and on a campus where people mostly keep to themselves, Skeletons in the Closet is a refreshing look at the hidden truth.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I found this website from Nora's blog: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/02/at_work.html
It's an absolutely gorgeous array of photographs. My favorites:
I'm also quite enamored with this song by Caribou. Sometimes simple is best. Which might be something to keep in mind as I think about my final drawing project this semester...
Happy Midterms, everyone.