Bizarre, Fascinating Story of a Writer

After seeing Keira Knightly in The Nutcracker and The Four Realms https://wp.me/p4c1s1-tx I wasn’t excited about seeing her in Colette. But she does much better in her role in this adult film than she does in the former one for children.

Colette is the story of true-to-life author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette and her writer husband Willy (Dominic West). The pair had a strange relationship. Willy moved in well-known social circles in Paris while Gabrielle (as she was known) was a ‘country bumpkin’. Willy wasted money on gambling, women and entertaining and was constantly scrabbling to put out a best-seller to cover his debts. To do this he gathered a team of people who wrote for him. Gabrielle was drawn into this stratagem and this was how her writing was ‘discovered’.

Colette – as she became known – wrote about her own youthful experiences – with some poetic licence – and Claudine the character was born. In the mid-1800s the ‘novel’ started to become popular but was considered something only women would read. Willy was at first disparaging of his wife’s writing but in desperation he submitted the manuscript to his publisher under his name and the book was a hit. Colette continued to write book after successful book in the Claudine series.

As Willy took the accolades Colette stood back and watched. Sounds like Big Eyes you say, the story of painter Margaret Keane who painted well-received pictures while her husband took the credit. But, no, Colette is different. Colette herself was complicit in the arrangement and didn’t try to wrest control from Willy – at least not for many years. The two worked together to make Claudine successful, which also involved them bizarrely ‘living out’ Claudine in order to make the writing authentic. Amongst other things, to do this, Willy took up with a mistress, and Colette experimented with lesbian sex.

As Claudine the story matured and discovered its identity, so too did Colette the person. While Willy remained the immature, self-centred individual that he always was, Colette outgrew him.

Colette is a fascinating – if weird – story of a writer who became enormously successful in her own right. The film opens in South African cinemas on 7 December 2018.

 

Doggie History

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is a lovely animated movie aimed at middle grade children. It’s a historical story about a dog named Stubby who participated in battles on French soil during World War I. In between action scenes are short narrations by a woman named Margaret Conroy (Helena Bonham Carter) who writes to her brother, Robert Conroy (Logan Lerman), while he fights in the war. In these excerpts the narrator sums up some of the history surrounding the war story. The film ends with photographs of the real Stubby and some statistics about the heroics of this brave and intelligent dog. This combination of animal story, history and narration makes for a touching, educational experience, one I think children and their families will find very worthwhile.

Stubby is a stray Staffordshire Bull Terrier who befriends Conroy while he is training to be a soldier in the USA. Despite army regulations disallowing dogs, the friendly, nimble pooch proves himself worthy and is adopted as the base’s mascot. When the troops leave for Europe Stubby sneaks on board the ship and so makes his way to France alongside the soldiers. There he participates in battles, dodging bullets, bombs and gas, sniffing out survivors and foes, and sending warnings to Conroy and his comrades. Stubby is so brave and helpful that he is ‘promoted’ to Sergeant.

Although a little heavy-handed with American propaganda, Sgt. Stubby is an informative, delightful, heartwarming film. I had to dry my tears before I left the theatre.

Sgt. Stubby opens at cinemas in South Africa on 14 September 2018.

#filmfinity #sterkinekor

 

 

Beginning and Ending a Year of Books

Last year I blogged about reading lists and enjoying the curl-up-in-bed book All the Light We Cannot See http://bit.ly/2CuB8vJ by Anthony Doerr. I mentioned being surprised at how many books I’d read in just a few weeks. Keeping lists can do that for you.

I start 2018 similarly surprised by how many books I managed to read last year.

Some of those include: Bloodlines by John Piper, Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Gospel Boldness by Rod Thomas. Rod is a Christian missionary in Japan and it is clear that his book Gospel Boldness flows from his work in that country. He encourages Christians to confidently share the gospel, saying that clarity in this area is ennabled by God’s Spirit and is something that can be cultivated. Bloodlines by John Piper is an honest and thought-provoking discussion on the gospel of Jesus Christ and racism. ‘The achievement of the cross [on which Jesus died],’ says Piper ‘in reconciling all ethnic groups through faith in Christ is part of how the work of Christ on the cross magnifies the greatness of God’s grace.’ Piper urges Christians to abstain from partiality and to support God’s plan to gather a diverse and unified redeemed people.

I appreciated Questioning Evangelism for its fresh approach to engaging people in respectful, intelligent discussions about Jesus. Newman is funny and supports genuineness, caring and listening – the antithesis of the one-size-fits-all, in-out, disrespecting sales pitch approach to people I have seen in the past.

