Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

Norman McLaren’s 1968 NFB film ‘Pas de deux’ creates a spellbinding aesthetic experience

June 21, 2020

I remember seeing this beautiful short film when it first came out, either on Canadian television or in a theater. ‘Pas de deux‘ was made in 1968 by Norman McClaren at the National Film Board of Canada. I had never seen anything quite like it. There were no special effects; the technologies had not been developed yet. Expand it to full screen and enjoy a spellbinding aesthetic experience.

How it was made and received

Considered by many to be Norman McLaren‘s masterpiece, ‘Pas de deux‘ is a stunning meditation on form and movement. He photographed backlit dancers dressed in white against a black backdrop, then used an optical printer to expose individual frames up to 11 times.

The film is choreographed to the music of Romanian panpipes. Ludmilla Chiriaeff is the choreographer; Margaret Mercier and Vincent Warren are the dancers. Dobre Constantin plays the pan flute accompanied by the United Folk Orchestra of Romania.

The film won 20 awards, nationally and internationally, at festivals in Melbourne, Locarno, Buenos Aires, Chicago, New York and London, including a special Canadian Film Award for exceptional quality. It was nominated for best live-action short at the 1968 Academy Awards.

Coincidences happened that introduced me to the great Ojibway storyteller Richard Wagamese

April 30, 2020

Discovering Richard Wagamese the Poet

I first discovered this great Canadian aboriginal writer on a blog I follow. I looked into the book she quoted from, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese, and bought it based on this first entry I read in Chapter I: STILLNESS.

I AM MY silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world. I am not my talk. I am not my actions. I am my silence. I am the consciousness that perceives all these things. When I go to my consciousness, to that great pool of silence that observes the intricacies of my life, I am aware that I am me. I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.

These two entries in Chapter II: HARMONY are equally profound. This first one, about the relationship between the soul and the body, reminds me of what the Sufi mystics said about the body and the universe, the microcosm and the macrocosm.

I USED TO believe my body contained my soul. That was fine for a while. But when I started thinking about oneness with Creator, I came to believe that it’s the other way around. My soul contains my body. It is everything that I am. I am never separate from Creator except within my mind. That’s the ultimate truth, and I need to be reminded, to learn again, to learn anew in order to get it. When I do, I know the truth of what my people say: that we are all spirit, we are all energy, joined to everything that is everywhere, all things coming true together.

Interestingly, when the mind forgets this oneness, loses its connection to inner wholeness, the result is what Maharishi calls Pragyāparādha, the mistake of the intellect, which identifies with a changing limited reality instead of our unbounded inner Self. This identification with the world and loss of memory of the Self is the root cause of all of our suffering, the difference between bondage and liberation.

The other entry, about coming under the influence of the muse, reminds me of William Stafford, another poet who would also get up early every morning to write before sunrise. Although similar in theme, but not as profound, his poem, When I Met My Muse, is more lighthearted.

WHEN THE MUSE is full upon you, you move to the chair at your desk as if entranced, and in that ghostly glow against the full dark before sunrise, story becomes a shape-shifter, a presence that cajoles you, tempts you, coaxes words to eke out onto the page, creating worlds and people from the fire deep within you so that this alchemy of creation becomes transcendent, making time lose all its properties. There is just you and the universe and this creative fire moving through your fingers in bold palettes of colour chasing the dark away until you emerge in the sure, calm light of morning and feel like a writer again.

I discovered a similar transcendent experience described by Canadian Realist Painter Sarah McKendry as she paints through the night until sunrise. See my comment and her quote below in the Responses section.

Discovering Richard Wagamese the Storyteller

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955 – March 10, 2017) was an internationally renowned, award-winning author, newspaper columnist and reporter who had also worked in radio and television. In this CBC interview, Candy Palmater asks Richard how a library helped him become a writer. As a destitute, homeless teenager, he walked into a building for warmth and noticed it was filled with silence and many books. He didn’t know where he was. A kind librarian brought him some food and showed him how to find what he was interested in. Richard had only a grade 9 education and devoured books on a wide range of topics. He taught himself how to become a writer and would copy sentences by hand of the great authors who moved him just to see what it felt like. He tells Candy the role he played in the making of the film based on his book.

