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Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

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Felicity's disguise

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Entries in eleanor morrow (79)


In Which We Sincerely Believe We Do Not Belong



Tin Star
creator Rowand Joffe

In Tin Star, Jim Worth (Tim Roth) is a London police officer who relocates to a mining town in British Columbia with his wife Angela (Genevieve O'Reilly), his daughter Anna (Abigail Lawrie) and his son Peter (Rupert Turnbull). At the conclusion of the show's tumultuous first episode, an assassin approaches the family at a sinister Calgary gas station. He fires a bullet at Jim's head from a distance of seven feet. Instinctively, Jim ducks, and the shell explodes his five year old son's head. Fragments of the boy's skull impact on his mother's cranium, and she enters in a coma.

Jim is a recovering alcoholic, and it is not one night later that he finds himself in a bar. Tin Star creator Rowand Joffe gives us a hearty close-up of the heavenly whiskey that Sheriff Worth desires more than anything in his turgid little life. Everything in his world is categorically easier to abandon than alcohol – which is not to say he is not going to fail his family. Just that it will be hard.

Jim's enemies do not really have sufficient reason to want him or his son dead. They are representatives of the oil concern which has infilfrated the town. The idea that oil companies would have to resort to murder to get their way when they can simply purchase everything in sight is somewhat implausible, but who cares? Tin Star is more a pure revenge fantasy, meant to bring Jekyll's story into a Western forum. It has to be a fantasy – I mean, I can't rationally believe in a rural Canadian town where everyone in it is a different type of asshole.

Christina Hendricks plays Elizabeth Bradshaw, a representative of that oil company. Hendricks grew up in the Pacific Northwest, although you would not really know it. I think her father was British, which makes sense with her coloring. She looks absolutely tiny in this, having eradicated any of the voluptuousness which might lend a sympathetic tint to this merciless. character. She is not so much a villain as an embodiment of a lack of personal morality.

Jim's daughter Anna is drawn to alcohol, and one of the most affecting scenes in the show's opening episodes has her chugging down the various components of a motel mini-bar. "I want to be an archaeologist," she tells her father, and this fortune-telling strikes us as wildly off-base. Jim himself has nothing in the way of hobbies or passions – that was what drinking was for. His job enables him to practice the only skill he has – the distribution of violence, and to mete it out for somewhat rational reasons.

He is completely disconnected from modernity. It is what happens to those of us who, as we get older, neglect to manifest a regular discernment of what makes society itself. Such people often change their surroundings, since doing so gives them a reasonable excuse for feeling lost. There is no such get-out-of-jail free card when we are surrounded with those we know, and those who know us. It is better to be in the wilderness, where you can sincerely believe you do not belong. You will be right.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which She Thought She Belonged In The Arms Of A Man

This is the third in a series examining the films of the French director Jean-Pierre Melville.

Father Don Juan 


Everyone has the right to be what he is and believe what he likes.

Barny (Emmanuelle Riva) is a lesbian who feels guilt/happiness after her communist husband's death. Her half-orphaned daughter is baptized, because otherwise the girl's Jewish father would mark her for the Nazis, in a French town abandoned by God. As she works her office job, a gorgeous woman there consistently stands behind her, brushing her breasts against the back of Barny's head. This stimulation, and the eye-contact that occurs between these moments of orgasmic, incidental touching, drive her to a local priest (Jean-Paul Belmondo). Such is the plot of Léon Morin, Priest.

Jean-Pierre Melville was very unhappy with the reception to 1959's Two Men in Manhattan, the only film he ever made that featured himself in a leading role. Léon Morin, Priest was based on a well-known novel by Beatrix Beck, who was pleased with Melville's rendition of her work. Melville chose the project because Belmondo, the leading young star of the French cinema, was bound to sell tickets if only he might be cast as a sexy priest. "You should paint your toenails," he tells Barny in one ludicrous scene.

It is very surprising that the Catholic Church praised Melville to high heaven for this motion picture. Léon Morin's parishioners are seemingly all attractive young women whose lives in some way have been corrupted by the German and Italian occupation of France. The film mostly consists of long conversations Barny has with Father Morin – this parade of stars was a necessity for audiences that came to see this unlikely, never consummated romance.

Determined to make a commercial hit, Melville (who was actually in the Resistance) was at his most subtle and subversive on this project. Watching Léon Morin, Priest, you feel that only Melville could have made an art-house movie as a ticket-selling blockbuster. Few people watching the film at the time were in a position to realize how much he was undermining the Catholic religion and, indeed, the concept of faith in general. Ultimately, Barny becomes a Catholic because she confuses her loneliness for a prurient interest in Morin; in reality it is simply an equally impossible iteration of her homosexuality. Despite the fact that it is very difficult to like characters who loathe themselves, Barny is sympathetic for two reasons.

The first is that she is a brave, proud pseudo-Jewish woman who supports the Resistance any way that she can. The second is that she is very beautiful, but she has no idea.

Ensconced in grief because of what has happened to her life and her country, Barny narrates Léon Morin, Priest in the loveliest voiceover in the history of cinema. She sparingly chimes in, never to describe or summarize events, but simply to exist on a perceptual level, and to describe what images could never convey. Riva's throaty chords, mellifluous in Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour, melt everything that surrounds them except Morin, who proposes an idea of Catholicism as an all-loving instrument to remedy the wrongness the world cannot help but contain.

Anyone with even the slightest bit of experience with Catholicism knows that this depiction is utter bullshit, and I say that as an admirer of the sect.

As Léon Morin, Priest spirals to its inexorable conclusion, we await the film's final scene – where Barny will finally have to say goodbye to Morin. She tours his soon-to-be abandoned office above the church, where crosses have been ripped down and the piano returned to its original owner. God has left this church in the same fashion as he abandoned France during those years.

Our final glimpse of Father Morin provides an unexpectedly frightening moment. He is posed as the devil, standing guard outside his underground den. It is only that we realize his admonitions to Barny represented a false, tortured hope in Melville's eyes. In actuality, she was perfect before she ever met Morin and convinced herself that the right thing to do was desire a man.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Destroy Virtually Every Tulip We See

Married Without Kids


Tulip Fever
dir. Justin Chadwick
107 minutes

The first moment that Sophia (Alicia Vikander) sees Jan (Dane DeHaan), she is overcome with a latent eroticism that will haunt her for the remainder of her days. Her husband Cornelis (Christoph Waltz) is completely oblivious to this; and he is substantially more interested in the idea of infecting Sophia with a parasite that will ruin her body and mind. Unfortunately, Sophia is unable to get pregnant in Tulip Fever, and the movie is about how crazy this drives her, and how useless she feels because of it.

In metaphorical sympathy for his new, married girlfriend's plight, Jan becomes obsessed with making his fortune in the fledgling tulip industry. On a scale of one to ten, how excited would you say the idea of a fast-paced tulip auction is to you? How about if it were written by Tom Stoppard? The executives behind Tulip Fever have taken more than five years to refine this subdued film into something more exciting than the sum of its parts.

Its parts consist of short, abbreviated sex scenes where moisture is cast over Vikander's taut, dark body to imitate the throes of ecstasy. Vikander and DeHaan look substantially younger than they have in more recent roles, reminding us of how disastrous a person's twenties can be. Vikander is forced to be rather muted and boring as this long-suffering wife, but she is already expert at this put-upon role. DeHaan seems substantially more excited in his scenes with Zach Galifianakis than when he is penetrating Alicia, and his relative lack of enthusiasm with Vikander's character seems to subtly imply his homosexuality.

Disappointingly and predictably, there is absolutely nothing in the way of happily ever after in this film, which is just as well, since it is shaping up to be a tragic failure at the box office. Since you will likely never be seeing Tulip Fever, I can tell that Alicia Vikander fakes her own death rather than continue to be raped by Christoph Waltz. This is perhaps just as well, since her affair with DeHaan seems like the bargaining any victim does after a sexual assault.

This does pose the question of what Alicia Vikander would look like if she actually seemed to give a fig. Fortunately this has been asked and answered in the substantially better version of Tulip Fever called The Light Between Oceans. You would honestly be forgiven for thinking this 2016 jaunt wasn't the same movie as Tulip Fever, the key difference being that Michael Fassbender was fresh off Shame and even the tips of his finger signified for penises at that time. The guy was electric in everything then.

DeHaan looks like a little boy seducing a thirty-year-old instead of an actually talented painter. His scenes with Christoph Waltz never come to very much; the older man is simply hiring the most talented, cheapest painter he can find. Waltz is very comfortable in his sociopath mode, except it turns out that he is simply a well-meaning sort of man who forces his wife into sex. This bizarre rationalization makes Tulip Fever into a somewhat cynical portrait of the depravity people accept into their lives without even meaning to.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.