torsdag den 24. januar 2013

Los Angeles

I love Los Angeles. Arrived after a long trip over the Pacific. I entered the routines I know that well. Rented a car in the airport and drove through the arteries of this enormous flat and sensual urban landscape. Through the mythological names, hitting La Cienega Boulevard, then San Vincent, to the right on Cynthia Street and then arriving at Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood, my favorite hotel since Asger began using it as his home away from home. I told our friend Stefan, the owner, that Asger stayed in Bangkok, but would come later.

My main reason for making a stop in L.A. was to see the voodoo art exhibition 'In Extremis' at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. It was the final chance, it was closing January 20th, after running for several months. I was disappointed with this much hyped exhibition. Too lightweight, too smart. Some weak choices, for instance two Stivenson Magloire paintings, definitely among his weaker pieces. Is he supposed to stand in for Saint Soleil? OK, so no Saint Soleil, no Antilhomme, no Prospèr Pierre-Louis in this voodoo-inspired-art context? That's not OK. That's a scandal. And no Lafortune Félix? Well, I certainly do respect idiosyncrazies and personal preferences. But here I feel it is a matter of the curator, the respected Don Consentino, having taken it too easy.

Oh, what a wonderful Sunday afternoon. January sun. Los Angeles is one of the rare cities where Sundays can be good. Always good to drive around. I was parking in a public parking area at North Robertson Blvd. Shopping shirts, I bought five, in Steven Alan's West Hollywood shop. I used to buy his shirts in Franklin Street, Tribeca, New York. Then I walked to the corner of Melrose, across from the super Italian restaurant Cennoni's, a déja-vu for me. I've been looking for this exact corner on several visits to L.A. The view I remember from around thirty years ago is Rod Stewart being helped out of his red Ferrari by the parking valet, and entering the restaurant with his tall blond hairdo, accompanied by a beautiful woman.
I walked down Melrose five blocks East, past San Vicente, and came to the usual choice: Have lunch where? At Urth Café or Pain Quotidien. Urth is full, I got a table on the terrace of Quotidien, facing the traffic on Melrose at the corner of Westbourne Drive. I love the sights and sounds of the slow stream of big, wonderful luxury SUV cars in both directions. Lexus, Range Rovers, Audis, BMW's, and I'm always surprised of seeing so impressively many Mercedes black box cars, not beautiful, you could call it provocatively ugly, therefore powerful, almost menacing, obscene. I like this. I like the idea that people buy cars that send signals about money and lifestyle. I like politically incorrect cars, unshamely showing off their owners' money and vitality. I like the direct in-your-face manners of this city.

Monday lunch in Mondrian's on Sunset. Cool, elegant. This hotel is one of Phillippe Starck's best works. After that I drove out on Sunset Boulevard westwards, towards the sunset. I have done it many times before. It's a great feeling. Comfortable driving, many sensual curves. Passing great homes, and the pink Beverly Hills Hotel. I think of when I stayed there with my ex-wife Hanne Uldal and our little son Kristian, 31 years ago. I remember a meeting in the hotel's famous Polo Lounge with a Hollywood producer about a film Asger and I wanted to make: 'The White Zombie'. The tennis lawn behind bushes, the well-cut and -watered gardens. So voluptuous! Continuing the last long stretch before hitting the ocean. Taking in the last minutes of the sunset over the Pacific. One of the best views I know. That's why Dan Holmberg and I called our company Sunset Productions. Dan is the master of filming sunsets. He shot many at the Pacific coast. Then it's getting darker, and I lose a sense of where I am and have a certain pleasure by letting it happen, just being for a while lost in a terrain vague. I love the feeling of people living in those houses, and I notice the sudden changes of status of the houses, new neighbourhoods, also some poor ones.

Arrived in Miami early morning with night flight from L.A. Have checked into Shore Club on Collins Avenue. Will meet Asger in a couple of hours when he is coming in from Bangkok. Then we will go out having dinner, I will suggest, at Ola's on James' Avenue where they have the best selection of seviche, I know of. They also have a wide selection of mojitos. Or simply stay here and sit in the bar in the fabulous fusion restaurant Nobu, and let the sushi chef decide what we eat and in which sequence. And then tomorrow we fly to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

søndag den 13. januar 2013

Vietnam report

I have been travelling together with my son Asger in Vietnam since the end of November 2012. We were invited to present our films at the Hanoi Cinemateque. Three evenings with full houses, a mixture of expats and vietnamese film fans. Asger presented his Haiti documentary GHOSTS OF CITE SOLEIL, and answered questions about his experiences in the dangerous environment.

Then another evening his American movie MAN ON A LEDGE was screened, and Asger explained how it was for him to work in Hollywood. The third evening at the cinemateque I presented a selection of clips from my work.

In December 2011 the director of the Hanoi Cinemateque Gerald Herman, an American expat, has created this very pleasant place for viewing films in an interesting building in old Hanoi. He has a big collection of movies from all over the world. His knowledge about Danish cinema for example is astonishing. The digital screenings are of high quality.

The Danish ambassador John Nielsen had arranged for us to meet some Vietnamese film directors, writers and a composer at a dinner in the ambassador’s residence. Closing hour in Hanoi is before midnight. Streets are eerily empty in late evening.

One evening after film screenings we were invited to a rare late-open so-called art-bar, Tadioto, managed by the writer-artist Duc. When he heard I’m a poet he invited me to come the next evening and read some poems. We selected a handful of poems from Martin Aitken’s translations and read them in mike setup at the bar. I read in English, and Duc read his own translations to Vietnamese, his warm sonorous voice and his calm timing was a joy for me to listen to. Before my reading I was treated with some beautiful Vietnamese poetry, this was the Hanoi poet Ly Truan Guyen who read her own poems, Duc translating her to English.

We met Anne Marie Kürstein, the Danish Film Institute’s documentary festival coordinator, and my old friend Dino Raymond Hansen. We had a drink at the famous Bamboo Bar in the old Hotel Metropole. Later the same day we flew to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, and enjoyed the  energy and organized chaos of this city.

We went twice to the War Remnants Museum which is a shocking visual memory of the horrors of the American war. We went to the beach in Mui Ne, but didn’t like it. The strip of that popular town is like a Tivoli with hundreds of neon signs in Russian. No wonder it is called Russia Town. Apart from the Russian families, it a place for surfers and kitesurfers. They like the tall waves.

We returned to Saigon, a 4 hour drive, and next day flew to the island Phu Quoc near the Cambodian border. This was a place that gave relief. We stayed at the wonderful Mango Bay resort for two weeks, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Asger's mother, my exwife Ann Bierlich had joined us. Around Christmas time an entire Danish film colony assembled here. Daniel Dencik stayed at another resort on the island, Dino and Anne Marie stayed at yet another one, and Dino introduced us to Jan Krogsgaard, the man who started the Burma VJ film project, and who has lived in the region for seven years. He told us many good stories.

We flew from Phu Quoc to Da Nang, with a stop in Saigon. We liked Saigon so much, so decided to enjoy the stop, took a taxi to the center, to have lunch at one of our favorite spots, Saigon-Saigon Bar at the Hotel Caravelle, and then went back to the airport and resumed our travel. We have now been in Hoi An for a week, and enjoy this lovely town, that is full of tourists but still keeps its own.

In a few days Asger and I will fly to Phnom Penh to stay for one week, before starting our flights home, I plan to arrive in Haiti around 22 January, Asger will arrive a few days later so he can finish his present scriptwriitng assignment.

On Sunday 13th of January, The Meta House Phnom Penh (German Cambodian Cultural Center) will screen 'The Five Obstructions'. Both Asger and I will be present.