But my favourite (and only fiction) book on this list has to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005). This is my second reading and I relished it perhaps more the second time around. The narrator (death) is well-developed, the characters perfectly individual, the descriptions unusual, and the subject matter (Germans who didn’t support what the Fuhrer was doing in WWII) deeply touching. The style is such that you simply cannot get lost, or confused. The short sentences and chapters make for easy reading, and even though the narrator explains what is to come before it happens, these revelations don’t spoil the story. I cried as my eyes raced across the pages and as my heart ached for Papa, Mama, Rudy, Max and Liesel. The Book Thief is on the shelf of my bookcase reserved for lifetime favourites.

The Book Thief was my last read of 2017, All the Light We Cannot See my first. How interesting that both had WWII as their subject, and children as their protagonists.

I look forward to my 2018 reading material. Here’s to a fruitful 2018 of books!

Mr. Morgan’s Last Love is just too depressing

I have noticed in recent films a welcome focus on relationships other than the romantic; friendship and filial love have both been highlighted. Mr. Morgan’s Last Love focuses on the latter, although not with enough depth to make it a good movie.

In this story we see retired American philosophy professor Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) developing a friendship with young, free-spirited dance teacher, Pauline Lauby (Clemence Poesy). Matthew is a lonely widower mourning the death of his wife, Joan. Joan loved France and it is because of her that Matthew continues to live in Paris after her death despite his not being able (or willing) to speak French and despite his adult children Kate (a brusque Gillian Anderson) and Miles (Justin Kirk) living in the USA.

Matthew meets Pauline by chance on the bus one day and this warm-hearted young woman readily welcomes him as a friend. An unusual relationship develops, with both welcoming the other into their very different lives. When a depressed Matthew tries to take his own life Pauline and his children rush to his bedside. Miles especially has a rather tortured relationship with his father while Pauline sees in Matthew the father figure she lost long ago. All three learn lessons about themselves and each other as they make meaningful connections along the way.

Despite these deepening attachments Matthew remains depressed throughout – shown starkly in a pile of unmoved, unread newspapers in his apartment.

I found this relentless gloominess tiresome, a feeling not even the lovely Clemence Poesy or the appealing foreign setting could lift. Michael Caine’s American accent was just horrible and I was rather glad when Mr. Morgan’s Last Love was over.

Mr. Morgan’s Last Love opens at Cinema Nouveau Theatres in South Africa on 12 September 2014.

 

Michael Caine and Pauline Clémence Poésy in Mr Morgan's Last Love. Photo: supplied by Ster Kinekor

Michael Caine and Clémence Poésy in Mr Morgan’s Last Love. Photo: supplied by Ster Kinekor

Mr Peabody and Sherman – an animation for adults too

A review by Brenda Daniels

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a clever, funny, children’s animated adventure film. It contains fun science fiction elements, historic and educational features, and a modern setting with relationships. The 3D format makes for enjoyable viewing.

Based on a 1960s animated TV series, the story features an impossibly intelligent little dog as the title character, Mr. Peabody. Sherman is Mr. Peabody’s (human) adopted son. A scientist extraordinaire, Mr. Peabody has invented a time machine which he and Sherman use to visit past eras.

So we see them making a trip to an anti-royalist France and to ancient Troy and Egypt. They meet famous people like Marie Antoinette, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more. These excursions provide a wealth of education for Sherman, and the audience, and are a source of clever humour adults will pick up on.

Far from being a socially inept genius, however, Mr. Peabody is also into hip hop dancing, sword fighting, cocktail mixing – you name it; he can do it. And when it comes to looking after his son, Mr. Peabody is just as “human” as the rest of us. He worries about Sherman attending school for the first time. In fact it’s on Sherman’s first day at school that the story really begins.

After a rather sorry encounter with a mean school girl called Penny, Sherman and his dad are launched into an exciting adventure. The ensuing action sees them battling a collision of the past and present, dealing with modern school politics and personalities, and facing off the complications in their own relationship.

The film is rated PG and runs for an entertaining one and a half hours. As an adult I thoroughly enjoyed the clever humour and original mix of genres. Older children who like something a little meaty will enjoy the educational aspects, parcelled as they are in adventure and funny relationships. Very little children will miss the meaning in the dialogue.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens today, 20 March, at NuMetro cinemas (3D) in South Africa.

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons