Thursday, August 02, 2007

Regal. For all you Julie Newmaresque mermaids out there, this one is super long.

This dress would love to stroll on the boardwalk. It would look fabulous on you. Treat yourself to a fishy frock.

I played Movie Theater Roulette the other night and saw "Moliere". Great cinema? Not really. Great comedy? Alas. Historically accurate? What are you, crazy? No, no and no. But I still got my $11 worth.

But I am a sucker for cinema's Men in Wigs genre. My favorite is probably "The Draughtsman's Contract". For Men in Wigs, though, I'm not always picky. I've even seen "The Restoration" and "The Libertine" on the big screen. The first had some excellent costumes but the distracting casting choice of Robert Downey Jr. The second had Johnny Depp (swoon!) doing his darndest to look lousy (not really possible) and be an unsympathetic character (he does have acting chops). I just watched "The Scarlet Pimpernel" with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon. Ms. Oberon is brain scramblingly gorgeous, and I will forgive her for the anachronistic 40's do and for pronouncing the word "peril" as "pedil": "My love, you are in great pedil." But for some prime juicy Men in Wigs, I heartily recommend Ridicule.

"Moliere" doesn't have quite that much going for it, but there is still lots to enjoy. The costumes were splendid, and there was much masculine wig wearing. The plot, alas, posits that Moliere's writing was autobiographical and casts the young destitute thespian in a world of his own satire.

A foppish bourgeois takes painting, dancing and riding lessons (often all at the same time) in the effort to woo a haughty young Marquise. His daughter is fooling around with her harpsichord teacher, and his wife tumbles into the arms of the young Moliere, disguised as a priest. That is Moliere is diguised as a priest, not the wife. You see how topsy-turvy it is. There's much peering into windows and hiding under tables. Now I like that sort of thing. I like french comedies where everyone is opening and closing doors and claiming to be something they are not. But I would have enjoyed "Moliere" more if it hadn't followed the "Shakespeare in Love" paradigm of creating a love story for the writer from the narratives of the plays he wrote. In this way both "Moliere" and "Shakespeare in Love" mirror the times that created them, and not the times they depict.

Currently books are awash in an autobiographically infused view of creative endeavors that is fattened by the glut of mediocre memoirs. You know, those tales of people overcoming terrible hardships (like being left-handed, or having super rich parents) that have huge posters and tables of their own in every megabookstore. The memoirs trend makes my head spin around exorcist-style. But the autobiographical quasi-fiction is equally annoying.

It drives me nuts to open a book jacket and read a synopsis, only to have it echoed in the writer's bio. You know what I mean. Front flap: This is the story of Jake Silverman from Pacoima who travels to Italy to eat peccorino sardo. Back flap: Author Joe Silverstein was born in Pacoima. In his senior year of college he went to Italy and ate peccorino sardo. I would like to banish forever the write-what-you-know school of creative writing. Write something else. Make all of your characters Slovenian or Uzbek. Set the whole thing on the Mir Space Station, at the bottom of a well. Have it narrated by a barnacle, or fly larva. Anything, anything but the unvarnished minutia of your life.

Ah, but here I am writing about the unvarnished minutia of my life. At least as far as my novelty print and film watching goes. Sigh. Life of the mind, Barton Fink. At least I hope I've done a better job of changing the names. Ah, product of the times, indeed.

But I digress.

It is a challenge to bring a writer's life into a cinematic form. The act of writing in itself is uninteresting. How to show what's going on inside the person typing or scribbling? Of course everyone draws on their own experiences to create, but this is alchemy. You have to distill out what is simply gestalt therapy to find something more transcendent. I have yet to see that portrayed without utter hamfistedness.

"Moliere" has some terrific performances. Laura Morante is a brilliant performer, with beauty and gravitas to spare. In the end she is both muse and life coach to the young dramatist. Fabrice Luchini has a star turn as her buffoon of a husband. Romain Duris, has the brooding irregular Mediteranian-type features that get me in trouble. It was a 120 minute vacation from my woes.


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