Last year around this time, I went to New York with my boyfriend. We had breakfast with friends of his, one of whom is a poet. One of her poems, “The Spirit of 34th Street”, had been included in an anthology of poetry about New York City. She read it out to us over coffee and pastries:
“Doors opened with a silent scream.
like photographs of anguish;
the subway paused, shed cargo
and raged on.
She lurched aboard,
sagged into a vacant seat,
frail weight of her gray years
hunched with cold.
Numb fingers plucked at rags,
drawn close against raw misery.
Knuckles, cracked and swollen white,
clutched into a plea for warmth.
He, dark and lithe,
swung down the aisle,
taut jeans dancing
With Latin grace
he, sidling past
her patient form,
in one smooth gesture
disappeared through subway doors,
leaving in her lap,
like folded dove wings,
his black leather gloves.”
After finishing the poem, she remarked, “life in New York City is filled with misery and majesty.” Filmmaker Jem Cohen uses this polarity of the urban landscape as his muse in the two films, Lost Book Found and This is a History of New York City. Both are mosaics of city life cobbled together from years of Super-8 and 16mm filming of the streets of the city. Lun Sante says of Lost Book Found, “Its beauty is quite ineffable. It’s the sort of visual experience that transforms everything seen by the viewer for several hours afterwards.” Such high praise might just warrant the price of admission. Check out the films of Jem Cohen at the Studio Cinema (above Belfast Exposed) on Thursday at 7:00 PM.
Also on Thursday…
Polarity takes centre stage once again in John and Jane, a documentary about the experience of working in Indian call centres. Employees leave their Indian identities outside the walls of the office, where inside, the dominance of American culture reigns supreme. John and Jane is playing along with The Intimacy of Strangers at QFT at 6:45.
A day without a mention of totalitarianism during the Belfast Film Festival would be like a day without an alcopop during a vacation to Ibiza. Get your cinematic fix of state control with the Academy Award winning film, The Lives of Others, about the experience of state surveillance under Communist-run East Germany.
(Photo taken by Jett of a Tough Guy at the Belfast Film Festival Quiz, the John Hewitt Pub)