lunedì 15 settembre 2014

Moon River (o dell'utilità del cinema)

Me la prendo sempre un po' quando sento dire che il cinema è inutile.
Inutile nella vita di tutti i giorni, intendo. 
In effetti, a che cosa vuoi che ti serva, in termini pratici, sapere a memoria le canzoni di Les Demoiselles de Rochefort di Jacques Demy? O i dialoghi tra James Stewart e Grace Kelly in Rear Window di Hitchcock? O conoscere il nome del magnetofono con cui Truffaut e Chabrol registravano le interviste ai loro registi preferiti?
A nulla, presumibilmente (o forse a vincere un quiz su Truffaut, se solo esistesse).  
E invece ecco che, quando anche la vostra Zazie stava per soccombere ad una sana dose di cinismo e arrendevolezza alla vita, salta fuori - nella dura lotta della magia del cinema contro la banalità del mondo - l'alleato meno prevedibile che ci sia: un neonato di tre mesi e mezzo.
Com'è possibile? - vi chiederete giustamente voi.
E' possibile, credetemi. E' successo che sabato pomeriggio ho fatto la baby-sitter di Giacomino, il figlio di miei cari amici qui a Parigi. I suoi erano in mezzo ad un trasloco e mi avevano chiesto una mano per dargli un'occhiata, mentre loro caricavano e trasportavano scatoloni. Ad un certo punto, siamo rimasti da soli in casa io e Giacomo e vi assicuro che intrattenere un bimbo così piccolo non è facile.
Sua mamma mi aveva detto che gli piace molto sentire la musica, ma lo stereo era già inscatolato, e fargli sentire le canzoni dall'I-phone mi sembrava brutto.
Così guardo negli occhi Giacomino e, non so perché, ma mi viene da pensare che potrebbe piacergli Moon River di Henry Mancini, la canzone che canta Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Non chiedetemi come, ma mi ricordavo a memoria quasi tutto il testo, e ho cominciato a cantarla, dondolando dolcemente Giacomino. E boum! Gli è piaciuta talmente tanto che quasi si metteva a cantarla con me (giuro che mi accompagnava con dei piccoli suoni bellissimi). Non abbiamo fatto altro per ore. Io non avevo più voce, ma lui sembrava felice, e i suoi hanno finito il trasloco. 
Piccoli cinéphiles crescono.
E voi non mi venite ancora a dire che il cinema non serve a niente!   

martedì 9 settembre 2014

Cronenberg at The Eye

I have fallen in love with The Eye few years ago, when I saw it for the first time.
I like everything, there: the building, the space, the cinemas, the bookshop, the bar, the exhibitions they make. So, every time I go back to Amsterdam, I can't help myself: I have to take the boat just outside the station and run towards my favorite museum in town.
If, on top of that, they decide to program an exhibition about one of my favorite film-makers (David Cronenberg) having a picture of Jeremy Irons on the poster, well, that's when The Eye easily becomes my favorite museum in the world!
Divided into sections corresponding to every single Cronenberg's production, the exhibition illustrates the incredible journey of this Toronto native movie-maker: from the first horror-gore-scientifics films of the '70s to the sharp and pitiless vision of this year Maps to the Stars, every movie is explained and illustrated. What I didn't expected, was the incredible amount of objects coming from the set of his movies. I was just crazy about it. It was like touching all those amazing and terrifying things that Cronenberg invented and created in the course of his career. For instance, wouldn't you be happy of being in front of The Fly's telepod??!
Even if the creature coming out of it, luckily enough, wasn't there to welcome us:
Believe it or not, the inspiration for the design of the telepod came from the cylinder's shape of Cronenerg's vintage Ducati motorcycle!!! The evidence:
And what about the nice writing machines from Naked Lunch?
Or the pistol made of bone and gristle from eXistenZ?
But don't worry, there were also less frightening things, like the mug from the diner of A History of Violence:
Or the suitcase for tattoos-makers from Eastern Promises... anybody for a tattoo made by Nikolai? (a bit scary, uhm?):
And, in case of a car accident, I'm sure you want to try one of those nice rib cages from Crash...
But of course, my most beloved objects were coming from Cronenerg's masterpiece, Dead Ringers, a 1988 movie about two gynecologists twin brothers, both (!) played by Jeremy Irons. If you are a woman, the side effect of this movie is that you don't go to see a gynecologist for at least three-four months after its vision, because you're simply too scared that your doctor could use the following instruments to "visit" you:
To my big surprise, in the exhibition there was also the reproduction of Jeremy Iron's bust (I don't remember exactly which was the purpose of it, but I'm very glad they had to do it). 
Look at these perfect proportions!
Irons and Cronenberg worked together again in 1993, for a movie that I consider one of the most underestimated of cinema history: M Butterfly, which tells the (real) story of a British diplomate that fell in love in the China of the '60s with a a Chinese Opera singer (to find out only too late that the woman was, in fact, a man). One day I'll write a post about it. I simply adore that movie. In the exhibition there was a nice polaroid of Irons on set during a dress rehearsal:
Anyway, looking at this exhibition was absolutely clear that the constant theme of all Cronenerg's cinema is mutation, under all its forms. It was fascinating, scary and intriguing at the same time. I just felt like watching again and again all his movies (the museum programmed a complete retrospective during the time of the exhibition, that unfortunately will end next Sunday).
Last but not least, The Eye re-created the bar of the Naked Lunch, with a Mugwump seated at the counter waiting to drink and have a chat with people passing by.
A film-maker, for instance:
Or a cinema-blogger:
And in case you don't like this kind of bar and customers:
You can always opt for The Eye's lovely bar and restaurant:
You'd probably need a drink after a plunge in Cronenberg's world...

