Thursday, August 09, 2007

Extra! Extra! National Gallery Of Art To Screen Lech Majewski's Opera "The Roe's Room" (In Polish, WITH SUBTITLES)

Lech Majewski

August 11, 12, and 19, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Polish painter, poet, stage director, and Łódź Film School alumnus Lech Majewski (b. 1953) writes, directs, shoots, edits, and composes music for his beautifully crafted films and media art. His stylized work often eschews language in favor of fantastical imagery, poetry, and music. "His imagination," wrote Laurence Kardish of the Museum of Modern Art, "is informed by a unique sensibility hovering between the absurd and the metaphysical, the beautiful and the profane."

The Knight (Rycerz)
Lech Majewski in person
August 11 at 2:30 p.m.
Medieval imagery inspired this haunting ballad of a knight's quest for a gold-stringed harp. The harp's sound, according to legend, can restore harmony to the world. Piotr Skarga and Daniel Olbrychski play knights in Majewski's first feature. (1980, 35mm, Polish with subtitles, 81 mins.)
also
The Roe's Room
Composed of strange and mesmerizing tableaux, The Roe's Room is an opera about a young poet and countertenor [and his aging parents and possibly a neighborhood girl] who imagines his apartment slowly being devoured by nature. In summer the floor becomes overgrown with grass, and in winter a blizzard comes from the refrigerator. (1997, BetaSP, sung in Polish WITH SUBTITLES, 90 mins.)

Update: See comments below.

The Garden of Earthly Delights
Lech Majewski in person
August 12 at 4:30 p.m.
The Garden of Earthly Delights of Hieronymus Bosch becomes the inspiration for Majewski's elegant conceit in which a British art historian attempts to reenact scenes from the painting's narrative while vacationing in Madrid and Venice with her lover. He, in turn, documents their trip on video and later reedits this footage into an elegiac homage. (2004, 35mm, 103 mins.)

Angelus
August 19 at 4:30 p.m.
Majewski's adaptation of an old Silesian folktale about a young male virgin who must be sacrificed to save the world is retold in images inspired by naïve Silesian paintings—their primitive parables suggesting the harsh realities of the Stalinist period and World War II. "There's a purified aura of beauty in Angelus that creates a stunning sense of the imagination overcoming all obstacles."—Robert Koehler. (2000, 35mm, Polish with subtitles, 103 mins.)


National Gallery of Art Film Program
















Photo credit: Via Lech Majewski's personal home page.

8 Comments:

Blogger av_m said...

Hi - I attended the two Majewski films shown Saturday and must say that I was not overly impressed. "The Knight" was just a rather muddled Bergmann wannabee, while "The Roe's Room" tho far better, was still curiously not a "wow" despite it's pretentions.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks very much for your comment, and thanks for understanding my need to enable the moderation function. If I don't, lots of annoying (sexual) promos
drift onto previous posts which I often don't see for a very long time.

Like you, I found the early "The Knight" weaker than both early Bergmann and Bresson's "Lancelot du Lac" (1974). Do you know that work? It has stuck in my mind since I saw it at Georgetown's Key theater 20 years ago. Still, there were a few visually stunning moments in The Knight by the 26 year old first time filmmaker. He admitted it was a bit clunky.

Like you, I was also more impressed by "The Roe's Room". In fact, it 'wowed' me pretty much -- more visually and theatrically than perhaps musically. The music struck me as Glass, Preisner, and a bit of Gorecki at the end. I found it much more poignant than many other chamber operas that I have seen, and I liked the Jungian intensity in the center (regarding the tree). Perhaps you see more film than I now do (I miss my late afternoon art screenings at the Circle, Key, and Biograph theaters in D.C., as well as the Pacific Film Archive.)

I spoke to one film buff friend afterwards, and he said he wasn't planning to stay for more than 10 minutes of Roe's Room but was completely drawn in.

It was of course melancholic, but lighter than, say, the film version of Bruno Schulz's Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. (I did note the similar stamp collection and the butterflies on the wife's dress). I was also rooting for the dream girl to materialize at the end, but that was left unclear; though we see her again taking part in the father's wake.

Again, I was "wowed"; and I recommended it last night to my mother in California.

Did you see Gardens of Earthly Delights on Sunday? Someone in line, told me that it was supposed to be his best. I'm still thinking about it. I'd be interested in your opinion.

