Monsieur and Madame Adelman

Monsieur and Madame Adelman, a movie (Kanopy/Roku), starts off with the ending. It is predictable that Madame is going to tell someone at the funeral her life story. This is the last time you can be pretty sure of what is going to happen, well, until the

ending that explains the ending. At this point, the characters personalities have been built and so one can trust the obvious. As she begins to tell her story, which begins in the 1970’s, it seems as if this will be a typical love story. You can imagine this, though from the onset, Madame comes across as a cynical woman. She is begging you to pay attention. What comes across to the viewer are exceptional performances from Doria Tillier and Nicolas Bedos (he also wrote the score for the film, directed it and they both wrote the screenplay). Or did she, while he supervised? This is an inside joke from the film.

This film is hilarious in a very witty way. The couple is a duo of intellectual compatibles who take a moment to light their fire. There is no holding back with the lines, which I appreciate from the French. They are not trying to be Politically Correct either, as most modern films are today. True film lovers want to be stimulated by foreign films, because it gives one the sense that they are in the native country. Bringing in non-natives only throw off the vibrations of the storyline by having to deal with the non-natives. However, this being said, a favorite line in the film is “Do we live on a plantation now?” (probably not exact but approximately what Monsieur says). This speaks to the entire film community in the sense that it is saying – “Aren’t we in France?” There is also a play on the stereotype of the “Latin Lover,” at one point which is crucial to the turning point in the film. Is it possible that his character was more comfortable with a cliché than someone from his own roots?

This film seems reminiscent of a Woody Allen film; during his New York period. There isn’t a lot of outdoor scenery, so you could almost be anywhere, save for the décor and the language. The names dropped in the film are some of the best writers of our time and the discussions parallel what you might see in “Annie Hall” or “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The children of this couple are somewhat like that in “The Royal Tannenbaums,” misfits created by narcissistic lovers. The first child is a tragedy but in line with making this a humorous tale. A second child is a hint at the controversy, once assumed, with regard to Charlotte Gainsbourg and her father Serge (he is used as a character in a scene).

This real-life couple is in their 30’s and as a result, their aging process on camera is quite interesting to watch. The make-up artist did such a wonderful job, it almost felt as if these were different actors in the role.

The film was released in France, 2017 and is listed as a French and Belgium production. It received many nominations but, sadly, only won Best Narrative Feature in the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Ekaterina – Russian TV Series – Catherine the Great

Of all the women in history, I think I can identify with Catherine the Great the most. I read Carolly Erickson’s book many years ago and was really caught by certain similarities. She married at a young age to an abusive man. She had her sons taken from her (for different reasons than I, naturally, but both political). She was a survivor and saw love as a way to redeem the much needed emotional vacancy within herself. She also never remarried (it is possible she married Grigory Potemkin but it is not documented). When I had heard about the Russian TV series Ekaterina (the correct Russian spelling is Yekaterina), I sat down to indulge myself in the two season portrayal of this great monarch.

It is important to watch this if you love women’s history. There have been other versions from different countries, all of which I have seen but they pale in comparison. The fact that this series comes from the country that she reigned over, a place that annihilated their last monarch so that there would never be one again was tempting to me. I had heard that the series was true to life. I was surprised though as I did not think Russia allowed such things to occur. Communism did away with so much from the past, so much that she worked so hard to bring to this country.

Catherine II was not Russian though. Sophia Friederike Auguste was brought from Prussia (which is now Poland) into the country as a bride for the heir presumptive Peter. She spoke German when she came to meet Peter and his Aunt Elizabeth, who was the Empress at that time. Empress Elizabeth was a very strict Roman Catholic and, well, strict is hardly strong enough a word to describe this very disturbing woman. Catherine was modest and intelligent enough to see how to play her cards the minute she stepped food on the royal carpet. She impressed the Empress yet immediately she was forced to give up her culture, speak Russian (which she had been learning) and take the name of Catherine. This is not too unusual when you look at the Native Americans being kidnapped by the Catholics and stripped of their heritage. It is typical in a power play and, for her, better than being brought somewhere as a slave. There are many attributes of Empress Elizabeth that are not played out in Ekaterina, as they focus more on Catherine. They did allude to the fact that she preferred torture over death (for example: skinning alive, branding, and hanging by their arms behind their back).

The show also showed how Empress Elizabeth came to power and this was by taking the infant heir Ivan VI and imprisoning him so that he could not claim the throne.  Later, she was obsessed with finding an heir different from her ignorant nephew, Peter, who was the equivalent of an entitled rich kid in today’s society. When Catherine gave birth to their son, the Empress took the child, the moment it was delivered and Catherine could not see her son again, except on very rare occasions. She and her son, Paul I (Pavel Petrovich), never regained a relationship ever again either. This is even after Empress Elizabeth died and Pavel was eight years old by now. From a psychological perspective this makes a lot of sense.

Children who are removed from their parents early on (and have multiple caretakers – which he did, as Elizabeth did more harm then good as a surrogate), generally suffer from attachment disorders. In extreme cases Reactive Attachment Disorder. The mother has a hard time attaching back to the child because it is as if she hardly knows this person and suddenly she is supposed to have maternal feelings. This may sound crude because it sounds easy to just give a child a hug. However, it is an extremely difficult process to re-connect. When you have a child taken from you, at such a young age, it is emotionally wounding. The mother, in order to protect herself, must detach and emotionally protect herself. This is where Catherine began to replace love with men (she hoped to have other children and with someone she loved). You can’t replace the loss of a mother’s love. One love cannot be exchanged for another.

In this series, they did a good job for the most part. The actors reminded me so much of the book I had read. I felt like I was seeing the actual people for the first time. While they did not look alike, as you see above, their ability to portray their characters personality was very accurate. Marina Alexandrova (as Catherine II) was a woman of power. She came across as a very strong, willful, persistent, aggressive woman who started out as a young silly girl, yet bright and grew over the course of the two seasons. Julia Aug (as Empress Elizabeth), while a beautiful woman, came across as a very ugly ogre. Aleksandr Yatsenko, (as Peter III) was very immature and even more stupid than I had imagined in my mind. His performance was so great as he seemed to have an ease with being the court jester. All three seemed at ease yet I think his role was more difficult because he had more behaviors to portray (or facial expressions to personify) rather than just prancing around in skirts.

The only drawbacks from the film, that I found distracting, were some of the publicity stunts. It was portrayed as a “love story,” which almost made me not want to watch it, knowing that it was anything but. Catherine II had a great many lovers and this was used against her as she became the butt of many jokes internationally and throughout the court. The film also made a big deal of her love affair with Grigory Potemkin and even showed a marriage which is only a possibility.  They also showed Pavel with a black servant (politically correct nonsense?) From what I can find there was a black family that served Peter the Great but they left the castle once he died and lived out their days on an estate. The second season dulls in comparison to the first season and this is because Catherine II is now in power and so it is more a season of “Which lover shall I choose,” and drama with her teenage son. In other words the second season was just a day in the life of a Queen and the first season was a lot of extreme drama and suspense. I feel they should have ended the series at Season I, which appeared to have initially been the end (they stated in the last episode’s credits that she reigned for 34 years). 

One note of interest and I may be wrong about this but I believe the paintings on the wall were the actual paintings of each of the people being portrayed. In the second season there was a scene in the palace where Catherine II leaves the room and the camera angle lingers toward a painting on the wall that I am very sure was the Empress in old age. I found these aspects touching to pay homage for those of us watching who are history buffs. The end of the second season they tried to portray a humbling experience of Catherine II getting in touch with her spiritual side and becoming a more enlightened woman. It came across appropriately but then the show ended so quickly (telling rather than showing). It would have been nice to show the various changes that Catherine II created for her country, in the second season, rather than being so focused on war, teen angst and conquests of men. I don’t really think she came across in such a great light because reading her accomplishments on the screen credits is not the same as showing her love for the arts, philosophy, science, and many other intellectual pursuits. Catherine II was the longest running monarch in Russia.

