Big Nothing [2006)

We all want to solve crimes.

Except for those among us who want to commit them.

That observation could be repeated and reversed.

Perhaps we all want to commit crimes.

Except for those among us who want to solve them.

Which brings us to a rather confusing portion of the Venn diagram.

And David Schwimmer’s character would doubtless appreciate this method of presentation.

Oregon.

Get good Twin Peaks wafting.

Bad grunge lingering.

Schwimmer does quite well here.

We hate him at first.

Resent him for Friends.

But he grows on the royal we.

You see, I don’t have a lot of time.

Simon Pegg does well (as he always does), but it is rather grating to hear him speak in an “American” accent for the entirety of this film.

And so the real star here (I hate to admit it) is Alice Eve.

Her character is venal.

As they all are.

Rather disgusting.

But intriguing.

The most enthralling though is the above-mediocre writing of Jean-Baptiste Andrea (who also directed) and Billy Asher.

“breathing liquid shit”

Some genuinely inventive concepts here.

Very imaginative.

Florid.

A web of interlocking chaos.

Vigilante impulse arises.

We all want to rid the world of scum.

But we all share the scumminess.

It’s just that some pursue the scum instinct more than others.

And so our heroes (“Bonnie, Clyde, and Clyde”) are spurred on by a bit of fortuitous reaping.

This only serves to sink them further.

I must give credit to William Rosenfeld who does a nice job as the pivotal Deputy Garman.

This movie is, quite simply, powered by the unflagging inventiveness of lies.

Deeper and deeper into the pit.

Eve buries the hatchet.

YEs, this movie is abounding in death.

But it is watchable.

At least the story is compelling.

There are really some stellar plot twists here.

Phone rings in the trunk.

There are really some gruesome details here.

Why is America so brutal?

I know we don’t have a monopoly on violence, but…

We export simulated violence.

And yet, despite David Schwimmer, this is (believe it or not) a UK/Canadian coproduction.

Honorable mention to Natascha McElhone for making the most of a small role.

Also kudos to Jon Polito.

This could have been a great movie.

 

-PD

President Trump’s Speech to Congress, February 28 [2017)

Dear friends…

it has been a little while.

And I have been immersed in a strange dual-study regimen focused on the LSAT and the GRE.

For my international readers, the LSAT is the Law School Admission Test and the GRE is the Graduate Record Examination.

The second test would be required should I choose (or be so lucky as) to go on to PhD studies.

Quite frankly, my MBA has not been sufficient to wow the employers out to which I have reached.

And so life presents us with little conundrums.

I have a bachelor’s degree in music theory/composition and a master’s degree in business.

Long ago, my bachelor’s degree wasn’t enough to gain me employment at places like 7-Eleven and Wendy’s.  That’s right.  Five years of higher education and a diploma above and beyond the high school level was not enough to overcome the nepotistic morass which dominates the distribution of unskilled labor jobs in the U.S.

I’m guessing this situation might (for obvious reasons) be particularly mark-ed in the American Southwest (where I am located).

So I thought a master’s degree in business would really distinguish me.

I worked myself sick.

Almost to death.

Maintained a 4.00 GPA.

Not only have I had zero unsolicited interest in my skills, but I have received nothing save rejections.

Which is to say, I have not even been graced with an interview.

And so it was some days ago (about two weeks) that I decided I should have a contingency plan in place in case such conditions persist.

So perhaps I will find myself in law school in a few years.

Perhaps in a PhD program.

But I have been trying to better myself every day.

My focus, academically, has been on two areas:  logic and mathematics.

I have never been very keen on (or good at) math.

And logic is something in which I have had zero formal training.

The logic emphasis is, of course, pursuant to the law school possibility.

The math studies (currently algebra, but geometry and statistics to come) are in support of the PhD path.

In addition, I am happy to report that I am exercising (walking) every day.

And I have also added weight training in the most recent nights.

But today I took a day (and night) off from the rigors of autodidactic asceticism.

