Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Pursuit of Perfection

Eliza Dushku is nearing her thirtieth year and has been in the film and television industry since the age of ten. Her range of roles have limited her to a set menu and it has been noticed how she appears to always be in a wife-beater in several roles but this is actually an illusion. Her real thrust into recognition was as the "bad girl" vampire slayer Faith in Buffy - the Vampire Slayer. Whilst Buffy was the good heroic all clean girl, Faith was portrayed as off-centre and positively charged with sexual energy. This capping and diminishing of Miss Dushku's acting talents have affected her roles as an actress.
Obviously an attractive woman, Miss Dushku has been blessed with the looks most men would kill for. From the smouldering threat of the black widow to the doe-eyed pouting want of the nymphet she has cornered a certain appeal to the idea of what men want. From all appearances she appears to be an actress full of genuine charm and personality. Divorcing the screen image from the reality is often a problem with the paying public. They automatically type their "heroes" into the roles they think they should operate in.
With Miss Dushku, her fan base is broad and varied enough to keep the serious cranks at a low ebb. On closer examination one realises that she is not the perfection that is portrayed as flawed sex goddess. Unblemished she may be a talisman but stencilled on her hip, the words "lead kindly light" by Newman, reveal her to be very much of this world and mortal. It is ever an understanding that the image perceived is rarely the one understood, and this is often the way when a stranger meets a stranger. Over time an opinion is formed of each and this may lead to greater depth of understanding, but until one or the other perceives the tattoo beneath the skin, the idolization of the image will continue and forever ruin any true hope of assimilation.
The film actor/actress is forced to submit to a stereotype to achieve greater potential market payback. Miss Dushku is typical of the media and its perverse habit of not truly getting the most out of the female actors. They may be depicted as strong (bitches) but they must also possess one of two qualities - wickedness or loyalty. This subjugation and distortion of the woman is where the sink that is the film world began and it sucks in all the dregs. I look at Miss Dushku, and though I observe an attractive young woman, in reality I see a product stamped and bar coded according to order. Shame.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Oh Well : Self-fulfilling prophetic Cobain

Kurt Cobain was born on 20 February 1967. There is nothing really remarkable in the formative years of his life and no doubt the kind of life he experienced was no different to many others. Around the age of seven his parents decided to seek a divorce, and though this experience too is shared by many young children, with Cobain it seems to have created a schismatic void from which he drew enormous artistic endeavor and creativity but this went hand in hand with a "death wish" that only increased the depths of the artistic expression till the ideal had to be consumed by the submission of the artist to the inevitability of his vision.
From around the time of his parent's break up he begun to indulge in forceful fantasies where he enabled himself to predict the outcome of his existence. This was fostered on a world view that indicated that creativity with its genius also had a penchant for madness. The self defeating talent of Cobain is testimony to this truth. His desire to "make it" is always kept in time with a desire to destroy the ego. His first notable self-fulfilling prediction is when he reckoned he would become a big rock star and kill himself so that his fame could only increase with his sudden demise. This foresight, obviously engendered by an internal mechanism that blamed himself for his parent's marriage failure, is such a deep seated rut that as time wore on, and Cobain wandered from one disaster to another, in a subconscious attempt to not fulfill the prophecy, it became more entrenched in the inescapable of the fact.
Any reading of Cobain would need an understanding of the nature of human contradictions. The rush to be famous and the constant hate of that fame is registered clearly in his poetry and lyrics. His creativity is shadowed by dark images that he intends to shock and appal the observers in a desperate attempt to be loathed by the world, and to be condemned for his crimes. This self-contained hate could often coalesce into a mighty outrage, not unlike the mass shootings at Columbine and other places, as the wishes and misunderstood motives of the assailant decides it is payback time. Cobain was incapable of this. His creativity had succeeded, he had fulfilled his promise to enrapture and capture people with his art, and that is the problem.
The art is a desire to escape from the trauma of a boring life, or one that should have been. Cobain's strange drift into the low-life, even whilst wealthy, is a chase after an illusion that the world is a terrible place and should be lived terribly. His constant attempts at obliteration through the use of heroin and those failures could only have secured in his misbalanced mind how a failure he really was. Unable to attack society, except through his art, Cobain, who at heart is a good kid, develops a superego, which generates an internalised emphatic structure towards those he loves, his wife, kid and family, but the struggle to live up to what he perceives to be the true societal mores only leads to him withdrawing into a world where he feels safe from defeat and destruction - himself.
There are those who hyperventilate when Cobain is declared a genius, vowing he is nothing but a punk rocker, an epitaph he would have smiled at. But a closer study of his lyrics reveals a true artist in the technical sense of the word. He was forever trying to reach that point of self content with the image/sound he wanted others to hear or see that his ultimate failure as the artist was like many others, and I include van Gogh here, to fail to see his own creative spark as given. The suppression of the ego over the ideal will always lead to this and it is a shame, but without the destructive completion to this misunderstanding, the ego would reign over the art and this only ever leads to mediocrity and vanity. Kurt Cobain died c. April 5, 1994.