What the life of Catherine the Great gives us, as women, is a look at a woman’s rise to power. It is insightful to read about her story, even today, as you think and compare her life (minus the castle), with that of a young single parent trying to have a career and even gain an education. Women complain too much in today’s modern society. They whine about what they can and cannot do. It seems to me that they are unable to take responsibility for their own behaviors in the situation in question, they just want to blame. Catherine II’s story also shows us that women are not perfect or the ideal person in power. She was not dominated by a paternal society, she was the matriarch of her kingdom and her word (and Empress Elizabeth’s word during her reign), was the final straw. In actuality, women have accomplished many great things in history and they have done many bad things as well. It is not about what gender or race or culture that is in power but what that person is capable of accomplishing. We are too desperate today to have a woman or a black or a gay in power and this cloud’s our judgement in making choices for who that person should be.

Being an Intellectual in Radical Times

Adolf Hitler and Che Gueverra were both socialists with different views of what was right. Both hated art (unless it was about them) and destroyed art and artists. They both killed people for different reasons. The same occurred within the communist movement and amongst religious zealots in history who wanted to take control over people. They have killed people too for different reasons. All thought they were fair, right and just for doing so. Now we have the feminist radicals who have gone to the extremes in many ways. We are no longer just seeing “Women are better than men,” thought processes but witch hunts from the “MeToo” movement and destruction of art, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” to fit their purposes. They are destroying men and art and even women who don’t agree with them for the sake of beliefs that they believe is right and just. This radical approach to turning the world around to their perspective, and this causes them to be incapable of looking at another side of things or listen to their instincts (not their ego). The “I am Right and You are Wrong,” is like with any radical thought process mentioned above, it is always “wrong,” as it is based on the ego, not a mature mindset and destroys society.

To be an intellectual, you have to be a mature person who is capable of criticizing art from an intelligent standpoint vs. a radical opinion. I personally hate most modern art but I still recognize the value of the contribution. I don’t hate all of it because I find that some modern art actually peaks my interest. I think most everyone can stare at a red dot on a white background and say, “Oh, I could do that,” and then the cliché’d phrase will be, “Yes, but you didn’t.” The point is that I wouldn’t say “It is stupid or ridiculous,” just because it doesn’t suit my tastes. Instead, I would comment on the piece and talk about what about it doesn’t suit me. The fact that the piece of art has captured someone’s attention, that they can make some decisions about it and agree that it is their perception and not a given, is being an intellectual.

An intellectual is capable of having a broad perspective because they have knowledge of history, art, theater, politics, or a well-rounded education on the world around them. You might not agree with them but you don’t have to. There is democracy in a conversation where people are “arguing” that the film had artistic merit but did not really engage you as a storyline. It ceases to be an intellectual discussion when you are just there to get people on your side. Politics have become like a gang where it is all about whether you are on the red team or the blue team. There is no longer an intellectual discussion about politics, amongst the political; there is only death to the other side who is “stupid” and “wrong.” We have missed out on so much with the lack of verbal intercourse.

I was on a group recently on Facebook which was a fan club for classic films. A woman was destroying “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” because it didn’t fit within the politically correct realms of today’s society. She and another woman were making non-intellectual judgements about the film and got a few others to join in. I questioned this because I wondered “Why are you in a ‘fan’ club if you are here to bash the films?” The moderator at this point doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It is a movie, so worrying about whether or not a cat is thrown out of a taxi is not relevant. This is not an animal rights documentary. It is relevant that people have to make tough decisions at times in their life. City life is not conducive to having pets. At that time, there weren’t “animal rescue groups,” so it was feasible that an action like this may have happened. It was about the story and the passionate place the character was in. Audrey Hepburn’s character hated having to do this act, which was more than obvious in her facial expressions, but felt forced to. In the end “cat” (the name of the cat character) came back into her lap “and they lived happily ever after.” Even then, the director knew it would not make American’s happy to see a cat being thrown away. We, as a whole, like happy endings.

The woman leading the bash of the movie also suggested that she just couldn’t get into the film. I told her she should try and put herself in that time period, rather than coming from the perspective of 2018. This is the problem with radical people. They bash history on film, paintings, songs, statues, books, all because they are incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of those that came before then. History is not about 2018. To try and judge others in 1815 or 1938 or 1960 by 2018 standards is missing the lessons of that time. It is disrespectful to our ancestors.

Paintings are all we have, until the creation of the camera, to show us what life was like in those different centuries. Yes, bad things did happen then but you don’t destroy art because you are uncomfortable with history. Women who posed nude for paintings were distraught peasant women who were desperate for a penny. They took their clothes off because it was easier than washing clothes all day long for the same amount of money. I am quite sure they were sexually abused by some artists or the men who watched the artists paint. We don’t destroy the masterpiece because of this; we discuss it and have an opinion on this. We certainly don’t take the piece of art out of the gallery because we found out the woman in the painting was sexually abused or paid only a penny.

“Baby it’s Cold Outside,” is a song. It was written by a husband and wife team in a time period when there was no social media. People actually gathered together in people’s homes to have conversations and enjoyed each other’s company. They “liked” each other in real life. They became “friends” with people they met, through others, at these gatherings which boasted lots of food, song, games and plenty of booze.  I was a kid then but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching people laugh and dance. Later, as an adult, I went to a few parties in the 20 years before the Internet became a “thing.”

The song “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” was created to get people to go home (hint, hint). The couple who created and sang this song became quite the item at parties and were actually invited to come and sing this song at the end. Later on, the husband sold the rights to the song, (which upset his wife), to the studios and the rest became history; as it floated up the charts. Cleveland women recently became enraged by this and forced radio stations to stop playing it because the song made them uncomfortable. I have no idea whether it was the action of a feminist organization in Cleveland or just a bunch of radicals who took the initiative. Once there were a local group of women in Salem, Massachusetts, who determined to get back at older intelligent women and thus many people (I believe 19 was the number) were hung for witchcraft. They were not witches, just people that they wanted to destroy.

Rap music on the other hand, also art, but mostly written and “spoken” to a racist audience (not much different than if the Neo-Nazi group began a type of spoken word), and as in most cases; written to destroy people. The Neo-Nazi movement is not much different than inner city folks who feel their rights are being impinged upon. Different history but the same philosophical anger. Rap music once had to be given ratings to protect children from listening to Rated R words, but now parents do not seem to care at all. At least, I haven’t heard of any measures to protect from these newer lyrics which continue to degrade. This music is now allowed by the White slaves of the Politically Correct movement. People who have been shut down by social media for having an opinion so they acquiesce to save face. You can’t say anything wrong about Black people in today’s society because you are considered a racist, even if they are making racist or sexually degrading comments about your person. You can say something wrong about Neo-Nazi groups because it is taboo in today’s society; even though we are in a democracy, where they do have freedom of speech. (Now I must make a disclaimer to ignorant people who may catch this article and state that I am not a Neo-Nazi, I am making an intellectual statement). Therefore, as we see White slaves to the PC movement in today’s society, it is okay to play rap music on the radio but not a cute, flirtatious, song like “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” that was written by a man for his wife.

Personally, I find the play “Hamilton,” extremely offensive as it panders to White slaves of the Politically Correct movement as well. It is racist against White people because it is destroying our culture by putting Black people in the role of White people, showing that figures in history are just meaningless insignificant people and it is not relevant what their race was. It is dishonest because it is lying about history and making a mockery of it at the same time. Playing rap music for the ignorant who aren’t capable of coming to a historical play with some merit; if it were to use music, costumes, hairstyles, from that time period. It is art of course but it is dishonest. Just like the art work that depicted witches as devil worshippers or ugly old hags with pointy black hats, torn black dresses and striped stockings in pointy toed shoes. Most intelligent people today know that this is dishonest and ridiculous but we don’t throw it in the trash. It is a testament to how far the religious zealots went to force pagans, witches and druids, into Christianity or other religions. It is part of history because it reminds us of how ignorant people were (or still are). One day the play “Hamilton” will, hopefully, at some point in the future, be a testament to the ignorance of our society today. Especially when children become confused about historical characters and forget about the history of African’s who were forced into slavery around that same time period.

Films today, in America and abroad, have sought to expand upon themes by placing politically correct but historical inaccurate characters in period pieces. Thanks to the radical celebrities – many who had no artistic merit in the first place, to be considered for an Academy Award, complained that there weren’t enough awards given to the Black people; so the Oscars were therefore racist. It didn’t matter that the awards were voted on by a very diverse group of people, from around the world. The Oscars are voted on by members of the Academy – which equals people who are past recipients. It also didn’t matter that the films, that were selected for awards, along with those who worked on the production; were of superb quality. The fact that enough actors weren’t of color – not the fact that they weren’t grade “A” professionals, but not enough, was more significant. This caused White slavery of the Politically Correct world to become more international. Now you see period pieces where black people are thrown in, even though they would not have been there (in that time period). You will also see the proverbial gay character storyline; attached to all these films – even though this was very rare then, as it is now, and has nothing really to do with the time period or storyline. Having the gay storyline in the film is not much different than having a sex scene that just isn’t relevant and is only there for the sake of having a sex scene (e.g. Death Comes to Pemberley). This is not how art is congratulated.

Films should be awarded a prize because an actor has gone to a place that is exceptional and on a level that far exceeds. My feeling about the Oscars being “racist” is that if the Black community wants Oscars, they should make better quality films. This comment is not based on “Let them eat cake,” a cliché from history; that was taken out of context in that time period. It is a comment based on Black films I have ventured to watch that were uninteresting, typical or copycat. Copycat by taking storylines from “White” movies to begin with and turned them into Black, which lacks originality (of course this is typical for Americans – who steal from foreign films all the time).

Meanwhile there are many men and women in Black history; that exceptional movies could be made about. By only creating movies about the inner city or slavery, it is saying that there were no intelligent Black people in history, that accomplished something worthy of value or merit; which could be turned into a movie. And yet, notable Black people in history, has the potential to be a storyline worthy of merit. It would show society exactly what this culture wants us to know. With good trained actors and exceptional focus on detail (clothes, plot, cinematography, direction, history) there are so many untold stories – why the need to steal movies that have been done? Why are ignorant White people trying to take care of them by inserting them into films where they wouldn’t have been? This is even worse because White directors are saying that they feel sorry for the Black culture so they will give them a job to make them feel better. It is insulting to their culture that they have to be placed in historically inaccurate roles because they weren’t capable of doing anything on their own.

It is not art, however,  when people flock to the streets and demand that statues of General Robert E. Lee be destroyed. It is ignorant people who aren’t capable of opening a history book so that they understand this human being had nothing to do with slavery. Perhaps they need to make a rap musical about him and have General Robert E. Lee played by a Black actor so that our uneducated audience can understand. This is art being destroyed because our society wants to pick and choose what is acceptable art and what is not acceptable, not much different than what Adolf Hitler did in his rise to power.

All art is acceptable as it makes a statement, whether we like it or not. Whether it is offensive or not is a personal viewpoint and the point of art. We shouldn’t shut down or destroy this as it is a reminder of the times. We should see a statue of Adolf Hitler or Che Gueverra or a Communist Leader or a religious zealot and it should make us angry. The job of art is to get a rise out of people, whether negative or positive. This is no different than selling “Mein Kampf,” at the book store, which was written by Hitler and explains his way of thinking. This is education, it builds a stronger intellect to learn and understand. General Robert E. Lee was a soldier who was chosen to lead the south; after he turned down leading the north. It was based on family and his upbringing not on his personal views about slavery. The Civil War wasn’t created to put an end to slavery; it was a war about gaining power because the southerners were in disagreement with the northerners and wanted to split the country. It is not much different from the Republicans and Democrats fighting for attention and power today. The difference is we are no longer in different sections of the country; political sides are mixed together in each state.

Then there is fashion; another form of art. It is not art to wear holey blue jeans 24/7 and have no respect for ones’ self. This is not style, it is laziness. Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Poiret, Schiaperelli, and others; this is art and significant to call fashion. They are masterpieces whereas jeans, they are merely graffiti on the wall, by the train station of a freeway underpass. Anna Wintour has decided to focus on having a penchant for politics rather than keeping her perspective strictly on clothing and style. Fashion is based on politics and the current events of the day but those in this field don’t ignore art or style simply because they don’t like their husband. Therefore, talking down about Melania Trump who has brought back elegance, style, intelligence, in a way that is reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy, a true connoisseur of fashion would applaud this not destroy it. An intelligent person would not make fun of a woman who speaks multiple languages and is said to have a high I.Q. and appears to be a dedicated mother and wife. She is “in vogue,” for all these reasons which should be enough for the magazine. Anna Wintour would not have gotten away with her behavior in a more dignified society of our past. She continues to bring down the magazine in agreement with the radical opinions of women in our society today. She ignores the point of the magazine, which was to accede to high fashion. The magazine was made for elite women not radical feminists. We have MS. Magazine that was created for feminists and many others that have followed since then.

How far will we go in the destruction of art in our radical society today before we have completely annihilated authentic history and a fondness for nostalgia? The women’s movement, originally, was not created to destroy history but to improve upon the conditions for women and children in the future. The feminist movement sought to continue this once we had the right to vote and gave rise to new expectations for women and children in the workplace and society. This has nothing to do with replacing art with more comfortable lyrics, paintings, or theater productions. Abolitionists sought to give freedom to all people and the NAACP movement and other Black organizations were created to protect their rights, not destroy art and re-create history to massage their egos.

We are in a place in society where we have no sense of values, only extremist mindsets, which have created group think. Social media has caused fear and unrest from bullying, lies, conspiracy theories, and turned all news into sensationalist rags. We can no longer handle the truth and this is not an intelligent society but a very ignorant, intellectually depleted group of people who are destroying our Earth. Will we ever start rising up again or are we destined toward a future that is ruled by violence rather than intellect?

Sophia Loren – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

This book is one you don’t devour. You take your time, stirring, simmering and seasoning as if you are making a pot of soup or stew. Sophia is a Virgo, which is most of my astrological chart, except the first dominant three. I sensed a grounded woman almost immediately. A person who has taken her time and made the right choices; which led her down a path that would make her a very happy woman. As a Leo, who has made all the wrong choices, very impatiently and innocently, when you have done these things, only then can you truly appreciate someone who is smarter than you. Patience really is a virtue.

While reading the pages of her book, I immersed myself in everything Sophia. I began to look up films on YouTube, but then as luck would have it, Film Struck dedicated a week to Sophia and I had many of the Italian films right at my fingertips. Thankfully, they devoted most of her footage to the old stock from Europe rather than the cheesy “We need an Italian” American movies. I was rather embarrassed to look at a trailer for Houseboat and see that she was darkened with make-up, since no one, in 1958, was capable of accepting she was Italian without it. Odd, since at that time we had a huge Italian population in America.

As she writes in her book, she is more adept at filming in her own country, when she is portraying herself, her mother, her grandmother, and her neighbors. This is clear because she is more natural, less scripted, in her normal color, unafraid to look worn and “ugly,” and not making us think the entire time “Oh look it is Sophia Loren,” like you do when you watch an American actress on film. I think I like her in films more, when she is in a worn out dress, her hair is a mess, she is in her (what seems like) signature slip on sandals and she is fighting for whatever she is passionate about. This type of role is more of an emotional investment than a film where she is just being a pretty woman. Although in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” it is interesting seeing her portray three different types of women in various personalities. It is almost as if you are getting a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I know I always bash my own country when it comes to cinema but being a foreign film fanatic there is such a huge difference. The answer came for me when I read her book. You are not getting a “tell-all” fraught with sexual harassment stories. There is no political agenda or a feminist bitch-fest which is riddled with “What’s wrong with men,” tales. Instead, you find that she is a professional and holds in high esteem her fellow actors that she worked with. When they were on the set, they had cooking contests or pulled pranks on each other. In her case, her mother came to the set with her while she was starting out. The only time this ceased was when she was meeting her future husband for the first time, producer Carlo Ponti.

When I watched interviews with her, she was very careful in the way she answered questions. Very diplomatic, intelligent enough to remain appearing innocent, though you knew she saw the journalists attempt to get her to “dish the dirt,” using her English as her second language as a tool to stall and prepare.

Naturally, I followed some of Marcello’s interviews as well, as he and Sophia were in some very important movies together. I was embarrassed when David Letterman tried desperately to turn him into a player (which he is) and make him seem dirty to Americans. It is a different lifestyle, a player in Europe vs. a player in America. The Europeans have more tact which results in their escapades being very classy and fashionable. Not that I agree with it or condone this, but it is their business. Here we are more focused (in the last couple of decades) on trashing what used to be alluring, exotic, and only for the mature.

When you see Foreign films, you do get a sense of professionals coming together to make dramatic stories come to life. Even when they are quirky and abstract, such as Frederico Fellini or Pier Paolo Pasolini, it comes together like a typical novel turned into a film, only with the long bits chopped out and the most important scenes smashed together through facial expressions. Serious actors who are trained by great directors and who can relax into the role are able to do these things.

Today, in American films, you have the nouveau riche who started out working hard but are now just entitled adults who can only sell overacted pieces. You get the sense that they are all having one big orgy, especially when they spend an interview flirting with each other and behaving like children. The films are not deep and cerebral, they seem geared toward children. Adults playing action heros are no longer spellbinding as “Superman” once was, or the first “Batman.” Now, everyone is doing it so it is cliché.  I am more interested in the craft, being transported into another place and time, people who appear so much in character that you don’t recognize them. In interviews, I want to see grown-ups behaving like professionals. It feels embarrassing to watch because I know they are going to dread these interviews when they become older and are “has beens” desperate for all the money they spent.

When I watch Sophia Loren in her movies, I think how Penelope Cruz has taken after her in her ability to portray women in despair and not utilize her good looks (this is what the modeling world is for). I think of a good friend that I grew up with, who is Hungarian and who naturally has that sense of being European that I am completely incapable of creating somatically; no matter how hard I try. Those nuances which catch you off guard: a tilt of the lips, a shift in the eyebrow, the movement of the hips, for example that can’t be caught on camera through a third or fourth (and so on) generation.

My favorite film with she and Marcello would be “Sunflower,” which I had to disagree with her on. She spoke of Marcello playing a character similar to Don Dummi in “Marriage – Italian Style,” and I think she mentioned the character from “Too Bad She is Bad.” Nonetheless, she was speaking of a character as a bad boy. On the contrary, I was so moved by the story and his character which from a psychological perspective, the background scenery in the film; was captured quite well. One sensed that the Russian wife understood this but the Italian wife continued to have disdain for her lover. Of course the Russian wife (a single parent) was simply looking for a husband that she went looking for one day; while walking through wounded soldiers. Whereas the Italian wife was terribly and hopelessly in love; seeking emotional revenge in the end. Like in a Fellini or Pasolini film, there is one character, a surviving Italian soldier stranded in Russia, who gives us that snapshot or foreshadowing of what is to come. Psychologically, Antonio was not a bad boy. He was grateful to his protector and felt as if yesterday, as an Italian, had disappeared or maybe it was a dream.

Many years ago I saw “Two Women,” the one film she won an Academy Award for. I felt that she should when I saw it. I don’t think the Internet was around at the time I viewed the story so I only learned this from the book. Also from reading her story, I understood that she was playing a character in a time period she had once lived through. This took on new meaning for me.

Last night, I re-watched Marcello and Sophia in “A Special Day,” which was a gay film that isn’t trying to be a gay film like those we hear about in America today. Again, it is the nuance of a phone call; a slight mention that one has to pay close attention to.  His character is discreet, careful, cautious and classy. Later he has to be more obvious because Sophia’s character is too innocent and lacks street smarts. The ending is tragic in a quiet way for Marcello’s character, while Sophia’s appears to be saying silently “Well, I guess it is back to business,” in her household. Terribly emotional and hard to fight back the tears that you feel rising up from your chest. The second ending is the landlady, who has played a small yet pivotal role hoping to divide the characters. She stands in front of her building working a double entendre as she speaks to her tenants. It was perfect. I am not sure young people or new people to foreign films about World War II would quite understand the intent of this scene. Watch a few more films and then come back to it, if so.

What I loved about the writing in this book was how grateful Sophia Loren is for her life. She tells you over and over again, in so many ways, that she does not take one single thing for granted. I am not sure she realizes that she did do all the right things (not to say she was perfect), as she never lived a life where you do all the wrong things. Her gratefulness is her modesty. It is all her characters rolled up into one thanking the directors, the producers, the family, the audience for helping them to be portrayed in such an honest way. For telling the stories that wanted to be told and creating a space for the unsung heroines of Italian heritage.

What I saw is that she wanted to be a star but she didn’t sleep her way to the top. She was desperate but not stupid. As I mentioned, her mother was there. She worked very hard to understand her roles, to study acting, to listen to her directors and respect them. She wanted to be a wife and mother and patiently waited for her turn with Carlo. When she had her children, they became a priority for her. She talks of her love for the children and how they changed her life. It is quite clear that we won’t be getting a “Mommie Dearest,” book from Eduardo or Carlo Jr. She talks of how she consciously looked over her boys, and how she and Carlo Sr. recognized the talents each had to offer, early on. One son became a director and the other; an orchestral conductor. Having seen one of Eduardo’s movies “The Human Voice,” featuring his mother, this is not a famous man’s son doing his best. He is a man who stands alone. I feel there will be more great things to come.

It is so much easier to be grateful when you have done all the right things and good things happened to you as a result. I am reminded of that first line in “Anna Karenina” by Leo  Tolstoy. I continued to learn as I read her book and took it in on a philosophical level. At this stage in my life, almost 30 years behind her, I am looking back at life in a very spiritually contemplative way. It was not an accident that her book happened to be at the library one day in the “used books for sale” room. I love going through there to find stories I can keep and I had been meaning to buy Sophia’s book through Amazon for some time now (on my wish list). Like when I was a young girl and the library presented so many magical surprises, now the same occurs for me as an adult only I am helping fund the library at the same time.

As I came to the end of her book, she mentioned that her husband had been the producer of “Dr. Zhivago,” when discussing an homage that she and her sons put together in memory of him. Suddenly, he became much more than Sophia Loren’s husband and producer of many of her films. I had no idea that he was responsible for such a beloved masterpiece. This was a nice surprise. Their love story was not quite one that I came to really understand and relate to, as I have never been married for 56 years or a long time relationship period. I have never been able to understand women who are with men twenty to thirty years their senior either, as I was never quite mature enough to undertake such a flirtation. Perhaps other women, like my Hungarian friend will cling to this like an old soul.

I was able to relate to her male counterparts that came to nothing more than friendship, soul mates or a missed out on love that probably would have come to nothing anyway. Having watched a great deal of her films as I read the book and viewing photos of she and her family online, I came to respect this very professional woman whom I once saw, only, as another sexy actress. I hope you will re-visit her work as well and see how it impacts your life.

Politically Correct Debate for Modern Thinkers

This is quite a fascinating debate series founded by Hungarian born Paul Munk in 2008 out of Toronto, Canada. Interestingly, I learned about this through a client recently. I find that I get many good resources from the people I serve almost as if it were providence. They did make me aware of who won the debate before I saw it, though it wasn’t that hard to figure out as it was quite obvious which side were more gifted in speech and somatic comfort. What is troubling, as always, are Americans abroad. They are just incapable of realizing it isn’t all about them.

This debate is about Political Correctness, or at least that is what it was supposed to be about. The argument isn’t really about what is fair or which words should be used, it is more about whether it has gone too far and what might be a better way to go about this. I recall being a student at Antioch University in Santa Barbara, back in the 90’s and my fellow alumni (now) and I were having discussions about this ourselves. At that point, we could already see the ridiculousness of this new language and so I can imagine how they would feel watching this video today. Unfortunately, we parted and went in various directions, most of us onto graduate schools and with that, a much more difficult level of study that didn’t allow for keeping in touch with old friends quite so easily. It was before FB and Twitter and LinkedIn and by the time those things came about, I couldn’t even recall their names.

Watching this debate, I was already prepared for an interesting discussion by Stephen Fry as he is most likely a genius and typical with most Brits and Europeans, very humble. I have never heard of Jordan Peterson before today and will definitely pick up one of his books and learn more about what he has to say. While the Americans on the panel had no appreciation for his highly intellectual banter, I certainly am eager to see what the controversy is all about. Remember that most philosophers, scientists, inventors; they were all controversial in their time. Whenever someone challenges your thought process, it is debatable and can be fun to see the direction they take it in.

On the other side we had a woman who sat with her legs spread apart, most of the time, eager like the “feminist” thinkers of today to say “look at my vagina but don’t touch it.” Such a contradiction, a mixed message, from a foolish person who would probably do a better job as a dominatrix.  Then you have a minister who appears to be bi-racial but has so much anger for one part of himself. These two wanted to make the program about them and their issues with being a woman and being black. A debate is not meant to be a memoir, it is about giving an argument for the side you are on. All four of the people on the panel were liberal and so much of the time they were agreeing with each other in different ways. I suppose this was a safer way to have this discussion, even though the pros didn’t seem to understand that they were all liberal. They behaved as if they were up against Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump. But as I said, they felt it was all about them.

This is the issue with Political Correctness and the extreme thinking of today. It is the reason Donald Trump is in office. The people who voted for him needed some balance because the liberals had swung so far left they couldn’t even remember which side they were on. With Clinton taking all the jobs away from Americans and giving them to communists, turning our country effectively into one big ghetto with a huge opioid crisis. One only needs to visit a previous factory town that gave some dignity to the people there and notice the dealers, the depression, the hopelessness, the poverty. After this we went to Obamacare, which took precedence over the recession and the only ones who approved of this and will sing its praises are people who get their insurance paid for by the companies they work for. I can certainly say that I am no fan when my medication went from $30 to $700. There was no concern for human beings in the country that they served when these two major changes took over our lives. I am not arguing that Republicans haven’t made mistakes here, I am arguing that Democrats forgot what it meant to be liberal in their need to enforce their self-righteous viewpoint.

On a world stage such as the Munk Debates, it is such a dichotomy when you have socialists vs. capitalists. Nonetheless, I am captivated by this series that I have now signed up for. It is refreshing to know such an exchange of words exists, is allowed (naturally we wouldn’t be able to handle this in the U.S.) and to feel related to people who haven’t disappeared or crawled under a carpet.

Un Village Français

A French Village is set in German occupied France, World War II. We are being shown local townspeople being forced to make choices to survive. It is romantic, because there is always love when you are in a traumatic situation. It is not biased and so you see bad Germans and bad French. What is amazing is that the most important thing that you see is people at war. As you watch it, you have to try not to view this from the lens of an educated person who obviously knows what happened during WWII. You must try to behave as ignorantly as the characters are to have an ability to appreciate their choices and empathize with them. Some people you don’t empathize with such as the character Heinrich Müller, who enjoys putting cigarettes out on people. Including the one he loved.

Heinrich and Hortense

Today, I watched the first episode of the third season and was struck by the fact that I felt as I did when I worked in the county government for eight years. In this episode the head of the local government, the prefect (I believe he is called or deputy prefect) is handed a list of Jewish names to round up in the neighborhood. Up until this time, the city of Villenueve was protected and the Jewish people could more or less feel their lives were somewhat safe, although they were unable to run their businesses. In this tiny town, they assumed that the Prime Minister Phillipe Pétain, had the power to protect French Jews from being deported. In this episode we learn that this has now changed. When I worked for the county government our mindset was “What was in the best interests of the children,” until the recession hit. Then it was all about saving money and putting them in the cheapest places. I fought this and all the other changes that were going on until I was put on Administrative Leave for a year and then I finally quit. I quit because their evidence was lies or fabricated stories and I knew I would be fired if I stuck around.  I couldn’t believe that a huge agency like that would be so concerned about me (there were lots of people involved). So while, my personal situation with the government is a far cry from making decisions during World War II, I like putting things into perspective with the here and now.

Marcel Larcher, a communist

When you think of a soldier at war, doing what he or she is told to do, they really don’t have any choices of whether or not they like it. When the “team” loses, suddenly we turn on them, and everyone is punished; whether they really had a choice or not. This is something I keep thinking about as I watch this show. While the character may seem bad, you can recognize a corporate boss; eager to get a promotion. You can see a “company man” who does what he is told. When you are working for corporate America or government, this is how most people behave. Most employees don’t sit down and weigh the consequences of what their boss tells them or how it is going to affect people, business, employees, or the community at large. You just do it because that is what you are told. At the end of the day, you go home to your families and try to forget about what you heard.  I didn’t have a family to go home to, so I went home and thought about my day a little more. That was my problem, I thought too much!

As I have seen a trailer for the seventh and last season, I am aware of the fact that many of these people will be blamed for the choices that they made. Every episode has been and is going to be sad and tragic but that one will be the hardest to endure. The reason is that these characters who have lasted till the seventh season, their lives will have been disrupted to the point of forgetting who they are. Already we are seeing choices that are being made to help a Jewish maid, or a lover, or a business associate who is collaborating to stay alive. They aren’t trying to help a vast number of people though at times they try to get the list, for example, from 20 down to 10.

Daniel Larcher, The Mayor

It is really too bad that most Americans, especially liberals won’t see this TV show. As far as I am aware, the only way you can see it now is if you have MHz Choice which is an international channel you have to pay for and have to know it even exists. I was aware of MHz from PBS when they pretended to collect International Mysteries from around the world. After doing some digging I realized the guy on PBS was lying; all they did was purchase a channel. They had me going though for a while there. American liberals love to blame people and do it so loud that you feel nauseous having to listen to it day after day after day. I feel that most of the time it is very hypocritical and seems to lack in values. I am on the border of the left and right and can never seem to sit on one side.

Jeannine Schwartz

We are in an era now where people are being blamed who had ancestors in the Civil War. They want to take down a statue of a soldier in the South, General Robert E. Lee. He was a man who did his job and because he came from the south, chose this side so he wouldn’t be killing his own family. He was a soldier being asked to lead a team, a side of government. If the south had won, we would want to tear down a statue of General Ulysses S. Grant. I don’t see a need to tear down any statue because I am fond of history. General Lee wasn’t responsible for slavery as Adolph Hitler was responsible for the holocaust. It is apples and oranges; but here in America we are not reasonable people. We allow ignorance to prevail because we feel sorry for them (those in this mindset).

A French Village could teach Americans quite a great deal about having to make choices in a time of war.

Raymond Schwartz

Whether or not they would be able to focus on such a great historical show without finding it racist, I could not say.  The show even shows a shady Jewish character, could Americans handle this? This seems to be the new wave of lying to our children. We educate them with period pieces that have politically correct storylines rather than literal or factual storylines. If North and South, probably one of the last great American TV historical fictions made, were filmed today; it would be such a joke. No doubt they would not be able to create an honest re-make. The actors would complain that they could not do the show because they could not speak the historically accurate lines (which would mean they are terrible actors).

I cannot imagine how tense it must have been to be on the set of A French Village. These actors do not ever come out of character, so that we are able to feel as if we are there; with them. I feel transported into another time and place. I feel tense every moment, wondering what will happen to this person or that. So tense that I had to look it all up online to see who will live and who will die. I just couldn’t keep watching without this sense of relief because it is traumatizing to watch this TV show. I do know what happened and while I try to think like the character, I am not perfect. When you feel like these characters are real people and they actually existed, you know you are hooked and drawn in.

If you have read “The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah, published in 2015, you will no doubt appreciate A French Village. I had read it last summer and so it was fresh in my mind. Two completely different stories as Ms. Hannah’s book was a little more biased. I feel it is important that A French Village created a lack of bias so that you can wonder. So that you could have a discussion after watching the show and think a little more deeply about those times.

I grew up with a step-father who took political asylum in the United States in 1956. When I wrote a historical fiction about that time period, it was while I was on leave from the government. It was actually perfect timing to have a sense of communist Hungary. I remember a family member telling me that I was actually on house arrest from my job. At the time, I had no idea why I was being paid to stay at home and do nothing. My father raised me to fear Russians and communists. He told us all kinds of horrible stories. I tried not to be completely biased while writing because I knew some of that was his hatred of people who ruined his life and his family’s lives. As I did research, as most historians due, you read the facts and put together your own interpretation of what you see. This is blended together with the biased interpretations of the people who witnessed. I don’t say biased in a bad way either. No one can ever really know the whole story. A French Village seems to be saying this. They are showing you a broader perspective, 75 years later.

Maria Callas

My first time to hear the name Maria Callas was in a movie about her life. This was called “Callas Forever,” (2002) starring Fanny Ardant and Jeremy Irons. I was intrigued with the personality and captivated by her voice (which was dubbed in). At this point she was long passed (1977 in Paris, France) and there was no chance of seeing her in concert. I began to immerse myself in everything I could find about her. Documentary, video clips of her singing, and I read Arianna Huffington’s book “Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend,” which also came out in 2002. The funny thing is; I don’t really like opera. When I was reading Ms. Huffington’s book, I kept wondering what an aria was. Somehow I missed the part where she had explained that this is what you call an operatic solo.

I have since attended a couple of operas and I have tried listening to other sopranos but I just don’t get the same feelings as I do when I listen to Ms. Callas. It is hard to explain. It seems to be that I am in love with the person, not the genre and the passionate way she projects herself. I get the same feelings when I listen to a gypsy violin, especially when it is played to sound like a bird singing. This is when the violin is transformed to become another entity as if it is shapeshifting. I like other instruments (except the flute) and I appreciate other violinists but not quite as much as a gypsy violin player.

Her story is rather romantic. Father leaves, mother pushing her daughter to sing from the age of three, her great love marries Jacqueline Kennedy. What is also sad is the bracelet that Aristotle Onassis gave to I believe four women, including Ms. Callas and Kennedy, which all said the same thing and looked the same as well. This did not make me think too highly of him as a partner. At the end of Ms. Callas’s life, she died alone. Perhaps her life could become an opera on its own. 

My favorite fairy tale moment (though it is said to be true), in Ms. Huffington’s book was a time when Ms. Callas had been practicing on the terrace of her mother’s home. Suddenly a man’s voice could be heard, with an equally gifted sound, singing from behind a hedge or was it a tree in the distance. Evidently she never did meet this person but the singing took place a few times and with a particular song which I do not recall.

When I was a young girl, my best friend used to play classical music records at the highest volume so that they could permeate our environment and I was forced to immerse myself in a genre that, at that time, I did not appreciate. Most kids our age were doing this with head banging music, which neither of us liked. Now, I find myself doing this with Ms. Callas’s music. If it is not loud one cannot hear it upstairs while on the computer.

One documentary that I saw, Maria Callas: The Callas Conversations, had interviews with various journalists. In order to sing opera, one has to become something of a linguist and she spoke quite a few languages besides her native Greek dialect. One can learn so much about the art of speaking a language by watching Ms. Callas talk. When she was speaking to a British journalist in English, she was in a very conservative room and she was more subdued or composed in her body language. A lot like my grandma used to say “Sit up straight, legs crossed, hands folded in the lap like a lady.” She even spoke with a British accent (and an American one with another interview on YouTube here in the US). When she was speaking to an French journalist, the room had a more dramatic look to it and suddenly her command of this language was accentuated with hand gestures and a stronger voice. This is quite a talent to envy. 

From what I understand, she was a difficult woman to deal with. At the same time, one can imagine that because her life was a never ending drama, it must have been hard to leave the stage. Today, we talk about famous women being divas. All the same, when I hear this, I wonder how appropriate it is for the person, or shall I say are they just doing it on purpose. There are also famous women who aren’t divas, including great singers. When we make a word out to be a given, it loses its luster. It is taken advantage of.

If you haven’t had a chance to immerse yourself in the aria’s of Ms. Callas, make it a point to do so. She had a lot of critics, just as most famous people do and so it might not be to your liking. If you are not a fan of opera, you might find yourself opening up to a new sound in your home.

Isabelle Huppert – She’s Not Smug

I’ve just finished watching the 2016 film “Things to Come,” and before this I had seen the movie “Elle,” a few months ago. Both were made (or released) in the same year, starring Isabelle Huppert. She has always seemed to me to be a very smug actress and yet I feel drawn to her. I find her characters deeply moving. No matter that she always seems to portray the perfect psychopath, it feels as if she is on the verge of an aneurism. Most Americans would call her characters intellectual snobs. Partly because she is not funny, unlike Woody Allen who can make a discussion in philosophy seem like a night at a comedy club.  Also because she is a woman and while we try to pretend we are modern here, we just can’t handle the honesty portrayed by characters in French movies in general. We pretend to observe and honor freedom of speech in our constitution but only if people say what is popular for the times. In truth, there is no room for a good debate in America which is probably why the traditional “salons” of Paris never existed here. Once we made very good and intelligently written movies, now we have opted for special effects and pop culture actors who speak in slang because a cerebral film would not be considered a “date night” film.

