Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Latest Addiction

While on vacation with my good friend, Adrienne, I happened to find a bargain of a buy in the clearance section of Borders. I'm now convinced that it was fate that this book and I should meet. I have always loved movies, but recently I have grown tired of the lack of quality movies actually coming out in the theaters. So I've gone retro-active! 

The book is organized by genre ranging from Comedy to Mysterey & Thriller, Science Fiction & Fantasy and everywhere in between. For each genre there are about fifty films which also range from early silent films to more recent films such as Meet the Parents. I don't know that that particular movie would make it to my own personal must-see movies list, but it is a great place to start. Overall? If I were actually giving this book a review, I would definitely give it high marks. 

This also happens to be where I discovered the film Raise the Red Lantern, which I wrote about below. There is nothing quite like discovering something new and that film was everything I was looking for by way of new and different. Granted, it was sad, but it opened my eyes to a way of life so far removed from the experiences I have. It wasn't until taking a couple film classes in college that I actually started to appreciate films that were artistic or that were less about entertaining than they were about painting a picture of any given experience. 

Since then I am continually amazed by the different techniques and themes that filmmakers artfully employ. I'm not going to lie, it makes me want to run around with a camera, only my efforts would likely turn out the equivalent of a child running around with a disposable camera. Well, at least those who can't do, can watch! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Red Menagerie

The solitude induced by the purity of sound and the poetic cohesion of vivid images in the film Raise the Red Lantern are moving in a way that is difficult to express, and yet entrancingly alluring to watch.  

In the film we see all that is lovely and beautiful in the idyllic setting of a palatial-like estate where the relationships between women are explored carefully and perhaps too adequately for our liking in the form of four concubines.  We view this estate through the eyes of a young girl of nineteen, who chooses to be married to a rich man as his fourth mistress when her father dies, leaving her no more money to attend university.  In this glass menagerie of a household, the young girl must learn to keep her friends close and enemies even closer as it becomes evident that each woman must, by necessity, be in competition with the others for the attentions of their shared master.

Traditions and rules are important in this household and the film revolves around them, starting with the symbolic lighting of red lanterns at the house of whichever wife the master chooses to spend his evening.  This tradition of lighting the lanterns is an honor that only one woman receives at a time and becomes a status symbol, not only elevating her above the other concubines, but also giving her more prestige in the eyes of the servants who show more respect to she who has lastly received the honor.

As young Songlian struggles to find her own place within the already destabilized feminine hierarchy, she exhibits a full range of human emotions and traits from rough arrogance to pained empathy and every pithy characteristic in between.  We see in her a girl who learns too quickly the ways of viciousness and vindictiveness, possessiveness and spite. Yet in perhaps the most unlikely source she finds validation through realization of shared sorrows and apprehensions.  In many ways we might see ourselves in her knee-jerk reactions to events, which she does not learn to curb easily.  

In overall theme the film is disturbing and melancholy, not to be undertaken with the hopes of lively entertainment, but an attitude of retrospection and contemplation.  For in the characters and their actions a pattern begins to emerge, suggesting a larger social commentary about the effects of a life of confinement, even one as prettily decorated and disguised.  It is a none-too-gentle reminder that we each may carry around our own prisons instead of being locked inside of them.  

The colors and composition of this film alone make it worth viewing as it captures all that is lovely about the art of cinematography.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

An Ode to Brie

I rediscovered Brie this weekend. Strange how a piece of cheese could make me so nostalgic for a time and place in my life long since past. But it did. One wiff of that distinctive and somewhat stinky smell and I became wistful for the days of real French baguettes and supermarchés with aisle after aisle of fromage: Chamembert de Normandie, Beaufort, Neufchâtel, Roquefort, Le Vache qui Rit. Yes, I am actually waxing poetic about cheese. Yet it's not just cheese to the French, it is almost an identity all it's own, if you will. Indeed, I rather wonder if it is not sacrilege to not like cheese in France. It gives new meaning to the phrase, "You are what you eat." And if that phrase is true, I am most certainly a little moldy around the edges.

Well, I feel like my relationship with cheese closely mirrors my experience of France in general. I started out just as any other American girl unaccustomed to such overabundance of choice and eventually acquired the taste for most of what I tried. Minus goat cheese. I still think goat cheese is something someone came up with to frighten small children into behaving and grown adults into penitence. But the point is that experiencing the important parts of a culture so apart from my own changed me in ways I can't explain. And somewhere along the way I came to associate all those small, but significant changes with the things that were closest at hand: the things that I ate, the things that I saw, and even the people I was with.

So thank goodness for a dear friend who shares my love of all things French and reintroduced me to all the culinary joys that are out there if you're only willing to spend a little time discovering them. Over the years I've gotten progressively more and more "busy" to the point that I've abandoned many of the things I always loved to do. This blog is an effort to regain the artistic outlet that I lost when I stopped writing. With any luck I will also rediscover my long lost pastime of culinary creativity.

It occurs to me that what I write in this forum really isn't very interesting or clever and I doubt many people will read it. But as stated above, it really is a simple catalogue of my daily thoughts for my own amusement, and as such will likely be a continually random enumeration of my random musings.