Tuesday, October 23, 2007

DVD Releases!

Kino International has released Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) on DVD today. This version has been restored, includes deleted scenes, and a 42 minute documentary on reconstruction (in German - not sure if the documentary has subtitles in English but one would assume it does). On the market for $29.95.

Scene of woman carrying her deceased child in the film

Another important film that is being re-released on DVD today is À bout de souffle (1960) (or as we call it in America, Breathless). This film was directed by Godard and co-written by Truffaut. It could be said that this film along with Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows) are exemplary of nouvelle vague cinema. The extras on the latest Criterion version are excerpts from Mark Rappaport’s brilliant essay film “From the Journals of Jean Seberg” and “Chambre 12, Hotel de Suède,” a 1993 French documentary about the film’s making. Available for $39.95.

Iconic scene from Breathless of Jean Seberg and Jean Paul Belmondo


New York Times New DVDs article published today.

The Trevi Fountain is Bleeding

On October 19th, a guy in a beret threw a can of red paint into the Trevi Fountain:

Apparently he wants, "to turn this grey bourgeois society into a triumph of color."

Vandalism is beautiful.


Read the article here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

El espíritu de la colmena

The first movie that I've seen with Ana Torrent was Tesis (1996), a film directed by Aménabar (director of Abre los ojos and Mar adentro) about a girl writing her thesis on snuff film. Her role in Tesis is provocative and engaging as the movie becomes suspenseful once Angela (Torrent) discovers that a girl in one of the snuff films was a former classmate.

I later saw the film Cría cuervos (1976) in a Spanish film class I was taking my senior year of college. I was floored by Ana Torrent's performance in the movie, and also in love with the film itself. The political undertones were astounding and it quickly made it's way to the top of my favorite films list.

Last night I saw El espíritu de la colmena (1973) directed by Victor Erice. I only know Victor Erice for El Sur, but mostly for his contribution to the film Los desafíos (1969), a film which I cannot even explain with words as it is trippy (due to the rising mod/psychedelic culture of the late 60s, early 70s), political and focuses largely on both American and Spanish stereotypes (as if it is a modern-day Bienvenido, Mister Marshall!). Thus, I knew the film would be focusing on the politics of Franco's Spain, but not really sure in what ways.

Still from the film of Ana Torrent and her older sister in the film, Isabel.


The film begins with Frankenstein's premier in the small Castillian village, Hoyuelos. Un peseta para adultos, dos reales para niños. Ana and her older sister, Isabel, are mesmerized by the film. Isabel is the typical older sister, playing on Ana's naivete telling her that Frankenstein really exists as a spirit in an abondoned farmhouse in their small pueblo. We are introduced to the mother as she is writing a letter to a lost-love due to the Civil War, she writes of nostalgia which is a critique on Franco's Spain as she longs for better days. We also see Ana and Isabel's father tending to the bees en la colmena. Their father writes about the bees and the hierarchy amongst them in his study at nighttime. The maid, Milagros (which translates to miracles in English) is the first female to interact with the father in the film. The structure of the family appears to be familiar and because of the size of their house and the presence of a maid, one can assume that the family is considerable wealthy in their small village.

As Franco reinforced Catholic values, especially the importance of family, the film is critical of the familial unit as there is never a shot throughout the movie of the family together. They are only shown separately with two family members in the same frame at once. Erice has his two young actresses playing their roles expertly. Isabel and Ana are both curious youngsters growing up in a post-war world. Isabel is clearly more vindictive, as she teases Ana, plays with her friends by jumping over a small fire and towards the end of the film, she nearly chokes her cat to death. The cat retaliates and cuts her finger, which prompts Isabel to use her own blood as lipstick. Her natural disposition is revealed as the dominant sibling, and reflects the manipulative politics of Spain's franquismo in its time whereas Ana reflects the more liberal attitude through her naivete and ultimately being a good girl when faced with good v. bad situations.

The film alludes to the good v. bad theme numerous times, the most harrowing example is when Fernando, their father, is with his daughters hunting for mushrooms. Ana proclaims that the one mushroom which her father warns is the deadliest smells so good. The viewer naturally fears that Ana will eat the mushroom due to her inquisitive nature, however as the movie proceeds, we see that Isabel is the one whose actions should be watched. Ana questions her mother about spirits, and her mother responds that good spirits talk to good girls but the bad spirits, who are very very bad, talk to bad girls. Towards the end of the movie, Ana finds her sister Isabel dead on the floor in the bedroom. One could assume that Isabel has essentially killed herself through fould play; all we hear is a shriek and all we see is a broken flower pot, a rocking chair still in motion and the girl dead on the hardwood floors of the house.

One must believe (after seeing Isabel's empty bed at the conclusion of the film), that Isabel died at the hands of her own curiosity (as we hear a shriek and see her body on the floor without getting any real answers). Ana's persistent 'good' character might reflect the idealism that the youth under Franco embodied. As Ana is younger than Isabel and displays intrigue through kind measures, we are drawn in by her enticing yet daunting childhood world. Perhaps this represents another parallel between Spanish society and Ana. The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 with Franco as the victor, however, youth are notorious for remaining positive and for rallying as the liberal position in times of turmoil. Thus, part of her role can be translated as such. Isabel, on the other hand, signifies the corruption of Franco's Spain and it's self-destruction as well.

Ana Torrent's performance is enlightening and endearing. Unlike Isabel, whose trust the viewer does not have, the audience is able to sympathize with Ana's efforts to be good. Her acting is so impressive, to think that she was only thirteen when the film premiered (born in 1966 - filmed in 1973), she blows Dakota Fanning out of the water. Her character is moving, compelling and her face is what the viewer remembers whilst re-thinking the various elements of the movie.

MOLTO BRAVO ANA TORRENT. A true actress in modern film.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Art for Art's Sake

New York Magazine has a great article on twenty New York artists whose art changed art. These are artists who are alive and thriving in the Empire State, and more specifically in the city that never sleeps.

You might recognize Richard Prince's Nurse of Greenmeadow from Sonic Youth's Sonic Nurse album. Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons are some other modern artists that appear on the list. I've been a fan of Cindy Sherman's self portraits for a while and was just introduced to Marina Abramovic's work last year by my art-obsessed friends in Madrid. Marina also does self-portraits and both women focus on the role of the woman in society:

A Cindy Sherman self-portrait

Self portrait by Marina Abramovic

Some other mentionables are Vanessa Beecroft, Barbara Kruger who popularized the use of words in art like Jenny Holzer, and Christopher Wool, who has grandiose paintings of words and abstractions.

Molto bravo to New York Magazine for publishing a great article!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Arcade Fire Are Just TOO White

Apparently, indie rock has lost it's soul.

Sasha Frere-Jones is apparently upset that The Arcade Fire just aren't black enough. They donm't syncopate their rhythms like The Clash tended to do in their later music endeavors.

He also says that "The Chronic" is probably one of the most important pop albums of the nineties. Does anyone really believe that to be true? You're going to tell me that "Let Me Ride" is more of a pop success than say Nirvana? Lest we forget that I still fondly remember Nirvana as THE band that had significant airtime - be it television or the radio. Oftentimes, I look back on those days, when bands like Nirvana were IT and become nostalgic for the music industry.

Seeing The Arcade Fire two weekends ago at Randall's Island made me happy with music again. I've been frustrated with new bands that go for simplistic dance riffs or anthem-like, empty lyrics, but bands like The Arcade Fire break the mold. Every song they played gave me that "whoa, I love this song!" feeling. Every single song. Their songs are thought provoking, multi-layered and musically refined. Where does soul fit in if a band is great? And moreover, why should a band have to have this so-called soul to be considered seriously? Where is the argument?

This article is chock full of contradictions. Dr. Dre and Snoop are the most important pop musicians since Bob Dylan, and Sasha apparently loves Grizzly Bear even though they don't exhibit any kind of African roots, but yet the Arcade Fire still somehow falls short of his expectations, in spite of the fact that they are currently one of the most powerful forces in music to-date?

Wah wah wah. If you really want your soul, turn off Neon Bible and turn on Sandinista. I'm a fan of both, but I'm not a fan of whiners that don't really make sense.

Friday, October 12, 2007


There's an amazing exhibit going on at ICP (International Center of Photography) through January 6, 2008 surrounding photography and print culture during the Spanish Civil War.