It is interesting though because when I see Isabelle on screen, I think smug. When I went to look up images of her for this article, I saw something quite different. Real life photos and still movie shots don’t really show a smug woman at all unlike Kristen Scott Thomas, who I find extremely annoying to watch on screen. Ms. Scott-Thomas seems incapable of enjoying the company of women and seems like the kind of woman who would never be married but you would always find her with a betrothed man.  Isabelle’s photos instead show a woman in constant thought. Whether this be wondering what to make for supper or hoping the photo shoot will end so she can pick up her cat at the vets; I could not say. In my imagination she is thinking about the conversation she had last night at a dinner party.

And yet this woman, who appears very strong and powerful on screen, is a very petite woman. I had never actually realized this before but in “Things to Come,” it seemed more obvious. She also sports a ponytail and very casual clothing worn in a very chic and stylish way. French women can carry off the cute girl look of someone in their 20’s because they don’t seem fixated on plastic surgery and often seem so young anyway. The irony of French films is that what you see is not what you get. In this film she was not quite her typical character though. She portrayed a married housewife albeit a professor at a university, but one who still came home to cook and clean while the husband sat in a traditional male role, even though they were equals in academia. I suppose though as she cannot sit still for one minute, he probably gave up and observed a male stereotype or in our generation, expected it. I say she wasn’t typical because there were no bizarre moments where her character does something that one might think but never do.

It was actually very difficult for me to see her in Elle. A character played by Isabelle Huppert being raped? This is not possible. So it makes absolute sense that the part she plays isn’t really about being raped, it is about opening up to an untapped perversion. I imagine most Americans probably saw it as France’s version of Thelma and Louise. I silently laughed at the end because I supposed this would be the case. Perhaps I am too harsh but since most people don’t allow introspection when it comes to art, and it would be anti-feminist to dare to say a rape scene was actually foreplay for what was to come. When you watch the movie like an Isabelle Huppert fan, you can’t possibly take the rape seriously. To me it was not much different than the butter scene in “Last Tango in Paris,” except they did play the Elle scene up a bit to give it a flare for the dramatic; probably to compete for an American audience. The film won a Golden Globe, as did Ms. Huppert and she was nominated for an Oscar.

As I mentioned previously Isabelle Huppert’s characters just can’t sit still. There is constant motion, not like a dance but someone with Severe Anxiety who needs to calm their mind. After watching the film, “Things to Come” this evening, I found myself jumping up to wash dishes I had earlier hoped to leave for tomorrow. Before I did this, I vacuumed the living room floor. Her energy can be very addicting.

My favorite film, released in 2000, was “Merci Pour Le Chocolat.” I have seen this twice because it is somewhat humorous to me. Film Noir often has an element of grotesque; a point in which you want to turn your head. With Merci, it was reminiscent of a Hitchcock type film, such as “Rear Window,” so it is important to see every moment. The Gothic house that looks like it lives in a graveyard and the piano playing which seems to unlock a deep wound in the soul of her husband. He is more like a victim of the Narcissist: helpless, passive, inane, the piano is almost like the strings for a puppet. Actually he plays the piano almost like a patient at a psychiatric ward (a scene from many movies where they are in one).

If you get a chance, watch a few of her films and see what you think. Just don’t expect Geena Davis or Susan Sarandon. Ms. Huppert is in a rich, strongly written, well-acted, league of her own – pun intended.

Frida Kahlo – Legendary Artist

Art should be regarded as a spiritual experience for when you find a piece that you like, it is speaking to your soul. When I first met a Frida Kahlo, I was in a university class that had to do with Women in Art (I don’t recall the specific title).  Our professor showed us a piece of her work and I asked the teacher if she had been in some type of an accident and explained what I saw in the photo of the painting. She told us a little about the history of Frida Kahlo and I felt stung. Until that moment, my experience was usually to look at paintings in a museum and admire them. While I had been to many art museums and had my favorites, I had never been this moved by art.

Since then, I have begun to look at art differently. I have begun to focus on the picture and think about the symbols, the way they are arranged, and what the artist might have felt. I have also seen the movie of Frida by Selma Hayek, read the biography by Hayden Herrera, had a friend copy a painting by Frida so that I could have my own genuine recreation and I have had friends give me books and old magazine articles that are about the artist and her paintings. When you research someone to this depth, you become one with the artist.

Frida Kahlo painted portraits and recreated interpretations of her life on canvas the way we journal in a diary now. The intensity of her work began after she was in a “bus” accident in Mexico at the age of 18. To explain, a bus in the 1920’s in Mexico was similar to a hay wagon with benches nailed along the sides.  This old fashioned mechanism collided with a streetcar which threw her and others from the bus and caused her to have many almost fatal injuries. She spent much of her life in body casts, laid out on a bed. She also underwent many surgeries for this over the years before she died at 47. Frida was a survivor and from her bed she began to paint, not for the first time but in a new way.

The first opportunity she was able to get out of her bed, it was the same time that Diego Rivera, a well-known Mexican painter, was working on a mural nearby her home. They met and eventually married. Señor Rivera  was known for his philandering but she knew this and asked, not for his fidelity but for his loyalty. He accepted. Their marriage was full of liaisons; hers with both men and women. They lived in two homes joined by a bridge so that each had their own space. Unfortunately, it was here where Señor Rivera went a bit too far with his affairs and slept with her sister Cristina. Between this and her on-going setbacks to give birth to their child, which her doctors had explained would be impossible; their marriage began to go downhill. They continued to remain together though, until her end.

Both Señora Kahlo and Señor Rivera, were very passionate about communism as well. This was incorporated in their art work depicting laborers in Mexico. Their beliefs were controversial, even then but they fought continuously to try and bring this philosophy to their country.

It is quite doubtful that Señora Kahlo and I would have been friends had we met during that time. When you are captivated by a piece of work, it is not about likes or dislikes of personal opinions.  Art stands alone, though it captures that person’s beliefs and feelings, what you gain from this is not always going to be the same. I was intrigued by her work as a woman, as a survivor, her bravery, her determination and will. All of these qualities I saw on the canvas and all of these adjectives she would probably have brushed aside indignantly. People like this do not want accolades for anything except their work, not their essence of being.

What I became fascinated with, when I learned about Señora Kahlo’s history, was her homage to ancestry through her clothing. While she was both Hungarian and Mexican, she only knew of her Spanish cultural ways. Her father’s Hungarian parents immigrated to Germany before sending their son to Mexico as a young man. While in Mexico, he married her mother and never returned to his homeland. She only had an idea of what her grandparents looked like. The way Señora Kahlo dressed herself was not indicative of the times in Mexico and so when she travelled with her husband, it was often seen as odd or eccentric. Now it is how one would recognize her through photos, though her work is quite obvious once you have had the opportunity to view a few pieces. As a woman she made a statement. Quite literally she was a work to behold. A piece of art always in progress.

While travelling in Mexico, I noticed that far too many shopkeepers hold vigil to her in their windows; along with homage to their religious symbols as well. Even in America, many Mexican restaurateurs will display her reproductions around their diners. Frida Kahlo is a legend. If you have not had the chance to explore her work, I invite you to research the name and see where it leads you.

A Guide to Watching Foreign Films

Of course it doesn’t hurt to grow up in a European-American family. Where the world that revolves around you speaks another language, has different values, talks about the old country and you begin to look at America as a second home. Watching foreign films for me has always felt as if I were welcomed; as one of theirs who got away. That I was getting a sneak peek into a home that existed but that I had never lived in; yet it felt like it belonged to me. There was a sense of familiarity about it.  Déjà vu.

