Derik Badman's Journal

2020-05-31 10:41

Saw a mole run across the yard this morning as I was doing some (minimal) yardwork. Another animal for my list. The mother fox and three kits visited the yard last night. Not sure if there are only three left now or if the other two just weren't visible, but it seems more likely the former.

Another beautiful day with nothing to do sitting out on the porch.

Watched Jacques RIvette's Celine and Julie Go Boating between yesterday and this morning. I haven't seen if for many years, since it played at the local theatre (that was anywhere from from 5-15 years ago I guess). Of what I've seen of Rivette's films it is an odd one, much more playful and surreal. And it is very surreal, in a classic Surrealism sense. There is tarot and magic and symbols and coincidences and wandering in the streets and chance and clearly some kind of connection to the unconscious of the characters, not to mention a number of dreamlike sequences. And in some way there is kind of a mad love. I don't know I've noticed it in previous viewings (or if I did, I have forgotten I did), but there is a strong lesbian subtext to the protagonists relationship. They meet (or do they, it's actually a little unclear if they already know each other or not), when Julie is sitting in a park reading her magic book, and Celine rushes past dropping her sunglasses. Julie picks them up and gives chase. What follows is less cat and mouse and more like a game as Celine drops items and pretends not see Julie, and Julie picks up the items and pretends to hide. The chase ends when Celine heads into a hotel and rents a room. The next morning Julie finds Celine in the cafe across the street and they exchange a few words and an item (one of the things that was dropped). Later Celine appears at the library Julie works at. Then later still she is sitting in the stairway of Julie's apartment building with a strange, seemingly improvised story about a house she worked in with a man and two women and maybe a murder (which now that I write that oddly echoes later events in the film). After that the women live together and sleep in the same bed. We never see them in the same bed at the same time, but in two scenes one brings the other breakfast in bed and they are each in turn in the same bed on opposite sides of it, so the implication is pretty clear. Celine secretly chases off Julie's childhood crush who returns to marry her, too. It seems fairly clear throughout in their relationship there is a strong subtext. Even by the end after a series of spells they adopt a daughter, creating a family as they go boating off into the credits.

A major part of the plot involves a strange closed up house. When one of the women enters it at a specific time, she only comes out again later that day with no memory and a piece of hard candy in her mouth. When she later eats the candy she remembers bits and pieces of the day (like a dream), wherein a kind of closed room drama plays out in the house involving a widower, his daughter who is murdered, the mother's sister and... another woman whose relationship is unclear. Celine and Julie alternately appear as the nurse caring for the girl (who is sick somehow). This story is, as mentioned, sort of related to the story Celine tells earlier in the film, but also we learn that the house next to the weird house is where Julie's grandmother lives. Julie lived there for awhile as a young girl and was friends with a girl who lived in the house and there was a nurse she was afraid of. None of the characters in the movies make any explicit connection between this and the drama unfolding but there is a clear implication like a dream unconscious.

The whole thing is very loosely filmed, apparently with minimal crew, and cowritten by the three main actresses and RIvette. I actually don't know much about the production or even have read much of anything about the movie, but it seems like it was to at least some extent improvisional. At over 3 hours in length it is long and at times repetitive, but quite fun and enjoyable.

Just read this excellent article by Elif Batuman from n+1 Short Story & Novel that is both a critique and a call to arms about short stories and novels. The things she complains about in modern american short stories really resonated with me, though it is also very clearly about "literary" fiction though she never explicitly says that, that I recall. The essay is well written and smart and witty so I've added her novel The Idiot to my to read list.

I never cease to be amused by how much the cat birds in the yard just hang around all day, going here and there, singing or squawking (they can be both beautiful singers and awful squawkers). More often than not I see a bird in the yard and moving about nearby and it's one of the cat birds. They seem rather active and frenetic as a species.