Sunday, October 21, 2018

HBO'S THE DEUCE 10/21/18

James Franco and James Franco
Maggie Gyllenhaal is carrying THE DEUCE on her shoulders. She is terrific in this HBO series which traces the evolution of pornography and prostitution in NYC focusing on 42nd St. and Times Square in the 1970's and '80's. The creators David Simon and George Pelecanos methodically document the early days of the king pimp's domination and exploitation of young women. We see the close connections to the Mob as well as the police - both greedily in on the sex-trade action receiving weekly payoffs in return for "protection".  This well-oiled system would not be allowed to operate if the powers that be were not profiting on a grand scale. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal

As society gradually changes via new technology, civil rights, and feminism - the effects are reflected in the industry and it is forced to change or die.  Pornographic films become a big business and Gyllenhaal as Candy becomes an entrepreneur and gains confidence in her own skills as a movie director - pitting her own vision against the traditional cheap peephole fuck films. 
Maggie Gyllenhaal
The ambiance in THE DEUCE is so authentic that the sticky, smutty rooms, filled with desperate male customers looking for a quick release of their frustrations/ fantasies, wash over me, and I glance around for anti-bacterial soap to rid myself of their sweaty desire. The "hookers" are  often innocent women from every social class coming to NYC to seek "fame and fortune," but unlike the cleaned-up Hollywood movies, Simons and Pelecanos show us the reality of the heartbreaking agony of drugs and poverty which they often fall into and the  often cruel and ruthless men who "take care of them."

James Franco does a great job playing twins, lower-class ambitious/conflicted brothers that grew up in one of the outer boroughs of NYC and land up on 42nd Street; one runs a bar for the mob and the other is a grifter/gambler. Franco is so understated that we forget that both characters are performed by one glamour -puss actor. There are many humane portrayals in this series - the range is wide and the insight into each personal choice is differentiated and individualized which I attribute to the incisive vision of David Simon whose previous work-particularly on HBO's The Wire and Treme should be seen.

Dominique Fishback and Margarita Levieva

The scrutiny of one small area in NYC as a microcosm of an illegal underground enterprise is deliberate and disciplined. Sex is often hard, boring work with moments of ecstasy and violence, and that love has nothing to do with it. Money and a hierarchy of corruption are at the root of THE DEUCE which is buffeted by winds of change.

Saturday, September 1, 2018


I bemoan the passing of The Village Voice - a true voice for those who were the underdog in New York City. I read it for local NYC news, arts, and entertainment. The cheapest apartment rentals were listed as were the WORST landlords in the city.
I got the best review of my work that I ever could imagine in 1993 for a show I had in Soho titled BOY WITH A GUN. Arlene Raven was the Arts critic for The Village Voice and she wrote this personal and poetic article about my artwork which I would like to share. 

Friday, August 31, 2018


I am a woman who never wanted children. I don’t coo at babies, I don’t desire to interact with them until they are about 2-years old when we can communicate and giggle together; but admittedly I marvel at their soft skin unmoved by time’s implacable hand, reminding me how, as a young girl, I would intentionally bump into women wearing glistening  black, silky fur coats on the streets of NYC, covertly trailing my hand along the velvety down, for a fleeting caress. So when my sister, among others, told me to watch CALL THE MIDWIFE a BBC series on Netflix I scoffed at the idea. 

But I  was mistaken - this series is not only about babies brought into the world assisted by nurse and nun midwives working in the poverty-stricken East End of London (Poplar) in the 1950’s and 1960’s  - an area that was beginning to recover from the devastation of World War II, which still cast a long shadow on the lives of the people at a critical time of historical change - each episode chronicles a pressing issue that impacted women then and even today.

Every conceivable birthing situation is addressed along with a diverse group of expectant mothers who come to the bustling clinic with toddlers, teens, and family in tow. Movingly the women are seen as individuals many of whom are struggling with poverty, abuse, and often unwelcome pregnancies at a time when contraception was not available. Women stayed home and had babies the choices made for them by society’s strictures.  Some critics might regard CALL THE MIDWIFE as a sentimental look at the status of women in the mid-20th century, but the bleak realities of economic and spiritual deprivation are spotlighted with a penetrating lens.

The nuns and nurse/midwives live at Nonnatus House which is a convent dedicated to interacting with the Poplar community;  a place that salvages the neighborhood’s wounds and is a sanctuary for the populace to escape their hardship and engage with one another. I embraced each of the extraordinary kind and generous caregivers. Despite being idealized we see the flaws, insecurities, and childhoods imprinted on their psyches. Every person has a story that is shunted into darkness; many have secrets that could not be revealed for fear of isolation and expulsion. There is a breadth to the scope of this series’ view of humanity which is not often brought to light. CALL THE MIDWIFE addresses the goodness in society —even if that goodness is just a kernel dreamily floating in the universe.

Monday, August 20, 2018


I saw two movies that got great reviews from the critics. Both were disappointing - Spike Lee’s BLACK KkKLANSMAN and Jon M. Chu’s CRAZY RICH ASIANS.

John David Washington as Ron Stallworth and Laura Harrier as Patrice 

Spike Lee did almost everything right in his latest movie,  BLACK  KkKLANSMAN and this could have been a great film; his baring of the scope of rampant racism and anti-semitism throughout history is on the mark, but there is often a shield of empty and tired dogma shrouding his characters. The power of fresh, convincing expression is rare and hard to come by; language that feels both natural and emotionally gripping is sacrificed to the altar of ideological protest-speak.

The visual imagery and Terry Blanchard’s music were gripping; if only his actors spoke to one another less self-consciously, not as scripted and predictably. When Lee inserts documentary footage, he does so brilliantly - taking clips from what many consider the classic racist 1915 film, Birth Of A Nation right up to the 2017 white supremacist's protests in Charlottesville Virginia.  We see the same faces of hatred and contempt - not much has changed.

Topher Grace as David Duke

I was once told that when it comes to racism and issues of poverty and hate, people have to be “hit over the head” continuously for them to see and talk with one another - perhaps that is what BLACK KkKLANSMAN is trying to do. Alas, my heart was not moved, though my intellect was ever-present.
Adam Driver and John David Washington

Henry Golding and  Constance Wu

CRAZY RICH ASIANS is a stereotypical re-imaging of “generational divide’ taken straight out of Hollywood/Bollywood and moved to Singapore with exaggerated and at times outrageous characters, cavorting in glitzy, tacky celebrations of the seductiveness of wealth’s “glamor” with the starring couple’s disavowal of those “trite” values while embracing them. 
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We see a well-meaning tale of love overcoming parental “class” disapproval performed by an all Asian cast. The movie included the run-of-the-mill parodies of a goofy family, a ridiculous gay man, and a bitchy ex-girlfriend; the tear-jerking Cinderella story was updated for our 21st-century era so that the leading lady is an educated, independent woman who is a Professor. Alas, this over-production lacked originality and charm which would have made CRAZY RICH ASIANS more bearable.

Constance Wu

Monday, July 16, 2018


LEAVE NO TRACE, a film co-written and  directed by Debra Granik opens with an aerial shot of dense green foliage, a beautifully constructed spider web catching the sun’s silken rays of light, and hanging wet moss dripping water as the camera caresses nature’s exquisiteness in the Pacific Northwest landscape - a few miles outside of an alternate world - Portland Oregon. And then we glimpse a man and young girl almost camouflaged among the lush fronds - invisible as they wish to be. 

A father named Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) are “survivalists” who have tamed a small area of this wild beauty into a home. Their relationship with “nature” is respectful; they are both comfortable with living outdoors - cooking, tending to a fire, and getting clear water from the canopy of foliage that envelops them. The relationship with one another is both tender and loving but not equal. Tom, is clearly a teenage girl who is deferential and appreciative of the father who raised her but longing to know more about her mother who died when she was very young. We soon glean that Will is a veteran with PTSD symptoms whose dreams often jolt him awake shaken, gasping shallow breaths against the vast ceiling of stars in the deep black umbrella of space.

The beginning of LEAVE NO TRACE depicts how Will and Tom live day-to-day gathering food, playing chess, caring for a garden - all done with a delicate affection that one cannot help but envy, both tending to what is needed to live a life “off the grid” - untouched by contemporary life’s amenities. Suddenly everything changes when Tom is spotted by a Ranger and police with dogs arrive, violating their intimate island in the midst of the vast protective forest. 

The outside world has finally permeated their lives, including the assignment of a social worker who gets them situated in pre-fab housing complete with a television, a stove, electricity, and warm shelter. The film is replete with people touching Will and Tom’s  lives who are very kind, concerned individuals, but are unable to comprehend living a “homeless” existence under the light of the moon; an existence which demands nothing from civic institutions, where self-reliance and the ability to live isolated from others is a form of freedom - no matter the cost.

Thomasin McKenzie portraying the daughter is a lovely young actor with her pale face and sharply curious dark eyes who adores and understands her father’s psychological frailties, however once she comes into contact with the world around her she, unlike her father, embraces all living creatures with an innocence and compassion that is exquisite to observe. 

Ben Foster gives a moving performance as Will whose wounded, shaken psyche, torn apart by the brutality of war, softens immeasurably whenever he is with his daughter, who he has raised to be self-reliant, strong and gentle - a captivating mixture. As for the rest of society, Will’s close-set suspicious eyes reveal the inner turmoil of an untamed colt, jittery and ready to bolt at any unwanted intrusion.

All the characters that Will and Tom meet on their journeys, exhibit a sensitivity that belies outward appearances. Director Debra Granik is almost idyllic in her view of community and humanity’s goodness all nestled under the light and ambiance of the majestic Pacific Northwest. LEAVE NO TRACE is an honest, unpredictable, quiet film - a coming of age story that touched me to the point of stifling audible sobs while viewing the vulnerable delicacy of human fragility.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Soutine, Carcass of Beef, oil on canvas

GREAT Soutine show aptly titled FLESH at The Jewish Museum, NYC running through September 16th. Chaim Soutine is a major 20th-century artist who I consider a ghostly mentor. As a painting student, I constantly looked at his work feeling the force of his tension with paint - like an elastic band about to snap - imagining his malleable body slashing away at the canvas with visceral intensity. 
Whenever I view Soutine's work I intuit deep inside my person the pulling and scraping of paint; the distortion of an image to make a painting that mirrors the raw impalement of the flesh.

Soutine, Still Life With RayFish, oil/canvas

Soutine, The Great Pheasant, oil/canvas, 1926/27

Detail: Soutine, The Great Pheasant, oil/canvas, 1926/27
Soutine: The Salmon, oil/canvas

Detail: Soutine, The Salmon, oil/canvas

Soutine, White Duck, oil/canvas, 1925

This small exhibition of still-lives contained images of slabs of beef, twisted and wrung chicken heads, fish heads, and hares with anthropomorphic forks writhing on the plate ready to penetrate the hapless creature.
Soutine, Hare With Forks, oil/canvas, 1924

Detail: Soutine, Hare With Forks, oil/canvas, 1924

Ahhhh I loved the show!

Sunday, July 8, 2018


Justice is a word that has lost its original meaning: the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness in the American judiciary system. A trial is so costly that only the very wealthy defendant can afford investigators, “expert” witnesses, travel expenses and a high-profile lawyer to even stand a chance to argue a viable defense. Bail alone is often not affordable to many people who languish in jail for months at a time - a terrifying and horrific place where one awaits trial in the dark pit of innuendo and suspicion. 

The Staircase is a 2004 documentary originally made into an 8 episode miniseries by French Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade based on the 2001 death of Kathleen Petersen, wife of novelist Michael Peterson, whose dead body was found at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of blood with lacerations to her head, and splatters all over the floors and walls. The police soon takes her husband, Michael Peterson into custody, and as soon as he is indicted, Lestrade and his French film crew are given access to the accused, his family, the defense attorneys and the court to document the judicial process which surprisingly covers 17 years in the lives of all those involved as the series was updated in 2013 and then again in 2018 when new evidence comes to light. To this day Michael Peterson unwaveringly proclaims his innocence and does so with great eloquence asserting the belief that his wife fell down the stairs and violently hit her head bouncing off the balustrade. The “blood spatter” scientific expert witnesses create a credible case for Kathleen Peterson’s cause of death to be ruled as an accident rather than a homicide.

