Le quai des brumes (1938)

Le quai des brumes
Directed by Marcel Carné
Written by Jacques Prévert based on the novel by Pierre Dumarchais
(number 265)

Here’s another film where I couldn’t tell what it was going to be based on the name. As it happens it’s a pre-World war two noir about an ex soldier, or rather, a deserter, who goes to a port city. He adopts a dog and falls in love with what I have to assume from her beret, perfect make up and fancy rain slicker trenchcoat is the Wrong Sort of Girl.

My copy of the film came with a disclaimer: “When war was declared in September 1939, the film was banned because it was judged ‘immoral, depressing and distressing for the young people.”

Studio Canal’s been around a long time if they made this too.

Jean: I get upset and you think I’ve been drinking. I haven’t. I just haven’t eaten for two days, there’s a sign on my stomach which says ‘cold storage’.

In general this is a melodrama. The story beats and character choices are hard to believe in, but it’s super entertaining all the same. It’s a beautifully shot piece and everyone is so damn handsome and pretty and softly lit. I was involved in the story line and although I generally predicted the twists it was still compelling.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely, particularly Jean and Nelly.

Bechdel test: The only woman is Nelly so no. Also she’s supposed to be only seventeen which makes all the stuff which happens regarding her love life pretty creepy. The actress looks to be in her thirties to me but that could be me misreading the style and the make up as being for an older woman. Anyway, she’s the prize everyone’s in love with and wants to win. Not exactly a deep character.

Best line:

Quart Vittel: What could be simpler than a tree?
Le peintre: A tree. But when I paint one, it sets everyone on edge. It’s because there’s someone or something hidden behind that tree. I can’t help painting what’s hidden behind things. To me a swimmer is already a drowned man.

(I also like that Jean brings it back later)

State of Mind: Enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Nice tight script and good callbacks to earlier things which are mentioned. Jean is like a thirties Kenneth Branagh and Nelly is a shockingly young character but the actress is wonderful, very compelling. I was just a bit worried about the dog being left on the ship but even that storyline was nicely resolved for me at the end so I was happy.

Watched movie count

Advertisements

First Blood (1982)

First Blood
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Written by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim and Sylvester Stallone based on the novel by David Morrell
(number 261)

Here’s what I thought Rambo was about: hard core action dude killing lots of people and surviving ridiculous odds. Here’s what it’s apparently actually about: a soldier with PTSD is abused by small town police and then hunted through the mountains as they use deadly force to try and subdue him. Hard core.

Here’s a genre of film I wasn’t exactly aware existed before I watched a few from this list: hard man solves random problems with violence. I’m looking at you Taxi Driver, Electra Glide in Blue… I guess Fight Club? In retrospect this isn’t a surprising discovery. I just hadn’t thought of it exactly in terms of it being its own genre. Certainly there’s slippage between this and crime/gangster/war/revenge movies but it clarified in this instance. There really isn’t much story here in First Blood beyond ‘they were awful to him, won’t let him get away, so he solves it with violence.’

It’s a bleak film, and I guess I was supposed to be getting excited and amped from the violence and the tense chase but mostly I found it desolate and depressing. It’s hard to imagine this film being made again now. It’d have to have a psychologist character being like ‘oh no, this will trigger his PTSD from that time in Vietnam where he was crucified’ and looking over the footage from the station and shaking their head. ‘You shouldn’t have come at him with that straight razor because it reminds him of the knife he was scarred with’.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno, I kind of liked the crappy misguided commanding officer Trautman. I mean. Horrible person but played with a certain charisma. I always like watching Brian Dennehy but I don’t think his character added much to the general understanding of the human condition. He was mostly just playing a bad old Brian Dennehy character. The young red haired cop at the start who had some vague moral compass was nice but he didn’t ever manage to change the course of the action so felt a bit pointless.

The level which I empathised with Rambo is probably the key to what the movie is showing us. I understood how he could get to the place where he felt like nothing could go right. Where his only option was to lash out. And I wanted everyone to just back the hell off and let him run away into the mountains. So, there’s that.

Bechdel test: women? I’ve never heard of her.

Best line:

Teasle: Whatever possessed God in heaven to make a man like Rambo?
Trautman: God didn’t make Rambo, I made him!

State of Mind: The mountain landscapes are pretty and the cliffs and the stunts etc are all well done. It’s competently acted and easy to follow. But man, it’s bleak. I don’t think this is one I’d watch again and I have no interest in the following ones which just seem to be ‘let’s put him in more and more stressful situations until he goes bezerk again’. Maybe it’s just me, I’m not into that.

Watched movie count

Guest post: On writing reverse harem, or, so where do all the limbs go? by Steff Green

In March I released my 19th novel – The Castle of Earth and Embers. It’s the first in a new 5-part series following Maeve, an Arizona girl who discovers she’s inherited an honest-to-goodness English castle, complete with turrets and ramparts and four gorgeous male tenants. As this is a paranormal romance, lots of magical shenanigans and a healthy dose of sexy times and metaphysical angst ensue before the whole thing wraps up with a happily-ever-after five books later.

You might think the main emotional story arc of The Castle of Earth and Embers would be some kind of love triangle. Which of the four guys would Maeve end up with? Corbin – the protector wallowing in guilt? Arthur – the warrior tired of fighting? Flynn – the trickster with an artist’s soul – or Rowan – the enigma whose scars run deep? Or what about Blake, the mysterious fifth guy who shows up at the end of the book?

Thanks to a rising sub-niche within romance called “reverse harem” and the hashtag #whychoose, I didn’t have to write a love triangle and force Maeve to choose. There was no need to create a convenient deux-ex-machina (or deux-ex-Maevina, as my editor joked) to conveniently get rid of the other suitors so Maeve only ended up with one.

In my series, Maeve ends up in a happily-ever-after with five guys – her harem. (I’ve written an article on my blog about reverse harem if you want more information.)

How is this possible? How does this not go against everything that romance as a genre is built on – the enduring love of one guy for one girl?

Luckily, romance is a genre that isn’t afraid to move with the times and tackle women’s sexuality in new and challenging ways. Romance writers embrace and challenge stereotypes, they celebrate multicultural and interracial romances, they tackle characters who work at the top of the corporate ladder, are stay-at-home parents, are divorced, are disabled, suffer from mental illness. They embrace LGBT with sub-genres dedicated to gay/lesbian romances. They celebrate female desire and female agency. Why should polyamory not be next on the list?

Polyamory and other non-monogamous relationships between consenting people are becoming more open, more normalised, and more celebrated. That’s awesome. If reverse harem books help women exploring and discovering their own sexuality to see themselves, or experience a common sexual fantasy within the safety of the pages of a book, then I’m proud to be a part of that.

Writing an exciting love story with six separate emotional arcs and at least five happily-ever-afters is quite an undertaking. When I outline a book, I use a very basic, pared-back version of Libble Hawker’s technique (as demonstrated in her book Take Off Your Pants). I started with my concept; American girl discovers she owns British castle. Goes to castle. Discovers at castle that she is actually a witch and she has to fight off the fae alongside her harem of male witches.

Then I thought about Maeve, my FMC. I’ve written a lot of arty characters, so this time I gave her a passion for physics and a desire to become an astronaut. I thought the idea of her empirical, scientific mind grappling with all this magic stuff would be quite fun to explore.

I was right. It is.

Next, I needed a reason for Maeve to inherit this castle and for her to decide to move there. I needed some serious emotional stakes, and I needed her to end up in a state of mind where a polyamorous relationship might occur to her whereas it would never have done so back home in Arizona. Enter a horrific accident that kills off her family and some other circumstances that throw Maeve headlong into her adventure.

Then I needed some guys. I needed five love interests who were each wonderful in their own way and who each carried around their own pain and baggage. I’m really proud of the guys I came up with. I feel like each of them on their own wouldn’t have been right for Maeve, but together, they’re this amazing group that strengthen and heal each other.

As I deepened the male characters emotional arcs, I realised that I didn’t just to tell a heterosexual love story. There should be something going on between some of the guys, as well. M/M relationship show up in some (but not all) reverse harem books and honestly they’re my favourite books in the genre. (F/f is much rarer, because of what the audience is looking for). As well as a fledgling MM relationship, there are the friendships between the guys that get tested and strengthened by the harem.

The whole plot hangs off key emotional moments for each of the characters. Grief, hope, love, secrets, self-discovery, mental illness, guilt, anger, silence, neglect – I’m exploring all of these and how they impact the group dynamic and one-on-one relationships. With so many characters, every scene packs a huge emotional punch.

Then there’s the sex. There’s lots of it – one-on-one, threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes. Big, happy piles of tangled limbs. And all the feelings and confusion and misunderstandings that go along with sex, but amplified five-fold with more partners. I’m lucky in that I know many people in polyamorous relationships, and I can ask questions and learn from their emotional journey to make sure my characters ring true and don’t promote unsafe practices or harmful stereotypes.

I am having SO MUCH FUN. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to go back to plain old monogamous, heterosexual couples after this. Reverse harem has ruined me as a romance writer, and I couldn’t be happier.

For some reverse harem recommendations, check out 10 reverse harem series you should read right now.

___

Steff Green is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of twenty dark fantasy (as S C Green) and paranormal romance books (as Steffanie Holmes). Her books feature clever, witty heroines, wild shifters, cunning witches and alpha males who get what they want. In 2017 Steff was the recipient of the Attitude Award for Artistic Achievement, to honour her accomplishments as a person who lives with a disability.

Before becoming a writer, Steffanie worked as an archaeologist and museum curator. She currently lives in a castle outside Auckland with her cantankerous drummer husband, a horde of cantankerous cats, and their medieval sword collection. Follow Steff’s adventures on her blog or instagram.