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Dodie Bellany: Academonia
"In this lively, entertaining collection of essays, Dodie Bellamy has written not only a helpful pedagogical tool, but an epic narrative of survival against institutional deadening and the proscriptiveness that shoots the young writer like poison darts from all sides. By the 90s funding for the arts had dwindled and graduate writing programs—“cash cows”—had risen to fill the slack. Simultaneously, literary production moved from an unstable, at times frightening street culture where experiment was privileged beyond all else, to an institutionalized realm—Academonia!—that enforces, or tends to enforce, conservative aesthetic values.

Among the questions Bellamy raises: how does the writer figure out how to write? How will she claim her content among censorious voices? Can the avant-garde create forms that speak to political and spiritual crisis? Can desire exist in a world of networking structures? To the keepers of the status quo, what is so goddamned scary about experimental writing? Bellamy’s textual body morphs through sex, ravenous hunger, aging, displacement, cuddling with animals. Along the way she invokes Levi Strauss, Kurosawa, Marvin Gaye, Christiane (the faceless daughter in Georges Franju’s 1959 horror classic Eyes Without a Face), Alice Munro, Michael Moore, Quan Yin, Cinderella, and the beheaded heroine Lady Jane Grey. On Foucault’s grid of invisible assumptions, Academonia casts a blacklight vision, making it glow in giddy FX splendor.

*****

There are the institutions that are created without our input and the institutions that we create with others. Both sorts of institutions define us without our consent. Dodie Bellamy’s Academonia explores the prickly intersection among these spaces as it moves through institutions such as the academy, the experimental writing communities of the Bay Area, feminist and sexual identities, and group therapy. Continuing the work that she began in The Letters of Mina Harker pushing memoir and confession out of its safety zones and into its difficulties, this book provokes as it critiques and yet at the same time manages to delight with its hope.

--Juliana Spahr

Way back in the seventies, and before Bellamy, pastiche and bricolage as applied to literature made me yawn. Smug attacks on linear narrative through the use of tired language games aroused my contempt. As far as I was concerned, theory had ruined fiction by making critic and artist too intimate. Then Bellamy’s pioneering graftings of storytelling, theory and fractured metaphor changed all that, giving birth to a new avant-garde. Her writing sweeps from one mode of thought to another in absolute freedom, eviscerating hackneyed constructs about desire and language and stuffing them with a fascinating hodgepodge of sparkling sensory fragments. The result is true postmodernism, not the shallow dilettantism of the “postmodern palette.” She sustains it on page after page, weaving together sex and philosophy, fusing trash with high culture, injecting theory with the pathos of biography and accomplishing nothing less than a fresh and sustained lyricism. What is more, her transfiguration of the trivial details of life by the mechanisms of irony, fantasy, disjunction, nostalgia and perverse point of view prove that it’s not the life you live that matters, but how you tell it.

--Bruce Benderson"
writing  howwewrite  books  dodiebellany  institutions  proscriptiveness  academonia  academia  highered  highereducation  akirakurosawa  levistrauss  marvingaye  alicemonroe  michaelmoore  quanyin  cinderella  ladyjanegrey  foucault  institutionalization  julianaspahr  brucebenderson  bricolage  literature  linearity  form  feedom  structure  language  senses  sensory  postmodernism  dilettantism  culture  bayarea  experimental  experimentation  art  arts  funding  streetculture  2006 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Winds From The East: Sensei and I- Kiarostami meets Kurosawa
"Kurosawa had written a favorable commentary in the publicity leaflet that accompanies the public screening in Tokyo of Where is the friend’s Home? And Life Goes On..., “I believe the films of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami are extraordinary. Words cannot relate my feelings. I suggest you his films; and then you will see what I mean. Satyajit Ray passed away and I got very upset. But having watched Kiarostami’s films, I thank god because now we have a good substitute for him. Recently, in the face of the decline of cinema in developed countries, nations with little experience in the area of filmmaking have produced valuable works; and I have to think about this more seriously after seeing Kiarostami’s films. “An unprecedented comment by Kurosawa who seldom talks about other director’s films. In fact, during the past 43 years he has only about the works of Andrei Tarkvosky, John Cassavetes, Satyajit Ray and now Abbas Kiarostami.

Late in September 1993, Abbas Kiarostami and I held a two and a half hour long meeting with the renowned Japanese maestro Akira Kurosawa in Tokyo. Kurosawa’s daughter opens the door and we see a tall and strong Kurosawa approaching in pink and beige. Later on we find out that on the occasion of his meeting with Kiarostami the Japanese master has forget about his beloved colorful T-shirts and consented to put on a more formal pink blouse. All of us seem to be overwhelmed by Kurosawa’s grandeur when he shows us to the second floor study with its black leather furniture, mild lighting and an Oscar statue. Other decorations in the room are some Iranian copper-ware, a photo of Kurosawa’s wife and Japanese painting on the wall.

“I was in Cannes when you too, were there” it is Kurosawa who opens the discussion, “of course, I had not seen your films then. “And Kiarostami continues, “I had the chance to see your Madadayo in Cannes and you were sitting two rows ahead of me. It was a great opportunity to see you and your film at once. You may not know how popular you are in my country. Both the intellectuals and ordinary people like your works. In fact, you and the late Alfred Hitchcock are the most popular foreign filmmakers in Iran. Once one of the officials at the Iranian film industry said that you and Tarkvosky were the only foreign filmmakers whose film compiled with the value system of Iranian arts. I wish I could share the joy of meeting you with others in Iran”.

Kurosawa said, “I was a friend of Tarkvosky. Our friendship started during a visit to Moscow. I was twice invited to Iran more than a decade ago to join the jury of the Tehran International film festival. But I don’t like to judge the films. It’s too difficult a job for me. I understand you were a member of the jury in Yamagata, wasn’t it difficult?”

“Yes, it is always difficult particularly when there are no certain criteria. Every time I act as a juror, I tell myself that I would never do that again. But any new invitation creates a new temptation…and it’s always impossible to resist when you are tempted to set out for a trip. It is always nice to do something contrary to what you used to; and I won’t miss any opportunity,” says Kiarostami

Kurosawa says, “I agree with you, but it is really difficult for me to embark on any trip. My legs are aching and official trips impose limitation on you. You have to accept anything that has been planned for you. In fact you do not travel. They take you from one place to another”, says Kurosawa, but Kiarostami promises to plan his visit to Iran the way he likes it, if he ever sets out for the trip; which is quite unlikely. Yet he is curious about Iran. “I’m sure there are other good filmmakers in Iran. However, what I like about your films is their simplicity and fluency, although it is really hard to describe them. One has to see them. It is strange how you work with non-professional actors. How do you work particularly with children?” asks Kurosawa. “The best answer to your question would be that I simply don’t know”, says Kiarostami, I learned this from you and I use it more easily since I first listened to you saying this at last year’s Tokyo film festival. Sometimes, non-professional actors’ performance surprises me. Of course there are certain rules for everything, but what you gain is not always necessarily the outcome of rules.

Kurosawa believes it is very interesting and at the same time difficult. “Although working with professionals, too, is not so easy. You have to crush them with every film and build them anew. That is why working with professional actors is difficult”. - he says. Kiarostami says that he has heard how Kurosawa has treated the veteran actor who played in his latest film. “Everyone was obviously worried about the old man’s health,” he says.

Kurosawa laughs, “I had no other way but to do that, you have to trim an actor’s personality if you expect an excellent performance. To do that, I have to be a little bit violent and exert pressure on them. Have you ever worked with professionals? ”

“I’ve had a fresh experience with a professional actor in my latest film. As you said, they stick to their previous roles. A peril that threatens us, too. Sometimes, we tend use an idea that we have had for our previous films but failed to actualize. As someone has said, one wouldn’t get old if s/he could forget her or his experiences. If we could forget our experience our film may not be flawless, but they will certainly be fresh. Veteran actors are powerfully experienced, but alas, they are no longer fresh; and it is difficult to make them return to their credo human feelings,” reasons Abbas Kiarostami.

Akira Kurosawa confirms that he too, has to face the same problem. “In order to grasp this feeling of integrity I use long takes using a theatrical style even when what I really want is a brief piece of action. What makes it difficult in the movies is cutting. Sometimes the problem comes from the fact that two actors cannot act in collaboration with each other. When one of them acts really well, this adversely affects the others performance. And when the latter improves, the former is too tired. The most serious problem with an actor is that he does not really listen to the person acting in front of him. He is in fact preparing himself for the next line. You usually see no reaction in an actor’s face of what he is seeing or hearing. So I take long takes with several cameras. Actors usually do not know which camera is filming them, so they lose their sensitivity to the camera that is taking a close up. This makes their acting more natural, “says Kurosawa.

