Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Thinking Reed (1936) by Rebecca West

Book Review
The Thinking Reed (1936)
 by Rebecca West

  Rebecca West was not just an author of fiction, she was, according to her Wikipedia entry, an important public intellectual who wrote criticism and non-fiction.  She has four books in the 1001 Books project: The Return of the Soldier (1918) and Harriet Hume (1928) are the two I've read.  If you are looking for similarities between the three works it would be strong heroine and a gradually expanding scope.  The Return of the Soldier is mostly an English country house novel,  Harriet Hume is a novel about London, and The Thinking Reed is a novel set in Europe, with a mixed cast of European, English and American expatriate characters.

  However, the book that The Thinking Reed most resembles is Tender is the Night (1934), published two years before The Thinking Reed and an obvious reference point and/or direct inspiration.  Both books dwell on the lives and loves of wealthy, floating Euro-Americans with a variety of real and imagined neuroses and ailments. If Tender is the Night is the "male" version of this narrative, The Thinking Reed is the female counter-part.  Like Tender is the Night it's hard not to read The Thinking Reed as containing a main character who resembles the author.

Monday, December 29, 2014

In Vanda's Room (2000) d.Pedro Costa

Vanda doing her thing in her room, In Vanda's Room (2000) by Portuguese director Pedro Costa.

Movie Review
In Vanda's Room (2000)
d.Pedro Costa
Criterion Collection #510

  I feel compelled to restate every so often that there is no higher/pretentious purpose to watching all the Criterion Collection movies and reading all 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. It's just something I do in my spare time. I don't spend much time on these posts either, thus the typos and general lack of attention, and I don't feel bad is only 15 people read a specific post.  Really, it just seems to me that in a world where we can get everything at any time it takes a little more than randomly casting about to see what tv series one is going to watch next on Netflix.  I will cop to being a fast reader- basically 100 pages an hour, so that is why it appears that I read "so much."

  It is not an exaggeration to say that my life prior to the streaming/free everything computer revolution was a constant search for new material to read, watch and listen to. If you didn't work, your choices were limited in terms of what books you could read, what films you could watch, and albums you could listen to. But people need to give examples of things to do beside binge watching all the tv shows of a sitcom in a weekend., or listening the Billboard 100 on free Spotify. So this blog is my idea about how to take advantage of being able to get anything anytime for free.  After all what does everyone do with their surfeit of leisure time?  Squander it, mostly.

  All that says, there were moments during In Vanda's Room, a 2 hour forty five minute movie shot on digital video about a bunch of Portuguese junkies, that triggered the above reflections about why I should even bother.  In Vanda's Room is an example of another recurring non-official category of the Criterion Collection, "Movies my 25 year old self would have been super excited about."  I'm not saying that my present day self might not also enjoy some of these films, but 25 year old would have been like, out in the street, at bars, telling people about In Vanda's Room.

  The two hour forty five minute length is all the more remarkable because Costa shot In Vanda's Room on digital video.  Most of the scenes are static shots of the interiors of the junkie squalor chic of the now demolished Lisbon/Lisboa slum, Fountainhas.  In Vanda's Room is actually the middle film in a trilogy which is set entirely in Fountainhas prior to demolition.  The apartment complex at the center of this film appears to be actually in the process of being demolished during the shooting of the film, multiplying the already strong Verite vibe lent by the simple scene set-ups and digital video contrast.   The Vanda of the title is a more-charming-than-most junkie and she is surrounded by a cast of characters who exist both inside and outside the titular room.

  According to the Criterion Collection cast list, all the characters play themselves, which makes me want to say that he actually made a movie using junkies.  Were they actors?  The ambiguity is what sets In Vanda's Room apart from other entries in the Junkie film oeuvre that use recognizable professional actors.  It's easy to see the choice to use non-actors in film as cutting across financial and artistic considerations.  It is obviously cheaper, particularly in a country with a small domestic film industry.  You can also argue that professional actors detract from other more artistically important aspects of the film, like the generation of mood and the mise en scene/composition. 

Blog Archive