Yes, today only involved my ongoing survey of Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

Indeed, I suppose I really don’t know how to relax anymore 🙂

But I was very interested to hear Donald Trump’s “Address to Congress”.

This is, mind you, a once-a-year phenomenon in the U.S.

In his next three years (assuming no untimely cessation of his Presidency), these speeches will each be called (respectively) a “State of the Union” address.

Well, I won’t keep you in too much suspense.

If you have read me at all in the past year, you will know that I have become an ardent Trump supporter.

And I continue to be such.

So it is not without immense bias that I posit his speech tonight to have been rather excellent.

But Mr. Trump’s speech comes at a very important time.

And I have purposely raised my visibility as a Trump supporter because of this crucial time.

To wit, many forces have sought and are seeking to undermine the President (at the very least).

The proliferation of protests would truly be remarkable (if we didn’t know the general source and support network for these faux-demonstrations).

And so I haven’t written about a movie in some days, but there is no better viewing than our current President.

The Left tunes in to vomit, and the Right tunes in to cheer.

I am, and have been for only a short time, on the Right.

Conservative.

I will make no apologies about this.

In this past week I have had multiple people who call themselves my friends attack me as a “bigot” and worse.

That’s fine.

My response is no response.

It is beneath me to respond to such.

I have had people question my artfulness.

I, who gave my blood-sweat-and-tears for 15 years as an artist.

It is beneath me to qualify such attacks on my character with a response.

And finally, I have been the subject of surreptitious attacks which attempt to equate me with “misguided” artists of the past.

If Trump can be “packaged” (in marketing terms) by hacks like Mika Brzezinski as “Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin”, then I suppose the lesser Leftists are taking this cue to equate me with Nietzsche, Wagner, and certain American artists which shall remain nameless.

But again, my response is no response.

And it’s not because I can’t respond.

But I tire of these games…

I can destroy my enemies.

In some cases, quite easily.

In other cases, with immense effort.

But my friends have proven (over years…the ingrates…abandonment) to now be my enemies in deed.

And yet I consider them friends.

And I will consider them friends.

Until such time as this becomes impossible for my physical safety.

But all of this because I support Trump.

Shame on you, friends.

[N.B.  I doubt any of them are reading this.  These are “real world” friends.  And real pains in the ass(es).]

Indeed, I need more than one ass to put up with the crappy “friends” I have.

To a one, they are all liberal…every one of them.

And if they are conservative, they have not come to my aid in any significant way.

Except for one dear pen-pal.

And it was she who delineated the brilliance in Donald Trump’s message to me in the first place.

She knows who she is 🙂

MAGA!

But that one beautiful soul notwithstanding, “the world” has failed me.

And yet, the President of the United States has made me very proud indeed.

Verily, never before have I felt such immense pride in my country.

Pride in the men and women of our armed forces.

Pride in the men and women of law enforcement.

And so I could dissect what Donald Trump said tonight, but it is more important to analyze the gist.

I could fixate on the pathetic Democrats who applauded nothing…in their Kim Jong-Hillary white pantsuits.

Slobs like Al Franken.

His posture has its own closet…

Witches like Nancy Pelosi.

“Should I clap here?  Will it look good or bad if I clap?  Why does every mirror I look into shatter upon gaze?”

It’s really too easy.

But it does very little good.

Bernie…what could have been.

Except for that whole socialism thing…which is a crock of shit.

And so it didn’t matter that the Democrats were puerile, impotent faux-testers tonight.

Because Donald Trump has guts.

Yeah, his wife is hot as shit!

And so is his daughter.

That’s because they were MODELS.

But, even more so, because they have SCRUPLES.

They are good human beings.

They stand for something.

THAT’S why they’re really attractive.

To me.

But I know when I’ve met my better.

Ted Cruz?  Fuck you.

Paul Ryan?  I don’t fucking think so.

Mike Pence?  Meh.

But Donald Trump?  Yeah.  Big league!

