Tag Archives: Poetry

Poetry on the screen

28 abr

Yesterday I visited the dusty part of my bookshelves and scavenged the books about Anglo-American literature, a subject I taught at Federal University of Paraiba for so long. I took out the dust and reopened the pages of William Carlos Williams, a major poet I so much admire.

The one responsible for this late and guilty visit is actually the moviemaker Jim Jarmusch, with his “Paterson” (2016), now showing at a local theatre. I am familiar with Jarmusch´s short filmography, but this movie came to me as a surprise, not to say it caught me. It is a gracious “mimetic” homage to William Carlos Williams, very well done.

Would it be possible to make a movie the same way William Carlos Williams made poetry? Jarmusch faces the challenge and comes out quite well, very well indeed.

In the same objectivist style of the poet (“Say it, no ideas but in things”), the movie tells the simple life of a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, and does it on seven days of the week, from Monday to Sunday. Having the same name of the city (and, don’t forget, also the same name of William Carlos Williams´ famous collection of books), the young driver leads a life without surprises, with his young wife and an English bulldog. Driving during the day, taking the dog for a walk during the evening, and having some beer at the corner bar – these are repeated actions… So repeated they remind us of the Portuguese title of an old movie by Japanese moviemaker Ozu: “Routine has its enchantment”.

The enchantment in Paterson´s routine consists of writing poetry on his secret notebook. It all begins descriptively with the vision and remembrance of a match box, and then grows on and on, to “explode in a ball of fire”. As he writes on his notebook, his handwritten words are transported to the screen, as if the screen were a page on the secret notebook.

Between Paterson and his wife, Laura, there are no conflicts. She cooks cupcakes and longs for a guitar, but this is no problem. On the bus, driving, Paterson listens to the strange conversations of the passengers; at the bar, he witnesses melodramatic scenes among the customers, but nothing does alter his routine. On Friday, the bus breaks, but this is not the end of the world. To be frank, this would be a movie completely without conflicts, if it were not for the denouement, when the family dog, assuming the villain role missing in the story, simply tears up Paterson´s poetic notebook, which makes him deeply sad.

The poetic license comes up in the shape of a Japanese gentleman visiting the city, a reader of William Carlos Williams´s poetry, who, mysteriously and providentially, gives Paterson a blank notebook, possibly for a new poetic adventure, to take place some post-screen time.

A bus driver who writes poetry? Well, when his wife says he should publish his poems, Paterson asks her if she is trying to scare him. The modest sincerity of such reaction is, however, doubted when we see, all over Paterson´s room, the amount of literature books he has – from Baudelaire to Poe, and, quite visible, William Carlos Williams´ among them.

I mentioned poetic license about the apparition of the Japanese gentleman, but, actually, the whole film is a big and delicious poetic license, in which banal things mix up with fantastic ones, to bring to the whole the lyricism the author seems to aspire. And all this without much care for verisimilitude.

On second thoughts, that teenager who recites her poem about the rain while waiting for her mother and twin sister on the sidewalk, had already something of a poetic license. The repetition, by various characters throughout the movie, of the expression “explode in a ball of fire” has this same effect, as well as the apparition of twin brothers or sisters all along Paterson´s everyday comings and goings – all motivated by a dream his wife had had.

This audio-visual procedure of mixing simple things and fantasy comes, evidently, from the poetics of William Carlos Williams, a poet who, by his turn, was deeply engaged in Paterson (I mean, the city) whose streets, buildings and landscape he eternalized in his books.

I wonder if the moviegoer who is not familiar with William Carlos Williams´ poetry – or who is not particularly fond of poetry – may lose part of the pleasure in viewing “Paterson”. I hope not. And, probably influenced by Jarmusch, I here risk the “critic license” of supposing that this moviegoer, after seeing the film, will get interested in poetry.

If, by any chance, this was your case, please come to me, and I will lend you some of my William Carlos Williams anthologies, the ones covered with dust and guilt on my bookshelves.

Anúncios

Poesia

8 ago

A crítica é cheia de paradoxos. Ou seria o crítico? Às vezes filmes ruins me instigam a escrever, e, às vezes, um filme ótimo me sugere ficar calado.

Uma sugestão de silêncio – mas de silêncio respeitoso – me deu esse excelente “Poesia” (“Shi”, 2010) do sul coreano Chang-dong Lee, que tive a sorte de ver nesse novo Canal Arte-1 da televisão paga.