Un grazie di cuore a Linda, Gaetano e la mitica Moneypenny per la loro calorosa accoglienza!

mercoledì 3 settembre 2014

The Salvation

Summer is over. Work is back. Skies are grey.
This is what I thought last week, arriving in Paris after one month of absence. 
I admit it: I wasn't feeling at my best, and I couldn't find a way to cheer me up.
But then, guess what... cinema saved my life once again. And this time it happened thanks to a movie whose title couldn't be more appropriate: The Salvation.
A friend texted me to say that at the MK2 Quai de Loire, on Wednesday night, Mads Mikkelselsen and the film-maker Kristian Levring would show up at the end of the screening. 
So there I was, ready for the first great cinematic event of La Rentrée!
Cinema MK2 Quai de Loire
The Salvation is a western: Jon and Peter are two Danish men who emigrated to America in search of a better place to live after having fought in the Danish/German war of 1867. Once settled, Jon's wife and their young son join him to start a new life, but as soon as they arrive they are killed by a man called Paul. Jon finds him and kills him, not knowing that Paul is Delarue's brother, the region's villain. Delarue and Paul's widow, Madelaine, seek revenge and Jon's life becomes a nightmare. 
Will he be able to save himself?
I am far from being a huge westerns' fan, but this movie made by day, and most probably because it is a real classic. The silent and grand landscape of the West, a lonely hero, his faithful brother, the unbearable villain, the fascinating and dangerous woman, a fearsome vengeance, gallons of blood and countless gunfights: all the elements of the genre are present here. But there is also something more. 
I could clearly sense that the film-maker was paying a tribute to the thousands of western movies he should have seen as a young boy, and that was great. I like to see on screen the work of a cinema lover, even if he loves a kind of movies I don't particularly fancy. I understand him and I enjoy immensely to see his story.
Kristian Levring (the film-maker) with Mads Mikkelsen (the actor) on set
Besides this, The Salvation has one of the most beautiful cinematography I have seen in recent years. I didn't know Jens Schlosser, but I have already took note of his name: the wild west he has filmed in reality was South Africa but nobody could see the difference and it was looking even more beautiful and immense. 
Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt)
And then, well, and then there was the cast: a five stars one. Mads Mikkelsen is PERFECT for the role: he's got the right face, the right carisma, and that particular mix of rage and sweetness which is becoming his identification mark. In a word: he is irresistible. His brother was played by another great scandinavian actor, the Swedish Mikael Persbrandt (he worked with Bergman in theatre but he became famous for his work in In a better world by Susanne Bier). The villain is greatly played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (for the TV-series freaks out there, he is the guy of Magic City), while Eva Green as the mute (the indians cut her tongue as a child) and dark lady of the West, is convincing and charming as usual.
As promised, at the the end of the screening, Mikkelsen and Levring were at the cinema for a brief conversation with the audience. Mikkelsen was nice, funny and super cool, while Levring seriously answered to all the questions. A good match:
Mikkelsen, after the Q&A, was literally "assaulted" by the fans (most of them girls, of course) and he was extremely accommodating and nice to everybody, taking pictures and signing autographs. 
A real gentleman:
For a moment, I was really tempted to reach the crowd, but then I thought: Well, I have talked to him and kissed him at the Oscars, after all
How can I ask for more?

