Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

Archive for March, 2009

1 December 2008: Faculty Master Class with Jerzy Kozmala

Posted by Christina on March 24, 2009

jerzy-kosmalaAs my officially last piece for the New University Newspaper, it was with bittersweet feelings I wrote this last piece. I had never reported on a master class before and it was an amazing experience. It was wonderful that the paper chose to cover the event because it really was such a sight to see and such a concert in itself, really.

New University Newspaper: Faculty Master Class with Jerzy Kozmala

Faculty Master Class with Jerzy Kozmala
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 11 | Dec 01 2008

Internationally renowned violist Jerzy Kosmala participated in the second Faculty Master Class last Monday as part of an inaugural series of events organized by the UC Irvine Music Department. Students performed pieces from some of classical music’s greatest composers to a diverse audience of professors, students and community members.

Students who participate in the Master Class form groups at the beginning of each quarter. On Monday, they performed various movements of ensemble pieces by historically celebrated composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, Antonín Dvořák and Béla Bartók, whose works span from the Classic to Romantic periods and on to the 20th century of musical artistry. Performing and receiving critiques from their peers and the professor of the class, Dr. Margaret Parkins, the students were polite and receptive to Kosmala’s added words of wisdom.

Kosmala thoughtfully followed along with his own copy of the first piece by Mozart. Listening to a trio of clarinet, piano and viola, Kosmala sat in the front row swaying to the allegro phrases, nodding to every forte and punctuating trills. His own viola and bow rested against him as he sat, aware of every glossed-over rest and every dotted note unnoticed.

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24 November 2008: ‘Freudemocracy’ Gets Political

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

freudemocracyThis was a really interesting art exhibit at UCI. It took me a few visits to really wrap my head around the whole concept and be able to confidently deliver a review. Regardless, it was an excellent thing to be a part of and amazing to experience artforms like this right under my nose.

New University Newspaper: ‘Freudemocracy’ Gets Political

‘Freudemocracy’ Gets Political
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 10 | Nov 24 2008

Nestled near Cyber-A Café in the revamped corners of the UC Irvine Art Department, the University Art Gallery has been the venue for some of the most intriguing art exhibits. From studio art seniors exhibiting their collegiate work to guest artists utilizing a multitude of media platforms, the installations have always been insightful and thought-provoking.

“Freudemocracy: 2008-1968” is no exception; it reaches a vast arena of existence, spanning time and space alike. Its content renders ideas not only important to the curators of the exhibit, but also to the current social and political state.

Focusing largely on the student-led and later national rebellion throughout France in 1968, “Freudemocracy: 2008-1968” looks at the effect these events had on one of the period’s most potent minds.

Through films made by French new wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard, the exhibit showcases a selection of films as a themed montage. Beginning with the years right before the very crux of the movement in 1966, the exhibit then goes through films commentating on the moment of uninhibited rebellion and finally deals with the movement’s aftermath in 1972.

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19 November 2008: Film Notes – Trois Couleurs Bleu

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

trois-couleurs-bleuThe ‘Trois Couleurs’ series was one of my favorite parts of this class. Juliette Binoche is absolutely amazing in this film and the whole aspect of the triad of films was so brilliant as well. This is another selection from film notes and again, answers a question concerning the film

Film Notes: What is the function of the score in Three Colors: Blue?

Trois Couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue), Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993

While it is evident that Julie is trying to disassociate herself from her former life, liberate herself from an identity of the past and repress memories from a previous existence, it is the with the reoccurrence of the music that Julie is somewhat forced to remember her past. The haunting phrases from the score are what remain in Julie’s life even while she is so desperately trying to rid herself of her past. When she rents the apartment Julie takes on her maiden name, she destroys the music notation associated with her husband and the life-status she had with him and she rids herself of everything material that would be responsible for serving as any memento save the blue jewel-beaded mobile. Regardless of these actions seeming like brash, thoughtless actions of anxiety and depression after the devastating accident, it is with a firm conviction of wanting so desperately to start her life anew that Julie rids herself of all these memories. Yet try as she might, her disposing of objects that might serve as materialistic nostalgia-inducers resurrect during moments she least expects it and in the form of the music that she tries to consider a part of her past life.

Interestingly, when she hears the music, the screen blacks out for several seconds and the orchestral sounds overpower the audience’s senses. This is perhaps done to show what might be going on in Julie’s head. It could be her blacking out because a particularly haunting phrase of music is persistently trying to reinsert itself into her life when she least expects it. While it seems that Julie has effectively rid herself of her past, it is the music that plays an important role in bringing her back in touch with portions of her life she tried to cut herself off from. Like several of the senses that invoke memory-how smelling a particular perfume could bring about thoughts of childhood-music works with the sense of hearing to procure memories one might have long since forgotten or tried to repress. This happens when she hears the flute player on the street as well as in her own psyche as the music that was such an integral part of her very existence seems to literally take her by surprise and knock her off her consciousness for a moment.

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6 November 2008: Under the Guise of a Conforming Visual Aesthetic Exists a Deconstructing of the Cinéma du Look Model

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

xp obligations ANGEL-AThis is the midterm paper written for FMS101C on behalf of my beloved French films, New Wave and especially Cinema du Look.

Under the Guise of a Conforming Visual Aesthetic Exists a Deconstructing of the Cinéma du Look Model

As Luc Besson constitutes one-third of the forefather triumvirate for cinéma du look, consumers of this film culture are indebted to him for propagating the cinema scene with all the elements heralded by cinéma du look constructs. Defined with detailed particularity in Sue Harris’s essay “The Cinéma du Look,” elements of this movement in French film are clearly defined in Besson’s Angel-A, especially with the visual aesthetic of the film and how it exemplifies a heightened ocular pleasure over anything else. However, there are moments in which the film delineates from the cinéma du look model by effectively bringing to light some film models that were initially dismissed with the post-1968 filmmakers. Defined in terms of Harris’s stated elements involving characterization, there lies a conflict between a mere visual representation and one of more psychological depth in terms of defining the main protagonists. Further it is in its return to the formal style of location shooting, which has largely been indebted to the French New Wave, that renders Besson’s Angel-A a someone deconstruction of cinéma du look. Interestingly, while the film seems to break away from a style first brought to life by this director, it simultaneously heralds the cinéma du look model, utilizing its modes of construct to create filmic eye candy.

What works particularly well in identifying Angel-A as forming to the cinéma du look model is a sense of choreography seen through the characters’ excessive gesturing and in the final scene where Angel-A fights to fly back to Heaven. It is in the comparative mode of gesturing which exists between André and Angel-A which further characterizes them on screen as dichotomous. André uses the whole of his body to portray a particular language that renders his entire body a form of gesturing. It is here where we see how he is fitful, spastic and fidgety while Angel-A glides her body’s movements, even in heated moments of angry argumentative expressiveness. Also later, when Angel-A and André fight in mid-air, it is the choreography of cuts and shots that renders this sequence similar to Soviet montage. The play of cuts to heighten the anticipation and anxiety of what’s to come is also heavily stylized and choreographed.

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27 October 2008: Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

synecdoche-new-yorkThis really and truly was a rather bizarre movie. If you got it then you were among the elite who understand filmmaking of this caliber and if you didn’t get it, then it might have provided for water cooler conversation fodder for the following Monday. I enjoyed it but did have my moments of unabashed confusion and bewilderment. Also, only someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman could pull off something like this (see ‘Love Liza).

New University Newspaper: Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’

Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 6 | Oct 27 2008

It seems as though with the release of “Synecdoche, New York,” the inevitable and long-awaited directorial debut from one of cinema’s most prominent writers has finally come to pass. Charlie Kaufman creates a world where he plays puppet master for not only the verbal level of character interaction, but for the film’s overall display as well. Kaufman’s work is enhanced by the truly all-star cast, which runs the gamut of Oscar worthies to independent film starlets. While the audience experiences the stellar script materializing before its eyes, the content does, however, veer off course as things wind down into overly symbolic and somewhat impractical referential gestures.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a small-time theater director whose life we enter as he fittingly premieres Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” at the neighborhood playhouse. His wife, Adele, played by Catherine Keener, is a painter of miniscule art and, like any Generation X suburban couple, husband and wife prescribe to marriage counseling. However, things run amuck in Caden’s life when Adele takes their 4-year-old daughter and her paintings to Berlin, pursuing her career and an alternative lifestyle.

