Archive for the 'film' Category

Words and Movement from January Jones

May 15, 2011

I caught Unknown at the dollar theater recently and it got me thinking about January Jones’s strange performance style, as it’s very similar there to her Betty on Mad Men. She has a weird cadence that is nearly the makings of flat, terrible acting but isn’t—and that’s one reason why I find her so interesting. She brings you out of her fictional circumstances a little bit and makes you think about the way in which she’s saying things. Normally I hate this in actors but with her the distraction actually adds a level of enjoyment in thinking about how she fits into the work (speaking mainly at this point about Mad Men since there’s not much in Unknown to think about).

With her terse enunciation, her words come out quickly and feel confined to a small range of possibility, as if she doesn’t really care what happens once they’re out of her mouth. But in action she can be deft and forceful. She is by far Mad Men’s most seductive smoker, much more effortless and hungry than Don and his showy switch of fingers taking cigarettes into and out of his mouth. And who can forget Betty shooting the pigeons in season one? That moment was also a dip into the surreal, but indicative of this inner force January Jones taps into sometimes to give her actions a merciless feel. When she begins to carry out the assassination plot in Unknown—stealing things and smashing through a wall to get to a bomb—she moves confidently and almost with irritation at the novelty of her reversal of energy. I think irritation is actually one of the most successful, visceral emotions she communicates as an actress. Normally it would feel utterly useless and dumb to parse an actor’s “successful emotions” but she invites this kind of critical thinking and it doesn’t detract from the emotional potency of her work.

One of the most electric moments in all of Mad Men so far is when Betty is fighting with Don in the bedroom about disciplining Bobby and she pushes him and he pushes her back. The way she takes the push, her chest like a hollow block as she spins and is forced to take a couple clumsy steps, was more startling than Don’s actual act of pushing. Her movements have the bluntness of  shock, less at Don’s audacity and more at the lack of impact caused by her initial action. When you watch January Jones you get the feeling that she doesn’t really trust speech. Her commitment to it is technical; she never lets a syllable get swallowed. As an actress she just seems more comfortable with movement, and perhaps that is why her actions feel so purposeful. So when she moves with intent and doesn’t get what she wants, her body doesn’t quite know what to do.

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Little Miss Marker

March 12, 2011

This photo, a still for Little Miss Marker, meant a lot to me growing up. It is included in Shirley Temple’s autobiography Child Star, which I had a copy of in my room. I had a very big floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and her book was on one of the weird upper shelves. Some adult books had been left there and forgotten about by my parents. They weren’t adult in any kind of exciting way, just serious and thick. Child Star was hardbound in black cloth that had collected a coat of fuzzy dust and some milky stains. It was a long time before I actually read the book, not until I was 12 or 13, but I would pore over the pictures in the inserts, and especially over this one.

Part of what intrigued me about this picture is how not like a child’s picture it feels. The energy is more like that of a pouty twenty-year-old who thinks she knows a lot. I also particularly liked pictures where smiles could disappear and return just by staring long enough. When Shirley’s smile is there she’s casual and matter-of-fact. Without it a weighted, almost accusatory sexuality creeps in. The dress she’s wearing is itself defiant, the worn chambray splitting at her shoulder and above the babydoll seam. That latter hole was mesmerizing, not just because it was suggestive but also in its deliberateness—there would be no normal source of stress to cause a tear like that.

I remember thinking that there was a quality here that I wanted someday. Shirley’s movies were often about a hardscrabble, streetwise little girl. It was a persona I romanticized; I wanted that toughness which was also cute and a little sexy. I thought girls’ faces looked prettiest with a sour mouth and smudges of dirt. I never saw Little Miss Marker (it wasn’t at my video store, nor part of the pink Playhouse Video VHS collection that I had) which increased its mystique. The harsh syllables of the title fit with that scrappy dress. There’s another Shirley movie called Little Miss Broadway that I had found pretty uninteresting. I imagined this to be its darker, more vital cousin.

