; movieschocolatebooks: 2014


Monday, December 29

The disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

This is an exceptional piece on how we face loss and our different reactions to pain. It is a movie about life as it is in its rawness and achy unfiltered moments where adults walk on thin ice and they miss one another on the way.

Initially, the movie made me sad in a soft manner, then it turned me all hopeful in the way people in love make real-world sense.The disappearance of Eleonor Rigby is that kind of movie that makes you reach out to the screen and feel the actors' faces and thoughts as if to nourish yourself from their agony and soothe them. Some movies will do that to you and grab you for an infinite second from a place of comfort into an unpleasant life situation.Whether you can relate yourself to the actual story of not -that of losing an infant and finding yourself at a loss- this movie is bound to trigger a kind of emotion since it renders different reactions to drama. To her, it is excruciating, life changing, the kind of loss that shatters her world. She needs her own way of coping with it, outside the marriage, the family life, the circle of friends, her world. He reaches back to her because it feels the next natural thing to do and he is puzzled by her lack of reaction and understanding. To him, moving on is the solution to a problem that time is slowly turning into a bad memory rather than a constant reminder of the past.

Eleanor and Conor are two people caught in the bustle of things after that moment when life took a halt. They build a portray of love lost and empathy unshared. Is it possible for them to reclaim the love they once shared or are they just at the point of no return? Eleanor cannot find her place- she moves out of their apartment, she tries to go back to school, she attempts to reconnect with her parents. Nothing works, nothing feels right, nothing makes sense anymore. The person that keeps reminding her of her brokenness is Conor himself. She needs time and distance to allow herself to overcome her grief and move on, So she leaves for Paris. Conor chases her, pleads with her, cheats on her, loves her back, tries to comfort her and every time, he fails miserably. His restaurant business is going bad, he argues with his friend, he moves back with a distant father and gets hit by a car. To him, as well, nothing makes sense. These are two people whose loss resonates differently with their own sensitivity and mind sets.

The tragedy of their lives and their way of coping or not with damage, reminded me of The Broken Circle Breakdown characters where one man and a woman use music, life and each other to get things back on track as their whole world breaks down around them. Didier and Elise are the European versions of Eleanor and Conor in the way they are more bohemian and artistic. Also, the movie is about their story instead of depicting the different ways in which Eleanor Rigby and her husband react to the death of their infant and how they relate to the other people in their lives, may they be family or friends.

Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are the ones drawing the characters and the entire intensity of the story is built around their performances. There is a lack of chemistry between them that almost feels intentional since they use each other to explain pain and the movie focuses on the manner they face misplacement rather then the story of them as a couple. Him and Her are parts of a story that builds like a puzzle in front of you and as these pieces deepen the narrative, it is the causality of the events that draws your attention. The rest of the characters -William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, Viola Davis- all help the main people render a sense of their frailed relationship by adding significant pieces to the back image. However, the movie feels a bit unbalanced since it is rather centered on Eleanor's feelings and her family's rather than giving a proportionate depiction of both of the leading characters. The ending of the film attempts to restore equilibrium since it goes back to Him, giving the impression that another story is about to begin -that of his way of surviving the disappearance of his wife. It could be the story of Us from the perspective of Him.

In bitter-sweet glimpses of interior life, the director probably intended to make a movie about how people find themselves or not and whether it is permissible to cut others off in doing so. He obviously took sides here with Her and in doing so, he denied Him a chance at going deeper for his own feelings. It makes me wonder whether this was his true intention or if the characters took shape on their own, as it happens in the written world, and somehow took control of the story. In between the layers of the story, a reconciliation is trying to be engineered and the viewer almost gets to choose whether love is to be knit together one day. In real life or on screen...

Friday, November 28

Vanatorii de zmeie de Khaled Hosseini by NICO

Citeste! Citeste si vei descoperi lumi nebanuite, descoperi vieti si oameni noi... unii frumosi , unii urati, oameni pe care in realitate nu ii vei intalni, poate niciodata. Dar care exista sau au existat. Ei au legatura cu realitatea, totul are legatura cu realitatea. Personajele cartilor pornesc de la personaje reale, pornesc din viata de zi cu zi a unor oameni ce au darul de a scrie, reda si povesti cu drag si iscusinta despre normalul, frumosul, uratul sau imaginarul pornit din mediul inconjurator.

Din aceasta prisma am descoperit 'Vanatorii de zmeie'. O poveste asa cum este viata, nu mereu vesela si buna, nu mereu roz si cu oameni buni, nu mereu dreapta. Am aflat despre o lume departe de mine si caldura ce ma inconjoara, binele si indestulatorul ce il am. Am aflat despre o tara si o istotie ce erau ermetice mie si despre care stiam doar franturile date de massmedia- Afganistan. Am descoperit frumusetea culturii afgana, cu ciudateniile si specificitatea ei. Am descoperit oameni veseli ce traiau inaite de razboiul stiut de toti. Am citit despre oameni normali vietii, cu sentimente, resentimenete, secrete, frustrari, bucurii simple si ample. M-a ridicat si daramat, m-a facut sa apreciez o farama se speranta macar, daca nu de bine, in povestea expusa si in viata mea.

Povestea unui baiat de om bogat, crescut in frustrarea de a trece prin viata fara mama si de a purta cu sine de-a lungul copilariei povara decesului ei la nasterea sa. Copilul-adult, ce doreste sa isi multumeasca tatal rece si erou al comunitatii. Copil singur si uitat de copilarie. Dar copil in esenta- Amir. Carte despre prietenia dintre Amir si Hassan, baiatul in casa, de-o seama cu el. Despre prietenia dintre un pastun si un hazar- ar fi bine sa cititi sa descoperiti diferentele. Pastun si hazar, doua cuvinte, dar atat de importante si limitatoare...pana la un punct. Am descoperit prietenia si dedicatia fara limite intr-o relatie. Am descoperit ororile post- sovietice, post- talibane... am descoperit cruzimi, foame, vagabondaj si mai ales iar foame si lipsa unui acoperis deasupra capului, a sigurantei vietii, aflate la cheremul gloatei sau al unui psihopat de rang si iar a foamei... Dar dincolo de aceste minusuri reale si urate, am descoperit jocul si frumusetea inocentei copilariei, putina intradevar, dar existenta. A jocului si cartilor ce unesc si bucura pe cei doi prieteni, chiar daca la un moment dat dezbina si indeparteza sufletele, avem de-a face cu doi copii in esenta, doi prieteni. Am descoperit puterea sperantei si a increderii in viitor, a pasilor mici si a fricilor calcate in picioare, a izbanzilor proprii asupara sinelui. A victoriilor mici si interioare, care incet, incet se reflecta in legaturile cu ceilalti.

Este o carte a sperantei si increderii in sine, a pasilor mici si a impunerii si acceptarii sinelui cu bune si cu rele. Nu suntem in totalitate buni, sau in totalitate rai, iar uneori oamenii rai, chiar nu devin buni niciodata, oricat de mult ii intampini cu bine si frumos, si oricat de mult incerci sa ii tii la distanta, sa ii ocolesti. Uneori viata nu este dreapta si lumea in care traiesti este doar a ta, nu si a altora. Si rar gasesti persoane care sa te inteleaga si sa iti ramana alaturi indiferent de situatie, rar gasesti pe cineva care sa te accepte asa cum esti si cu secretele tale si sa ti le ia asupra lor si sa priveasca dincolo de ele, sa nu il sau o intereseze decat tu, cel sau cea care vorbeste in momentul respectiv. Este cartea biruintelor proprii si a invatarii respectului de sine si acceptarii proprii astfel incat sa poti merge mai departe si sa te poti considera demn de aprecierea si iubirea altcuiva.

Este cartea invatarii si a pasilor mici. a omului ce invata sa traiasca, acceptandu-si greselile.

Friday, November 7

Hotul de carti by NICO

O carte ca un vis. O carte care este hrana pentru sufletul iubitorilor de carti, de cuvinte, de intelesuri ale literelor puse cap la cap, dincolo de lumea reala. ''Hotul de carti'' este povestea unei iubitoare de carti, care nu stia sa citeasca. Este povestea unei fete orfane de 13 ani, ce se desfasoara in timpul Germaniei naziste, a celui de-al doilea razboi mondial. Este viata oamenilor normali, dincolo de boala mintala a Fuhrerului, dincolo de grandomania bolnava a oamenilor politici ai vremii. Este povestea unor oameni normali, nemti ai Germaniei naziste- este povestea unor oameni ce vedem ca sunt umani, nu hipnotizati de vise ireale si uniformizatoare si dezbinatoare ...toate in acelasi timp. Este o poveste spusa la pesoanele intai si a treia de un personaj surprinzator: Moartea.

Moartea devine personaj cu suflet, cu dorinta de usurare a suferintei, observator obiectiv ce uita sa fie impartial pe parcursul desfasurarii povestii. Moartea devine umana. Ea este personajul ce vede si remarca ciudatenia fetei de 13 ani. Este cea care povesteste si mangaie cu atentie, ridica si aduna sufletele chinuite si agonizante din razboiul ce inconjoara si forteaza umanitatea sa fie altfel decat umana...si ea vede, dar nu poate face nimic. Vede oamenii ce sunt oameni, dincolo de zidurile caselor lor, in care se ascund suflete deznadajduite, pierdute, ratacite si gasite, se ascund orfani, parinti fara copii, oameni cu vise spulberate dar si oameni carora razboiul le da sansa sa fie cruzi, sa isi desfasoare nebunia si idealurile nebunesti. Liesle Memminger este o copila ce isi pierde pe rand tatal, fratele si apoi mama- vede cum moare fratele ei de frig si pneumonie, inmoaie sufletele parintilor adoptivi, a unei femei de gheata posesoarea unei biblioteci de vis, a unui evreu adapostit si haituit de identitatea sa ...dar mai ales a copiilor de pe strada ei, a lui Rudy- prietenul ei de suflet. Rudy care tot incearca sa ii fure un sarut, cu orice pret. Rudy ce il arora pe alergatorul de culoare Jessie Owens. Rudy razvratitul. Liesle este o luptatoare si o ambitioasa. Invata sa citeasca singura sau ajutata de tatal adoptiv, exerseaza cu prietenul ei evreu si ajunge sa scrie propria carte, o carte cere impresioneaza chiar si ultimul personaj din viata unui om- moartea. Personaj ce ajunge sa spuna: ''Sunt bantuita de oameni'' ... in acest caz de oamenii ce alcatuiau lumea lui Liesle.

Cartea este populata de oameni pe care nu ii cunosteam pana acum. Sunt oameni din timpul Germaniei naziste care nu erau de acord cu Hitler, cu idealurile lui, realizeaza ca visele lui nu sunt decat arme de manipulare, dar ei nu pot face nimic impotriva lui...decat sa duca o lupta tacita si sa se revolte din cand in cand cu pretul unor biciuiri, cu pretul injuriilor si al foamei ce devine boala nationala, cu pretul izolarii si persecutiilor sociale. Dincolo de uratenia razboiului si a unor oameni indoctrinati cu ideile altora, oameni goi si superficiali intalnim cartile...Sincer vorbind, nu am intalnit pana aici o asa descriere si indragire a cartilor, o asa putere data lor si cuvintelor ce le alcatuiesc. Avem o poveste in care de gasesc alte doua povesti integrate ca secvente ale ''Hotului de Carti'', avem o fata ce vede intr-o biblioteca paradisul nedescoperit, mangaie cartile aproape religios, le iubeste si le uraste in acelasi timp pentru puterea lor, ajunge sa fure carti pentru a descoperi interiorul lor, cuvintele... Avem de-a face cu o carte despre carti; o carte despre cuvinte si puterea cartilor. Vedem cum cititul leaga prietenii nabanuite, vedem cu cititul linisteste sufletele pierdute pe calea raului de atata dorinta de a se apara de rau, suflete uitate, vedem cum cartile salveaza oameni si induioseaza chiar si moartea. Descoperim impreuna cu Liesle intelesuri noi ale cuvintelor, vedem cum cuvintele dau putere de a merge mai departe, hranesc copiii infometati, pastreaza umanitatea in oameni, reprezinta amintiri si refugiu. Citim despre magia cuvintelor si o fata ce le considera familia ei, le considera EA.

Tuesday, October 14

Greenbird by Shari Herrera

Serendipity works as personal assistant for the Law of Attractions. Or I could also come up with some cute sayings such as two peas in a pod or birds of a feather flock together. My favourite one, though, is Ask and it is given. The truth is I wish I were so lucky with all the people I happen to meet and that only those exceptionally impressive would cross my path. Nevertheless, in the land of both hidden and obvious opportunities, I met a lovely person - a powerful woman, a trendsetter, a generous human being. The bonus to all the above-mentioned is that she shared her chocolate with me -Greenbird by Shari Herrera

When I first met her and happened to find that she owned a cacao farm in Guatemala, I got her to share with me a few things about her love for chocolate and so she told me about the single origin stuff that has turned people into chocolate snobs and the fact that I was unaware of  living in the Renaissance Age of Chocolate. And as I was about to head for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco, she gave me a few tips on the best places to eat good chocolate. She managed to save the best till the end revealing that she was into chocolate making herself and maybe, maybe, if the stars aligned and I was blessed with good luck, I might taste her bean to bar chocolate. Or even get to see her making it. Well, how could someone like me respond to that? Pointless to start bragging about my obsession with chocolate or the things I would be willing to do in exchange for such privilege. Glad to know Shari has got a good sense of humour.

For one lovely morning, I was given the little marvels that came out of Nicaragua beans, 55% dark chocolate filled with Grand Marnier, truffle and spicy mint. The lovely shapes were just bitter enough to give you a hint of the cacao quality and yet, unexpectedly, not as sweet as the rest of everything else here. The perfect balance was given by the flavours hiding underneath the dark layers of chocolate. In a word, flawless little bites of heaven. Greenbird is very likely to make it big and grow wings to fly if ever Shari runs out of beautiful projects. My chocolate thought patterns vibrated at the sight of Greenbird and I cannot wait to witness the birth of chocolate from the moment the cacao beans are processed to the single origin final product.

Thursday, October 9

Venus in fur by NICO

''si apoi dumnezeu l-a pedepsit, l-a dat pe mana unei femei''...

Asa se termina filmul regizat de Roman Polanski si adaptare a piesei de teatru cu acelasi nume, dar si a unei nuvele ce contine numele si povestea descrisa in film. Venus in Fur a fost facuta faimoasa prin piesa de teatru, regizata de David Ives, iar Polanski reuseste sa combine intr-o maniera spectaculoasa teatrul cu filmul si sa rezulte un produs uimitor de amuzat, atragator, insigant si antrenant. In film avem de-a face cu un regizor de teatru in cautarea unei actrite care sa joace adaptarea scrisa chiar de el, a romanului Venus in Fur de Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (care este si ''tatal'' numelui de sado-masochism dictionareleor noastre).

Este o poveste ce ne arata rasturnari de situatii, caractere, de pozitii de dominare in relatiile dintre oameni, ne arata dorinte ce stau ascunse sub stratul de ''prezenta sociala unanim acceptata drept corecta''. Avem de-a face cu o actrita ce vine la auditia pentru rolul in piesa de teatru, a unei domnite ce se doreste a fi dominatoarea si stapana unui domn, doritor de sclavie emotionala si dominare sexuala. Filmul ne deschide usile unui teatru neimpresionanat ca infatisare, dar plin de surprize. Actrita ce vine la auditie incepe rolul aproape pe picior de plecare, fiind pe punctul de a fi data afara din sala de auditii de un regizor grabit si nemultumit de tot ceea ce vazuse pana in acel moment. Ea isi incepe rolul fara a fi inca pe scena. Incepe de jos, din pozitia supusului si isi croieste drum pana la dominarea regizorului. Si-l face supus, ducand personajele dincolo de rolul din piesa de teatru. Ea devine dominatoarea din piesa de teatru, dar si din viata reala a regizorui si adaptatatorului piesei de teatru. Scoate personajele din piesa si le face reale. Vedem ruperi de ritm, ne poarta din realul filmului in imaginarul piesei de teatru si invers in decurs de cateva secunde, replicile teatrului se intrepatrund cu ale filmului.

Regizorul, desi realizeaza manipularea actritei, se lasa dus de val, se lasa transformat in marioneta, pentru ca de fapt, asta vrea. Realizam ca supul este roulul care i se potriveste manusa, este rolul vietii lui, este ceea ce se ascundea sub masca sa sociala si dominatoare, se ascundea de lume si de sine, dar s-a dat in vileag prin piesa de teatru care a vorbit pentru si despre el. Femeia ce a reusit sa schimbe toate aceste pozitii de supus- dominare a trecut prin varii emotii, tertipuri, constrangeri, rasturnari bruste de situatie si garderoba pentru a obtine ce si-a dorit. ...si a obtinut. Poate ca ea este aproape orice femeie ce isi doreste ceva. Recurge la ceea ce are si la ceea ce nu are pentru a obtine ce si-a propus. Construieste situatii pentru a reusi, face tot ce poate pentru succes. Poate ca despre acest fapt este si filmul. Despre femei ce reusesc prin orice mijloace. Este despre femei care nu isi arata puterea, ci se hranesc si cresc prin decaderea celui ce initial opunea rezisteta. Este despre dorinte si placeri ascunse bine, de ochii curiosilor si nu numai. Este despre pasiuni ce ies la iveala pe cai nabanuite. Este o piesa de teatru filmata si adaptata filmului, intr-o maniera excelenta. Te trece prin idei acceptate de societate ca fiind sexiste, perverse sau imorale. Te face sa te intrebi oare ce este de aratat, ce este de judecat si ce este de discutat atata timp cat partenerii implicati consimt un anumit fel de comportament in relatia dintre ei. Filmul este amuzant, dar cu substrat...parerea mea.

