venerdì 27 marzo 2015

Obvious Child

As you know, I like writing in this blog about great movies made by women (and you don’t come across them every day, because - let’s face it - cinema is a very male profession). 
The other night, I finally watched in DVD a movie that I was sorry to have missed in cinemas: Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre
The movie's plot intrigued me a lot, as well as the actress playing the main character (Jenny Slate) and, well, I have to say my cinematographic sixth sense was right.
What a brilliant movie is this! 

Donna Stern is a twenty-something living in Brooklyn.
She has kind of a job (she works in a local bookstore that is about to close) but her real passion is being a stand-up comedian in a Williamsburg club. Freshly dumped by her boyfriend (the fact that she is making jokes in public about their sex-life maybe didn’t help!), Donna has a one night stand with a complete (even if cute) stranger and she incidentally got pregnant (put the blame on the booze). 

No job, no boyfriend, no money: she knows this is not exactly the best moment in her life to have a baby, and so she decided to have an abortion. Unexpectedly, the stranger comes back looking for her. He quite liked her and he would like to have a proper date. Confused by the events in her life, Donna tries her best to be the independent woman she always claimed to be. It won’t be easy but she will manage!
It is SO refreshing to see movies with complex, funny, smart, weird, real female characters. 
What a relief to realize that they exist, they’re out there, not only in the world but also on the screen. Donna is not one of those stereotyped women the cinema is plenty of: she is not perfect, she is so far away from being perfect, she is messy, she's funny in a very particular way (her monologues at the club are hilarious as much as sacrilegious) and this is exactly why we like her so much. Donna is one of us. She is not stunningly gorgeous but she has a lot of personality and she sees the world in her own way. 
But by far, the most interesting thing of this movie, is the way the theme of the abortion is treated. 
I sincerely don't remember to have seen something like this before on screen.
Donna is of course devastated by the idea of making an abortion, but she goes through the whole experience simply being herself (read: with a lot of humour). She knows she got pregnant in a very stupid way (but, hey, shit happens in life) and she also knows that to keep the child is not an option for her, so she does what she thinks is the right thing to do for her, without being apologetically about it. And I have appreciated that immensely, because there is always a moment when a moral judgment pops up in movies, but not in this one.
To give you an idea of the "tone", the day before the abortion Donna is about to go on stage and her best friend (the great "Transparent" Gaby Hoffman) tells her: 
I'm sure you're going to kill it out there! 
And Donna replies: I actually have an appointment to do that tomorrow morning.
After Stella Gibson from The Fall, Donna Stern is my new idol.
I hope there will be an army of this kind of women ready to invade our screens.
It would be about time, don't you agree?

giovedì 19 marzo 2015

Dilemmi Cinematografici 2

E' da ieri sera che ripenso alla stessa scena.
Sono sul métro linea 4, alla fermata Chateau D'eau, in piedi davanti alla porta perché sto per uscire (la mia fermata è quella successiva). Davanti a me, che cammina calma sul binario leggendo una rivista, vedo la regista e sceneggiatrice francese Pascale Ferran.
Ho un attimo di esitazione.
Che faccio, scendo? Scendo e le parlo? Scendo, la disturbo e le dico delle cose?
Ma l'attimo è fuggito, le porte si sono chiuse e la vedo allontanarsi irrimediabilmente sul binario.
Peccato, penso.
Mi dico che in effetti i minuti erano contati perché avevo un appuntamento a cui non potevo arrivare tardi, ma la verità è che mi dispiace.
Avrei voluto dirle che ho amato il suo cinema fin dal primo film, con quel titolo talmente bello: Petits arrangements avec les morts (Piccoli Arrangiamenti con i morti), che non a caso aveva vinto la Caméra D'Or à Cannes nel 1994.
Che la sua versione di Lady Chatterley è magnifica, così erotica e sensuale, così vera, con una splendida direzione di attori. E avrei voluto chiederle se anche lei pensa, come me, che le donne al cinema filmano il sesso molto meglio degli uomini.
E poi volevo farle sapere che adesso, tutte le volte che vado all'aereoporto Charles De Gaulle, non posso evitare di guardare le terrazze degli hotel lì intorno e immaginarmi che uno degli uccellini che vedo svolazzare sia in realtà una ragazza che fa la cameriera ma ha una vita interiore intensa ed interessante.
Insomma avrei voluto dirle che Bird People è un film bizzarro, spiazzante e bellissimo, a cui ho ripensato a lungo, e sempre con grande piacere (quella scena di rottura di una coppia via skype: lui a Parigi e lei a NY, è una delle cose più potenti che ho visto negli ultimi anni).
Invece non le ho detto nulla di tutto questo. Mi è venuto in mente che ha scritto un film diretto da quel regista/attore che mi ha mandata a stendere un po' di tempo fa (Dilemmi Cinematografici 1), e non me la sono sentita di rischiare.
Anche se, alla peggio, avrei potuto trasformarmi in un uccellino e volare via...

