; movieschocolatebooks: August 2013


Thursday, August 22

Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher

To me, playing the piano exults in a powerful sexual impulse and several scenes from different movies run through my mind when I think of delicate, yet forceful hands voluptuously caressing the ivory keys- Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath and her mute passion, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham)'s voice speaking of Amadeus's heavenly music, Gary Oldman's expression in Immortal Beloved, Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving passionately competing in a piano duel and the list goes on. The same thing with food- in my mind, there is something very sexual about the eating process -biting, chewing, licking or smelling- probably related to the pleasure we take from this daily habit. Is it that cooks and artists emanate a sense of luring sexual joy or are we all captive to our senses and own insanity?

The Piano Teacher is indeed musical- a journey through Schumann's, Schubert's or Bach's solo piano creations played by skillful hands- yet it is also an intimately unpleasant insight into the masochistic mind of Erika Kohut. She -Isabelle Huppert- is a self-disciplined piano teacher, living and sharing her own bed with an overly possessive mother -Annie Girardot- who controls every minute of her adult life. Erika is stiff, serious, sexually repressed, envious, sadistic, duplicitous; yet there is something in her posture, childlike figure, big eyes, sharp tongue and passion for Schubert and Schuman that draws the interest and affection of a handsome engineer, Walter Klemmer (Benoit Magimel). The young man is highly appreciative of Erika's musical talent and enrols in one of her classes to further his piano knowledge. Open about his feelings, he attempts to seduce her in the conservatory's bathroom, where, much to his surprise, Erika won't have sex with him. At least, not the kind of conventional sex he is hoping for. Instead, she writes down a list of kinky, sadomasochistic desires, fetishes and twisted sexual interests. Walter is disgusted, sexually frustrated, forced to refrain his impulses and reconsider his feelings, which leads him to extreme gestures.

Aware that he is the opposite of her -attractive, communicative, young and funny- and visibly frustrated by her student's lack of talent, Erika acts upon her violent impulses and causes Anne, the student Walter is charmingly trying to help overcome emotions, to maim her hand by putting broken glass in her coat pocket. She then watches the girl bleed without remorse or any other visible emotion. She seems tough to the bone, affectionless and desperate to be in control, yet when Walter gives her the treatment she's been asking for, she is shocked at it.
The sick relationship she has with her freaky mother who is constantly trying to prevent Erika from having sex and thus leaving her, reminded me of the strange relationship between Nina and her controlling mother, Erica- a fated name- in Black Swan. Mothers and daughters build one another beautifully, only to carefully shatter each other's life.

In Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher, which won three awards at Cannes 2001 (best actress, actor and film), Isabelle Huppert is outstanding. Her impeccable rigour and lack of emotion make her coldness shine and it is remarkable how she manages to deprive herself of any chance to happiness by indulging herself into her own twisted sexuality. Walter fails to be the sexual match she has been searching for and only exacerbates her dark side, leading her to self-infliction or worse. Benoit Magimel's interest for an older teacher made me think of The Reader, only he is not an immature, innocent adolescent at the molding hands of an adult woman. He is a confident, open, sexually active man who knows what he wants, takes what he gets and moves on.

The open ending leaves room to interpretations, with Erika running out of the concert hall. Has she ruined her teaching career by not finding the courage to pull herself together and perform or has she put the knife into Walter so as to punish him for their violent sex encounter and his derisive response to her special needs? After all, this is a Michael Haneke movie where the process is more valuable and rewarding than the outcome. Despite the lack of explicit sex scenes, this is a bold movie about certain taboo, delicate issues such as sexual repression and control, the thin line between art and life, social norms or sexual deviance. It is about a woman who has taken her professional life to absolute dedication only to throw her personal life into darkness. I hold a peculiar fascination for artists- whether they are cooks, piano players, writers or painters- who are voluptuous beings capable of gracefully walking the line between good and evil.

Friday, August 16

Caché (Hidden)

We all need to have a healthy sense of self and sometimes secrets provide us with that feeling of singularity that separates us from the rest of the world. Certain secrets empower us and prevent us from feeling less independent. These are benign secrets as opposed to dark secrets that consume us and need to be disclosed if willing to avoid alienation or isolation. But how do we draw the line between the secrets that we shelter in our souls? Caché (Hidden) is about old secrets that lie under the smug face of comfort. 

An unpleasant secret from Georges Laurent's childhood becomes a weapon of psychological terrorism under the form of bloody drawings and videotapes, and throws him back down the memory lane in the days of  October, 1961. 200 Algerian protesters -including the parents of Majid, a ten-year old boy, living on the farm of Georges' parents- died at the hands of the Paris police, under the command of the former Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon. Again, as in the other films of Michael Haneke, the bloody hands of history reflect upon the shiny face of the present. Georges (Daniel Auteuil), the host of a literary TV talk show, keeps secrets from his wife, Anne (Juliette Binoche), who works in the publishing business and their 12-year-old son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) hides things from them, too.

Georges and Anne's cosy, comfortable existence is shaken by the feeling that they are constantly watched for no obvious reason. The tapes lead Georges to an apartment where the grown-up Majid lives with his son, yet the confrontation sheds no light upon the aggressor's identity or motifs. We are left hanging once again, suspecting everyone and assuming all kinds of scenarios. Pierrot's disappearance for 24 hours comes as a shock to the scared parents who once again blame Majid and his son. The boy is brought back in the morning by a classmate's mother after having spent the night with him and offers no explanation for his runaway. Georges's visit to his old, sick mother doesn't provide him with the courage he needs to reveal his turmoil or speak about his childhood secret. Once again, the Laurents' comfort seem to be adamant.

People act on different motives and feelings and they would do everything in their power to preserve their uncomplicated existences. Can other people- the Arabs- hate us so much as to feed on their hatred for a lifetime and try to destroy our secure, happy lives? Georges and Anne seem to be two little puppets whose strings are pulled by the guilt and secrets they hide in their minds. Secrets menace their relationship, secrets alienate their son and secrets follow Georges to his workplace, embarrassing him in front of his supervisor. The last scene of the movie in which Majid's son and Georges's son meet and talk leaves us with the impression that someone else is again filming the encounter in an endless game of terror and manipulation.  

Again, a movie without a denouement and with a slow pace, which can be viewed either as a political allegory or a domestic drama. The actors work beautifully together, especially the mother- the outstanding Annie Girardot, the tension is accurate, the themes of deep guilt, questionable morality and bloody colonialism are well-marked. Michael Haneke's movie is about the frail balance of western society whose prosperity builds on denial, dark secrets and guilt.

Maître Truffout -Choco Cups and Orange Chocolate Sticks

Some packages look really attractive and irresistible and you immediately reach out for them as if drawn by a dark force. It is also the case of Choco Cups by Maître Truffout, some little chocolate baskets (36% dark chocolate) filled with a layer of nougat (64%).

These very cute chocolate cups are filled with a creamy chocolate mouse layer and a nougat layer. They are very soft and  immediately melt in your mouth, making the hazelnut puree taste linger for some time. It is not an extraordinary product, it is not something you will desperately try to buy again, yet these chocolate cups are not a disappointing choice. They are also available with cherry flavour, if you appreciate the sweet-sour aroma.

This is the second product I have tried. It has again a friendly package that lures you into buying. The sticks are made of milk chocolate and contain orange oil. So if you hope they will be crunchy or containing bits of orange, think again. They have a strong orange taste (0,7%) and there is also a flavour of vanilla. The milk chocolate has 25% cocoa solids and it feels refreshing.
Maître Truffout also makes Mint Chocolate Sticks and Coffee Sticks and a variety of other interesting products such as pretzels covered in chocolate, truffles, Belgian seashells- though they are all made in Gunz, Austria- assorted chocolates or other pralines. They all look appealing and make great gifts for refined friends! Give them a try!

Wednesday, August 14

A prophet/ Un prophete

Coming of age is usually met with apprehension and in most cultures or cases, this transition is marked by significant events. For Malik, a young Frenchman of Arab descent, there is no celebration to attend, no family member to share the moment, no friend to encourage him, no glory. It is only the strenuous rehearsal and the agonising anticipation of the moment when he will kill a man with the razor blade he clumsily hides in his mouth. He is in prison and it seems life has just ended for him. 

Prison is excruciating for a man who feels being denied of his freedom of mind and expression, yet Malik, played by Tahar Rahim, is a young man of little expectations, a small time loser who probably accidentally took the fall. Skinny, with slightly androgynous features, a babe in the woods, Malik catches the eye of a prisoner there (Hichem Yacoubi) called Reyeb, whom the head of the Corsican gang running the prison, Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup), wants dead. Under the false pretence of offering him sexual favours, Malik enters the man's cell and clumsily kills him in a bloody, violent scene that will leave him trembling. His blood bath will be the beginning of a new life for the young man.

This new life has its perks- learning to read, to speak the Corsican dialect, to fly for the first time, to feel the sea washing his feet, to make friends- but also turns him into a murderer, smuggler, drug dealer. Prison life robs him of his innocence and offers him the means he needs to become financially successful and, above all, to make it to the end of his sentence in one piece. There is no school like prison and the uneducated young Malik becomes the brutal, violent product of a corrupted, ruthless world that takes its toll on the weak and unfortunate. Under the influence and protection of Cesar Luciani, Malik learns fast and keeps his nose to the grindstone; when the time comes he shakes off Cesar's authority and starts his own drug smuggling. With his sick friend on the outside, Ryad, Malik runs a flourishing business that brings him money and a name for himself.

Jacques Audiard makes an exceptional drama about a man's becoming- a young man caught between two worlds: that of an Arab deprived of Islamic identity and of a man without a past, thrown at the mercy of powerful influential mobsters. It is not his intention to make us feel for Malik or easily pass judgement on him; instead, we are witnesses to his transformation and shaken by the bloody stages of this development. Tahar Rahim's character is an ever adaptable creature, deprived of any glow or charisma, merely a survivor that fights evil with its own weapons. Yet, the most remarkable performance comes from Niels Arestrup, a familiar face in Jacques Audiard's previous movies, who is authentic as the Corsican mobster who despises weakness and suspects everyone. The movie is compelling and surprising in the way it depicts Malik's psychological state of mind-his hallucinatory conversations with his victim, the bold dream of a fleeing deer, which turns him into A Prophet in the eyes of the others, or the iris shots of gripping hands.  
Jacques Audiard's movie is an unpredictable drama with memorable characters and unforgettable scenes that casts a poetic light on the social turmoil France experiences with its Arab immigrants. It is a movie about the power of our survival instincts and the violence we shelter in our hearts. Is it Fate that throws the dices for us or do we make our grand choices by ourselves? And if we do, is courage the lesson we take to our hearts?

Monday, August 12

The White Ribbon

Usually movies that leave the viewers hanging are unsatisfying, yet The White Ribbon is such an involving movie that its lack of denouement does not strike you as displeasing. Palme d'Or winner in Cannes, The White Ribbon is about the hidden violence that deftly resides even in the most innocent eyes. In a timeless village that lives by its inner social structure and rigid rules, abusive parents breed sadistic children under the assumed veil of morality.

It all begins with the unfortunate accident of the village doctor caused by a wire that throws both rider and his horse to the ground. Other similar incidents occur: a woman is killed in the sawmill, the baron's cabbage garden is smashed, his son is beaten and left hanging in a barn, the same barn is set to fire, a man hangs himself, a child is left blind. Life in the village is altered and the main representatives of the small bourgeoisie- the baron, the doctor, the pastor, the bailiff- are being portrayed as heartless, abusive adults. Behind order, discipline and religion lie corruption, incest, hypocrisy and rotten characters. The doctor is feeling his fourteen-year-old daughter, humiliates his sex slave, the midwife, and oddly vanishes into thin air. The priest constantly brings his children down by depriving them of food, freedom of expression and dignity. He punishes them physically and makes them wear a white ribbon around their arm or in their hair to be constantly reminded of their duty to be innocent. Moreover, he straps his son to the bed at night to prevent him from masturbating. But is this bad treatment of their own children left unechoed?  

In terms of symbols, the "weisse Band" of the German title can be seen as the white ribbon, a means of reminding of the lost innocence, but also as a mark of the blindness of the society, its lack of empathy and humanity; Karli, the last victim, is turned blind and the doctor puts a strap of white bandage around his injured eyes. Michael Haneke makes us question whether we are also willing to turn a blind eye to evil or use the benefit of hindsight? It is no coincidence that the strange events occur before the outbreak of the First World War and they are used by the director as a pretext to foresee the atrocities of the upcoming war. War comes in a time when the evil within the souls of people has corrupted and engulfed their last shreds of humanity. Thus, The White Ribbon is a parable for the fate of Germany and the decisive role it would play in the fate of mankind.


The young schoolteacher (Christian Friedel), whose older version narrates the story from decades later, and his innocent affection for Eva are seen by the director as humanity's chance to redeem itself and hope for a better future. This might not happen painlessly or at once but there is some promise in the girl's naive smile and in his perceptive eyes.  
Michael Haneke is a master at building up tension and keeping us guessing by employing elements of black comedy, white and black filming techniques, superb performances, and a moral content. He uses short, intense scenes such as Rudy's questions about death or the pastor's discourse on the awful masturbation in order to make a subtle connection between social behaviour and repression. Hidden, corrupted behaviour within the family reflects upon the way we act and adapt socially. His manner of bringing to life the most brutal truths in a non-aggressive approach makes The White Ribbon a mesmerising drama and an incredible thriller.
Haneke once said, "I want to rape my spectators into autonomy." The open-ended and multi-layered narrative, the collective guilt and the moral intellectual experience it forces us to absorb, feel indeed like a brutal violation of our self-determination.

Wednesday, August 7

The Most Expensive Chocolate in the World

Excellence is a much desired goal in any field and it requires a solid background, a lot of stamina and then great selling abilities. When it comes to chocolate, there are high standards and refined consumers so this industry is fast-growing and dynamic. But is high price an indicator of good quality? And what are the criteria we need to take into consideration when buying good chocolate? Let's take a look at the most expensive chocolate brands in the world or gourmet chocolate as they like to be referred to:

1. Chocopologie by Knipschildt. Chocopologie by Knipschildt was founded in 1999 by Fritz Knipschildt and apparently sells the world's most expensive hand made chocolate, with 70% Valrhona cocoa powder that covers a French Black truffle for $ 250.00 each or $ 2,600. 00 per pound.

2. Noka. The company's products are made from chocolate from Venezuela, Trinidad, the Ivory Coast, and Ecuador. It provided its customers with a "Tasting Guideline" in every box. Their chocolate contains 75% cocoa and  claim not to use any type of emulsifier -soy lecithin- in their chocolate-making process, or vanilla. It is $854 per pound.

3. Delafee. DeLafée of Switzerland creates luxury gifts with gold and creates decorations with gold. The ingredients of their chocolate include sugar, coconut oil, cocoa butter, milk powder and vanilla. The gold is edible so it will make shine inside out. As for the money you need to take out of your pocket, make it.... $508 per pound.
4. Richart. Using 70% Criollo cocoa from Venezuela, this chocolate brand offers chocolate collections and endless combinations of plain or filled chocolates (with almonds, raspberries and exotic spices). They also make excellent macarons with butter cream or a fruity filling of jam, and French truffles, dusted with the aromatic and rare Criollo cocoa. The chocolate is $120 per pound. 
5. Godiva “G” Collection. The G Collection is made up of 15 true artisan quality chocolates designed by their exceptional chocolatier and the chocolates look beautiful and the flavors all sound wonderful. They are given funny names such as as Palet d’Or, Tasmanian Honey and Mexican Hot Chocolate. The premium beans in theses chocolates cost $120 per pound.
6. Pierre Marcolini. This Belgian brand produces the famous Truffle Bresilienne, which contains a 66% blend of beans from Ghana and Venezuela and has a Caraibe ganache centre with a Gianduja almond praline with milk-chocolate outside. As if this were not enough, it is finished with caramelised almonds. Heaven is here to stay, right?

7. Debauve & Gallais. This chocolate has no soy or other emulsifiers, is low in sugar, and m=nuts and raisins. Again, they take pride in their names such as Piedmont hazelnuts, Perigord nuts, Turkish raisins, Spanish almonds, Turin chestnuts and Antilles rum. Let's not forget the high quality cocoa for $94 per pound.

8. Chuao. It comes from Venezuela and uses European techniques to make handcraft gourmet chocolates that arouse your senses and turn you into a lifetime addict. Again, with money -$79 per pound- comes good quality, preservative- free ingredients and unexpected combinations.

9. Richard Donnelly. If you love chocolate, you go to Paris and Brussels and train with the best. Then you return home and make your own chocolate and whatever pleases your heart:caramels and marshmallows, truffles and  ganaches, assorted chocolate, chocolate bars, mixes for brownies,cakes and cookies and chocolate dipped ice cream caramel bars. They keep it simple for $75 per pound!  

10.  Vosges Haut Chocolat. The chocolate business must be the most inventive one since all chocolatiers are great at incredible combinations: Naga, milk chocolate with Sweet Indian Curry  and coconut, Black Pearl, dark chocolate with ginger and wasabi, and Red Fire, made with ancho and Chipotle chili, cinnamon and dark chocolate. You can try these and then some for $69 per pound!
So, if you ever get to try the gourmet chocolates, particularly these very expensive ones, check the high quality ingredients, the skillful preparation and the artistic presentation. Price can make a distinction among the different varieties of chocolate, but it should not be the only reason for buying good chocolate. Eat chocolate that you can afford just because it makes us happy and clever! If you don't trust me, check the connection between chocolate consumption and the Nobel prize winners!

Tuesday, August 6

Movies that are not worth watching

Let me save you some time and spare you the trouble of going to the cinema to watch some totally missable movies. It is true that one cannot always get to enjoy great movies or read wonderful books, so it is important to have a friend to help you make the best of your time in a more productive way. So, do not bother to watch:

1. The Big Wedding (2013). A perfect example of a great cast -Robert de Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams- that ruins the movie by turning it into a boring, predictable story that stirs no emotion whatsoever.

2. Passion (2012). A Brian De Palma movie might seem like the best choice. Well, it is a poor thriller that lacks rhythm and sparkle, with lousy acting. I would have expected more from Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace but as it turns out, they didn't expect much from themselves either.


3. Trouble with the Curve (2012) is supposed to be the drama of an ageing baseball recruiter (Clint Eastwood) who is trying to patch things up with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams). Things appear to be more motivating for the daughter when her father's competition -Justin Timberlake- gives them the right push. No good!

4. Gambit (2012). Uptight curator (Colin Firth) gets mixed up with rodeo queen (Cameron Diaz) in a scheme meant to get him the sweet revenge he has been wishing for on his boss (Alan Rickman). Poor lines and unnatural acting, boring to death.

5. Playing for Keeps (2012) is almost embarrassing in the misogynistic message and incredibly bad dialogue. Gerald Butler's character has no idea what he wants in life, sleeps around and not even for the fun of it, the wives -Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Judy Greer- look good but lack spine. And the biggest disppointment is Dennis Quaid in the role of a manipulative husband.

6. One for the Money (2012). Hollywood producers think that a pair of handcuff, skin, some badass lady (Katherine Heigl) who thinks has got policeman skills and a no-name hunk (Jason O'Mara) are the best recipe for success. Sooo wrong, peeps!

7. Side Effects (2013). Speechless. Money and passion join hands to fool husband, justice and eventually sex partner. It doen't add up. It lacks drive and once again, the cast -Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Mara Rooney- has no chemistry and no desire to make it work.

8. The Details (2011). There is something about Tobey Maguire that never struck a chord in me. I had high expectations after I had seen him in The Cider House Rules but he still fails to deliver. And the story of this movie is so fictional that makes you feel your intelligence has been insulted. Thank God there are no racoons to ruin my life in my neighbourhood!

9. John Carter (2012). I do know to appreciate a good SF movie. I grew up with a father who had an obsession for this movie genre and had to watch every movie that counted. So, I can draw some analogies between movies. This one is so stupid it bears no comparison. It felt like watching some B movie with lousy acting and bad costumes. Stick to the classics, please!

10.  Gangster Squad (2013). I wasn't impressed with the movie mainly due to the poor acting. I want to watch movies that make my heart beat faster or force me to ask myself important questions or simply move me. Ryan Gosling moved around in his sexy manner, Sean Penn yelled a lot, Josh Brolin kept a poker face and all Emma Stone did was look great in red.

However, there is promise in every movie we watch so bad movie days aren't supposed to deter you from enjoying your hobby; on the contrary, they should set high standards for your movie tastes and make you more inquisitive movie buffs. Have a spectacular movie day!

Monday, August 5

Things We Lost in the Fire

Some movies build themselves around characters with the promise of new beginnings in the sequels that only run in our minds. Things We Lost in the Fire is about the healing, grief, closure, redemption that fill our souls when we suddenly lose someone close. Change seems to be the hardest choice so we cling to any reminder of a normal life in an attempt to restore the initial state of calmness.

Audrey (Halle Berry) and Brian (David Duchovny) Burke have a happy marriage and two beautiful kids. When Brain gets killed in a random fight, Audrey finds herself helpless and asks Brian's junkie friend, Jerry, to come live with her family. Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro) is a former lawyer turned into a heroin addict who has lost everything important in his life. Audrey's need to overcome the grieving times is Jerry's last chance to do the right thing for himself. She initially asks for Jerry to live in the garage out of a sense of loyalty towards her dead husband who has been looking for his friend's well-being for years. It is Audrey's way of keeping Brian's memory alive and paying a tribute to her generous husband. But loss has left her needy and their relationship turns into a chance to overcome pain together.

“Accept the good.” is the note left by Jerry, together with a flower bouquet, on Audrey's doorstep. If he has come to accept the hand she lent him to change his life around, then she must do the same thing and move on. Her frailty grows on Jerry who has to fight addiction and the temptation of falling for his best friend's girl but this is one thing that saves the movie from being an average American romance. Things We Lost in the Fire is rather about they way people cope with grief and how families stay together through hard times than a cheesy romance.

Susanne Bier, the gifted Danish writer-director of Open Hearts, Brothers and After the Wedding directs her first American movie in the same classy manner that takes us back and forth, at a slow, steady pace. Things We Lost in the Fire uses techniques such as close-up to characters' faces, side stories, mirroring, visual themes and an easy dialogue to unfold the story. The performances of the two leading actors are excellent, reminding us of a Halle Berry once worth of an Oscar Award and with a Benicio del Toro who is genuine and plausible. Things We Lost in the Fire is a sensitive drama about second chances and gentle closures, the kind of movie that is more about the characters than the story.