I may have more formal education than the President of the United States (‘deed I do), but the current POTUS is the real deal.

He knows who is better than him.

Our soldiers.

He knows.

And he says it.

And he never presumes that his job is any harder than those who carry out their orders in godforsaken deserts and jungles.

Yes, Virginia, many of those orders have been COMPLETE BOLLOCKS.

But that’s not their job.

In general.

It’s the job of policymakers to get the policies right.

For a long, long (LONG) time, the policies have sucked.

And so maybe, MAYBE (maybe) we now have a President who is competent.

I know when I’ve met my better.

There are many skills in this world.

And Donald Trump has a priceless skill set.

He’s not a saint.

He’s not a god.

But compared to those who have preceded him over the past few decades in the job of POTUS, he sure seems like one or the other.

So thank you, Mr. Trump!

Your understanding of the USA is really remarkable.

We have been taught to hate our own country for so long.

Enough of that.

Fuck that!

We will love what is good about our past.

And not wallow in our transgressions.

And to the detractors around the globe, you can fuck right the fuck off.

Most of all, to the domestic detractors…especially my “friends”…

Thanks a fucking lot…for proving exactly why Donald Trump is right.

You’re all a bunch of liberal frauds…spewing platitudes while being horrible people.

So the biggest “fuck you” is for these “friends”.

Thanks for nothing, assholes!

-PD

Filmistaan [2013)

I consider it an auspicious sign that my survey of Indian cinema begins in earnest with the masterpiece Filmistaan.

Do not mistake this piece of cinema for a half-baked idea.

Do not even attempt to lower it by calling it a comedy.

And not least, do not think only of India.

I wanted to come up with a catchy pigeonhole.

Indian Subcontinent.

The Subcontinent.

But I have too much respect for the great traditions of Bollywood (and Lollywood) to do such a thing.

And so this is very much an Indian film.

India.

And it is very much a comedy.

So funny!

But it is touching in a way to which few films can ever aspire.

Filmistaan, like Roberto Benigni’s magnum opus La vita è bella, takes on a very serious subject with the best weapon of all:  humor.

But instead of the Holocaust, we get the Partition.

And yet, Filmistaan is not some laborious period piece.

[leave that to the artless Spielbergs]

No, our film addresses the tension between India and Pakistan in the most deft, feather-light manner imaginable.

And for this we have to thank a new auteur on the world stage:  Nitin Kakkar.

I say “new” because Mr. Kakkar has not been graced with the honor of his own Wikipedia page in English yet.

Well, he is wholly deserving of that honor (based on Filmistaan alone).

But Mr. Kakkar had to have magical actors to pull this off.

Luckily for him, he did!

Sharib Hashmi is undoubtedly the star of this picture.

His performance as Sunny goes from the highest highs of emotion to the lowest lows.

It is truly remarkable.

Mr. Hashmi is about one month older than me.

40 years old.

Perhaps that’s why I identified with his youthful optimism and passionate devotion to cinema.

But to understand our film, we must first locate Rajasthan on a map.

It is the biggest state in India.

It is northwest.

And it borders Pakistan.

To understand Rajasthan, we must comprehend the Thar Desert.

Most of the Thar Desert is in Rajasthan, but it extends somewhat into Pakistan.

These are all important details in understanding our film.

Rajasthan is arid.

Like the American Southwest, it’s a good place to get lost…or kidnapped.

But friends are to be found in the most unlikely places.

And the friendship of shared interest, such as two cinema devotees, knows no borders.

For Mr. Hashmi, the brilliance of his performance depends on the artful support he receives from fellow-actor Inaamulhaq.

But let’s examine the divide between India and Pakistan for a moment.

It is a fact that a man from Peshawar (if he speaks Urdu) can communicate with a man from Delhi (if he speaks Hindi).

Peshawar, of course, is in Pakistan.

Indeed, it’s so far into Pakistan that it’s almost in Afghanistan.

