My Films of the Week #6: Borat 2, Office Space and More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
(Jason Woliner, 2020, USA)

Probably better than it deserved to be. Yet, despite its best intentions, its a pale imitation of the incendiary original Borat movie, complete with a forced conclusion.

Up in the Air
(Jason Reitman, 2009, USA)

Despite its contemporary aspects, some of which feel directly inspired by early 21st-century American recession, this is a standard revisitation of traditional mid-life romance narrative tropes. However, its standards are considerably elevated by George Clooney’s charming lead performance.

Bare
(Aleksandr M. Vinogradov, 2020, Belgium)

A documentation of eleven naked dancer working on an ambitious choreography. Remains a visually stimulating document of the link between observation and voyeurism, though it lacks narrative focus and generally doesn’t dare enough.

The Last Hillbilly
(Diane Sara Bouzgarrou, Thomas Jenkoe, 2020, France/Qatar)

A poetic insight on the American hillbilly culture driven by a charismatic protagonist, who acts as his community’s spokesperson and dictates the energy of the documentary. Almost inadvertedly becomes a profound portrayal of Trump-era stereotypes.

Office Space
(Mike Judge, 1999, USA)

Cartoonish satire on life as an office worker. Inspired by male frustration an aware of an underlying societal repression, the film certainly benefits from its surrealist vein though it lacks big-hearted laughs. It has most likely picked up vintage bonus points as a document of the immediate pre-internet era.

Idiocracy
(Mike Judge, 2006, USA)

Interesting satirical spin on the time travel movie, also partly recalling zombie movies. Fun, despite its inconsistencies and imperfections, and definitely not as sharp as it probably thinks.

Extract
(Mike Judge, 2009, USA)

Mike Judge continues to draw inspiration on societal repressions in this story about a middle class small company owner. As usual, he does it without enough bite. As such, the entire affair appears as severely lacking in energy.

Bad Words
(Jason Bateman, 2013, United States)

Popular funnyman Jason Bateman’s directorial effort about an obnoxious adult entering a children’s spelling bee contest. Suffers from general lack of intention and finally disappoints despite its interesting original subject.

Horrible Bosses
(Seth Gordon, 2011, United States)

A famous addition to the childish, repressed average white men, who come up with a plan to murder their abusive bosses. The leading trio’s chemistry and Kevin Spacey’s turn as the obnoxious baddie is worth the price of the ticket.

Ziyara
(Simone Bitton, 2020, France/Morocco)

A documentary celebrating Muslim’s guarding of Jewish culture in Morocco. As well as its historical and political importance, Ziyara is enhanced by the pure aesthetic delight of its documentation of older religious artifacts and places.

My Art Picks of the Week #3: Joseph Stella, Albert Pinkham Ryder & More

Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Joseph Stella, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Dorothea Lange and more.

Untitled
Jean Dubuffet, 1973

Luna Park
Joseph Stella, c. 1913

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
Dorothea Lange, 1936

Quadro di Filo Elettrico – Tenda di Lampadine
Michelangelo Pistoletti, 1967

Aku
Latiff Mohidin, 1958

A Lady in Her Bath
François Clouet, c. 1571

The Lone Scout
Albert Pinkham Ryder, c. 1880

The Day Billy Joe Shaver Saved My Life

A few days ago, I was on a train from Rome to Genoa, after a coverage of the Rome Film Fest. It’s a long ride, about five hour long. Usually, I don’t mind. I’m actually quite fond of trains. I’ve always appreciated their romanticism. But this time it was different.

October has been the worst month for me. As many people, I have experienced hardships in the time of COVID and feeling trapped. This month, a whole bunch of worries piled on me that I won’t discuss here. All this amounted to some kind of panic attack. I could hardly breathe.

As I looked for songs to play on Spotify to calm me down, my mind went to Billy Joe Shaver. I thought about his life and how he hadn’t had it easy. I felt I could do with the voice of a man like him to come to my aid in a time of need.

I put on Old Five and Dimers Like Me, probably my favourite outlaw country album. Released in 1973, this was the record that ought to have shot shaver into superstardom. However, mismanagement and general business decisions proved insurmountable obstacles. He’d be forced to watch the star of Waylon Jennings rise while remaining in the shadows as the forever unsung hero of the genre.

In a way, the tragedy of his career makes him all the more iconic. Would Billy Joe ever truly fit in with the “in crowd”? I doubt that and in a way, I even hope no. Guys like Billy Joe are the guys whom I trust. The forever outlaws, honest and free. A little bit scary and strange but the type of guy you’d like by your side when hell comes calling.

Not one song on the album did not help me a little and by the third listen, I felt much better. The song that soothed my mind the most was “Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me.” I really listened to it, its every word. I could hear it resonating in my soul and made me smile, looking at the reflection of my face in the filty, small toilet on that ghost train.

People hating country music have always seemed silly to me. It’s such a narrow-minded and unfounded prejudice. Why should someone who likes jazz or rock or dance and any other genre not also take an interest in country? In fact, the more music you like, the more options you will have when you’ll need music to save your life.

The next day, I sought comfort in a music completely different: Luciana Souza’s Duos II, a guitar and voice duo album revelling in the tradition of Brazilian percussive music. Today it was another and tomorrow, it will be another.

What links all music together is a fundamental spirituality. Some people label it differently. Billy Joe Shaver would have referred to it as God. Regardless of labels, it is a spirituality that even the greatest of atheist looks for and believes in when he is confronted with it. And it is a spirituality that only exists in art, from the paintings of Picasso to the films of Fellini to the music of Billy Joe Shaver and beyond.

My Albums of the Week #8: Ozzy Osbourne, Marc Ribot, Luciana Souza

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Luciana Souza
Duos II (Sunnyside Records, 2005)

Tracklist (favourite tracks underlined): 1 – Sai Dessa / 2 – Nos Horizontes do Mundo / 3 – A Flor e o Espinho/Juízo Final / 4 – Muita Bobeira / 5 – Modinha / 6 – No Carnaval / 7 – Sambadaú / 8 – Aparacida / 9 – Trocando Em Miúdos / 10 – Chorinho Pra Ele / 11 – Atrás Da Porta / 12 – Vocé

A sublime acoustic guitar-and-voice album that traverses the wide range of Brazilian music traditions. Also a great showcase of Luciana Souza’s vocal versatility and lyrical poetry, performing this program in duos alongside four different guitarists, each bringing a distinctive style.

Ozzy Osbourne
Ordinary Man (Epic, 2020)

Tracklist (favourite tracks underlined): 1 – Straight to Hell / 2 – All My Life / 3 – Goodbye / 4 – Ordinary Man / 5 – Under the Graveyard / 6 – Eat Me / 7 – Today Is the End / 8 – Scary Little Green Men / 9 – Holy for Tonight / 10 – It’s a Raid

An amazing late-career effort by beloved rocker Ozzy Osbourne. Dare I say it even ranks among his best records, including his Black Sabbath releases. Includes some interesting collaborations and also features some of Ozzy’s most profound and personal lyrics, though never at the expense of his iconic rocker persona.

Marc Ribot
Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (ANTI-, 2018)

Tracklist (favorite songs underlined): 1 – We Are Soldiers in the Army / 2 – Bella Ciao / 3 – Srinivas / 4 – How To Walk in Freedom / 5 – Rata de dos Patas / 6 – The Militant Ecologist / 7 – The Big Fool / 8 – Ain’t Gonna Let Them Turn Us Round / 9 – John Brown / 10 – Knock That Statue Down / 11 – We’ll Never Turn Back

An inspired, eclectic program of protest songs, whether original, rearranged or hybrid. An eclectic blend of various music genres tied together from visionary, militant musician Marc Ribot, featuring a star-studded and multicultural cast of guests. Released in 2018, it also feels like a powerful reflection on the first two years of the Trump administration.

Leonardo and Michelangelo: An Ideological Rivalry

The history of art teaches us that the status of any given artist is elevated in accordance with the status of said artist’s antagonist. This is true in modern art as it is true of ancient art. It appears that we, as humans, are simply programmed to tell stories that way. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The list is endless.

Another renowned rivalry was that between Leonardo and Michelangelo. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1454. Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in 1475. Both were active around the same time, between the Renaissance and the High Renaissance. In fact, both embodied the archetype of the “Renaissance Man,” one who is able to express creativity through a wide-variety of artforms.

Yet, both were radically different and their feud was not only generational. It was profoundly ideological. For instance, they did not share the same views on which was the higher of the artforms. Leonardo thought that painting was the most important of artforms because of the versatility and freedom it granted an artist to represent things, even those unseen. We see such potential expressed, for instance, in the Mona Lisa, including via the spectacular vastness of its landscape that could only have existed in the mind of Leonardo himself.

Michelangelo, on the other hand, appears to have been inspired by the more rigorous artform of sculpture. He preferred to focus on the detail of one thing, which generally was the naked male body. In such works as the David, more than the concept, we admire the size and anatomical details. There’s great poetry to be found in the composition itself. The David is not perfectly proportioned and yet, such apparent imperfection makes this giant all the more cerebral and dramatic.

This ideological disagreement is even more evident when we compare the paintings of these two artists. Leonardo’s paintings are rich in multiplicity whereas Michelangelo often pays little to no attention to backdrops. Even his paintings are rather sculptural and in the most famous of cases, his subjects seem to burst out of the canvas.

It is a lesser-known fact that Leonardo was also a musician. Obviously, he lived long before audio recording was possible. Because of that, no primary source documentation of his music exists. What we know through his journals and writings is that he admired the art of music for the same reasons as he did painting – for its lack of restrictions. By the same degree, he did not think much of poetry. Poets, he believed, were restricted by language itself, forced to follow a word with another and another and another…

Again, it should not be surprising that Michelangelo was also a poet and revelled in the challenge of the restrictions posed by semantics. In fact, his approach to poetry appears to be sculptural and for a period of time, he dedicated himself to it almost wholly – despite the many commissions of sculptures and paintings that began piling up before he had reached the age of 30.

Biographical accounts tell us that their ideological divergences were reflected in their opposite character traits and personalities. Leonardo was charming and elegant. Michelangelo was a recluse with little time for vanity or fashion. From this, we may deduce that both also used different approaches in landing prestigious commissions. Leonardo’s charm helped him pitch the works to wealthy patrons. On the other hand, wealthy patrons trusted Michelangelo’s diligence and commitment, which Leonardo sometimes appeared to lack.

It must be said that both men knew each other and may even have respected each other at some time. But their relationship came to an abrupt end in the early 1500s after a public quarrel in Florence, supposedly over the interpretation of a passage from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Shortly thereafter, there was a missed opportunity for a direct confrontation when both men were commissioned to produce a work depicting the same famous battle between the Florentines and the Pisans that ultimately did not come to fruition.

Yet, it is undeniable that both men also influenced each other’s art. For instance, Leonardo returned to his research of anatomy, which Michelangelo was a known practitioner of. Michelangelo, on the other hand, would come to see Leonardo as his rival and use the energy this generated within him to fuel his furnace of ambition.

My Films of the Week #5: Totally Under Control, True Mothers & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Faithful
(Hélier Cisterne, 2020, France/Belgium/Algeria)

A tale of love and revolution set in late colonialist Algeria. Beautiful cinematography enhances the poetic power of what could also be considered an alternate take on the theme of terrorism at large.

The Shift
(Alessandro Tonda, 2020, Italy/Belgium)

Despite being content with dealing with the theme of terrorism in quite a superficial way, this thriller features a nice contrast of frantic rhythm and claustrophobic space, as most of it takes place within the confines of an ambulance.

True Mothers
(Naomi Kawase, 2020, Japan)

A relatively unoriginal adoption drama plagued by narrative clumsiness. The typical mediocre Naomi Kawase movie.

Climbing Iran
(Francesca Borghetti, 2020, Italy/France)

Fascinating documentary on an Iranian woman defying social and natural obstacles as a free climber. Redefines the meaning of the term “trailblazer.”

Il Cielo da una Stanza
(Virginia Valsecchi, 2020, Italy)

Almost unbearable ensemble documentary portraying the lives of a different people in Italy during lockdown. May become more valuable with time.

Totally Under Control
(Alex Gibney, 2020, USA)

A worrying investigation on Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID crisis. Released during the pandemic, manages to be quite clear-headed and frighteningly revealing.

‘Til Kingdom Come
(Maya Zinshtein, 2020, Israel/UK/Norway)

An investigation of the controversial link between U.S. Christian Evangelicals and Isreali Jews, and the political implications of said link. Reveals a hidden truth but does so in a ponderous and refreshingly respectful way, rather than aggressively.

Long Live Love
(Sine Skibsholt, 2020, Denmark)

Up close and personal documentation of the relationship between a mother and her health-ridden, rebellious teenage daughter. Warm and honest, speaks universal truths.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Announcing New Plans for InArteMatt Content!

Changes are coming! Aside from my work with FRED Film Radio and JAZZIZ Magazine, I fully intend to continue to pursue my personal projects, including new podcast conversations for my series Matt’s Art Chat as well as the return of The Art Movement.

The idea is to bring three Matt’s Art Chat podcasts each month and, on the conclusive week of each month, bring a three-hour-long episode of The Art Movement. While Matt’s Art Chat will be available free of charge, The Art Movement will be available behind a paywall.

For those who do not know, Matt’s Art Chat is my series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The Art Movement is a radio show, where I share my thoughts about the arts and play clips from all the audio content I produce.

The hope is to one day find a terrestrial radio home in various territories for The Art Movement and also have it available online for a small fee. I will also continue to upload clips from the show for free on my YouTube site.

All this will not affect my work for JAZZIZ Magazine and FRED Film Radio. In fact, at JAZZIZ, we are excited about the launch of a new regular weekly livestream series titled Crate Digging. I will also continue to produce a weekly radio show on FRED on all things cinema, titled Big FRED Tuesday.

The new intensive schedule will kick off next week and more information will be available in the coming days.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

5 New Podcast Interviews on Film You Need to Hear (October 2020)

Here is a roundup of some of my favourite interviews that I conducted for FRED Film Radio, the international online talk radio on all things cinema, this month (October 2020). Interviews are drawn from this month’s episodes of my weekly radio show, Big FRED Tuesday, and the extensive coverage of the 2020 Rome Film Fest for the radio that I was part of.

Roberto Salinas
director of Cuban Dancer

A conversation with the director of a passionate coming-of-age ballet tale, danced between Cuba and the United States, in a time of change.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW: http://www.fred.fm/uk/roberto-salinas-cuban-dancer-alicenellacitta/

John Waters
Filmmaker

John Waters was a special guest of the 2020 edition of the Rome Film Fest and I recorded a short chat with him on the red carpet.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW: http://www.fred.fm/uk/john-waters-romaff15/

Steve Massa
author of the book Rediscovering Roscoe: The Films of “Fatty” Arbuckle

A chat with film historian Steve Massa, who recently wrote a book on early slapstick comediat “Fatty” Arbuckle that turns the attention back to his films rather than focusing on the huge scandal that continues to taint his career to this day.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW: http://www.fred.fm/uk/steve-massa-rediscovering-roscoe-the-films-of-fatty-arbuckle/

Tomm Moore
director of The Secret of Kells

My interview with Irish animator Tomm Moore, co-founder of Cartoon Saloon, whose Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells was selected as part of the inaugural program of the EU-supported online film literacy platform, European Film Factory.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW: http://www.fred.fm/uk/tomm-moore-the-secret-of-kells/

Gabriel Range and Johnny Flynn
director and actor of Stardust

A chat with the director and actor of Stardust, a film inspired by a formative period in the early career of a young David Bowie.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Art Picks the Week #2: Michelangelo, Kurt Schwitters and more

Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Michelangelo, Kurt Schwitters, George Frederic Watts and more.

Riccione – The Green Pearl of the Adiatic
Giovanni Maria Mataloni, 1930

The Torment of Saint Anthony
Michelangelo, c. 1487-88

Flight
Kurt Schwitters, 1945

Proserpine
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874

Hope
George Frederic Watts, 1886

Ceramics from the Sepulchre of the Necropolis of Ervidel
Centuries XIII BC – VII BC

Rest 2
Chang Hong Ahn, Ko Chang-seok, 2010

Madonna of the Goldfinch
Raphael, 1505-1506

My Albums of the Week #7: Everything but the Girl and Giorgio Gaslini

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Everything but the Girl, Eden (1984, Blanco y Negro)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Each and Every One / 2 – Bittersweet / 3 – Tender Blue / 4 – Another Bridge / 5 – The Spice of Life / 6 – The Dustbowl / 7 – Crabwalk / 8 – Even So / 9 – Frost and Fire / 10 – Fascination / 11 – I Must Confess / 12 – Soft Touch

The debut album of British duo Everything but the Girl, backed by great session musicians. A classy fusion of pop with lounge jazz, cool jazz and bossa nova. A true peak in the sophisti-pop wave of the period, as noteworthy for its arrangements as much as for its lyrics, depicting scenes of tragic romance with disarming realism.

Giorgio Gaslini, La Notte Soundtrack (1996, BNF)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Lettura della Lettura / 2 – Ballo Di Lidia / 3 – Voci Dal Fiume / 4 – Quartetto Sotto le Stelle / 5 – Blues All’Alba / 6 – Valzer Lento / 7 – Notturno Blues / 8 – Finale / 9 – Jazz Interludio / 10 – Country Club / 11 – La Notte (Suite)

Released in 2016, the remastered version of symphonic jazz great Giorgio Gaslini, closer here to pop sensibilities and trends of the time, both in jazz and pop music. A beautiful earful of the glamour and sophistication linked with Italy in the ’60s, composed for Michelangelo Antonioni’s international arthouse hit movie La Notte and performed in a quartet setting.

Billy Joe Shaver, Old Five and Dimers Like Me (1973, Monument)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Black Rose / 2 – Old Five and Dimers Like Me / 3 – L.A. Turnaround / 4 – Jesus Christ, What a Man / 5 – Played the Game Too Long / 6 – I Been to Georgia On a Fast Train / 7 – Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me / 8 – Low Down Freedom / 9 – Jesus Was Our Saviour and Cotton Was Our King / 10 – Serious Souls / 11 – Bottom Dollar / 12 – Ride, Cowboy. Ride / 13 – Good Christian Soldier

A peak in the outlaw country genre, featuring some of the best-known and most-covered songs of the music. A depiction of how hard it is to be good as strong as this you’ll never hear. The record should also have launched Billy Joe Shaver into the mainstream. As it happens, personal demons and general injustice made it so that some who covered the tracks on this very program made it bigger than he did.

My Films of the Week #4: Beer League, Stardust & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

All Cats Are Grey (Savina Dellicour, 2014, Belgium)

Witty comedy drama about a young girl who begins to suspect that a local private investigator is her father. Enjoyable and featuring moments of warmth but ultimately lacking in ambition.

Artie Lange’s Beer League (Frank Sebastiano, 2006, USA)

Childish and even a bit tasteless. You may not find it in any “best of” lists any time soon, yet there is something about it that recalls old slapstick comedies and makes it a wild and fun watch.

