” After the first minute, I knew this would not be an LA – guns – and – car – crash film.
There was artistry, care and attention to detail, but most of all an homage to intelligence – allowing the audience to think for themselves. Cali dares us to sit and watch or else, just – turn on a re – run of, say… “Columbo”. I kept writing as I watched in response, not out of criticism, but, tracking, as a witness. As in any art form – that refuses to be told – I let go and it took me back to where all art should take us: to love, to oneself and forgiveness for the natural sin of guilt.
The dreamy woman, almost asleep on the stern of the boat is not just the character, she IS the film maker, her subconscious streaming, inviting us into the pre – sleep dream that we all understand, like T. S. Elliot’s “Love Song Of J. Alfred Proofrock”:
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky,
Like a patient etherized upon a table…”
The woman dreaming on the boat is our abraxas or the horizon line before the sun drops to the darkness of another day or, the light that explains, prepares us for the events and responsibilities of the agenda’s we all set for ourselves, during the waking hours. She could be a surfer girl or the beauty who zips by on blades along the promenade in Venice, leaving those in her wake, cranking necks to watch her disappear into the anonymous crowd.
But, Cali never allows us to look away. At times she gazed straight into the camera, definitely, stating, without fear or apology – that she knew we were there. We all knew why she was there. Her personal strength and as the character’s – evolves: committed, palpable, specific and alive placing us, on the other side of the proscenium yet – in her thrall. It is a comfort to the viewer – we do not have to worry.
Wings was beautiful. So simple and true; thoughtful, at times, funny but slightly repentant as the handsome old man next to the clock with no hands. I never thought I could feel sympathy for a deity but he made me realize that even God recognized that there was a new sheriff in town and – it wasn’t John Wayne.
Something happens to us. We have to dare to accept the intricacies, the subtle nuance of the literate dialogue, scenes that would rival Brecht, Pirandello or a French Film Auteur’s like Jean – Luc Godard, invoked from the 1950’s. It was no “he – said, she – listens”, conventional scenes out of a Syd Fields plot – point script designed to “sell” to the “suits”. It demanded that “attention must be paid”, with distinct references to literature, history, art, dance and music. At times the film makes fun of the Greecian conventions of “Beginning, Middle and End”. Cali knew you were keeping score, thinking you were a step ahead. No, she knew. Poof! “Doc” makes mention of the structure of the film, alluding to story development – or lack thereof. Just sit back and accept it, on its own structure. (Cali’s music, her singing, her lyrics with Wings playing the instruments underneath, throughout, seemed to mix naturally into the feast like herbs directly plucked from the garden).
But horror and fear, a subtle reference to a Snub Nose 38, all co – mingled with the proud, personal denial of one’s own racism and the ever – present fear of one’s own sexuality, a topic that pinches us into squeamishness and denial for those of us brought up in the “goodness” of the puritanical Judeo/Christian tradition. No! Throw all that out! You’re on your own…
I rarely think about films after I’ve seen them once. I’ve watched “La Strada” a hundred times and will watch again – any time it’s offered. And I know I will cry at the end. I know it. I access something about myself every time I find out “she passed away”. The same applies to “Cool Hand Luke” when Newman plays a banjo to his mother’s death. “Waiting for Godot” never allows me to “think clearly” but I will rush to get a ticket to see it again.
If I am honest and willing to have the courage to see into my own fears, “Eve N God This Female Is Not Yet Rated” helped explain the inexorable pull to sexual jealousy, possessive impulses of the women I’ve known and loved. I recognize, with regret, any rights I might have imposed on their thoughts and feelings, that I could invoke on their desires, on nature or on humanity itself – especially when it comes to love. No one has the right to climb into the hypothalamus of someone else’s brain and tell that 3 pound organ that those pleasure impulses, those electrical charges of desire are within the purview of another, not in spite of marital commitment, but – in the nurturing of the those lucky enough to wake up in the morning and say, “ I love you – but I don’t own you”. In a strange way, the experience “liberated” me from the fear of sexual possession. The universe knows what it wants from us all and, sometimes – we simply must – just, get out of the way.
This film would be in demand, played on a loop in NYC art houses, women’s movements, LGBTQ community and anyone who thinks they are better than the ones they stand next to, in line, at the DMV. Men who think they are “MEN”! – Oh, really?
It takes astonishing courage to step out of the confines of linear expectations, walk alone into the woods with just a True North compass; to launch a small, single – woman sailboat into the Pacific, living out of the sea. Or – to make a film, in LA, with a beggars budget and, yet, have it all become so intellectually gratifying and allowing us to think on it long after.
