Sunday, 12 April 2015

Back in Santiago, being terribly cultured, you know.

For those of you passing through, hoping to catch a spicy pic of Deauxma's twin peaks, let me apologise now. I'm back in Santiago de Chile, now seemingly a biennial trip to the southern hemisphere and will regale you with nothing more than a list of all the things I've had time to do here which I rarely have time for back home. I flew out the day after the Germanwings Airbus A-320 was used as a rather selfish personal statement by the co-pilot, I won't dignify him by naming him, suffice to say one of my colleagues was on the plane…

So, besides coaching Rusalka, Il Turco in Italia, I Due Foscari, The Rake's Progress, Madame Butterfly, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci I've managed to visit the abandoned mining town of Sewell, take a trip back to Los Dominicos and have seen the following events:

(This last one is called Hijos de…and is on at Teatro del Puente).

As for the the Japanese films, I had to overcome the reluctance to see something in Japanese with Spanish subtitles, but I'm glad I did. They were both superb, especially Like Father, like son. As for Joven y Bella (Jeune et Jolie), it was utter shit. Typical Fran├žois Ozon: irrelevant, pointless, incoherent. And those are just the compliments. If you want good navel-gazing, watch Avant l'hiver (Antes del invierno frio). It's really well done. I honestly don't know what planet Ozon lives on if he thinks his work has something to say. He lacks the most basic screenwriting and character development skills. I just don't know what all the fuss is about. As for Ida, I'd never have guessed that a black-and-white Polish film about an unknowing Jewish nun in the 1960's would be so gripping. Just goes to show…See it if you can.

If I get to squeeze anything else into my stay, here, I'll add it. What I love about Santiago is how many independent cinemas and theatres there are, even though there is - in my very humble opinion - a slightly negative aspect to this:  the alternative performing arts scene is resolutely left-wing and it's almost like the period 1973 - 1991 has been airbrushed out of the collective memory. For those of us fascinated by the country and wishing to form a balanced view of, at least, the twentieth century, it's not easy to get access to any objective reports of what happened between Salvador Allende and Patricio Aylwin. I can understand it, particularly as so many neighbouring countries had military dictatorships at the same time, but it makes objective research tricky. Here's an example: right next door to my digs is a large cultural centre named after Gabriela Mistral. It was built by Allende as an arts centre and subssequently appropriated by the junta as their centre of operations and renamed Edificio Diego Portales. I'm sure the name was no accident. Diego Portales was a controversial statesman in the 19th Century, an unashamedly right-wing entrepreneur and politician and murdered at age 43. A university in the city still bears his name. Anyhow, the building was renamed after Pinochet's ousting and hosts an excellent bookshop containing, as one might expect, a very comprehensive history and politics section. Could I find ONE book on the Pinochet period? Could I hell. The only one they carry is one about his love of literature, and that's just been published. I bought it. I find this extraordinary. It's almost as if he's considered a footnote in Chilean history - like many a former president - and not the extraordinary figure he actually was - seizing power illegally with the help of the CIA, running a torturous dictatorship while bringing economic prosperity to the country and subsequently losing power democratically eighteen years later. You couldn't make that kind of scenario up. Presumably that's why he's so downplayed. It's odd.

That's enough, particularly as I'm not posting any flesh. Well, maybe just a hint:

Did you know that Pinochet dressed his Carabineros in the dark green of Honecker's East German police? I see some of these babes on the way to work every morning. Interestingly, it's a detail post-Pinochet presidents have left unchanged…