Georgia O'Keefe (2009)

Familiar character actor, Bob Balaban, directed this HBO biopic about the relationship between twentieth century artist, Georgia O'Keefe, and photographer and New York art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz. Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons are entirely convincing as the pair who marked the era of modern American art.

O'Keefe was a quiet artist/teacher living in Texas when she sent Stieglitz a few of her spare nature drawings during the early 192os. Recognizing her remarkable talent, he immediately hung them without her permission, thrilled to have found the first modern woman artist to show alongside Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne at his 291 Gallery in New York.

Their first meeting at the gallery began when she demanded he remove the art from the wall. Soon his charm began to engage her in a life-changing relationship that would shape her professional success. She disapproves of his attempt to attach words and description to her work.

"A painter using words is like a baby trying to talk--it's better to let the picture speak on its own rather to put a word to it."

They seem to have ongoing vital dialogues full of quotable lines. A complicated romance bloomed even though Stieglitz was married with a family. They found their way into a modern emotional situation that brought joy and pain as he divorced and eventually married Georgia. Although she was a model independent woman, she still felt the desire to procreate. This infuriated Alfred.

"You are here to paint, NOT to breed."

"Emma Goldman can preach feminism till she's blue in the face but YOU embody it! Work doesn't become art until some rich person comes along and buys it."

His famous nude photographs of Georgia reconnected him with his own artistic talents, but also contained a specific business motive...to make Georgia the first celebrity woman artist.

Problems arise in their relationship. She is befriended by the infamous Mabel Dodge Luhan (Tyne Daly), who invites her to her place in the arts community in the southwest. Georgia finds her spiritual home in Taos and spends the final years of her life working in the spaciousness and hills of the desert. Scenes of the film were shot at the historical Georgia O'Keefe House and Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos.

She comments about the state of their relationship..."He lost interest in me because I grew out of his shadow." Though she learned to drive and journeyed back and forth between Taos and New York for a period of time, eventually she stopped.

"I am moving more and more to a kind of aloneness. I must be apart now."

She maintained a love for Stieglitz and tells him "I never assumed you were anything but a great shining star I was hitching a ride on." After he passed away, she took on the task of restoring his legacy for the future. This is a beautiful portrayal of the life of a unique artist and her influences.


Ultimate Hipster

Dennis Hopper
(May 17, 1936 - May 29, 2910)

Actor, writer, filmmaker, photographer, painter, republican...and more.

I like this photo by Robert Altman that I saw at The Woodstock Museum.

Coming soon to MOCA...
7/11/10 (http://www.moca.org/) Double Standard, a retrospective of Dennis Hopper's art.

Rebel Without A Cause
The Trip
Easy Rider (see January 2010 posts)
Cool Hand Luke
Apocalyse Now
Blue Velvet
Elegy Blindness
...and many more

Dennis Hopper is featured in an interesting documentary about the California modern art movement. See post about The Cool School in the archive for February 2010.

I enjoyed these episodes of Fishing With John, starring DH...
#1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YATio2CCBY
#2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR0J3wRh-oY
#3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-MzXAM1KMA


Our City Dreams (2008)

Chiara Clemente grew up in the arts community of 1980s Manhattan, the daughter of painter Francesco Clemente. She left for awhile to attend college and travel, but then she found herself living back in New York crafting her own artistic life. This film features the city of New York as a creative muse in the lives of artists who move there to pursue their artistic aspirations. She weaves her own story throughout her profiles of five women artists.

Kiki Smith arrived in 1970s after the death of her father, sculptor Tony Smith. She claims that it sparked her need to make art and much of her process has grown around the idea of death in imagery of figures and nature.

Swoon, a generation later, arrived to attend Pratt Institute in the late 1990s and took her drawing and printmaking skills to the street as she created large figurative images on the floor of her small apartment and pasted them on walls all over the city. By 2005 she premiered an installation in the spacious Deitch Projects and was invited the Venice Biennale, where she and a team crafted her wildly assembled floating cities project.