Thursday, September 25

Godiva Creme Brulee Dessert Truffles and Crunchy Granola by Lake Champlain

Or how European sophistication meets American taste of home. Or how I have switched from plain to trendy. Or how this new land of mine -for it feels like my own- came to seduce me with its new flavours and dry air. In a word, two very different varieties and the way they have come to beguile my senses.

First, it was the long lost taste of childhood that made me blink my eyes in anticipation. Godiva Creme Brulee Dessert Truffles is all about French sophistication and some culinary classic that I grew up on. My mother's favourite desert became ours and I tend to have this love and hate relationship with Creme Brulee. I love to hate its burnt taste, yet I adore how it contains all shades of caramel, yellow and brown and how its frailty feels empowering. However, under the soft layer of Godiva chocolate, the miracle takes shape before your own eyes and the truffles are nothing but layered happiness: caramel, white chocolate ganache and crunchy toffee crumbles. That kind of seduction that makes you take a bite and look into the shape of your teeth with anticipation and a sense of possession. Well, it is either that or my own dirty mind.

Apparently there is this great guy, Godiva Chef Chocolatier, Thierry Muret, who is responsible for the Ultimate Dessert Truffle Collection and for tricking your mouth into thinking it is the dessert you are actually enjoying and not the chocolate itself. You can only imagine how sophisticated my mouth has become and how hard it is for me to satisfy my sweet tooth. It is exhausting and frustrating not to be able to find comfort in ordinary stuff that people can buy anywhere and everywhere. This makes me so happy that Thierry Muret is imaginative and crafted and that I can actually find Godiva chocolate almost everywhere in these nice fifty states or less. Still I hear that there is nothing like the molton chocolate that they dip strawberries into. Talking about a mouth orgasm there....Oops!

And of course, there is this place called a'Tavola Gourmet Marketplace and Café in Boise that it is like heaven on earth. Someone really passionate about gourmet food did her best -I can feel it is a woman involved here- to populate this cute, cosy place with tastes and flavours unseen and unexpected. It has bakery, espresso, fine cheeses, charcuterie, beer and wine, take-away foods, and more. In addition to their signature salads, soups, and bakery items, the a'Tavola Marketplace has a lot of chocolate. So I try to be very virtuous about it and stay away of all temptations and mirror my figure everywhere as a reminder of the dangers. Most of the times I can do it. I leave the place sad and frustrated but I am able to do so. Yet, every now and then, I succumb to my own limitations and this is how I met Crunchy Granola by Lake Champlain. Dark and crunchy and apparently the most unexpected combination. You know me, conservative and too fond of my own tastes aka Lindt Excellence here to go wild, yet this felt like love at first sight and then it was again love at first taste. It is silky and has these soft little bits of granola just enough to give you an idea about it yet not feel like average breakfast food. It is also a bit spicy and hides a shred of cinnamon. And so far I have totally disliked both dark and cinnamon, so I do not know what to make of it....Is it the dry air or the strange land? Regardless of the answer, I have totally enjoyed my little bar of unpredicted pleasure.  Apparently, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been crafting specialty chocolates in Burlington, Vermont, for 30 years and they are good at it.

In a word, I do not seem to have enough time to elaborate on my little daily passions and discoveries, but I am soo grateful for all the nice people that cross my path and all the lovely places my inspiration or simply fate take me to here in Boise, allegedly America's best kept secret.

Organic Milk Chocolate Granola Bar

Friday, September 19

Ce ne spunem cand nu ne vorbim de Chris Simion- o recenzie by NICO

“Ca sa inteleg Iadul, a trebuit mai intai sa trec prin el”

Asa incepe o carte ce te pune pe ganduri, ce te plimba prin intimitatea scrierilor dintre doi indragostiti, pe drumul si hatisurile unei erori. O eroare prin care personajul face cunostinta cu iadul. In aceste hatisuri il reneaga, chestioneaza, interogheaza si cearta pe Dumnezeu.

Aceasta poveste este spusa altfel- este facuta numai dialogul si corespondenta unui cuplu de indragostiti si din drafturile ei... mailuri netrimise, jurnalul ei dincolo de corespondenta, memoriile si preumblarile ei prin ideile, amintirile, visele si cosmarurile trecute, prezente si fara viitor. Este scrisa intim, foloseste ceea ce fiecare ascunde de ceilalti, foloseste sinele si sufletul... pune sufletul in cuvinte, ii da o forma... cuvintele devin suflet, se scriu impreuna si se creaza impreuna cuvant-suflet.

As putea spune ca are mai multe planuri: unul al relatiei si comunicarii dintre cei doi, unul al ei cu sinele si ratacirilor ei si unul care te zdruncina si chiar te enerveaza pentru ca te scoate din imaginea pe care ti-ai facut-o initial despre poveste si te arunca printre incertitudini si palme de trezire.

Primul plan al cartii este o poveste despre o eroare umana ce schimba vieti, schimba viata unei EA... o face fara viitor, o face sa traiasca prezentul, dar nu oricum. O face sa traiasca prezentul avand cutitul deasupra capului, intrebandu-se in fiecare seara daca a doua zi se va trezi si in fiecare dimineata daca aceea va fi ultima zi... gandindu-se la ziua de ieri, de alaltaieri, la saptamana trecuta, la anii trecuti, la EL- care nu mai face parte din prezentul ei. Cartea te face sa te intrebi ,,oare ce ai face daca...?'' Sincer acum...ce ai face daca ai fi diagnosticata cu cancer -numit de Ea ,,crin salbatic''? Chiar... ce ai face? Stiind ca esti in relatia vietii tale, stiind ca esti tanara, EL te iubeste si este parte din tine, respirarti acelasi aer, ganditi exact la fel, va completati perfect, va rmonizati intelectual, sexual si spiritual. Ei nu pot trai unul fara celalalt, snt o singura persoana pentru ca:

“Nu coboara nimeni in suflet ca tine”

Ce ai face? Ea a ales sa fuga si sa se retraga din relatie, a ales sa lupte de una singura pentru ca mai apoi sa se intoarca la el si sa reia totul, a ales sa nu ii spuna ce are pentru a-l proteja. Ea si-a facut alegerea, bazandu-se pe ceea ce stia si simtea ca are impreuna cu El... dar oare el este de acord cu alegerea ei, se impaca oare cu fuga ei? el stie un singur lucru si se agata de acesta cu disperare si anume, ceea ce ea ii repeta mereu : “Vreau sa traiesc cu tine tot.” ,,Sa nu crezi niciodata ce iti spun. Sa crezi doar ce simti” si el stie ce simte ea dincolo de cuvintele care il indeparteaza.


Ceea ce doare cel mai mult in aceasta carte (foarte plina de cuvinte de iubire, chiar excesiv de multe si la un moment dat obositoare... parand chiar false- pentru ca uneori si tacerea dintre doi oameni este placuta, nu e nevoie de cuvinte sa exprimi chiar tot, uneori cuvintele chiar strica atmosfera si conexiunea dintre doi oameni) sunt drafturile, unde vedem cum Floarea Soarelui- Ea este pierduta, dezorientata si singura fara el- Zmeul Albastru. Unde fetita din ea ramane fara aparare, copilul din fiecare este pierdut si lasat descoperit in fata vicisitudinilor vremii si oamenilor. Vedem cum verdictul bolii si mai apoi aflarea erorii duce la disperarea si pierderea orientarii si aproape pierderea mintilor, citim despre coborarea in infernul deznadejdii si a abandonului, a luarii de la capat, a nevoii de Dumnezeu prezent si despre nevoia credintei in iubirea de sine, iubirea de aproape, iubirea pamanteana si nepamanteana.

Ultimul plan al cartii este cel ce te palmuieste cu indoielile povestii, te scoate din atmosfera plina de iubire si te arunca in ironii, cautari, explicatii, revolte si iar alte explicatii prin care sa ne convinga ca aceasta poveste ar avea un sens real.... aleg sa ma dezic de aceasta parte pentru ca nu mi-a placut. Nu imi plac explicatiile ce dureaza mult si te invart si te ametesc si te incarca prin si de cuvinte multe. parerea mea este ca daca apar aceste explicatii multe ceva trebuie si se vrea ascuns. - dar aceasta este doar parerea mea...

Cartea per ansamblu este o noutate atat ca forma cat si ca fond, subiect. Pune semne d eintrebare. te pune in ipostaza empatiei, te forteaza sa empatizezi cu floarea soarelui ( EA isi creaza paralel cu lumea reala , o lume de basm, dar de proportii mici si atragator de vesele in tristetea faptelor expuse)

ce ai face daca doctorii ti-ar pune verdictul cancer? ... pentru ca apoi sa afli ca a fost o eroare..

Friday, September 12

Magic in the moonlight at The Flicks

Watching the latest Woody Allen movie in a fancy theater, in good company, a glass of exquisite wine should be the premise for a great evening. Magic in the moonlight  is like the candy box that promises the best chocolates in the world and fails to deliver the excitement you have been waiting for. It is either that or we have come to think so highly of this man and expect to be swept off our feet by his every picture.

