Monday, August 22, 2011

cinema blues

Film festivals are a fantastic forum to see films that normally don't get distributed. This past weekend, as R and I discuss which films to go to at the Montreal International Film Fest, I'm cautious about choosing whereas he, more optimistic, claims we've never seen a real stinker. Ah no? What about that Turkish film where we sat through ten minutes of a camera closeup on a woman screaming? Or that Portuguese film that bored us to nausea?
Reading the write-ups is a lesson in good and bad advertising. The Finnish film I chose Saturday only barely resembled the blurb for content and not at all for tone. Believe me, I would not knowingly pick a feel-good, fluffy movie. I was reluctant to see the German film R wanted to see Sunday because the photo was so over-the-top melodramatic--a grief-stricken man, hugging a young woman to his chest as a young man stood by, red-faced and weeping. But it was a quirky funny-sad film.
In Montreal you get the chance to read both the English and the French blurbs which are sometimes so different, you wonder if they're even describing the same film. So that's neat--the different angles.
On the whole, my rule when choosing is to pick films I don't expect to have the chance to see again. Those small budget films from the Netherlands, Morocco, Argentina, South Korea. See them now or see them never.
Normally I'm allergic to crowds, but I understand perfectly that at a film festival--a good film festival--there will be lineups to buy tickets and lineups to get into the cinema. I accept the conditions.
I don't even mind when we see a movie that disappoints. You pick a film. You go. The 106 minutes that follow are the luck of the draw.
My BIG GRIPE is with the asshole ignoramuses who FRICKIN TALK THROUGH THE MOVIE. Can't they wait until they leave to start discussing it? Are they so mentally challenged that they constantly have to ask each other who the characters are and what's going on? If they ask what he just said, then they won't hear what she's saying now. NOR WILL I. They are not in their own living room. They are in a public cinema.
Some people don't get it. (Granted, they can't follow a simple plot. Why should they understand the difference between public and private behaviour?) I turn around and tell them to be quiet and they still whisper. R turns around and hisses and they stop for a few moments only to start again. There is never a cinema where someone in the audience isn't whispering, convinced that whatever insight or question they compulsively have to share is worth disturbing those who sit nearby.
One day there will be a story in the news about a woman throttling an innocent stranger in a cinema. The victim won't be innocent. The victim was TALKING.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

salty doors

We stole a few days away from Montreal to head out to the Gaspé. Seagulls and hot peach sunsets. Beach shacks selling shrimp poutines.
Even on a warm sunny day, the air is damp. The wildflowers—Goldenrod, Chicory, Purple Loosestrife—are hyper-brilliant. The grass around the house is tender and rich as butter lettuce, the pile thick and luxuriant as a carpet. When I walk to the shed, my footprints leave a diagonal trail.
R and I have been discussing the door on Madonne’s house, which is now ours. The ugly metal door faces the water—ie the wind off the water. When we were here last March, the wind whipped snow in horizontal swathes of punishing white. That day the car was completely buried in snow three times. Three times we dug it out to start the engine. The door of this house has withstood many such storms. Gale force winds, battering rain, a higher concentration of salt than people put on their fries.
Originally the door was factory grey. At some point it was painted red to match the trim around the windows. Maybe ten years ago the trim and the door were painted yellow.
I used to wonder about the bright colours of Maritime houses—hot mustard, carnation pink, aquamarine. Last winter when we drove down the coast--with white snow, grey rock and black trees on one side, and snow and a grey horizon of ice on the other--I was glad for these shouts of colour along the road.
We haven’t decided yet what colour we’ll paint our house which is a dirty white now with yellow trim, flaking here and there. The house should be painted, but the upstairs is still a construction zone of roughly sawn boards. Downstairs, a small unit of kitchen cupboards have only just been installed. What to do next is a constant game of priorities, especially since we only come every few months.
Of course, the neighbours want the house painted. Thérèse, especially, feels entitled to an opinion because her brother, Madonne's father, built the house 70-odd yrs ago. Thérèse lives down the road in a two-story saltbox with ten dozen cats. When R brought her the old doors from our house (broken, some only 5 feet high) that she asked to have for firewood, she gave him a pair of wool socks she’d knit. The socks are so thick that they don’t fit inside shoes or boots. Basically they are boots. As I'm writing, I see Thérèse on the side of the road with her large turquoise purse, thumb out whenever a car drives by.
I spent Saturday going through Madonne’s old dishes, deciding what to keep. There were thirty soup spoons but only two forks. Cut-glass pickle dishes. Parfait glasses. I don’t do parfait. Pickles... only occasionally. Straight from the jar is fine with me. What did Madonne do with so many carving knives and serving forks? How much roast did she eat? (A car just stopped to pick up Thérèse.) I filled two boxes with soup spoons, tin Expo 67 platters, church-bazaar flowered plates, teacups and saucers. We’ll take the boxes back to Montreal where we’ll put them on the sidewalk. They’ll be emptied—every last cookie cutter and snail fork—in no time. We live in a neighbourhood of garbage aficionados.
We’ll paint the house eventually. We thought we’d change the door too. The latest coat of yellow has blistered, exposing the weathered red—equally corroded—beneath. Rusty fissures gape on grey metal. The effects of salt and wind and rain and cold. But the door itself is solid. I wish our door in Montreal fit so well in the frame. It's a good door. We’ve decided to keep it.
I wish R luck trying to explain environmental art to Thérèse.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

organizing junk

Perhaps not everyone, but most people like to arrange things. Books in alphabetical order; spices on one shelf; canned goods on another; screwdrivers by size; a flowerbed of red geraniums bordered with blue lobelia; bridesmaids from taller to shorter. You go here, you go here. The arrangements aren’t always neat, but objects (and ideas) get grouped.
What is that arranging impulse? It follows us even into death. When I went to the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City this past spring, I took pictures of burial arrangements.

Everything in its place with the idols out front. Presumably there was food, which has since decomposed, in the bowls. Each object here has meaning—or we assume it does because it’s here. Arranging gives value, even if it’s only subjective.
A couple of months ago I noticed that someone has been collecting junk and arranging it under the overpass east of the Maxi on Wellington St. heading into Verdun. At first the junk was literally bags of garbage. Old clothes I suspect he rifled from the donations box in the Maxi parking lot. Overstretched sweatpants and T-shirts scattered in heaps. Then he added a discarded chair. Some empty detergent bottles he could have scooped from a recycling box.
I know it’s a “he” because R has seen him when he jogs by in the early evening. There’s no one when I cycle past in the morning. The site is in permanent shadow because of the overpass. The concrete backdrop has arches, lending the suggestive air of an ancient temple. Garbage as artifacts from a consumer civilization. Every two or three weeks, the city clears the space.
He begins again. Each new exhibition grows more inventive. He’s got the passion for junk, he does. The messy heaps have been replaced by strategic arrangements. Here, a women’s pink bikini bottoms—which might have fallen from a bag after she changed when leaving the pool, or been a discard after sex. Here, a twisted length of glittery wrapping paper from a birthday party. A long-sleeved shirt with one arm stretched, the other folded: flagman on the ground.
This past weekend all the smaller objects were rearranged around an intact car bumper. A blue beret propped on top.  A defunct printer. A red platform shoe with a bow on an open magazine. A pink thermos.

Each new arrangement of garbage looks less like junk and more like a cultural event. Which makes me wonder if the arranging impulse that prompts people to stack their bowls in one cupboard and their mugs in another isn’t the rationalistic impulse it seems, but some nascent desire for artistry. ??
Quick, someone fund a SPECT scan to see which side of the brain has more blood flow during organizing.