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Everything posted by Quiggin

  1. Les Enfants du Paradis may be more a critic's pick than a director's choice. It was often on best lists in journals like Film Quarterly when Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris were reviewing there. You can also understand why Truffaut liked it when you think of films like Jules and Jim. But cinematically Les Enfants du Paradis is fairly conventional and more of a filmed stage play when compared to say Jean Renoir's films like Rules of the Game and A Day in the Country (with Sylvia Bataille) with their long takes and surprising camera moves and clever ways of compressing the story. Or Antonioni's La Notte with the marvelous scene with Jean Moreau in the passenger seat involved in an animated conversation with the driver of the car (her only happy scene in the movie) that the camera follows alongside, a little behind, then a little forward of. You don't ever hear a word of the conversation, only the sound of the rain and the windshield wipers. It's the kind of thing you could do in a film but not in a novel or on the stage. But it's amazing how strong the list is – Tarkovski's Andrei Rublev with the long scene of casting the church bell, Rohmer's quirky and melancholic Rayon Vert, the delightful Band Wagon, and yes Cleo from 5 to 7 with its bizarre cafe scene and the piano lesson with young Michel Legrand. It's the list that young filmmakers like George Lucas and Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader used to have on their "must see" lists – perhaps missing Lady from Shanhai, a Jean Rouch film like Chronicle of a Summer, and something by Shirley Clark. It might also stand as a kind of cultural record of the 20th century.
  2. What a fascinating list! Somewhat like the annual top tens that Sight & Sound and Film Comment used to publish – though Rossellini, Ophuls, Vigo, and Keaton are no longer in the upper ten or fiften. And only four women directors: Jane Campion for Janet Frame's An Angel at My Table, Claire Denis (with Agnes Godard's camerawork) for Beau Travail, Barbara Loden for Wanda, and Agnes Varda for Cleo from Five to Seven. It's a director's directors list and so most of the films are solidly constructed, with few false passages. And being made before the introduction of Steadicam photography meant that each tracking shot, which involved physically laying tracks and clearing the right of way (as in the beginning shot of Contempt), had to be carefully considered and dramatically justified. Robert Bresson used only one in Les Femmes du Bois de Bologne, when when the main characters are introduced to each other in the park, and it's quite startling in effect. Top thirty: Sunrise – Murnau Vertigo – Hitchcock Tokyo Story – Ozu Rules of the Game (still highly rated) – Jean Renoir 400 Blows – Truffaut Night of the Hunter – Charles Laughton (James Agee screenplay) 2001 – Kubrick Taxi Driver – Scorsese Citizen Kane – Welles Ugetsu – Mizoguchi Ordet – Dreyer Barry Lyndon (out of circulation?) – Kubrick 8 1/2 – Fellini (Ennio Flaiano screenplay) The Mother and the Whore – Eustache Pickpocket – Robert Bresson (I believe there was an American version with Richard Gere) Close-up – Kiarostami Au hasard Balthazar – Robert Bresson A Woman under the Influence – Cassavetes Playtime – Jacques Tati Andre Roublev – Tarkovksi Touch of Evil – Welles Singing in the Rain ("Cantons sous la pluie") – Donen L'argent – Robert Bresson The Searchers – John Ford Contempt – Jean Luc Godard The Leopard – Visconti La Dolce Vita – Fellini (Flaiano screenplay) The Conversation – Coppola M – Fritz Lang Godfather part 2 – Coppola shortcut to full unnumbered list (100?): https://www.lacinetek.com/top-des-listes
  3. Thank you, Sebastian, for your detailed response, especially for the note about Carabosse being integrated back into the social order in the 1890 production. The reason I referred to anti-Seminism in Russia and Paris is that I've recently been reading about the New Odessa Colony, an important commune in Oregon that was set up by some of the many Russian Jews who emigrated during the 1880s. One of the projects of the New Odessans was to build ships that would enable them to rescue prisoners in Siberia – maybe a subject for a Shostakovich opera! I was attracted to Lopukhov's writings because they were indeed cranky and colorful, and while in parts they may be unrealistic, should they be totally disregarded as the review you linked suggests? Wiley is quite dismissive and spends many pages undoing Lopukhov when one page would seem to do. Sally Banes and Elizabeth Souritz on the other hand give him a quite respectful hearing. Lopukhov's observation that the reduction of music to two violins impacted Tchaikovsky's music to a much greater degree than it did that of composers like Minkus or Pugni who wrote simpler musical lines that were later orchestrated doesn't sound unreasonable. And his opinions on The Sleeping Beauty cuts are interesting. After all Lopukhov was born in 1886 and grew up in the St Petersburg world of theater and ballet, and so, while a kind of "unreliable narrator," he was a witness to the "hum" of the time. Apparently he was an important influence on Balanchine (you can see similar choreographic lines in The Four Temperaments to those in The Magnificence of the Universe) and a colleague of Fokine. Perhaps his writings should be treated like Kandinsky's or Paul Klee's on art? Thanks too for the link to the Tchaikovsky page. It was fun reading the other side of the Chekhov correspondence – and the ranking of Tolstoy/Tchaikovsky/Repin.
  4. Might it also be tweeked to be an awakening to something other than a repressive regime? Both France and Russia had in common anti-semitic campaigns going on in the 1880s and 1890s. What was happening in the streets impacts in some way what is happening on stage, so "The Sleeping Beauty" may have been a dream of a return to a past where complicated social questions disappeared. Fyodor Lopukhov in the "Ballet Master and the Score" criticizes some of the cuts Petipa made to Tchaikovsky's score for "The Sleeping Beauty," as if he were a lesser composer like Minkus or Pugni. And that for rehearsals Petipa was relying on a reduction for two violins which emphasized the melody but none of the full dynamic compexity of the score. On a happier though off-topic note (which is often the case with happiness these days), I recently came across this letter of Anton Chekhov: According to the letters' editor, Avrahm Yarmolinksy, Chekhov and Tchaikovsky were planning to collaborate on an opera version of "A Hero of Our Time." In a subsequent letter Chekhov tells Modest Tchaikovsky that he is dedicating his latest book to his brother titled, characteristically, "Gloomy People."
  5. Thanks, Jack, it's concise and has some good observations, such as about the three-voiced writing for the Gigue. Also about Andersen's beats off his Bounonville drum-stick legs. I see that AG has just amended the "sunny version" Franklin/Davilova pas turtorial from the Balanchine Foundation to it.
  6. Another factor that I don't see being discussed much is how effective a vaccine will be. The CDC says that initially it should be 50%. From the Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/06/30/coronavirus-vaccine-approval-fda/
  7. Mozart, in turn, based his variations on some phrases from Gluck's "The Pilgrims of Mekka," traces of which can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MYX_fqERn4 The Mozartiana I know is Kyra Nichols'. She succeed Farrell in the role, partnered first by Ib Andersen and later by Damian Woetzel. In interview here in San Francisco she said that she had to strip away all of Farrell's ornamentation and start from scratch. Her interpretation as I remember it had fewer of Farrell's startling transitions and upbeats and was clearer, yet seemed as complex. Croce says of Farrell’s varied timings that it looked like a tape of herself run backwards – which doesn’t necessarily sound bad, but maybe that's something of what Nichols meant. Fascinating to watch this and try to figure out its structure. Its "heavenlyness" is very complex. With respect to Croce’s comment, sometimes it seems as if it's both weaving and unweaving itself, writing and unwriting itself at the same time. Farrell and Andersen do such curious and clunky and "thingy" movements, on the verge of not being within the ballet vocabulary. They scratch the floor and pop up off it, tip like pitchers and straighten up, quote each other and the Castelli character as well. And everyone is dressed in black as if out of a Manet painting.
  8. Thanks for the video. Apollo was brilliant – sort of reverse-engineered. What was the name of Balanchine's cat? Mouska?
  9. Wasn't there a big influx of Cuban ballet dancers into US and Canadian companies 10 or 20 years ago? It seemed as if Cuba produced a brilliant generation of dancers all at once, a legacy of the government's support of ballet and ballet schools after 1957. The ballet here had a little "parliament" of them for a while. San Francisco did do some interesting afternoon school programs in the 70s in the Lower Potrero Hill area which were very successful but then they ran out of federal funds. If reparations are finally made, African American school and after-school programs would seem to be a great place to invest them in. If SF Ballet had opened its doors to something like afternoon programs for kids in the nearby Fillmore District – maybe combination basketball clinics and ballet classes (there was for a while a connection between Taras Domitro and Steph Curry), there might have been an exciting pool of black dancers to chose from now. Silas Farley on why he feels he can leave City Ballet with a good conscience: Holland Carter in today's Times, in an excellent piece on the removal of statues, says "We’re at an inflection point in this country, potentially the most significant one in generations. Black Lives Matter brought us here." The art world is reexamining many of its practices. Ballet might do so too. I somehow don't think that the old combinations of programs and players are going to work anymore.