The still is used on a DVD cover for the film now, and it’s colorized—they put a patch under the hole!

Fried Chicken and The Secret Garden

November 30, 2010

The other day I had real wings for the first time in a couple years (from our favorite place here in Pittsburgh, Spak Brothers) and as I was maneuvering my teeth around the bones to get at all the bits of meat, I was struck by a vivid memory of fried chicken eating in a movie. It was such a strong and familiar sensation that I thought it must be from something I watched a lot in my childhood, but I couldn’t place it. Sure enough it hit me as I was trying to fall asleep the next night—Maggie Smith in the carriage with the drumstick in Agnieszka Holland’s Secret Garden! It strikes me now that the chicken in the movie could very probably just be roasted, even though I would have sworn it was fried as a kid. I felt fried chicken was anachronistic, and yet I was so distracted by the audacity of that choice that I didn’t question it. Either way it feels like a funny thing to pack. She picks up Mary from Liverpool very late, hours past when all the other orphans from India get picked up, and then they ride all night and Maggie Smith eats cold chicken in the carriage for breakfast. It sets the tone nicely—Maggie Smith’s Mrs. Medlock smacking away as she nonchalantly drops devastating details of Mary’s forthcoming life at her uncle’s manor, a large estate surrounded by an expanse of beautiful damp moors.

I recently rewatched my childhood VHS tape of the movie with my boyfriend. He liked it pretty well; I was overjoyed to see how little difference there was in my experience of it now compared to as a child. Plus there are all these treats that I was oblivious of as a kid, like Irène Jacob, Zbigniew Preisner, and Roger Deakins. The atmosphere created by the film is so wondrous and enveloping, in large part due to Preisner’s score. It still feels big and dangerous and vital to me. I love Kate Maberly, I love the way she over-enunciates (“My name is Mary Lennox”) and the way she looks at things with a little restrained pout.

This film has figured quite prominently in my history, helping shape my love of looking in cinema, as well as my inclination towards an aesthetic of dull cold and heavy clothing. Even though this is a movie about spring, it really romanticizes the mystery of winter. There are other little visceral moments that have stuck with me in addition to the fried chicken. There is a part when Mary approaches a breakfast tray that was set in her room hours earlier, and drags her index finger through the cold porridge and puts it in her mouth. I was startled upon rewatching it how quick and unexaggerated that moment is. I so relished it as a child that I used to whip my ice cream at night (I ate Breyer’s vanilla ice cream before bed every night; if you know me this should make perfect sense) with a spoon until it resembled porridge consistency and then tried to make a defined path with my finger as I drug it across and ate a glob. Swirled-up ice cream of course has a different texture and weight than cold porridge, so I had to perfect a way of cradling the glob so that it wouldn’t slide off my finger.

There is also the scene where Mary learns to jump rope in a hallway off of the kitchen. (In the background a cook is rolling out dough—elsewhere in the film we spend more time with her as she sings “Greensleeves” while slapping around and rolling a beautifully pliable little mound of dough. I think of that dough when making bread; it has the most dreamily perfect consistency.) Mary scuffs her little boots on the stone floor as she attempts to skip over the rope. I loved these noises, like scratchy, quick flaps in tap dancing. I hated my world of sneakers and carpets and I loved how her skirt kept getting snagged by the rope. It made me associate heavy full skirts with stone floors and dark hallways.

The scene where Mary, Dickon, and Colin chant and try to contact the spirit of Colin’s dead mother is the only thing I cringed at when rewatching the film. This movie also contains the lamest onscreen/offscreen kiss ever. It happens right at a cut as Mary and Colin laugh their way out of a weirdly loud smack, the physical component of which we never see. As a girl I was not amused by a kiss surrounded in giggles. Was it important or not? I refused to believe it really was a kiss for a long time until I sadly conceded that that was the intention.

While writing this post I discovered that the whole movie is on YouTube preserved in the beloved 1.33:1 of VHS, probably the only way I’ll ever want to see it. Around the eight-minute mark you can watch the chicken scene. I see now Maggie also has a hard-boiled egg to snack on. Again I am struck by how short this scene is. It’s strange how your mind grips on to little gestures in films, enough to create a sort of faux sensory memory. And there are other gestures you just want, so much that you appropriate them to create a brief, private cinematic feeling. This was very important to me as a child and still is.

Balibar via Assayas and Desplechin

August 10, 2010

To the dismay of every male I’ve discussed it with, I have problems with Jeanne Balibar. I think part of it is I don’t care for actresses with high-pitched or nasally voices (this is also why I don’t like Jean Arthur, another point of contention). On top of that, I thought of her as always playing characters who indulge in this kind of smug impetuousness and think that men really go for it, and then men do go for it and it makes me crazy.

But two things lately tempered my aversion to her–Panique au village and Ne change rien. Obviously her voice is very well-suited for the hyper-exclamatory style of Panique–when I first heard she was involved, I thought, “Oh right, of course.” But her character, Madame Longrée, serves as a regal counterpoint to all the craziness and her voicing is very fluid and charming.

And I think it’s near impossible to see Pedro Costa’s film and not fall for her. She offers herself up completely and Costa captures it all quite lovingly. She was there for the Q&A after the NYFF screening that I saw and she seemed very gracious and warm. So after all my emphatic dismissals I felt I judged in haste and wanted to revisit my first impressions. I realized they were based just on Late August, Early September and My Sex Life, which I saw very close together.

I watched Clean on Friday night for the first time. I think she’s quite good in her small part, but Laetitia Spigarelli and Béatrice Dalle dominated all my extra-Maggie attention. I didn’t care for the film much but I deeply adore Assayas, so right after I was in the mood to rewatch Late August, Early September. Beyond confusing Jeanne’s two roles, I couldn’t remember definitively which things were in it and which were in My Sex Life and I wanted to rectify that. Also I saw it before seeing any of Mia Hansen-Løve’s films, before she took on this mythic quality of living the female cinephilic dream, and I wanted to watch her performance again.

I really love Late August, Early September, much more fully now than the first time I saw it. With regard to Jeanne, I have an unfortunate tendency to prejudge characters when I don’t like the actress, or prefer another actress in the film; here it was Virginie Ledoyen. Since Mathieu Amalric goes back and forth between the two, the first time I watched the film my mind put them in competition and I sided with Virginie. And so Amalric’s relationship with Balibar became devalued in my mind; I saw her as scheming and manipulative. But I felt none of that this time. All of the relationships in this film are portrayed so tenderly, with such a real feeling of history.

Another thing I didn’t care for before is the way she can twist her lines around with this kind of juvenile cuteness, in a sort of truncated rhythm, twisting her face for emphasis. I still think it can be very off-putting but it didn’t bother me as much. And actually, I found the part where she keeps changing her coffee order in the café with Arsinée Khanjian especially endearing.

Not as easy to reconcile with her performance in My Sex Life, which I watched the following night. I forgot about the scenes where she puts those stick things in her hair, and when she visits Amalric in class, and when she smashes his keyboard. She’s always sticking out her lips and raising her eyebrows and taunting him, going on and on about how terrible she is. I found nothing sympathetic in her, which is why I thought she was a bad actress before. I also remember her being the main sore note in the film, the thing that kept me from fully embracing it, but now I have trouble connecting to the whole thing.

I always have a problem of connection with Desplechin, though. I think we are just not on the same wavelength. He puts in these things that just don’t work at all for me, like the dead first husband in Kings and Queen (my favorite film of his) and the boy who sees wolves in A Christmas Tale. And to me his characters often feel too contrived. Also, he loves bad rap, which annoys me because his French contemporaries can make such devastatingly perfect music choices. My Sex Life all feels very crafted and dramatized, especially juxtaposed to the Assayas. Everyone is always analyzing each other in this way that feels very fake. That scene of Emmanuelle Devos in the shower though is still a knock-out. I love all the scenes of her in her little dorm room (washing her little café au lait bowl!) and at translator school. I could watch a whole movie of that. But she’s a goddess.

