Thursday, 26 February 2015

Film, Cinema and A Comfy Chair

I started off this year by reading Ayoade on Ayoade – A Cinematic Odyssey. I’m not one to usually succumb to a book because it has “celebrity status” but this particular tome interested me. I pretty much happiest when I’ve got my nose in a good book or when I’m curled up watching a good film. Now a book about film certainly has got me interested. But the book of which I speak is not the subject for this particular post. Instead I’ve been pondering about film.
I’ll watch any kind of film. Action. Comedy. Romance. Thriller. I like it all. Well pretty much all of it. Most people have this idea of university students chained to their laptops watching Netflix for entire weekends without seeing daylight. Now this is pretty much the truth. At least I do a fair bit of binge-watching whole series of TV shows for hours on end. This might seem like a waste when I live in such a culturally rich and beautiful city but I’ll tell you why I like it and more importantly why it isn’t such a waste of time.
There is something about film as a medium that can speak to you on a very direct level. Whether you just go and see a film for the sheer enjoyment of a good plot and the ability to just switch off for a few hours. Or you go and see a film to learn more about yourself or the world we live in. Maybe even all three rolled into one epic. You are entitled to that. Last year I went to the cinema on my own a few times. This seems really lonely and needy but I can promise you it was nothing of the sort. Half the time I find it really hard to find someone to watch a film with who isn’t just going because they have nothing else to do and who feels like they ought to keep you company. If you sneak in a cheeky beer or three and a few snacks, curl up on the seats and let yourself be immersed in the action, I can assure you there is no better feeling.
In my coming-of-age/existential/Parisian crisis that I’ve been having for some time now it reassures me to watch certain films that add something to my life. Oscar winner Birdman would be a perfect example of this. Despite seeing it in the UK I felt something in it resonate with my French life. The inner turmoil of authenticity and that nagging feeling at the back of your mind telling you what is right and wrong struck a real cord with me. The next film I watched after that was Chef. Sat amongst my delightful fellow Easyjet passengers I was sucked into the world of cooking and the feeling of making a breakdown something positive. For a recent seminar I had to watch Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (who says Arts degrees are all reading?!) Now despite my hatred of this film I couldn’t help but be seduced by the idea of walking around Paris at night and falling back in love with the true romance of the place (and not that depicted in the film).

So I call you dear reader, if tomorrow night you have no plans. No one to see. Nothing to do. Watch a film. Call a friend and watch it together in wondrous spontaneity. Or curl up with your laptop and have a big belly laugh by yourself. You will find out more about yourselves. I promise you that. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

50 Shades of Bad Dialogue

I’m stood in a queue on the Champs-Elysées waiting for a film. The line is snaking all the way down the road further than we can see without moving and losing our space in the queue. Can you guess the gender of most of the members of this line? Well, if you can’t then I had better tell you. It was mostly groups of women aged 18-30. What were we all going to see? The 50 Shades of Grey film.
As someone who hasn’t read the books I was intrigued to see whether all that I had heard was true. Would it really be sex scenes every five minutes? Was it poorly written? Would I be hooked by the characters and the plot? I can answer that briefly. No, Yes, No. There was not as much sex as anticipated. Obviously there was a bit and I wouldn’t advise small children to go and watch it but it was by no means all the time as I had imagined it might be. The dialogue is shocking. My lasting impression is that I would love to go through it with a red pen and re-write at least 50% of the interactions between the characters. The jittery, forced words said by people who are meant to be in love with each other just didn’t feel natural but in fairness the actors did do the best with what they were given. I’m by no means hooked by the franchise but it does throw up interesting questions for me.
From what I’ve read around the subject it is clear to see that there are scenes of abuse throughout the books, something we don’t see in the film. The representation of women in the film/books also makes my skin crawl slightly. As someone who has been brought up to know that women are not commodities and can do anything they want to it makes me uncomfortable to see the main female character treated like an object when people applaud the series for liberating women’s sexual freedom. It feels like this is some kind of oxymoron to me.

If you like the books and the film then that is absolutely your right. But just take a moment and think about them. Would you like to be in a relationship that is so volatile? I certainly wouldn’t. On this the most “romantic” of days I think a point of reflection about what women expect from society is important. Don’t just brush this off as “only a film” because that is like saying The Communist Manifesto and The Satanic Verses were “just books”. Any form of literature is propaganda whether it is mummy porn or political ideologies and it is our right to criticise either in a fair and balanced matter. 

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Pleasures Of Wandering Alone

Now that I live with people I don’t spend as much time completely by myself. It has been quiet reassuring to know that there is someone in the next room if the worst may happen like a burglar comes and steals my valuables (ginger biscuits and my Sean Connery poster), or if like the other day the electricity goes and you can’t find the fuse box to flick the switch (we found it eventually thank goodness – turns out it was in my room which is a little awkward).
But last week I spent a lovely afternoon just wandering around Paris taking it all in. After having a lovely “working” lunch with friends where we mostly talked about how much we love our lecturer and not about our group presentation, I had a gander around my favourite part of Paris – the Marais.
If you take a bit of time and just go where the crowd takes you occasionally then you can discover lovely little gems. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Marais but it is one of the areas in Paris that has all sorts of concealed parks and little windy roads that take you to independent cafes and antique bookshops. When you’re in somewhere so beautiful you should go and try and find the hidden gems. With Valentine’s Day coming up it makes me think that this is the romantic side of Paris, not the standard selfie by the Eiffel Tower but finding the place that does the best falafel and making friends with waiters.
My walk on Friday encouraged me to take some time and clear my head. It is easy to get complaisant in this day and age to take things for granted. My advice is to put on some comfy shoes and walk until you can’t stand up anymore and your head is full of marvellous places and people.
Oh and for your information the best place for falafel is L’As Du Falafel on Rue des Roisiers and don’t let anyone tell you any different.