Monday, 14 June 2010

ad-dajjal qareeb

When will the Hour be established? When is its time fixed?

An increase in wickedness - a rising of sins - the teeth of hypocrisy are revealed. Whoever washes in these waters find themselves covered with the filth of contamination, with each desperate effort to rid one self of this accumulating corruption, increase follows upon increase. only the true purification will do but by that time only the worst among men will be there to witness such matters. May Allah preserve us from such dread!
It is in the shadow of the Liar one is blinded to the truth, for to behind such a man one will be obscured by the truth revealed through the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, and through Allah's book, the Qur'an. Up ahead one can see his form - see the shape of his head - his curly, curly hair - can even recognise him by his broad shoulders as he gathers those who follow him in worship. His shadow stretches far and wide - immediately behind him is the darkest shade - all who stand in it are lost - on the peripheral are those who are misguided but still have knowledge of the truth within. And further back, in the anti-shadow one finds those who have no knowledge of this man. As he increases in strength so the length of his shadow increases - till even those in the dim shade are encompassed by such darkness.
The Messenger of Allah spoke, "As for he who hears from the Dajjal, then we are not from him." The believer will approach this man believing himself to be of the faithful but the Liar will stir up arguments within till he becomes one of his followers. This is the argument of religion, and how one follows one's faith without true guidance from the Creator, even though you were warned to obey Allah and obey Allah's Messenger. If you can argue about the message of Allah then you will find yourself arguing with those you are obliged to protect and serve. Shaytaan never ceases to assault the Muslims, as he peels away the skin of disbelief, but have faith, for at the core is the true believers and the rejected one has no power over those who trust in Allah.
Is his rule divide and conquer? Does not Shaytaan come between man and God, ceaselessly perpetrating the same old frauds and succeeding with those who have fallen to the wayside, is it not the case that you will find him most prevalent amongst those who claim to be servants of God? What need has he with perverts and sinners who already thresh in his his snare - why waste time hooking fish you already have in your net? - no, strive for the greater produce in the shape of the greater fish - its meat is tender and basted over a cauldron of righteous worship - fried in the name of God - such a delightful meal! Shaytaan was ever the unbeliever - why would any take him as lord?
Sulaimaan ibn Shihaab Al-Qeesee said that Abdullah ibn Mughrim - one of the Prophet's, peace be upon him, companions, reported there was nothing hidden about the Dajjal. He would call to the truth and he would be followed. See, how his silver tongue tickles the hearts of those who turn to him> He speaks the truth - he calls to the truth - but this is the Liar! There is no greater fitnah than the Dajjal. This son of Adam announces his intention for all to see, and all know the content of his words, for only those who recognise the truth can see what it is he calls to. Keep away from him - for he is the Liar and with every mouthful of truth syrup he poisons the souls of those who were dutiful to their Lord. This is the root of terror, the trial and affliction of faith, for the heart hearkens to respond to the message and divorces with reason in the worship of the Most High. Resistance to the truth appears to be disobedience - surely the fall of Iblees was the result of not obeying his Lord, surely it would be the defeat of the Muslim. Have wisdom and trust in Allah - there are no gods but He - those who put their trust elsewhere have gone astray and will be found wanting on the Day of Decision.
The mother of the believers Hafsah said to her brother Ibn 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, had told her that the Dajjal will come out because of something he is angry about.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Jack Nicholson - MasterClass

Five Easy Pieces - 1970 - Bobby Dupea
The King of Marvin Gardens - 1972 - David Staebler
The Last Detail - 1973 - Billy "BadAss" Buddusky
Chinatown - 1974 - J.J.Gittes
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - 1975 - R.P.McMurphy
The Passenger - 1975 - David Locke


Between 1970 and 1975 Jack Nicholson completed 13 movies, one of which he directed. Most of the films are top quality but I have singled out the above for special mention. As an art form acting is often considered to be a bit below par but when we are greeted with virtuoso performers like Nicholson, Brando or De Niro it is hard not to credit the skill achieved in conveying both a sense of narrative depiction and realistic flavour.


