Nuban wrestlers, detail, vanquished carrying victor
In the United States the photograph was shown in Life, or National Geographic ... I was eleven, maybe still only ten. That photograph has lived with me ever since, though I never saw it again until last night.
Watching The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, already riveted, I went bug-eyed when she showed the second of two photographs that had changed her life. The first had gotten her into movies; the second was the Nuban wrestlers --MY photograph. She narrated that it had moved her to quick-exit-left: the Sudan. She lived among the Nubans, danced with them, filmed them.
Leni Riefenstahl’s images had already formed much of my esthetic by the time I was ten. As a college friend explained to me (Jewish college friend), the reason all those news clips of Hitler and his Nazi rallies between features at the movie theaters during WWII were so stirring is that our documentary makers used Leni Riefenstahl’s footage. The sound track said Boo, but the visual track shouted Yea!
(The real information (the macroinformation) contradicted -- and trumped! -- the supposed information.)
I believe Riefenstahl when she iterated that she was never a Nazi. I believe her when she says that however much Goebbels wanted to get into her pants, she couldn’t stand him. BUT Leni Riefenstahl is THE genius of victory. Sieg Heil.
(And Leni Riefenstahl is THE genius of athleticism cresting as transcendant.)
Now the top wrestler in Roger’s photo is absolutely magnificent. I forgive myself for so responding to him as a child. I still respond to him today.
I still respond to Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, to her Olympiad. When I was six or eight I responded to the Saturday morning parades, building up the high school football game. I thought the drum majorette was a beauty queen. I’d be a couple of years older before I saw instead a skinny adolescent with goose pimples from the autumn cold: showing flesh that had nothing to show. By the time I was in junior high the football ritual embarrassed me in all ways.
The Nuban wrestlers are naked for the occasion: decorated though with gray dust. At the end of the occasion though the whole tribe would still be pretty much naked: with more everyday decoration.
Were those two to meet again, the outcome conceivably could reverse. Without Roger’s document, the moment was evanescent: both ancient and transient.
Hitler wanted France to carry him on its shoulders today, tomorrow ... for a thousand years. That’s the part that’s disgusting to me: our willingness to destroy the world to extend our time share.
Down the road lives a tribe of Nuba who decorate their faces on occasion. In twenty minutes any one of them can paint himself a unique design, as original, as startling, as beautiful as a Picasso. When they wash it off it’s gone forever: except for the endurance of the culture. Snowflakes: unique, gorgeous, gone.
Without Roger’s image I wouldn’t know that moment, and neither would Riefenstahl. With photography, with intrusive record keeping, we’re all Hitlers: unfortunates bearing us on their shoulders.
Was any of the fighting fair?
I just poked around, for the first time, a new-Nazi web site (just checking on my spelling for "Sieg Heil"). They said that Nazis are for greatness. (Well then they must be for a zillion things that Hitler’s Nazis were against! Much of the art they burned, for example.) They said they were for nature, beauty, health ... Well, in that sense then Leni Riefenstahl was the perfect Nazi. (So then who where those ugly stupid shit heads she worked for?) And so am I. And who isn’t?
German romanticism. Man!
I recommend The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl to anyone who isn’t already expert on her work. I’ll wait a while, then watch it again: if only to see at least once more her climbing vertical rocks at the top of the Alps (no ropes) barefoot, in a dress!
And she lived past 100. What a woman.
I don’t doubt that I’ll want to continue to add scrapbook-type jottings to this post. But it belongs at Knatz.com, slim and trim, with a scrapbook file linked from it.
As of today Tiger is a shot behind David Duval in Japan. Welcome back David! The divine Federer beat the wonderful Coria in Shanghai. Roger is running 80 wins to 3 loses in 2005. Two more victories and he’ll match McEnroe’s 82-3 of 1984. I wouldn’t mind if Michael, Tiger, Roger ... Ali ... never lost. But if they were still riding another guy’s shoulders beyond a discrete celebration period, I’d agitate to shoot them. Sports victories seem innocent. What Nixon did to get elected is not. What General Motors did to sell more cars is not.
But, as long as the core of the public tolerate GM and US welded piggyback, what can I do? But grind my teeth.
In the big world I hate the concept of Victory. In the stadium I’m still a little kid.
As soon as I found Rodger’s photo on line last night, finally knowing how to search for and find it, not easy before recently, since we refused to make it easy in 1970 with FLEX, I wrote bk how seeing that photo again sure puts Ali, Michael, Tiger ... in perspective. The movie concocts some trick to show Brad Pitt and Achilles leaping above some Goliath and piercing him neck to knee. We’ve seen Michael in enough real games to know that the spectacular really can happen. The Nuba show us that it’s been happing since before Homer.
And until we get archival footage of Homo erectus, we ain’t seen nothin’. Extinct, there have been pre-men who could eat Shaq and Jim Brown for breakfast, the women and children also covering territory that would challenge a leopard.