Well, do not get me wrong, here. I was not sorry a bit for spending two wonderful hours with Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden or Hamish Linklater. I loved the music, jazzy and reminiscent of The Roaring Twenties, the costumes and the setting. It actually made me travel back in time and feel like a flapper for one night, at a glorious, decadent party, foxtrotting my way through the chin-length bob beauties around me. It could have been the lovely wine but then again, there has to be some magic in this life, according to the director. I think this is the part I loved the best- the promise that we can go through all the misery and hardships, through the impervious, long hours of our time, hoping for the magic dust to slowly flicker above our heads and for a moment, make us feel alive.

The story is sweet, predictable and deprived of any shred of chemistry. Stanley Crawford, the greatest magician alive who plays his tricks in Chinese style, arrogant, skeptical and stiff, takes upon himself the task of unveiling Sophie - Emma Stone-  the young mind reader as a delicious, yet authentic fraud. To please his friend and stay true to his reputation, Stanley allows himself to be deceived and played, to fall in love and change his colours, all for a pair of big, green eyes. Sophie is a young woman, who along her mother, is staying with a rich family on the French Riviera, where she has the son smitten with her looks and the mother with her apparent ability to speak to her dead husband.

Magic in the moonlight made me remember of another famous magician in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, who messes up with people's minds to get his hand on the mighty rock. It is yet another movie about faith versus reason and deception versus gullibility. In almost all Woody Allen movies, there are credulous characters that end up in either unfortunate situations or simply allow themselves to be mislead. It is never just the women or simply the men, it is actually our inner need to hope and dream that great movies and extraordinary books make sense and can be easily translated into our own lives. Underneath all neurotic, intelligent conversations, this is the thing that touches me the most when it comes to his movies- the buoyant nature of his characters who stumble and sometimes hit rock bottom yet always make it out if not safely at least elegantly. This particular movie feels like walking familiar ground, a sweet mixture of My Fair Lady and Henry James's Daisy Miller, a personal, yet idiosyncratic voyage into his mind and our own expectations that could never settle the debate over loving him utterly or hating him deeply. The nice change is that in this particular movie, the female character is the one who never gives in and works her mysterious, seductive ways on Stanley; romance is the ultimate winner, though chemistry seems to have faded somewhere on the way.

I pretty much felt like Sophie here, in a funny way. I may not be the American girl abroad nor am I into cunningly seduce magicians' minds, but rather inclined to believe that a shred of self-delusion could make your life a bit more tolerable. After all, ain't it all just a swindle ?

Sunday, August 31

Haruki Murakami- Cronica Pasarii Arc by NICO

Cronica Pasarii- Arc- povestea unei natiuni si a unui om, cantecul unei pasari a vietii si a mortii, calatoria unor oameni prin istorie si prin sine.

...este cronica unei natiuni- cea japoneza in timpul celui de-al doilea razboi mondial, dar si dupa acesta. A unui popor diferit de noi, europenii. A unui popor ce simte si respira miturile, traditiile si substraturile fiintei umane in toate celulele ei. Este istorie reala impletita cu mituri, legende si proscrisi. Pasarea- Arc este pasarea ce invarte arcul vietii si al lumii. Fara existenta si prezenta ei, oamenii nu ar fi- arcul ei este arcul vietii; ea intoarce arcul vietii pentru ca aceasta sa existe. Ea este auzita doar de cei alesi, de speciali, de insemnati. Ei sunt cei care o aud, dar fara sa o vada. Cei alesi sunt putini si au darul de a vedea dincolo de aparente, de a patrunde intr-o alta lume, paralela noua, celor obisnuiti, ei sunt cei care simt, prevad si ating ceea ce este in noi, este impalpabil, este aer, este forma miscatoare, vie si ne reprezinta- este ''ceva''. Ei schimba fluxul vietii, stiu viitorul, stiu ca anumite informatii trebuiesc transmise mai departe, pentru a ajuta si lumina in cautarile lor pe cei alesi,dar nedescoperiti, cei pregatiti pentru a fi altfel. Acestia se cunosc intre ei, dar nu se arata. Ei trec prin intamplari istorice sau cotidiene luand parte la schimbarea cursului vietii anumitor persoane. Aceste persoane sunt insemnate uneori vizibil noua celor normali, sunt aparent obisnuite, dar puterile lor sunt supraomenesti, ei vad profunzimea lucrurilor, vad dincolo de linistea oraselor, vad dincolo de rutina zilnica.

Pasarea- arc, apare la intervale isorice neprevazute. Iar cronica pasarii- arc este cronica si a lui Toru Okada si a descoperii lui ca insemnat si om diferit de ceilalti. Este poveste lui si a sotiei lui Kumiko. El, un om normal in aparenta, fara prea multa sclipire personala, care printr-un concurs de imprejurari se trezeste in mijlocum unor evenimente ce in aparenta nu au nicio legatura intre ele, dar doar in aparenta. Si spun acestea pentru ca tot ce a fost el pana in momentul in care noi il cunoastem, tot ce s-a intamplat in jurul lui si ce i s-a intamplat pana in acel moment, a avut un rol si anume rolul invingerii unui rau invizibil noua- un rau dominant si dominator. Toate povestile pe care le-a auzit, toate persoanele pe care le-a cunoscut au avut un rol... acela de a-i da indicii, de a-i da un sens si de a-l face sa devina alesul pasarii arc- sa devina domnul Pasare- Arc.

Cronica Pasarii- Arc este o impletire armonioasa si treptata, neobositoare, a realului cu fantasticul, cu irealul ce ne hraneste sufletele. Este o impletitura de evenimente istorice particulare si generale, pe un fond national si international, este o impletire a vechiului cu nou, a marelui cu mic. Este vechi si nou, traditie si modernism, este afara si inauntru, este trup si suflet. Toate aceste impletituri au un scop si o directie, nimic nu este intamplator, nimic nu este de neluat in seama. Linistea este mult mai graitoare decat galagia, mirosul trezeste amintiri, auzul este dincolo de cuvinte. irealul este agitat si misterios, asteapta sa fie descoperit si curatat de rau. Intamplarile limita sunt revelaroare si pline de sens ulterior.

Haruki Murakami face o calatorie prin mintea noastra punandu-ne sa ne relaxam si sa ascultam cu atentie toate detaliile pe care ni le da de-a lungul povestii lui, ne face sa ne intrebam daca acea realitate chiar exista, daca linistea este de fapt o cautare, daca noi suntem aici cu un scop... si sa ne intrebam apo iar: care este scopul nostru aici si acum? Ne face sa intelegem ca a sta singuri si a ne asculta gandurile, nu este un lucru rau, dimpotriva este autocunoastere si multumire de sine.Ne spune ca nu este un lucru rau sa fii diferit, ba din contra este un lucru de care au parte doar anumite persoane, doar cei alesi de catre pasarea arc... Pasarea- Arc alege doar oameni buni si ii inzestreaza cu puteri nebanuite. Dar acesti oameni nu pot vorbi despre puterile lor, pe acesti oameni trebuie doar sa ii apreciezi si accepti, iar ei iti vor da un sens vietii, te vor linisti sufleteste... dar ei sunt oameni singuratici si ei singuri trebuie sa isi descopere puterile, prin sinele lor pierdut sau ratacit in aparenta... sine ce cauta raspunsuri pe care nu le primeste direct. “Să nu pleci urechea la nimic, nici măcar la ce îți spun eu dacă nu e în concordanță cu propriile tale idei, convingeri.”

Exista vise simbolice, vise care simbolizeaza realitatea. Sau exista realitati simbolice, realitati care simbolizeaza vise. Haruki Murakami

Monday, August 18

Locke by NICO

LOCKE- un film, o viata in 85 de minute pline de Tom Hardy. Cand spun pline, chiar sunt Tom Hardy suta la suta. Sunt el si noi, privitorii si spectatorii lui. Este un one man show.... and what a show that is... one of a kind. Ivan Locke -tata, partener de afaceri, sot, barbat de cariera... om.

Acest film aparent este simplu si linistit, este o calatorie cu masina. Dar nu este orice fel de calatorie- te prinde si te tine acolo, cu el... Ivan Locke te tine cu el in masina, te tine cu vocea si rasturnarile lui de situatie, te tine prins si legat de ceea ce este el... si nu are nevoie de siretlicuri pentru a o face, nu are nevoie de alti actori sau actrite pentru a face asta... este atat de adevarat si natural in a te ''agata'' incat ramai cu el pana la capat.... de buna voie si nesilit de nimeni- exact asa simti. Nu isi etaleaza muschii, nu isi etaleaza alte talente si alte miscari de natura sexuala sau macar cu tenta sexuala...Saracul de el este chiar si racit in particica sa de lume, este racit, obosit, surmenat, stresat si aproape destabilizat de trecutul si copilaria sa- copilarie ce marcheaza tot ceea ce suntem ca adulti, ne face sa fugim de ceea ce nu ne-a placut sau ne stanteaza pe viata, ca o mare stampila ce nu o putem sterge nicicum ...Dar el este doar ''aproape'' destabilizat, pentru ca se aduna repede si il vezi calculat, sigur pe el si alegerile lui, il vezi concentrat si bine intentionat, deschis si impaciuitor cu tot ceea ce este legat de el... si mai presus d etoate il vezi om responsabil pentru faptele sale, toate,il vezi cum isi calculeaza pasii prezenti in functie de ceea ce i se intampla pe parcusrul celor 85 de minute, il vezi cum incearca sa negocieze frumos si respectuos trecutul cu prezentul, il vezi cum isi asuma faptele trecute, neinlaturand nici macar o varianta, fiind sincer cu cei din jurul sau, dar mai ales cu el.

