Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Die Große Stille Part 2: Back to the Monastery

And the Lord passed by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart
and shattered the rocks before the Lord,
but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19, 11-13

For a sort of introduction/background on this movie see my previous post on this film, my friend Devon's review, or the official website for the film. Also, I know the stills are small. If I find larger promo shots, I'll replace them.

I had the distinct pleasure of viewing this film for a second time on a cinema screen at the Harvard Film Archive, and as I sit here enjoying the order's namesake libation, I feel the overwhelming desire to put fingers to keyboard that I may lay down here further viewing notes, or what I like to call a sort of review.

On this second viewing, I found myself even more captivated than the first. I began noticing many small details I had missed the first time around. The framing of the human body echoing the topography of the mountains around the monastery and the architecture of the monks' chapel. The film's tendency to place ears in a prominent position, seeming to suggest the silence observed by these men allow them to hear something we cannot. Subtle nuances of shadow gradients down long corridors changing ever so slightly over the duration of a shot. Becoming more aware of how much each of the monks says to us during his close-up without saying a word. The many textures of water presented that I had overlooked. I believe I would be hard pressed to find a writer to do justice to the imagery and the emotional content it conveyed. I am certainly not up to the task.

Seeing the monks again was like seeing old friends. Following tonight's viewing I found myself feeling a sort of peace. I also had a very strong desire to watch the movie again. Despite seeing most, if not all, of what I had seen before, and noticing volumes more than I had previously seen, there was so much that I am certain I missed.

For those of you who may be reading this sometime recent to when it's posted, and that are close to New York (this means you, Brandon), I highly recommend seeing this movie. Well, so long as it seems to be your sort of thing. If not, please, please, please do something else. Don't be like the annoying girl two rows in front of me with her mobile phone open, texting or whatever she was doing and bothering those close enough behind her to see the blue glow of the phone's lcd screen.

Anyway, those of you near New York for whom a three hour, nearly silent, meditative delving into the life of an ascetic clerical order sounds appealing are in luck. This movie is scheduled to be playing at Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. in NYC from February 23 through March 13. Show times are listed as 13:15, 17:30, and 20:30. If I summon the wherewithal, you might just see me at one of the screenings.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New Year's

New Year's Eve rolled around again, as it tends to do periodically, and we indulged in a more recent family tradition. A few years ago, the fast food chain Chick-fil-a began selling calendars with coupons for their products inside. The coupons for December were for a free small brownie tray with the purchase of a large chicken nugget tray. As Chick-fil-a nuggets are very tasty, and my dad would not pass up using such a coupon once he had it, we got the tray of nuggets for New Year's. It lasted for at least a week afterward (roughly 250 come on a large tray). Despite the incentive turning from a brownie tray to a gallon of tea, we have continued to get a nugget tray for New Year's.

The nuggets this year, as usual, were quite enjoyable. My parents stayed in for the evening and caught the small fireworks display that appears annually at the top of the mountain. I rang in the new year with a large number of friends and acquaintances at a bar called the Metropolitan. It was a decent enough place. The garlic-chipotle stuffed olives made for an interesting flavor in the gin martinis. I also found out that I had won a friend over to the Ciroc vodka camp (If you're looking for quality vodka, Ciroc is where it's at). The hostess ended up being the waitress for our group, and she did rather well accomodating us. The night was relatively uneventful, except for Karl losing his phone and the guy who found it being kind enough to call one of the numbers in it to arrange its return, and around 01:00 we adjourned.

I got to work with Forrest again at kung fu class again on the first. He's a really good guy, and it looks like some good things could be lining up for him soon. If things work out, I'd be quite happy for him; they couldn't happen to a better person.

I've forgotten most of what I did between the first and the fifth, so we'll just leave that bit out. I think sudoku was involved in there somewhere though. Anyway, there was a get together to be attended on the fifth with more friends I don't run into nearly enough either online or off. It had snowed a little more in the mean time, so I wasn't taking any chances, what with being somewhat rusty at driving after nearly a year with no practice, and decided to make it a dry evening. It was fun seeing everyone and bonding with John and Christina over our displeasure that American cigarette packs lack the lovely pictures of diseased body parts to be found on cigarette packs in Canada and Australia.

