by YONA C. RIEL

Friday, June 25, 2010

the Minimalist Blog entry.. 'The Sea Purple'

   Last night I saw the movie entitled 'The Sea Purple' at the Castro Theater.  The movie was based on a true story of a (another) young woman, Angela, who refuses to marry, only this time it takes place in the 1800s in Sicily. 
   Her father is a powerful (and abusive) man and at first tries to force her into submission by physically abusing her then locking her in a cellar.  When nothing works (and his wife brings up the issue of the priest molesting their other daughter) he finally gives in but only if Angela agrees to become a man. The small town is unwilling to accept Angela as Angelo but because her father is the quarry-master (and the most powerful man on the island) and Angelo has taken over his position they are forced to do so.  Angelo also marries her best friend Sara, who initially is shunned while attending church and asked by her mother in a poignant scene "What did you expect?"
   I did not get any screen shots of this movie but it was beautifully shot on the coast in Italy.  Even so the movie itself did not hold together well enough to be one of my favorites.  (I got spoiled by the opening night movie The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister and the documentary of Anne Lister the next day).
   It makes me wonder (again) just how many women's lives were subverted, buried and concealed due to a naturally occurring rebellious nature.   It also brings up my relationship with my father and our inability to find a way to coexist.  Was I a rebellious girl?  Indeed!  And thank the gauds (after I got out of that house) I live in a place and a time where I do not have to suffer the abuses that those before me did.  Thanks for reading...  yona c. riel
PS: tonight with the festivities beginning in the city I will be posting mostly pictures with a few blurbs interspersed...stay tuned...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Off World

    'Off World' is a movie set in 'Smokey Mountain', a notorious slum in Manila.   A few minutes into the movie we are told 30 years ago it was a small fishing village and now it is 2 million tons of garbage.  It is named 'Smokey Mountain' due to the continuous flow of methane gases that leak out of the 12 story pile of trash.  Children, 5 and 6 yrs old, and adults endlessly search through the pile looking for plastic and other saleable items for a few pesos a day. 
   Lucky, born in these slums but adopted by Canadian parents, has returned after many years to search for his kin.  He has contacted one person, Julia, who knows where he can find his brother. 
   Julia introduces Lucky to his brother Mamacita, an effeminate gay hustler who turns tricks to survive.  Keeping their connection a secret Lucky decides to crash in Mamacita's place presumably to get closer to 'her' and keep his distance at the same time. 
    Lucky falls into desolation wondering why his mother gave him away and kept Mamacita.  He wanders through the squalor in Smokey Mountain, the visuals of the slum mirroring the emptiness he feels inside, till one night he just lays down, presumably to die.  Then Julia saves him in one of the more beautiful and poignant scenes of the movie.  The plastic bags are hanging all around them like white surrender flags.  
    After Julia nurses him back to health he reveals his identity to his brother as they are walking together on Smokey Mountain.   Again, the cinematography steals the scene...
    
   By the end of the movie Lucky has re-connected with himself, his brother and his mother, fallen for Julia and we are to believe that he has found what he was looking for. 
    For me, I got so engrossed with the amazing images that the storyline lost it's momentum and I found myself confused but haunted. 
   While I was cleaning up the theater I asked a friend what he thought of the movie and he said 'I think it was just a way to show how those people were living in that slum and they could have said that in 15 minutes'.   I have to agree that the storyline felt like it was there to serve the larger purpose of educating the viewer about the conditions in the Smokey Mountain slums and yet I am still haunted by some of the most striking cinematography I have seen in a movie. 
  Thanks for reading and as always your comments are welcome..  yona c. riel

William Burroughs, The Man Within

   Last night I saw a documentary about the life of William S. Burroughs who was famous for all the things one should not be famous for; he shot his wife, he was queer and he spent most of his life addicted to heroin.  He also wrote several books and along with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac birthed the famed and subversive beat poet movement.
 
     William Burroughs was born in 1914.  He came from a wealthy family (his grandfather invented the adding machine) and spent most of his life living on a stipend.  Burroughs had a Harvard education and as John Waters said it is often the people with the most privileges who become the most subversive. 
    In 1951 after being busted a second time for narcotics he and his wife moved to Mexico City.  It was there that Burroughs, in a drunken game of William Tell, accidently shot and killed his wife.   Not one to express emotion Burroughs exiled himself to Morocco and spent till 1959 writing the book "Naked Lunch".  Filled with scenes of male prostitutes, strangulation during sex and ejaculating penises it was banned in the United States until it was heard by the Supreme Court in a famous first amendment trial in 1966.  After winning the trial the book was widely published and made William Burroughs an instant cult hero.  
    What made this documentary about Burroughs interesting to me is the film maker tried to get to what was inside of the man.  Though he was revered by Patti Smith and others as the godfather of punk music scene he never identified as such.  He was also revered by John Waters and others as the person who began the queer rights movement but again he never identified as queer.  Burroughs was ultimately a man unto himself and we are lead by the film maker to believe he suffered considerable remorse, not only for killing his wife but for the premature death of his only son who in order to be acknowledged by Burroughs emulated him (drinking too much and using drugs) and died of liver failure at the age of 32. 
   Many people will remember that one of Burroughs methods for writing was the use of cutting up segments and then re-forming them into poetry.  Later in life he developed another technique that wasn't so successful or known.   Out in his yard he would place a can of spray paint in front of a canvas then step back several feet and shoot a hole in the can releasing the paint onto the canvas.  Apparently Burroughs always had a great love of guns...
   Towards the end of the movie John Waters said 'for misfits Burroughs was almost a religious figure'.  Patti Smith said 'in his last year of life he became lovable', though earlier in the movie she professed to have always been madly in love with him.  William Burroughs died 6 months after Allen Ginsberg in 1997 and it was widely believed they were not only best of friends, cohorts with a lifelong shared past but soul mates. 
  In the final scene of the movie there is a note written by Burroughs simply saying "Love - the most natural painkiller there is". 
   Thanks for reading...  Yona C. Riel