martedì 17 marzo 2015

Matthew Weiner's Mad Men Exhibition

Last week-end, at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, New York, has opened a new exhibition entirely dedicated to the series Mad Men.
I have read about this few weeks ago, basically at the same time I found out about a trip I should have taken for my job in New York City. Great... if only the exhibition wouldn't started the day after my return to Europe! Very sad at first, my only consolation was that I knew I will be back in town in April (and the exhibition is on until June 14!).
But, still, the idea that I was there and I couldn't see anything, was driving me nuts.
To the point that I had the nerve of asking anybody I knew even vaguely related to the museum if, by any chance, I could sneak a peak of the exhibition before it was opened to the public. 
Well, since fortune favors the adventurous, I have actually found somebody that knew somebody and there I was, the day before the official opening, walking through the still-to-be-finished exhibition about Mad Men with Tomoko Kawamoto, the Public Information Manager of the museum (Santa Subito! Thank you so much!!!).
The exhibition features some incredible things for any fan of the series (I'm telling you, if you love Mad Men, you should buy a ticket to New York NOW!). These are some of the the gems that are on display: more than 25 iconic costumes (!!!), hundreds of props, advertising art, video clips, and personal notes and research material from his creator. Not to mention original interviews with Weiner and an installation of elements from the “writers’ room” where he and his team crafted story ideas and scripts for the series and, last but not least, large-scale sets of Don Draper’s office and the Drapers Kitchen!!! Have a look...
The Writers Room 
The Drapers Kitchen in Ossining, NY 
Don Draper's SC&P Office on Madison Avenue
I was so excited by what I was looking at, that my head couldn't stop spinning.
When we arrived to the "Dress Section" I almost had an heart attack...
This was the section dedicated to Betty Draper dresses:
And this, I'm sure you'll recognize it at the very first sight, is the famous "Zou Bisou Bisou" dress weared by Megan at Don's birthday party:
And in case you don't remember:

For those lucky ones who live in NY or are passing by this week, on Friday March 20 Matthew Weiner will be in conversation at the Museum for an "Inside Mad Men" session:
Furthermore, from March 14 until April 26, the Museum is programming "Required Viewing: Mad Men’s Movie Influences", a ten-film series featuring movies (among others: The Apartment by Billy Wilder, Les Bonnes Femmes by Claude Chabrol, The Americanization of Emily by Arthur Hiller but also Blue Velvet by David Lynch) that inspired the series. 
On March 20, Weiner himself will introduce The Apartment!
These days in New York, it was just impossible to escape Mad Men. The advertisement for the last season (that is approaching) was everywhere: on the walls, at the entrance of the underground, even on buses...
And I don't know about you, but I am personally drinking my tea at the office with a mug by Sterling, Cooper & Partners, just to be the most Mad Men girl around:
To tell you the truth, while we were touring the exhibition, Tomoko told me that this will be a non-photo exhibition. Pictures - sadly enough for all the fans - will not be allowed (the decision has not been made by the Museum but by the Mad Men's production). The pictures I have published here are part of the material for the Press, except for a couple that I was allowed to put on line.
Thus said, when I found myself in the Drapers Kitchen, I couldn't resist, and I ask Tomoko to take a picture of me there... what can I tell you? I simply felt at home!
The series’ final seven episodes will air on AMC beginning Sunday, April 5.
The End of an era, apparently, but not of our love for this bunch of adorable Mad Men.
Long live the Old Fashioned!
I'd like to thank Jeff Levine at the Whitney Museum and Jennifer Essen and Philippa Polskin at Ruder Finn for introducing me to Tomoko and making my visit possible! 
Thank you guys!!!

