A South American Quartet, by Ward Kelley

Brazil

It would be better if the trees burned people,
instead of these great fires we make to cloud
the sins of our souls from the ghosts of our
futures.

Yet if the trees burned us, the smoke would be blacker,
and the smell of these flames would not be maternal,
or protecting, as the scent of smoldering wood often
assuages us.

Your black skin smells like safety, a hearth fire;
I didn’t think it would, and in fact expected an exotic
or spice smell to your thighs, never imagining you
so custodial.

I first saw you on the other side of the bus, and you
turned immediately to apprehend my eyes, for
beautiful women always detect him when a man looks
them over.

It’s an evolved sense, is it not?  To see the man quickly,
before any possible impact occurs?  Yet your ancient
eyes assented there within your youthful face, and I
was uplifted

like smoke wafting over this foreign land, a ghost
who has learned nothing from the trees we burn
and burn, never comprehending why your dark limbs
cannot protect them

as deftly as you deliver salvation to a white man.

Chile

Help me, help me, I am never coming
back to these weary mountains, never
returning to your black skin …
for white men do not truly know
how to return to women who have
waited for centuries.

Save me, save me, I was never leaving
your custodial skin, never wandering
off from the belief in what waited
at your thighs.

It was the dead who waited there …
you never told me your skin was so
clever as to provide maternity
for both dead and breathing,
and I now see that even though
you never spoke the words,
your eyes danced again and again
from the joy of this consummation.

You sought to marry me with
the dead.  Yet why must I leave?
It is not you who sends me
away, and not the dead …

then at the circumference I understood
that I cannot see the enormity
of the problem the dead souls
must solve, while they, themselves,
do not have the solutions provided me
by touching skin.

Argentina

Then in the end, I walk alone;
there are no dead ones with their
rather odd counsel … no black
sirens whose skin can redeem
even the whitest devil … no
country, foreign and sensual,
where I can blend into the mass
of jungle souls.

There is only my own soul, alone,
and given the chore of making sense
of all this, this through which we wade,
this of which we touch, this skin
in which I live …

the worse of the loneliness
is when I miss that part of me -
the consequential part -
that was left behind
as the price for living
here in the foreign country
where we breathe …

we have made this terrible trade
of knowledge for flesh.

Uruguay

 

I wandered into the dead ones here,
in barren jungles filled with ghosts
who do not yet know how to use the tropics;
I first saw the dead ones when they cavorted
across your black thigh … my hand
slid over your custodial skin,
kicking up the dead like tiny imps
of dust flickering in a ray of sunlight
which might penetrate a musty jungle.

I came to think of your black skin
as a receptor of souls, and perhaps
this is where I, myself, belonged …
ah, these little wisps of dead souls syncopated
within the skin of my own soul, “we all struggle,
struggle to belong, but once there we all
struggle, struggle to get away again.”
But why would they pronounce such cruel
words here on the tropics of your childless skin?

Then your black skin had one final message
for me, how we are such contrary beings
and even the dead ones here who kick up
the dust of our own breathing lives
cannot accept the contrary impulses
that drive us both, living and dead …
so then salvation comes,
but it comes repeatedly …

by touching someone new.

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NO and the Chilean Dictatorship

“Inspired by the real life event of the 1988 Chilean referendum, an ad executive comes up with a brilliantly contrived and upbeat political campaign that could stand a chance of ousting the current Chilean president Augusto Pinochet and deny him another eight years in office and could change the course of history.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOeiw_BJPas

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April 29, 2013 · 12:00 pm

The term Noir comes from the expression “black novel” which emerged in France during the nineteenth-century to describe the work of writers of mystery stories. These novels usually portrayed dark climates and made references to dreams or its representations. The term film noir, by its turn, was attributed by the French critics to refer to certain American thrillers from 1940s until the 1960s. But there has always been disagreement about in which category film noir really fits in. Among the different classifications film noir appears as a genre, a style, a cycle, a movement, an aesthetic, and so on. Due to this concept, the critics generally understood by neo-noir the remakes that emerged after this time, which also served to update the genre. Film noir is, according O’Caolain, “appealed to audiences because it addressed that particular mood of disenchantment of the late 1940’s to the mid 1950’s”. (O’Caolain, 2012)OutOfThePastMitchumGreer

 

Some authors point out the French critic Nino Frank as the first to use the term film noir (French, black film). In an article called Un nouveau genre “policier”: l’aventure criminelle, published in October 1946 in the weekly magazine Écran Français. When discussing the movies ‘The Maltese Falcon’ (1941), ‘Laura’ (Otto Preminger, 1944), ‘Double Indemnity’ (1944) and ‘Murder, My Sweet’ (Edward Dmytryk, 1944), the critic realized that they were part of the police stories genre and should at that time be called adventures criminal or psychological crime stories.

film-noir-posters

About the rise of film noir, there isn’t a consensus that allows one to define without controversy a specific date for its beginning.  The same also applies for its ending. What is usually accepted is that film noir may still have originated in the 1930s, reflecting the recession in the United States, due to the 1929 crisis. But better characterizations of the genre appeared in the 1940s. However, it can be stated that the noir reflects the American situation that began in the 1930s or even a little before that, with the economic crisis of 1929. To Paul Schrader, the film noir genre as defined began in the early 1940s with films that dealt with the darker side of the psychology identical between persecutors and criminals. According to the author, the first true film noir may have been ‘Wake up screaming’, 1941,  Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, based on a novel by Steve Fisher and starring Victor Mature, Betty Grable and Laird Cregar. The actual noir elements reside in the heavy sadism Cregar’s character, an obsessive and murderous harassing the two suspects (Mature and Grable) for the murder of an actress. This film was considered film noir standard, since the characters seem lost or psychologically wounded and surrounded by traps that are more imaginary than real, with the law and justice always exceeding their limits in order to destroy them. ‘The Maltese Falcon’ is more often cited as one of the pioneers of film noir. (FG, 2010) The last notable example of the period was Orson Wells.

 

Some directors of the noir genre, such as Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder and Robert Wiene migrated from Europe to the United States, being responsible for influences of German expressionist cinema. These influences of the German Expressionism over movies that belong to the ‘cycle noir’ can be noticed in many different aspects.

 

Visually speaking they are more abstract then other Hollywood films and darker as well. The noir films were shot in black and white, emphasizing the contrast of colours. This element also has a strong connection with the cinematography of German Expressionism, as many of those German movies presented a distortion of the scenic area. Other elements in common are the performance and the makeup -often overstated, if related to the standards normally considered today. There is been also a fantastic technique of lighting, which undeniably has its roots in German Expressionism. The low-key lighting is often present in noir films as well as in the German expressionist movies. Low-key lighting creates an air of threat and apprehension. Such lighting casts more shadow than light on the board, usually associated with the shadow of the threat. One may choose, for example, by using a low light, which cast a shadow high. As the sun illuminates the top down, the reversal of this effect is necessarily perceived as unnatural, hence the fantastic lighting or idea that has the supernatural. This is visible in the first noir films such ‘The Maltese Falcon’. Other iconographic themes in film noir are also mirrors, windows, stairs and watches. Noir films have as a central element a crime.

 

Many of the movies of the noir cycle take place primarily at night and the big, industrial city is the favourite scenario. In ‘Double Indemnity’ many scenes are the scenes are shot on the streets of Los Angeles instead of studios. Other American cities that also were stages for film noir are New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The presence of the urban element is notable when one looks at some of the titles for noir films such as, ‘Cry of the City’, ‘Night and the City, ‘The Sleeping City’ or ‘Side Street’.  The city in film noir with its dark, rainy streets can be considered a reflex of the social and psychological condition of the individual in the capitalist world, marked by alienation and defeat. (O’Caolain, 2012) The city and its representations in film noir, arouse the question of the individual corrupted by the capitalist system of the time. At the same time, film noir also denounces the corruption of ethical values ​​that are foundations of the social body, highlighting the brutality and hypocrisy of the relations between individuals, class and institutions.

