Saturday, January 28, 2006

Andrei Tarkovsky and Heidi Klum

I'm so excited for my public speaking gig tomorrow at the Real Art Ways cinema and gallery space in Hartford, where I will be giving one of two post-film lectures after a screening of Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece Andrei Rublev. Literally one of the greatest and most inspiring films I have ever seen, Andrei Rublev is a breathtaking spiritual epic orbiting around the life of Russia's most famous painter of orthodox icons. Before you get nervous, a lot of the magic inheres in how thoroughly Tarkovsky sidesteps biopic conventions—we never once see Rublev paint, and he is a witness to more scenes than he is a participant. Instead, we are treated to some of the most rapturous crane and aerial shots in cinema history, starting with the prologue's curious episode of a man attempting to fly off the top of a church tower with a homemade balloon as support, and climaxing with the spectacle of a naked woman fleeing the village where 14th-century Christian soldiers are violently interrupting a "pagan" ritual. She runs into the river to avoid capture, and the camera's whirling and yet poignantly static tracing of her escape is the very essence of visual poetry. All through the film, imposing architecture resonates against the fluid movements of water and bodies, and the palpable grittiness of earth, iron, and fire is shot and edited into transcendental, almost conceptual purity. It's truly awesome. In fact, this will be my third time seeing Andrei Rublev on a big 35mm screen, and I've been boning up for two days on the religious history of Russia, the revival of Rublev's personal mythology under Stalin and Khrushchev (of all people), the always strained relations between Tarkovsky and Mosfilm, and the philosophical and aesthetic undercurrents linking Andrei Rublev to other Tarkovsky films like Stalker and Solaris.

Or at least, this is what I am TRYING to do. Because in a cruel twist of fate, which I blame ENTIRELY on Gabriel and Nathaniel, my entire consciousness has been flooded in a giant tsunami of Project Runway.

Four days ago, I not only didn't have cable, but I hadn't had it for six years, except for the fact that in three of those years, I subscribed for 4-6 weeks apiece stretching from the Golden Globes to the Oscars, promptly cancelling the service on the morning after. Time Warner of Ithaca was straight irritated at my not-even-seasonal subscribing, but they'd still schlepp to the house and hook up the box, knowing that I'd walk it back to headquarters in a month's time. Now, on why I just don't care about TV: it has less to do with derision for the form (though, I admit, there is some of that) than with personal appetites and desires. I do. not. want. to experience characters once a week at some appointed time, in open-ended storylines. My life and my job satisfy those roles just fine. My art is supposed to come in discrete packages that have been shaped and concerted and filigreed with infinite nuance so that I have single, intense experiences of stories or people, which I can turn over and over like crystals in the light, rather than stringing them along like tinsel on a tree. Unless it's Once and Again, it just doesn't turn me on.

But as someone I know would say, f*** me running, because I love Project Runway. I am its newest convert. I accidentally saw the last two-thirds of this week's episode on Thursday night, when I was connecting my VCR to my cable box and activating a timer-record on the next channel down, until I got com-pleet-lee absorbed in Nick's crisis of conviction, in Daniel V.'s friendly and adorably unpushy counsel, and in Zulema's right to switch her models (which I wholly defend, even though it came at the expense of by far the best model-designer pairing on the show). I watched that funk till the end, and though I personally would have given a slight edge to Andrae's stunningly creative translation of brackish gutter water into flowing fashion (I wish there were a picture or, better, a video of that fabulous back in motion), I wholly applaud Daniel V.'s inspired sartorial take on the beauty of the orchid. I marveled at the stunning, Aristotelian completeness of this episode—the ironic reversal of fortune (Zulema's), the qualified healing of the wounded (Nick), the cosmic blessing of the most loyal comrade (Daniel V.)—an exquisite hour-long drama which all came together in perfect synchronicity with the just desserts of the garments in question. That was some Euripides-style jelly, people.