giovedì 28 agosto 2014

La sciarpa di Antonioni

Quest'estate ho ricevuto un regalo tanto meraviglioso quanto inatteso.
Mi trovavo in Toscana con un gruppo di amici, e uno di loro è arrivato con un oggetto che mi aveva tenuto da parte per qualche tempo. 
Questo amico è un architetto che anni fa si era occupato dell'allestimento di una mostra dedicata a Michelangelo Antonioni
In segno di amicizia, un giorno ha ricevuto in regalo una sciarpa del regista.
Avendo scoperto del mio amore per Antonioni, Massimo è stato così gentile da tenermela da parte e, sapendo di vedermi in Agosto, di portarmela lì in vacanza.
Il tempo quest'estate in Italia, si sa, non è stato un granché.
Nonostante di giorno facesse caldo, al calar del sole c'era un certo freschetto in campagna, e così, sera dopo sera, mi sono ritrovata ad usare la sciarpa di Antonioni.
Non so spiegare l'impressione che mi ha fatto avere tra le mani un oggetto che gli è appartenuto. 
Tutto d'un tratto, ho capito perché ci sono persone che spendono non so quanti soldi per comprarsi oggetti appartenuti ai loro idoli.
Perché io adesso tutte le volte che guardo quella sciarpa penso: Ma dai, era di Antonioni e adesso la uso io?? Che cosa meravigliosa!
Ed è una tale felicità questo pensiero da solo, che già mi sembra sia senza prezzo.
Quindi che arrivi pure l'autunno, e poi l'inverno, che cadano le foglie, gelino le strade, vengano la pioggia, la neve, la nebbia, le bufere. 
Che me ne importa, quando per tenermi caldo io adesso ho la sciarpa di Antonioni?
Zazie desidera ringraziare Massimo Alvisi per questo inestimabile regalo! 

mercoledì 23 luglio 2014

Bloomsbury Days

Bertrand Russell, J. M. Keynes and Lytton Strachey

I know, I am supposed to write about cinema in this blog.
Sometimes, though, some of my passions mingle and I feel the urgency of sharing non-cinematographic things that, by the way, always interact with movies at a certain point!
Since I was very young, I have been a huge fan of British literature. Reasons would be too long (and too boring) to explain here, but I have read an enormous amount of English books, and fell madly in love with many English writers. Among them, Virginia Woolf always had a special place in my heart.

As you probably know, she was part of a group called Bloomsbury, named upon the London area where some artists met every week (back in 1905) at the Stephen sisters home: Virginia (later to be Woolf), and Vanessa (later to be Bell), a painter. The group included, among others, J. M. Keynes, Lytton Strachey, David Garnett, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry, Dora Carrington, Bertrand and Dora Russell. The Group's philosophy was derived from fellow-Bloomsburyite G. E. Moore who wrote in his Principia Ethica: "By far the most valuable things are the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects". Maybe it is because I completely agree with this “principia” that I have always been extremely fascinated by this group and their way of living, very ahead of their time.

Besides movies based upon books by Bloomsbury authors (oh, so many of them!), cinema has sometimes represented Bloomsbury Group’s people on screen.
It’s been the case in The Hours (2002), by Stephen Daldry, taken from the novel by Michael Cunningham. The film relates the story of three different women, from different times, who have a connection through the book Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf. One of the women is the writer herself, played in a very over the top manner by Nicole Kidman (who, by the way, for this quite ridiculous interpretation won an Oscar as best actress). I loved the movie but I really didn’t like Kidman’s interpretation, which spoiled part of the pleasure of seeing it. Her Virginia Woolf wasn’t at all the one I have always imagined:

While it was exactly as I have pictured him in my head the Lytton Strachey played by a great and never enough appreciated English actor, Jonathan Pryce, in the movie Carrington (1995) by Christopher Hampton: 
Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson) and Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce)
The real Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey
Carrington tells the incredible and true love story between Lytton Strachey, a homosexual writer, and Dora Carrington, a straight painter. Even if impossible to “consume” (they sometimes share the same lovers as a subliminal way of being together), Strachey and Carrington loved each other from the moment they met, in 1916, until Strachey died of cancer at the age of 51, in 1932. Carrington (here beautifully played by Emma Thompson), considering life unbearable without Strachey, committed suicide two months after his death.
Lytton Strachey in a painting by Dora Carrington
This cinematic introduction is just an excuse to show you the pictures I have taken last week-end when, for the second time in my life (the first being in 2001), I went to visit Virginia Woolf’s house and Vanessa Bell’s house in East Sussex. I adored those places so much that I can’t resist sharing these images with you.
Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s place is called Monk’s House and it is located in the village of Rodmell. It is possible to visit both the house and the garden, where you can see Virginia Woolf’s writing shed (the famous Room of one's own): 

And, as you could see, nothing has really changed since the Bloomsbury days:
 More images from the garden:
And some images of the house (it was possible to take pictures also inside!):
If the house of Virginia Woolf was already plenty of decorations by the Bloomsbury painters, Charleston Farm, the house of Vanessa Bell, was the triumph of it. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to take pictures of the absolutely amazing inside, but have a look at the wonderful outside and at the magnificent garden: 

Le Blog de Zazie: not only good advice about movies, but also about places to see!
How can you ask for more?...

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