We three Leos’ have read your books which were handed down from one to another. First, it was Lia, who once was a little toddler that crossed the border from Hungary in 1956 with mommy and daddy. She was sick and they were granted passage on a plane to get her to America more quickly, I believe from an Austrian camp. Then it was her mother, Marika neni who read it next. Marika neni has told me her story many times of coming to this country. She was a woman I grew up with, who was like an aunt but more of a sister to my stepfather. Lia was our babysitter in my formative years. Marika neni and my stepfather met at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey, when a group of refugees decided on Wheeling for their new home.
The Perfect Host stars David Hyde Pierce as Warwick Wilson, in an outstanding performance as a first-class creep. He has gone a long way from Niles on Frasier, our first cerebral goofball to see on television. As a psychotherapist, I always reveled in that show and the intellectually snobbery between he and his brother. In this role as Warwick, he has stepped into a new dimension (perhaps he has done this in another role, but this is my first time to see him in this type of character portrayal) and mesmerized me the entire time. The dissociative identity disorder idea was flabby in the storyline but made sense, nonetheless. He could have been schizophrenic as well, but I think the writer wanted to portray DID instead.
It was shocking to hear that he passed a month ago, as most of his fans had no idea he was dying. As I began to read the obituary in “The Guardian,” mid-way there was a YouTube link for Lazarus which I clicked on to watch. Listening to the first sentence “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” and the chills began to creep up. What an amazing way to say goodbye at the end of your life. At the same time, I began looking at other articles related to his passing and kept hearing Christopher Sandford’s name as the author of what appears to be Bowie’s only biography, entitled “Loving the Alien.” I put myself in queue through Amazon, for this book which was immediately on backorder after his death.
Last night I watched Gone Girl, which I found quite scary! I didn’t really like the ending but then I realized, if he had killed her that would have been predictable. If she had killed him, this would have been expected. It also would have turned the movie into a horror film and I would not have watched it. The ending was rather odd though and made no sense. Usually, this is what I love about foreign films, non-predictable and full of questions.
I am a huge fan of the Song of Bernadette with Jennifer Jones (1943). In fact, that movie changed my life spiritually. More recently, I read the non-fiction by Franz Werfel and this moved me even more – his story was included; another miracle from the Lady of Lourdes. I am also a psychotherapist for a living and if a movie is made correctly, I can figure it out from the get go. If you have ever watched the Poirot series by Agatha Christie, recall the scene where he is watching a play with his side kick, Inspector Hastings. Poirot is telling Hastings what will happen but it doesn’t and he is confused why it was written that way. That is me in a nutshell. This was written correctly (spoiler alert!) but the ending was way over the top and unnecessary. It was almost like an American film where they have to make everyone feel good. The ending closed up character plot lines but this could have been done in a dialogue – perhaps with his wife. She needed her husband back!
Raphael Balthazar played by Tomer Sisley, an Israeli-French male, has become my new fascination. I am going to spoil it for you though, but this has not been indicated in the series (at all). My suspicion is and maybe you will prove me wrong, maybe they will, but I think he is the one who killed his wife. At the end of Season 2; there were too many weird things at the ending segment that suddenly made me quite curious. His friend was dead, he was a ghost talking to him and they finally told us another clue – it had to be a doctor. Red Herring of a TV show? We shall find out in Season 3; as Acorn TV has indicated there will be one. Hard to tell with foreign TV.
Monsieur and Madame Adelman, a movie (Kanopy/Roku), starts off with the ending. It is predictable that Madame is going to tell someone at the funeral her life story. This is the last time you can be pretty sure of what is going to happen, well, until the
ending that explains the ending. At this point, the characters personalities have been built and so one can trust the obvious. As she begins to tell her story, which begins in the 1970’s, it seems as if this will be a typical love story. You can imagine this, though from the onset, Madame comes across as a cynical woman. She is begging you to pay attention. What comes across to the viewer are exceptional performances from Doria Tillier and Nicolas Bedos (he also wrote the score for the film, directed it and they both wrote the screenplay). Or did she, while he supervised? This is an inside joke from the film.
