Tag Archives: review

The Wisdom of Whores

I came across Elizabeth Pisani‘s recent book via a TED-related post on the notoriously interesting Brainpickings. Wisdom of Whores is a book that will pretty much pull your head apart with mindblowing stats about HIV and AIDS and the insider’s knowledge about how NGO and governmental HIV and AIDS politics work with this issue around the world. The book is superbly well written given Pisani’s long-term journalist work and her passion for the ideas she’s filled her professional life with. Easily one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in my life.

I’m only half-way through it now and so far the reading has been unrepetetive, insightful and engaging. HIV prevention and AIDS topics can make really dramatic if mundane storylines – the collective narratives make us think we know all about this issue, but we really just don’t. The HIV story is spiced with money, politics, religion, sex and drugs and the interests of all the groups engaged in this affair can differ so much as to bring the best intentions to a halt. So yes, whether you want to read this book for its insights into field research in Indonesian brothels, the workings of the US AIDS support (that spends 30% of its money on abstinence programs that fail 75% of the time), or just want to read a fantastic personal account of a female journalist dealing with one of the biggest killers in human history, give it a go.

Winnipeg, my Winnipeg

Guy Maddin‘s ‘My Winnipeg’ is one of the most touching and absorbing films I have ever seen. The film is a surrealist revisitation of the director’s childhood seen through a lens of his early life succumbed to his controlling mother and the overwhelming, sedating effect of the forever-winterly Winnipeg lying the very heart of the American continent. The genre of the film was quite rightfully branded as ‘docu-fantasia’. ‘Winnipeg, my Winnipeg’ is a repetitive cry of Guy Maddin’s reminiscences as he attempts to escape the city of sleepwalking and sleepliving, where the homeless sleep on the roofs of skyscrapers, buildings are torn, and life itself seems to disappear in the almost hypnotic spell of the city.


This is Guy Maddin’s director statement for ‘My Winnipeg’:

In 1888, William Cornelius Van Horne, the great railway man who against long odds built the Canadian Pacific Railroad across our vast nation, established in Winnipeg a tradition that survives to this day. That year, on the first day of winter, Van Horne held a city-wide scavenger hunt. Every one of the young town’s residents was given a treasure map and invited to participate. First prize was a one-way ticket on the next train out of town. The secret hope behind this contest was that after a long day spent combing through the city’s nooks and crannies, Winnipeggers would discover that the real treasure was here all along, that it was Winnipeg itself. And for the longest time, Horne’s trick worked – especially on me.

As a filmmaker who has spent his entire fifty years in Winnipeg, I’ve been enchanted, intoxicated and benighted by the city of my birth – it’s been my muse since long before I ever picked up a camera. I’ve fallen in love with the place, not only for what it was while I loved it, but for what it used to be and for what it could be again!!! Like a heedless, irrational suitor I have invested all my hopes for the future in it, only to be left heartbroken by the cold-bloodedly “progressive” course it insists on taking as it navigates itself inexorably away from the enchantment I once knew into the bland oblivion and mediocrity it craves for itself. With my hopes mutinied I have grown bitterly disillusioned with my home town.

But before I flee, I must review for my own nostalgic delectation all that has so sweetly mattered to me about this once-beguiling wonderland, for no more curious a place exists in all of North America, or anywhere else! I will revisit for one last time the streets of Winnipeg – my Winnipeg – and locate for the viewer the magic spots that I cherish, where one can merely point a finger and the past will come springing up like so much artesian well water. There’s something strange, something dreamy going on here, where pedestrians would rather use back lanes than front streets; where our homeless hide en masse on the rooftops of abandoned skyscrapers; and where a strange civic law requires you to admit for a night any former owner or resident of your current home.

By winding my way though the very birthplaces of my personal mythologies, by attempting to understand the very nature of memory even while it fabricates what turns out to be an illusory Winnipeg for itself, and by facing down, in a series of singular domestic experiments, the possessive power of my own family, perhaps I can unlock the mysterious forces which occultly bind many a human heart to the past. Perhaps I can finally define for myself the true meaning of “home” and make the shackles which bind me here simply fall away.


Many-a-qualities attract me in this film. The dream-like reality of the stretched days and seasons reminds me of my final days in the snowy Krakow and the endless dark journeys I used to take on the city’s tramlines. The cold skies, the chronic lack of sunlight and the white city lights are just about all I can remember from that overly long winter that drove me away. ‘My Winnipeg’ is a semi-silent film, but the moments of Guy Maddin’s monologue are a great treat – the language falls somewhere close to Bruno Schulz’s writings and their hyper-poetic descriptiveness.

Sacred monsters

Last night I could feel only two things: clear happiness and a the strange pride of being human. The potential of the human mind and body suddenly dawned on me again as I watched Sylvie Guillem and Akham Khan unwind on stage at Sadler’s Wells. ‘Sacred Monsters’ is possibly the most appropriate title for this piece. With its minimalist scenography, stunning musical accompaniment, and the dancers’ elegance, ‘Sacred Monsters’ was one of the most exceptional pieces of contemporary dance I have ever seen. Despite being very casual, the performance echoed everything contemporary dance should be about: beauty, athletics, and above all, the expression of the human soul and creativity.

Sylvie’s fleeting innocence and striking technique contrasted and complemented Akhan’s strenght and sophistication in their common struggle between conforming to traditional forms of dance and the journey into the contemporary expressive dance form. The dancing varied from aggression and internal conflict to surprising humour and tenderness. The weight of Akham’s choices and Sylvie’s worries of futility in dance were perfectly balanced with sparks of humour and the striking ease between the dancers. Beautiful, inspiring, or as Sylvie pointed out, simply ‘merveilleuse’.

There Will Be Blood

I just saw the movie and am thoroughly impressed, most of all with its music. For the first 15 minutes of the movie there is very little if not nothing said – the music drives you into the drama with its somewhat disturbing density and elevates the already high tension of the plot. The score is a very interesting contrast with the scenery of the arid landscapes of California, where one would perhaps expect a different genre of background music altogether. Yes, in this case the music can hardly be called ‘background’. The composer of the score is Jonny Greeenwood, the acclaimed guitarist of Radiohead. The band is a genre in itself, but to know that this guy can also create such a dramatic mixture of avantgarde and classical elements is a sign of an emerging composer who could stand among the greatest. ‘There will be blood’ has received 8 Academy Awards nominations, a BAFTA award for best actor as well as a Golden Globe best actor award for Daniel Day-Lewis’ part.

Sketch away!

I watched ‘Sketches of Frank Gehry’ a while back and just wanted to throw the film’s thread a little further. It’s directed by Sydney Pollack, who as a friend of Gehry’s, gives the movie a pleasant casual flair. The work offers an insight into the life and mind of one of architectural geniuses of our age and bounces you from the personal insecurities to the grandness of his creativity. A must see.

Flux, Transmission, and Push

Last week my dear friend Jola arrived on a train from Krakow. We had an absolute blast catching up, drinking wine, and walking around Budapest. I’ve been wanting to mention though that seeing Russell Maliphant’s dance group performing at Trafo really topped our weekend. His performace was like no other I’ve seen yet and has been reviewed in very high notes all over the world. His technique incorporates classic ballet, tai chi, and yoga. Michael Hulls also did a fantastic job designing the lighting for the play and together with their music it was an extremely elegant and intense composition of movement, light, and music. Do see these people if you get a chance!