Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel: Leviathan (2012)
This film still haunts me in an oddly comforting way, six months after watching it for the first time. It’s labeled as a ‘documentary’ but at the same time it’s both more and less than that would suggest. There’s no narrative and almost no dialogue, but the camera work and technical effort is monumental. It’s ostensibly a portrait of life on an open-ocean commercial fishing vessel, but the impressionistic quality of the images conveys a profound level of detachment meant to echo (I imagine) the feeling of being out there away from land and anything familiar. It’s intense, and intensely beautiful in its way.
George Saunders: In Persuasion Nation (2006)
I’m slowly making my way through the works of George Saunders, mostly in an effort to savor every bit of it. His stories are so packed with little moments and internal references and micro-jokes that it takes a careful eye and a lot of active attention to absorb it all (or even most of it). I tend to be picky about my satirists and he’s my favorite, always with a way to make the absurd seem realistic in a very dreamlike way (see ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’ from Tenth of December). With each new story, one never knows what to expect, which in the context is an amazing thing.
I had the privilege of an extra day and a half off while I was on tour in Europe last month, and opted to spend it in Siena before my show there. Being one of only a few places in Northern Italy that totally escaped being gutted in World War II, it feels by comparison like stepping back in time in a truly impressive way. Narrow brick streets shared by cars and pedestrians, incredible views of the Tuscan countryside, etc etc. The attached photo is one sliver of the city center as seen from the Torre del Mangia – well worth a climb if you’re there on a nice day. Certainly one of those ‘how did I get here’ experiences for me.