Anne Petrie

'one thing leads to another'–reviews, reflections, books, art and other past and current projects

Reviews, reflections, art and other projects — March 21, 2015

Reviews, reflections, art and other projects

birth announcment

 

This site is under construction.  But while you are waiting why not check out some of  the film reviews that are below.

(new content coming soon/May 18/2017)

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Winter Sleeps – film review — March 8, 2015

Winter Sleeps – film review

 

Note: Although I have included an IMDB bare bones summary at the top of each piece, all reviews on this site assume the visitor has seen the film . They are my take on the film and any discussion is more than welcome.

 

winter sleep

 

Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities…
• Written by Cannes Film Festival

 ******

The most interesting of the many long and interesting conversations in Winter Sleep is initiated by Necla, Aydin’s sister, when she proposes the idea that ‘evil should not be resisted’.  What if, she argues, that by not resisting those who intend to do us harm they might lose the desire or need to hurt.

It is in on the face of it, of course,  a ridiculous idea.  The confident, cultured, articulate Aydin cannot be bothered to even consider it. He immediately jumps to the unassailable example of Hitler and the Jews.  That’s the result when you don’t resist evil.

And of course it is when the threat is to a people, a nation, perhaps even a planet or some fundamental ideal. But even this is terribly slippery territory; the determination of evil is not an absolute and always depends on what or who is defined as evil, and by what or whom it is defined.

But in jumping immediately to the macro, Aydin is avoiding his own case. What about here, much closer to home, in fact his home in which they are in sitting, the home where Aydin practices his own form of evil against those he sees as some kind of threat —-what he perceives as evils that must be resisted. The setting is after all, the Hotel Othello and is not Aydin a sort Othello himself?  It is not a perfect comparison but consider…. the young and beautiful bride who began by “idolizing” him; the Iago within who whispers against her.  Aydin’s Iago is not an outside enemy but himself. As Nihal says to Aydin when he  disingenuously asks what he should feel guilty for, “you are an honest, fair and conscientious man but you use these virtues to suffocate, to crush and humiliate people.”

That is exactly what he has done to her. Aydin has seen her attempt to make a meaningful life for herself as a threat against him.  Her growth and independence is some form of evil done to him that he has to resist.  He has reduced her work to improve the education opportunities for the local village children to an ‘interest’.  Nihal ‘cares about these things’ he says to a visiting neighbour when he commands her to join them to ostensibly consider a charitable request he has received from a local young woman. In fact, he cares nothing about philanthropy;  the former actor has seated his audience to witness a sort of one-man show as he reads out the petitioner’s flattering admiration for him and the weekly column he writes for the local newspaper.

When Nihal’s work finally comes to fruition with a meeting of a new funding council (which, significantly, includes the same neighbour) Aydin dismisses them all and particularly her as hopelessly naive. He demeans Nihal by offering to ‘check’ her books. As she tries to describe how diminished she feels by his lack of respect,  he smiles with patronizing superiority, clearly dismissing her philanthropic work as some childlike attempt at pointless self-determination.

But Nihal finally takes the path her sister in law has challenged her with.  For a moment she does rage as she sweeps her precious hand kept record book and donation papers off her work table.  But then she collects herself; she  ceases to resist.  He can stay or leave. She can stay or leave.  She is not afraid anymore .  And because she is not afraid and now knows her own inner strength, he has lost his power.  He can do no more evil to her.   Evil can only survive when it has fear to feed on.

It will take Aydin more time to realize that he has lost his power.  He first plans to go Istanbul, the capital city where he can presumably assert himself in a society that ‘knows who he is’.  But he doesn’t go.  He is drawn back to the neighbour’s house.  He drinks (something he never allows himself), loses control and vomits —in front of his friend. He has allowed himself to be totally vulnerable.  Metaphorically he too has ceased to resist.  Is it too much to say that he has  purged himself of not only of his own evil but also the false perception of evil in others that has possessed him?

It does seem that way when the next day on the hunting trip, with a single shot, he hits a grazing rabbit.  But when he approaches his catch he sees it is still breathing.  As with his other victims, he has known exactly where to aim leaving them barely alive.  But were they in truth any more of a threat than a rabbit foraging for a bit of food?  The other half of the resistance to evil equation is properly determining what is really ‘evil’.  Aydin has mistaken his enemies.
As he returns home, he know that his resistance to what he has perceived as evil (in this case Nihal and her desire for a relationship of mutual respect) has been futile.  His voice-over accepts that he has lost Nihal’s love.  He will not fight for it now, it will be enough if she will simply allow him to be in her presence. But is that the last word?  After all, Aydin is a changed man and there is perhaps a good chance that having found himself, he may indeed find a way back to her.

Still Alice – Film Review — February 10, 2015

Still Alice – Film Review

Note: Although I have included an IMDB bare bones summary at the top of each piece, all reviews on this site assume the visitor has seen the film . They are my take on the film and any discussion is more than welcome. 

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested.  From IMBD website

Still Alice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Alice is a troubling film. Not because it’s about Alzheimers, but because it isn’t. Not really.

Still Alice is based on a novel of the same name about a 50 year woman who is struck with early onset Alzheimer’s. Early Onset happens of course. And it is tragic. But a novel is fiction and in this case the the author has  provided all the elements of a perfect  storm– Oprah book club style.   Alice is an extraordinarily successful academic   whose speciality is , ironically… linguistics!   The disease reveals itself as she begins to lose the ‘words’ that have defined her life, and so begins her inevitable decline. I have only read summaries and reviews of the novel, but as in the movie, author Lisa Genova has given Alice  an equally successful academic husband, three talented grown children, a brownstone in New York, and another rustic ocean-side home at the Cape.    It’s a perfect life,  as the character admits . What she doesn’t say is that it will fall apart perfectly too.  Still Alice story is in the hands of a story teller who can have it all her own way.

And the movie based on the novel is even more of a fiction.  At least in the novel we can exercise our imagination  to humanize Alice and her husband John.  Good writing helps of course, but even in the most sentimentalized novels we have at least a  chance to find ourselves and our own experience in characters who may, at first, seem very different from  us.  But in the film of Still Alice we have no choice. Alice and  John are Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin,—-both fine actors —-but that’s not the point. They are Hollywood stars who even in their 50’s come with celluloid glamour– by definition. Our identification with those impossibly beautiful people is not with any commonly known reality.  And this doesn’t even begin to describe their three perfect children —again all gorgeous, all blessed with extraordinary talents and devoted to their parents. The only only one who might not fit the mould is Lydia, the slightly rebellious (‘I don’t want to go to college to study acting; I’m going to follow my dream in LA’) youngest daughter—- played by Twilight’s ‘it’ girl of the day Kristen Stewart, a star whose agent surely isn’t going to let her be the bad girl in any film intended for broad public appeal. Of course, one can make this criticism about any film ‘story’, but the point here is that Alzheimer’s by now is a known reality for most of us in some way or another, and casting beautiful, famous stars detaches us from the true horrors of losing those we love to this horrible disease.

Alice and her family ‘have it all’ in the novel and more than everything in the movie. The story that this movie tells about Alzheimer’s is not even close to what, by now, most of us have experienced in some form. True, this film deals with early onset, but it’s still Alzheimer’s,  and the Alzheimer’s that those of us who live in the real world experience is not a tragic attack on the relatively youthful and still beautiful . The Alzheimer’s that most of us know strikes old people —spouses, parents , relatives , friends . We care for them deeply but,  let’s be frank:  whatever age,  they are not often very attractive, vital or even love-able during the course of this dreaded disease. They can’t take care of themselves, they swear and shout, they are often a danger to others and themselves . And  the cruel truth is they can drive us crazy. Plus,  we often have complex past relationships with them that can make care-taking anything from difficult to disastrous. Juliane Moore repeats things, gets a bit pale and wander-y and has one – quite manageable – outbreak of anger. That’s Alzheimer’s (regardless of whether it’s early or late onset) if the victim and their caretakers are very ,very lucky. And luck includes not only the course the disease may take but the resources —-emotional, social, and, of course, financial —-that are essential to let us be our best selves as we try to look after those with a devastating disease that may go on for years.

Still Alice doesn’t completely shy away from the difficulties. In the film, Alice’s husband more or less deserts her with the convenient ‘she wouldn’t want us to be a burden’ argument and goes on to take up the career goal offer of a job at the Mayo clinic. But the wayward daughter  comes home to look after mom; in the final scene she reads a piece of literary text to Juliane Moore  (still looking pretty damn good). When she asks her mother what’s its about, Alice finally manages to get out one word —-‘love’.

So that’s our lesson for the day. And it strikes home as we , as a society, struggle with questions of ‘death with dignity’ and assisted suicide. Alice, as her coherent intellectual self, planned a way out—- a video that would direct her Alzheimer’s self to a lethal stash of pills she could access when she had come to a certain point—-so that she wouldn’t lose herself, so that others would not have to lose the Alice that they knew and loved. In the novel and the film her perfect finale is complicated by Alzheimer’s Alice’s inability to understand the directions of her former rational self. She is saved, literally, by the bell at the front door, but the message is clear. Suicide, in whatever form, is not the way out. There is always something worth living for.

And ideally , we would all hope so. We would all like to feel that suffering can have a point. That if we are struck by some calamity and are loved, suffering can be bearable—that suffering itself might have dignity. And the reverse, that the suffering of another can offer us an opportunity—the opportunity to love when it is not easy and there are few of the obvious rewards. Life should not be just pleasant but rich, and that richness can be found in pain as well as pleasure.

I want believe to that is true. But I am not persuaded by what Still Alice presents. I have a good life, I’m fortunate; but I have no faith that I’d be able to endure (whether I am the victim or the caretaker) the horrors of this disease. I don’t want a fiction. Or at least I don’t want a comforting one. Give it to me straight; if it’s a story, I want one that is as tough as it can get. And that, by a a long stretch, isn’t Still .Alice.

Cake – film review — January 27, 2015

Cake – film review

Note: Although I have included an IMDB bare bones summary at the top of each piece, all reviews on this site assume the visitor has seen the film . They are my take on the film and any discussion is more than welcome.

Claire becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group while grappling with her own, very raw personal tragedy. (imdb)

 

Cake

 
First of all, let’s get it out of the way; yes, Jennifer Aniston’s performance in Cake is superb and had she been nominated ( and who knows why not?), would be a more than worthy Oscar winner. With her puffed up face, sluggish body and ruthless self loathing she fully inhabits the physical and mental world of Claire, a 40- something LA lawyer who has lost her young son in a fatal car accident and somehow has to find a reason to keep on living herself.

That said, does the film live up to Aniston? Is this  Cake rich enough to be more a few tasty bites of watching sparky Jen on her way to possible Meryl Streep-dom? Do we come away thinking about the character on screen, about Claire, and more importantly, about ourselves and the life altering events that force us to dig deep for purpose and ultimate meaning?

To that I would give another ‘yes’. This is a film about profound loss and the long tortuous journey through inevitable grief. Though Claire defines herself by the physical pain that still debilitates her more than a year after the accident, it is clearly the psychic pain that she has yet to confront, that she has pushed away by as much Percocet as she can legally and otherwise obtain. Notwithstanding the regrettably broad opening scene where Claire’s chronic pain support group (facilitated by a comically inept therapist — Felicity Huffman is a fine actor and should know better ) is encouraged to ‘share their feelings’ about the recent suicide of Nina, this is a serious film about how to make sense of a an event that has no reason . As the ghost of Nina taunts Claire, ‘Why do you want to live, you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe in anything’.

That is Claire’s job: to find something to believe in. But it is not a simple process of knowing the problem and finding a quick fix solution. Like addiction, grief is a recovery process that has no clear through line. Claire’s job is to connect with herself which can only come when she is able to connect to others. But almost every step forward is followed by two back.

It is part of the film’s richness that we feel the kind of frustration that often comes with watching a loved person continually reject the support that others are so willing to give. There is her housekeeper Silvana who, grounded by the religious faith that Claire does not have, stays for much more than the low salary she earns. Claire’s husband Jason, loves her and wants to be there for her, but in her misery and guilt she pushes him away both physically and emotionally. Claire reaches out to both of them for a moment ( saving face for Silvana with her ‘friends’, asking Jason to stay until she falls asleep), but just as quickly withdraws again.

Like the pool therapist, we too are almost ready to give up on her. But Claire dives deep and keeps resurfacing, still breathing. There is enough resilience in her that in looking for life she is willing to do the really necessary work— to explore death at close range by trying to figure out why Nina killed herself . In seeking out Nina’s widowed husband and child Claire comes close to life again, but with the sudden appearance of the driver whose recklessness killed her child, she is pushed back to the brink, ready to take Nina’s way out. Even then she manages to save herself from a drug overdose, but only long enough to try again, this time lying on the Riverside rail line.

Only when Claire can allow herself a fundamental forgiveness —that she was a good mother —can she once again be that good mother. It is the ‘good mother’ that Nina wanted to be: when asked what she would most like to do if she was free from pain— Nina said ‘bake a birthday cake for my son from scratch’. For the Claire we first met in group therapy, that was sloppy sentiment. Now it is true deep feeling, a connection with her grief, that allows her finally to weep in front of her child’s photograph and, in thanks for her own life, honour what Nina could not do.

Significantly, Claire does not herself make the cake from scratch. She gives that chance to a runaway girl as an alternative to her probably doomed aspirations to become an actress in LA —-offering her a small real life instead of the large fake life of  movieland. The girl makes the perfect cake then steals Claire’s wallet. When Claire refuses to call the police, she both forgives the girl and acknowledges that we don’t get perfect endings. The best we can do is make human connections and try to help each other along the way. In taking the ‘cake from scratch’ to Nina’s son for his birthday she is acknowledging how immensely complex and painful that journey can be. Some like Nina won’t make it. Hopefully, with Claire’s example, more of us can stay the course.

 

 

 

 

Decor – film review — January 14, 2015

Decor – film review

Note: Although I have included an IMDB bare bones summary at the top of each piece, all reviews on this site assume the visitor has seen the film . They are my take on the film and any discussion is more than welcome.

Egypt, 2014.  An overworked film production designer begins to lose her grip on reality, slipping into the fabricated life she is creating on her latest movie set. Directed by Ahmad Abdalla (from Palm Springs Film Festival brochure)

Decor poster

As this seemingly rather washed out black and white film opens, Maha and Cherif are 30-something secular Eyptians enjoying a successful marriage and creative partnership as art directors in the country’s large movie industry.  Usually working for ‘festival’ films, they have agreed to take on a low budget B movie to widen their working opportunities. Their schedule is incredibly tight demanding the work of two weeks in two days. While Cherif can handle the pressure and appreciates learning how to do things ‘another way’, his wife Maha is a perfectionist and can’t stand having to cut corners.  She’s particularly offended by the ‘star’ who insists that even though her character is  a working class wife and mother,  she’s going to wear her own glitzy clothes and the full makeup her fans have  come to expect.

The film that then goes to fracture all the conventions of film.  As Maha becomes more and more obsessed  with her artistic integrity, she finds herself walking out of  her present reality and into the virtual reality of the set she has designed. She not only  takes over the main role (with the ‘right’ clothes) but actually lives the B movie character’s life—-an exhausted wife and mother with a loving but dull husband, an uninspiring job as an art teacher and a troubled relationship with her young daughter.
Soon Maha becomes a truly divided self moving between the two worlds, in what is now a meta film about film itself and specifically a film referencing the classic woman’s film.  In both lives she is addicted to old Egyptian black and white classic melodramas of the 40’s and 50’s.  From the rich velvety excerpts we see on the televisions in both ‘sets’, they are exactly the stuff of Joan and Bette and Barbara in Hollywood’s female heyday. And they address the same issues that women, west and east, struggle with then and today today.    Can  we fulfill both  mind and body —brain and biology? Bluntly, do we choose the brilliant career with the handsome exciting husband who doesn’t want children or all the compromises of motherhood with the dull but truly loving family man?

That is how the voice of reason, represented by the well intentioned male psychiatrist puts it. As her career self, Maha and her husband consult him on her troublesome ‘imaginings’ . Explaining her disassociated lives, he says that under stress we escape to a different reality. With a little probing, he then uncovers her conflicted feelings about motherhood. As a couple they have always agreed not to have children. “How can you bring a child into a world like this” the husband asks . Against the background of curfews and sirens that is the military dictatorship of Egypt toda , it is hardly the liberal excuse it might be in the west. But when the psychiatrist asks Maha pointedly in which of her ‘worlds’ she is happiest, she has no clear answer. When she later collapses , she finds out she is four months pregnant. Her husband accuses Maha of misleading him and it is clear that her worlds have collided.
Until now, as viewers we have assumed art director Maha is the real Maha but as ‘the character’ becomes more and more involved in her other life, the separation between the stories becomes more slippery. Instead of walking in and out of a set, the changes between one reality and another are now seamless until we are almost as de-centred as Maha herself, not knowing which story is ‘true’ .Finally we can only tell one Maha from another by whether she is wearing her lustrous black hair up or down. Maha herself is equally confused, but for her it is a question of which world she is living in, but which she wants to live in.

Once again- in sessions with each Maha and each husband- the psychiatrist concludes the obvious: we only have one life. “Can’t you live it (whichever you choose) without it being perfect?” . Her reply: Do I have to choose? Isn’t there a third way” ?.

Maha seems to find a third way by choosing not to choose; watching both husbands walk away, she closes the translucent curtain of her room in the psychiatric hospital she has committed herself to, and we assume some kind of integration and resolution .

But this end is only another beginning as Decor suddenly bursts into full colour and we are at the premier of a film about the film that we have just been watching which is of course another film about a film and on and on. All characters reappear in opening night full dress and rise to take a bow at what is clearly the premier of a big studio film with major stars. The only exception is the psychiatrist who we only glimpse as an ordinary audience member coming down the stairs, apart, like a one man Greek chorus perhaps.

But it’s still not over . The camera moves away from all the characters we have been with for the last two hours and now -back to black and white -follows a young couple whom we have never seen before but who clearly are themselves embarking on a new relationship. As they leave the theatre, they turn in profile to look at each other. We know they are facing the same decisions as both couples in the films of the film, but then again in the last few seconds, black and white turns into a burst of colour as the camera sees the world outside the theatre doors.  Life isn’t an A or a B movie; it’s the simple, complex reality we all face.

‘St. Laurent’ and ‘Iris’- a review of two fashion films — January 8, 2015

‘St. Laurent’ and ‘Iris’- a review of two fashion films

iris St. Luarent

I suspect I am like many 2nd wave feminists for whom clothes are a guilty pleasure . We may secretly love Fashion itself or just style in general but we all know and more significantly love the transformational power of clothing for women . Two very different films for us then on view at the Palm Springs Film festival in St. Laurent and Iris.

I am not a capital “f” fashion person and probably couldn’t tell a Missoni from a Mossimo(the Target house brand) but I did have a knock off Mondrian dress in my twenties  and  splurged on the first YSL perfume. Plus I had heard the seamy drug and sex rumours so when a documentary on St. Laurent “L’Amour Fou’was showing in New York a few years ago I persuaded my newly retired film professor husband to be the beard that would justify what I anticipated to be a sinful little movie bon bon.

I don’t know which of us was more bored by this unfortunate hagiography . Though lushly accessorized with St. Laurent’s designs and his extensive personal collection of art and artifacts, there was only the public St. Laurent. Turns out it  was a sanitized corporate production signed off on by his former lover and continuing business partner Pierre Berger. It was a designed to protect the YSL brand, to hide rather than reveal the real St. Laurent .

This new 2 1/2 hour St. Laurent production directed by Jalil Lespert is of a different order entirely. A feature film it keeps no secrets and is as gritty and glorious as St. Laurent’s life and work. (Apparently another biopic is in the works for sometime in the fall of 2014)
The Lespert film opens in 1976 when St. Laurent is at the public peak of his career. He mysteriously checks into a Paris hotel room as Mr Swann . We next see him sitting on the bed, shirtless, back to the camera on the phone with a journalist ‘ready’ to give him ‘the interview’ which turns about to be about his personal ‘disorders’ . The Proust connection immediately signifies that this is the story not of a talented dress maker but of an exquisitely sensitive and deeply serious artist. But what are we to make of the grotesque story he tells the then tells the journalist about having been picked up as an Arab by the police then jailed and tortured?True or false? Delusion or play acting?

As this time shifting film puts together the jigsaw puzzle  of his rise and fall we eventually realize that whether or not the prison  story is true , this is a breaking point for St. Laurent. Art and commerce have collided and the sensitive boy-child who once fashioned intricate ball gowns for paper dolls has been crushed between the two.

The film gives a clue in a ‘fan’ letter that St. Laurent receives in his first flush of success from Andy Warhol who extolls them both as the greatest artists—the true revolutionaries— of their time.. But where Warhol operates from ironic distance, St. Laurent has no protective coloration. Warhol can call his studio ‘The Factory’ ; St.Laurent’s atelier is a factory, the fantastically successful one built up by  Berge. Here orders must be filled, both coutouier and ready -to -wear collections have to come out on schedule. Dozens of white coated assistants constantly demand the attention of the shy faun-like St Laurent who just wants to be alone with his classical music and the perfectly sharpened pencil and uniformly sized sheets of thick white  paper from which his extraordinary creations will be born.

