Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Character of Place Part II

While the seasonal wet and dampness challenges us to find the good in sogginess, it is our neighborhood library that offers us distraction and entertainment. Our library cards (the smartest card around) allow us to borrow books, magazines, and DVDs. Ebooks and readers are also available but we are still part of the old school that prefers getting our entertainment off the literal shelf. Being a writer, I love holding a book made from the heart of trees even if I have to 'air them' out for days before I can hold a many fragrances of a former reader's hand cream or the residue of laundry products. I love the sound a good writer can make as words pack a boat load of description. The pace and the melody of story of books are still my first love. But more and more, especially during the years of living a tiny homes life, I have becoming a fan of a beautifully crafted film. More than once in a year I will be inspired by a film.

Last night we watched the 2009 French film Summer Hours written and directed by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas. The New York Times review written by A.O. Scott starts,

"In a literal, almost banal sense, Olivier Assayas’s “Summer Hours” is a movie about an inheritance. Hélène Berthier (Edith Scob), a silver-haired matriarch enthroned among her children and grandchildren at the beginning of the film, leaves behind a charming country house and a cherished art collection, and her heirs, as is normal, must figure out what to do with it all after her death..." The review points to the 'eye' of the film, the camerawork "And while Mr. Assayas’s filmmaking techniques are identifiably of the moment — and his sensibility is as thoroughly French as the long, painstakingly prepared family meals that punctuate “Summer Hours” — the assurance and aesthetic poise of the film make it quietly ravishing. The camera (wielded by Eric Gautier, who has worked frequently with Mr. Assayas, as well as, among many others, with Sean Penn on “Into the Wild”) seems less like a mechanical apparatus than an organ of perception, even of consciousness. Its movements mimic those of a person’s attention, at times restlessly trying to gather information from all directions, at times observing with serene and sympathetic concentration, occasionally puzzled but never bored...the film’s clearest and most poignant insight is that this longing, which is essentially to stop time, can never be fulfilled.
The New York Times' review was good, and accurate in its appraisal of the film's value just as the theme of valuing all the art is a major theme of Summer Hours. But though the article alludes to the experiences in the home and the natural surroundings of the place, it did not embrace the place as a character. And that is what I found most enduring about it. The family deals with the reality of a globalization, and making a living at their personal passion, separating them from the place. "Longing .. to stop time, can never be fulfilled."

The library borrowed DVD we watched includes a two disc set: one disc recorded the film, the second disc includes a later recorded set of interviews with the fimmaker Olivier Assayas. In those interviews are the inspirations that fuel my curiosity about creative process. These BONUS Features are as good as it gets for a Santa Goody in my Christmas stocking. Through the narration of his motivations and his depictions, his angles and the writing and rewriting of the screen play the listener is given the addition course more satisfying than pie.

Assayas speaks of the search for the right place. A place that is not bourgeois; not big or rich. Instead, the place that becomes the character linking the three generations is a French country home that has small(ish) rooms where one must exit through a glass door, step down what looks like brick steps, and cross the lawn a short distance in order to get to the studio. The land is spacious, rural, rich with flowers (that are gathered and cut to fill vases), fruit trees and berry bushes, a small lake for swimming. Eloise, a vital character though not focused upon does hold together the place and people. She is the housekeeper who has cared for the generations of Berthier, and at the end continues to cut flowers to remember the 75 year old matriarch after death and re-distribution.

The layering of scenes and the inclusion of people, things and place make for a very full experience, I will re-watch both the discs and come to my own destinations as a result. The character of place is something/someone that remembers things about myself that I might hide from myself. In the hiding of those parts of myself I may "try too hard to control your emotions so that others won't know how you feel, as if you were ashamed of your feelings. You shouldn't be ashamed of them...You often feel that the people around you or even life itself prevents you from expressing your emotions. You may feel lonely and unsupported by your friends, brothers and sisters and even your parents. To overcome this feeling of aloneness, you must have a great deal of emotional support from your family and friends." Perhaps in the investigation of The Safety Pin Cafe's character I will see how "You must learn that your merits and flaws exist independently of what others see in you. You are not the product of what other people see, but of your own inner energies." 

There is still time to consider how another angle on the character of this place, 'The Pin', might be enriched this winter of soggy times. I may find in the end that her character is just as it should be. One of the interpretations from Robert Hand regarding her character is found in the description of the Moon Sextile Uranus. "Your strong sense of fairness urges you to work for the benefit of all. You may work to change traditions and fight against customs that have outlived their usefulness. But remember, other people may not agree with that, and you must give them the same rights you demand for yourself." 

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