; movieschocolatebooks: March 2014

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Thursday, March 27

Sideways

Here is a movie that celebrates the art of drinking good wine and the art of fine conversation. It could be a comedy for there are some funny dialogues and situations, it may definitely be a drama for people get hurt and suffer, it might even be a romance since there are ordinary people falling for other ordinary people. However, Sideways is surely a nice, relaxing movie that feels so good that you're left wondering if some little piece of you wasn't by any chance left hidden in the beautiful vineyards, the cosy conversations or a pair of sad eyes.









Sideways is one of those lovable movies with great script, meaningful dialogues and good music. The scenery is great, the wine is so inviting, the jazz is so mellow and sparkling, the characters are so alive and humane that I kind of felt left out of this good party for intelligent people. But then I poured myself a glass of Pinot noir and joined the fun, much to my not being a wine aficionado. And even went straight to a wine dictionary to do a bit of research where Merlot, Pinot and Riesling are concerned. For there is a particular scene in the movie where Miles, a depressed, unpublished, divorced writer and English teacher gives the most enticing monologue on his passion for Pinot noir. Paul Giamatti truly offers one of the best performances of his life for as Miles, he is witty, genuine, humane. He tells Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress for whom he fell deeply that Pinot is a sensitive, delicate grape that requires great care. He identifies himself with this particular wine and as he marvels at the exquisite qualities of Pinot, he is actually unveiling his true, wounded self. And Maya or any other woman for that matter, is taken aback by his responsiveness and feels totally drawn to him. Miles does not claim to be a wine connoisseur but rather a man with a passion and a sensitive palate. Chances are he meets a great woman, who shares not only his enthusiasm for wine but also happens to like him for all his insecurity, depression, failure as a husband and writer.


Miles needs an opposing character to counter his insecurity and he comes along as his former college roommate, handsome actor, Jack (Thomas Haden Church) and the two of them pair up and go on a week long trip in the land of wine. Miles's so-called gift as Jack's best man -for he is about to tie the knot in a week- is but a cover-up for his depression and loneliness. When he finds out that his ex-wife, Victoria has recently remarried and coming to the wedding, he snaps and drinks himself into pain. His unresolved feelings for his former wife are silently outspoken when devastated, Miles, stop running from his friend Jack and tenderly strokes a beautiful grape. Later on, the two of them meet Maya, the waitress and her friend, Stephanie (the amazing Sandra Oh), who pours wine for tourists. Jack gets infatuated with Stephanie, a single mom that can be either loving or vengeful, when needed. And Maya is sweet, warm, tender and lively and she reads Miles's rejected novel for the simple, emotional book that it is and the author for the lonely, hurt man that loves her. Golf, wine and a nice trip are nothing but a chance to happiness for Miles whereas, for Jack, a womanizer, the week culminates with a broken nose, a cuckold on his tail and a lot of explaining to do. Still, Jack deserves our pity for he is immature and senseless, the perfect image of a TV second hand actor, desperate to get laid before getting hitched.


Sideways is much more than a wasted bottle of '61 Cheval Blanc, an unpublished novel, a drinking problem, some broken hearts, good food, a foursome, a raise in Pinot sales, Xanax and Lexapro, incredible jazz in the background, a good laugh. The movie itself is a celebration of life on its most uncosmeticised day when good novel, great script, excellent directing joined hands to produce a touching, breathtaking film. Raise your glasses for Sideways!

Saturday, March 22

Fill the void


Some movies are little pieces of jewelry that are meant to catch your eye at once with their exquisite embroidery. Fill the void is such a movie, delicately artisaned by Rama Burshtein, the first Orthodox Jewish woman to direct a film. Written, directed and edited with care and much passion, the movie feels precious and powerful, similar to a piece of ornament embellishing the body of a woman with a powerful spirit.


Shira Mendelman, the main character, is a gem in the eyes of her mother, her father and her married sister, Esther. Still young, Shira will soon become the apple of a man's eye as her mother is getting ready for her youngest's future marriage. As it is in life, plans get easily spoilt when, on Purim, Esther dies at childbirth. Devastated by such tragedy, Shira starts taking care of her infant nephew, Mordechai, her only comfort being her accordion. When Esther's mother-in-law pays a visit to Mrs. Mendelman to inform her that her son, Yochay, is thinking of marrying a woman and going to Belgium, the prospect of losing her grandchild fills her with despair and she starts thinking of a plan to keep both little Mordechai and Yochay close to the family. Her grief and distress are projected on Shira who is at first shocked by the her mother's suggestion. Yochay is more open to the idea and starts looking at Shira with different eyes, taking a liking to the budding woman in front of him. And Shira finds herself trapped between duty and her heart's desire, like all those Romantic female characters that seemed to have impressed Rama Burshtein, the director of the movie.


To the unfamiliar eye, the movie is a crack in a closed egg that sheds a ray of light on the rather unknown community of Orthodox (Haredi) Judaism. It may fill a void in our minds or it may simply resonate with the Jane Austen stories in our heads, on love and marriage. Either way, it is a sensitive movie that speaks of the choice the young women are given when picking a husband, rather than of the male perspective upon the issue of married life. Shira has the right age for marriage and though she is part of a community where parents and relatives have a saying in this matter, the final choice is hers. Crises of all sorts are settled within the community and the rabbi advises people or simply offers them money for their needs. So, when Shira is confronted with the possibility of marrying her brother-in-law, she is trapped between her duty towards her parents, her devotion to the community and her own feelings. Unable to switch from brotherly feelings to seeing Yochai as a potential husband, she speaks her mind and the arrangement is off.


In a different kind of movie, in a dissimilar kind of culture, Shira might have embarked on a soul-searching journey or even taken a radical path in life; however, Rama Burshtein loves her community and her traditions. Shira, as the embodiment of these women's empowerment, is dear to her as well. And the eighteen-year-old girl makes a mature decision and follows into the footsteps of all the other women before her. Marriage is the fulfilment she is looking for, yet it will not shatter her fear of dying. Taking her dead sister's place might lead to the same unfortunate denouement and Shira is afraid of dying. Her wedding night finds her, back against the wall, gazing in the eyes of an unknown man. The answers belong to us and to the faith we put in love and marriage. To the enthusiasts, the possibility of romance lurks around the corner, to the pessimists, this is but the painful way, life rewrites itself.

Monday, March 10

Nymphomaniac


Curat, rece si eficient ca mobilierul Ikea.
Young Joe: If I asked you to take my virginity, would that be a problem?
Jerôme: No, I don't see a problem.
Asa as putea caracteriza Nymphomaniac. Un film facut sa socheze, sa faca valuri, sa ramana pe retina drept anormal de cathchy. Traim in perioada in care a fi diferit si unic, este un must. Traim in perioada in care amprenta proprie conteaza mai mult decat tot in viata... de aici, o draga fraza mie: you're weird, I like you... Este un film care pune o problema de nisa in discutie- sexul de placere a obtinerii orgasmului...Aduce la lumina un subiect tabu. Face din sex un personaj. Am trait atat de mult cu acest subiect bagat sub pres, incat acum, pentru a fi cat mai ciudat si cat mai atragator ochiului si privirii, domnul Lars l-a imbracat in hainele artei si l-a pus in vazul tuturor...ce pot sa spun? Sexul este o placere...Sexul conteaza, a contat si va conta. Sexul este ceea ce umple tot la sfarstitul unei insiruiri de nevoi satisfacute, asa cum zice si Joe, personajul blamat si autoflagelat din filmul acesta: ''fill all my holes''...Sexul umple ceea ce normalul acceptat de societate nu o face. Si ce sa spun? - toti facem sex, numai ca nu vorbim despre asta, nu spunem ce ne place, cum ne place si unde ne place si toti jucam niste roluri de atragere a privirii altora si de observare a placerii pe care o provocam, in alti ochi, toti dansam un dans sexual nevazut, dar explicit... Dar nu vorbim despre asta pentru ca nu am putea, ci parerea mea este ca nu o facem pentru ca sunt anumite ''treburi'' ce ar trebui sa ramana doar ale noastre... Spunem si dezvaluim tot despre noi, ne afisam haine, prieteni, masini, realizari, tot ceea ce ne caracterizeaza, mai putin sexul...Acesta este ceea ce ne leaga sau ne desparte de cineva, este ceea ce ar trebui impartit doar cu persoane care conteaza.




Dar nu mai este asa...traim timpuri in care sexul este pretuit mai putin ca act de conexiune cu cineva, barbat sau femeie, este vazut ca pe un schimb de cunostinte, ca pe un act experimental, este o placere normala satisfacuta. sexul este limita maxima pe care o relatie-legatura, o poate atinge....
Filme porno sunt peste tot, filmele porno sunt comune zilelor noastre. Cinematografia se imparte in cinema xxx pentru un public de nisa, pentru freaks, conform societatii ''normale'' si generale (generalul social blameaza pe cel ce se uita la un film porno, il catalogheaza) si cinema pentru publicul larg...ei bine...Ce s-a intamplat? Lars a facut din sex un personaj principal, stiind ca va soca, stiind ca acea patura ce arata cu degetul, va pune acest film, de dragul artei si a notorietatii regizorului in spotlight, acum era momentul matur destul pentru a-l pune in lumina- si-a jucat cartea faimei si ciudateniei si a castigat... A adus sexul in lumea celor ce inainte taiau scenele de sex pentru ca erau prea explicite, a adus sexul in fata tuturor...si pentru a o face ca la carte, a facut arta din el, a facut din sex, o ''problema'' pe care iti doresti la un moment dat sa o vezi rezolvata, te ingrozesti cand o vezi pe joe juisand, cand este calculata, rece, goala si dezinvolta, cand cere sa faca sex de parca ar cere paine la supermarket, cu inocenta si relaxarea copilul nestiutor de repercursiuni, te afecteaza cand dupa ce se culca si fute un sir nesfarsit de barbati fara sa cunoasca sentimentul iubirii si implinirii prin iubire, cand crezi ca ajunge si la acel punc, nu mai are nicio simtire sexuala si isi pierde capacitatea de a avea orgasm...Atunci cand ii vezi disperarea din ochi spunand: I can't feel anything.... you feel pity for her...eu una am plans la faza asta, dar ce pot sa spun, sunt mai fragila la dedesubturi de scoarta cerebrala....si la cuvinte nespuse si reprimate din cauza conventiilor sociale.


Filmul socheaza, acesta i-a fost scopul. Regizorul a vrut sa socheze pentru ca este destul de destept sa stie ca a fi ciudat este o carte castigatoare in ziua de azi, pentru ca a fi ciudat este un atu in popularitate. Lars este om si trebuie sa si manance, nu numai sa faca filme de arta ( nu e nevoie sa moara pentru ca arta sa, sa fie apreciata). Cu ciudatenia vine si explicatia ciudateniei, vine un domeniu nou pentru privitor, vine dorinta de a afla informatia, curiozitatea satisfacuta...si nu multi au curajul de a fi ciudati, nu multi au curajul sa isi sustina ciudatenia...De aici admiratia mea- admir oamenii ce isi sustin cu argumente ciudatenia, admir oamenii care fac o normalitate din ciudatenia lor, dau dovada de inteligenta si curaj...Cantitatile depind de fiecare- exact aceasta carte a admiratiei a jucat-o regizorul, s-a jucat cu dorinta omul actual de curiozitate si sete de informatie, de descoperire si dezvaluire a niselor, a umbrelor, a secretelor ascuse sub cearsaf, a secretelor fiintei umane... Mie personal, acest film mi s-a parut filmul singuratatii si al fugii de simtire...mi s-a parut filmul singuratatii absolute. A fugii de gloata, a acceptarii individualitatii personale pana la blazare si traire prin aceasta blazare. Mi s-a parut filmul lui ''asa-sunt-stiu-cum-sunt-si-nu-vreau-sa-ma-schimb-pentru nimeni'', mi s-a parut filmul lui '' fac-sex-cum-beti-voi-apa'' ... Dar Joe fuge atat de mult de societate incat fuga ramane singura si unica miscare si simtire pe care o poate trai. fuge de sentimente si devine atat de calculatz in a obtine placerea, incat nu mai simte nimic. Ideea filmului este interesanta si atrage prin ciudatenie... Joe tanara, Stacy Martin, in vol I este mult mai ''adevarata'' personajului decat Charlotte...Desi este personajul fetis al regizorului, Charlotte nu avea ce cauta aici, este prea soptita si fada, este prea numai simtire pentru a fi aici...Imi place de Charlotte ca personaj adevarat al vietii artistice contemporane, dar nu este veridica per total personajului interpretat. Stellan Skarsgård isi face roulul formidabil, este veridic si se vede experienta actoriceasca de calitate. Shia LaBeouf este sensibil si bun, aproape dezvolti placerea privitului si ii intelegi stangacia actoriceasca si place acasta ezitare si privire pe care le afiseaza calculat si dozat, actorul american nu il vezi, vezi partea sensibila si europeana, artistico-veridica din el.

Si da, sexul este bun, nu este ceva rau si sexul umple bateriile umane, pentru a putea merge mai departe, pentru a putea visa si zambi chiar si atunci cand aparent nu ai pentru ce zambi, te face sa zambesti cand esti singur cu tine, te face jucaus si te transforma ca fiinta umana, te face sa te poti bucura de viata. nu mi-am propus sa comentez si sa explic tot ce se intampla in film pentru ca restul... e tacere... este ceea ce vrea fiecare sa vada si sa creada... este altceva.

Thursday, March 6

Godiva Milk Chocolate, Droste Holland Pastilles and Lindt Blueberry Intense


Three new flavours that came as a friendly compensation for the rainy days. Nothing lifts your spirit better than great chocolate, a good book and a relaxing movie on a rainy day that lasts for a spring. And if the nice gifts are all new flavours, I get in a good mood all of a sudden. As usual, chocolate is also about the package so simply by taking a quick look at the nice wrappings, I gave room to anticipation- the taste buds alert, as I like to call it.


The Godiva Milk Chocolate bar was a ten-square beauty, silky and milky, just the way I enjoy my chocolate. It smelled of sweet milky and it tasted smooth and soft. The kind of chocolate that only reveals its touching signature in the end, after having peeled off several layers of aroma. And since I condone the responsible eating of chocolate, I made sure I enjoyed at length every square, once again making the Irish really envious of my constant chocolate consumption. Just take a look and you'll know how I felt holding in my hands:


The Dutch Droste Holland Pastilles had more cocoa content than Godiva: 35%, instead of 31%. And it surely tasted like it. This type of chocolate is also creation of years of commitment and passion ever since a certain Gerardus Johannes Droste started a confectionery business in 1863 and has been blessing the Dutch people with the tiny, lovely pastilles ever since. The  'Pastilles Droste', as they are officially called, come in different flavours, with a unique taste and a well-know shape, in lovely packages. I tried the Milk Pastilles for their milky touch and the right amount of Theobroma cocoa- the food of the gods. The Dutch brag about their chocolate consumption -5 kg per year- but they are far behind the Swiss and the Irish, mostly because they are faithful to their Pastilles Droste.


Finally, you know how I prefer milk chocolate as the dark one, much to its healthy benefits, is a bit too rough for my taste. Well, no more; I have tasted one dark bar that simply swept me off my feet: Lindt Blueberry Intense. I believe the secret lies in the perfect combination between blueberries -a bit sour and chewy- and the slivers of almond that are generously scattered within the dark bar. The blueberry scent was so irresistible that I could hardly refrain myself from eating the whole of it. Lindt Excellence Blueberry Intense Dark Chocolate apparently got more almonds (6%) than blueberry (2%) in the ingredients with a bit of apple and pineapple. I wish I could say I felt them apple and pineapple but I guess I hadn't tried hard enough.






Once again, I just have to thank my dear friend, Ioana, who travels the world and always saves the best things for me! The sweet and chocolaty ones!


Monday, March 3

The Taste of Others



Attraction is a tricky matter that does not follow any written rules and is hardly ever triggered by mutual taste. In fact, this movie is a woman's way of questioning the uncertainty of love and how an apparently well-built couple sharing the same interests and chemistry functions as compared to the dilemma an intellectual actress feels towards the affections of a tasteless businessman. Once again, this is a classical French story of the pursuit of love and happiness, directed by Agnès Jaoui who co-writes, stars and directs a movie on the tasteless/tasteful choices we make where love is concerned. The Taste of Others is a witty comedy of manners that has humour, style and an unexpected charm that sneaks up on the viewer, making him relate to the characters in an intimate, unprecedented manner. It is the kind of movie that makes you feel at ease with your own limitations and easily grasps the permutations of love.


Happiness is a merely a state of mind and love is uncorked in the most unpredicted stories that sometimes catch you unprepared. It is true that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, yet there is a common code people follow when assessing the things and people around them, in terms of taste and, as a a rule, they surround themselves by objects and friends to their liking, with whom they share the same literary, artistic, moral, philosophical tastes and life style. And it has been real for as long we can remember and much to our own manner of concealing it, we have been deconstructing ourselves and others forever, mentally forcing them to climb our own Procrustean bed.



When chemistry speaks less in words and more in gazes, Frank Moreno, the bodyguard, loses himself in the eyes of Manie, the waitress, and we instantly place our faith in their love, secretly hoping for a happy ending. At the same time, we are not even remotly moved by Jean-Jacques Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a wealthy middle-aged industrialist, who falls for the playful charm of acting and its talented muse, Clara Devaux (Anne Alvaro). Physically unattractive, in their 40s, the two of them share nothing but the former's desire to learn English and Clara's teaching out of financial needs. Though it is even funnier how, at first, without the acting factor that brings out the best in the woman and touches the man's sensitivity, the two of them politely dismiss each other, barely acknowledging their presence and individuality. He is married to a decorator with a passion for dogs and floral patterns who treats him as a sick person, in need of constant advice and nagging. When he buys the abstract painting of one of Clara's friends out of remorse -he makes nasty comments on the sexual options of the artist- the wife emasculates him once more by taking the painting down and throwing it. Castella, traditionalist, narrow-minded and philistine, becomes more and more infatuated with Clara, writing her a poem that leaves the woman speechless and unable to share his interest. Still, he pursues her and her artistic circle of friends to the restaurant where his bodyguard Frank has eyes rather for Manie, the bartender, than for his boss's well-being. Love changes Castella from bourgeois to bohemian in tastes and preoccupations as the two worlds begin to overlap and Clara's intial repulsion towards the businessman softly turns into authentic feelings. The business deal is settled, Frank is free of contract and we watch him unable to commit to Manie, turning around and heading for a new stage in his life- her independence and life choices are too unbearable for him as she doesn't fit his image of the perfect wife.



And we are left wondering about the untold stories in every pair of eyes we meet in the street and about the unforseen manner in which love defines us in our complexity, confusion and tastes -for love is the binder between worlds apart and hearts unlocked, working its magic in mysterious ways .