Friday, May 23, 2014

Film Review: "Kiss Me" original title "Kyss mig" A Swedish film directed by Alexandra-Therese Keining

I should start by saying I've watched this film three times in the last week. I find it has a grace and enchantment most romantic films lack. The music, both the original score and the pop music, provide an emotional dialogue. Sometimes it's like poetry being whispered behind the actors--the cadence and chords carry a meaning, filling in the silence, but quietly, unobtrusively, unlike the usual marching band effect of most soundtracks.

The direction and cinematography are exquisite. The windswept grain, the famous light, the water still and flowing, verdant and barren, evoke tones of Bergman and Ullmann. The acting is pitch perfect throughout. In the most dramatic moment when Frida declares herself, her voice is so quiet, her body so still it is remarkable in her portrayal of emotional depth. She embodies the saying "still waters run deep."

This film is full of small details that are so understated they run the risk of being overlooked: the photo over the bed where Frida and Mia spend their first night together; Mia moving Frida's hair when lighting her cigarette; even the angle of the introductory shots--Mia and Tim making love--appear upside down both foreshadowing the turmoil ahead of them, and showing us that this relationship is upside down, all wrong, askew. Even the repetition of the theme of discovering the stranger in someone you thought you knew, whether a lover or yourself, is handled so gently that it looks completely natural. Yet each of the major relationships, and the main characters, has their moment of revelation.

Certainly the story isn't new ("Imagine You and Me" is almost identical) but the telling is so fresh, one almost forgets the others. Not to mention, it achieves a level of erotic tension about which most movies can only dream.

There is no need to dress this story up in rom-com hi-jinx silliness. There is no need to hide the scary lesbian love behind laughter (and let's face it, even today Lesbian love can be scary. There is so much at stake for everyone involved--the newly out risks losing her family, both women are losing established relationships and risk having their own hearts broken--these are the kinds of scary moments that elicit nervous laughter.) That is the grace of this film. There is no melodrama in the seriousness of the intense attraction and the mysteries of chemistry that blows up in your face. But don't worry, there are enough warm and funny moments to keep it from becoming ponderous ("vebabs" made my spit out my tea) but the subject is serious and so is the tone. In the end, I appreciate the artistry, the approach, and the execution of this film. Well done.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Barn on Fire

The barn on fire

I want to say the horses got out
but the tack smoldered, sticky
wax from years of saddle soap

rubbed in one direction
with a soft cloth

I want to say the horses escaped
but the hay crackled mercilessly
timothy shrunk to ash before
the heat, before the flame

pitched in stacks above
the stalls, the horses

I want to say the horses fled
I want to show you their manes
flying in the wind, shining

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vocabulary -- A Memoir by Definition Clarion West Write-a-Thon Edition

I sat at the dining room table. It had been cleared of dishes and wiped clean. The empty space was brightly lit from the overhead light and the sunny window. The sparkling porcelain bouquet centerpiece stood watch in the middle of the oval table. I watched my father as he bent his head over his project. He had placed in front of him a watch with the back off, a piece of cardboard, a toothpick, two tubes of epoxy glue, one with a blue cap, one with a red cap. He carefully removed the cap of one tube and squeezed a dab onto the cardboard. He replaced the cap and went through the same steps with the second tube, placing the second dab a few inches from the first. A sweet odor filled my nose and settled in the front of my brain. I felt a little further away while I watched. My father double checked the watch. He pulled the cardboard in front of him and picked up the toothpick. He held the toothpick over the dab of epoxy closest to him. The toothpick wavered in the air. The sweet smell got stronger. He scraped the first dab into the second dab and began to fold the dabs of goo into one another.
“Can I help?”
“Not this time. This job is too tedious.”
Tedious. I had not heard that word before. Tedious. Did he mean difficult? Perhaps he meant delicate? Certainly tedious did not mean too important for a girl of eleven to help with?
“Tedious? How do you spell that?”
Without looking up from his mixing my father said “T. E. D. I. O. U. S.”
I slid sideways out of the chair, careful not to bump the table. I found our family dictionary on the shelf and took it down onto the coffee table. I turned to the Ts to look up TEDIOUS. I found that it means “1. marked by tedium; long and tiresome: tedious tasks; a tedious journey. 2. causing fatigue or tedium; monotonous. 3. obsolete progressing very slowly.”
I closed the book and slid back into my seat next to his. I watched as he used the tip of the toothpick to insert some of the mixed epoxy into the crevice of a broken part of the watch. After applying enough epoxy, he put the toothpick on the cardboard and pushed the cardboard away from the center of the operation. He put the back of the watch on and pressed firmly until it clicked into place. Making sure to keep the watch level, he picked it up and put it on the credenza next to the table, out of the way of traffic.
He looked at me then, for the first time since we had sat down. “You can wind the watch tomorrow, after the epoxy has set.”
I smiled. I knew he meant that was the way I could help. But I was thinking I had something better than winding the watch. I had tedious.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Failure to Launch - Clarion West Write-a-thon Edition

Sometimes I feel like I’m peddling so hard I’m about to lift off
like that boy in the movie about the fire hydrant
who lost his cell phone
and only wants to, you know,
phone home.
But then I don’t.
So I hold my feet out, my legs a wide V
so I coast.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Peristalsis - Clarion West Write-a-thon edition

Peristalsis, perestroika, perihelion, paradox, pair of ducks, pair of socks

Have left me
with a head-
full of half-
heard melodies.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Marked Chapter 2 (Part Two)

“That is not a proper farthing, give me another.” I insisted, not wanting to take the shaved coin from the miller’s daughter. She held it out stubbornly.
“Here, here, here, just take 3 of my farthings and give me a penny back, will that suit? That flour looks more weevil than oats, it is not worth the 7 farthings you asked.”
I fell back into my custom of attending church morning and evening on Sunday. And I waited for the next call to the duty of my gift. When the knock came I dared to hope for a summons to a newborn, another voglie to be read, more silver for my purse. I opened my door to the heavy fisted pounding, and looked out to a beautiful evening of fiery sky after sunset across the valley. The shrouded henchmen of the Bishop could be mistaken for no one else. I suddenly felt icy underneath my cloak. They grabbed me out of my doorway. I counted four of them. I looked around for witnesses and saw that Sarah, my neighbor across the lane, was peeking out of the corner of her window, the curtain pulled ever so slightly to the side. Her eyes were wide and wild. Did she fear for herself, or for me? She let the sack cloth curtain fall into place after our eyes met. The men pushed me down on my knees into the flint shards of the garden path. I had no hope of standing let alone running, unless my captors willed it. A reeking, sticky, hood was pushed over my head. The smell of rotting vegetables and something coppery filled my nose and mouth. I struggled to keep calm. What were their plans? Why hadn’t they shackled me? The urge to run was strong. The men did not even bother to shackle me. I knew my surroundings even if I couldn’t see them, but I also knew there was nowhere to hide and none of my neighbors would take me in with the Bishop’s men after me. And it would not be fair to my neighbors to bring that sort of trouble to their door. Two of the men held me under my arms and dragged me away from my home, then threw me onto a flat surface about as high as my knees. My hands felt the damp wood. I sat up but was knocked down flat as my shoulder caught the blow of something unforgiving. There came a crashing sound around my ears. It sounded like iron on wood. I had seen carts used for transporting prisoners, first to prison, and then to gallows. I feared I was in such a cart. My shoulder throbbed as the contraption jerked forward. I heard a horse clopping at the front of the cart. I was certain those hollow sounds were the drums for the gallows. Dread fell over me. I felt a cold trickle of sweat from under my arms.
I reached up and felt the lid of the cart made from flat strips of iron, riveted at each overlapping joint into a lattice with 3 inch square openings, providing no protection from the weather. I thought for a moment of all the men who might have been taken away in this cart. I shuddered. I knew that my survival depended on keeping a cool head and gathering as much information as I could. The lattice left enough room for three fingers to grab each cold strip, which in its turn was the width of my thumb. That was the same width as the blade of the knife I often carried, but had left on the table when I answered the door. Between the iron lattice lid and the floor of the cart there was just enough room for me to turn over from my back to my belly, but I could not sit up. I breathed my gratitude to a kind God that I had my shoes and leggings on under my usual cloak and tunic. I prayed I would not be deprived of these. The hood over my face smelled vile, coppery, acrid. I knew better than to try to remove it. A few times the bile rose in my throat, but I focused on my breathing and the bile retreated.
The droning of the drumming hoofs, the creak of the wheels, the rubbing of the iron lid, sometimes felt like sleep to me. Each time the cart stopped, and the lid was lifted, I thought my time had come and I began to say my prayers, “Ave Maria, gratia plena. Dominus…” and received a sound cuff against my ear, “Be still!” commanded one of the guards. Six times the cart stopped, the iron lattice lid was lifted, and the hood pulled back just enough to throw water into my mouth. They allowed me to relieve myself so as not so soil my garments or perhaps the cart. Once someone held my head and shoved a pinch of bread between my lips with salty fingers that smelled of horse and something worse. Twice I saw daylight prying under the hood. Four times the stopping was but a few minutes, perhaps half an hour in all, but twice the cart stopped for a long enough time that is must have been night. I could hear rustling and low talk farther in front of the cart and assumed my captors were bedding down near the road. I was confused by their treatment of me, most likely I was meant to be. Nonetheless I was able to count three days travel from my home. Three days locked in a cage, with that vile hood over my face, felt like a year. But three days in a cart with one horse walking at a steady gait travels a predictable distance. My suspicions of our destination grew as strong as certainty.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Marked" Chapter 2 (Part One)

