Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Critic's Notes & Frames, Vol. VII

Late last year, I included a few samplings from my Facebook page, which I've been treating as an ongoing dialogue with friends about social and cultural matters. (Some have described it as a salon.) Here is even more of the same. As before, it includes borrowings of songs and photos that others have posted and that I've commented on:

Film critic David Churchill used to talk about what he called mini-masterpieces in bad films, where a horrible picture gets momentarily redeemed by a moment of pure genius. For me, one example would be Taylor Hackford's forgettable 1985 Cold War melodrama, White Nights, where Mikhail Baryshnikov plays a Russian ballet dancer who has defected to the West. When he crash lands in Siberia on his way to Japan for a performance, he's captured by the KGB and saddled with a U.S. defector to Russia, played by Gregory Hines, with the hope that he'll turn him. You can guess how it turns out. Instead of seeing two dancers, with two very distinct styles, light up the picture, we get a dreary blackmail plot brought out of mothballs from the forties.

The picture has only one moment of sheer artistry (and it isn't Gregory Hines doing "Say You, Say Me"). It comes right at the beginning when, over the opening credits, Baryshnikov performs Roland Petit's ballet Le Jeaune Homme et la mort. In the performance, Hackford emphasises Baryshnikov's limber naturalism, which seems to be defying gravity, at odds with the gravity of his more mature physique that keeps pulling him back to Earth. This scene isn't about a young dancer tasting the freedom of taking flight, of what defecting to the West perhaps gave him, but of a veteran performer testing the limits of his ageing body and reaching past those limits. My apologies for the poor quality of the video above which doesn't do justice to David Watkin's spectral lighting.


                                        Good luck.

I often heard the aching harmonies of The Byrds in many of R.E.M.'s songs (i.e. "The One I Love," "All the Right Friends"). On this solo track ("Somebody to Love") from Byrd co-founder Roger McGuinn's uneven 1991 Back to Rio album, I hear harmonic traces of R.E.M.

Contrarianism 101.

It would be hard to find a more formidable figure than Pete Seeger when it came to the greater ideals of the American folk revival. Besides being the large oak tree that the participants in that movement leaned against, he also gave warmth to its ideals. He not only bridged the world between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, he became that world's abiding conscience. To say he's irreplaceable, is an understatement. 

The glorious history of Atlantic Records in little over two minutes.


                           Escher for cats.

Trickle down during Morning in America.

- Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa,Randy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism.

No comments:

Post a Comment