falling in love again (only to have my heart broken)

At the end of October, I flew to Oregon to spend a couple of months with my sister’s family. About halfway through my time there, I streamed Cinemania, a cult documentary I had wanted to see for years. It profiles a bunch of obsessive moviegoers during an era — the turn of the Millennium — before you could order a DVD of any film you wanted to see, let alone find it on-demand or stream it. These cinephiles would study the movie theatres’ programs like tacticians, and then they would hop from arthouse cinema to repertory cinema to museum cinema, taking in four or five or six different movies a day, every day.

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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.

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…

the gleaners

The Gleaners

Last week I killed two birds with one stone – got some French practice in while viewing an acclaimed documentary by Agnes Varda, “The Gleaners and I.” Though it was slow going and I found the first half pretty boring, eventually the meandering, off-the-beaten-path storytelling grew on me.

Gleaners are traditionally people who follow along after the harvest, picking up all the crops that have been missed by the reapers. Taking her inspiration/point of departure from the Jean-François Millet painting above, Varda went out in search of modern day gleaners – not only farm foragers but also trash pickers, junk refurbishers, upcyclers, and artists who find their raw materials on the streets. Between vignettes about these people, Varda added little interstitial bits of weirdness and whimsy – her hand making circles around distant trucks; a lens cap’s “dance” as the camera bumps along on an accidentally filmed walk; a robed judge standing in a field explaining property law. My neurotic brain is drawn to the meta, so the idea of Varda gleaning all her footage for odds and ends to throw into the mix was sort of delightful to me (even when not so delightful to watch).

The slow pace did make following along in French a lot easier. I tried to ignore the subtitles as much as possible, but I should have just turned them off. It’s so hard to avoid your eye wandering down to them even when you can understand most of what’s being said.

If I were really committed, I would rewatch the movie without subtitles and try to glean some new vocabulary now that I know the general story. 🙂

(Let’s face it, I’m not that committed – but I do still want to watch a couple of Varda’s other films that I’ve heard good things about: The Beaches of Agnès and Cleo from 5 to 7.)


Virunga movie poster

This past Thursday I went to see the Virunga premiere at the TriBeCa Film Festival with a couple of work friends. The documentary follows park rangers in the eponymous Congolese national park as they work to protect endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife from poachers and encroachment by oil development interests. It’s a super powerful film (and super adorable thanks to the special bond between one of the rangers, Andre, and the orphaned gorillas he cares for). Continue reading