Showing posts with label memories are films about ghosts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memories are films about ghosts. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

One night in his study with brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other, [my father] asked quietly, "Do you honestly think, my daughter, that dancing has progressed since the time of the Greeks?"

"No," I replied snappily. "Do you think you write any better than Euripides?" That ought to hold him, I figured.

He looked at me long and slow. "No, my dear," he said, "but we have Euripides' plays. They have lasted. A dancer ceases to exist the minute she sits down."

As Father spoke I understood death for the first time. I was a child of fourteen but I realized with melancholy that oblivion would be my collaborator no matter how fine my work.

--Agnes de Mille, "The Swan," in Dance to the Piper

Thursday, December 01, 2011

AND THE RED DEATH HELD DOMINION OVER ALL! Christopher Coe's I Look Divine is a slender, self-consciously perfect little poison gem of a book. It's a novel about two brothers in the 1960s through the 1980s: the narrator is obsessed with his brother Nicholas, and Nicholas is enraptured by himself. The book begins as the narrator is preparing to clean out Nicholas's apartment after his untimely death, and so a lot of the glassy humor has a dark tinge.

This may be the actual gayest book I've ever read, which is really saying something. It deploys the imagery of homosexuality as narcissism. And yet in its final paragraphs this claustrophobic, folie-a-deux novel opens up into a kind of Dance of Death in which we see that Nicholas's ideal of personal victory through style and sexual conquest is not an exclusively gay pursuit. Across time and culture, humans assert and exalt themselves in the teeth of death.

This book is a perfect combination of brittle witticisms and haunted memorial. Like I said, the gayest thing I've ever read.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There might be another way. Maybe I could pay to get this done, pay someone to pack up and empty this place out. There must be companies you can call, the way you do when you move, companies that come with cartons, with padded wrap, and do it for you.

There must be a way to get it done, without doing it yourself.

--I Look Divine

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Sweet Smell of Success: This is still one of my very favorite movies. Ferocious and scathing and sad. Tony Curtis is unbelievably charismatic in his sordid, humiliated role; Burt Lancaster is terrifying. Glorious stuff. This time around, I especially noticed how often little sister Susie slipped in some candy-coated cruelty--she may lisp a bit, but she's clearly related to her brother, acidic and even calculating.

Friday Foster: Pam Grier thwarts a race-war plot. That's really all you need to know. There are fashion shows, there is music, there are afros, there is liquor, there are car chases, it is very glamorous and there's lots of shooting! Parts of this are set in DC but it doesn't have any real local color, unfortunately.

The Tomb of Ligeia: Look, this movie has some schlock elements and you've just got to roll with that if you want to have fun here. The screeching demon cat never really works at all, and there's some awesomely bad dialogue ("Let's go for a walk." "A walk?" "Or a stroll! What does it matter?"), and a tiny hint of evil-sapphistry teasing (which is a bonus, really). But you also get really gorgeous sets, one and a half compelling performances (Vincent Price is terrific, and the romantic lead is serviceable when she's playing his contemporary love interest but much better when she's playing the dead/undead Ligeia), and an ultimately painful story about the undertow of grief and the triumph of past over present.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

EDGE OF FIFTEEN: On a recommendation from Kindertrauma, I watched the 1969 suspense flick I Start Counting--and found a melancholic, adolescent movie, all elbows and knees and awkward longing for what used to be and what is still to come.

The basic story: In a small English town where the old houses are being torn down for redevelopment, a Catholic schoolgirl begins to suspect that her (adoptive? step-?) older brother, on whom she has a severe crush, is the local serial killer. The movie portrays England as a culture in its awkward adolescence, childishly trying on big-girl sexy clothes, unaware that its panties are showing. The mystery moves quickly and yet the movie itself feels quiet and lingering, with the girl going back to her ruined childhood home and swaying back and forth in the backyard swing, or bumping her way down the staircase on her bottom after her first encounter with pale ale.

The movie's portrayal of adolescent girls' sexuality is surprisingly sensitive, maybe because it's based on a novel by a woman. Wynne and her friend Corinne skitter nervously from tarting themselves up and enjoying boys' and men's attention to pulling away when masculine aggression goes from thrilling to scary. The movie shows, quickly and fairly subtly, how often men pass off their threats as "only protecting you." These teenage girls' skins prickle when they're around certain older men, but they're also still the kind of foolish virgins who brag about how many men they've slept with.

The movie's flaws pretty much all come in the actual suspense/killer narrative. The two twists are both handled somewhat clumsily, the main villain's Big Villain Speech is wrong-footed in several different ways (although his final line is unexpected and good), and the pacing is strange. I didn't feel much suspense by the time we start finding out what really happened. That's fine (and anyway Kindertrauma disagrees, so you might as well), since I was so invested in the characters and their emotional journeys, but just know that this is a thriller in which a shot of a bulldozer plowing over a sewing machine is much more intense than the reveal of the killer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MOONLIGHT ENCORES: I checked out My Sergei, Ekaterina Gordeeva's memoir of her brief, happy marriage to Sergei Grinkov, because I'd heard that it was a window on to life, marriage, and dating in the late days of the Soviet Union and especially the Soviet sports machine. The book is so focused and so simply, cleanly-written that it doesn't actually illuminate the cultural context as much as I'd hoped, but it's a limpid portrayal of true love and the journey toward adulthood.

It's also quite candid. To take maybe the most obvious example, Gordeeva describes her plans to abort her child. Her mother and her priest basically talk/manipulate her out of it, and Daria becomes her most precious and lasting reminder of Sergei after his death. Ordinarily I would wonder what it must feel like to read that one's mother seriously considered abortion, but Gordeeva's love for her daughter (as a person in her own right, not solely a memento of lost love) shines through so clearly. The message, to the extent that there is one, is not only that children are a blessing but that it's later than you think.

There are also really detailed, lovely descriptions of the emotions behind the programs of Gordeeva and Grinkov's last year. I can't wait to watch or re-watch them with the insight Gordeeva provided.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The theme [Marina Zoueva] had created for us with the Moonlight Sonata was that of man celebrating woman as the mother of all mankind. She said that Sergei should get on his knees before me, because only the woman can give birth, only the woman can give him his children. ...

The beginning of the program was very soft, and we opened our arms to show the audience and judges that we were opening ourselves up to them. We were showing them not a program, but the story of our life. If you listen to the Moonlight Sonata, the music can only represent a man and a woman's life together. It can't mean anything else. It can't mean a season, or a march, or a dance, or a storm, or an animal. It's more, even, than love. Romeo and Juliet, that music was about love. But the Moonlight Sonata is for older people who have experienced real life. It expresses what changes love can bring about in people, how it can make them stronger, make them have more respect for each other. How it can give them the ability to bring a new life into the world.

--Ekaterina Gordeeva, My Sergei: A Love Story

You can watch Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov do what she considered their best performance of their Moonlight Sonata program here. I also love this Moonlight skate, by the Protopopovs, very much.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

"Yes, I'm cured," she said sadly. "I shall never be green again. It was lovely while it lasted."

"It's nice grown-up, too," Grant said comfortingly, and went away down the stairs.

--Josephine Tey, To Love and Be Wise

Sunday, December 12, 2010

LOVE AND ROCKTOBER: THE ROUND-UP. Sean Collins's complete month-plus of posts about some of the greatest comics ever made... plus a "where should I start?" section. If you keep hearing about Love and Rockets and want to know whether the hype is justified, this is where you should go.

Monday, November 08, 2010

UNDESIGNATED MOURNERS: Willard Moore replies to my posting of this post from Amy Ziettlow:
That seems a little strong, to say that we have "no exterior way to show grief." The poor build little memorials of plastic flowers, stuffed animals and candles; the rich endow memorial scholarships and awards; memorial websites are established; and graves are much better kept (and much more protected legally) than they were in the 18th and 19th century. We just don't express grief in our clothing, for whatever reason.

My response (lightly edited):
These are good points [...] but I do think there's something genuinely lost when we no
longer carry signals of our status as mourners around with us. A friend of mine lost his father several years back, and, because he came from a family in which this was traditional, he wore the black mourning band; I had no idea what it was, and teased him about it (yes, I realize there's a lesson here about keeping one's mouth shut), and while of course I was mortified when he explained, he did stop wearing it because no one around him knew what it signified. So there was no way to signal that he was one of the company of mourners. It's as if we've located grief outside ourselves, in the grave or the memorial site, compartmentalized it, when in fact of course it continues to walk around beside us.

The contemporary equivalent seems to be confined to younger people and poor people, who do get t-shirts silkscreened with pictures of their dead, and get tattoos. Even then, I think the voluntary nature of the gesture undercuts its power as a cultural signal.

Friday, October 29, 2010

And although biology is obviously among Beto's primary concerns, destiny is the operative word. I don't think the Palomarians have the ability to escape the way the Locas do. Not all of them need to escape, mind you--there's a lot of really warm and adorable and hilarious and awesome stuff going down in Palomar--but whatever walks alongside them in their lives is gonna walk alongside them till the very end.


Friday, October 08, 2010

GHOSTS OF HOPPERS: Sean Collins's second review post in "Love and Rocktober"--his month-long series about Jaime and Gilbert (and sometimes Mario) Hernandez and the incredible comics they created--is even better than his first one. Comics vs. time, memory vs. death, backstory vs. change. Check out his posts... and read the comics.

Friday, January 29, 2010

LOOKING INTO THE PAST: Old photos superimposed on the present day. Includes a woman walking a bunny, about five minutes and maybe 90 years away from my apartment.... Possibly via Jesse Walker?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MAN RAY? I'LL WAIT UNTIL THEY MAKE A WOMAN RAY...: I'm watching a Netflixable thing called "Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and '30s: Disc 1." It's three hours long and you couldn't pay me to watch that much indie-film at once, so I'm taking it in bits and pieces. Here are some thoughts on the first six movies--all but two highly recommended. I make no attempt to provide accent marks, because "that's the way Dad did it, that's the way America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far!"

And also, I'm lazy.

Man Ray, "Le Retour a la raison": This is a great teaser for the rest of the disc. It's maybe two or three minutes long?--yet you'll find yourself catching "future echoes" of everything from Sesame Street to Hitchcock. (Seriously, I'd need two hands to count the times this disc has reminded me of children's television--from Pinwheel's opening sequence to 3-2-1-Contact's, from ZOOM's cheapness-equals-existentialism to Looney Toons' expressionism.)

The music, so far on every movie, has been amazing. It's new--created for this release, I think?--and so it creates a completely new viewing experience from the one contemporary audiences would have had. But then, my experience would never be what a contemporary audience might've had; and this new experience is so fantabulous that I can't wish it were different. I'd play this every day just for the music. Imagine... maybe the Raincoats, muddled with Herrmann, dragged a few feet leftward to Messaien, about a quarter-mile east toward Mozart, and a mile south toward Bizet??

Man Ray, "Emak-Bakia": Suspense music plus adventure-movie visuals! Pilotesses in earflaps! Sheep and pigs! The ghosts of women's legs stride out of a jeep again and again, memory, until they resolve into the Charleston. A lady has eyes painted on her eyelids. Daggone that's uncanny.

White buildings and film-white skies.

Man Ray, "L'etoile de mer": Surrealist sex! The clash of symbols (Cybele, Impressionism); perversity (she strips to her skivvies, then tells him to leave!); mad science; the permeable boundary between nature and culture. Oozy beauty.

I loved this like cake.

Man Ray, "Les Mysteres du chateau du De": ...The music is bouncy and hilarious, and for a long time this feels like a Beckettish, Goreyish comedy of meaninglessness. But then it settles down to portentous talk of MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN and Venus Astarte, and I can't do it anymore. Fans of The Prisoner might like it more than I did. Also, I wonder how much the opening of The Exorcist owes to this piece--if anything.

Robert Florey Y U NOT MAN RAY?, "The Life and Death of 9413": Bog-standard Hollywood disillusionment, barely redeemed by some lovely acting. MEH. If you're enough of a film buff to watch this disc, you're enough of a film buff to have seen this movie five times already, only better.

Someone I forget, "Menilmontant": WOW, shivery horror piece. Fans of Heavenly Creatures, Doctor Faustus, and especially Picnic at Hanging Rock shouldn't miss this. I felt like it lost steam relatively quickly, but there are some frightening moments here even in silent film, and I'd absolutely watch a remake of this. I'm not sure if it was genuinely a bit conventional for an "experimental" disc, or if it merely highlighted how many avant-garde techniques carried over into genre filmmaking. Highly recommended either way.

Monday, May 11, 2009

OH, HOW THE GHOST OF YOU CLINGS!: So, five favorite smells? This is hard.

Tentative list: tulip trees, blue ditto ink, lilacs, honeysuckle, cigarettes.

(I don't smoke. There should probably be a sub-entry for "cigarettes mixed with Pert Plus," for reasons largely explained by the heading of this entry.)

If I could add five more: salt water + suntan lotion, the vents of laundries (you know, where the fluff collects), old blankets, fresh basil, hamburgers on the grill.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"AND ANY MAGAZINE FEATURING THE SMITHS." I can't even tell you how much of this is one of the many master keys to the mystery that is me.

I did a book review of QUEER in high school. I helped put up posters saying, "YES I'M A DYKE AND I'M A BIG MEAN DYKE AND THAT'S MS. HOMOSEXUAL TO YOU."

This is life as I know it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

DIES IRAE: This was supposed to be a blogwatch, but then I kept talking.

College Jay on the Day of Silence against bullying of students perceived to be lgbt.

I think silence is basically the exact opposite of what you should do to combat this stuff, but... that might be because I spent my high school days getting yelled at for being an idiot by the left-wing administration of my private HS (who thought gay kids were fine as long as we didn't make a big deal about it). I'M SORRY I WAS TEN YEARS AHEAD OF YOUR SORRY ASS. And... every memory of talking with the administration is a reminder of privilege. Maybe sometimes silence is the best anyone can do.

But I hope not. More soon.

And btw, I think Jay's response to the whole, "Why not just a day against bullying in general?", thing is right.

And also, more importantly, I don't really think a lot of straight Christians get how important this stuff is. You can be a straight Christian and be sweet and awesome, and love your neighbor, and grow up in an atmosphere where you very rarely see anti-gay bullying--especially if you're female--and so this horror, where your actual parents wake you up and tell you to get dressed and go get beaten and humiliated, never needs to be real to you. And so it's really hard to even imagine that this is as pervasive as it is.

It isn't everybody's experience, obviously. It wasn't mine. I got taunted a little bit but no more for being gay than for being generally kind of a hilarious weirdo. But it's really hard, I think, to be gay in America and like other gay people and not know stories which would make your hair curl.