  10. It's funny because just outside the War Memorial Opera House the African American community of the Fillmore District begins. San Francisco Ballet would only have to open its doors non-metaphorically to have classes of black students in attendance. There could be drop-in classes in the public courtyard and garden off the north entrance. Villella and other male dancers have said that seeing running and jumping of exercises of ballet are what attracted him to ballet and so something like that could be a draw. San Francisco's African American community is currently 5%, down from 15% only a few years ago. A "negro removal" program in the Fillmore in 1960s, overseen by Justin Herman, who filled a kind of Robert Moses role here for many years, is part of the reason. There were also other African-American communities in South Park and Dogpatch, which have vanished due to various combinations of gentrifying pressures. But also a reluctance on the part of San Francisco as a whole to embrace its cultural diversity and reflect it in its workforce compared to New York, a city San Francisco has traditionally has compared itself to. To me, a native of the city, it seems in part due to an outsized nostalgia for its white Edwardian past (which its Nutcracker totally reflects) and its devotion to kind of spotless perfectionism. I would love to see ballet finally integrated. And I think it would remove an anxiety all of us feel, if only on a subconscious level. For me there's too much of a fortress mentality about ballet, about being a refuge from the world rather than a participant in it. Balanchine's works constantly refer to real world activities, from his early Soviet experients and 1920 jazz references and so on throughout his whole career. * The "race game" seems like a rather loaded term to me however you use it. It seems associated somewhere with "the race card."
  11. The Wendy Perron tribute that California referred to above has a link to a fascinating conversion between Sally Banes and Yvonne Rainer covering the early days of Judson Dance. Rainer says that the Judson dancers were reacting against their earlier Cunningham training, and that they had become "children of John" Cage, not Merce (Cunningham's curt words), which greatly amuses Banes. Talk took place at the Walker Art Center in 2001.
  12. I didn't find any of the comments suggesting the use of more productive hashtags abrasive. I clicked through to the Instagram home pages of the commenters and they seemed to be fairly charming, low-keyed and attractive individuals. I'm hoping for that too. And I do feel this time around there is more across-the-board solidarity and that something good might come out of what's happening, now that we all seem to be in the same boat regarding our finances, health issues and painful awareness of social inequity. I was around in that unfinished year of 1968 of which 2020 is beginning to seem like a reprise. On this day, June 4, as a member of a small student film crew, I was filming Robert Kennedy making his way through crowds of cheering young African Americans in Watts, just as the week before he was standing on the platform of a slowly moving train going through the San Joaquin Valley, waving to dozens and dozens of young Latinos running behind the car and shouting out. So I'm somehow hoping for a fulfillment of those old 1968 inclusionary promises. And perhaps the ballet world could in some way make use of some of the revitalizing energy going on on the outside right now – it might offer a way forward. Many of the City Ballet Instagram comments called for a roster of dancers that reflected the current demographics in the US (San Francisco Ballet seems to have made greater strides that way). Perhaps fewer Justin Peck ballets about boy meets girl at the high school dance or Balanchine trifles and more serious things like The Four Temperaments or even Serenade or works by Cunningham (who kept a keen eye on what Balanchine was doing). Doesn't seem to be the time to retreat into perfect worlds while everyone is suffering so much. Now realize that this should have been in another thread but one thing following another ...