Ghada Amer was born in Cairo, but began working in the city during the 1990s. Gagosian Gallery gave her a 2006 exhibition called Breathe Into Me, featuring drawings and prints of cliche imagery featuring women and exploring themes of pain, desire, torment, absence, romance.

Printmaker, Nancy Spero, and mother of performance art, Marina Abramovic, are also featured in this film that describes the passion behind the artist who chooses to live and work in New York, a place that adds extra difficulty to life and adds essential inspiration and energy.

The Man Who Cried (2000)

I want to include a bit about this film because it was part of my Sally Potter exploration. I struggled through it because I liked the cast, but this one failed to engage me. The story of Suzie (Christina Ricci) begins in the late 1920s as a young girl in Russia whose father goes to America in search of opportunity. When her mother dies she is shipped off to England to be raised by foster parents until she is of an age to go off on her own. She has a talent for singing and lands in Paris to pursue a performing career.

She has little idea of her heritage except for a worn photo of her father that she carries with her. Her job with an opera company introduces her to Lola (Cate Blanchett), an older worldly woman who takes Suzie under her wing and helps her to discover herself. Blanchett is always a pleasure to watch. Lola's advice to Suzie on how to get your man as a romance brews with Dante (John Turturro), another singer in the company...

"First you must play hard to get. He must feel he is a hunter and you are a beautiful wild animal--it's a primitive instinct. If you want to make a man want you and only you, you must smile and always listen--he needs attention."

Unaware that she is Jewish, Suzie begins to understand her heritage as dangers unfold around her when Hitler invades Poland and World War II heats up. Cesar (Johnny Depp) is the intriguing gypsy lead singer who she has immediate rapport with, not knowing that she too had gypsy heritage. The theme of identity gets a bit lost, but Lola finds a way to leave Europe with Suzie. Once in America, Suzie begins her journey to find her father. Eventually she does...and he cries (of course).


Rage (2009)

I had seen Sally Potter's 1992, Orlando, with my favorite Tilda Swinton, but I am just now catching up with her later films. She manages to attract amazing actors to her films and this recent one is distinguished as the first film ever to debut on mobile phones. A wonderful low-budget prodction, the director set out to "think big on a small canvas."

Each scene is a monologue by a fabulous actor who is supposedly being interviewed and filmed by an unseen character, Michelangelo, outside a much-anticipated fashion event. The camera is the primary character in this story, along with this mystery person/blogger behind it. The characters curiously open up and bare their souls to this Michelangelo. Each one is made up in sharply defined style (almost cartoonish) against an opaque colored background. I watched the DVD version, but I can imagine how good this must look on a small phone screen.

Simon Abkarian from the 2004 film, Yes (commented on in the post below) is featured again here...this time as an artistic fashion designer. The most intriguing character is Minx, a highly made up transvestite model. I will not give away which actor plays her...took me the first twenty minutes of watching to get it. Steve Buscemi is wonderful as the craggy bug-eyed photographer. Judi Dench, Diane Wiest, John Leguizamo also star along with several others. Unexpected events unfold that disturb the highly-crafted identities of this crew of characters who live the world of appearance and make comments such as...

"We are all product--everything is product, everything is belief."

"Appearance and essence are two sides of the same thing."

"Is an idea a thing or is a thing an idea?"

"Taste, refinement, beauty--without beauty there is nothing and I can't stand nothing--that's why I can't stand buddhism."

The DVD has many extra scenes worth watching, along with a revealing interview with Sally Potter.

Yes (2004)

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this unusual film, but I am now discovering the world of director Sally Potter. This story about a man and woman whose paths cross in London, sparking a love affair that unfolds more like a stage play than film. Featuring Joan Allen as an Irish American woman scientist, unhappily married to politician husband Sam Neill, and Lebanese doctor Simon Abkarian in exile working as a cook. The characters speak beautiful poetic and philosophical lines such as "each cell knows its destiny." Their liaison appears to be rooted in another century. Joan Allen, one of the founding members of the famed Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago is lovely as the statuesque, brilliant professional who seems to be living the wrong kind of life until she follows her passion with this exhuberant middle eastern lover through London, Belefast, Beirut and Havana.