The bulk of the series gives us an inside view into the mechanism of preparing for a trial which will change the trajectory of your life and all the people who care about you; the trial itself and the criticality of procedural decisions made by the Judge which can alter your chances for a fair hearing; how circumstantial evidence can be twisted to fit the prosecution’s preconceived theories, and most damaging irrelevant personal secrets brought to light through one’s emails, etc. that the prosecution intentionally injects into the proceedings to prejudice the jury. 

Kathleen and Michael Peterson’s marriage was by all accounts an idyllic one - though not conventional in that Michael was bisexual and had occasional trysts with men for sex - a revelation found in graphic emails. He claims that his wife “in some sense” was aware of this, but this fact shattered the illusion of the perfectly loving marriage and “shocked” many in the courtroom including the jurors. Throughout the Court dealings, Michael Peterson maintained a very loving relationship with his adopted daughters and his two sons and we observe many scenes which include playful bantering and distressingly ironic laughter. The attachment of the children to their father is very touching and the poignancy of the pain that the trial inflicts on them is heart-rending.

Over the 17 years of filming, we witness the physical deterioration of a vital man - his gait becomes unsteady, he shrinks before our eyes and his recurring, self-deprecating smile is more forced as the stress of the uncertainty of a life that has been determined by a corrupt justice system almost breaks the resolve of a thinking man who is a writer who values the delicacy of words; a man who is comforted by the consoling strains of music, and a man who in later years is mournful - his red eyes weep tears of anguish remembering the loss of the person he adored most in his world - the loss which the State attributed to his hand.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

MOTHER'S DAY 5/13/2018

Massacre of the Innocents, 54"x48",oil/alkyd/canvas, 1998 

It has taken me a lifetime to comprehend and feel compassion for my mother.  Now that I am the age when her hair turned a radiant white, I finally can relate to her carefully led life. As careful as one can be in a world of lurking ambushes amidst the delights of a clear day with just enough breeze for your hair to tickle your face - a gentle reminder that you are not living in a vacuum - the outside world inevitably finds the cracks to enter your being.

I finally understand the stifling control my mother maintained in order to navigate the end of life - from the oft-handled, disintegrating black portfolio filled with instructional papers - the Will, lists of banks, insurances, the deed to the house, the keys to the safe where her coveted (only silver) jewelry was stored, and other innumerable directives written in an upright handwriting evincing her European roots. Today, I too am beginning to send loved one's lists of where the “important” documents of my life are to be found;  being an artist - my not-too-distant future will consist of archiving the decades of making art in the hope that the work will not be thrown into the barren wasteland of oblivion.

I used to watch my mother place items at the foot of the stairs - waiting to be brought to the second floor, her legs no longer bounding the steps with agility as muscles and bones have morphed into a tired stiffness, in contrast to the alacrity of her still agile mind. Her implacable will propelled her when the body no longer had the strength. I have begun to do the same thing.

On my visits to our house in the Bronx where we moved in 1958, I often went downstairs to the basement where my mother still had her sewing machine, boxes of threads, beads and sequins, closets filled with evidence of her career working as a “seamstress” which in my self-absorbed youth is how I would  derisively describe her; but  in reality she designed exquisitely crafted embroidered gowns, working 12-14 hours a day in a small room in our apartment in Washington Heights where her wealthy Park Avenue clients were chauffeured to pick up the delicately fabricated clothes. The divide between rich and poor could not have been more obvious as the limousines were double-parked with the arrogance that often comes with privilege. In her later years, I would thread 7-10 needles poking them into a cushion with various length strings curling like vines waiting to be picked up and used if only to hem skirts or fix a dangling button about to drop off never to be found.

Though I am not a person with regrets, I wish I could gulp back time and spew out admiration and say thanks for infusing me not only with your genes (good and bad) but with values that respect the humanity of others, and your generosity in helping those whose lives were lived on a tightrope of need. I would tell you how much I miss your food, even if I teased you about the pies that were so wet we could drink them. The enticing scents of home cooking that floated into each room creating desire and solace - a comfort that will never leave me;  in contrast, my home is a studio without a stove, smelling of oil paint and mineral spirits. Perhaps my love of diners is an indication of how much I still miss a meal which consists of a salad, meat and potatoes preferably mashed, and desert.

So Happy Mother’s Day to a woman who left my life 11 years ago. I never thought that you would still hover over each day; I never thought I would become my mother being both fearful and resilient. 