  13. Just watched the New York Theatre Ballet Jardin aux Lilas which is very impressive but a very strange flavor of ballet. Everything happens when no one is looking, in the shadow of a glance away. Little revelations seem to be signaled by doubled movements. Christopher Caines wrote an appreciation of the ballet in Robert Gottlieb's Reading Dance and says that dancing seldom represents dancing in Tudor, rather it visualizes dialogue and interior monologue. I wonder if Balanchine was somewhere thinking of Lilac Garden when he composed Liebeslieder (and the additional ending to Emeralds). And I wonder if Tudor as a young man was influenced by Balanchine's Gods Go a-Begging. He apparently programmed Gods for Jacob's Pillow with Hugh Laing and Nora Kaye (whom atm711 mentions above as being fortunate to have seen In Tudor's Romeo and Juliet). Laing first danced the part in the 1930s. Theatre Ballet's Jardin aux Lilas, staged by Sallie Wilson, 2008: https://vimeo.com/180424486 Gods Go a-Begging with Nora Kaye and Hugh Laing, June 1951: https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/nora-kaye-hugh-laing/the-gods-go-a-begging/ National Ballet of Canada, short Jardin clip, August 1953: https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/national-ballet-of-canada/lilac-garden-jardin-aux-lilas/
  14. Lots of interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses of preparing and showing a collection. Dresses named after the Alain-Fournier novel, a cantaloupe, and one after Picasso that seemed especially unstable. Also the sweetly self-conscious looks of the models, self-conscious in a different way than now (sometimes as if they were trying to locate something fleeting behind the camera). Nice lunch scene at a little table squeezed in among all the pattern making worktops. With one dress Dior honors his mentor Christian Bérard, who helped steer Dior towards the "New Look." Bérard did the great sets and costumes for the first version of "Mozartiana" and had some choice observations about Balanchine's character that he shared with Kirstein when Kirstein was still at sea with what to do with his life. Thanks for posting that.
  15. I, too, am just catching up with Concerto DSCH which seems like middle ground between Shostakovich Triology and The Bolt. The two De Luz/Garcia guys indeed reminded me of Bolt personnel or the surveyer's two assistants in Kafka's The Castle, who are always there doing something, whether helpful or not. The Mearns/Angle pair seems to have a relation to the good couple in the first part of the Trilogy, Bouder a newly hatched force. The first part of the ballet is a engine, "an eternal engine" (an arbitrary-melody making machine?), Ratmansky says, switched on by Shostakovich at the start, while the slow middle section features wanderers moving under the influence of the midnight sun. Everyone is always working, doing something seemingly practical and workmanship-like, lifting and setting a partner or partner-thing down in different places or in different configurations. An orange-colored Russian Seasons like community moves in and out of the viewer's peripheral consciousness. ((But who's running the show and where is it going?!)) Seemed fun, brisk and bracing, though not quite as complete or varied a world contained in the smaller “jewel-box” Seven Sonatas.
  16. Garcia did Rubies in San Francisco and was like a bowling ball tearing down the lanes but he was then in his twenties. Villella, at 31, was brilliant in the role but only with the most intense physical effort. I very much liked Garcia's solo in the recent showing of (said in a whisper voice) Peck's Rotunda.
  17. I liked Taylor Stanley's performance and think it worked almost as a monologue as he developed aspects of the role. It had many strengths. Of past performances I like the video of Farrell and Martins, their slight self-absorption and concentration makes it work well – maybe the best for me. Also liked Ib Andersen's Apollo which he did for his farewell performance, it had a very nice almost improvised quality. Apollo the ballet always has some problems for me, too many stops and starts and potentially empty places – and getting to the props and having them lying at the back of stage. These seem to get more emphasis when viewed in filmed or videoed form. It may work better on smaller stages than New York State Theater – at City Center or the orginals Diaghilev used in Paris. It seems in character like a highly stylized Art Deco work, a bit too high art. Apollo may not have been the obvious representative of Balanchine's work for Diaghilev until the 1950s – in earlier years the Gods Go A-Begging and La Chatte were given higher ratings. (Apollo was also less revolutionary than Parade or Mercure.) As far as the muses (there was a question above), there were nine and they were goddesses, the daughters of Memory. One or two overlapped with the Sirens (Peitho) and could be both beneficient or harmful. The characteristics of gods was a bit unstable in ancient Greece, varying from city to city, Apollo of Athens being honored for different things than say Apollo of Epidaurus. Diaghilev's Apollo was the Apollon/World of Art movement he was a part of around 1909. Taylor Stanley's Apollo also may be a local god, the Apollo of Lincoln Center, or the Apollo of Lincoln Kirstein (who wanted to see the ballet revived) as much as, or even more so than of George Balanchine, who was a bit ambivalent about him.
