Happy Valentine’s Day!

One of my favorite love stories:

From StoryCorps: “In January 2007, Rachel P. Salazar and Ruben P. Salazar were living 9,000 miles apart and completely unaware of each other’s existence. But when an email meant for Rachel accidentally went to Ruben, it wasn’t long before an ordinary mistake began to look like an extraordinary stroke of luck.”

And in the same vein… a beautiful clarion call about love in the age of Tinder (which includes a tale of learning a foreign language and moving abroad for love, so it’s totally relevant here).

Paris Je T’aime

Paris Je T'aime Alexander Payne

The only vignette I enjoyed in “Paris Je T’aime” is also one of my favorite pieces of film. “14e Arrondissement,”Alexander Payne’s contribution, so perfectly and beautifully captures the unexpected jolts of emotion when traveling alone – the moments of feeling simultaneously connected and cut off, joyous and contemplative, full of wonder and full of solitude. It’s a fairly addictive experience.

The movie is old but I was reminded of it upon my return from Paris, where I didn’t get much alone time but nevertheless found myself in the headspace of a solo traveler, in all the best ways.

français three ways


SUNDAY: At any given time, my ease with French varies wildly, with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Sometimes I’m faltering and incomprehensible, other times I’m confident and zippy. During my weekly Skype conversation with Philippe on Sunday, I was in my better mode, which I took as an encouraging sign (even though historically it has not indicated anything like linear progress).

MONDAY: The next day, I went to my weekly French Meetup and again, found myself able to warm up quickly and understand and speak a lot. I had what is probably my most high level, esoteric and interesting French conversation ever, with a neuroscientist from Nancy (in northeastern France), who is in New York to do a post-doc focusing on memory. I told him, fully in French, about an experimental film I had seen at the Whitney Biennial and then again at MOMA* that is actually more like a performance. The film is about a man who, as a result of a botched operation to relieve his epilepsy, lost all his long-term memory and can only remember the last 20 seconds of his life. Kerry Tribe specially designed the documentary to be screened through two side by side projectors. One reel of film runs on a loop between the two projectors so that the first screen shows the “present” moment in the film and the second screen shows the moment in the film 20 seconds prior. It’s such a creative and impactful way to tell the man’s story and beyond that, to convey a little bit of what it was like to live in his head.

The neuroscientist knew exactly who I was talking about even though I couldn’t remember his name (speaking of bad memory). He is Henry Molaison and apparently he is the most studied patient in the history of neuroscience.

He then told me, again fully in French, a rather tragic tale about another person whose brain injury was the first proof that damage to the frontal lobe can affect personality. Phineas Gage was a kind and upstanding guy until a freak accident blasted a piece of iron through his skull. He miraculously lived and at first seemed to make a full mental recovery, but then he started becoming a bit of a dick, to put it bluntly. His wife left him, he lost his job and he died penniless and alone. A sad story for Phineas, but a happy one for me because I actually understood it.

TUESDAY: I went to see Truffaut’s “The Man Who Loved Women” at the French Institute. It was the last of their CineSalon series, “The Art of Sex and Seduction,” and I liked it a lot…. though I tried to go “off-subtitle” and failed miserably. I gave up averting my eyes from the titles at about twenty minutes in and allowed myself to just enjoy the film without treating it as a learning exercise, but it was a little dejecting after two days of thinking I was actually getting somewhere.

Oh well, if it’s got to be this way I hope it’s at least two steps forward, one step back instead of the other way around.

*(where it is in the permanent collection – go see it!)

[Photo: Lisa T.]


Wild Tales

wild tales poster

I went to see “Wild Tales” knowing nothing about it except that Almodóvar was one of the producers, and I love Almodóvar.

Embarrassingly far into the movie I realized it was set in Argentina and not Spain as I had originally assumed. I wish I had recognized the distinctive accents but they went completely over my head until one of the characters said he was on the road from Salta to Cafayate, city names I recognized from my tour book.

Ever since my trip last winter all things Argentine fill my heart with joy, and this film was no exception. But it would have filled my heart with joy regardless of its provenance. It had all the trappings of the best of Almodóvar – dark twisted humor, absurdly over the top sex and violence, flamboyantly flawed characters. Some of it was a little anxiety-provoking but the net effect was glee.

The movie was comprised of a bunch of thematically related vignettes and in the last one I *think* the actor was the same guy who was pointed out to me in a Buenos Aires restaurant as a famous Argentine star. I’m not entirely sure, but I remember thinking the guy in the restaurant looked like a blond Ben Stiller, and this guy looked like a blond Ben Stiller*, and how many blond Ben Stiller lookalikes are there in the world? Either way, I recommend the film!

*…though not at all in the image above. So maybe I’m completely off.

j’aime la nouvelle vague

Hiroshima Mon Amour poster

A belated blurb about “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” the Alain Resnais new wave classic that I caught last week at Film Forum (perfectly timed with my Tokyo afterglow):

The same poetic, overwrought melodrama that tarnishes the script’s beauty with a hefty dose of cheese has the exact opposite effect on the composition, which is the height of elegance and artistry. Every shot is so perfectly framed that, well, it could be framed. Look at these!:

Hiroshima Mon Amour film still Hiroshima Mon Amour film still Hiroshima Mon Amour film still Hiroshima Mon Amour film still

Jaw-droppingly gorgeous, no?

I spent the movie enraptured by the cinematography and appreciative that even though the screenplay didn’t speak to me in the traditional sense, it spoke to me in the literal sense. As in, it was sparse, repetitive and simple enough for me to understand 90% of it without subtitles.

French practice, eye candy, and a warm movie theatre on a cold night = perfection.

playing hooky

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Last night instead of going to my weekly French Meetup, I wore the dress I had bought while putting off last week’s session, and I attended the premiere of a Hollywood movie featuring a perfectly Hollywood version of France.

There were more clichés in “The Hundred-Foot Journey” then you could shake a stick at. Three of the most egregious: the quaint village untouched by modernity (not one cell phone or computer in sight, but plenty of vintage books and bicycles); the cozy whitewashed apartment illuminated only by candlelight; and the shy ingénue with saucer-like eyes and magnetic charm – a French twist on the manic pixie dream girl.

But who cares. We dressed up, we walked (by) the red carpet, we spotted Oprah and Helen Mirren, and we were mildly entertained for two hours. And I heard about six lines of French over the course of the movie – so I’m counting that as a de facto Meetup.

Photo: Mysterious/badly lit selfie of my friend Jenny and me in row F. I really need to do better with these pictures…