In 1964, renowned and prolific choreographer Merce Cunningham and his troupe embarked on their first world tour. In Paris, angry audience members threw eggs and tomatoes at him. “I wished it was apples; I was hungry,” he recalls. But when they performed in England, the response was dramatically different: “Merce Cunningham Conquers Conservatism,” read the headlines. And although Cunningham famously refused to define his work as modern or avant garde (preferring to let his audience define him based on their experience), he, and his partnerships with celebrated artists of the day, was in the center of an influential group changing the way we characterize music, visual art—and dance.
I have been thinking a lot about Agnés since she died just shy of 91 years old on March 29, 2019. She made her first film, La Pointe Courte in 1954, establishing the French New Wave five years before the boys, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and others got into the act. She appeared this past February at the Berlin film festival for the Premiere of her last film, an autobiographical piece called Varda by Agnés. To celebrate the theatrical release of this new film and her life, there is a traveling retrospective of her films playing around the U.S. this winter. (See details below)
It was opening day of the San Francisco production of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD and we found ourselves talking with a woman during the intermission of Part One. A friend invited her but she had been skeptical since other than being aware of Harry Potter she knew very little about the books, movies or characters beyond that it was a popular culture phenomenon. She had read the informative “Journey to the Eight Story” in the program book and that was helping her understand who and what are important in the narrative (see below). She said she was hooked by the first act and certainly the cliffhanger at its end was a mind-blower that had us all anxious for more.
It’s hard to be objective when you’re watching a film about people you’ve known and cared about for nearly 40 years, but I’ll try. I guess you could say that prolific British director Michael Apted’s Up documentaries represent the original reality series, following the lives of a group of seven year-old schoolkids he first met in 1964, and then checking in on their lives via celluloid every seven years. I myself first caught up with the series watching 28. 63 Up is now in theaters, and Apted’s “kids” are even more interesting as they approach retirement. And although Apted’s numerous Academy Award nominations for 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter assured his place in the annals of cinema, it will be the stories of Tony, Andrew, Sue, Nick, Bruce, Jackie, Peter, Lynne, Paul, Symon, John, Suzy, and Neil for which he might best be remembered.
Former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos would love it if you just think of her as the eccentric beauty with three thousand pairs of shoes. She knows, as does any great magician, that if you focus on the shiny thing in front of you, you probably won’t pay attention to the sleight of hand that’s really going on—in the 86 year-old Marcos’ case, the brilliantly Machiavellian manipulation of her country’s political process that is quietly placing the Marcos family back in power.