Movie Review: Le Petit Amour (Kung-Fu Master!)

Jane Birkin and Mathieu Demy in Le Petit Amour (Kung Fu Master!), Dir. Agnès Varda (1988)
I recently saw Le Petit Amour (Kung-Fu Master!) (1988), directed by Agnès Varda, on Mubi. I am familiar with her most famous work, Jacquot de Nantes, and her exquisite short documentary films.
The movie tells the story of Mary-Jane, a recently divorced older woman (Jane Birkin) who unwittingly falls in love with her daughter's (Charlotte Gainsbourg) younger teenage classmate, Julien (Mathieu Demy). In real life, Demy is Varda's son, and Gainsbourg is Birkin's daughter. Birkin conceived the story, and Varda wrote it (also it is quite the cinematic family-affair, considering the real-life relationships among Varda, Demy, and the Birkin clan).
The plot concerns a taboo subject of intergenerational love, but I thought the film was redeemed (and Roger Ebert agrees) by its ability to capture feelings without the use of overwrought words, or a display of gratuitous sex. While the story is fantasy-driven, it touches upon the feeling of passionate love and how it can come upon you when you least expect it.


Video: Summer Deluge On Chrystie Street

A video of a rain-drenched Chrystie Street in Lower Manhattan.
On Chrystie Street in Lower Manhattan rain pours in sodden dribbles. People curse. I eat a plate of roasted pig and rice. Barbara prays to Saint Barbara. The naiads cry and the nomads roam.


Museum Review: Bacchus/Silenus Statuette from the Hill Collection (at the Frick)

A review of the Frick Collection's bronze statuettes collected by Janine and J. Tomilson Hill.
Attributed to Adriaen de Vries, Bacchus/Silenus, c.1579-80, bronze, 89.5 cm, private collection, USA, photograph by Maggie Nimkin.

Visited the Frick Collection on Sunday, the last day the museum exhibited bronze statuettes collected by Janine and J. Tomilson Hill.


Public Service Announcement: Read A G*Damn Book!