Sim, alimento a sensação de que escrever sobre esse doce e terno filme é como maculá-lo. E, paradoxalmente, escrevo, pois me vejo no afã de divulgá-lo. Se pudesse, ao invés de escrever, tiraria cópias, e carinhosamente distribuiria entre os amigos.

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Devo começar dizendo que, neste cinema do terceiro milênio que me chega, poucas vezes vi um personagem, cativante e verdadeiro, tão bem construído como essa Sra Misha, de sessenta e seis anos de idade que, acometida de lapsos de memória, se matricula num curso de poesia. Caminhando devagar pelas calçadas de Seul, Misha destoa da pressa reinante, com sua elegância e sua delicadeza – seu rosto de sessentona ainda é bonito, seu corpo ainda é esguio e o chapéu branco, ligeiramente antiquado, que teima em usar, lhe concede um ar vagamente aristocrático.

Não sei se vou conseguir passar a sua beleza interior, mas começo com o óbvio, o que o enredo me fornece, até porque o enredo é outro enorme mérito do filme.

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Viúva há muito, Misha viveria sozinha, não fosse por esse neto, filho de pais separados, que ela praticamente é obrigada a hospedar – um adolescente hostil, com quem não consegue se entender, embora faça todos os esforços.

Um dia Misha ouve a notícia de que uma jovem de dezesseis anos cometera suicídio, jogando-se da ponte no rio que banha Seul. Não apenas tem a notícia como, indo ao hospital para exames, testemunha uma cena terrível: a mãe da moça morta, enfurecida pelo desespero, gritando e se arrastando pelo chão como uma louca.

Logo depois, vem o pior: Misha é secretamente procurada por uma comitiva de pais, cujos filhos haviam estuprado a jovem, e o neto de Misha estava entre eles. Os pais a procuram porque, juntos, estão – sem que a polícia ou a imprensa o saiba – coletando dinheiro para uma indenização.

Sem maiores recursos, Misha não tem como levantar a quantia pedida. Vive de pensão, e de um eventual trabalho de cuidadora – cuida de um senhor idoso que, acometido de AVC, mora só em seu apartamento de classe média.

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Todos esses problemas – inclusive os lapsos de memória, diagnosticados como início de Alzheimer – não impedem Misha de continuar freqüentando o curso de poesia, onde o professor afirma que todo mundo é capaz de fazer poemas, pois a poesia está dentro de nós. Misha sempre gostou de flores e de palavras estranhas e isso lhe dá a ilusão de que possa vir um dia a escrever um poema. Gasta tempo fitando a natureza em busca de uma inspiração, que nunca vem. Ou (devo contar o resto da estória?) vem tarde.

Enquanto isso, impressionada com a morte da jovem, Misha vai até o local do suicídio, a ponte sobre o rio, e – triste prolepse – o vento arranca-lhe o chapéu, que cai nas águas sombrias.

Incumbida pela equipe dos pais, visita a mãe da jovem, no campo, porém, a visita não dá frutos, salvo um, literal, que Misha apanha do chão e mastiga. As duas mulheres conversam sobre frutas maduras e Misha volta como foi, sem soluções. Uma única, precária, é que furta o retrato da garota morta e o leva para casa, pondo-o à mesa, diante do neto delinqüente.

Ainda que por meios nada edificantes – espécie de estupro consentido – Misha consegue, com o senhor de quem cuida, enfim, o dinheiro para a cota indenizadora, o que não impede que, um dia, a polícia apareça em sua rua e leve o neto preso.

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No fim do curso, nenhum aluno cumpriu a tarefa do professor, a de escrever um poema, salvo Misha, que não comparece a essa aula final, e, com um buquê de flores, envia o poema – o seu primeiro e (lembremos o chapéu no rio) último.

Enquanto se ouve a voz que lê o poema de Misha (primeiramente a do professor, depois a dela, depois a da adolescente morta), a câmera vai se deslocando na direção da ponte do suicídio e nós, espectadores, entendemos que houve outro. Não apenas as águas turvas do rio, filmadas assustadoramente de perto, nos dizem isto, como também as palavras estranhas e belas do poema que se escuta.

Desliguei a tv meio engasgado, me lembrando de outra vítima feminina do mundo dos homens, que a cada revisitação, me faz chorar, a Cabíria de Fellini.

