Friday, May 25, 2012

Margot at the Wedding

Another tense, uncomfortable movie about unlikeable people.  Margot at the Wedding is about a two sisters, played by Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, two actresses adept at playing complex, difficult, self-tortured women. Leigh's character is getting married, and Kidman and her twelve year old son come to visit during the days before the wedding.

Margot at the Wedding is primarily a portrait of Kidman/Margot, whose bitterness, self-absorption, and lack of insight poison all her interactions.  Each scene is rich with realistic minor conflicts that flare, die down a bit, and linger.  Most disturbing for me was Margot's relationship with her son. She was so mean and manipulative of him, keeping him tethered to her neurosis.

So, what did I think of it? Not sure... It was interesting to watch, and the acting was impressive; but in the end I don't know what was really there.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Never Let Me Go (movie)

Because I was so haunted by Ishiguro's novel, I couldn't easily leave the world he created and felt that I had to see the movie version right away.

Last night I watched the adaptation Never Let Me Go. It is nowhere near as brilliant as the book, and the secrets are revealed much sooner and more bluntly. You are far less immersed in the tense minutia of life at Hailsham.

In spite of all this, the movie is effective. It was powerful for me to see things that I had not had a visual of, and the extreme, painful, and tragic vulnerability of the grown characters was conveyed in a much more direct way than in the novel.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Never Let Me Go

Earlier tonight I finished Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, a surreal novel that I was utterly absorbed in.

Never Let Me Go is narrated by Kathy H. a 31 year old "carer" who is recalling her days at what appears to be an exclusive boarding school. Her memories focus on the intense, insular interpersonal dynamics between children, and the minutia of her observations has a hauntingly precise and eerily detached quality to it. The tension created in every small interaction was excruciatingly claustrophobic. The attention to detail is particularly effective because there is an increasing sense of something foreboding looming outside the narrator's frame. The bigger picture is gradually uncovered, and this story is chilling, haunting, creepy, and very tender and moving.

I can't say more without giving it away.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Parra, Klee, Wulff and the Collection at SFMOMA

In addition to the Dijkstra Rineke exhibition, I got to see the vibrant Parra mural, Weirded Out; I also checked out a small exhibit of Paul Klee portraits, which were playful, tight, cryptic and idiosyncratic. I really enjoyed them. I also saw another small exhibition of the contemporary artist Katharina Wulff.  I didn't like the vagueness of these painting, the pastel palette, the stiffly rendered figures. I did like this small untitled piece, of the pink woman with orange hair against a yellow background.

I explored some of the permanent collection, and was captivated by a Barry McGee installation, a brooding Jim Dine, a whole room of Clyfford Stills, and a Warhol self-portrait.

SFMOMA is a very beautiful museum. There is currently a wonderful suspended light installation in the lobby that moves and shows shadows of different figures...

Dijkstra Rineke at SFMOMA

I spent a lovely afternoon at SFMOMA. The Dijkstra Rineke retrospective was powerful!

These large, bold, dramatic portraits simultaneously suggested emotional intensities and human frailties.  Photographed in the US and Europe, they depict young subjects. Large-seeming heads and soulful eyes look out over lanky awkwardness and precise stillness.

One series was taken on beaches (an odd dark haired girl in Belgium wearing a strange striped one piece particularly stood out), another was of Portuguese bullfighters, another of nude women with newborn babies... My favorite series was Almerisa, a Bosnian refugee in the Netherlands. She was photographed over two decades, and it was fascinating having these glimpses of her growing up and assuming adulthood.

The Chronology of Water

Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir, The Chronology of Water, is breathtaking.

Written in a fast, driven, voice that also slows down and plays with tempo, The Chronology of Water creates a sense of both urgency and emotional ripeness -- the writer is both compelled to write, and has long considered her words.

The memoir chronicles a number of life issues, from being a competitive swimmer growing up in an emotionally and physically abusive home, to sexual awakenings and finding artistic identity.  But the story is told in such a unique way that it isn't the typical linear confessional narrative memoir. Each chapter is a story of its own, and they come together in a mosaic of experience.

I was riveted throughout, and read the book in practically one sitting, but found the final chapters with the narrator's mother to be particularly moving.

I want to read more by Yuknavitch!