Delhi, of course, is in India.

It is in the north-central part of the country.

It is, further, not essential that the two talkers hypothesized above be men.

The salient detail is that Hindi and Urdu are essentially the same language (in their spoken forms).

This is vital to understanding Filmistaan.

But continuing, the two languages could not look more different once they are written down.

[Which is to say, the two hypothesized men might be at loggerheads were they forced to communicate with pen and paper]

Urdu looks similar to its written forebear Farsi (the language of Iran) [which is itself a descendent of Arabic script].

To put it quite simply, a neophyte like myself would probably have a difficult time telling the difference between Urdu, Persian (Farsi), and Arabic.

Hindi is in the wholly different Devanagari script.

You will not confuse written Urdu and Hindi.

It’s at least as obvious as Picasso to Pollock (if not Warhol to Rembrandt).

But enough analogies.

Why should you watch Filmistaan?

Well, for one…it’s currently on Netflix.

Yes, ever since I have joined the streaming service, I have ventured to be a more “worthwhile” film critic by giving you relatively-spoiler-free reviews of current titles to be found on the U.S. version of the site.

But that’s only the beginning.

Yes, there are wonderful performances from Kumud Mishra and Gopal Dutt (as well as a plethora of fine supporting actors).

But the real reason is that Filmistaan expresses the sublime.

The context is terrorism.

The context is border tension.

Indeed, on the Indian Subcontinent, the context is two nuclear states.

Pakistan and India.

But the context goes back.

To Jinnah and Nehru.

And the threads bind.

Cricket.  Cinema.  Music.

There is an excellent example in Filmistaan which illustrates the situation.

Dilip Kumar.

Now 94 years old.

Like my hypothetical man from earlier, born in Peshawar.

Then a part of “Pre-Independence India”.

Now a part of Pakistan.

Bordering Afghanistan.

In Filmistaan, Inaamulhaq knows him as Sir Yusuf.

Sunny knows him as Dilip.

Dilip Kumar was born Muhammad Yusuf Khan in Peshawar in 1922.

Sir Yusuf.

Dilip Kumar.

Same person.

It’s like the World Wars.

fenêtre in French

das Fenster in German

window.

/\

fenêtre /\ Fenster

But when you look through a window (or a border), everything can look backwards.

You’re so close, in reality.

But you’re reading the word as if in a mirror.

Nitin Kakkar directed a masterpiece with Filmistaan because he put his heart and soul into evoking peace.

There are no winners in a nuclear war.

And peace is a rare commodity on the world stage.

Geopolitics…

But we must reach out that hand.

And shake it.

I congratulate Nitin Kakkar and Sharib Hashmi for their dedication.

It is evident.

Though I speak neither Hindi nor Urdu, I was able to watch.

And understand.

I needed the subtitles.

But sublime emotions may be mutually intelligible across cultures.

What a film!

-PD

Forrest Gump [1994)

We watch films to learn.

To learn about ourselves.

And this one brings me back to a very special time in my life.

With the people I cherish most.

My parents.

Today, I graduated with my MBA degree.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Because I had no business knowledge when I started.

But here I am.

I worked and worked…and I made the best grades that any student could make.

For two years.

And now it is a blessing to relax and enjoy a film like this.

Near the end of my degree, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

I had to have my appendix removed three weeks before the end.

And when I left the hospital, I worked and worked…even harder than before…because I was behind.

It was difficult just to get out of bed.

But I stuck it out.

I wanted to do the best.

Once you get used to giving it your all, it’s hard to settle for mediocrity.

But I tell you…

It was a lot of stress.

I went into the hospital just two days after our election.

I was in the hospital for two days.

And that election was stressful.

But now we come to a time when simplicity should rule.

We can think of Forrest Gump on that bus bench in Savannah, Georgia.

Imagine those hot summers.

Remember the times we passed through there.

Both literally and mentally.

This film almost starts off too simple.

It disarms us with its sparse trappings.

