Friday, 28 March 2008

Marriage of Eva Braun, what a dazzling film. Fassbinder never lets up, never shortchanges the viewer. It's emotionally full on, and visually magnificent from start to finish. Worth watching as well as listening too. Loss of innocence seems a key: the repeated visits to the ruin of the primary school and the memories it provokes amidst the post-war rubble. In the end perhaps this loss of innocence becomes just too overwhelming. Eva never smoked, but begins to smoke as she breaks down, and her carelessness with the gas, as her husband returns and she realises this man she's fought for is in effect a stranger, brings about the catastrophe: the film ends as it begins, in explosion and destruction. An extraordinary vision.

Fassbinder knew film from the bottom up. He wrote this story and directed it: he could have filmed it and acted it too, at least, except for Eva, an amazing performance. His cast and crew all regulars, friends, associates.

While watching I couldn't help thinking that it has even more surface brilliance than a Hollywood-made epic, and in addition an emotional integrity Hollywood can never dream of, and it turns out that this was his aim, the surface quality and yet an auteur film. Some achievement.

And Lovefilm sends me Punishment Park (1971) immediately afterwards. The 60-mile desert course, pursued by feds, as a metaphor for the situation of anti-Vietnam protesters. The film gave an opportunity to young, articulate and angry adults to say passionately what they thought, and to some older citizens to argue back. And to some ex-police (and some who weren't) the opportunity to gag and suppress dissenting views. An unwritten, improvised, acted-out film that was so real that Danish TV had to apologise to the US for blaming it for such inhuman treatment of dissent. They thought it was real. And it still feels real, even tho it's a metaphor. Essentially opposite to Eva Braun, it's a less constructed film, a film closer to reality. And yet no less or more real. PP, as Peter Watkins points out, is a critique of media as a construct, a construct with a dimension that is essentially political; film, documentary, TV news, it's all a construct. & there is still a place for Fassbinder to construct constructions that overturn the constructed corruption of media, just as Watkins does. Ah, film.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

A bad week followed by a good week followed by a middling week: why not? L&R's class, as good as ever: contra tiempo runs, which I tried later at the Dome. My partner (E) said 'Very Leandro'. Didn't realise she knew him from way back. Which led me to hunt down vids of Leandro with Andrea Misse, just two, six precious minutes of great dance. Saturday night Crypt: a good evening. Lots of dance. Didn't feel I managed to use the variety of moves I know, but I hope the play with the beat was interesting. Ran into my neighbour and we came back on the train together: turns out to be a cameraman who works with Ken Loach, and a fanatic of milonguero tango, and of the films of Kairosthami too. Maybe we can get some social dancing going down here.

Godard's Weekend: a priceless extra feature by Raoul Coutard who points out that however uninteresting a Godard film may be he can always turn out 20 minutes that is truly amazing. & now I have Fassbinder's Marriage of Eva Braun to watch. Tired. Back late last night and much of the day working, drafts for images, prints that have enough and are bold without being overloaded.

Cold rainy Easter.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Two couples (at least) dancing very extravagant nuevo at the Dome last night: definitely tango acrobatico. S had been watching one and said what a good dancer the leader was: I'd nearly been knocked out of the ring by him, so I wasn't so sure. These dancers need a lot of space to themselves. What is worse is when they deliberately ignore anyone around them to the point of not even apologizing when they make contact, contact that is enough to knock you over, that is. But at least I was dancing with S... even if it was the last three dances, and only three, before the rush to catch the train. She's so easy to move with.

Can I continue this headlong evening of train, a few hours of dance, the necessity of keeping an eye on the time, and the long ride down to the coast on the last train? Been looking at alternatives: Croydon on the Gatwick line is nearer, has 24-hour trains... and property prices are a lot higher. Wouldn't get as much for my money there, but at least it's Victorian build, with (presumably) higher ceilings. Three Bridges: part of the Gatwick conurbation, all new housing, it seems. On the plus side, the light is great in St Ls.

An excellent evening, apart from gyrating acrobatics on the dance floor. Danced with O who commented that it's always a good idea to move round the floor in the wake of a good dancer. & a newcomer, Veronique. Three very enjoyable dances.

Before that, L&R's class as usual. Their usual friendly selves. Salida milonguero, sort of goes round a corner, difficult to know where to start. Then another back-led sequence with back ochos.

