Letter From Mid Winter

So much has happened. So much to talk about. It’s deepest February. Snowdrops are popping out of the ground. The Olympics are back. Though I never really watch them, all this talk about Mikaela Shiffrin got me listening to Lalo Schifrin, the Argentine-American arranger and film score composer, a master at putting bugs in one’s ear, including the Mission Impossible theme.

The first cut in that clip – and this is news to me – is called “Danube Incident,” and it’s what Portishead sampled for its 1994 song “Sour Times.” Schifrin is still alive at 85, and “Sour Times” is now in fact older than Mikaela Shiffrin.

Another mass shooting this week. Not much else I can say about that.

Neil LaBute lost his job! Two things about that strike me. One, so far the reporting says nothing about why, and that says something odd about the times we’re in, when they don’t even have to say why he’s out: we can safely assume it’s sexual harassment. Ask yourself, did you ever think for a moment Neil LaBute wasn’t a harasser?

I’ve been working as the general manager of a new restaurant in Brooklyn, the most ambitious “day job” I’ve had in years. Every day is like film production, and it’s relegated my writing life to a few hours of poetry in the mornings.

Last Tuesday I took a rare break to go see a Bergman film, Sawdust and Tinsel. His best, you could argue. Only seen it on the big screen once. Got distracted. Went to a wine tasting. Got talking shop. Missed the film. Had a cannoli. Met my wife and went to the Beacon Theater to hear First Aid Kit.

Instead of dour old navel-gazing Sweden – Bergman, who preferred the emptiness of Faro Island over the bustle of … Malmo – I got a young, global, Americana-loving Sweden:

You know I love to psychoanalyze bands. “Why does Mick worship the ground Keith walks on?”  That sort of thing. And so often it’s about the fraternal bond between them, that we get to warm our hands by. Seeing how they interact is one of the rich things about live performance, and it shapes how we appreciate the music.

It took two songs to figure out First Aid Kit: Johanna Söderberg, who has a voice as pretty as Iris DeMent, also has a little sister Klara who’s got a gusher of songs coming out of her. At the ripe old age of 25, she’s got something good figured out.

Oh, and my film had a screening this week! “Six Women,” which I wrote and produced and Teddy Schenck directed, finally had a New York screening at the Anthology Film Archives. Marvelous to see it in a theater!

After ten or so film festival rejections, it’s easy to second-guess choices you made in finishing a film, and in our case, as writer-producer, I admit I was revisiting some choices about what we paid attention to on shooting days. Had we given the director and camera “department” too many liberties to make what they felt were pretty images?

Seeing it on a computer screen, you could forgive me for suspecting as much. Seeing it a hundred feet wide, all that attention to creating beautiful images feels like it was worth it! It deepened the meaning and in some scenes conveyed the meaning of the action like it just does not on a 12-inch screen.

Much, much more coming.

Snow Drops.jpeg

Woody on Farrow Island

Something must be spiritually amiss in the lower Hudson Valley this week. Philip Seymour Hoffman, of course. But also new stuff most days about the arm-twisting New Jersey governor. By all accounts the dullest Superbowl in years, and its mini-scandals: Is there or isn’t there such a thing as a Superbowl sex trade? How did Jersey screw up the transit so bad? Yesterday 350.org called an emergency protest about the Keystone XL pipeline in Union Square, and it snowed. (It’s hard to talk to people about average temperatures when they’re looking for a path through the slush.)

None of these, however, makes my stomach literally hurt the way the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow accusations do. I don’t even want to look at social media. My friend Kera Bolonik at Dame Magazine summarizes it nicely. I can add my two cents, which is really one cent:

The return of the Woody Allen scandal is rocking our communities – as writers, as film people, as liberals, as New Yorkers – because now we have to grapple with an accusation in our own midst. It’s not the dumb Penn State football program, not the elitist B.B.C., not the wicked, repressed Catholic Church. It’s our own mentor, someone so close to the epicenter of our identities, when we talk, especially when we deliver a punchline, we are sometimes more or less just impersonating Woody.

And yet, we’re not surprised.  When I look at a photo of Jimmy Savile I think, “Who ever saw this guy and thought he wasn’t a pervert?” And that’s what people outside our scene wonder about us right now: “What were you thinking?”

Bergman on Fårö Island in 1969. Later his retirement home.

Bergman on Fårö Island in 1969. Later his retirement home.

It occurred to me walking home through the snow last night that if this finally ends Woody’s career then maybe, like his hero Ingmar Bergman, he’ll retire to a remote island. I’m guessing he’ll choose one with any name but Fårö.