New York City Subway: A June Journey On A Thirty-Day MetroCard

Here is a transcript of a month's journey on the New York City subway system using a thirty-day MetroCard.
*Home is Sunset Park, Brooklyn
1. From Home to Herald Square / 34th Street via the Sixth Avenue Express.
2. From 47/50th Street to Home via the Sixth Avenue Express.
3. From Home to Carrol Gardens via the Fourth Ave Line and the Culver Viaduct.
4. From Prospect Ave. to Home via the Fourth Avenue Local.
5. From Home to Brooklyn's Chinatown via the B11 bus.
6. From 8th Ave. in Brooklyn to Home via the Sea Beach Line and the Fourth Avenue Local.
7. From Home to Bay Ridge via the Fourth Avenue Local.
8. From Bay Ridge to Home via the B63 bus.
9. From Home to Grand Central Station via the Fourth Avenue and Lexington Avenue Lines (with an out-of-service connexion on Metro-North's Harlem line to Golden's Bridge). Note: Because of construction on weekends the Fourth Avenue Local has been rerouted along the Manhattan Bridge.
10. From Golden's Bridge to Grand Central Station with connexion to the New York City Subway via the Lexington Avenue Express and Fourth Avenue Lines to Home.
11. From Home to Herald Square / 34th Street via the Sixth Avenue Express.
12. From Bryant Park to the Bronx Library Center via the Sixth Avenue Express to the Grand Concourse.
13. From the Bronx to Home (via the Sixth Avenue Line).
14. From Home to the Bronx via the Sixth Avenue Express.
15. From the Bronx to Home via the Sixth Avenue Local.
16. From Home to NYU via the Sixth Avenue Express.
17. From Second Avenue to Fort Green/BAM via the Culver and Nassau Lines.
18. From BAM/Atlantic Ave. to Home via the Fourth Avenue Local.
19. From Home to Madison Square Park/23rd Street via the Broadway Line.
20. From 23rd Street to 57th Street via the Sixth Avenue Local.
21. From Home to Atlantic Ave./Barclay Center via the Fourth Avenue Local.
22. From Atlantic Ave./Barclay Center to Home via the Fourth Avenue Local.
23. From Home to 36th Avenue (Queens) via the Broadway Line.
24. From 36th Avenue (Queens) to Home via the Broadway Line.
25. From Home to the Bronx via the Sixth Avenue Express..
26. From the Bronx to Broadway/Lafayette via the Sixth Avenue Express.
27. From Grand Street to Home via the Christy Street Connection.
28. From Home to the Bronx via the Sixth Avenue Express..
29. From the Bronx via the Grandconcourse Line to Union Street along the Fourth Avenue Local.
30. From Union Street to Home via the Fourth Avenue Local.
31. From Home to 8th Street/NYU via the Broadway Line.
32. From Union Square to 53rd Street/5th Avenue via the Lexington Avenue Line and 53rd Street Tunnel.
33. From 47-50th Street Rockefeller Center to Home via the Sixth Avenue Express.
34. From Home to 86th Street via the Lexington Avenue Line.
35. From 79th Street to Astor Place via the Lexington Avenue Line.
36. From Chambers Street to Home via the Nassau Line and Fourth Avenue Local.
37. From Home to 47/50th Street via the Sixth Avenue Express.
38. From 47/50th Street to Delancey/Essex Street via the Sixth Avenue Line and Christy Street Connection.
39. From Grand Street to Home via the Sixth Avenue Express.
40. From Home to Canal Street via the Broadway Line.
41. From Spring Street on the Eighth Avenue Line with a transfer to the Canarsie Line to Union Square.
42. From Union Square on the Canarsie Line to Spring Street on the Eight Avenue Local.
43. From West Fourth to 47/50th Street via the Sixth Avenue Express.
44. From 47/50th Street to Home via the Sixth Avenue Express.
45. From Home to the Bronx via the Grand Concourse and Sixth Avenue Express.
46. From the Bronx to Columbus Circle via the Sixth Avenue Line.
47. From Columbus Circle to Grand Street via the Sixth Avenue Line.
48. From Canal Street to Home via the Broadway Line.
49. From Home to 8th Street/NYU via the Broadway Line.
50. From Union Square to 51st Street via the Lexington Avenue Local.
51. From 47/50th Street to Home via the Sixth Avenue Express.
52. From Home to 49th Street via the Broadway Line.
53. From 47/50th Street to Home via the Sixth Avenue Express.
54. From Home to 34th Street Herald Square via the Sixth Avenue Express.
55. From 34th Street Herald Square to the Bronx via the Sixth Avenue Local.
56. From the Bronx to Home.
The end of June 2014 Metrocard.


Movie Review: A Taste of Honey (1961)

Rita Tushingham plays "Jo" in the 1966 British film "A Taste of Honey"
Jo (Rita Tushingham) in A Taste of Honey (1961)
I've always been a sucker for kitchen sink drama. Maybe I was first smitten by Streetcar Named Desire, the Louisiana-Southern version of the genre — and I have always had a penchant for working-class stories.
Fantastic! It's both queer and interracial!
Director Tony Richardson's A Taste for Honey (1961) is a fantastic! addition to the tradition — it boasts both a gay character (Oh My!) and interracial romance (Oh Gee!). And I am pretty sure the Smith's song "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" shares an aesthetic family resemblance. The plot offers nothing new in terms of what we're used to seeing on the big screen, and maybe I have seen enough movies from the 1960s to think that A Taste For Honey does not capture my attention because of its capacity to take on controversial topics. Charles Silver likened the protagonist Jo to Antoine Doinel from Truffaut's auteurist masterpiece. And while I did see the film first in Silver's Auteurist History of Film exhibition at MoMA (full disclosure), I tend to agree with this assessment. Tony Richardson's adaptation of Shelagh Delaney's play takes full advantage of Jo's (Rita Tushingham) soulful eyes beaten down by the soft ideology of work (which is why I say the song resembles the Smith's song). Could she have been a poet? The movie ends on an ambiguous note. Jo, replete with child, welcomes in her ousted mother Helen (Dora Bryan) inadvertently saying goodbye to Geoffrey (Murray Melvin), the titular gay boy. The ending shot of the little boy giving Jo the sparkler is touching, and I wondered at the movie's close if Geoffrey would return to be a gay uncle or if Jimmy (Paul Danquah) would ever show up again.

