· The Finical Filmgoer · M. Chariot's natural joie-de-vivre has been suppressed by a period of uncertain health, mainly involving the little fingers: they've come out of joint. Not the first time, I can tell you that! It is an ongoing constitutional concern which limits the sweet pleasures to be plucked from life's trembling bower.
Looking back, I recall episodes of digital dysfunction. "Excessive politesse," Corinne - my first wife - would warble, "has a deleterious effect on the minor digits!"
"Parsnips and Poppycockle!" I'd reply, swooping into the music room with splayed pinkies and not a bit of irritation. "Politesse is that most refined oil with which we toss the salad of culture, my dear Corinne!"
Sniffing, she would return to her nocturnes on the harpsichord.
"The coarse, raw vegetables of discourse are only swallowed via the lubricious, satiny oils of courtliness and solicitude!" I'd deliver this last with a brisk flourish. To her back.
Sigh. One must simply banish from one's mind the conversations which led to divorce, musn't one? We carry on, secure in our most precious convictions.
As refined gentlepersons well know, out-of-joint pinkies are a sartorial catastrophe. Have you ever tried to insert your hands into a pair of gray suede formal gloves with the pinkies bent higgledy-piggledy in the opposite direction? A grim, unnatural task indeed. And yet, aspirations to high culture do not exist without struggle.
Taken to my Victorian bed in search of recovery, snug in a hilly meadow of eyelet pillows and propped up before a tiny portable captain's bed desk, one has little energy for anything other than watching old films. Thankfully dear reader, your humble author wields the quill-pen without the pinky - to be sure, they were never much employed in that regard in the first place. As such I submit these humble cinema reviews to your delicate considerations.
· The Finical Filmgoer ·
M. Chariot's natural joie-de-vivre has been suppressed by a period of uncertain health, mainly involving the little fingers: they've come out of joint. Not the first time, I can tell you that! It is an ongoing constitutional concern which limits the sweet pleasures to be plucked from life's trembling bower.
Angels and Insects (1995) Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
On a recent Friday evening, feeling tired and lonely as we single persons are wont to feel on occasion, I was pleased to encounter that familiar scarlet envelope in my mailbox. Le Netflique! And so I trudged up to my second floor flat, put down my parcels, washed my face and hands, prepared a small dish of Spanish green rice, mixed roasted squashes with fresh sage, and a small piece of lime-marinated beef, uncorked a half-bottle of a sourish Merlot, and settled in to Angels and Insects (1995).
"I think you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen," intones an entranced William Adamson (M. Mark Rylance) to his betrothed, Eugenia Alabaster (Mlle Patsy Kensit), a pale moth-like girl in a voluminous iridescent dress like a cocoon, large eyes gleaming and darting, her head framed by two massive whorls of thick blonde hair. In this stunningly beautiful and disturbingly erotic film, the performances of these two actors (Ryland is the artistic director of The Globe, and Kensit was the previous decade's Sienna Miller) are simply mesmerizing.
Angels and Insects, set in the 1800s, is the story of a British naturalist who is shipwrecked after spending 10 years in the Amazon jungle studying arthropods. His specimens, money and writings lost, he is forced onto the good will of an aristocratic benefactor, who takes him into his stately mansion to help organize his own "private collections". Much is made of the savage parallels between the insect and the human worlds, and the mansion itself is presented as an enormous, labyrinthine hive, its human inhabitants reminiscent of ants, spiders, ticks and centipedes.
The film is based on the novel entitled Morpho Eugenia by Mlle A. S. Byatt, and the art direction is breathtaking: the costuming, makeup and hairstyles configured to cast the characters in a faintly squeamish dimension, a crawling and festering world one might find under a stone in the forest. Mlle Kristin Scott Thomas, lambent, black and ant-like, serves as tutor to the children, who appear to have been cast for their balletic skills, their movements crisp and delicate as butterflies.
I have long adored this film, which examines the ritual and disaster of romance, of mating through a unique and arresting lens. Spellbinding.
