Frank O’Hara & A Photograph

Yes, Frank O’Hara was featured in the last episode of Mad Men, season 2, and that’s how I first heard about him. Recently I acquired “Meditations in an Emergency” collection of poems, and to my delight, found that he’s an exceptionally talented poet. He mixes nuggets of pop culture with vivid images and aptly coiling phrases that project sly, sticky pictures in your head. If you follow the link at the beginning of the post, you will learn a lot more about him, and perhaps, be surprised. Frank O’Hara is not an obscure name in American literature, it is I who’s been an obscure mind in the dark about him! Bonus: he also loved Mayakovsky, and even wrote a poem to him.

Since I’m on a movie bend this week (and generally, too), I’m sharing his “To the Film Industry in Crisis”, below:

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals
with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants,
nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition
is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you,
promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you
are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry,
it’s you I love!

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.
And give credit where it’s due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me
how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed
herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church
which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment,
not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you,
glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope,
stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all
your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! To
Richard Barthelmess as the “tol’able” boy barefoot and in pants,
Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long neck,
Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car
and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage
on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet,
Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain-climbers’ gasping spouses,
the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer
Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a furry sled,
her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon,
its crushing passions, and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma Shearer,
Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel McCrea’s yacht,
and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene Tierney
from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo Marx,
Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle Oberon berates,
Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls,
Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores del Rio
eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson reclining,
and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining
and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, William Powell
in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to you
and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the extras
who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two lines,
my love!
Long may you illumine space with your marvellous appearances, delays
and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you
as you rest after a long day under the kleig lights with your faces
in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night
but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent
you perpetuate! Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!

 

 

And to start the week on a friendly foot, here is a September picture of me, taken by Slava:

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Tetro

tetroI still have the images from this film in mind. What an excellent work of art. It’s Francis Ford Coppola’s first original screenplay since The Conversation. It is  a beautifully told story of the two brothers and the unveiling of the family secrets. The writing is absolutely fantastic, complemented by outstanding performances of Vincent Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich. Maribel Verdú (from Y Tu Mama Tambien) as the wife of Tetro (Vincent Gallo) does an amazing job, too.

I have never seen Vincent Gallo on screen before, and this film has put him into my favorite actors pool. He’s absolutely mesmerizing, the writer on a perpetual writing sabbatical, a not quite failed genius. And his eyes transmit a lot of emotion. The part where he stares at the blinding peaks of Patagonian mountains carry all the emotion of the subsequent ballet scene (which is also five stars).

Speaking of the ballet – Francis Ford Coppola created some of the most amazing dance scenes in this film. Some of them filled my eyes with tears. Apparently many of them have been shot in the studio only to be decorated with memorable and beautiful backgrounds in post-production. The whole film is actually in black and white – the present is in black & white, whereas flashbacks and scenes from memories are in color. In other words, for Tetro, the present is pretty bleak and not as vivid as the shaky past. I was wondering why the choice of black and white, until I hit the mid-peak of the film. My oh my.

I recommend this movie. It is now in my top 10 favorite movies of all time, filled with fully developed characters that undergo shocking changes as the story unveils. I’m still in a mild coma, and a sea of emotions that I can explain, but won’t. I don’t think it’ll be a stretch to say that Oscar nominations are due, but who knows. Go and watch it. Here’s the trailer: