Monday, January 23, 2012


I saw Kontakthof during the Holland Festival in 2003, when I worked there for a month, tucked away in the darkness of the main box office. At night, I could see performances, including this beautiful dance with twenty older dancers, a remake from 1978. I still clearly remember the thrill I had in Carré, one of the main theaters in Amsterdam. I knew I saw something special. Not only the concept of the older dancers, or the mere fact of seeing a show in Carré, but most of all it was special because it was a show of the Great Pina: a woman who was so well known, that I felt ashamed for not having seen any of her other performances.

Her Rite of Spring I knew, if only because three years earlier, again during the HF, I had tried to learn as much as possible about the Rite while working at the show ZIngaro. The latest version of Kontakthof was modest and fragile, but The Rite was violently, intense, exhaustive. Even behind my computer screen, I could feel the breath of the dancers, I smelled the earth.

And that happened again a few weeks ago, while sitting in the BAM cinema in Brooklyn, wearing 3D glasses, watching Wim Wenders film about her, for her, Pina. I usually don't like 3D movies that much, since I'm not so interested in the special effect. But in this movie, it was different. It was tactile, with beautiful images, where it felt like you could touch the dancers, as if they were dancing around you. Sometimes, a dress nearly blew in your face, or you had to push away a curtain to see them again. It was like standing beside them.

The images created by Pina herself of course, were very important too in this experience. Improbable situations, like a huge rock on stage, with an endless waterfall next to it, where dancers moved through the water like insects. Or a glass chamber in a forrest, where, when the dancers finally open the doors and ran out, you could smell the trees and the soil, that were only visible through the glass at first. And of course, The Rite.

She's hardly in it, in the film that bears her name. But one of the few things she says is: when there are no more words, dance starts. And with that, she expresses exactly what I felt as I watched.

PINA - Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost - International Trailer from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Me and a friend went to see About Canto, a film about the music piece Canto Ostinato. The film is not about the music itself though, it's about the impact it has had on different people. Which could make an interesting film, if the characters would be interesting. And by that, I don't mean it should include more friends of Dutch actrice Halina Reijn - who had to dance on the Canto in acting school - I am saying that of some of the people that were chosen now, had no interesting Canto story to tell: "I just listened to it when I was little and played with my lego," a student tells us, while sitting behind a grand piano in her tiny student room.
Eventually, however, the cinematic choices of director Ramon Gieling were more annoying than the characters and made me and my friend (him in lesser extent) very giggly while the film proceeded.

In a master class Rene Appel (who directed Zij gelooft in mij about the Dutch singer Andre Hazes), said that he never showed what the people in his films talked about. You should not weaken the story with accompanying pictures, he said. Gieling should have attended that master class, because the flashbacks that accompanied the stories in About Canto are absolutely terrible and they are not correct. When the girl talks about lego, you don't let her play with wooden blocks in the flaschback. Furthermore, it seemed that the makers had found a cd with sound effects, and had used them whenever they found it appropriate. Bird sounds. Rain drops. Everything was so loud, it seemed like the sound engineer had glued them on to his microphone.

In each interview, the voice of the director is audible at some point, saying things like: "You told me earlier that you ... (then an anecdote followed) .. can you elaborate on that?" Why does Gieling want to be present in his own film? Why do we need to know he had earlier conversations with his characters? I'd rather hear them tell their stories. Even if they all came down to one same thing: The Canto Ostinato had made a tremendous impression and changed their life. We got that message after three times already.

One of the interesting characters, musicologist Henkjan Honing, was filmed from below, while giving a lecture in an almost empty auditorium of the University of Amsterdam, with some female students scattered in the large room, supposedly looking up to him. The irritation of the camera angles was greater than the attention to his interesting content.
The pictures behind researcher Johannes Bentz showed roundabouts - which is what the Canto reminds him of - and were beautiful. Just like the scenes of a roundabout, where at some point it really seems to show how a pedestrian is hit by a car. Is it a joke of the film maker?

Then, at the end, 'the master himself', composer Simeon ten Holt is being interviewd, and again, Gieling refers to earlier discussions. At that time, I already lost my focus and could only stare at the old composer, whose body seemed to be one big blob, which made me wonder if he was wearing a snuggy? When he then - in our opinion slightly irritated - answered Gielings questions, I really believed we got fooled and we were watching one of Wim de Bie's characters. Of course, I can't blame Ten Holt nor Gieling this, but the hilarity that I had slowly built up during the film, now turned into the giggles, which I had not experienced in a long time.

Thanks for that, Ramon Gieling. And my apologies to the other cinema audience.

The music itself is beautiful though:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


June 24, 2010 must be the most recorded day ever. Worldwide, people responded to the call of Ridley Scott and Kevin MacDonald, to record a moment of that day, and share it on youtube. They got 4500 hours of material that they turned into the film Life in a Day.

I realized that one day on this world actually takes about 36 hours, from the time it turns 12 AM in the most eastern part of the world, untill it is 11.59 PM at the most western point. I have no idea where that may be, but one of the major candidates for the latter, has recently changed into a candidate for the first.

The day begins in the night, when people are drunk, sleeping, feeding their babies and watch the moon. And while the sun slowly rises and thousands of people put their feet on the floor, coffe gets made in so many different ways, people make breakfast, lovers wake up, the days slowly progresses. Between all the quick cut scenes, abruptly abandoned stories return and you start discovering a fragment of somebodies life.

People answer some simple questions in their own films, that unfold the simplicity of this world. What's in your pocket, is one of these questions. The answers? Money, phones, keys of a Lamborghinis, but also knives, guns, flags of all the countries from the ancestors of a (presumably) autistic woman and nothing. Or a stick of a of the Neem tree, that one can use as a tooth brush.

How simple is life? Some have everything, others nothing. It's simple and unfair. And even though no-one complaints, you can't deny this fact. When asked What do you love?, people answer: 'my family', 'my cat', 'cleaning very dirty things so you can see results', God, the Lord and our Saviour' and 'driving 150 miles an hour with my car'. We are all different, but we;re not. All over the world, people get married, they all eat their own strange foods, and everyone tries to make the best of it. The sick mother, with her battered body and her young son. The Berber and his fourteen children who live in a house without electricity or running water. The American girl whose husband fights in Afghanistan, the Korean guy who cycles the world and who gets emotional by Nepalese flies, because they are just as big as the flies in his home country.

And as the day progresses, and the evening falls, the Love Parade turns into a drama, fires burn down houses, people cry in their bed, the West celebrates life with dancing cheerleaders and half naked women, somewhere fireworks lighten the sky and in other places, a thunder storm does. As the moon rises, and it's 11.58, a girl films herself at the last minute. "I hoped that something special would happen today, so I could show the world that something special happens everyday somewhere. But nothing did. And even so, I still have the feeling that something special has happened.

Life in a day.