Author Archives: chazzw

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu ~ Romania, 2005 ~ Netflix

Having watched Romanian director Christi Pulu’s latest film last week (Aurora), I thought I’d give his earlier (2010) film a look. It has the sane almost documentary feel and style (‘real-time’) but while long at two and a half hours, it keeps its excess under the three-hour mark. That’s a good thing.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu has more to work with in a script that is an indictment of the Romanian system of health care. An elderly man who lives alone is not feeling well and makes a few calls for medical assistance before being aided by his neighbors who finally get them to show up have hin seen at the emergency room. This is only the first step is a long night of being caught in the increasingly frustrating  medical system of Romania. As the patient is shuffled from one emergency room to another, the patient slides further and further towards his death. It’s a night you wouldn’t want to experience. Ever.

There’s some good acting here as well. The actress (Sandu Sterian) who portrays the EMT who initially picks him up and hangs with him the entire time (even though she takes her fair share of cause from the system (mostly doctors and ER nurses) is very good, showing an unflappale sense of the way things are. You get the feeling that she has seen this all before – and maybe worse. There is an ER nurse at the last hospital he is taken to (a minor part) that struck me because of the utter exhaustion written all over her face and body.

A cut above his latest, I thought.

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Tale of Genji: Week 21, Chapter 21 (The Maidens)

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1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die ~ Tom Moon ~ The Almanac Singers

The Almanac Singers, Folk Activism

I had access to an album circa 1941, reissued in 2011 titled “State of Arkansas”. The leftist folk group included at one time or another the likes of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terri and Brownie McGee. Included were these two tracks specifically identified by Moon

First “Hard, Ain’t It Hard” sounds like Seeger picking and Woody singing. A nice lament for love not reciprocated. Then there’s “The Dodger Song”. Not about the baseball team. I’d nominate it for the campaign theme song for Der Mitt.

Lotsa union songs. But you had to temper the leftist activism with songs like “Round and Round Hitler’s Grave.”

Then there’s this little tidbit: Seeger actually coined the phrase “Hootenany” which was picked up as the name of the of the folk music show on ABC in the early sixties. Ironically, Seeger was banned from appearing on the show that he essentially named. Ouch!

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Crime After Crime ~ USA, 2011 ~ DVD

Crime After Crime is one of those miscarriage of Justice documentaries about the legal justice system. You’ve seen these before, and this one is not all that different from the others you may have seen. Except here the egregious miscarriage is more horrible than most.

There are several things in play here. The ‘crime’ (a woman is involved in the murder of her abusive ‘boyfriend’. Without going into all the sordid details, the same case today would have resulted in a far less punitive sentence – if, based on all the evidence uncovered later, there was a conviction at all.

Next, the parole system seems to be an absolute joke, at least in California. But it’s probably the same everywhere.

Next, the refusal of political appointees (that’s what the DA system represents, after all) gives us cowards who can never admit they’re possibly wrong about something. A note about the lawyers who took this case pro bono. Now all credit to them for that. They believed this case wouldn’t take that long, but it dragged on for years. These lawyers were not really criminal lawyers and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this fact did not serve their client well.

The client? A woman who spent over 25 years in prison for a crime (if appropriately charged would have been a max of 6yrs. Then during the later stages of the appeals fight, she comes down with lung cancer. Her story is quite a trial.

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In Search of Beethoven ~ UK, 2009i ~ Netflix

In Search of Beethoven is an excellent overview of Beethoven’s life, music, and the changes he wrought in the world of classical music. It has a lot of music, all of it well chosen. The great thing about the music is that it’s presented chronologically. This does two things. It places the music in the context of Beethoven’s personal life, and in the context of the changes in Beethoven’s music.

Talking heads are talking heads, but these particular ones are so impassioned in their comments, that we’re there right along with them.

I knew a lot about Beethoven’s growing and eventual complete deafness. I was not aware however 0f Beethoven’s failure to find love which was one of his great disappointments. There were several interesting tidbits. Not the least of which was the fact that Beethoven was endowed with huge hands which enabled him to write pieces that only he could play correctly. I thought this was funny, and revealing of Beethoven’s huge talent – and ego.

Highly recommended.

This line is from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony:

This kiss is for the whole world

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Aurora ~ Romania, 2010 ~ Netflix

Cristi Puiu stars in and directs this dark slice of Romanian disaffection. Be aware that this film is a shade over 3-hours long (I was not). Plan accordingly. It’s that long because it’s “real time”, meaning as we follow the troubled lead character we see him lurking in and out of the shadows, waiting for his victims.

Initially, we don’t even know what the hell is going on, until our man Viorel unpacks a hunting rifle. Then the stalking begins, although it’s not until the end that we find out what his beef is. If you bore easily, stay away. As a different vision of filmmaking style, you may want to at least check it out.

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Shame ~ UK, 2011 ~ DVD

This is Michael Fassbender’s second collaboration with Director Steve McQueen, Hunger being the earlier one. It’s a very bleak film about sex-addiction and the ruin and heartache it can bring to people’s lives. Brandon has a succesful career, but he’s got one secret: his addiction to sex. He can’t have a normal relationship as we see him in an abortive dalliance with a co-worker. It does not go well. He’s got to pay for it. He’s got to get it in dive bars or sex clubs. He gets no pleasure as he “pleasures” himself. There is no joy in these acts. One can only conclude that this is all a form of self-flagellation. Riding on the subway, he sees a woman with an enigmatic smile on her face. It appears that she has secret pleasures, rather than hidden demons. It’s a pointed contrast that Brandon surely notices, even if he may not be able to put a name to it.

One day his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up which upsets Brandon terribly. His balance is thrown off. His sister has issues of her own surely, but at least she’s trying to reach out to her brother. Sadly, she’ll have none of it. There is really no back story to their family history, but the assumption is that it was not a happy one. One can only speculate on the relationship between brother and sister.

Sissy is a musician and the films has one extended scene of Sissy singing a very slowed down rendition of “New York, New York”. It’ll tear your heart out and is in many ways unbearable to hear and watch, surprisinglt bringing her brother to tears.

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Waiting for Sunrise ~ William Boyd

Review on Booker page

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1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die ~ Tom Moon ~ The Allman Brothers

The Allman Brothers, At Fillmore East, An Essential Live Rock Document

I admit it. I have blind spots in my music catalogue and the Allman Brothers is one of them. Why this is, is complicated. I was newly back from Vietnam when this album hit. I was out of the south, really, for the first time in my life and was in no particular mood at that time for “Southern” Rock. And my taste for white boy blues was extremely limited. The sight of the Stars and Bars was like fingernails on a chalkboard. But the reverence for this band (especially in the South) certainly is enduring, bordering on devotion, as if they were protectors of a way of life. Still, I was always partial to the energy of live Fillmore albums.

This album (edited from four Fillnore live shows in March 1971) kicks off with the classic “Statesboro Blues”, and its so familiar and such a straight ahead Blues that it’s impossible not to get into that groove. “Stormy Monday” showcases Greg Allman on the Hammond B3. Me? I was listening to Jimmy Smith around about this time

Part of me really believes that their enduring legacy lies on the highway at the feet of the twisted metal of Duane Allman’s motorcycle. But it truly must have been something though to attend a live Allman show back in those days. There are some bands that really not only have to be heard performing live versions of their songs, but you have to be there as well. I can only imagine swaying on the floor to “In Memory of Elizaberth Reed”, a cosmic instruments. That one and “Whipping Post” really show the power of their lineup. I’ve come around.

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Tale of Genji: Week 20, Chapter 20 (The Bluebell)

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