  18. I do remember one dancer leaving San Francisco Ballet for the Dutch National Ballet about seven or eight years ago with her partner, one of the reasons being that she wasn't permitted to dance in galas and events outside the company. One of her parents was ill and she wanted to help raise money for his medical bills working elsewhere else off season. I was told that that was a strict rule most of the time. Other dancers such as Ulrick Birkkjaer, who was already organizing events outside the company, may have signed onto SFB under a special contract that allowed some flexibility as far as dancing at the Joyce, etc. The logic for SFB not allowing performing in galas might be in what Ana Sophia Scheller says – that's where you meet other dancers, see how you work with them, and mull over the possibility of working with them on a permanent basis. I tend to believe that she was telling it as it was and acting in good faith.
  19. I just watched it and really enjoyed it. It looked as though it had been choreographed to read well in its video form. It filled the stage nicely with lots of nice things everywhere, and having the dancers in different colors really helped you see details of the choreography, as well as helped you follow particular dancers. There were all sorts of wonderful moments like the men lifting the men at around the 9 minute mark which makes a kind of furrow into the background and at another place where the men and women do a soft curtsy to each other. And so nice seeing Gonzalo Garcia, who danced here at San Francisco Ballet for several seasons, in such a lovely solo and moving solo. I liked that there's no false drama, things happen and then other things happen after that. Didn't find it too fast somehow. Felt like a complete world. My only complaint is that the dark horizon line that the backdrop makes with the floor was a little distracting during Sara Mearns' solo. All in all seemed just the right tone.
  20. I sort of liked the overhead shots. They reminded me of my old Fifth Ring $8.00 seats. The problem might be is that they are out of character with the more orthodox frontal views, which almost had too much spacing, too much air between dancers.
  21. They are and they are a different thing. Time and presence exchanged for a different kind of immediacy. The problem is that we live in a culture where the secondary and tertiary versions are given significant precedence over the primary. Where the actress or actor who plays the role is studied and revered over the person she or he plays. At best it's a kind of screwball comedy script where the original is left out and sulking at the side of the scene. There's a Nabokov story where a Rimbaud-like poet, old and disheveled, shows up years later to accept an award, but no one will believe him because he doesn't fit the image they have of him.
  22. You're probably right about it being off-balance – that's the first comment I ever heard about Apollo, well the second, the first was that it wasn't being done anymore (1990) and neither was Liebesdlieder. I like looking the comments of contemporaries – Martin, Denby, Hagin, Garis, Croce – which give you a feeling of context and how the works were grasped in time. Balanchine told Kirstein in 1933 to be slow in reviving old Ballets Russes choreography, that the vernacular of one decade faded for the next, they existed as "a mere breath, a mere memory." Added: They did reduce the stage props in 1957 to just a stool and staircase. And no staircase after that. Artifacts from 1928, like those in Prodigal Son?
  23. Yes, I came across my old notes on the trajectory of Apollo – I was house cleaning and they were in the toss pile – and looked at the John Martin NYT comments. The first one has a reference to the birth scene. And 1957 Balanchine was already eliminating things: I'd also say that the Modernist movement of which Balanchine was indeed a part – from his days as a Constructivist choreographer in St Petersburg, through Episodes, Kammermusik and Violin Concerto – was all about eliminating narrative references and footnotes, especially in the post WWII period. You can see this paring down and essentializing in "Square Dance." You also see this sort of thing in the work of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock from 1945 to 1951 or so. Added in answer to –
  24. There may be a myth about the "complete" version of Apollo. Reading old reviews in the historical New York Times and elsewhere, it seemed to have changed with every revival, from 1937 on – in tone and in some of the action. According to an interview Lynn Garafola reported on in a Green Room talk in San Francisco, some of the birthing scene was inspired by the Martha Graham exercises Balanchine saw one of his students do. Danilova talks about significant changes in meter and accent from the 1928 Apollo she was in. So the longer ur-version could have been any one of many different versions.
  25. I could see something of a fall season with spacing, the fourth ring open to accomodate it. But also with pieces with small casts – as nanushka notes about Nutcracker not having. And more of the lighter City Center scaled fare – like Allegro Brilliante, Donzetti Variations, and Danses Concertantes. Not sure of what the mood in the country will be then. Saw the Royal Ballet's grim Metamorphosis last night which seemed like the last thing you might want to watch right now with so many people in intensive care (besides being untrue to the complex tone of Kafka's original and throwing what seemed to me all the old Brecht, Brook, and Kantor tricks at it.)
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