Category Archives: literature

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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Melancholia and The End Of The World

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by stories about the end of the world. Post-apocalyptic stuff like The Stand or Earth Abides or The Road – wherein small bands of survivors struggle to survive and maintain human civilization – are okay, but what I’m really drawn to are stories (like Last Night or On The Beach) where EVERYBODY dies.* For a variety of reasons people have always had an appetite for tales of the apocalypse, but what I’m interested in for the purposes of this blog post is my personal reaction to them. Which brings me to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Julia and I saw it a month ago and while I didn’t think it was entirely successful, it has stuck with me for reasons I will attempt to explain here.

I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to tell you that the film begins with a shot of the titular massive blue planet colliding with Earth and completely destroying it. The thing is, Melanchoia is no more about the literal end of the world than The Hit (a great film about death and how people prepare for and approach it) is about crime. It doesn’t attempt to realistically depict what might transpire in the face of the events the movie dramatizes; the astrophysics are pretty ludicrous and society’s collective reaction to a new planet that may or may not collide with Earth seems rather muted.

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