This film is hilarious in a very witty way. The couple is a duo of intellectual compatibles who take a moment to light their fire. There is no holding back with the lines, which I appreciate from the French. They are not trying to be Politically Correct either, as most modern films are today. True film lovers want to be stimulated by foreign films, because it gives one the sense that they are in the native country. Bringing in non-natives only throw off the vibrations of the storyline by having to deal with the non-natives. However, this being said, a favorite line in the film is “Do we live on a plantation now?” (probably not exact but approximately what Monsieur says). This speaks to the entire film community in the sense that it is saying – “Aren’t we in France?” There is also a play on the stereotype of the “Latin Lover,” at one point which is crucial to the turning point in the film. Is it possible that his character was more comfortable with a cliché than someone from his own roots?
This film seems reminiscent of a Woody Allen film; during his New York period. There isn’t a lot of outdoor scenery, so you could almost be anywhere, save for the décor and the language. The names dropped in the film are some of the best writers of our time and the discussions parallel what you might see in “Annie Hall” or “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The children of this couple are somewhat like that in “The Royal Tannenbaums,” misfits created by narcissistic lovers. The first child is a tragedy but in line with making this a humorous tale. A second child is a hint at the controversy, once assumed, with regard to Charlotte Gainsbourg and her father Serge (he is used as a character in a scene).
This real-life couple is in their 30’s and as a result, their aging process on camera is quite interesting to watch. The make-up artist did such a wonderful job, it almost felt as if these were different actors in the role.
The film was released in France, 2017 and is listed as a French and Belgium production. It received many nominations but, sadly, only won Best Narrative Feature in the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Of all the women in history, I think I can identify with Catherine the Great the most. I read Carolly Erickson’s book many years ago and was really caught by certain similarities. She married at a young age to an abusive man. She had her sons taken from her (for different reasons than I, naturally, but both political). She was a survivor and saw love as a way to redeem the much needed emotional vacancy within herself. She also never remarried (it is possible she married Grigory Potemkin but it is not documented). When I had heard about the Russian TV series Ekaterina (the correct Russian spelling is Yekaterina), I sat down to indulge myself in the two season portrayal of this great monarch.
It is important to watch this if you love women’s history. There have been other versions from different countries, all of which I have seen but they pale in comparison. The fact that this series comes from the country that she reigned over, a place that annihilated their last monarch so that there would never be one again was tempting to me. I had heard that the series was true to life. I was surprised though as I did not think Russia allowed such things to occur. Communism did away with so much from the past, so much that she worked so hard to bring to this country.
Catherine II was not Russian though. Sophia Friederike Auguste was brought from Prussia (which is now Poland) into the country as a bride for the heir presumptive Peter. She spoke German when she came to meet Peter and his Aunt Elizabeth, who was the Empress at that time. Empress Elizabeth was a very strict Roman Catholic and, well, strict is hardly strong enough a word to describe this very disturbing woman. Catherine was modest and intelligent enough to see how to play her cards the minute she stepped food on the royal carpet. She impressed the Empress yet immediately she was forced to give up her culture, speak Russian (which she had been learning) and take the name of Catherine. This is not too unusual when you look at the Native Americans being kidnapped by the Catholics and stripped of their heritage. It is typical in a power play and, for her, better than being brought somewhere as a slave. There are many attributes of Empress Elizabeth that are not played out in Ekaterina, as they focus more on Catherine. They did allude to the fact that she preferred torture over death (for example: skinning alive, branding, and hanging by their arms behind their back).
The show also showed how Empress Elizabeth came to power and this was by taking the infant heir Ivan VI and imprisoning him so that he could not claim the throne. Later, she was obsessed with finding an heir different from her ignorant nephew, Peter, who was the equivalent of an entitled rich kid in today’s society. When Catherine gave birth to their son, the Empress took the child, the moment it was delivered and Catherine could not see her son again, except on very rare occasions. She and her son, Paul I (Pavel Petrovich), never regained a relationship ever again either. This is even after Empress Elizabeth died and Pavel was eight years old by now. From a psychological perspective this makes a lot of sense.
Children who are removed from their parents early on (and have multiple caretakers – which he did, as Elizabeth did more harm then good as a surrogate), generally suffer from attachment disorders. In extreme cases Reactive Attachment Disorder. The mother has a hard time attaching back to the child because it is as if she hardly knows this person and suddenly she is supposed to have maternal feelings. This may sound crude because it sounds easy to just give a child a hug. However, it is an extremely difficult process to re-connect. When you have a child taken from you, at such a young age, it is emotionally wounding. The mother, in order to protect herself, must detach and emotionally protect herself. This is where Catherine began to replace love with men (she hoped to have other children and with someone she loved). You can’t replace the loss of a mother’s love. One love cannot be exchanged for another.
