Saturday, April 19, 2008

Burbling With Delight

I have finally seen Ratatouille! (Hey, not only can I spell it, I make a damn fine one when the proper ingredients are in season - i.e., around August.)

You have to understand that I prefer not to go to movies alone, and that my taste in movies is peculiar. I am not in the least interested in the latest car chase epic, or the latest spy movie, or - God forbid - the latest romantic comedy. (They only make me deeply depressed. Well, you know - imagine going to a romantic comedy alone on Saturday night. This would depress a rhinoceros.) Every now and then I can drag Caesar off with me, and Sarah and I (of COURSE) see all Harry Potters (and I can't wait for the new Indiana Jones), but usually I just wait for things to turn up on cable, which really has a lot of advantages.

The advantages are:

1. Nobody cares if I wear my bathrobe.

2. I can have an ashtray right next to me at all times.

3. I can have a beer next to me at all times.

4. I don't have to pay some bizarre price for popcorn.

5. If it turns out I don't like the movie, I have my remote right there and I can turn it off and go read a book, without feeling that I've got to sit there or waste 11 dollars.

So, since I couldn't get anybody to go with me, I waited for Ratatouille. Oh, boy. Yes, I know I'm the last person in the world to see this, but if you love food and terrific animation, please rent it immediately. I am charmed right out of my socks - or would be were I wearing socks at the moment. It's a pure delight.

Oh, and other odd movies I adore? There's another animated movie that I actually went out and bought because I loved it so much, and it's called the Triplets of Belleville. Please go find this. It is extremely wonderful. It is the story of a young man who is a French bicycle racer - Tour de France stuff - who lives with his grandmother. He is kidnapped (as are many other bicycle racers) by an evil consortium of people who want to harness his bicycle racing skills to use as power for their cinema machine. And his poor elderly grandmother goes out to find him. The Triplets of Belleville are three extremely ancient ladies who sing in nightclubs whom the grandmother finds along the way and who become instrumental in saving the grandson. And the best part about it is that there is precisely one spoken word in the whole movie. It is very difficult to explain and just wonderful.

Recently I discovered that a movie from my youth was playing at the Film Forum and dragged Caesar and another friend off to see it - neither of them had. It's from 1959, I'm pretty sure, when we were all into French movies (and horrendously full of ourselves, we baby beatniks - certainly we wouldn't go see an American movie - feh), and it remains, on this second viewing some - oh, my God, I just subtracted. 49 years ago? Yes,'ll have to excuse me here while I go make a reservation for the Village Nursing Home.

Anyway, the movie is by Alain Resnais, and it's called Last Year At Marienbad, and it caused a HUGE furor when it came out because nobody could figure out what the hell it was about. As it appears on screen, there is a woman and a man and a strange sort of resort place. The man keeps insisting that he and the woman had an affair last year at Marienbad. She keeps insisting that she doesn't know him. She has a husband who keeps playing a game with matchsticks in the lounge of this place. There are other people about. Sometimes they gossip. It's in black and white with very hard edges. You don't know whether they had an affair, whether they may be having one now, whether the husband knows, whether anybody knows anything, and the camera keeps panning along these long echoing baroque hallways in this place and into the formal gardens, which are mostly empty of anything except statuary and grass and it opens with a voice repeating various sentences while panning through the empty baroque halls...well, as I said, my taste in movies is strange. I love this thing, and, unlike many things you loved when you were fourteen, by God, it holds up. It's just as fascinating and maddening as it was when I first saw it. (And if it occurs to you that I was a horrendously precocious fourteen year old, you would be absolutely right.) I recommend it. Rent it, if only to be maddened by it. You won't forget it.

And the last oddity on my list is a documentary, which is just the most delightful thing ever. I must tell you that I am a ballet freak, and took it for years, even though I am the most untalented dancer ever to attempt a pirouette. When I was doing musical comedy in summer stock, three hundred and seventeen years ago, I was what is called a singer who moves. In my case, that meant a singer who moves as fast as she damn well can to get out of the way of actual dancers and hides behind large pieces of scenery as much as possible. One choreographer informed me that my problem was I couldn't count to eight. Anyway, I still want to be a ballerina. I have reluctantly accepted the fact that this isn't going to happen - my turnout has turned off. But I still keep a pair of ballet, not toe shoes. Never was allowed to get that far. See no talent, above.

This all came about because my mother was a balletomane, and I can't remember a time when we didn't go to the ballet. (Insert a few bars from Chorus Line here...Everything Was Beautiful At The Ballet.) And the first ballet company I ever saw was the Ballet Russe de Monte the late 1940's.

And that's what the documentary was about. I said I was going to see it and Caesar said he'd come along. Well, I wasn't too sanguine about this, because Caesar is a pure opera guy, but I said, sure.

You want to see two people completely enchanted? It turns out that a large chunk of the original Ballet Russe company is still very much alive...and still working. In their 80's and 90's. They are running dance departments at various colleges. They are coaching. And they are a bunch of the most insanely funny and charming individualists you ever want to meet in your life. They tell these incredible stories about touring, and falling in love, and marrying each other and leaving each other and their whole lives. It's utter glory. A lovely Russian lady, still gorgeous at 88 or so, giggles like a girl describing her various love affairs...and as far as I could tell, about six marriages...with absolute glee. A Spanish gentleman tells the story of how his father hated, hated, hated the fact that he was a dancer...and after his father died, he unearthed some old photo albums, filled with pictures of his father, when HE was a dancer. Oh, just go get the damn film.

And I also have a mad thing about 50's movie musicals. No matter how I feel, just give me Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Bandwagon, Singin' in the Rain, or American in Paris, and I am the happiest of campers - until, of course, my horrible child walks in and tells to to quit singing along. Well, hell - they're my party, and I'll sing if I wanna.

Love, Wendy

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