At the Movies : “Ida”

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Two scenes from Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida :

Scene One :

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In the first, the car has stopped at a fork in the road; the younger of two women, Anna, kneels in front of a crucifix embedded in stone, hands together in prayer, the grey of her novice’s uniform merging with the stone itself, the grey of the empty field, the surface of the road; the older woman, Wanda, stands by the car, smoking, maintaining distance, disbelief. Beyond and behind them both everything is swathed in mist. Poland some time in the 1960s.

Taken to a convent as a young child after her parents were killed during the Nazi occupation and brought up Catholic, Anna has just learned – weeks before taking her final vows – that she is a Jew. Propelled by Wanda, her aunt and sole surviving relative, she has set out to discover the truth of what happened to her parents. A journey in which she will seek to discover the truth about herself.

Another scene which I can only describe, not reproduce :

Ida, with Dawid Ogrodnik and Agata Trzebuchowska

 

Left alone by her aunt, Anna/Ida has gone down into the ballroom of the hotel where they are staying, drawn by the music of the young saxophone player who had earlier hitched a lift in their car. He plays Coltrane’s Naima, talks to her as a young man would to a young woman. Do you ever uncover your head, he asks?  Do you realise the effect you have upon people?

Upstairs, later, alone in front of the mirror, she uncovers her head, takes down her hair.

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Pawlikowski’s film is, I think, a small masterpiece, beautifully, carefully acted (by Agata Trzebuchowska as Anna/Ida & Agata Kulesza  as Wanda) and carefully, beautifully shot in overlapping shades of grey; each shot, each scene beautifully, exactly framed – perfect in its composition, but, like, say, a solo by Thelonious Monk, often coming at you from an unsuspected angle, encouraging you to look – listen –anew.

Art Chronicles: Helen Frankenthaler Again

 

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Photo : Burt Glinn

Helen Frankenthaler, whose work is currently on show at Margate’s Turner Contemporary, was one of a relatively small number of women artists who managed to find a means of negotiating their own distinctive and successful art practice in the midst of what was, by and large, a male dominated New York art scene in the 1950s and 60s. Here she is, above and below, pictured with two other artists from that number – Joan Mitchell (left) and Grace Hartigan (right) – at an opening of her show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in March 1957.

Photo : Burt Glinn

Photo : Burt Glinn

And here are Frankenthaler and Hartigan again, hanging out at the Five Spot, a jazz club where Thelonious Monk famously played, and where the painter/musician Larry Rivers organised poetry & jazz events on Monday evenings, Monk’s night off.

Photo : Burt Glinn

Photo : Burt Glinn

That’s Frankenthaler on the left, in front of the sculptor, David Smith, while Hartigan is on the opposite side, across from the poet Frank O’Hara, with Larry Rivers on her right. O’Hara, who reviewed art shows for Art News and other magazines, worked at the Museum of Modern Art, first as an administrative assistant and later as a curator, and was a personal friend of many artists, including Jane Frielicher, Joan Mitchell and Grace Hartigan, to each of whom, at various times, he dedicated poems.

It was O’Hara who curated and wrote the catalogue essay for Frankenthaler’s first major show, Helen Frankenthaler Paintings, held at the Jewish Museum between January and March of 196o. This is part of what he had to say about her work …

Frankenthaler is a daring painter. She is willing to risk the big gesture, to employ huge formats so that her essentially intimate revelations may be more fully explored and delineated, appear in the hot light of day. She is willing to declare erotic and sentimental preoccupations full-scale and with full conviction. She has the ability to let a painting be beautiful, or graceful, or sullen and perfunctory, if these qualities are part of the force and clarity of the occasion.

Helen Frankenthaler, Hotel Cro-Magnon, Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum

Photo : Burt Glinn

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Photo : Burt Glinn