Self-Portrait as a Photograph of my Father
Today, the seedpods on the Milkweed
growing along the road between the airport
and the place my grandparents will die
began to open themselves, imperceptibly,
as if each were the beak of a baby
crane at the first change in pressure that comes
with their mother’s circling descent. I saw them like this
from the window of my father’s Buick, saw each
one of them pass us by, their cracked
mouths and eyeless heads, and said
nothing. Soon, after watching my father stand
in unsteady synchrony with his father,
I will lift myself from the davenport in the lobby,
and head for the patio where I will stand at my father’s
left hand, his father’s right, and I will smile
for the camera, not noticing how the seeds on the silver
maple behind us have nearly matured. How some
have already detached themselves from its branches,
have begun their slow, spinning fall.
We smile these facsimile smiles, lips taut
over straight, white teeth, because we feel
a sort of pressure in the air: something that tells us
that we are mortal, that we will be here
"During the shooting of a scene the director’s eye has to catch even the minutest detail. But this does not mean glaring concentratedly at the set. While the cameras are rolling, I rarely look directly at the actors, but focus my gaze somewhere else. By doing this I sense instantly when something isn’t right. Watching something does not mean fixing your gaze on it, but being aware of it in a natural way. " - Akira Kurosawa
Ballet mécanique by Fernand Léger, music by George Anthiel. 35 mm film (black and white). The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY.
From MOMA’s website:
This film remains one of the most influential experimental works in the history of cinema. The only film made directly by the artist Fernand Léger, it demonstrates his concern during this period—shared with many other artists of the 1920s—with the mechanical world. In Léger’s vision, however, this mechanical universe has a very human face. […] In Ballet méchanique, repetition, movement, and multiple imagery combine to animate and give an aesthetic raison d’être to the clockwork structure of everyday life. The visual pleasures of kitchenware—wire whisks and funnels, copper pots and lids, tinned and fluted baking pans—are combined with images of a woman carrying a heavy sack on her shoulder, condemned like Sisyphus (but through a cinematic sense of wit) to climb and reclimb a steep flight of stairs on a Paris street.
Anthiel was the one musician whom the Surrealists accepted. He said, “The Surrealist movement had, from the very beginning, been my friend. In one of its manifestoes it had been declared that all music was unbearable – excepting, possibly, mine – a beautiful and appreciated condescension.”1 Anthiel’s score was intended to accompany the film; however, the score was thirty minutes long, while the film was about nineteen. The premier of the film didn’t include the score. It was never shown with Anthiel’s music until the 1990s.
George Anthiel, Bad Boy of Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981), 300; quoted in Anne LeBaron, “Reflections of Surrealism in Postmodern Music,” Studies in Contemporary Music and Culture: Postmodern Music / Postmodern Thought 4 (2002), 31. ↩
reblogging to watch later