Category Archives: julia

Sleight of hand

I’ve been terribly, terribly slow in posting! I’ve been wrapped up in a few things including another, very different blog that I update almost daily. Please visit: A place strange. It’s a blog of my dreams, but I promise it’s better than it sounds.

Recently I saw a very good play called The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs at Tarragon Theatre. I don’t see as much theatre as I’d like, and I’m always impressed with the ingenious ways that plays replicate the sense of a thing, even if they can’t build the thing itself due to budgetary or spatial constraints.

Films are usually more realist in the way that they dramatize their subjects. That is, if you are going to show someone walking up a set of stairs to the door of a small room at the top, you are likely going to use a real set of stairs and a real door. The play I saw, on the other hand, did not; the “stairs” were a series of bars of light on the floor that came and went as the scenes demanded.

The contrast between film and theatre’s styles of representation made me think of one of my longstanding favourite films, Henry and June, a story based on the triangular love affair between Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller and his wife June. Continue reading

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Beauty and death

SparklersThe main characters in Muriel Barbery’s excellent and moving The Elegance of the Hedgehog spend much time ruminating on, searching for and stumbling upon beauty and the sublime within the confines of their constricted lives.

If the book were an essay, its main argument might be summed up in the scene in which the young and precocious Paloma witnesses a rosebud fall from a broken stem in a bouquet of flowers. The beauty of this tiny movement strikes a chord within Paloma, and she grasps after what it is about this moment that has affected her so.

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The joy of searching

To me, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation is a near-perfect film: well made, well told, well performed. The storytelling is focused and controlled and, as with all good stories, the mystery works in pleasing tandem with the main character’s own inherent fears and anxieties.

But beyond quality (pah! quality!) I loved the way the film repeated the conversation, to which the title refers, over and over again. I wish I’d been able to watch this film in the theatre, rather than in front of my laptop with its tinny-tiny speakers, but alas.

The film revolves around an audiotape, and the conversation between a man and a woman recorded on it. The main character Harry, played pitch-perfectly by Gene Hackman, is a surveillance expert who has recorded the tape for a mysterious client.

Harry listens to it over and over again, adjusting the levels and patching the different feeds together in order to get a clear master version of what the couple is discussing. But the more he listens to it, the more anxious he becomes about what the conversation really means and to what end handing the tape over might lead.

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Out of control: The Last House on the Left

I have a special love of horror movies. There’s something compelling about vicariously confronting the abyss, however the film in question defines abyss – death, insanity, damnation, exile, the unknown, abandonment, bodily mutilation and desecration…

But for me, it’s one of the trickiest genres to get right. I’m not an expert, or even a geek, but in this genre I don’t need to be – real horror quickly announces itself. My heart beats faster; my sense of reality starts to warp and wane; I no longer feel like I’m safe, psychologically speaking and…uh…wait – why did this seem fun, again?

At any rate, I recently watched cult classic The Last House on the Left, directed by Wes Craven and released in 1972 (itself based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring – now on my list to view in future).

A house

Not from the movie, but creepy nonetheless.

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