Friday, June 22, 2012

Tempest, dance fllms, and pizza

Saw the movie of Des McAnuffs' production of The Tempest, starring Christopher Plummer, last night. I last night. I realized that when Miranda teaches Caliban the language she does so under Prospero's supervision: they are a two-person academic department, with Prospero as chair and Ariel as secretary. Alas, they would get terrible student evaluations from Caliban! I also felt as much as Prospero and Miranda despised Caliban they needed him for company, otherwise it would have just been a Robinson Crusoe scenario--there was a sociality in their tense relationship that this production brought out. This was the best production of the play I have ever seen in that they managed to embody the whole play rather than just making it a star turn for Prospero. Indeed one realizes how much Prospero is absent in the middle of the play, at first giving us a release from his at times overbearing authority, than once Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo start capering about we realize we need a little Prospero. In addition, the Caliban-Stephano-Trinculo alliance was, in a quasi-Marxist sense, a proletarian alliance of the subordinated of two worlds against their masters---which inevitably ends in tears among misunderstanding and ethnic strife. also, this production eschewed the obvious New World applicability of the play for a firmly Mediterranean Tempest--in the filmed talkback afterwards, Plummer showed he was thoroughly aware of the Aeneid allusions in The Tempest, and Caliban (Dion Johnstone) looked half like a Tuareg tribesman (I guess perhaps now a militant of Azawad) venturing onto the coast, half like a Green Man from the Barsoom books. The feminine-androgynous, shimmering-blue Ariel (Julyana Soelistyo) also had a science-fictional feel. But the focus was as much on the Neapolitan/Milanese characters as o the island’s weird transplanted denizens, and really for the first time I had a full sense of their relationships, motivations, and why there are so many people in the play Gonzalo especially emerged as salient for his sagacity and principle.

As opposed to other live simulcasts of theatrical performances I have seen, Plummer and McAnuff made clear this was a film of a performance, and was to be perceived as a film, albeit a quickly and inexpensively made one, and not just a mere transcription Coincidentally, the day before I had seen Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman show several of their dance films, as well as two by other hands, at the Gibney space near Union Square. Pearlman and Allen made clear that they were not just dancing as such but dancing for film, that the body was put into the picture with the already-present intent of filmic mediation as a kind of third space. Thus they could d a Second Life-style simulation and not have to constitute a quantum difference from the more straightforward films of themselves dancing. This capacity of film to both convey and frame liveness (in Philip Auslander's use of the term) was evident in these two very different performances.

Finally, no account of my life in the past tow days could be complete without the triumphant tale of my at last  getting to eat at Nicoletta, the much-talked-about, super-chic pizzeria on the corner of Second and Tenth. As these pictures demonstrate it was more than worth the wait! It was delicious and utterly pleasurable,  and once one got in there the atmosphere was quite informal and comfortable. 

Friday, June 1, 2012


I vowed early on not to blog too much about sports, as aware that many who otherwise share interests with me lack my obsession, but tonight's extraordinary event--Johan Santana's pitching the first no-hitter in Met history...deserves mention. When I went  to  the Met conference at Hofstra month before last, the fifty-year futility of the franchise in his respect was a leitmotif. That the moment of deliverance has finally arrived is a real tonic for a franchise that has been star crossed by an abrupt ending to their 2006 playoff drive, traumatic collapses in 2007 and 2008, a series of injury-riddled, mediocre seasons, financial instability, bad karma--all of this negativity was lifted in an instant by Santana's extraordinary achievement. That it was done by such a special player, a Venezuelan lefthander of incredible agility and intelligence someone who has starred for two estimable franchises, the Mets and the Twins, who has come back from shoulder surgery of a sort that has severely damaged many careers, makes it even more worth it.

Sometimes pessimism is a concession to the realities of life, but more often pessimism is a burden, a residue of negativity with which we saddle ourselves The way Santana's achievement dispelled Met fans' pessimism is a good augury for how we should always assume that better possibilities are near.