Berge is both St. Laurent’s saviour and unwitting satan. Though presented sympathetically  – St Laurent is truly his true love — the long business negotiations that we see have nothing to do with art and everything to do with money. By adroit management Berge has built the most successful fashion brand ever, given St. Laurent the success that any artist craves and financial and social benefits that he clearly enjoys. But it has also set the stage for his destruction.

Yves  escape from the pressure of production is the club culture of the high 70’s. But again, where Warhol observed and documented the nights at Studio 54, St. Laurent is without resistance and quickly  sucked under into a world of superficial beauty fuelled by drink and drugs. Bored now by Berge, he becomes obsessed with a new lover and who introduces him into what from our present perspective know to  be a deathly sexual subculture.

Frail as he appears, St. Laurent is —-at least for while— a survivor , and he has onemore  great collection coming out if a hallucinatory stay in Morocco.  But a complete breakdown inevitably comes —- but this time the white coats that surround him in the beautifully appointed psychiatric hospital are there to nurse and comfort him and he seems strangely at peace.
Rumour has Laurent  pronounced dead prematurely . In a Paris newsroom the reporters discuss his obit and whether to talk about the drugs and other rumours . It’s a moot point as he is
he is alive though barely functioning. Now he has to be physically supported by his models as he takes a final bow for shows that he may or may not have actually designed himself.

Our final view is of St. Laurent as an aging, puffy faced, vain and above all sad recluse . His last communication with Berge is a call telling him that they will get 350 million each for selling company. ‘Good replies Laurent . “Now I can buy a Rothko” . Another artist irony. Both he and Rothko have filled the modern world with glorious beauty and both have found reality to much to bear. Rothko kills himself. St. Laurent still scratches away at his drawing but he produces nothing; in the end, he  can only acquire, barely breathing among the living dead.

****************
For a day of film fashion indulgence,  the story of St. Laurent  is well matched with the documentary ‘Iris’. Produced by Albert Maysles (of Grey Gardens fame) , he clearly has a thing for amazing old ladies. This time it’s Iris Apfel, the New York nonogerian with the gigantic round black rimmed glasses who has become a style icon for many of us  ‘past a certain age.’ Iris is here to tell us in no uncertain terms that there is more  than Chico’s or Eileen Fisher  (or, being of the shortish persuasion,  my personal shopping hell,  the Petite aka ‘old ladies this way’ Department).   Iris couldn’t be bothered with what anyone else thinks we should wear.   ‘Make it up yourself’ is her fashion dictum.

Iris, a quintessential no nonsense New Yorker is— in her nineties— having ‘a moment.’ In her own words, she’s ‘a geriatric starlet’. It seems everybody —-from the giant MAC cosmetics firm to the Human Ecology Department at the University of Texas—- wants to know how Iris does it, how she puts together those amazing outfits that defy any of the known rules of style. No matchy-match for this girl, ‘age appropriate’ is not a phrase in her vocabulary. Iris is not ‘pulled together’ ; she puts herself together every day.

The woman is no naif. She has a background in art history and for decades was a successful decorator and savvy businesswoman (she and her husband Carl launched and ran Old World Weavers until the early 90’s) . So she knows about about color and texture, fabric and craftsmanship–and how to get a good deal.  She certainly knows who’s who in the fashion world — but Iris Apfel is no style snob. She shops (oh, does she shop!) high and low. , She’s as excited to find  a rare piece of vintage couture  (big bucks but a deal nevertpe less) as she is checking out the 99 cent bins at a street side flea market . For years she and Carl travelled the world collecting fabulous pieces of ethnic clothing and jewellry . Now restricted to New york, she’s still addicted, bargaining for African bangles in Harlem or loading up on the 7th avenue wholesale bling she can’t resist. All of it comes home to her and Carl’s stuffed- to-the- ceiling Park Avenue apartment . Here’s where where the real magic begins as we watch how Iris fearlessly builds one extraordinary outfit after another, piling giant (everything is big with Iris) necklaces on exuberantly patterned jackets, adding rows of bangles on each arm, a few fabulous rings and then maybe a feather boa. It could so easily be Phyllis Diller but there’s no cringe factor with Iris. These are works of art that could be analyzed like any painting —or more appropriately perhaps —-sculpture. That’s certainly what the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum meant visitors  to know with its show of her ‘work’ Rara Avis —The Irreverent Iris Apfel’ in 2005. No surprise that it was one of their most successful shows ever.

‘I never buy what’s ‘in’; I buy what makes me feel happy’ . And as much or more than the fabulous parade of riotous collage and colour that she drapes herself with everyday, that is the real ‘message’ of Iris , the film and the woman .

She is obviously a different creature than St. Laurent. Where he was delicate and fragile, she is bold and resilient. Much of that is probably genetic temperament and an early healthy, nurturing environment. Nevertheless as aging women, we can all take something from Iris.” I don’t ‘do pretty’ “she says to Mayles’ camera at the end of the film. And face it, we’re not pretty anymore—if we ever were (what’s pretty anyway?). Nobody really looks at us no matter what fancy label we have splurged on. Iris claims she never was pretty , never cared and still doesn’t. So why do we still bother ? (and most of do, let’s face it). ‘Just stop it’, I think Iris would say. Go for what you love . Take it home and it will work with something. Take a chance.

Of course literally copying Iris is not the point. That would just be another style to be a slave to ( in fact, my only disappointment in the film is that she seems to be hawking a line of jewelry on the Home Shopping Network). But let’s not bother about that. Let’s us all of us just go find our own ‘inner Iris’. It’ll be fun.

Two Days, One Night- Film Review —

Two Days, One Night- Film Review

Note: Although I have included  an  IMDB bare bones  summary at the top of each piece,  all  reviews on this site assume the visitor has seen the film .  They are my take on the film and any discussion is more than welcome.

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

two days poster

Psychologists call it ‘a corrective emotional experience’ : when a clinically depressed or anxious patient encounters an event or situation that would have formerly de-centered her, she can now —-through therapeutical enabled growth and a new sense of self and personal agency —-stand up, speak out and take responsibility for her actions regardless of the outcome.

That (without any of the obvious trappings of psychotherapy) is the transformative experience of Marie Coutillard’s character in Two Days, One Night. And that is literally all the time she has to save herself from the return to social assistance that losing her job would almost certain ensure. The task is monumental. One by one she he has to convince her 16 fellow low wage employees to give up their annual bonus—-for them a substantial 1000 euros —- so that she, can return to work.

Sandra is a working class wife and mother who  labours for a company that makes solar panels. Ironically, this small manufacturer of one the world’s most progressive products treats its employees with all the ruthless tools of the unfettered capitalism that has made their products so desirable. While Sandra has been off work for several months with depression, the boss and his foreman have discovered that they can make the profit numbers work with one less salary. Thus the choice presented to the employees: your annual bonus or Sandra’s job.The vote is Monday morning.

Pushed by  supportive fellow employee and her equally supportive and loving husband , Sandra sets out on what is nevertheless a lonely and brutally painful journey of emotional vulnerability as one by one she approaches her fellow workers to ask for their support . It is a slow paced film, as she spends the weekend walking and bussing her way to the homes of the other workers who will decide her fate—and in a moral sense, their own as each grapples with the right thing to do. In keeping with the solar metaphor she is always in blinding light , but this god given energy provides little warmth and only unreliable power as she is alternatively accepted and rejected. Still fragile, and dependent on Xanax to get her from moment to moment, she longs for the darkness of her bedroom and the oblivion of sleep . At her lowest she gulps down two handfuls of the antidepressant prepared to give up. But her courage has cast its own light and when one young wife defies an abusive husband to support Sandra, she taps back into her own life force and returns for the rest of this fight for her personal dignity.

In the end—-this is no Norma Rae—- she doesn’t win the vote (it’s a tie). But the boss is so impressed by her determination he promises her a job when another short term worker’s contract is up. Without hesitation she refuses to do the same that was’ done unto her’ . In the final scene , she walks away— again in the blinding light, but now she and we can feel it’s warmth in her quiet confident smile and the assurance to her husband that they will somehow make do.And they – she- will. As a finally fully realized human being, she may still suffer ( as we all must ) but it is unlikely she will ever again be defeated.