Derik Badman's Journal

2020-05-16 10:54

Another beautiful day here, so I'm spending some time on the porch enjoying the weather and the sounds of nature (and not enjoying the sounds of yard machines). One of the doves, noisily flew up and landed on the railing right in front of me, perhaps not expecting me to be sitting here. It (still don't know how to tell male from female doves) stayed a bit, looking at me, close enough that I could see the lovely light blue (almost robin's egg) ring around its eyes. I never noticed that before. Doves never look like much from a distance, no flashy colors to jump out at you, but on closer inspection the patterns of their feathers, the greys of all different hues, and the irridescent sheen of all sorts of blues and greens and pinks is really lovely.

Spent the earlier part of the morning watching Olivier Assayas' The Clouds of Sils Maria, which I really loved, rather unexpectedly. I almost removed it from my Criterion queue after watching his earlier Irma Vep the other day. The latter was not so great. I got to the end because I kept expecting something interesting to happen, something to emerge from the plot, but other than a cool and brief scene that closes the movie, I never really got a sense of the point of it all. It stars Maggie Cheung as herself, come to Paris to be in a remake of Les Vampires by a director played by Jean-Pierre Leaud. He seemingly asked her to do the part just because he saw her in a film and wanted to see her in a catwoman type suit as worn by the character Irma Vep in the original. The movie too seems to partially just exist to have Maggie Cheung wear a catwoman suit. They film some scenes, the costume woman hits on Cheung, the director hates the film and either really or fakely has a breakdown so some other director can be put on the job who wants someone else to star in it. Two interesting scenes... in one Cheung puts on her suit, seemingly breaks into an occupied hotel room, and steals a necklace that she then throws off the building. It is not totally clear to me whether it is real or fantasy, as the next scene finds Cheung in the suit, asleep in her hotel, claiming she didn't wake up because of having taken sleeping pills. It leaves open the idea she was just dreaming, but also that maybe she did dress up and go act like her character. The ending scene, finds the new director and crew watching what the previous director had edited together so far, a black and white sequence of parts we saw them filming previously but with all these abstract geometries scratched (it looks scratched though maybe it was done digitally) into the film. The result is actually really interesting to watch. It runs a bit and then the film is over. It all felt unresolved and meandering.

The Clouds of Sils Maria on the other hand was excellent. It stars Juliette Binoche as a famous older actress, basically herself, and Kristin Stewart as her personal assistant. They play off each other really well and their interactions basically are the movie. The actress agrees to act in a sequel to a play that made her famous as a 18 year old, basically playing the same character but 20 years later. Chloe Grace Moretz (who it took me a moment to recognize from 30 Rock) plays the actress who will now play the young woman's part, and who seems to at least vaguely be more like the real Kristin Stewart, at least as I have some vague background concept of her career and popularity with tabloids). As Stewart helps Binoche rehearse her lines it starts to become clear that there are vague connections between the play's themes and their real relationship, which adds a ton of interest and ambiguity to the goings on. Their relationship is a complicated mix of professional and personal, that is not without a buried romantic component. It plays out with a lot of subtlety and mystery that I really appreciated. I can totally see myself watching it again.

It was a happy coincidence that the movie mostly takes place in the Swiss Alps, which is vaguely how I've been thinking about parts of the fiction I've been writing. There are lots of lovely shots of the mountainous landscape and scenes of the protagonists walking around it it, that I enjoyed and provided some visual inspiration.

I have a completely open weekend, no games scheduled, no chores really to do. I'm going to find some other movies to watch as my Criterion queue is getting out of control. Hoping to finish up the Neveryon novel I'm reading too, so I can pause from that series for a bit to read something else. I think its also time for my second quarantine haircut, since the barber's been closed for months now.