Mother Daughter Sister Lover

The movie leaves us with the question of Helen and Jo's fate. The mother and daughter pair share a strained intimacy, and we're left to wonder what it would be like if Jo had been able to move on without her. In an earlier scene, Helen bathes in the tub and tells her daughter she is now a married woman (which we suspect is probably her sixteenth proposal). The scene shows the relationship between the two women, while comfortable standing in the bathroom while her mother bathes (a form of intimacy), it is apparent that Helen will never be able to give the maternal care that Jo deserves. And when Jo becomes pregnant, and her mother has run off to live with her new husband Peter (a drunk), Jo cobbles together her own version of family with Geoffrey and fantasizes about her "dark prince" Jimmy. I liked the movie's careful way of showing us Jo with Jimmy, her first love, then Jo rebuffed by Helen, and then Jo thinking that she might be able to build something authentic with Geoffrey. It becomes clear that the Jo and Geoffrey story was a substitute for something else. For Jo, it was a desire to be cared for, and maybe for Geoffrey, it was a need to be accepted. He was kicked out of his own apartment for sleeping with a man (was it rent controlled?) and when he moves in with Jo, he quickly takes on the role of the mother figure, even obtaining a fake baby to help Jo learn the rudimentary skills of motherhood. It's not surprising Jo throws the baby to the ground, and while we can probably guess the source of Jo's anger, we also realize (and maybe she does too) that motherhood will be foisted upon her no matter if she wants it or not and this pattern has had a long history, not only with her mother but a powerful narrative that tells women that motherhood is natural and should be accepted. Helen is loathe to tell Jo of her biological father, except that they share the same eyes, and he was a simple man. This codes for Jo that her father was a half-wit, and her mother, even though she may have loved her father for an afternoon, the relationship did not sustain a family.

End of Innocence
The movie is bookended with images of childhood innocence, the first with Jo playing sport on the school playground, and the soundtrack of children singing "The big ship sails on the alley, alley, oh!" The movie ends with the same song, and we are lighted upon Jo's face one last time. Jo throughout the movie vacillates between child and scared adult. Rita Tushingham plays Jo with zest and innocence — for example: in an earlier scene where she pantomimes her teacher, and remarkably scared and curious when she feels her baby kick inside of her belly (and remember, this movie was made long before Ellen Page and Jennifer Garner had their moment in Juno). If Charles Silver is right, we can compare the two endings. In the Truffaut film, Antoine is captured in a still shot on the beach which I still think is the most affective ending in cinematic history. We know Antoine's story because Truffaut regales us with many more sequels to follow. For Jo, we are left to imagine her story. And this I think is satisfactory.
IMDb link: A Taste of Honey
Dir: Tony Richardson


Photographs: Summer Evening Skies in Brooklyn

"Summer Evening Skies in Brooklyn" — I remember I was walking through Gowanus looking for the gloaming. According to the Merriam-Webster collegiate dictionary, the "gloaming" is a noun is synonymous with "twilight" or "dusk". However, I feel like the connotation of gloaming is that moment when the sky goes from evening to night time — it is a singular cosmological moment. I found it at the canal and I chanted to myself: "Thank you, for being special!". I am the gloaming. Here are my photographic results.

"Summer Evening Sky" (Bedroom Window)
It is beautiful / I am the gloaming (Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn).
Sunset Park (pictured here) looks better in real life @nycparks.

Brooklyn Heights Rocks - "Roadside Hazard"
I wish I could remember where I took this picture. It's either Central Park or Sunset Park in Brooklyn.