reviews


Google defined bohemia as: noun  socially unconventional, artistic people and the areas they frequent, viewed collectively.

The quotation below is from David Hockney in the 2016 DVD documentary Hockney.  It really struck me as emblematic of changing times and culture. I enjoyed the film and recommend it.

He said, “[AIDS] did change New York. I think it’s that that changed it more than anything else… Because when I think of all those people, if they were still there in New York, New York would be different today. It would. There would be bohemia still. And that’s the world I arrived in. And that’s the world that I lived in, actually.”

Peter Getting Out Of Nick’s Pool by David Hockney, 1966

 

4/5 Stars ****

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was an influential movement in mid 19th century England that strove to throw off the stifling, classicist reigns of the art “establishment” (personified as The Royal Academy of Arts.) If you are interested in art, this 6-hour series is an excellent, condensed introduction to the story, imbued with all the drama and pathos, of how change was wrought. But as Fanny Moyle, the author of the book which it’s based on, says in her interview (an extra on the first disc), “I think what really interests me about that period and the Pre-Raphaelites is how modern they are. How iconic their relationships are. It could be happening today…”

As she goes on to say: “The Royal Academy had been set up by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great painter towards the end of the 18th century. And it was an institution that dominated both the training of British artists, but also taste and opinion. It determined what was considered good art. And Reynolds, when he set up the Academy, had written, if you like – to be crude – a sort of rulebook about what he considered good art; and this had been interpreted and sort of ingrained in the thinking of the Royal Academy. This was really an art in what’s now referred to as the Grand Manner, when there were very particular rules of composition and of what was considered beauty. Beauty was something that was not real. Realism was not part of the Royal Academy doctrine, but idealization.”

“Now, all the Pre-Raphaelites went through the Royal Academy schools, which was a very rigorous academic training. And really, anyone who really, seriously wanted a career as a painter, if they could they would try and get into the Academy because it was an institution that once… Once you’d been through the mill, it spat you out into the establishment and it provided a market for your work, really.”

“So all of them were trained. …And what was so extraordinary was the way they turned on the Academy and said, “This is all rubbish, these rules.” That, “Life isn’t like this. We want to paint stuff that is real. We don’t want to do idealized images of the Virgin child. We want to find girls on the streets who look real and we want to paint them the way they look.”

Here is some humorous dialogue from the movie, at the annual Academy exhibition: Curator: “Is something troubling you gentlemen?” Millais: “We were just a little concerned about the position of our paintings [way up high by the ceiling.]” Curator: “What appears to be the problem?” Rossetti: “The problem isn’t so much that you put the work of these two men of genius so, so far above the line that you’d need a ladder to see them; it’s what you put on the line. On the line, Mr. Stone. I mean, look at this [pointing at a painting of three cherubs.] I’ve seen stains on a chamber pot with more artistic merit.”

Fanny Moyle goes on to say, “…It’s really hard today to understand how powerful Ruskin [the art critic] was as a critic and writer. But he was extraordinarily influential. The brotherhood had suffered two years of terrible criticism. Utter criticism. I mean, these were artists on their knees, where pretty much every national newspaper had said their art was awful, they were an outrage, they were an affront, they were audacious whippersnappers.”

“…Ruskin stayed silent throughout this period [1849-1851]. Then in 1851, Ruskin wrote a letter to The Times and he said he thought that, contrary to what everyone else was saying, in fact the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood could be the best thing for British art in the last 300 years. And then the minute he said that, other people shut up.”

“…It’s very interesting that Millais, in particular – his paintings of women, like Ophelia; like another painting he did called Mariana; were very, very, very popular with the female audience. There are descriptions that when these paintings went on show, there was just rows of bonnets. You know, women were desperate to see these pictures. And they are pictures that are highly sexed. I mean Ophelia is a woman drowning, but she’s also a woman in an almost sort of orgasmic sort of position.”

“What is extraordinary about these young men [twenty] – unmarried, very young, in mid-Victorian society – they were painting female sexual appetite; or Millais, particularly, was. And certainly you don’t really see the critics mentioning it overtly, but the public reaction implies … that the public understood that intention.”

