Friday, March 14, 2014


So what does one do when everything you've ever known is lost and there are still four children looking to you for answers? Such is the story of Lore, a teenaged girl who is suddenly uprooted from her upper class home where she lived with her parents, younger sister, two younger brothers, and a new baby. They relocate to a tiny house in the Black Forest with the expectation that their father is to join them soon. Instead, their mother announces she must leave ahead of expected arrests following the collapse of The Third Reich. If she does not return, Lore has been instructed to take her brothers and sisters to Hamburg where their grandmother lives. Mom doesn't make it clear how Lore is to complete this nearly 600 mile task without transportation and only a handful of jewels but Mama ain't going to jail so Lore better deal.

And deal she does. Lore drags them from post to pillar, over the river, through the woods, leaving bits of her childhood behind and she faces the overwhelming responsibility before her. The kids cry, as to be expected. They get hungry, as to be expected. And they don't like sleeping in the damp woods, also, as to be expected. On top of all that, Lore picks up a maybe stalker who sets on edge every teenaged girl's burgeoning sense of sexuality.

Savior or stalker?

Lore is a hauntingly beautiful film based on The Dark Room, a short story written by Rachel Seiffert. The cinematography is excellent. Every shot evokes the feeling of bewilderment and uncertainty that dogs Lore's path. I have a soft spot for WWII flicks of all sorts but this one especially highlights one of the most intriguing aspects of the era for me, the effect of war on civilians, particularly German citizens. I think we fall into the common trap of seeing the Germans during the war as SS officers and Hitler youth and forget that many people struggled with pain, confusion, and lost in that time, regardless of which side they stood.

Lore is available on Netflix and Amazon. 

Friday, March 7, 2014


Directed by Philip Martin, Birdsong is the BBC adaptation of the novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks. Wikipedia tells me it's part of trilogy of novels set in France involving some of the same characters and war stuff. This one involves war, pretty dresses, and Eddie Redmayne sobbing.

Good thing I was only in it for the pretty dresses.

Pretty dresses on picnic

Pretty dresses by the lake

Fleur Delacour by the lake

Fleur Delacour and a not crying Marius

The movie was fine. It was shot well, evoked proper emotion, was well acted. But it was missing something. I'm really not sure what. The best I can say about Birdsong is that it's one of those movies you enjoy while you're watching it and forget as soon as you aren't. There are easily a good ten movies I could list along the same theme. Love and PTSD with a side of fashion. I have to believe the fault is with the screenwriter. This is supposed to be Sebastian Faulks's best work and yet one of my favorite movies is Charlotte Gray, another novel in the trilogy. I wouldn't have known they were related were it not for the internet.

Bottom line, unless you have a love of Edwardian fashion, go ahead and skip this one in favor of Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup. Those two are prettier, Billy does less blubbering, and you'll actually care what happens to everyone.

But if you're a Game of Thrones fan and you're still wondering what happened to Benjen Stark, it might be worth your time.

And what do you know? There's Robb. He's not much smarter in this one either. Those poor, dumb Starks just can't catch a break, can they?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Do Fairy Tales Count as Literature?

Because this looks bad ass.

I have a soft spot for French films AND Vincent Cassel.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Based on the 1996 novel by Patrick McGrath, Asylum is the story of a 1950's era housewife's descent into crazyville. Overlooked by her husband, marginalized by her mother in law, and relegated to the background of life surrounding a mental hospital situated in the middle of nowhere, it's really no surprise that Stella Raphael takes up with one of the patients.

How you doin'?

Edgar Stark, aka Guy deLusignan from Kingdom of Heaven, actually pays attention to her, you see, staring at her with the same smoldering eyes he used on Eva Green in Kingdom of Heaven and later, Jessica Chastain in The Debt. He also played Borias in Xena, the Warrior Princess. I'm almost ashamed to admit I watched the hell out of that show but I'd all but forgotten about Borias so maybe I can be forgiven. Teenagers are dumb.

I'm too sexy for my side burns, too sexy for my side burns

Also dumb, Lord Grantham, I mean Dr Max Raphael who doesn't realize his wife has been doing not so appropriate things with a man who cut off his previous lover's head in a jealous rage. But don't worry, Gandalf, erm, Dr Cleave says Captain Decapitation is perfectly safe, he just has a personality disorder, sparked by intense jealousy. He'll be fine as long as he doesn't become obsessed with anyone.

Is creepy mccreepster a super power?

Did Dr Cleave see this coming from a mile away? That's the only question left unanswered in this movie. The rest is quite beautifully done, with Natasha Richardson doing an excellent job portraying the deteriorating mental state of a woman caught in the midst of three men who care not a whit for her needs.

I blame it all on them.

Asylum is available on Amazon Prime. Give it a go if you're interested in something a little bit twisted but very well acted. And if you do, please come back and tell me what you think of McKellen's Doctor Cleave. What did he know and when did he know it?

Who run the world? Wizards run the world.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Black Butterflies

How do you tell your child you never want to see them again? How do you look at the person you helped form and banish them from your life forever? With all the mistakes and errors, aren't you a contributor in some way? Isn't the very nature of raising a child such a bond that regardless of how you view their choices, their circumstances, they remain forever yours, forever in your thoughts, never far from your concerns?

Black Butterflies is about a host of other things, namely the life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker. It's been sitting in my Netflix instant queue for a few years, my interest sparked primarily by the haunting beauty of Carice van Houten, the far off gaze of her brilliant blue eyes. With those eyes, van Houten achingly portrays the loneliness of Jonker's life, the desperate desire for love that even when given by the writer Jack Cope wasn't unfiltered enough to overcome the deficiencies of her upbringing, including that awful moment when her father, even after learning that his daughter has won the prestigious Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel literary prize, utters those devastating words, "I never want to see you again."

I wonder how much of her longing for love allowed her to see so clearly, particularly amid the backdrop of apartheid the anguish that lead her to write this poem, forever immortalized in Nelson Mandela's address to the first democratically elected South African parliament.

The child is not dead

The child is not dead 
The child lifts his fists against his mother 
Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath 
Of freedom and the veld 
In the locations of the cordoned heart 

The child lifts his fists against his father 
in the march of the generations 
who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath 
of righteousness and blood 
in the streets of his embattled pride 

The child is not dead not at Langa nor at Nyanga 
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville 
nor at the police station at Philippi 
where he lies with a bullet through his brain 

The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers 
on guard with rifles Saracens and batons 
the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings 
the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers 
this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere 
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa 

the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world 
Without a pass 

Black Butterflies is a beautifully acted film about one woman's struggle within herself, with her family, and the world around her. It's a movie that will stay with you for a long while for its tiny explorations into depression, abandonment, love, and apartheid. It's available on Netflix Instant and for rent on  

You can read more of Jonker's poems here at All