Indian Horse, the novel and the film

I had just watched an emotionally-charged film on Netflix called Indian Horse. I checked and found out that the film was based on the award-winning novel Indian Horse written by this same Ojibway author! Clint Eastwood was the executive producer. It tells the tragic, yet hopeful and redemptive story of the main character, Saul Indian Horse. Events unfold during a dark era in Canadian history, when young native Indians were separated from their families (including Wagamese’s parents), and sent to notorious Catholic Residential Schools where they were forced to not speak their language or practice their culture. The nuns and priests tried to “scrape the Indian out of them” violently molding them into Christians, traumatizing them for life.

Despite this, Saul finds salvation in the unlikeliest of places and the most favorite of Canadian pastimes — hockey. Fascinated by the game, he secretly teaches himself how to play, and develops a unique and rare skill. Saul’s talent leads him away from the misery of the Residential School to a Northern Ontario Indigenous league and eventually to the pros – but the terrors of Saul’s past seem to follow him.

Wagamese suffered from second-generational trauma, abused drugs and alcohol, was homeless and landed in prison many times. He would eventually be diagnosed with PTSD, which gave him a better understanding of his helpless situation, and finally sought treatment.

A wise tribal Elder told him his role in life was to become a storyteller. Writing would become a healing redemptive practice for him. Surprisingly, many of his readers felt seen, understood. His stories helped them too in their healing journey, fulfilling his destiny.

People who knew Wagamese said he was the creator, parent and protector of stories. Host of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter and chancellor of the University of Victoria, Shelagh Rogers said of her longtime friend, “Richard really believed everybody had a story.” Listen to Shelagh Rogers’ tribute to Richard Wagamese, a great man who passed away unexpectedly and too soon at the age of 61.

The nature of a writer‘s life

As a writer, Richard Wagamese would win many prestigious awards. On November 3, 2015 in Toronto, the Writers Trust of Canada honored him with the 2015 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life. In his humble, at times emotional acceptance speech, he beautifully described his early morning rituals followed by sitting for a while in the candle-lit darkness, thinking about what it is that he is about to do, “and you ask for as much guidance and strength from The Creator as possible.” He heads down the hall to a place where he will sit for hours at his computer. “And you sit there and you breathe and you hope and you dream and you close your eyes, and you feel the essence of that gift radiating inside you. And you put your fingers on that keyboard and watch while they emerge out upon the screen.”

I love this part of his speech: “And you wait for that time when you know that that perfect sentence has just occurred. And there‘s a gladdening in your spirit when that happens, and you seek to write another one, just like it, to follow it across the page. And in my experience, that‘s the nature of a writer‘s life. That immaculate sense of solitude, when there‘s just you and the language and the air and the universe and that gift that The Creator downloaded you with free-of-charge…. “

Richard Wagamese 2015 Matt Cohen Award speech

And in my experience, that‘s the nature of a writer‘s life. That immaculate sense of solitude, when there‘s just you and the language and the air and the universe and that gift that The Creator downloaded you with free-of-charge.

Writing for the story’s sake and not your own

In this talk at the University of British Columbia (Nov 27, 2013) on his book tour for Indian Horse, author Wagamese gives some valuable advice for young writers. His years of experience honing his craft as a journalist and a writer for radio and television prepared him to become a successful novelist and poet. “In that way of writing you learn how to be sharp, simple and concise, and learn how to trim the fat from every sentence, and you learn how to say exactly what you mean and to mean what you say.” He emphasized “that conciseness and that brevity that results in perfect clarity really served this novel well.”

He goes on to explain that it wasn’t necessary to be overly dramatic or poetic in his prose. “You harness that, you reign that back in and you learn to work for the story itself. And if there’s any aspiring or perspiring writers in the room, that’s the biggest advice I can give you, that if you work for the story’s sake all the time it will spare you the anxiety and the inner debate about how much you should write or in what way you should write it because you’re writing for the story’s sake and not your own. And again that particular rule served me well in the writing of Indian Horse.”

