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Ian2015
One of my two perpetual companions, Ian Pussycat

Dear friends and readers,

One of my ways of getting through the hours of my life at night is to watch good movies and/or blog. After I finished my “The Importance of Screenplays” paper, I turned to the stack of DVDs I had on one of my two library tables in my “workroom” (study?). I began with 8 Acclaimed Films, and have now enjoyed 4 of the 8. Each has made my evening valuable to me and I shall try to share what I think was valuable as a form of recommendation.

I am not inclined to credit any institutionalized group with the aim of increasing compassion and understanding of individuals towards others in communities (I avoid the bankrupt term “society”), but the effect of these 1990s Miramax movies could be this (like drops of water on a stone wearing it away), even if their conscious aim was more like reaching a niche segment of the marketplace audience seen as liking Anglo-costume dramas of the non-violent, much “sensitivity” type liked by intelligent readers.

I read an article over lunch on film by Laura Riding Jackson (written long ago, reprinted in the January 2015 PMLA –- which I still get issues of even though I stopped membership in December 2013) where Jackson identifies a central flaw in popular films: they are capable of giving a strong education in feeling, of forcing us to enter the consciousness of the film team, the product and its process, but  they “fail to supply their audiences with an adult emotional language for the successions of emotions they induce. “ Why? lest they disturb or alarm or shock us by becoming aware of what we feel and expose to others (if they could see it).  It comes to me that this adult emotional language, stance, understanding is precisely what four of the 8 “acclaimed” Miramax films I’ve seen thus far attempt to do: The Ideal Husband, A Month by the Lake, My Life So Far and Her Majesty Mrs Brown (on IMDB just Mrs Brown).

My question is, Why were these not as good as they should have been? what held them back as a group and/or individually?

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Central love scene between Cate Blanchett and Jeremy Northam – the emphasis on this heterosexual pair distorts the experience — she is a naive woman, and he bestotted sexually and emotionally by her is the core of the movie

Film adaptation from Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband: first up because Jim bought and now I own a complete works of Wilde. He made efforts to see good productions; a high point of our 2004 3-week holiday in the UK with Yvette and Caroline was when the friend we were staying with, Angela, took us one summer night to watch The Importance of Being Earnest. For the first time I realized how funny it was; hitherto I was in audiences who didn’t get it or saw a film adaptation

It’s not Wilde but Wilde adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Parker. While I enjoyed it for the acting, beautiful settings, I was interested to find it didn’t work right. I have found that before in Wilde plays turned into movies. They are different genres, and often while updated, the adaptation is not sufficiently changed so what was intended as witty somehow doesn’t come across except as dull. Maybe it’s the pace of a movie (slower), the demand for a believable (seeming realistic) illusion, but I find Wilde most of the time does not translate into a movie without considerable change that weakens the heart of what he has to offer. You recognize the 18th century origin but it’s not enacted quite.

Still of interest: the theme is how you have to tolerate other people’s weaknesses and not have such a virtuous high minded view of yourself nor demand it of others if you are an ethical person. Seems strange. Did viewers ever really believe themselves so good they needed this kind of lesson? An Ideal Husband is someone with feet of clay, that way he can (among other things) grow rich, stay in power, do some good.

The wife is presented as a woman working for women’s causes, but the word “suffragette is not seen.” Otherwise all the women gain place and power in the world by marriage and the two central ones are conventionally in love and want to be submissive in romance. It would have been truer to the text to bring out the loss, the suffering compare these women to contemporary politically active feminist women.

It’s the subtext that is compelling I suggest — each of the characters is found out and the play-as-movie shows each of them tolerating one another and thus themselves. This is about homosexuality  — Colm Toibin has written that Wilde was ever trying to be found out, writing about it, and the urge destroyed him. Here in this play he is dreading his own impulse and exorcizing off what he anticipated would be and was the result. I would have preferred a straight dramatization of this darker fable and some sense in the movie of it brought out clearly. It was not at all but kept to the literal text — here and there in someone’s eyes you saw flashes of despair, which was steely (Everett) or just hardened to accept (Lindsay Duncan).

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Vanessa Redgrave challenging Edward Fox — the core is their ages and that he comes to accept her strength and see the beauty in her

Film adaptation of H.E. Bates’s A Month by the Lake. I don’t know how many of my few readers are familiar with the work of H.E. Bates — another “middle brow” or ignored/minor writer of the 20th century. If you’ve seen the superb mini-series from the 1970s, Love for Lydia, you know something of it: he’s called SubLawrentian and in a way it’s so. He’s a writer of short stories and has a marvelous three part biography, male version of Storm Jamieson.

The director John Irvin, screenplay Trevor Bentham, featuring as Miss Bentley Vanessa Redgrave (she reminded me so of her daughter in this one, Miranda Richarsdon); as Major Wileshaw Edward Fox and as Miss Beaumont a young Uma Thurman. The novella by Bates has not that long ago been reprinted (I just bought it); the movie reveals it’s another Lawrentian one: an older woman and man meet in an Italian resort by the northern lakes, and while he is attracted to her as a person as well as woman, when a young girl is hired as an au pair by a bourgeois Italian family staying, his librido goes in another direction. Older men want younger not older women. Luckily for all concerned she’s a of a shallow flighty disposition, can’t get herself to pretend even though she hates the upper class boarding school her parents had sent her to, and needs money (shades of Lydia). Fox’s character cannot accept the independence and athleticism of Redgrave’s (she beats him at tennis) and the story is of their gradual getting together, one attempted rape of Redgrave by one of the younger Italian men “around.” There’s a very much E.M. Forster feel here — like A Room with a View (Miramax did that too) — all last names, repressed English people abroad ….

It was somehow not as good as it should have been; as with the film of “The Ideal husband” in the same collection, despite great actors, wonderful script, good source, somehow doesn’t quite “soar” — but it is very good and touching. I wished I were Redgrave at the end where we see we have been in retrospective throughout and she is talking from later years of a partnership with Fox (not clear it’s marriage) where every summer they return to the mountains and spend a month by this lake. She is the center of the film and my guess is like Richardson (the character Christopher Blake played) in the book Love for Lydia. I remember Jeremy Irons as the drunken friend, opting out of life. In this film there is no opting out of life. One is not permitted to.

Don’t miss it.

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The family group at one of their seasonal rituals — the point is there is nothing eccentric here …

My Life So Far. it’s the story of the boyhood of one of the founders of the BBC and a man who ran one of the major opera companies in the UK. Well you have to have built in strong self-esteem and contacts to achieve that. Well you have to have contacts, connections, a sense of your the worth of your own culture in negotiating with others. It’s based on a memoir of Denis Forman. It’s about a privileged life. Hugh Hudson the director, Simon Donald the screenplay writer, David Puttnam the producer.

What’s so effective is the film-makers managed to recreate the life of a rural country house estate, family and servants, houseguests, village, surrounding area, with all the appurtenances of what they do in daily life in a way that is so convincing — yet it’s “warm bath” stuff.  Since Cranford such movies have become common; this one was made in 1999. Many extras had to have been hired for some of the large group scenes — of yearly rituals, of games, of sports. Rosemary Harris is the grandmother who owns the house and her death at the end brings an end to the life-style after a while. She made me cry several times because she enacted her role as a widow so well — quiet and controlled, seeming the center, a kind disciplinarian to her grandchildren advisor to son, but then something would happen or she’d get drunk. That she once played George Sand as seen in her letters, is the mother of Jennifer Ehle made sense.

There’s a Chekhovian feel without the sense of tragedy coming so much.   It’s told from the point of view of a young boy, a new actor at the time who appears not to have gone on for a career; the famous actors who are very good include Colin Firth as this young man’s patriarchal but very stumbling and half-fantasy driven father, a squire in a great house in Scotland.

What made the difference in this film from the two previous is timing. Just as Harris is taken to bed weeping, at the right second we saw a full length of her now dead husband in a weak sort of Sargeant style — hunting or fishing gear around him.

We see the quiet and important miseries of such a place — Firth has a sort of affair with the fiancee of his brother, and hurts his wife intensely; she has had several children by him and her life wrapped around him, applauding him. The boy’s own hurts.

It’s very masculinist in outlook — shows the patriarchy without feeling uncomfortable about it. How many films there are about boys’ growing up. But this one was intelligent and its script and whole sense showed us the women’s lives too – -they are presented as happy (the wife at the end) but we may realize otherwise.  A Month by the Lake and An Ideal Husband had a lot more from a woman’s point of view — indeed that was part of their point. We don’t see much of the servants though they are there and we can see endlessly working, on the alert, and sometimes unfairly fired. We see the poverty of some of the artisans in the countryside.

I recommend it as a full realization of the privileged country life house from the standpoint of privilege. Not a melancholy picture like Isabel Colegate’s Shooting Party (and its remarkable film adaptation with James Mason).  I suppose a curiosity whose title might have been the Boyhood of a Privileged BBC executive, English upper class life in the country idealized ….

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Mr Brown and the queen facing down, strong against the pressures of the outside world when they are out on their horses

Her Majesty Mrs Brown, directed by John Madden, screenplay Jeremy Brock, producer Sarah Curtis under a Miramax distribution and (doubtless purse). Judi Dench enacts the part of the bereaved queen somewhat brought back into life by Albert’s groom, Billy Connolly. This one might be a made-for-TV film (the credits suggest this, BBC) – except 105 minutes is a typical length for movies intended for cinemas. The film-makers mean to give us a touching depiction of real human emotion (what people do feel) with the movie there to make sense of the two people’s unusual depth of feeling; the story turns precisely on the evolution of the feelings the two people in the center experience together and over time.

I’m not sure the film-makers achieve it altogether, it sometimes seems strained.  Since 1997 Rumor has moved on to suggest a marriage between the two (so physical intimacy), but what the movie turns on is partly their partial defiance of her vast superiority to him (which now and again she insists on) and his corresponding movement from deference, to active concern that is sensible to a sort-over-compensation idea that he is needed to keep the queen from assassins. He did once save her but the movie makes him obsessed late in life, exhausting himself, and finally dying in this cause (of pneumonia). There are vignettes of familiar 19th century political figures either in Parliament or around Victoria. Beautiful scenery in (apparently) Scotland. There is said to have been a diary kept by Brown and destroyed by Victoria’s courtiers.

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Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin and Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey, making music together (Master and Commander, a Peter Weir film): no Miramax but it seeks to make sense of its heroic and anti-heroic emotions (when I’ve finished watching the extensive features, I’ll blog on it)

Riding’s question is what is a film for? What can it do no longer medium can? Movies which offer just immediacy of entering a kind of consciousness” are a “shallow pleasure,” an “emotional waste.” Movies can offer “new kinds of emotions” not much acknowledged, “sensibilities” ordinary people do have but which movie makers are afraid to present.  She talks of how color should be used to express emotion, and also music (not just as backdrop to add emotions or moods the film-makers haven’t been able to whip up). This is done in all four films. What went wrong? In each case they bowed to conventional ideas of women, of hierarchy, of monarchy. Oddly, the one which was most successful in what it endeavoured to do was My Life So Far. It was felt that the privileged who identify also understood more: surely a prejudice.

I’ve bought myself a copy of Bates’s A Month by the Lake. I have the highest respect for Victoria and Albert since reading Gill Gillian’s We Two.

Kayla was not the only ‘net friend who meant to comfort and give me company at Christmas time by such a present.  She and I and Yvette had dinner together at the Jane Austen Summer Program do in North Carolina in June 2013 . A restaurant you had to know was there to find it; a gate before you got in.  Another friend, a scholarly woman, professor, who I’ve met at ECASECS and ASECS and has read books with me online (including Clarissa) sent a lovely card and Jo Baker’s Longbourn.

Miss Drake

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John Nash, Garden under Snow (1924)

Talk of all eternity?

    I think it sounds too vast
And overwhelming just for you and me,
    Two pagan lovers; we should be aghast
And shiver at its cold immensity
I’d rather be
    Back in our little past —
Transient, perhaps, but we
    Found it sweet …
     — Jan Anstruther (Mrs Miniver)

Dear friends and readers,

A new turn. I have an inexorable conflict on Mondays starting next week: I begin teaching my planned course, The Poldark Novels in Context at 1 pm. I hope also to go to the JCC for Dance Fusion at 8:30 to 9:45 am. Charlie’s one day at the Haven is Monday. So our at first weekly, then twice a month and now monthly meeting must come to an end. We exchanged email addresses a couple of months ago and will keep in contact this way, and at the end of 10 weeks the course will be over. But it’s almost a symbol. My neighbor who lives across the street and is a widow like me, her husband in his sixties a victim of this cancer plague (he died of pancreatic cancer) told me she feels like her past and future have been taken from her. Like so many people in the US she and he moved around a lot, they could make few ties except the ones she had originally as a girl and young woman in Germany, so her past was shared with him, and now he’s gone; the future they planned was for them together. He died 5 years ago. I’ve an idea like other widows she tells no one of this — but me or perhaps another sympathetic friend who can understand. Few want to acknowledge the widow’s reality (or the older divorcee).

I talked of this with Charlie. I feel my past has not been taken from me because Jim and I had such a rich intellectual life together and I carry it within me; I put out onto blogs all I remember of him; I am surrounded by the things we bought and made together. I can though see why my neighbor said what she did about her future. I have a much much diminished future. Money and troubled effort assembled a team to replace practical things Jim used to do. Mrs Thatcher was wrong: there is such a thing as society. Much I used to do is no longer fun, much I did was from his planning, his know-how, his driving. We would have gone to London for Trollope’s birthday and I would have, with him, tried to join in on Trollope Society events. He probably would have been planning this for months, and bought tickets for us to go to theater or other places too. Now none of this will occur. Ironically the activities I have available to me are the ones that kept me from him for a good deal of the time: time here on the Net with others; my reading, writing, watching movies. For me to go to LA in March is hard enough, and there’s the cost. Each day I make a small plan and follow it. I am doing things I would never have done had he lived — like teaching in these OLLIs. I need to go out and be with people, but doing this precludes say trying to write a book (not that I am keen on that any more at all) or say a series of essays for periodicals (I must be mad to go back to that); it’s more than the teaching itself is problematic for me. Charlie and I talked of how hard it is to make new friends at this age. A few friends I had thought would become closer moved off very quickly (months ago); a few (Net-friends) stayed; I now have two local friends I have met with for lunch, gone to a movie with, walk, but for the most part my life is that of a lone person with her books, films, cats and a few Net-friends.

Charlie and I will still keep in touch by email, if desired by phone, we can try to meet during the week on another day, and I can come again when the ten weeks are over.

Last week during one of the sieges of snow where everything was closed and the temperatures cause my skin to burn, not to omit black frozen ice-and-snow on roads, Charlie sent me the following sweet YouTube about a cat house, very cheering:

The cats make the house feel alive. I am become closer to my cats than ever. I feel they are there with me, and am alive to their ways of communicating with me. Ian, the boy, likes to keep two of his toys (a string toy, and a flat blue stuffed sock) in the back bathroom and will not tolerate my making the bathroom rugs neat. That is his spot to wrestle. He used to spend his morning under Jim and my bed; since Jim died he began to spend it amid Yvette’s shoes, in the back of her closet; now he lies down on the front living room couch with occasional trips to the grate. He has arrived chez lui . He is larger than Clarycat, and manifests a kangaroo-like spurt (from the back it looks so awkward) when he trots, ambles, hops, runs, skids, dances, plays with string, springs up to the heights of bookcases and tables about the house, watching and waiting for one of us to come home, sometimes jumps on poor Clarycat demanding play and wrestling with her …. she takes a bit, doesn’t mind when he licks her and will playbite back, but then growls (she’s had enough) and gets out from under. She’s doesn’t quite look kangaroo-like from behind because she’s slenderer … She spends her days near me, is right now clutched tight on my lap.

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Julianne Moore won an Oscar for Best Actress for Still Alice, a movie which puts before the viewer a woman left alone whose illness takes from her her future, and her past. One of the friends I mentioned went with me to see it. She lives alone, aged nearly 60, and fears what will happen to her. She cried intensely twice as she watched. Unexpectedly I didn’t cry but I certainly saw this movie and the novel it’s based are about more than Alzheimer’s.

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Julianne Moore as a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s

It is an unusually close and truthful depiction of deterioration. Yes she’s upper middle class, privileged, and has great doctors, but the film shows us that families are not this loving panacea. We see how Alice’s deterioration brings out real conflicts, and towards the end her husband goes off to another city because he’s still young and wants to further his career, and she gets in the way. He doesn’t exactly leave her, as one of her daughters comes to live with her. The curtain is brought down before the harrowing end which is pictured half-way through when Alice, still well enough, goes to visit a nursing home where elderly people who have lost their ability to take care of themselves are put. Julianne Moore’s performance was utterly believable.

It appears to be leaving the movie-houses soon (on hardly any screens, only twice a day, small auditoriums, small audiences in them), so this is a recommendation to hurry out. It is directed and written by the same two people — a good sign for the screenplay and independently produced — or you’d not have the ending it has. In comparison, The Theory of Everything was about Hawking’s wife’s romance and skidded along a distanced untenuous upbeat surface (some improbabilities stared you in the face). That The Imitation Game and Birdman won for screenplays show just how little any certain criteria are used for films.

I am following a Future Learn course on film-making (from Exeter this one), and the weeks are wildly disparate in quality. Two have been superb, and two awful — it seems the people making movies, have no idea how to judge the material they present; they take this supposed practical approach. It is pretended the people following are going to make movies, the way many many books on screenplays are based on the idea the reader is going to try to write a screenplay. I now see why: many of these people don’t have an intellectual understanding of what they are doing; they can understand how a camera works and what angles they could to produce certain effects. Often the actors understand more of their art as an art and its value than anyone else — I see this during interviews. Film studies scholars have little respect outside of their own circles; these movie-making people accept popular critics as a form of advertisement; when the critics are intelligent their work crosses over and is used by film scholars.

As to the Oscars ceremony, the whole thing now that I have paid some attention to it for the last two years (when Jim was alive he never did nor did I), most of it is absurd, from the attention paid to what the actresses wear, to gossip about the show. This year the talk about it included talk about the politics of some of the movies and speeches. These appeared to do no good if you look at who won the prizes for the most part (an exception to this is CitizenFour for best documentary, not that it was anywhere near as good as Laura Poitras’s first film). I gather at the core of all admiration this is envy — especially for the “after Oscars party.” People want to be included and inside exclusive coteries.

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Joan Rivers (undated)

I was surprised that I didn’t cry at Still Alice because I’ve been crying more easily. Indeed I worry a little about this as if I’m in public people will become uncomfortable if suddenly tears run down my face. Jim’s permanent absence, his non-existence are more real to me than ever — even if I have him in memories, artefacts, my daughters, the very way of quiet comfortable enough life his years of work with mine make possible to me. I should not be surprised at the denial of the reality of widows and widowers’ feelings by most people who have not experienced this loss, and how many who have are afraid to speak of it lest they offend or lose whatever connections or friends they have. It is not even that surprising to me anymore that books about widowhood end with an upbeat idea of the building a new life that genuinely replaces the old so the person no longer misses the old. I have experienced myself how very hard it is to get anyone to publish life-writing which does not end with an upbeat moral, an exemplary typology that the reader can gain (false often) hope from. It may be that were I to read the more academic writing on grief I would find that Kubler-Ross’s cant was recognized as such; through the thicket of jargon and distanced intimidating writing there might be a genuine engagement with human emotion at the loss of a beloved life partner. Here and there over this past two years I have seen poems acknowledge it, a couple of novels, a couple of memoirs. I’ve recorded these in this blog.

When Joan Rivers was widowed from the most painful kind of death, a spouse’s suicide, she quipped: “she scattered his ashes at Neiman Marcus, so she could visit 5 times a week …. ” There’s an insightful informative essay on her in this week’s New Yorker by Emily Nussbaum. Nussbaum sees Rivers as surviving by consciously buying into all the most outrageous norms of our society, the anti-feminist ones too. So at the Oscars she went around saying “Who are you wearing tonight?” Nussbaum sees her act as reinforcing what hurts many women badly; myself I never heard some of the attacks on other women Nussbaum cites or alludes to. I found her jokes genuinely funny: when a man wants anal intercourse, this gives you the chance to read or do some paper work, so don’t knock it. And you won’t get pregnant this way either. My blog-review of Rivers’s movie, A Piece of Work has been most of the most read (reblogged) and popular pieces I’ve ever written; there I see her as “activating her anger, sublimating it and reaching others where they live. And the way she confronts our cultural hypocrisies defies them and through her act, she mocks our false norms.:

Note on the table in the photo beside her all those pills. She is very young and vulnerable — this looks like her face before surgery. She lasted until 82 when she died at the hands of doctors in a hospital during an operation that should not have killed her. She was probably not expecting this, given all the operations she had voluntarily undergone.

Caroline gave her cat, Mitzi, a necessary operation, to remove cysts from one of her paws. Both her legs were shaved, the one with the cysts and one for an IV. The poor creature did not understand what was being done to her, was terrified probably, felt pain, and at first looked exhausted and in need of much affection and reassurance. After a couple of days, she perked up, and managed to get her neck cone off. After it was put back, she looks longing out the window (where it’s still freezing cold) because she is a cat who likes to go outdoors — basically to a small fenced-in garden at the back of Caroline’s house. The latest photo suggests recovery on the way. Her life is saved again (she is 14 and was in effect a rescue cat) and she can carry on too. What else is there?

Call this Mitzi gets all better:

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Mitzi when well — Empress before the operation

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Mitzi convalescing at home (Jim denied cancer patients were allowed to convalesce at Kaiser)

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Mitzi perking up; observing the snow and freezing rain?

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Mitzi recovering

Sylvia

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Helen Mirren on the NYC subway this past weekend

Dear friends and readers,

I echo Miss Izzy or Yvette: been having a rough number of weeks. I can’t begin adequately to number or characterize ways I’ve missed Jim in these past two months. I no longer have access to a deeply sympathetic intelligence distinct from myself living by my side (the admiral) so seek disinterested informed help where I can. Today I enlisted a few respectful people to help us, professionals as they call themselves (accountant, financial advisor, my counselor who has access to centers for people on the autism spectrum, a super-smart lady named Martha who can explain everything you need explained better than Clarissa ever did), so we are not alone in our unhurried decision making.

It’s been far too cold for me to walk, and I find I rely on NPR classic radio (yes I renewed my membership for this year) as well as old friends in authors, some favorite books and movies, today for example, I studied the screenplay and film of Walt Stillman’s Metropolitan and actors/actresses who embody good and congenial (to me) types of people. I know lots of movie-watchers feel no hesitation in admitting they watch a movie for this or that star. Usually they do not go on to say why this star, to examine the source of their preference, what in the actor or actress inhabiting just that character and shaping his or her contours means to us. Skewed as the use of Maggie Smith has been in Downton Abbey, pay attention to the shots, and you see Alice, Alan Bennett’s Vicar’s wife still finds the occasional opportunity to emerge:

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What or who has helped me during this dark (literally sometimes) period: good Net-friends, letters, the occasional phone conversation, even more rare but it’s happened lunch with a local friend, an outing to the shopping mall with another, Dance Fusion and I’ve joined Core too (hard exercise); talk about books and movies with Net-friends, and the books and movies themselves, to say nothing of two promised reviews, two papers and coming teaching keeping me busy as far as I can absorb myself. Trollope said many times “The labor we delight in physics pain.” Our two pussycats have been affectionate companions, and we reciprocate by providing a comfortable home:

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ClaryCat

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Snoopy and Woodstock

I haven’t ignored the news either. The finest thoughtful response to the slaughter of the staff of Charlie Hebdo was written by Slavok-Zizek, whose “In the Grey Zone” (LRB, 5 Feb 2015) will teach you why establishments and hegemonies everywhere recognize in the bills of rights, and civil liberties, a direct threat to their power and that there is no justification for any retaliatory killing. At the same time I too resist any communal laughter that makes fun of fear and pain from positions of power. I liked the wisdom Tariq Ali’s “It didn’t need to be done” too. I note he recognizes the function of derisive persistent bullying by anyone as a self-interested mode of control.

Did you know that Pete Seeger made music for them at Selma?

This week I’ve been studying screenplays, watching the films they transition into (Calendar Girls, The Jane Austen Book Club, the last couple of days), reading two wonderful books on Cornwall (Rising Ground by Philip Marsden, a moving travel-regional book; Cornwall: The Cultural construction of Place, ed Elia Westland, a superb anthology), and even good novelizations of screenplays. They do exist — I just love the debate on the meaning of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp in Stillman’s Last Days of Disco: the argument begins against the tramp “It’s a film that programs women to adore jerks,” proceeds to see who is the true good spirit and hero of the story, “The only sympathetic character, the little Scottie who’s so concerned about Lady, is mocked as old-fashioned and irrelevant and shunted off to the side,” and ends “Isn’t the whole point that Tramp changes …” even if he remains/stands for a “person with low socio-economic prospects … ”

Make-believe, where would we be without it? Off to be allured by the music and photography of the older Poldark mini-series …

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The good companions of Calendar Girls

Miss Drake

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filmmaking

Dear friends and readers,

I ask your patience on this one: I’m going to make this a handy site in this blog for Future Learn courses. Thus far I’ve followed, Literature of the Country House and Shakespeare and His World (click here for summaries, scroll down for links); I’m in the middle of following World War 1: Trauma and Memory) and I’ve signed up for Explore Film-making; Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Much Ado about Nothing in Performance. I doubt I’ll follow all 3, but I’ll begin them all and this post makes it easy for me to reach them.

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Recreated Globe Theater in London

Brief explanation: while the Literature of the Country House was a disappointment, there were a couple of marvelous weeks and I did learn enough that was new to make the experience worthwhile, Jonathan Bate’s Shakespeare and His World has been remarkable as an experience; and I’ve learnt and been salutarily reminded and what I knew enrichened by WW1: Trauma and Memory. So I am going to try for three more. I don’t read the comments by others much (these exist in the hundreds) and have now only twice read the new texts, though I’ve re-skimmed many of the others (which I’ve read), but on my listserv about WomenWritersthroughtheAges @ Yahoo we had a reading and discussion of 3 18th century novels by women as a result of our shared experience. All that I can garner about film adaptation is central to my studies of all sorts, and I’ve long loved Shakespeare. What do I have to do with my late nights?

Big Sue and Now Voyager

Her face is a perfect miniature on wide, smooth flesh,
a tiny fossil in a slab of stone. Most evenings
Big Sue is Bette Davis. Alone. The curtains drawn.
The TV set an empty head which has the same
recurring dream. Mushrooms taste of kisses. Sherry trifle
is a honeymoon. Be honest. Who’d love me?
Paul Henreid. He lights two cigarettes and, gently,
puts one in her mouth. The little flat in Tooting
is a floating ship. Violins. Big Sue drawing deeply
on a chocolate stick. Now Voyager depart. Much,
much for thee is yet in store. Her eyes are wider,
bright. The previous video unspools the sea.

This is where she lives, the wrong side of the glass
in black-and-white. To press the rewind,
replay, is to know perfection. Certainty. The soundtrack
drowns out daytime echoes. Size of her. Great cow.
Love is never distanced into memory, persists
Unchanged. Oscar-winners looking at the sky.
Why wish for the moon? Outside the window night falls,
slender women rush to meet their dates. Men whistle
on the dark blue streets at shapes they want
or, in the pubs, light cigarettes for two. Big Sue
unwraps a Mars Bar, crying at her favourite scene.
The bit where Bette Davis says “We have the stars.”

— Carol Ann Duffy

RussianPark
A park in winter in Russia (sent by an Internet friend)

Miss Drake — aging scholarly woman, lives alone, ever wanting to improve herself (as you’ll instantly recall from Gaudy Night)

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