So you know my timer-record just went Physical all day on the eight-hour marathon of the season thus far. While I sit here reading my little treatises on Tarkovsky, I am gobbling Runway like it's cheesecake, till I'm caught up like Usher. The banishments have been so utterly just (shades now of Sophocles!), and the victories so deserving. Even in weeks where something amiss took place—I think Kirsten's outfits were worse in the series opener than either of that week's booted victims—justice soon takes its course in a following episode. It is hilarious how the carry-over contestants always look like they want to coo over Heidi's growing bump at the beginning of each episode. Santino's hubris feels utterly believable, not just amped up for insta-celeb effect, and I do think that dude is talented, so I really don't hate him, and I think it makes sense that he's still around, even after some close brushes. The judges, with the occasional exception of Michael Kors, reply tartly to the outfits without being gratuitously mean, and without trying to go for the big water-cooler catchphrase. I love how Nina Garcia is a dead ringer for Dominique, the imperious senior editor in High Art, a movie that is not unlike the dark underbelly of Project Runway for boho photographers. I loved when Alabaman Heidi got the axe, and when the Heidi breathed out her customary "Auf Wiedersehen," tragic Heidi blurted with perfect sincerity, "I don't know what that means, but Bye!" Best of all, I have never understood or cared about fashion AT ALL, and even less about reality television, but this show really is training my eye about what to look for and think about with regard to runway ensembles, and it's such a pleasure to see contestants judged on their ideas and creativity instead of some canned, parodic version of personality.


(Only gripe: now that I know the show, I am even more incensed by the non-inclusion of Shannon Maddox, whose sensuously detailed theatrical costumes have amazed me in two productions, and whose quick but non-bitchy wit would have been purrr-fect for this show. Really, why'd we have Emmett all that time when we coulda had this?)

(One more gripe: I'm not getting much work done. Gabriel and Nathaniel, you are the Hekyll and Jekyll of my life. I do not even want to know Galactica's time slot. Seriously, y'all need to keep that shit to yourself. To punish you for colonizing my precious work time, I am going to hit Reload one less time on each of your blogs tomorrow than I usually do. Seriously, I'm limiting myself to 8 or 10 clicks a day, and that is final.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fridays at 10.

It's so good to see that you've been tainted by the powers of cable television. You are one of us now. Resistance is futile.

I can't wait to hear you expound more on why you think Santino is talented. I look at his dresses and see both technical and creative mistakes in abundance, and his lack of a defined plan makes them look even sloppier than they are. I think his hubris got him on the show, and his ability to sew got him past Marla and Daniel Franco. But I don't expect him to last much more...beyond Kara, who really MUST go next week.

10:03 AM, January 29, 2006  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Well, I think his clothes are conceptually interesting, even though he gets way too additive with material and gewgaws. He clearly shouldn't have won for the Nicky Hilton thing, but I really liked his dress the first week, and I thought the phoenix ice-skating thing, albeit impractical, was kind of interesting. (Though I still chuckled when Heidi called it "beyond unflattering.")

I'm in full agreement with you and N. about who the three finalists will be. Andrae seems like the only wild card to me: either he'll massively choke like he did in explaining his Clothes Off My Back piece and get booted earlier than he should, or he'll sneak into the last three because someone (maybe Nick) goofs up. Still, Daniel, Chloe, and Nick clearly deserve the berths in the final week.

10:21 AM, January 29, 2006  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

isn't it nice that the line

"deserves got nothing to do with it"

doesn't apply so much to Project Runway as it does to most every contest (like, say, SAG -blech.ptew. vomit. etc...)

still that said, wendy pepper made the final 3 last year so at this point it's anyone's game because if you screw up massively on the wrong week, you make room for andrae, kara, or santino to boot you.

so i'm hopeful but nervioso abou D,C,and N

12:21 PM, January 30, 2006  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

and yes, FRIDAYS at 10.

oh and also netflix. minseries, and season 1, and season 2. also available at your greater video stores no doubt.

12:22 PM, January 30, 2006  

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