I pulled my cloak around me, secured the hood, and pinned the woman with all my authority. Her eyes were large with fear, but she looked at my face for an answer.
“A trick of the light, nothing more.” I felt I was boring the message into her, to convince her she had seen a shadow only.
Turning to her husband I continued “Now, our business is concluded. I must return home. Immediately. I trust I do not need to remind you of the importance of discretion.” He pulled a small pouch from his vest pocket and handed it to me. The dull clink of the coins and the weight felt right enough, I did not stop to count it. I left the merchant’s great hall to mount the horse he had waiting for me. The same stable boy rode with me. I was glad for his company as I paid little attention to the way home. I was too preoccupied with concern. I worried that the wife would say what she had seen. It would be interpreted as a sign of evil. What if she told her priest in confession? Somehow the news would get back to the Bishop of Lincoln. He would not stand for it, any of it. He would charge me with heresy, and more. Anyone caught using my services would be subject to the same. And the Bishop would get more than a small pouch of silver for his trouble.
I arrived home in the dead of night. I was relieved the stable boy could be so easily persuaded to bed down with the horses in a stable closer to town. I gave him two farthings to see him on his way. As soon as he was out of sight I squared my shoulders and walked across the lane to Sarah’s cottage. I knocked on her front door as loud as I dared, not wanting to wake any other neighbors. I stood in the shadow of a shadow. After a few minutes Sarah came to the door.
“I need your help.” I whispered. She opened the door to let me in.
“Tell me.”
“I may not be safe. And it may not be safe to be seen helping me.”
“I understand.”
“I will need food, I have nowhere else to go. If the Bishop’s men do not come for me I will resume my work and no one here will be any the wiser.” I watched her as she listened, hoping that the trust we had built since her husband’s death would be enough. She looked away and bit the side of her lip.
Finally she looked back at me and said, “I will leave pottage over the embers and bread in a cloth on the table for you every evening. You may enter in secrecy. We must never talk of this again.”
As I walked out her door, Sarah gripped my arm and said, “I could never have continued my life here after John’s death had you not spoken up for me. I would not be here making my own way. I owe you a great deal. I will help you any way I can.”
I patted her hand, and managed a smile. I had been surprised too, that our village had let her stay in her house when she was widowed. It helped that the clothes she made were better than most could get in the big city. She stood out without a husband, but she belonged. And that was enough.
Over the next few days I stayed out of sight. I did not speak with anyone, not even Sarah. I went back to work making arrows, but I kept my cottage shuttered. I used my oil lamps but I was afraid to light a fire. I ate what provisions I had stored. A week passed. No one came for me. I snuck into Sarah’s cottage across the lane, at night, for pottage and ale. I left her a silver penny. Once there was a sausage in a cloth with some oat cakes left out on the table. Two furtive weeks passed and still no sign that the Bishop would send for me. I dared to go to market to sell my arrows. I began to doubt they would ever come for me.