From Brando's sublime performance in 'Last Tango in Paris' to De Niro's Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver' the art of portrayal came of age in these years and the definer of these characteristics on a level few of the others achieved with regularity is Nicholson. His subtle portrayal of Bobby Dupea is usually rated as a crystallizing moment in cinematic flow. That is not the only film though where Nicholson manages to rise above the pretensions of a "bogus" profession. The nuances he employs in 'The King of Marvin Gardens' and Polanski's 'Chinatown' are always going to appreciated by an audience who enjoy the tightness of a good script and characterization.


What I really wanted to detail was the seeming inconsistency in one or two scenes where the perception of the narrative is open to question and is as a direct result of interplay between director and actor in accord with the script. There is a scene in 'The Last Detail' where the sailors are drinking coffee and it is so obviously cold. Because of set-ups the actors are not acting but the stress on Nicholson's features with regard to the dialogue is as real as you are ever going to get in celluloid. People say De Niro's famous Bickle "mirror" monologue is when the viewer is being asked to see beyond the actor and see that the actor (De Niro) looking into the mirror, threatening apocalyptic violence, has become character (Bickle) in motion. The same could conceivably be said of Billy Buddusky's depiction. Nicholson leads us on a trip where we are infected with the casualness of the character to the extent a lot of viewers have said they too feel the cold and the frustration behind Nicholson's eyes. The actor has ceased to act and has become the autonomous character, with the life of its own.


The other scene is in 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest'. Towards the end Nicholson is sitting on a bed and we are treated to a few seconds (they feel like a lifetime) where McMurphy is seen thinking to himself. The eyes stray into a daydream and he shakes himself out of his reverie with a knowing laugh as if he was enjoying a private joke. This scene is pivotal in understand Nicholson's approach to the character and indeed to our assumptions about the nature of the film. On the initial viewing one believes this subtle scene shows a certain abnormality in the subject so as to confer our suspicions that perhaps he is actually mad, or that the electro treatment has caused damage. This may not be the case for we all have done what is depicted by Nicholson. Day dream and laugh to ourselves for losing ourselves. The intention may be to convey to the viewer the subjectivity of McMurphy's condition but it actually conveys to us the nature of our own prejudiced views in relation to the subject of mental illness.


After these films Nicholson has gone on to greater parts from 'The Postman always rings twice' to 'The Shining' and 'Batman' but he never attained such a concentrated degree of acting in such a short space of time. This is acting of the highest order and any study of the art should begin with a careful evaluation of Nicholson's six films.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Cinema Show : Reflection & Comment

Scrooge (KS)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
On The Buses

Carry on at your convenience

The Jungle Book

Old Yellow

Carry on Aboard
Flight of the Doves
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Steptoe and Son
Love Thy Neighbour
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (CP)
The Aristocats
The Ten Commandments (H)
House on Nightmare Park /One Million Years BC (KS)
Live and Let Die (KS)
Digby-The Biggest Dog in the World/Nothwest Frontier

Diamonds on Wheels (KS)
Gold /Diamonds are Forever (KS)
Shout at the Devil (KS)
The Man with the Golden Gun (KS)
At the Earth’s Core (KS)
Dr Who and the Daleks /Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 (BP)

Shout at the Devil (KS)

The Gumball Rally (HH)
A Bridge too Far (KS)
Star Wars
The Spy who Loved Me (KS)

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (KS)

The Rescuers

The Island of Dr Moreau (Hen)
Candleshoe (KS)
Dumbo (SC)
The China Syndrome (SC)
The Black Hole (SC)
Warlords of Atlantis (HH)
Moonraker (SC)
Pete’s Dragon (SC)
Superman (ER)
Murder by Decree (HH)
Zulu Dawn (HH)

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (HH)

The Lady Vanishes (SC)

Porridge (HH)
Animal House

Life of Brian (HH)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ER)
Airplane! (HH)