In a July 4, 2014 Globe and Mail article, we learn where he got that advice from: Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? A: Norval Morrisseau once told me to “work for the story’s sake” and that is the best advice I’ve ever received. When I work for the story’s sake I leave my ego at the door and the energy of the story emerges without my interference. It’s why Indian Horse and Medicine Walk ring so resonant with people – because me and my ego are not in the way of the story pouring outward.

Embrace everything and write what you don’t know

A year later (Nov 18, 2014), Richard Wagamese was invited to read from the MacEwan Book of the Year 2013/14, Indian Horse. It included an on-stage interview with author Richard Van Camp. He read from Indian Horse, answered good questions from the audience, and concluded with a reading from his new book Medicine Walk, a story about a reconciliation between an absent father and his son, something Wagamese had been grappling with in his own life. MacEwan University posted this inspiring event on YouTube.

He offered good advice to hopeful writers and shared his process, how when he goes on long walks, he connects with the land, and thinks about ideas that get triggered. He says them out loud to himself as he develops a story until it’s clearer to him, then returns home to type it up on his computer, offline to avoid distractions. He told them to be open to anything as it could trigger a story. They should open themselves up to and embrace everything as it would impact their writing and keep their readers engaged.

He also touched on the notion that “some courses and programs tell you to write what you know.” I found his take on that advice revealing: “But it’s come to me over the course of the last few books, that if I write what I don’t know, then the process of me discovering the answers to what I don’t know makes the journey of following the story in the book stronger for the reader, because we both get to find the answer together.” (These great writers said the exact same thing.)

But it’s come to me over the course of the last few books, that if I write what I don’t know, then the process of me discovering the answers to what I don’t know makes the journey of following the story in the book stronger for the reader, because we both get to find the answer together.

This final question was very interesting, one that he “was not often asked.” He gave a surprising and impressive answer. He shared how his 16 months of yoga and meditation practice, along with a change in diet had improved his life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. On all these levels, yoga was “informing my sense of myself.” It brought a peace and a quietness within the process “that I’ve been waiting for all my life.” Answering her question specifically he explained, “and so when I turn to the act of writing, I bring that same sense of holism into the process of writing.” He then described the kind of improvements he experienced in his skill as a writer, attributing them to that influence, which, he concluded, created “a big leap forward” that showed up in his new book, Medicine Walk. (A good question that elicited a great answer!)

Learning to become a better person

In her informative and heartfelt obituary (March 24, 2017, updated May 16, 2018): Ojibway author Richard Wagamese found salvation in stories, Globe and Mail journalist Marsha Lederman wrote that “his last book, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, came out of Mr. Wagamese’s daily Facebook posts. They had a devoted following and Douglas and McIntyre head Howard White proposed publishing them as a collection. On March 7, Embers was nominated for a BC Book Award. Two nights later, Mr. Wagamese went to sleep and didn’t wake up.”

The book actually did win the 2017 Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. This is the conclusion to her article: In one of Mr. Wagamese’s final Facebook meditations, posted in November, he wrote about starting his day with candlelight, tea and meditation, and what the years had taught him. “Actions born of contemplation are wiser than those made in quiet desperation. If all that’s true, and I feel it is, then I have grown some in these 61 years. I have learned and become a better person. And from that maybe it’s the years ahead that will be the richest of my life. A quiet man moving forward, gladly beyond all expectation.”

Two new posthumously published books by Richard Wagamese

CBC Books posted news of two new posthumously published books by Richard Wagamese: the unfinished novel Starlight (Mar 01, 2018) and One Drum (Nov 06, 2019). This latest book review also includes 3 earlier CBC Radio interviews, 2 of which are referenced in this blog post. You can Read an excerpt from Richard Wagamese’s final book, One Drum.

Newly added: Insights from Richard Wagamese’s Meditations.

Fairfield artist Chad Starling’s Word and Form drawings boggle the mind, belie the imagination

April 30, 2020

Integrating deep reflection with artistic creation

Chad Starling is a Fairfield artist who combines the written word with a visual labyrinthine language into a body of work called Word and Form. He integrates deep reflection with artistic creation. His process of art-making is a meditative practice engaging eye, hand, heart and mind as he repeatedly writes a certain phrase over and over again in a specific pattern while experiencing a steady stillness in action.

