The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

I Am the Artwork: Ai Weiwei on Film

August 2, 2012 | by

In November 2010, ArtReview magazine published its annual Power 100, a list of the most powerful people in the art world. The highest-ranked living artist, coming in at number thirteen, was the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Two months later, the Chinese government demolished Ai’s brand new, two-thousand-square-foot studio in Shanghai in one day—this despite the fact that officials had approved (and by some accounts invited) Ai’s plans for the studio, which took a year and almost a million dollars to build. Then, in April 2011, Chinese authorities took Ai into custody. Without announcing charges against him or when he would be released, they held him in detention for eighty-one days, during which time guards watched him constantly, even when he went to the bathroom or slept. He was released in June and, a few months later, charged with “economic crimes” and an accompanying bill of $2.4 million.

Last year, ArtReview ranked Ai Weiwei number one on its Power 100 list. Read More »


The Making of Plimpton!

June 21, 2012 | by

Luke Poling and Tom Bean have been hard at work at their documentary Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself. The film makes its world premiere tonight, at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Washington, D.C. We asked Tom and Luke to share their favorite photographs of our founding editor as well as their own memories of creating the documentary.

The Parties

This photo perfectly captures the vibe of the infamous parties at George’s apartment. Hanging out in this one room are George’s fellow Paris Review cofounders Peter Matthiessen and Doc Humes, longtime friends William Styron and Terry Southern, and an impressive list of writers and filmmakers, including Ralph Ellison, Gore Vidal, Sydney Lumet, Mario Puzo, and, in the center of it all, Truman Capote.

Every time we went by the apartment to update Sarah Plimpton on our progress, we couldn’t help but look up from the sofa and chairs we were sitting on and think, The people this room has seen …

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Watch: Ray Bradbury, 1963

June 8, 2012 | by

I remember watching Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer, a 1963 TV documentary, in seventh-grade English class. And for good reason: there’s more good advice for writing and life packed into these thirty minutes than in many a longer (and less entertaining) tutorial.


What We’re Loving: All Kinds of Poetry

June 8, 2012 | by

Iris DeMent

When Anthony Heilbut isn’t producing beautiful gospel, he tends to be writingslowlyeither about German modernism or else about the music and musicians he loves. The Fan Who Knew Too Much is the book Heilbut's gospel fans have been waiting for since The Gospel Sound (1972). In this connection, I can’t resist quoting our Southern editor right off the back cover: “Nothing new in the last year gave me as much pure reading pleasure as pages of this book. Heilbut ranges over the culture like a madman, but with a fierce sanity in his eye, debunking myths and erecting new ones. I finished The Fan Who Knew Too Much wondering how, without it, I’d ever thought I understood a thing about America in the twentieth century. Let me ask: Are you familiar with the history of gays in gospel? Or with the early, radio roots of soap operas? Then you too are similarly benighted. Get with this.” Amen. —Lorin Stein

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Dancing with Myself

February 14, 2012 | by

In one of Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, “In The Electric Tram,” the narrator describes the feeling of well-being that comes with sitting in a moving vehicle on a rainy afternoon: the joy of lighting a cigarette, the satisfaction of composing a tune in his head, the urge to strike up a conversation with the reticent conductor. His gaze takes in the other passengers: “the drooping mustaches, the face of a weary, elderly woman, a pair of youthfully mischievous eyes belonging to a girl,” before happily settling on his footwear. “I must say,” he confesses to his reader, “I have achieved a certain technical mastery in the art of staring straight ahead.”

The German industrial city of Wuppertal still has a functioning electric tram, which hangs from long beams like an aerial camera and which travels through Wim Wender’s new 3-D dance movie, Pina, an homage to the German choreographer Pina Bausch. It is a running joke, appearing during the movie’s opening titles as the audience grapples with their 3-D glasses and cropping up in different scenes throughout the film—suspended above two dancers performing a duet on a roundabout, or situated below a dancer who, sitting on the tram’s old fretwork, shoves his legs around as they pop up like disobedient wooden beams. Later, in the tram’s car, a male dancer wearing cardboard cut-out Spock ears takes a seat in the back row and stares straight ahead, apparently oblivious to his appendages—and to the female dancer boarding the vehicle, whose dark hair is entirely hiding her face. She heaves along with her a white pillow as if it were a live thing, making squelching sound effects, before reassuming her anonymity and sitting down. This is Bausch’s world—a little like ours, but stranger: perhaps more like Walser’s Berlin of 1905, a city of would-be actors and artists, voyeurs and dilettantes, and elderly women with lipstick on their teeth. Pina reminds us of the ways we are all performing to one another and pretending to ignore others’ performances, and it’s one of the most blissful things I’ve ever seen on a rainy afternoon. Read More »


The Christmas House

December 24, 2010 | by

My family’s annual Christmas Eve tradition of ogling holiday lights was cemented as soon as my younger sister and I were big enough to peep out of the windows of our family’s Dodge Caravan. Sucking down hot chocolate and munching sugar cookies in the backseat as our parents navigated every last suburban enclave of Chattanooga, Tennessee, we oohed and aahed indiscriminately at any structure draped with flickering bulbs on strings.

We’re pickier now. We avoid the subdivisions with obvious neighborhood association–enforced strictures of white lights, red ribbons, and evergreen boughs. We like gawking at failure: poorly draped, overly bright LED strands, inflatable Santas gone flaccid, blown-over flocks of animated wooden reindeer. But what we crave most is the audacious triumph of a place bold and bright and strange enough to be called a Christmas House.

This is an unofficial title, of course, and there were certainly other worthy contenders around Chattanooga, but for my family’s gas mileage, the best bet was Ron and Judy McGill’s. For years running, we’d cap off our Christmas Eve tour of lights with a pilgrimage across town, turning down the inconspicuous side street and joining the line of cars slowly snaking down to the end of the block. The house was inconspicuous most of the year, but shortly after Thanksgiving it would become obscured by a front and side yard densely packed with what functioned as a discombobulated catalogue of every kind of Christmas decoration made available for purchase over the past thirty years. If Christmas Homes have one thing in common, it is probably their disdain for the whole “one true God” concept as it relates to their yuletide décor. Multiple nativity scenes abounded. Electric trains zipped around inflatable Homer Simpsons and Grinches dressed in Santa suits. Gingerbread men with shit-eating grins plastered the rails of a gazebo, from under which life-size statues of Santa and Mrs. Claus peered out over the madness, flanked by two giant, pensive snowmen. Miniature blow-mold Santas, impaled Vladlike on fence posts, stood sentinel between the yard and the endless procession of passersby. Even over the grumble of idling car engines and the McGill’s looping soundtrack of Christmas with the Chipmunks we could hear the whirring, the clattering, the humming of all the tiny mechanized parts and pumps and thousands of electric bulbs burning away. They emitted a palpable heat.

Ron and Judy McGill, whose proprietorship was announced on a lit-up wooden sign staked into the ditch out front, watched the reverse-parade from lawn chairs under their carport, the only bare spot on the lot. Sometimes one of them would step out to the street and hand out peppermints and humbly accept the few bucks we’d pass back to offset the power bill incurred for our pleasure. But that’s as close as we ever got to them.

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