Saturday, August 3

Il Postino/The Postman

Il Postino (1994) is the most beautiful ode to friendship and poetry. It is a captivating, inspiring movie that will ultimately make viewers helplessly fall in love with poetry, Pablo Neruda and the hidden poets within themselves. Emotions and genuine feelings find a way to surface even the simplest, most ignorant minds in a lyrical way and give a tender voice to their turmoil.
Il Postino/The Postman, an Italian film from British director Michael Radford (White Mischief, The Elixir), nominated for five Academy awards, is the story of the friendship between Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) and the postman Mario Ruopolo (Massimo Troisi) who delivers his letters during his short exile on a small Italian island. Arriving there in 1953, the famous Chilian poet, Pablo Neruda and his companion, Matilde, meet Mario Ruoppolo, the postman. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship that helps Mario win the heart of the most beautiful girl on the island, Beatrice Russo, and offers the poet an insight into the simple, unadorned lives of fishermen. Beatrice is a name that haunted the hearts of poets such as Dante Alighieri, Gabrielle d'Annuzio, Charles Baudelaire or William Shakespeare and she is also the beauty that sweeps Mario off his feet. She wins Mario's heart with a pinball that she lasciviously puts into her mouth and he bewitches her with his metaphors. 
Politics, humour, love, friendship and poetry are the elements that make Il Postino a simple and unlikely film. It is not a tear-jerker, yet Mario's fate melts your heart, it does not have a sophisticated subject or narrative, yet it is soul-touching in the performances. In a poor, isolated place, where life moves at a slow and uneventful pace, sensitive hearts find a way to express their emotions in a delicate, poetic manner. Pablo Neruda, the woman charmer, helps the postman find a voice for his feelings and gains a true friend that makes him appreciate simple things in life. Mario learns the power of words and conquers the viewers with his simplicity, modesty, passion and determination. Philippe Noiret, who starred in Cinema Paradiso, makes a stunning role, full of understanding and patience. All in all, the film is a delightful, with Franco di Giacomo's photography that captures poetry in every corners of the island and with the film's score, composed by Luis Enríquez Bacalov.

Dedicated to the Italian actor -"To our friend, Massimo", the movie was the dream project of Massimo Troisi who postponed a heart intervention to finish Il Postino and died a day after the film was completed. There are such rare characters who value their work so much that they give it their all. Such a person was Massimo Troisi whose balanced acting and incredible commitment added up to the spectacular cinematography of this exceptional film.

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Thursday, August 1

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

Power in its various forms is much intoxicating and forever pursued. Of all shapes power materialises itself in, the power of good storytelling is mesmerising and nothing compares to a silver tongue with a good story to tell. Or how intriguing is a shrewd recounter of stories whose cunning words wrap kings around his little finger and win the hearts of mysterious beauties?

Salman Rushdie obviously knows business or, at least, is a master in the business of storytelling. The story of three boys from Florence in the age of Lorenzo de Medici- Il Machia, Ago Vespucci and Nino Argalia, the last of whom is an adventurer in the Orient- intertwines with the story of Akbar, the greatest of the Mughal emperors and two worlds are bound by the tale of  a "tall, yellow-haired young European traveller". The man in a coat of many leathered pieces claims to be Akbar's lost great-uncle and descendant of the most beautiful and powerful enchantress, the lost princess, Qara Köz. I love a good story that invites you to be part of a great adventure and makes you build yourself out of it. In an outstanding journey where East meets West and love conquers it all, Salman Rushdie clothes a beautiful fable in historical attire and uses subtle phrases to melt your heart. Every sentence is well-knit and feels like honey running through your fingers. For instance, when describing his native town, the traveller says: “Imagine a pair of women’s lips puckering for a kiss. That is the city of Florence...with the Arno flowing through between.” Then, there is this incredible mixture of magic and real life in some marvellous concepts: Qara Köz's slave becomes a "memory palace", a living statue comes to life in Italy and the story within the story structure offers the reader multiple layers and subplots bound in mysterious ways. According to Rushdie's traveller, the beauty of our world resides not in the differences but rather in the incredible stories that bring us closer: "Not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike."

This novel filled with powerful, magical women- witches, enchantresses, sorceresses- is Salman Rushdie's ode to femininity and the beauty that lies within every creature ever to have haunted man's dreams and loins. Some female characters are alive through the stories and paintings of other characters, an invention of their secret fantasies and hidden desires- Queen Jodha is Akbar's perfect lover, and Qara Köz, the Enchantress, is his mother's embodiment of beauty and magic. His subjects fear them and accept their presence among themselves as these mighty ghosts walk the royal venues. In this magical world, humans, spirits, mysterious creatures live only to share their stories and reinvent themselves.

Lev Tolstoy used to say that “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” In Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence great journeys and mysterious strangers join hands to create one exotic novel that will forever win your heart. Even though power is fleeting by nature, the power of great storytelling is forever alive in the thousands of tales that live and die in the minds and hearts of avid readers only to be born again.