By Anjali Gupta
On Thursday, October 9, ArtPace closes its 2003 film and video series with a presentation of The Emperor Jones, a Wooster Group production of the play by Eugene O'Neill.
Since 1975, the NYC-based Wooster Group - under director Elizabeth LeCompte and principle actors Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, Peyton Smith, Kate Valk, and Ron Vawter (1948-1994) - have struggled to obliterate the boundaries that confine contemporary theater to the quaint and predictable.
| The Emperor Jones & |
In Order Not To Be Here
Thursday, October 9
445 N. Main
Wooster first recorded The Emperor Jones in 1999. The video was released in 2001 as a collaborative piece between the troupe and video artist Chris Kondek. Kondek weaves live action - performed by Dafoe and a gender-bent, racially cross-dressed Valk - with incongruous stock footage, clips gleaned from other films, and amateur vacation videos. The camera maintains a tight - albeit warbling - frame on the principle actors, who are superimposed on a sundry of backgrounds.
Compositing is a tricky device. It can be seamless when done well (think City of Lost Children); but done poorly, it is less an effect than an affectation, encircling actors in a hard edge that brings to mind badly produced T-Rex videos. The performative nuances of the Wooster Group are not so easy to capture on film or video, and the piece is ambitious in its attempt to meld the genres of experimental theater and video art into a new form of expression. But in Kondek's hands, an already abrasive, fragmented theatrical sensibility is posthumously transmuted into a claustrophobic, low-tech, marginally cinematic experience that erases the spatial expanse of the stage.
Chicago-based Deborah Stratman's award-winning 16mm film In Order Not To Be Here, which was not screened last month due to technical difficulties, will run after The Emperor Jones. •
STANLEY CAVELL PULLS TWO TALES
By Steven G. Kellman
When Stanley Cavell, then president of the American Philosophical Association and professor of philosophy at Harvard, visited Trinity University in 1988, he did not speak - directly - about ontology or epistemology. The subject of his public lecture was Gaslight, a 1944 melodrama starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. For one of America's leading philosophers to apply his analytic intelligence to a cinematic tearjearker seemed as incongruous as hiring Stephen Hawking to audit Trinity's photocopying budget. But Cavell's discussion of Gaslight became part of his sagacious 1996 book The Melodrama of the Unknown Woman.
Now professor emeritus at Harvard, Cavell returns to Trinity on Wednesday, October 15, and the subject of his lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapman Auditorium will be "Two Tales of Winter: Shakespeare and Eric Rohmer." One of the most enduring, if not endearing, directors from the French New Wave, Rohmer is somewhat classier than George Cukor, the studio veteran who directed Gaslight, and Shakespeare is of course Shakespeare (unless he was Marlowe or Oxford). But is Cavell again slumming, performing labor more suitable to mere English professors or even those harmless drudges who review movies?
| Two Tales Of Winter: Shakespeare And Eric Rohmer |
Wednesday, October 15
1 Trinity Place
Rohmer's 1992 film begins with a summer romance between Félice (Charlotte Véry) and Charles (Frédéric van den Driessche). Promising to return, Charles departs. But five years later, all that remains of Charles for Félice is the daughter she gave birth to after her beloved left. Although she has two new lovers, one of whom takes her to a performance of The Winter's Tale, neither measures up to her memory of Charles.
Rohmer is fond of making cinematic sequences, including Six Moral Tales and Comedies and Proverbs. A Tale of Winter (Conte d'hiver) is part of a tetralogy organized by season that also includes Summer (1986), A Tale of Springtime (1990), and An Autumn Tale (1999). But both its title and the play-within-the-film invite comparison with Shakespeare. So, too, do the separation of lovers, the child born later, and the reconciliation. Cavell, who majored in music, at the University of California, gave up the saxophone when he heard Charlie Parker. He took up philosophy after reading Emerson, Wittgenstein, and Austin. The philosopher's riffs on two winter tales will surely enliven an autumn evening. •
A MAD ESCAPE
By Elaine Wolff
The voice of the recovered John Forbes Nash, mathematical genius and sufferer of schizophrenia, weaves in and out of his story as told by friends, family, and colleagues in the PBS documentary A Brilliant Madness. When we hear him speak, he tends to say tantalizing things that go to the heart of our fascination with his story. Although the kind of madness from which he suffered is inherited as a genetic predisposition, to what extent did his life's experiences trigger it? What roles did free will and brain chemistry play in his remarkable recovery? "Madness can be an escape," Nash says at the beginning of the film. "If things are not so good, you may be want to imagine something better."
| A Brilliant Madness |
Tuesday, October 14
The tolerance that was accorded Nash's arrogance and erratic conduct lurks in the background, awaiting interrogation. The PBS documentary treads lightly on the many questions and implications of Nash's life, but it nonetheless provides a somber and insightful complement to the triumphal feature film A Brilliant Mind.
A Brilliant Madness screens as part of the Witte Museum's "Fine Line: Mental Health/ Mental Illness" exhibit. •