Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TWO WOMEN: Beautiful Russian Film: Review by Polly Guerin

If you are an aficionado of classic films you can expect to see an intensely beautiful film, TWO WOMEN, sometime in the foreseeable future, as the release date might be sometime this fall.  This update on the film provides a preview report that ought to resonate with your interest.  
The film presents a cast of mostly international Russian actors from France and Germany with Academy Award®-nominated British actor Ralph Fiennes in his first-time appearance in a Russian-language film. A consummate perfectionist, in order to speak Russian, Fiennes immersed himself in studying the Russian language and its customs.  
            Director Vera Glagoleva has brought to the screen a tale of love based on a classic work from Russian literature, Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country.” Tugenev’s play is considered a pioneering work of literary naturalism, and Glagoleva captures the spirit of the work guiding her stellar cast to a range of rich, complex performances.
Natalya Petrovna and Rakitin (Ralph Fiennes)
The result is a character-driven work that builds on the unfathomable emotion of love and that kind of magic that eludes most of us. The result is a character-driven work that builds to a range of rich, complex performances.
Action of the film happens within three days in the 1840s in the rich countryside estate of Russian landowner Arkadi Sergeyevich Islayev (Aleksandr Baluev) and his wife Natalya Petrovna (Anna Astrakhantseva). In this bucolic setting with middle age advancing Natalya welcomes the attentions of Mikhail Aleksandrovich Rakitin (Ralph Fiennes) as her devoted but resentful admirer, without ever letting their friendship develop into a love affair As Fiennes puts it, “I was drawn to the character of Rakitin, a sophisticated man, I believe, carrying many of the qualities of Turgenev himself. He is sensitive, and inside he carries deep emotions.”
            Life seemingly goes on with peacefully terms of refinement, but suddenly it is interrupted and the quiet lives of the inhabitants of the house are dramatically changed. The arrival of the handsome 21-yer old student Aleksei Belyaev (Nikita Volkov) as tutor to her son Kolya ends Natalya’s boredom
Verochka (Anna Levanova)
She falls in love with Aleksei, but so does her ward Verochka (Anna Levanova), the Islayev’s 17-year-old foster daughter.  The gentle friendship between Natalia and her foster daughter Verochka unexpectedly passes into jealousy and rivalry.  To rid herself of her rival, Natalya pressures Verochka into marrying a rich old neighbor. What follows: longtime friend Rakitin discovers some changes deep inside Natalya Petrovna and can’t keep apart from it as he is secretly in love with her. Misunderstandings arise when the husband of Natalya, Arkadi begins to have his suspicions and the film unravels with an ambiguous ending.
The United States premiere screening of Vera Glagoleva's Two Women was presented by The Russian American Foundation as part of the 13th Annual Russian Heritage Month. . Contact: for further information.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Paul Jenkins: Phenomena Cry of the Peacoc
Modern Summer : ABEX+
One of my cultural finds this summer is the Jenn Singer Gallery, a boutique-bijoux of a small space, masterminded by the petite gallery owner Jenn Singer. The gallery may be modest but it offers art on a grand scale---works on canvas and paper by some of today's most Influential Abstract Expressionists--hand picked from an important private collection in New York City. The gallery is located in New York City's historic Gramercy Park neighborhood, 72 Irving Place. The ongoing current exhibit opened in July and runs through August 28, 2015.
      Bright raw colors, rough edges and spontaneity define the paintings on view by established artists including Paul Jenkins, Syd Solomon, Robert Natkin and Stanley William Hayter. These artists are seasoned poets of the brush---with a focus on pieces from the 1970s and 80s, by postwar modern artists working at the height of their careers. All of the artists represented at the Jenn Singer Gallery have enjoyed prominent exhibition histories and their works are held in the permanent collections of top institutions including MoMA, the Guggenheim, The Whitney and the Tate. 
     Paul Jenkins
 had a personal relationship with color and its purity, and was recognized as one of the leaders of the American Abstract Expressionist movement. Jenkins was known as a pioneer in uniting the concepts of color-field painting and action painting. His strong abstracts soar to heights of inspiration and resonate with hidden messages. Defined by the viewer Phenomena, for example, provides endless wonderment..Jenkins once proclaimed, "I paint what God is to me." In his paintings Jenkins flows, pulls, and pushes "pure color" to create almost celestial imagery on his paper and canvases. Two of his watercolors and oil on canvas are on view. Pictured here: Phenomena Cry of the Peacock, 1972. Watercolor on paper. 
Untitled by Robert Natkin 
In an "Untitled" painting by Robert Natkin, a work from his Field Mouse series ca. 1970--- the mood is lightened and yet its compelling interaction of textures, patterns and space.grips our senses to look deeper into depths of its meaning,  and revel in the seemingly never ending tranquility of merging soft colors and shapes. Pictured here: Untitled on canvas. The series was inspired by an Erza Pound translation of a Chinese poem (below) which Nakin referred to as a "sweeping landscape of emotion." 
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life goes by
     Like a field mouse,
Running through the grass not touching. 
Natkin once said, "I want the eye of the viewer never to tire, never to cease." 
     Syd Solomon's direction cast his creativity to the sea, earth and sky as inspiration for his often-explosive action paintings. Soloman gained notoriety in the 1960s, and pictured here is Baytop, oil and acrylic on canvas 1980.
Syd Solomon's Baytop, 1980