Secret Ceremony (1968)
A weekend or so ago (I can barely remember), M. Chariot received a call from his actor friend M. Meutrier, who, as it happens, is preparing for a new role in something on the television. And so I was invited to see an obscure film with some bearing to something-or-other related to the new role, details of which I would relate here if I had managed to pay attention.
Shortly we found ourselves at the Egyptian Theatre, a state-of-the-art cinema tucked inside a cavernous tomblike portico just steps off the seedy glitz of Hollywood Boulevard. A terrible fuss was made to accommodate my antique wooden wheelchair (essential as my pinkies were feeling particularly delicate that evening), which M. Meutrier finally managed to navigate into the allotted niche. At the Egyptian, Hollywood's most tedious cinephiles gather under the auspices of American Cinematheque to see cultish, forgotten movies before they rot, unrestored, in their original film canisters.
On this very evening, Mlle Elizabeth Taylor, Mlle Mia Farrow and M. Robert Mitchum were to be viewed starring in Secret Ceremony, directed by M. Joseph Losey in 1968.
Gentle cinema-goer, be forewarned: I am here to tell you that what unfolded on the screen before us was an unspeakable descent into madness, sexual perversion, prostitution, child molestation, nymphomania, suicide and murder — a list which describes only the film's more, shall we say, "wholesome" moments. Secret Ceremony is not for those with weak stomachs, persons suffering from extreme sexual delicacy or those whom stress leaves teetering on the edge of psychosis. Gentlemen may have some anthropological interest, but gentlewomen should steer clear of the entire affair. I am after this submission forwarding a hand-written note to Netflique's, congratulating them on their strict refusal to allow an innocent public access this erotic monstrosity!
Secret Ceremony is rated R: for Repugnant!
To Each His Own (1946)
M. Chariot has long been a fan of Mlle Olivia de Havilland. This marvelous actress had one of those soulful faces which registered every emotion, and was able to transmit great depth of character, a resonant dignity to film. To Each His Own opens in London during WWII, and Mlle de Havilland portrays successful yet hardened, middle-aged businesswoman Jody Norris, supporting The Cause by keeping watch on a London rooftop, where she meets Lord Desham (M. Roland Culver), also doing his part to salvage the city. They bicker, two old codgers run ragged, embittered by war and life's vicissitudes, when he trips and almost plunges to his death. De Havilland saves his life, and they later get to know each other, icy boundaries melting over drinks and dinner, surrounded by loud servicemen in a local restaurant. Slowly surrendering their defenses, they begin talking openly about maturity, regret, loss and loneliness, whereupon the story opens onto de Havilland's past.
As a young girl in a small town in upstate NY, she meets and is romanced by a glamorous, visiting military flyer (M. John Lund) who is shortly killed in action, when she discovers she is pregnant with his child. She is forced to give the baby up for adoption, to a snobbish local couple. The story traces her relationship to her son and his adoptive parents over the next 20 years, and her tragic inability to reveal that she is his mother.
A well-made, classic tearjerker with a great script and sharp dialogue, reflecting the shattering effect of the war years, when lives could only be mended with great courage. Mlle De Havilland won a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar for her performance. Be sure to have several boxes of tissues at hand.
A dark and enveloping enchantment starring M. Dustin Hoffman, M. Alan Rickman, M. Ben Whishaw and Mlle Rachel Hurd-Wood. Adored it. I understand that many people cherish the novel upon which the film is based, Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind, the mysterious German author who has refused interviews for over twenty years. I'm almost sure I've read the novel, obviously finding it forgettable, which in all honesty could be attributed to Alzheimer's, opium abuse or the mind-numbing effect of sequential bad marriage, let the reader opine.
But the film held my lovely visitor Mlle Dubonnet, exquisitely perched on the tip of my sumptuous leather sectional, enthralled. Swirling images of the vulgar, the erotic, the sublime. Psychological loopholes subliminally familiar to us all unfold to reveal crevasses in the passionately deranged mind. Carnal abandonment, an immersion in the voluptuous, the spell, the stagger, the sway of scent and the mad things it can make us do.
Interesting things were occurring on the screen as well. Ravishing! A bewitchment.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
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