Viewing Diary September 2017

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Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), directed by Robert Hamer

This gaslit noir intertwines the stories of a druggist’s family and a barkeep’s wife. They live in a world of shadows and top hats constructed on the Ealing lot. Starring as the wife is actress Googie Withers, whose delicate face is a world of its own. She’s cagey with sharp eyes and pursed lips that nonetheless betray her longing for love. Her beauty aches as she plots her husband’s murder, her womanhood a burden in a society run by men. It’s understated work that tilts the film’s ethical balance in her favor.

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Viewing Diary August 2017

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Night World (1932), directed by Hobart Henley

This sleazy melodrama is tangibly Pre-Code. Its one long night in a speakeasy teems with drunks, showgirls, gangsters, even a gay flirt in the bathroom. Babyfaced Lew Ayres tries to booze away memories of his Orestes-like past. (Dad slain by jealous mom.) Subplots bustle around him. Five people die in the bullet-riddled ending. Though it may break taboos and last a mere hour, this sort of theatrical nihilism can still be wearying to watch.

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Viewing Diary July 2017

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Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919), directed by Mauritz Stiller

She dwells in a cottage on Sweden’s frozen western coast; he, unbeknownst to her, led the Scotsmen who slew her adoptive family. The romantic tragedy they share sops with guilt. He trudges over the blue-tinted ice, breath visible, an apparition of her dead sister superimposed behind him. She wakes from a nightmare haunted by the same translucent specter, then reaches down to confirm the solidity of her pillows and sheets. The camera scans a desolate landscape, past cliffs and shrubs and piles of snow. Other lovers might have fought toward a happy ending, but these two originate in the feel-bad folklore of novelist Selma Lagerlöf. They will not survive the winter.

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Mania in the One Bedroom Apartment

Hey. It’s been a long time. Let’s get to it.

I wanna tell you about being bipolar and how weird it is. My moods don’t swing very rapidly normally; I spend most of my life in a (mild to severe) depressive state. I get manic very rarely and when I do it’s usually hypomania. I get manic so rarely that my therapist has suggested that maybe we look into different diagnoses.

But when I do get manic it’s a hell of a ride.

I recently came out of a deep and terrifying depressive state and ran high-speed into full-blown mania. Mania so intense I’m glad I’m broke because who knows what kinda shit I woulda wasted money on. Instead this recent bout of mania was hyper-focused on one thing: deep cleaning and prettifying our apartment. If you’re not interested in the minutiae of cleaning and decorating a small space, this post might not be for you.  If you’re down, hit the jump for more.

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Viewing Diary June 2017

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Housekeeping (1987), directed by Bill Forsyth

I recently read Marilynne Robinson’s sad and lovely novel of the same name, and now I’m astonished by how neatly Forsyth’s screen adaptation complements its source. Robinson’s detailed prose and biblical allusions find their analogues in the film’s subdued colors, its period costuming, and the real-life mountains that cradle it like a mother’s arms. Christine Lahti, by turns endearing and mystifying, leads her adolescent co-stars through an ornate cosmos of inverted domesticity. Theirs is a world of jars and newspapers, couches and overcoats, railroads and floodwaters: a house and all that lies beyond it. In this aunt’s unlikely tutelage, Forsyth captures the novel’s sheen of unreality, its sense of deepest tragedy inside volatile joy. He adapts its notions of family, word by word and shot by shot, into a sad and lovely film.

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Viewing Diary May 2017

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Shooting Stars (1928), directed by Anthony Asquith and A.V. Bramble

As revealed by the BFI’s recent restoration, this sly meta-satire is a gem of late silent cinema. Its love triangle plot—a starlet strays from her leading man husband to a slick comedian—is pretzeled by irony and layered with visual subtext. Dizzying crane shots survey the breadth of a studio’s operations. Onscreen text limits the need for title cards. (The actress stands by a window at her lover’s flat, for example, and a marquee outside flashes the title My Man.) Films-within-the-film apply alternative tones to their love stories: slapstick, melodrama, the hokey romance of a cheap western. But Shooting Stars, wielding that triple entendre of a title, is a tragicomedy right down its bitter end. It’s like an inversion of Murnau’s Sunrise where the moral burden’s on the wandering wife, and not even movie magic can release her.

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8 Years??

That’s a long time to maintain a blog, especially in this fast-paced online ecosystem. Hell, I’ve been using Pussy Goes Grrr as a writing platform since I was a teenager. In the context of my life, it feels like the digital equivalent of those towering redwoods that grew from saplings over a span of millennia. Other apps and profiles may since have fallen by the wayside, but here I am, still typing on this likely antiquated website. It’s seen me through half a dozen distinct disillusionments, with writing or film or criticism; periods of dormancy and regret. After all that, I’m still struggling to hone my writing, and this is as good a place to hack away as any. At this rate, maybe I’ll find some creative satisfaction midway through the 2020s. In the meantime, well, I suppose I’ll keep on posting.

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