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Working Woman is All Our Story

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Some films stay with you.  That could be said for …Working Woman, a new film by director Michal Aviad.

It’s a simple story. A beautiful  Israeli mother of three, Orna, (Liron Ben Shlush of “Next to Her”) is offered a job by a man who used to be her captain in the army. He’s now a big shot in real estate and promises her a lucrative career with advancements. She loves her husband who has just opened a restaurant and realizes the extra money could really help. Plus, she’s ambitious for herself and to prove she can do it.

When the developer Benny (Menashe Noyhen) tries to kiss her after a successful real estate negotiation, she is shocked, scared and disappointed. But he apologies profusely and says it won’t happen again. But it happens without sex, like when he keeps her working late with the prospect of ‘already ordered sushi’ and keeps turning the lights off and on. It is sick and childish, but she is doing so well in bringing in her own business, that she makes herself ignore it.

Her husband, Ofer (Oshri Cohen) is very good at sharing family chores, gets upset when he receives a special business license thanks to Benny’s interference. Something doesn’t smell kosher, but he respects his wife and holds his tongue. They even attend a party at Benny’s palatial home and it is clear to all that Orna and Ofer are tight.

But what happens in Paris can’t stay in Paris. After a celebratory dinner in Paris, selling homes to French Jews, both Benny and Ofra are feeling good about their work and are slightly tipsy, Benny pulls a fast one…the old, can’t get my door open trick…and ugliness takes over. It’s a very well done scene…Ofra struggles but both in shock and awe resigns herself to the drunken abuse because she has little choice.

Back in Israel, her otherwise terrific mother doesn’t want to know and Ofer starts blaming her for allowing it.

Orna is sensitive but fiercely protective of her family and needs a recommendation to get future work.She must garner all her strength and at the same time accept her own complicity in ignoring what she didn’t want to see.

She resolves the problem with great courage handling Benny in front of his wife to get what she needs. He tells her how lucky she was to learn so much with him, and she agrees. But we know what she learned in the loss of innocence is a far greater lesson than selling a condo at the beach.

Whether the director used Harvey Weinstein as a template for Benny, is hard to say…but this is a wonderful film dealing with the strains that women suffer in the workplace especially when one person holds all the power. In Working Woman, the lead takes her power back.

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Written by nancykoan

April 3, 2019 at 1:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Pinter by Sands by nancy cohen-koan

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ImageMy first memory of Howard Pinter was sitting next to Sandy Mandel in a London theater and watching her head bounce up and down on her long neck during the Birthday Party. It was the same head that struggled to stay erect in front of the Trevi Fountain and at the opera at the Baths of Caracalla. We were young, it was our first trip to Europe and we hadn’t gotten much rest. And Pinter was probably way too sophisticated for our backpacking sensibilities. A few years later, I was living in London in a flat with a guy who was great friends with the actress Vivian Merchant and was regaled with gruesome stories about her difficult marriage to Pinter. But I still wasn’t tackling his material. In fact, it took me a long time to appreciate his nuanced style and even then I had to get over the fact that  I read  he hated Americans  — for the government’s policies…unfair, considering  how Thatcher’s actions in Grenada, had little effect on my lifelong Anglophilia.

But a few years back I participated in a workshop at Cuny with Harry Burton that dealt with Pinter’s work with actors and my respect and admiration was deepened. And It was revived last night at a one man show at The Irish Rep called a Celebration of Harold Pinter, directed by John Malkovich and starring Julian Sands. Sands  is truly a romantic actor… I loved him in Impromptu and A Room With A View, and have assiduously avoided seeing him in things like Warshlock . My gut feeling is that his comedic skills have yet to be exploited, though in this show, his improvisatory moments are very funny as well as his vulnerability.

Clearly Sands loves Pinter’s poetry and does it proud. When he is Pinter, his voice lowers to a gruffy basso and brings the outspoken man right back to life. Celebration covers many aspects of Pinter’s career, personality, politics and his very committed relationship to author Lady Antonia Fraser.  Sands  is so tight with Pinter that he was asked to read at the funeral ceremony in 2008, after Pinter succumbed to cancer. It is this kind of intimacy, both with the man and the material,  that Mr. Sands brings to this show. Death is ever present in this show and Sands begins with a short poem that is equally cool and warm in its scope. Pinter emotionally takes no prisoners…his  bold, raw style wouldn’t support Broadway, but had its birth in a country where art has been traditionally more supported.  It is such a pleasure to have a better understanding on “the curse of the Pinter pauses” and beats in his writing… I would like a sequel…. Perhaps with even more silence to fully take in everything that he says.  Generously, Mr. Sands mentioned that Rufus Sewell will be playing Pinter in the West End next year.  Hopefully, Mr. Sands will carry on with this show as he has done since 2011.

Written by nancykoan

November 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Bowie’s Back

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I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on. …David Bowie
 

Indeed, David Bowie lives on. His influence on music and culture is so immense, that it wasn’t too long before a group would coalesce to carry on his energy and art.