      It is interest to note that another artist represented here,Stanley William Hayter's
 roots in printmaking and Surrealism were a formative influence on Pollock and other abstract expressionists via his printmaking studio, Atelier 17, where he taught Pollock and other well know artists including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz and Alberto Giacometti. In his work on canvas "Curtain," the artist plays with his love of color, abstraction and the fascination with waves.
   For additional images, information contact the gallery: Summer hours: Monday-Friday: 11am-6pm. Saturday by appointment only. T. 917.722.6119.
   Fan mail welcome.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

UNITY screens in Cinemas Worldwide August 12th...Review by Polly Guerin

The title of the riveting film, UNITY, signifies the intention of its content---to unify our consciousness. This timely documentary will be distributed by SpectiCast in 1,000-1200 screens across the globe beginning August 12th. With persuasive images the film reminds us it's time to raise our consciousness on a broad scale of many pertinent issues in everyone's life. This is a film of stunning cinematography, a singular and unforgettable cinematic experience. Some images raw and real, filmed as events exist today grips our hearts, and in some cases, tears our emotions apart. 
   "The firm is not so much to entertain, like a pastime, but rather to turn something "on" inside you that has been suppressed or forgotten by the mask that society or tradition puts upon us," said Shaun Monson, the film' director. "But more than that the film also helps relate us to the mystery of existence, to all of existence, where we are merely a part. And as such it demonstrates an interesting power of the film, which not only engages but has a transforming effect on the consciousness of humankind."
    Seven years in the making, the film explores the interconnectivity of all life on earth and our responsibility to do better, to learn from mistakes and to correct wrongdoing, to end senseless wars, to stop the atrocities committed against animals, to end human suffering, slavery and utter poverty, and of course, much, much more. Mr. Monson said, "Peace has to come by a shift in the way people think. We must live by loving instead of living by killing." Mr. Monson stated that great strides have been made in history and incredible leaps in technology, but we are still at each other's throats. "Peace has to come by a shift in the way people think and cultivate love and empathy, choose love over fear."
    The film  is presented in chapters with quotes from famous individuals like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Ralph Waldo Anderson to name a few---and takes an in-depth look at what it means to be human, exploring themes of love, tragedy and, ultimately, hope. Gandhi's comment: "The rich must live more simply, so that the poor may live," resonates as the rich get richer and poor get poorer," for example resonates with us today.
    There are over 100 celebrity narrators lending their voices to this powerful film, far too many to list, but including Deepak Chopra, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Aniston, Anjelica Huston, Kevin Spacey, Phil Donahue, Susan Sarandon. When Monson was asked, "Why did you use actors instead of average people?" He explained that the raw emotions that needed to be conveyed could best be done by professional actors who know how to deliver such commentary in the film." 
     SpectiCast has partnered with Fathom Events for the domestic release  on select U.S. screens. "We at Fathom realize the importance of sharing this impactful documentary with U.S. audiences, said John Rubey, CEO of Fathom Events. "We hope that moviegoers will walk away from the event with a new perspective about the world around them. For more information, visit the website: 
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

