Friday, April 6, 2012

French Films: New Waves and Bands of Outsiders

(Sixth post in the A to Z Challenge


 
Good criticism is somewhat rare. Even more rare is those who can build upon the criticism to create something new. French films mostly exist in the current consciousness as epitomes of the "pretentious" art film. Our films no longer favor chaos, introspection, disjointedness or silences. Some of the criticism is justified, but much of it is lazy, a criticism that cannot be made of the French New Wave filmmakers of the 50s and 60s.

They didn't like what they saw out there, so they created new and cheaper ways to do things. First they watched. Then they studied. Then they restudied. Then they wrote. Then they revolutionized.

They shot on the streets, with natural sounds, because they didn't have studios and couldn't afford a crew. They used lighter cameras, natural lighting and more aggressive editing. They turned a lack of resources into creative muses. (Abundance has an odd manner of feeding mediocrity.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Emergency Elation, Endlessly Evasive, and Anna Akhmatova

(Fifth post in the A to Z Challenge)
 
If you want a hero of the 'writers write' mantra, here it is:

Anna Akhmatova was a once-prominent Russian poet who had fallen out of fashion with Soviet leadership. Like so many others, she was thrown into a prison camp and forbidden to write. From her Requiem (DM Thomas translation)
In those years only the dead smiled,
Glad to be at rest:
And Leningrad city swayed like
A needless appendix to its prisons.
Yet she continued to create. She scribbled her lines on scraps of paper, then sneaked them to a friend with perfect recall. This friend quickly memorized the lines and swallowed the evidence. An odd sort of communion -- the Word made flesh -- and hardly the last Russian to find sustenance in Akhmatova's words.
Hope was still singing, endlessly evasive.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Damned Dark Woods and Dante

(Fourth post in the A to Z Challenge)

 
Midway through his life's journey, Dante found himself in a dark woods. In creative projects, these dark woods come far more often than just the midway point. I speak often of motivational dips, but sometimes we get lost in more complex ways, through no fault of effort. From Dante's opening section:
how hard it is to tell the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh
Dante responded by descending through multiple circles of hell. The metaphor risks becoming almost literal when astray in a creative project. Some days nothing works. Fair enough. But some days are worse than nothing. A creator's biggest fear. A reason writer's block can be soothing. We're all afraid we might stumble into the realization that we're getting worse.

We can bear the hells, if we know they lead to paradise. The soul loves work. But the soul is crushed by futile work.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cassandra Cries: The Curse of Creative Visions

(Third post in the A to Z Challenge)

 
Cassandra cried, but no one listened. Cassandra saw, but no one acted. In her story, we see insight as a form of torture. Then, in Virgil's account, comes literal torture.
Cassandra, torn from the sacred depths of Minerva's shrine, dragged by the hair, raising her burning eyes to the heavens, just her eyes, so helpless, shackles kept her from raising her gentle hands.
Coroebus could not bear the sight of it--mad with rage he flung himself at the Greek lines and met his death.
It's easier to get someone to die for you than listen to you. This is a lesson that puzzles many children.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Branding in the Age of Achilles: 4+ Lessons

(Second post in the A to Z Challenge)

Achilles sought, above all -- above victory, above love, above the gods -- kleos, or imperishable glory. He wanted his name and reputation to stand above all others. He was the original master of branding. In the end, outside perception is everything. He played the crowds, played to the crowds, raged at the crowds, reduced the crowds, so that they would sing his name.

A century ago Joyce imagined the modern person as patterned after Ulysses: crafty, wily, exiled, searching. We've now entered the Age of Achilles. We sing, we fight, we complain, we demand, we exalt -- anything to keep that name from fading into nothing. It is not the search but the projection. We're more emotional and transparent than past eras -- sexual frustration and dysfunction are no longer dominant obsessions of writers. Even artists hunger for games.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Argos, Faithful Dog of Odysseus

(This is the first post in the A to Z Challenge)

 
Two of my favorite topics are myth and dogs. This one mixes the two, and reminds that while we most remember the great works for their compelling lead characters, they also have a tremendous ability to capture the essence of memorable side characters in just a few lines. (It's been said that each of Tolstoy's dogs has its own personality.)

Argos's story, in brief:
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