The Jump (Giedre Zickyte, 2020, Lithuania/Latvia/France)

An inspiring tale from not too long ago of when the United States protested for the immigration of a Soviet man. Aside from the interesting story it tells, it is cinematically constructed in a gripping and exciting way.

Stardust (Gabriel Range, 2020, UK)

Inspired by the lack of David Bowie, this independent film lacks any noteworthy independent spirit. Typical, standards, coming-of-age drama. Hardly worth the time of any of the iconic music star’s fans.

My Name Is Francesco Totti (Alex Infascelli, 2020, Italy)

First-person insight into the life and career of one of the most acclaimed football players in Italian history and a symbol for the city of Rome at large. At times, it feels almost Macchiavellian.

Tigers (Ronnie Sandahl, 2020, Sweden/Italy/Denmark)

Based on the true story of a promising football star, Tigers provides insight on mental illness among football youth league players. However, its penchant for traditionalist melodrama counters a promise for realist bite.

Cuban Dancer (Roberto Salinas, 2020, Italy/Canada/Chile)

Coming-of-age documentary telling the tale of a promising young Cuban ballet dancer emigrating to the U.S. with his family. Lacks a truly eventful, pivotal moment but is saved by its noteworthy human warmth.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Considering Michelangelo’s Antisocial Behavior in the Times of the Coronavirus

Bleak times appear to be ahead for all of us, as number of coronavirus cases are on the rise again all over the world. The looking threat of another imminent lockdown, which has been actuated in some parts of the world, hangs over us like a shadow.

It is important, in these times, to remain positive. It’s easy to give into the negativity brought on by such frustration. Why not embrace, instead, the potential of having to spend time on our own? Such potential includes the possibility of learning a new skill and dedicating our time to passionate self-development, in response to social distancing.

Indeed, this has been the secret of many of the great masters of the past. Including Michelangelo, the great Italian Renaissance sculptor, among the most celebrated of his period. Michelangelo lived a remarkably long life during which he held fort as the most important artist in the world, loyally serving several popes in his lifetime.

A true Renaissance man, Michelangelo was a 360 degree artist — a painter, poet, architect and philosopher. But most of all, especially as the years progressed, he considered himself a sculptor. In reading Martin Gayford’s 2013 biography on his life, Michelangelo: His Epic Life, I have been fascinated to find that he had already reached an incredibly high standard of sculpting in his adolescence.

Part of his secret, Michelangelo would have said, was that he was endowned with a divine gift from God himself. He so wanted to promote this idea that in his lifetime, he almost successfully concealed the contribution of the people who trained him in his craft, including Ghirlandaio, and underplayed the importance of his mentors in his formative years.

Yet, to be sure, part of the reason why he was able to reach such a high standard of sculpting from an early age was that he truly did eat, think and breathe art, and dedicated himself wholly to perfecting his skills. In fact, Gayford even concludes from his research on Michelangelo’s formative years that as a young man, he was downright anti-social.

“Michelangelo, however, stood apart from these musical parties. It sounds as though, even as an adolescent, he was already antisocial, reclusive, and driven: constantly drawing and carving. Only such dedication could explain the rapidity of the progress he made. Within two years, he had become as skilful a sculptor in marble as any alive.”

Martin Gayford, Michelangelo: His Epic Life

In coming across this particular quote, I found it particularly inspiring and worth of being shared. I am not suggesting that the key to maintining a positive frame of mind is withdrawing from the world entirely, though it may suit some just fine. However, I do believe that in these times where withdrawing from others is more or less imposed on us, remembering that Michelangelo’s self-imposed social distancing greatly contributed to his rise as one of the greatest artists in the world.

My books of the week #2: Albert Camus and Sam Tallent

As part of my obsessive explorations in the arts, I try to read an average of two books a week. Here are the two books I read last week.

Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942)

As an exploration of morality, it falls somewhere between Kafka and Dostoevsky. As a portrayal of existentialist disenchantment, it is almost nonpareil.

Sam Tallent, Running the Light (2020)

This novel reeks of booze, cigarettes, piss and vomit. It ain’t pretty, yet it’s fascinating. The lead character of this novel may be a stand-up comedian but if you’re looking for a joke book, you’ll be disappointed. This is something else and whatever it is, will suck you into its world, exploring the depths of human nature, masculinity and the dark side of the self-employed hustle.

5 clips from my podcast interview with painter LACHLAN GOUDIE

I recently interviewed painter Lachlan Goudie for my MATT’S ART CHAT podcast series. Goudie’s new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, will run at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 28-November 25. He also recently published a book called The Story of Scottish Art.

Listen to five clips from the podcast interview via the player below.

How being a dad changed Lachlan Goudie’s perspective on art.

Lachlan Goudie on his new exhibition, Once Upon a Time.

“Art can be a childish exploration.”

How Goudie’s knowledge of art history influences his painting.

“Art has to be a vocation”

MATT’S ART CHAT is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with art creators, curators and lovers from all over the world. Listen to the full podcast with Lachlan Goudie via the player below.

Also available on Podbean and IHeartRadio.

My Albums of the Week #5: Donna Summer, Grover Washington Jr. & More

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Grover Washington Jr., Winelight (Elektra, 1980)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Winelight / 2 – Let It Flow (For “Dr. J”) / 3 – In the Name of Love / 4 – Take Me There / 5 – Just the Two of Us / 6 – Make Me a Memory (Sad Samba)

One of the most influential records of its time and the birth of smooth jazz, which honestly doesn’t deserve the bad rep it gets. After its release, countless other artists tried to get the same laid back grooves that Washington lays down, as well as the tone of his saxophones. Most failed. Bonus points for a standout performance by Marcus Miller on bass. Hear him slap that bass on “Let It Flow.”

Donna Summer, I Remember Yesterday (Casablanca, 1977)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – I Remember Yesterday / 2 – Love’s Unkind / 3 – Back in Love Again / 4 – I Remember Yesterday (Reprise) / 5 – Black Lady / 6 – Take Me / 7 – Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over) / 8 – I Feel Love

A concept album of sorts, which aims to fuses disco with influences of earlier popular musics. Scattered moments of sheen. However, at the end of the day, this Donna Summer album really only has two standout songs — the title track, repeated twice, and “I Feel Love,” respectively strategically placed at the opening and closing of the record.

Dixie Dregs, Dregs of the Earth (Arista, 1980)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Road Expense / 2 – Pride o’ the Farm / 3 – Twiggs Approved / 4 – Hereafter / 5 – The Great Spectacular / 6 – Broad Street Strut / 7 – I’m Freaking Out / 8 – Old World

I wasn’t familiar with the Dixie Dregs before listening to this. They’re quite a solid instrumental band. I suppose you’d call them rock fusion. Some songs feel a bit too constricted within their structure. A bit too clean for my taste. But I appreciate the ventures into the folk, country and even jazz territory.

My Films of the Week #3: Kill or Cure, The Devious Path & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Where Lights Are Low
(Colin Campbell, 1921, USA)

Starring and produced by Sessue Hayakawa, who was a huge star at the time and whose contribution to Asian-American film history continued to be undervalued. A noteworthy vehicle about Chinese human trafficking, tasteful despite slight stereotyping.

Kill or Cure
(Carlo Campogalliani, 1921, Italy)

Kill of Cure shows there was more than epic movies and Maciste productions to the Italian silent film era. This is a comedy adventure with a surrealist edge and one of six films to star Carlo Campogalliani who, for a while, was called “the Italian Fairbanks.” Clever and highly entertaining, inspired by the burgeoning psychoanalytic scene of the time, which it takes a few shots at.

The Apaches of Athens
(Dimitrios Gaziades, 1930, Greece)

Originally Greece’s first sound film, survives only in a silent version. Inspired by a popular operetta of the period, this romantic comedy is noteworthy for its depiction of social class disparities and for its images of the streets of Athens, where most of the film was shot.

The Devious Path
(G.W. Pabst, 1928, Germany)

A lesser-known masterpiece by G.W. Pabst, somewhat less grand than other works of his, yet continuing to affirm him as one of the masters of Weimar Republic cinema. A glorious exploration of sin and morality, driven by a central cabaret scene that is exciting from start to finish. Wonderful performances all around and an uncanny attention to detail that will have you revisiting it again and again.

Showbiz Kids
(Alex Winter, 2020, USA)

A series of conversations with child actors and the Hollywood studio system. It’s interesting but widely appears to fail to add any new information regarding this specific topic.

Unjustly Accused
(Holger-Madsen, 1913, Denmark)

The story of a theater actress forced to quit her acting career upon marrying. Misses an opportunity to be seen today as a feminist flick ahead of its time. It has its moments of visual delight and uses interesting, early cinema effects. Yet, the most delightful thing about the movie remains the lead performance by Rita Sacchetto.

The Serenade
(Will Louis, 1916, USA)

An early flick starring Oliver Hardy that, like many second-rate slapstick shorts of the time, shows inconsistencies, carelessness and finally ends up feeling like a disjointed series of gags.

The Rent Collector
(Norman Taurog, Larry Semon, 1921, USA)

Larry Semon, mostly forgotten today yet one of the major motion picture stars of the time, at his best. A wild collection of gags it may be but somehow, it all holds up together and never misses a beat. Sure, despite the impoverished setting it lacks any semblance of social awareness and is definitely not Chaplin’s Easy Street (1917). But its pace is remarkable — think Harry Langdon on cocaine — and unlike some of Semon’s lesser works from the time, it is consistently fun and amazingly inventive.

Detained
(Joe Rock, Scott Pembroke, 1924, USA)

An early flicks starring Stan Laurel, set in the prison. Has a surrealist edge that makes it noteworthy, including a showstealing hanging scene. Yet, in retrospect, is more valuable as a document of Laurel still in the process of finding a distinctive comedic persona.

Moonlight and Noses
(Stan Laurel, 1925, USA)

Moonlight and Noses is directed by, but does not star, Stan Laurel. A spoof on the mad scientist genre, this is a macabre comedy with good intentions but poorly executed and hardly a standout.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

10 great quotes from “Running the Light” by Sam Tallent (2020)

I recently read Sam Tallent’s novel, Running the Light, originally published earlier this year, in 2020. Here are ten quotes from the book that particularly stood out to me. BUY IT HERE.

“Things had never been his thing. He spent his money on more immediate gratifications.”

“In cities, no matter the night of the week, the party never had to end, but out in the Rest of It, in the remote blank nowheres, the night had a way of dying just when he was feeling the most alive.”

“Disgust boiled in Billy Ray’s chest like a second heartbeat: of all the things a man can be, a coward is the worst.”

“​The girl’s eyes were racooned by dark circles. She looked defeated. She was too tired to be so young.”

“Youth doesn’t perish, it mutes.”

“With stand-up, Billy Ray was only happy on stage. He lived for the hour; the rest of his life was just filler. Abeyance.”

“Do you remember before we forgot how to love each other? When you were my everything? Do you remember me when I was me? Because I remember you and you were beautiful. We were beautiful.”

“​More was the name of the game. More liquor. More blow. More more. His yearning was frantic. It howled like wind through the holes in his brain. He longed to penetrate and excrete, to fuck and be fucked, to violate, to be ruined.”

“He didn’t have much at this time but he owned the present and later tonight he would attest for his past and improve his future.”

“Billy Ray knew scary men and they didn’t wear visors. This man had never been in a fight in his life. Billy Ray could feel it, it was like a smell: the bravery of ignorance. This man had never been dominated by another. He’d never known the crude intimacy of violence, never felt the fear of laying on his back wondering if the boot would come to his temple or his throat. He was weak, of a generation of false vipers.”

Art of the Week #1: Egon Schiele, Giuseppe Arcimboldo & More

Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Egon Schiele, Wassily Kandinsky, Giuseppe Arcimboldo and more.

Seated Woman with Legs Drawn Up (Adele Herms)
Egon Schiele, 1917

Der Blaue Reiter
Wassily Kandinsky, 1912

Saint Thomas Aquinias in Prayer
Stevano di Giovanni, ca. 1423-1425

Brilliant Information Overload Pop Head
Douglas Coupland, 2010

Vertumnus
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1590-1591

MATT’S ART CHAT #31 – Lachlan Goudie (PODCAST)

In this new episode of Matt’s Art Chat, the first one in a while of my series of podcast conversations about the arts, I speak with painter Lachlan Goudie.

The main topic of the conversation is his new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, which will run at The Scottish Gallery on October 28-November 25, which is inspired by fairytales and finds him expanding on his interest in landscape painting and nature. However, we also talk about the origins of his interest in art and his work as a broadcaster, as well as a major book he has published and that is titled The Story of Scottish Art.

You can listen to the podcast conversation with Lachlan Goudie via one of the players below.

Also available on Podbean and IHeartRadio.

For more information on Goudie’s upcoming exhibition, Once Upon a Time, CLICK HERE. To order his new book, The Story of Scottish Art, CLICK HERE

Matt’s Art Chat is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The series is hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci.

10 Great Quotes from “The Stranger” by Albert Camus (1942)

I recently read Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, originally published in 1942. Here are ten quotes from this novel that particularly stood out to me.

It occurred to me that somehow I’d go through another Sunday, that Mother now was buried, and tomorrow I’d be going back to work as usual. Really, nothing in my life had changed.

And, after another silence, she murmured something about my being “a queer fellow.” “And I daresay that’s why I love you,” she added. “But maybe that’s why one day I’ll come to hate you.”

The trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the butt jogged my palm. And so, with that crisp, whipcrack sound, it all began. I shook off my sweat and the clinging veil of light. I knew I’d shattered the balance of the day, the spacious calm of this beach on which I had been happy.

All normal people, I added as an afterthought, had more or less desired the death of those they loved, at some time or another.

And so I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prisons as to innocent, untroubled sleep.

Often and often I blame myself for not having given more attention to accounts of public executions. One should always take an interest in such matters.

Another thing I did to deflect the course of my thoughts was to listen to my heart. I couldn’t imagine that this faint throbbing which had been with me for so long would ever cease.

[…] there’s no idea to which one doesn’t get acclimatized in time.

It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe.

For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.

My Books of the Week #1: Jerome K. Jerome and Francesco Guccini

As part of my obsessive explorations in the arts, I try to read two books a week. Here are the two books I read last week.

Nuovo Dizionario delle Cose Perdute (“New Dictionary of Things Lost,” Francesco Guccini, 2014)

Penned by one of Italy’s most acclaimed singer/songwriters and a sequel to a previous book listing things that used to be popular but no longer are – from habits to objects and beyond. It’s a bit of a witty boomer-fest but also a bit charming.

Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome, 1889)

An amusing take on the travelogue and a witty satire on masculine rituals with scattered moments of poetry. At times appears to anticipate the spirit of early slapstick comedies, which it predates by some decades, particularly those of Laurel & Hardy.

10 Great Quotes from Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat” (1889)

I recently read Jerome K. Jerome’s novel, Three Men in a Boat, originally published in 1889. Here are ten quotes from this novel that particularly stood out to me.

“Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.”

“I don’t understand German myself. I learned it at school, but forgot every word of it two years after I had left, and have felt much better ever since.”

“Heavenly melody, in our then state of mind, would only have still further harrowed us. A soul-moving harmony, correctly performed, we should have taken as a spirit-warning, and have given up all hope. But about the strains of “He’s got ’em on,” jerked spasmodically, and with involuntary variations, out of a wheezy accordion, there was something singularly human and reassuring.”

“We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father, a noble, pious man.”

“Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox-terrier nature.”

“I resolved, when I began to write this book, that I would be strictly truthful in all things; and so, I will be, even if I have to employ hackneyed phrases for the purpose.”

“It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

“There was a time, long ago, when I used to clamour for the hard work: now I like to give the youngsters a chance.”

“The pool under Sandford lasher, just behind the lock, is a very good place to drown yourself in.”

“We said we could not expect to have it all sunshine, nor should we wish it. We told each other that Nature was beautiful, even in her tears.”

My Films of the Week #2: Diego Maradona, The Fisher King & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Diego Maradona (Asif Kapadia, 2019, United Kingdom)

The third instalment in Asif Kapadia’s trilogy of docs on child wonders, whose touch turns everything to gold. Gripping, dramatic and exciting, continues to affirm its director as one of the most influential figures in modern documentary filmmaking.

Gascoigne (Jane Preston, 2015, United Kingdom)

The story of football player Paul Gascoigne. Unlike the aforementioned Diego Maradona, Preston’s approach is more straightforward and its nostalgic touch slightly annoying. Luckily, Gascoigne’s story is interesting enough to carry the film forward.

An Honest Liar (Justin Weinstein, Tyler Measom, 2014, United States)

A documentary on trickery and truth, An Honest Liar may have slipped under the radar ever so slightly but it’s well worth re-evaulating.

Tickled (David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, 2016, New Zealand)

An online tickle competition unravels deeper, darker truths. Tickled appears quirky at the start but then becomes a downright frightening reveal of the dangers of the internet and the manipulative, powerful people behind it.

The Tickle King (David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, 2017, New Zealand)

An addendum to the original feature film Tickled, documenting the tumultuous screenings of the original film by its reluctant protagonists. To some extent, I wish more movies had an accompanying short film like this one.

Deep Web (Alex Winter, 2015, United States)

Another film that aims to reveal truths about the internet and revolutionary ideologies behind it. However, despite narration from Keanu Reeves, Deep Web feels rather dull and slow-paced compared to other more gripping similar movies.

Talk Radio (Oliver Stone, 1988, United States)

Satisfied my fascination with movies about obsessive, self-destructive men quite well. It’s also as good a film about shock jocks as, I believe, we are ever going to get.

The Fisher King (Terry Gilliam, 1991, United States)

One of the best movies Terry Gilliam has ever written. Aside from its characteristic style, the film is entertaining and carries a charming romantic core that never quite gets overbearing. Great performances by the cast all around, Amanda Plummer in a supporting role steals the show.

Penrod and Sam (William Beaudine, 1923, United States)

Initially appears like a feature-length Our Gang-like movie but later reveals itself as a much more deeper, honest exploration of boyhood. Surprisingly contemporary and mature in its depiction of play as serious business for children, and in its general avoidance of stereotypes.

National Customs (Luo Mingyou, Zhu Shilin, 1935, China)

One of the few surviving Chinese New Life Movement propaganda films. It’s not a very impressive film and kind of falls apart with its ending but remains noteworthy, particularly for being Lingyu Ruan’s final film before she took her own life at 25.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

My Albums of the Week #4: Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Chick Corea Elektric Orchestra, The Chick Corea Elektric Orchestra (GRP, 1986)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Rumble / 2 – Side Walk / 3 – Cool Weasel Boogie / 4 – Got a Match? / 5 – Elektric City / 6 – No Zone / 7 – Kings Cockroach / 8 – India Town

At some point, we’re just going to have to stop thinking of ’80s FM Synth sounds as outdated cheese and begin to think about them as vintage awesome. If you are interested in taking that leap, you could do much worse than The Chick Corea Elektric Band. I can see where detractors are coming from. However, there’s so much to like about this album, including the talents of this stellar lineup. And, I’m sure, that even the most passionate detractors of this LP will appreciate “Got a Match?” as one of the most important fusion tunes of this period.

Ella Fitzgerald, The Lost Berlin Tapes (Verve, 2020)

TRACKLIST (Favourite tracks underlined): 1 – Cheek To Cheek / 2 – My Kind of Boy / 3 – Cry Me a River / 4 – I Won’t Dance / 5 – Someone to Watch Over Me / 6 – Jersey Bounce / 7 – Angel Eyes / 8 – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! / 9 – Taking a Chance on Love / 10 – C’est Magnifique / 11 – Good Morning Heartache / 12 – Hallelujah, I Love Him So / 13 – Hallelujah, I Love Him So – Reprise / 14 – Summertime / 15 – Mr. Paganini / 16 – Mack the Knife / 17 – Wee Baby Blues

A real joyful set, with Ella’s vocals right front and centre, backed by trio. I understand why it was not released… she makes quite a few mistakes, lyric-wise. Not that it matters because even when she forget the name of the city she is playing in, she makes a quick recovery. The First Lady of Song truly was one of a kind!

Elton John, Caribou (MCA, 1974)

TRACKLIST (Favourite tracks underlined): 1 – The Bitch Is Back / 2 – Pinky / 3 – Grimsby / 4 – Dixie Lily / 5 – Solar Prestige A Gammon / 6 – You’re So Static / 7 – I’ve Seen the Saucers / 8 – Stinker / 9 – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me / 10 – Ticking

It probably doesn’t deserve the bad rep it gets. Caribou includes a great rocking tune like “The Bitch is Back” and a beloved ballad like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Ok, the rest kind of goes right over my heard, with the exception of “Dixie Lily” and “I’ve Seen Saucers.” I see “Solar Prestige a Gammon” gets a lot of hate and I understand why. But to me, it’s positively weird and a cool tribute to The Beatles.

Limited online edition of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival

A limited edition of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, also known as the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, will take place online on October 3-10. This will hopefully and most likely be the only time in history that the most passionate silent film festival in the world will take place entirely online.

Aside from restored and rediscovered gems of early cinema unearthed from film archives from all corners of the globe and screenings accompanied by stellar music, there will be such parallel events as panel discussions, workshops, book presentations and other events.

You can get a pass for 9.90 euro and it could really be a life-changing experience for anyone. That’s because nothing is quite as visceral and poetic as early silent filmmaking. Nothing is quite as ugly and beautiful…nothing is quite as violent and gentle at the same time.

Register and find out more here https://www.mymovies.it/ondemand/giornate-cinema-muto/pass/

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Pat Metheny’s Pikasso Guitar

Pat Metheny is an absoute guitar master and we love him for it. Throughout his recorded career, he has pioneered many instruments, some more unusual than others. He has also crafted a distinctive synth guitar tone. Among his more unusual instruments is a beautifull odd-looking guitar named the Pikasso guitar, which aesthetically looks as if envisioned by Pablo Picasso himself.

This unusual instrument was a collaborative effort between Metheny and master luthier Linda Manzer. Metheny requested her to build a guitar that could have as many strings as possible. The final number came to be 42. The final product also included a hexaphonic pickup to interface with Metheny’s Synclavier synthesizer, which was an early digital synthesizer.

Admittedly, the guitar never caught on. From the looks of it, it would be difficult to even hold. However, it must be said that the guitar is wedged and shaped in such a way that Metheny, looking down, can see clearly each of the 42 strings. In fact, watching Metheny play it is a spectacle in its own right and it is downright remarkable to see how easy he makes playing it look.

There are videos of Metheny playing the Pikasso Guitar and he even most motably used it on his ninth album with the Pat Metheny Group, Imaginary Day from 1997. Here, he plays it on track 3, “Into the Dream.”

I mentioned the instrument in a recent livestream for JAZZIZ Magazine, hosted by Brian Zimmerman, where we talked about unusual instrumentalists and instruments in jazz. The other instrument I mentioned in this video is the newer Harpejji, developed in 2007, which is being pioneered by music polymath Jacob Collier, among others.

My Films of the Week #1

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Les Unwanted de Europa (Fabrizio Ferraro, 2018, Italy/Spain)

Fabrizio Ferraro imagines the final days of Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin, as he escapes collaborationist France across the Pyrenees in 1939. At the same time, a group of Catalan Republicans attempt to escape Spain’s Fascist regime after the Spanish Civil War along the same pathway. A solemn meditation on the history of unwanted people on the Old Continent, complete with black and white photography enhancing the idea of the repetition (or mechanical reproduction?) of history. An apt film to have been released on the eve of a European migrant crisis.

Topside (Logan George and Celine Held, 2020, USA)

An intense feature debut by Logan George and Celine Held, and a story of people living on the edge of society. A mother and her five-year-old girl have occupied a Manhattan underground tunnel as their home. There, they live until they are forced to move out, running away from authorities one cold winter night. Fuelled by urgency and suspense, Topside is a portrait of modern-day desperation. The underground setting offers a fascinating backdrop for a compelling and new exploration of what it means to be a mother, as well as what it means to be a mother’s child.

The Secret of Kells (Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, 2009, France/Belgium/Ireland)

On the eve of a bloody warfare, a young boy named Brandon is recruited by a revered illuminator to complete a book that may save his village by way of completing a series of dangerous, magical tasks. The Secret of Kells is inspired by Celtic mythology and the origins of The Book of Kells. However, both the narrative structure and the eclectic style of animation reveal multi-cultural influences that enhance the message of the movie. In fact, the film is just as adventurous as it is a universally appealing coming-of-age story driven by the powerful message that the pen is mightier than the sword.

We Can’t Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray, 1973, USA)

Nicholas Ray’s final major project, We Can’t Go Home Again, is a semi-fictionalized account of his relationship with his film students at Binghamton University. The film is experimental in nature, pioneering the use of the video synthesizer. Though it was never truly finished, constantly re-edited by the filmmaker in his final years, its incompleteness enhances the Brechtian power of the project’s eclecticism. We Can’t Go Home Again also feels like a deeply personal reflection on such themes as generational gap and loneliness, and captures an essence of counter-cultural times in the United States. It may even be taken as an autobiographical reflection on his status within the then-new generation of filmmakers, which heralded him as a hero but was reluctant to integrate him.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

5 of my interviews from the 77th Venice International Film Festival (VIDEO)

For the sixth year in a row, I covered the Venice International Film Festival for FRED Film Radio, the online talk radio about all things cinema that I have collaborated with for a long time. There, I interviewed several guests, including directors and producers who presented movies within the program of the festival, which was the first of the major international film festivals to hold a physical edition.

Here is a selection of five of the video interviews I conducted at the Lido di Venezia.

Director Hilal Baydarov on his film In Between Dying, presented in competition at the 77th Venice International Film Festival.

Director Julia von Heinz talks about And Tomorrow the Entire World, presented in competition at the 77th Venice International Film Festival.

Actress Isabel May talks about her role in Run Hide Fight, presented out of competition at the 77th Venice International Film Festival.

Director Ann Hui talks about her latest film, Love After Love, presented out of competition at the 77th Venice International Film Festival. The director was also honored at the festival with a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Director Ana Rocha de Sousa talks about her feature debut, Listen, presented in the Orizzonti section of the 77th Venice International Film Festival.

More of my interviews from the 77th Venice International Film Festival are available on fred.fm/.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

77th Venice International Film Festival: My top 5 films

For the past 10 days, I have been covering the Venice International Film Festival on the Lido di Venezia for FRED Film Radio. During this time, I watched about 40 movies presented within its program. Here is my personal top 5, compiled out of the films that I have watched across all sections of the festival.

5. LISTEN (Ana Rocha de Sousa, UK/Portugal)

Listen explores the seldom represented subject of forced adoptions. This is a fevered drama of two expats, down and out, living in Britain, whose lives go from bad to worse after their children are taken away from them. Enriched by narrative attention to detail, Ana Rocha de Sousa’s modern realist feature is focused, effective and at times downright frightening. It reveals horrible truths about society and human nature in a way that evokes the films of Ken Loach and John Cassavetes.

4. DEAR COMRADES! (Andrei Konchalovsky, Russia)

Andrei Konchalovsky revisits a page in Soviet Union history, when authorities opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the early ’60s. He does so by following the travails of a female authoritative figure whose staunch Communist beliefs are shaken by the event. Tense and compelling, Dear Comrades! is equally praise worthy for its style, which evokes such films of the period as The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier, complete with black and white photography.

3. IN BETWEEN DYING (Hilal Baydarov, Azerbaijan/Mexico/USA)

In Between Dying is an epic, meditative journey on the nature of existence, the likes of which have rarely been seen since Pier Paolo Pasolini. Beginning in the modern times and fading into timelessness, Hilal Baydarov follows his lead character, a young man on a scooter and his encounters with women along the way, which will lead him to an existential conclusion. Added point for the sheer delight of the landscapes, which the cameras revel in documenting.

2. SUN CHILDREN (Majid Majidi, Iran)

A cross between the films of Francois Truffaut and The Goonies. This is socially committed cinema that is unafraid to also be gripping and entertaining. The central theme of Majid Majidi’s film is that of child labour and the story is that of a young boy who enrols into school just to dig up a buried treasure for an exploitative mobster. Engaging and engaged.

