Friday, November 25, 2005

Turkey À La Russe

My friend Edouard is seventy-eight. He started out as a truck driver and Teamster, then joined the Air Force before discovering his love of books. He got a PhD and went on to teach English Lit for four decades. But when he retired, he gave up reading fiction altogether, and became a full-time cinephile. His living room is a movie theater with a ten-foot-wide projection screen.

Thanksgiving orphans both, we decided to collaborate on the turkey project. He ran the bird department, and I managed the accessories. We slow-cooked a cranberry-strawberry-rhubarb sauce flavored with orange zest and cinnamon stick. We made tiny volcanic mounds of mashed turnips and potatoes, filling their craters with little gravy-lakes. And for dessert: German chocolate bars. An unorthodox meal perhaps, but a memorable one.

Afterwards, we staggered into the screening room. With his customary elegant and theatrical touch, Edouard produced two DVD's. "You will choose, Girish," he said, "And the candidates are both Russian: (1) Dovzhenko's Earth, and (2) From Russia With Love". I ambitiously pointed to the former.

But with tryptophan coursing through my veins, the silent film proved a bewilderingly fragmented head-scratcher. An hour and a half passed in a drowsy blur. At the end of the night, I took my leave. It remained unsaid but I knew what we were both thinking: shoulda gone with the James Bond.


Blogger girish said...

I've never been a turkey orphan all these years in the States, but this year, my friends happened to leave town.

Dying of curiosity, I awoke this morning and popped Dovzhenko's Earth into the DVD player (again).
It's a marvelous movie, but demanding, and best seen turkey-sober.

November 25, 2005 9:01 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Donald Barthelme has few equals.

November 25, 2005 9:02 AM  
Blogger girish said...

The Siren lives in Toronto but hails from Alabama. Here she is on Gone With The Wind.

November 25, 2005 9:07 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Earth is another of those that I keep meaning to see, but can't seem to find in town (it's on Videohound's list of 4-bones films). (Yes, I'm geek enough to compile lists of all these things.)

November 25, 2005 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Don't know what it is about a holiday that brings out the worst movie-watching habits in me. With a massive pile of un-opened DVDs, a stack from Netflix and an equal stack from CinFlix (Asian Netflix-like service), what did I end up watching? Spielberg's War of the Worlds. HOW this film garnered any positive reviews is beyond me. As much as I loathe SS, the man can usually make a somewhat sensible film. This thing is so full of plot holes it's laughable. Plus -- TomKat as a blue-collar dad? Yeah. This film is nothing more than Dakota Fanning screaming for two hours, followed by one of the worst endings I've come across in some time.

Awful, just awful.

November 25, 2005 11:04 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Ouch. Sounds abominable.

November 25, 2005 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Oops! Sorry Girish - didn't mean to re-post that comment. I think Blogger is hiccupping again -- I didn't see my comment on the comments page, only here.

November 25, 2005 12:00 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I saw War of the Worlds in the theater, against my better judgment, but because my sisters wanted to go. The three of us usually like different things in films, and none of us liked this one.

November 25, 2005 12:15 PM  
Anonymous dvd said...

I usually don't care much for post-89 'Berg, but I really really liked War Of The Worlds. It struck a good chord with me - and it kept me in enough suspense to ignore those plot holes.

November 25, 2005 12:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh don't worry about it, Filmbrain. I'll delete the duplicate. Either Blogger or my server has been misbehaving occasionally.
Fortunately, it's not losing any comments. Just taking a bit to post them sometimes.

November 25, 2005 1:51 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Dude! "From Russia with Love" is da bomb! Lotte Lenya with a poison spike in her shoe! Agents from SMERSH defecting to SPECTRE! Robert Shaw as "Red" Grant!! Blofeld feeding exhausted Japanese fighting fish to his cat! Pedro Armendariz aiming the rifle at Anita Ekberg's lovely mouth! And the lucious Daniela Bianchi with a mouth "Just the right size for me..."

Add to that a theme song vocal by Matt Munro...I mean REALLY, now.

November 25, 2005 2:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I have just returned from trip to the coffee shop.
The retail and traffic frenzy are enough to make you go into exile for a month.

November 25, 2005 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Herr Playmountain needs to get himself to a therapist. Must we endure his "daddy didn't love me enough" neurosis in every film?

In Munich, Eric Bana will no doubt be the Mossad agent who is driven by daddy issues.

November 25, 2005 2:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Flickhead, I haven't seen the film since I was fifteen. Clearly, that needs to be remedied tonight.

November 25, 2005 2:05 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"Herr Playmountain". :-)
Must be the turkey hangover: I stared at that for a full 15 seconds thinking it was some awesomely esoteric filmic allusion that I didn't know about...

November 25, 2005 2:12 PM  
Blogger girish said...

J. Hoberman on The Ice Harvest:
"From the cast and location to the attitude and premise, many things in The Ice Harvest are inescapably reminiscent of the Coen brothers. But as a director, Ramis is far less flashy and not nearly as pleased with himself. This is one of the most sustained movies of the year, as classic in its structure as Double Indemnity or No Exit. (The script was co-written by old pros Robert Benton and Richard Russo.)"

November 25, 2005 2:33 PM  
Blogger phil said...

i love that girish is always the first one to respond to his own posts. :)

and i didn't mind War of the Worlds. but i think the fewer movies spielberg makes, the more out of practice he gets...

i do like the movie as a contrast to E.T., though -- certainly not its equal, but interesting as a counterpart.

November 25, 2005 9:21 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Ooooh, I am so glad to hear a good critic say good things about The Ice Harvest, because I loved the trailer.

Thanks so much for the link! From Russia with Love is probably my favorite Bond. Trust Flickhead to pick out one of the best bits, the title song. (Though, if memory serves, they don't play it over the credits, just on the radio in an early scene? Flickhead, am I right?) Our pre-Thanksgiving DVD viewing was Design for Living, which I think I liked better than my husband did. Wasn't Miriam Hopkins a dazzler? Edward Everett Horton is always such a pleasure, too.

November 25, 2005 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

From Russia with Love is one of my favorite Bonds. Matt Monro sang the title song at the end as I recall. My Thanksgiving viewing was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which had some funny stuff. I just saw the preview to the next episode of Masters of Horror which was directed by Joe Dante. Who else would pointedly have a zombie emerge from a grave marked by a gravestone with the name ?

November 25, 2005 11:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"i love that girish is always the first one to respond to his own posts. :)"
Phil--Quite narcissistically predictable, eh, for a guy who names his blog after...himself?

November 26, 2005 9:02 AM  
Blogger girish said...

The Siren: "Our pre-Thanksgiving DVD viewing was Design for Living."

I recently watched Lubitsch's The Smiling Lieutenant, which has a love triangle between Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins. It's a distant cousin of The Merry Widow, and also made me wish Colbert was in more of his movies.

November 26, 2005 9:06 AM  
Blogger girish said...

A terrific post by Jim on Alex Ross' writing.

November 26, 2005 9:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Darren's Friday Five list: Top 5 spiritually significant films.

November 26, 2005 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I checked out both Darren's list and the top 100. Paul Schrader's book. Transcendental Style, about Ozu, Dreyer and Bresson, and the cinematic expression of faith has been a big influence on me. A couple of films not on the list, L'Argent and Run, Lola, Run, are for me, the best films to illustrate the impact of one's actions on the rest of the world, how cause and effect work directly and indirectly. While I am not, nor have ever been, Christian, I was saddened when I saw the hostility of some of the audience when I saw Henry King's The White Sister at the Museum of Modern Art. Some could not understand why Gish would place her religious commitment over resuming a relationship with a fiance erroneously declared dead during WW I.

November 26, 2005 10:07 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Unless I glossed over it, missing from that top 100 list was Majid Majidi's excellent "Color of Paradise".

November 26, 2005 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Darren said...

I'd love for you all to post your own top 5 there. Like I mentioned in my post, I appreciate the forum's decision to stick to the vague criterion, "spiritually significant." I'm a Christian, but it's a strange Christianity melded with humanism and a touch of existentialism, which is reflected, I guess, in my number 1 choice, Ordet.

With only a few exceptions, I now most enjoy discussing "spirituality" with intellectually-curious atheists, agnostics, and people from other religions traditions. Not coincidentally, most of those discussions, rather than being about religion, are debates about art. I feel like Bazin or something when I say this, but at some point I stopped going to church and started going to the cinema.

November 26, 2005 10:35 AM  
Blogger girish said...

"At some point I stopped going to church and started going to the cinema."
Looking back, I notice this constancy: it is art in all its forms that has been the life-sustaining source of spirituality in my life.

November 26, 2005 4:52 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks to the idea of the blog, it's nice to discover that there's a wonderfully snarky side to Dave Kehr that I've never seen in his print writing.
And who else can boast commenters like Alexander Payne and Jonathan Rosenbaum?

November 26, 2005 6:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

David and I had very similar reactions to Lars von Trier's Manderlay.
The first fifteen minutes seemed so wrong, so ham-fisted to me, that I tuned out and...fell into a deep sleep that lasted about forty-five minutes. When I woke up, the movie had suddenly gotten somewhat better (or I had adjusted to it while I slept). I'd like to see all of it when it's released.

November 26, 2005 9:34 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I've always thought that the assertion that one couldn't criticize something without providing a solution was more a little thick-headed. Seems mostly a surface-polite way of trying to rob someone of their right to speak ... imagine if you had to be a doctor with a correct diagnosis to call 911 about someone suffering convulsions.

November 26, 2005 10:06 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Damn, I hate it when I say something and the place falls quiet.

November 28, 2005 8:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey Tuwa, don't take it so personal. :-)
I'm sure it had nothing to do with you.
btw, your picks (Ponette, Burmese Harp) were so on-the-money, I'm envious...

November 28, 2005 9:46 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Very kind, sir. I guess I'm the kind of person who stands around outside the club after it's closed, wondering where everyone's gone. ^_^

I haven't yet seen Balthasar or Ordet, and I'm hesitant to start Blockbustering again (or Greencine, for that matter) when there are still ~500 films on my list to see that the public library does have.

November 28, 2005 11:12 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tuwa, I'd feel the same if I were you.

November 28, 2005 11:16 PM  
Anonymous davis said...

Girish, Dovzhenko's Earth is playing in Berkeley this weekend! It'll be my first trip to the Oxtoby PFA, and the PFA web site says that she'll be introducing the film.

I'll be sure to go turkey-sober.

December 01, 2005 5:57 PM  
Anonymous davis said...

And, as you know I concur on Barthelme. If I could pick just one author ...

December 01, 2005 5:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Rob--Susan is tireless, personable, a great programmer. I think you'll enjoy the film. It's avant-garde in its montage (even today!) but that only makes it more interesting.

December 03, 2005 9:31 AM  

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