RIZZOLI BOOKSTORE is back on Broadway: Review by Polly Guerin

Rizzoli at 26th and Broadway
Have you ever wondered, "What happened to the  Rizzoli Bookstore, the iconic book seller, that for over 50 years was a  a legendary establishment on 57th Street?" Well, worry no longer. Vanishing New York did not kick this beloved bookstore into the dust pin, instead Rizzoli has dusted itself off and started all over again. It has re-energized and re-established itself in a new space at Broadway and 26th Street. In the hub of activity Rizzoli is situated across from Madison Square Park and  will no doubt attract the cultural intelligentsia, who frequent the antique galleries and fine dining in the area which is known as NoMad.
    Faced with the challenge of finding a new space the store's owners researched over 100 spaces before choosing to establish itself in the landmark, 1896, Beaux-Arts building at 1133 Broadway. This means in its new site Rizzoli is now assured of landmark status and no one can tear it down. WHEW!!! Saved from extinction, the legend lives on.
      Book lovers worldwide will find comfort in knowing that tables and chandeliers from the 57th Street store have not been discarded but have been incorporated into the store design. What's new is the facade with "eyes wide open" windows that draw passerby attention to enter, to browse and to find that familiar art, architecture and fashion books and magazines are still a mainstay. The new shop, however, broadens its range of books and offers current memoirs, business titles and has incorporated a fiction section..
Rizzoli's path to Check Out
Rizzoli now takes its place in the social hub of NoMad for its new home but this time social venues will be part its outreach programs. In addition to book events, Rizzoli plans to reinvent itself with cocktail parties and
The new Rizzoli is obviously not just for art book collectors and serious bibliophile, it has taken on a new persona that is destined to attract a youthful mix of eclectic readers After all, it you're like me, "Not everyone wants to read on a screen." I like to hold a book in my hands and indulge in the time honored ritual of reading a hard cover book in real time..
Rizzoli: Open Mon-Wed, 10/30-7:30, Thurs- Fri 10:30-9:30, Sat. 10:30-7:30, Sunday 11-5..  Closed on Sunday during August.
1133 Broadway @ 26th Street, 212.759.2424.
Ta Ta darlings!!!  When I visit Rizzoli I feel "home at last" and delve into browsing to my heart's content.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lily Tomlin's GRANDMA: A Reviting Drama, Sony Classic Film: Review by Polly Guerin