In this series, they did a good job for the most part. The actors reminded me so much of the book I had read. I felt like I was seeing the actual people for the first time. While they did not look alike, as you see above, their ability to portray their characters personality was very accurate. Marina Alexandrova (as Catherine II) was a woman of power. She came across as a very strong, willful, persistent, aggressive woman who started out as a young silly girl, yet bright and grew over the course of the two seasons. Julia Aug (as Empress Elizabeth), while a beautiful woman, came across as a very ugly ogre. Aleksandr Yatsenko, (as Peter III) was very immature and even more stupid than I had imagined in my mind. His performance was so great as he seemed to have an ease with being the court jester. All three seemed at ease yet I think his role was more difficult because he had more behaviors to portray (or facial expressions to personify) rather than just prancing around in skirts.
The only drawbacks from the film, that I found distracting, were some of the publicity stunts. It was portrayed as a “love story,” which almost made me not want to watch it, knowing that it was anything but. Catherine II had a great many lovers and this was used against her as she became the butt of many jokes internationally and throughout the court. The film also made a big deal of her love affair with Grigory Potemkin and even showed a marriage which is only a possibility. They also showed Pavel with a black servant (politically correct nonsense?) From what I can find there was a black family that served Peter the Great but they left the castle once he died and lived out their days on an estate. The second season dulls in comparison to the first season and this is because Catherine II is now in power and so it is more a season of “Which lover shall I choose,” and drama with her teenage son. In other words the second season was just a day in the life of a Queen and the first season was a lot of extreme drama and suspense. I feel they should have ended the series at Season I, which appeared to have initially been the end (they stated in the last episode’s credits that she reigned for 34 years).
One note of interest and I may be wrong about this but I believe the paintings on the wall were the actual paintings of each of the people being portrayed. In the second season there was a scene in the palace where Catherine II leaves the room and the camera angle lingers toward a painting on the wall that I am very sure was the Empress in old age. I found these aspects touching to pay homage for those of us watching who are history buffs. The end of the second season they tried to portray a humbling experience of Catherine II getting in touch with her spiritual side and becoming a more enlightened woman. It came across appropriately but then the show ended so quickly (telling rather than showing). It would have been nice to show the various changes that Catherine II created for her country, in the second season, rather than being so focused on war, teen angst and conquests of men. I don’t really think she came across in such a great light because reading her accomplishments on the screen credits is not the same as showing her love for the arts, philosophy, science, and many other intellectual pursuits. Catherine II was the longest running monarch in Russia.
What the life of Catherine the Great gives us, as women, is a look at a woman’s rise to power. It is insightful to read about her story, even today, as you think and compare her life (minus the castle), with that of a young single parent trying to have a career and even gain an education. Women complain too much in today’s modern society. They whine about what they can and cannot do. It seems to me that they are unable to take responsibility for their own behaviors in the situation in question, they just want to blame. Catherine II’s story also shows us that women are not perfect or the ideal person in power. She was not dominated by a paternal society, she was the matriarch of her kingdom and her word (and Empress Elizabeth’s word during her reign), was the final straw. In actuality, women have accomplished many great things in history and they have done many bad things as well. It is not about what gender or race or culture that is in power but what that person is capable of accomplishing. We are too desperate today to have a woman or a black or a gay in power and this cloud’s our judgement in making choices for who that person should be.
Adolf Hitler and Che Gueverra were both socialists with different views of what was right. Both hated art (unless it was about them) and destroyed art and artists. They both killed people for different reasons. The same occurred within the communist movement and amongst religious zealots in history who wanted to take control over people. They have killed people too for different reasons. All thought they were fair, right and just for doing so. Now we have the feminist radicals who have gone to the extremes in many ways. We are no longer just seeing “Women are better than men,” thought processes but witch hunts from the “MeToo” movement and destruction of art, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” to fit their purposes. They are destroying men and art and even women who don’t agree with them for the sake of beliefs that they believe is right and just. This radical approach to turning the world around to their perspective, and this causes them to be incapable of looking at another side of things or listen to their instincts (not their ego). The “I am Right and You are Wrong,” is like with any radical thought process mentioned above, it is always “wrong,” as it is based on the ego, not a mature mindset and destroys society.
