Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Writing, reading, watching, listening.
Life In : Recommendations, my own creations, and a place for a conversation.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Review of Life In Life Out in Per Contra

Per Contra published a review of Life In, Life Out. It's an insightful and generous review by Antonio Carlos Santos, a Brazilian expert in translation and aesthetics.
The review is here:
It says:
  • Life In, Life Out

    Avital Gad-Cykman

    Wynnewood, PA, Matter Press
    2014. pp. 107

    review by Antonio Carlos Santos
Avital Gad-Cykman’s fine debut collection Life In, Life Out is a book of flashes, or rather, rapid illuminations of everyday situations. The flashes are divided into two parts: “Minute Life Length” tends toward realism and “Sudden Changes” is more surreal. In a general manner, this is literature of exile: an Israeli author who lives in Brazil and writes in English. It brings to mind the Russian Vladimir Nabokov and the Polish Joseph Conrad, both writing in English, their second language, working from within a space that allows for distance and perspective. The same comes through the writing in this book.
The flashes in Life In, Life Out are often narrated by women or are about women, wives, lovers and mothers. The interesting choice of not naming characters in general (calling them “husbands” “mothers” “son” “daughter” etc.) makes them anyone, or rather, any of us, involving the readers in the story and making us a part of it.
The flashes speak of women’s relationships--in “Once a Month We Play” these are mostly relationships with other women--but in “All of Them” the narrator says: "Serving tables is not as difficult as dealing with men."
Interestingly, in “Once a Month We Play” the narrator takes the first person plural to speak about women surrounded by war and death: “Each of us young women has gone through the first year’s mourning, the second year’s recovery, an attempt at new relationships, and then nothing, or rather ‘something’ that we can’t capture with words. We tried ‘loneliness,’ ‘void,’ and ‘vacuum...’” The entire narration takes place while the women play with toy soldiers and with children. The roles of men and women are divided here: while the men protect the borders and kill other husbands, the women produce children who one day will also be husbands who kill husbands.
The war is constant in Gad-Cykman’s stories: soldiers, border protection, and children's games. War sometimes appears simply as a quick reference but it is a constant situation so it determines the lives of the characters.
However difficult the situation appears to be, however, when the narrator speaks in the plural, as in “Once a Month We Play” or “Sudden Changes,” the group gathers power against the circumstances. On the other hand, the sense of a group threatens to diminish the individuality and the power to change.
In several flashes such as “The Bison,” sexuality and sensuality propel the story forward. In “The Bison” the character of the mother appears in relation to her body, pregnancy. The pregnant woman is involved with the senses: the olives she eats link her from the first sentence to the bison and to words spoken in Arabic by a shepherd who represents “the other.” The character is named Sara Frishman: Sara brings to mind Abraham’s wife, and Frishman means a vigorous man, healthy, full of life and active.  Everything revolves around the sensuous: there are smells coming from the vicinity: a child's dirty diaper, dates and the Arabian shepherd’s sweat. There is also a relationship here between the Arabic words and the female body: “It had been long since words played with her body like that."
In “Sudden Changes,” however, the narrator is a man: "The ocean has been generous to us, as well as the fields, the women, the rains.” According to the narrator, women arise between the fields and the rain like another element of nature: their bodies flourish like plants. The text is marked by this full-of-lust, rather inebriated narrator, surrounded by the sea and the smell of fish and fruit. To him, "Their [the women’s] bodies blossom and open like sea anemones, moving round and mature limbs.” Women’s legs open, exposing vaginas that resemble gleaming mangos full of juice, and he says, "they intoxicate us with the scent of the earth.” The narrator, unlike the women, appears to have "lost the command of nature’s signs."
As you go on reading, it is amusing to notice how often animals populate the flashes: a cat, buffalo, donkey, rooster, horse, wolf, bee, frog, as well as grasshoppers, birds, hyenas and fish. Sometimes they are elements of comparison and on other occasions they are key characters. In “Once a Month We Play” roosters and a donkey open the story, challenging what is generally considered to be their “true nature”: “The farm animals’ roles keep changing according to their preferences. We were wrong, wrong, wrong, to think that all donkeys or all roosters share the same nature.”
As a final observation, it is fascinating to find in “Mines” a comparison between words and mines: “Words blow off. As do Mines.” It is an approach we see in Homer: a connection between literature and war or between the arts and war (just remember Picasso and his Guernica - the frames are not made to decorate houses; they are weapons of war). “The Bison” as well as other flashes evokes a notion of vanguard. The words take shape and explode like mines, and in “The Bison” they blow off into the body of Sara.
This collection celebrates such words. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do we need Romantic Comedies about 40+ people? And...Romantic Comedies?

