Vincent Cassel is stunning in Cohen Media Group’s “Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti”

In 1891, painter Paul Gauguin is already well-known in Parisian artistic circles, but he’s tired of the so-called civilized world and its political, moral and artistic conventions. Leaving his wife and children behind, he ventures alone to the other end of the world— Tahiti—consumed with a yearning for original purity, and ready to sacrifice everything for his quest.
Impoverished and alone, Gauguin pushes deep into the Tahitian jungle, where he meets the native Polynesians and, most importantly, the young Tehura, who will become his muse and inspire his most iconic works of art. During his two-year stay the artist will experience and health problems and existential crises – but with the beautiful girl to carry him through.

Welcome to Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray and DVD Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti.

Vincent Cassel, one of modern world cinema’s leading stars,  gives a career performance as Gauguin, remarkably conveying the interior life of a great painter who has given up everything for his art. Co-starring with him are Tuheï Adams, in a striking cinema debut as Tehura, and multiple César Award nominee Malik Zidi(Water Drops on Burning Rocks).
Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray and DVD of Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti include the featurettes Vincent Cassel is Gauguin and Life and Painting of Gauguin, among other extras.

“Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia” tells the tale of an artist who “paints” only in blood!

Some consider him the “offspring of Fu Manchu.” Margaret Cho commissioned him to paint her portrait in her blood.
Welcome Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia, a film focusing on artist Vincent Castiglia’s painful life of abuse, addiction and recovery while also exploring the reasons why the world renowned artist paints exclusively in human blood.

Castiglia paints surreal images exclusively in human blood. He began doing so as form of self-healing following a troubled childhood and painful existence. From darkness, however, came light, and Castiglia’s story is one of inspiration and hope, providing proof that art can heal and serve to inspire others.
 Cho is interviewed in the film as well as celebrities Gregg Allman, Damien Echols, Kerry King and Gary Holt of the heavy metal band Slayer, record executive Michael Alago and numerous others including filming in the studio and museum of legendary artist H.R. Giger, who designed the iconic creature for the Alien movies.

“God Knows Where I Am” is a disturbing, deeply profound gems

We love when we get a cinematic clutch on great (and usual) flicks. Witness God Knows Where I Am (Juno Films), the story of Linda Bishop, a well-educated New Hampshire mother who suffered from severe bipolar disorder with psychosis, who was intermittently incarcerated and homeless, inevitably being committed for three years to a state psychiatric facility. Successfully fighting her sister’s protective attempts to be named her legal guardian, Linda was able to refuse treatment and medication, and eventually procured an early, unconditional release, despite the lack of post release planning.

Upon her release, she wandered 10 miles down the road from the hospital, broke into an abandoned farmhouse and lived off of rainwater and apples picked from a nearby orchard for the next four months, through one of the coldest winters on record. Unable to leave the house, she became its prisoner, and remained there, a prisoner of her own mind, eventually starving to death.
Her body was discovered several months later and with it a diary that Linda kept documenting her journey. The diary is poignant, beautiful, funny, spiritual, and deeply disturbing. In tackling the subject matter, the filmmakers began from a social justice perspective but their focus quickly shifted to a more intimate and artistic exploration.
How does one depict the interior landscape of a person who is imprisoned by the mind? How does one build empathy for a person who is no longer alive? The story is told from a variety of perspectives, including her own, through recollection and first person narrative.
God Knows Where I Am is both a study of systemic failure and also a testament to the artistic and independent spirit of Linda Bishop. In a state known for its motto of “Live Free or Die”, Linda wanted to live free but given her mental illness, this proved to be a fatal decision. The film poses many provocative questions including the issue of civil liberties of the mentally ill–if one’s mind is not free, how can one truly exercise free will?

The fascinating history behind Shakespeare’s greatest plays concludes with “Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 3”

To be or not to be . . . the owner of Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 3 (PBS Distribution). The answer is obvious: Be!

The fascinating history behind Shakespeare’s greatest plays concludes with celebrated new hosts Helen Hunt, F. Murray Abraham, Romola Garai, Brian Cox, Simon Russell Beale and Sir Antony Sher who seamlessly weave their personal passions with history, biography, iconic performances and new analysis to tell the stories behind Shakespeare’s most famous works. The final season investigates Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale and Richard III.

The program reveals not just the elements in the play, but the history of the play itself. What sparked the creation of each of these works? Where did Shakespeare find his plots and what new forms of theater did he forge? What cultural, political and religious factors influenced his writing? How have the plays been staged and interpreted from Shakespeare’s time to now? Why at different times has each play been popular — or ignored? Why has this body of work endured so thoroughly? What, in the end, makes Shakespeare unique.

PBS Distribution releases “Masterpiece: Poldark 4”

Masterpiece: Poldark, the rip-roaring TV drama called “swoon-worthy” by the Los Angeles Times returns for a fourth season of action-packed episodes, starring Aidan Turner as the roguish Ross Poldark and Eleanor Tomlinson as his fiery partner, Demelza. In Season 4, it’s 1796, and to defend Cornwall and those he loves from an empowered George, Ross must play the political game on a journey that takes him to the nation’s capital and into new perils.

“American Experience: The Circus” celebrates the daze of popular entertainment

Send in the clowns! And elephants and trapeze artists and jugglers and, of course, the ring master.

American Experience: The Circus (PBS Distribution) is a four-hour, two-part documentary exploring the colorful history of this popular, influential and distinctly American form of entertainment.  A transformative place for reinvention, where young women could become lion tamers and young men traveled the world as roustabouts, the circus allowed people to be liberated from the roles assigned by society and find an accepting community that had eluded them elsewhere.

Drawing upon a vast and richly visual archive, and featuring a host of performers, historians and aficionados, The Circus brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town, its stars were among the most famous people in the country, and multitudes gathered to see the improbable and the impossible, the exotic and the spectacular.

The program begins with the history (Part One) of the first one-ring show at the end of the 18th century in Philadelphia when the circus met the disapproval of the religious. In a society that valued sobriety and hard work, a wide-eyed day peering at half-naked aerialists amid shifty circus workers was frowned upon. Soon, circuses began to add elaborate menageries of exotic animals including lions, hippos and elephants, and “human oddities” from across the globe—rebranding themselves as “educational” experiences to concerned communities. Once the infamous showman and huckster P. T. Barnum transformed the trade in 1871, he and his partners created the largest touring show in existence.

The program continues (Part Two) as James Bailey takes his circus to Europe on a five-year tour. When the show paraded through British streets for the first time, throngs of people turned up to watch—and the scene was repeated in towns across Europe. Upon returning the circus tour to the U.S. the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey merged, creating a moving town of more than 1100 people, 735 horses, nearly 1000 other animals and 28 tents.

Featured were some of the most storied circus performers in history, including the famed aerialist Lillian Leitzel; May Worth, who stunned audiences by somersaulting on horseback; and big cat trainer Mabel Stark. In an era when women were still fighting for the right to vote, women circus performers stepped to the forefront of the suffrage movement.

For more than a century, the circus had brought daily life to a standstill. Shows took over rail yards. Parades clogged Main Street. Acres of billowing canvas appeared mirage-like on the outskirts of town. And then, when day broke, the miracle had vanished. Equestrians, sideshow performers, clowns, roustabouts, an enormous collection of curious beasts—all became just figments of a glorious dream.

Wake up America! Jeff Nesbit’s “This is the Way the World Ends” paints a call-to-arms

Adolph Frump doesn’t believe in life.

Yet we are facing down the end of the world as we know it. Previous director of public affairs for two federal science agencies and current executive director of Climate Nexus, Jeff Nesbit offers a “nonpartisan call-to-arms” (Publishers Weekly) to face the environmental challenges humans have created with This is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves, and Hurricanes Are Converging on America (Thomas Dunne Books, $29.99).

This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America

The world itself won’t end, of course. Only ours will: our livelihoods, our homes, our cultures. And we’re squarely at the tipping point. Longer droughts in the Middle East. Growing desertification in China and Africa. The monsoon season shrinking in India. Amped-up heat waves in Australia. More intense hurricanes reaching America. Water wars in the Horn of Africa. Rebellions, refugees and starving children across the globe. These are not disconnected events. These are the pieces of a larger puzzle that environmental expert Jeff Nesbit puts together, check this out: Facts from TIHTWE

Unless we start addressing the causes of climate change and stop simply navigating its effects, we will be facing a series of unstoppable catastrophes by the time our preschoolers graduate from college. Our world is in trouble . . . right now. This Is the Way the World Ends tells the real stories of the substantial impacts to Earth’s systems unfolding across each continent. The bad news? Within two decades or so, our carbon budget will reach a point of no return.

But there’s good news. Like every significant challenge we’ve faced—from creating civilization in the shadow of the last ice age to the Industrial Revolution—we can get out of this box canyon by understanding the realities, changing the worn-out climate conversation to one that’s relevant to every person. Nesbit provides a clear blueprint for real-time, workable solutions we can tackle together.

How good is the book? Says Senator John Kerry:  “With This is the Way the World Ends Jeff Nesbit has delivered an enlightening—and alarming—explanation of climate challenge as it exists today. Climate change is no far-off threat. It’s impacting communities all over the world at this very moment, and we ignore the scientific reality at our own peril. The good news? As Nesbit underscores, disaster is not preordained. The global community can meet this moment—and we must.”

 

Art21’s “Art in the Twenty-First Century” underscores what great art (and a great Peabody Award-winning series) is all about

The ninth season of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century underscores what great art (and a great Peabody Award-winning series) is all about. Season 9 charts art making in three urban centers-–Berlin, Johannesburg and the San Francisco Bay Area-–featuring twelve artists and one non-profit art center who each respond to the forces shaping the places where they live and work, while pursuing their personal visions for a better future.

Viewers will travel the world with Art21 to be inspired by the creative processes of today’s most compelling artists in the ninth season of the series gives viewers unprecedented access to the leading creative minds of our time, drawing upon artists’ relationships with the places in which they work.

“Queen: Song By Song” proves why the music and magic lives on

There must be more to life than this. There is. Welcome Queen: Song By Song ( Voyageur Press, $30), the thoughtfully curated and gloriously illustrated retrospective of Queen’s studio releases, with a diverse cast of musicians, journalists and more, discussing and dissecting the making of each album. Perfect timing indeed: The book is hits shelves just in time for the 45th anniversary of their debut LP and the upcoming feature film biopic.

Queen Album by Album

Formed in 1970, Queen went on to become one of the most popular—and most successful—rock bands of all time. Even following the untimely death of beloved and magnetic frontman Freddie Mercury, and nearly 50 years after their formation, interest in the band has continued, evidenced by scores of reissues, arena tours with surviving members, and the upcoming feature-film biopic.

In this new installment in Voyageur Press’s Album by Album series,  Martin Popoff convenes a cast of 19 Queen experts and superfans to discuss all 15 of the band’s studio albums (including their soundtrack for the 1980 film Flash Gordon). Among the cast of musicians, journalists and music industry pros exploring Queen’s recorded output are Paul McCartney, Dee Snider, Dave Ellefson, Queen producer Mack, Derek Shulman, Jeb Wright, Daniel Nester and many other experts. The results are freewheeling discussions delving into the individual songs, the circumstances that surrounded the recording of each album, the band and contemporary rock contexts into which they were released.

The engaging text of this beautifully designed book is illustrated throughout with rare live performance and candid offstage photography, as well as scads of rare Queen ephemera.

The Album by Album series is a unique approach to the rock bio, injecting the varied voices of several contributors. The results have even the most diehard fans rushing back to their MP3 players (or turntables) to confirm the details and opinions expressed.

Patti Callahan writes the epic tale of Joy Davidson, writer and poet . . . and the only woman C.S. Lewis married

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, the exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, a 1940-50s writer and poet and the only woman C. S. Lewis ever married. In the vein of popular exploratory novels that uplift and uncover brilliant women forgotten to the past,  comes the untold story of the woman who helped inspire some of  Lewis’ best known works.

“Joy Davidman has been portrayed as the dying woman in Shadowlands,” explains Callahan, “but in researching Joy, I came to believe that she’d like to be understood as more than a woman who died well on a movie screen. She was a fiery woman who lived bravely and was alert and curious to the mysterious world she wanted to understand.”

When Joy began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known to close friends and family as “Jack”—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage to her abusive, alcoholic husband William Lindsay Gresham, a well-regarded author during the era.

“There were conflicting narratives about her and I wanted to know this woman,” adds Callahan. “I wanted to understand her and how she changed not only her life but also the life and work of one of our most beloved authors of the twentieth century—C.S. Lewis.”

Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration, we meet a fiercely independent mother and a passionate woman who lived during a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

“Joy matters today because we are just now seeing these fascinating women dredged from the mud of the past. Joy is rarely given credit for the muse, best friend, co-author, love and wife she was to C. S. Lewis, and I hope this book helps to right that. Let’s meet the woman beside the man.”

 

Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some