I first saw his work featured a few summers ago at Art Fifty Two. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at—a series of repeated hand-written words or phrases from large to extremely small print made into shapes and patterns, some appearing as mandalas. A detailed large work can take up to two years to complete with writing sometimes as small as over 400 letters per square inch. Chad recently told me that he can usually create three pieces per year. The fact that he is dyslexic and can produce such accurate repetitive word drawings belies the imagination!

Chad Starling next to his I AM print expanded to mural size at Art Fifty Two

Here is an example of his work, I AM, which was blown up to a wall size mural for the show. The actual size of the piece is 18 x 24 inches. Dale Stephens created this large size for Chad’s show at his Art Fifty Two. You get a perspective for the size of the mural with Chad standing next to it. Click on the title to see details of the work and closeups on his website.

I marveled at the JAI GURU DEV Mural. It’s amazing! Click on the title, then on the first image to expand it, and the arrow on the right twice to see increasing closeups of it. You will clearly see the words in the 3rd image at the center. Mind-boggling!

Words of Art Documentary

Chad Starling and Ashia Fredeen with their 2019 IMPA Achievement Award

Ashia Fredeen, the daughter of a Canadian couple I know, came to Fairfield to study film making in the Cinematic Arts and New Media Department at MIU. She has a background in stage theater, creative writing, visual arts and music. Ashia helped Dick DeAngelis on his 2nd film of the Fairfield History Series serving as 1st assistant director for the entire length of the 9-month production.

During her 2nd year, inspired by his work, Ashia reached out to Chad Starling to see if he would be open to her making a short documentary on him. The result is this 7-minute film, Words of Art, which captures Chad’s unique process and work. The film won an Award of Achievement at the 2019 Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards. Chad posted it on his Word and Form YouTube channel.

Here are Chad’s artistic statement, artist bio and artwork description. Visit his website for more information and images: chadstarlingart.com.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Formed by the word, we are the word, creating through the word. There is a story that is being created every moment everywhere, which has neither beginning nor end. If we desire, we can be co-authors of this story on a much larger scale. For this reason I draw my purpose for living. Expressing my heart through abstract form, interpreted through literal meaning. In a steady stillness I repeat a phrase, experiencing it over and over again.

ARTIST BIO / ARTWORK DESCRIPTION

Starling is a contemporary artist using micrographic techniques with an added mental and spiritual dimension. Beyond the beauty of the forms he creates, Starling uses his once perceived handicap, dyslexia, as a tool to make a series of repeated hand-written words into visual mnemonic devices. With degrees in photography, graphic design, and theology, Starling pursues the integration of deep reflection with artistic creation.

The Poetry and Color of Love for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2020

Donna Warwick posted this digital painting on her Instagram artsfusionist: “Happy Valentines Day Everyone ! I Love Hue!”

Good homonym! This is so vibrant, like a beating heart! Can you feel it?

Hope you all enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day. Whether you were with someone or by yourself, Love Is Love. I emailed most of this content below for Valentine’s Day and decided to post it afterwards with some additions.

The Poetry of Love

For those alone, here is an uplifting poem reminding us to love ourselves: Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, resonates deeply when you first acknowledge yourself. Includes videos of him reading his poetry.

For those sharing love, [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by E.E. Cummings is a most beautiful poem about the intimate unity of the lover and the beloved within his heart.

And Emily Dickinson succinctly describes the eternal nature of Love in this short but powerful poem.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, again, I thought I’d mention last year’s post. The audio links have been updated: Dan Fogelberg’s song, Longer, and my 3 love poems complete today’s Valentine’s Day Show. The poems were written for and inspired by my muse and sweetheart Sali. The first two were written earlier in our relationship, the last one after she passed.

The Color of Love

When it comes to art, one artist stands out for me—Marc Chagall. The love for his wife is expressed in his art; his art expresses love in color. He says, “In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of LOVE.”

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of LOVE. — Marc Chagall

This blog post contains the Canadian documentary film, Marc Chagall: The Colours of Love, and 2 short videos. They cover his life and work, and the love of his life, his muse and wife, Bella. Marc Chagall’s paintings contain beautiful colors of love and a joyful floating lightness of being.