And though I can’t really get behind Alan Silvestri’s little “feather” melody, the feather is an effective motif which sublimely sums up the story as a whole.

Forrest starts awkward.

He’s always awkward.

The Internet seems to be in consensus (not always a good sign) that Andy Warhol had an 86 IQ.

Forrest Gump has a 75 IQ in our film.

But he’s a wonderful person.

As Howard Gardner has written, there are “multiple intelligences”.

But God sends Forrest a gift…on that first day on the school bus:  Jenny.

We find out what love and encouragement can do.

It can bring out the hidden potential in all of us.

But God sends Forrest another gift…on the army bus:  Bubba.

And so Forrest has someone to lean on in Vietnam.

And Bubba has a friend too.

They get each other through hell on earth.

It’s funny how Forrest endears himself to even the most bitter people…like Lieutenant Dan, who has lost both of his legs below the knees as a result of injuries sustained in battle.

Forrest just keeps on being himself.

Because he knows he literally can’t be any other person.

Most striking are all the adventures Forrest has.

Things that just wouldn’t have made sense–wouldn’t have sounded possible, if they’d been written down beforehand.

And that rings very true for me.

I’ve held many positions.

Been in many situations.

And to look back on it all is to fathom a collection of events which are truly surreal (especially when taken collectively).

Perhaps we all live on the bayou for some period of time.

But there’s something about this movie which compels me to thank God for His blessings upon me.

Many times (but especially, recently) when I thought I couldn’t keep going, I would pray.

And I would receive comfort knowing that God was listening.

I am thankful for my life.

So thankful for the blessings I have!

To be here with my parents.

But Forrest Gump is about more than all this.

It’s also about love.  And loneliness.

We see true love.  Dedication.

And we see the sadness which comes when we are left alone to think of our love far from us.

Highs and lows.

It may be a saccharine movie, but it’s accurate in that life keeps giving us surprises.

Each of us could fill a book with all we’ve seen and felt and heard.

Each of our stories is worthy of a movie.

So I must thank director Robert Zemeckis for having the guts to be simple.

And I have so many things to thank Tom Hanks for (above and beyond his wonderful performance in this movie).

But this film, for me, hinges on Robin Wright’s role.  And she does not disappoint.

Love is everywhere in the movies.

But not always around when we need it most.

And yet, we know that Forrest would give us good advice on the matter.

To just keep going.

See what the next day brings.

Be positive.

And do the best you can.

-PD

Stromboli, terra di Dio [1950)

Trying to get over that mountain.

A volcano.

Stumble, fall.

Not meant to be.

In this place.

A sadness of place.

But I’m just a simple fisherman now.

Pulling in tunas.

Folkways.

She’s had it.

Ingrid in her plain pattern dress.

The wind never stops messing with her hair.

And it’s painful just to look around.

Out to sea.

Mario Vitale.  Takes a simple job.

But the town surveils.

So that the empty winds blow like in LAvventura.

On an island.

Ingrid from Sweden playing Karin from Lithuania.

Argentina does not accept her.

And so she marries.

The best option of no options.

But she has her spirit broken.

By tradition.

By dumb muscle.

She’s a little flower crushed by the rock.

But it’s true.

She’s a mean melancholic.  A flailing tuna with one last whip of the tail.

Hoping to return to the ocean.

And she is pricked on all sides.

Hoisted.

And piled with the other creatures lengthwise.

My heart breaks for Ingrid.

Because of Roberto Rossellini.

A new style of filmmaking here.

Similar to his other film of 1950:  Francesco, giullare di Dio.

The flowers of introspection.

Existentialism.

Italy.

And now in Ginostra you might find Jacopo Fedi catching octopi or Marco Nicolosi relaxing.

In real life (away from celebrities), it is hard to make friends.

What Žižek might call “the desert of the real”.

Some turnovers you can eat, others you just have to live with.

 

-PD

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [1986)

Must admit, I tried watching this a few weeks back.

