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Monday, June 1, 2009

Hendrix-inspired French Art, Varda Rocks and Bike and Brunch Rolls

Looking at his abstract works of startling colors, Thierry Guillemin waxes rhapsodically about Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and other music luminaries. It's the music that inspires the Toulouse, France-born artist who has a current show at Studio Gallery in Dupont Circle. He even named one of the paintings Voodoo Chile, in honor of the Hendrix song he recalls listening to at the time. His new show, Aparte (Stage Whisper) - "like when an actor turns to the audience to say something" he whispers - will brighten Studio's downstairs until June 20, including another "opening" this Friday during Dupont's monthly First Friday. Check it out, after mingling with the throngs at nearby Hillyer's Post Secret show. (The man behind the mega-concept, Frank Warren, made an appearance at the surprisingly low-key Artomatic on Friday and was easily the most popular guy in the room.)

"I am alive, and I remember." These are the closing words of Agnes Varda in her remarkable new film, The Beaches of Agnes, that had its DC premier yesterday afternoon at the National Gallery. It was a mesmerizing two hours, as the four-score Varda takes us through her incredible film-making career and her loving marriage to film genius Jacques Demy. Funny that French Embassy cutural attache Roland Celette was in the packed (truly) art house, because I'm sure he would love to show this film at the Embassy. If any film ever begged for a follow-up wine reception, this one did. Varda portrays her life with incredible creativity, starting with mirrors on the beach, moving ahead to a Cinema Paradiso-type segment of two middle-age sons watching footage of their father for the first time - footage shot by Varda - on a moving cart through town! We see early film roles for Gerard Depardieu, Phillipe Noiret (speaking of CP) and... Harrison Ford; leading actors like Jane Birkin standing in for Varda to air her thoughts; snippets of her masterly films that I wish AFI would do a retropsective of (see if you can rent a copy of Lions Love - it looks like a wild romp and stars "Hair" composers Ragni and Rado, Warhol girl Viva, Jim Morrison, who Varda used to have dinner with, and director Peter Bogdonavich). Yes, she is 80, but there is nothing old or plodding about this film. It's one of the most exciting that I've ever seen. I will let you know when it plays again.

On the June radar, look for a couple big Bike & Brunch events - a Happy Hour Wednesday, June 10 at Sequoias in Georgetown and Sunday, June 14 the annual Fletcher's Boathouse Barbecue. The 5th Anniversary Duke Ellington Jazz Festival runs from June 5-15. I'll try to look it over and post some of the free highlights. There's a Pay-What-You-Can on June 17 and 18 of Theatre J's last production of the year, Seagull on 16th Street. (I'll try to go on the 18th - Nordic Jazz Festival is on 16th and 17th.) Their last three productions have been fantastic - Dai, The Accident, and Rise and Fall of Annie Hall.

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