Alex Thomas is the lead singer of Live on Mars, the Bowie band that had a successful UK tour in 2018 and is currently making its first tour of the United States. Influenced by Bowie’s legendary concert performances, LIVE ON MARS gives an electrifying show with music ranging from Space Oddity to Last Dance; the best of Bowie with a fabulous light show and animation.

I spoke to Mr. Thomas, the lead singer, who has received rave reviews as David Bowie. When I asked him about his approach, he said that he wants to give the effect of Bowie with his looks and voice, without costumes and wigs. He respects his iconic hero too much for that ‘tacky route’.  “Bowie got  away with costumes and it worked…I can’t pull off the  make up , doesn’t work with my face at my age.”

N: How difficult is it to take on such an icon?

A: It’s a lot of pressure, incredibly good fun. I’m a huge Bowie fan and don’t want to ruin it for anyone… People enjoy it. The reaction is amazing with people getting carried away, sometimes in tears. I don’t take credit for this.

Mr. Thomas was too young to have seen Bowie perform live but has always been told he looks like him and sounds like him, even changing his voice to pattern the range change that Bowie exhibited during his lifetime.

A: It was a challenge, early on he had a much higher voice; he gets lower and richer with more vibrato later on. I had vocal coaching and moved the sound from throat to chest.

N: Do you channel him? How do you get into it?  

A: It’s all in movements, the music drives it. I wear a suit that resembles him the movements come naturally. The early stuff is more camp—the older stuff, traditionally masculine.

Before this exciting gig, Alex did more experimental stuff …noisy psychedelia with a group called Great Pagans. But he always loved Bowie.

N: What is Bowie’s greatest musical influence?  

A: The synchronization of experimentation and bringing it into the pop sound. He was influenced by Brian Eno and experimented with gender and androgyny.

N: What does he continue to say to the culture?

A: His legacy is one of the biggest. He is untouched by scandal which is a surprise coming from the generation he did. What I like is that he championed people who were over looked and abused. Abused is perhaps the wrong word.

N: What do you mean?

A: Bowie was interviewed in the  mid- 80 and berated the MTV  host for not having as many black music videos on primetime tv .He was forward thinking…also with androgyny. He had a lasting influence.

Clearly, Alex is an enthusiastic fan which can only help drive his performance. And he expressed equal excitement at performing in this country, with a first stop in Ohio.

N: What city are you most excited to play in the US?

A: I’m really looking forward to Miami. And of course, New York.

New York State schedule
Fri 31 May Rochester NY Auditorium Theatre

Sun 2 June Westbury NY NYCB Theatre

Wed 5 June Syracuse NY Crouse Hinds Theater 

 Sat 8 June Lewiston NY Mainstage Theater

TICKET INFORMATION:http://www.cmpentertainment.com/index.php?action=display_artist&artist_id=456&archive=0

Written by nancykoan

May 31, 2019 at 2:48 pm

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My Sh!t in Auschwitz Rocked

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photo: lambstar

What could Steve Bannon have meant by this line as he opens Alison Klayman’s documentary The Brink? He’s talking about visiting Europe with his populist agenda and his Torchbearer, Duck Commander, Phil Robertson’s film. I played it over twice but am still not sure what he was really trying to say. Apparently, he was totally surprised to discover that Birkenau was built specifically for the annihilation of a race—that meant  that intelligent men sat around with coffee cups making their plans. “Normal people who weren’t devils”, as he puts it. He should see BBC/HBO’s The Conspiracy, which dramatizes the 1942 Wannsee Conference, where the European lawyers and high level SS drink champagne and discuss the Final Solution like they were planning  a campaign to push rayon over silk. Kenneth Branagh playing General Heydrich was also charming. Bannon, an unlikely warrior,  never expresses any irony as the film shows him going about the business of aiding and abetting other populist and racist causes himself.

This fascinating look into the Fritto lover who sadly gave us Mr. Cheetos is particularly eerie because Bannon is not without some charm and wit, and one keeps wondering if he truly believe what he proffers. It feels like an act. As if he’s found a niche and he thinks he can win in this niche, so he sticks to it. If he had made more successful films, would the Right have become his cause, or is he in it out of defeat?  Could he possibly be so blind to his own racism? Does he think the Populist values of recreating the White World in his image is sensible or even evolutionary?

Not once in this film is the troubled environment mentioned except as a jokey excuse for some piece of legislation. Not once do we hear of the pain epidemic, lack of decent jobs for all people, high rate of infant mortality in our country and too many more issues that he has no time for.   He travels on private planes, enjoys expensive hotels, hangs out with ex Goldman Saxers and  doesn’t consider himself an elitist?

