Anne Carson writes that prose is a house and poetry is the man on fire running through it. I think we managed to convince ourselves that movies can be that house, when really it’s more of an Airbnb. Checking into an Airbnb for the weekend is not the same as living in a house. While you are physically inside of a home, it is temporary, it is free of obligation aside from the implicit agreement that you will effectively not be the man on fire running through it. But owning a home requires sustained and incremental effort: you need to pay the bills, you need to maintain your property. And with that dedication comes intimacy: it’s your house. It’s the place you return to again and again.
The tired image of the guy with the horn smoking the cigarette on the street corner, the muted trumpet moment on the movie soundtrack–these tropes have inured us to the actual sound of jazz, but stop for a second and listen. Really listen. Solos like Gray’s and Parker’s are the kind that make the impossible seem casual. They’re the skateboarder doing a crazy triple flip on a ramp despite gravity, before we’d seen that a thousand times. They’re the first moon landing and the millions of people watching the event on TV from their living room sofas. They’re an unscripted feat that pushed the limits of what music could be.
In the January 2016 issue of The Wire, Stewart Smith writes of pianist Matthew Shipp’s latest album: “Of the five albums Matthew Shipp issued as leader or co-leader in 2015, The Conduct Of Jazz is perhaps the finest.” It is a fine album; I’m listening to it now, fondly remembering the sublime experience of seeing Shipp in duo with bassist Michael Bisio earlier this spring. Still, The Conduct Of Jazz doesn’t make The Wire’s year-end top 50 cut, though it does make Downbeat’s roundup. My guess is that, one way or the other, Shipp doesn’t care. “What’s the use—I’ve got too many sides out as it is,” he was quoted saying fifteen years ago, in reference to a plan to retire from recording. “I don’t feel the psychological need to continually flood the market with this material…. Embellishment for the sake of the cash advance. That’s a kind of cynicism I’d rather not get into.”
Iran has produced one of the world’s greatest national cinemas, stretching back to before the Islamic revolution. The films have won numerous international awards, including the Oscar and the Golden Globe, as well as the Cannes Film Festival’s Golden Palm and Jury Prize, the Venice Film Festival’s Golden and Silver Lion, and the Berlinale’s Golden and Silver Bear. Yet, despite the accolades, Iranian movies are more discussed than seen in the United States.
Not long after reading David Shields’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, still high on its rallying cry for emotion over narrative, concision over Great American Novel bloat, I came across :: kogonada’s work. In his visual essays I discovered the cinematic version of what Shields called “the folk tradition in action: finding new uses for things by selecting the parts that move you and discarding the rest.”