Last Days of Chez Nous

Last Days of Chez Nous

I heartily recommend the film The Last Days of Chez Nous (Australian, 1992) . It’s a fine film available for the moment on Netflix. The characters are sharply drawn, the acting is superb and the story pulls you in immediately.

You know where it’s going from the pitch:  “Successful writer Beth’s tepid marriage and home life face a new round of challenges when her footloose younger sister arrives for an extended visit.” But the way the director, writer and actors take you there is breathtaking and shows you what binds us together as humans.

Last Days of Chez Nous

Breath In, the film

Breath In

I watched Drake Doremus’ 2013 film Breath In last night. I always enjoy seeing Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones, both of whom seem to be everywhere these days. I wondered what would draw them both into what seemed to be a tiny film. I was not disappointed.

The story is essentially a British forbidden love novel with all the right beats and few of the traps that D. H. Lawrence would have merrily strewn  through it. The actors were well chosen, and every effort was made to restrain what could easily have been a tawdry, melodramatic and self-righteous tale. Doremus, who also wrote the film, made sure that every character had a firm perspective and the romance was attributed at least in part to events in their lives at that moment. What happened could simply not have been avoided by real people, which should be said of all stories.

 

The Trunk in the Attic

The Trunk in the Attic

I struggle with the complexity of the stories and the accessibility of language in my two novels. Will a young reader stumble on a word more common in the books of my own childhood than in hers? Will she finish a book with so many characters and twists?

The point I’ve come to is that while I certainly do not wish to confuse, bore or frustrate readers, I do hope to pass on some of the richness of detail I was fortunate enough to be exposed to not only in my early readings, but in my own childhood. My father, a character himself, devoured sea stories, and could quote Shakespeare and Walter Scott at the drop of the hat. My mother, a painter and poet, quoted the Romantic poets almost daily. My big sister Lalu is a marvelous storyteller herself and read me Thurber with a wicked giggle. My late sister Robin McCorquodale published several acclaimed books and sang mezzo soprano in New York. My brother Grainger Hunt sang rock-and-roll and played Henry IV on stage. My own literary influences were Shakespeare, Homer, Twain, Verne, Stevenson, Doyle, Wells, Hammett, Hellman, O’Brian, Chandler and McMurtry. I read them still.

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Cynics

Nay Sayer

Pity the crank. The nay sayer. The lone member of the opposition in all things.

Or rather don’t.

Pity doesn’t work. I tried. A cynic will try to entangle you in his nets, and drag you down saying, “See? I told you so.”

Remember the words of Oscar Wilde: “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

Follow the wisdom of George Carlin who said, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.”

I urge you, don’t be tempted to aid a cynic. He’ll turn you into a symbol of the success of his own failure, or the failure of success itself.

A film review of B. F. E.

BFE2

Last Monday night I saw the Seattle International Film Festival premier of B. F. E., a very good low budget film by actor-writer-director Shawn Telford.  His first feature film,  the move demonstrates Telford’s gift for direction and complex storytelling in the vein of Robert Altman. Shawn is particularly adept at casting and getting the most out of a string of talented young actors and several older ones as well. Ian Lerch and Kelsey Packwood performed beyond their years as the principal lovers. Both Hans Altwies and Abby Dylan were very credible as well.
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As I Liked It

Seattle Shakespeare

I’ve been a season ticket holder to the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s season for many years now. Last night I saw their “As You Like It” below the Space Needle at the Center House Theater.

I’ve got to say Orlando (Nathan Graham Smith) had a bit of a rocky opening. There are moments in even a good actor’s career when he can do no more than summon his lines. And though this was one of them, the awkwardness moment passed quickly, and Mr. Smith led the play very well indeed.

The story has a rather serious beginning, as all good comedies should. Ray Gonzales and Keith Dahlgren played very credible dukes with lots of slapping around, which added to the drama in the resolution of the play.

Jake Ynzunza portrayed well the oafish wrestler Charles and the bumpkin rube William.  The characters played by Bill Johns and David Klein were not the most interesting, but the actors played their parts very competently, as they always do. Hanna Lass and Rebecca Olson where fabulous as BFFs Rosalind and Celia. Ms. Lass portrayed the lead with the perfect balance of spite and lovestruck ardor that the character requires, and Ms. Olson animated Celia with the humor and steadfastness Shakespeare breathed into the lines.

Everyone did well, though I have to say I was struck by the skill that David Pichette used in playing Jacques, the worldly philosopher who elevates the tale. His “All the world’s a stage” speech was the best I’ve seen. He gave it in the aisle, not three feet from me. I admit, I had to overcome the urge to leap up and wring his hand when he’d finished.

And Darragh Kennan was Wit himself as the wisest of fools. His patter throughout the play – especially with Hannah Mootz (Phebe) – was wonderful. There seemed to be one or two spots where their words got crossed and Mr. Kennan improvised magnificently.

The music, by the way was very well done. I usually read past those lines in the play, but they were delivered so musically they stood out as some of the best parts of the performance.

Once again thanks to John Bradshaw and George Mount, all of the actors and, of course, the Bard for a wonderful evening and season.