Fifteen minutes before the Musée D’Orsay in Paris closed its doors, I entered the final room of my visit to the museum and encountered two “architectes de l’étrange”: François Garas and Henry Provensal. What struck me most about the work of both artists is the technical precision with which they approached their dreamlike subjects. Of course. The young men were gifted architects who, later in their careers, would go on to receive national awards and high-ranking commissions, and both trained at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. That these pieces exist at the top of wooded mountains, reach in skyward vertical lines, and reveal interior rooms that seem to open infinitely into each other, is especially strange in contrast with images of realized architectures of turn of the century Paris. That these pieces highlight the technical skills of these architects, the mastery of line, fealty to each structure’s projected physical integrity (and if you find yourself curious, take a look, especially at the earnest series of plans, each successive drawing more convincingly applied: this building might actually work) reminds me of Gabriel García Márquez’s famous anecdote about his grandmother telling “fantastic stories with a brick face.”
His name tag said “Sherman Lampert (Barbara Rossovsky).” People were looking at him like he had two heads. Probably half of them thought he’d had a sex change operation. He’d be glad to go along with the idea if it would save him from anyone’s clucks of sympathy, the whole “Oh, you poor man” spiel he’d heard a thousand times (and that wasn’t much of an exaggeration) over the past eleven months. Enough, enough already with “I can just imagine the pain you’re in,” because the fact was, even he couldn’t imagine the pain he was in, and the thought that someone else might presume to understand it made Lampert almost giddy with contempt. He’d moved to a foreign country, the land of grief, and had burned his ships upon arrival, like one of the old Spanish conquistadors.
His children had advised him not to come to this high school reunion, and who could blame them? “It wasn’t your high school, Dad,” his daughter Franci told him. She spoke to him as if he had dementia.
Ben Rivers’ Two Years at Sea is a portrait of Jake, a man who lives a lone subsistence lifestyle in the wilds of Scotland. Rivers’ film is a silent plotless meditation on life at a different pace and begs of the cinema goer a different kind of attention. A piece of contemporary romanticism, filmed on old equipment, removed from society, almost anthropological in its depiction of a human who moves at the speed of nature.
“The world is often not what it seems, and so a poem that indexes the seeming world is bound to be mistaken. That’s great. Our perceptual limitations are, I think, fascinating and moving. Moving in both senses: they stir up emotion, and also are in the process of changing.”