Friday, May 28, 2010

Ecuador Miscellany

Ecuador Month here at the Bureau is nearing its end but there will be another one in the Fall when a new set of scans arrives.

I found something touching about the domestic nature of this display at a cemetery---a fragment of a fussy living room.

This is not Photoshoped. The Shuar had no tradition of animal husbandry and no refrigeration. After they slaughtered this steer (and did a bad job) I found its head in the stream we drew our drinking water from. A misguided attempt at preservation?

This drunken American, whose name I've forgotten, was playing the role of the white man disintegrating in the tropics, at a furious pace. That was not his Edsel.

A candle seller outside a church.

A mannequin of mystery.

The start of a cockfight at a small arena in the town of Puyo.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

La Nostalgie de la Boue

Leos Carax’s film, “The Lovers on the Bridge”, (“Les Amants du Pont-Neuf”) is so permeated with the romance of degradation that Baudelaire could have written the screenplay. Speaking of its Cannes premier in 1991, Roger Ebert said “…some were stunned by its greatness and more were simply stunned”. It stars the incomparable Juliette Binoche, wearing diseased-eyes prosthetics and a patch, as an artist who is going blind, and a really odd looking actor named Denis Lavant as an insomniac, alcoholic, fire-breathing performer. They are homeless people living on the Pont-Neuf, which is closed for renovation. They become lovers. If I told you the plot I would not only be a bad Bureau Chief but might induce a terminal attack of giggles.

Having said that, the film has visions of Hell in a drunk tank and motor boating on the Seine during a fireworks extravaganza, along with many other interesting things, and, depending on how much wine one had with dinner or what one just smoked, one might find considerable enjoyment in the completely over-the-top spectacle that it provides.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The White Ribbon

This is a very good film with a few caveats. At two hours and 24 minutes, it’s 24 minutes too long. It’s unstated but clear thesis is that  prewar (World War I) patriarchal practices led to the horror of Nazism and pursuant of this thesis, there is only one kind, good man in a very large cast.

Having said that, I was fascinated by the film. It’s beautiful. It’s in luminous Black and White that reminded me of Dreyer’s “Vampyr” and seems very appropriate for a film set in 1914. The director, Michael Haneke, is willing to set up his camera and leave it there, sometimes simply on a closed door with a drama taking place in the room beyond that we follow from the voices.

The film is a mystery. Various acts of cruelty, mostly against children, take place. One is constantly uneasy, dreading the next occurrence. At the end of the film the police think they have a culprit but the audience suspects they’re wrong. All the evidence is laid out but the director never presents a conclusion.

This film has stayed with me. I saw it three weeks ago and have thought about it often. I forgot “Avatar” the day after I saw it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Up in the Mountains

Here are more pictures from 1979 Ecuador, this time up in the mountains. Again they were compressed for the web.

I think the first one was taken outside the city of Cuenca but really don't remember. Hey! It's been 31 years.

Hopefully there weren't a lot of tunnels on this line.

In Quito. Be prepared.

A Quito suburb.

The monument on the Equator in Quito.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Out of the Past

Back in 1979 the Bureau Chief hauled a 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 camera to Ecuador and took a lot of photos. Since it is much easier to store and view photos once they are digital, I recently sent off a small batch of slides and negatives to ScanCafe to see what kind of job they did. They did an excellent job but the tradeoff was that it took two and a half months. Finally the scans are back and will be posted periodically.

At one point the Bureau Chief and some Europeans flew in a small plane out to a tiny village in the jungle. The village was built around a postage stamp sized landing strip. The local people were members of the Shuar tribe who were sometimes incorrectly called the Jivaro. They were famous for making shrunken heads from their hereditary enemies but that epoch was over. Their traditional way of life had been disrupted by access to the modern world through the airplane. There was a professional photographer in our group, a very nice guy, and the locals had put on their best and lined up for photos shortly after we landed. I took advantage of the set up.

The media.

The people.

Old style with modern elements.

Everyday look.

This girl is not wearing a fur hat. It's her pet capuchin monkey although hard to make out.

The picture files have been compressed for the web. The originals look better.