Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000), Modern Persian Poet, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: A Tribute by Payman Akhlaghi

Ahmad Shamlou (1925-December 12, 2000), great modern Persian poet, a free spirited man, the poet of freedom, and one of the progressive minds of Persian intelligentsia. In 1963, he wrote and dedicated a poem to the brave men and women of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, about 20 years earlier.

Here's an excerpt from the poem, خفتگان (Those Who're Asleep):

از آنها که رویاروی با چشمان گشاده در مرگ نگریستند
از برادران سربلند، در محلۀ تاریک، یک تن بیدار نیست
(Of those who stared into the abyss of death,
Of the proud brothers, in the dark ghetto, none's awake.)

از آن ها که خشم گردن کش را در گرۀ مشت های خالی خویش فریاد کردند
از خواهران دلتنگ، در محلۀ تاریک، یک تن بیدار نیست
(Of those who cried rising rage in the clench of their empty fists,
Of the sad-hearted sisters, in the dark ghetoo, none is awak.)
[Draft translations by this author.]

You may find the entire poem in Persian at the following link:
خفتگان (Khoftegan, "Those Who're Asleep")
Poem in Persian by Ahmad Shamlou:

(*) Payman's Short Film, based on a poem by Ahmad Shamlou:
Recently, I completed the beta-version of my first short-film, a music video, upon a commission. The music is Not mine; and the words of the song belong to Ahmad Shamlou. Although the video is now posted on YouTube, in respect to the current wish of the composer-singer, a good friend of mine, I have not yet made it Public. However, if you're interested to see a sample of my budding cinematic portfolio, you may do so by clicking Here. (NB: The music is not mind. Full credits available on the page):

© 2011, Payman Akhlaghi. All pertinent rights reserved for respective authors.

"Feather and Fire" (1998), Original Poem by Payman Akhlaghi

‎"Feather and Fire" (*)
A Poem by: Payman Akhlaghi (1998)

When the boots had marched away, and
the silence'd melted with the stink of
the corpses, all spread over the soup
of the mud, the urine, and the human
blood, the mother came out from the hiding.

Knowing that the father'd been shot--holding, still,
after death, onto his walking stick--she then
went on, looking for her only child.

As she turned over the half-burnt body
of the boy in the barn, she could hardly notice
the flight of the white feather,
that'd been spared in
the clinched fist of his...

Septmeber 30, 1998, Los Angeles
© 1998, 2011, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) This poem was originally inspired by the news genocide taking place in Bosnia. However, I always understood it as a broader cry against war and violence toward the innocent. That was why in Fall 2002, I incorporated the poem into a dance and music collaboration with choreographer Sri Susilowati, based on this theme, as the conclusion of a seminar conducted by Prof. Keith Terry, UCLA. The poem was recited at the opening of the presentation, with some minor modifications.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Independent Film Review: The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn, Part I (2011), by Payman Akhlaghi

Kristen Stewart in
Breaking Dawn (I)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I (2011, 117')
Directed by Bill Condon
Based on Stephenie Meyer's novels
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro
Cast Includes: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, et al.

"The Twilight Saga" series resonate with the throbbing heart of our inner teenagers. That could also be why the producers must have felt that the first ever wedding ceremony between a vampire and a human surely deserved to be captured in full for posterity. Alas, the result, which has occupied almost a full third of the film, looks as interesting as any other wedding video being watched for the 10th time.

And yet, this tedious intro has served well to shape the dramatic curve of the story, setting up a patient crescendo toward an exciting and satisfying climax, saturated as much with action as with genuinely engaging human, and vampire, emotions. The consistently sensitive and sympathetic performance by Kristen Stewart continues to propel the series through this installment, too, with no sign of fatigue. Mr. Condon, a seasoned director ("Dreamgirls", "Kinsey"), has not only maximized on the natural talents of his gifted actress, but also has successfully employed an abstract experimental visual style, which is more typical of art films than a commercial franchise.

Carter Burwell's bitter-sweet music, absent since the original installment, once more underscores a variety of sentiments and events, with his recognizable melodic contours and orchestral timbres, but without sounding intrusive or overwhelming.

As such, one might recommend, endure the wedding, and you shall feel rewarded!

(*) Although this author tends to highlight original dramatic scores, this simple yet exciting song by Barlow Girls seems to merit to force him break the rule: "Never Alone".

(*) "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Par I",  IMDB page.

© 2011, all text by Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Independent Film Review: "A Dangerous Method" (2011), by Payman Akhlaghi

Knightley in David
Cornenberg's Film

"A Dangerous Method" (2011, English, c. 100 mins)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Music by Howard Shore
Screen adaptation by Christopher Hampton, from his play, "The Talking Cure", Based on the book "A Most Dangerous Method" by John Kerr
Cast: Keira Knightley (Sabina Spielrein), Viggo Mortensen (Sigmund Freud), Michael Fassbender (Carl Jung), Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gordon, et al.
(The original version of this review was first published at Payman's Personal Facebook Page, December 2nd, 2011. © 2011, all text by Payman Akhlaghi, unless noted. All rights reserved for the author.)


"We're Jews, my dear Miss Spielrein, and Jews we will always be.", so says Sigmund Freud, in director Cronenberg's latest film, about Freud, Jung, and Sabina Spielrein, a patient and later colleague of theirs. Today, she's credited, as a psychoanalyst, to have anticipated and perhaps inspired both men in some aspects of their theories. (*)

I meant to write about this film since I saw it on its first night in LA. A deliberately patient visual style has allowed the very impatient characters, and their equally passionate enactors, to come through with an exceptional, intriguing sense of urgency. Indeed, the consistently heartfelt, nuanced and sophisticated performances could garner an Oscar nomination for Ms. Knightely, if not also for Mr. Mortensen and Mr. Fassbinder.