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le coup au coeur

The Voici Magritte exhibition in Boijmans shows mainly Magritte's lesser known drawings and gouaches. Among the many sketches, experiments and variations on his famous paintings, there are some striking new examples of his unique brand of (deceptively) simple surrealist impossibilities.

Unfortunately, most of them are not available online - except for this one, titled 'Le Coup au Coeur'.

Magritte - Le Coup au Coeur

Voici Magritte, until December 3rd.

mary

Abel Ferrara's latest film 'Mary' is a thought-provoking investigation of religious redemption in a cynical, intolerant world. Heavy on theological ideas, the story centers around three characters struggling with their own spirituality. For added complexity, there's a film-inside-a-film as well.

On the cynical end of the trinity is filmmaker Tony Childress (Matthew Modine), who has just directed and starred in a film about Jesus, called 'This is my Blood'. If this reminds you of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' it's entirely intentional. Ferrara's portrayal of Childress' self-assured righteousness, with no room for doubt, is a direct attack on Gibson. ('The Passion' in fact angered Ferrara into making 'Mary'.)

Mary - 1

On the other hand of the spiritual spectrum is actress Marie Palesi (Juliette Binoche), who played Mary Magdalene in Childress' film and became so obsessed with her role that she went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, effectively abandoning her acting career. At first we may view Marie as 'abnormal', but as the story progresses her saintly devotion becomes a pivotal force.

Interestingly, in a number of scenes from 'This is my Blood' that we get to see, Mary Magdalene plays a central role. The scenes quote extensively from the 'Gospel of Mary Magdalene', a second century Gnostic text which presents Mary Magdalene not as a prostitute but as the foremost among Jesus' disciples, to whom his most secret teachings are imparted. The Gospel has Mary teaching - an idea fundamentally subversive to the Judeo-Christian tradition - and stressing individual redemption in a chaotic world.

In between the extremes of Childress and Marie is unscrupulous New York talk show host Ted Younger (Forest Whitaker), who is making a tv series about the historical Jesus. (Here, several real-life theologicians are shown discussing aspects of religion, adding further to the range of ideas crammed into 'Mary'.) While Younger tries to get Marie on his show, a family crisis forces him to reevaluate his own stance on faith - not as theoretical talk on his show but as an urgent, existential need.

Mary - 2

Underlying all this soul-searching is a frightening atmosphere of intolerance, which erupts into unexpected violence more than once. Fanatics throw stones at Younger's car, protests at Childress' film lead to a bomb scare, and in Jerusalem Passover is disrupted by a bomb explosion.

Marie emerges amid the growing confusion as the most calm and sane character, saying simply: "Jesus inspired Mary Magdalene, and she inspired me." Ultimately, Marie, in turn, will inspire Younger to change his life, in a heartfelt monologue reminiscent of 'Bad Lieutenant'.

Even if 'Mary' is top-heavy with ideas, its approach to spiritual matters is humble and open-minded - a welcome alternative in these polarized times.

yo la tengo

Yo La Tengo need little introduction, do they? Having been around for almost 20 years now, shunning the commercial spotlight and building an impressively wideranging catalogue of songs - as showcased again by their latest album (another long-titled one) 'I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass'.

Yo La Tengo - I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass

Seeing them live again, at Tivoli, they confirmed their status as unpretentious indie masters, effortlessly switching from wall of sound guitar antics ('The story of Yo La Tango' (yes that's misspelled)) to whispery little pop songs ('I feel like going home') to, well, just about anything in between ('I should have known better'). And then seamlessly fitting in some of their classics, notably an acoustic version of all-time favorite 'Autumn Sweater'.

We could slip away, wouldn't that be better
Me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater

Cover artwork by Gary Panter.

calling shotgun

Hilarious Wikipedia article on 'calling shotgun', the very American car-cultural game of claiming passenger seat rights. With some of the more elaborate rules, it must take hours before actual driving happens...

The article has been flagged on all sides, so probably won't survive for very long.

(Via Kottke.)

remf: umfeld

'Umfeld', a surround sound DVD project by techno producer Jochem Paap (Speedy J) and filmmaker Scott Pagano, premiered at V2 this weekend as part of the Rotterdam Electronic Music Festival.

Designed to explore the possibilities of the Dolby 5.1 system - said to be the next big leap in music after stereo - the hour-long abstract audiovisual piece had some interesting moments, especially in Pagano's weird mosaic-type montage of Rotterdam architecture.

But soundwise it suffered from, as Paap put it, his desire to "cram as much in there as possible." As a result, the project appeared to use the six speaker setup mainly to just create three times as much volume...

DVD to be released early next year. V2 will host a free downloadable version.

remf: biosphere vs. pierre bastien

What a contrast, at the Rotterdam Electronic Music Festival, between the performances of Geir Jenssen (Biosphere) and Pierre Bastien.

The one, Jenssen, bent over his laptop mixing his familiar deep Polar soundscapes on a darkened stage without any visual additions. This is of course fairly typical for electronic music performances, where you're left in the dark as to what exactly is being performed, how 'live' it really is.

The other, Bastien, needs to be see to be believed. Using intricate contraptions built with Meccano, which are shown on a large screen, he creates a variety of mechanical instruments. Short bass and drum loops, keyboard melodies and record player scratches form the basis for songs, which he then adds live playing to on trumpet and exotic string instruments. The result sounds a bit like Tom Waits trapped in a music box.

But all the while, every element of the music is visible, providing a continuous source of fascination. Compared to this, Geir Jenssen's laptop remains a black box, however rich the music he / it produces. Ironically, Pierre Bastien's mechanical music feels much more 'live'.

memory of holland

The first David Reid Poetry Translation Prize resulted in over 30 translations of Marsman's famous poem 'Herinnering aan Holland' / 'Memory of Holland'. Thinking of Holland... I see endless variations... And one winner and one runner-up (which imho is slightly better).