Know-How

1147
Beatlemania in full swing in 1964

I’ve always had the misconception that a person who reads many books is an intelligent person. And then something struck me. The question is: How?

How do you read books?

Were you one of those straight-A students? Were you the “nerd” of the school? Maybe that’s not such a good sign.

These star pupils were praised by parents and teachers but all they really did, was flick through history books without questioning a thing.

Well, my grandma does pretty much the same. She spends hours watching unspeakable telenovelas, serves you tea, then sums the latest episode up in fanciful detail.

It’s true, we’re not talking about Tolstoy here, but how would it be if my grandma told you the story of Anna Karenina?

[ Anna Karenina was a married aristocrat bla-bla-bla who has an affair with the charming Count Vronsky bla-bla-bla she leaves her husband but in the meantime bla-bla-bla. Anna becomes isolated and anxious while Vronsky goes out and about bla-bla-bla. The situation is unbearable, Anna commits suicide. ]

Would you like another cup of tea, darling?

In short; the novel explores topics like politics, religion, morality, gender and social class, but my nanna likes the gossip of it. If you take Tolstoy’s masterpiece that way, it’s true that it doesn’t fall too far from tea-time telenovelas.

How do you listen to music?

Let’s take The Beatles as an example. Why? Because there’s even a thing out there called Beatlemania. That’s right, I’m talking about maniacs. The delirious Beatles fan club.

Nothing compares to the hysteria that The Beatles created in the height of their careers in the 60s. They were mostly teens peeing their pants. Screaming schoolgirls pulling their hair out.

The term “fan” comes from the latin “fanaticus”, meaning “insanely but divinely inspired” or “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion”.

There’s a link between how my grandma reads Anna Karenina and Beatlemania.

How do you watch films?

Even movie-goers come in two flavours these days; “film geeks” and “cinephiles” (or movie snobs). The first preferring contemporary films based on comics or video games and the latter, being lovers of “the classics” and modernist or avant-garde cinema, up to the present, and tend to scorn geek favourites.

Film geeks are almost religious creatures, loyal market followers. They could even come off as sweet as they light up their Christmas crib with Batman instead of baby Jesus.

They know it all about their heroes; background, quotes, missions, superpowers and outfits. Meanwhile, a cinephile contemplates a slow-motion caress, heartbroken in a blurry romance.

All this considered, we can arrive at one important point. However you read books, listen to music, or watch films – never lose your child-like enthusiasm.

Advertisements

03.03 am

20994041_10155426031459713_4082424172542281401_n
Manu: king of shisha

In the middle of the journey of my life…

I was torn between two choices:

1. Watch a depressing Tarkovsky movie at cinema Reflet Medicis

2. Drink wine and smoke shisha at Passy (the best spot to get drunk in front of the sizzling Eiffel Tower)

After two cups of coffee and three cigarettes, I chose number 2. After all, Tarko will still be there tomorrow, “but I human and I need to be loved”.

Wine. Shisha. Last metro. Direction home.

As I’m about to get back home, I see one of the many transsexual prostitutes populating my neighbourhood: in the middle of the street, tits on air, screaming and throwing empty bottles around. Amusing. I think “ahh! Such fresh air! Life”.

It looks amazing to me, to witness such freedom, such messy, fucked-up beauty. It might be that I’m still culturally shocked from my last trip in Russia, where everything was grand and perfectly preserved, but it almost seemed like communism has never ended. It lacked of humanity. It lacked of vices, dirt and misbehaviour. I love misbehaviour.

It’s not over. I come back home and I soon discover my neighbour singing like crazy, headphones on, putting a show in front of the mirror. Little does she know that she has an audience. Me.

I love Paris at 03.03 am.

Robbery in Paris 17eme

film-les-adv-arsene-lupin

“He said that life boils down to standing in line to get shit dropped on your head. Everyone’s got a place in the queue, you can’t get out of it, and just when you start to congratulate yourself on surviving your dose of shit, you discover that the line is actually circular.” – Scott Lynch, The Republic of Thieves

It was last Saturday, when I discovered that someone broke into my apartment.

