Le Doulos (1962)

Le Doulos
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by Jean-Pierre Melville based on the novel by Pierre Lesou
(number 473)

I like French films, pretentious boring French films, I like French films two tickets s’il vous plait

The second of the DVDs I hired from Aro St Video shop. This one is a French Noir from the early sixties. It’s steeped in the tropes of the genre: men in trenchcoats and hats, slow atmospheric music, double talk and stoolies.

Plus… veiled homoerotic comments, although that may be me viewing it weirdly and an issue with the subtitles. It’s hard to say.

This really made me think of the book I bought at Book Soup last year – The Cutie, which was about a mob man investigating a murder. This movie is about a just-released-con being strong armed by the police to give them information. The other lead is Silien who is already a police informer and trying to get the right information to feed the police while protecting the people he actually cares about. Everyone in it is so damn cool. Cool and collected.

It’s a very convoluted film, switching between the two leads Maurice and Silien without warning – which was made more difficult to follow because they looked and dressed very similarly. There was casual brutishness and gorgeous massive cars and fantastic sets, but I found it difficult to really immerse myself in. I suspect that there are better Noir films out there.

Does it make me love the people? No, I don’t think so. It wasn’t so much a study of humanity as a series of very tough men doing tough things and talking hard and double crossing each other. Then a ton of shootings.

Bechdel test: We have two named women – Therese and Anita but they are never spoken talking to anyone but men. It’s not really a surprise to be honest.

Best line: I can’t quote directly but me and Blair both enjoyed Silien insisting that a fence finger his jewels at gunpoint. The fence was all, ‘it’s fine, I can see them from here… they’re worth a lot’ and Silien insisting ‘handle them!’

Oh the entendres …

State of Mind: Everyone was very shooty. I feel it did exactly what it set out to do but I am underwhelmed.

Watched movie count

Incendies (2010)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Denis Villeneuve based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad
(number 461)

A very beautifully shot film BUT IT IS NOT VERY PLEASANT. Children are not safe in this movie, so… there’s your trigger warning.

I went in knowing nothing at all about this movie except that it’s on my list and in another language. To find a copy I went to the Aro St Video Shop website and used their online order/courier service. So much more convenient than driving to Aro St (goodness I’m lazy this time of year).

I like French films. I do. But this was not a standard French film. It’s about Jeanne and Simon, Canadian adult twins who… at the reading of their mother’s will discover that they have a brother. Their mother asks them to track down their lost brother in the Middle East, (inspired by war torn Lebanon although it is fictionalised). Simon is reluctant so Jeanne goes alone, travelling to places her mother had been as a younger woman.

The story is told in a tangled timeline of short chapters, some in flashback to Nawal as a young woman, some in the present, some explaining missing links. As family histories go it’s a doozy, with some genuinely shocking and painful scenes.

The setting and the events are fictionalised, but show a very realistic and not far from the truth (I’m sure) account of hostilities between Christian and Muslim communities in the Middle East. Orphanages are burned, men, women and children shot and Nawal is raped, although this last is discussed in some detail it thankfully happens off screen.

It’s a very hard movie to watch, although exceptionally well made and beautifully shot.

The story of Nawal as ‘the woman who sings’, staying resolute through her 15 years of incarceration is rather inspiring, in a sort of horrible, V for Vendetta way. Although it was heart wrenchingly horrible to watch the scene in which she first starts to sing to drown out the screaming of a woman being tortured. Urgh.

Thre is a recurring motif of water. Nawal suffers a stroke at the start at the swimming pool. When Jeanne is upset, she swims, later joined by her twin Simon when he joins in her search. Then we see that as babies they should have been drowned, but were saved by a kindly nurse. It’s an easy metaphor for returning to the womb, but also cleansing – submerging oneself in water to wash away the pain. I rather felt like a submerging myself after watching this film. It’s bleaaaak.

Does it make me love the people? Yes. I found myself very invested in Jeanne and Simon’s stories. The extreme situations Nawal was in served (for me) to distance her, but I did feel for her as well, especially when she spotted her long lost son.

Bechdel test: Very early on there’s a lengthy exchange between Nawal and her grandmother, but her grandmother isn’t named, she’s credited as ‘Nawal’s Grandmother’. I honestly don’t remember if Nawal and Jeanne speak directly… Jeanne talks to her when she’s gone absent/had a stroke but Nawal doesn’t respond, and Nawal ‘speaks’ to Jeanne in her letter, but that’s read, rather than a conversation.

Nawal certainly talks to the nurse who delivers her babies, but again the nurse is credited just as ‘nurse’.

I don’t know. Does the letter count? I don’t think it does.

Best line:
Notary Jean Lebel: Death is never the end of the story. It always leaves tracks.

Nawal (via Will): When does your story begin?

State of Mind: Kind of traumatised 😦 Like, it wasn’t as graphic as Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, and it wasn’t as nasty as The Deer Hunter, or as tense and suspenseful as Zero Dark Thirty, but… it was reminiscent of all those. I don’t think I’ll be watching this one again.

Watched movie count

The Crow (1994)

The Crow
Directed by Alex Proyas
Written by David D Schow and John Shirley, based on the comic by James O’Barr
(number 469)

The Gothest movie which ever Gothed? This movie came out in 1994 with a wicked soundtrack, a story based on true loss and the death of the main star. I was too young to see it at the movies, it was an R18 and I was 14/15 but I remember the buzz around it and wanting to see it.

I remember my brother bringing home the video and letting me watch it. I remember becoming ever so slightly fixated on the uber cool styling, the iconography of the crow and the depth of love and loss in the story. The darkness of an anti-hero who has no problem with killing the villains and exacting his revenge.

Watching it again for the list for the 900th odd time, I watched with Anna who had never seen it before. We didn’t watch it in the dark so some of the action was tough to follow. It struck me how very unsubtle this film is though. The symbols are blatant, the metaphors heavy handed. The music is atmospheric but also perfectly paired to the content of the scene.

The heroes of the story are really Sargent Albrecht and Sarah, the ordinary humans caught up in the story of a resurrected vengence ghost. Sarah is an awesome character, worldly wise and cynical as well as showing her vulnerability.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I love Eric, he’s such a dreamboat, and the idea of someone coming back from the dead to avenge the death of their true love is pretty romantic. Plus he’s a sweetheart, kind to Sarah and joking with Albrecht.

I love Sarah too, because of the depth they give her. Albrecht too because I’m a bit of a sucker for a cop character.

Bechdel test: Pretty rich for named female characters, we have Myca the evil woman, Coopersmith the black cop, Darla the messed up mother, Sarah the bad ass kid, Shelley the dead perfect love interest. It does pass, Darla and Sarah talk about what Sarah wants for breakfast. Shelley and Sarah are shown to be talking and interacting in flashback montages but they don’t actually give us conversation.

Best line:

I was always very fond of “Take your shot funboy, you got me dead bang” but.. I think there are deeper more moving lines, such as “It can’t rain all the time” and

“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”

State of Mind: Okay I still love this movie but it’s totally wrapped up with the loving memories of my wannabe Goth teen self. Anna was a bit sleepy to form an opinion about it, she may have dozed off in certain parts.

Watched movie count

How to make your own merit badges

Bear with me as I have never done a ‘how to’ before but I figured this one was easy enough and pretty fun… I’m making these for Christmas gifts.

You will need:
Plain backing fabric
sharp pencil
embroidery threads
sharp fabric scissors
felt for backing
iron on interfacing
brooch backs
ideas for designs!

Step one, get some plain fabric for the base of the badges. I tend to use unbleached cotton calico because that’s how I roll, it’s good to iron it first. Using a nice sharp pencil draw some circles on the backing fabric – you can do freehand or draw around the bottom of a bottle or a small jar lid, whatever you want. You can also make other shapes but they’re a little more difficult to bind.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

These will be your badges. Using your sharp pencil draw your designs inside the circles. I like to use words a lot, as you can see. In this example I’m making a bulk lot but you can make just one to start off with.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Now, thread your needle with a couple of strands of embroidery thread (two if you want a fine line like mine, three if you want it thicker). Using a small stitch, follow the lines you’ve drawn – I use a connected chain stitch kind of thing but you can just as easily do backstitch.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Once you’ve completed the embroidery to your liking (different colours for different bits, etc, then it’s time to assemble the badge. Iron the interfacing first to the back of the embroidered fabric and then onto the backing felt. Interfacing is available at spotlight or any fabric store, you don’t need fancy stuff, just the paper backed cheap version is fine.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Cut out the badges with sharp scissors, following the lines you initially made. They look really great at this stage, I think. You’re getting there!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Using two threads in whatever colour will complement your badge, sew around the outside of the badge. I go a few millimetres in on the top and use that as a guide. This step binds the layers of the badge together, so it’s important. You don’t have to be too precise though, getting it all perfectly alligned and ensuring no glimpse of fabric between stitches makes this part very time consuming. I tend to go quicker – a bit of imperfection gives it character.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Once you’ve gone right round the outside of the badge, sew on the brooch back. I use around three stitches on each side of each hole on the brooch back is enough, but you want to ensure that it’s secure when you tug on it. Knot the thread securely and cut off any stray bits.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

You’re done! Look how fantastic it looks!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

jennitalula merit badges

Things I Love Thursday

❤ Road trip! Sophie and I had an epic drive on Sunday, through rain and wind and sunshine and clouds and various small towns. I had very disappointing Burger King in Turangi, and we sang along to epic music at the top of our lungs. Plus I was able to move some shelves in with Anna 🙂

❤ Will's made a neat list of mood enhancing movies

❤ Jaden and Willow Smith … look, they might be horribly spoiled with a really skewed world view but come on, look at the depth of their thoughts in this interview. It’s super deep!

Willow: I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.

Jaden: That’s another thing: What’s your job, what’s your career? Nah, I am. I’m going to imprint myself on everything in this world.

❤ Crafting – getting stuff prepped for Christmas – decorations and merit badges. It's good fun!

This squirrel gopro thief

Honourable Mentions: snuggles, Monster Hearts dolls, ticking movies off my 500 list, delicious meat, ice cream, Lego, speaking my mind and ridiculous adventures in roleplaying a kelpie.

Stop with goodbye, start with hello ~ Eliza Rickman

Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko
Directed and written by Richard Kelly
(number 393)

Finally, one of my all time top ten favourite movies of all time. I have loved Donnie Darko since I saw it in the film festival in 2002. It was very frustrating at the time because I didn’t know anyone else who had seen it in the film festival and it didn’t get a regular cinematic release in New Zealand for at least a year. I had to just… hold in all my feelings and theories and gushing about this film until other people had seen it and that was tough!

It’s a measured, beautifully shot movie which shows the weirdness of being a teenager and the dysfunction of a perfectly functional family. Jake Gyllenhaal had been in movies before this one but Donnie is definitely the role that brought him to the public eye and made his career. Plus Maggie plays his sister and the chemistry between the two of them is as real as it gets as siblings. The sniping and the insults over dinner is so incredibly perfect. Donnie and his mother, Rose have friction but she loves him unconditionally and wants the best for him no matter what.

I wanted to name my favourite sequence, because I love the music in this film and the way that Kelly patches together images to tell so much of the backstory. Buuut I couldn’t decide between these two:

Or is it Tears for Fears establishing scene of school?

I adore the subtlety of the science fiction in the film. So much of what happens could just be Donnie’s imagination or his emotional problems, but then you realise that the things Frank is telling him are true. The effects for the portals and the time spears are very beautiful.

The philosophy of time travel, whether or not there’s a god, and whether free will exists are all important themes of this movie, along with whatever it is that Donnie has – emotional problems or schizophrenia or superpowers (he does embed an axe into the head of a massive bronze school mascot)…I don’t think I can write accurately about any of them, but I love that the film explores these things and doesn’t give any straight or easy answers.

Does it make me love the people? Yes yes yes. Donnie’s father Eddie is wonderful, he laughs at inappropriate jokes, he loves his kids, he is the less together of him and his wife. Rose is bad ass, she’s vulnerable and strong and smart. Donnie is so strange and so relatable at the same time, and Gretchen is made of tragedy….. it’s a fantastic cast of genuine people in extraordinary circumstances.

Bechdel test: Yes, several times. Elizabeth and Rose talk in the opening scene about who she’s going to vote for, whether or not she is going to Harvard the next year.

Kitty Farmer also talks to Rose about their daughter’s dance troupe, which culminates in the amazing line “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!”

Best line:

Gretchen: My mom had to get a restraining order against my stepdad. He has emotional problems.
Donnie: Oh, I have those, too. What kind of emotional problems does your dad have?
Gretchen: He stabbed my mom four times in the chest.
Donnie: Oh.

but this sequence is genius:

Donnie: Well, life isn’t that simple. I mean, who cares if Ling Ling returns the wallet and keeps the money? It has nothing to do with either fear or love.
Kitty Farmer: Fear and love are the deepest of human emotions.
Donnie: Okay. But you’re not listening to me. There are other things that need to be taken into account here, like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else.
Kitty: If you don’t complete the assignment then you’ll get a zero for the day.
Kitty:… he asked me to forcibly insert the lifeline activity card into my anus!

State of Mind: Yes, I love this so much. Also. Never watch the director’s cut. Never.

Watched movie count

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Directed and written by Stephan Elliott
(number 417)

When this movie came out I think (I think) I first saw it with my mum and sister, and then I went back to see it again with Regan. It was at the old Hoyts cinema on Manners St, that old place that always felt sort of greasy and I was never that sure where exactly the theatre you were meant to be in was. This movie was definitely an education for 14 year old me, not just to the idea of cross dressing and transsexuals but also to the concept of the ping-pong ball show, so… there’s that.

I have watched it over and over again since then, and I remember that we thrashed the soundtrack when it came out. So many 70s dance hits and my favourite ever “I’ve been to paradise”…

I’d seen Guy Pearce before on Neighbours, but he hadn’t ever looked like this. His big beefy arms and his overalls with his purple paint. I had quite the crush, and watching it again now I see how incredibly annoying he is but he’s still totally fabulous as Felicia.

In addition to the stellar cast of Guy Pearce, Terrance Stamp and Hugo Weaving before he was Agent Smith and of course Bill Hunter (who is in every Australian movie by law, I think)… It’s also full of lush Australian scenery, lots of gorgeous desert vistas and close ups of weird lizards and birds.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely, it’s totally gorgeous for lovable characters. We have the lead three who are all hilarious and full of interesting conflicts with each other. Plus over the course of the movie you find out more and more about them and secrets come out which makes the story really interesting as well the look of it.

Then of course there’s the fear: that the small towns they visit won’t be as friendly as Sydney, “No matter how tough I think I’m getting, it still hurts.” … and it does culminate in a nasty sequence in a small mining town where Felicia is attacked by some men. It’s hard to watch, but it’s also realistic and it allows the characters to bond afterwards, especially between Bernadette and Felicia who had mostly been at each other’s throats.

Bechdel test: This is sort of tricky, since Bernadette is played by a man, but she is a trans woman character who is named so I am absolutely counting it. She talks to Shirley in the pub and it’s to trade insults and then to have a drinking contest.

Best lines:

Felicia: [singing] A desert holiday, let’s pack the drag away. You take the lunch and tea, I’ll take the ecstasy. Fuck off you silly queer, I’m getting out of here. A desert holiday, hip hip hip hip hooray!

Bernadette: That’s just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock.

Marion: [to Tick, about their son] Morals are a choice, and he’ll decide his own when he’s good and bloody well ready.

State of Mind: Yeah, I love this one. It’s one of the only Australian films I can name which isn’t horribly depressing. Guy Pearce ❤ I always think of Regan when I watch it, too.

Watched movie count