Fanny Moyle’s interview is brilliant, as you might expect from the person who, in fact, “wrote the book”: Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives Of The Pre-Raphaelites. Her interview is an extra on the first of the two DVDs. I would recommend listening to her interview first. It doesn’t contain any spoilers – but it should help flesh out the story and give you background and perspective. The character Fred is a composite. Most of the rest of the characters are real historical characters. The timeline has been condensed.

This film was was made and released in 2014/2015.

This film was was made and released in 2014/2015.

Five Stars

I was pleasantly surprised! It sat on my shelf for a while until I got around to it. I’m glad that I did. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be – it’s not a political correctness polemic.

It’s surprising how taboo this subject seems to have been.  The film – the director/writer/producer/actor’s personal journey – is therefore fascinating. It explores some of the mechanics of voice; the cultural meanings; and the misogyny behind this question.

Ultimately, very much an affirmation for being yourself; for being queer, even.

 

The Detroit duo

The Detroit duo “The Whiskey Charmers”

Here’s some music to sink your teeth into!

A friend told me I should check out the debut album by the Whiskey Charmers, an alt-country duo from Detroit. They wouldn’t tell me about it; they said to just listen for myself. That piqued my interest. So I downloaded it from their Bandcamp site.

As I was listening to it, my critic was in high gear. I was curious what they were up to. I was trying to get a handle on it.

At first, I thought, wow… I would’ve liked to have been involved in the production of this album. I’d have some good suggestions.

A line from the first song really jumped out at me: “But then you looked at the horizon – and you vanished into thin air”. Nice… A pretty evocative image. I’m sure we’ve all known a few people like that.

The next song was about a vampire… Hmmm… Okay, I’ve never really been that into vampires; haven’t understood the attraction and fascination. I remember how as kids, my older sister always loved to watch the soap opera “Dark Shadows”, about the vampire Barnabas Collins. I get it now – he was mysterious and sexy…

The “Neon Motel Room” has “a nice little quaint highway view.”

The song “C Blues” got my pulse going. It was a nice musical change of pace. Though very short, it seems like a good genre for the duo.

“Can’t Leave” has some very nice guitar figures that really grabbed me. Kind of Spanish/arabesque stuff like John Cippolina might’ve played.

I listened through to the end of the album; and then started from the beginning again.

I thought about production. What does that word mean? Everybody involved with the making of a recording is – in some sense of the word – ‘producing’ it. I marveled as I thought about how much is actually involved in putting out an album like this.

And as I continued to listen, it started dawning on me what was going on here.

It’s a dramatic, spooky, thematic collection of songs; nicely woven together. It has, in fact, been produced just as it should’ve been! The album continues to grow on me.

Saints and sinners; rattlesnakes; vampires; rusted chains on feet that have been there a thousand years… ghosts maybe? The singing, the low key ‘production’… All very nice. I could listen to this album over and over. I continue to do so. It’s a kick.

Okay, one reviewer called it country noir. Nice. That’ll do as a label. Kind of Goth, even – but with a sense of humor, imagination and a light touch. If it is in fact country music… Well, what a great way to mix up genres! This is original and fresh.

Also – there is a tradition and precedent in country music. Much of the country music from an earlier era – The Louvin Brothers’ “Knoxville Girl” comes to mind – came from traditional English, Scottish or Irish ballads. And we all know how the Irish love their ghost stories, right? Listen to “Sit Down By The Fire” by the Pogues for the modern equivalent.

One of the first songs that grew on me is “Vampire”. It’s such a great metaphor for how a moment’s passion can lead to a lifetime of misery. But what I love most about this album is how well the songs all go together as a whole.

Check it out! For your listening pleasure! Lullabies for the dispossessed! (Or even for the
possessed!)  Now available:  “The Whiskey Charmers”

*

Bandcamp Download and Streaming Link:
https://thewhiskeycharmers.bandcamp.com/releases

*

Website:

wwww.thewhiskeycharmers.com

*

Newsletter:

click here

subway art

“Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now” by Henry Chalfant and Sacha Jenkins

A must read primer on graffiti art, if you have any interest in it at all. Maybe even if you don’t. It really gets you inside the minds and motivations of the kids that put their safety – and more – on the line. First person accounts of what it was like in its heyday. Includes a glossary.