In a series of encounters, Caden strikes out with buxom box-office babe Hazel (Samantha Morton) and is followed by a lanky and balding guy. Later, Sammy (Tom Noonan), creates a surrogate wife and daughter with his plays’ perpetual female lead, Claire (Michelle Williams), and takes part in a liaison with Tammy (Emily Watson) among other things. After a whirlwind of experiences, Caden realizes his mortality once his body’s automatic functions start shutting down, and he embarks on a life-long theater project funded by a MacArthur Fellowship.

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24 October 2008: Film Notes – Persona

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

personaOne of the other ways we participated in film notes was by answering a question based on one of the readings assigned to us that week in correspondence with that week’s screenings. Susan Sontag had written an article when Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Persona’ had been released called ‘Sight and Sound’ and we were to use that in reference to the stated question.

Film Notes: Sontag [“Persona, Sight and Sound”] explains that there is a theme of doubling in Persona, how does it operate?

Persona, Ingmar Bergman, 1966

Susan Sontag delivers ideas around the sense of doubling in Persona by finding dualities in the mode in which the film’s narration operates. She furthers her notions of doubling in this sense by exploring ways in which the narrative sheds light on how other thematic elements play on Ingmar Bergman’s prominent ideas on doubling throughout the film. She focuses on this dichotomy between the “traditional narrative” and a “new narration” (188) in terms of giving a duality to narrative in general. These two modes of narration are what separate other films from Bergman’s Persona for Sontag in that the “traditional narrative” showcases a clear explanation for action-reactions. The “new narrative” is a purposeful dismissal of a clear explanation, deliberate in leaving the audience with their own ideas about the overall film. She also goes through an explanation of the doubled notion towards a psychological theme in Persona. Sontag pairs the psychological awareness in the existence and diagnosis of the psychiatrist with Bergman’s overall dismissal of psychological importance as this diagnosis or nearly anything medial-related is never really mentioned again.

Sontag also delves into polarities seen in Persona as well as The Silence, in terms of giving a thematic driving force to Bergman by looking at his contemporary work and still upholding Persona as above to the rest. She describes the “polarities of violence and powerlessness, reason and unreason, language and silence, the intelligible and unintelligible” (186) in what seems like a parenthetical afterthought. However, it’s evident that these found “polarities” are true modes of doubling in terms of one theme since they are the opposite sides of that singular theme’s spectrum. In this, Sontag creates two forms of one. For example, with “language and silence” it is a mode of communication that is represented twice-one is through the verbally audible or readable form of language and the other works as communication by creating an utter void of verbosity. We obviously understand Alma through her incessant speech because we hear her language and understand the words. Similarly, there is a reason why the psychiatrist in Persona has a long monologue of understanding towards Elizabeth even though she has heard nothing from her patient. In this way she provides modes of understanding the way in which doubling operates in Persona.

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20 October 2008: An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

120x160 I've loved you so longFor this film, I had the chance to sit in a round table interview format with the film’s director, Philippe Claudel, and lead actress, Kristen Scott Thomas. They were both a total joy to be around and made me love the film even more than I already did right after the screening.

New University Newspaper: An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’

An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 5 | Oct 20 2008

There’s an unspoken desire in most of mankind to live a life of unconditional love and perpetual care. Parallel to that lies the fear of being utterly forgotten and ultimately ignored without reason. First-time film director Philippe Claudel delves into these underlying themes with “I’ve Loved You So Long.”

In a beautiful film about the unfaltering love between sisters and a family unit comprised of blood relatives, adopted children and colleagues-turned-stalwart friends, Claudel’s freshman effort is a true work of expressive art.

The film opens with Juliette, a woman teetering towards the start of middle age. In a desolate train station, the camera has no choice but to focus heavily and entirely on her, an empty shell of a human being. She mindlessly takes a cigarette to and from her face, the Pall Mall soft pack at her side, already a character staple. She looks dead in the eyes and entirely void of emotion. Her overall gait looks as though she has lost hope and has maintained existence through some sort of catatonic state for a long time. Not to mention she has just finished a 15-year stint in prison, and is now re-emerging into a society that had once judged and shunned her into oblivion.

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6 October 2008: Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

nick-and-norahThis was a really fun film. Doing research I wondered why all my generation of pre-pubescent to young adults had Judy Blume and ‘Are You There God, It’s My Margaret?’ to quell our insatiable thirst for the knowledge of that uncharted plain called adulthood.