Foreign film observation began at home, not with my family but with Kukla, Fran and Ollie. This was a children’s program that featured the puppets Kukla and Ollie and their friend Fran who would host a film from around the world each week. There is a website to learn more about this but unfortunately very difficult to get the actual films. Hello Netflix?!? This would certainly be a great program for you to buy.  Since Kukla, Fran and Ollie was an American program, all the characters were dubbed with British English from what I recall. I didn’t realize it was dubbing as a child, I just though everyone spoke English with a cute accent. There may have been a couple of programs with subtitles but I can’t recall.  I do remember circus bears on the loose, a Cinderella story with a bird that would say “Koo-koo-ri-koo, Who is the one for you?” and other wonderful adventures that kids would get themselves into.

As an adult, I had quite forgotten about foreign films for a few years and then, while managing a records and tapes (i.e., VHS and cassettes) store in Los Angeles (this was the onset of Compact Discs too), I suddenly re-acquainted myself with the genre once more. You’ve probably heard this phrase said for other reasons but I will use it here for this “Once you go foreign, you will never turn to American ever again.” Settle down and grab your Cadbury, Lindt or Toblerone (a reason to never eat American chocolate again) and enjoy the show!

1. Subtitles are not that difficult. If you are literate you will get used to it. If you like tennis, you already know how to bob; only now it is vertical instead of horizontal.

2. Foreign films are intellectual and a realistic view of life. It helps to look within as you view the characters that resonate with your own feelings, strengths and weaknesses. If you are pissed off at the character there is something within you that is just like them and this bothers you. If you are so passionate about the lovers that you feel ill inside when they are kept apart, even at the end of the movie, and are depressed for several days after, that’s not entertainment folks, that is the mark of a great film.

3. There are no happy endings because the world is not a happy place. No one lives happily ever after and no one says that tireless bs that you see in cookie cutter films, here in the U.S. Yet at the end of a foreign film, you will be thinking about the ending for days and weeks on end, still wondering “What if?” just like the one film the U.S. got right in “Gone With the Wind.” If a film isn’t bugging you for some time after, it wasn’t worth it.

4. When they are funny, it is sarcastic humor. Life is never funny when you have had your village annihilated by Hitler or your country was taken over by communists or the British or someone who had power during those years in question. So you laugh because you can’t cry anymore or because you know that this is a memory that will be replaced in the future, or you nod your head in some form of cultural agreement.

5. When it is really dark, the writer has pulled out some psychological button that you have thought about but never dared to speak in public. These are the best moments because you almost feel a sense of guilt that someone else was thinking it too. You can almost feel a kinship but it is too perverse to even smile. If someone sees this on your face, they will know your deepest secrets.

6. The French could be called perverse but the Chinese have upped it to a degree you won’t even see in a pornographic film. I’ve had to turn it off because it was hitting the “ick” zone in a way that, well, wasn’t in my bureau for psychological buttons but it could be in yours. The French tried even harder with Nymphomania 2 but since I only read the abstract on Wikipedia and decided Part I was enough for me, I couldn’t be too sure.

7. India has it all, film, musical, romance and absolutely NO SEX. Yet you get so caught up in the story, you actually forget that the lovers never once touched anything except their hands – if that. That is good storytelling. It is quite rich in family values and I think they are a must to watch for all virgins as the female leads are all very good role models. Yes, it is all about weddings but the brides all deserve to wear white, even if that isn’t their custom. They all gain a deep amount of respect which is really the point.

8. Hungary has mostly been poor depressing people up until this past decade. They have begun to bring in some modern storylines, some good, some depressing because you can see how much the country has been ruined by capitalism and the other word one dares not say. The older films however, really teach you a lot about all those years of history, how people survived. So don’t get squeamish when you see a horse being butchered in the street and morsels handed out to kids to take home to their parents (in their bare hands). You really get a sense that this is what it is like to live so desperately in tough times.

9. The Spanish have Pedro Almodóvar who has directed some hilariously dark comedies or as the French say Film Noir. Penelope Cruz appears to be his muse and while she could be said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, (now topped by Fahriye Evcen from Turkey or shall I say Feride in Lovebird), I’ve seen Ms. Cruz get really really ugly and that is acting! I am not talking about looking dirty but having bleached teeth when she smiles either. I am talking unrecognizable as in “Don’t Move.” If you watch the extras in a take home film, they have her act out different moods while sitting on a stool and it is here that you are able to see how a real actress performs, without costume and script. “Don’t Move,” is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen Ms. Cruz in a movie, even though she is portrayed as a really ugly woman. The character’s personality, especially at the end, it is quite moving.

10. The Turks really love to mess with your mind by making you feel such love for the couple that you feel they have stabbed your own heart at the end because they never end up together. I think it must be a sin to show true love on film and they have to get around it this way.  I’ve recently found myself turned on to their films since Netflix is my new foreign film delivery service. At first I thought everyone in the family had the last name of Bey. It took me awhile to realize the women weren’t called this and then to see that the neighbors who were called this were not their brothers. I assume it means Mr. as in Monsieur or Herr or Señor.   This is the great thing about foreign films; you learn a new language – at least a few words that would give you some understanding when you travel abroad.

11. The Italians have Sophia and Gina and well, now they have Luca Zingaretti, for the ladies. As a young girl I looked up to these beautiful women, now I am the older woman and I am more focused on the handsome older men. Inspector Montalbano is like Bruno Cremer in Maigret (with a better body, though Bruno was sexy) or John Thaw in Inspector Morse (still anal but not a heavy drinker). These are the kind of men who you hope inhabit your local police force but are pretty sure they don’t. The Italians remind you that the mafia is still alive and Italian-Americans aren’t faking Italian (except that ridiculous reality show). They probably talk more with their hands in NYC then Rome and more on the streets than in the professional world.

12. The Brits are hands down the easiest to understand because we speak their language – or do we? Nope, you have to learn the slang and the accent. “If truth be told,” a fag is a cigarette, getting pissed means you are drunk, serviettes are napkins, napkins are diapers, a boot is the trunk of your car, and so on. Try the British “Mars” bars too, much more richer and delightful. Stay away from the “All Sorts” though if you can’t stand licorice like me. By far they have the best TV shows that capture forensic episodes with real people not cute models. You have to add any film with Bill Nighy to your list; sexy and hilarious for a too skinny guy. There are lots of other old blokes over there that play character actors better than our big stars here. When you see them appear on a film (and once you get to know them you can get excited with only the opening credits), you know you are in for a treat. Great actors like this know how to carry a film and how to pick one too.

13. The women in foreign films are real people. I mean you feel like they are your neighbors and this is what gives you the sense that you are welcomed into the story. You know these women and men, it seems you have met them before. Sure there are the outstanding looking beauties but generally they aren’t playing the outstanding looking beauty in the film. Often, they will take a less gorgeous lady and dress her up and suddenly she is the most beautiful woman in the world. It is the character that makes her or him very lovely, not the costume though. When I think of Bruno Cremer in Maigret, we are looking at a slightly obese man with a huge mole on his face, yet the character he is playing respects women, dresses sharp, smokes a pipe – which is quite debonair, is loyal to his wife and the most intelligent man on the show (that is the funny part which you have to see it to get it). We are so stuck on size 3 waists here and no one really has this except models and actresses, people you will never meet. The majority of the women in foreign films are an average sized woman of a size 8-12.

14. If you find that the movie is going along very slowly and seems almost boring, just trust the director. This is building a scene for a particular purpose or a character or a culture. If you are patient, it will all make sense and by the end of the film you are going to really appreciate those opening scenes because it will all begin to come together. Sometimes the beginning can be really weird too with a lot of confusing scenes, trying to introduce so much in a short space. Again, stay still, trust the director, it is going somewhere good. I often find this is a clue that something better will come.

15. You will be so moved by foreign films that your tears will fall for the first time for a reason that you know will change your life forever.