The bigger question is not if we need romantic comedies about older people, which is a matter of age, but if we need romantic comedies at all…In that case we speak the genre.
 I’d like to speak about genre AND age, although when the film is what Brazilians call “sugared water” it’s not interesting no matter what age it covers or what genre it is.
 You may enjoy most contemporary “rom-com” if you love a spark between two people, then a parental or ex’s or society’s disapproval, or, alternatively, a misunderstanding, and after a bit of a mess a happy ending, you are going to enjoy yourself in most romantic comedies. But I want my water pure and my romantic comedies smart and funny.
Despite past disappointments, I watched the film Words and Pictures (2013). I couldn't resist the cast, especially Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen. If there was any chance I'd enjoy a romantic comedy it would have been one with them. Also, it was about people who are over 40. The Director, Fred Schepisi and the writer, Gerald Di Pego have done interesting work in the past.
Another chance to enjoy a movie of this kind: if it didn't take itself seriously.
Well, I didn't enjoy it very much.
Some parts were better than others. The idea of aged and imperfect lovers is cool. But...Well, the story goes like this: an alcoholic poet and teacher Jack Marcus is testing his relationships and losing his credibility. His bitterness emerges everywhere including the classroom.
A debilitated with rheumatism, painter and teacher Dina Delsanto comes to the little town college due to her worsening state of health. She is a rigid but excellent teacher.
They meet. One brings words, the other pictures, and through their students, who become better people thanks to it, they compete and tease and flirt and do what people do in a romantic comedy.
I think that because it was about 40+ aged people I was hoping for more depth and subtlety, and better humor.
My wise friends,  who understand cinema and read a lot and create their own stories, books, scripts and plays expressed their opinions, and I’m proudly quote them here.

Andrew Tibbett, for instance says: I like that cast and that director a lot. It's too bad the film couldn't find a better spin on the genre. I like that cast and that director a lot. It's too bad the film couldn't find a better spin on the genre.
Younger romcoms seem more willing to be funny. The older ones with Diane Keaten and Merle Streep and the like appear to take themselves too seriously. As you say, if ever a genre needed to NOT take itself seriously its this one.
Since loads of marriages are falling apart, I think older people are out there romancing and so it's a good idea to make films about that. But how to do it? Maybe it might work to go the complete other direction: very serious, like Hanke's Amour? Hardly a romcom, but...
The specific trouble with older love is that people are more set in their ways, more battle-scarred so it's harder to give yourself. Perhaps that's the route to explore. I like the new sitcom "You're the Worst". It's not about older people, but it is about cranky cranky cranky people who really DO NOT want to be in a lovely dove relationship and yet that is what happens to them. So, perhaps the older folks should resist more and fail more. That might be a better vein for comedy.It's almost if the romantic comedies de nos jours had been processed through TV and sitcoms.

Jonas Knutsson says: One reason [for the decline in the genre) is that so many of the hurdles that were used to set up these plots have (mercifully) disappeared, another being that there isn't really much of a culture of romance these days and it's difficult to pluck these things from the ether. I believe the writer of the British TV series "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" wrote an article, making pretty much the same point. It's just very difficult to come up with a plausible Capulets-and-Montagues scenario in my neck of the woods.
He adds that “they” did this stuff so well in the sixties and seventies: "Two for the Road", "Pete 'n' Tillie", "Loving", "Blume in Love". The list goes on.
“Pete 'n' Tillie” had some bleak moments but I think the sixties/seventies style didn't require a light touch for every scene. As I recall, the film had a lot of the sort of wisecracks that people make in ordinary life.
A lot of the Elliot Gould flicks of the seventies would probably be classified as "relationship flicks" today, as would "Two for the Road".

Frank J. Hutton says:  Probably, romantic comedies about 40+ people are needed, since there are 40+ people who're romantic and funny and like that sort of thing. The problem, I think, is that most of the movies just aren't any good.
Thinking back, I rather enjoyed the two with Jack Nicholson -- the one with Dianne Keaton and the other with Helen Hunt. If I recall, they seemed more honest than not and were genuinely funny in places, not all jacked up and shrill like most comedies are these days.
I'm not much for sentimental nonsense unless it's great vintage sentimental nonsense, in which case I'm a sucker and all bets are off. Until my late teens, I'd a definite predilection towards romantic melancholy, classic and otherwise. I escaped it by my early 20's. For whatever reason, Two For the Road always emblemized for me that certain yearning for repeated failure that lurks at the heart of melancholy...It's just the one movie. There's something about it. Probably that had something to do with by that time my parents had divorced and then remarried each other, which 2nd time around wasn't at all for the better. I could really wallow in that theme music and geez, Audrey Hepburn and all...
And yeah, I was wondering that about 'Two For the Road' and was thinking, 'You mean I was scarred into an adolescence of persistent melancholic romantic failure by a rom-com?'