(Angelus is the film that I've been awaiting, having heard about it three or so years ago. Perhaps it is only me, having travelling within the last year to Silesia and through Katowice.)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

6:39 AM  
Blogger av_m said...

I didn't see Garden of Earthly Delights - I read an online review that suggested one would either love it and run out and want to get all Majewski's videos, or else die of boredom. Based on my reaction to The Knight and The Roe's Room I figured I'd be in the "die of boredom" category, altho it's always fun to see shots of Venice.

Anyway, I too am looking forward to Angelus - it seems like the sort of accomplished "middle work" of an evolving artist that turns out in the long run to be his or her career high point (with the early work being juvenile and the later work becoming baroque.)

I was interested however in Majewski's remark in the Q&A that indicated an interest in Buddism as his spiritual choice instead of traditional Polish Catholicism. I wonder if, then the tree and roe are evocative of The Deer's Park in the Budda narrative. If so, I still think it was tepid and over-reaching.

I was also interested that Majewski said he had been compared to Matthew Barney; in response to which I can only say, I've seen Matthew Barney (Cremaster series) and Lech is no Matthew Barney, whom oddly, I really like.

best!

7:48 PM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

I missed the first few minutes of The Garden of Earthly Delights, but I'm not sure whether that is why I never really connected with it. I was neither wowed, nor completely bored. I guess I was expecting scenes of both Madrid and Venice; though the fluid, often artless, mini-video camera work of Venice was at times quite fascinating. I guess I didn't quite connect to the two beautiful, thin, perfect actors who emoted in a variety of ways and engaged in alot of, apparently, highly pleasurable sex -- often modeling their positions after Bosch (as you have probably read). The two actors were apparently the second choices, after the director's first choice for the female lead backed down at the start (and, apparently, subsequently and sadly passed away). I think I found the sex rather pleasureless to witness; and the science and philosophy of the male lead rather undernourished. The central theme of the woman's death probably should have moved me more. It moved some of the older women in the audience; one of whom noted that the male lover returned to London and expressed his love for the lead by wrapping his throat in a bandage and wearing her old cloths. This audience member found it a fine depiction of deeplove. I just kept thinking, perhaps, that to lose a loved one one's own age must be so very terrible, and that the director hadn't convinced me that he had caught it. (No film I've seen [and I admit I haven't seen that many, lately] has come close to expressing my loss at losing a high-school and Platonic friend, as I did the singer Lorraine Hunt, last summer.) Other audience members who had suffered loss, where probably monitoring the film's tone even more than I was able to.

The scenes showing the atomic composition of the human body were artful, but not highly engaging in my view.

I will need to think about the Buddhist symbolism of the Deer Garden. Very interesting point. I'd been trying to think about the meaning of the title. (I've visited a deer garden in Sarnath, India.) I also recall the director's mention of his early reading of Tagore.

I keep missing Matthew Barney despite attempts, in recent years, to catch his sagas at the SFMOMA, the Pacific Film Archive, and the Hirshhorn. I'm glad you recommend them. ... (I've very much enjoyed the perhaps Buddhist influenced videos of Bill Viola, especially his huge five sector work at the Guggenheim Museum, about five or six years back.)

Thanks again for sharing your intersting thoughts. Please report back after next Sunday.

G.

PS. I must read more about Lech Majewski (who lives in Venice), and see the themes of his other projects. They all seem so different. By the way, Mr Majewski wrote the novel upon which the Garden of Earthly Delights was based.

PPS. The director mentioned the influence of Tarkovsky, but no influence of Kieslowski. Kieslowski films affected/affect me so much more than the three Majewski's films I've seen (perhaps excepting The Roe's Room).

11:04 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

I missed the first few minutes of The Garden of Earthly Delights, but I'm not sure whether that is why I never really connected with it. I was neither wowed, nor completely bored. I guess I was expecting scenes of both Madrid and Venice; though the fluid, often artless, mini-video camera work of Venice was at times quite fascinating. I guess I didn't quite connect to the two beautiful, thin, perfect actors who emoted in a variety of ways and engaged in alot of, apparently, highly pleasurable sex -- often modeling their positions after Bosch (as you have probably read). The two actors were apparently the second choices, after the director's first choice for the female lead backed down at the start (and, apparently, subsequently and sadly passed away). I think I found the sex rather pleasureless to witness; and the science and philosophy of the male lead rather undernourished. The central theme of the woman's death probably should have moved me more. It moved some of the older women in the audience; one of whom noted that the male lover returned to London and expressed his love for the lead by wrapping his throat in a bandage and wearing her old cloths. This audience member found it a fine depiction of deeplove. I just kept thinking, perhaps, that to lose a loved one one's own age must be so very terrible, and that the director hadn't convinced me that he had caught it. (No film I've seen [and I admit I haven't seen that many, lately] has come close to expressing my loss at losing a high-school and Platonic friend, as I did the singer Lorraine Hunt, last summer.) Other audience members who had suffered loss, where probably monitoring the film's tone even more than I was able to.

