Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Really tall blue people with mobile ears…

February 17, 2010

So, it has finally happened. Rumpole took me and Lookingforbeauty to see Avatar in the 3D version. The result of this screening has been an ongoing argument between Rumpole and me. He firmly states that my “inner child” has gone and left the building, leaving behind old husk of crone who is impossible to amuse. I keep telling him my “inner child” is very much with me, thank you very much, but perhaps it is a much more discriminating and discerning “inner child” than is his.

“What you really are saying, “Snakebite” (his pet name for me when he is not pleased by my reactions), is that you are of superior intellect, aren’t you?” he snarls back at me.

“Not at all, my dear one. I am just merely being me.”

Apparently this critical me is one of which he is not at all fond. You see, I committed the grave error of uttering a loud guffaw during the screening when the term ‘unobtainium’ was used to refer to a chunk of glowing, floating hunk of rock. And of course, from that point on my reactions travelled south rather quickly, to the point that no amount of visual splendour and technical brinksmanship saved the movie for me. I felt stupid being a one-eyed woman wearing 3-D glasses along with the rest of the crowd in the dark. My derriere grew roots into the plush seat and my legs started jiggling along to the beat of the Disneyfied music, all on their own. I experienced the weird sensation of sitting through a tedious video game I was never going to be able to win.

But what really got me was the blue people of attenuated Barbie and Ken physiognomy with their Anime-styled eyes, their o-so-cute mobile ears referencing their status as animal-like aliens, their cat-walk fashion loin cloths and their stylish dreads. I so lusted after an elegant and mobile braid which could magically link me with all other living creatures, like the plug on my lamp connects to a mysterious-to-me electrical source.

“Keep watching their tails,” urged Rumpole, “They are somehow important.”

I watched and watched, but could only see the tails registering various emotional states in the blue people. This was Rumpole’s second viewing of Avatar, and boy, did he get that business of the tails being important wrong!

References to Transformers, Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas abounded. The dialogue was truly lame. The story arc comic booky. The acting predictable. I confess to being thoroughly bored and made the error of telling Rumpole so.

“Well! I won’t be going to the movies again with you any time soon. This was supposed to be entertaining.” He is adamant. He will not go to the movies with me again.

Oh well! I am so shattered…Not! Those blue people did me in for popular movies. Now, if James Cameron had somehow mixed in a story line with a blue Mr. Bean or a blue M. Hulot, or the overacting goofball antics of a blue Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, there might have been some snorts of needed laughter from little old me, squinting like Popeye’s mother through the 3D Glasses.

The Luncheon…

January 29, 2008

Some years ago, my friend, “Admiral’s Ex-Wife”, sustained me through the organization of a good-bye luncheon for female teaching cronies. This was shortly after I was dismissed from the leukemia ward and just prior to Rumpole and me moving down to the coast to be closer to further medical treatment. AE-F ensured the sandwiches were just so, crustless and fresh, the salad crisp and the tea, the correct temperature. It was just a tad too precious and refined for me, but I got through the luncheon having learned more precise lady-like manners and didn’t drop the teetering tea-cup over a visiting guest. The whole lunch and tea was entirely pleasant. It reinforced firmly in my memory not only the good collegial relationship we had shared, but also the individual natures and value of various teaching colleagues.

About six years ago a young friend (and model for Venus for our infamous Naked Lunch) was moving to Edmonton with her young husband, who was to begin medical School at the UofA Edmonton. Lila was a young woman of wonderful character, lively, intelligent and someone I was only too glad to have as a friend. EB, our young woman-poet friend, someone Rumpole and I considered a much appreciated “loaner daughter”, was also friends with Lila. The three of us decided to have a farewell lunch together before Lila’s departure to the wilds of Edmonton. EB decided to be hostess, which was just fine by me.

Lila and I were instructed to drive to the local East Indian restaurant to pick up an order of Samosas and Chick peas, then to cruise by the local liquor outlet to purchase a good bottle of red wine and then, to make our way to EB’s town-house to chow down, chat and say our good-byes. As Lila and I were taking off our boots and coats in EB’s vestibule, EB chattered at us in her up-beat EB fashion and then announced. “We have a special treat for us today. A short video, made by a film-maker friend back East, just arrived yesterday. We have to watch it together!”

She served the samosas and poured wine for each of us, then made us take up places in front of the TV set and set up the video. “Just wait,” she said with a grin, “you’re gonna love this one! Brent and I watched it last night and were completely blown away by it.”

We toasted Lila, clicked our wine-glasses together and took a bite of samosa as the title came up on the screen. “The Rite of Passage Party”, in arty font appeared. The ‘documentary’ unfolded in front of us as we sipped and munched our luncheon fare. A young twenty-something man complained to his live-in girlfriend that he felt cheated by life, that he had not had a proper ceremony to mark his passage into manhood. As he presented himself on the screen as an uncircumcised male, he proposed to his girlfriend a solution to his feeling of being an incomplete adult, and that was to hold a circumcision party for himself. At this point I choked on a bite of samosa, which I then tried to wash down with a swift gulp of wine. Lila started cackling and said “Oh, no….he can’t be serious?”

“Just wait, you guys,” EB cast me a concerned glance as I sputtered. “It gets even better!”

Sure enough, the young man’s live-in girlfriend rolled her eyes in disbelief and said, to the effect, “whatever….” Next, we saw him designing invitations and posters for his “celebration/happening”, making up guest lists, trying to line up caterers, someone to perform the actual circumcision. The printer where he sought to have invitations and posters printed though he was nuts, but, hey, he was a paying customer, so he duly printed the stuff to be sent out. After the mail-out of invitations, the young man’s friends, one by one contacted him by phone and asked if this whole thing was for real, or was he maybe kidding? He reassured them that this was a serious and solemn occasion and that he wanted them to celebrate with him. It was coming up with a skilled circumciser that he was having a hard time. He made an appointment with a Rabbi from a local synagogue and eloquently pleaded his case. naturally, the Rabbi sent him packing. By this point the three of us women had dissolved in incredulous laughter. What next? EB replenished our wine glasses. We watched the screen with rapt attention.

The young man, retired to his apartment/studio that he shared with his girl-friend. He sat down in his overstuffed easychair recliner in front to a wall covered in Modernist ‘penis paintings’ and proceeded to give his problem some thought. It occurred to him that maybe the local tatoo-parlour operator, Mike S, could do the required operation. Cut to young man in the tattoo parlour beseeching Mike S to do the deed, while Mike S is carefully needling a snake on some poor sap’s epidermis. A true professional, Mike S, doesn’t miss a beat with his repeated fine needle poking upon hearing this request, and promises to problem solve around how he could perform this operation. “I deal in skin” he points out. “Isn’t foreskin skin? I’ll practice.”

By this time, I was practically rolling on the ground. This was the most unexpected entertainment for a luncheon, but how would the story be resolved? Why would a young man willingly seek out such pain? EEK!!! Lila was perched on the edge of her chair. “This is unthinkable!” she kept muttering, between swigs of wine.

Cut next to Mike S practising on surgery on water-filled balloons – this was most surreal. We girls kept saying to the young man on the screen, “don’t, oh no, please don’t do this!” All to no avail. In spite of all his invitees refusing to come to this important celebration because they all think he is nuts, the young man hits the streets in an attempt to inveigle complete strangers into witnessing “his rite of passage”.

The occasion arrives. The witnesses all arrive in their cocktail-hour finery, bearing gifts. They hang about doing small talk and sip on martinis and wine, munch hors d’oeuvres. The ‘operating dais’ is the young man’s overstuffed recliner covered in white sheets and towels. It sits in the middle of the living room and as guest circulate, they cast doubtful glances at it. The time for the circumcision arrives. Mike S, ceremonially garbed in a wildly-coloured t-shirt, covered in tatoos, takes up his position beside the dais, scalpel in hand. The young man makes his announcent to all assembled and takes his place on the dais. Someone covers him in white towels, and the guests crowd closer, casting at each other disbelieving looks. The live-in girlfriend passes a large bottle of Johnny Walker Red to the young man, which he then chug-a-lugs. Ah, that good old anaesthetic stand-by, used in Western films for casual operations on fatal wounds, and now, in this Eastern film for an impromptu circumcision. The camera pans to Mike S’s scalpel wielding hand approaching a white towel expanse. Cut to loud screaming and fadeout-to black.

By this point, I’ve been chewing the edge of my wine-glass, Lila is moaning, “oh no, no, nooo….how could they?” EB is watching our reactions carefully. She has seen it all last night with her husband.

The film ends with a monologue by the young man, sitting alone in his living-room on the overstuffed chair in front of the wall of penis paintings. The room is empty of all other furniture and belongings. It seems the live-in girlfriend  felt it incumbent upon her to leave off cohabiting with the young man. She has moved out and on, leaving him alone, in his now painful state of acknowledged and duly celebrated and witnessed man-hood. He waxes philosophical; he feels completely at ease with his situation, physically and psychically – only expresses regret that his girl-friend abandoned him at such a profound juncture of his life. End of short film.

Only now does EB reveal that this is not a documentary, but a short fiction scripted, cast with professional actors and shot and edited by the filmmaker and his technical crew. Lila and I explain how we both felt the film had the candour and directness of a documentary, and that the disjunctures in the film had a real splice-of life quality. The acting had been unactorly, improvisational in feel. Thus we both felt that it had been an artful short film that should be seen by many other people. We all agreed, however, that had our husbands been with us watching this film, none of us would have been able to react without flinching and being uncomfortable about their possible reactions.

So, there is my tale of two different luncheons with lady friends and colleagues. I cannot ever imagine watching this film with the “Admiral’s Wife” or with the teaching cronies. We operated in circumstances of social and political correctness, and I had been their token ‘wild’ colleague – the art teacher, who they all probably suspected hid her seamier tendencies under careful P.C. wraps. Lila and EB had been my models and friend and we enjoyed a less correctly prescribed social relationship where such a topic as the one in the film we watched together would not be considered by any of us to be an improper topic discussed at a ladies’ luncheon.

Troglodyte life…

May 18, 2007

There is a wonderful snippet of a scene in the movie “Delicatessen” where troglodyte dwellers in a subterranean service and sewer world  arrive at a momentous decision by playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. This quirky and charming bit of goofiness is but one of many surprising elements that play through this movie of dark humour. The idea of troglodytes was rather fascinating to me, as I do recognize pervasive troglodyte tendencies in myself and have experienced a number of years of below the surface living.

When we first arrived in Canada, some charity agencies that provided hard goods to newcomers delivered a wooden apple crate full of comic books and magazines among which were several issues of National Geographic.  It was in one of these where an article on the cave dwelling people of Anatolia accompanied by strange and wondrous photographs of an alien terrain provided many hours of fascination and rumination for me. In my imagination, I could feel the dim moist coolness of the hollowed out sandstone chambers, the hard-packed grittiness of sandstone floors on my bare feet and the abrasive brush of stone walls agains my exploring hand and fingers. A bed could be a ledge hollowed out from the wall, small niches could support necessary utensils – a lamp, a jug, a few tools.  I entertained myself for a long time, elaborating on what life might be like living in such caves.

It was during high school years that I began to study art history. Particularly fascinating to me were the early Renaissance paintings of saints who had withdrawn from the hubbub of common life to live in ascetic solitude, in landscapes sere and harsh. The illustrated terrains were rocky, austere and uninviting. One could imagine  a saint’s life being stripped to the bare essentials of daily survival. Yet, the various saints looked beatific, serene and satisfied, content to find themselves in such forbidding settings.

At age 23, having fallen from grace, a single, unwed mother, I embarked on a number of years of living below the surface.  The only accommodation that I could afford for baby Renaissance Man and myself were basement suites with minimal services – electricity, ambient heat from the central heating of houses, rudimentary stove, shared fridges and bathrooms and tiny sliver-like windows set high up on walls that allowed watery light into these cave-like environs. In the first few years, these basement apartments were furnished by the landlord.  Table with mismatched chairs, a box-spring and mattress, a bookshelf and an old overstuffed chair perfect for lounging on to read and study late at night. To these dwellings I brought Renaissance Man’s crib, then bed, his clothes, books and toys, my clothes, dishes and cooking implements, my text books and school stuff and an alarm-clock-radio. We spent much time out during the day, enjoying weather of all kinds, the neighbourhood, the playground and sometimes longer treks to the beach a couple of miles away.

One such abode, one favourable and comfortable to recall, was a tiny two room basement suite in the area just outside the University gates. It had tiny windows, cedar clad walls with built in shelving and cleverly concealed built in closet which house all of our clothes. There was a small alcove built into the wall separating the two small spaces – in this was a fitted mattress which became Renaissance Man’s little bedchamber. One little room became his playroom, with rolls of large paper taped to the long wall where he could draw with crayons and pencils to his heart’s content. His books were accessible from the small book-case, and his toys were placed about here, ready for play. My mattress and box-spring bed I dragged into the space adjoining the two rooms and this gave an illusion of privacy for both of us. The large abstract painting my art schoool friend Barry gave me for my 23rd birthday, provided beautiful jewel-like colour on the dark wall above my bed. On the door hiding the closet hung my friend Carol’s hard edge painting from one of her series of closet abstractions. The book-shelves in the kitchen housed my collection of text-books, few art books and some of my pottery dishes and mugs.

We lived a quiet life here, cocooned and comfortable.  It was spare living, but very comforing. There was a park with lovely shrubbery and trees across the street, a playground, a view of the North Shore mountains. Grocery shopping was close by, in fact, my University, RM’s day care provider, doctor and friends were within walking distance. My Statistics prof lived two houses over from us, and her little daughter was RM’s age.  Her nanny would bring her over to the playground across the street in the park, where she would stand transfixed and terrified to move and get herself dirty, arms upraised in a “Yuck” gesture while Renaissance Man did his best to entice her to play with him by demonstrating how to make sand landscapes with his little shovels and pail. He reveled in the unrestricted freedom of the open spaces, while she recoiled from them.  They never managed to connect in play, in spite of all his friendly overtures toward her.

I loved our little lair and its environs. My Mother, on her occasional visits would curl her lip, disdainful of our apparent comfort. My Father said it reminded him of a hermit-in-the-woods cabin.  To this day, I recall fondly this marvellous cosy underground home.

Fifteen years later, Rumpole, Renaissance Man and I travelled by car to the Four Corners area of the U.S. southwest where we were completely fascinated by the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and spent several days wandering about and considering how a population of people could make safe homes for themselves in close communal groups using the natural features of the landscape to provide the basic structure of their living spaces.  These cliff-dwellers were New World troglodytes.

When we travelled to Moab in Utah I was struck by the gorgeousness of the landscape.  It did seem rather strange to me, however, that the town of Moab was built out of materials that obviously had to be transported from a different landscape; ther was no attempt whatsoever to use the indigenous red sandstone to build this community.  Was it a collective failure of the imagination that caused this poor integration of built environment within its given landscape? There were no pioneer builders with troglodyte tendencies?

I have developed a natural abhorrence for voluminous living spaces, of the kind that are much desired for living in North America. The outdoors seems to be more than adequate to experience feelings of expansiveness and freedom.Needs for privacy can be met within small, intimate spaces; the need to let one’s spirit and mind soar freely can be fulfilled by moving about outdoors. I suspect there is a duality operating in human nature – one aspect, to contain and distill into concentrate  impressions, and the other to let range and roam gathering information and sustenance. A troglodyte needs sun, wind, rain and stars, food and water, the companionship of others as well as comfortable enclosure in small private spaces.

Do you have a bit of the troglodyte inside you?

Women’s concerns….in the movies…

February 11, 2007

As I have aged over the past 10 years, much of what is pictured in Hollywood movies regarding women’s lives and concerns has not resonated so much with me.  I suspect I may not be alone in this.

As a late-middle-aged woman I had my battles with weight gain and inevitable changing physical appearance – greying hair, more saggy musculature,, the appearance of lines on face and throat, mottling skin. No, the mirror never lies unlike intimates who wish to minimize these changes that are taking place. And the actresses in the movies of the same vintage as I are either the perennially unchanging Goldie Hawn, or the elegant, long-boned Diane Keaton. who seems somewhat fixed in amber.

So imagine my surprised delight when my friend “The Lady of Perpetual Crisis” brought over a video one evening for us to watch while “Rumpole” was at his bass guitar lesson. In it, a group of neighbourhood women of varying ages embark on a trip downtown to see the doctor overseeing their diet and exercise regime.  This is a wonderfully humorous look at the  quirky things that can happen en route to a simple experience of weighing in and sitting in a waiting room.

“C’t’a ton tour Laura Cadieux”  1998,  Canadian, starring Ginette Reno, Pierrette Robitaille. Directed by Etienne Chatiliez and Denise Filiatrault.

“C’t’a ton tour…” is a marvellous example of casting an ensemble of very fine actors, Quebecois patois and humour and realistic, un-glossed settings. Ginette Reno, a beloved Quebec Chanteuse, does a fine turn as actress in this movie.

Many women of my generation have been labelled as the “sandwich generation”.  We have grown children, some of whom have left the nest while others linger longer and as well we have aging parents toward whom we have to extend increasing filial care.  There is much support and information available to us, however the presence of the aged and their difficulties are rarely addressed in the movies.  Only in discussing details of care of aging parents with friends engaged in the same kind of relationship does the potential of humour in such inter-relationships crop up. Of course, there are many heart-rending situations that occur, full of pathos, but there are also some amazingly funny happenings that crop up between aged persons and their caregivers.

 The video, “Tatie Danielle” 1990, French, Starring Tsilla Chelton, Isabelle Nanty and Catherine Jacob,

 follows the travails of “Tatie Danielle” as she loses her caregiver companion and moves into her nephew’s family home and there wreaks havoc. This is a humorous look at the cliche idea of “the nice little old lady”, who really is an old devil in disguise.  The acting is fabulous!

Both these movies are “chick-flicks” for older women