Saturday was supposed to be a day to hang out with friends as well as family before flying out on Sunday, but a bit more snow said no to the friends portion. I spent the day with my family, doing various things around the house, including figuring out exactly what I could and couldn't fit in my luggage for the return trip. That evening we went to see Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

In short, Perfume is the tale of a young man who, as a result of being abandoned to die in the fetid streets of Paris at birth by his mother, develops the ability to discern every element of a scent no matter how small. Something like being able to smell the difference between two different lichens residing next to each other on a rock 300 yards distant would be an effortless feat for him. Being an orphan, he is, of course, abused and put in any number of unpleasnt places, which he just takes as his lot in life. Then, one day, he catches the scent of a beautiful young woman, and becomes obsessed.

Hers is the most pleasant scent he's ever experienced, but he hasn't the words to express this to her when she notices him smelling her. Consequently, she gets severely creeped out and runs away. He, of course, follows her scent to where she went. She notices his presence again just as two people stumble through the alley. Covering her mouth to stifle a scream of alarm, he accidentally kills her only to find that the scent that had so intoxicated him fled quickly afterward.

That's the first bit of the film, the rest concerns his apprenticing to become a perfumer so he can learn the secrets of capturing scent. I'm sure after just reading the above any number of possible readings jump to the fore, but I'll not offer one. One of the issues most talked about with regard to this adaptation is how it would be possible to transfer the intricate discriptions of smell from the book into visual equivilancies. It seems they've done it well enough. I'd encourage anyone reading to give it a look. I intend to see it again, if only to get a firm grasp on my opinion. The only question is if I'll find it in a cinema or have to wait for Netflix.

Sunday, 7 January found me back in Boston before midnight. Now, I get to go to one class I'd really rather not be in, and I get to decide if I want to play the odds in the job market doing what-have-you to pay the bills, or if I'd like to go another $25-30K in debt trying to land some relatively low-paying job through BU's L.A. internship program in the Fall.

Decisions, Decisions.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


On Christmas Eve, we did what we've been doing for pretty much as long as I can remember: drove around looking at people's Christmas light displays. This year was a little different from the previous years, however. Usually there will be at least one pizza shop open ungodly hours on Christmas Eve, and we will typically get a pizza or two to enjoy during our journey. This year, there wasn't even one open. It was highly disappointing. But we did the gazing anyway, and it was an enjoyable family time.

Christmas was good. After the last post, I'm sure I don't have to say it was a white Christmas. Everyone seemed to like the gifts I got for them. My sister was a little taken aback at first with her kangaroo scrotum coin purse I brought back from Australia, but she eventually warmed to it. The shirt I got for my dad fit quite well and looked good on him, and I'm hoping my mother will actually like the wines I brought for her once she tries them.

I was gifted with a number of things that I quite enjoy. Some of the dried fruit tray is still around, surprisingly, and the book of extraordinary facts and interesting random information that my sister got me for my birthday sees use every day. Eventually, everyone I see on a daily, or more infrequent, basis will be subjected to the massive amount of information I will glean from that book over time. I could list off all of the great things I was given for the holiday, but I just don't think lists like that are my style.

My mother prepared a very tasty Christmas lunch/dinner. I offered to assist, but as is often the case, she said I wasn't needed in the kitchen and should relax. I ate more than I should have, but it was too good to stop.

A few days later, I found out exactly how atrophied my martial arts skills have become when I went to kung fu class. We did some slow speed, bare knuckle sparring, and I found out that both my defensive and offensive skills are quite a bit lesser than they used to be. It was a good time, and I was lucky enough to get to go back a number of times before I returned to Boston. The next day I was snowed in until the weekend.

On the thirtieth, my friends Jon, Mike, and I gorged ourselves on some of the best sushi I've had. Surprisingly enough, it came from a place in Colorado Springs. Shinji's Sushi Bar is awesome. Shinji is great, and so is the food he makes. Mike works there as a waiter and did the ordering for us, so I don't recall the names of the items we ate. Well, except one, the Jake #1 roll. It was stupendously good. At any rate, much of what we ate wasn't on the menu because at least half of what Mike ordered was written in as "chef's choice." These choices were awesome as was the miso soup, seaweed salad (complete with bits of jellyfish), premium sake, and anything I'm forgetting to list. Shinji's is also one of the few Japanese owned and operated sushi shops in the area.

If you're in Colorado Springs and looking for sushi, go to Shinji's. Just don't go when my friends and I are there having chef's choice sushi. We arrived when there were few people. The place filled up with people when Shinji was less than half way through our orders. Many of those people were waiting 30 minutes or more thanks to us. It was somewhat entertaining.

After sushi, we visited our friend and kung fu teacher Ren. We had some beers, chatted a bit, and watched some of a Zeppelin live DVD. It was a very good time, and I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to hang out with him again this trip.

Is it new year's eve already?