“Ecstatic Dance”: I review “The Fits,” A Stunning Film

review at First Things: Anna Rose Holmer's extraordinary new film The Fits begins with a young girl whose body obeys her will implicitly. “One,” eleven-year-old Toni (Royal Hightower) counts, as she pulls herself into a sit-up in the very center of the frame. “Two.”She works her body, grunting and gasping and twisting just a little with the effort, all the way past twenty. Then it's time to box. She spars with her older brother (Da'Sean Minor): She is a child, a disciple. She helps him clean … [Read more...]

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Christina the Astonishing: From Laura Swan, “The Wisdom of the Beguines”

(of which more soon) Once, while visiting the Benedictine nuns at St. Catherine's near Sint-Truiden and speaking of Christ, the nuns reported that "suddenly and unexpectedly she [Christina] would be ravished in the spirit and her body would whirl around like a hoop in a children's game. She whirled around with such extreme violence that the individual limbs of her body could not be distinguished. When she had whirled around for a long time in this manner, it seemed as if she became weakened by … [Read more...]

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“The Sinner Teodora” Takes Viewers Inside a Romanian Women’s Monastery

Last night I watched "Pacatoasa Teodora" (The Sinner Teodora), an elliptical documentary by director Anca Hirte. It follows a young woman named Teodora as she prepares to make her final vows (? this was not a documentary big on explaining situations or helping the viewer) at a women's monastery.This is a haiku-like, compressed film, with lots of overlapping conversations about nothing in particular and lots of very tight close-ups on Teodora's lips or eyes. It's a sidelong glance at monastic … [Read more...]

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Pascale Monnin, An Artist of Haitian Resurrection

Over the weekend I discovered a new artist: the Swiss-Haitian painter and sculptor Pascale Monnin. Monnin's sculptures were what struck me most. She uses raku, a technique in which glazed clay is taken from the kiln and immediately plunged into water, creating cracks across the sculpture's surface which are then filled with smoke and soot. So her faces have turquoise veins across their delicate pale skins, and the soft curves of nose and cheek are contrasted to the forking raku lines. The faces … [Read more...]

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From Lionel Johnson, “By the Statue of King Charles at Charing Cross”

Vanquished in life, his deathBy beauty made amends:The passing of his breathWon his defeated ends. --whole thing … [Read more...]

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From David Foster Wallace, “All That”

This was the year, at five or six, that I learned the meaning of “reverence,” which, as I understand it, is the natural attitude to take toward magical, unverifiable phenomena, the same way that “respect” and “obedience” describe the attitude one takes toward observable physical phenomena, such as gravity or money. --whole story; rings interestingly against the passage from Infinite Jest about the Sergeant-at-Arms … [Read more...]

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Toller Cranston Skates for Mexico: A Fever Dream

One reason I loved the Mountain Goats' new album Beat the Champ so much is that it speaks about a kid projecting his own emotional turmoil onto the storytelling sport of pro wrestling, in a way which deeply resonated with my experience projecting my own emotional turmoil onto the storytelling sport of figure skating. If I made my own sports concept album it would be Toller Cranston Skates for Mexico, and it would be about, mostly, the Lillehammer Olympics, which allowed skaters who had left … [Read more...]

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