Leni Riefenstahl – A Great Artist – Part 2

Leni Riefenstahl Standing

During the filming of Das Blaue Licht, Leni read Adolf
Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and in 1932 she attended a Nazi (National Socialist German
Workers’ Party) rally, as a great number of Germans did; and as with a great
number of her fellow Germans, she was enthralled by Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric.
Shortly after she had a meeting with Hitler, who told Leni that he enjoyed her
work in Das Blaue Licht and elsewhere and would like her to film the upcoming fifth Nazi
party rally, in Nuremberg.

Whether she wanted to create the film for herself, or had
some sort of incentive or other motive behind its creation is unknown to me.
Certainly she must have known that it would be used as a propaganda piece for
the Nazi party and for her country; this isn’t something that we should be
upset over though, many great artists have created pieces for their countries
that are seen as propaganda.

Through the opposition of much of the Nazi party and with
the support of Hitler she was able to document the rally. The film that
Riefenstahl created out of the 1933 Nazi rally in Nuremberg was Der Sieg des
Glaubens (Victory of the Faith); which is a film that I haven’t seen personally,
but a film that I plan on seeing at some point in the future.

Shortly after its release the film was hidden away due to
Hitler’s orders to execute Ernst Röhm, the leader of the Sturmabteilung (the SA
or the brownshirts); as well as many of his lieutenants and other people
involved in the initial rise of Nazi power, and the rise of Hitler himself for
that matter. The incident is known as the Night of the Long Knives; during
which, over several days 90 people were murdered by the Schutzstaffel (the SS)
and the Geheime Staatspolizei (the Gestapo). Leni Riefenstahl’s feelings on the
situation are unknown to me, I’m not aware of her speaking a word about it
myself, but I can’t imagine that she was too happy over her work being hidden
away at the time.

Although the film had to be shelved, Adolf Hitler thought
positively of her and her work on Der Sieg des Glaubens and asked Riefenstahl to create another
film for the upcoming 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremburg.

Leni Riefenstahl Directing

The film that Leni Riefenstahl created from the 1934 rally
was another breakthrough, this time both a cinematic breakthrough and an
artistic breakthrough. That film is Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will).  Riefenstahl shows her masterful control of
the camera here; thanks to her tremendous artistic vision, Leni was able to
create shots that had never been seen or even dreamed of with a camera. The
sheer technical detail and effort that went into making the film is incredible;
Leni used 30 cameras and had 120 technicians at her disposal; she had bridges
and posts built in the center of Nuremburg; all of the camera placements, the movements, the lighting gantries, everything was specifically set up to Leni Riefenstahl’s
exact specifications.

Triumph des Willens is truly a great work, one that Leni
Riefenstahl worked painstakingly to create to the absolute best of her ability,
to fully meet her vision in every possible way. She recorded just over 66 and ½
hours of footage of the rally. Of those sixty-six and one-half hours of footage
she edited the film into the brilliant 2 hour long documentary that we know
today. The film received many awards, including the 1935 Venice International
Film Festival Coppa dell’Istituto Nazionale LUCE award, the National Film Prize for 1934-1935, and the Medaille d’Or &
Grand Prix de France in 1937.

The film was lauded at the time of its creation around the
world and it has been highly praised by film enthusiasts, it is to this day praised by authorities of the cinematic and artistic realm, as it has from
its very first showing. It truly is a masterpiece in documentary and visual
filmmaking; no matter if it is considered propaganda or not, no matter if Leni
Riefenstahl meant for it to be a propaganda piece or not. The facts remain: The artwork and the mastery of Leni Riefenstahl’s work speaks for itself.

Leni Riefenstahl – A Great Artist – Part 1

Leni Riefenstahl


Leni Riefenstahl has been a very controversial figure for many years now. In
this series of articles, I will go over my thoughts and feelings on her life
and her work. This is part. 1, covering her early life and first foray into
film:

Born Helene Bertha Amalie
Riefenstahl
in Berlin, Germany on the 22nd of August, 1902; she
began her professional and artistic career as a dancer, her dancing style was
uniquely her own and widely popular at the time. She continued to express
herself through interpretive dance until she injured her knee in her early
20’s, at which point she began her acting career.

Her acting career began shortly
after the injury to her knee brought her career as a dancer to an end. She had
a couple of undocumented and minor rolls, until 1925 when she was finally given
the lead role in Arnold Fanck’s new mountain film: Der Heilige Berg (The Holy
Mountain) as the dancer Diotima.

Leni Riefenstahl Dancing


The role of Diotima was written by
Fanck specifically for Leni Riefenstahl. It is the first film that I watched in
which Leni Riefenstahl was in front of the camera rather than behind it; it’s a
quality work with a great many interesting shots and scenes, Fanck does a great
job filming the environment. At the time of my first viewing I was not familiar
with Leni Riefenstahl’s acting, as I said; nor was I familiar with Arnold
Fanck’s directing; and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by both
aspects of the film.

