Thursday, June 29, 2017

Kirsten Tan's "Pop Aye"

With gentle yet probing wit, Kirsten Tan's film Pop Aye sounds the empty depths of human accomplishment and urban development. It brings us along with its protagonists, a disillusioned architect and a rescued elephant, on an unusual road trip to meet a string of colorful characters all coping with life's losses in different ways, the charismatic Thai countryside echoing the massive beauty of what the director called the "Brad Pitt" of elephants. The human actors hold their own. Astonishingly all but one are non-professional actors. Their strong and nuanced performances, drawn out by skillful directing, made the movie delightfully engaging, even affecting. Last night, at the opening night at Film Forum, I heard people expressing surprise that this was Kirsten's first feature film, so persuasive was its vision and assured its execution. She is definitively a filmmaker to watch. Catch Pop Aye in Film Forum before it moves to other cities. It plays only through Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


On Sunday, celebrated New York Pride by having brunch with WL, CC, DM, and PB at Philip Marie. After brunch we watched the parade and saw the Resist and Gays Against Guns contingents. GH left for Standard Hotel's Pool Party, and DM and PB left soon after. WL, CC and I had drinks at French Roast and then watched more of the parade along 5th Ave, after which we had dinner at Rasa. Good day. I still think it's important to support the parade. At night, GH and I watched Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King (1991).  Jeff Bridges was very good at a suicidal radio DJ and so was Robin Williams as a deranged homeless man.

Today I've been reading Elie Wiesel's memoir The Sea Is Never Full. In its absolute uniqueness, the Holocaust, which Wiesel prefers to call the Event, cannot be described or shown. It is on the other side of language and image. Also, the tension between Jews living in Israel and those living in the Diaspora.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Met Maureen Hoon for lunch yesterday at Sovlaki Midtown. Really juicy lamb chops, in pieces easily handled with fingers. Pita bread made in house and on the day. Maureen showed me some images of her new art project, which arose out of her response to a deeply moving piece of music about loss. We talked about the fundraiser for Singapore Unbound. After leaving her, I worked on Does grass sweat in the New York Public Library branch near me. Jacques the day before gave me an important clue to the character of Sam Fujimoto-Meyer. He described his son as being a moral absolutist. Since young, he has always wanted to know who the bad guys are. This despite his enormous intelligence and wide reading. The two are not contradictory. In the evening, we finished watching a queer movie from Venezuela. An older man started a relationship with a young gangster. When the young man wanted to show his gratitude to the older man, he killed the man's father since the man had said how much he wished him dead. They had sex for the first time that night. The next day, the man tipped off the cops who came for the young gangster.

Friday, June 23, 2017


Visited Jacques Houis and his wife Shelly at their home in Millertown, two hours' train ride from Harlem. Shelly, a former movie producer, made a delicious lunch of shrimp salad and tomato-coconut milk soup. Jacques drove me to visit his friend Kush, who has an astonishing collection of books, recordings, and memorabilia associated with the San Francisco Renaissance. Kush recited Artaud and Whitman for us and showed me his bust of William Blake, which he kissed on the forehead. On the train back home I finished reading Cheryl A. Wall's a Very Short Introduction to The Harlem Renaissance. Very useful. At night I watched François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959), one of the most famous films of the French New Wave. This is gritty Paris, where you have to walk down six flights of grimy stairs to take out the garbage every night. Constrained by unimaginative schooling and feckless parents, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) turns to petty crime, which leads him eventually to a juvenile prison camp. Escaping from the camp, he found and saw the sea for the first time in his life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Finalized and posted my review of Tan Pin Pin's documentary In Time to Come on SP blog. Heard Eric Calatayud sing and Kenny play on the keyboard with their band in the common garden on 122nd Street. Jazz standards and Beatles songs. They were very good. Left early to hear Cheryl A. Wall speak about the women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. She was a good speaker, concise and perceptive. Her manner was stately. I asked her a question about Tea Cake slapping Janie in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. She referred me to Alice Walker's observation that Janie does not speak in that chapter although she does in all other chapters. The novel does, implicitly, criticize Tea Cake's action.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Second day of summer break. Worked on Does grass sweat. Met Gina Apostol and young Filipino literary scholar Paul Nadal for dinner at Chomp Chomp.