Kiarostami on the other than exclaims that many of his films have been harshly criticized for being natural. “Critics believe that the stage and the screen are sacred, so no one should commit anything ordinary there. In their eyes naturalism is commonplace. They say everything must be exaggerated, as they believe your films are.”

Kurosawa laughs in surprise, “Maybe my actors’ behavior look exaggerated in your country, but they are definitely natural here. Cultural differences must not be taken for exaggeration. I have to say that I honestly enjoyed watching your films. They include appreciation for your working style. How do you work with children, in particular? They do not feel at home in my films and keep watching me in a discreet way”.

Kiarostami explains “Maybe that’s because you are Kurosawa. The children that work for me hardly know me. During the actual filming I try to pretend that I’m not the governor. Usually I ask the crew to judge about their acting. Of course, every needs a special trick, sometimes it is another story.”

“This is the cinema that must be supported and taken seriously. My children and grandchildren never see American films. They have their own boycotting system which rules out violent films. I wish this humanistic cinema could stand against all vulgarity,” says Kurosawa. He adds, “I’m sure good films are being made everywhere. But filmmaking in Europe and the States is going backwards while good films are being made in Asia and finding their way to International film festivals. The global screen is not for the films of only one country. Films make their viewers familiar with the cultural settings of their country of origins. If they are made according to a national culture then they will be welcomed abroad. My grandchildren and I made ourselves familiar with Iran and her people with your films.”

“You have said that films must be made with hearts and seen with hearts,” says Kiarostami. And Kurosawa admits that “ Yes, I did; unfortunately most Japanese people see films with brains and try to find flaws in it . Sometimes, critics ask questions for which I have no answer, because I have not thought about the matter when I was making the film. Films must be rather felt, but there are little feelings in recent films. “ Kiarostami says that maybe filmmakers have built up a kind of bad taste among viewers.” They have misled their tastes, “he says, and Kurosawa believes that maybe the offering of old films on laser disks could make viewers familiar with more healthy cinema.

Kurosawa then talks about the similarity between the opening scene of Madadyo and Kiarostami’s Where is the friend’s Home? “Apparently we have many things in common, “he observes; and Kiarostami once again stressed that Kurosawa is far more famous. And Kurosawa modestly tells Kiarostami that how he painted the shadows of things in Dodeskaden because he was not financially capable of waiting for a brighter day. “Both of us tend to be attached to our locations even after the end of filming our movies,” says Kurosawa. “Every time it is so sad to say goodbye to the protagonists of a film that’s finished.”

Both of the filmmakers agree that those who look for flaws in films deprives themselves the joy watching a film, “ My painting teacher used to tell me to look at the … [more]
akirakurosawa  abbaskiarostami  1993  film  filmmaking  andreitarkovsky  johncassavetes  satyajitray  shorehgolparian 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Akira Kurosawa to Ingmar Bergman: “A Human Is Not Really Capable of Creating Really Good Works Until He Reaches 80” | Open Culture
"Dear Mr. Bergman,

Please let me congratulate you upon your seventieth birthday.

Your work deeply touches my heart every time I see it and I have learned a lot from your works and have been encouraged by them. I would like you to stay in good health to create more wonderful movies for us.

In Japan, there was a great artist called Tessai Tomioka who lived in the Meiji Era (the late 19th century). This artist painted many excellent pictures while he was still young, and when he reached the age of eighty, he suddenly started painting pictures which were much superior to the previous ones, as if he were in magnificent bloom. Every time I see his paintings, I fully realize that a human is not really capable of creating really good works until he reaches eighty.

A human is born a baby, becomes a boy, goes through youth, the prime of life and finally returns to being a baby before he closes his life. This is, in my opinion, the most ideal way of life.

I believe you would agree that a human becomes capable of producing pure works, without any restrictions, in the days of his second babyhood.

I am now seventy-seven (77) years old and am convinced that my real work is just beginning.

Let us hold out together for the sake of movies.

With the warmest regards,

Akira Kurosawa"
akirakurosawa  ingmarbergman  age  aging  appreciation  1988  creativity  film  filmmaking  tessaitomioka 
july 2016 by robertogreco

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