The scenes showing the atomic composition of the human body were artful, but not highly engaging in my view.

I will need to think about the Buddhist symbolism of the Deer Garden. Very interesting point. I'd been trying to think about the meaning of the title. (I've visited a deer garden in Sarnath, India.) I also recall the director's mention of his early reading of Tagore.

I keep missing Matthew Barney despite attempts, in recent years, to catch his sagas at the SFMOMA, the Pacific Film Archive, and the Hirshhorn. I'm glad you recommend them. ... (I've very much enjoyed the perhaps Buddhist influenced videos of Bill Viola, especially his huge five sector work at the Guggenheim Museum, about five or six years back.)

Thanks again for sharing your intersting thoughts. Please report back after next Sunday.

G.

11:16 AM  
Blogger av_m said...

Yes, well, if the Roe's Room was intended by Majewski to be analogous to The Deer Park, then it casts the young protagonist of The Roe's Room as analogous to Budda - and if The Roe's Room is autobiographical, well, one's gets the idea of the director's self-appraisal. (i.e., low self-esteem not a problem [smile]).

You're right, he - or someone in the audience - also mentioned Tarkovsky as another of his aspirations - and I say "aspirations" rather than "inspiration" or "influence" because I still think that fundamentally his reach falls far short of his grasp in regard to various masters.

Musically, I think he was modeling more Penderecki than anyone else.

But enough of Majewski, he seems to be a pleasant enough fellow who somehow finds funding for what he wants to do, does it, and that's about it.

PS: A final word - caveat - with reference to "recommending" Matthew Barney's work - he is definitely an acquired taste. The old maxim has it that upon entering the theater the audience commits to a willing suspension of disbelief; well, in Barney's case, a willing suspension of sanity is the more requisite! [smile].

best!

6:47 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks, av_m. A few odds and ends regarding ... Buddha, Penderecki, Tarkovsky, and Matthew Barney... while awaiting, I hope, your brief thoughts on Angelus.

I will still need to think more about The Roe's Room. I encouraged a friend, who missed it, to look out for it on (art) video. I still think that (basic)Jung is more at its heart than is Buddha, but there may indeed (or probably is) be a Buddhist/Tagore overlay.

What makes you think of Penderecki?
(Penderecki is the complex 'Krakow' artist, in my view, to the more earthly Gorecki, a 'Katowice' artist. I recall a bit of Gorecki at the end of The Roe's Room, but mainly Philip Glass [Satyagraha -- which will be given a British avant-gard staging at the MET Opera next season] and Zbigniew Preisner [Keislowski's composer, as you probably know]).

Now having seen the final film, Angelus, I give the director .500; and thank Peggy Parsons for such an interesting -- if not overall consistent -- August mini-festival.
I very much enjoyed Angelus, and did see aspirations to Tarkovsky in the closing moments. Most of the film, to me, was a well characterized, Felliniesque, 'Central/East European black comedy/history'. What did you -- and others --think? (I thought it covered the history and the Silesian visionary art 'collectve' satisfactorily. Overall, it may not have been Tarkovsky, but it was much more a "masterpiece" than The Knight or that Venetian Boschian thing, which my second friend also didn't much care for ...)

Finally, and briefly, no need to warn me that Matthew Barney is an acquired taste. Though I never really warmed to his photos, I was so intriqued by the ideas behind his Japanese whaler ritual film with Bjork, that I "almost" saw it a few times. I "almost" caught it at the Hirshhorn and the Pacific Film Archives, and then last September when I could have seen it for free (with a neighbor's membership card) at the SFMOMA. It was just too beautiful a day, however; and Matthew Barney and Bjork lost out for a third time. (Believe me, I'll catch it, I hope, before I turn 64.)

Thanks for all your interesting comments.

10:34 AM  

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