Our history books (ours being American) tend to overlook the importance of the Spanish Civil War. Due to the Civil War and Franco's coup of Spain, Spain was ultimately excluded from World War II. The Spanish Civil War, though only three years long (1936-1939) was multi-faceted and had a very severe and lengthy impression on Spain (as I've mentioned before, the country is still dealing with certain issues that have strong ties to the Spanish Civil War). Spanish poster art from this time period is some of my favorite (maybe rivaled only by Bolshevik poster art). Every side (and there were MANY: anarcho-syndicalists, carlistas, franquistas, republicanos, socialistas, and everything & anything in between) was quite vocal in terms of being represented, especially through propaganda.

Here's an example of communist poster art:


Workers, Countrymen, Soldiers, Intellectuals, Strengthen the ranks of the Communist Party!

Translator's note: I added the exclamation point for emphasis.


Link to the International Center of Photography's webpage

Link to Other Weapons

Text from webpage:

The posters of the Spanish Civil War have become the emblematic visual sign of a national conflict that became international from 1936-1939. Described as "shouts from the wall," the vibrancy of the color and design of the posters, and the messages they sent, signaled for many the powerful role that propaganda played in creating an image of war that was used in Spain and exported actively. Along with the wall-papering of the posters, was the publication in Spain of hundreds of magazines. Considering their impact at the time, it is surprising that they have been virtually unexamined by art historians.

Other Weapons presents a survey of these magazines showing the diversity and inter-relationships among the original magazines, posters, vintage photographs, and archival documents from libraries and archives in Spain and the United States. The exhibition is curated by art historian Jordana Mendelson, Visiting Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, New York University.

Also of interest, Robert Capa has an exhibit at ICP as well running until January 6th.

Culture Fest

For all those interested, this week Battery Park is hosting Culturefest October 13-14th. Click on the link to get more info. It runs Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM rain or shine and it's FREE!

Some centers of interest that will be present:

P.S. 1 (& MoMA)
El Museo del Barrio
FIAF (Alliançe Française)
Instituto Cervantes

And did I mention it's FREE? I love it when the city has stuff like this. Last month I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival which made me wish I was rolling in the benjamins so I could buy a book from (almost) every table there. Free New York is the BEST kind of New York.

Social Dress New Orleans at the Socrates Sculpture Park

Takashi Horisaki's Social Dress New Orleans - 730 Days Later has an ongoing exhibit at the Socrates Sculpture Park in LIC, ending October 28th. It's worth checking out so try to get there before the end of the month!


Socrates Sculpture Park:

Socrates Sculpture Park was an abandoned riverside landfill and illegal dumpsite until 1986 when a coalition of artists and community members, under the leadership of artist Mark di Suvero, transformed it into an open studio and exhibition space for artists and a neighborhood park for local residents. Today it is an internationally renowned outdoor museum and artist residency program that also serves as a vital New York City park offering a wide variety of public services.


I'm Not There

Tickets for the new Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There are currently on sale at the Film Forum:


Here's a clip of Cate Blanchett acting as a young Bob Dylan in the film:

Harvey Weinstein said in an article with the New York Times, “I may be jumping the gun, but if Cate Blanchett doesn’t get nominated, I’ll shoot myself.”

I couldn't agree more myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Spain (Un)censored

MoMA is having an amazing film exhibition coming up running from October 17-November 5 called Spain (Un)censored. As I wrote my thesis on Almodovar's first films (which were really modern and shocking in light of Franco's fascist regime which ended upon his death in 1975, Spanish cinema has always been something that has greatly sparked my intrigue. Spanish film was used as a means of communicating 'unacceptable' ideals and messages through the 40 some-odd years that Franco was dictator of Spain. Movies like Viridiana by Buñuel were racy for their time as they depicted sex scenes that implicated incest, suicide. The first film to really break the barrier was Bienvenido Mr. Marshall which ultimately criticized Franco's foreign policy and the country's political infrastructure while simultaneously exploiting both Spanish and American stereotyping. Such topics were generally dismissed by the franquistas thus the study of film throughout the 1930s onward (including film today being that the Franco regime has left a long lasting impression upon Spain in more ways than one) is incredibly improtant and interesting.

Scene from Viridiana (Buñuel, 1961).

Below is MoMA's film exhibition synopsis as well as a link to their webpage with movie listings, etc.

