Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dangerous Liaisons

Last night I watched Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988). I had been wanting to watch this as last month I started reading De Laclos' book. At first I really enjoyed it, but then it dragged and I gave up. But still, I was fascinated by the plot.

I had loved Dangerous Liaisons when it first came out, and I had no doubt that it would hold up. It totally does!
The plot is very rich and intricate, and the intense and cruel connection between Glenn Close (Mme de Mertuil) and John Malkovitch (de Valmont) is enthralling and delicious. Their restrained and sharp dialogue are what make the movie.

The games they play with others are painful to watch, and the twisted romance between Valmont and Mme do Torvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) is excruciating.

I loved it.

Maybe I'll give the book another shot.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Truth & Beauty

I just finished Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty, her memoir of her friend Lucy Grealy.  Although I had a number of problems with it, and definitely didn't love it, I read this book very quickly and gave it my full attention.

Lucy had written Autobiography of a Face, a memoir about being a child survivor of cancer who lost half her jaw. I read this close to when it came out, in the early/mid 90s I guess. I remember the author describing excruciating chemotherapy, and I remember for some reason not particularly liking the author. Not that I didn't like her, but somehow I felt that there was a distance there, that I didn't connect with the narrator on an emotional level, when she was telling such an emotional story. I guess the proper adjective is restrained, but I wanted to feel more.

Anyway, I remember around that time actually seeing Lucy Grealy in Soho. She was recognizable because of her lack of a jaw. For some reason seeing her made a big impression on me.

Well, after having read Winterson's memoir, Amazon recommended Truth & Beauty, and so all these years later I'm revisiting Lucy Grealy.

Grealy, or Lucy as she is in Patchett's memoir, died of a heroin overdose in 2002.  Patchett tells of an intense friendship dating back to when their days in graduate school as young aspiring writers at the Iowa Workshop. The friendship's intensity seems to all come from Lucy, who is dramatic and needy and over the top and larger than life. She doesn't suffer, she SUFFERS. Although Patchett describes Lucy as always surrounded by friends, there was nothing in her description that captured Lucy's charm, so she just seemed like a weird pain in the ass and it was hard to see what drew people to her.

The friendship itself seemed awfully lopsided. Ann is kind of a non presence. For instance there are many of Lucy's letters, but none of Ann's. Ann tends to Lucy's needs, but never does this seem to be reciprocated. I do understand friendships like that. I've actually been on both sides of them, but it was annoying having such a bland narrator.

I was morbidly fascinated by Lucy's lack of a jaw. She didn't have lower teeth, couldn't closer her mouth, and couldn't chew. So she could only slurp mashed up stuff... She endured a total of 38 surgeries, all intended to rebuild her jaw so that she could look normal. Actually she wanted badly not to be normal but to be beautiful. At one point after a surgery she asks Ann how she looks and Ann says "good". Lucy says "I didn't go through all of this to look good. I want to look great!"

Lucy had a lot of sex, and I couldn't help wondering how about her kissing and that aspect of her physical relationships. Other than the sex, her love life was empty and she suffered greatly from loneliness and a desire to be really loved.

Another thing that was interesting was getting to see aspects of the lives of the literati. Patchett, Grealy and all their friends were very successful writers, writers for whom success happened quickly and, from Patchett's account, relatively effortlessly.

Oh, one last thing, Lucy could not put together another book after Autobiography of a Face. It seemed she shot her wad on that and there was nothing left. She had a deadline for another book that she kept putting off, and at one point Ann offers to write the book for her. WTF? How fucked up is that?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Alonzo King Lines Ballet

Last night I saw Alonzo King Lines Ballet at The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and I have to say, few things excite me as much as contemporary ballet.

The program consisted of two long pieces with an intermission. The first dance, Migration, in six parts, was composed to natural sounds, particularly bird sounds as well as water, etc. The movement was jittery and inventive, and there was unbelievably complex pas de deux that mesmerized me. I confess, at first I was disappointed that the music wasn't more "musical", but I quickly became entranced.

The second part of the program, Scheherazade, was the real treat of the evening. First of all the sets and lighting were stunning. The music was percussive, based on traditional Persian sound and using such unusual instruments as the duduk, one of the oldest double reed instruments in the world, the ney, the only wind instrument in classical Arabic music and dating back to the pyramids, and the percussion instruments the daf, the daira and the tombak. Of course I got this information from the program and know very little about these instruments, but I can say the sound was thrilling.