These images are from those films: closeups from an early painting of Chagall’s then fiancée Bella Rosenfeld; of Bella and Marc Chagall in Les Amoureux [Lovers] (1928); and in L’Anniversaire [The Birthday] (1915).

Closeup of Bella Rosenfeld, Marc Chagall’s fiancée
Top section of Les Amoureux (1928)
L’Anniversaire (1915)

The Chagall documentary ends with these words about the poet-artist: “He has painted the unity of the universe in all things. His song of songs is really a song of love, like a bouquet of flowers. Marc Chagall’s light, his message, his life, has been a gift to us all.”

May Love Always Be—within and among us expressed in poetry and art.

Sage advice from William Shakespeare in the film “All Is True” on how to become a truthful writer

August 18, 2019

I’ve never let the truth get in the way of a good story. — William Shakespeare*

I love this quote, and the one below, on becoming a writer, both spoken in All Is True, an intriguing film about the final years of William Shakespeare’s life (April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616). Brilliantly written by Ben Elton, it was produced and directed by the lead actor—an unrecognizable Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare. Other notables are master Shakespearean actors Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen.

Earlier on, a stranger approaches Shakespeare, who had returned home to Stratford after his London Globe Theater had burned down, and attempts to ask him a question. Shakespeare starts giving him the usual advice and tries to dismiss him. The stranger finally asks him how he was able to know everything: “There is no corner of this world you have not explored, no geography of the soul, which you cannot navigate.” After some humble bumbling, he clearly gives him this powerful advice: 

If you want to be a writer,
and speak to others and for others,
speak first for yourself. Search within.
Consider the contents of your own soul… your humanity.
And if you’re honest with yourself, then whatever you write, all is true.

This contrasts dramatically with what his unmarried, bitter daughter Judith keeps saying, that nothing is true. The reason for this clash between daughter and father slowly reveals itself bit by bit as unresolved family issues are finally addressed. I highly recommend seeing this brilliant film. I watched it twice. Also see the DVD Bonus Features.

After the renowned Globe Theatre burns to the ground, William Shakespeare returns to Stratford, where he must face a neglected family and a painful past.

*Reminds me of this quote by Pablo Ruiz Picasso: Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.

Related posts on writing: Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers | Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing | Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights | Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say | Timeless advice on writing from famous authors | Writing—my early poem on the writing process | INSPIRATION, a poem by my son as a young student | The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice, with links to more content.

Can you imagine a world without the Beatles? Watch the new film “Yesterday” to find out.

June 20, 2019

I read an article in today’s Newsday on the movie release of “Yesterday” a week tomorrow. Due to a freaky worldwide blackout, the only person who remembers The Beatles and their music is Jack Malick, a struggling singer-songwriter. His life is about to change. The film stars Himesh Patel as Jack, his girlfriend Lily James, Ed Sheeran, and Kate McKinnon. Danny Boyle directed the film based on a screenplay by Richard Curtis. Read the synopsis and watch the previews on the film’s website.

The film poses an interesting question for those who deeply love the Beatles: How would life be different if your favorite band had never existed? Film critic Rafer Guzmán interviewed Long Islanders on the impact the Beatles had in their lives and society in general. A local FM radio broadcaster’s comments are spot on!

For the on-air personality known as Donna Donna, who hosts middays on Babylon’s FM station WBAB, the Beatles’ impact went beyond music. A preteen during the first wave of Beatlemania, Donna says, she remembered the band’s 1964 visit to New York, the British Invasion that followed and, in 1968, the Beatles’ famous trip to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“After they came back from India, I think every town in America had a Transcendental Meditation center,” says Donna, who grew up in Floral Park. “I went and learned TM in Mineola! Right on Old Country Road! We were all meditating.” 

The band’s spiritual side “affected me in a very personal way,” Donna says, adding that she meditates to this day. “I would say they had an impact on world peace.” 

That kind of wide-reaching influence is what makes “Yesterday” such an interesting thought-exercise. According to Boyle, the director, the movie’s conceit couldn’t have worked with any other band. “If you’re going to make something disappear, you’ve got to make it something truly significant,” he says. “These guys literally changed the world.”

Read the rest of this well-written article: With ‘Yesterday’ about to hit theaters, LIers imagine a world without The Beatles.

Marc Chagall’s paintings contain beautiful colors of love and a joyful floating lightness of being

January 17, 2019

Homage to Chagall

homage to chagallAs a young man in my early 30s living back home in Montreal, I remember watching a stunningly beautiful film on Canadian television called, Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love.

It’s a 1977 Canadian documentary film about artist Marc Chagall directed by Harry Rasky of Toronto. This inspiring film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1978 for Best Documentary Feature. The Directors Guild of America awarded Rasky with Outstanding Direction of a Documentary.

Synopsis: Imaginatively utilizing over 300 mosaics, stained-glass windows, murals and paintings, plus an in-depth interview with the famous Russian artist himself, Homage to Chagall is both a tribute to and a celebration of a life of intense productivity that encompassed everything from primitive mysticism to cubist intellectuality.

Sherway Academy Arts & Sciences recently posted the Chagall Documentary on YouTube for students to learn about this great artist. Read their description of his artistic bio included there. It concludes with this quote by Pablo Picasso from the 1950s: “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.”

The Color of LOVE

This short YouTube video on Marc Chagall is a beautiful slideshow of his colorful paintings of love with an equally beautiful soundtrack, Serenade to Spring, Songs From A Secret Garden. Click on Show More to read a short biography posted there after a quote by Chagall that sums up his philosophy of life and painting: “In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of LOVE.”

“In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of LOVE.”

Art History’s Greatest Love Story

Sotheby’s was going to auction off one of Marc Chagall’s paintings, Les Amoureux (The Lovers), which depicts Bella and Marc mid-embrace, masterfully capturing “the beauty of life.” Simon Shaw, co-head of Impressionist and Modern Art Worldwide for Sotheby’s, interviewed Chagall’s granddaughter, Bella Meyer, who recalled vivid memories of the artist speaking about his love and muse, Bella Chagall. She said she never saw her grandmother, who had died before she was born.

When the painting was made in 1928, it was bought and kept by one family, and never shown to the public until this recent auction. Shaw says, “It’s very hard not to feel happy in front of this picture. It’s a work that exudes peace and happiness.”

Bella responds, “Peace, as you said, it’s most important.” For her, the painting is “a very tender yet forceful kind of celebration for the essence of life, the beauty of life.” Enjoy this informative video with closeups of the painting, Art History’s Greatest Love Story: Marc & Bella Chagall.

The image on the DVD cover at the top of this post is of Chagall’s 1915 painting, L’Anniversaire, also mentioned in the Sotheby’s video.

Creating from the heart, not the head

For a comprehensive biography of the artist, see Marc Chagall, which includes an animated slide show. A quote shown there describing how he worked as an artist says it all: “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works. If from the head, almost nothing.” — Marc Chagall.

I know what he means. I had an experience of creating intuitively from feelings instead of mentally from thoughts during a first art class. Surprised, I wrote a poem about the creative awakening called ArtWords.

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works. If from the head, almost nothing.” — Marc Chagall

The Fiddler

homage to chagall-kultur dvdChagall’s painting of The Fiddler was also used on the film’s DVD covers.  My grandmother loved that painting because it reminded her of her earlier years growing up in Russia. She was a creative person who liked to cook, crochet, and paint.

I asked an artist friend if he would outline a copy of it on a canvas for her to fill in. I brought him to meet her first and they hit it off. When he offered to sketch the painting for her, she was delighted. She did a wonderful job of reproducing it. Unfortunately, after she died, by the time we went to her apartment, a new tenant was already living there, and the painting was gone.

The Hawk Eye interviewed Fairfield native Cameron Mullenneaux on her Emmy nomination, competing against news giants ABC and CBS

September 18, 2018

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, honoring the best and brightest in the world of television, was held Monday night at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The 39th Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards will be held Monday, October 1, in a ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Complex at Columbus Circle in New York City. The event will be attended by more than 1,000 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists. It will be webcast live at 7:30pm ET on emmyonline.tv.

A short film directed and produced by Fairfield native Cameron Mullenneaux will be in the running. Condé Nast Inc. funded “Angelique” for Glamour Magazine, posted it online last November, and submitted it to The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) for an Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine. Angelique’s story, the adversities she had to overcome, and the way Cameron captured it is truly inspirational. The film will be competing against ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 60 Minutes!!

