Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

19 JUNE, 2014

The Invisibles: Moving Vintage Photos of LGBT Couples in the Early 20th Century

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Archival images — sometimes poignant, sometimes playful, invariably tender — of gay and lesbian couples privately celebrating their love in an era that denied it.

Any form of excess can usually be traced to the seed of a basic human longing. Before photography turned into excessive “aesthetic consumerism,” long prior to the narcissistic golden age of the selfie, it was a miraculous medium that granted one simple, fundamental human wish — the desire to be seen and, in the act of seeing, to be understood. Perhaps that is why photography, in its dawning decades, had a particularly poignant role for individuals and groups who were largely invisible to society. It was the role photography played for the LGBT community between the time of the medium’s invention and the first-ever Pride parades as it came to document, and validate by making visible, the love of queer couples — love reserved not only for such famous lovers as Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, Oscar Wilde and Sir Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, but also experienced by a great many ordinary men and women alike.

That’s precisely what French screenwriter and director Sébastien Lifshitz explores in The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride (public library), a remarkable collection of archival photographs — sometimes poignant, sometimes playful, invariably tender — of gay and lesbian couples privately celebrating their love in the early twentieth century. Each couple, Diane Ackerman wrote in her sublime natural history of love, gets to redefine love, and these are some humble and humbling, beautifully human, immeasurably yet quietly courageous redefinitions

For Lifshitz, the project began somewhat serendipitously: As a longtime collector of vintage amateur photos, he chanced upon a photo album that belonged to two elderly women, “very bourgeois, very ‘old France.’” It didn’t take him long to realize that they were in a lifelong lesbian relationship. He found himself fascinated by such family albums by openly gay couples and was surprised by the freedom and happiness they exhibited in those photos, despite living in eras of extreme social intolerance toward LGBT people. Looking back over the first half of the twentieth century, Lifshitz set out to interview gay women and men born between the two World Wars, seeking to understand what life was like for them — people like the great Edith Windsor, who belongs to that generation and has done for marriage equality more than any other individual in history.

The book is a companion to Lifshitz’s 2012 film, Les Invisibles.

This touching trailer offers a taste:

Complement The Invisibles with history’s most moving LGBT love letters and Edie Windsor on what equality really means.

HT MetaFilter

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30 MAY, 2014

Anatomy of the Influences Behind Star Wars: A Mashup Masterpiece

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From Igor Stravinsky to Tintin to Akira Kurosawa.

“All of us, we’re links in a chain,” Pete Seeger said of creative work. “And your way, is it really your way?” Henry Miller asked before adding, “The same goes for your ideas. You moved into them ready-made.” This notion is also true — perhaps even more true — when it comes to highly popular works of art, from literature to film. Star Wars, for instance, is a cultural classic that has sprouted homages ranging from Shakespearean parodies to Muppet comics, but it has itself borrowed from innumerable sources of inspiration. Film-lover Michael Heilemann explores those in a feature-length mashup of Star Wars and its many influences, tracing the tapestry of George Lucas’s creative borrowings:

A thorough list of Heilmann’s sources can be found here.

And for a meta-testament to the tenet at the heart of Heilemann’s film — this notion that all creative work is derivative — it’s worth noting that his own concept of excavating the influences behind Star Wars is not an original idea either: It’s something documentary storyteller Kirby Ferguson explored more than three years ago in the second episode of his altogether fantastic Everything Is a Remix series:

Complement with Mark Twain on originality and how the Gutenberg press exemplified combinatorial creativity.

HT Kottke

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26 MAY, 2014

The Oppressed Majority: A Poignant French Short Film about a World in Which Men Are Subject to Sexism

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A tragicomic day in the life of a man who struggles for equality in a mirror-image society dominated by women.

“Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers,” NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam wrote in his extraordinary exploration of society’s hidden biases, “[and] those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.” That’s precisely what French filmmaker Eleonore Pourriat brings to life with imaginative vividness, elegantly waltzing between the hilarious and the heartbreaking, in her brilliant and pause-giving short film Oppressed Majority — a day in the life of a man who faces subtle sexism and unabashed sexual violence in a mirror-image society dominated by women. Laugh, cry, think twice:

For a deeper look at the serious issue beneath the comic veneer, see Vedantam’s indispensable The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives — a perspective-shifting even, if not especially, for those of us who consider ourselves well-intentioned and are thus most susceptible to unwitting biases.

Thanks, Julie

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