Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad –

Anna Akhmatova was born in Odessa and died in Moscow. In her long career as a poet, she rarely engaged directly with St. Petersburg as a subject of inquiry in her mostly highly personal verse. Nonetheless, her life and work were so tightly interwoven with the tragic and tumultuous fate of Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad in the 20th century that few other cultural figures are so widely and instantly identified with the city. The measured, incisive authority of her mature poetry upheld the moral and aesthetic values of the pre-Revolutionary liberal intelligentsia, cementing poetry’s role as the human conscience of an often inhuman and amoral urban environment.

cementing poetry’s role as the human conscience of an often inhuman and amoral urban environment.
Monument to Anna Akhmatova erected in the courtyard of the Languages Department of St. Petersburg State University

Anna’s funeral was attended by thousands of mourners, and she was buried at the cemetery of the St. Petersburg suburb of Komarovo, where she had long had a summer residence. There and at her apartment in the Fountain House on the Fontanka River Embankment, she was regularly visited by a younger generation of artists and poets, most notably among them Joseph Brodsky, who by the time of her death had begun his own wearisome battle with the state, and who would be widely hailed her moral and artistic heir.

Especially in St. Petersburg, Anna remains a figure of universal admiration and affection. There are two museums in her honour there.

Anna Akhmatova – ‘as if guided by a star ….’

Sweetbrier in Blossom

From a Burnt Notebook

Anna Akhmatova

“You invented me. There is no such earthly being,
Such an earthly being there could never be.
A doctor cannot cure, a poet cannot comfort
A shadowy apparition haunts you night and day.

We met in an unbelievable year,
When the world’s strength was at an ebb,
Everything withered by adversity,
And only the graves were fresh.
Without streetlights, the Neva’s waves were black as pitch,
Thick night enclosed me like a wall …

That’s when my voice called out to you!
Why it did I still don’t understand.
And you came to me, as if guided by a star
That tragic autumn, stepping
Into that irrevocably ruined house,
From whence had flown a flock of burnt verse.”

“a flock of burnt verse…”
Anna Akhmatova d 1966

An incredible human being: during her lifetime Anna saw famine and wars and repression and resistance and revolution. There were false charges and secret surveillance and purges and imprisonments and executions. Millions of people died. There was literary censorship. Her first husband was executed. Her second husband died from tuberculosis. Her third husband died in prison. Her son was imprisoned several times

Anna herself contracted typhus and tuberculosis. She lost touch with her family. She was labeled “half harlot, half nun,” probably with many connotations. The secret police kept her under constant surveillance. The majority of her life was lived out amid loss and grief and in poverty. Nancy Anderson writes, “Like a nun she saw herself as having a vocation that required her either to live on the charity of others or go without.” She did earn some money from translation. For thirty years she had no home of her own and lived as a guest with others. When she was expelled from the writer’s union, she lost access to food ration cards. By the end of her life, though, the government finally awarded her a small pension and an even smaller cottage.

Akhmatova could have fled like some others but chose not to.

She stayed to write the stories, to honor the dead, and to keep memories alive. James Joyce wrote in Ulysses, “You cannot leave your mother an orphan.” She later modified the line to “You cannot leave your Motherland an orphan.” There was much government opposition to her work and her apartment was secretly bugged, but she loved her country, and the Russian people loved her.

She and her friends helped each other—whether taking up collections for clothing or even memorizing each others’ words. Once, in August of 1920, Larisa Reisner, a former mistress of Akhmatova’s first husband, visited and found Anna “emaciated and dressed in rags, boiling soup in a borrowed saucepan.” Reisner used her connections to get food, clothing, and medical care for Akhmatova’s second husband, Vladimir Shileyko, and arranged for Akhmatova to get a library job.

Anna’s friends helped keep her work alive. Through a kind of whisper network, they preserved one another’s lines and stanzas before they burned the original copies. Requiem, one of Anna’s most famous pieces, maybe the most important, was “written” this way. She composed it over several years, but could not speak it or leave any trace of its words. It was a dangerous work, especially since it explicitly named Nikolay Yezhov, chief of the secret police during Stalin’s Great Terror. 

Anna aged 15 years

There is so much rubbish on TV and ‘in the movies’ nowadays. So called ‘historical dramas’ are nothing of the sort. Fiction – and poor fiction at that! There are so many good stories to tell. Anna’s life, for starters.

Jaguar (Netflix)

In the 1960s, Spain became a home to hundreds of survivors of the Mauthausen camp. Isabel, a young Spanish woman, is one of them. She is looking for Skorzeny, Europe’s most dangerous man, but she is not alone. Fact: The series’ true value lies in the little-known history it brings to light: the incarceration and murder of thousands of Spanish Republicans in Nazi concentration camps, and dictator Francisco Franco’s Spain having given safe haven to hundreds of Nazi war criminals after World War II.

FACT: The members of the Nazi-hunting group in “Jaguar” represent survivors among the half a million – Yes! – Spanish  Republicans who fled Spain following the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and found themselves at the mercy of the Vichy government after Germany occupied France in 1940. The nationalist-fascist Franco regime in Spain refused to recognize their Spanish citizenship and classified them as enemies of the state – unbelievable. As a result, several thousand Spanish Republicans joined the French Foreign Legion or French resistance groups.

Thousands of these Spanish refugees were forced into French detention camps, and 48,000 were deported to Germany. Of these, 9,161 were deported to Nazi concentration camps, with 8,000 going to Mauthausen and Gusen. About 2/3rds didn’t survive and about 450 were gassed,.

The first train contained entire families that rolled into a German concentration camp —  Mauthausen in 1940. The train was filled with 927 Spanish Republican refugees from southern France, but only the men were processed into the camp. The women and children were sent back to the French-Spanish border.

Spain carefully cultivated a myth that it remained neutral during WWII. The truth is that Franco’s fascist government played both sides: it was both an open sympathizer of the Nazi cause and a cautious nonbelligerent country trying to gain the favour of the Western Allies (‘Spain and the Holocaust: Contested Past, Contested Present’ by Baer & Corres). After the war, Spain welcomed Nazi war criminals (possibly hundreds) and allowed them to live freely within its territory – many of them found refuge in the houses of Spanish families, and others remained in hiding with the help of the Franco regime and the Catholic Church.

Great casting, once again, for another Netflix series. Liked the characters and the historical side of the story, although some of the what I call ‘action-bordering-on-slapstick’ at times did tend to trivialise the seriousness of the adventure.

Bianca Suarez
Ivan Marcos

I must admit, I hadn’t checked how many episodes there are, so from the abrupt ending, I assume there will be a Jaguar 2.

“I need a theatre” wrote WB Yeats in 1916…

I NEED A FILM PRODUCER! Always inspired by his sentiments about drama. Keeps me going when those interfering doubts emerge!

I desire to show events and not merely tell of them … and I seem to myself most alive at the moment when a room full of people share the one lofty emotion,” he wrote. At Samhain 1904 Yeats spoke of a dramatic art which reveals the energy of the soul and stated that …

“we who are believers , cannot see reality anywhere but in the soul itself.”

For Yeats the most serious subject for drama (and surely film, especially nowadays) was this reality, which he saw as the struggle of the spiritual with the natural order taking place in the depths of the soul.

William Butler Yeats Yeats photographed in 1903 by Alice Boughton
“We who are believers , cannot see reality anywhere but in the soul itself.”
William Blake from ‘The Marriage of Heaven & Hell’

Karl Kraus “High Priest of Truth …” (Georg Trakl)

Karl Kraus 1874-1936 was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He directed his satire at the press, German culture, and German and Austrian politics. Three times Nobel Prize for Lit. nominee, he should have been awarded one.

White high priest of truth, Crystal voice, in which God’s icy breath lives, Raging sorcerer, Under whose flaming coat jangles the warrior’s blue armour’ – Georg Trakl’s poem ‘Karl Kraus.’

The first complete English translation of his far-seeing polemic, written in 1933 unmasking the Nazi seizure of power“[A] drop-dead analysis of the rhetorical barbarities of the Hitler cult.”―Bill Marx, Arts Fuse. Its message still relevant in 2021 … sadly.
Georg Trakl d. 1914, aged 37. 24 August 1914 enlists as a medical orderly. A troubled soul before WW1 , the trauma of dealing with the wounded after the battle of Grodek was the beginning of the end for Georg. Mental collapse led to a suicide attempt. A sympathetic guard smuggled cocaine into the hospital in Krakov, of which Georg died of heart failure following an overdose.

Yes, a troubled soul that was at its core a gentle one. His collected poems are called ‘Surrender to the Night,’ which Richard Millington describes as ‘The Gentle Apocalypse’ … I think Georg would like that. Will Stone introduces Trakl’s poetry with two words … ‘ Approaching Silence.’ His translations are sublime. In fact, they promise to rekindle interest in the work of this seminal poet.

The mesmerizing imagery and haunting visions of Trakl’s highly sensitive and morbidly introspective poetry are as powerful today as they were when he poured forth his extraordinary and unclassifiable volume of work. A source of inspiration for artists, musicians and writers through the Expressionist period and beyond, Trakl’s poetry bleak, yet full of tenderness and hope, nightmarish yet eerily beautiful has steadfastly defied any coherent critical analysis.

Midnight Mass (Netflix 2021) – Wow! Now that was very different to what we expected.

The arrival of a charismatic priest brings miracles, mysteries and renewed religious fervour to a dying town.

Must have missed the horror bit after noticing ‘drama’ in the the genre section. Excellent on so many levels, including the casting and the way the story was told. A modern parable about life and belief. Not only the dangers of cults but also the naivety of much mas religious beliefs – so-called Evangelicals are not alone in this! We so much wanted the ‘hero’ (or anti-hero) in our eyes to be the ‘saviour’ so shocked when he was ‘demonised’ although with enough love still in his heart to save his lover and, ultimately himself, by willingly accepting his own initiated death. I also liked he bit at the end when Fr. unceremoniously took off his collar and threw it on the ground. Remember the moment, well, in my real life when I did something similar.

Hats off to Mike Flanagan, an American filmmaker and partner in Intrepid Pictures. A notable bit of work. Mike is best known for his horror films, all of which he directed, wrote, and edited, including Absentia, Oculus, Hush, Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game, and Doctor Sleep. Didn’t realize he also directed ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor,’ which we also liked. But MM is on a different level folks.

Mike Flanagan was actually born in Salem, Massachusetts! Really.

As I said, great casting – Samantha Sloyan plays ‘evil believer incarnate’ Beverly Keane to perfection.. Bev is a true believer in the church – and a great example, sadly of a type … ‘that’ type of believer, whatever the religion or sect of cult. The location was also spot-on as well as the way Mike represented the demon – not too over the top.

And the music throughout the series? Excellent – artfully done. Not just the singing and arrangements by the Newton Brothers but also the way that the music was utilized. Full marks.

Taylor Stewart and Andy Grush, best known as The Newton Brothers, are the prominent composing duo, widely admired for their poignant musical atmospheres. Thriving on the power of minimalism, The Newton Brothers have attained a high art for articulating the subliminal and suspending the disbelief of their audience with enigmatic sonic contraptions and ethereality. (Pop Disciple 12.07.19)

Ganglands( Braqueurs) – premiered on Netflix this September – excellent in every department

Sami Bouajila and Tracy Gotoas

The series created by Julien Leclercq promised a solid storyline and high-intensity action, and the series lives up to the expectation. with enough action sequences in 50-minute episodes. French thrillers airing on Netflix are generally captivating, full of suspense, action, steamy frolics, and a decent storyline all in all.

The story depicts a thief and a robber who get their hands dirty as they become embroiled in a dark turf battle between drug dealers

A second series? Let’s hope so.

S55 year-old Sami  is a two-time césar award winning French-Tunisian actor who has been active in France since 1991.
Tracy is a 25 year old French actress

Survival of the …

Why many UK independent producers are fighting for survival in the new “wild west”

At the same time, McVay points out that “business is not an egalitarian system… it’s about people trying to make money.” Why should the UK’s indie producers receive special treatment? To some, there is an obvious answer. They are an intrinsic part of a system that will eventually grind to a halt without them. As Kostense puts it: “Bigger films are made by people who started with smaller films. If those smaller films cannot be made any more, ultimately there will not be bigger films.”