Clash of the Titans (HH)

Saturn 3/Killer Fish (HH)
Excalibur (HH)

When Time ran out (HH)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (HH)

The Empire Strikes Back
The Wall (GG)
Blue Velvet (BP)
Full Metal Jacket (HH)
Bright Lights, Big City (LS)

Dirty Rotten Scroundrels (KP)

Shag (LS)

The Dead Pool (PB)
Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (PB)

Internal Affairs (PB)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (HH)
Batman (HH)
Cape Fear (HH)
Batman Returns (HH)
Dracula (PB)
A Clockwork
Orange (SC)

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KS - Kilburn State/HH - Hampstead Heath/SC - Swiss Cottage

PB - Putney Bridge/LS - Leicester Square/KP - Kensington Park

CP - Craven Park/H - Harlesden/Hen - Hendon

GG - Golders Green/ER - Edgware Road/BP - Belsize Park

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Destruction of Novelty : Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka (1898 - 1980) has come full circle as regard to her place in the pantheons of art history. Coming from eastern Europe and descending upon the avant garde of Paris in the mid 1920's, her distinctive art deco style proved to resonant with the new field of flowering modernism. Always controversial she deemed the impressionists bad drawers and unable to steer clear of dirty colours and looking at any number of her works, one will be automatically struck by the sharpness of her lines and the block vitality of the greens, reds and blues. It is understandable why Lempicka fell out of fashion after the late 1940's for the art elite always likes to pride itself on being in the know as to what is new and innovative. To them Lempicka was a victim of her times and the world had moved on . It is ironic to think that the artist she condemned as "the novelty of destruction", Picasso, is touted as the highlight of 20th century art but it is her images that have now begun to flood the subconscious.

Lempicka's use of form, in particular the feminine, against a backdrop of the drive and thrust of a speedily increasing commercial world is relevant to the message she intended to get across I suspect. Her ladies are melancholic, and live in shades, their thick Raphaelite limbs seem to be the drapes around the complicated creased arrangements that appear as dresses but feel more like structures that struggle to contain the volcanic like darkness that one senses beneath the surface of these dainty but fairly Amazonian type women.

Each portrait she painted stresses a message and they are not the simplistic concoctions later critics assumed they were. The colour system is vetted to the background, so the use of green is meant to indicate freshness and vitality and when clashed with the ever-pervasive white innocence. When red clashes with white, the virginal motif is stained with both loss and danger, as in the picture to the left. Her female forms take on the shapes they cling to, whether it is flowers, buildings or automobiles. The invasion of the mechanical over the physical female form is a subconscious reflection on the state of the women in a male orientated world.

Her male portraits were few. Lempicka had a reputation as a lady's lady and her antipathy to men is reflected in the dull colours of her men. They represent the terror of the new and the fear of the unknown. There is a brutish appeal to them and though some are shown in brighter hues this is more in concord with her idealism that bright combinations reduce the man to the feminine and so the shape of these robotic looking men also alters. This is not any less apparent in some of her female compositions. There is a Cezanne feel to a few of her most deliberate works which actually distracts us from her genius for the simple.

The attempt to stimulate the visual field with an assault of line and purpose is perhaps best represented in one of the greatest pieces of art ever. It is often said that Cezanne was the master of the still life, and all artists comment upon his perfection but the final work I wish to display, below, rivals and I believe surpasses anything he ever done. Her use of the plate to mislead the eye from the five lemons is revolutionary, but none more so than the blue and white striped towel. The symbolism is striking. Recently Lempicka can be viewed on the covers of 1920's classics like Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" and a few of Ayn Rand's works. The association to Rand is unfortunately misplaced, as her works are cold and sterile, but Lempicka's are the opposite. Through a brave use and at times abuse of imaging she achieves to stimulate our pleasure senses just by the subtle arrangement of form over content. To take this kind of novel art form and to teasingly deconstruct it according to the viewer is the height of destruction, and the meaning of art.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

"It's like a bad dream."

