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Take a look at this movie by Christine Rabette:
Merci! by Christine Rabette
Except there are no words, only laughter.
(Thank you Phyllis!)


Catching Up

I keep neglecting this blog! A lot has been happening since September 6.

For one thing, Phyllis and I went to “The Birches” on Moosehead Lake on the 16th and came back on the 18th. We actually climbed Mt. Kineo which was a short launch ride across the lake from the Rockwood landing, about a 15 minute drive from The Birches. We took the Bridle Trail which was recommended to those who want to avoid the shorter but steeper Indian Trail. But what a challenge the Bridle Trail was! We made it to a nice plateau near the summit and had our lunches.

For another thing, I’ve been on a Bergman kick and have watched Wild Strawberries, Cries and Whispers, The Seventh Seal, and Persona. Also, Tony gave me his DVD copy of The Magic Flute by Mozart as directed by Bergman. I’m in the process of watching that in stages. I also watched several Bruńuel movies and have a Godard on my Netflix queue. But I’ll be getting Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage next.

What about books? Well, I’m reading two books by Joan Halifax on Buddhism which are very interesting, Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, and with Stanislav Grof, The Human Encounter with Death. The latter describes the use of psychedelic therapy. But I’m also reading two other books at the moment, one by Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Quite a title! Also, Tony lent me his book on interviews of Ingmar Bergman by students and faculty at SMU. Bergman speaks in English and you get a feeling for his childlike imagination and creativity, I think.

The last novel I read was “The Sea, The Sea” by Iris Murdoch, a fascinating read.

My Lymphocytic Colitis has been in remission for at least a couple months now, but I still take the Cholestyramine and Asacol two times daily. However, my sleeping is still ragged. I’ve been trying to use meditation by focusing on my breath, or counting breaths, and I think this may work sometimes.

I still enjoy maintaining the Norway UU church website which I created. I wish more church people would use it. I had to skip choir last week because of the trip to Moosehead, but tomorrow the Rev. Fayre Stephenson is giving her first service, so I’ll be there, in the choir.

Have I forgotten anything? Probably. It’s still unreal that Cynthia has died.

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This movie directed by Ingmar Bergman is not what you’d call upbeat. It’s a sad tale of repression of human emotions in the presence of a terminal illness of one of three sisters. Only the maid servant freely expresses her love for the dying sister. Reconciliation of the two living sisters seems to occur at one point only to disappear again at the end. Bergman clearly doesn’t think much of well healed self-satisfied people who he believes often live inauthentic lives of hypocrisy and repressed self-hatred.

There is an interesting interview of Bergman and his friend, Erland Josephson, done in 1999, on the DVD. I enjoyed this discussion very much between the two wise old artists (Bergman was 82 at the time and Josephson was 77), and the interviewer, Malou von Sivers, was very good. She asked them probing questions about their lives, loves, and views on death. Ingmar was not so concerned about his own death whereas his friend Erland was not at all looking forward to it. Bergman died in 2007 and Josephson in February of this year, 2012.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview that says a lot to me:

von Sivers: I think of Strindberg, whom you both love, of his play Thunder in the Air. There are in the accounts of ageing a feeling of reconciliation, together with the pain. I get the same feeling when listening to you. I don’t know if this is just my impression. Is it wishful thinking on my part, that ageing brings reconciliation?

Bergman: (To Josephson) Do you want to start, or shall I?

Josephson: You start. I can carry on.

Bergman: We should talk in chorus, as we both feel the same way about growing old. We were never told it would be so hard. It’s hard work. It’s very hard work. Especially when you feel yourself waning, and your ailments begin to take over. Ridiculous, slightly humiliating ailments begin to take over. Before you get used to this, and they become part of your life, you have a hard time. Ageing is strenuous work. It isn’t something often talked about. We should talk more about it. Ageing in itself is a full-time job. Making yourself function in a reasonably dignified manner. We’ve talked about this.

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Here’s a Youtube I want to capture here. Ingmar shows an excerpt from a movie and then gives his thoughts on God which he replaces with holiness as seen by human beings through music and art.

Bergman's Wisdom


Recently I saw a couple Woody Allen movies, To Rome with Love, and Midnight in Paris. I liked them both but found it interesting that David Denby in the New Yorker thought “To Rome with Love” was the far better movie whereas Roger Ebert thought “Midnight in Paris” was clearly the better.

After reading Ebert’s review of Midnight in Paris, I think I agree with him, although I didn’t like the beginning of the movie so much. That’s because I felt the leading character, Gil, was embarrassingly awkward in his attitude toward the “pseudo-intellectual”, Salvador. The fascinating part of the movie came later with Gil meeting the well-known literary people from the past.

To Rome with Love was pretty fascinating too with the fast paced action in Rome and that amazing bunch of characters. So, I’ll have to say I liked both movies about the same.

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While browsing through the website of the Academy of American Poets, I noticed an excerpt from James Joyce’s great story, The Dead. Gabriel Conroy is reflecting on his wife’s former lover, Michael Furey. This excerpt constitutes the last three paragraphs of the entire story:

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Yes, the solid world seemed to dissolve as he became conscious of the flickering existence of the vast hosts of the dead. So ironic perhaps to even hear the snow falling faintly upon all the living and the dead. Was this an epiphany for Gabriel, a deep awareness that the living and the dead are connected as one? But I doubt I’m capturing the essence.

The story was made into a wonderful movie by John Huston as his last great project before his death a few months later. The movie is very true to the story, and when I think of the story, images from this movie always come to mind.

Roger Ebert has a wonderful review of this movie here. This review is well worth reading and gives great insight into the story, which if you haven’t read I highly recommend.

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Michael Moore is at it again. I like the title. Film coming to a theater near you. Here’s the trailor.


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Old Chestnuts

Or better, “Old Chestnuts Mangled!” Here’s what might have happened to these famous movie scenes if the writers had been on strike at the time. It takes a quick read, but some are quite appropriate, or not!

The video is called A World Without Writers from AWorldWithoutWriters.


The guests having all left this morning and it being a quiet Labor Day afternoon, I thought why not watch the rest of Pan’s Labyrinth, the wonderful movie by Guillermo del Toro, the great Mexican director. So I did. I had purchased the DVD several months ago and watched a bit of it a couple weeks ago. But this time I watched it from the beginning to the end and it shook me with its earth-shattering tragedy balanced by its profound and, yes, wondrous fantasy. This fantasy experienced by an eleven-year old girl who alone can see the fairies, the Fawn, and various other characters in the labyrinth, is balanced by the terrible struggle of a sadistic fascist captain and his men fighting the remaining rebels in the woods in 1944 in Franco’s Spain. I breathlessly focused on the well-presented subtitles — the movie is in Spanish — as the action moved excitingly on, alternating between the struggles in the real world and those of the girl performing her tests in the fantasy world to prove to the Fawn that she indeed is the real princess. It turns out that she wins her struggle and the evil captain is defeated but there are prices for this victory. I can’t find the words to express the power of the ending in the fantasy world as it intersects with the real world. Yes, it’s a totally profound and beautiful movie. Y’all should see it.

Update: I should mention that I first heard about this movie on Steve Hayes’ blog. He has a good discussion of it here, and there are a number of interesting comments bringing out points I left out. But I would see the movie first: the comments give away a lot of the action.

It is perhaps curious that the great film director of the 1960’s, Michelangelo Antonioni, age 94, died on the same day as the great film director Ingmar Bergman, age 89, namely, July 30, 2007. Again, the NYT has a four web page article Michelangelo Antonioni, 94, Italian Director, Dies on the career of the movie maker. Antonioni’s great film, L’avventura, I saw during the early 1960’s and thought myself quite hip at the time for sitting through this lengthy avant-garde film. Some of my friends were bored by it but I was determined to defend its drawn-out eroticism and existentialism. I remember very little about it now, but here’s a scene I found on the net:

Will she jump? Or is she just looking for Anna? Could be either one or both.

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