1. RESIDUE (Merawi Gerima, USA)

A powerful and heartfelt portrait of Black life and gentrification in the United States. A cinematic poem that manages to be both tough-skinned and tender, both determined and melancholic. Residue feels like the essence of the rise of a new Black American cinema shake-up and, given that this is the feature debut of Merawi Gerima, the beginning of a very promising filmography.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 24 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show about arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed. The show is hosted and produced by globe-trotting arts presenter Matt Micucci, and features plenty of music, interview clips and thoughts on current events.

Listen to Episode 24 via one of the players below.

In this episode:

  • Charlie Parker turns 100;
  • Update on the Cinemateca Brasileira;
  • Mário Peixoto’s Limite;
  • Is Amazon exploiting artists?
  • Analog vs. digital;

and more, plus lots of music!

5 clips from THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 23 (RADIO SHOW)

Here are five clips from the latest episode of my radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT, the weekly radio show hosted/produced by arts presenter Matt Micucci. The show revolves around art and culture, and where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed.

(To listen to/download the full radio show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Announcement: My book on film, Eye of the Beholder is due out September 1.

Find your mentors in books, movies and music

What motivates Henry Rollins?

Should France return the Mona Lisa to Italy?

Whem Marcel Duchamp drew moustaches on the Mona Lisa

Lots more where that came from! You can listen to the full epsiode of THE ART MOVEMENT (including the music) via the player below.

Download the full radio show HERE.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

When Marcel Duchamp drew a pair of moustaches on the Mona Lisa…

A partial transcript of episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT, my weekly arts and culture radio show.

The influence of the Mona Lisa, of course, extends far beyond its status as a symbol of populist hostilities between two countries. It is a timeless work of art.

One of the most notable examples of how its legacy came as a result of its fame, when in 1919, noted artist and provocateur Marcel Duchamp drew a pair of moustaches on a picture or a postcard of the Mona Lisa.

This was not the first time the Mona Lisa had been parodied but it is the most famous example. Duchamp’s satirical take on Leonardo’s painting presented a less than reverent way of relating to past artistic tradition and was part of his “found object” works.

Duchamp titled his take on the Mona Lisa LHOOQ, which when read in French roughly translates to “Her ass is on fire,” and is a rude way of saying that she is insatiably horny. Clearly, the provocation was aimed at the art establishment and offered a new way of looking at art, shaking the shackles of academia off it.

Elle a Chaud au Cul has been referred to as a landmark work in the history of postmodernism. Some have claimed that it is, in fact, the beginning of postmodernism.

For certain, we see its influence replicated in the meme culture of today, which I am uncertain as to whether it should be referred to as an art movement or an art form but I am certainly not quick to dismiss, as far as its role in modern art is concerned.

Download the full radio show HERE.

ANIA HOBSON – Matt’s Art Chat #30 (PODCAST)

This episode of MATT’S ART CHAT features a conversation with painter Ania Hobson, a rising star of the British and international art scene. Hobson will be launching her debut solo exhibition at London’s Catto Gallery, featuring a new collection of her artworks, which will run from September 5-23.

Hobson’s work is defined by a strong, personal figurative style, blending tradition and modernity. Her works have been praised, among other things, for their fresh representation of and celebration of the “modern woman.” To find out more about her, visit her website, https://www.aniahobson.com/.

MATT’S ART CHAT is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The series is hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci.

Should the French return the Mona Lisa to Italy?

A partial transcript of episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT, my weekly arts and culture radio show.

If I was to say the word “painting,” which of the most famous paintings would be the first to pop into your head? I bet I can predict that many people would instantly think of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

This half-length portrait, which took Leonardo five years to complete was completed in 1507 and has charmed people all over the world for centuries. It has been defined as the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about and the most parodied work of art in the world.

In Italy, where I was born and where I am currently based, the Mona Lisa has a darker connotation. In fact, it’s been used by populists as a symbol for the traditional hostilities between Italy and France.

The general thought behind it is that the Mona Lisa is an important part of Italian cultural heritage and it was stolen by France (some even claim it was Napoleon who stole it). These people also say that it should be returned to Italy, where it belongs.

Actually, these claims are simply not true and yet another example of how art can be used to nurture unfounded hostilities, and that we should be careful about that.

Yes, Leonardo da Vinci was Italian. Yes, the man who commissioned the Mona Lisa was Italian. His name was Francesco del Giocondo and the sitter was his wife. It took Leonardo five years to complete the painting and he finished it in 1507.

But he never sold it to Francesco del Giocondo, partly because he saw it as a work of conceptual art rather than a mere portrait. It’s hard to disagree and many have written works where they support such a thesis.

Just recently, a research concluded that the much-talked about smile of the Mona Lisa is fascinating because it’s not a fully formed smile but a smile in the process of becoming one.

Because Leonardo realized its worth, he kept it with him and traveled with it in 1511 when he went to France, after being called by the King himself. Leonardo spent his final years in France and when he died there, his assistant Salai, who is also known as being his lover, inherited the painting. It was Salai who rightfully sold it to King Francis the first, the King of France, for 4,000 gold coins and thus, the Mona Lisa has rightfully been kept by the French government since then.

The only exception occurred in 1911, when a worker of the Louvre named Vincenzo Peruggia, stole it and took it back to Italy. This is the only actual known case of the painting being stolen and it was an Italian who stole it from the French. The Mona Lisa was presumed lost for some years until in 1913, Peruggia was discovered and arrested after attempting to sell it to a gallery in Florence for the equivalent of $100,000.

When the arrest was made, the Italian state returned the painting to France, and it has been housed by the Louvre ever since. However, Italy did try and occasionally does try to have its masterpiece returned.

Notable figures joined in the battle cry, in support for this cause, including George Clooney, who resides by Lake Como. Indeed, France may have considered returning the Mona Lisa to Italy, had it not been for the fact that the painting is far too fragile to be moved. Well, at least that’s what they say.

But I don’t see why they should return it. France rightfully bought the painting so it doesn’t need to return anything. In any case, I don’t particularly think that those who call for the Mona Lisa to be returned actually have the interest of the artwork itself in mind.

Actually, there have been cases of artworks from countries taken by other countries, particularly during several of the European wars. But I don’t hear as much said about the vast majority of them.

I mean, Europe was plagued by wars for centuries and the one thing that put a significant stop to that was the establishment of the European Union, which is maligned by the vast majority of the people who ignorantly claim that the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy but who have no idea of how the Mona Lisa ended up in France in the first place.

In any event, I actually see the presence of artworks of different origins scattered all over Europe or the world, for that matter, as important cultural bridges that should unite people rather than inspire hostilities.

Download the full radio show HERE.

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 23 – SONG LIST

Here’s the list of songs played on the last episode of THE ART MOVEMENT – the weekly radio show about arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed, hosted by Matt Micucci. (To listen to the full show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

  • IGGY POP, I’m Bored
  • THE BEACH BOYS, Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • TENDERLONIOUS, G Flex
  • SUDAN ARCHIVES, Come Meh Way
  • DESIRED, Wake Up
  • BARRY MANILOW, Copacabana (At the Copa)
  • BLACK FLAG, Rise Above
  • DICK DALE, Misirlou
  • PET SHOP BOYS, Being Boring
  • ELLA FITZGERALD, Mack the Knife
  • MORRISSEY, The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get
  • CHARLIE PARKER, Scrapple from the Apple

Listen to the full show via the player below.

Download the full radio show HERE.

Why I decided to self-publish my book

A partial transcript from Episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.

Earlier, I announced that I will be releasing my book, Eye of the Beholder, on the 1st of September. And I should say, as if there was any need to, that it is a self-published book. I just don’t have the time to send out manuscripts left and right, do email back and forths and just go through all that bullshit process. I also don’t need that type of validation.

So, part of my drive to self-publish this particular book was that I wanted to teach myself all the parts that are involved in self-publishing, from designing a book and cover to actually using the software to transform manuscripts into an ebook and so on.

It is hard to figure it all out and I’m still learning. I mean, I have had to obviously do it in my free time, so I haven’t been sleeping much.

In any case, I realize that sometimes, when you have an idea and it’s a creative idea that you know will take a long time to put together but you want to do for as long as you have the drive to do it, getting other people involved will just slow you down.

The Beat Writers of the ’60s used to live by the concept of “first thought, best thought” and I think there’s something to that. I really do.

Download the full radio show HERE.

Announcing my book “Eye of the Beholder,” out Sept. 1

A partial transcript from Episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.

The Venice International Film Festival is scheduled to take place from the 2nd to the 12th of September and on the eve of its opening night, in other words, on the 1st of September, I will be releasing my first book.

It’s a collection of my film writings on film from the final two years of my CineCola website that focused on cinema, so, from 2017 and 2018.

The book is titled Eye of the Beholder, after my fundamental stance on film and art criticism, which is my believe that the cinematic truth lies in the eye of the beholder and that any work of art has the potential to help us understand ourselves and the world around us based more on a personal connection that we share with the artwork itself rather than any academic stances.

The pieces collected in the book are quite varied in both form and content. We go from a rather traditionalist piece on the history of the making of Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball, one of the masterpieces of the Czechoslovak New Wave, to a lengthy account of what I hope the cinema venue of the future will look like, to a stream-of-consciousness piece written in response to the death of Bernardo Bertolucci.

In fact, in putting Eye of the Beholder together, I did favour eclecticism over cohesiveness and grand statements. But in any case, I will be releasing that on the day before the beginning of the Venice International Film Festival in eBook form and you can also order a paperback copy if you’re that way inclined. Which I understand because I, myself, am a paperback kind of guy. I may also release it in audio-book form.

Download the full show HERE.

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 23 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show about arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed. The show is hosted and produced by globe-trotting arts presenter Matt Micucci, and features plenty of music, interview clips and thoughts on current events.

Listen to Episode 23 via one of the players below.

Download the full show here.

In this episode:

  • The 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa;
  • Marcel Duchamp and the beginning of post-modernism;
  • What drives Henry Rollins;
  • Find your mentors in artworks;

and more, plus lots of music.

5 Clips from THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 22 (RADIO SHOW)

Here are five clips from the latest episode of my radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT, the weekly radio show hosted/produced by arts presenter Matt Micucci. The show revolves around art and culture, and where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed.

(To listen to/download the full radio show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

The Cinemateca Brasileira and over 100 years of Brazilian film heritage are in danger.

The Cinema Novo film movement of Brazil.

How art inspired outrage, empathy and revolution.

Why would Bolsonaro be interested in damaging cultural heritage?

Modern types of Tango music.

Lots more where that came from! You can listen to the full epsiode of THE ART MOVEMENT (including the music) via the player below.

Download the full show HERE.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

How Art Inspired Outrage, Empathy and… the Revolution

A partial transcript of Episode 22 of my arts and culture radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full show.

culture and education can lead to a revolution, which is a forceful way for people to take charge of time, which is history in motion. Whether those people fall on the wrong side of history or the right side of history is the real challenge.

But the way I see it, the two energies that are the foundation of a revolution are outrage and empathy. So, at certain points in history, especially when a shocking event occurs like the explosion of Beirut, the death of George Floyd or 9/11 and so on…

The reactions they solicit are outrage and empathy. The way I see it, the former is a more impulsive one, it is more easily understood and that is why it instantly attracts more people.

That’s also why social media and, arguably, the internet at large are the best vehicles for outrage. Because they too are fast-paced and offer the promise of instant gratification. But because outrage is such an impulsive reaction and so strong, it tends to manifest itself as violence or through violent acts. Now, I would be naive to think that violence has no place in revolution and that’s true.

Also, violence itself manifests itself in various ways, not only via physical violence but through the destruction of cultural heritage, spiteful words and in ways that are a bit more concealed and don’t stand out as easily.

The other force, empathy, is a little harder to generate can easily be overcome by outrage, but in the end, empathy is the more long lasting of the two forces. But two of the conditions that empathy requires are time and distance. Which is why art is the perfect vehicle for empathy.

Art is not as immediate and can take time to both find and evaluate. But it also has that capacity to linger in your mind for far longer than the fast-paced world of social media. But also because to be sure, art like Nina Simone famously said should reflect the times. But also because art has that capacity to reveal truths that are timeless and universal.

Some of these truths are so plain to see but at the same time, to be aware of them is incredibly difficult. Although these are truths that are also a part of us, to become aware of them requires a certain distance or even detachment. It also requires us to be passive, as we are confronted by such truths.

Art provides just that distance and that type of confrontation. However, in a strange twist, it is impossible to know just what artwork will lead to such a powerful awakening.

The best way to achieve this awakening is by experiencing as much art as we can of as many kinds as we can all of the time. And you don’t need to be intellectually aware of the different art movements, just that art is varied and different and all of these varied and different styles, movements and forms represent different viewpoints. But no matter how different they are, there is always a timeless and universal truth within them that is also within us.

In a nutshell, that’s why I think that art is so important. That’s also why I think that I don’t have to agree with an artwork that I ideologically oppose in order to deem it good because that artwork too has a concealed, universal and timeless truth that will help me understand myself and the world around me.

Understanding that timeless and universal truth… that’s what empathy is all about. And it’s hard. But I really believe in my heart that that’s the revolution I want to be a part of. Are you with me?

Download the full radio show HERE.

Brazil and the Cinema Novo Film Movement

A partial transcript of Episode 22 of my arts and culture radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full show.

It must be said, however, that the history of cinema in Brazil is a reflection of its tumultuous political history. In fact, cinema had periods of few ups and many downs, and struggled to become a hugely popular form of entertainment due to its reliance on state funding.

Brazil has always traditionally been a politically conservative country because its ruling classes have mostly been white, conservative men. But there was a period of liberalization that Brazil experienced from the late ’50s to the coup d’etat of 1964, via such progressive Brazilian presidents as Kubitschek and Goulart.

During this time, Brazilian cinema was renewed by a movement known as the Cinema Novo, which translates as New Cinema. The movement had been particularly influenced by Italian neo-realism.

It also came with a manifesto, penned by Glaubert Rocha. The strongest theme outlined in the manifesto was an “aesthetic of hunger,” where hunger was outlined not only as an alarming symptom but also the essence of Brazilian society.

In fact, Rocha wrote, “Herein lies the tragic originality of Cinema Novo, in relation to world cinema: our originality is our hunger and our greatest misery is that this hunger is felt but not intellectually understood.”

Essentially, this statement reflects the desire of many Cinema Novo filmmakers, including Rocha himself, to make movies that would reflect society as it was rather than depict a vision of everyday life that represented society as the ruling politicians wanted it to be represented.

Rocha in fact directed some of the best films of the movement, including Barravento, about an educated black man returning to his home rural village to free the people off the shackles of mysticism, which he considers a factor of political and social oppression; and Black God, White Devil, about an employee who begins to follow a self-professed saint after murdering his employer. Two other great figures of cinema novo were Ruy Guerra and Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

But unlike other like-minded movements of the time that sought to counter the predominant cinema of its country, the most famous of these being the French New Wave, Cinema Novo was relatively short-lived. Its first wave lasted only about four years and came to an abrupt end with the 1964 coup d’etat, which re-established a military regima politically aligned to the interests of the United States government in the most heated period of the Cold War.

There were films made after 1964 that are considered Cinema Novo movies. But the first wave is the one that you really need to see from this period. Much like Czechoslovakia, it took some time for Brazilian cinema to regain some freedoms.

Indeed, the film that marked a significant rebirth for Brazilian cinema, if ever it had been truly born on an internationally significant scale at all… was City of God from 2002 was Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund.

It shouldn’t be surprising to note that this particular film was made just one year after the election of Lula, generally regarded as the first left-wing president since Joao Goulert was dethroned, so to speak, in 1964.

Download the full radio show HERE

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 22 – SONG LIST

Here’s the list of songs played on the last episode of THE ART MOVEMENT – the weekly radio show about arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed, hosted by Matt Micucci. (To listen to the full show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

  • THE CRIBS, “Running Into You”
  • MS. DYNAMITE, “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee”
  • MARIA BETHANIA, “Olhos Nos Olhos”
  • STEVIE WONDER, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”
  • OS MUTANTES, “Trem Fantasma”
  • LOVE, “A House Is Not a Motel”
  • THE CLASH, “Revolution Rock”
  • BASA BASA, “African Soul Power”
  • JACK WHITE, “Love Is Blindness”
  • GRACE JONES, “I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango)”
  • CHARLIE PARKER, “Now’s the Time”

Listen to the full show via the player below.

Download the full radio show HERE.

Why the Bolsonaro Government is Damaging Brazil’s Cultural Heritage

A partial transcript of Episode 22 of my arts and culture radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full show.

Sao Paulo-based film critic Felipe Furtado told Sight & Sound that the Bolsonaro government has “zero interest in culture and memory, and their neoliberal views regard any sort of art funding as a complete waste of resources. They also see most of art and education as suspicious overrun by leftists…”

But why would he be interested in harming the arts and cultural sector? Well, as mentioned, Bolsonaro is a highly controversial figure of the far-right. Art, of course, has power and resonated with people. It also broadens people’s horizons, opens their minds and gets them thinking. This is obviously something that an extremist government would not want people doing.

A government that’s interested in controlling as much of its population’s life as possible will most likely want to control all narratives of its own country. By doing so, it will not only look to produce new stories but also do its best to repress the older ones.

That’s what the Bolsonaro government did with the Cinemateca, although they were quite deceitful about it. They didn’t burn it to the ground outright. They just cut its funds and then cut its energy sources, leaving all those reels of film to rot.

Of course, one would assume that the intent is to destroy the past to increase investment in creating new films, perhaps ones that help communicate Bolsonaro’s vision of his country and project an image of Brazil that he could really get behind.

This is not a new concept, and it is an idea that recalls the term propaganda. And you know, it’s like that old saying — if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?

Because you know what? Whatever Bolsonaro is doing is actually working! As of this recording, the coronavirus has killed more than 105,000 people in Brazil, making it the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States. Several jobs were lost during this period.

Nevertheless, a survey revealed that Bolsonaro’s popularity is at a record high, showing that his popularity has surged five points from June, to 37 per cent, while his disapproval rating plunged 10 points to 34 per cent. And why am I not surprised…

Download the full radio show HERE.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

The Cinemateca Brasileira and Brazil’s Cultural Heritage Is in Danger

A partial transcript of Episode 22 of my arts and culture radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full show.

In my ART MOVEMENT shows, I try not to get too carried away with politics but in the past, I have talked about how I believe that you can tell a lot about any given country’s state of democracy by its treatment of the arts and cultural heritage at large.

When we think about totalitarians and extremists burning books, destroying artworks or censoring and prosecuting artists, we tend to think of it as something of a different time. Footage from the past shot in black and white.

Yet, there are several worrying situations right now in various parts of the world that we should be aware of. One of these is certainly Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, which also happens to top my personal list of countries I’ve always wanted to visit.

Since his election, the right-wing politician has done much to be considered one of the world’s most controversial leaders. He has trampled over human rights and decreased democratic rights in Brazil. In the process, he has also shown a great disregard for the arts and culture sector.

