Derik Badman's Journal

2021-09-27 08:04

Cool this morning and lots of activity on my walk to get coffee. There were three wet footprints on the sidewalk at the corner on the start of my walk. They came out of the grass and then stopped. On the way home there was only one barely visible anymore. The sparrows were not out on my way, but on the way back there were more than a dozen flying about with speed and their twittering was the background noise to a few blocks of my walk. Further along, a half dozen or so crows were all perched on the power lines and street light at an intersection. I assumed there was some roadkill somewhere but I couldn't see any, nor figure why they were all gathered. And, best of all, the cooper's hawk flew overhead calling out constantly as he crossed the sky. I can't say I've ever seen one do that before, it was quite a racket.

I watched Ramon Zurcher's The Strange Little Cat yesterday, an enjoyable and unusual film. While there was a cat in it, I didn't find it that strange, little, or a focus of the movie. The title could just as well have been The Annoying Little Girl or The Mysterious Mom or The Strange Little Bottle. It has hardly any plot at all to speak of: a day in a family's apartment (the apartment is only briefly left in a few short scenes). Two older children are home visiting mom, dad, and little sister (and dog and cat). An uncle and young cousin come over. The son picks up the grandmother. Later the aunt and older cousin arrive. They dine, they all leave to see the older's cousins concert (she arrives with a cello on her back). There is no narrative plot as such, yet the whole film is suffused with this oddness and tension. The characters other than the mom all act almost normal, but then there are moments when they do odd things or say something strange. They tell each other these little vignettes in an almost flat tone: the daughter noticed one day while walking and peeling an orange that the peel pieces all landed white side up. The son talks about a drunk woman at a party. The mom explains how she goes to this crowded restaurant for lunch. At times the camera focuses on small objects, a couple bridging sequences that are just static shots of objects that were somehow involved in the previous scenes.

The mother seems the protagonist to me, the one that seems most focused on and yet is most opaque. She has this tension about her. You get the sense she is depressed or stressed out about something or just not quite right, but it never becomes a full blown plot point. She does slap the youngest daughter once (after she rips a button off her cousin's shirt). The whole movie you expect something to emerge, to blow up, then almost at the end this little bottle does blow its cork out. The bottle is a bit of a mystery, it first takes notice when it is sitting in a pan wobbling in a circle, like it might have if you put it down carelessly and it had to settle, except it just keeps wobbling... it's like a weird bit of magic in the day.

I found the whole thing enjoyable to watch despite the lack of drama/plot. The camera is often set in place somewhere in the cramped apartment and then we watch a group of the characters moving about in the frame, a few scenes have the look of a choreographed dance, as figures move in and out of frame, in front and behind each other. Quite lovely.

Over the course of the day I read Ten Skies by Erika Balsom, the second in the Fireflies Press Decadent Editions series. Ten Skies is a film from 2004 by James Benning that is 10 10 minutes shots of different skies. I have not actually watched the film (though it is available on YouTube), yet I really enjoyed the book about it. Seems a rare thing to read a book about a movie one hasn't seen and still get something out of it and enjoy it. In the process I realized, that while I thought I was unfamiliar with Benning, I actually have this book Two Cabins about this art project he did where he build replicas of Thoreau's and Kaczynksi's cabins on his property.