New University Newspaper: Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’

Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 3 | Oct 06 2008

Love stories have narrative arcs that no doubt withstand the test of time. It’s for this reason, however, most feel that when they’ve heard one, they’ve heard them all. It’s rare that in this day and age, artistic media produces a love story with any inkling of originality. It’s probably what makes director Peter Sollett’s latest, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” such a breath of fresh air.

Nick is lovelorn and tormented by his ex-girlfriend, taking mental health days off from school and from his band mates. It’s finally a search for an elusive favorite band that takes him out of his house and onto the streets of New York with his friends.

It’s the sleepless journey of one night that packs in growing up, experiencing the importance of friendship and self discovery bringing Norah to Nick, and finally, Nick to Norah.

Michael Cera truly is the emerging generation’s prince charming. In “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” he plays Nick, the bass-playing, quintessential teenager lost in emotional woes of love gone awry. Audiences across the board have grown to love his demeanor with his characterization in Sollett’s film being no exception.

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3 October 2008: Film Notes – Angel-A

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

angel-aFor the last of the three-part film history series, we went through modern filmmaking in a flash of a variety of genres, country-specific filmmaking and form spanning from Andy Warhol to video art. We had to sign up for “film notes” and in groups, write about a certain aspect of a particular film. Whether it be cinematography, editing, acting…whatever. I loved this film so much and was excited to participate in film notes for this Luc Besson masterpiece.

Film Notes: cinematography – camera movement, angles and lighting

Angel-A, Luc Besson, 2005

The use of various cinematographic techniques in Angel-A are very specific to the genre of filmmaking this particular film falls into, Cinéma du look. The camera movement throughout the environment of the Paris setting gets as much out of the city’s architectural beauty as possible. In order to accomplish this, the camera takes extreme long shots of the characters as they make their way throughout the city. Even when both Angel-A and André are static and are having intimate conversations, many of these moments are captured in establishing shot fashion. The camera sits far, far away and centers the two characters as small, arm flailing and gesticulating creatures in the middle of the frame. It is convenient, and probably purposefully done, that many of the events take place on the cobblestone, Parisian streets and amongst a mélange of key areas of French culture. From the train station to Sacré-Cœur to the ever-present Eiffel Tower, the film could pass as a tour video if not intended for greater and better things.

Another key area of cinematography employed by this Cinéma du look film is in the mode of camera angles, which is important because of the height difference between Angel-A and André. It may be somewhat ridiculous that Angel-A is so much taller than André but the camera angles that follow their interaction serve to establish a relationship for the two. In their first meeting and discussion, we have a high angle from Angel-A’s perspective as she’s talking to André and a low angle from André’s perspective when he’s talking to Angel-A. This establishes a hierarchical leveling between the two and is seen in how Angel-A is more capable of taking care of André’s problem than he is capable of taking care of them himself. When Angel-A forces André to admit that he loves himself in the mirror, the camera is dead steady on both of them, showing that she has come down to his level to assess him problem.

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29 September 2008: TV on the Radio Progresses on ‘Science’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

tv-on-the-radioMan this is such a great album. Honestly, though, not as good as some of their previous releases, but comparatively to what was coming out around the same time, this was really great sounding. It also helped that I had heard some of these songs live at Street Scene in San Diego the week before, which was right before I heard the album for the very first time in its entirety.

New University Newspaper: TV on the Radio Progresses on ‘Science’

TV on the Radio Progresses on ‘Science’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 2 | Sep 29 2008

TV on the Radio is the kind of band that continually embraces a very experimental nature. Each track is a cohesive exploration of sound and harmony, a sign that the band continues to seamlessly transcend genres and styles.

Its new album, “Dear Science,” is no exception to this already established impression, showcasing this collection of bandmates at their most creative to date.

The band has come a long way since frontman Tunde Adebimpe and guitarist David Andrew Sitek’s self-released demo, “OK Calculator,” an obvious pun on a Radiohead favorite “OK Computer.” “Dear Science,” is the follow-up release to its 2006 celebrated epic, “Return to Cookie Mountain.” With the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist, Nick Zinner and the omniscient David Bowie adorning the band’s various projects, much was expected from the new album.

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