And it didn’t seem to have aged well.

But I gave it another shot.

This time I made it all the way through.

Because it is, generally, an enjoyable movie.

It was a staple of my youth.

It spoke to me in my niche.

But now certain parts of it seem too sweet.

The kitsch of watching now.

This film has fared less well than some of its rivals.

But let’s talk about the damn thing, shall we?

It’s a John Hughes picture.  He’s the director.

I’ve previously written about him in regards to the finely-aged Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Notice something…

Hughes when he directed our film?  36

Hughes when he directed PT&A?  37

It’s only a year, but it’s a year of prime, working experience.

How about Matthew Broderick?  24

To go from directing a 24-year-old star to directing two stars who were 42 and 27 respectively (Steve Martin and John Candy) is quite a jump.

Plus, Candy looked older than 27…  And Broderick was intended to look younger than 24.

So we can say that the two films were meant for different audiences.

Ferris Bueller was sort of a Rebel Without a Cause for my generation (Generation X).

There are ingenious, Rube Goldberg contraptions employed in Ferris’ skipping school.

I enjoyed Broderick much more in WarGames and so I would like to highlight the talents of some other players here.

Alan Ruck really portrayed a wider range of emotions in our film.  There’s something touching about the crisis through which he is going.

I know it well.  In my own way.

And so in real life, a Ferris Bueller is an indispensable friend.

We can see how quiet personalities need louder ones and vice versa.

Other than the cameo by Charlie Sheen (which is quite good), Mia Sara really carries a large part of the drama.  Most of it is, incidentally, in her facial expressions.

Broderick relies on these nonverbal methods as well, but Sara’s reactions progress the drama in a unique way.

By 1986 (in the midst of the MTV onslaught) most kids had no idea who The Beatles were.  Broderick’s lip-syncing rendition of “Twist and Shout” (Beatles’ version) was also, I imagine, a moment for many young people in the 80s.

I should also mention that Jennifer Grey’s mood improves considerably after she makes out with Charlie Sheen.  Her contribution is indeed special!

Honorable mentions:

-Edie McClurg (who’s also in Trains, Planes and Automobiles…gobble gobble)

-Ben Stein (who gets to deliver the timeless, “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…Bueller”)

In all, this is a pretty indispensable film.

We all want to break free and do something crazy.  And fun.

That’s the spirit of youth which this film conveys pretty well.

It’s a very unique bit of cinema from a very formulaic time.

If you can make it past the first part with Broderick baby-talking to his parents, then you’re home-free 🙂

 

-PD

 

Knight Without Armour [1937)

First, my apologies.

My apologies to every Jewish person I may have offended.

There is no good explanation other than to say that the Internet is rife with anti-Jewish sentiment.

I have experienced this irrational wave of nastiness and tried to fight against it.

But I am just a human.

A human with no friends.

And so I ask world Jewry to forgive my failings.

My mission is to speak peace.  It is sometimes not easy to speak peace with a tongue of fire.

Many things I have posted over the years.

What I post is my opinion.

But let it be known that I am just as ignorant as anyone.

And so I ask God to send me Jewish friends.

I have long had my arms open to Muslims worldwide.

My spirit is one of acceptance.

I am no genius.

I accept the Christians of the world.

I have no grudge.

I understand the immortal things no better than any man.

I ask Scientologists to forgive me.

I don’t understand your beliefs.

There is no reason for me to denigrate you.

I ask Lenny Pozner to forgive me.

I don’t know what happened at Sandy Hook.

I know it seems very strange, but I am not a chorus boy for a wave of anger.

I ask the state of Israel and Israelis to forgive me.

I don’t know your country.  I can’t pretend I do.

I ask everyone who has depended on me to forgive me.

I have only tried to tell the truth about 9/11.

Maybe I am wrong.

Maybe the truth is just as it was written by the 9/11 commission.

I don’t think so, but I’m willing to admit that I don’t really understand it.

I don’t understand physics.

