Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The key to the city. This adorable faux turtleneck tunic unlocks every door.

In the movie version of my life, one of these keys would be a detachable and fully functional skeleton key. I'd wear this with white leggings and go-go boots.

I am trying to think of a title for my cinematic life. Any ideas?

This top is a small (B 36, W, undisclosed, H, 38). Please do not wear this top without something under it. It is not a dress; it is a top. Your tuchus will show if you raise your arms. Please wear pants or leggings, okay? Bidding ends soon so hurry.

I finally saw “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” the other night.

That always struck me as a fabulous title. And a motto to live by, perhaps. But the film itself is a pretty standard melodrama about 3 country girls who move to the big city. There’s the smart one, the pretty one, and the unsophisticated one. Of course one of them gets pregnant. In this way the story arc is exactly the same as “The Best of Everything” a 1959 Hollywood film that also has a terrific title. The plot is also the same as a vintage pulp fiction I recently read called “The Girls in 3-B” (a salacious yet ho-hum title).

“The Best of Everything” is a later Joan Crawford vehicle. La Crawford, with orange hair, chews up the scenery as the bad boss lady. Don’t worry, she’ll get her comeuppance, as movies always like to punish career women. Why is it that popular culture always shows successful women as selfish shrews who were disappointed in love? I blame the patriarchy.

The three young women, (lets call them Smarts, Looks, and Sweets), are roommates in New York. All of them work as secretaries at a publishing company and dream of bigger things. (Ironically, the company publishes pulp paperbacks.)

After being jilted by her college sweetheart, Smarts covets bad boss lady’s job. Looks is after a leading role in a Broadway play, and finds herself instead with a bit part as the director’s ex-girlfriend. Sweets falls hard for a heartless cad and finds herself in the family way. Each woman, representing different aspects of 1950s femininity, is rewarded or punished in accordance with the strict codes of the time. Smarts will be taken down a peg, Looks will lose her mind (and more), and Sweets will be redeemed only after a near death experience (and a rather convenient miscarriage). The one who suffers the most will be the one who most obviously rejects the morals of the time.

Looks, played by gorgeous red-headed fashion model Suzy Parker, is the most unconventional. With her "catch and release" approach to romance, her ambition, her slovenly habits as a secretary and her gender-bending name (Greg), she's the character I was most interested in getting to know. It totally pissed me off that the narrative made her the sacrificial lamb.

“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” does exactly the same thing. Just shuffle the roles a bit, and add some dialectical materialism. But despite the different context, the women’s roles are startlingly similar.

Smarts, Looks, and Sweets are country girls new to Moscow. They share a room in the worker’s dormitory. Smarts wants to go to college, Looks wants a wealthy or famous man, and Sweets is happy to marry the country boy. But poor Smarts is enceinte a mere 15 minutes into the film.

Moscow does not believe in tears but Smarts sure cries them. The film elides her struggle to become a chemist and raise her daughter alone. She cries herself to sleep and literally wakes up 15 years later as a successful manufacturing plant manager and single mom. She wakes up 15 years after all the other 3-young-women-in-the-city plots have ended.

While Smarts wakes up in a world that is accepting of single motherhood, it is nonetheless filled with hysteria about older women, or women who are more successful than men. Smarts even lies to the Ideal Soviet Man she meets on a suburban commuter rail, telling him she is she is another worker in the plant and not its director.

While Sweets is happily settled with a nice guy (though we see nothing of her professional life), Looks is the most maligned. Her motto :"Life is a lottery and I want to win." She marries a famous hockey player who turns out to be a violent drunk. While she wears adorable shirtwaist dresses with charming prints in the first half, she is subjected to a series of bad wigs in the second reel. I mean seriously bad wigs. And to punish her further she works at a dry cleaners. And she can't get a man, or keep her violent ex out of her apartment.

It is interesting that Looks suffers the most in both films. Produced as propaganda for cold-warring political systems, both films take their anger out on the ambitious women who use their beauty to advance their aims. It is ironic that although women are always judged by their appearance (and held to a much higher standard then men) but punished for trying to use it to benefit themselves.

Both films revel in art direction. Check out the glamorous 50s modernist interior design and costumes of "The Best of Everything", and the 70s freewheeling Soviet pop-art of Smarts' apartment.

Moscow does believe in novelty prints. Smarts has an apron with prancing horses (and what looks like mushrooms). Even the Ideal Soviet Man wears it to cook. Smarts also has on what looks like a souvenir scarf in two scenes. Though I rewound a couple of times I couldn’t identify the building on the scarf. Could it be the Kremlin? She's not gonna have a scarf with Notre Dame or the Hagia Sophia on it. I mean, she's a party member for crying out loud. Every scene at work shows her in a suit with a Communist Party pin on her lapel. I would so love a Kremlin souvenir print scarf.


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