domenica 1 marzo 2015

Polyester in Odorama

Yesterday night I went with a group of friends to see the cult movie Polyester (1981) by American independent film-maker John Waters in a small cinema near La Sorbonne, the Studio Galande.
This arty cinema is particularly famous for hosting every Saturday night the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but yesterday evening there was another event which attracted a small but very enthusiastic group of people: Polyester in ODORAMA!
And I'm sure you're wondering what it is...
Strange but true, this film was originally conceived this way, as a smelly movie.
At the entrance of the cinema every person receives a card with 10 numbers on it, and every now and then - during the vision - you have to scratch the number and smell the good (or bad!) odour corresponding to that scene:
The story of Polyester is absolutely hilarious: Francine Fishpaw (played by the drag queen Divine, the main actress in any Waters film) is a housewife in suburban Baltimore. She wishes to have a "normal American family" but she's far from it: her (unfaithful) husband is running the local cinema porno, their daughter Lulu is hanging around with the worst guys in town and their son Dexter is a foot fetishist and a drug addict. Not to mention the fact that Francine's mother, once she hears that her daughters is divorcing from a very rich man (porno always pays well!), tries to steal her money in very a mean way: she makes a deal with a good looking man, Todd Tomorrow, to seduce Francine and have her divorce settlement.
The only ray of light in Francine's life is her best friend, Cuddles, once a housekeeper and now a very wealthy woman (she inherited form the family she was working for). When Dexter is put in prison for assaulting a woman (well, her foot...), and Lulu declares to be pregnant and wanting to have an abortion, Francine seeks comfort in alcohol. But just when things look very bad, some good surprises are on their way...
Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter) and Francine Fishpaw (Divine)
I adore John Waters cinema. His sense of humour is one of the most intelligent and whimsical I have ever come across in movies. To make you an example, in Polyester Todd Tomorrow is the owner of a Drive In where they show just arty movies (!!!):
The idea that in a Baltimore Drive In they're programming the trilogy of Marguerite Duras, one of the most intellectual things ever, is just too ridiculous. Not only that: at the restaurant of the theatre, people are eating oysters and drinking champagne and Divine (with a very perplex look) flips through the pages of the Cahiers du Cinéma...
The other character to die for in the movie is Cuddles: a fat, old, toothless, ignorant woman that goes around in a fancy car with chauffeur, wears dresses to play tennis or ride a horse and is desperately seeking the right evening gown for her debutant ball... believe it or not!
Cuddles Kovinsky (Edith Massey)
The Odorama gimmick was funny and a bit crazy too. 
If you're curious to know, this is the list of the smells we were able to "enjoy":
1. A rose flower 
2. Flatulence (yes, they can!)
3. Model Airplane Glue
4. Pizza
5. Gasoline in a can
6. Skunk (awful!)
 7. Natural Gas from an oven
8. A new car smell of leather upholstery (my favourite one!)
9. Dirty shoes (disgusting!)
10. Air Freshener from an aerosol can
Ah, the things that cinema lovers wouldn't do for their passion!
I wish to thank my friends Alessandro, Nico, Arco, Francesca and Valentina for having shared this amazing experience with me.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be for the next time, guys!

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