Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's one, long, loud l-a-u-g-h!


I Love You Again (1940) is as perfect as it gets. Powell is a god, Loy is a goddess and I chocked on my milkshake several times, it was hilarious. Such great acting coming from the leads, they have amazing chemistry. My favourite on-screen couple for sure! It belongs to the "estranged married couple falling in love all over again" category, to which The Awful Truth (a gem, I talked about it here) belongs as well. The tagline (see title) isn't misleading - this movie is pure fun from beginning to end. I must say Powell (who plays George Carey, an ex-con who suffers from amnesia and discovers he was an ex-con and tries to win back his wife) is an amazing actor and is perfect in comedies - he's lucky to have found Loy (Kay Wilson) who can deliver deadpan jokes like nobody's business. Some dialog to lure you in:

KAY WILSON: Where did you learn to dance like this?

Some more:

GEORGE CAREY: You be careful madam, or you'll turn my pretty head with your flattery.
KAY WILSON: I often wished I could turn your head - on a spit, over a slow fire.

There's even a scene where Kay asks George if he'd like some eggs, and when he says yes, she suggests he wears them, and lets her eggs slide from her plate onto his head before leaving the room. That's Myrna for you!

Double Wedding (1937) may not have been as completely crazy as I Love you Again, but it was an excellent movie nonetheless. I feel the death of Jean Harlow might have had something to do with the tone of the movie - Powell and Loy's hearts just weren't into it. Harlow, who had been Powell's fiancée for 2 years, died at 26 during production and both Loy (who was a good friend of Harlow's) and Powell took it very hard. It has a sinister feel, even though some scenes are particularly excellent - the end is practically perfect in every way and it's hard not to laugh at a William Powell in a lady's fur coat. Some scenes reminded me of the wonderful Libeled Lady (talked about it here).

Love Crazy (I talked about it here), I Love you Again and Double Wedding are available in the Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection, along with Manhattan Melodrama and Evelyn Prentice which I have never seen. Let me put this plainly: I.WANT.THIS.BOXSET. I'll buy it as soon as possible, this is my top priority along with the Forbidden Hollywood boxsets, The Awful Truth and Libeled Lady. By the way, I'm taking donations (I'm joking, of course!).

Don't they look simply divine?

MYRNA LOY: "Some perfect wife I am," she said, referring to her typecasting. "I've been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can't boil an egg."
WILLIAM POWELL: [when asked how he kept so slim] "I highly recommend worrying. It's much more effective than dieting."
MYRNA ABOUT WILLIAM: "I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell. He was a brilliant actor, a delightful companion, a great friend and above all, a true gentleman."

As far as TV is concerned, I am still in the middle of my West Wing marathon. I'm a bit slow but that's just because I have finally given in to the lure of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had never watched the show when it aired, although all my friends were addicted to it: when the show started to be broadcast here I was 11 and way too frightened of all the paranormal aspects of it to be tempted to watch it. After years of avoiding the show because it was too popular, I recently decided to give it a go. The first season is not the best, I feel: it has its interesting bits (three episodes in particular, Angel, Nightmares and Prophecy Girl which is the season finale) but overall it's very cliché and cheesy. However, I'm glad I've watched it all from the beginning, some characters really evolve, Cordelia for example, for whom I have a fondness because she reminds me of my cousin. At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, characters are the thing that make us want to stick to a show, a book, a movie - characters make a story. The situations are merely here to reveal them. So while I'm still not a fan of all the paranormal stuff, I enjoy the characters' personal development very much. I'm taking it all slowly, I'm trying not to rush and try to appreciate the show without too much pressure. If I ever reach the seventh season, I'll post about it. So far, I can tell you that I love Buffy (she's a great heroine, probably my favourite character), that I can't wait for Willow to have her moment of glory, that we get to see some very interesting things related to Xander, that Buffy/Angel is beautiful, that Angel alone is beautiful, that Spike is insanely cool and that I can't wait for Oz and Willow to finally talk.

Recently, I received my copy of the last part of the second season of Arthur, my very favourite cartoon. I am aware that this is a very didactic cartoon where the idea of tolerance is in every episode. However, I think that ultimately what saves it from being preachy is that it's extremely funny. Besides, it can be enjoyed by adults too as it is one of the few cartoons that keeps referencing itself - long-standing jokes are very common. It parodies a great deal of things as well. I heart this show so very much.

The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst was a fun read. While I wasn't as enthralled by it as I was by The Line of Beauty (which was a crazy, disturbing and wonderful experience), it was hard to put down. It's a book about many things, I'm not sure I could sum it up briefly. We follow Will during his many sexual adventures and as seems to be always the case with Hollinghurst, it allows for the exploration of different things - sex, love, art. In a way, I guess we could also say this book is about erotica and pornography and how close to real life they are - it's both a physical and intellectual experience to read a Hollinghurst novel and this one is no exception.
What I liked most about the novel is its scope. On cover of being an episodic novel where the main character meets as many as two new people per page, it addresses many issues and does so in a very effortless, warm way. It never feels forced. Will isn't completely lovable but he is always so charming you can't help but be under his spell. Betrayal also seems to be a common theme in Hollinghurst's novels - the ultimate one wasn't as devastating as in The Line of Beauty, but it had me question several things nonetheless.
I must say Hollinghurst is becoming one of my favourite authors, I love what he's doing.

Henry James' Washington Square was not at all a novel I thought James could write. It tells the story of Catherine who falls for a man who is rejected by her father, a doctor, because of the man's lack of fortune. What struck me the most was its humour:

In a country in which, to play a social part, you must either earn your income or make believe that you earn it, the healing art has appeared in a high degree to combine two recognised sources of credit.

This book could be entitled Persuasion, really. Not because of any similarity with Austen's own book - although James' writing is often very austenian - but because that's what the book is about: should Catherine listen to her father or follow her heart? The story takes some unexpected turns, and ultimately the best parts are the portrayals of the characters, especially that of the doctor. I enjoyed it because the plot was well-built - ascension, climax and fall - and the character well-drawn. I agree with Mark Le Fanu who, in his introduction to the new Oxford World's Classics edition, talks about just how dramatic this book is. It reads like a play. It's so completely different from what I've heard about him, which is why it probably makes a good introduction to his work - it's a transition of sorts. While it was a good read, I still do not feel it's representative of James' work so I am looking forward to opening my copy of Portrait of a Lady and compare the two. I have also been recommended The Golden Bowl at least twice. A movie adaptation of Washington Square was released in 1997 - I think the plot is a bit too flimsy to allow for a movie, so I'm curious to see how they dealt with it.

In unrelated news, Ronni posted her thoughts about something I said concerning childhood memories. If you remember, I said that I don't think people are critical enough of their childhood loves: I think all loves need to be reevaluated constantly and the best ones are the ones that stand the test of time. I didn't put it like that, but that is what I meant. So much of what I loved as a child I'm ashamed to have even liked today. I didn't read or watch that much when I was a child so it may be easier for me to just forget about those than it is for people who were really shaped by their childhood loves. I was shaped by a few (Arthur, for example, but I still discover new episodes today and I'm not ashamed of liking it today - it's a great show and "tolerance is better than bigotry" is a message I'm willing to stand behind - Little Women on the other hand...). I like Ronni's division a lot, even though it doesn't apply to me - in particular, the Head, Heart and Soul section. What she says is this:

Head, Heart and Soul: These texts are technically proficient. They possess themes which speak to me on a personal level and make me want to write about them and discuss them with other fans. But, most importantly, they make me reexamine who I am, make me want to change, to become better, to think more. These are the texts that I would quite possibly die to save. Thinking about these texts makes my life worth living.

The problem is not that I can't think of such texts, of course I can. If you've been reading this journal for some time I hope you've realised I'm very passionate about my obsessions. Who isn't? However, contrary to Ronni, I can't talk about them, they mean too much to me and apart from saying that, indeed, this changed my life, I don't know what else I can say. I constantly discover Head, Heart and Soul texts: I mean, look at this journal. I am not arguing that the things that affect you when you're a teen and willing to be shaped, longing to be shaped, even, waiting for something worth dying for, so to speak, are strong because they are a part of you. What I mean is that I think it's important to reread them no matter what afterwards - even if it's dangerous, even if it hurts. You may be surprised. In a bad way - I didn't know there was racism/misogyny/homophobia, take your pick, in this text, I'm disgusted, I don't understand, I'm hurt, I'm betrayed - but also in a good way - I am proud to have been shaped by this, I recognize the ideas and they're my own as well, we are one and always will be. I'm also going to make a distinction between childhood and teenagehood: I think you have much more chance of being shocked by a childhood love than by a teenage love. Ultimately, and this is very much my own opinion, I don't know to what extent people can agree with me, childhood loves entertain first, teenage loves shape first. If it shaped you, I think you have a better chance of finding it just as good as you remember it to be. If it entertained you, chances are you're going to reread it differently now and see other stuff, for better or for worse (girls should cook, play the mum and sew, anyone?). Don't be afraid of revisiting your memories, I think some of them really need to be desacralized - others can remain as sacred as you wish, but when I see people are still recommending things they'd be ashamed to read for the first time today, I can't help but wonder.

Now to music! Blues has always been one of my favourite genres - it touches me like nothing else, in fact. My favourite blues singer might just be Mississippi John Hurt, he's got such a sweet voice and his texts are so playful. So here he is, for your listening pleasure. Have a magical week!