Raining: recognisable sound of spring rain, gentle and remorseless (if rain can have remorse.) Buds on the apples and cherries are beginning to open.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Nomadic people live wherever they are; everywhere is equally home. There was no real commuting in village communities where people worked in fields nearby. Commuting is an urban feature. & commuting is for work, hardly for play. I've just been in London for tango three days out of four. It's rather refreshing to have a day about the house, look out at the garden, and glimpse a faint sliver of new moon thru the window. I avert my eyes, open a window and gaze up at the perfect curve. No, I'm not superstitious.

Not a good tango week, for no apparent reason, although there were good things in it. Wednesday at L&R's class I managed comfortably enough, leading the 'reverse' position of dance, leading the partner from behind, both facing forwards, except for the last few minutes when it got into ochos and a turn. I can figure it out, but leading it isn't easy. Then the Dome. A was there: we had an OK dance, but she dances little these days and it's not easy. Apart from her, no one I knew well; regular partners I can dance or work with weren't there, and K had gone to Paris for her birthday. Suddenly depressed that I don't have the ease to dance more with more partners, even after several years. Until the last few minutes, three dances with S in which all the energies opened out and around the floor.

Friday I go to Negracha, mainly to dance with S again ... and she's not there. But I dance with a woman who tells me she has come from far away to dance. Sceptical, being a commuter myself, I ask where. True, Hay on Wye IS far. She (Nancy) comes to London every month or two and goes out Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. We enjoy several great and rhythmic Vals. The class: the class was Alex and Stefano who talk of being taught in BsAs by milongueros who stress walking as the basis for tango. We learn a contratiempo, a long slow, then a quick quick slow, more or less on the spot. Then when you've mastered it, go and dance it! Move to it, enjoy it. Funny that it's not complicated but not at all easy.

Actually S turned up late and we did have a bit of a dance. But this week I'm hardly remembering more than the basics. Sad. Then Saturday, Crypt, once again none of my familiar partners. Actually it's good to dance with partners you're not familiar with. I ask a woman standing near me to dance: we have a couple of interesting dances. Obviously she's experienced, I enjoy the dance, cut short by the change to milonga. We talk: Sue has visited BsAs and knows the dance scene there and in London. She runs the Takes 22 tango website.

Finally a few dances with Y who tells me between dances she's split with her boyfriend. Hardly her usual cheerful self. She discovered he was cheating on her, and wanted to continue seeing her too. Too much for her. And then it was 11pm, time to head back to London Bridge and cocoon myself in tangos recorded 70 years ago, and stare out into the night with rain streaked on the windows. Living in two places at once.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A quiet evening at the Welsh Centre: that is, not many couples. The music not too loud: Chris tells me more about her visit to BsAs, I gossip with S as we dance. Easy going, as the floor is rather empty. Claire and Luis taught the class: a neat little triple (or was it quadruple?) step to each side, then a backstep and saccadas. Not an evening that catches fire, when one or more dances really take off, but fun and relaxed. But ultimately a bit depressing. I repeat myself too soon; even on an empty floor I can't remember other moves, but at least I keep to the music, the 'compas'. Or so I tell myself. Or perhaps a bit depressing simply because it was a bit empty.

On the train my well-worn mp3 player. I pick up on 'Paisaje' from Pedro Laurenz, listen to it four times, amazed at how the voices, the strings and piano, then violas and bandoneon, and back to the strings, how tidily arranged it all is, effortlessly danceable music. All supported by the piano, with Laurenz's bandoneon floating through as if he was dreaming. Today I check the net for a translation of the song, can't find it but find that Pugliese was at one stage pianist with Laurenz. Must be him playing piano on that recording, must be.

I finished the journey with Pugliese, as usual. That grand architecture and intensity gives a bit of meaning to a near-empty train approaching the seaside at 1 am.

Being a tango commuter isn't easy. Going up to London is OK, but having to leave the milonga early and suffer a tedious train ride when everyone else is still enjoying themselves is very irritating, and sometimes even seems bad mannered. When I lived in London I could go out and return as I pleased: now it's an expedition requiring careful timing.

What else? Watched Robert Bresson's 'Pickpocket'. He shows in a neutral fashion, he carefully avoids telling you what to think, and you become involved in the film to an unusual degree. I just watched a bit of McKendrick's Sweet Smell of Success: so overladen with plot, event and dialogue it was unwatchable, too full of itself, as tedious as an empty train at 1am.

And the garden: purple crocuses offer golden stamens to the sunshine, daffodils appear on St David's day. In the greenhouse the lettuce I sowed early in the week has already started to grow: I await the first signs of the tomatoes, peppers and radish. It's been warm.