Locke mi-a adus aminte de teatrul radiofonic si povestile sau piesele de teatru imprimate pe discurile de vinil pe care le ascultam cand eram mica si care imi faceau imaginatia sa o ia razna, sa am propriile inchipuri, in ceea ce priveste fetele oamenilor si personajelor ce interpretau actiunile si faptele pieselor de teatru, locurile unde se desfasurau si ceea ce se intampla in jurul personajelor.. chiar am inchis ochii si doar am ascultat vocea lui Ivan Locke, o voce calma si hipnotizanta. Tom Hardy are un rol greu. Trebuie sa te faca sa traiesti cu el pornind de la : Ivan Locke: "You make one mistake, the whole world comes crashing down around you." Totul este construit in jurul unei ''greseli'' asumate... pe care el, adultul si omul Ivan Locke o are de rezolvat in acea noapte. In functie de acel drum si ceea ce se intampla pe parcursul lui, el revine sau nu la normal... Ivan Locke trece peste familie si job pentru a face ceea ce el considera ca trebuie facut. Poate exagereaza, poate este prea prins de o ''greseala'' ce o vrea rezolvata, dar tot ceea ce el a realizat pana in momentul in care ni se infatiseaza, este rezultatul a ceea ce este si fost. Este omul cu caracterul pe care iti doresti sa il ai macar alaturi, sa il stii in preajma, sa stii ca te poti baza pe el si alegerile facute de un om ca el, pentru ca stii ca nu ar spune vorbe doar de dragul de a le spune, stii ca daca ia o decizie, o gandeste inaite, astfel incat sa te simti in siguranta , este un om asa cum rar vei intalni, un caracter model, cu tot cu greseli... este om, si deci... cu bune si rele, dar cand tragi linie vei vedea ca omul Ivan Locke este un keeper and a giver.

Monday, August 11

American chocolate -Ghirardelli and Hershey

So, if I am gonna play the sophisticated European in the States, I might as well start with chocolate. Next week, I am on for the cinema and I have already bought myself a copy of Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, a must have of the modern woman.

I know I should have given San Francisco a chance, but I got impatient and craving for chocolate. To be honest, I went for the familiar stuff, partly due to cultural fatigue, partly due to my undying passion for Lindt. And then, back to sophistication- I tried Ghirardelli Gourmet Milk. It is a nice-looking, branded bar that again, it is too thin for a happy heart. One of the oldest companies, Ghirardelli was started back in the mid-1800s by a man who thought about sweetening the dark faces and kind hearts of the miners of California. Now, this is what I would call a visionary with a sweet tooth.

So, there are plenty of things to try, unimaginable mixtures and combinations that kind of leave you speechless and always on the lookout for the girly figure you pretend to still have at...a certain chocolate-prone age. Now, back to Ghirardelli Gourmet Milk- Sea Salt & Almonds Milk Chocolate Bar. It is rich and creamy, crunchy due to the roasted almonds and the salt. It never leaves you much choice or time to ponder on the flavours because it is gone in no time. As a rule, American chocolate is sooooo sweet as are the rest of the products, but the almonds' roasted taste and the tiny pieces of salt rebalance the whole matter. The Sea Salt & Almonds Milk Chocolate Bar makes an harmonious treat for sore eyes and longing hearts. Still, having tasted it already shall not dissuade from going to the San Francisco Chocolate Festival in September. Now, how is a girl to resist a two-day chocolate celebration of the senses?

And then, back to the second all-American flavour. I came across this one back in Europe and refrained myself from tasting it since I knew I could really go here for the original Hershey's milk bar. It is one of the most famous bars in US, yet to me, was too swept for my own good. I instantly felt like drinking a lot of water. It made me think of childhood sweets. It also hides a trace of bitterness and the texture is really nice and soft, provided you enjoy sweet, sweet, sweet chocolate. I can understand why people here are fond of it since even bread has sugar in it. Then again, oversweetness and air conditioning are not going to make me less sophisticated, but rather anxious to try new flavours and things about the American culture. So, until my San Francisco trip, dream sweet in whatever language keeps chocolate among its most popular words!

Friday, July 25

Like water for chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Take several pounds of Caracas chocolate beans, roast them on a griddle, mash them into a paste with sugar and add some water. Sprinkle some longing over them, infuse the mixture with a little love and in the hands of the right woman, passion is decanted and magic -boil, cool, whip, boil, cool, beat- is distilled into the perfect dish. Such is life- it takes skills, sheer luck, enthusiasm, ache, loss, gain, enchanting the senses to create the right recipe. At least, this is the life of Tia and the story of her burning love.

Laura Esquivel's novel is well written and it has a rotund, circled structure. Each month opens with a recipe that instantly makes you mouth water and then proceeds with the details of both cooking and the love affair between Pedro and Tia. To some people, food and love go hand in hand and the passion one displays while merging into the secrets of cooking stems from the same source as love. There is something about the books that use food as an excuse to point at love or love as a pretext to have you first crave for the goodies then maybe grow a appetite for cooking. Or it might just be me reading this book on an empty stomach.

What I loved about Like water for chocolate is its simplicity, its unsophisticated language and that it feels like a soft old story weaving itself around your mind, taking you to a far away place and time. In short, the book belongs to the genre of magical realism. In order to shape magic and make alive amidst reality, one needs to set it against a historical landmark, such as the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917 when people united forces to reclaim their Mexico for the every day person and out of the hands of the dictatorship. But then again, a personal approach to history filters all factual detail and turns it into an exquisite mixture of flavours and senses, of ghosts and happy thoughts, of passion and resilience. When love is kept at a distance for years, its strength burns places, people, hatred, boundaries and the fire it ignites spares nothing but the cookery book. Tia's book is much more than recipes- it is the wisdom she gathered through years of suffering and of living through cooking to survive the outside world.

Yet idea that cooking could save you or any passion for that matter is quite intriguing. How much truth lies behind it? Could a human being postpone feelings and desires and take shelter into something other than love that fulfils her/him? Cooking is an art here- the unprecedented act of creating not only a meaningful, satisfying dish to enchant the taste buds but also a medium for all emotions that are channelled into its making. Such commitment is soul-delivering yet, in Laura Esquivel's novel, one cannot escape fate and the course that life is bound to take from the moment an infant lays eyes on the sizzling pot and falls asleep in the beating rhythm of the spoons. In the world of magic where choices are never ours yet come from the inlaid heritage of our own veins, Tia and Pedro burn for love and turn to ashes all that is not made of love or through love- the remaining cookery book is proof of their story and the way spices come to shift the course of a life that owes its grace to the flavours rather than to those around.

Twelve recipes for twelve months, one man for two women, one wedding for all, two baptisms for one, an army for a woman, and a recipe book for the rest of us- we could do the math, multiply, divide, add or even substract. We will be left with the memory of a great love -that of Tia and Pedro- and the excellent book of transcending the senses.

Tuesday, July 8

Lindt Tiramisu and Lindt Raspberry

When women ran the world, the palaces would be made of chocolate. (Luis Alberto Urrea, The Hummingbird's Daughter )
I am raising one whose passion for chocolate shall help her run all dreams till the end of time and build another world, if necessary. Lindt Tiramisu might just be the right incentive since women with passions -be that chocolate or any other- are meant to make a difference. Or it could be that any Lindt product is bound to charm the senses and make you wanna grow wings.

Lindt Tiramisu was created for women since only they can honestly appreciate the mixture of strong Espresso coffee, creamy mascarpone, and amaretto-soaked biscuits. I can hardly imagine any man with such a sweet tooth and the subtle taste buds that could value the finesse of chocolate. The outer chocolate is lovely milk chocolate only tempting you to go deeper to the middle layers of joy. It is amazing how they managed to pack so many flavours within a little square that tastes like brandy, coffee, almonds, double cream and yoghurt, all mixed to render the perfect bite. Let me tell you this is no ordinary product, it is more expensive and it has a different size. It comes in a smaller, more elegant package and the chocolate squares are bigger, which is basically the downside of it. It simply vanishes into thin air, leaving you still wondering about the intense experience. Its heavenly taste shall definitely "pull you up" in an Italian language, with a Swiss style, rendering you absolutely divine for a couple of eternally happy moments.

Then, the taste of alcohol grew on me and I got bolder: Lindt Raspberry. The raspberry flavour is encased into small milk squares. Again, an elegant presentation meant to draw you closer and win your heart, Lindt Raspberry is an unexpected experience. One might think the filling to be more like a soft jam rather than a mouthful of alcohol. Things with fillings are not usually my thing since as a rule, the chances you find a second favourite flavour in a small box are fat. Still, a berry-infused experience is always a gain and unlikely to disappoint you. It is also not as sweet as you would anticipate so it is not going to drain your senses into numbness.

