Friday, July 26, 2013

And for my next film...

I would like to direct, or act in, or watch at the very least, a new film version of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. At long last I watched the 1996 film with a young Nicole Kidman and a malicious, balding John Malkovich. He does a great job at evilness.

The movie broke my heart, truly. But I'd like to see it done again, because there is too much art in it, and not enough simple life. And the little things that were changed were unnecessary. Kidman was spectacular; the entire cast was perfectly first rate. I couldn't believe the acting chops that were present: Christian Bale, Viggo Mortensen, Martin Donovan, Barbara Hershey, Mary-Louise Parker, Sir John Gielgud.
I was glad to see it, but like I said it was heart-breaking, and I don't use the term lightly. Harder even to read, and reading first is fairly necessary. Not reading the book first would be the difference between eating a grapefruit whole and peeling, slicing, and sprinkling sugar on one. Rather messy and frustrating versus delectable and dripping juiciness.

A modern version wouldn't work. I doubt it. The shaping factors would not be the same; the plot needs the period it is set in. And yet (which is why the novel is known as classic literature) the insights, the manipulation, the disappointment with what a rotten oyster the world turns out to be sometimes...very modern themes. The tragedy is the loss of Isabel's potential, and the loss of her life's opportunity to love and be loved. What a perfect trap is set by others when they slowly draw her in with what looks like an open door. Her marriage turns out not to be an adventure, not even an escape, but a hideous, malignant trap.

A woman today would not live in such fear, would she? Not so easily trade her dreams for cheap and lifeless baubles? She would simply laugh, or yell or scream, and run away wouldn't she? Or perhaps not? The power of Isabel's own ability to choose was the lock and the key and the cage. All in one, and one for all.

The ending of the novel leaves a reader positively gasping for air, as she returns to Rome and maybe to Osmond...? Or was it to Pansy only...I haven't read any critical literature on the subject. I really can't understand it totally. The ending of the film was rather different, and I'm not sure I liked it as much. A portrait, yes, of self-knowledge and awareness. But it was only a portrait, with no action, and it left you not gasping but simply wondering what was next. In this case brevity was certainly not the soul of wit. It was as if Polonius had a hand in it indeed...more matter with less art would serve The Portrait well.

(But I loved it! I'll watch it again. Once a week for a year? Or until some genius reinvents it?)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Poems and Such

Lots of ideas but not a real blog post this time, just a smattering of poems that have come to me lately.
They need to be distilled perhaps but they are who they are for now.

Thanks for reading if you do; it's always good to be grounded by the sounding board of other's ideas and thoughts!

At That Age
It’s not teenagers,
But the twenty-something’s that should bear
the grimace of society.
Teens hunger and thirst, they struggle and bend,
Emotive, restless, straining toward.
20’s sit smug in pools of stagnant ambition,
Mouths open like baby birds for warmth and food and approbation
Tossing no longer jacks or colored balls but ideas back and forth
Stretched out on couches like the Enlightenment’s elite
Noshing on lattes and relevant ethics
While their parents, with aching smiles, stand beside.
Nothing for them but bland replies,
Whose backs were bent at 20 forging paths
With delicate dreams
and pocketed coins to pay the rent.

 This is (obviously) about my own introspection and selfish tendencies in my early twenties. And also about what I see around me from time to time.

Night Falling
Sometimes the moon is just right,
Over the house
A crisp crescent the cow jumped over
And the sounds of the music are just right,
Slow, steady, moody and blue
The evening sky pale through dark leaf-lace
Luminous, colorless, grey-scudded clouds
And the garden lamps glow on
The evening shower that passed
Minutes ago
Leaving drips on dim flowers
Musky in the gathering dusk
And the moon is just right,
When you look up,
The night’s soft arms are folding
‘Round colors of grey and white
It’s a good time to be alone and breathe
In the voluminous air of the night.

 This one I wrote quickly on my phone memo-pad one evening after a rain shower as I was walking into the house. The moon was perfect, and the radio still coming from the car speakers fit the mood exactly.

I’ll rent a space, where they race snow machines over high fields, and swings go up and down too high to hear the recess bell.
I’ll climb a tree in the dark, where they can’t find me and wouldn’t think to look. Or wander through the pitch black where the noise of an animal, probably wild, doesn’t scare me as much as going back.
I’ll take a walk in an odd direction, and in the space between being lost and being gone too long I’ll feel the joy of heedless breezes that come from anywhere.
I’ll climb some stairs to a grey haven, an attic room with a rectangle of window and just a bed and a wood floor.
I’ll bend to buttercups with my child self, little girl with no care too large to hold out and drop on the world.
I’ll pay my rent when it is due. In the space between I’ll hide from you.

This one also dropped out of my head in a hurry. Sometimes I like these better than the ones I tweak and puzzle over for an interminable length of time. The fast free verse stream-of-consciousness poems don't win prizes, though.



Tin taste and lead
Grey stone swallowed
And stuck
Long white hallways
End in space
Pace the miles
Drift right and left\ backward/ forward
A sneeze dies behind the nose
Burst into laughter once
Glitter in the eyes
A caked-on smile
A wait-a-while
Burnt smell and dead
Fish in the pan
Not fried
Not half alive
Print inside
On the live wire
Pulled out
Frayed, splayed
Push the whole mess off the counter.
Push      the      whole
Green, purple, and some red. Same as the dead. And guns going off all day in my head.
(Quick! Call a psychiatrist! Ha ha!) This is a strange one but I love the way it pulls the angst out of my soul. I read it now and then for catharsis.
Bye for now!