Friday, May 11, 2018


Artist Robin Tewes, EXIT THIS WAY, oil/canvas

As I travel on the bus I glance out the window and see ghosts from years past; a sprawling unpainted building ripped open by nature’s fickle disregard for permanence. I sense the now invisible crowds waiting impatiently on long lines to buy tickets to the spectacular 6 movie MultiPlex. Kids dashing around throwing those in their path off-balance in the rush to buy popcorn and find a seat - preferably up front- waiting for the fantasies that will overcome the relentless pace of time. 

Everything becomes possible if only for a few hours sitting transfixed watching the flickering screen - alone in the blackness of the darkened theater. I love the movies.

Artist Robin Tewes, "Substitute," oil on canvas

Saturday, March 31, 2018

ISLE OF DOGS 3/31/18


Anyone who knows me well is aware of my complicated feelings toward dogs. Due to irrational fear, I like to observe them from a distance…I like them better when I am comfortable in their presence and they do not bark or jump on me…I like them best when they are sweet and quiet and most of all when there is a movie screen between us. In Wes Anderson’s new animated film, situated in a futuristic Japan, titled ISLE OF DOGS there are images that delighted me; patterns of color and shapes that filled the darkened theater with a playful ambiance. The dialogue is witty - humor is both visual and aural which is why I revere the eccentric director, Wes Anderson who treats his dramatic personae (be they animals or humans) with a caress of gentleness endowing them with compassion, rebellion, ferocity and affection, laced with a dollop of irony. Wisdom is never absent in his films - kooky, crazy wild truths.

Dog vs cat enthusiasts are pitted against each other with the leading political authorities being cat proponents. Canine cleansing is the final solution to a contagion of dog “snout” disease that has become rampant in Megasaki City and all-powerful Mayor Kobayashi has decreed the forcible exile of hundreds of thousands of dogs to a remote place - Trash Island - a place filled with garbage and scurrying rats. There is some political opposition to the corruption of the ruling autocracy but it is barely a whimper.

We meet the hero - the intrepid Atari, who due to the death of his parents becomes the 12-year-old “ward” of the Mayor (a politically cynical, ennobling move) and is given a dog, SPOT to protect the young lad and be his companion. Sadly Spot is the first dog to be carted off to Trash Island and Atari is hell-bent on finding his loving friend. He hi-jacks a plane which sputters and crashes into the wasteland of filth and muck - the detritus of human civilization - where painfully skinny dogs roam about and survival of the fittest is literally the only means of existence.

ISLE OF DOGS is the magically heroic tale of the search for a lost and adored partner.  During the pursuit, Atari who often rails in Japanese (no subtitles -  but we get the idea ) teams up with the Alpha dogs on the Island - each having his/her own back-story; one being an ex-show dog; a house pet; another successful in advertising doggie food, and most importantly the powerful stray, Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston) who has never trusted the fickleness of people-masters, bitterly independent as well as being the most ferocious fighter of the bunch. Imagine dogs with the peculiarity of biped’s personalities, infused with charming dialogue filled with teasing jabs and dulcet flirtations. ISLE OF DOGS  creates an enchanting adventure, which is both stunning and daunting.Through surrogates, we see the nature of power and the absolute degradation of the spirit when faced with starvation, weakness, and disorder.

There are many subplots in the movie that occur in Megasaki City - but none held my interest in the way the events on Trash Island did. Communities (packs of dogs) are created in the direst of circumstances - alliances are forged and trust is built with courage as a  prime motivator for survival - a morality fable for our time.

Monday, February 12, 2018


I did not want to see Guillermo Del Toro's THE SHAPE OF WATER, but when I finally saw the movie I was utterly charmed. I was charmed by the fable, by the clippity/cloppity sounds of tap-dancing and seduced by the infusion of nostalgia - the Black and White TV blaring the song and dance music that I spent hours watching and loving as a overtone of lighthearted romanticism that covered a 1950’s/1960’s dark view that was racist and homophobic.
At the same time I cringed at the depiction of a black man as stereotypically “shiftless” - a man who, when he does “act” is the catalyst for evil. I cringed at the desperate feeling of isolation of a gentle, gay man longing for the restoration of his youth. Films are complicated - are they advocating FOR - OR showing an era filled with hatred and bias? Questions I often ask myself as the movie industry is a powerful medium of promotion and indoctrination.  Del Toro makes one forget that some of his personas are based on prejudices that are the maggots eating away at our society. SHAPE OF WATER with its overlap of mysterious fantasy, its veil of beauty - is a powerful distraction from the undercurrents of societal bigotry that is depicted, and we are gulled by the fairy tale’s message of “love” and resurrection.

