; movieschocolatebooks: 2013


Saturday, December 28

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Director of photography Bradford Young worked his magic once again and the outcome simply leaves you breathless: the Texas landscape is glittering under the soft sky, wrapped in a golden aura that makes you wanna lose yourself in this visual paradise. Now, this guy does this for a living and one could hardly hold this against him; the director, David Lowery, on the other hand, is so swept off his feet with the scenery that drags the predictable plot beyond patience. In a word, it is up to you to decide whether Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is exceptionally visual or poorly plotted. To my mind, this gorgeous movie swings dangerously between visual pleasure and predictable, unspread storyline. The one thing that saves them all is the great performances of Rooney Mara (Ruth), Cassey Affleck (Bob Muldoon) and Ben Foster (Patrick).

The ingenuous versions of Bonnie and Clyde, Ruth and Bob are part of a gang of bandits that choose to live a life of outlaws that obviously goes sour. Surrounded by the police force in an abandoned house, three of them -Ruth, Bob and Freddy- fight back till the former shoots a policeman, Patrick, and the latter gets killed. Bob takes the blame for the shooting, asking pregnant sweetheart, Ruth, to play the victim and wait for him. Four years later, Ruth and her daughter Sylvie are leading an ordinary existence under Patrick's protective eye when the news of Bob's escape hits the news. Ruth sends him word through Skerritt (Keith Carradine) -Freddy's father and the brain operation during the old bandit days- not to come after them as he'll get caught. As it often goes, love is unstoppable and subject to many misfortunes so the rest of the story is foreseeable.

The frail woman, with mute gestures and hurting eyes is the center of this love triangle: outlaw- object of desire- lawman. And Rooney Mara really plays the card of the needy, rebellious teenage beauty turned into a miserable, silent mother who hasn't slept in four years and hasn't ceased to love the bad guy. But then again, how bad is Bob? He is not a cold-blooded criminal and later on, during his escape adventure, we see hesitation and despair in his eyes and reluctance in his hand while pulling the trigger. He is full of dreams of a better future, love for a woman who promised to be his forever, anticipation to meet his little girl and a naivety that makes him walk around with a suitcase full of cash. Patrick, the lawman, feels mysteriously drawn to the woman who shot him, as if his wounded gasp for air met her panicked gaze somewhere on the clear blue Texas sky and forever bound to one another. Ruth says little to him, yet her body language and noiseless looks and moves are accepting. Her heart still belongs to the outlaw out of a sense of duty and long-lost teenage love, yet her quiet gaze, frailty and tormented soul draw the sheriff deputy towards her. The shy smiles hidden under Patrick's fair moustache and his moist eyes speak more than a thousand words to Ruth's heart and his kindness to her and the little girl are a balm to her bleeding heart.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is not about big gestures, feels hardly set in a palpable time and place, identifying with the unfortunate fate of faceless Ruths and Bobs, a simple story that rather builds around body movement, gestures, looks and unspoken truths. It is a movie where the middle part is more important than the beginning of the story or the predictable denouement, where the time in-between is more intense, complicated and dramatic than the happy smile on the face of the audience once they are offered the well-guessed ending. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints also recalls echoes of past similar stories such as Terence Malick’s 1973 first feature, Badlands, another romance on the run; however, it has its own rhythm and pace, a fullness and beauty that warm the heart and thrill the eye. The experience feels immediate, throwing the viewer right into the cosy Texas fields, stirring the senses and drawing him into plotting the story. The mixed emotions and the modernism of the film itself shall keep on lingering within the audience, courtesy of Bradford Young' s imagery and Daniel Hart's great score, turning Ain’t Them Bodies Saints into a worthwhile journey.

Wednesday, December 25

Ironweed by William Kennedy

Fear and guilt are the most powerful emotions in the world, drawing the actions and choices of the characters of William Kennedy's novel, Ironweed.  The book was winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984 and William Kennedy won the 2009 O’Neill Award for Lifetime Achievement. Apart from worldwide recognition, the author turned his book into an excellent script for the movie with the same name, directed by Hector Babenco and starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Therefore, it is much easier for the imaginative reader to add a face and a great performance to the unforgettable characters, Francis Phelan and Helen Archer. They are on the bum, drinking themselves into oblivion, running away from the sins of the past and the despair of the future. Depression years in Albany, New York, are tough times for everybody, especially for the homeless, whose dreams failed to come true and to whom redemption is forbidden.

Francis and Helen have been together for nine years, both trying to find solace in drinking, the former to forget having accidentally killed his 13-day old son, Gerald, the latter, in an attempt to come to terms with her choices and past. Francis used to be a talented baseball player who ran away from his wife and two children, Bill and Peg, after having dropped his little son, Gerald. His wife, Annie, has never revealed this secret to anyone, thus protecting a man whom she always loved despite his obvious mistakes. Blood is thicker than water and family members are always there for you- to judge you, to forgive you, to scold you and to wipe away all harm. Why do people always need to cling to other people to feel complete? Frances's grown-up children seem to lead an ordinary adult existence, yet their father's sudden return into their lives feels as natural and necessary as the next thing. Mother and grown-up children acted as if they had been expecting the head of the family all their lives, as if time stood still and twenty years of absence vanished into thin air.

Bum life is all about cold, dirt and hardship. Bums lack clothes, food, shelter, dignity, intimacy, respect, a future, health, money, love, family- in a word, a decent life. You might think that going bum is a choice and that certain people decide to lead such a life of misery, when, in fact, there is a broken soul behind every pair of bum eyes. Booze seems to be the only consolation, though it is only short-lived and more depressing. Frances has led a tough life, had to make tough choices and now the past is coming back to haunt him. The people he accidentally or intentionally killed have materialised themselves into silent ghosts that follow him everywhere, bringing back old and painful memories about bad choices. When all explanations are given, when all demons are confronted, Frances is left only with guilt- that of having put a sudden end to his infant's life, that of having abandoned his family, that of forcing Helen to make compromises. The guilt of having taken several lives has grown roots into him, turning Frances into a lifetime hobo who could never find peace of mind and put an end to his restlessness.

Apart from the short-lived happiness Frances felt around his wife and children, the only nice episode of his broken life is Katrina. His first love, the woman next door, builds herself into a lively hallucination that takes Frances down the memory lane in a series of flashbacks. Katrina was not only the woman who showed him how love felt but also filled his empty life with unspoken emotions. Helpless Katrina later becomes needy Helen, whom Frances fails to protect and keep safe on the bum; compromise means survival and the love thrills of teenage love are long gone, alive merely in enghosted memories. The only strong, mature woman in his life is Annie, his wife who takes him in and back, effacing all twenty-two years of hardship, grief and loss.

William Kennedy has a special sensitivity that lives in every word and breathes in every character. The book has humour, imagery and great characters. The scenes about bum life are the core of the book in terms of poetry and richness. Seeing the world through books is smart and rewarding, a certain manner of enriching yourself and expanding your horizons. Ironweed feels like a tender touch, a memorable journey into the plentifulness of the human soul, the colourful layers of goodness and broken hopes in everyone of us. 

Friday, December 20

Lindt Truffel Eierlikör

The art within food or food turned into art- a controversy that has been inciting the gourmets' minds for a long time. Me- I haven't decided upon gourmet or epicure yet, but, while carefully considering the matter, I never say no to novelty and taste challenges. I am putting a great deal of effort into training my senses and keeping high expectations when it comes to food, in general and chocolate, in particular. To most people, chocolate is simply chocolate; to the fortunate, it is the ultimate desert; to me, it is a passion. And Lindt is the name of my passion.

Food or refined chocolate combinations might be fleeting as they do not last in time like other artistic manifestations, but I would like to point to the fact that the value of art lies in the emotions/sensations it triggers in the beholder or eater, for that matter. The destructive nature of taste itself -one has to alter form in order to appreciate the taste behind the piece of art- does not render it transitory in meaning; apart from the meaning behind a person's offering food to another, overtones of refinement lie in the food. Art, in its simplest definition, is anything made by humans, be it appealing or not, which, to my mind, includes various culinary manifestations that both tempt the eye and spoil the taste buds. And I should obviously add the smelling sense for whenever I unwrap a bar of Lindt, the unique scent simply melts down any form of resistance. Not that I would put up any fight with chocolate or Lindt for that matter. Intelligent people simply pick their battles and indulge into blissful Lindt moments. My latest Lindt discovery is a friendly one by all means. It is the Lindt Truffel Eierlikör Gourmet bar. It is slim, golden, tempting- 100 g of pure happiness. As you might have easily guessed by the sophisticated name, it is Lindt chocolate filled with yellow, creamy eggnog, with a slight, yet powerful, trace of alcohol- enough to add personality to the soft bar.

I simple loved the shape of this chocolate bar as it easily fits my bag, next to my e-reader, making this explosive combination to die for. Reading and watching movies are the best match for chocolate, should you ask me, as chocolate is the best incentive to trigger emotions and challenge the senses.  Lindt Truffel Eierlikör Edition Gourmet is a limited edition for the Lindt lovers- those who appreciate tradition and velvety. Lindt chcolatiers make the best combinations, always pleasantly surprising their most faithful admirers for whom novelty is always a way of blending the love for chocolate and the most unexpected ingredients. This Edition Gourmet also includes Truffel Chocolat and Marc de Champagne, flavours you simply cannot pass. If you ask me, chocolate makes the best gift, so grab your favourite bar and your favourite gal and make it a day to remember!

Tuesday, December 10

Fantasia Ripieni by Zaini

I love a good story. The way it blends with the product, the person or the image, magically weaving its gossamer web all around. Chocolate, movies and books are only successful to the extent they spin off an uncanny story that throbs in the heart and mind of the audience. And how we yearn for an unmissable story that will echo in our heart, making our own stories exceptional journeys inside and outside ourselves. This particular chocolate is full of story layers. First, it is the story of Luigi Zaini, a man who had a glorious dream: to satisfy the various needs for sweet in various people. His chocolate promised diversity and an unforgettable scent that would lure the passers-by of Milan area for 100 years.

Luigi knew that chocolate needed the seductive touch of a woman and thus Emilia, the dark block of chocolate, was born. Emilia, the cook who inspired Luigi, together with Olga, the wife, continued the work of this resourceful man and created the famous chocolate sports figurines that inspired children to take up football. Neither Depression years, nor the destructive World War could ruin the great dream or defeat the Zaini's ambition to make chocolate a sweet for all tastes. Olga Zaini, the first Italian entrepreneur woman, together with Luigi's sons, took the chocolatey dream further, making Zaini one of the most famous chocolate manufacturers of the world, with a long and successful tradition and lasting passion.

The chocolatier's story comes to life in the skillful hands of an English teacher who travelled to Italy to get inspiration and sketch her own story and that of her pupils. In Napoli, she discovered, enjoyed and decided to share her chocolatey adventure -Fantasia Ripieni- with one genuine chocolate lover. The assorted filled chocolates -Torroncino, Gianduja, Amaretto, Caffe- nicely travelled inside the generous luggage of the altruistic teacher, happy to rejoice in the curious hands of the chocolate lover. Layers of addictive aromas pampered the taste buds and enchanted the heart. The chocolates are smooth pralines with no bits made from cocoa, toasted hazelnuts and sugar. They are not too sweet and they melt instantly, leaving the specific aroma lingering for some time. They are not Zaini's most famous products -the Disney-inspired surprise eggs are more popular- yet they are happy, little chocolates, of different shapes and sizes, wrapped in bright colours that instantly catch your eye. A certain packet of chocolates fulfilled its destiny, taking Luigi Zaini's story beyond the seas, making his dream more lively than ever, in the generous hands of the English teacher who spoilt her chcocolate addict of a friend.

Thank you, Ioana Stancut!

Italian for Beginners

Italian is a passionate language, usually associated with romantic destinations and ravishing men and women. Yet, there is one thing to enjoy listening to people speaking Italian, and there is a huge challenge in learning the language of love. Lone Scherfig, the first Dogma female director, surely managed to make Italian the perfect excuse for a charming Danish comedy. The movie, written and directed by Scherfig, follows the aesthetic principles of the Dogma 95 movement regarding natural lighting, hand-held cameras, character improvisation and real life settings which beautifully blend in a warm comedy about lost souls and the redeeming power of love. Italian for Beginners makes a good story about all those loners who channel their energy into positive hobbies meant to give purpose to their loneliness.

Italian for Beginners lacks the bitter tone of Thomas Vinterberg's Celebration/Festen and deglamours the lives of single people by turning the spotlight on the various shades of social isolation. However, the movie has a warm touch and its naturalness feels sparkling and refreshing. Inspired by Circle of Friends by author Maeve Binchy, the movie has a romantic nuance and its story revolves around three men and three women. Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) has recently lost his wife and is temporarily filling for the position of the estranged pastor, Reverend Wredmann. He is staying in the hotel where Jorgen Mortensen (Peter Gantzler), the junior manager, who hasn't had an erection in four years, is working. Jorgen's best friend is Halvfinn (Lars Kaalund), the hotel bar's hot-tempered manager. Andreas is having a hard time coping with the loss of his wife and Reverend Wredman's legacy, Jorgen is courting a young waitress whereas Halvfinn gets himself sacked for bad treatment of the customers. Their hidden needs and desires are echoed in the hearts and faces of three beautiful women: Giulia (Sara Indrio Jensen), the beautiful waitress who resigns in support of her boss's dismissal and who secretly covets Jorgen Mortensen, Karen (Ann Eleanora Jorgensen), a hairdresser with magical touch that brings Halvfinn to life and helps her dying mother find her peace and Olympia (Anette Střvelbaek), the clumsiest blond ever, ruining the business of the pastry shop owner for whom she works as a sales assistant and caring to the needs of an abusive father. The Italian course offered by the City Council is the perfect place for them to meet and grow fonder. The rest is the work of Cupid.

Italian for Beginners is European to the bone- it is extremely amusing, with unexpected turns of events, with a sort of unfiltered passion and genuine performances; it feels rather as an indie shot according to a different Vow of Chastity that values originality and genuineness. The movie is funny in the way all older people in the story rapidly find their end- Marcello, the Italian teacher, Olympia's father, Karen's mother- and make room for the young ones to develop and find their path. Even the rest of the elder supporting characters are low-profiled, acting only as props to the unfolding of events. The six interconnected characters end up spending a day or two in a rainy Venice -not the glittering, romantic spot you would imagine it to be- that acts as a trigger to their unspoken emotions and desires. Spontaneity would be the best word to describe Lone Scherfig's movie that feels like an Italian/French comedy, shot in a purely Dannish Dogma style, with the touch of an Ingmar Bergman story and the matchmaking voluptuousness of a Nora Ephron romance. Bliss and comedy go together hand in hand without turning Italian for Beginners into a weightless story that feels too predictable or too judgemental. The movie does not push the viewer into a happy ending ever after kind of story, it just allows things to happen, no promises, no guarantees. Old people- addictive, abusers, unfaithful- may be dead but there is no assurance that things won't come back to haunt them and shape the rest of their life. For the time being, six loners enjoy a moment of fleeting joy that might turn into a Lars von Triers's Melancholia desperate, gloomy end of the world mood. Or not!

Saturday, December 7

Lindt Pralines Classic

I may not be the biggest fan of chocolates, but this little box really took me by surprise. Well, gifts always make the best surprises and Lindt Pralines Classic sure came as an unexpected revelation. The one thing that puts me off about a box of chocolate is the fact that, being a control freak, I like to know what it is that I eat and reign over my empire of senses. A box of chocolate is bound to hide some unpredicted flavours that ruin the pleasant feeling. So, much as I love chocolate, I keep away from little boxes of chocolate. On the other hand, how can a girl say no to chocolate?

Eight little, beautiful, good-looking chocolates, some of them with their mirror-liked twins, were waiting for me in the elegant box. Lindt chocolate makers go to all this trouble to make you feel like royalty when opening a little box of chocolates. Everything is perfectly wrapped, gracefully packed for the right eyes and taste buds. The hand-made little pralines are created for the connoisseurs, going back to the 17th century, at the court of the sophisticated French Sun King Louis XIV. Bored by politics, tired to please the whims of the ladies around him, I can only image how this mighty king took refuge to his private chambers, climbed his mahogany bed, covered with silky sheets and indulged himself into the addictive eating of pralines. Every now and then, he would lift his gaze, eyes half-closed, mouth full of the divine chocolates, only to express his gratitude, by mumbled sounds, to Comte du Plessis Praslin, the creator of this delicacy. Comte du Plessis, the head chief of the French field marshal, gave the name to the little miracles that were used even to soften the hardened hearts of political foes. From royal hands to those of the commoners, the pralines were refined by the conching method by Rodolphe Lindt, a visionary man himself.

So much for history and imagination. Back to the wonderful pralines. I thoroughfully enjoyed the Dragon au Champagne -a white and dark Marc de Champagne truffle cream chocolate- the star-shaped Macchiato, filled with coffee cream and covered with white chocolate and the Caramelita, a double-layered caramel bombon, covered with bittersweet chocolate. The others -Cornet d'Or, Triangle aux Noisettes, Nuss- Krokant, Orange Marzipan, Schicht Nougat- were also remarkable little jewels, with their own individual flavour and sophisticated name. Some men name their cars, some chocolatiers name their pralines; it is simply a matter of  perspective and dedication. The only disappointing thing was the fact that the box was only 125 g. But then again, good things come in small packages, right?

Friday, December 6

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Do a person's innate qualities prevail over his or her experience? Do they shape its being and course of life decisively or is the knowledge he or she acquires from the environment the thing that draws his/her fate? In a word, the nature versus nurture debate, as the polymath Francis Galton put it. Somewhere in-between, free will got easily overlooked, yet, in Jeffrey Eugenides's book, Middlesex, -one of the most amazing books I have ever read- such factors do no limit the main character's self-determination. Whether a gift or a burden, intersex cannot be denied or overlooked and though it outlines a certain path in life for Cal/Callie, choices are never limited.

And I am back to Tolstoy -“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”- who apparently both wrote and read good literature. In Middlesex, which is both the condition and the name of the street where the main character, Cal/Callie, grew up, journeys define the characters' lives that find themselves at the mercy of a recessive gene. Sex and inheritance seem to be connected in mysterious ways, shaping the life journey of the Stephanides clan from Greece to America, from typical to middlesex. Genetics mischievously rewrites the destiny of three generations, starting with a dark secret and ending with the miraculous birth of a creature that shares two genders, two worlds and two lives. Besides the 5-alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome, Cal/Callie is the embodiment of each and everyone of us, searching for an identity that could clothe our body and define our lives. We may not be pseudohermaphrodites like Callie, but we are all bound to confront the same questions related to our individuality. Both question and answer are tricky, thus the fortunate ones give their uniqueness a voice, whereas others spend a lifetime struggling to come to terms with the devils within.

Calliope Stephanides's gender rises a debate in the Detroit house of her pregnant mother, Tessie, her father Milton, who is anxious for a girl, and her grandmother, Desdemona, whose magical silver spoon indicates the unborn child is a boy. Calliope is born to shatter all doubt and is raised as a girl until she has an accident and it is revealed, at 14, she is a hermaphrodite. A man's mind trapped in a woman's body, Callie/Cal runs away to avoid surgery: ''Sing now, O Muse, of the recessive mutation on my fifth chromosome''. His/her journey is more than a bildungsroman, a historical novel, a tragedy or comedy, it is the story of gene through time. The gene seems to have a mind of its own, raising the striking question of the red thin line between destiny and DNA configuration. To what extent are we the result of genetical combinations and the making of our own self? The answer is somewhere in-between our choices. Desdemona and Lefty are first brother and sister before embracing their roles of perfect strangers falling in love. Their arrival in the land of all possibilities does not change their infidelity, since betrayal is echoed in the choices of the next generation. Milton, their son, marries his cousin, Tessie and the circle of neurochemical giving in repeats itself. The ruthless Greek gods make their presence felt in the veins of their mortal subjects regardless of time, space or morals.

What makes this book exceptional? Well, there is its fine irony, to begin with. Cal/Callie has a double perspective upon things- a feminine intuition and a male's grasp of history. The first person gets easily switched with the third person and this shift is not tiring or disruptive; on the contrary, both characters have humour and a sense of self-irony. Cal/Callie does not take matters too tragically and the shift from emotional to journalistic style adds up to the richness of the story. Also, Middlesex is a versatile novel that, similar to the dual nature of the main character, mirrors different themes such as rebirth, racism, identity crisis, gender or the American dream. It is that kind of book that has it all - excellent story, well-built characters, Greek mythology, a historical approach and so much more. It feels as a journey through time, across continents, cultures, religions, a journey from the outer world into the vivid inner world of a character on which both heredity and time left their mark. This is a novel about the making of a nation: from Prohibition and the Great Depression to World War II, the troubled times of 1967 riots, the Flower Power movement, Watergate and the energy crisis. America lives in the faces and choices of the Stephanides family. It is not always the perfect picture that mirrors in their eyes, yet it is an honest one. It is a picture of fight, tolerance, acceptance, strength and, above all, love. Love salvages and dooms all living creatures and particularly favours the brave. To them all!

Sunday, December 1

Detachment sau educatia conteaza by Cheltuitus Banus

Detachment- poti fi ''prost'', adica limitat sau indiferent cu ceea ce ti se intampla sau poti sa ai o parere si ambitia sa te ajuti in formare si alegeri, sa te aperi folosindu-ti inteligenta si cunostintele acumulate. Poti sa te opui manipularii si influentelor negative, tranformarii in non-persoana, argumentand competent, avand o parere si implicandu-te. ''IT TAKES COURAGE TO CARE'' as a teacher and human. Sunt ''educator'', iubesc sa predau, sa fiu intr-o institutie de invatamant, intr-o biblioteca, intr-o expozitie! Iubesc ceea ce aceste lucruri reprezinta! Iubesc profesorii dedicati si cei ce stau printre elevi, indiferent de varsta unora sau a altora, iubesc discutiile ce folosesc cuvinte multe si frumoase, ce fac referire la o carte, ce ma provoaca sa am o idee proprie, iubesc sa ma lupt in idei si in argumentari, devin pasionata si ma dezvolt facand asta, sunt fascinata de puterile unui profesor-educator. Sunt fascinata de scoli si biblioteci pentru ca acolo simti energia viitorului si puterea fiecaruia.

Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, William Petersen interpreteaza tipologii de profesori, de educatori si indrumatori ce ar putea exista in toata lumea. Ideea ce mi-a placut in acest film este universal valabila- copiii au nevoie de noi -adultii responsabili, de exemple si din partea ''de dincolo'' -din '' bucataria cuvintelor''- de indrumare, de oameni implicati, rabdatori si curajosi, care sa arate si o alta fata a lumii... Cateodata, ca profesor nu te ''lupti'' doar cu revolta copiilor si a noului respins instantaneu de acestia pe motiv de neintelegere, te ''lupti'' si cu parintii lor. Esti un cruciat in lupta cu indiferenta si micimea, cu cuvintele scurte si ostentative, ucigatoare de vise- filmul o exemplifica minunat...

Povestea se invarte in jurul lui Adrien Brodi, profesor bun, dar neimplicat pe termen lung, datorita desconsiderarii sale de catre sine insusi, datorita problemelor personale, familiale...Doreste sa ofere ce are mai bun, doreste sa ajute, dar fara implicare aprofundata si pe termen lung. Il sperie timpul si implicarea aprofunadata, este dezamagit de sine, isi cunoaste limitele si le respecta. Este omul dincolo de profesor, este tipul de educator si formator de oameni buni. Este profesor de limba engleza, intr-o scoala de cartier, unde dramele copiilor si lipsei de educatie se vad clar si au repercursiuni in spatiu si timp. El este cel ce deschide mintile cu responsabilitate. In Detachement vedem cum societatea considera ca scoala este locul unde toti au doar drepturi, fara a considera ca au si obligatii- cam cum suntem noi in societatea in care ne desfasuram ca oameni. In scoala copiii invata ca au si obligatii...Este o oglinda in care cadrul didactic nu mai este respectatat pentru ceea este, pentru responsabilitatea actului invatarii ce il ofera, ci este denigrat si minimalizat din toate partile- de parinti si implicit de copii care stiu ca au drepturi, nu si indatoriri, de societatea de consum, ca valoare economica si investitie in invatamant...Vedem cum scoala este goala si deprimanta in momente in care ar fi trebuit sa fie animata si efervescenta. Scoala si educatia sunt subiectul paralel dramei omului HENRY Barthes (Adrien Brody) si nu numai...Vedem cum oamenii se obisnuiesc cu o activitate si incep sa se plafoneze, sa devina rutina si sa desconsidere ceea ce au, uitand sa se implice activ in pastrare. Vedem cum cei mai multi prefera sa se simta din start victime si sa stea cu capul plecat, decat sa considere ca mai au o sansa- si asta ca sa nu mai fie a ''n'' oara dezamagiti, vedem oameni fara speranta, vedem cum parintii au uitat sa fie parinti si educatori ei insisi. Sunt cuvinte frumoase spuse aici, in acest film, sunt vorbe de suflet, pe care ca om implicat intr-un proces de educatie astepti sa le auzi de la cineva, sunt vorbe pe care ti le spui si crezi ca uneori sunt niste cerinte prea mari de la cei din jur....Vezi cum munca si implicarea in viata unui copil, ca educator, te fac sa fii mai bun, te fac sa fii imun la rele, te fac sa te detasezi de problemele tale, te fac sa imparti problemele pe care le ai si sa le compartimentezi corespunzator importantei si sa te implici partial sau total, sa vrei binele cuiva, sa consideri ca exista speranta, te fac sa crezi in ziua de maine, in zambete si in imbratisarile copiilor.

Sa fii ''educator'', ''pedagog'' este una dintre ele mai frumoase meserii din lume si nu este doar a unor oameni ce sunt platiti pentru asta, ci este si pentru parinti -ei sunt primii educatori ai unui copil. Cadrul didactic este ''cimentatorul'' si ''the gap filler'' in educatia tanarului, este the final touch...dar numai daca te implici. Henry Barthes este sau ar trebui sa fie, fiecare dintre noi, cadru didactic sau nu. Henry Barthes: We have such a responsibility to guide our young so that they don't end up falling apart, falling by the wayside, becoming insignificant. Putem fi cei ce dam posibilitatea stralucirii, suntem mesterii papusari dincolo de cortina, suntem regizorii vietilor unor fiinte avide de cunoastere si stralucire. Suntem baza cu care si pe care copiii o vor avea in viata lor de adulti... Dar putini realizeaza importanta lor ...si se desconsidera ... Henry Barthes: It doesn't take strength Meredith, you've gotta understand that, unfortunately, most people lack self awareness.

Friday, November 29

Film by Ronald Bergan

So if I don't watch movies, I read about movies and the latest book on this subject is Film by Ronald Bergan. Let alone the appealing topic, I was drawn to the book by the ''oh so memorable'' cover, showing Mrs. Robinson's sexy leg, in black stocking and Benjamin Braddock's aka Dustin Hoffman lost gaze. Now, how yummy is that? It is one of the best books on movies I have ever read from a historical point of view. A room on the top of the largest entertainment industry, illustrated with great pictures of sensational movies, Film by Ronald Bergan, is a must for every respectable cinephile.

The book is divided into interesting chapters on the story of the seventh art, on how movies are made, detailing on movie genres, the contribution to the world cinematography of each European country and not only, the most outstanding directors of all times and, finally, the best 100 top movies. From a historical point of view, the evolution of cinema is presented by decade, with the most representative events or movies that defined that specific period of time, even the box office hits of the time. It is not only a historical approach but also an illustration of the social and cultural changes that concurred. My favourite decade is, by all means, The Roaring Twenties- an effervescent time when the radio was invented, the movies turned from silent to talkies, when jazz journalism was born, when the bob haircut and the charleston were the kings of fad. The advent of sound was both a bless and a curse since famous actors that made their name in the silent era had to overcome their fear or lack of voice and go talkies. Back to the teasing cover of the book, I remember being totally smitten by The Graduate not only due to the great performances, but also because of Simon & Garfunkel's song, Mrs. Robinson, which marked the beginning of the trend for pop-song soundtracks for the movies.

Growing up on the movies of the 80s left a strong impression on me. It was the time when movies went big, lush, adventurous, magnificent. Movies had it all: romance, science-fiction, fantasy, action, adventure. The studios were big and strong and certain directors -Steven Spielberg- came to be known as the men with the Midas touch. Top Gun, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, Batman, Back to the Future were among the movies I grew up on, when going to the cinema was the peak of the week and when my passion for movies turned into addiction. Addiction got nurtured by the success of the videotapes and cheap renting houses when Class of 1999 was among those unexpected B category movies of the beginning of the 90s that turned cinema into second option.

The new indies from the 90s turned out to be the way up to maturing my tastes and directors such as Quentin Tarantino, the Cohen brothers, Cuaron, Kieslovski began making a style of their own that exulted originality and spunk. From movie pitch -illustrated as an important stage in the process of creating movies- as described in Altman's The Player to post-production, the entire process is fascinating. The World Cinema chapter of the book is excellent in emphasising the most remarkable creations of the seventh art, a guide to the movies that must be seen and never forgotten. Romania is shortly mentioned as the country that made 15 movies per year since the 1960s -I wonder- among which the best-known were Liviu Ciulei's Forest of the Hanged and Lucian Pintilie's Sunday at Six.
The world's best directors of all time are then shortly presented in terms of personal style, themes, movies and artistic credo. The best 100 movies of all times are masterpieces at international level, movies from all ages and times that left their mark on the history of humanity. And if you want to make sure you haven't missed important stuff, check the list of winners of the world's most prestigious film festivals. An unmissable book!

Sunday, November 24

Turtles can fly

How can a king's wealth be measured? In golden coins, in the love of his subjects or in the richness of his heart? What makes a king the powerful ruler that he is? Knowledge is the answer. Yet, power is a fleeting state of mind, especially since there are no valuable possessions to perfect one's realm. Kingdoms of broken hearts lie in-between war and peace, in nameless strips surrounded by barbed wire, machine guns and bombs. And among maimed limbs and souls, turtles can fly as director Bahman Ghobadi is trying to make us believe.

Even little kings like Satellite, a 13-year-old boy (Soran Ebrahim) from a refugee camp near the Turkish border in Kurdish Iraq, know that respect comes from information. So he makes people in the camp and the neighbouring villages, happy by installing satellite dishes meant to bring news on the American-Iraqi war. When not busy hassling, Satellite has the boys from the village gather landmines that he sells for them. One day, he meets the sad gaze of Agrin, who travels with her armless brother and a blind toddler she carries on her back. Love in the time of war happens too, so the infatuated Satellite goes to great trouble to win the heart of the girl; for all she knows, Agrin has a big, black hole in the place of her heart. Soon, king Satellite will not only lose his object of affection but his illusory kingdom as well.

This is a movie dedicated to all war casualties, children mainly, whose wounds go deeper than meets the eye and who are broken beyond repair. Shame, guilt, despair, blood are daily routine for children who find themselves fatherless, lost, trapped between worlds and nowhere in particular. Like turtles, they carry the burden of their own fate upon their shoulders, proofs of their disgrace and bleeding hearts, reminders of the atrocities they have to live with. Like turtles, they migrate endlessly, trying not to face their truths and lies, hidden from the light, little candles flickering in the darkness. Two survivors, Hengoa, an armless teenager, and Agrin, his sister, who was raped by soldiers during the attack on her village, carry each their open wound: the boy uses his mouth to disassemble mines and his head to fight back, whereas Agrin hates the blind toddler she has been carrying upon her back, a constant reminder of her disgrace. Agrin hurts the little boy much to her brother's disapproval who wants to keep him at any cost. He will shortly learn that any kind gesture comes at an excruciating price.

It is hard to believe that turtles will eventually fly, given their broken wings and spirit and since there seems to be no bright future for such creatures of despair. The director shows no mercy, except for Satellite's broken foot; however, it is not about his own hope in the better things that are to come, it is rather the viewers' hope in the last shred of humanity. Also, Mr. Ghobadi takes no side as far as the war is concerned, neither expressing any hope in the American intervention nor any faith in Sadam's ruling. His movie is not about the adults shaping the face of the world, but about the children caught in their battle for power. There is some magical touch in the way the movie unravels, a sort of softness that wraps around the frailty of the broken bodies and souls. It is a touching movie that speaks of useless wars and their casualties, about the way wars and their atrocities mould the soul, flesh and spirit of those caught up in their melee.

Monday, November 18

The Counselor de Cheltuitus Banus

Ridley Scott ...fail. The Counselor este un podium de high class actors. O defilare fastuoasa, as putea spune epopeica, de barbati hot ai cetatii viselor. Avem in distributie numai pietre pretioase ce vin sa sustina un film mai mult decat slab, cu un subiect alambicat si neexploatat la valoarea a ceea ce ar fi putut fi un proiect marca Ridley Scott. Si ''defilarea frumosilor'' incepe cu Michael Fassbender, apoi urmeaza Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Goran Visnjic, chiar si aducerea '' la viata' a lui John Leguizamo. Acest covor rosu de staruri aducatoare de public feminin, este sustinut si de cealalta parte de o rascolitoare Cameron Diaz si o stearsa Penelope Cruz. Actorii ar fi putut face atat de multe alte lucruri interesante, decat sa joace in acest film, ar fi dat atat de mult si ar fi putut straluci la adevarata lor valoare, daca nu ar fi fost o straduinta de a reusi intr-un proiect de film ce este atat de slab, incat a fost nevoie de nu mai putin de cinci actori de prima clasa pentru a-l realiza.

Subiectul este clasic...drogurile, lacomia, femeile care sucesc mintile barbatilor si fac din ei instrumente de obtinut ceea ce doresc dansele, cartelurile mexicane ce nu iarta nimic, coincidente ''cusute cu ata alba''si nascatoare de actiuni radicale si extreme, actiune ce sare fara legatura de la un moment la altul, mafioti ce pot sa realizeze crime incredibil de minutios pregatite, dar care mor stupid de simplu. Cam asa este ''The Counselor''. Filmul este impanzit de replici ''de retinut'', de ''cuvinte de duh''...de parca ma aflam pe un news feed pe facebook. Este un film facut cu toate ingredientele necesare realizarii unui blockbuster, este facut pentru bani, pentru minti usoare si nedoritoare de mai mult... Este facut pentru masa de spectatori mancatori de popcorn si grabiti catre altceva...catre ''the next thing on fashion''.


Michael Fassbender din ''Shame'' sau ''Inglorious Basterds'' este vandut succesului, nu exista in acest film... la fel si Javier Bardem. Brad Pitt are farmecul sau, isi face rolul frumos, elegant, ca la carte...desi poate mai mult- este un Adonis fermecator si catchy. Cea care straluceste efectiv, in acest film, este Cameron Diaz. Este o felina, o diva desteaspta si periculoasa, o lacoma surprinzator de apetisanta, ciudata si provocator de sexoasa; invarte barbatii si obtine ceea ce vrea de la ei, are replicile pregatite si isi face rolul atat de languros, incat la un moment dat ai impresia ca prostul gust a ajuns o arta a celor bogati si lacomi (ma refer la imbracaminte, bijuterii, machiaj, replici taioase si spuse in raspar) ea stie tot, ea face tot, invarte si ceea ce nu parea de invartit... prea mult...devine obositoare. Penelope Cruz este stearsa ca prezenta actoriceasca, eleganta, modesta si nepotrivita mediului de '' prea mult'' al filmului. Este sotia avocatului- rol principal, Michael Fassbender.

Sincer... acesta este un film de duminica seara, un fel de clatire a ochilor atat feminini cat si masculini, este un film ce nu te solicita prea mult, ca o masa de afaceri la restaurant, unde este servit mecanic si te duci pentru ca ai o agenda de bifat, nu pentru ca ai placerea si dorinta de a te bucura de compania cuiva si pleci infometat, caci aveai alte trebuiri de rezolvat, nu sa mananci. Este un film fara fond, desi plin de bogatie vizuala si actori buni, ramai nesatisfacut, gandindu-te la ceea ce ar fi putut fi, la ceea ce ar fi putut realiza un asa casting.

Saturday, November 16

Post Tenebras Lux

The Devil is red, thin, with a Pink Panther-like silhouette, sexually gifted, silent, always carrying a non-animated toolbox. The purpose of both demon and its toolbox are never revealed, yet skillfully hidden in the events that build around Juan and his family, the main characters of Post Tenebras Lux (the title is a Latin phrase meaning “after darkness, light”), a movie that bears the fascinating touch of Mexican filmmaker, Carlos Reygadas. 

Again, this is a movie where time is versatile, the narrative flows back and forth and the personal touch of the director feels powerful in every scene. Domestic life does not successfully blend with picturesque, rural Mexico, and the discrepancy between Juan (Adolfo Jimenez Castro) and his family's way of life and the virgin surroundings is pointed by the sound of chainsaws, violent outbursts, sexual orgies, and  geographical dislocations. The movie is a creation of the director's fantasy and the reality around him, a voyage into the Reygadas's memories and biography. Rugby scenes, explicit sex scenes from a European spa, domestic fights, Juan's violent behaviour towards the dogs are all fascinatingly drawn in a dreamlike world shot with a distortion effect around the edges, in an impressionistic style.

The Devil's toolbox is home of the seven deadly sins that are skillfully described in every sequence of the movie and reflected in the name of Juan's aggressor, Seven, always chopping trees. First, there is wrath (Juan beating his favourite dog), sloth (Juan's lazy help who fails to follow his orders), lust (Juan’s addiction to porn), gluttony (the fat woman in the sex spa with swingers), greed (Seven's attempt to rob Juan's house), envy (class differences) and pride (Juan’s). Juan, his family, the rest of villagers are all participants in the Devil's playground, subject to their own frailty and hidden desires. The first thing the Devil cunningly inserts in their minds is discouragement, the priceless tool that brings along all negativity and evil, the backside of hope. Words can lift people's spirit or bury their faith forever and the Devil is a master of words. Red, silent, revealed only to the innocent eyes of Juan's boy, the Devil is deeply built in each of us, yet powerless in front of unity. Rugby feels the same as playing inside the family; together we are one, divided, we stand alone. 

Dreamy, hallucinating, Post Tenebras Lux offers you a story that is anxious to be revealed and decoded. Give it patience and have faith in the optimistic haze of the film; Carlos Reygadas won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Festival for its rare, experimental vision and beautiful photography. Once again, movies make mesmerising, vivid journeys into the humane depth of ourselves and beyond the farthest limits of our imagination.

Tuesday, November 12

The Past (Le Passé)

Trapped between past and future, in a guilty, painful present, Asghar Farhadi's haunted characters of his latest movie, The Past (Le Passé), are prisoners of their own fears and lies. Men and women, little or grown-ups, are all busy building castles in the air, hearts torn between what was meant to be and what may be. A pregnancy is the only certitude, perfumes are much trusted saviours, unresolved feelings flow around a broken house, paint and smoke wrap around the senses and minds of them all.

Similar to his previous picture -A Separation-  Asghar Farhadi's The Past (Le Passé) is about the loneliness behind our choices, a sensitive approach to life itself. The director takes a rather common situation -getting a divorce matter settled in order to embark upon a new life, with children of previous marriages brought together by the prospect of a new child- and turns it into an emotional, provocative story of loss and suffering. Dysfunctional families have a frailty that cannot be rendered into words, yet this talented director succeeds in building a dramatic veil around this misfortune triangle of Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), the former husband, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), the estranged wife and Samir (Tahar Rahim, A Prophet), the new man in her life. Ahmad flies from Teheran, four years after having left Marie and her two daughters due to a depressive condition, to mutually end their marriage, at the request of Marie who is with Samir's child. The all live in the same house, with her two daughters and Samir's little boy ever since Celine, the wife of Samir, drank detergent, eight months ago, ending up in a coma.  

Asghar Farhadi's movie has no beginning and no ending in the traditional narrative structure of his previous movie, yet the resemblance lies in the investigation behind the love triangle. Samir's still legally married to Celine, who committed suicide upon finding about her husband's affair with the beautiful chemist, Marie. How did the wife find about the secret affair remains to be unveiled, yet this painful search for the truth reveals the unresolved feelings each of the three have for their past lovers. Marie is bitter in her treatment of Ahmad, even cruel at times, intentionally trying to hurt him or take revenge for having deserted her. It is obvious to the whole world, including Samir, that when two people still find reasons to fight after four years of separation, there are some deep, unresolved feelings that are anxious to surface. Samir, on the other hand, feels guilt, remorse and probably, still loves the mother of his child lying mute, lifeless in the hospital bed, waiting for the right scent or the warm touch to be brought back to life. Or not. Yet he is trapped between duty towards the woman bearing his unborn child and his pending emotions for Celine.

A powerful movie, with great performances - Bérénice Bejo, the quiet beauty of The Artist, even won her the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013- and excellent directing, The Past (Le Passé) is built like an emotional domino ready to shatter and drag along all the unspoken truths along. Ahmad's presence in the house is disturbing to Marie, her daughters, Samir and even Fouad, the cute, tormented little boy who, at times, steals the entire movie. When Marie is unsettled, her lover acts unlovingly, her eldest daughter, Lucie -a budding Marion Cotillard version- is lost, Samir is distressed by his little boy's anger, Ahmad is drawn into his past and all balance is disrupted. And again, truth shall not set you free or deliver your soul. Some truths are better left unspoken, hanging between blunt utterance and silent concealing, heavy burdens to build inside ourselves. The past is written in our vibrant memory more alive than the present and more painful than the future; there are slices of life that belong neither to the past, nor to the present and will forever shape our future. Resolution stands stark in between.

Monday, November 11


Loss of identity and striving for accomplishment find the two male characters of Joachim Trier's movie, Reprise, in medias res. The movie has a nonlinear narrative that takes the action back, forth and beyond. It is sizzling to the point of throwing its viewers into a secret, private league of their own. In a word, Reprise is far from making it big into the mainstream cinema and peculiar in the use of Fingerfucked by the Prime Minister as its recurring song -a movie for connoisseurs.


However, there is something about the film that moves you in terms of performances and the topics that are subtly touched by Joachim Trier's paintbrush. Or should I say intimate lens? Philip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) are two buddies who love to read, have uncertain feelings and views where women are concerned, and have been part of a group of other friends ever since primary school. Philip writes a novel, yet his success and his new relationship with Kari are too much to handle, so he has a nervous breakdown and is committed to hospital. Erik is by his side when he returns and encourages him to pick things from where he left off, but Philip has a hard time coping with reality as it is. It is now Erik's turn to have his novel published. Recognition comes with a high price since it offers no key to identity and self-accomplishment. You need to distance yourself from everything familiar that pushes your buttons, leave poetry aside, and embark on a voyage towards yourself. 

