On the Roof

puberty-1894 munchThe mother woke up suddenly and saw the pale light on the wall. The light-bulb underneath the rake of the roof was smuggling its glim inside the darkest corner of the bedroom. She felt restless again. She knew very well what was going on but she could not find a comforting explanation for it so she rushed out of the room not minding her sleeping husband’s unfriendly mumbling.

Once in the hallway she carefully opened the front door and tiptoed out in the courtyard. It was a late summer’s night but the air was still warm and balmy. Only the severe melancholics were probably able to smell the vague, peppery pinch of autumn. With a voice as mild as possible she launched her worrying question up into the dark where the narrow terrace topped an even narrower vestibule “Are you there, dear”? “Yes, mum”, “Aren’t you coming down, is almost two in the morning”. “Just a few more minutes, mum” the daughter replied. “Be careful when you climb down the ladder” the mother said and waited without moving, looking up into the starry night. “I’ll be down in ten” the daughter finally answered.

The mother returned to bed feeling much more at ease and fell asleep almost instantly. It was something in her daughter’s voice that calmed her down. Something made her think her daughter was just as safe up on the roof as she would have been in her own bed. School will start in two weeks, the mother thought, and this will eventually end and the child, as weird as she was at times, would return to her normal teenager’s issues.

The daughter was stargazing for almost three weeks and by now she sort of knew when would her mother come out and ask her to go to bed. Every night she felt the moment of her coming more accurately than the night before yet she was always taken by surprise.

She being the cause of her mother’s sleeplessness made her sad. But not too sad. She comforted herself thinking that her mother had nothing to worry about and the interruption would last just a few minutes. But the most important thing that comforted her was that her mother would wake up to a house at peace.

At least, the daughter thought, these nights were not like those long sleepless nights when they had to witness in horror the violent fits of her drunk father.

Up on the terrace the daughter was wisening up, at least that’s how she felt, that’s what she thought even though she was incapable to articulate anything of her new knowledge. Her vocabulary was probably less evolved than it should have been for a child her age. Images were bombing her brain and her eyes were eating up the universe by night, grinding it and piling it up in the back of her mind.

But the state in which these images would appear she could not enter right away. First, her attention was caught by the street lights and rooftops she could see from the terrace. She was listening to the dogs, crickets, cars, to the slamming of windows or porches as the neighbors prepared to call it a night. The distant ding-dong of the street bell at the railroad crossing filled the darkness and, when a train would pass whistling, she would slowly whistle along with it and wonder about the meaning of the sudden warmth in her eyes that right away loaded her chest fastening her breathing.

Later she would lay down on her back. In this position it was only worth looking up where planes were coming and going with flickering and colored lights on their tails and wings. If she looked further up she could see the artificial satellites moving steadily and lofty on their trajectories. In comparison, the planes looked fussy. Gradually, she would become exhausted, lazy. She would not move her limbs and if she felt a little piece of cement detached form the terrace’s floor pressing her skin, she would rarely remove it. Her brain would start the show just about now.

Looking at the big sky was not like looking at an immense and infinite space, it was more like looking inside a dark, damp cave. She could feel the cold air coming out of it drying and cooling the moist of her eyeballs. It had a vague odor she would never be able to describe. Entering this cave needed her courage, but only for the first step. After that, she forgot everything about herself.

With the cement floor pressing her back she felt big as a planet with no trajectory but wandering freely. Most of the times all seemed like a reflection in a mirror. It seemed to her she was exploring the iris of her own eyes with a gigantic magnifying glass. The only thing that she could clearly think and utter was “All is hunger”. She was fourteen and boiling. Her days were as tormented as any other girl’s her age but at night, on the terrace she was different, somehow younger and older at the same time.

All that she learned up there that she could actually use during daytime was that the only words worth saying were NO and YES. In her case NO to everything she knew before and YES to anything she never heard of yet. As she could not come up with a satisfying conclusion to her experience on the roof she choose to try to recreate that state of mind whenever possible during daytime. She would look at everything and everybody the same way as she watched the stars, the satellites and the planes. She would eat them up with her eyes. And all she saw was hunger. The same hunger as in the skies. Not good, not bad, just plain hunger.

Even the rocks that randomly lay next to each other in a river or on a hill had some sort of tension between them and that tension was hunger. She was hoping that all that she felt and saw on the roof will crawl out from the back of her head and will eventually reach the tip of her tongue. A thousand revelations and only three words to describe them. At first she felt dumb because she had the urge to share the experience with her friends. But that disappeared on the first week – not finding the right words she just kept it all for herself and later it became something more than just another thing to brag about. It became a secret.

After another two weeks school started. The first couple of days she behaved as usually, enthusiastically catching up with her colleagues after the summer break but each day, on the way home, she encouraged herself: “Tomorrow, tomorrow I will do it”.

Finally, after another week she was there, standing in front of her class shushing her colleagues and when there finally was something one can barely call silence she said “I won’t be talking for a while, not unless I can’t avoid it, so don’t feel offended if I’m not talking to you and please don’t ask me why”. There was almost a whole second of complete silence then the class continued to enjoy the break as if nothing had happened, as if that complete moment of silence was just a coincidence – everyone was just finishing a sentence, a shriek, an action at the same time. “Did they hear me?” she asked herself but she didn’t bother to care. She kept her word for two years. The best years.

Glengarry Glen Ross – James Foley

glengarry-glen-ross“Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.”
― Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Most of the stories depicting devils show them having an entertaining, fulfilling job tempting us. A job that sounds more like a hobby. The story of Glengarry Glen Ross says it otherwise. What miserable lives poor devils have!

Not our fight against temptation makes the devil’s job difficult. We rarely fight back and if we do we rarely win. Sometimes we just don’t have what they want, what they must take from us.

But why would a devil ask for something we cannot give? Shouldn’t he know better? He knows it very well but there are some factors even the devil cannot ignore. He belongs to an organization, he has several bosses and, what a novelty, a pain-in-the-ass supervisor who’s not only irritatingly following rules and orders but also seems to be playing for the opposite team!

The Willy Loman-like devils, the junior sales representatives of hell, always get the worst leads. Two per day. Plenty, you’ll see, even for the kind that never sleeps. Their situation is so desperate that trying to corrupt the supervisor to give out one good lead is not surprising. This extreme act, a devil tempting another devil, is what I’d call the temptation with a Droste effect, la tentation mise en abyme, meta-temptation, the ultimate temptation etc. Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon are both on top of this situation.

If a junior devil has some talent, some luck – luck seems to strike making no difference between humans, devils and angels – and closes a weak lead, he has a chance to get better leads and to start a real career.

Do you remember John Milton, the CEO of hell aka Milton-Chadwick-Watters, the New York law firm? The John Milton with Al Pacino’s face? The devil’s advocate – 1997?. In Glengarry Glen Ross he’s at the beginning of his outstanding career. He goes by the name of Ricky Roma but has the same Al Pacino shape.

The other devils get to use remarkable vehicles too like Ed Harris and Alan Arkin. Their exasperating dialogues are wrapped around another quote from Dr. Faustus: “The end of logic is to dispute well”.

Or maybe this movie is only about ordinary human salesmen.

Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer

under the skin
When was the last time you heard news from Scotland? Not even a Scarlett Johansson-shaped man-eating alien can break the news there… not unless is a masterpiece of a movie.

Breathtaking landscapes grow even more superb with a patient camera shooting them, with Johansson mysteriously moving about, drowning lust-driven men in a pitch black alien kitchenette or what the heck is that floor stands for!?!

It seems that altruism and humbleness can save your life but these only buy you extra time. The real and final protection is egoism and its primal manifestation: fear.

Basic needs like lust, greed etc are the ones that usually get you in trouble therefore all traps, alien traps as well, are based on these drives. So, think twice when an incredible good offer come to you out of the blue.

Chanel that egoism to self-protection, get really scared than get really wild and you’ll probably see another day, at least when it comes to encounters of third kind.

Prepare to watch this on your toes.

L’inconnu du lac – Alain Guiraudie

affiche_inconnu_du_lac_0L’inconnu du lac is a terrifying parable on lust. Lust that works as a weird hybris that defies survival instincts; the men driven by this cathartic lust pretty consciously invite death in.

Its minimalist form and content is achieved through classic rigor of image, purist rhythm of editing and discreet humoristic counterpoint in a sinister story. This way elegance is guaranteed even in the scenes and shots less expected.

One filming location and a limited number of actions: men talking, men swimming, men sunbathing, men fucking, men parking cars and men killing each other. Paradise! The murder ingredient does not make it half a paradise and does not make it a perverted paradise either. Violent death seems not to diminish the Eden-like quality of the place – not on its metaphysical level where this thriller actually sets its goals.

Frances Ha – Noah Baumbach

frances haGeneration X had Reality Bites, the hipster generation has now Frances Ha and of course what’s relevant for the hipster generation can be relevant for one or two earlier generations as well. Generations X and Y can feel totally represented.

Blurring all edges is a hipster ingredient so no hipster should complain that some reaching 40 would call Frances Ha relevant for themselves as well.

Let’s not treat the term hipster as a pejorative but as a pragmatic definition of a life-style, life philosophy or even more, let’s try to treat it with some respect; a new type of person with a new type of social behavior, with new techniques to complete dreams. Not better than the old one, not worst but different.

Frances Ha depicts with a delightful accuracy the new social and moral trend in which the classic recipe for a successful life and career are left behind for a more played-by-the-ear journey to adulthood.

Adulthood should not necessarily be what it used to be. The old-fashioned “let’s get married and have kids” is loosing ground big-time to “let’s keep best friends close forever”. A job is important but more important is to find the job that you love and Frances is ready to sacrifice all comfort and honorability just to try to get close to a job connected to her hobby.

Sexual impulses are definitely not as important as for generation X, the way we saw it in Reality Bites. Sexual relationships seem to be secondary to friendship; that’s somewhat noble, we have to recognize it. And being “undateable” is more like a compliment, a new slang to “really intense” or “crazy” in a rather cool way.

The choice for black-and white, the smart and playful dialogues, the joyous drifting of the characters towards being Somebody but not by all means recalls the French New Wave and when Jean-Pierre Léaud, the face of La Novelle Vague, is mentioned we know this is not a coincidence, it’s kinship.

Nymphomaniac vol. II – Lars von Trier

Nymphomaniac_Lars_Von_TrierBeing free is being lonely. Always.

Nymphomaniac is all about freedom. Free sex, free speech and free will versus hypocrisy and bigotry; the nymphomaniac says it clearly. Seligman’s digressions are nothing but digressions; the nymphomaniac says that clearly too. But overall there is still a major digression to her story – the parallel between sex and art.

There is nothing true about sex and art if they’re not free. So ultimately is about the profile of an artist in relation to his own art. It’s reflective, descriptive and didactic. An artist statement we’re learning about while having fun and getting sad, for it implies loneliness, the loneliness of the one who cannot bargain, cannot compromise and cannot lie.

Art is just art (?), words are just words (?) and sex is just sex (?). The question marks only indicate the billions of possibilities to relate to these statements.

The concepts are pure but when human nature is involved purity becomes mere abstraction; art is seen as crap or vice versa, words are never really understood – not by the one uttering them and even less by the one listening to them – and sex is taboo, side dish, religion, sport or anything else you wish to add. And there’s morality to blur it even more and there’s false morality to make it all opaque.

We’re all different, says the nymphomaniac, so there is no possible way to fit the boundaries of morality to protect each individual’s freedom. Some have less freedom to enjoy than others.
The nymphomaniac would erase all rules and morality and would leave us all to be guided by our own consciousness, for those who can refrain themselves from harming others when there’s no punishment in sight deserve an award.

She is both naïve and cynical. An idealist.

And so is the artist who probably feels less free than any other individual in the society. Or the one who feels less free becomes an artist? But the ideal public, who could fully understand and accept the work of art as it is, does not exist, or it exists in a percentage that will always leave the artist unfulfilled and misunderstood.

“Lascia ch’io pianga

mia cruda sorte,

e che sospiri la libertà.

Il duolo infranga queste ritorte

de’ miei martiri sol per pietà.”
G.F Handel

Nymphomaniac Vol. I – Lars von Trier

umaI had never seen such large and mixed crowds in the theater of the city I live in since the early editions of the Transylvania International Film Festival when tickets were cheap and if you still couldn’t afford it you could easily get a fake badge or you could sneak in with the help of a volunteer. Oh, those were the days!

Are we, the public, by any chance subject of an experiment here? After a certain number of screenings will Lars von Trier hold a press conference presenting his conclusions based on the wild frenzy that made hundreds of people rush into the theaters to see Nymphomaniac vol. I? An experience to prove that sex is the catchiest subject is useless, we all know is the best selling item… Than what is it?

Is Nymphomaniac the latest hip movie we’re all to forget sooner or later or is this a spectacular splash that will rock the boat on the long term? Will it be there in the Pantheon? I can’t wait ten years to pass to see how the film historians will remember this.

The most intriguing thing for me is the gap between the wrapping and the content. Lars von Trier spent a lot on a publicity campaign that is, if not misleading, at least more tricky than usual.

Trailers have to be tricky and sometimes they promise a slightly different if not more interesting story than the movie itself. That’s not new.

With Nymphomaniac everybody expects sex scenes. But we get just a few short ones of which I can say they are absolutely relevant though. More sex scenes would not have been too much either, probably, but I think that the pinch of sex scenes used is the perfect ratio. A film about sex should not necessarily contain sex scenes.

The poster is a bit unusual. We can see the characters in photographs that look like excerpts from the movie, but they’re not. I am not saying that this is cheating but it stuck with me.

The title is money in the bank but I am curious if Gainsbourg’s character is really a nymphomaniac or she/we just think she is.

Nymphomaniac vol. I is about sex from the first minute to the last excepting(?) some moments when ash-trees are involved. So there should be no complaint against the publicity campaign.

Yet the contrast is intriguing because what Lars von Trier is actually doing is connecting us through the topic of hyper sexuality to mysterious and delicate abstractions such as music, mathematics, poetry and vice versa.

This is the contrast that makes me so uncertain; the content of this film is so sensitive and the publicity around it is so cynical: “Forget about love” is the triumphant motto.

The conclusion of Volume I is that the secret ingredient to sex is not love. Does sex really need a secret ingredient? Then what is it? Has this secret ingredient anything to do with Bach, Fibonacci, Poe, with the arts?

In case I’m asking the right questions I’ll definitely have the answers in Nymphomaniac volume II, unless I’m not too much of a stupid dilettante to recognize the answers. I’ll soon find out…fuck!

P.S. Of what I’m certain of is that Uma Thurman’s scene is the top of this cake so far.


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