Brazil has been one of the worst hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic. This has facilitated his government’s plans for a stronghold on arts and culture, as well as its educational sector. One of the latest examples is what is currently happening with the Cinemateca Brasileira, which is the cinematheque of Brazil.

The Cinemateca Brasileira was founded in 1940, which makes it one of the oldest cinema institutions in the entire country. It’s also home to the largest film archive in South American with 250,000 rolls of film and a million cinema-related documents.

It is, in other words, the most important institution for preserving the memory of Brazilian cinema and also, works from the cinemas of other countries that were discovered in Brazil.

Despite its obvious invaluable status, the Bolsonaro government has little time for it. The Cinematheque’s employees have not been paid since March. During this period, the government completely cut finances to the foundation tasked with looking after it, leaving the institution broke.

As a result, the Cinemateca has not been able to pay its bills and recently, its electricity was cut off. Last Friday, a Special Secretariat for Culture took keys to the Cinematheque in an operation that involved heavily armed men from the Federal Police force.

In addition, 41 employees were fired. A dismantling of the Cinemateca is currently underway with no experts in the preservation of film involved. 

Archiving films is not as easy as storing stacked reels of film on a shelf. The film medium requires a lot of care and attention in order to be preserved, not to mention that each of the reels of films is painstakingly catalogued, as the risk of losing anything from any archive is always around the corner.

Abrupt abandonment, the way in which it is happening in the Cinemateca, puts its cultural collection at great risk, since much of the stored material is composed of nitrate, a substance that can spontaneously combust without proper care. Care must therefore be performed by highly skilled labourers.

Without trained technical staff, all the national memory stored there may disappear forever.

Download the full radio show HERE

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 22 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show about arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed. The show is hosted and produced by globe-trotting arts presenter Matt Micucci, and features plenty of music, interview clips and thoughts on current events.

Listen to Episode 22 via one of the player below.

Download the full show HERE.

In this episode:

  • The film heritage of Brazil is under threat
  • Brazil’s Cinema Novo movement
  • How art inspired outrage and empathy
  • Modern Tango music

and more, plus lots of music.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

5 clips from THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 21 (RADIO SHOW)

Here are five clips from the latest episode of my radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT, the weekly radio show hosted/produced by arts presenter Matt Micucci. The show revolves around art and culture, and where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed.

(To listen to/download the full radio show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Trans-genderism in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando.

The problem with major bookstore chains like WHSmith.

The music of planets.

What Pablo Picasso told the Nazi secret police force about Guernica.

A tourist damaged a 19th-century Antonio Canova artwork while taking a selfie.

Lots more where that came from! You can listen to the full epsiode of THE ART MOVEMENT (including the music) via the player below.

Download the full radio show here.

EVA LAURA MADAR – Matt’s Art Chat #28 (PODCAST)

This week’s Matt’s Art Chat is a conversation with French-born Tango dancer Eva Laura Madar about the Tango culture and the different kinds of Tango. Here, we also talk about her experience of living ten-years in Argentina, which she calls her second home, as well as her time in Patagonia and her connection with nature, among other things.

To find out more about Eva Laura Madar, visit her website: https://evalauramadar.wixsite.com/mad-art.

MATT’S ART CHAT is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The series is hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci.

Find Your Mentors in Books, Films and Music

In life, I’m sure, you have encountered/encounter/will encounter people who will tell you that books, films and music are not important. I suggest you ignore those people.

Knowledge is pretty much the most important thing you can acquire. There is very little evidence that not reading books, watching movies and listening to music will not lead you anywhere in life. On the other hand, many of the most accomplished people in life had one thing in common: they read, watched, listened, explored. They acquired knowledge all their lives.

There is another reason. The one thing in life that’s going to get you anywhere and can change your life is finding a mentor, who will help you acquire knowledge and achieve a better version of yourself.

There are two ways of finding a mentor.

The first way is by contacting people directly, asking them questions and establishing a relationship with them. Understandably, not everyone will be willing to help you. You may contact ten people, and out of those ten people you may only get one reply. However, that one reply can be your one step forward in acquiring knowledge and getting you that one step closer to your goal, whatever that may be.

The second way is possibly easier but just as rewarding. It is by establishing a relationship with people you admire who may be dead or unreachable through their works, whether through books they wrote or have been written about them, films they made, or music they made.

Some of my mentors, Helen Keller, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Louis Armstrong, Leo Tolstoy, Walter Benjamin, Elizabeth Bishop, etc. are long gone. Yet I feel a connection with their lives and their works that is a lot like having a relationship with them.

Robin Dunbar said that a human will only maintain a stable relationship with 150 individuals. I think that’s a good number.

In your life, you will hopefully read thousands of books, watch hundreds of thousands of movies, and listen to an incalculable amount of music of all kinds, from all parts of the world, dealing with different themes and issues.

However, you will encounter works that will particularly resonate with you and you will feel the need to revisit them, whether by experiencing them again or just by thinking about them.

From the list of all the books that you will read, films that you will watch, music that you will listen to, you will find yourself automatically compiling a list – whether mentally or on paper – of 150 works that will have positively affected your health, your wealth, and your happiness.

We live in an age where knowledge is more accessible to us than it ever has been before. As a result, it has never been easier to find your mentors. For anyone who is not hindered by technological issues of any kind, there are no excuses.

No matter what your goals are in life, nothing will set you on a faster path in achieving those goals than actively looking for them either through direct interactions with living people, or through your interactions with books, films, music and the arts at large. It is through these interactions that you will most likely find the confidence and the desire and the curiosity to gain experience out in the real world.

Originally published on my previous website, CineCola on June 18, 2018.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 21 – SONG LIST

Here’s the list of songs played on the last episode of THE ART MOVEMENT – the weekly radio show about arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed, hosted by Matt Micucci. (To listen to the full show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

  • LILY ALLEN, “LDN”
  • GREGORY PORTER, “Revival”
  • DAVID BOWIE, “Life on Mars?”
  • CHUCK BERRY, “Johnny B. Goode”
  • TELEVISION, “Venus”
  • THE MODERN LOVERS, “Pablo Picasso”
  • AIRTO MOREIRA, “Celebration Suite”
  • ADELE, “Chasing Pavements”
  • ROXY MUSIC, “Virginia Plain”
  • ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK, “Enola Gay”
  • THE KINKS, “Strangers”
  • CHARLIE PARKER, “Ornithology”

Listen to the full show via the player below.

The Problem with Major Bookstore Chains

A partial transcript from Episode 21 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.

When it comes to literature, it is commonly believed that people read less nowadays. That myth has been debunked and the rise of ebooks, Kindles and so on have actually made accessibility easier.

Now, I’m a paperback guy when it comes to books, so I don’t really factor in a virtual experience as far as reading is concerned. It doesn’t work for me. So, one of the things I like to do is I like to visit bookstores, often to the point where I buy more books than I have time to read. I know there may be people out there listening to this who feel what I am saying.

The thing I have noticed is that bookstores in general are a tricky thing. If you go to the mainstream ones, their selection is not so impressive. I more than likely do not find the books I am looking for.

I’m also not surprised by anything that particularly catches my eye. It’s a lot of mainstream stuff, a lot of celebrity biographies, a lot of populist philosophy, a lot of books about cooking. There are some big name authors out there but only a handful are really prominently exhibited in those major bookstore chains.

This is not a new trend. In Galway, Ireland, the major bookstore is Eason. But I hardly ever remember buying a book there. I would usually go to Charlie Byrnes of Keane’s, though the latter was a bit further away from the city center. And most of the time, I would favor second-hand books, also because I used to be really, really broke.

Actually, what I liked to do is at the time, they would randomly stack books outside the store and I would close my eyes and randomly pick out a book from the 1 euro baskets. I would walk to the counter not knowing what I picked up, pay it and then see. Even if it sounded like the dullest, most uninteresting thing ever, I would make myself read at least the first chapters and try my best to get through the whole thing. That’s how I made so many great discoveries, read some really challenging books ever from an early age.

One time, I was embarrassed to walk to the counter with an adult book titled Amour, Amour by Marie Claire de Villefranche, and so I noticed what I had picked out before the counter. Instead of paying for the book, I was so embarrassed, I just walked off stealing it. I wasn’t caught but I guess the thrill of reading a pornography book was enhanced by the fact that I had stolen it.

All this to say that during the week, news was announced that 150,000 WHSmith jobs could be lost. When I lived in London and when my mother lived in the UK, that’s when I would occasionally visit one of their stores. Then, of course, I used to buy copies of Sight & Sound magazines at some airports there. But again, they’re overpriced and their selection of books tends to be pretty dull.

Of course, I feel for the people who risk losing their jobs. I really do. But I read a tweet reflecting my sentiments on the situation that stated: “I do wonder if the drop of customers at WHSmith is less to do with COVID and more to do with reducing the magazine and book and stationary stock to stock massively overpriced chocolate bars and bottles of water no-one ever wants.”

And I’m talking about WH Smith here but this is something that extends to the cultural sector at large. It’s like when you watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, and you see that these restaurants are in financial dire straits and in order to save their restaurants, instead of focusing on the quality, they try all these things that just cheapen them like early-bird specials and a menu that is too big, microwaving food and all that stuff.

In other words, what I am getting at is that WHSmith, but also arthouse cinemas and even museums and other art institutions are in dire need of a more tasteful curation. Maybe a long-term plan that works on a wider diversity and quality control.

Maybe the collapse of WHSmith will lead to the rebirth of independent bookstores and if that happens, it may be the best thing for cultural development. Of course, if it happens, I wish the thousands of people who will lose their job all the best.