Saturday, April 29, 2017

Suits, s 1

What is it with Americans and their lawyers?? From 'Perry Mason' to 'The Good Wife' via 'LA Law' and 'Ally McBeal', they are all as cool as well-starched, highly educated cucumbers, working around the clock, constantly on top of their game. 
No wonder Americans like to elect them presidents.

There is nothing inherently different about 'Suits' - it's impressively similar to all of the above-mentioned shows. I just happened to start watching and found it mindlessly entertaining.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Orange Is The New Black, season 2

I'm dead last on this one, but better late than not at all?!

Setting a series in a women's prison not only makes the Bechdel-test a non-issue, it also allows for an unusually wide spectrum of multi-dimensional female characters. 
Add to that a sensible, sensitive, tongue-in-cheek script, and you are home.

So how come I lost interest halfway through the season? 
I tend to think it's perhaps me rather than the show, since I'm really at a loss to find any fault at all with OITNB.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Husmoderns Död - Sara Danius

Danius is the sister of Felicia Feldt, and that is as much as I'm going to say about her family ties.

She is also a member of the Swedish Literary Academy and, it would seem, an skilled literary critic. This is a collection of her articles and essays, published in one of Sweden's major newspapers and then re-edited by herself. In an easy-going and elegant style, she analyses a wide range of authors, from Austen to Freud to Mann to de Beauvoir to Nabokov.
She also looks into glass art, photo and fashion (an excellent piece on the place of fashion in French 19th century novels).

Interesting, educational and well-written!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

La Dame Blanche at Théâtre de la Renaissance, Paris 10th arrdt

I'm in two minds about this.

On the one hand, I do believe if theatre wants to survive our middle-aged generation (85% of the audience in any given theatre) this is the way to go : Surprises, interaction with the audience, joking about current topics and mixing of genres (this was a sort of horror-farce, if that makes any sense). My thirteen-year-old enjoyed it.

On the other hand, when the gender roles are this obsolete, it ruins the whole experience for me. It puts me off to see women only as victims and in secondary roles (there is ONE female gendarme who, strikingly, is the only one to be constantly getting coffee for her boss...), especially when it would meant such a tiny effort to do things differently.

Friday, April 21, 2017

S Town

The parallel to William Faulkner's 'Southern Gothic' works was explicated in episode 1 of this podcast. Still, I think it would have been unavoidable even without the references to his short story 'A Rose For Emily'.

S Town is short for Shit Town, Alabama, which is the name given by the main person (I can't really call him a character since he's not fictional, can I?) to his home town. 
Talking about this show without spoiling the plot is a near-impossibility, so I'll just mention that it starts with an email from the main person to the journalist, asking him to investigate a murder. (It then moves on in a c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y different direction...)

The decay and dual nature of the South is at the core of the whole documentary, just as the case with Faulkner's writing. The same goes for the obsession with time - its passing and non passing - and clocks.

I did enjoy this! Fortunately there were only seven episodes because addictive podcasts are a lot more consuming than TV-shows. (You can communicate while watching TV but it's much harder to talk with earplugs.) 
Still - here comes the caveat! - I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I loved the first 'Serial'.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Musée de la Ville de St Malo, Bretagne

St Malo is a city with a long and eventful history including privateers, frequent skirmishes with the English and famous author Chateaubriand. 

Unfortunately, very little of that history transpires at the city museum. The budget seems insufficient for the creation and upkeep of a decent history museum. Or perhaps that museum already exists elsewhere in town, and I just didn't have the right address?

At any rate, this was a rather sorry collection of dusty old maritime objects in an old and imposing building.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Vermeer et les Maîtres de la Peinture de Genre, at the Louvre

Todorov, in his brilliant little book on genre painting, defines a 'Golden Age' by saying that during a limited period in time even fairly mediocre artists produced masterpieces. 

Many of those masterpieces are present at the Louvre exhibition, and they truly are masterpieces, from several points of view. 
And yet, none of them (a handful excepted, one of which is The Slippers) compares to Vermeer's work. 

Twelve Vermeer paintings in the same museum at the same time is definitely worth all the queuing and scuffle we put up with to see them! Excellent exhibition!

(Though I still think the Louvre could have made an effort to stay open more nights in order to allow for more visitors, which would have enabled a smaller number of visitors in the same timeslot.) 
(And don't even get me started on the signs; white on violet, practically down on the floor...)

Samuel van Hoogstraten, View of an Interior (The Slippers), 1658?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Vikings, season 1

Finely tuned, well-nuanced, surprising, original and unconventional this certainly was not.

What it was : A fair enough history lesson.
Provided you are not too advanced in your studies.

