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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Orly @ 50: In our effort to comprehend, we (naturally) turn to art.

Kieślowskis Bleu Period

On Sunday July 3, the Woodruff Arts Center commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Orly Plane Crash in which 122 Atlanta arts patrons perished, but which inspired the foundation of The Atlanta Memorial Arts Center.

How does one honor, accept, and recover from such a catastrophy?

That this tragedy inspired a lasting legacy like The Atlanta Memorial Arts Center (renamed Woodruff Arts Center in 1982 to publicly recognize the generosity of an "anonymous" donation, a secret rivaled only by the mystery of Ted Danson) offers some solace.

But one can't help but wonder what the landscape of Atlanta would look like now had the community not lost so many art lovers, patrons, and key influencers. The void left in the wake of this disaster can never truly be filled.

It is impossible to measure the ripple effect caused by an absence this significant.

In our effort to comprehend, we (naturally) turn to art.

Ironically film gives us the best point of access to addressing loss. (We find it ironic considering the institution's decision to relegate cinema programs to the education department after quietly eliminating the Curator position in the wake of Linda Dubler's passing, and making film a red-headed step-child of the - ahem - Higher arts).

1. Krzysztof Kieślowski's Bleu, the first in a trilogy set to the colors of the French flag - blue, white, and red, with each film loosely addressing one of the three political ideals in the motto of the French Republic: liberty, equality, fraternity - finds Juliette Binoche surviving a car wreck that killed her daughter and her husband, a renowned composer called Patrice de Courcy. Central to the plot is the issue of an unfinished score, commissioned to celebrate European unity.

As mysteries about her husband and his life cone to light, Binoche must decide whether or not it is appropriate to complete the composition - as an homage, as a tribute, or as an act of closure. Or would doing so tarnish his legacy?


2. Michelangelo Antonioni's L'aventura is a deliberately opaque meditation on loss, alienation and disillusionment in modern (1960's) European society. When Anna disappears during a Mediterranean boating trip, her lover and her best friend embark on a quest to find her. Along the way, they start a passionate affair. This tone-poem of a film is defined by atmospheric black and white landscapes, moody long takes, and a meandering elliptical structure that abandons the traditional narrative drive towards resolution in favor of glimpsing transcendent moments of truth. This enigmatic piece offers no easy answers.


3. Neither as artistically ambitious as the other two on this list, nor as challenging, Emilio Estevez' The Way nevertheless warrants serious attention, if only for its ernest attempt to address directly, the issue of grief. Martin Sheen (whom we'll all remember is Estevez' real-life father) delivers a heartfelt performance a father striving to complete a journey started by his deceased son. If Bleu uses the unfinished musical score as a metaphor for the uncertainty surrounding a tenuous and burgeoning post-Cold War European unity, The Way literally puts a rag-tag team of international pilgrims together on a quest to walk the Camino de Santiago. More overtly spiritual and unabashedly sentimental than the others, The Way provides catharsis and allows for the possibility of healing.

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