the mirror (andrei tarkovsky, 1975)

I seem to be catching up on Tarkovsky at last. A couple of months ago I watched Andrei Rublev and liked it. The same with Ivan’s Childhood, which I saw a couple of years ago. I still have bad memories of seeing Solaris when it came out ... it might have been a movie date with my wife-to-be, whatever it was, I was bored stiff.

Well, my reaction to The Mirror was closer to how I felt about Solaris. It didn’t bore me as much ... it’s an hour shorter, for one thing. But it feels like a movie that will “improve” with each viewing. Sam Ishii-Gonzales wrote, “[W]hat might appear confused, difficult, or opaque on first viewing becomes something else with repeated screenings. Having seen Mirror a half-dozen times, over a decade or so, in a number of different countries, it now appears to me as simplicity itself.” Your reaction to The Mirror might depend on how inviting Ishii-Gonzales’ remarks sound. Most people who know me understand that I generally resist movies that require multiple viewings to reveal their artistry. On occasion, I do return to movies that didn’t impress me the first time around, and once in a while I even change my opinion. But I am not fond of movies that only connect with me if I watch them six times.

This is not a criticism of Tarkovsky, who as an artist had every right to make his movies the way he wanted. And The Mirror seems like a film he was happy with. For that, I tip my hat. But I found the movie obscure and insular. It switches between color and black-and-white for no reason I could ascertain. It takes place in three different time periods. The same actress plays different roles in different periods. Tarkovsky mixes documentary footage into the film, and includes poetry readings in the voiceovers. It reminded me of the new television series Legion, which makes even less sense than The Mirror (yet I like Legion ... go figure).

The Mirror does have a saving grace: Margarita Terekhova, the one who plays two characters in two time periods. She improves every scene she is in, and she is in a lot of them. I can’t praise her performance enough. But because I was completely lost most of the time, Terekhova’s ability to raise the level of individual scenes is always only at the level of a scene. She didn’t help me understand the movie as a whole.

The Mirror ranks at #29 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 6/10.


don't mess with steph

Last night, we were at a place I consider a BBQ restaurant. This is because I’m an old man, and I go there to eat. But it has a full bar, happy hour, and several big-screen TVs, so yeah, it’s not just a restaurant. We were eating as the Warriors played the Thunder, and that game was on all of the TVs. It wasn’t very late, and the place wasn’t very full ... if you’d asked me, I’d say maybe half-a-dozen people were watching the game.

Near the end of the first half, with the Warriors up by 17 points, there was a bit of a scrum. The Warriors' Steph Curry, all 190 pounds of him, was in the middle of the ruckus. The Oklahoma City fans were booing, four players were given technical fouls (two from each team), and the game began again, with five seconds on the clock. The people in the restaurant got a little excited, although not enough to interrupt my rib eating.

The reset came with a jump ball. The Warriors ended up with the ball, just a couple of seconds left. Klay Thompson passed it down court to Steph, who was pretty far from the basket, i.e. just in his range. As the buzzer went off, Steph hit the three and immediately ran off the court to the locker room, leaving the Thunder with a 20-point deficit. Don’t make him mad.

Well, when he scored and exited, the restaurant exploded. This wouldn’t have been unusual in a sports bar. It wouldn’t have been unusual in my living room. But I must say, I was startled when even the people who weren’t paying attention to the game erupted with joy. It was quite a moment.


chuck berry

It is entirely appropriate that a Chuck Berry song was launched into outer space in the mid-70s, so that distant civilizations would better understand America. Elvis may be the greatest rock and roll artist, but Chuck Berry is the one about whom you say, "without him, there is nothing." He was the first poet laureate of rock and roll, and he gave us our best-known anthems. Elvis lived the story of "Johnny B. Goode," but Chuck Berry wrote it ... and there's an alternate history of rock and roll hidden beneath the fact that Berry originally wrote the song about a "colored boy named Johnny B. Goode" but changed it to "country boy" to broaden the song's appeal.

On a personal note, Chuck Berry also headlined the first rock concert I ever attended, playing the Fillmore along with Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Steve Miller Blues Band. Miller's band backed up Berry for his sets, part of which ended up on Berry's album Live at the Fillmore Auditorium. It's not a bad way to introduce yourself to rock and roll shows, watching Chuck Berry.

-- “Chuck Berry”, 2004