At any rate, I now associate Jeanne Balibar’s unpleasantness in My Sex Life a little more with Desplechin than with her as an actress, though I still think she can have annoying tendencies. I’m eager to see how she is with other directors; I still haven’t seen Ne touchez pas la hache, Va savoir, Mange ta soupe… Lots still to delve into, as always.

Golden Eldorado

August 7, 2010

I tracked down the song that plays during the amazing café/bar scene at the beginning of Pialat’s Passe ton bac d’abord. It is “Golden Eldorado” by Voyage. It sets the mood quite hauntingly in the film, kind of ambling and casual with little pushes where it soars. Love the jubilant chorus too. It reminds me a lot of Toto’s “Africa” in how it tries to cram in all this specific vocab–letting you know they’re not joking around with the theme.

While looking for the song I also came across this article, which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the film by catching up with some of the locals in Lens who acted in it, particularly Bernard Tronczak (the one who has the thing with Agnès and the lion bathing suit girl) and Patrick Lepczynski (with the brown hair and mustache).

My Top Ten of 2009

January 7, 2010

The films that touched me most this year.

1. 35 Rhums
2. Still Walking
3. Two Lovers
4. Summer Hours
5. Liverpool
6. Adventureland
7. Public Enemies
8. Tulpan
9. An Education
10. Unmade Beds

Jeune Anne

December 9, 2009

Durant le tournage d’Au hasard Balthazar, j’ai pris conscience de ce que pouvait être le bonheur de vivre ou, plus exactement, le bonheur de se sentir vivre. Cela ne ressemblait pas tout à fait à ce que j’avais pu lire dans des romans ou voir dans des films; c’était plus brutal, plus sauvage et, me semblait-il, plus ouvert.

[During the filming of Au hasard Balthazar, I became conscious of what the joy of living, or, more precisely, the joy of feeling alive, could be. It didn’t quite resemble what I had been able to read in books or see in films; it was more brutal, more savage and, it seemed to me, more open.]

In Au hasard Balthazar Anne Wiazemsky is a beguiling mix of awkwardness and assertiveness, defiantly unglamorous and inattentive to the romantic possibilities of the camera. In look and mannerism she straddles the line of childhood and adulthood from moment to moment—appearing disarmingly beautiful and poised, then suddenly gangly and graceless. Her deep, unrefined voice and weighty pronunciation add to the contradictions and undeniable magnetism of her screen presence.

Wiazemsky used her memories of the shoot of Balthazar to write a novel entitled Jeune fille, published in France in 2007 by Gallimard and supposedly now available in English from the British publisher Telegram Books, though it has been suspiciously out of stock on Amazon UK since the release date, and I haven’t seen much written about the translation.

Despite the professed fictional nature of her book, it reads like a memoir and I felt her emotional struggles were based in truths, even if the fictionalized Anne has a neater trajectory than Wiazemsky’s own.[1] I approached the book armed only with impressions formed by her fervent political collaborations with husband Jean-Luc Godard, and an awareness of her illustrious family background (her maternal grandfather being the Nobel-winning writer François Mauriac, and her father Polish royalty). I was startled to discover the world of a painfully insecure almost-18-year-old, still trying to cope with the death of her father two years before and entirely untrusting of any unique or artistic capacity within herself.

The book opens as Anne is taken by the effervescent and worldly Florence Carrez (who played Jeanne in Bresson’s 1962 film Procès de Jeanne d’Arc) to meet Bresson at his posh apartment on the Île St. Louis in Paris. The Bresson of my mind was not the dapper, smooth-talking, espadrille-clad man who comes to the door—the stale and grimly serious interviews I’ve seen with him removed any anticipation of romance. But such is the way Anne encounters him. Intimidated by his poise and “discrete elegance,” she feels her own awkwardness amplified. Over and over Bresson has her read a chunk of dialogue from his first film, Les Anges du péché, and despite her sense of doom that she will be exposed for the dull girl she believes herself to be, Bresson quickly becomes enthralled with her (though he doesn’t confess it completely at first).

While this jittery jeune fille may not have made an impression on every director, her rough, unaffected composure played perfectly into Bresson’s philosophies on acting. With strict regimentation, Bresson endeavored to tap into the automatic, unthinking aspects of human nature and interaction. In his mind, for an actor’s performance to be truthful it must be free of inflection, premeditation, and psychologizing. Anne’s lack of confidence made her desperate to please Bresson and this eagerness combined with her “naturally blank” voice struck him passionately.

As their collaboration progresses, predictable warning signs appear in succession, leading you to assume this will be a very familiar story. Bresson’s sudden entry into Anne’s life and his immediate praise of her qualities makes her believe he is somehow able to gauge who she is before she knows herself. And so, she gives herself completely to his instructions and opinions, trusting that he knows how to bring out and accentuate her best tendencies (as both an actress and a maturing woman). She takes pleasure in doing so, letting his visions and idealizations play out on her to his satisfaction.

The bulk of Balthazar was shot on location in Guyancourt, near Versailles. For the two-month summer shoot, Bresson shields Anne from the rest of the crew by insisting she board with him in a separate house, with connecting bedrooms. He claims he needs her with him at all times, that her presence calms him and helps him understand the film he is making. Anne soon becomes acquainted with the Bresson of the night, who takes her on long walks and desires submission from her in a troubling new context. Repulsed by his advances, she consistently pushes him away and wrestles with reconciling her immense admiration for Bresson as an artist and mentor with her uneasiness about his ideas on the nature of their relationship.

Having now been equipped with a base level of confidence and purpose, Anne looks to defining her participation in it, as well as the terms of her relationship with Bresson. More than a few times his behavior disgusted me, especially in moments where he manipulated her to force results for the film and tried to guilt her into being sexual with him, and yet Anne resists vilifying him. Sometimes this was hard to take. But Anne’s presence of mind prevents her from simply being a victim of his idealizations, and both sexually and artistically she asserts herself. (The latter leads to an empowering and devastating act of creative rebellion late in the book that I won’t spoil.)

Anne’s story is really quite a simple and typical coming-of-age account, except it’s set within this tremendous artistic context. What I most relished about it was the way Anne resists succumbing to a potentially dangerous relationship without jeopardizing the wonderful self-realization that Bresson’s encouragement had brought about in her.  And not only that, she achieves an amazing artistic collaboration with him that feels rare within his career, in that it truly feels like a collaboration. On set, Anne has an innate sense of Bresson’s philosophy and aesthetic and slips into the world of his film with ease. Perhaps this accounts for a feeling of immediacy and generosity from Wiazemsky in the film. Usually I don’t respond to the engineered-feeling demureness of Bresson’s actors (I’m thinking of how so often they look down, as a seeming stand-in for actual reflection or feeling) but with Wiazemsky it feels like a natural extension of her own lingering awkwardness. And she shows us warmth I find lacking in most Bresson performances. (Dominique Sanda in Une Femme douce is another exception that comes to mind.)

Jeune fille also offers a delicious peek at Wiazemsky’s first meeting with Godard. The story of her progression from an eighteen-year-old with burgeoning confidence to Godard’s wife and incendiary intellectual partner is a story I hope we can soon read too.


[1] In an interview with Gallimard, she suggests that her own state at the end of the film was much more confused and scattered than the buoyant, expectant ending of the character in the book. But she also implies that her portrayal of Bresson is very much founded in reality, as it was her fascination with his enigmatic persona that in part compelled her to write the book.

