Ninotchka (1939)

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder and Walter Reisch based on a story by Melchior Lengyel.
(number 264)

So often with these titles I’m not sure if I’m in for a dreary historical drama, a war film full of atrocities or a light hearted romantic comedy. It’s always a pleasure when it turns out to be the last. Ninotchka is a strange, pre world war 2 set movie where a serious Russian woman finds herself entangled with a passionate and emotional French man. It’s very sweet actually and I’m sure this is one of the roles which made Greta Garbo such a huge star. That iciness, the soft purr of her voice.

She’s an amazing character, analysing and shutting things down. Totally nihilistic, especially when speaking of the Polish Lancer she dispatched on the battlefield. She’s brilliant, worth watching the movie just for her.

Leon: Ninotchka, tell me, you’re so expert on things, can it be that I’m falling in love with you?
Ninotchka: Why must you bring in wrong values? Love is a romantic designation for a most ordinary biological or, shall we say, chemical process. A lot of nonsense is talked and written about it.
Leon: Oh, I see. What do you use instead?
Ninotchka: I acknowledge the existence of a natural impulse – common to all.
Leon: What can I possibly do to encourage such an impulse in you?
Ninotchka: You don’t have to do a thing. Chemically, we’re already quite sympathetic.

The movie is partially about Ninotchka being seduced by the luxuries that Leon represents, and partially about her getting to know herself as a woman with emotions and desires. There’s a standard progression from the buttoned down, fully covered outfits she starts with into the shoulder revealing diaphanous gown and jewels. The ugly duckling makeover, but it’s not actually the point of the film. The divide comes from Ninotchka’s need to serve her country, and how it contrasts with her own personal wants.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking when she recieves a letter from Leon in Moscow, and the entire thing has been censored.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely, I love all the comrades Ninotchka is sent to bring home, I love her, I love her Russian roommates and of course Leon as well. It’s a charmer of a film, sweet and fun and romantic. It also makes me want to visit Paris some.

Bechdel test: Yes, she has a few conversations with the Grand Duchess Swana about how Ninotchka should leave Paris and various jealousies. Then a long extended scene back in Moscow with her roommate Anna about her fancy French underwear and the stir it caused among the local women and what was Paris like? and the fashion? and actually can Anna have the silky negligee because she’s about to be married? It’s a lovely scene actually.

Best line:

Ninotchka: Must you flirt?
Leon: Well, I don’t have to, but I find it natural.
Ninotchka: Suppress it.

State of Mind: Highly recommend this film, it’s a sweet, charming romance. It’s another in the list of ‘romantic comedies are acceptable if they’re old enough’ archives, but hey. It was an enjoyable, fun watch and I’m likely to watch it again at some stage. Plus, now I understand the appeal of Garbo.

Watched movie count


Darling (1965)

Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Frederic Raphael
(number 260)

I had no idea what this was going in. In actuality it’s a movie about a woman, a model, who’s absolutely determined to get ahead in her career. She does this in a string of love affairs, being rather ruthless about cheating on her partners, moving around and up and ignoring her own feelings.

Diana: Oh it should be so easy to happy, shouldn’t it? It should be the easiest thing in the world. I wonder why it isn’t?

It’s an amazing time capsule of the sixties. In black and white but utterly sparking with kitten heels, go go dresses, fashionable suits and beehives. Julie Christie is charming as Diana, bored to death of things staying the same for more than five minutes, beautiful and with that gorgeous low voice.

Homosexuals exist in this movie! They’re creepy ! But they’re there! Well. The creepy ones are in Paris. There’s a very nice gay photographer in Italy who’s actually a decent person so that’s good. Apparently no homosexuals in London though.

And the french have whacky parties where everyone strips and puts on other people’s clothing and then they all are horrid to each other. Oh those swinging sixties. I have no context for if this is realistic for the society at the time.

Does it make me love the people? This is a tough one, really. I mean I’m definitely on Diana’s side, but she’s also a bit of a jerk. Like, it’s hard to really worry about her or hope that she finds happiness. I really don’t like Robert, which is I think, a lot of the point of him. He’s an asshat, but his actions do make sense after what she’s done to him. But I don’t like him. The other men (maybe aside from Miles) are barely present much of the time – which I’m sure is an intention of the script.

Bechdel test: Yes, a couple of times. Although mostly what we see is Diane talking to men, there are a couple of scenes. When she’s in the baby shop with her friend and she speaks to other named women at a dinner party.
Best line:

Diane: Do you have parents? I can’t imagine you with parents.
Miles: I do, two of them.
D: Imagine if.. it took three
M: it took three?
D: sexes. To make a child.

State of Mind: I did get bored part way through. I feel like there’s an edited version one could make, cutting out 30 or 45 mins and it’d be tight and entertaining. As it is I like as a time capsule, and it’s so refreshing to have a movie off this list which is entirely about a woman and her story. I’m not sure about if I’d watch it again, the ending is not exactly a happy one and it’s a little too long, but overall an interesting film.

Watched movie count

Guest post: Ideas – The Beauty, Carnage, and Mayhem by Leigh Hunt

When Jamie asked me to write a wee guest post, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because that particular day I was brainstorming. The ideas were flowing like I was a unicorn farting magical glitter, and I just couldn’t stop them coming. It was glorious. I was on a creative high.

You see, I’m one of those people who have these huge, enormous ideas. I have zero problems generating the carnage, I just have a problem finding the time to write them. And when new shiny ideas hit me, there is nothing I like more than to immediately start exploring them. So I do. Even if I’m in the middle of something else – because if I leave them, I might lose them.

So the other day, while I was painting my loo room, I was listening to music. The lyrics starting fuelling my mind with creative strands, and the next thing I knew, I was standing there with a paintbrush drying in my hands, looking vacantly at my loo. Dreaming of a world not yet created. (Don’t judge me – at least I wasn’t USING the loo!)

I finished painting as quickly as I could, jotted some of the key themes down in my trusty notebook, and promptly forgot about it. The next day I was driving to work and the same song came on, and there I was again – thrown right back into this imaginary world. I don’t even remember the drive to work, because my mind was so busy living in this shiny unwritten place. It’s damn dangerous when I go into this mode while driving. (I’m pretty sure whatever excuse I gave to law enforcement would result in a straight jacket and padded room.)

I arrived at work, and boom. Out the trusty notebook, along with some post-it notes, and I started writing the ideas down. It was like throwing a deck of cards down, and picking them up in some semblance of order.

Meanwhile, a little voice inside of me was saying, ‘FFS woman, you’re in the midst of writing one of the greatest damn dystopian series you’ve ever come up with, and now you have ANOTHER one?’

Yep. My inner bitch was trying to tamp me down – squish the idea into nothingness so that I can focus on my current series. She’s quite ghastly once she gets her rant on. But then I started talking to my editor. And she was encouraging this shiny new idea, which forced me to manage that inner bitch, and get this sorted.

So, the idea of the world is now written. It’s just notes at this stage, and I’m letting it percolate for the next twelve months. I know the key characters. I know the world. I know what darkness resides in it. I know the situation. I know that I want to write this four book series.

But I also know that it still needs time.

Over the years of writing, I’ve discovered that I should not just jump at the new ideas. In order for me to find their depth, I need to let them rest, and develop like a photo in a dark room. Those ideas need love and nurture and thought. They need threads woven in, personalities introduced, and the story arc extrapolated.

Also, if I give in to my inner magpie and always write the shiny new things, I know that I will never finish writing anything of beautiful consequence… and isn’t that every writer’s goal?

It’s easy to chase ideas down rabbit holes in the midst of the creative chaos, but those ideas need time. If we let ideas percolate, it means that they get the space and attention they deserve, and will therefore be better for the reader. Hopefully.

Leigh K. Hunt is a reader, writer, mother, and designer from New Zealand. She has a weird obsession with books like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pride & Prejudice, and adores Thrillers and Dystopian novels. To say that she lives in her own dreamy wonderland is an understatement.

Leigh has written a number of thrillers surrounding an assassination team, but has now turned her focus on producing a new thrilling dystopian trilogy. When she’s supposedly adulting, Leigh works full time, is a mother to a gorgeous but very lively five-year-old, and thinks she’s a DIY queen – with dreams of turning her cookie cutter 80s house into something that resembles French farmhouse.