Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kathryn Bigelow: Zero Dark Thirty

Sunday afternoon January 20th I find myself sitting, stunned in a dark movie theatre. The credits roll as the score plays for one of the most powerful films I have seen in many years. There’s a lot to digest here and I haven’t been this shaken and awed by a film since Francis Ford Coppola’s  “Apocalypse Now.” I remain motionless. “Directed by Kathryn Bigelow” flows from the darkness and reveals itself onto the screen then fades away. After a time I have to leave the theatre; this brilliant, unusual production piece, “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Bigelow has created nothing short of a masterpiece. It will be viewed and studied for years to come. It is already being dissected and analyzed. It is also already an intense controversy. This is the stuff that makes legends; makes the world think. Torture is nothing short of the most vile, hideous and least human of acts that human beings perform on each other. There is no connection to the heroic in it’s execution and Americans need to see themselves as heroes. The depiction of the torture of the detainees in a CIA Black Site is so realistic and brutal that I almost left the theatre at one point, to watch it is to somehow comply with it.  I sat through the scenes that went on for at least 20 minutes (an eternity in film time) and it is to the great credit of the film maker that she was able to bring me back into her vision. It was the scene with the monkeys that brought me back.  

“Zero Dark Thirty” is military slang for thirty minutes past midnight (Oh Dark Thirty) or an arbitrary time between midnight and dawn. It is very late night or very early morning depending on your point of view. The film too is very much left to the viewer’s perspective. This is good for events that are so critical to the national psyche and are actual events in the nation’s history. The bringing to justice of Osama Bin Laden was important and it was not pretty. There is no real glorification or “Hollywood” clich├ęs involved. The film opens to a total black screen with archive recordings of the attack of the World Trade Center. Our imaginations and memories are already put to work. It cuts directly to the torture of an “Enemy Combatant” who strangely comes to remind me of Jesus. What follows is without a single moment of detachment for the viewer.
Bigelow’s vision of the events following Nine Eleven is impressive, provocative and to the credit of all her team of collaorators and crew. Bigelow takes her place now among the great artist/film-makers with this dedicated piece. I can only think that there are greater works still from her to come.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Always Wanted To Meet Elizabeth Murray

I always wanted to meet Elizabeth Murray. My introduction to her was in the form of a cover photo of “Art News” magazine in the nineteen eighties. Most of the artists of the time posed very seriously in "I Am an Artist" poses. Elizabeth Murray posed smiling while holding her young daughter in her arms. She appeared to be very happy for having the attention and being noticed for her work, her art and her life. Beyond the obvious she seemed a genuinely happy person. Yes; I dreamed for years of meeting this woman and just having a very cool, intelligent and relaxed conversation with her.

 I was able to have conversations with Miss Murray through viewing her work in galleries, articles and video interviews particularly PBS’s Art: 21. These were great but one sided. I wanted a real exchange of ideas with someone so honest and beautiful. I was certain too that she would have great advice, be both funny and charming while still possessing a somewhat vulnerable soul.

Elizabeth’s works are very enigmatic while still playful pieces. Like shattered stained glass shards, disjointed puzzle pieces or mix-matched cartoon or everyday objects they lovingly present themselves to the viewer. Her use of color is dominate and strong. The works are among the most inviting the art world has to offer. They are engaging, fascinating.

 I remember visiting a contemporary gallery with a couple of friends not long ago. We had enjoyed ourselves greatly and after spending time with Warhol, Calder, Johns and Stella I caught a glimpse of a Murray as we were leaving. There is a point that you have to leave a gallery (the spirit has been enriched and filled to over flow.) I still wasn’t able to leave without studying Murray’s effort. I asked them to wait just a minute for me to say hello to Elizabeth Murray. I walked over to the work and in my way said hello, soaked in a part of Murray’s joy, her spirit. She endowed much of herself into her art. It was a good moment. 

Elizabeth Murray; one of the most respected artist of her generation, left us in 2007. She died from complications of cancer. Her works remain. I always wanted to meet her…