Phoenix

phoenix

Many movies regarding the Holocaust focus on showing suffering at camps or the ruthlessness of the military. Phoenix differs by focusing on humanity’s initial reaction: disbelief. How could this happen? How could this be? How could people do this to one another? Instead of showing masses of people experiencing cruelty, the movie explores the depth of betrayal between a man and wife. The slow realization that our protagonist may never find complete resolution or happiness post-war–that she may never fully heal–captures the bitter void that victims feel.

Subtle, mature, and delicate acting exists throughout this film.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2764784/

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“In the urrent state of things, not allowing them to leave the country–or even teach them to read–would actually do them a favor…”

The young blond man at the dinner party wrote this in a book he is writing (Colonial Studies. This comes from the last paragraph of Chp.3, which starts with a bit of humor, probably as a way to soften the serious dialogue but also reaffirms the notion that foreigners in a position of power view the “indio” as second class citizens. Here’s the paragraph:

That night, among the things the young blond man would write was the next chaper in his Colonial Studies: “How a neck and wing in a friar’s plate of tinola can spoil the happiness of a celebration.” Among his observations were the following “In the Philippines the person of least use is the one who gives the dinner or party. The host could be tossed out into the street and everything would still proceed swimmingly.” “In the current state of things, not allowing them to leave the country–or even teaching them to read–would actually be doing them a favor…”

p.23, Chp.3

“A people’s prosperity or misery lay in direct proportion to its freedoms or its inhibitions and, along the same lines, of the sacrifice or selfishness of its ancestors.”

At a dinner party, Ibarra was asked what made the greatest impression on him while he was traveling in Europe. His response:

Frankly, the surprising thing about these peoples, when you set aside everyone’s national pride…before visiting a country, I tried to study its history, its Exodus, so to speak, and in the end I found they all followed a common course. In every instance I noted that a people’s prosperity or misery lay in direct proportion to its freedoms or its inhibitions and, along the same lines, of the sacrifice or selfishness of its ancestors.”

The Franciscan gave a mocking laugh,

“It doesn’t seem worth it to waste all that money just to find out such an insignificant thing. Any schoolboy knows that.”

p.22, Chp.3

What is the purpose of traveling to learn something that can be read in a book? Is traveling a luxury or a necessity? Perhaps both when you have the means to because when there is a means, it seems like a waste of life to not go and see more of the world. A book requires trusting on someone else’s experience and reference frames. Besides, what is captured by a book years ago may have changed and there is value in being your own source of knowledge. Travel challenges oneself beyond the confines and safety of ink on paper.

“When we played together, he never repeated himself. I don’t think he could.” –Yehudi Menuhin on Stephane Grappelli

Yehudi Menuhin had great respect for Stephane Grappelli, a jazz violinist whose musical upbringing was far from Yehudi’s own formal education. According to Paul Balmer’s biography of Stephane, the latter had grown up with “no training in music but with common-sense guile.” Stephane had a father who would scrounge around to find his talented son a violin and a book of solfege. Before the violin, he had put Stephane into a dance program with Isadora Duncan before he left to fight in World War I.  Stephane’s father reached out to his aristic, musical friends to guide his young son through the first parts of learning the arts. In addition to having a supportive father, Stephane learned to be scrappy. On his first violin lessons:

“I go to the street and I watched the buskers. I watched where he put his hands. That was my first teacher.”

Stephane was a quick study, perhaps as a result of having to adapt quickly to different situations. Along with his musical talent, Stephane also had a way with people:

“Presented with the intriguing instrument Stephane fumbled for a few days with its mysteries and then made a resourceful move: There were many musicians then in cafes, and I asked one to help me with tuning the violin, I think he was intrigued by this precocious child and he tuned it for me.”

p.33 in a biography by Paul Balmer

“He was a little man, slightly comic, and exuded all the innocence of his childhood hero, Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp.”

 

grappelli

Paul Balmer’s first lines on the first chapter of his biography of Stephane Grappelli:

Stephane Grappelli made me smile. I wasn’t alone. In Paris, Bombay or Singapore, seated on the grass at a youth festival or in the plush ruby velvet of Carnegie Hall, toes tapped, heads nodded. He was a little man, slightly comic, and exuded all the innocence of his childhood hero, Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp. Always, this old-fashioned gentleman could reach across the footlights and engage his audience.