Though in all fairness, I grew tired of this after a mere three episodes. It might have improved later on.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Musée Bourdelle, Paris 15th arrdt

That I was not familiar with Antoine Bourdelle despite his status as major 20th century sculptor can easily be put down to my general ignorance and lack of interest in sculpture.
That I did not know of the museum either is almost harder to explain. 

After three decades in Paris, I figured even though I hadn't visited all of the museums I had at least heard of them. Not so, apparently!

Despite Bourdelle's renown, I wasn't all that impressed with his art, I'm afraid.

The museum, on the other hand, was excellent! His studio has been kept and can be visited, the building itself was a quaint little place and the gardens were small but very enjoyable! 
A tiny haven of art and quiet in the shadow of the Tour Montparnasse.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Balenciage, L'Oeuvre au Noir at Musée Bourdelle, Paris

Cristòbal Balenciaga did not confine himself to designing clothes in black, so the choice to limit the exhibition to black on black ought, I think, to have been explicited properly. (Or did I just miss that sign?)

That said, black is the most stylish of colours and so haute couture en noir could not possibly be anything but classy. Though the clothes displayed are accompanied by capes, hats, coiffes, jewellery and sketches, the overall impression is one of absolute sobriety. 
It is not merely chic, it is the epitome of chic.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hidden Figures - T. Melfi 2017

The plot : Three female black scientists make their way at NASA in the early 1960s.

My enlightened view : It's all a matter of perspective, really. A bit like 'Battleship' (though I reckon their similarities end there), it depends on how you see it.

As a history lesson, it's all the more excellent as it involves both gender and racial equality and - perhaps even more importantly - young adults not only get it, but seem to love it.

As a work of art, it's more conventional than I can find words to express.

Still, taking my thirteen year old daughter to see this and having her love it absolutely made my day!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

Progressive though Austen certainly was regarding gender equality, 'Mansfield Park' makes it blatantly clear that she was a lot more traditional when it came to subjects such as religion, city life and moral transgression.

The upside to all these well-principled motifs is that the novel is all the more consistent. 
There is, of course, the marriage plot and the social criticism, as per usual, but there is more than that, as well. 
Right up there with 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Emma', therefore!

Previously re-read, to lesser satisfaction :
'Northanger Abbey'
'Sense and Sensibility'

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sherlock Holmes, season 4

Topping the previous instalment is common practice in fiction, and yet taking an already high-speed, brainy series up to the next level entails certain risks.

And sure enough, I found this a wee bit Too Much of everything. Holmes himself is approaching the Ross Geller-syndrome (turning into such a parody of himself it's hard to see why anyone would want to see him at all). 
The plot at times is really more twisted than interesting.

Most of all, I felt the writers had been caught up in the trap beckoning many creators, especially of detective fiction, 
i. e. the characters have grown so popular they take precedence over the plot (a.k.a the Elizabeth George-syndrome).

A bit disappointed therefore, tough it's still quality TV.

Future & HNDRXX - Future

Though it may not be always perceptible in this blog, I do feel having the same opinion as everyone else is a bit boring.

But then, what to do? Quality is quality. I may not always enjoy the quality (Toodeloo, Spielberg) but this time I do.

I do not, however, see the point in spreading the songs over two albums instead of collecting them all together, except perhaps for PR reasons.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

At Home - Bill Bryson

The concept is nothing short of brilliant : Intertwining domestic history - that of living conditions in our homes throughout the centuries, a sadly overlooked subject - with the major events that helped shape today's world. 
Plus, Bryson is just the man to do it; light-heartedness and a sense of humour are much too rare in history writers.

In the end, however, it turns out 600 pages is just a tad too long for the sort of detail Bryson keeps going into. Insignificant facts can be fun, but I'm sorry to say sometimes they are just insignificant. (The biography of the man who invented chemical fertilizer? Not interested, thank you.)
Kill your darlings, Bryson. Kill your darlings.

Some of the insignificant facts that actually amused me, though :

- Plenty of the foods we now consider as delicacies were very common in 18th century America, such as lobster or caviar, which was set out as a bar snack. 

- The sudden boom in mid-19th century reading material (novels, newspapers, periodicals...) was linked to the arrival of gas light, making nightly reads a lot easier than candles had.

- The British boost to amateur gardening went hand in hand with the arrival of newly found exotic plants, from explorers all over the world, and the rise of the railway, allowing for greater space to garden on. This had consequential changes for the women, notably, who suddenly had an occupation outside the home (albeit not very far away).

In short, to quote Bryson "the history of private life is a history of getting comfortable slowly".

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Live / North America 2016 - Gary Clark Jr

Though for some reason I didn't adhere to Clark's latest opus, I think I ended up knowing 'Blak and Blue' by heart. This live album makes me even sicker than before at the thought of having missed him at the Bataclan two years ago.

It's blues, but it's also rock and soul and it definitely rocks my boat!