Riefenstahl gives a lovely
performance as Diotima; the film also allows us a bit of insight as to what her
dancing style and abilities were, which is wonderfully interesting, and I can
only imagine that she was an even better dancer before her knee injury.

Leni went on to star in many other
mountain films that were also directed by Arnold Fanck, of which I have now seen
several. Generally she played an outgoing young girl, a very entertaining part
and one that she did very well, which perhaps gives us a bit of insight as to
what he personality was like in her youthful days.

Then Leni began her career as a
director when the offer was made to her. Her first attempt at directing
resulted in the breakthrough film Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light) in 1932.
With the support of Arnold Fanck, Béla Balázs, the production team at Henry R.
Sokal-Film of Berlin, and many others; Riefenstahl was not only able to direct
her first film, but she also starred in the leading role of the film as Junta;
and not only that, but Leni also co-wrote the film, edited the film, and helped
to produce the film.

The work was an absolute
breakthrough for Riefenstahl. The film launched her new career as a complicated
director. One that would lead her to be both praised and criticized, one that
was undoubtedly one of the most influential in the history of cinema and film
making.

The Best Bands That You Don’t Know: Aloha

Aloha is a hardworking, crazy-touring mainstay of Polyvinyl
Records here in the States. Started by long time members Tony Cavallario
and Matthew Gengler while they were attending college during the summer of
1997 in Ohio; they have been working extremely hard for the progress of their
band ever since. Matthew and Tony, joined by Cale Parks and later T.J. Lipple
in the spring of 2003 make up the band as they are now.

With the addition of T.J. their sound was able to expand quite
a bit from the band’s earlier works; with his sound contributions of a homemade
Mellotron, Marimba, Organ playing, editing tricks, as well as his Drum playing
abilities; which allowed Cale to further develop his sound within the band.

Their expanded sound can be seen on their first album
together: 2004’s Here Comes Everyone,
which was released that winter. The beginnings of the album were written in T.J.’s
grandfather’s house in Pennsylvania shortly after the coming together of the band’s
lineup.

Their follow up album was the critically acclaimed Some Echoes, which was released in the
spring of 2006. The album was recorded and produced at the Silver Sonya studio
in Virginia, which is operated by T.J. and Chad Clark (from the DC band Beauty
Pill).

Some Echoes showcased
a further progression in their sound and was praised by nearly everyone that
listened to the record; I honestly do not believe that I’ve read a single poor
review of the album. It is an absolute classic and quite possibly my favorite
work by the band to date. The album was also streamed on their website for
everyone to listen to, but sadly the old band website is no longer available;
they now use their Myspace page for their website needs.

Their latest release is Light
Works
, an EP, released in late 2007. While not as progressive sounding as
the previous two releases, Light Works
is a light and fine work indeed, especially as far as EP’s are concerned; it is
a quality release without a doubt, it’s almost album like. Though it may be a
little unexpected at first to hear the piano and the acoustic guitar, you soon
get used to it and enjoy the quality of the work that is being done.

Aloha really is one of the hardest working bands making
music today, and they are grossly unappreciated for the amazing work that they
have done and continue to do. I have been to several Aloha shows over the years
and I am not joking when I say that they are one of the hardest working bands
around. They are in what seems to be a constant state of touring, recording,
writing and working.

They have played shows all over the world, from every corner
of the United States, to Japan and Singapore. They have a very loyal following
in their fan base, which will undoubtedly continue to grow as time passes by
and people continue to discover them. The band certainly deserves any and all recognition
that they receive.

Aloha: One of the best bands that you didn’t know about
until reading this article.

The Greatest Songs of All Time: Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”

Released
on the 19th of September, 1970, on Young’s brilliant and now classic After
the Gold Rush
album; the song was written by Young and the album was
written and recorded between the summer of 1969 and the spring/summer of 1970.
Most of the album was recorded in the homemade recording studio thrown together
in Young’s home in Topanga Canyon;  a very popular and famous place to
live at the time for musicians due to its populace, attitude, and location in
Los Angeles County, California.

 

It’s
an acoustic song in the vein of Young’s work with Crosby, Stills & Nash, as
is much of the album; quite possibly due to the immense popularity of their
album with Young Déjà Vu, which was released earlier that year and
quickly rose to the top of the charts.