SHAPE OF WATER is infused with tiresome depictions polished off by some lovely performances and wrapped up in a cocoon of a love story between two different species - an aquatic he-man and a mute woman who connect and communicate their desire without words - just vocal utterings and limited hand "signing". Del Toro effectively manages to make each character fit a cliche by sliding and slippery means- and yet we are haunted by them- the music, the raindrops the fantasy all contribute to this illusion.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


I am looking forward to watching the television series, BABYLON BERLIN depicting a period of change in Germany's Weimar Republic in the 1920's. My father lived in Berlin growing up in that era, the formative years - a time when he grew up from a young boy into a young man. I wish he were alive today so I could ask the questions I never asked about HIS life, instead of only probing mine, indicative of the vanity and arrogance of youth.

An interest in history and political science was honed at City College of NY - where I stopped making art and became immersed in exploring the pragmatic realities of nations that were unknown entities. I took courses with the great Hans Kohn in Nationalism, studied Southeast Asia, and eventually went for a year to Graduate School to study Russian Area Studies.

My fascination with the past was enriched by signing up for classes in Greek Literature, reading not only Homer's epic poems - Iliad and the Odyssey, but Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian Wars and discussing Herodotus' Histories, which gave me insights into strategies of war, justice, and the concept of "hubris" and "nemesis". In order to understand the poetry of human motivation and tragic "flaws" I then turned to Shakespeare's plays, and the masters of Ancient Greek literature - Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. - myths infused with wisdom and humor, written with the beauty of the gods they invoked.

Regrettably, I have forgotten so much of what I avidly engorged in my college years, but I have never forgotten the importance of looking at lives that are not only like my own; lives that are lived with the same urgency and desire as all human beings. I attempt to instill in my artwork the shadows the veil of the little that has penetrated my person - a way of conveying the glass-shattering, explosive nature of gliding and fighting our way through the fleeting moments we have on this earth.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


Senator Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn his Chief Counsel

When I was a little, mischievous girl, we lived on a block in Washington Heights that had one tree struggling to survive planted in front of our apartment’s first-floor gated windows, where I would yell out to my friends when they were playing late into the night, while my sister and I had to go to bed much, much earlier, enviously listening to the sounds of whooping and hollering coming from the neighborhood kids. That window was an opening to the world outside and just as critically an escape from the oft “anxious” lives of the inhabitants inside. 

My parents, refugees from the totalitarianism and genocide in Nazi Germany were more apprehensive than usual because of a man who was gaining power and influence in the U.S. Senate. The time was the mid-1950’s during the McCarthy Hearings (named after Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin) whose tactics during this “Cold War” era against Communist spies and so-called allies infiltrating into the USA  have come to represent  a period of tension and “…demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.” (Wikipedia.)

One day - being a naughty child, I decided to shout out the window that I was a “ Red Commie“ - not understanding what those words even meant but the image was beguiling. I will never forget the rush of being pulled away from my “escape” outlet and scolded with an intensity that I had never seen in my quiet, gentle father. This was serious and my first introduction to the gravity of politics and how it affects all our lives - instilling fear and resistance.

Joseph McCarthy’s Chief Counsel was Roy Cohn who later became Donald E. Trump’s lawyer and mentor. 

Monday, January 29, 2018


Paul Thomas Anderson, the Director of Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood and Magnolia tells complicated tales with an elegance wrapped in humor, channeling the dark, mysterious beauty of unmasking layers of our all-too-human enigmatic psyches into the glaring light of prosaic reality. His latest film, PHANTOM THREAD is full of twists and turns  - from the main character being a master controller to being controlled; from the ghostly, tensile thread of holding oneself together to unraveling feverishly with the curative relief of being unbound.