What is Raheem, a Muslim who sounds just like John Oliver doing working for him? That should be the sequel.  This guy goes on about all the Arabs living on the Edgeware Road for the last ten years in London.  I lived in London 25 years ago and there were always Arab stores and restaurants.  He and Epstein, a Republican candidate who wanted Trump to write his name on her pregnant belly are breathtaking in their self-deception. Apparently, Ms Epstein is a Messianic Jew, and was neatly defeated by Haley Stevens.  Aw.

What is so intelligent about this film, is that the director stays quiet, only occasionally asking him a question. Instead he lets his own blindness speak for him.

I don’t know and really don’t want to know what happened in his childhood to bring him to this place. He’s good looking (underneath the rust), funny, sort of aware and has potential to be a human. Can’t we get him into one of those Steiner nursery schools where he can learn to love himself first and then just maybe others? Only if Betsy DeVos stays out of it..

 

See the film.

 

Written by nancykoan

April 2, 2019 at 12:31 am

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Written by nancykoan

March 30, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Written by nancykoan

March 30, 2019 at 3:03 am

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Woman at War, true Viking spirit.

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Iceland has very strong environmental protections, so when the lead character, Halla, in Woman At War, fights to halt the encroaching aluminum industry, we discover a serious activist with a sense of humor and a cause. Known by reputation as the  Woman of the Mountain, Halla leads a double life, directing a choir by day while secretly committing vandalism on the corporation with her Viking inspired bow and arrow. Halla is such a powerful person; we see her use her body for sport, climbing  and performing clever physical deeds…she is active in ways women are too rarely seen in film. Halla is not about being watched; she watches, constantly on the alert to protect nature and the future of nature for our world.

Halla befriends a man who may or may not be a cousin … he, too, is fighting for the land and calls his herding dog Woman. He helps Halla, but mostly she goes it alone and is fine, until her life’s journey comes to a fork. She receives a letter that her application to adopt a little girl has finally come through and a new role is in the offing, to be a  mother to a Ukrainian child

Halldóra Geirhasdóttir is such a fine actress that we witness her internal struggle as she must now contemplate a future for humanity and the environment through dangerous activism or the future of an orphaned child by giving her a homelife. She cannot do both.

Director Benedikt Erlingsson uses a sort of musical Greek chorus of indigenous singers who follow her around, reminiscent of the odd musicians who show up in a Fellini film, commenting subtly on the main players. They are amusing, but the heart of this wonderful film is Halla and her character.  When she argues with her twin sister who prefers to live in India with a guru ‘going inside’ to  Halla’s tackling the outer world, you know that it is not because Halla is unconscious. She has contemplated and made choices from a strong moral, humble fiber, characteristics we see too little of today.

The rugged landscape is beautifully filmed by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson

Run to this film. It is funny, touching and speaks to the idea of the strong and good mother…what nature and the environment cries out for if we are indeed to keep going.

The film is playing at the IFC and Landmark Theatre.

Written by nancykoan

February 21, 2019 at 2:57 am

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Never Look Away…beauty in truth

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The film The Lives of Others, deals with the lives of  East Berliners, separated by a wall  and  freedom. The Stasi – driven paranoia never permitted peace of mind, yet people lived with dignity as best they could.  Even the Stasi operative reveals a human side. Director and writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck thrills again and even more so, with his new film, Never Look Away.

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It is no surprise that Donnersmarck studied philosophy at Oxford. Every character thinks in this film… weighing their choices, confronting their destinies and we as audience, have the pleasure of experiencing this along with them.

Starring Tom Schilling and Sebastian Koch, Never Look Away spans three eras of German history from WWII to the Berlin Wall. Young art student Kurt (Schilling)  falls in love with the daughter (Paula Beer) of an ex Nazi doctor (Koch) who disapproves of his child’s choice of partner and works at destroying Kurt’s self-esteem and their relationship. What they don’t know is that their lives are intricately interwoven through a crime that the Professor committed during the height of the Nazi regime.

This is a film that takes its time. When the allied bombs begin to fall, we see a montage… one family, separated through war, soldiers on the field, a young woman in an extermination camp (Saskia Rosendahl)…all of a family, disappearing in the ways wars make lives disappear. The music by Max Richter  delivers the power and the futility of this most horrific of human endeavors.

Kurt, in art school, cannot immediately produce. We see the artist’s process as he struggles between expression and denial. It is not until his subconscious awakens through the help of a committed teacher and his own acceptance of the truth, that he is able to say something from his heart.

The Nazi Professor remains arrogant throughout. He is a perfect example of the blindness of racism — he sees neither his daughter’s happiness nor her pain nor is able to acknowledge his deeds.  He is a man of such hubris that when leaving East Berlin, he doesn’t join his cronies  in South America, but carries on his life in the West. This is frightening indeed. He is more machine than human and is played brilliantly by Koch.

Never Look Away is a powerhouse of a film.  Honor, praise and gratitude bestowed on those who made this part of our human history so compelling.

produced by Jan Mojito Quirin Berg Max Wiedemann

Christiane Henckel von Donnersmarck

Written by nancykoan

January 24, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Posted in racism, Uncategorized

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