Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Saturday Stuff and Sunday Movies

I am glad that I didn't try and hit the film festival on Saturday because I ended up pretty much getting my ass kicked by a migraine and spent most of the afternoon dozing and listening to Rimsky's Tale of Tsar Saltan which is the opera whose hero at one point turns himself into a bumble-bee to inflict pain on the evil courtiers who have persecuted him and his saintly mother. Yes, you've got it - it's the opera with the Flight of the Bumblebee - and not just the version you know, but the scene where he is stinging them and it becomes an ensemble with an almost Rossinian crescendo. Probably you have to be an opera fan to find this funny, but I think it's hilarious, in a 1960s Russian cartoon sort of way...Presumably the operatic tradition fed into that, I find myself thinking.

Later on, I watched Primeval which wins a prize for most gratuitously casual expansion of show's premise - as in hang on! maybe dinosaurs coming out of time warps has been going on throughout history and so we need a mythic creatures expert to add to our team of incredibly foolhardy amateurs! On the other hand, evil woman bureaucrat sent soldiers to their death retrieving some artefact from future ruined edge of crater London and it was hi-jacked by evil Helen, so the actual plot of the show is bubbling away furiously.

I hope they explain the backstory to the new recruit where we can hear them, because it is going to be funny. 'Well, Cutter's wife is this supervillain who controls time and he claims she edited out his girlfriend, and she did shag his best friend, who died heroically saving her and him from evil future predators that her revolted minion had sicced onto them, and on Lester, but Lester killed his with a mammoth and sarcasm.' Run away, clever Sarah, run away, back to your schoolchildren, because otherwise they will get you killed.

I also watched Dollhouse I posted my thoughts as comments to Tempest's review for Fantasy, but may as well repeat them here:
I can’t help noticing that the Rossum corporation has a name rich in association - as in Rossum’s Universal Robots, or R.U.R. the Karel Capek play which gave us the word robot, which of course derives from the word for worker. And one of the things that robots are, is dolls…

What really annoys me about this show is that all the crappy sexual and racial politics are getting in the way of showing what it is really about, which is that in a late capitalist society, we are all commodities, we are all dolls. We will, I prophesy, discover before season end that Adele and Topher have had reasons for selling themselves, that even Dominic has a reason…

Which is at once an interesting take on class and economics and a moral cop-out. Because is Mengele any less monster because he has childhood traumas? The scene between stoned Adele and stoned Topher was brilliantly done and morally repugnant - it made us like people who are, at the end of the day, monsters.


The other reason I am glad I stayed home Saturday is that the three movies I watched on Sunday all dealt with important Roz Issues, so I got a triple whammy of omigod! I know those people! that perhaps it was over-brave of me to put myself through in a single day.

Born in 68 is a French version of what we may as well call the Big Chill school of movies in which we get a lot of nostalgia for the glory days of Boomer and a lot of guilt about how many of us sold out. (Quick sideline on The Big Chill - when I first saw it I wondered why the character of the formerly radical lawyer who was making a mint in real estate deals rang a bell, and reminded me of someone I was at Oxford with, and then I realized that Kasdan's co-writer on the script was her sister. Those six degrees, they get me every time.)

So, anyway, BornIn68 did not go the retrospect route, it meandered for three hours through the entire forty years, as in 'I really need to piss, I've been here for two hours, and the Berlin Wall is only just falling'. I was very impressed by the three principals who were convincing as student radicals and as people in middle age - I was especially impressed by Laetitia Casta who was convincingly both when playing something rather younger than her actual age and as a dying woman in her late 50s, and has a quiet steely certainty throughout. Some people did not sell out and managed not to behave especially badly in the process.

The film does go on, and it does fetishize the French countryside in a slightly heritage way, but I liked the way it dealt with the next generation and their issues at the same time, and that it neither over-praises nor over-blames anyone. Catherine is the sort of perfect person it is slightly hellish to be around, but it is not her fault and she is wonderful...I knew people who aspired to be that sort of hippy feminist goddess, back in the day, and I wonder what happened to them...

(There was the commune where I used to go occasionally to eat lentil soup and where they had rosters for cleaning, cooking, shopping and -it was rumoured - sex and where some awful person, and I am sure it was not me, that time, confused them all by forging and sticking up a roster for making rosters).

The Secrets is a film about sex and religion, and a lot of people I talked to afterwards thought it went on too long and that its ending, when one of the two young women gets married, was a standard coming out movie cop-out. I am less sure of that simply because my feeling was that it was a movie less about feminism or lesbianism or coming of age than about Noemi's learning the hard way that spirituality is the thing which organized religion excludes or tries to control. She and her friend Michelle, students in a sort of combination of finishing school and women's Talmudic college, are asked by a slightly mad woman dying of cancer to help her repent the crime of passion which sent her to jail for killing her lover - and the woman is played by Fanny Ardant, which does not exactly lower the temperature on screen.

Noemi does what she thinks is right and loses family, religious certainty and ultimately true love in the process - she has a fierceness which I loved all the more for my scepticism about the value of her obsessions. She brings someone peace through ritual, which is the only thing I regard religion as much good for, and learns in the process that her father is a bully, her fiancee a prig, her woman mentor a moral coward and her lover weaker than she is. She is not broken - she does not forgive Michelle her betrayal but she dances at her wedding nonetheless.

As a movie about the forging of a passionate soul, it probably isn't too long. It made me very angry with the person I shall call G-d in deference to the film's practice, and with his followers, and not just for their sexism and homophobia either. It reminded me - and as my work on Rhapsody of Blood continues it is a useful reminder - that my anger is with actually existing religions and not entirely with the religious instinct itself; I want something good enough to worship and a worship that is all about loving-kindness and not at all about systems that end up crushing spirit.

Transvestites Also Cry is quite a good state of play documentary about transexual Latin American prostitutes in Paris whose lives have been hugely immiserated by Sarcozy's introduction of the sort of law Jacqui Smith is trying to get through. What saddened me, when I asked the director, was that the immiseration has largely broken down solidarity among sex workers who undercut each other furiously and no longer hang around telling all those wonderful anecdotes about each other's past that were what I noticed as a major feature of the community in Manchester in my teens and London and Chicago in my twenties.

And god! they make so little from tricks these days. Ten Euros! Back in the seventies in Chicago, you could easily turn a fifty dollar trick and quite often a C-Note. These are desperate times, Mrs Lovett, and desperate remedies are called for...
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