We first meet Daniel Day Lewis  (excellent) who portrays an extraordinarily  handsome man, keenly aware of his fading youth, powdering his face, running graceful hands through his graying hair and gently polishing his shoes; this is Reynolds Woodcock  - Couturier to the elite of London in the 1950’s; an extremely sensitive neurasthenic designer of dresses whose House of Woodcock is run with military discipline by his beloved sister Cyril (a quiet, unnerving performance by Lesley Manville) and a devoted group of experienced older women who fabricate his artistic ideas, catering to his every need - each individual contributing to an exquisite productive outcome. 

We also meet Woodcock in a more casual  personal setting, eating breakfast with his sister and a soon-to-be-discarded lover - as is Reynolds’ wont. His delicate nerves cannot tolerate any disruption to the routinization of a life that has been constructed to enable him to concentrate on his work day and night. At this point we become aware of Reynolds’ deeply emotional ties to his now deceased mother - a woman whose influence and love are critical to the person he has become, as evidenced by secretly sewn messages tucked, into the fabric, never to be unearthed. This form of communication is a life-line to the past and to the future, for Woodcock fervently believes that his mother is eternally watching him - either a curse or a blessing. 

Going to his country home to get away from the bustle of London business, Reynolds has breakfast at a country Inn and lays intense eyes and the avidity of his persona on a waitress by the name of Alma (a sturdy peasant-like figure of a woman played by Vicky Krieps) who is bemused by the rapacious breakfast order of a man whose hunger and appetites are laid bare, and is quickly seduced into being a model and “muse” into The House of Woodcock. The relationship between Mentor and Muse is explored by the visual treat of watching Alma in varying costumes and partaking in the world of Fashion - a world where the rules and schedules are tight, where the constriction of freedom is heightened  by a close up shot of the tightening of a corset - the air slowly becoming more and more restrictive.

Paul Thomas Anderson is exploring the sphere of “genius” with all its attendant myths, poking with a Guignol satiric thrust at the absurdity of the oppressive commercial world that artists can paint themselves into. For some viewers,  Alma will seem demonic, but for others she is a release valve to the pressure of cupidity and ego-centrism - perhaps a liberating savior or the mother reborn.Those are the questions this film raises aided by the lingering music of Jonny Greenwood and the director’s sensuous cinematography. Fabric and its  accompanying filaments of beautiful fibers  intertwine to create a metaphor for the urgency of love and the need to be identified and recognized for the unique entities that we all are.

Monday, January 15, 2018

THE POST 1/15/18

Spielberg often directs provocative films, but recently he has relied on obvious tropes to depict his characters and plots; they are often so cliched that I could not help but wince in the theater and was told to shush by another patron. Drama is"heightened" by placing familiar barriers in the path of the fulfillment of a time-sensitive mission. Ie: a car almost hitting a copy boy running to deliver important papers. Sigh.....

On the other hand, it is worth seeing THE POST (referring to The Washington Post newspaper) and its 1971 role in the publication of The Pentagon Papers which exposed the hypocrisy of United States Presidents going back to Truman, on the reality of the so-called "successes" of American soldiers fighting in Indo-China, the area later known as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. 

The source of these potent revelations was Daniel Ellsberg who today, at 86 is making the talk-show rounds reliving for a new audience his historical whistleblower experience; the extraction of top secret papers from the Rand Corporation and secretly giving them to The NY Times and The Washington Post for publication.

Tom Hanks appears especially fit - what happened to his doughy face of yore? Here he looks svelte and passionately portrays Ben Bradlee- a bit of a strutting peacock - the Post's Executive Editor, who believes it is critical to get this story out to the public. Freedom of the press and the unraveling of lies and propaganda in the search for truth is this journalist’s credo.

Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham is both overly awkward (Spielberg making a point and overdoing it) and a fierce defender of the paper her family has run for years - a newspaper that often comes in second when being compared to the NY Times, and one that is in financial difficulties. Being a woman running a paper, surrounded by men who do not take you seriously, is challenging and we see the evolution of Graham’s confidence and resolve in doing what she intensely feels is right - and the respect eventually accorded her by the men who only saw her as a presence to be tolerated.

THE POST resonates at this time because of Trump’s “FAKE NEWS” crusade to silence the voices of criticism and the many women who are screaming to be taken seriously in the workplace - not only in 1971 but just as fervidly today.