Bob Saar interviewed Cameron on her nomination and filed this report for The Hawk Eye’s Sunday edition: Fairfield native pitted against CBS, ABC.

The entertainment business is rarely looked upon by Americans as “business” because they’re attracted to the Hollywood glamour and gossip.

You might hear some guy say, “Those guys are artists, not businessmen.”

Two problems here: They aren’t all guys, guys. And those who succeed are, indeed, business-men or -women.

Southeast Iowa filmmaker Cameron Mullenneaux is an artist and businesswoman, and this week, she’s in New York at the Emmy awards. Director-producer Mullenneaux is up for an Emmy against giants ABC and CBS — and their big guns Diane Sawyer and Leslie Stahl.

Cameron Mulleanneaux

Cameron Mullenneaux, producer/director of “Angelique”, is competing against news giants ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 60 Minutes for an Emmy for Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine.

Mullenneaux, formerly Bargerstock — she married in June — is a Fairfield native, the daughter of Betty and Andy Bargerstock, a professor at Maharishi University of Management. Mullenneaux, who now lives in California, wrote, produced and directed “Angelique,” a film about a straight-A homeless high school student in Asheville, North Carolina.

“I was looking for a bright, creative, and resilient young person who didn’t let their difficult life circumstances hold them back from pursuing their dreams,” Mullenneaux said. “I met her through Asheville High School social worker Pam Pauly.”

Mullenneaux attended Maharishi School and graduated Warren Wilson College before earning an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking at Wake Forest University.

Here’s a brief synopsis distilled from a description submitted by Condé Nast to the Television Academy: ‘Angelique’ is a short documentary following the life of a homeless high school girl who battles the odds to stay in school, get good grades, and go to college despite the challenges of living with a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder and an absentee father.

Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

August 17, 2018

I saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) on Netflix, based on the #1 best-selling book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s a period piece that takes place shortly after WWII. The war’s emotional aftermath still weighs heavily on the lives of these isolated islanders. Juliet Ashton, a London journalist and author, visits this small book club to explore the idea of an article about how they survived the war, and forms an unexpected bond with them. Writing, literature, life and love intersect in surprising ways. 

These lines from the trailer resonated deeply. “Do you suppose it’s possible for us to already belong to someone before we’ve met them? I feel keenly how the arc of her life has changed the arc of mine forever. If books do have the power to bring people together, this one may work its magic.” It did, as does the film.

shares some revealing research on the writing of the book and the making of the movie in her review for the Los Angeles Times. Definitely worth reading and watching. For those who can’t access the article, here’s a PDF of it, minus the photos.

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films, including this 2009 Korea-China co-production, A Good Rain Knows when to come, (a.k.a. Season of Good Rain). See The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu. Most of these films reveal the power of love to transform individuals challenged by some kind of adversity.

The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu

August 17, 2018

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.

I appreciate believable romantic movies. For some reason this one deeply moved me. I’ve watched A Good Rain Knows (when to come) (2009) several times. Also titled, Season of Good Rain, the film’s theme was inspired by a poem from Du Fu (Tu Fu). Love, like the right season, can come around again and potentially renew one’s life.

HUR Jin-ho directs this Korean-Chinese co-production. The love story stars South Korean actor Jung Woo-sung (Dong-ha) and Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan (Mei).

Season of Good Rain (A Good Rain Knows)

Synopsis: Timely like the spring rain, so has he come back into my life… Dong-ha is a thirty-something Korean man on a business trip to Chengdu, China where his company is carrying out construction projects to rebuild the city after the earthquake of 2008. There, totally by chance, he meets an old friend from his school days in the U.S.. Mei (May) is originally from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. She returned home after graduation and now works as a tour guide. Dong-ha and Mei were perhaps more than friends and had feelings for each other back then, but they parted ways before they had a chance to define or declare them. Now that their paths have crossed again, they find the old feelings remained, and new ones are forming that may resemble love.

This Du Fu poem inspired the film: Welcome Rain on a Spring Night.

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.
It follows the wind secretly into the night,
And moistens all things softly, without sound.
On the country road, the clouds are all black,
On a riverboat, a single fire bright.
At dawn one sees this place now red and wet,
The flowers are heavy in the brocade city.

