Friday, January 7, 2011

Beauty in the Details....

Well, I have to admit that this looks kind of awesome.....might be a bit hard to see around these parts, but it might land in Pittsburgh. (Pun certainly not intended). I'm assuming Adele is the lovely Edwardian clad woman (of, apparently, many other guises) and not the pterodactyl.

I have to say that I miss watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies. My favorite was A Very Long Engagement, which appeared in 2004. Sometimes I show the movie's opening scenes to my students to demonstrate how absolutely horrible trench warfare was, even when mortar fire was not falling. The scene during which soldiers are blowing off each other's thumbs (so they might be sent home) at the minute-strike of a chiming pocket watch usually gets an expression of shocked disgust from the audience. Of course, it follows that none of the soldiers who did this got sent home, but were instead court marshaled and condemned to fend for themselves in the no-man's land between enemy trenches. though I think Jean-Pierre Jeunet is worth his weight in large gold ingots, let us not forget that A Very Long Engagement was actually based on a novel by the so-called "Graham Green of France," namely the late author, screenwriter, translator, and director S├ębastien Japrisot.

Yes! Let's not forget the writers in this world. Without them, where would so many movies come from? And I'm talking screen plays, too of course, not just novels. I've heard that writers get the shaft pretty frequently in Hollywood. A cousin, who wrote the TV series Moonlight (no, no, I am not related to Stephanie whatever-her-name is. No, this is a small-screen show about a vampire detective whose wife turned him in the 1950s and now he is in love with a blonde cop. Sort of like Angel, but slightly different. Yeah? Well okay, that show.) Anyway, Trevor once said that even though he lived in Hollywood, he tries not to be a douchebag. Very telling comment there. From all accounts, the studios gave him a pretty rough time. But I see Moonlight has gone into syndication of SyFy, so hopefully he's making a bit of money from his work.

Anyway, I like to geek out of period films. Yes, I'm one of those kinds of girls. I love the costumes, the set, the antiques, the mystery. While I have to say I enjoyed the new True Grit (Rooster is much darker here, less heroically hokey, more realistic...sorry, John. If it's any consolation, Michael still prefers your performance to Bridges') and all it's genuinely flawed characters (except for the new Lucky Ned Pepper, who was too strange to have lived so long on the lam), I really, really dug looking around at all the pretty set pieces. Maybe no one else pays attention to the color of the shades on the gas lamps or the coarseness on the ticking of the wool coats, but I do. There's beauty and believability in those details. I know the movie makers know it, but sometimes we forget.

I mean, look at these stills (from A Very Long Engagement), for example. Look at the wide mirrored walls, the pressed glass cruet set, the woman's hat piled high with fabric flowers, and tell me that this wasn't a gorgeous period to be living in (freakin' scary yes, but away from the Western fronts, the cities are literally filled with functional artwork...almost everywhere). We live in the Age of Plastic, which to me, is dull by comparison. But look, look, look at this crystal and silver magnificence here:

This is why I go to auctions. To see this stuff, which has gone the way of the Dodo, I'm very sorry to say. Still, it lives on in lives on in the everyday life of Germans, at least. Parisians, too. I know it does only because I saw it. They use glasses, real glasses. They serve their coffee cups on silver trays with little wrapped sugar cubes that I ate like candy.

But also, there is this. As opposed to the opulence of the cafe above, of life outside war, outside prison, there is this grim scene. Grim but also magnificent. And Marion Cotillard in her quiet, anguished sensuality, wears it well. A kind of wayward Magdelene. (And if only I could find a picture of her weapon, which was somehow rigged to her corset and stockings...fantastic!).

These are the kinds of things that make me want to write stories. To recreate these strange and gorgeously detailed tableaux of historical life and emotion in the extreme, like this story...this one about the radium girls...keep reading, scroll to the end. The details, they get better for you, worse for poor Beverly, who puts her lost molars next to her confirmation pearls in her jewelry box.


  1. Have you seen Jeunet's latest? Micmacs. It's somewhat 'lighter' that many of his previous films....but still filled with absolutely wonderful detail. It's loads of pure fun to behold.

  2. Oh wow....I just watched the trailer on Youtube. I didn't even know about this one yet. Thank you so much! Amazing!

  3. I have a huge framed Japanese poster for Amelie' in my living yeah, I'm a fan.

    You will love you some Micmacs. It's very Jeunet.