Welcome to the weekly roundup on Ink in the Archives! Every week I will share what I’ve been up to and interested in and ask you to fill me in on your week too.
Eventful Events and Happening Happenings
After several months of saying that there was no need to return books, the library finally wanted their books back this week. I should have taken a picture of the pile of books and DVDs that I had ready to take back for months by the side of my reading chair. They reached up almost to the chair arms. The book drop was open when I got there, but there was no basket down below, so there was a mountain of books piling up on the floor–the danger of avalanche appeared to be imminent. This, coupled with a trip to the post office and a stop for boba on the way home was my big outing for the week.
This was a good week for baking: sourdough pizza, sourdough crackers, chocolate chip cookies and an raspberry almond cake that was so lovely, especially with a little whipped cream and some chopped nectarines on top.
Underland by Robert Macfarlane For whatever reason I read very little this week, but I definitely enjoyed the one book that I managed to finish this week. It’s a journey into the underworld in many different ways through caves and glaciers, beneath the forest floor and the city of Paris. More than the underland itself, the book is about the ways humans have and continue to interact with this space–to explore, bury, secure–and what our huge impact on the planet means for spaces like these and for our future on earth. It’s a big book with a huge scope and I like the back and forth between information and memoir.
I have a lot of free time this summer. So I thought I’d use it to work down my ever-growing movie backlog. This is what happens when you’re a film student–you’re so busy reading philosophy and criticism there’s no time to watch the movies everyone is referencing. I’ve challenged myself to watch one movie from this list a day.
Blithe Spirit (1945) Rex Harrison stars in this Noel Coward film about a seance that actually manages to summon the spirit of his first wife who tries to break up his second marriage. Are there notes of white superiority as well as patriarchal attitudes in this film? Yes, there are. There’s also some really witty dialogue, a fun situation, and some really great shots.
Sex and the Single Girl (1964) Tony Curtis stars opposite Natalie Wood in this comedy about an undercover magazine writer who is trying to expose a female psychologist who has just written a bestseller about, well, sex and single girls. This is a metafilm based on the real book and author (they don’t change her name). When I was watching it, I realized that this must be the original that inspired Down With Love (2003) with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. An idea that was seconded by this article from the New Yorker I read that talks about the obsession with the late 60s style and how it’s used in film and television.
This movie is largely a joke, but it’s hard to laugh nearly 60 years later, because it feels like the joke is mostly on women and their brains, ambition, feelings, and rights. The punchline has worn thin, and the over the top acting does nothing to help. The wit and glamour I loved in Down With Love is missing from this film, though I did love Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda as a couple with marital problems. It’s kind of a waste of their considerable talents, but they count for at least 2 of the 2.5 stars I’m giving this film. The other .5 stars comes from the ridiculous chase scene at the end of the film where they hop in taxi cabs to race away and one driver is concerned about the speed limit and the other is all “this is my chance!” It’s hard to believe that this was one of the highest grossing films the year it was released…
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) This adaptation of Edward Albee’s play follows George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) in a drunken battle of wits as they use their young guests as pawns in their ultimate game of truth and deception.
Martha: Truth or illusion, you don’t know the difference.
George: But we must carry on as though we did.
This film is so good. Partially because the play and the writing are so good. But it’s more than that. The cinematography is so spot on in this film, making you feel isolated or trapped alongside the characters. And Burton and Taylor play drunk so well unlike their young foils. It’s just all a little too loud, a little unsteady, a little off kilter, but not overdone.
More than just a husband and wife getting back at each other, this film is really about truth and illusion–what we believe, what we can get others to believe, and how this deception is ultimately really hurtful. In our time of alternate facts where we doubt things even when we can look them up, when we don’t know what sources of information to trust, this feels even more poignant. In my mind, the young couple represent something like the American dream (the I made it on my own with nothing but my white male privilege)–young and ambitious–while George and Martha represent how illusory that dream really is.
The Snake Pit (1948) Anatole Litvak’s film starring Olivia de Havilland is a portrait of a woman being treated in a mental institution by a caring physician who treats her as more than just a number. Since Olivia de Havilland died this week at the age of 104, I thought I would watch a few of her films over the next week or so that I hadn’t seen. My favorite of her films is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), where she plays Maid Marian opposite Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. This film is much more serious and gives de Havilland an opportunity to display real acting ability. For its time, I think it’s a really sympathetic and ultimately hopeful depiction of mental illness.
The Rains Came (1939) Tyrone Power stars (along with Myrna Loy) in this dramatic film about love and disaster in the made up area of Ranchipur, India. This expensive movie won the Academy Award for special effects over The Wizard of Oz, which should give some idea of how impressive they are. I’m not going to lie, this is kind of a white savior film in which none of the actors are actually South Asian and many perform in brownface, but it is nice that one of the characters, Tom Ransome, really does care about the culture and customs of the region and is respectful and interested. However, even Tom has a rosy view of Queen Victoria and her role in the empire. It may still be watching though just for Maria Ouspenskaya’s very memorable performance as the maharani.
Cinema Paradiso (1988) This award-winning Italian film is a love letter to movies and what they mean to one young man and his friend, Alfredo, who runs the movie projector at the Cinema Paradiso. I don’t know how to quite put it in words how much I loved this movie and its flawed characters, including this island of Sicily, which is very much a character in the film. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see it, but I can’t wait to watch it again. (Streaming on HBO)
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012) Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor star in this sweet and silly romantic comedy about a young man who finally stands up to his parents. This movie was light and sweet–exactly what I needed.
Please know that I’m not paid for my opinions about anything. I just like to share things that strike me as interesting, useful, or engaging.
If you’re looking forward to a future in which this time will become an important part of history (and not a painful present), you might think about supporting this Kickstarter. It’s a campaign from Tupelo press to create a collection of poetry from a range of poets written in and about the pandemic. It’s only got a few more days, and it’s close to funding, so I thought I’d share in case there are any poetry lovers reading this.
I really loved this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about Bay area cooks that are baking in order to raise money for antiracism causes.
How was your week? Let me know in the comments!