 

No
matter what the reasoning was behind Young’s decision to record the album the
way he did, he still created a great album. Though it was originally panned by
critics; it is now generally accepted as a great album, one of Neil Young’s
best, which I tend to agree with; and furthermore, it has several great songs
on it, including “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”:

 

 

Lyrics:

Old
man lying
by the side of the road
with the lorries rolling by
Blue moon sinking
from the weight of the load
and the building scrape the sky
Cold wind ripping
down the allay at dawn
and the morning paper flies
Dead man lying
by the side of the road
with the daylight in his eyes

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

Blind man running
through the light
of the night
with an answer in his hand
Come on down
to the river of sight
and you can really understand
Red lights flashing
through the window
in the rain
can you hear the sirens moan?
White cane lying
in a gutter in the lane,
if you’re walking home alone.

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Just find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Just find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

 

It is a beautiful work with beautifully simple and
extremely vivid lyrics; which are powerfully brought to the forefront of the
song via Young’s voice and the simple playing of his acoustic guitar.

The Greatest Songs of All Time: The Diamond Sea

From Various Thoughts on Music

===

I’m going to write about some of the greatest songs of all time. Some
songs are not only classic, but they are also musically, lyrically,
artistically pure and genuine, beautiful. I will discuss what the songs
mean to me, why they are great, as well as information about where you
can listen to these songs, when they are from, where they are from,
where they were recording, as well as other miscellaneous information.
It should be fun!

The Diamond Sea by Sonic Youth

The song itself is from 1995 and was written by Thurston Moore. It
was first released on the brilliant Washing Machine album. There are
three versions of this song: The album version which is 19 minutes and
35 seconds, a radio edit which comes in at 5 minutes and 26 seconds,
and an extended version which is an amazing 25 minutes 50 seconds. It
was released in 1995 as the first single from the Washing Machine
album, the single has the radio edit and the extended version of the
song, as well as the song My Arena. There was a video created for the
song which used compiled footage from the 1995 Lollapalooza tour, Spike
Jonze and several other well known directors were involved in the
creation of the video.

The lyrics read:

time takes its crazy toll
and how does your mirror grow
you better watch yourself when you jump into it
cause the mirror’s gonna steal your soul
I wonder how it came to be my friend
that someone just like you has come again
you’ll never ever know how close you came
until you fall in love with the diamond rain
throw all his trash away
look out he’s here to stay
your mirror’s gonna crack when he breaks into it
and you’ll never ever be the same
look into his eyes and you can see
why all the little kids are dressed in dreams
I wonder how he’s gonna make it back
when he sees that you just know it’s make-believe
blood crystallized to sand
and now I hope you understand
you reflect into his looking-glass soul
and now the mirror is your only friend
look into his eyes and you will see
that men are not alone on the diamond sea
sail into the heart of a lonely storm
and tell her that you’ll love her eternally
time takes its crazy toll
mirror falling off the wall
you better look out for the looking-glass girl
cause she’s gonna take you for a fall
look into his eyes and you shall see
why everything is quiet and nothing’s free
I wonder how he’s gonna make her smile
when love is running wild on the diamond sea

To me, these are some of the greatest lyrics ever written. The
combination of the lyrics and the music make for not only one of my
favorite songs of all time, but a song which I believe is one of the
greatest ever recorded. The music is simply gorgeous, a masterful
composition of sound invading, pummeling it’s way down your ear canals.
At some points you won’t know if you want it to stop or not, but you
will most certainly continue listening, waiting for that breakthrough
of pureness and beauty that we are all so hopeful for. At times the
song can seem a sonic stillbirth, an amalgamated abortion of sounds
destroying your eardrums and you know it, yet you turn it up a little
louder.

The lyrics are much the same. They are an expansive
journey inward and within ones deepest self, tickling our egos and
insecurities in ways that we never thought were, and hoped not
possible, especially from this punk band from New York. What were they
doing writing like this, playing 20 minute explosions of emotion,
touching us on nearly every level? This was unchartered territory for
the band, a new and great discovery to be shared with everyone that
wanted to expand their musical horizons.

Lyrics written,
interpreted as I may, looking, digging, finding, deep within oneself,
some deeper meaning of what is of a real, actual value, and what isn’t.
Exploring how not only this revelation affects you, but how others
around you, in your life and out, affect you just the same. Discovering
and overcoming whatever insecurities that you personally may have had
by ripping them to shreds with words and feedback seemingly from
another planet, certainly from another level, a level that we were most
definitely not on until The Diamond Sea.

Then in the end, we
come to an understanding and hopefully even an acceptance of what we’ve
come to realize by the end of the song. We have been a witness to true
artistic beauty and that can never be taken away from us. In one single
song we have learned to search, find, explore, and then understand and
accept the innermost feelings that we allow to be affected.

That’s just it: The Diamond Sea, just like any other music, is what it
is, and is what you make of it. If we allow ourselves, then we end up
seeing and understanding that these things are not of any great
importance, and only then are we able to break from our bonds and
prejudices, whatever they may be, and truly be free.