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Is It Red To Be Normal?

Bigger Than Life (1956), directed by Nicholas Ray – Re-released by The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray disc by Rita Valencia "When a friendly, successful suburban teacher and father (James Mason) is prescribed cortisone for a painful, possibly fatal affliction, he grows dangerously addicted to the experimental drug, resulting in his transformation into a psychotic and ultimately violent household despot." (IMDb.com) The word normal is of relatively recent origin, coming into usage in 1828 to mean "conforming to common standards." The notion of a such a thing as a common standard to which behavior conforms is so deeply ingrained in us that it resists analysis, and yet, it is a uniquely contingent idea, falling apart with the … [Read more...]

Everything That Sleeps Reawakens One Day. – Michael Haneke

The White Ribbon (DAS WEISSE BAND ), 2009, a film by Michael Haneke – The White Ribbon, the award-winning new film from Michael Haneke, is sub-titled A Children's Story. The children of a small village in Northern Germany are at the heart of this film. Haneke contemplates the process of evil's origination in the raising of these children, a process that requires the repression of all joy and openness and the nurturance of fear and loathing. The titular white ribbon is tied onto Klara and Martin, two young teens, by their father, the town Pastor, who explains that the ribbon serves to bind them to innocence and purity. Of course that is a lie, just as the quiescence and purity of the village is an illusion that conceals horrors. The … [Read more...]

Rubbing Against the Trees in the Lord’s Forest

R. Crumb's Book of Genesis, October 24 - February 7, 2010 The Paintings of Charles Burchfield, October 4 - January 3, 2010 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles It shouldn't really surprise anyone that the author of Zap and Mr. Natural, Robert Crumb, has undertaken the Greatest Illustration Project Ever Drawn--the Book of Genesis. Any narrative with all those "begats" would have to exert a certain charm for Crumb. The generally naughty R. shows himself to be extraordinarily obedient to this text, and demurs from any interpretive flourish in his cartoons--a wise decision, as the plain act of Crumb undertaking this work is its own statement which promises plenty of fun. His cast of characters includes a scowling, hirsute God, thunder-thighed … [Read more...]

Post iTs for 2009

Five Fav's from 2009 Always bold, Rita Valencia looks back on 2009 and hand picks some beauties! 1. Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 6, A Man Walks Into an Advertising Agency. Anybody up for a little lawn mowing? 2. My New Kindle with computer-voice man reading Dante's Inferno. 3. The Ride of the Valkyries scene in Act Three of Achim Freyer's Die Walküre at L.A.Opera. 4. Tom's Vegan Wrap Boots 5. Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children, a play for Gaza (which is in no way "anti-Semitic"). Watch Jennie Stoller perform Caryl Churchill's play, Seven Jewish Children- A Play for Gaza, which was written in response to the situation in Gaza in January 2009. This link will also give you the access to the written play. No … [Read more...]

A Needle in the Camel’s Eye

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY and THE INFORMANT! – And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:24 ________ When assuring your friend you aren't lying say: "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye" One of the common strategies of the contemporary "issue film" is to lull the audience into the comfortable state where it is assured it will not be hearing anything it does not already know. I tried to figure out why Mr. Moore sub-titled his movie "a love story" and my best guess is that he's referring to this pleasure zone of agreement. His movie is ideological porn, where your righteously progressive opinions are … [Read more...]

What is there There

Nature Morte, paintings by Constance Mallinson Pomona College Museum of Art, through October 18, 2009 As a fiction writer, you learn first that as it addresses narrative, a great piece of fiction is like a path into a forest that never shows the way out. The same is true of poetry as it addresses the act of thought, or of painting as it addresses the act of seeing. (Such desultory ambulations are the crucial difference between these forms and the theory or philosophy that swarms around them, maybe with the exclusion of Derrida.) Woodland Seen, Oil on Paper, 54x96 inches, 2009 In this new work of Constance Mallinson, the act of seeing goes into an imaginary forest from which an essence has been gleaned and transmogrified, but never … [Read more...]

Valentino a Roma, 45 Years of Style

Matt Tyrnauer's documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor has recently been released on DVD and as a pre-cursor to the Spring Collections it is fitting to take a look at this extraordinary show that was the culmination of a stunning 50 year career. Contributing Times Quotidian writer Rita Valencia was fortunate to attend the show in Rome at the Museo dell'Ara Pacis in 2007. Below is a first hand look at Valentino a Roma 45 Years of Style. For further reading entertainment here is the Style.com Q&A with Matt Tyrnauer upon the Valentino: The Last Emperor initial release in March 2009. © Rita Valencia … [Read more...]

A Leap of Faith

"Unmistaken Child", a film by Nati Baratz – "…May I clearly perceive all experiences to be as insubstantial as the dream fabric of the night…" From a Tibetan Buddhist prayer "Unmistaken Child" is about a mythic search for a Tulku: the reincarnation of Geshe Lama Konchog, a venerated teacher who is viewed by his contemporaries as a meditator on par with Milarepa, and who, like Milarepa, had practiced and lived in retreat in several caves in the Tsum Valley, a very remote region of Nepal bordering Tibet. The man who is invested with carrying out the search is the Lama's heart disciple of 21 years, Tenzin Zopa. Tenzin is a fresh-faced,  youthful man, with an easy smile and intelligent eyes. His search makes for a fascinating story, full … [Read more...]

Sitting with Anselm Kiefer’s Angel of History and ZimZum (1989)

  At the National Gallery of Art, April 2009 There is the airborne escape mechanism which is the airplane, or the effective instrument of destruction which is the war plane. Anselm Kiefer's The Angel of History is a poetic antithesis of both forms, fabricated of lead, its wings laden with books of beaten lead sheets. The lack of utility makes it not only about art, but a sublime object with which to contemplate the idea of the plane, one of the great icons of the war years of the 20th century. Like all icons its pragmatic uselessness makes it sacred in an areligious way. Its payload of leaden manuscripts piled on the wings, pages stuffed with dried poppies, the better to fuel an auto-da-fé, is a righteous Dada juxtaposition. … [Read more...]

Shipwrecked on Planet Kitsch

La Didone, The Wooster Group, Redcat Theater, Los Angeles, June 6 through June 21 – Open on a post industrial-style stage and a lush, restless soundscape of way-distorted noise levels with smooth pulsing undercurrents of Baroque chamber opera. The sensual meets cold steel, curvy bods are clad in nicely shaped silver bodysuits. The overall effect has some charms, but like most things that charm, there is a vacuous center. In the case of “La Didone”, a 1641 Baroque opera by Francesco Cavalli, you might argue that the voiding of content began in a palliated retelling of the Dido/Aeneas romance when adapted for Carnival by librettist Giovanni Francesco Busenello. In that opera, the tragic fate of Dido, the beautiful spurned … [Read more...]