Archives for posts with tag: country: usa

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 The world is a parable – the habitation of symbols-the phantoms of spiritual things immortal shown in material shape.

– J. Sheridan le Fanu, Uncle Silas (1864)

For millennia, the storytelling tradition has been bound up in tales of the unspeakable, the unknowable, and the unexplainable. The hushed conjuring of demons, spirits, and all things wicked were direct counterparts to our own frailties and secrets – the horror that lies within. The gothic movement in the mid-18th century to the end of the late-19th century was the culmination of such conceits, with literary, artistic, and architectural manifestations of the terrible and wonderful – macabre, sinister, and wholly sensational at times.The gothic tradition extended from the Romantic one, as radical artists broke free from the lofty ambitions of the Enlightenment, and decreed a manifesto dedicated to all things wild, unbridled and, above all, concerned with death. The popularity of gothic fiction rose to apical heights in the Victorian era, and its preoccupation with death, sex, and the psychosexual imagination was rather scandalous to those decorous Victorians and their moral propriety; unsurprisingly, enthusiasm for tales of swooning heroines succumbing to dark and mysterious terrors in the candlelit shadows of foreboding castles was unbridled. Such is its influence, the gothic imagination has persisted over 250 years since its original appearance in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, as tales of dark stormy nights have assured their place in popular culture.

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LOVE-IS-STRANGE

Love is Strange is a lazy Sunday morning. It is reading a book on the windowsill in the early pale sunlight before the world has awoken. It is quiet contentment, gazing out at a season of spring in Manhattan, watching the city stretch and yawn before resuming its usual motions.

Love is Strange is a Chopin prelude: simple, moving, and as Molina’s character states, in no need of embellishment. Although he speaks this quite late in the film, it is an entirely apt analogy for the tone of the film itself; this romance requires neither dramatics nor ostentation. As with any relationship lasting nearly forty years, the casual and comfortable intimacy is one that has no need of clumsy proclamations or insecure assurances – being and existing is simply enough. The very real vulnerabilities of old age and navigating the awkward logistics of separated living are not lost, but rather act to reinforce the realism of the couple’s bond, and how, despite it all, physical separation is no match for the underlying strength of a relationship as Ben and George’s. In the vein of the best of Altman, Allen, or Rohmer, Sachs has created a beautifully authentic and understated portrait of love in its later years, with all its complications and rewards intact.

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It ain’t nobody perfect on this green earth of God’s, preachers nor nobody else. And you can tell people better how terrible sin is if you know from your own personal experience.

– Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)

It is a great tragedy that Southern gothic is dead*. Arguably the most fascinating literary movement in American history, the southern gothic genre was the playground for some of the greatest American authors of the twentieth century, including Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and of course, Flannery O’Connor. The elements of grotesque, dysfunction, and of god-fearing pariahs in the south illuminated a cultural and social history of the region which was wholly unique and remote. These very elements have become something of parody in the twenty-first century, as these elements are bandied about, devolving into hackneyed tropes and venturing further into absurd horror-comedy (you know, half-naked teenagers on a roadtrip to Texas, passing by abandoned petrol stations and colonial mansions). The emphasis has been strewn towards the shock value of the horrific and grotesque, and away from fundamental social statements about life in the South.

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Breathe-In

“Music speaks,” says T.W. Adorno, “because it is pure of language – it communicates not through its expression or content, but through the gesture of speech.” He speaks in reference to Beethoven, the subject of whom was a topic of philosophical discourse on musical aestheticism in several fragments. The combined works themselves are an astutely constructed, almost sentimental delivery of thematic, syntactical, and form-based analysis of Beethoven’s music and its relation to societal structure and particularly the works of Hegel. Nevertheless, the core of Adorno’s observations are rooted in the visceral emotionality of Beethoven’s music – despite barely alluding to ’emotion’ literally, he clearly positions the works of Beethoven amongst the achievement of German literary classicism in the early 19th century. Beethoven speaks of humanity not through words, but through the musical phrase. His music expressed a sort of longing, an expression of the “Weltgeist”, or world spirit that was a reflection of humanistic themes in the works of classical philosophers. That is to say, Beethoven’s music was a direct conduit to the human heart in all its frailties, a mouthpiece for the inarticulate, and a representation of human potential.

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“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1997)

In his 1993 paper entitled “Science and Religion” in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Anthony O’Hear wrote the following: “both science and religion lead us into areas in which the human mind is prone to stumble into paradox and contradiction, and in ways that are strikingly similar.” In our modern age, it is often difficult to identify these similarities, particularly because in their purest forms, the two concepts are nearly as polarised as they have ever been in history. No longer is science purported for the validity of religion, but stands for its own sake – the pursuit of knowledge for the pursuit of knowledge. Meanwhile, religion stumbles and balks at its own internal consistencies and contradictions, and the number of religiously unaffiliated individuals currently stands at its highest peak in history. Religion, however, is not to be confounded with faith. Religion can be easily mantled; faith, not so easily. It is the latter which places an immense and unshakeable trust in something deeply personal, cutting to the core of a spiritualistic and human essence. Gravity is the apotheosis of such an essence, one that is deeply rooted in the inexorable crux of rationality, but is beautifully immersed with profound humanistic themes that evoke the original spirit of science fiction cinema.

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“God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.”

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1

In The Fifth Estate, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) quotes from Oscar Wilde’s essay The Critic as Artist: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” This mask of truth gazes on watchfully over the film,  shadows masterfully casting and concealing half-truths and illuminating half-lies. As modern society enters an age that begs the most important epistemological questions of our time, The Fifth Estate expertly rattles, discombobulates, and confounds the viewer’s very grasp of the truth, eroding the line between certainty and doubt and leaving behind no easy answers.

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Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
…………..
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

– Edna St Vincent Millay, Sonnet XXX from “Fatal Interview” (1931)

The art of Boris Torres featured in the opening titles of Keep the Lights On it stunning. It evokes both the homoerotic subtleties of Henry Scott Tuke and the modern, almost voyeuristic realism of Gustave Courbet, combining to read as a Gauguin-like chronicle of gay culture in the twentieth century. Like the art, the film itself is a chronicle, spanning the utterly passionate and devastating course of a decade-long relationship. Significantly, it takes place in Manhattan, straddling the years before and after the millennium, thereby securing its place in the anthropology of gay culture during this period. That being said, it is a story about love and relationships: how they endure, how they fail, and ultimately for Erik and Paul (Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth, both outstanding in their nuanced and complex performances), how the two are not always compatible.

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