It was one of these days when you don’t feel like seeing anyone, but still, you can’t be left alone and coffee is never enough.

I ended up engaging in my favourite activity, going to the movies. I met a friend even though I didn’t have much to say. Soon enough we entered the cinema and watched “Swept Away” aka “Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto” (the original 1974 version by director Lina Wertmüller), curiously enough the main character is a spoiled rich woman who ends up in a deserted island with her attendant, only to find out the material world to which she was so attached meant nothing after all.

Still feeling dull inside, all I could think about on my way home, was to put on my cherry printed socks on, even if it was warm outside, and persevere in my film addiction. Celine Dion used to sing “all by myself, don’t wanna live”. For some reason I always thought she was saying “all by myself, I wanna be”, maybe because the latter was more appealing to me.

As I opened the door, I found absolutely everything I own scattered on the floor. As soon as I realised that it wasn’t an hallucination, I burst into tears, violent tears of angst (I was in the same time, like a complete psychopath, trying to save that magnificent rage in my emotional data bank, in order to reproduce it on the stage).

The next door neighbours rushed in to check up on me; the tumultuous love-making couple of the building. They are so sonorous that they even distorted my dreams, as most of them are now set in a 17th century brothel. They introduced themselves as brother and sister, as if I wasn’t disturbed enough, and of course, that revelation made me cry even more.

The next day, traumatised by the current events, I jumped on a night train back to my dad’s home in Milan. Sometimes, all a girl needs is a few whiskeys on the rocks and a familiar place where to safely pass out.

As bizarre as it may seem, all the heartbreaks and disappointments I have experienced lately, are suddenly a long distance memory. Logically, keeping in mind the subdominant law, the latest incident has automatically erased the others.

I remember a “Laurel and Hardy” episode in which Hardy, was moaning about his limping left leg and how much he was suffering because of it. Laurel looks around for a moment, scratches his head and says: “I have the solution for your limping left leg”. He suddenly kicks his friend’s right leg. “Voilà!”. Hardy screams out in pain, steam comes out of his ears… The sky is still clear, the kids keep playing in the street. Hardy moans about his right leg.

C’est la vie.

Eugenia at the Movies

cairo1

After hours of painful labor Eugenia was born in 1897 in Florence, Italy. The daughter of a bronze pots dynasty, soon to be the disrepute of her family.

Years ago, when I was still a Londoner, I payed a seasonal visit to my dad’s in Milan. We had a classic pizza-movie night and the film in question was Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (it’s about a Depression-era unhappily married ingénue who goes to the movies to watch the same film over and over again to escape her miserable life, until the film’s main character walks off the screen and what was a black and white dream becomes real…). “I knew someone like that, an obsessive-compulsive person…” dad says.

Eugenia was my father’s mother’s aunt. I never had the chance to look at pictures of her. I like to think she was petite, controversially boyish-looking for her era, maybe with asymmetrical eyebrows (like those ones of evil movie characters) but still intrinsically sensual.

They say she was precocious for her age. Some others say she was a prodigy. Her family aspected great things from her, even though that would just mean marrying a suitable man of good fortune.

By the time she became old enough to embrace the philosophy of nihilist European writers, the world was experiencing what was then the greatest invention of all: CINEMA.

Movie theatres were filled with what was then la crème de la crème of Florentine society. I would have liked to know what was the first picture Eugenia has ever seen, because that day, the day in which she stepped into a movie house for the first time, something spectacular must have happened. That day marked what was to become her passion, obsession and ultimately madness.

I don’t know what it is, this feeling. It’s Stendhal’s syndrome, maybe. A repulsion to reality after having experienced something of colossal beauty. It was probably just a moment of absolute limpidness. They say it’s natural to become mad as soon as the truth laughs in your face. A lightning bolt.

Eugenia became soon a cinephile. She couldn’t help herself. She would spend her days in picture houses stepping from one movie to the other, often watching the same one repeatedly, feeding herself with lavished silver images, starving herself from the rest of the world, like a junky. Once you get locked in drug addiction, the tendency is to push it even further. One obviously does it because the dullness of life is unbearable. There’s something incredibly gloomy and romantic about it. Lastly, why should it be wrong? Isn’t life about making oneself happy? It doesn’t matter how. Morals weren’t definitely her problem regardless.