To be an intellectual, you have to be a mature person who is capable of criticizing art from an intelligent standpoint vs. a radical opinion. I personally hate most modern art but I still recognize the value of the contribution. I don’t hate all of it because I find that some modern art actually peaks my interest. I think most everyone can stare at a red dot on a white background and say, “Oh, I could do that,” and then the cliché’d phrase will be, “Yes, but you didn’t.” The point is that I wouldn’t say “It is stupid or ridiculous,” just because it doesn’t suit my tastes. Instead, I would comment on the piece and talk about what about it doesn’t suit me. The fact that the piece of art has captured someone’s attention, that they can make some decisions about it and agree that it is their perception and not a given, is being an intellectual.
An intellectual is capable of having a broad perspective because they have knowledge of history, art, theater, politics, or a well-rounded education on the world around them. You might not agree with them but you don’t have to. There is democracy in a conversation where people are “arguing” that the film had artistic merit but did not really engage you as a storyline. It ceases to be an intellectual discussion when you are just there to get people on your side. Politics have become like a gang where it is all about whether you are on the red team or the blue team. There is no longer an intellectual discussion about politics, amongst the political; there is only death to the other side who is “stupid” and “wrong.” We have missed out on so much with the lack of verbal intercourse.
I was on a group recently on Facebook which was a fan club for classic films. A woman was destroying “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” because it didn’t fit within the politically correct realms of today’s society. She and another woman were making non-intellectual judgements about the film and got a few others to join in. I questioned this because I wondered “Why are you in a ‘fan’ club if you are here to bash the films?” The moderator at this point doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It is a movie, so worrying about whether or not a cat is thrown out of a taxi is not relevant. This is not an animal rights documentary. It is relevant that people have to make tough decisions at times in their life. City life is not conducive to having pets. At that time, there weren’t “animal rescue groups,” so it was feasible that an action like this may have happened. It was about the story and the passionate place the character was in. Audrey Hepburn’s character hated having to do this act, which was more than obvious in her facial expressions, but felt forced to. In the end “cat” (the name of the cat character) came back into her lap “and they lived happily ever after.” Even then, the director knew it would not make American’s happy to see a cat being thrown away. We, as a whole, like happy endings.
The woman leading the bash of the movie also suggested that she just couldn’t get into the film. I told her she should try and put herself in that time period, rather than coming from the perspective of 2018. This is the problem with radical people. They bash history on film, paintings, songs, statues, books, all because they are incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of those that came before then. History is not about 2018. To try and judge others in 1815 or 1938 or 1960 by 2018 standards is missing the lessons of that time. It is disrespectful to our ancestors.
Paintings are all we have, until the creation of the camera, to show us what life was like in those different centuries. Yes, bad things did happen then but you don’t destroy art because you are uncomfortable with history. Women who posed nude for paintings were distraught peasant women who were desperate for a penny. They took their clothes off because it was easier than washing clothes all day long for the same amount of money. I am quite sure they were sexually abused by some artists or the men who watched the artists paint. We don’t destroy the masterpiece because of this; we discuss it and have an opinion on this. We certainly don’t take the piece of art out of the gallery because we found out the woman in the painting was sexually abused or paid only a penny.
“Baby it’s Cold Outside,” is a song. It was written by a husband and wife team in a time period when there was no social media. People actually gathered together in people’s homes to have conversations and enjoyed each other’s company. They “liked” each other in real life. They became “friends” with people they met, through others, at these gatherings which boasted lots of food, song, games and plenty of booze. I was a kid then but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching people laugh and dance. Later, as an adult, I went to a few parties in the 20 years before the Internet became a “thing.”
The song “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” was created to get people to go home (hint, hint). The couple who created and sang this song became quite the item at parties and were actually invited to come and sing this song at the end. Later on, the husband sold the rights to the song, (which upset his wife), to the studios and the rest became history; as it floated up the charts. Cleveland women recently became enraged by this and forced radio stations to stop playing it because the song made them uncomfortable. I have no idea whether it was the action of a feminist organization in Cleveland or just a bunch of radicals who took the initiative. Once there were a local group of women in Salem, Massachusetts, who determined to get back at older intelligent women and thus many people (I believe 19 was the number) were hung for witchcraft. They were not witches, just people that they wanted to destroy.