Julia Garner as Sage and Lily Tomlin as Elle (Photo by Aaron Epstein)
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
What does grandma do when a feisty young woman arrives unexpectedly at her doorstep to announce her life is in crisis?  Well Lily Tomlin as GRANDMA is not your docile prototype. Tomlin's character Elle emerges from the cloth of a seasoned, well recognized academic, an acknowledged lesbian and an outspoken personality to roar with emotion.  Unlike stereotypes Elle reacts with tongue lashing sense and spontaneity. And of yes, despite the seriousness of the situation there are laughs and tears to be shed on this often humorous and poignant story.
     Lily Tomlin, like you have never seen her before, takes center stage in GRANDMA, the Sony Pictures Classic film, written and directed by Paul Weitz. The official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festivals, 2015, Tomlin's Elle, is an aging academic and celebrated poet in probably the most memorable role in her eclectic career.
     As the story unfolds, Elle has recently lost her partner of 38 years, Violet, and the mood is somber yet comical. In an act of financial liberation Elle has also paid off her debts and to celebrate she cut up her credit cards and used them in a mobile of her own design.
     So just when curly topped, angel in disguise Sage (Julia Garner) her granddaughter, appears on her doorstep in urgent need of money, $600, to fund an abortion Grandma Elle's cash flow is at low tide. Where to get the money? The film takes off with generational dynamics with Grandma and Sage driving around Los Angeles and spending the day trying dig up the money.. GRANDMA, the film, turns into a captivating adventure as they try to get their hands on cash through unannounced visits to Grandma's friends and old flames---ending up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.
     They  pursue their quest by starting off for the local free clinic only to discover it has been closed for several years, which  forces GRANDMA to re-think the path that must be taken. She tells Sage "This is something you will thinking about the rest of your life." Grandma Elle pulls a few punches as she encounters various people from her past.. Then there is Karl (Sam Elliott) with his sonorous rich voice reminding us of his Marlboro days, who lives in a mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This must have been a long shot in Grandma's plan as she hasn't seen Karl, an old flame, in decades. Just when Grandma thinks her persuasive tactics have won him over, and Karl is almost ready to hand over some cash, he reneges when he hears it is for an abortion. There's more to tell in this Elle and Karl romance and their encounter after decades plays out with painful recall of love lost with disappointed recollection..
   When questioned about the film filmmaker Paul Weitz said, "The film is largely about moving on from loss through wit and empathy and the ability to say "screw you." I just hope a splinter will lodge in the viewers memory."
     We meet Sage's mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), who Sage did not tell about her crisis, as Judy conducts business at a treadmill desk in her office. At first this seemingly hard-hearted corporate lawyer and single mom seems unsympathetic but in the end Sage ends up at a clinic with the support of the only family she knows, her estranged mother Judy and Grandma..
    Lily Tomlin leaves me in awe; her great capacity to portray GRANDMA with raw emotion and honesty is a testament to her diverse talent.. As Elle leaves the final scene walking down a road in Los Angeles, it leaves us with a sense of wonder. I would like to think that Grandma has become re-energized and inspired to write new poetry into her  future.
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! Watch for the film GRANDMA, starts this FRIDAY. Check the newspapers for local listings. Fan mail welcome just send an email to Visit Polly's Blog's on