These kids were outlaws who fought to make a space and identity for themselves; sometimes (if not by definition) making wry comments on society in the doing of it.

Co-Author/Editor Henry Chalfant was one of the most important people (if not the most) to document this phenomenon with his photography.

Some of the pictures are kind of tiny. “Subway Art: 25th Anniversary Edition” by Chalfant and Martha Cooper has many of these same pictures in a big coffee table book format.

Another book I’ve seen that I like is “Freight Train Graffiti”. It’s impossible to look at these pictures for any length of time and not improve your own handwriting… These people are heroes to me. Delve beneath the surface to see the beauty, if it’s not in fact obvious to you at first. The level of courage and dedication is high…

What do I like about the graffiti in this book? I like the way it was done with a certain code; working within artistic strictures. There’s some amazing artists. I’ve seen enough on the streets and freight cars of Seattle to appreciate this.

A lot of it was done just to get one’s name up in the public eye. But it couldn’t necessarily be legible. Artistic, yes – but often legible only to the few or the knowledgeable.

Also, to be legitimate, many writers felt that you had to steal the paint. And there was so much more of a technical aspect to it than you might think.

I’m not looking to make any converts. But I think you’ll have to read and digest this book if you want to know the ‘ifs’ and ‘whats’ of the social and artistic impact this movement had.

the book

the book “Freight Train Graffiti”

K2 Siren of the Himalayas

Fantastic movie! Gets inside the head of climbers like nothing I could’ve hoped for.

For me, the expedition leader Fabrizio Zangrilli is the star of this movie. His levelheadedness is powerfully instructional. But he wasn’t the only star. You grow attached to this hardy, fearless crew. Emotionally powerful – I cried.

The extras are a must-see. A great concept/vision for a film; and flawlessly executed. A real achievement.

4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Jimi_All_Is_by_My_Side_poster

When this movie was shown at the NW Film Festival last year, there was some mystery around it. The people I asked about it seemed to think there was something… maybe a little… off about it. But they wouldn’t say what!

Yeah. For me, there were one or two shockers. I’m not going to say, either. But I’m very troubled by the way this movie – which apparently got a lot of its info verbatim from Charles Cross’s Hendrix bio “Room Full Of Mirrors” – might function as yet another meme about Hendrix. The man is 45 years dead… and still the vultures circle. Incredible, just incredible! See the movie and then do a little research on the internet; if anything strikes you as questionable. For me it’s a cautionary tale about believing everything that you’re told.

I liked it inasmuch as it renewed and re-piqued my interest in Hendrix. Linda Keith was portrayed as very influential in shaping Jimi’s professionalism and in encouraging him to be a bandleader/artist in his own right. For me it brings up questions about the star-making process. It seems like an interesting question: if Hendrix hadn’t been ‘discovered’, shaped, molded, etc. (if indeed he was), then what would his artistic career trajectory have been? I think our musicians and other artists get commodified – it’s an occupational hazard. They sometimes sacrifice themselves – or get sacrificed! – in order to share their own unique vision with the world…

Andre’ Benjamin’s performance was uncanny, simply brilliant.

I liked the sense of getting a window onto the groundbreaking artistic milieu and zeitgeist that was London at that particular time. The film captures some aspects of it very well.
I had a big objection to the way that the Devon Wilson character (Ida) was portrayed – as some evil Svengali of romantic intrigue. Phony, sensationalistic and objectionable, in my opinion. There’s more of this kind of portrayal of the women in Hendrix’s orbit.

At any rate, after watching this, I did a little research on the internet, listened to some of my favorite Hendrix tunes and had a bit of a cry for the man and his music. Then I picked up Cross’s book, which I’m reading now – with a healthy dose of skepticism.

I guess for me it was a vehicle to meditate on the man and his music… 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

Next Page »