Rap music on the other hand, also art, but mostly written and “spoken” to a racist audience (not much different than if the Neo-Nazi group began a type of spoken word), and as in most cases; written to destroy people. The Neo-Nazi movement is not much different than inner city folks who feel their rights are being impinged upon. Different history but the same philosophical anger. Rap music once had to be given ratings to protect children from listening to Rated R words, but now parents do not seem to care at all. At least, I haven’t heard of any measures to protect from these newer lyrics which continue to degrade. This music is now allowed by the White slaves of the Politically Correct movement. People who have been shut down by social media for having an opinion so they acquiesce to save face. You can’t say anything wrong about Black people in today’s society because you are considered a racist, even if they are making racist or sexually degrading comments about your person. You can say something wrong about Neo-Nazi groups because it is taboo in today’s society; even though we are in a democracy, where they do have freedom of speech. (Now I must make a disclaimer to ignorant people who may catch this article and state that I am not a Neo-Nazi, I am making an intellectual statement). Therefore, as we see White slaves to the PC movement in today’s society, it is okay to play rap music on the radio but not a cute, flirtatious, song like “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” that was written by a man for his wife.
Personally, I find the play “Hamilton,” extremely offensive as it panders to White slaves of the Politically Correct movement as well. It is racist against White people because it is destroying our culture by putting Black people in the role of White people, showing that figures in history are just meaningless insignificant people and it is not relevant what their race was. It is dishonest because it is lying about history and making a mockery of it at the same time. Playing rap music for the ignorant who aren’t capable of coming to a historical play with some merit; if it were to use music, costumes, hairstyles, from that time period. It is art of course but it is dishonest. Just like the art work that depicted witches as devil worshippers or ugly old hags with pointy black hats, torn black dresses and striped stockings in pointy toed shoes. Most intelligent people today know that this is dishonest and ridiculous but we don’t throw it in the trash. It is a testament to how far the religious zealots went to force pagans, witches and druids, into Christianity or other religions. It is part of history because it reminds us of how ignorant people were (or still are). One day the play “Hamilton” will, hopefully, at some point in the future, be a testament to the ignorance of our society today. Especially when children become confused about historical characters and forget about the history of African’s who were forced into slavery around that same time period.
Films today, in America and abroad, have sought to expand upon themes by placing politically correct but historical inaccurate characters in period pieces. Thanks to the radical celebrities – many who had no artistic merit in the first place, to be considered for an Academy Award, complained that there weren’t enough awards given to the Black people; so the Oscars were therefore racist. It didn’t matter that the awards were voted on by a very diverse group of people, from around the world. The Oscars are voted on by members of the Academy – which equals people who are past recipients. It also didn’t matter that the films, that were selected for awards, along with those who worked on the production; were of superb quality. The fact that enough actors weren’t of color – not the fact that they weren’t grade “A” professionals, but not enough, was more significant. This caused White slavery of the Politically Correct world to become more international. Now you see period pieces where black people are thrown in, even though they would not have been there (in that time period). You will also see the proverbial gay character storyline; attached to all these films – even though this was very rare then, as it is now, and has nothing really to do with the time period or storyline. Having the gay storyline in the film is not much different than having a sex scene that just isn’t relevant and is only there for the sake of having a sex scene (e.g. Death Comes to Pemberley). This is not how art is congratulated.
Films should be awarded a prize because an actor has gone to a place that is exceptional and on a level that far exceeds. My feeling about the Oscars being “racist” is that if the Black community wants Oscars, they should make better quality films. This comment is not based on “Let them eat cake,” a cliché from history; that was taken out of context in that time period. It is a comment based on Black films I have ventured to watch that were uninteresting, typical or copycat. Copycat by taking storylines from “White” movies to begin with and turned them into Black, which lacks originality (of course this is typical for Americans – who steal from foreign films all the time).
Meanwhile there are many men and women in Black history; that exceptional movies could be made about. By only creating movies about the inner city or slavery, it is saying that there were no intelligent Black people in history, that accomplished something worthy of value or merit; which could be turned into a movie. And yet, notable Black people in history, has the potential to be a storyline worthy of merit. It would show society exactly what this culture wants us to know. With good trained actors and exceptional focus on detail (clothes, plot, cinematography, direction, history) there are so many untold stories – why the need to steal movies that have been done? Why are ignorant White people trying to take care of them by inserting them into films where they wouldn’t have been? This is even worse because White directors are saying that they feel sorry for the Black culture so they will give them a job to make them feel better. It is insulting to their culture that they have to be placed in historically inaccurate roles because they weren’t capable of doing anything on their own.
It is not art, however, when people flock to the streets and demand that statues of General Robert E. Lee be destroyed. It is ignorant people who aren’t capable of opening a history book so that they understand this human being had nothing to do with slavery. Perhaps they need to make a rap musical about him and have General Robert E. Lee played by a Black actor so that our uneducated audience can understand. This is art being destroyed because our society wants to pick and choose what is acceptable art and what is not acceptable, not much different than what Adolf Hitler did in his rise to power.
All art is acceptable as it makes a statement, whether we like it or not. Whether it is offensive or not is a personal viewpoint and the point of art. We shouldn’t shut down or destroy this as it is a reminder of the times. We should see a statue of Adolf Hitler or Che Gueverra or a Communist Leader or a religious zealot and it should make us angry. The job of art is to get a rise out of people, whether negative or positive. This is no different than selling “Mein Kampf,” at the book store, which was written by Hitler and explains his way of thinking. This is education, it builds a stronger intellect to learn and understand. General Robert E. Lee was a soldier who was chosen to lead the south; after he turned down leading the north. It was based on family and his upbringing not on his personal views about slavery. The Civil War wasn’t created to put an end to slavery; it was a war about gaining power because the southerners were in disagreement with the northerners and wanted to split the country. It is not much different from the Republicans and Democrats fighting for attention and power today. The difference is we are no longer in different sections of the country; political sides are mixed together in each state.
Then there is fashion; another form of art. It is not art to wear holey blue jeans 24/7 and have no respect for ones’ self. This is not style, it is laziness. Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Poiret, Schiaperelli, and others; this is art and significant to call fashion. They are masterpieces whereas jeans, they are merely graffiti on the wall, by the train station of a freeway underpass. Anna Wintour has decided to focus on having a penchant for politics rather than keeping her perspective strictly on clothing and style. Fashion is based on politics and the current events of the day but those in this field don’t ignore art or style simply because they don’t like their husband. Therefore, talking down about Melania Trump who has brought back elegance, style, intelligence, in a way that is reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy, a true connoisseur of fashion would applaud this not destroy it. An intelligent person would not make fun of a woman who speaks multiple languages and is said to have a high I.Q. and appears to be a dedicated mother and wife. She is “in vogue,” for all these reasons which should be enough for the magazine. Anna Wintour would not have gotten away with her behavior in a more dignified society of our past. She continues to bring down the magazine in agreement with the radical opinions of women in our society today. She ignores the point of the magazine, which was to accede to high fashion. The magazine was made for elite women not radical feminists. We have MS. Magazine that was created for feminists and many others that have followed since then.
How far will we go in the destruction of art in our radical society today before we have completely annihilated authentic history and a fondness for nostalgia? The women’s movement, originally, was not created to destroy history but to improve upon the conditions for women and children in the future. The feminist movement sought to continue this once we had the right to vote and gave rise to new expectations for women and children in the workplace and society. This has nothing to do with replacing art with more comfortable lyrics, paintings, or theater productions. Abolitionists sought to give freedom to all people and the NAACP movement and other Black organizations were created to protect their rights, not destroy art and re-create history to massage their egos.
We are in a place in society where we have no sense of values, only extremist mindsets, which have created group think. Social media has caused fear and unrest from bullying, lies, conspiracy theories, and turned all news into sensationalist rags. We can no longer handle the truth and this is not an intelligent society but a very ignorant, intellectually depleted group of people who are destroying our Earth. Will we ever start rising up again or are we destined toward a future that is ruled by violence rather than intellect?
This book is one you don’t devour. You take your time, stirring, simmering and seasoning as if you are making a pot of soup or stew. Sophia is a Virgo, which is most of my astrological chart, except the first dominant three. I sensed a grounded woman almost immediately. A person who has taken her time and made the right choices; which led her down a path that would make her a very happy woman. As a Leo, who has made all the wrong choices, very impatiently and innocently, when you have done these things, only then can you truly appreciate someone who is smarter than you. Patience really is a virtue.