 

Film noir soundtracks form a perfect blend with the images of the city.  You walk the sidewalks of big, lonely towns, with no destination in mind, following only the sounds, guided by them, wondering where they come from, what hurt souls cry out with such tones. According to David Butler for many years there was a belief that Jazz and film noir ‘were entwined’. But in fact, most of film noir used orchestral music in the symphonic tradition. (Butler, 2002, p. 3) The music in film noir also adds an element of tension and anxiety in the most violent moments.

 

In film noir good and the evil are confused, the killers are generally friendly and the police corrupt. Thieves are good mates and fathers of families, and often their only defect is not complying with the law. The victim also appears as suspicious and often is also criminal. Protagonists are drunkards, murderers or thieves. The hero is not honest and suffers as much as the villain. Finally, there is the composition of all the characters a sort of subversion to the normal ideas that the audience are used to. Thus, the public shares with the noir film the same atmosphere of anguish and insecurity that so well characterizes this type of film.

 

Another specific characteristic of film noir is the gender conflict and gender violence. The figure of the femme fatale it is always present in this genre. The context of the war is very important to explain the figure of mythical noir femme fatale. According to Krutinik, the femme fatale is a metaphor, from a male perspective, for the independence achieved by women in the historical moment of the post-war period. During this period, women were trained to replace men at work, since they were in the front. Thus, when film noir turns this woman into a seductive and malevolent figure, it seeks to reinforce the masculinity threatened and tries to achieve that lost balance. (Krutnik, 1999)

 

The classic film noir presents very often two main male characters. One is often a detective, or a company worker and the other corrupted and selfish version. In fact, in noir films the mythical figure of the hero is turned into the idea of a male character ambiguous, unreliable, and that in itself becomes vulnerable, who has his bad luck attributed only to the femme fatale. (Kaplan, 2007)

 

Regarding to women in film noir, it is true that even though there are many women protagonists in noir productions, most is paired with a man. The femme fatale only exists from the moment that there is a man to destroy. Hence the women characters always depend on the prominence of the male figure. These women are responsible for punishing men who are interested in them, but at the same time they are victims of a society that gives them such power without exempting them from punishment for being sexually powerful. In fact, the femme fatale is very often punished for her greed, aggression and sexual desires.

 

The femme fatale usually defines the actions of most of the characters and she is also liable in the mysteries to be investigated by the detective, usually the victim of her assaults. There is an element of perversion that takes in noir films, defined by an bold eroticism. This feature, in particular, was way beyond what was in the cinemas then. (Kaplan, 2007) Noir films recognize and present the intense rivalry between masculine and feminine, emphasizing the crises of the masculinity.

 

According to Silver & Ursini archetypes such as the femme fatale, the detectives and even the victims allows film makers of the noir cycle to work with a more complex structure of each character outlining their features. The way these characters act, the relationships established between them and the undoubted influence of the current system also assist in the characterization of noir as a genre, with its boundaries more consistent and secure. (Silver, A., Ursini, J., 2003)

 

Considering the social changes on morality and values during the post-war time regarding gender roles and sexual identity, it is possible to see that film noir promotes a relevant comment on those changes. an accurate portrayal of how unease the society was feeling regarding the economic crisis and all the social rearrangements. The role of film noir went beyond its impacts on Hollywood and the move industry as a whole, but it promoted a deep look into social and psychological issues at the time. Bringing up innovations from Europe and adding them to the challenges of a country in constant changing. These films became a major influence to the next two generations of filmmakers, including names like Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Claude Chabrol, Lawrence Kasdan, Luc Besson, Quentin Tarantino, Takeshi Kitano, David Fincher, Bertrand Tavernier, Stephen Frears, Spike Lee, Bryan Singer and Neil Jordan. As based on authors like these, the so called neo noir remained intact for more than three decades.500full

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French philosophers can speak properly about Love

Love remains a relation with the Other that turns into need, transcendent exteriority of the other, of the beloved. But love goes beyond the beloved… The possibility of the Other appearing as an object of a need while retaining his alterity, or again,the possibility of enjoying the Other… this simultaneity of need and desire, or concupiscence and transcendence,… constitutes the originality of the erotic which, in this sense, is the equivocal par excellence.”

