“Janis Ivanovs is like thunder and lightning, cleansing the air with his Lucifer sounds. His symphonies are like ancient Greek tragedies, filled with ecstasy and purification.” So wrote another Latvian composer and music critic, Margers Zarins.
Film and music of shimmering yet jarring beauty play together on a South Seas beach in “Legong: Dance of the Virgins.” It’s a rarely screened 1935 silent movie, shot entirely in Bali with a Balinese cast, mixed with a new score by Club Foot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya. Presented in a crude but rich two-strip early Technicolor process, one of the last silent films made by Hollywood, it depicts Bali as Westerners idealized it at the time.
In 1934, Henry Miller, then aged forty-two and living in Paris, published his first book. In 1961, finally distributed in his native land the book promptly became a best-seller and a cause célèbre. By now, the “controversies” dominate his legacy, including issues of censorship, obscenity, misogyny and anti-Semitism, clouding the import of Henry Miller’s words. “Tropic of Cancer” broke literary ground, mixing novelistic forms with autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, and surrealist free association.
“Being mixed up with a strike is a different. Laborers attacking the profits of capitalists are out. When a strike is to be quelled, all consuls work in unison, regardless if only a few months ago they would have rather liked to cut one another’s throats.”
Viewed today, Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” murals might have prefigured Detroit’s downfall, but also envision a renaissance. It harkens to the earth, the races living and working in harmony, where sections of the city have been cleared of distressed neighborhoods and allowed to regrow with food crops, grasses and trees.