Tamara Lee says: I recently came upon this article in the Atlantic  Romantic Comedy is Dying
 considering the end of romantic comedies in favour of cinematic romance. Something I've noticed lately is an increase in older women/younger man affair romances. The French Bright Days Ahead comes to mind, but there seem to be quite a few.
I suppose the idea is the 40-year-old men are busy having affairs with 20 year girls, so the 40-year-old women need to also...
(I love her biting humor!)
She includes another excellent link to a new film, about a French older woman and an American younger man 5 to 7 and introduces the question if the French mind the typecasting. 5 to 7

Martin Heavisides says: If you broaden the scope a bit (which contemporary examples, which can be called, to distinguish their indistinguishibility, Rom Coms, generally do not) a number of quite fine films are romantic comedies or contain elements of same.
Les Enfant du Paradis
Le Roi du Coeur
Harold and Maude
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Addicted to Love
Joe Versus the Volcano
of which Afterglow involves over 40s in a key role, Les Enfant du Paradis lovers who are young initially but approaching middle age when the story ends, and Harold and Maude involves cross-generational romance with a vengeance. But few romantic comedies are close to as odd or ambitious as these.

After talking about it but especially after listening to these intriguing people, I suppose that the basic answer is YES we want to explore romance in this age and in any age, as we pass through the ages. What we want, however, is not any romantic comedy but a romantic comedy that allows us to recognize ourselves and others in it, appreciate the surprises and the humor and go back to our own life films.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The odd film: Jack Goes Boating (2010) Philip Seymour Hoffman

Odd refers to random and also to strangeness. Films and books about misfits attract me because I relate well to being an outsider and repel me because usually the artist is so better fit into society than his creations that it makes me wander if it's not patronizing or exploration. The latter is not exactly rational: you create what you can, and if it's not an exercise and show of skills, than it's authentic work.
Anyway,  This film made me miss the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the sensitive, multi-faceted actor, here a director as well, in the cinema.
The story sheds light on low class people who struggle to make a living, to love despite the difficulties, temptations and fear, and in the shy Jack and the neurotic Connie cases even to express themselves in words.
Jack (Hoffman) and Clyde (Jhn Orotz) drive limos. If at first Clyde is more social, already married, and a good friend and Jack is a complete ill-fit everywhere. Slowly, while their friendships strengthens, however, Jack seems to be the one who'll find true love, a better job and happiness.
If it sounds a bit of a cliche, well, it is. A bit. But it consists of many beautiful moments, exploration of intimacy and of alienation, and everyone acts extremely well.
On the whole, then, it's worth watching for what it does well.

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Writers (WGA):
Robert Glaudini (screenplay)
Robert Glaudini (play)


Philip Seymour Hoffman ... Jack

John Ortiz ... Clyde

Richard Petrocelli ... Uncle Frank

Thomas McCarthy ... Dr. Bob Thomas (as Tom McCarthy)

Amy Ryan ... Connie

Daphne Rubin-Vega ... Lucy
Salvatore Inzerillo ... Cannoli

And others

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Films you may want to watch as well: The Little House (2014) & Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

I haven't written in a long long while, and maybe my followers if there have been any have dropped...
But I do want to post in the blog small comments about great and small works of art, or rather, books and films.
I'd love to hear about your impressions as well.

The Little House (2014) -A Japanese Film / Yôji Yamada

A beautiful film, engrossing, sensitive, and culturally informative.
A woman writes a diary for her already grownup grandson. She tells about the days she worked as a maid for a couple and their little son before and during the second WW. The hierarchy between social classes comes through strongly although and maybe because she is very well treated and even loved-within class limits, also, the submissive role of women is clear. On top, good manners, bows, and apologies make you feel how wooden the people had become in their own homes. 
Anyway, there's also a story of infidelity, of survival, and you want it to go on, although it's quite long already.

Directed by 
Yôji Yamada

based on the novel by Kyôko Nakajima ...

Yôji Yamada ... (screenplay) 
Emiko Hiramatsu ... (screenplay)

Satoshi Tsumabuki Satoshi Tsumabuki ...
Chieko Baishô Chieko Baishô ...
Taki (older)
Takako Matsu Takako Matsu ...
Tokiko Hirai
Yui Natsukawa Yui Natsukawa
Takatarô Kataoka Takatarô Kataoka ...
Mr. Hirai
Haru Kuroki Haru Kuroki

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

A little less successful in entertainment scripts written by Charlie Kaufman, but it's still good. (It's rumored on the Net that Kaufman disliked what director George Clooney changed in the script.) You can feel the Clooney touch, influenced by or corresponding to The Coen brothers' touch in their cutsey/smartass films (I like their other films), and by Soderberg, the latter mentioned by my friend Jonas Knutsson. HT
This one is not cutesy, only smartass, which I prefer.
Also, it's based on a "cult memoir of game show impresario Chuck Barris, in which he purports to have been a CIA hitman."
It's enjoyable, and displays many many famous faces. 

George Clooney
Chuck Barris (book)
Charlie Kaufman (screenplay)

Dick Clark ... Himself
Sam Rockwell ... Chuck Barris
Michelle Sweeney ... J. Sweeney
Drew Barrymore ... Penny
Chelsea Ceci ... Tuvia, Age 8
Michael Cera ... Chuck Age 8 and 11 (as Michael Céra)
Brad Pitt ... Brad, Bachelor #1
Matt Damon ... Matt, Bachelor #2
Murray Langston ... Actual Unknown Comic
Marlida Ferreira ... Woman in Pub
Julia Roberts ... Patricia Watson