― Emmanuel Lévinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority

“Love is not a contract between two narcissists. It’s more than that. It’s a construction that compels the participants to go beyond narcissism. In order that love lasts one has to reinvent oneself.”

___Alain Badiou, In Praise of Love

By Roger Xavier

Philosophy has always been  concerned about love. From Plato, in his work The Symposium, in which he tries to define what is love; to the most modern definitions by Derrida, Foucault and Alain Badiou.

People say that philosophy has nothing to do with the real world and with our ordinary lives, but in fact, great philosophers are “humans, all too humans” and have their minds and lives filled with problems such as love, sex, money and things like that.

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers who writes about the theme of love is the French philosopher Alain Badiou. Badiou was a student at the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand and then the Ecole Normale Supérieure (1957–1961). He taught at the lycée in Reims from 1963 where he became a close friend of fellow playwright (and philosopher) François Regnault, and published a couple of novels before moving to the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes-Saint Denis) in 1969. In the last decade, an increasing number of Badiou’s works have been translated into English.

__Alain Badiou__

__Alain Badiou__

Badiou said the he have only once his life given up on a love. It was his first love, and then gradually he became so aware that this step had been a mistake. He tried to recover that initial love, late, very late: his beloved had died. For him, that love had a unique intensity and a feeling of necessity that have never disappeared. Since then, he said: “There have been dramas and heart-wrenching and doubts, but I have never again abandoned a love. And I feel really assured by the fact that the women I have loved I have loved for always.” This way love is a central subject in Badiou’s philosophy.

In a recent interview for The Guardian, Badiou said: “There is a kind of serenity in love which is almost a paradise”. Love is good, but people no longer know what love is.  For Badiou love has become a product  like everything else. The French anti-globalisation campaigner José Bové once wrote a book entitled Le Monde n’est pas une Marchandise (The World Isn’t a Commodity). Badiou’s book is, in a sense, its sequel and could have been entitled L’Amour n’est pas une Marchandise non plus (Love Isn’t a Commodity Either).

Badiou sets up love as a fundamental key in his philosophy. For him solving the existential problems of love is life’s great joy and it gives life a perennial meaning. If understand love is crucial for our lives, philosophy itself can’t ignore it either.

I think that it’s just amazing to think like that: to put Love in a special place in our lives, think about it and live, at last, to love.

The point here it’s to try to find an alternative way of thinking for the concept that we have of Love nowadays. For most of the people of our generation love has become such laborious commitment and pointless fuss. We live in the age of ready pleasures and easily disposable lovers.

For the French philosopher: “love focuses on the very being of the other, on the other as it has erupted, fully armed with its being, into my life that is consequently disrupted and re-fashioned.” In way we can all agree that love is not a simple matter, but it gives us a chance to be better. Love is, as Badiou said, a big adventure.

I know many people who are commitment-phobic, and the mere sing of the “L” word terrify them. It is, indeed, a common fear for all of us. What really scares me is the fact that we are forgetting what love is and the ideas of commitment, honesty and fidelity, which are all directly related with the idea of love, have no more meaning for us. For Badiou: “In love, fidelity signifies this extended victory: the randomness of an encounter defeated day after day through the invention of what will endure”.

It might seem that it’s all about romanticism or “romantic” love, but love in Badiou’s works is a bigger and broader concept and I think it’s worth taking a look. He follows up the great tradition of French philosophers who have given special attention to the human existence and to the problems and dilemmas common to all of us. French philosophy has its well-known reputation for dealing with these subjects in refreshing ways. And at last, if philosophy still matters in our time, it should help us to live better.

* all the quotes are extracts from the book Praise of Love.

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My daily pray

I am bad; I could be better,

but it really doesn’t matter.

Amen

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March 5, 2013 · 10:45 pm

George Steiner

The journalistic vision sharpens to the point of maximum impact every event, every individual and social configuration; but the honing is uniform.

George Steiner

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March 5, 2013 · 10:40 pm

My homeland is my typewriter

George Steiner: an engaging mind with unbound enthusiasm, love and fidelity to scholarship.

…..I think I found out where is my home at last. My homeland is my typewriter ( my keyboard actually).

 

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March 5, 2013 · 9:26 pm