Gary Swanson’s show business career began in the circus as a Steel Pier High Diver in Atlantic City. He moved to NYC and became a contract player on Day Time TV show “Somerset” leading to a life – long career as film, TV and theater actor. He’s written for numerous magazines, taught masters programs. He still acts, directs, writes and produces. His political barnburner, If You Can Keep It, is in development. He lives by the Atlantic in Montauk, NY.
“ We raised and released 42 monarch butterflies last season and during this year’s cycle from the returning mommy monarch fluttering all around our faces, entrusting us with her eggs, to the fat caterpillar crawling into chrysalis then magic emerging newborn into flight, I marvel that every moment is a “time of useful consciousness.”
“Time of Useful Consciousness is an aviation term defined in Wikipedia:
“the amount of time an individual is able to function effectively (e.g. perform flying duties) in an environment of inadequate oxygen supply. It is the period of time from the interruption of the oxygen supply or exposure to an oxygen-poor environment to the time when useful function is lost, and the individual is no longer capable of taking proper corrective and protective action. At the higher altitudes, the TUC becomes very short; considering this danger, the emphasis is on prevention rather than cure.”
Like many young Americans aware of gaps in my education I know enough to understand these midterm elections 2022 are indeed a “time of useful consciousness” for the ideas we cherish, for humans being, wildlife, sea-life, America, global democracy, the survival of our mothership, this blue planet and the multiverse in which we float, hurtling toward our future past in a time-space continuum which barely recognizes us.
“Losing consciousness” would mean losing democracy and sinking into the warm bath before the ice cold fascism shuts down humanity by legally assassinating the constitution from within, using our own petard as hoist.
We’ve managed to avoid asteroids and now, we know how to billiard them away from impact with our cool-AF NASA pool cue. Now we must build ourselves a different kind of pool cue to tip away impending “asteroids” hurled at us by the 21st century American iteration of that smelly old cult of authoritarians, that deadliest plague on humanity, fascism.
Break down the word “fascism” for demystification in the word “fascia” a thin casing of connective tissue binding together the internal structure of a body.
Our choices in life, including a girls’ right to make her own decisions, will be subject to the will of the state, which will always usurp the will of every individual.
Not just HER choice.
YOUR choice too.
Every individual would serve the state. Not just the unfortunate 10-year-old rape victim in some news story.
You will serve the fascist state.
You down to clown?
The “us and them” mentality serves fascism. Are you REALLY “US” ? Or are you really THEM?
Are you a member of the LGBTQ community?
Are you Jewish?
Are you a person of color?
A vegan ?
“Are you … or have you ever been … ”
It’s been said that antisemitism is the oldest hatred and while those old tropes live on in conservative ideologies,
I’ve posited in my movie “Eve N’ God This Female Is Not Yet Rated “ with original soundtrack album “this female is not yet rated“ that the “independent female” characters known as “Eve” and “Lillith” from the Bible story, who represented “female freedom,” were the original “scapegoats” illustrating that older hatred against : the independent female.
Anyone feminine, including those in the LGBTQ community, any femme creature who is vulnerable, wild – and free, including wildlife, sea life and nature was and is demonized and targeted for control.
The power of the independent female, which I suggest, thrives in the souls of all living beings thinking freely, yearning for an independent free existence on this beautiful blue planet, was and is – so scary to the patriarchal “state” of mind, SHE in all her wildness, beauty and freedom, needed to be “tamed, “held back, lest she “learn” too much from that “tree of knowledge” and choose to leave Eden for a new kind of paradise.
In my movie, I’m suggesting that the “original sin” was and is, in fact, the sin against our sisters. “eVe” tells about the added disgrace of Nazi Germany, along with the dehumanizing of Jewish persons labeled by “yellow triangles” and that of homosexuals by “pink triangles,” women with “choice” who opted for birth control and lesbians were labeled with “black triangles.”
“they were called workshy”
My movie posits that the supremacist societal ideals expressed by the psychotic Nazi slogan “work makes free” be countered by a 21st Century humanist ideal :
“Play Makes Free”
The hatreds function like a roaming virus seeking entry points at weakened gateways of the body politic. As if some cosmic surgeon left behind a scalpel for an opportune infection moment. That moment when a culture sleeps through her “time of useful consciousness,” relaxes into the simmering bath, if only just to rest from the incessant drone of propaganda garbage pails spilling over into the street, courts, congress, the connective tissue.