Writing is such an exhausting process that, upon closing the final pages, you feel strangely drained, yet empowered. The feeling can be so overwhelming that the writer needs to lose himself to a world of his own. Remarkable characters live whereas their ordinary maker goes into agony. Philip wrote a book and met a great woman at the same time and it turned out to be too unbearable for him to cope with both; love and writing burnt him fast and completely. When he returned from hospital, words seemed to fail him, he looked at those around him with different eyes and had to make a tough choice, counting from ten to one: Kari (Viktoria Winge) or inspiration. And again choice itself proved to be depleting him of physical strength. To Philip, love was the driving force, whereas to Erik, love stood in his way of becoming an authentic, meaningful writer.

Such choices are beyond our conscious reach; we are simply drawn to the fleeting light, aware of the danger of having our wings burnt, yet too numb to act differently. The way the two friends and their group is described is poetic and manages to capture their essence of youth- a time of soul-searching, loving, losing, succeeding, hurting, disappointing and hating. Ups and downs are personal for each young man, no recipes, no judging, simply surviving this stage in their lives. Beaches, Paris and Oslo are the places that resonate with their feelings, inspiring to their young minds, decisive to their choices. But are emotions and dreams likely to be refelt? Is reprise an option or a deluding idea? Well, in Joachim Trier's opinion, some things are bound to pick from where they left, others are prone to other vulnerable choices.

Reprise is a movie I wish I had seen in my early twenties, when I needed answers and looked for the essential questions; it is a slice of life as it is, no embellishing resolutions, no fake emotions. Simply living to the best and the fullest!

Thursday, November 7

Now You See Me de Cheltuitus Banus

Vrei magie? Vrei sa te simti bine si sa fii absorbit de magia Hollywood-lui? Ei bine...uita-te la: 'Now You See Me'. ESTE LAS VEGAS, BABY! ESTE SARE SI PIPER! ESTE TOT TACAMUL, FELUL UNU, FELUL ''N'' SI DESERT! Este Hollywood de calitate! Dupa un astfel de film iti dai seama de ce acolo se creaza vise. Realizezi ca esti inca un copil in cautarea dulciurilor si 'circului' copilariei. Realizezi ca vrei un spectacol cand te duci la cinema...dar un spectacol de calitate, cu detaliile toate puse la punct, fara scapari, fara usi ce se deschid o data pe o parte si apoi pe cealalta, fara ceas la mana vreunui antic.Vrei o ciocolata din fabrica domnului Wonka, vrei Craciun, vrei artificii si tremur in stomac. Vrei sa vezi un film -spectacol pe ecranul alb al cinematografului...sau macar o diagonala cat mai mare a tv-ului la care sa ai optiunea 3d si sa privesti de acasa tipand si incurajand personajele, traind cu ele si incercand sa le intri in creier.

'Now You See Me' are toate ingredientele pentru a te face entuziasmat de cinema si filme...este cocktail de magie, trucuri, lumini, actori mari, medii si mici, alesi foarte bine- cu personalitatile lor ce se muleaza perfect pe personaje, cu un strop de New Orleans si Mardi Gras, Las Vegas, New York...oh!! yes, my amazing New York, o frantuzoaica vorbitoare de engleza intr-un mod atat de sweet, incat trebuie sa fii stana de piatra sa nu zambesti auzindu-i accentul, rasturnari de situatie, si romantism Hollywoodian perfect asezonat celorlalte intamplari... nu se putea fara un sarut de final care sa incheie povestea intr-un mod tipic american. Este visul american de revista. Personajele J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) sunt alese misterios, pentru o misiune ce pare ca o intelegi ... am zis bine 'ti se pare'.

Este o rasturnare de situatie atat de fluida si frumos realizata incat nu te deranjeaza, ci te incita...vrei mai mult, vrei sa nu fii dezamagit de urmatorii pasi...si nu vei fi...vei fi uimit de creativitatea si ingenuozitatea lor. Te vor hrani corespunzator. Sunt pasi magici, cu insemnatate reala, cu un fir logic si realizabil. Lasa-te condus macar un pic de frumusetea necunoscutului, nu mai rationa, lasa-te purtat de frumusetea pasilor increzatori in si cu magia copilariei, cand nu te gandeai la consecinte, ci vedeai povesti si personaje din povesti la tot pasul, cand oamenii mari ti se pareau plictisitori, tristi si prea seriosi in realitatea lor...Lasa-te purtat de frumusetea a ceea ce este absurd...in cazul acesta ''cei patru calareti'' aflati in slujba '' Ochiului'' magic- suna copilaresc, nu-i asa? In realitatea noastra, au introdus magie, au introdus copilaria si adolescenta fiecaruia dintre noi - sa nu va inchipuiti ca veti vedea mare lucru, ci doar un strop de romantism, chiar si in ultimele scene, romantioase si prea siropos de exemplare. Dar spre deliciul meu... pentru a-l face mai catchy si pentru a face apel si la partea romatica a fiecarui privitor de film, nu numai ca politista INTERPOL vorbitor de franzeca a aparut, ci si Parisul cu podul ferecat cu lacate...podul dragostei... daca aveti impresia ca am spus ceva din subiectul filmului, va inselati. Nu am zis decat o mica parte din el...o parte ce nu a mai putut sa ramana secreta.

Frumusetea unui film ca acesta este vizualizarea si trairea lui. Macar pentru magie si trucuri deconspirate, pe care fiecare, mai ales adolesceti sau adulti, voiam sa le explicam pentru copilul din noi. Macar pentru actorii lui si mai ales pentru Morgan Freeman, care aduce vocea devenita faimoasa prin Through The Wormhole... toti actorii sunt ei insisi in aceste personaje, sunt adusi laolalta uimitor de frumos...Felicitari celui ce s-a gandit la ei, la acest minunat mix de realitate si necunoscut...it's a breath of happy air cu putin 'je ne sais quoi' francez, zambete si entuziasm ce trece orice granita. Este filmul show-lui perfect pentru public doritot de cinema bun, stralucitor, incitant, curat.