Not-so-happy Haneke

October 8, 2009

I find Anthony Lane’s recent New Yorker profile of Michael Haneke lazy and mostly unenlightening to anyone familiar with Haneke’s work. The majority of the piece is preoccupied with illustrating the difference between films that entertain and films that are intellectually engaging, and why the latter are important. Now, the average New Yorker reader may not be especially film-literate, but he or she is probably versed in the arts and has a generally thoughtful and perceptive outlook on the world. Surely he/she doesn’t need an extended explanation of the difference between diagetic music and a score that manipulates viewers’ emotions (which is a token contrast cited between Hollywood and art films). I often complain of Haneke’s condescension towards his audience, and this is another kind of condescension from Lane—wasting our time explaining things that don’t need much explanation, and not taking his profile subject to task for his already outspoken artistic attitudes. Even the title, “Happy Haneke,” broadcasts both the subject’s and writer’s complacency.

Haneke is an extremely provocative director, and Lane did not approach any of the meaty controversies that his films provoke in favor of a bland, flattering retelling of Haneke’s surface interests and philosophies. He brings up one argument from Haneke’s “detractors,” that in order to condemn societal evils, Haneke must indulge them to portray it in his films. But Lane brushes this away with adulation from Haneke’s formidable leading lady Juliette Binoche and a favorite moral tale of Haneke’s of when he intervened in a cowardly display of child abuse.

My main issues with Haneke are his didacticism and his arrogant attitude towards his audience. The first topic Lane totally ignores and the second he dismisses with a surface quotation from Haneke about how he respects the audience member that feels uncomfortable during his films. These films are not supposed to baby you, Lane reminds us over and over. Why didn’t he probe Haneke deeper on the subject, perhaps on the belief he reveals in the video interview on the Funny Games DVD that if a viewer stays and watches the whole film he/she has been complicit in its violence? That he expects the morally sound audience member who does not want to be a participant in the violence to walk out of the theatre during his film? This attitude deeply troubles me. Walking out of a film is a fairly radical act, especially for the average movie-goer (it would seem to me), and to reprimand your audience for staying to watch your whole film is disgusting.

One major dilemma with Haneke’s work, as my former BU professor Roy Grundmann has voiced eloquently, is that often his views on participation in violence are aimed at the type of audience member who most likely will never see his films. He tries to show us the dangers of portraying violence romantically or playing it for laughs, and yet his audience is limited to the art house crowd. This point of intended audience seems especially relevant here, since Lane quotes Haneke as saying how much he hates going to multiplexes and what sorry establishments they are, and how the whole communalism of movie-going should be corrected. Wasn’t a major motivation for remaking Funny Games in the U.S. with stars to get closer to his target audience? The ones who would learn their lesson the most?

Over and over Lane says how Haneke challenges his audience, but never does he investigate Haneke’s tendency to use film as a means of making statements, devoid of warmth or sympathy. Haneke identifies evils in post-modern society, and does not so much explore them as construct a platform through which he can show us what we do wrong. From Benny’s Video to Caché to Code inconnu and even to The Seventh Continent (which I feel is a magnificent film and Haneke’s best), there is always the sense that we the audience should share the guilt of the characters’ perversions of morality. I think of him looking on smugly as he conceived the scene in Funny Games where, after a character finally wrests control away from the boyish villains and shoots one of them, the scene suddenly rewinds and the victims are left more hopeless than ever. It displays such utter disrespect for his audience (of course, the responsible ones have walked out by this point) to create a trap for them to fall into so that he can lord it over them and self-righteously prove to them, “See! You were complicit in this violence! You have condoned murder!”

I obviously have an empassioned reaction to Haneke’s work but I can’t write him off or refuse to engage with his films anymore (tired as I may be). I wish Anthony Lane hadn’t been so preoccupied with explaining how people should approach Haneke’s films, and instead investigated Haneke’s own approach, which is endlessly provocative and interesting.