Michael Ryan's murderous assault upon the small English market-town of Hungerford on the 19th of August 1987 was attributed to various factors. After the dust had settled new gun laws were brought in to help try and prevent any recurrence because Ryan had an apparently unhealthy obsession with guns. Charges were leveled at his mother Dorothy for spoiling him, whilst the significance of his father's age at the time of Michael's birth, 55, and death from cancer 2 years previous also added meat to the pot. It is true we will never know whilst in the world why Michael Ryan chose to obliterate his life along with 16 others on that hot summery day but we can look close at the likely reasons, and in interpreting the true nature of the reality of Michael Ryan's world, we may even help to prevent such destructive tendencies from amongst ourselves.
Because of his size he was tormented at school but refused to fight back. It does not take a genius to see the link with his inability for self-defence and his subsequent hoarding of weaponry. This is common in the "mass murderer" who goes on a rampage of violence. The fact that they often, like Charles Whitman in the 1960's, shoot family members and pets, and also torch their living arrangements does not indicate a hatred against those things but some disturbed psyche that monitors the unreasoning facilitation of the shooter to pack up all he believes to be of true value to him.
Ryan's father's death is important but it is only symptomatic and follows in a long line of carefully entrenched chips at the psychic expression of the introverted man. This sense of loneliness and lack of control will manifest in one of three ways. Firstly, like with most individuals, the lack of power is allowed to be repressed and put down to common experience. Any bitterness against the wider society is then processed and exhausted through verbal expression and outrage. Sometimes these individuals will take the next step and become active in the political sphere to try and remonstrate with their low self esteem. This can be healthy. The other two ways are fundamentally more abnormal.
If the individual already suffers from a preconception that they cannot accomplish their dreams because of the "unfairness" of the world around them, this low self-regard will fester into a warped attitude towards the society. With some they will target those they consider to be at the core of their own problems. The racially-based urbanite will look upon the "alien" as the result of his own powerlessness and the reason why he is not "topdog". The misfit, or socially inept, with the opposite sex generally follows two paths. One involves the "braggart" who is at heart the typical misogynist and the "shyboy" who appears all gentleman like but conceals a violent hatred of the feminine form, because he believes it is because of their innate womanliness that he lacks the credentials to make him a true man.
Type A "braggart" will usually consort, and may even marry but any failure to manufacture a life that brings him a form of self-respect will bring consequences to those immediately around him. Type A is the "Jack-the-lad" type and he is hard to recognise but Type B "shyboy" is harder, and of the two more dangerous. Type B will devolve his character into the persona apparent to all, and the "secret life" one. The secret life of Type B may involve acts of criminality or even a lifestyle at odds with his known persona. Type B may find strength in visiting prostitutes, seeing these kind of women as the excuse he needs to believe that women are at the root of his problems, and since there can be nothing "lower than a whore" he finds it easier to form relations with these women. On occasion Type B will become a killer and will invariably find his victims amongst those he is familiar with.
The third manifestation is the "spring exploder". This most dangerous of apparitions is in many ways a condensed form of Types A and B. The potential to be everyone's friend with the gift of the gab is there, but the awkwardness and self observation about his own shyness is intimidating to the extent he can not act on one path or the other. This tightening of the screw without any release of internal tension will cause the psyche and that which it views (the world) to schismatize into a fragmented idealism and this usually takes the form of extension to the property of the individual. In Ryan's case his armoury and car.
His rampage begins with a kidnap attempt on Susan Godfrey and her two children. It is believed that his original intention was to rape her at gunpoint to satisfy what he considered to be his main problem - the lack of interaction with females. It was an ill-conceived plan that resulted in Ryan executing her before anything could happen. This intrusion into his secret fantasy world is the first tear in his perception of the unfolding of reality. It does not end until on the phone with the police it dawns on him the enormity of what he has done but even then it is distilled to a degree where he can operate on auto-pilot. The suicide, in practically all these cases, reflects the death wish of the individual who always felt he was of no worth to anyone, and in his self destructive massacre he seeks to realign the world view by disembodying others and peppering his notional state with the physical. Does he succeed?
I can remember the strangeness of the news report on that afternoon. About a man on the rampage with an arsenal and with no one being able to prevent him. I felt the power he must have experienced and it is not glib to suggest that during those "bad dream" hours Michael Ryan had idolized himself to the role of a god. Judge, jury and executioner and at the end of his breathing the decision, unhindered, to finish his reality on what he deemed a permanent basis. These monstrous acts that affect all those they touch have a deeper significance for us. From these "aberations" we must seek to peer closer into that forest of green desires and perhaps we may be able to help and prevent such dislocation from ourselves.