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Friday, July 22, 2011


3 views of highway 18

I skipped the music in Woodlawn tonight because I didn't feel like driving for an hour and don't have money to put gas in the car. Didn't know who was playing. Didn't want to know, because if I knew I'd have gone. The yearning to stay home was stronger than the yearning to hear the good music again. Was involved in painting the Rise & Shine Band and making some good progress, feeling it. I painted until fumbling took over what I was doing. Putting together model cars as a kid, I'd start fumbling after awhile and my mother advised me to stop when the fumbling starts. It' means I'm tired. So I stop then. It works. I'm in no hurry. It wasn't the only reason I stayed home. The feeling of the day has been that I belong at home. Old-time band the Zephyr Lightning Bolts started playing at the Rex Theater in Galax at 8. I get to listen to Jacob Bowen's fiddle, Diane Bowen's clawhammer banjo, and Steve Bowen's guitar. Jacob is the son. They lived next door to fiddler Melvin Slayden when Jacob was growing up. He's become quite a good fiddler over the years.

The foreign film of the day was an hour and a half documentary / interview with Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, called BERGMAN'S ISLAND. When Ingrid his wife of 24 years died, and he made his last film, he retired to an an island in the Baltic Sea. He appears to be in his 80s. He lives alone and loves the silence, loves going days at a time without talking. A woman interviewed him during the walk through the house between talks, outside, the beach, inside watching film clips in his small film studio in an old barn. He talked about his films, how they sometimes came out of what he was going through in his own life, most often within. He said his film The Seventh Seal where death and a knight play a game of chess, if the knight wins he goes free, this story came to him from his own fear of dying. I was all ears and eyes in the artificial presence of what I see as the world's finest film director. His films are all about feeling.

Yesterday I saw CRIES AND WHISPERS from 1973. I only remembered it from seeing it back in 73, it being somewhat disturbing in a Chekhov kind of relationship between three sisters. The rooms in the house were painted red with white and off-white trim, the people wore black or white. Men wore black. The maid wore white. The sisters sometimes wore black, sometimes white. Red, black and white. A beautiful color combination in constantly changing relationships throughout the length of the film. The story was emotionally powerful while the story was minimal as it could be. One of the sisters in the bed dying. It showed people of Scandinavian clamping down on expression of feelings. The characters go about their day straight-faced at all times. Bergman uses the tension of the external show of no feeling and the emotional turmoil going on within to keep the story in motion. He can stir some powerful emotions. I feel like his films are emotional rollercoasters and when the ride is over I don't know I've been on a rollercoaster ride, but I feel like it.

I'll be going to the Q at netflix to run some Bergman films to the top I've not yet seen, like Persona, and ones I have seen, like Scenes From A Marriage, and see more of his films. They satisfy me totally. Akira Kurosawa and Zhang Yimou satisfy me to the same degree as Bergman, consistently. There are others I like quite a lot, like Andrei Tarkovsky, who can make a powerful film, like The Mirror, The Sacrifice, and the unforgettable 4 hour long Andrei Rublev. Tarkovsky has the brooding Russian dark cloud overhead throughout his films. Of the same brooding is Kozintsev's King Lear. Depression unto despair appears in Russian art films like it's a national characteristic. Chekhov's characters have it pretty bad. Dostoevsky's characters too. When it comes to brooding, Solzehnitzyn rules. Bergman's characters have a kind of existential weariness that is sometimes characterized by brooding. It's like his characters give over to resignation just short of dropping off into brooding and despair.

Watching Bergman films, one thing that stares me in the face is my own nature. It's that Swedish protestant self-containment that I evidently received through Calvary Bible (independent Southern Baptist) Church from the Swede preacher who came to Kansas City Kansas from Minnesota. Recent immigrants, perhaps his parents. A lot of that Swede austerity in Kansas. Now, at this ripe age I see that this internal temperament I have carried though my life came from Sweden. I feel at home among Bergman's people. Their religion crossed the sea and came to me. The same religion that made an existentialist of Bergman when he was young made an existentialist of me in my youth. I do, however, think this is my approach to "the world," this collectively accepted reality we share. The reason why I relate so well with Bergman has to be that we grew up in the same belief system, the same form of religious austerity. Wow. That's something to sleep with tonight. 


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