Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ceaucescu in New York

 At the NY Romanian Film Festival the opening night film was "The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu". 3 hrs. All archive footage, without narrator, that was shot to serve as propaganda for the government, if it can be called that.. Riveting. Intelligent: so well constructed. Long, it felt like we had to suffer for the long years of his dictatorship.

Most heart wrenching moment: an old committee member - he must have learned he was suffering from a terminal disease which freed him of any desire to stay alive - challenges Ceausescu's changes to the Romanian constitution. The hundreds of members of the Congress are dumb with stupefaction for a short moment. Suspense. An opportunity for the whole Congress to rise and oppose Ceausescu. Sheep, they choose safety: they start heckling and booing the heroic old man.

Most delightful moment: the government's glitterati dancing in the huge palace dancehall to Sonny Curtis "I fought the law and the law won".

Interesting to see the quality of the images evolving, from a pristine black and white film to muddier color film to even muddier first video images. The government was documenting all events with a huge amount of media coverage.

Some of our Romanian friends expressed after the screening that they were surprised to discover Ceaucescu had a sense of humour, through some of the private scenes in the film.

Sad that his trial was as much as monkey trial as any in the Eastern block.

No conclusion. One more conclusionless entry.

Here's the link to the Romanian Film Festival: check it out if you're not - and all the more if you are - familiar with the Romanian Cinema New Wave.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ed Schmidt's "My Last Play" in Brooklyn

Ed's announcement for "My Last Play"
Went to see Ed Schmidt's show last night: My Last Play. Here's what he says about it:

"After 32 years of playwriting, at the age of 48, I am walking away from the theater, and, in the process, giving away all of my 2000+ theater books. One book at a time. At the end of the performance, each audience member walks out with any book off my shelves. The run of the play will end when my bookshelves are bare."

I don't know many performers with as much gut as Ed. That's why I'm a fan. I can't do anything in front of an audience, I'm not even good at spilling for an audience of one. He's into taking a lot of risk, and that pays off.

Actors are usually protected from the audience by a set of conventions:  usually the actors, up on a stage, pretend to be other people, in a different place, with a different time frame.

Meanwhile Ed is in his home, plays himself, sees everyone, knows some of the audience personally,. He breaks the barriers in every possible way. And he manages to be poignant and touching and all sorts of emotions which are so hard to bring about, and make good theater.

I was still mulling over the show later that night, my thoughts distracting me from reading Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, which I think is highly complimentary to Ed.

I often love or hate stuff, not a lot of in between, not a lot of grey area. I'll grant that. Some of Ed's tone is a bit unctuous, his language could be simpler, more direct. I'm writing this, to show I'm not on payroll.

As a reminder, this is not a review: I've become deeply suspicious of criticism. No introduction no conclusion. As Ed deconstructs theater I deconstruct the review.

But I'm managing to get this entry out before the review in the New York Times, which tickles pleasantly.

John and I each left clasping one of Ed's books, stamped "My Last Play": The Marriage by Gobromowicz and Collected Plays of Beckett. We'll keep them preciously. Unless their value goes up irresistibly.

I forgot to take a pic.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter