Som tidligere nævnt sad jeg i juryen for Politikens tegneseriekonkurrence. Tidligere i dag annonceredes vinderen, såvel som anden- og tredjepladsen. Maren Uthaug tog førstepladsen med Ting, jeg gjorde — en version af hendes vidt læste blog. Nummer to blev Christoffer Zieler med Arbejdstitler, mens tredjepladsen gik til Johan F. Krarups Uoplyst optimisme. En fornem vinderakkompagneret af to fornemme runners-up.
Besides technique, however, there’s something else about [Seven Samurai] that defies analysis because there are no words to describe the effect. What I mean might be called the irrational rightness of an apparently gratuitous image in its proper place, and the image I always think of is that wonderful and mysterious scene in Zéro de conduite where it is apparently Sunday, Papa is reading the paper, and the boy’s little sister moves the fishbowl (hanging on a chain from its stand) so that when her brother removes his blindfold he can see the sun touching it. The scene moves me to tears and I have no idea why. It was not economical of [Jean] Vigo to have included it, it “means” nothing–and it is beautiful beyond words.
Part of the beauty of such scenes (actually rather common in all sorts of films, good, bad, and indifferent) is just that they are “thrown away” as it were, that they have no place, that they do not ostensibly contribute, that they even constitute what has been called bad filmmaking. It is not the beauty of these unexpected images, however, that captivates… but their mystery. They must remain unexplained. It has been said that after a film is over all that remains are a few scattered images, and if they remain the film was memorable. That is true so far as it goes, but one must add that if the images remain, it means only that the images were for some reason or other memorable. Further, if one remembers carefully one finds that it is only the uneconomical, mysterious images which remain.
Kurosawa’s films are filled with them… For example, in Drunken Angel there is a scene where [Toshiro] Mifune lies ill in the room of his mistress. [Takashi] Shimura comes in and does not wake him buts sits by the bed. He opens the girl’s powder-box. It has a music-box inside and plays a Chinese tune. While it is playing, he notices a Javanese shadow-puppet hanging on the wall. While looking benevolently at the sleeping Mifune (and this is the first time he has been nice to him–when he is asleep and cannot know about it), he begins to move the puppet this way and that, observing its large shadow over the sleeping gangster. While one might be able to read something into the scene, it is so beautiful, so perfect, and so mysterious, that even the critical faculty must hesitate, then back away.
Its beauty, certainly, is partly that in the closely reasoned philosophical argument that is this film, it is a luxury–take it away and it would never be missed. It gives no information about plot or character. Kurosawa’s films are so rigorous and, at the same time, so closely reasoned that little scenes such as this appeal with the direct simplicity of water in the desert. There are many more… but in no other single film are there as many as in Seven Samurai.
What one remembers best from this superbly economical film then are those scenes which seem most uneconomical–that is, those which apparently add nothing to it… there is the short scene where a prisoner has been caught, and the oldest woman in the village–she who has lost all her sons–is called to come and murder him. She marches slowly forward, hoe in her hand, terribly old, terribly bent, a crone. And though we sympathize, the image of one of horror–it is death itself because we have seen, and will see, men killed and think little of it, but here is death itself with a hoe, mysterious, unwilled. Or, those several shots of the avenue of cryptomerias, and two bonfires, one far and the other near. This is where the bandits will come but we do not yet know this. Instead the trees, the fires, the night–all are mysterious, memorable. Or, that magnificent image we see after Mifune has rescued the baby and burst into tears. The mill is burning and Mifune is sitting in the stream, looking at the child and crying. The next scene is a simple shot of the water-wheel turning, as it always has. But the wheel is on fire. Or, that curiously long close-up of the dead Mifune. He has stolen some armor but his bottom is unprotected. Now he lies on a narrow bridge, on his face, and the rain is washing away the dirt from his buttocks. He lies there like a child–all men with bare buttocks look like children–yet he is dead, and faintly ridiculous in death, and yet he was our friend for we have come to love him. All of this we must think as we sit through the seconds of this simple, unnecessary, and unforgettable scene.
The passing of the great trumpetist Donald Byrd last week brought me back to his music, but also to the music that taught me about him. The great jazz-inflected wave of hip hop music during those magical years in the early nineties, before sampling laws changed the direction of the art, relied in no small measure on his music. Here’s my time machine. Continue reading ‘Donald Byrd in Hip Hop’
The man with the liquid horn passed away earlier this week, we now learn. I’ll leave deeper analysis to the specialists and merely note that I’ve always gotten immense enjoyment out of his recordings, from his early bop period to his seminal fusion material, on his own and with the Blackbyrds. His playing was consistently light and energetic, celebratory even. Check the hook — and his soloing! — on “Ghana” from 1960, above. (Hank Mobley’s muscular tenor sax is magnificent too, a perfect counterpoint).
Naturally, the entry point for me was hip hop: Gang Starr, Public Enemy, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Black Moon, and on, with Guru and Jazzmatazz providing the reveal.
But soon, his own material took over, not the least on his fusion material for which he seemed eminently suited. Continue reading ‘Donald Byrd RIP’
As recently noted in this space, the holdings of the Danish Comics Museum, collected over three decades by its founder Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen, have now entered the Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen. In short, this means that its future is secured at a State-approved institution with everything that implies in terms of conservation, development and research. A milestone event in Danish comics and one we in the Danish Comics Council, who have helped midwife the process, are happy to see come to fruition.
These photos provide at panorama of the guests at last night’s reception, pretty much a who’s who of a certain set of generations in Danish comics. Many of the creators, editors, publishers, and retailers of the seventies and eighties, contemporaries of Hjorth-Jørgensen, showed up to celebrate. It was great to see them all. A the mic, Iben Overgaard, director of the Storm P. Museum, initiated the proceedings, and she was followed by Thomas Thorhauge, chairman of the Danish Comics Council, and Hjorth-Jørgensen himself, both of whose speeches are excerpted in the videos below. Continue reading ‘Flix: The Comics Museum at Storm P.’
Denmark has a new museum for comics! Well, sort of, and as good as. As of today it is official: the collections of the long dormant Danish Comics Museum have now found a permanent home at the Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen. This means that the latter, a long-standing and well-respected museum dedicated to the greatest Danish cartoonist (1882-1949), now expands its scope to encompass comics as a medium and art form, with ambitions to maintain, expand and conduct research.
The man of the hour is Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen, whom one might call the Bill Blackbeard of Danish comics. Educated as a librarian, he was inspired early on in his career systematically to collect Danish comics publications, eventually amassing an expansive collection covering the century-long history of Danish comics, with a nearly complete collection of all comics published in Denmark since 1950. This collection formed the basis of the Danish Comics Museum, which Hjorth-Jørgensen opened in Gørlev, in Western Sealand, in 1993. The museum however closed its doors in 2001, living on in different makeshift incarnations, first at the nearby library, since at Kalundborg Museum, as well as a rich online resource on Danish comics.
As of now, the museum is no more. The collection has been transferred to the Storm P. Museum within which it will be titled the Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen Collection. The Storm P. Museum, under the leadership of director Iben Overgaard, has agreed to maintain and continue to build the collection, as well as make it available to scholars and the public at large. This is a major event in Danish comics, securing for posteriority this important piece of Danish cultural history, while further consolidating the Storm P. Museum as a central institution for Danish comics and cartooning.
The idea to thus secure the Hjorth-Jørgensen collection originated with the Danish Comics Council, with art historian Louise C. Larsen, journalist Søren Vinterberg, and yours truly midwifing the negotiations between the director of the Storm P. Museum and Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen. We are overjoyed with the agreement they reached. A great day for comics in Denmark.
Oh right, here I am talking about the news on Danish radio. And if you’re in town, do show up at the museum on 7 February at 5pm for the official reception, featuring live cartooning and much more.