Comecei esta matéria falando dos paradoxos da crítica. Um a mais é não atingir, na composição do texto, o nível de qualidade do filme, como é o caso aqui.

Portanto, vejam o filme e esqueçam a crítica.

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Poetry

8 ago

Movie criticism is full of paradoxes. Or is it the critic himself? Sometimes bad movies lead me to writing, and, sometimes, a very good movie suggests I should be silent.

A suggestion of silence – respectful silence! – has given me this excellent “Poetry” (“Shi”, 2012) by South-Korean Chang-dong Lee, which I was luck enough to watch on paid tv.

Yes, I do have the feeling that writing about this sweet and tender film is like maculating it. And, paradoxally, I write for, of course, I intend  to publicize it. Actually, if I could, instead of writing, I would get copies, and, kindly, distribute with dear friends.

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I should begin by saying that, within this Third Millenium Cinema I happen to know, very few times I came across such a captivating and true character, so well built, as this Mrs Mija, a lady of sixty-six who, with problems of memory, enrolls in a poetry course. Going slowly through the sidewalks of Seoul, Mija makes a difference, with her elegancy and finesse – her old face is still beautiful, her body is still slim and her slightly old-fashioned white hat, which she insists in wearing, gives her a vaguely aristocratic look.

I wonder if I will be able to convey her interior beauty, but, I start with that which is obvious – whatever the plot offers me, and the plot is another enormous merit in the film.

A widow for some time, Mija would live alone, were it not for this grandson, the son of separate parents, whom she practically is forced to lodge – a hostile teenager whom she can not understand, despite the many daily efforts.

One day Mija hear the news that a young girl had committed suicide, throwing herself from the bridge into the waters of the Han river. Not only this, but, going to the hospital for exams, she witnesses a terrible scene: the desperate dead girl´s mother, out of control, crying and throwing herself on the ground like a mad woman.

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Very soon came the worst: Mija is secretly visited by a committee of male parents, whose sons had raped the girl, and Mija´s grandson was one of them. The parents went to her because, all togehter, they are collecting a certain amount of money for an indemnity, and, of course, the Police and the press are not supposed to know about it.

Without much means, Mija does not know how to raise the money. She lives on a poor allowance and, an on eventual work as sitter. At present, she takes care of an old man who had a stroke, and lives all by himself in his middle class apartment.

All these problems – including the blanks of memory, diagnosed as Alzheimer – do not stop Mija from attending the poetry course, where the teacher ensures that everybody is able to write poems, for poetry is within every one of us. Mija has always been fond of flowers and of strange words, and this gives her the illusion she may one day be able to write a poem. She spends time with Nature, looking for an inspiration that never comes. Or  does it too late. (Should I tell the end of the story?).

Meanwhile, troubled by the girl´s death, Mija goes as far as the suicide place, the bridge over the Han river, and – sad prolepsis – the wind blows her hat, which falls down on the dark waters.

By suggestion of the parents committe, she visits the dead girl´s mother, in the field, but, the visit is aimless: the two women talk about ripe fruits, and things like these, and Mija comes back without solutions.  Except for the fact that, not knowing what to do, she steals a picture of the dead girl, and takes it home, putting it over the table, for her delinquent grandson to see.

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Through not very honorable means – a kind of painful consented rape – Mija gets the money for the indemnity with the old man she takes care of – and, however, a few days later, inevitably, the police appear on her street, and take her grandson to prison.

By the end of the poetry course, none of the students had fulfilled the task of writing a poem, except Mija, who does not come to class, and, together with a bouquet of flowers, sends her written poem to be read – her first (remember the hat on the river?) and last one. While one hears the voice-over that reads Mija´s poem (first the teacher´s, than hers, than the dead girl´s), the camera moves toward the suicide bridge and, we then understand that another suicide occurred. Not only the frighteningly dark waters of the Han river, closely shot, tell us this, but also the strange and beautiful words in the poem we hear.

I turned off the TV set kind of choking, remembering another female victim of men´s world, one that always makes me cry: Fellini´s Cabiria.

I began this post by mentioning the paradoxes of movie criticism. An additional one is not attaining, in the composition of the text, the same level of quality as the movie discussed – which is the case here. So, dear reader, see the movie, and forget this piece of criticism.

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