Monday, July 27, 2015

THE WRECKERS: Dame Ethel M. Smyth's Opera at BARD: Review by Polly Guerin

Fisher Center on Bard's Hudson Valley Campus
With a tumultuous orchestral score, vibrant musicality and high drama staging, THE WRECKERS, the long neglected opera by Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, arrived at Bard Annual SummerScape festival recently and garnered a sold out performance for the first fully-staged production of Smyth's masterpiece in America.. There is still time to see this rare and riveting opera;  three more performances remain: July 29 and August 2 at 2 pm and July 31 at 7:30 pm, taking place on Bard's Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center's Sosnoff Theater.
      Leon Botstein the esteemed music director, who incidentally is the president of Bard College, leads the
American Symphony Orchestra with a rich orchestral score that swells to heights of high drama with the grandiosity of Wagner and a hint of Bizet's Carmen, and at every nuance the music emulates the ensuing tragic tale.
So why does The Wreckers matter today? Director Thaddeus Strassberger, who stages the work,  lends clarity to the subject. "The themes of mass hysteria and populist justice should find powerful echoes in today's world events." In fact the opera address issues with profound resonance for audiences today.
    With Bard's reputation for reviving important operas it is no wonder that opera lovers and the curious cultural mavens went up to Annandale-on-Hudson to see this work by a Victorian-born Englishwoman, who at her time was was recognized as "the greatest female composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries."    
 Mark, Neal Cooper and Thirza,  Katharine Goeldner
It's a great folkloric story.that provided Smyth with the inspiration for her third and finest opera. Composed to a libretto by her friend and Henry Brewster, The Wreckers (1902-1904) gives a glimpse into the lives of people in a Cornish village who use religion to justify plundering ships after bringing them to rocky shores by extinguishing the beacons. Pitted against the community is the preacher husband, baritone, Pastor Pascoe, portrayed by Louis Otey. His young wife Thirza, Katharine Goeldner demonstrates her mezzo-soprano coloratura virtuosity while her lover Mark, performed by English tenor Neal Cooper, provides robust interpretation in his role as the young fisherman. The  romantic controversy.includes Sky Ingram with her compelling, energetic presence and versatile soprano. Mark and Thirza conspire to save the ships by kindling secret beacons to guide the ships. The tragic fate of the lovers is sealed with a village tribunal and in a colossal operatic finale they are condemned to death in a sea-filled cave.Though the story is fictitious the existence of wreckers on the British Coast was a historical fact, in small, desperately poor villages.  Smyth's opera presents issues with profound resonance for audiences today.
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth
     By the way, Ethel Mary Smyth was not content to write parlor music, and set out to conquer the male-dominated worlds of the opera houses and concert halls as well. She became famous in cultural cognoscenti circles and when John Singer Sargent sketched a likeness of her Smyth herself explained: "I feel I must fight for (my music), because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea." Her published output encompassed six operas, a concert mass, a double concerto, a choral symphony, songs with piano, organ pieces and chamber music. She counted Tchaikovsky and Debussy as her many admirers.
     Smyth became a prominent member of the "Votes for Women:" movement, her involvement including a stint in prison and her composition "The March of the Women" which was adopted as the suffragettes' anthem. Accolades and recognition were her due and in 1922 she was she was made a Dame of the British Empire..
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! The Summerscape Coach: $40 round trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for the August 2nd performance.      
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Friday, July 24, 2015


The story that inspired the play DEATH OF THE PERSIAN PRINCE is a riveting revelation about sexual reassignment surgery which is legal in Iran. However, homosexuality is forbidden in most cases for males, punishable by death. Yet, hundreds of gay Iranian men choose to change their gender through sexual reassignment surgery.. If they don't, it's legal to execute them.
     A world premier production in the 16th Annual Midtown International Theater Festival, Death of The Persian Prince is written and directed by Dewey Moss and most of his works involve LGBT elements. In the program notes he comments, "We've come far in the U.S. in regards to people's rights--which is celebrated---but my work on Death of the Persian Prince reminds me that as a world society we have so much further to go. It is my hope that this play will serve to educate, open minds, and continue the idea of a better society for all.
    A limited engagement at the Davenport Theater's Black Box Theater, located at 354 West 45th street,  will be presented Saturday July 25th at 5:30 pm and Sunday July 26th at 1pm. (Tickets $20 through the following link: Then the play moves onto to the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival August 4th at 9pm and August 8th at 4pm at Access Theater Black Box, 380 Broadway, New York (Tickets at
The cast of three sterling actors have a synergy that keeps us riveted to our seats. In a present day, evening setting Samantha, played by the attractively engaging Iranian-American actress Pooya Mohseni---she interacts with James portrayed by George Faya, a not-so-docile, veteran of the Iraq war. The scene opens with a highly charged romantic encounter in Samantha's New York apartment, when late in the night James temporarily leaves, suddenly there is a knock at the door and the drama runs into high gear. Enters a stranger, played by the fiercely driven Gopal Divan, who has arrived unexpectedly from her homeland. Shattering confessions and unimaginable terror, the story of James, Samantha and the stranger takes an unexpected turning, leading to a stunning ending.
    The Death of The Persian Prince dramatizes the real-life story of thousands of gay Iranian who have changed genders to avoid execution by the Iranian government. It is a haunting tale about the power of the human spirit. The play runs 55 minutes and is presented without intermission
Ta ta Darlings: I highly recommend Death of The Persian Prince not only for its entertainment value but for the story that it reveals and informs us about  how "being cured" is not the solution but ultimately leads more often than not to suicide.  Fan mail welcome: