At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Consumed in March


Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)--Casual, intimate performance of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya filmed in the ruin of a defunct Manhattan theatre. It's instructive how the power of good acting and good writing can make one ignore the fact that these Russian nobility are wearing 1990's American clothing and drinking out of "I Love NY" coffee cups. The final monologue, in which homely Sophie urges herself and Vanya to console themselves for their loveless existence by clinging to the Christian hope of an afterlife, appealed to me for obvious reasons--but was also surprising given Chekhov's own agnosticism.A

His Girl Friday (1940)--Great entertainment, and probably would have been even funnier if I could have kept up with all of the rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue.A

Call of Cthulhu (2005)--The best film adaptation of a Lovecraft tale to date, done in chronologically appropriate style as a black and white silent film--as if Guy Maddin were an HPL fan. Doubly impressive given that it was produced by amateurs on a pittance.B+

Porco Rosso (1992)--Miyazaki's least imaginative film--sure, the title character is a WWI ace transformed into a pig, but otherwise there's nothing otherworldly about this animated riff on some themes of Casablanca. Of course it wouldn't be a Miyazaki film without a plucky young girl who rises to the challenge of leaving her sheltered existence. Pleasant but minor, on a par with Kiki's Delivery Service. B

Throne of Blood (1957)--As far as Kurosawa Shakespeare adaptations go, I liked Ran better. This one is fine but a bit slow (perhaps explained by the Noh influence mentioned by the web sites I consulted).B

Penny Serenade (1941)--Pretty sappy, and the child actress isn't very good, but affecting nonetheless.B-

L'Ennui (1998)--A stereotypical French art film, i.e. full of sex and verbiage. A middle-aged hyper-articulate philosophy professor has a torrid, doomed obsession with a plump and impassive teen. In many ways this is very well done, and it manages to avoid instantiating the titular quality, but the characters were repellent and incomprehensible to me. At the very least, in a few years I might look back on the film as an object lesson on how not to have a mid-life crisis.C+

Dead Man (1995)--Jarmusch's worst movie (though I haven't yet seen Broken Flowers), completely lacking the deadpan humor which make his other plotless movies watchable, and full of ersatz mysticism instead.D


Michael Moorcock. The Elric Saga: Part I. Exciting stuff, though pulpier than I was expecting. It's sort of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for nerds: like most of them, the protagonist is thin, pale, brainy, and solitary; unlike them, he is a tough guy and womanizer, and wreaks vengence on the "jock," the popular and dashing usurper Yrkoon.

Benedicta Ward, ed. The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. A little too legendary to be very helpful.

James Green, trans. The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu. I didn't experience satori, so I guess reading this was a waste of time.

Maxwell Johnson, Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary. When I tried praying the full-length version of the Breviary last year I was crushed under the weight of readings. This abridged version, edited by a professor of liturgy at my alma mater, might be more feasible.

Domaine de Fondrèche Côtes du Ventoux 2001
Piping Shrike Shiraz 2003
Hayman and Hill Pinot Noir 2004

Sheet Music
Francisco Tarrega, "Capricho Arabe"
Heitor Villa-Lobos, "Prelude no. 4"