While reading the pages of her book, I immersed myself in everything Sophia. I began to look up films on YouTube, but then as luck would have it, Film Struck dedicated a week to Sophia and I had many of the Italian films right at my fingertips. Thankfully, they devoted most of her footage to the old stock from Europe rather than the cheesy “We need an Italian” American movies. I was rather embarrassed to look at a trailer for Houseboat and see that she was darkened with make-up, since no one, in 1958, was capable of accepting she was Italian without it. Odd, since at that time we had a huge Italian population in America.
As she writes in her book, she is more adept at filming in her own country, when she is portraying herself, her mother, her grandmother, and her neighbors. This is clear because she is more natural, less scripted, in her normal color, unafraid to look worn and “ugly,” and not making us think the entire time “Oh look it is Sophia Loren,” like you do when you watch an American actress on film. I think I like her in films more, when she is in a worn out dress, her hair is a mess, she is in her (what seems like) signature slip on sandals and she is fighting for whatever she is passionate about. This type of role is more of an emotional investment than a film where she is just being a pretty woman. Although in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” it is interesting seeing her portray three different types of women in various personalities. It is almost as if you are getting a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I know I always bash my own country when it comes to cinema but being a foreign film fanatic there is such a huge difference. The answer came for me when I read her book. You are not getting a “tell-all” fraught with sexual harassment stories. There is no political agenda or a feminist bitch-fest which is riddled with “What’s wrong with men,” tales. Instead, you find that she is a professional and holds in high esteem her fellow actors that she worked with. When they were on the set, they had cooking contests or pulled pranks on each other. In her case, her mother came to the set with her while she was starting out. The only time this ceased was when she was meeting her future husband for the first time, producer Carlo Ponti.
When I watched interviews with her, she was very careful in the way she answered questions. Very diplomatic, intelligent enough to remain appearing innocent, though you knew she saw the journalists attempt to get her to “dish the dirt,” using her English as her second language as a tool to stall and prepare.
Naturally, I followed some of Marcello’s interviews as well, as he and Sophia were in some very important movies together. I was embarrassed when David Letterman tried desperately to turn him into a player (which he is) and make him seem dirty to Americans. It is a different lifestyle, a player in Europe vs. a player in America. The Europeans have more tact which results in their escapades being very classy and fashionable. Not that I agree with it or condone this, but it is their business. Here we are more focused (in the last couple of decades) on trashing what used to be alluring, exotic, and only for the mature.
When you see Foreign films, you do get a sense of professionals coming together to make dramatic stories come to life. Even when they are quirky and abstract, such as Frederico Fellini or Pier Paolo Pasolini, it comes together like a typical novel turned into a film, only with the long bits chopped out and the most important scenes smashed together through facial expressions. Serious actors who are trained by great directors and who can relax into the role are able to do these things.
Today, in American films, you have the nouveau riche who started out working hard but are now just entitled adults who can only sell overacted pieces. You get the sense that they are all having one big orgy, especially when they spend an interview flirting with each other and behaving like children. The films are not deep and cerebral, they seem geared toward children. Adults playing action heros are no longer spellbinding as “Superman” once was, or the first “Batman.” Now, everyone is doing it so it is cliché. I am more interested in the craft, being transported into another place and time, people who appear so much in character that you don’t recognize them. In interviews, I want to see grown-ups behaving like professionals. It feels embarrassing to watch because I know they are going to dread these interviews when they become older and are “has beens” desperate for all the money they spent.
When I watch Sophia Loren in her movies, I think how Penelope Cruz has taken after her in her ability to portray women in despair and not utilize her good looks (this is what the modeling world is for). I think of a good friend that I grew up with, who is Hungarian and who naturally has that sense of being European that I am completely incapable of creating somatically; no matter how hard I try. Those nuances which catch you off guard: a tilt of the lips, a shift in the eyebrow, the movement of the hips, for example that can’t be caught on camera through a third or fourth (and so on) generation.
My favorite film with she and Marcello would be “Sunflower,” which I had to disagree with her on. She spoke of Marcello playing a character similar to Don Dummi in “Marriage – Italian Style,” and I think she mentioned the character from “Too Bad She is Bad.” Nonetheless, she was speaking of a character as a bad boy. On the contrary, I was so moved by the story and his character which from a psychological perspective, the background scenery in the film; was captured quite well. One sensed that the Russian wife understood this but the Italian wife continued to have disdain for her lover. Of course the Russian wife (a single parent) was simply looking for a husband that she went looking for one day; while walking through wounded soldiers. Whereas the Italian wife was terribly and hopelessly in love; seeking emotional revenge in the end. Like in a Fellini or Pasolini film, there is one character, a surviving Italian soldier stranded in Russia, who gives us that snapshot or foreshadowing of what is to come. Psychologically, Antonio was not a bad boy. He was grateful to his protector and felt as if yesterday, as an Italian, had disappeared or maybe it was a dream.