Warm TCM Memories

September 27, 2008

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, there was a big snowstorm that happened to coincide with Paul Newman’s birthday. TCM had a tribute that, as I think about it now, must have lasted a couple days or so. Delicious January days home from school when I could spend the day cuddled up on the couch and watch movies all day. I think I probably only had a vague understanding of who Paul Newman was before the series, but in my nascent cinephilia I was eager to let TCM take me anywhere it wanted.

The film I remember that really did it (fittingly, since it was his first starring role) was Robert Wise’s Somebody Up There Likes Me. The dark-but-not-gritty shots of loud trains and dirty buildings (atmospheric bits that TCM later excerpted for their TV ratings clip that would play before each film) with this beautiful brash boy bursting within them were devastating to this preteen. Adding to the magic was radiant Pier Angeli, whom I knew immediately from my thorough research of James Dean’s life as the mythic “one true love” who killed herself fifteen years after he died. Until that point I’d seen a few pictures of her from unenlightening angles, but now suddenly I saw her alive and so inviting. I taped the film (as I did nearly everything on TCM in those days) and would rewatch it in the upcoming years before college when I wanted something warm and comforting.

Until They Sail (also by Robert Wise) was another film they played. Watching it, I was impressed by the cast (Joan Fontaine, Jean Simmons, Sandra Dee, Piper Laurie) and assumed it to be fairly well known until I investigated it afterwards and found that it was mostly forgotten. Paul Newman in uniform and all these lovesick sisters! And in the dreamy, far-off location of New Zealand. I don’t think I’d seen Sandra Dee in anything before because I was really struck by what a cute, nice-seeming girl she was, and I wished I could have such big eyes and live by the ocean in quiet grays and whites… The Young Philadelphians was another film I saw then, and this time the blacks and whites were incredibly crisp–heightened by the pairing of Paul Newman’s sharp tux with the white chiffon debutante dress worn by an achingly luminous Barbara Rush. I really don’t remember anything else about the film other than those images, and some nice hunky fist-fights.

After my new crush started I was hungry for as much information as I could get, and what was at first a girlish attraction grew into unabashed love and admiration. I learned about his storybook marriage to Joanne Woodward and watched The Long, Hot Summer, which had all the gratifying tangles and professed hatreds and eventual couldn’t-denys that made my heart soar. (I didn’t even realize until much later that that had been Orson Welles underneath all that sweaty sunburn. And I sought out Days of Wine and Roses for more Lee Remick, though I think this is still my favorite performance of hers, with the wonderful Southern name of Eula Varner.) I wanted to see all the films they did together, and went out and bought a VHS of Paris Blues (Diahann Carroll!) and tried to wade my way through the unpleasantly melodramatic From the Terrace (why would I want to watch them fight?).

Of course this was all before I came to really understand his incredible grace as an actor, but the main reason I was so sad after waking up this morning was that he had really meant something to me personally. During the formative years of my life, as I tried to make sense of the way boys and girls came together and pulled apart, I drew a lot of reassurance from Paul Newman’s proof that good looks didn’t inevitably cancel out kindness, loyalty, good-natured intelligence. And it was a comfort to know he was still around, passionately working to do some good for the world. I will miss you dearly.

I Know You Wanna Say It

September 25, 2008

I named my blog after the Eurodance song by Corona from 1993. Like most (I suppose), I always thought it was pretty silly and indistinguishable from other songs of its kind. So indistinguishable that when I saw Le Garçu for the first time, I didn’t even remember what song it was that Géraldine Pailhas dances to with such quiet enticement. And then…Claire Denis. I’m still not sure what I think of Beau Travail as a whole, but her ending is an undeniable masterpiece. It’s so outrageously humanistic, with a beautiful mix of self-affirmation and desperation. And that’s what I feel in the song itself now, too. I don’t know if these masterful directors just thought it had a great beat or if they could detect something wrenching brewing within it, but I’m forever hooked and I think there’s something wonderfully sad and epic about it. Besides, of course, being irresistibly danceable.