The ballet performed to this music was ethereal and earthy at the same time, and the quirky and impossible movements, like in Migration, were so complex and unique. It was a truly singular experience. Scheherazade also included a hypnotic pas de deux.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Last night I watched The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, starring a 13 year old Jodie Foster as a girl who seems to be living in a big house all by herself. A very creepy (in fact cartoonishly so) and lecherous Martin Sheen starts harassing her, and she schemes to keep her ghastly secrets safe.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is at once a serious, gritty 70s film, and at the same time a cheap, ludicrous, B-movie.

While Martin Sheen is laughable, Jodie Foster is amazing. Stony, assertive, and precocious. The only problem with her performance was the distractingly fake wig she wore the whole time (as Sheen's character fetishized her hair...).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

On a plane to NYC I started, and on return finished Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? a memoir of her early life with her insane adopted mother and her search to find her birth mother.

Jeanette Winterson had been a favorite writer of mine many, many years ago. I had adored The Passion, and very much enjoyed a number of other books, including Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (also about her mother), but after a while I lost interest.

I'm glad I picked up this memoir. Her mother is a fascinating character, a crazed, religious zealot, and Winterson's prose is beautiful. The second half of the book concerns her search for her birth mother, and this was a hair less interesting to me, although at the end I was deeply moved.

Now I'm going to reread The Passion. Oh, and it also inspired me to read Woolf's Orlando...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Flamenco Vivo!

Last night I saw Flamenco Vivo perform at St. Joseph's College in Ft. Greene.

What a powerful performance! The singer was soulful and haunting, really beautiful, and the dancers were strong, sexy, and virile. So much control and discipline to express so much passion!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Loving Annabelle

Over the weekend, also on a friend's suggestion, I watched Loving Annabelle, a story about a lesbian affair between a high school student and her teacher.

I found it to be rather cliche and two dimensional. If it had been a male teacher and a female student, there would be no story there.

Tipping the Velvet

On a friend's suggestion I watched Tipping the Velvet last night. About a decade ago I had read the book, and wasn't that impressed, so I wasn't inclined to see the BBC version of it.

However, I totally enjoyed it!

Tipping the Velvet
is about the adventures of a lesbian woman in Victorian England. Starting with her sexual awakening and first love, and her emergence as a cross dresser and stage performer, it covers a sordid and kinky affair with an older woman, and ends with the attainment of new love and a fully mature sense of self.

I thought this BBC production was very well executed. It was emotional and steamy, gritty and dramatic.

One thing, I am pretty sure they added something at the end which wasn't in the book (I don't want to give it away). It was a minor thing, but, if I remember correctly, it was something that turned me off a lot in the book, and which I think, in a subtle way, saves the movie for me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bad News Bears

I've been on a sort of cheesy nostalgic comedy kick lately... Last night I watched The Bad News Bears with Walter Mathau and Tatum O'Neal.

I had LOVED this movie when I was a kid. And, to an extent, it holds up. I mean, it really is mainly for kids, but I could see the quality of it as a kids feel good comedy with edge (particularly amusing to me was the only sponsor they could find for the team was Chico's Bail Bonds).

Speaking of edge, it was a tad shocking. Mathau plays a broken down drunk roped in to coaching a baseball team of klutzy misfits. He drinks all the time and smokes. In front of the kids, even falls down drunk on the field. And the kids, feisty and charming, curse at him like no tomorrow. I know they recently remade The Bad News Bears, and I'm wondering if it kept the harsh depressing edge. Although it ended on a fun, uplifting note, there was no major resolution: Mathau didn't get his shit together. I appreciate this lack of sappiness.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sister Spit!

I just saw Sister Spit perform at the SF public library and it was an amazing show!

The first reader was Ali Liebegott who read a terrific poem reflecting on Avedon's photography and the donor's family from her knee surgery.

Cassie J. Sneider read a hilarious and very well-written story about music, her family, and Long Island. I liked it so much I bought a copy of the book for a friend who grew up on Long Island.

Michelle Tea, who hosted, charmingly, read from a recent Jane XO post about trying to get pregnant. Like Sneider's story, this was chatty, smart, very funny, and wonderfully observed.

The afternoon featured a screening of chapter of Tea's Valencia which is being filmed by 21 different filmmakers. To my very pleasant surprise, this chapter (directed by Hilary Goldberg) included footage of my beloved Orange Alley!

A wild, wonderous, hilarious story was also read by Brontez Purnell that had the audience in stitches. Really excellent work.

The afternoon ended with a reading by Dorothy Allison, whose Bastard Out of Carolina broke my heart in the early/mid 90s. She was a powerful, moving reader, and felt honored to be in the audience.

All in all, a fabulous Sunday in San Francisco.