Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The best film of 2017 – Call Me by Your Name

                                     Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania call me by your name
As I am up and about I decided to catch up on movies. I am glad that the first film I decided to see after the break was Call Me by Your Name. I believe that it will disappear from my local cinema soon and it would have been such a shame not to have seen it. I was not aware that this is another film by Luca Guadagnino. Not that I knew that another two films that made a particular impression on me were made by the same person. Now I see the very strong emotional similarities in all three films.  The other two are I Am Love and A Bigger Splash. It has been some time ago that I saw the other films and at that time I did not link them. The links that for me are strongest are between I Am Love and Call Me by Your Name. Both of the films show love or rather submission to ecstatic love in a similar way. Both made me a bit uncomfortable in the way they show the naked feelings of passion. Nothing vulgar about it, just so honest and natural that somebody, maybe a little prude like myself, finds it slightly uncomfortable. Those are touching and memorable scenes, though.

Both of the films show the tremendous beauty of Italy. The first one presents elegantly stylized interiors of a Milanese modern mansion and the other rather messy, but full of objects of considerable beauty and books, lakeside villa somewhere in the Northern Italy. And of course, abundance of Italian nature in both of the films as a background to uninhibited feelings.

Call Me by Your Name is a film about a young, very intelligent and sensitive, talented boy and his awakening sexuality. Sensuality is build into him through the environment he lives in and his absolutely incredible parents. I wonder if such parents really exist? My direct experience is of life in the middle-class situation and the film is about academics involved in higher artistic pursuits. Maybe this can make a difference and maybe the times are now of higher acceptance of non-conventional love? I still look at the film from a perspective of an older person who only watched the changes rather than lived through them.
   Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania call me by your nameZnalezione obrazy dla zapytania call me by your name
So, it is about Elio, 17teen-year-old American-Italian who spends summer holidays with his parents in their villa somewhere in Northern Italy. Oliver the American graduate student of Elio’s father comes to spend some weeks with the family. He is given the room of Elio and gaining a description of ‘usurper’ said with a French accent. The dialogs are interchangeable English-Italian-French. The relationship starts with some reservations and almost unfriendliness towards the young American who says “later” to finish a conversation which Elio considers inappropriate and rude. This is how it sometimes is in early stages of love which has not yet come to realization of what it really is all about. Oliver is a very beautiful man and his physical beauty is shown as typically beautiful women are shown. He is not feminine at all though; his body is sculptured like Roman statues. And this is beautiful. 

Elio is at the stage of life when he is about to discover sharing his sexuality with another person. He does not have particular preferences as far as sex is concerned and I find it refreshing if not surprising. There is a girl he thinks of having his first experience with and then this fascination with this older then himself man takes over his senses and desires. Sharing on intellectual level takes precedence. And this is what the story is all about. The love between two men, true, romantic, homosexual love. And this is beautiful. I started to understand homosexual love, I think.

The role of Elio’s parents in amazing. At the early stages of the romance, the mother already sees what is going on and with full understanding what turmoil her son may be experiencing reassures him saying that Oliver likes him more than Elio likes Oliver. This is like an advice given by a more experienced person. While I had been in a similar situation with my mother supporting my first love it was a girl-boy type of love.  In the film, the support of the parent went further and this is the change of times, I noticed with some surprise.

Equally moving was a tender scene between Elio and his father who, knowing how difficult parting of the two lovers may be for his son, talks to him with deep understanding and empathy about beauty of love in all its forms; sorrow and sadness being a part of it.

At one stage the father said that the first love is most valuable and most powerful and that to each following one we have less to give. This I found particularly true. It explained some of my personal experience only too well. I think I may order the book on which the film is based on. Apparently, the scene between the father and son is taken verbatim from the book. There is also a different ending. Hmm… I am curious. Five out of five for the film.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Too much is too much - take two

I have been writing mostly book reviews in the recent months. This is perhaps because my life has been rather sedentary lately. First, I had to recover from a heart procedure and then I was nursing a cold that continued longer than I would have thought average. This imposed some restriction and reading was the best thing I could do. The thing is that I also liked it. When I was a child I liked to have a cold, to be excused from school, get my mother attention the way I was not getting it when healthy and I could read without feeling guilty. I still remember the pleasure of resting in a freshly made bed. In Poland, at the time of my youth, it meant starched and beautifully ironed sheets and the big fluffy pillows of the triple size to the Australian size of pillows. It was so comfortable, and my mother leaning over me touching my feverish cheeks with her cool and soft hand. She smelled so good…

Now, that I have to take care of myself in the situations when I am not well it is not that good and I do not have any incentive to prolong my illnesses. There is still this feeling of freedom of reading without any need to tidy up or do my taxes. The duties have to wait.

So, I have been reading more than I usually do and I have been listening to Polish news extensively. The later is rather self-destructive in the current political situation. I have not been writing about it as I wanted to suppress the feeling of sadness and desperation. This was a regular self-denial maybe connected with auto-censorship.

My previous post was titled “Too much is too much”. Different subject but the same sentiments. I woke up today with the profound feeling of sadness and realization that Poland I carry in my heart is about to perish. Just to be really pathetic, there is the link to what I have just written to the first words of the Polish anthem:

Poland has not yet perished,
So long as we still live

Well, so maybe not all is lost yet, but I am in a need to suppress the knowledge of recent Polish antics. How I will do it? I do not know yet. One thing is to stop listening to the Polish radio.

Now, that I have offloaded a little bit my depressing emotions, I will try to systemise my thoughts.

The current ruling party is not a party I would support. The leadership of the party is clever though. The cleverness, combined with ruthlessness, lack of respect for law and truth, nationalism, raging Catholicism, bigotry and much more I consider negative, lead to the party unprecedented supremacy in the Polish political world. The situation, that there has been in Poland for the past two years, put questions in front of many Poles that required taking the blinkers off. I am among those people. It has become obvious that the party, I had supported in the past, created the situation in which a take over of power was possible and actually necessary.  It was unavoidable and the politicians wrapped up in their own interest and egos were slowly cooked up like the proverbial frog that was cooked to death without realising the slow increase of the water temperature. So, the opposition has been cooked for a while and did not show any positive initiatives for quite some time.

And yesterday, was the day in the parliament when all hopes for a potential change of power were removed and removed by the opposition itself. The issue concerns women and their rights to termination of unwanted pregnancy. The Polish abortion law is restrictive in this respect.

Abortion in Poland is illegal except in cases of rape, when the woman's life is in jeopardy, or if the fetus is irreparably damaged.

In Europe, only Malta and Ireland have their abortion laws more restrictive than Poland. In addition to the restrictive law, many doctors have discovered their own CONSCIOUS. And this does not allow them to carry on any terminations or even to help their patients to find an alternative doctor whose conscience would allow to carry on the procedure. I am talking here about women who could lose their own life and leave a little child orphaned by design of the conscientious doctor.  Or a child who would not be able to live outside of the mother’s womb and she will still have to carry the child for all the months knowing the tragic outcome. I am not dramatizing here, there was such a case some months ago in Poland and the child was dying in pain for some days before its unavoidable early death. I better stop giving example as my stomach turns and the blood boils.

I am very upset with doctors who have “their conscience”. They say, they cannot intervene with God’s design. I am wondering what medicine actually is if not intervening in God’s design. And why women are taken away the ability to have their own conscience? Instead, the politicians decide what is good for them.

Obviously, I am very emotional about the whole issue, this may even mean that I have some blind spots. Possibly, but does not seem likely…

So, why I decided to vent my views on the subject today? Yesterday, during the parliament session a new proposal to relax the abortion law was presented and voted against with a great involvement of the opposition. A number of opposition politicians voted against the new project, some did not vote even if present, some did not show up at all. And the project was voted out.

For a change, another project to make the law even more restrictive (forbid the abortion regardless circumstances???) was voted to proceed.

I lost the remnants of my respect and trust for the opposition and I do not see in Poland a party I could vote for and I can not see how the current party could possibly lose the next election or two. There is no a leader to rescue the situation in site. To me, there is no hope, no opposition to the current ruling - only chaos. I am hoping that the country reached the rock bottom and now the only way is up. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Too much is too much

                                                          Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania the nix

The book I started the year with was The Nix. It has been recently translated into Polish and my literary adviser said – Read it! It is fun, it's amazing! Even if it is a debut, I loved it! Laughed out loud! His wife and my dear friend confirmed that while Raf was reading the book she frequently heard laughter coming from his room. After the serious reading of several of Ishiguro novels, I thought it was time for something different. Something lighter. The Nix seemed to be an answer to my reading needs. Another big book. The number of 620 seems to be repeated in many reviews. I am not sure why the arithmetic is so important in relation to this book. It seems to be more important than it is with others. Hmm…

My first impression was – it is a well-written book. It reads easily, it is somewhat fun. However, the fun part is disputable. I have read the book in English so I am not sure how Polish translation could be funnier. There are general opinions, however, of the book being hilarious.  Not too me. It is not that I did not understand the author’s intentions, but what was meant to be funny, I found, in a way, depressing. It either made fun of people in psychological trouble or showed the problems with political correctness that at times leads to radicular situations and harmful to the society. Well, it was not only the subjects that stopped me from enjoying the fun parts of the book it was also a style with which it was presented. Not my type of sense of humour. This is, of course, subjective and cannot be taken as a negative of the book, but it has a lot to do with my personal perception and assessment of the book.

The storyline was promising and it caught my interest right from the beginning, as it was intended. For the first 300 pages, I was looking forward to the resolutions of the mysteries presented to the readers. And they are quite a few. I found one of the comments in Goodreads particularly apt and amusing:

Somebody writes:

And the answer of Matt:

“ by the time you find out, you will have ceased caring”

And this is how the book is. Too much of everything. Too many storylines that get suspended for pages and pages. Too many characters that are described in big details. I must say it is done well, but too much is too much. The book reminds me of an excessively dressed up woman. She is pretty and the dress has many pretty elements. It has frills, sequins, pompoms, roses, violets, several patterns on the skirt: checks, lines, figures of children and cupids and many other adornments.  One can imagine that the overall look is not good. It is a little bit like this with this book for me.

It is not elegant writing. After Ishiguro’s constraint style I will be difficult to please in the writing elegance department.

Nathan Hill says that he wrote the book for himself as he did not expect it to be ever published. It was ten years of the author’s fun. It looks a bit like asking for admiration to me. It did not work with me. But generally, the reviews of the book are very good. It is an easy book to read, but this is not enough for me to classify it as a good book. This one needs serious pruning on several fronts. This way the readers could have more fun. At least some of us.

Not all the cliffhangers are explained satisfactorily. The story of Bethany and Samuel is really unconvincing to me and in so many respects that it discredited Nathan Hill in my eyes. The love stories in the book are really unconvincing, but the sex scenes are many and rather detailed. It looks like even if Nathan Hill was writing a book for his own pleasure, he did quite a lot to ensure that a wide spectrum of readers finds it pleasurable as well.

At the end of the book, there is time for some wisdom to pass on to the readers. It starts to read like a self-help book. There is the story of blind people getting to know an elephant by touch and they get a different idea of what an elephant is. They touch different parts of the animal. The moral: don’t jump to conclusions too early. Or “seeing ourselves clearly is the project of the lifetime”. Nothing wrong with that. I even like the one about seeing myself clearly very much. What is a bit strange is the condensation of the wisdom bits on the last pages.  

Well, I sort of liked the book and I think that the writer may have the future, he certainly has followers already. With some more life experience and discipline in writing, he could be a really interesting writer.

Between 3 and 4 out of 5 for me. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

About the book I have not read…

and perhaps never will read – Never Let Me Go. If you read any of my reviews of Kazuo Ishiguro books, you know that I am going through a period of total fascination by his books and I think even more than his books only. I have listened to some interviews with the writer on YouTube including the Nobel Prize lecture and have read some of his earlier interviews. It all created an impression in me that I can not help but admire the man. And most of all I find the books, I have read so far, showing me part of myself I did not know before or was not clear about. This is what I like in books, more than a story, more than the language, more than a book structure.

I intend to read all of Ishiguro books except for this particular one, however, I may change my mind at some stage. The reason why I do not want to read the book is that of its sadness. I am not sure how much it would depress me. Or rather I suspect that it might depress me too much and I want to avoid it.

The reason why I decided to find out more about the book and what propelled me to start writing about my thoughts on the subject was talking yesterday to my dear friend about the book. She just finished it and was not sure what to make out of the book. One of the thoughts she had was that it is a warning against science going too far in interfering with human bodies.  I instinctively thought that this cannot be the message Ishiguro wanted to imprint on his readers. I said that, but I understood, of course, that my view was not substantiated my anything except my impressions created by other books and my personal interpretation. So, I thought that I should find out something about it and I listened to a couple of interviews with Ishiguro concerning the book. I was very happy to hear his comment about his disappointment at expressed views that the book is about experiments on human bodies and danger of cloning people. My intuition was right then. Listening to the interview I realized my reluctance to read this particular book was, in a way, justified, but also brought to my attention that I have not accepted my own mortality yet and I did not want to be confronted with the subject by the book. This is something which I need to come to grips with and perhaps reading the book may help me with it. The author says that the book is the metaphor of life which last a span and completes itself for each one of us. Wow, this turned out profound the way I put it (lol). In the book, the lifespan of the characters is about thirty years only. So, the book is sad, but not any more than life itself and apparently shows that there are reasons to live life well and meaningfully in spite (or because of) its limited time.

The book is about how we face the knowledge that our life is limited and how we live our life with the knowledge. There are things that are important to finish and finish well with understanding what is important.

I think that I’ll actually read the book in hope that it will help me to understand better what is important and take off the blinkers I still firmly have on.

I had a very loving mother, even if I sometimes doubted her love. She was protecting me from seeing the cruelty of life and imperfection of people. This was done often by misleading me and prolonging the time of innocent naivety presenting the world in pretty pictures. This meant that I may have left home not fully prepared to face the realities and that as a consequence I got hurt deeper than others not understanding for a while that people are imperfect and do not necessarily mean well.  This is what mothers typically do for their very young children, present the life as good, just, happy. And such are many moments in our lives. They are fleeting, but they are really good and worthwhile times in our lives and this is what we should strive to experience before our time comes.

I think, I may have got too far with my dissertations this time and I may remove or adjust the post, but for now, let me share it. My little end of the year indulgence.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Another book by Ishiguro

                                                          Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania the pale view of hills

When I found out that Kazuo Ishiguro got the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, I decided that I will read something of his as I thought I never even had heard his name before. I may have had not heard his name before, but I saw the film based on his novel – The Remains of the Day. This was the first of his book I have read to acquaint myself with Ishiguro writing. It seemed to me a lot deeper than the film itself, even though I liked the film. The next book was The Buried Giant and I moderately liked it, but I thought that it was a good book with wise and deep messages so I read the third one When We Were Orphans. This time I got hooked and decided to read all of his books except Never Let Me Go. The reason why I excluded this book was that of its subject.  Human clones being created for organ donation. I thought it will be too depressing and cruel subject to get involved with. But, I’ll see…

Since I decided to really get acquainted with the author, or rather his books, I thought that starting from the beginning would be quite appropriate. So, the next book to read was The Pale View of Hills, Ishiguro’s first book. I did not expect fireworks of writing, but surprisingly I found a lot to admire about the book. The author was young when he was writing it, but he already knew a lot about life and human nature. His writing is elegant in his first book as it is in all other books I have read so far. It is difficult to explain the adjective “elegant” in this case, but this word was coming with some intensity to my mind while reading, so I now feel compelled to mention it. I am impressed by the structure of the book. It is not a linear story, it meanders and goes back to the starting point and tells the story from a different, new perspectives. The story of three mothers and their daughters. Or so it seems, but it could be a story of one woman who is re-arranging her memories not being able to accept memories of some events in her life. The story the narrator, Etsuko, tells us about her friend Sachiko may be a version of her own story she is not able to face up to. The same message of a mother hurting her daughter is coming back few times as a guilt of our past dealings surfaces up in our consciousness at times. We have to push it away and we may never be able to own our shameful actions. This is what for me, this story is all about.

The action is set in Japan, in Nagasaki, but it is not about the atomic bomb or Japan, so the author tells us and I agree. Ishiguro is often called a Japanese writer by literary critics and this irritates me. He is not a Japanese writer in any sense, he is not even writing about Japan in any of his books. He was just born Japanese and he has oriental features. To me, he is a quintessential Englishman, maybe because The Remains of the Day was the first book I have read and this left the lasting impression of Englishness on me?

What I would call Japanese about his behavior (I have seen some interviews with Ishiguro) is his above average politeness and stoicism with which he takes comments and questions that are designed to unnerve him.

There is one thing that is perhaps based on his experience of being a child in the Japanese family. The children in his first two books that are set in Japan are irritatingly self-assured and often patronising towards their elders. This, I found out later, comes from Japanese treating children as demi-Gods with a lot of respect and reverence. This may be worthwhile finding out more about at some stage. For now, I just mark it as surprising and annoying in the first two books.

I find that all books of Ishiguro, I have read so far, make me ponder on some aspects of my life. The conclusions are not necessarily uplifting so I perhaps will take a break in reading this author and go to see some feel-good movies and read The Nix by Nathan Hill, the book my literary guru suggested I read. At a glance, it will be a massive change of mood.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Wonder Wheel

Realising that my posts lately have been predominantly about books and films I asked myself a question if my life has become one-sided. Maybe it has as my mobility in the past few months has been somewhat restricted. At the same time, sporting events are not likely to occupy my thoughts to the extent that I shall write about something like energetic activities. Reading has been my favourite occupation since I was a small girl and now that I have much more time for myself than I had in the past I came back to my favourite pastime with new interests and some wisdom I was lacking earlier on. Books give me new subjects to ponder on, teach me a lot and inspire me. The same goes for films. Looks like I have a need to justify myself and this is perhaps a bit silly. I do not need any justification in this case.
After this introduction, I want to write about a film this time. I have seen Wonder Wheel, the new film of Woody Allen. There have not been any films lately that I thought were more interesting than the books I have on my table, but I wanted to get out from home so I found a film, I thought it had potential to interest me. The main reason and attraction was Kate Winslet. I have liked this actress for quite some time, even if I have not seen many of her films. Mostly I liked her for The Reader, The Dressmaker and Pride and Prejudice. For some reason, I developed high respect for her as an actress and I was not disappointed to see her performance in Wonder Wheel. Highly emotional role. 

                     Image result for wonder wheel
Winslet plays a woman who feels that her life did not go the happy way. She is about to turn forty, still attractive, but the freshness is gone. She is married to a man whose idea of good time is to fish and now and then suggests that his wife joins him in this great fun. The answer is always negative. One day Ginny meets a young man, played by Justin Timberlake, who becomes her lover. He does not mind the age difference until such a time when a stepdaughter of Ginny appears on the scene. He continues the romance with the woman who feels her age more and more, but he appreciates attractiveness of the young girl. This gives Kate Winslet an opportunity to show her talent, she plays her role that well that I got sucked in and stopped noticing shortcomings of the film and the banality of the story. This spell lasted to the end of the film and I left the cinema moved, but then reflections came in and the film does not seem to be that good after all. The story falls apart at the end when the finale comes to the point when Ginny out of jalousie causes serious damage to the young girl, possibly even her death. This I find not convincing, maybe it is only a metaphor representing thoughts rather than actions? Maybe… but I think I am trying to find a positive point here. So, I would say 3 out of 5 or even less for the film.

I have not followed scandals related to “Me too”, but Woody Allen has unethical sexual behavior on his account and I knew about it, even if I did not pay much attention to it. Reading about the interview that Kate Winslet gave not long time ago in which she raved on the sensitivity of Woody Allen towards women’s problems, I started to feel negative about the whole thing, and that includes my favourite actress. 
Image result for kate winslet interview reaction robbie
The face of Margot Robbie present at the interview is showing her views, but Kate Winslet went on praisingWoody Allen. Margot Robbie said nothing. Hmm...
How can we praise sensitivity of a person who has molested underage girls? How can I admire the film about women’s issues and consider its creator to compassionately understand women while behaving in an unethical, if not criminal, way towards girls? Are artists allowed more than we expect of other people? Not in this case, at least not for me.

                         Image result for wonder wheel