Coincidences are by far overrated but if I were to believe in magic outside the pages of books, I would say I have been blessed by the god of chocolate with interesting readings and amazing chocolate tasting opportunities. Nevertheless, I am in for a world painted in soft shades of brown where women could build themselves into chocolate palaces of passion. 

Thursday, June 26

The Woman Upstairs, as seen by Claire Messud

I am quick-tempered and get easily annoyed so I felt incredibly good upon reading about the anger in a woman's heart, without turning her into a pitiable or insane creature. A kind of unsympathetic character, a sort of female anti-hero that speaks your mind and language and validates your feelings- this is Nora Eldridge: ""How angry am I? You don't want to know."

The Woman Upstairs hides under our very skin, failing to belong to any particular category or to let herself be labeled. This woman is quiet, smiling, tidy, someone other women fear to become -the embodiment of a latent anger that gets voiced from the very beginning of the novel. Nora Elridge, 42, single, teacher is angry with the world, and the world, shaped as the three members of the Shahid family, remains unresponsive to her annoyance. Her life is pretty boring, revolving around the same unspectacular events: teaching third-graders, meeting her lesbian friends, caring for her old father. No man, no excitement, no guilty pleasures. Still, she is at peace with her slow and plain pace until a boy, with the 'carefully marshalled black curls lapping their uneven shoreline along the smooth, frail promontory of his neck’, named Reza steps from a fairy tale right into her classroom. He has an artist mother and a visiting scholar of a father. Despite the multicultural background of the school where she teaches, Reza becomes the target of a bully and gets hurt, which introduces Sirena, the boy's mother, into the quiet unfolding of events. Chemistry strikes again and Nora finds herself telling this stranger all about her desire to have pursued art instead of having become a school teacher. Giving up on art to take care of her sick mother and on passion to turn to teaching has ruined her bright future of a successful artist with a studio of her own, a husband and three children. The father of the family, Skandar of Lebanon, Beirut, part Christian, part Muslim, a scholar, is the third party Nora falls for. When confronted about her mixed feelings by her lesbian friends, she admits to have been swept off her feet by their foreignness.

Her need for human connection and the feeling of being part of their family get in the way of her sensibility and she keeps feeding her fascination with the Shahids -she babysits for Reza, agrees to share an art studio with Sirena and accepts Skandar's offer to walk her home late at night. Several slippings of poise and maturity catch her unprepared: she somehow starts growing roots into the boy's soul, she gets drunk one night and dressed up as Edie Sedgwick, masturbates on the Astroturf of Sirena's project -an installation made of trash and called Wonderland- and gets intimate with Skandar. The last proof of misconduct is left hanging midair, never to talk about it, never to face. The Shahids return to Paris and life keeps flowing its pace for Nora Eldridge. Still, a woman is willing to share her generosity, her views, her house, her child, yet never anything she does so out of the kindness of her heart. Nora takes something of Sirena's- her husband's ephemeral attention. The author is not very explicit about the nature of Nora and Skandar's relation- it is merely forbidden touches or a total one night stand? We are left wondering, still the darkness and illicit air about it is later revealed when Nora travels to Paris and gets to see the exhibition of Sirena's art installation.

For a moment there, I got fooled by the pretense that women could wrap themselves around their passions and every day singular moments and make it out there, in a reality that keeps reminding us how we fail to adapt to the unwritten rules of the world. For a brief moment, I believed in the grit of a woman that allows her heart to be alive against the obvious path in life. Still, Nora's story went sour and her self-claimed happiness turned to ashes. The Woman Upstairs is as mad as the one downstairs, and gets unleashed just as softly as the one that holds the mirror. Despite her cleverness and being well-cultured, Nora becomes unbelievable to my eyes -partly due to the length of the novel and its lack of action- when she fails to find the genuine joy in things, when she fails to convince me that we can allow ourselves to be defined by the the people around us. She is open about her anxieties and voices her turmoil, yet she is as passive as the next of us, caught into a dangerous romantic fantasy. Despite the character's flaws, there is an inner beauty in Claire Messud's style and gift to observe people and feelings that makes The Woman Upstairs a piece of strangely liberating prose.

Saturday, June 21

Miss Violence or Dogtooth reloaded

If you keep a distant eye and a strong stomach, Miss Violence shall peel off in front of your eyes til the very core is bare. I believe people unfortunately need shocking, hurtful, challenging movies that shall pull them out of their comfort zones and force them to face the ugly truth. Greece, as well as any other modern society thrown in the middle of current economic crisis, has come to lose its humanity in its display of selfishness and corruption. Beyond the unpleasant and uncomfortable subject, Miss Violence feels like a desperate cry for a role model that could be either self-ignited or mirrored in the world around. Evil is clothed in the most average and common attire possible, breathing next to us, in the faces of every decent person that greets us in the morning or politely offers his seat in the bus. If you have a hard time believing it or simply haven't given up on the optimistic outcome of humanity, take a deep breath and watch Miss Violence.

Picture a nice apartment, a large family, a cosy bourgeois air to a place that resembles a little doll house. The family gathers around to celebrate one of the girls' eleventh anniversary, the father gracefully waltzes the birthday girl around the room on the music of Leonard Cohen, and while they all get ready to taste the lovely cake, the girl climbs the edge of the balcony and jumps. Such a tragedy would leave its painful mark upon all members of the family. Instead, the protective head of the family -both father and grandfather- hurries all members up to erase any trace of the suicidal girl and put the whole mess behind them. Things turn from suspicious to tense, and the viewers are appalled at their own imagination and whatever happens behind closed doors. The pace is quite linear until a striking moment of violence when you feel your inner parts shudder and you are tempted to shut it all down. Still, something keeps you from doing so -either the burning curiosity or the fact that it is almost the end of the picture- and you are left wondering what more there is to be revealed.

The movie instantly reminded me of Dogtooth and the strange, restless feeling I had while watching it. There are several similarities such as the abusive father and the mute, non-responsive members of the family. The strangeness of the place and the unnatural pace of the whole unfolding of events also feels familiar. Still, this no longer is a sordid experiment meant to test the limits of the the human mind and body and to keep offsprings safe. Sexual abuse is beyond justification and comprehension. Also, in Dogtooth, evil was kept away from the eyes of the real world, as if it was a place apart, out of time. In Miss Violence, doors have been taken down and immoral practices take place in the most unexpected circumstances. The head of the family in Dogtooth offered no explanation for his behaviour, whereas money is the reason behind the abuse in Miss Violence. The rest of the sane world -the social services employees or the teacher from school- turns a blind inefficient eye to the strangeness of the family as if too afraid to follow their instinct. Within the family, abusers are victims and the vicious circle of pain seems endless. Turning eleven is no reason to feel happy about it but rather a huge wake-up slap in the face. Ugliness, perversion and abuse hide behind the visible kindness of average life and apparently, there is no escape from it. Apparently.....Could a closed door lead to hope or is it meant to perpetuate hell?

It was hard for me to focus on the performances of the actors. The subject itself was hard to handle and highly disturbing. The actors played their parts in a convincing manner, so natural that it felt straightforward. Still, whenever I get to watch a movie with child characters involved in delicate situations, I cannot help wondering about the parents willing to put their children through such experiences at such a young age. The only thing that helped me distance from the dreadful topic was the core subject of the movie for which the story was used as a pretext: the degradation of the Greek society and the obvious loss of humanity and its governing principles. Families are nothing but small universes that are only a mirror of the society they are part of. The rotten core of the family is a symbol for the inner corruption that lies at the heart of the society and Miss Violence is a reflection of outer evil within the family micro universe.

Monday, June 16

House of Sand/ Casa de areia

House of Sand/ Casa de areia is a movie about the vastness of the white desert of Maranho. Against this out of place, out of space land of primordial beauty, human destines are pencilled with grace and resilience. Some women travel to end of the world to reclaim their lost identity and to thrive in a mysterious, yet inhospitable realm of sand. The shreds of turquoise sea and lush vegetation are merely details in the vastness of this land. The poetry of Brazilian scenery resonates with the asperity of life and the delicacy of the women's perseverance.

Maria and Aurea, mother and daughter -in movie, as well as in real life- are faced with a brutal awakening when left by the latter's husband alone, in the middle of the desert, in a half-finished house of sand. Vasco de Sa believed himself to be a visionary man, set on conquering the aridity of the white desert, who eventually failed to convince either his settlers or his wife that farming in the middle of nowhere could be done. His death leaves the two women at the mercy of Massu, a fisherman, grandson of a runaway slave who introduces them to the small community on an island nearby and Chico, an old trader that brings salt. Pregnant Aurea is persuaded by her old and sick mother to wait until the child is born and the rain season is over before embarking on a trip back to Sao Paolo. Such much craved for and anticipated departure from Maranho shall keep the three women -mother, daughter and granddaughter- stuck into sand and hope for the next ten years. And even when they are faced with the choice, Donna Maria refuses to leave this remote paradise where no man ever holds any power over her and the beauty of life resides in its simplicity. A comet passes, war comes and goes, scientists visit the desert to take remarkable photos and Aurea happens to cross their path in her search for Chico's lost trail. A nice man in uniform -a symbol of her own and later on, of her daughter's restlessness and yearning for the civilized world- named Luis is drawn to her story and promises to take her back to the real world. A night spent under the stars where a multitude of dreams and hopes ignite only to crumble in the white sand at dawn, washed by the perennial rain. Still, even in this dry, tedious land of sand, passion is as hot as the scorching sun and it is only a matter of time before Aurea decides to cut her hair and give herself to Massu. And the story goes on for another fifty years.

Plain in the description of love, dialogues or isolation, the movie is based on contrasts- the discrepancy between the whiteness of the sand and people's colourless clothes, white skin versus black skin, the different personalities of mothers and daughters. Sand as any other landscape with its own particularities comes to shape people's dispositions and choices and build them into resilient human beings. One needs to be strong and flexible as a palm tree in order to survive the wind, the rain and the aridity of the land. Houses are as pointless as plans and one has to adapt to both climate and reality. It takes Aurea half of a lifetime to come to terms with her destiny and to find love and music where her eyes failed to see. Massu, much to his lack of verbosity, is wiser in his ability to recognize love and fight for it. He has been there longer and survival runs through his veins. Still, a wild and restless heart as Aurea's is brought to life in her daughter's eyes and spirit who, years later, uses her sexuality to escape her confinement and when the opportunity arises flees this paradise into the real world. The quietness of both place and people, where fire and sea merge into the chalky land has the poetry of an old canvass that paints itself into a hidden seductiveness of the mind and heart.

The performances are exquisite and the galloping story and the switching of characters and ages add up to the flavour of the movie. Fernanda Montenegro as a adult Aurea plays an emotional scene when asking long-lost Luis to save her daughter (now played by Fernanda Torres) and return her to the civilized world where she belongs. Her eyes and softness of the face speak more than the intimate details of her movements and voice. The unforgiving dunes somehow melt people's hearts and make them return to the finesse of the sand that conquers all and saves everything.

Sunday, June 15

John Cheever's Short Stories

I begin my week as plain me, on an easy Monday morning, of a certain year of my life. By noon, I grow a few inches, in greatness, as I come to inhabit all these lively short stories that quietly unfold under my eyes. I am a shapeshifter of fictional garment. For the last month or so, I have been living inside John Cheever, in a strange acuteness of senses. I stepped into Shady Hill right after breakfast, spent the whole morning there, shared lunch with a certain Frances Weed, Jupiter and the torn slipper at my feet, then took a nice siesta,  my sleepy eyes on the precious lowboy, only to wake at dusk, on a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains. 

So here is Shady Hill, a place of many virtues, yet untraceable on the face of earth, nearby Macondo, the paradise village of magic, butterflies and love, right next to Yoknapatawpha County, where three novels grew. I might sound like a bookworm, which I am to a certain extent, or as someone out of this time, but have you ever envied the writing of a person to the moon and back? In an arduous, teeth-grinding way of stealing the words into your own self, in the hope that some shred of magic might rub on your skin into skillfulness? This is just about as powerful my relationship with John Cheever's writings is. These short stories of his have simply split into my mind with a bang, feeding my need for his lushness of language to the last drop, throwing me into a state of littleness that could only be lifted by immersing my senses into another exquisite short story. They are soft, well-knit, balanced, humane, striking, revealing such inner turmoil in the suburbs that everybody wants to pay his characters a long visit. The irony of it relies in the fact that his characters are simple, unadorned, unexceptional human beings that face challenge and life in its bareness, in the most every day circumstances. Yet, despite its trivial aspect, John Cheever manages to render the ordinary sameness of people in a truthful manner, with a softness of language that penetrates every fiber of the reader. For instance, in The Enormous Radio, the need to gossip and thrive on the misfortunes of others grows into a burden that suppresses not only the ears of Jim and Irene Westcott but their spirits as well, disclosing their meanness as well. Oh, gratuitous prying has never felt better. Still, there is a hidden shred of both contempt and pain within the most comfortable and pleasant joys and when given the right trigger, all coziness and apparent bliss shatter to pieces.

John Cheever was often called the "Chekhov of  the suburbs" and some may think that there is much grit in this statement. To me, this would be an understatement since his prose enraptures the reader's mind and sensitivity to a deeper level than the Russian writer. Take Reunion, for example. A short piece, almost reminding me of flash prose and the Palm of the Hand Stories of Yasunari Kawabata, where a young man is shortly reunited with his estranged father. Between trains, they move from restaurant to restaurant in an attempt to identify the perfect and most satisfactory services, which only seem to be an excuse meant to cover the father's inability to deal with the situation. The son is but a mute spectator to his father's bragging, vulgar manner of treating people, caught somewhere between humorous and ridiculous tingles. Reactions and feelings are rendered in almost perfect manner, making both reunion and story a memorable one. His greatness and uniqueness resides in his familiar manner of turning the most ordinary events and people into fascinating objects of desire. The reader finds himself drawn into this small world of little puppets on a string that smile our own smiles, frown our own eyebrows and ache our own pain. Familiarity breeds contempt... and much gratitude for the blessing of distilling our selves into John Cheever's writings.

World War Z by NICO

Hail for the actor that makes this movie a blockbuster! Toate onorurile merg spre marele Brad Pitt! Brad Pitt cameleonul, ce reuseste sa faca dintr-o poveste cu zombi, un film reusit, ce te tine legat de scaun aproape 2 ore, sperand sa vezi finalul si sa nu te transformi si tu in zombi! Toate onorurile pentru Brad ce face ca acest film sa aiba o cat de cat tenta realista si sa bage frica in noi, sperand sa rezolve problemele lumii si poate si pe ale noastre ...glumesc, bineinteles. Urasc filmele cu zombi, varcolaci, vampiri, transformati gen Dracula-si imi doresc in secret ca Buffy sa nu fie doar in filme. Urasc dorinta lor de a ne speria si a ne pune sangele in miscare, doar pentru ca ne vor sangele cald si siroind, ne vor globulele rosii, albe, trombocitele rosii si plasma intre dintii lor urati si neingrijiti... btw, am un prieten dentist ce le-ar rezolva problemele dentare.

World War Z este un film ce mi-a facut adrenalina nebuna nebuna si culmea, sa ma tina legata de subiect tot filmul. Un barbat, o femeie, copiii lor si unul de imprumut sunt inceputul filmului, personajele motor si finalul ciclic al filmului. Sunt cei ce te plimba prin problema- o descopera, se lupta cu ea si mai apoi sa speram ca o rezolva. Problema este reprezentata de zombi si felul lor uracios de a se purta si ''destrabala'' cu oamenii normali-adica sa ii muste si sa ii transforme in altii nesatui si uraciosi ca ei. Avem de-a face cu o 'destrabalare'' de zile mari, cu o actiune frumoasa, intensa, bine organizata si intensificata sau temperata, astfel incat sa nu fie penibila si sa cada in film categoria b. Este un film atragator, de anvergura, veridic si fara excese multe. Sunt putine scene care sa te faca sa zici: C'mooooon!!!! sau ''Heeii!! Ce naiba!! Chiar nu vezi?? Nu ai vazut si tu filme cu monstrii?? Este in spatele tau! sau De ce ai luat-o pe acolo?? ...asadar, fara multe scene obositor si enervant de tipic horror, zombi sau alta vietate insetata de interiorul nostru irigat de sange si caldura umana. 

Domnul Brad Pitt face un joc frumos, dur si organizat, fara a-i intra parul in ochii lui albastri ca cerul, fara a saruta prea multe guri feminine si astfel sa supere zeita ce o are in realitate, acasa. Este eficient si setat in a-si face treaba actoriceasca la un nivel pe care doar el si restul lumii il apreciaza. Brad Pitt este un actor care mie imi place, a depasit conditia de frumosul cu ochii albastrii, buzele carnoase si miscari de felina, privire fixa sau pierduta, capriorul pe care nu il vrei haituit de niciun vanator sau fiara salbatica. Nici macar nu am observat aceste lucruri la dansul... si multe altele, pentru ca eram ocupata cu dorinta ca el sa salveze lumea, sa-si salveze familia pe care oamenii mai organizati si mai eficienti decat el, o faceau de asemenea in acest film. Nu am observat decat actiunea filmului si pe tot parcursul lui, sincer vorbind, asteptam sa ma dezamageasca subiectul si realizarea lui, dar nu s-a intamplat. Nu s-a intamplat chiar deloc. Ceea ce mi-a placut cel mai mult este ca s-a terminat un pic in coada de peste, s-a terminat lasandu-ma cu intrebari ce au ca raspuns mai multe alternative sau final alege raspunsul. Mi-a placut ideea aceasta in care filmul este facut sa te gandesti la el si dupa ce se incheie, sa te faca sa ramai un pic ''nerezolvat'', sa te faca sa nu iesi din sala relaxat gandindu-te ca au terminat problema zombiilor. Imi place ideea de a te face sa te gandesti la film si dupa terminarea lui, transformandu-te in intrebator, investigator si astfel spreader- tu vei imprastia nemultumirea ta si finalul - care nu este un final cu focuri de artificii ce anunta incheierea filmului cu stele si fericire, ci se incheie intr-o nota pozitiva, nu rezolvata si subiect inchis.

World War Z este un film frumos, catchy, blockbuster american ce si-a indeplinit cu succes menirea. Un plus a fost dat de prezenta lui Brad Pitt (despre care nici macar nu am vorbit aici, deloc nu am vorbit), nu stiu daca ar fi avut acelasi succesc fara el, dar am mai vazut filme cu actori buni, publicitate excesiva si rezultat mai mult decat dezamagitor. Asa ca, toate elementele ce compun acest film au dus la realizarea unui proiect reusit si plin de adrenalina. Merita vazut. Coloana sonora frumoasa, efecte frumoase, contrastele de liniste- zgomot puternic si singuratate- aglomeratie, culori vii- culori terne, machiaje wow dar fara exces - o gura de zombi cu niste dinti impecabil de bine realizati m-au facut sa imi doresc sa nu vad asa ceva ever- actori temperati si joc actoricesc frumos au facut World War Z o reusita. Un film ce satisface nevoia de grandomanie cinematografica si clateste ochiul spectatorului, hranind frumos latura Hollywoodiana din consumatorul-privitor.

PS. Puteau sa ii dea o actrita mai atragatoare drept sotie lui Brad, nu am nimic cu Mireille Enos, este draguta, dar... pe de alta parte ma gandesc ca o actrita mai draguta ar fi atras prea mult atentia asupra ei si in felul acesta ar fi trebuit sa il ajute mai mult pe domnul Pitt in actiune...dar este doar parerea mea de amatoare.

Tuesday, June 3

Son of the Bride (Hijo de la Novia)

Middlelife crisis has never looked better than in the performance of Ricardo Darín, and Woody Allen's Manhattan has found an echoing Argentinian version of a man's quest for his self. In a word, Juan Jose Campanella's Son of the Bride qualifies for a romantic comedy with a sentimental core. There are no never-ending monologues on the feelings and more spunk in Rafael Belvedere's language and passionate manner of expressing himself, which is a gain for the movie if you dislike Woody Allen's endless verboseness and the constant deconstruction of his own person and relationships.

Rafael Belvedere is busy taking care of his restaurant, keeping up with his younger girlfriend, his fatherly responsibilities, his ex-wife's frustrations and his mother's Alzheimer's disease. It is an Oscar material kind of movie where people lead antsy lives rendered in a rather comical manner. Romance is only for older people and daily worries are for people in their early fourties when success begins to take shape, yet there are no meaningful others around you to value your endeavours. So, what does life tell you? To take a break in the most significant manner- a heart attack. Rafael is given the chance to stop and smell the roses for a while and give back something to those around him. First, there is his father, Nino, whose dream is to marry his long life companion, Norma so as to cherish not only the 44 years of happiness but also to fulfill his wife's wish. Except that the wife is no longer able to grasp reality and his grand gesture. Neither is Rafael since, to him, his father's gesture is futile and corny. So is Natalia's request to commit or his daughter's request to read her poems. It takes a weak heart, a goofy friend from childhood, an innocent piece of poetry, and his mother's soft look to melt away all resilience and fear.

Ricardo Darín is a fine actor and a dashing leading man, who never fails to get under your skin; there is a certain sparkle in his eyes and a playfulness that penetrates both lighter moments and painful times. Other than the remarkable performances of Norma Aleandro and Hector Alterio as his parents, the movie is soft and undemanding, the kind of comedy that puts you in a good mood. Its message is positive and hopeful- broken dreams can be turned into promise, bitterness can be melted into romance, funny friends can put things into perspective, relationships can be mended. In a good, perfect little world, such things can be effortly accomplished and what if reality smothers enthusiasm, we are all allowed to go to sleep with good thoughts, aren't we? Juan Jose Campanella's society might be on the verge of economic crisis, his leading actor is definetely in the middle of a personal one, still humour seems to distill the hardships of life and make grey days bearable. There are times when we want to forget about the cruel, drug-run Latin American, where little boys with big guns run the show, bathing it all in blood. 

And there are moments when such light, comfortable movies set the tone for a happy sigh and a dreamlees sleep in a world where tiramisu is not cream cheese, Dick Watson should not be ignored, poems about braces win teddy bears, butter cookies sweep men off their feet, goofy friends deliver pizza, and parents and children and children and parents are given second chances for second lives.

Saturday, May 31

A thousand times good night by NICO

''When you'll grow up, you'll see, that there is something inside you stronger than everything'' ...Da, exista si se numeste pasiune. Cand o sa cresti, daca ai acest noroc, iti vei descoperi o pasiune, acel ceva ce te face sa treci peste tot, toate, toti. Pasiunea te va hrani si te va topi, pasiunea te va inalta si te face sa treci peste normal, peste obisnuit si peste familiar.

A thousand times good night este un film despre pasiune, ar putea fi un manual de folosre si traire a pasiunii si cu pasiunea. Avem o Juliette Binoche atat de curata si frumoasa, incat rolul curge natural si lin- lin este doar un fel de a spune, pentru ca rolul femeii cu o pasiune este in toate felurile zduncinatoare, numai lin, nu ...dar vorba aceea: apele line sunt adanci... Juliette este fotograful de razboi, Rebecca, vocea celor ce nu pot vorbi, vocea celor ce nu pot fi auziti si facuti remarcati; ea este mama, sotie, fotograf profesionist ce schimba 

perceptia lumii, ce trezeste lumea incojurata de inocenta si liniste. Dar nu poti fi bun- buna la toate. Trebuie sa stii cand sa renunti, sa stii si sa realizezi cat si pana unde poti merge...Ea incearca sa fie femeia normala cu atributiile ei de mama si sotie, dar si profesionistul ce are darul de a vedea prin obiectivul aparatului, ceea ce numai ea poate sa vada... Poate daca era barbat, ar fi fost mai usor acceptata de familie, pentru ca femeile au darul sacrificiului, al dorintei de a fi pe plac, au in ele spiritul matern de protejare dar si puterea de a fi orice isi propun. Rebecca este intre doua lumi, este femeia ce se doreste iubita, pentru ca este femeie, dar este si profesionistul manat de pasiune... pasiunea este cuvant scump si rar. Folosit in zilele noastre cu sens diminuat de substanta -ca mai nou folositele saluturi: 'te pup' sau 'love you'- spus fara incarcatura lui de baza, toate sunt doar cuvinte frumoase carora le-a fost furat continutul, au devenit superficiale... Ce-ar fi ca atunci cand o zici, chiar sa o faci sau sa simti ceea ce zici. Asa si cu pasiunea...multi vorbesc despre ea, putini o traiesc cu adevarat, putini o simt si mai ales putini au descoperit-o. Ma inclin in fata celor ce au descoperit-o, dar mai ales in fata celor ce o dezvolta, traiesc si o simt curgand precum sangele, de fapt este sangele lor...le iei pasiunea si ii vezi cum se sting, ii vezi cum devin actorii propriei vieti, nu personajul real. 

Aceasta este Rebecca, femeia care incearca sa fie normala pentru sotul si copiii ei. O vezi cum se straduieste cu se lupta cu ea, o vezi cum verbalizeaza si spune tare cuvintele de renuntare la pasiunea ei, pentru ca isi raneste familia ...si incearca, se vede cum rupe din ea si incearca sa fie normala (normala pentru ceilalti-devine marioneta propriei vieti). La un moment dat ai impresia ca a reusit...apoi, fara nicio premeditare intervine acel ''trigger point'' care rastoarna tot ce incercase sa construiasca ''normal'', astfel realizand ca ea nu poate fi normala si pasiunea ei, este mai presus de de fiinta ei si a celor ce o iubesc...si pana la urma cine te iubeste, te accepta asa cum esti. Te accepta cu pasiunile tale, cu felul tau diferit de a trai viata ce ti-a fost data, te accepta pentru ca te iubeste, asa cum face si fiica ei mai mare, Steph, in discutia closure ce o au la sfarsitul filmului: 'Rebecca: Are you scared? Steph: Yes!...but it's ok''. 

Un film despre pasiune ca mod de viata, despre oameni de calitate (calitatea- valoare din puctul meu de vedere), despre idealuri inalte, furie, resemnare, revolta, acceptare, respingere, iubire ...dar mai ales, despre oameni curajosi ce stiu ca a fi tu insuti este greu, dar nu imposibil. Este greu pana iei decizia de a fi cum esti tu ''inside''- adevarul este ca esti mult mai puternic si mai increzator in ceea ce faci, daca stii ca cineva, acolo, undeva te sustine si te intelege, te accepta asa cum esti . Este un film despre femei puternice...Exista asa ceva, stiu ca exista, aceste femei muta munti pentru pasiunile lor si ceea ce ele numesc ''acasa''. Un fim ca o explozie... 

PS: A thousand times good night sunt acele nopti in care o mama nu a spus ''noapte buna'' copiilor ei... normalul unora, sunt nestematele altora.