Thursday, August 27, 2015

La Femme Recommends...It Follows

It Follows is a terrifyingly simple premise for a horror movie.  You have sex, and unbeknownst to you, you have contracted something.  From them on, there is something following you, or more accurately, someone.  It never runs, only walks to you in a slow, unrelenting gait.  If it touches you, it kills you.  It can look like anyone, someone you know, a stranger, scary or benign.  How do you kill it? Well you can't.  But you can pass it on to someone else by having sex with them.  Of course, if they die, it comes right back to you.

David Robert Mitchell takes this simple premise and makes It Follows a tight, taut and eerie film.  Right after K and I finished the movie, I got all existential: what did it all mean?  Was it a metaphor for AIDS? A warning against promiscuity?  The opposite?  K laughed at me and said, maybe there wasn't a metaphor.   But to say that It Follows isn't about sex and love and its consequences feels wrong to me, so maybe its about fear and vulnerability and the unknown when you open your self up to another person.  The film is cool but never detached but the mystery stays a mystery which I really loved.  The It is never explained, it just is. Like love and human connection and attraction, IT can't be explained and it is an unstoppable force.

Jay (Maika Monroe, so natural), lives in suburban Detroit. She is attending a community college and she is dating a fellow student, Hugh.  He seems sweet and charming and she has sex with him in his car next to an abandoned apartment building.  Things go south quickly when he chloroforms her and she ends up tied to a wheelchair in a parking garage.  That's when he explains the rules to her, described in the first paragraph.  And eventually we see a naked woman in the distance, slowly walking towards them.  He drops her off at home saying to her, Have sex with someone. Quick.

She is traumatized but of course, skeptical.  Until It starts following her, sometimes as someone she knows like her grandmother, sometimes like a monster man with no eyes.  What I loved about this film was the atmosphere.  See, I realize that I profess to hate horror but I love it when its well done.  I don't' like to watch scary movies but when I read about something interesting or especially atmospheric, I can't help it, I want to see it.  What It Follows does so perfectly is set an incredibly uneasy tone.  The first moments of the film may be the scariest of them all, and it perfectly sets the atmosphere and tone for the rest of the film.

The cast is strong: I saw Maika Monroe in The Guest, a few months ago.  That is a dirty, little, twisty film and she was the moral compass of the film, like she is here.  She was compelling and lovely and innocent all at once.  Her friends are also uniformly strong with Paul (Kier Gilchrist) standing out the most.  He has a crush on Jay, but he isn't the like the handsome, strong guys we see her attracted to.  It's hard to explain but he is both incredibly strong and resoundingly weak in this film.  The kids have a real camaraderie, none of that cruelty or nastiness of so many teenagers in horror films.   They seem natural and organic, the film could easily have been a drama about this group of friends.

I also love the setting of Detroit.  The Great American City, dead: maybe thats the metaphor, somehow.  This city that was once great and that hopes to be great again, but in the moment is poisoning itself.  The neighborhood Jay lives in seems abandoned, left to rot.  Still quiet and safe seeming overall, but sinister too.  And the more unseemly elements, the burnt out high rises and hookers, creeping in to their idyllic suburban life.

Of course, It is a metaphor for death, always coming for us from somewhere, relentlessly, slowly but at every moment we are closer.  But I want to tease out something else: I think It is also about morality.  I don't mean it's conservative, instead I mean that Jay made her choices about sex and love for herself in the beginning of the film, she was unencumbered.  She had sex with Hugh because she liked him and she wanted to.  Once she knows the "cure" for It, she doesn't immediately do why the viewer might.  We think, drive far away, get on a plane, have a lot of sex with promiscuous people! We try to cure it, solve it. Jay tries to solve it too, but she doesn't like the solution.  Because now, sex, is inflicting something on her partners.  Sex becomes something deeply moral, does she want to get rid of It, yes, but does she want to inflict in on others, no.  Love and sex become less and less entwined, but also more and more entwined.  

It Follows isn't particularly gory or full of onscreen deaths.  In fact, the body count is fairly low for a horror movie.  But the stakes are still incredibly high for the characters both emotionally and physically.  Jay has sex with Hugh because she likes him.  Once he passes It on to her, she has to decide who to have sex with in a completely different way than she ever expected.  Paul cares about her and offers to have sex with her because he thinks he finally has a shot with Jay.  She rejects him because she doesn't feel that way about him, later in the film, once their relationship has changed (its done subtly and with great depth) she doesn't want to because she does love him.  I think that the way Mitchell uses the trope of passing It on sexually with great ease.  And he does so much off screen and so much by implication.  One simple shot of  Jay looking out onto a boat with three boys on it says so much and is so devastating.  Mitchell manages to imbue so much meaning into such small moments.  And that last shot, whoa. It hits you like a ton of bricks.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Movie Round up…July 2015

That Face!

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015): I am a noted action film hater, but the lure of Tom Hardy's gorgeous face (even though it spends half the movie covered with a cage-like mask) and that trailer intrigued me.  And then the reviews, oh those raves, intrigued me even more.  I can't say it was a five star film for me, but it was a cinematic experience.  From nearly the first frame, the action is propulsive, exciting, and awe inspiring.  I spent the entire movie nervous, heart pounding, hand covering my mouth.  Well, except one extended dialogue scene where the action stops and strategies and loyalties are discussed.  Miller had two great expressive actors in Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and was smart to let them use facial expressions and their actions to deepen the characters.  The few scenes they spent talking, I found myself itching for more action! 

The story is simple: The apocalypse has happened, the world is dry.  Evil war lords like the beyond disgusting Immortan Joe have taken over.  Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa, a trusted lieutenant of Joe, steals his five beautiful wives and plans to set them free in "the green place" where she grew up.  A chase ensues.  Parallel to this, Max is kidnapped by Joe's terrifying looking War Boys and used as a human blood bank.  Their paths cross and they team up less for solidarity and more to increase each other's chance of survival.  The action is breathtaking, most importantly and successfully, and easy to follow.  So many times, I can't tell what is happening in an action scene. Mad Max makes it easy to follow the characters we care about and uses an economy of storytelling to raise the stakes.
Now that I think about it, maybe Miller included the slow scene I complained about so that the viewer wouldn't have a heart attack and die.  It can't be safe to keep your heart racing for an hour and a half, right?

About Time (Richard Curtis, 2013):  This was a movie on HBO I got completely sucked into.  It has a pretty ridiculous premise: men in this family can time travel to different points in their lives.  Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, utterly charming) uses it to get girls (typical).  He meets adorable Mary (Rachel McAdams) and woos her, sometimes having to travel back in time to fix all the dumb mistakes he makes.  Honestly, not much happens in this little romp, but there was a dog eared charm to it that I couldn't resist.  Plus, it hit my sweet spot of romantic comedies, London, and Bill Nighy.  It reminded me of my favorite, Sliding Doors; you know, a little about fate, love and the choices we make, but mostly just a lark to remind us that life is beautiful and precious.  Domhnall Gleeson was so appealing as a lovable, sweet, normal guy.  There isn't much too it, but it was the perfect way to while away an afternoon.

This makes the movie look much scarier than it actually is. 
The Nightmare: (Rodney Ascher, 2015): Room 237, Rodney Ascher's exploration into fan conspiracy theories regarding Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, was one of my favorite films in 2013.  So it was with much excitement that I approached The Nightmare, his new documentary exploring the terrifying phenomenon of sleep paralysis.  Sleep paralysis is essentially, well, to be honest, I can't tell you.  Ascher's film makes much of the imagery of sleep paralysis, in which people are in a dream-like state where they feel awake but can't move their body and many experience a dark figure coming towards them, but does little to explain the phenomena. The images are creepy, definitely, but are so repetitive that I feel they lose their power.  He reenacts nightmares described by people from the United States and England who have sleep paralysis, but he does little to delve much deeper.  What causes sleep paralysis?  What can be done to help people?  How does it really affect their lives?  He answers these questions on such a surface level, I walked away very disappointed and not even a tiny bit scared.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's Twelve O'clock Somewhere...Pineapple Cinnamon Margarita

Today I am here to share a super delicious cocktail, a Pineapple Cinnamon Margarita, but first you will have to listen to my rambling story about how it was made and what it makes me think of when I drink it.  Skip to the bottom for the recipe if that's how you roll.

Most of my friends couldn't believe I had never been to New York City.  I finally had the chance to visit October 2013, with my brother, D, in a whirlwind, one day trip.  We took the train from Philly, where he lives, and left late that evening.  We walked the High Line, ate pizza in the Village, took the subway to Central Park and gawked at Times Square.  We ended the night in a terrible/wonderful quintessential New York Italian restaurant.  It was awesome.

November 2014, freezing at Battery Park. 

November 2014.
Now that I had the taste of New York, I desperately wanted to go back with K.  As my brother and I walked Central Park on an unseasonably warm October day, I saw all these couples walking together and felt an intense sadness.  I was so happy to see this place with my brother, but I missed K and knew we had to come here together ASAP.  As luck would have it, my parents wanted to spend Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, so in November of 2014, K and I spent the week before Thanksgiving exploring New York.

And we loved it.  We walked the High Line, froze in Central Park, walked down Fifth Avenue and gawked at the Christmas decor.  We went to dive bars in the Village and spotted Ethan Hawke (it was like a dream guys, seriously.  Do you know how much I love the Before trilogy? I saw Jesse!), ate at Momofuku and saw David Chang in the window, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on an unseasonably warm day.

February 2015, The Citizen M Lobby.  
But, I'm not here to talk about either of those times.  Instead, I am here to share a cocktail with you we discovered on our last trip to New York in February.  We were in town to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway (you can find my thoughts about that amazing night here).  When we visited last year, we expected cold weather and save for the first day, it was actually quite warm.  Not so much in February.  Central Park was frozen with snow and everyday we layered on our sweaters and coats and hats and gloves, etc.  Our first trip, we stayed in Tribeca, in a tiny boutique hotel.  This time, wanting to be close to the theatre for the big night, we stayed at the Citizen M close to Time Square.  The Citizen M is an amazing hotel; super modern and Euro, with pod like rooms that are marvels of efficiency and design.  The rooms have an extra large bed that is right next to the window, so you have to crawl over each other to get in and out.  The shower and toilet are in a spaceship like capsule in the middle of the room with mood lighting.  The whole room is controlled by a tablet, you can dim the lights and change the "mood lighting" of the bathroom capsule that lights up the whole room.  It was probably the smallest room I have ever stayed in but it didn't feel cramped, in fact, the storage was great, our luggage was stowed away and there is a huge drawer under the bed for clothes as well as hanging storage.  The lobby is a gorgeous, living room space with a bustling bar and an international crowd.  The rooftop bar is for guests only and completely stunning.

More Citizen M, courtyard.
Despite my begging, K and I didn't end up at the bar the first night of our trip.  We went to dinner at Le Relais de Venise, a steak frites palace from France with outposts in New York and London. They didn't have medium rare, my preferred choice, so I had my steak bleu and discovered how much I love red meat.  Also, I saw my first man bun, so that was exciting.  Afterwards, K and I wandered into Grand Central Station and then found the Belasco Theatre, where we would see Hedwig.  The next day we wandered Central Park, ate pizza at Lombardi's and shopped in Soho.  After dinner in the Village, we ended up in the worst bar in New York, truly.  It was a gross pub that was horror themed, the only place in the Village on a Friday that was only packed, not completely packed.  After the girl who sold jello shots came around, K and I, split (look, I love a dive bar too, but jello shots were too much, plus I needed my Big Gay Ice Cream fix, and what better time to go then on a freezing cold night at 10 p.m.).  When K and I got back to the Citizen M, we wandered upstairs to the rooftop bar.  It was bustling and the views were incredible.  They had these delicious cheese crisps that I couldn't stop eating.  And I ordered some unforgettable drink for my first round.  But the second round, I got the Pineapple Cinnamon Margarita, and it was delicious.

The beloved Rooftop Bar.
We returned to the bar every night for the next two nights, for a nightcap. Saturday was show day and so we didn't do much; wandered a frozen Central Park, ate at an incredibly crowded Shack Shack and returned to the hotel to primp.  We ended up at the Rum Bar for before show drinks and were excited to discover it was featured in the movie Birdman, a movie neither of us loved, but as cinephiles, its  always a fun moment to realize something was filmed where you are.   After the show, I wandered in a daze to The Hourglass Tavern, the carefully chosen restaurant for that night.   Times Square is not known for great food, so I had debated heartily where to go on this very special night, that wasn't too expensive but also wasn't too far away.  We went to a funny little house, where I was so excited I could barely eat.  The table next to us was a fun party of, well their isn't any other way to describe it, old theatre queens.  One of them immediately seized on K and I and proceeded to tease us all night, showing me a crazy picture of his wedding and trying to buy us more drinks.  The food wasn't great, but the atmosphere, and company, was, and I couldn't eat anyway.  Sunday, it snowed all day and after a walk around  the Village in the snow, we decided to retreat to the crappy pub next to our hotel and day drink until our dinner reservation and the long awaited Rubirosa.  I say long awaited because on our first trip to New York, I made a reservation for the wrong days and we couldn't get in.  Luckily this time it exceeded expectations.  Each night K and I debated trying a new bar, but each night, the freezing temperatures deterred us and we returned to our rooftop.  Saturday it was crowded and Sunday it was dead, but each time K and I had fun laughing, eating cheese crisps and walking around the balcony, in the freezing cold.  We sat on the big couches, and talked about our day and looked into the city.  It was lovely, a great way to decompress each night and relax, plus K and I love having a "local" even if its only for a few days.  And when we came home, I knew I had to recreate this drink.

Each time I drink it, it brings me back to the magic of New York.  The pineapple is sweet and the cinnamon is warm and cozy, with the sharp hit of the tequila always in the background.  It is actually a great year round drink, in the winter, the cinnamon has a cozy, holiday taste, in the summer, the pineapple brings out the tropical, Tiki spirit.  This is a drink that requires preparation, but it is incredibly easy.  Cinnamon Simple Syrup must be made in advance, but I do my regular one part sugar, two parts water formula and simply throw in a couple cinnamon sticks.  By the time it is cool and ready to be jarred, the cinnamon has infused wonderfully.  Everything else is a pretty typical margarita, with pineapple in addition to the ever important lime juice.

Pineapple Cinnamon Margarita

1.5 oz Tequila (I have used Blanco and Gold, either is fine
I think I slightly prefer the darker in this margarita)
.5 oz Orange Liqueur
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Cinnamon Simple Syrup
1 Lime, Juiced

Shake it and serve on the rocks!  Garnish with pineapple.

Drink it and dream of New York.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Le Femme on….Hedwig on Broadway

"Bucket list" is not one of my favorite terms.  I find it silly. But I find the idea behind it decidedly un-silly  Some of my dreams I am pretty sure will happen; I will go on an African Safari someday and go in a hot air balloon.  But some of them are more unlikely: I will probably never attend the Oscars or own an apartment in Paris or live in London.  Recently, I looked over at K and said, "it sounds corny, but this was a dream come true".  And you know what, he didn't even make fun of me because he knew I was right.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is my favorite movie, and I have written about it on this blog before.  But before it was a movie, it was an off-Broadway play.  And so, when it was announced that Hedwig was coming to Broadway, K and I debated about going.  But, Neil Patrick Harris was going to be Hedwig, and although I love NPH, I couldn't justify the cost to see him because I knew I might feel disappointed.  John Cameron Mitchell, the originator of the role and the star of the movie was, is, and will always be, my Hedwig.  Michael C. Hall was playing Hedwig when K and I were in New York in November.   Six Feet Under is possibly my favorite television show ever.  But again, my worlds were colliding.  I didn't know if I could see David Fisher as Hedwig.  So we didn't go see the show.  I wasn't sure if I would regret it or not.  And then, late last year,  it was announced that JCM himself would be reviving the role, and I knew that I would do anything to see him, including selling a kidney or one of my dogs to get there (sorry guys).  Luckily, K agreed and we were on our way at the end of February.

We arrived on Thursday, but we wouldn't see the show until Saturday, and so I made multiple pilgrimages to the Belasco Theatre before the show.  The first was to make sure we could find it easily; the second was because I wanted to see it at night; and the third was embarrassingly for K to take pictures of me in front of it.  But eventually, Saturday night rolled around and we were ready.

The Belasco is small, with only about 1,000 seats.  And they were tiny and uncomfortable, but as  we settled into our seats, my excitement started to grow.  I looked at the program, the unmistakable yellow Playbill marquee across the top, and I wanted to pinch myself.  I had never seen a Broadway show, and here I was about to see my first show, my favorite show.  And then at 7:00 p.m. on the dot, on February 28, 2015, the lights went down.  I wish I could explain what I felt when John Cameron Mitchell was lifted onto the stage in a glittery costume resembling a religious icon, that wicked Hedwig smile, unmistakably lighting up his face.  I could feel my own cheeks stinging with the size of my smile.

Hedwig is essentially a one man/woman show.  The story is simple: Hedwig, a wannabe rock star who was jilted by her young, recently discovered rock star and lover, Tommy Gnosis, is playing a one night only engagement.  See, Hedwig wrote all of Tommy's hits, and Tommy is playing the last night of his tour next door.  So Hedwig is going to throw him some major shade and share the story of how she created him.  But she's also going to tell us the story of her life.  We learn that Hedwig is the victim of a botched sex change operation that she didn't want in the first place (hence the Angry Inch).  In order to marry her American G.I. lover, Hansel, the boy Hedwig was, had to undergo a sex change operation to escape Germany.  After ending up in Junction City, Kansas, she meets a young boy, Tommy, and tries to start over and starts writing music and creating songs with him.  Hedwig thinks she may have found happiness, her other half, the person to complete her.  And once Tommy leaves her, she takes out all her anger on her new husband, Yitzhak, her backup singer who craves the spotlight she just won't give up. 

The infamous Carwash.
Hedwig basically involves John Cameron Mitchell, as Hedwig, talking to the audience, sharing Hedwig's story, interspersed with performances with Hedwig's band, The Angry Inch.  The show lives and dies with the lead.  And JCM did not disappoint; he was engaging and funny and melancholy.  The week before he had been out with a bum leg and had to perform in a leg brace.  That meant that he couldn't dance as energetically as I was expecting and he couldn't give an audience member the infamous "car wash".  A Car Wash is when Hedwig leaps of stage and puts his crotch in the face of an unsuspecting audience member (see the above GIF).  But the leg brace actually added something interesting to his performance.  Hedwig added a story about how she was attacked by Michael C. Hall (who had replaced JCM during his absence) which everyone in the audience loved.  Yitzhak (Lena Hall) also brought Hedwig a crate to rest her leg on and every time she would move she would yell "Crate!"  It added another layer to the incredibly one sided and abusive relationship between Hedwig and Yitzhak and some surprising poignancy.  Mitchell's voice was strong and beautiful. The songs sounded exactly how I expected but he still surprised me with his performance.  He sounded like Hedwig, slightly androgynous, Broadway, punk rock all mixed into one.  He was unfailingly enthusiastic and heartbreaking.  The story is one I know so well but he brought it to life for me all over again.  In the movie I saw Hedwig's bitterness at Tommy for leaving her, but in his performance I saw the earth shattering tragedy of Hedwig's life.

Although I knew what to expect from JCM, I didn't know what to expect the show to look like.  When Hedwig was originally staged off Broadway, I believe it was just him and the band with minimal sets.  One of the aspects that makes the film so incredible is how cinematic he made the story, how varied the sets and were and how kinetic the energy was.  At the Belasco, we walked in and saw a bizarre looking set, an old car was in the middle of the stage, seemingly crashed or ruined.  A middle eastern city made up the backdrop.  Of course, there was the drum kit and instruments for the band, but I was definitely confused.  As we sat in our seats, we had an additional playbill sitting in our seats, "The Hurt Locker: The Musical".  WTF?  As we learned within minutes of Hedwig taking the stage, the conceit was that this musical had closed and she had one night at the theatre to tell her story with the old sets still intact.  Bizarre, but completely fitting with the charm of Hedwig.  In the film, during the amazing "The Origin of Love", gorgeous and evocative animation is seen, illustrating the story being told.  You could imagine my delight when, as this song began, a mesh, screen came down over the stage, and different, but equally beautiful animation began.  You could still see Hedwig still the see through screen and JCM would gesture or interact with the animation.  It was magical.

The last twenty minutes of Hedwig the film is a kinetic, overwhelming, non stop musical number.  Hedwig, having finally achieved some fame, or infamy, begins performing a sad song in a nightclub ("Hedwig's Lament"), that morphs into an aggressive punk song ("Exquisite Corpse"), that then morphs into her breaking down and running out of the club.  The door to that club leads to Tommy's concert where he sings to her which then leads to a gorgeous white room where Hedwig, out of drag, sings a final farewell.  It is so difficult to explain what Hedwig on Broadway did during this sequence but I will try.  The film uses certain techniques to disorient the viewer during the "Exquisite Corpse" part of the song, such as split screen, animation and strobe lights.  When the production at the Belasco did the same thing, projecting animation and split screens behind the stage and having absolutely insane amount of strobe lights, I began to have the strangest sensation.  I suddenly felt like I was in my favorite movie.  Like, I was a participant in this world that I loved.  When Hedwig began the final, amazing song, "Midnight Radio",  I realized my heart was pounding and I had been holding my breath.  I had thought I would burst into tears the moment I saw JCM come on stage but instead I couldn't stop grinning.  But in that moment, listening to the last, gorgeous anthem, knowing this experience was over, this once in a lifetime dream, I have to admit, I started to cry.  And I was so happy.

After leaving the theatre, I felt euphoric, elated, and excited.  We walked out of the theatre and through Time Square, which is usually a nightmare with the bright lights and terrifying people in costumes.  I felt like I was flatting through it, and the lights seemed celebratory instead of gaudy.  It was one of the most perfect nights of my life and I was so happy to have K by my side.  Its not everyday you have a dream come true.  Now, to work on that African safari….


Saturday, April 4, 2015

La Femme Recommends….Jealousy

While it may not be comfortable for an amateur film critic to admit, I have always been vulnerable to the lure of celebrity and prestige.  And hot guys.  My longest and most vital cinematic crush has been Louis Garrel. Ever since I saw him in The Dreamers, I have been a fan girl for him.   I am not embarrassed to admit that I have watched/slogged/suffered/enjoyed movies simply for the joy of seeing my french dream guys face.  I think admiration, desire, that giddy joy one gets from seeing someone they find utterly beautiful, onscreen is one of the great joys of cinema.  Movie star crushes are  one of cinemas most essential pleasures and connection and shouldn't be discounted.  Silly they mean seem, but movies wouldn't be the same without beautiful movie stars and their swooning fans.

Louis Garrel's face is interesting and Gallic and some might call him ugly.  He has a big nose, a fivehead, and moles on his face.  In films and in life he usually wears over sized collared white shirts.  His hair is unruly to the point of looking nearly unkempt.   But all of those things that others find dirty or unattractive or strange, I like (no wonder I call him Monsieur Dirty Hot).  I have always liked a little bit of ugly in my pretty.  And Louis has it.  His hair, unkempt as it is,  may be the greatest to ever grace the silver screen.  It's lush and dark and messy in that impossibly perfect, natural way.  He has a big nose, but it fits his face, and his face is like a Roman statue.  As for his acting skills: one of my favorite critics once called him "indefatigably gormless" and another that I respect, when talking about a surprise cameo he had in literally the last frame of a film said, "Also , Louis Garrel is in the movie, but the movie ends seconds after he appears, which is how all movies featuring Louis Garrel should work". Dessolez Les Haters.   I would say that moment is a perfect heartthrob moment, and Louis definitely doesn't give us many of those.  It showed a great awareness and humor about his persona.  Louis is a subtle performer and he has suffered by never pushing himself outside of his comfort zone, but he has a magnetic screen presence and does that suffering french lover thing, oh, so perfectly.    

Phillipe Garrel isn't just Louis' father. he is in fact a respected filmmaker in his own right.  I have watched multiple P. Garrel  joints only to see that Gallic God that is Louis.  And I have also subjected my poor husband to it.  Regular Lovers was so long and boring, I'm sorry.  And Frontier of Dawn was intriguing for half of it until the electroshock therapy(?!) and then in the last five minutes.  I skipped A Burning Hot Summer even though it had the burning hot Monica Bellucci.  But Philippe's last movie, Jealously was on Netflix streaming and it was only an  hour and fifteen minutes.  And it had Louis.

Phillipe Garrel's films always have fairly simple plots and Jealously is no exception.  The film opens with Louis (this is also his character name.  P. Garrel is big into autobiography in his film) leaving his wife, which is witnessed through a key hole by his daughter, Charlotte.  Louis moves in with his depressive, husky voiced lover, Claudia (Anna Mouglalis).  Both of them betray each other to varying degrees.  We see jealously in all of its forms.  Someone contemplates suicide.  Love is torture.  Etc.  This is pretty much the story of all of the Phillipe Garrel movies I've seen, I think they could all be named "Only Love Can Hurt Like This."  Sounds fun, right?

But at the end of those 80 minutes, I was shocked.  I didn't feel like I wanted to die.  In fact, I kind of liked Jealousy.   It didn't have the oppressive sadness of the other films.  And it looked gorgeous.  And it had a semblance of humor.  It confirms every stereotype you may have had about the French.  That they are cheaters and liars and revel in it or at the very least don't seem to care. That they love baguettes, wear stripes and smoke like chimneys.  But it also has the deep feeling of love that only French people seem to have.  Do you know what I mean, where they declare their love and it seems so serious and so deep and so sexy that you almost swoon and think, oh my god, I want to live in a freezing garret?!  It also has this great warmth, because Louis has this adorable daughter who seems to be an archetype of French childhood.  She wears a striped sweater and asks existential questions.  She is sweet and charming and adorable and heartbreaking.  And even though Phillipe leaves us with that notion that romantic love is fleeting and can only lead to deep unhappiness, this time he gives an alternative.  Paternal love: the real love story at the heart of the film is between father and daughter.   Louis thinks he can't love anyone more than Claudia;  but in the end he realizes that that feeling will pass and the deepest love he will ever feel is for his child.  Its sweet but not in a treacly way.

Anna Mouglais is fantastic as Claudia.  She has this voice that is so deep it almost sounds fake.  But it is so unbelievably sensual and tragic that you completely understand why our protagonist is so taken with her. She may be the other woman, and in some ways the villain of the film, but she is imbued with such humanity in the performance that your heart bleeds for her. Louis has charm on his side in this film.  His scenes with Olga Milshtein as Charlotte are super charming and natural.  He has a natural, easy charisma.  The scene where he chastely holds a stranger's hand in a movie theatre is maybe the sexiest thing you will see all year.   His performance is earthy and confident, and much more mature than anything I've seen him in.

This surprised and heartened me.  Every love story between two adults in P. Garrel's  films ends in tragedy and no one seems particularly happy to be with that person. I swear, I have never seen lovers in his films smile or have fun together.  They always seem on the verge of tears. Louis and Claudia aren't really that different.  She can't find a job and cheats on him when he leaves town for a night.  He kisses his costar and seems indifferent to Claudia's suffering.  Those kind of characters can make it hard to invest in their relationship  But what P. Garrel slyly does it make both characters sympathetic when your first instinct is to detest both of them.  Louis may be a philandering jerk but he genuinely loves his daughter and gets joy from being with her.  Claudia may be insecure and emotionally distant but she dotes on Charlotte and makes friends with Louis' sister.  Charlotte is the glue that holds the film together, she makes us look at all of the characters in a better light.  That may be because in this film, Louis isn't his father's conduit, Charlotte is.  We are seeing the action from the perspective he had when Louis' grandfather, Maurice left his family.   I always felt that Phillipe seemed so hard on Louis, making him play unsympathetic characters who ultimately died horrible deaths but with Jealousy there is a real tenderness that was unexpected and deeply felt.

Its funny, I watched the movie because of my crush on Louis, I'm not afraid to admit it.  And I didn't have much respect for Phillipe as a director.  His films always look fantastic but seem so remote and almost parodies of what people think art films, or particularly French films are.  After watching Jealousy, my love for Louis is as strong as ever but I also gained just a little bit of respect and admiration for his crazy dad.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

It's Twelve O'Clock Somewhere….Meyer Lemon Rum Sour

It may be the first days of spring but winter citrus is insane right now and if you aren't using it in your cocktails, you are missing out.  Honestly, you can get Meyer Lemons all year round, but they are best and most cost effective in the winter.  Meyer Lemons are the sweet and tart love child of lemons and oranges and are amazing for cooking.  But lets be honest, they are better for cocktails.  Much better.

As long time readers may know (hahahahahaha, yes, I have been delinquent with this blog, so thanks Dad for sticking with me!) I love rum and one of the first cocktails I ever featured on this blog was a rum sour.  There are multiple reasons I have given up on my beloved rum sour, at least one of them being that I no longer can stand the taste of bottled sour mix.  The other being an unfortunate night playing the Pitch Perfect Drinking Game on Lopez with my family.  But I digress, the point is, that a sour can still be a delicious cocktail, you just need to use citrus and simple syrup instead.

You can make simple syrup lots of different ways.  Depending on the ratio, you can have a thicker or a thinner syrup.  I like two parts water to one part sugar because I don't like it too thick.  All you do is boil it until the sugar dissolves.  I keep a jar on hand at all times.  You can also infuse it with herbs or citrus or just about anything to make a flavored simple syrup.  Actually Meyer lemon rind would be great in this simple syrup to pump up that lemon flavor even more

For this particular cocktail, I use golden rum or spiced rum and mix it with Meyer Lemon and simple syrup.  Plus a splash of Cointreau or Triple Sec or my new favorite orange liquor, Patron Citronage orange liqueur.  Its simple but delicious.  And fleeting, which makes it taste even better.

Meyer Rum Sour

2 oz Golden Rum
Juice of 2 Meyer Lemons
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
Splash of Orange Liquer (I use the good stuff!)

Shake vigorously in your favorite shaker.  Unlike most sours I enjoy this up!  Garnishing is optional but strongly recommended with some of that gorgeous Meyer Lemon rind.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

La Femme Recommends…The Babadook

I am a self confessed scaredy cat but I couldn't resist checking out The Babadook, Jennifer Kent's debut film that none other than William Friedkin, director of The Excoricst (a movie I am too scared to watch!) called one of the scariest movies he'd seen.  Psychological horror, a creepy kid and a top hatted demon with a fun name? I'm in!

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a widow who has a thankless job at a nursing home.  She also has a terror of a son, Sam.  All day she takes care of people at her job and then comes home to Sam demanding her complete attention.  He is convinced that there are monsters surrounding him and builds traps for them all over her house, he shrieks, he gets kicked out of school.  Basically, he is a nightmare.  Poor Amelia seems to barely be making it through each day.  Then one night a mysterious  pop up book shows up in his room telling the story of "Mr. Babadook".  Mr. Babadook is a demon who you just can't get rid of, he has a big top hat and fangs and a long coat.  Of course, this terrifies Sam whose behavior only gets worse.  But once she has read him the book, strange things start happening.  I won't say much more about the plot but you can use your imagination to the places it goes.

Only what you imagine may not be exactly what happens.  Jennifer Kent uses sounds and the skill of her actors to great effect in showing us Mr. Babadook.  Many scenes we don't even see or hear anything, but the actors show us that they think something is there.  It was evident that her budget was very small but she was incredibly inventive in thinking of ways to creep out the viewer.  I mean, she basically made a red covered book a terrifying object that I don't want anywhere near me!  At times we aren't sure if the Babadook is real or fake or in the house or in one or more of the characters minds but the tone is so consistent throughout and the movie veers from psychological to supernatural horror and back again seamlessly.
Why do horror movies always have adorable pets?

Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is the way she switches up the viewers perception of the characters.  At first, you can't help but sympathize with Amelia and almost hate Sam.  Noah Wiseman is wonderful in this role, irritating and grating at first but later in the film we see his true love for his mom and his compassion shine through.  Without spoiling much I will say that Essie Davis' performance is a true wonder.  She goes from hero to villain to hero without missing a beat and takes you with her on Amelia's journey into madness.

I don't know if in the end The Babadook ended up scaring me as much as I was worried it would.  But more importantly than being scared is being engrossed and intrigued by a film and The Babadook definitely did both.  But don't be bringing me any kids story books anytime soon.