The brocade city is Chengdu, in south-west China, where the story takes place. The park where Mei works contains a statue of Du Fu and a replica of the hut that he lived in, along with the kind of flowering trees he had planted. Dong-ha was also a poet, but got caught up in his work instead. He is later seen reading a poem by Du Fu titled, A Spring View.

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

The subject matter about the destruction of war from the past resonates with the physical and emotional losses in the city after a recent earthquake. Mei’s life was also affected, as we find out later in the film.

This romantic film carries feelings of loss and longing, uncertainty and hopeful renewal brought about symbolically by the spring rains arriving in time. The theme song, with scenes from the film in the trailer, emotionally conveys those feelings: A Good Rain Knows When to Come – Falling Down / Song by Sungbin Cho / Sondtrack by Jaejin Lee.

The rain and silence in the song, like the ones described in the poems, seem to carry a mystical quality about them, similar to the mysterious ways of love. The English translation leaves the listener wondering if there will be a more committed reunion. Here it is sung in English: Falling down – (A good rain knows when to come).

Maybe sometime
It could be here again.
Trying to find out.
We don’t know yet.

Maybe it’s something
To make us come around.
The rain will be something
To let me calm down.

There is silence
Flowing around me
In the air
When you approach.

Maybe it’s something
To make you turn around
The raining is something
Just holding me now.

(Musical bridge)

I know that you wonder
Where we stay around.
Maybe I found you
Always here in my mind.

It’s falling around me
I’m feeling like lost in time.
I’m waiting behind you.
Just don’t let me down.

You’re running away now.
You’re sinking in flowing time.
The raining reminds me of your smile.
Don’t bring me down.

This love song, sensitively and beautifully performed, captures the uncertainty of their situation after meeting again years later by chance. The attraction between them is still there, but it never had a chance to develop into a serious relationship. Will it now? The song plays at the end of the film and as the credits roll.

Two different endings?

For some reason the ending seems slightly different in this version, which has better picture and sound quality on YouTube. At this last moment of the film, we see Dong-ha pacing back and forth, hoping that Mei will come out of the park entrance, but she doesn’t appear. It leaves the viewer hoping and waiting, with him. Did he return after much soul-searching ready to commit to her? Was she ready to commit to him? Will he wait in vain?

In this similar version, with English subtitles, at that last scene, as he turns away, we see someone pushing a yellow bicycle with a basket out of the park entrance, but can’t quite make out if it’s Mei as it cuts to black and the credits roll. Maybe they did that to keep us in suspense. You get the feeling they will see each other, but we’re left to wonder what will happen next.

The reason why I think it’s Mei is because he had mailed a bicycle to her as a gift. She had sold the first one he had given her when they were students, since she didn’t ride a bike. When they meet again, and it comes up in conversation, he gets upset. Now, at the end of the film, her co-workers assemble the new yellow bike with basket. We see her awkwardly riding it at first, then with more confidence, and finally smiling with the wind blowing in her hair. Fade to black, then wait for who I think might be her. I found another copy on YouTube where you see clearly the same bike and someone like her. Click on this 3-second clip to see for yourself.

For some reason it was left out in the other version. Maybe they decided to make it purposefully ambiguous to keep viewers guessing? Or it might have something to do with which version was shown in which country — Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, or elsewhere. If you watch the film with both endings, post a comment; I’d like to know your take on it. Assuming those links will still be active. Here’s a BluRay 720p version.

Updated footnote: I emailed an American film critic living in South Korea about the two different endings. He had reviewed this film. When I pointed out the different endings he was surprised, and said “that was a very good eye catch on your part.”

He didn’t remember which version he had seen and wouldn’t have noticed or guessed that it was Mei with her bicycle. But he did give this surprising answer. “If I were to hazard a guess I would say the version without the woman and the bicycle is the original version and the one with the woman and the bicycle was added in for international release (or at least, the release in whichever market CHC operates in) for the sake of implying a happier ending. This is a fairly common practice with exported South Korean films from this time period.”

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films. They reveal the transforming power of love triumphing over adversity through time. Here is a new one I share in this post: Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.


%d bloggers like this: