BI

The Barbarian Invasions: The Illusions of the Past

Les Invasions Barbares

A few weeks ago, as I was mindlessly journeying  across channels on cable, I run into a film that made quite an impression on me when I first watched it a few years ago. The film in question was The Barbarian Invasions by French Canadian director, Denys Arcand. It earned him an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2004, among many other numerous awards.

The film revolves around Rémy, a former college professor who is confined to a hospital due to liver cancer. Whatever the grim circumstances, he devotes all his energies to maintain his bon vivant approach to life. As nurses, friends and former lovers parade into his hospital room, he maintains the facade almost intact. However, what really brings flavor to the story, as well as conflict and humor to the foreground in equal measures, is Rémy’s son, Sébastien. It’s the initial clash between these two that really puts the whole story into motion. Father and son have been estranged for years as a result of their contrasting philosophies. While Rémy is an old school leftist who flirted with every revolutionary movement since the 1960’s, Sébastien is a successful businessman who has deftly navigated the world of finance. The father thinks of himself as a staunch idealist thus he perceives his sons almost as a traitor, a representative of a coldblooded capitalist world. The son has always resented this prejudice but despite his initial misgivings about reuniting with his father, he soon rushes to his side. It doesn’t take long for us to see that the public hospital where Rémy is staying becomes a symbol of everything that went wrong about the old generation; Sébastien must battle with unions and bureaucrats in a place that overflows with red tape and decay in order to ensure some decent care for his father.

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Borges

Borges’ Utopia

Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was especially known for his collections of short fictions such as The Aleph and Ficciones, where he generally dealt with metaphysical ideas about time and identity.  Furthermore, to a certain extent, his work evidences the series of political and ideological transformations he went throughout the course of his life.

In his late teens, circa 1918, while he was living in Europe, he identified with the communist ideals of the Bolshevik Revolution, an experience that encouraged him to pen the poem called Red Rythms, a poem that in his old age he was only too happy to have lost and forgotten.  In the early twenties, when he finally returned to Buenos Aires, he went through a period of nationalistic fervor to the extent of supporting the populist caudillo, Hipólito Yrigoyen, whom many consider as a forerunner of the famed authoritarian demagogue, Juan Domino Perón.  Many of his poems and essays celebrate everything Argentine, from the mythological stature of the gauchos to the slang of the suburbs of Buenos Aires.

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mozart

Mozart as a Freelance Artist

Mozart_(unfinished)_by_Lange_1782

The most outstanding feature about Mozart’s biography, the one people are most familiar about, is his prodigious musical talent. Everyone is familiar with the story of the precocious Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), who led by his father’s hand, traveled to opulent courts across  Europe as an itinerant child prodigy. As he grew older, he became a professional composer who produced an output of hundreds of compositions in a diversity of genres and styles with many of those works ranking as some of the most inspired music ever composed.

The late German author, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, brought to light in his thick tome about Mozart’s life and work another facet of the native from Salzburg that is perhaps less familiar in the Mozartian mythology. According to Hildesheimer, Mozart was not only an innovator and a master of every musical form, he was also an innovator in the music business; our hero might have been the first freelance composer. Although F. M. Scherer disputes this notion in his essay The Emergence of Musical Copyright in Europe and claims freelance composers had existed a century before Mozart’s period, it is quite clear Mozart possessed an innate rebellious nature that rendered him as an inadequate candidate to vegetate in tedious comfort as a court composer. Not that he felt a conscious need to manifest a rebellious attitude against the current social order; such a sentiment would have been alien to Mozart’s nature. However he probably searched for a context that allowed him to exploit his powerful compositional skills to the best of his ability.

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best offer

The Best Offer: Art, Life and Deception

The Best Offer PosterA few days ago I finally caught up with Giuseppe Tornatore‘s last film, The Best Offer (La Migliore Offerta, 2013). I believe the film did not get much attention when it came out but I it is, in my opinion, a sophisticated and entertaining piece that deserves a watch.

Tornatore, best known for his Academy Award winning film Cinema Paradiso, tackles in this occasion the intersection between life and art through the perspective of the eccentric and mysterious auctioneer, Virgil Oldman, masterfully played by the talented Geoffrey Rush. Mr. Oldman is a loner whose entire existence is dedicated to the acquisition and auctioning of precious works of art in detriment of every other aspect of his private life. This includes contact, proximity or intimacy with other human beings. He seeks a pristine, calculated perfection in his surroundings that can only be achieved by excluding most people from his sphere of trust.

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