Seasons changed, fashion changed, political circumstances changed. Eugenia, unaffected by it all, was now an habitué of movie theatres, so much that they didn’t let her pay for the tickets anymore. It was pointless.

She was quite infamous in town, everybody knew she was a lunatic, a pagan. She had the devil inside. Even the priest had lost faith because of her, he had abandoned his functions and moved back in the countryside, with his lover.

Eugenia didn’t appreciate social gatherings, she hardly ever spoke to her sisters. She would mostly communicate with grimaces, if she had to. Occasionally, she would show up in some café downtown and make a scene. She was popular for showing up drunk and jump on tea tables to dance barefoot. At that point, someone would bring her back home where her mother would be waiting crying, or pretending to.

One day, she found out she was pregnant. Her mother fainted, or pretended to. “It’s a disgrace, it’s a disgrace! What have I done wrong, dear Lord? What have I done?” her father would say frantically while walking up and down the baroque living room, booze in hand, “Who is going to marry you? Who? Charlie Chaplin?”.

Eugenia never married. As a matter of fact, she had no idea of who the father of her baby was, not that she cared. Actually, Charlie Chaplin wasn’t really her type, she must have preferred someone more virile and adventurous, maybe Douglas Fairbanks, or Rudolph Valentino.

Sound in films was already the norm. Eugenia remained silent for the rest of her life. She continued watching movies, neglecting everything else. Obsession, running through blood like poison.

Apparently, her daughter Gilda had inherited the same kind of obsessive compulsive behaviour. She was an avid reader, a book eater. She, in turn, had a son too, whom one day left to move to the promised land, America. It is said he has become a religious fanatic and has joined the Mormon Church.

Rue Champollion, 75005 Paris

18402886_10155112005339713_5537460233275107320_n

Cold fact: Paris has more movies showing at any one time than any other city in the world.  Cinema addicts come to Paris just to go to the movies! That may be because of the proliferation of tiny, independent cinemas.

Once upon a time…

There was a mythical place, between the Sorbonne and Notre Dame, where cinephiles reunite.

It’s an alley that welcomes some (if not most) of the greatest independent cinemas in Paris (if not the world). Three to be exact.

LE CHAMPO – ESPACE JAQUES-TATI

This arthouse cinema opened in 1938. Today, the two main screens replace what was once a bookshop and later a cabaret theatre. Home of important figures in the French cinema history, also described by Francois Truffaut as his “second university”.

The upstairs screen has a curious projection system: the projector is situated above the screen and depends on a periscope and a mirror at the rear of the theatre.

The program is quite vast and qualitative. Anything from German expressionism, Italian neorealism, dogme 95, film noir, new Hollywood, new wave, no wave, I’d say any sort of wave.

Also, there is a slightly shy guy with glasses at the box-office, working alongside with a woman who seems to be his mother (she’s in charge of checking the tickets at the screen’s entrance).  I surprised them a few times commenting on how people leave the auditorium, guessing, as a game, if they’ve been moved by the film or not, if so in which way, if they are a comedy or drama types. They are so adorable I never dared to speak with them, I feel it would ruin the fun.

REFLET MEDICIS 

Opened in 1964;  it shows all kind of classics and indie movies but with a particular attention to international releases of difficult programmation (less than 10 copies) as well as hosting small film festivals from all around.

(They also have their own monthly magazine).

There’s a wooden bench just outside the door, which is a magnet for absent-minded curiously dressed old people I’d love to photograph.

FILMOTHEQUE DU QUARTIER LATIN

Opened in 1966; this two screens cinema (screen Marilyn in red and screen Audrey in blue) is also the house of international festivals, retrospectives and restored classics with a shameless favouritism for Italian cinema (anything from neorealism, commedia all’italiana, giallo to spaghetti western).

It’s illegal how cozy the peluche seats are in the Audrey screen. Just the other night I was there to watch a funny Alberto Sordi movie, there was this woman, sitting next to me, who could not stop giggling. I feared the worse, for her.

If only I could light in a cigarette, I would love these cinemas a little bit more.