Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Alfonso Cuarón: Y tu mamá también (2001)

A road movie with its own twists and turns, Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También / Y tu mamá también (2001) is a small budget independent production that makes a big impression. However, certain "earthy" scenes involving drugs and sex may scare people, even some who are perfectly complacent about seeing mass violence on the screen or in "real life."  Why is that? 
Its narration gives Y tu mamá también considerable weight and depth, even beyond the basic narrative arc -- more like a novel's. The way it's done is this: from time to time, background music and ambient noises are suddenly hushed, melting into silence as narration kicks in. Reminds me of Jean-Luc Godard in that way. We learn a lot of things that happen before and after the events that unfold visually during the film, providing context and a philosophical edge. 

Y tu mamá también, already part of the venerable Criterion Collection, may float around in one's consciousness for quite a while. And man, it's not like Alfonso Cuarón is some obscure figure. For example, maybe you've seen or heard of at least one of these other films he's directed: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Children of Men (2006), Gravity (2013). If not, is it possible that you're dead and just haven't realized it yet? 

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pedro Almodóvar: Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces (2009)

Pedro Almodóvar's Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces (2009): stars Penélope Cruz and is set partly in Madrid and partly on the spectacular Canary Islands / Islas Canarias, off the northwest coast of Africa. 
In this film, Almodóvar uses flashbacks and the present, bits of a documentary about another movie that is like but not exactly Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios / Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), and that film itself, as if Mujeres was re-shot in a parallel universe and now called Chicas y maletas
Broken Embraces: Lena (Cruz) and her obsessive, bad-tempered sugar daddy (a Howard Hughes type) about to exchange words -- among other things. 
Lena prepares soon-to-be-spiked gazpacho for Ivan during a scene made for Chicas y maletas -- a sight as colorful and sharp as the full arc of the rest of the story.  

Today's Rune: Movement.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Julio Medem: Lucía y el sexo / Sex and Lucia (2001)

Set mostly in Madrid and on the little Balearic Island of Formentera off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Julio Medem's Lucía y el sexo / Sex and Lucia (2001) has an offbeat David Lynch vibe and a cool lead with Paz Vega playing Lucía
Because Sex and Lucia seems to revolve around not only Lucía but also her paramour Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa), a writer, it can be tricky figuring out what exactly is "real" in the plot and what is imagined -- or happening in a parallel world.  Lorenzo is working on a novel, or two novels, on a computer in Madrid, but he's also corresponding with a woman on Formentera via the same computer.  Do all of the characters even exist? It's worth noting that Pepe, Lorenzo's literary agent, is played by Javier Cámara -- the same guy who plays "the weirdo" in Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella / Talk to Her (2002).   

I come away from this wondering: is the island really "hollow" or "floating?" How many rock holes are there, for God's sake?

Sex and Lucia looks good -- nice work by cinematographer Kiko de la Rica. The music (by Alberto Iglesias -- another direct link to Almodóvar) fits in well, too.

Today's Rune: Signals.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pedro Almodóvar: Hable con ella / Talk to Her (2002)

Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella / Talk to Her (2002) gives us a vivid, offbeat tale revolving around four main characters -- a matadora, a travel writer, a ballet dancer and a male nurse. It's a strange one. Lydia González (played by Rosario Flores) is the bullfighter (reflecting reality: there have been several, for example Conchita Cintrón, 1922-2009, and Cristina Sánchez, b. 1972). Marco (Darío Grandinetti), the writer, develops a romantic relationship with her and a friendship with Benigno (Javier Cámara), the male nurse who also happens to be a sort of "weirdo" and is now caring for Alicia (Leonor Watling), who in turn had already been "that obscure object of (his) desire," as Luis Buñuel donned such fetish-making for the title of his final film in 1977.   
What I particularly like about Talk to Her is its incisive demonstration of Spanish manners and social relationships; that and a memorable visit to Córdoba, during which Almodóvar pays meticulous attention to Lydia as she suits up for her final bullfight. All in all, it's a wild journey through time and place, roaming right into a plazas de toros of not always quite predictable results. 

Today's Rune: Gateway. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

American Bison

A good day for hiking. And, for the first time since the beginning of summer, greeting the buffalo. Click for larger image -- if you wish. 
When I was hiking through the woods, a strong picture image of approaching bison came to mind, and fifteen minutes later, there they were.
A strangely flowing hybrid landscape in cloudy light. The black shadow is an idiosyncrasy of the well-seasoned camera. 

Today's Rune: Joy. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Lee Smith: The Devil's Dream

Lee Smith's The Devil's Dream (originally published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1992) covers an Appalachian family's multi-generational arc from from the 1830s through the 1960s or thereabouts.  

The main dilemma for many of the characters is: 

Should I stay or should I go?

And, closely related: 

Should I adhere to music, or shun it?


Should I follow the belief system I was born into, discard it, or modify it as I go along?

Around the world -- then and now and most likely well into the future -- many say "Music is the Devil's work. A sin." Frown. Some will say, "gospel music -- good." All other kinds of music -- "bad." Add alcohol and whatnot into the matrix, and you hear more of the same, only in even more outlandish tones. In some places, your very head is at risk depending on what you do or believe. 

I knew a Dunker from West Virginia who said that salt was sinful, alcohol evil, but NASCAR ok. This was his interpretation of the gospel life, as guided by the Holy Ghost. 

The Devil's Dream (which is also the name of a fiddle tune going back maybe 200 years) inspires me to think of various social archetypes that address that existential quandary, "Should I stay or should I go?" It's almost comical when you think in terms of such identifiable archetypes.

In no particular order, there are:

a. Those who stay in one place and never leave.

b. Those who stay in one place but travel some, near or far (including perhaps a stint of military service or some such).

c. Those who stay in one place but annually or seasonally migrate to another place or two, such as live in the mountains but migrate to the seaside or vice versa.

d. Those who migrate from place to place, travel around and periodically visit the old places.

e. Those who leave their place of origin and never come back.

I know and have known all of these archetypes, in the guises of real people. I'm pretty much of the "d" variety. How about you? 

Another thing I want to tackle thanks to The Devil's Dream is race and ethnicity in the Appalachians -- from the Melungeons to the Black Dutch, from the Black Irish to the Cherokee Nation -- and beyond. Brace yourself.

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

In Praise of Limes and Lemons

If you were to compare lemons and limes, limes and lemons, what would you say?

Limes are lime green, lemons are lemon yellow.

Lemons have seeds, limes don't (with exceptions like the Key lime variety).

Lemons and limes can be mixed, combined together to juice up a gin and tonic, for example.

The lime (lima in Spanish, like the capital of Peru) originates from Persia (Iran) and Iraq, but is now grown in various places around the world, including Mexico and the USA.

The lemon (limone in Spanish) originates from China, India and in between, and is also now grown in various other places, including North America.

Lemons tend to be larger than limes -- though such is not the case in the ones I recently purchased (pictured above), thanks in part to drought.

If something is a dud, it's sometimes called a lemon, but not a lime. Why? I don't know and am too lazy to look it up at this juncture. Do you know?

Personally, I like lemons and limes, with a tilt to the lime for its zestier pop to the taste buds.

Sometimes on a hot night, I love to squeeze lime juice into a tall mug or glass filled with Cerveza Modelo Especial, the rather sharp, thirst-quenching Mexican lager. (A bottle's worth delivers about 145 calories, by the way).

If the limes run out, lemon juice alone or even a little lemonade can be mixed with just about any lager to make a shandy or panache, though for me, a little added lemon juice goes a long way. Limes are better. 

Today's Rune: Wholeness.