This viewing I was mostly enrapt by Edith Wharton's brilliant voice coming through in the narration:
"It invariably happened as everything happened in those days, in the same way, as usual."
"It was widely known in NY but never acknowledged that Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it."
"...was known to have dissipated habits, a bitter tongue, and mysterious antecedents."
"She represented for Archer all that was best in their world, and she rooted him to it."
"They all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world. The real thing was never said or done or even thought but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."
"There were moments when he felt he was being buried alive by his future."
"She remained in his memory simply as the most plaintive and poignant of a line of ghosts."
"He had heard her name often enough in the year and a half since they had last met. He was even familiar with the main incidents of her life. But he heard all these accounts with detachment, as is listening to reminiscences of someone long dead. But the past had come again into the present, as in those newly discovered caverns in Tuscany where children had lit bunches of straw and seen strange images staring from the wall."
"You can find a way to spend your afternoon, can't you?" [Archer]: "I think for once I'll save it instead of spending it."
"The world of her youth had fallen into pieces and rebuilt itself without her ever noticing. This horrid bright blindness, her incapacity to recognize change, made her children conceal their views just as Archer concealed his."
"After a little while he did not regret the indiscretion. It seemed to take an iron band from his heart to know that, after all, someone had guessed and pitied -- and that it should have been his wife moved him inexpressibly."
This somewhat staid yet seductive documentary made me wish I'd been around to experience the disruption and discovery brought about in the 1970s NY art scene by collector/curator Sam Wagstaff, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and musician/poet Patti Smith. The film rightly focuses on the under-known and sturdily named Wagstaff and lingers on countless stunning photographs and some interesting interviews. It also unfortunately ends on what I found to be a dreadful poem by Smith. All told, an enlightening education for this literal child of the 70s.
On Sam Wagstaff: "His penetrating gaze was compelling; his physical presence was both arousing and haunting. In his photographs he seems self-contained, stoic, even auto-erotic, and yet there was a theatrical gloss to his image, not far removed from a Hollywood publicity still from another era. His aesthetic underscores an unequaled vision grounded in passion, intelligence, sexuality and clever financial speculation. He had few rivals in his time, and none at all today.
He was the first collector to use photographs as a way of constructing a kind of self-portrait ... He wanted to experience a kind of ecstasy in front of photographs. He was ready also to be provoked by the darkest photographs... Sam loved drugs. He used drugs for sex and he liked the alternate perspectives that they offered... The knight in shining armor is what Sam was. And he needed a field in which he could play that role... He fed off pictures and used them to lose himself, to immerse himself in fantasy realms like a time traveler... He took great offense to banality... Sam was a lot about permission. Permission to stretch, to make connections... Like an artist, like in good shape. For himself he will discover himself but by discovering it he will shape it."
Can a film be described as fecund? To me that word comes closest to encapsulating this concentric roving exploration of W.G. Sebald's novel "The Rings of Saturn." I discovered this brilliant film through its soundtrack, recorded by electronic artist The Caretaker, which is the kind of uncanny connection that preoccupies Sebald's work as an artist. "Patience" gawps into the "dream life of debris" - of communuted substances, like a seashore disintegrated to the border between being and nothingness. It layers and loops itself together in an attempt to follow Sebald's tip into the realm Camus described as a rip, where you're walking along and - through a sudden and mysterious refraction - glimpse things as they really are.
The film and book concern themselves with a phenomenological pilgrimage, with the way one might - through journeying in nature toward an image of "home" - sidle up through coincidence to the transmuted ethereal meaning circling within the shattered fragments of memory and experience. Narrator Sebald says, "And I knew then as little as I know now whether walking in this solitary way is more of a pleasure or a pain." I experienced this film as visceral, eviscerating, as profound as the effect of wave after wave after wave on a shoreline. It casts itself like a spell you might follow to "that magic place where you can go and get what you wished for, which is never what you think you want."