Monday, October 24, 2011

Black Beret Review - He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not is a 2002 French black comedy starring Amelie star Audrey Tatou and Brotherhood of the Wolf star Samuel Le Bihan. Tatou plays Angelique, a young free spirited artist in Paris who is completely in love with her suitor, cardiologist physician Loic Le Garrec, and will do anything to keep him close to her, even though he is married and expecting a child. Yet, as the movie progresses, Angelique becomes more and more desperate to hold onto her beau when he seems to place distance between them and their blossoming love. However, as I watched with peaked interest, all was not what it claimed to be and the “love” Angelique had for her suitor took a very dark turn for everyone involved, leading to murder, delivery of organs and the most unique usage of medication.
I am no stranger to Tatou’s work; she first charmed me in the movie Amelie and since then, I try to watch any movie that she appears in for I know that I will not be disappointed. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not did not disappoint as well, for it gave me a chance to watch Tatou perform in a very dark role yet still pull off the quirky charm so many people love her for. Samuel Le Bihan plays the cardiologist who loves his wife very much; it is his love for his wife that keeps him somewhat sane while Angelique tries to pull him away from his wife in an imaginary and psychotic attempt at love.
The movie is told from two points of view: first Angelique’s and then Loic’s followed by the progression and cohesion of the two viewpoints into quite a suspenseful yet obvious climax. A glance given by Loic at a party sends Angelique into a fantasy world of passion, romance and a love that will not die. All Loic sees, however, is a woman who will stop at nothing to posses something she did not have in the first place. Okay, although I don’t like giving away endings to movies, I will say this – if you do happen to watch the movie, pay attention to the very last scene. When the depths of Angelique’s psychosis unfolded, I actually laughed; the mind is a dangerous organ, capable of manipulation, deceit and lies. It came so natural to Angelique, a woman who is crazy in love.

Rating - A

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review - The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Meet Julian Treslove, a non-descript British man who is of nothing special. His life is his own repeated mistake and readers cannot do anything to change it otherwise. All we can do is just read. One night, however, after leaving his friends in a restaurant, he is the victim of a random mugging, except that this is no ordinary mugging; his assailant is a woman who is anti-Semitic, calling him you Jew as she rifles through his pockets. Although Julian is not a Jew, he does have Jewish friends; here in lies the beginning of Howard Jacobson’s novel The Finkler Question that was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Book Prize. This dense yet page turning novel asks the Finkler Question created by Julian; that is, the question posed by Julian after his humiliating mugging – what makes one Jewish? Can anyone be Jewish or is it something deeper than a simple “I Am”? His friends, former teacher Libor Sevcik and philosopher, writer and anti-Semitic Jew Sam Finkler both have their own answers towards Julian’s questions, yet a fairly reasonable answer (one that Julian can understand) comes in the form of his latest lover named Hephzibah, or Juno for short, who is Jewish and helps him discover his inner Jewish nature although he was not born one.
This was my introduction into the highly literary world of Jacobson; after reading this novel, it left me with more questions than answers. No questions as to the writing style or the plot itself, of both were very intense and fulfilling. Yet, my questions were, like Julian’s, deeper: what does it mean to be a Jew in this day and age? What makes one what they are? Can one who is nothing become something greater than expected? My knowledge of the Jewish faith stems from my studies at university and from what my Jewish friends have told me on occasion, plus information gathered from the news. They are a people filled with culture, history, intellect, wisdom and ironically enough, sadness. Julian’s discovery of his own “Jewishness” can at best be labeled with those words and many more, for while studying the religion he comes to understand just what it means to be Julian Treslove, which is more than just a face among the sea of British people. He is, along with his friends with their right or wrong ways of life, are people. People who make something of themselves, leaving a mark that will either be good or bad in the long run. While Julian turns towards the Jewish faith for answers of his life, Sam Finkler turns away from the Jewish faith and instead finds more than he expected. Libor seeks out answers from within and, while steadily living out his elder years, finds regret and sorrow waiting for him at the bottom of the waters that ultimately take his life. The Finkler Question is not just for Jewish people, nor is it for British people. The Finkler Question, I think, is this: do you truly understand the life you live? For me, I am still living out my life. I’ll get back to you when I am dead.

Matcha in the Morning - Asian Beauty

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review - The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller

When I read Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky for the first time this year, I felt a deep chord strike within that left me with a yearning to read more of her works as well as read more about her. As I had stated in previous reviews, it was such a shame that her voice was quickly quieted too soon. I felt that same feeling about another woman author who lived under somewhat similar circumstances. While Nemirovsky died in a concentration camp, Herta Muller left for Germany and, thankfully, wrote the novel The Land of Green Plums. This slim dark novel tells the story of five youths living during Ceausescu's rule in Romania and their lives filled with strife, unjust accusations, lies mixed with half told truths and death. By the end of the novel, only the narrator and her friend, Edgar, are still alive; the others either died from suicide or from natural causes. Strangely enough, this is a book that will lift the spirit, for even though such darkness surrounds the narrator and her friends, they resolve to keep themselves going for the greater good if not just to keep themselves alive long enough to see the next day. The human spirit will persevere when all else is lost or gone.

Muller’s voice is one of stark magick, carrying us to a land where eating green plums can kill and the drinking of blood is necessary. Her sentences are simple and direct while adding to the already imaginative mindset the readers must have in order to comprehend and enjoy this book that won the Nobel Prize in 2009. This book forced me to look at the horror in a far away land, yet it was laid out before me and I could not escape it. Much to my surprise, I did not want to stop reading the book; I wanted to know why the mulberry trees were stolen. I wanted to know why blood drinking was so sacred to the people who lived near and worked in the slaughterhouse. I could actually see the “nut” in Tereza’s armpit, swelling and growing to an unnatural state that could only continue its path by killing its host. Were Lola’s ears truly that green when they found her body hanging in the closet? How did it feel when the narrator received a letter from a friend and the hair was still there? This book is clearly not for the faint of heart, nor is it for one who likes a good “beach read”. This book is for one who wants to cross that safe border and see what lays beyond our own protection and safety. Once I began reading this novel, I knew I only wanted more; more of Muller’s words and more of her background. From such tragedy in history comes a strong voice willing to tell her tales. The plums will never change their colour; who are we to deny such appetizing fruit?

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Land of Green Plums and Their Creator

If you had asked me just who Herta Muller was years ago, I would have said nothing. Now, however, I wouldn't be able to keep quiet about this remarkable woman. The first time I had ever heard of her was when I was in a bookstore in Memphis, searching for something new to read. My eyes wandered along several tables and soon they landed on a small trade paperback entitled The Land of Green Plums. Not knowing anything about the title or the author, I flipped it over and soon began a far off case of wonder and curiosity about the Romanian born author. Years later, I finally picked up a hardback copy of the book and began to read it. Although I am only a third of the way through, I can now honestly say that Herta Muller is a literary inspiration for me, right up there with Ian McEwan, Ernest Hemingway, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison and many others that grace my library in my home. A detailed book review and thoughts post will soon follow this post but I felt I had to say something about this woman and the words she speaks and writes. The Land of Green Plums is one of the darkest novels I have ever read in my life (including my own work!) and yet I want more. I want more of her words, her thoughts and her dreams that were once possibly dashed and later reborn. A new fire has been created in me, one that will not go away. A fire that smells of green plums. Thank you, Herta Muller.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Matcha In The Morning - Japanese Serenity

Greetings all! After a month of recuperating from Dragon Con (grin), I am now back and ready to pick up where I left off. So, for today's Matcha in the Morning, I offer you a photo of a Japanese Tea House, taken in Phoenix, Arizona.