Spanish cinema flourished during General Francisco Franco's regime (1939–75) despite the dictatorship. Provoked by the system they lived under, Spanish directors told stories about the people's hopes and troubles by using humor and symbols that reached their audiences and sidestepped the censors. This unique exhibition explores an era that fought for freedom through cinema. Until now, this fertile filmmaking period has gone unacknowledged; the generations following Franco's death in 1975 were eager to build a new democracy and leave the dictatorship behind. More than three decades later, these twenty features reveal an enthralling, daring, and formally innovative era of Spanish cinema. All films are from Spain and in Spanish, with English subtitles, except where noted.

Coinciding with the exhibition, "Expression in Times of Repression," a panel discussion with director Basilio Martin Patino and Fernando Lara (Director of ICAA and Chema de la Pena and director of Salamanca a ninguna parte [From Salamanca to Nowhere, 2002]), and moderated by Richard Pena, Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, takes place at the Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, New York University, on October 20. For more information visit www.pragda.com. Other events include a book-release reception for Breaking the Code: Daring Films that Mocked the Repression in Spain at the Instituto Cervantes at Amster Yard on October 18. Spain (Un)Censored travels to the BFI Southbank, London, in January 2008.



Los patitos feos de Sam3

Sam3 is an 'urban artist' from mi querida España. His work is very notable becasue usually he paints HUGE murals on Spanish city walls.

Below are his patitos feos (ugly ducklings) which can be found in the Río Segura in Andalucía, España:

Here's his explanation in both Spanish and English:

Muchas ciudades repueblan sus ríos urbanos con patos y cisnes para higienizar de alguna manera esta agua residual visible. Esta instalación pretende “higienizar” la realidad de los patos que habitan esta agua residual adaptando la basura a sus formas.

Se instalarán durante una semana botellas de plástico flotando sobre el río Segura.
Las botellas tendrán forma de aves y especies acuáticas que formarán grupos y familias. Todos los materiales utilizados en esta instalación serán reciclados e intentarán molestar lo menos posible a sus habitantes.
Si el animal no se adapta al medio el medio se tiene que adaptar al animal.


Many cities repopulate their urban rivers with ducks and swans to somehow clean their visible sewage waters. This installation hopes to clean the reality of the ducks which inhabit these sewage waters by adapting rubbish into their forms

During a whole week plastic bottles will be floated over River Segura.
The bottles will be bird shaped, aquatic species, and will form groups and families. All materials used in this installation will be recycled materials and will try not to disturb the inhabitants as much as possible.

If the animal cannot adapt to its environment, the environment must adapt to the animal.


Sam's blog:

Blog Name

The name of my blog, "public witness program," comes from a Fugazi song. Before I talk about the song, I will begin by saying that Fugazi was one of those bands that I tried really hard to like when I was about 13 years old. Throughout high school, my favorite band was Minor Threat. I was known locally as Minor Threat Mel and made Minor Threat mixtapes for my friends in high school. It was only a matter of time before Fugazi became one of my favorites. Minor Threat was easily applicable to my high school lifestyle being that I was straight edge and didn't feel like I related to my peers. Their cookie cutter lifestyles of partying and shopping didn't interest me. I was into politics, international affairs and music.

As I became increasingly more active politically, Fugazi's albums became the soundtrack to my junior and senior year of high school. Their emotionally and politically driven songs spoke to me on a level that no other band, neither then nor now, seemed to reach. Fugazi was and is on this pedastal, from the way they manage their music, themselves, write their songs, and make themselves accessible to their public, I can easily say that Fugazi is my favorite band of all time, HANDS DOWN.

Thus, upon making this blog I decided to select "public witness program" as my blog title, the second track on Fugazi's third album. The song itself is fast-driven and punk. I love Ian's voice but Guy really murders the track. Also, I find the lyrics to be applicable to modern society, be it 1993 or 2007. Oftentimes, being a working contributor to society, I often feel like a public witness. I am on the outside of things, and in the same regard I am being watched, as we all are. The lyrics, as well as the song title, are multi-layered. Hence, the title of my blog.

The eyes have it and the eyes always will
The eyes have it and they're watching you still
Public witness charter - look out don't touch
Public witness says he's seeing too much
I like to walk around it
And i'm paid to stand around
Public witness seen it all

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How are you doing I don't think that we've met.

Due to my increasing frustrations with American society and our sorry excuse for promoting easy, self-depracating entertainment, I decided to create this blog. I will be posting events, photos, and random ramblings for your sensory pleasure.