Movie Review: The Truce (1997)

International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, in 1945, the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, was freed. Among those set free was Primo Levi, the Italian-Jewish chemist and writer. The 1997 movie, ‘Truce’, is based on Levi’s memoir about the ~9-month journey back home. It was beautifully-made and John Turturro rendered him with a nuanced sensitivity and without the usual Hollywood overwrought sensationalism. It’s among the finest in Italian neorealism cinema — Pasolinian “cinema of poetry”. Here’s a review I wrote in 2013.

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On October 19th, 1945, Primo Levi, an Italian Jew and chemist, finally returned to his home in Turin, Italy after having spent 11 months at Auschwitz and another harrowing ~9 months on a circuitous, long journey via Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The Truce is a movie about that journey, during which time, he also began his writing career.

Given the odds of survival at Auschwitz and the difficult route he had to take to get home, it was something of a miracle that he made it alive. The traumas of both the camp and the journey left permanent scars that never healed over the rest of his life, as they had done for countless others. When he died in 1987, Elie Wiesel, a fellow Holocaust survivor, remarked that “Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years earlier.”

And, yet, during those forty years after his release and return home, Levi…

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Weekend Poem: Abundant Hope by Maya Angelou

On MLK Day, some thoughts from Maya Angelou and Forest Whitaker on MLK — a post from 2013.

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Maya Angelou is a living monument. So, it was fitting that, when the Martin Luther King Memorial was dedicated in August 2011, she wrote a poem in his honor. With the 50th anniversary of that historic March on Washington coming up, let’s revisit that poem. Of course, with Angelou, it’s always better if you can find a video of her performing the poem, but there doesn’t seem to be one with clear audio. Consider, though, these lines:

Martin Luther King

Faced the racial
Mountain of segregation and
And bade it move.

The giant mound of human ignorance
Centuries old
And rigid in its determination
Did move, however slightly, however infinitesimally,
It did move.

I will go, I shall go
I’ll see what the end will be.

. . .

Lord, don’t move your mountain,
Just give me strength to climb it.

. . .

You don’t have to move
That…

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The Siesta [After Millet] by Vincent van Gogh

From exactly 2 years ago, here’s one of my favorite essays on Vincent van Gogh and one of his works that has hung on my bedroom wall for decades now.

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Siesta-VVGVan Gogh was a relentless and consummate practitioner of his art, sacrificing much for it, as ongoing myth, legend, gossip and research inform us. A chief approach of his was to do “translations” of the works of other artists whom he admired the most. We say “translated” because he did not just copy their works. Rather, he created his own versions of them and, particularly, experimented differently with the interplay of color and light. However, for the most part, he stayed true to all the still life details of the original compositions.

One of those influential and revered artists was Jean-François Millet, well-known for his realist / naturalist paintings and, above all, portraits of working peasants. Millet made the so-called “peasant genre” mainstream by showing them as the focal points and main subjects of his works rather than as peripheral embellishments.

During van Gogh’s voluntary asylum period in…

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