Monday, December 16, 2013

The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic at The Park Ave Armory 12/14/13

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What a visual feat! Robert Wilson's Life and Death of Marina Abramovic was an experience that I will not soon forget. Ever since I realized that I missed seeing Black Rider, a musical that was Wilson's collaboration with Tom Waits and his Three Penny Opera, I was determined to see this. The avant-garde theater director's staging of a biography of the famed performance artist Abramovic is a close collaboration of Wilson, Abramovic, Willem Defoe and singer Antony from Antony and the Johnsons.

Dafoe serves as an devilish MC, gyrating through the 67 year old artist's bio, illustrating her harsh childhood in a militarily decorated, strict communist household in former Yugoslavia. Mixing amazing Balkan music with exceptionally powerful and beautiful Antony's singing voice and striking lighting schemes, watching Life and Death is unlike anything I've seen before. Abramovic here is a subject and a cast of an ensemble but not a performance artist. As a whole, it is an Wilson's piece through and through, artistically speaking. The two hours and forty minutes with intermission in beautiful The Park Avenue Armory on a snowy night Manhattan, I definitely wanted it to go on a lot longer. Too bad that the beautiful snow fall earlier turned into a heavy rain as we got out of the theater and made a real mess on the street. We wanted to frolic in the snow taking the experience in. Instead, Nicole and I opted for the cigar bar nearby and puffed our night away.

Selective Memories

Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour (1963) - Resnais
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The film is set in Boulogne, a port city up north just on the other side of the English Channel. It is rapidly modernizing city with the remnants of WWII destruction still very much lingering. Same is true in the inner lives of Muriel's inhabitants- Helen (Delphine Seyrig), a widow with a selective amnesia who can't let go the memories of a past lover, Alfonse. He shows up at her request accompanied by a young woman claiming to be his niece. Helen's stepson Bernard (Jean-Baptiste Thierrée) also carries a terrible secret from his military days in Algeria.

Even though characters are talking about material things, joking about shady constructions of the new glass and concrete buildings that might 'slide right out to the sea,' and a cruise ship that ran aground at the bay, one can sense that there is a sense of doom over the ugly city. The youngun's wants to get away from it while older folks are stuck in only happy, fantasy oriented memories.

The film is structured like someone's scattered memories. Intentionally drab color palette and ugly 60s buildings are quite contrasty with visual elegance of Last Year at Marienbad, which was made just 2 years earlier (both shot by Sacha Vierny). Muriel is no less impressive at contemplating memories, fantasies and collective scar left in people's psyche in postwar Europe. I actually prefer this to Marienbad.