Book of week – Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys.
Wide Sargasso Sea leaves me cold – it is a brilliant idea and the book is a classic, but for me Rhys’s earlier books are (almost) all as good or better, and were never appreciated until her later career renaissance (which she bitterly claimed was ‘too late’). Good Morning, Midnight, Rhys’s brilliant study of Sasha, washed up in Paris, and toying with the affections of a gigolo (and being toyed with), is perhaps the best and most ‘felt’ of her early novels. Personally, I would love to be washed up in Paris, and this is the next best thing!
Poem of the Week – Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. Mistress of the short line, Rossetti can be amazingly modern and her poetic line is very accessible in this poem. It is one of the lost, great poems of the Victorian period, and exemplifies that curious Victorian knack of surface level uber-propriety alongside connotational filthiness.
I have also been bingeing on films and dvds lately with mixed results – so I might as well throw out a couple of film reviews while I’m relatively lucid.
First up, Black Swan. I am squeamish and there are a few hide-behind-your-hands moments (especially the one featuring Winona Ryder and a paper knife), but I liked this film. Yes, Black Swan is outrageous and disturbing, but this seemed entirely appropriate to its subject matter. The film might be judged as a failure if you read it as an attempt at a realistic depiction of the ballet world. I would say that it was about as realistic as a ballet (or slightly more realistic to be absolutely honest), but I don’t think it was meant to be viewed as a realistic depiction of anything. Its genre is closer to the body-horror of someone like David Cronenberg or Dario Argento than anything else that comes to mind. In fact, I think one of the pleasures of Black Swan is the apparent mis-match of genre and subject matter – the ballet world isn’t usually associated with Horror (even The Red Shoes is hardly Horror with a capital H).
Indeed, Ballet Shoes it ain’t.
My take is that Black Swan’s approach is entirely appropriate to its subject matter – ballet is beautiful, but it is also a brutal discipline and the film is about that brutal underside. I think much of the hallucinatory wildness of the film may have come from a subtext barely alluded to within the film (besides one scene that includes a reference to a ‘yummy’ grapefruit slice for breakfast) – that context being anorexia. Overall, this film does to the ballet world what David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive does to Hollywood – exposes its underbelly whilst playing with its tropes.
So, all in all, not one for the faint hearted. But if you want your mind drop kicked, go see!
Gabe Ibanez’s Hierro received very mixed reviews when it was released and seemed to suffer from the ‘From the producers of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage‘ tagline it received. Well, it isn’t as visually as stunning as Pan’s Labyrinth, but I felt it was at least as good as the The Orphanage.
The problem may be that Hierro was sold as a horror-thriller of sorts and it doesn’t fit into any genre specification quite so neatly. To me this is a definite plus. I like films that are hard to categorise. You might call it a muted psychological ‘thriller’ with beautiful cinematography and a developed (though buried) emotional arc. There is also a lot of fish and water imagery – always a plus!