You know that moment when your dentist, doctor, veterinarian, or lawyer delegates the bill for their services because this highly paid “professional” needs to look away from you and your dog or cat, like so many look away from a homeless person?
High paid “professionals” benefit from American “Liberal Arts” education, yet some denigrate the word “liberal.” American culture has been poisoned. Some of us chose to defend our liberal arts, while others just cashed in at the ATM. We need these professionals to stand up with us, the people, if only at the ballot box.
I could quote Emerson, Thoreau, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Studs Terkel, Leonard Cohen, Tupac – many “liberal” cultural icons warning us against cultural poison.
I’ll just sample Thomas Paine:
“ ‘Had we a place to stand upon, we might raise the world ‘ The revolution of America presented in politics what was only a theory and mechanics. So deeply rooted for all of us, governments of the old world,and so effectually had the tyranny, and the antiquity of habit established itself over the mind that no beginning could be made in Asia, Africa, or Europe , to reform the political condition of man, freedom has been hunted around the globe, reason was considered as rebellion and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think.”
We never dealt with what happened during that other “time of useful consciousness” : the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. So now, let’s use it wisely.
Let’s bind together our connective tissue : all decent Americans, all women , persons of color, LGBTQIA, anyone who cares about wildlife, sealife, nature, climate change, natural disasters, clean air , clean water, ocean life … Mother Earth – let’s all of us , together, finally use this “time of useful consciousness” to form “the more perfect union. “
Let’s beat the fascists at their own game, “binding” together, so we don’t fall for anything, and everything, anymore. “
In today’s 21 st Century Media eco-system I’d extend the urgency of “Play Makes Free” toward a subject that in full disclosure directly affects my professional work and personal life so I have a vested interest, but I believe that makes it no less relevant. I’m referring to what I call “ the gentrification of culture,” which in my opinion has flooded the cultural conversation spaces of both big money media and social media with corporate dollars to such a saturated tipping point that our very freedom of thought , our ability to think independently away from the corporate “cultural industrial complex “ has become an endangered species. Independent artists, working class artists, are the canaries in the coal mine and if we are not provided access to distribution of our independent art, including film, music and all forms of media our cultures will continue to bottle-feed from ideas by corporate money mind instead of finding “soul-food” from home-grown, wild-harvested, organic artists like me tending our crops, bringing them to market like farmers and food-growers, like artisans of handmade bread or cheese or cookies, distributing them fairly. In my letter to Congress and the Executive Branch I referenced the recent fair meat distribution bill put forward by Senator Jon Tester in Montana who stands up for independent meat producers. We need a similar bill for independent artists. You can read an excerpt from my letter to Congress and the Executive Branch here : “Independent Artists are First Responders To The Soul Of Culture” https://calililiindies.com/2022/07/10/independent-artists-are-first-responders-to-the-soul-of-culture-dearworld-lets-quit-our-addiction-to-superiority-dominance-motherearth-kindnessculture-thrive-21st/
Actress-Director & Singer-Songwriter Cali Lili was skipped several grades (having been tested as reading at college level in grade school) took her first college course in the entire works of Shakespeare, at age 13, never graduated high-school, never even went to a prom, was swooped up, by NYU, then earned her Masters’ Degree on full scholarship with awards / stellar reviews for early works.
The Cali Lili ™ Band recorded Cali’s original Debut Album: “ this female is not yet rated ™️“which forms the core of the soundtrack for her debut Oscars 2020 Contender feature film 🎬 eVe N’god this female is not yet rated ™️“ 🎬 available on iTunes movies 🍎 Apple TV, Google Play Movies, YouTube movies & Vimeo worldwide. Album available on Apple Music 🍎 etc
Most Recently Cali was hired by award-winning producers to sing one of her songs on camera as the title track for an upcoming documentary .
That on camera recording session was filmed at the legendary “Nightbird Studios” housed in the equally legendary Rock N’ Roll hotel the “Sunset Marquis” in Hollywood. There was thunder and lightning in Hollywood that night. ‘Nuff said.
Stay tuned for the release of that new single, lyrics uploads and more upcoming movies & music by Cali Lili from her sustainable upcycled SustainableStudio™️ a SurfShackLoFt™️ green space in Venice Beach Los Angeles where Cali composes and releases sustainable movies & music.
You can read an edited version of this essay published as a guest piece at Will Pollock’s Cranky Yank