Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer Diversions

There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues… ~ Eddie Cochran
Actually, there are numerous nostrums to treat the midsummer’s malady, it all depends on how low you want to stoop. For sheer spectacle, Sophia Coppola’s latest film, The Beguiled, full of girls and women and one unfortunate man, is hard to beat:

Focus Features

Set in Virginia in during the Civil War, a wounded deserter is discovered and taken in to heal in a girls seminary where there are no men or servants (“The slaves ran off…”) Needless to say, repressed urges surface amidst the sewing and French lessons. Fascinating, in a strangely distant way. Not an action flick, and probably not her best effort, but if you’ve enjoyed Sophia Coppola’s films in the past you should get a kick out of this. If you can’t stand her work, stay far, far away.

On the literary front, I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warnings immensely. A short story/poetry anthology, Neil shows his seemingly effortless skill in spinning yarns (not so smooth with the poetry, however.) This collection is a perfect summer item, with no story taking more than 10 minutes to read. There is a dazzling array of genres to explore here including: fairy tales, classic sci-fi (an ode to Ray Bradbury), a Sherlock Holmes story and even a Doctor Who episode! It is almost too much, perhaps best taken in small doses.

(Image: Painting by Caitlin Karolzak.)

On the more esoteric side is Jack Kerouac’s long suppressed (and thought to be lost for many years) first long-form writing, The Haunted Life. A coming-of-age story (does anyone ever write anything other than a coming-of-age story for their first novel?) that starts off with a diatribe from the protagonist’s father about foreigners taking over America. Written while he was associating with Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, it was evidently left in a closet in Ginsberg’s apartment and has only recently re-emerged. This is in the J.D. Salinger mode—the language is definitely 1940s-ish. Reading it makes me glad that my coming-of-age was in the sixties, not the forties. Foreshadowing his alcoholism, Kerouac’s 19-year-old protagonist downs six beers before noon in one chapter. The writing is pedestrian, even though Kerouac name-drops numerous authors and poets. With its small town setting The Haunted Life comes across as Garrison Keillor without the humor. It is unfinished, but there are several additional chapters by Kerouac describing the rest of the book, as well as letters from his father.

Over in TV-land, I've been caught up in the BBC’s The Great British Baking Show (shown in the US on PBS, back episodes are on their website.) I am charmed by the humanity it reveals: the intimidating Paul Hollywood and the grandmotherly Mary Berry are the judges, the daffy presenters Sue and Mel, and all the contestants; you get the sense that these people really care about each other. This is definitely “Reality TV” at its finest, although its chemistry has been broken—the new season is on a private network—only Paul will make the switch:

And, finally, is this super-adorable video is set to Pascal Pinon music, shot for a film class somewhere in the far east (The Philippines, perhaps?) Sit back on your screen porch with a glass of lemonade and, if you are as easily amused as I am, enjoy this panacea for the summertime blues:

UPDATE: Speaking of how low you can go, this made me laugh out loud.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Jono said...

I liked the original Beguiled with Clint Eastwood and while I am rarely impressed with remakes this one looks potentially worthwhile.
The Great British Baking Show is about the only "reality" show I can watch. I usually root for everyone in it.
Pascal Pinon always makes me wish I were 20 years old again.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

The new The Beguiled is a real curio, I can imagine that the Clint Eastwood film would be considerably different.

I enjoy TGBBS immensely even though I've lost my taste for pastries and cake, although most of the savory dishes look very good.

I think that someday a coming-of-age film will use a Pascal Pinon soundtrack.

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