Tag Archives: movies

A Love Story

“One belongs to New York instantly.  One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years”  Thomas Wolfe – short story writer and novelist, 1900 – 1938.

Masha - Love Story

Photo - NZ Film Festival

I have just returned (10.30pm) from seeing yet another movie.  This one is by NZ Director, Florian Habitch.  Habicht is an Auckland film director who took up the Arts Foundation’s Harriet Friedlander Residency in New York in late 2009.  We are told ‘He  was under no obligation to do a jot of work, let alone return with the opening night movie for Auckland’s 2011 Film Festival. But return he did with this strangely odd movie ”  Habitch was the inaugural recipient of the award and has justified the Arts Foundation‘s choice.

The film is a love story but really not in the sense one would expect.  It embraces documentary, fiction, New York city and many of its inhabitants always gregarious and ready to be filmed, summer, sex, romance and just about everything else one can imagine in a movie.

The movie opens with a scene of a young woman walking along the pavement carrying a piece of cake on a plate.  She then hops onto a train where she is seen by Habitch who follows her when she gets off.  They take off in separate directions with the plan to meet up halfway.  But of course, this doesn’t happen. In a conversation on Skype with his father back in New Zealand, he decides that she must be Russian and as many Russians apparently live in Coney Island, this is where he decides to spend his energy and his time looking for her.

Masha and Florian

Photo - NZ Film Festival

They do meet up again and the rest of the movie is spent filming his Love Story.  It is a strangely moving film, interspersed with conversations with a wide variety of New Yorkers, from many walks of life, each of whom gives him a different slant to put into his movie.

I don’t know that this is one I would recommend.  We had tried to see it at the NZ Film Festival in August but unfortunately, it was on only for two days and sold out early.

The movie was quirky, interesting and different but dragged a little in the middle and seemed to be trying too hard.  It was a very low-budget movie and at times this showed.  However, if you do get the change to see it, let me know what you think.

And dinner at a local Indian restaurant rounded off the evening very nicely.

And click here to listen to Sinatra singing New York, New York.  The video has a selection of great scenes of New York too.

“If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York.”

New York Skyline

© Tomasz Szymanski | Dreamstime.com

And Yet Another Movie

Coolest little capitalWellington is a lively place with activities to suit everyone.  It proudly proclaims itself “Absolutely Positively Wellington” and is known as the cultural centre of New Zealand.  Although this  latter is often loudly disputed among other cities in the country.  It has been named “The Coolest Little Capital In the World” by Lonely Planet.

We are currently in the final weekend of the International Film Festival and according to their website “This year’s haul of films direct from Cannes is the Festival’s best and biggest ever. New Zealand audiences will be the first outside Europe to see an overwhelming number of the films that saw this year’s Cannes Festival widely regarded as one of the most dynamic and exciting in years.”

And indeed we have been spoiled for choice over the past few weeks.  I have seen several of the movies and have posted on “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” a truly amazing and wondrous experience to be allowed to see inside the caves that are not open to the public.

And the third movie I saw this week was entitled”Incendies”. The film opens in Montreal where, following their mother’s death, the twins are set the quest of finding both their father and a brother whom they didn’t even know existed.

The twins

At the reading of the will

The daughter embraces the quest and sets out to find her father.  The brother is dismissive of the whole thing and only gets involved when he thinks his sister is in danger.  So this film concentrates on the perspective of Jeanne and Simon, the twins, their place in history and their mother’s story.

The mother also has a quest: to find the son that was taken from her at birth.

To follow out her mother’s dying wish, Jeanne has to retrace her footsteps from a small village in a land that closely resembles Lebanon, to Montreal.  We see this in a series of flashbacks to the mother’s life during the nation’s long and gruesome civil war, then returning to the daughter who  travels in a relatively peaceful and functional 21st-century.  We are shown scenes that shift from hillside villages to cities and refugee camps, from the verdant north of the country to its dusty south.  Those of us who haven’t been in that part of the world know the scenes well from TV Newscasts and movies.

The traumas of the mother’s life are unimaginable to this young woman brought up in the safety of present day Montreal and to some may appear overwhelming.  Indeed, I wondered how this woman could make a new life for herself and her children in Montreal after all that she had suffered.

Burning bus

Saved by the Christian faith that she had repudiated

The daughter has only an old passport, a photo and a cross of her mother’s and these are the things she uses to trace her mother’s journey.  She discovers that as a young woman, Nawal (her mother) provoked the violent disapproval of her family after falling in love with a Muslim.  After giving birth to a son,  she fled the village of her birth for the capital. There as a student she becomes an activist, a militant and eventually a political prisoner.

Jeanne in the desert

Jeanne after learning some hard truths

It is a fascinating, and at times, harrowing story but one that is well worth telling even if it is not entirely factual or entirely fictional.  If it comes to a cinema near you I urge you to see it.

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” Vernon Howard, American spiritual teacher, author, and philosopher.  1918 – 1992

Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner

“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner,
That I love London so.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner,
That I think of her wherever I go.
I get a funny feeling inside of me,
Just walking up and down.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner,
That I love London Town.” Hubert Gregg, English songwriter,  BBC broadcaster, author and stage actor. (1914-2004)

Lore has it that the song was written on one particularly grim day, after seeing the German Doodlebugs devastating London.  It was apparently composed on the back of a theatre program, and later became a very popular song –

Song sheet

The song was first sung by Bud Flanagan in 1944 at the Victoria Palace in London.  Although the Second World War was ended by the time Bud Flanagan sang the song (and made it his own) it quickly became a morale booster for Londoners in the stringent times following the war.

I am of course aware, that time and distance put a rosy glow on most things.  When I left London to start my meanderings following my Scotsman around the world, London was a great place to live.

According to Peter Ackroyd

“London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.”  London: The Biography 2000.

Even after some 50 years away I still consider myself a Londoner.  I refer to London as home.  So why would that be?

I grew up in London.  Only 5 miles from the centre of London and almost within the sounds of Bow Bells.  The definition of a Cockney is to be born within the sound of Bow Bells but as we are told by Wikipedia: “A common thought is that in order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. However, the church of St Mary-le-Bow was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. After the bells were destroyed again in 1941 in The Blitz of World War II, and before they were replaced in 1961, there was a period when by this definition no ‘Bow-bell’ Cockneys could be born”.  So I am not a Cockney by any definition.

London in the 1940s and 1950s was a very different place to what it is now.  I have written on my memories of growing up in an earlier post.  See Memories are made of this.  Life was much slower then and I know that it was much more innocent.

Double decker bus at Finsbury Park

Photo via Flickr

Treats were going to the movies (known to us as the Pictures) as a family on a Friday night.  We had no car so we went by bus – I even remember the bus number 653.  I looked it up and it still runs to Stamford Hill and Finsbury Park where we used to go to the movies, only now the route number is changed to 253.

And at that time the movies ran continuously.  You could go in at any time and watch the movie from that point forward.  The phrase “this is where we came in” could be heard around the cinemaThis put a certain spin on the movies.  You always saw the end before the beginning unless you were extra clever and managed to get there before the film started.  Then you would see Gaumont Movietone Newsreels and then the movie.  And of course you would see the newsreel between the ending of the movie and it’s beginning.  How mixed up is that?

Because the cinema was darkened for the movie, an usherette showed you to your place.  As the idea was for her to find you two, three or in our case, five unoccupied seats, the other cinema goers had to accept the light from the torch shining on their faces.  These usherettes also sold choc ices and cigarettes all through the film.  One had to view the film through an absolute fog of cigarette smoke.  Remember in the 40s nobody knew (or at least hadn’t been told ) about the dangers of smoking.  Just about everybody smoked.

I started to smoke when I was about 18 .  All my friends did so and we thought we were so very sophisticated.  I had a Dunhill cigarette holder – how pretentious is that – and eventually a 14K gold Dunhill lighter.  I still have the lighter but where is the holder?  Oh and stop press.  An identical lighter being sold on eBay has a bid of $US560.  Why don’t I sell it together with the silver one I bought for my Scotsman?

The movies were very innocent as well.  There was very little violence and no sex.

I remember seeing:

  • Somewhere over the Rainbow and being terrified of the witch.
  • Fanny By Gaslight – I don’t remember much about that.  We tried to see it twice or three times but each time we had to leave the cinema because one or other of us was sick.
  • We saw Casablanca – how I loved and still love that movie. I really wanted to be like Ingrid Bergman when I grew up.  I guess I was about 4 or 5 when I saw that one.
  • The Red Shoes had all the pathos that appealed to Mother who was a young woman at the time – about 30 I would guess.  The theme was the old one – young ballerina had to choose between her dancing and the man she loved.   This was just a little over the heads of three girls aged between 7 and 11.
  • Meet me in St Louis was another one I remember.  I just loved Judy Garland (again) singing Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley.
  • And I guess my mother had a particular fondness for Judy Garland movies.  Because we also saw the Easter Parade.

Goodness how long ago it all was.  But what very happy memories.  And now I ask myself how did I get here?  Nostalgia overtaking me again I guess.

At the end of the movies, we used to get another bus home and walk, more often than not skipped with Father holding hands with my eldest sister and me, down this dark tree-lined street home, to hot chocolate and bed.  What great evenings and fantastic memories.

The street on which we lived was lined with these fantastic horse chestnut trees.  Unfortunately, many of these trees around Britain have succumbed to the disease.  Read this – Hope for British Horse Chestnut Trees.  How sad if future generations of children will not be able to play ‘conkers’ with the nuts as we did.

Horse chestnuts

But the story of playing conkers must wait for another day.

Well, that’s the end of the ramble for today.  See you all tomorrow.

I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.  They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far! ”
John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist and preservationist, 1838 – 1914