Sunday, October 19, 2008

My life as a culture vulture / Creatures of a Day

It's been a hectic but satisfying week. In the last ten days, I've managed to catch:

a) Three Philadelphia Orchestra concerts (in addition to the Penderecki, I also attended a performance of the Lutoslawki Piano Concerto by Krystian Zimerman - have I mentioned that Lutoslawski is my enthusiasm of the month? - and a performance of Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet)

b) Six films at the New York Film Festival (the highlights being Agnes Jaoui's delightful Let it Rain, Kazakh director Sergei Dvortsevoy's charming and bittersweet Tulpan and a screening of Oshima's surreal yet incredible The Man Who Left His Will on Film; low points were Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - why, why would anyone make a movie starring David Bowie? - and Jaime Rosales entirely pointless Bullet in the Head, a film that confirms all one's worst stereotypes about experimental cinema being self-indulgent and tedious.)

c) A performance by the Emerson String Quartet

d) An adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor for the stage

e) A performance by the Parsons Dance Company, which I may get around to ranting about one of these days

f) A screening of Juan Antonio Bardem's Death of a Cyclist.

g) A cello recital (followed by an evening spent obsessively listening to alternate versions of Beethoven's Third Cello Sonata, trying to make the impossible choice between Casal's furious, growling rendition with its menacing first movement and explosive finale, and the experience of hearing Du Pre transform that first movement into pure song, the sound so exquisite it moves me to tears; and I haven't even got to the Rostropovich-Richter recording yet. Sigh)

Good times. Good times.

***

Reading's been taking a bit of a back-seat this week (see above) but did manage to read Reginald Gibbons' new collection Creatures of a Day, which is on the shortlist for this year's National Book Award in poetry. It's not a particularly exciting book (I suspect Silliman would describe it as School of Quietude) but in many ways it's a sublime one, its quiet, meditative poems sneak subtly up on you until you find yourself unexpectedly moved.

The pick of the poems in the book is undoubtedly 'Fern-Texts', a glorious palimpsest of a poem in which Gibbons weaves together his own memories and extracts from Coleridge's notebooks to create an almost fugual exploration of youth, poetry and political engagement; a poem about the meaning of dreams and the dream of Meaning; about the inevitable and endlessly repeated betrayal of both what we thought we stood for, and what we felt but could not say. Describing Coleridge's views on poetry, Gibbons writes that C. saw poems as being "at heart / a dreaming, with states and shifts / of feeling and image and / narratives moving with that / peculiar syntax of con-/ nections that lie beneath what / we think we think." And that's exactly what 'Fern-Texts' is: not thought made transparent, but the movement of the mind captured on the page.

There's also the lovely 'Ode: I had been reading ancient Greeks', in which images of water, a young girl's suicide and the Antigone myth come together in a poem of dark yet artesian power; and the pitch-perfect evocation of an urban landscape in 'Where moon light angles through'. All in all, a book well worth the read.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

what did u think abt "white tiger"?

Banno said...

Lucky you!

km said...

Saw the billboard for the ESQ performance six times in the last 2 weeks en route to Philly airport and reminded myself at least six times to get tickets. How was their performance?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

I watched "Borat". Does that count?

J.A.P.

km said...

JAP: if you are implying that "Borat" is lower-brow than, say, a Jacqueline Du Pre recording, well, I wouldn't disagree but Ms. Du Pre was not half as funny as Borat. (Though she was a hottie :))

Falstaff said...

anon: see here. Read comments.

banno: Thanks

km: As glorious as you would expect.

J.A.P.: Wait? You're watching Borat now?

km: I don't know about Du Pre. One of the 20th Century's greatest musicians? Yes, absolutely. Hottie? Not so much.

blackmamba said...

km, six times to the airport in 2 weeks while others go around having their
"Good times". Heartfelt sympathies.

Space Bar said...

Ok wait: I'm going to try hard to not make assumptions. tell me you watched the Skolimowski, the Assayas, the Ophuls, the Sternberg, and - for what it's worth - the Kar-wai.

(The one assumption I am making is that you watched more than those two Oshimas. I hate you.)

Falstaff said...

SB: None of the above. You have to remember I was only there for two days - so I could only watch what was playing then. In any case, the Kar-Wai is opening in local theaters next week, and I'm fairly hopeful the Assayas will make it too. And I have to admit I'm not a huge Skolimowski fan - I watched a couple of films at this retrospective of his work they had here in Philly (including Deep End) and I was underwhelmed. The one other film I watched was the Desplechin - which struck me overall as a waste of some very fine acting talent.

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J. Alfred Prufrock said...

KM says I'm low-brow. 'Staff, you saying the same?
Day-umm. I should get a tattoo.

J.A.P.

Falstaff said...

J.A.P.: Who me? Act like a culture snob? Whatever gave you that idea! No, no, not saying you're low-brow. Horribly behind the times perhaps, but not low-brow.

Anonymous said...

Ok, hello, I'm late to this, but Falsie, you do not honestly find La Du Pre hot? With that cello between her legs and that flowing hair and that unmistakably violent Dvorak entrance??? Honestly? Honestly? Next you'll be professing indifference to the gorgeous sexosity of Martha Argerich. I feel for you (in a completely non-Jacquie du Pre way of course).

n!

Falstaff said...

n!: Nope, don't see it. The thing is - unlike you, I tend to think of music and hotness as two entirely separate categories. That Dvorak opening is mind-blowing, but it doesn't translate into Du Pre being a 'hottie'

If it's any consolation, I'm still in the process of recovering from my teenage crush on Anne Sophie-Mutter.