Many years ago I saw “Two Women,” the one film she won an Academy Award for. I felt that she should when I saw it. I don’t think the Internet was around at the time I viewed the story so I only learned this from the book. Also from reading her story, I understood that she was playing a character in a time period she had once lived through. This took on new meaning for me.
Last night, I re-watched Marcello and Sophia in “A Special Day,” which was a gay film that isn’t trying to be a gay film like those we hear about in America today. Again, it is the nuance of a phone call; a slight mention that one has to pay close attention to. His character is discreet, careful, cautious and classy. Later he has to be more obvious because Sophia’s character is too innocent and lacks street smarts. The ending is tragic in a quiet way for Marcello’s character, while Sophia’s appears to be saying silently “Well, I guess it is back to business,” in her household. Terribly emotional and hard to fight back the tears that you feel rising up from your chest. The second ending is the landlady, who has played a small yet pivotal role hoping to divide the characters. She stands in front of her building working a double entendre as she speaks to her tenants. It was perfect. I am not sure young people or new people to foreign films about World War II would quite understand the intent of this scene. Watch a few more films and then come back to it, if so.
What I loved about the writing in this book was how grateful Sophia Loren is for her life. She tells you over and over again, in so many ways, that she does not take one single thing for granted. I am not sure she realizes that she did do all the right things (not to say she was perfect), as she never lived a life where you do all the wrong things. Her gratefulness is her modesty. It is all her characters rolled up into one thanking the directors, the producers, the family, the audience for helping them to be portrayed in such an honest way. For telling the stories that wanted to be told and creating a space for the unsung heroines of Italian heritage.
What I saw is that she wanted to be a star but she didn’t sleep her way to the top. She was desperate but not stupid. As I mentioned, her mother was there. She worked very hard to understand her roles, to study acting, to listen to her directors and respect them. She wanted to be a wife and mother and patiently waited for her turn with Carlo. When she had her children, they became a priority for her. She talks of her love for the children and how they changed her life. It is quite clear that we won’t be getting a “Mommie Dearest,” book from Eduardo or Carlo Jr. She talks of how she consciously looked over her boys, and how she and Carlo Sr. recognized the talents each had to offer, early on. One son became a director and the other; an orchestral conductor. Having seen one of Eduardo’s movies “The Human Voice,” featuring his mother, this is not a famous man’s son doing his best. He is a man who stands alone. I feel there will be more great things to come.
It is so much easier to be grateful when you have done all the right things and good things happened to you as a result. I am reminded of that first line in “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. I continued to learn as I read her book and took it in on a philosophical level. At this stage in my life, almost 30 years behind her, I am looking back at life in a very spiritually contemplative way. It was not an accident that her book happened to be at the library one day in the “used books for sale” room. I love going through there to find stories I can keep and I had been meaning to buy Sophia’s book through Amazon for some time now (on my wish list). Like when I was a young girl and the library presented so many magical surprises, now the same occurs for me as an adult only I am helping fund the library at the same time.
As I came to the end of her book, she mentioned that her husband had been the producer of “Dr. Zhivago,” when discussing an homage that she and her sons put together in memory of him. Suddenly, he became much more than Sophia Loren’s husband and producer of many of her films. I had no idea that he was responsible for such a beloved masterpiece. This was a nice surprise. Their love story was not quite one that I came to really understand and relate to, as I have never been married for 56 years or a long time relationship period. I have never been able to understand women who are with men twenty to thirty years their senior either, as I was never quite mature enough to undertake such a flirtation. Perhaps other women, like my Hungarian friend will cling to this like an old soul.
I was able to relate to her male counterparts that came to nothing more than friendship, soul mates or a missed out on love that probably would have come to nothing anyway. Having watched a great deal of her films as I read the book and viewing photos of she and her family online, I came to respect this very professional woman whom I once saw, only, as another sexy actress. I hope you will re-visit her work as well and see how it impacts your life.