I don’t understand intelligence agencies.

I would ask the CIA to please forgive me.

You are probably risking your lives and doing very honorable things.

I just don’t understand.  I don’t know.

I haven’t been there.  I have no idea what you do.

I ask the New World Order (which may or may not exist) to forgive me.

I know you’re probably just a bunch of well-meaning rich people.

I don’t know what your aims are.

I don’t hate you.

I don’t even know you.

But most of all I ask Jacques Feyder to forgive me.

Here I have taken the film review form as a way to ask forgiveness.

I have not talked about his film.

I haven’t talked about Marlene Dietrich.  Or Robert Donat.

Or even the very interesting Frances Marion.

I’m sorry.

I hope only that by speaking candidly I can do justice to this wonderful film.

I always stand up for Muslims.  And Palestinians.

But today I don’t have the right words.

Please forgive me, comrades.

And to my socialist brothers and sisters.

Please accept my apology.  I don’t know what your philosophy really is.

I cannot criticize what I do not know.

I only know film.  And my gut.  And music.

In a word:  art.

I stand with anyone who loves art.

My politics don’t make any sense.

Don’t mind me.

I’m trying to do the best I can, but it’s not good enough.

I’m a bundle of contradictions.

I can only press onwards and hope for the salvation of film and love.

Please forgive me Meir Kahane.  I did not know you.

Please forgive me Jewish Defense League and Mossad.

And the Anti-Defamation League.

I don’t know what you’re up against.  I don’t see what you see.

Please forgive me AIPAC and Southern Poverty Law Center.

I’m not sure if I ever insulted you, but I probably did.  At least one of you.

Please forgive me George Soros.

I don’t think I ever insulted you, but I wanted to.

And that’s wrong.  Because I don’t know anything about you.

I live in Texas where there are very few Jews.

I don’t know about Judaism.

I don’t understand.

But I don’t want to insult your tradition.

I don’t understand the Holocaust.

I don’t know what to say.

I can only tell the truth the best I can.

Please join me in a new effort of forgiveness and openness.

We can make a better world with wisdom.

I pray to you God for wisdom.

My words are impure.

I have tried.  And yet my words are hollow.

Please breathe your life into my words and make them real.

Make me a decent person.

Thank you.

 

-PD

Francesco, giullare di Dio [1950)

As a humble servant I come to you.

Speaking of a film.

About the dear St. Francis of Asisi.  San Francesco.  François.

I remember you because of the dear composer Olivier Messiaen.

And his only opera.

As a humble servant I thank God for life.

Two people playing catch with a football.

Traffic jams.

Moments of reflection.

I thank you God for Hélène Grimaud’s new album.

It is raining and soaking us to the bone.

As I walk with Harry Partch.

Bitter music.

I am but a poor sinner.

This film which is impenetrable.

Drab drab.

We thank God for the birds which laugh.

And I thank God for Pope Francis.

Yes, it is only fitting.

That he has seen the striving of all world religions.

That he has seen their imperfections.

That he has voiced the message of peace.

That we are all praying to the same God.

Whether Trinity or plethora.

Allah.

Shiva and Vishnu.

And Mr. Buddha, who are you?

Is it a koan I present?

Perhaps.

We thank God for Aldo Fabrizi.

The humor of the birds.

Chirp a little softer so that I may finish the Lord’s Prayer.

And let us not neglect Christianity.

As we are embracing our brothers around the world.

Our sisters around the world.

Thank God for holy fools.

I

am only able to relate to the dirt.

The ground.  The soil.

As we make our way without sandals.

But no.

We might need a peg and awl to fix them.

It was The Carolina Tar Heels back in 19 and 28.

1928.

There is a leper with a cowbell.

It means stay back.

Look away.  I’m hideous.

We come humble to the table of the Lord.

Face down in a field of flowers.

Grappling with the beauty of it all.

And the Saints also have sadness.

Because it is a hard road.

To leave and be uprooted.

To see friends wade across to the other shore.

To Arezzo, perhaps.  Spoleto.  Pisa.

Disarming with his smile the ridiculous tyrant in his Picasso armor.

We do not understand.

Flat round.

We are but poor country people.  Poor city folk.  Provincial yahoos.

I will sit and enjoy the day…chewing on this leek.

All the actors forgotten.

Nonprofessionals.

Except Aldo Fabrizi.

And we have not thanked the auteur Roberto Rossellini.

Such a strange, simple piety which would so affect Truffaut and Godard.

To put oneself in the 12th…13th centuries.

And to lovingly portray the Franciscans.

Yes, it is good.

Joy now is good.  Thank you God from your humble servant.

Not worthy to carry your flowers.

Pick the flowers but don’t harm the branches.

 

-PD

The Golden Coach [1952)

My dear friends,

I wish not to trouble you,

but only tell you about this great film,

called Le Carrosse d’or in the French,

and La carrozza d’oro in the Italian,

because it is directed by the great Jean Renoir,

son of the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir,

and starring the quintessentially-gorgeous Anna Magnani,

God rest their souls.

It is as much an Italian film as a French film,

yet it is largely in English,

which means no subtitles for dumb Americans,

like myself.

Continuing,

this great epic is incomparable,

except maybe to the equally-vast Lola Montès of Max Ophüls,

which would appear a mere three years later (1955).

Imagine trying to tell the world a story in a foreign language,

not being able to use your native tongue,

because the natives don’t understand,

yet you crave that spotlight because of the exhilaration,

that double-edged sword of life vs. art.

But I have taken enough of your time today,

dear friends.

 

-PD

 

Taxi “Bobby’s Acting Career” [1978)

The trademark of these early Taxi episodes is tragicomedy.

We get a laugh, but something makes us think.

It should come as no surprise that artists are naturally inclined to tell their own stories.

Put another way, artists are quite comfortable describing the artist life.

And that is essentially what we have here.

Bobby (Jeff Conaway) is approaching a self-imposed impasse.

Hollywood or bust!  [Or in this case, Broadway or bust.]

Three years.

Reminds me of David Bowie’s haunting “Five Years” (the lead track from the Ziggy Stardust album).

That’s all we’ve got.

For Bobby, it’s three years.

Well, I have to say that it’s one of those plotlines that really got to me.

I can really relate.

I never set quite a quantified limit for myself, but by a similar mechanism I have found myself in my current situation.

Bobby wants to be an actor.  I wanted to be a musician.

I spent about 10 years getting to the professional level.

After four years, my dreams came crashing down around me (to quote Danny DeVito’s line from this episode).

Yeah, so I started anew.  Business school.  Wow, what a change!

But there’s something else about this episode.

Bobby’s last day.

He’s waiting for a call.  He gets turned down.

He auditions for a commercial.  He gets turned down.

Till the very end, Bobby is out hustling to beat the deadline.

And in the end he is surrounded by his friends.

The phone has to ring before midnight.

He needs that validation.  That outside validation.  That unequivocal measure of progress.  Being paid to do what he loves.

And so the group sits around the phone.  Each imploring it to “Ring!  Ring!” (while Latka chimes in with an urgent “Blop!  Blop!”).

Andy Kaufman doesn’t get much of a chance to shine here, but that’s alright:  this was Jeff Conaway’s episode.

Mr. Conaway is no longer with us.  But you know what?  He made it!  He was on Taxi.  Here I am all these years later watching this show with rapt attention.

But back to that artist’s life.

To quote Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Yeah.  It reminds me of one of the greatest books I ever read:  Waiting Period by Hubert Selby, Jr.

If you were reading yesterday, you know that I made a decision to seek help for my depression.

But there were no appointments available today.

Fortunately I go tomorrow.

Funny how that is a cause of anxiety.

I’m scared.

Well, anyway…

I hope to be back with you all soon.

Keep your dreams!  Dream baby dream!

 

-PD