gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Foreign

“But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

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“I looked around at the stately villa, the murmuring fountains and, yes, even at the overgrown grass. Rome had its issues. The degradation was real. But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

I have to remind myself to admire the beauty in my surroundings, even if it’s not always initially apparent to me. I also have to be reminded to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that I might encounter unexpectedly. This New York Times article about Rome by Jason Horowitz resonates with me since I was born in Rome and lived there for the first eight years of my life. But I have to say, in disagreement with the author, I always found it beautiful and never wanted to leave. Rome was the best playground a child could ask for. But I will say, now that I live in Chicago, IL, I resonate with the author’s notion that we must seek to see the beauty even in the chaos or dilapidation that’s around us. I love Chicago as a city for all that it has to offer, but at the same time, the city just gets me down on a daily basis. Relying on public transportation for your commute isn’t easy, especially in the dead of winter. The hustle bustle lifestyle with everyone scurrying around in a hurry and forgetting to be nice to one another just isn’t for me. I find myself craving a much more laid-back kind of life. The architecture downtown juxtaposed next to Lake Michigan is beautiful, but other parts of the city that tourists don’t see where the average Chicagoean actually lives can be dirty and graffiti-stricken. So, faced with all this unpleasantness of city life, I often struggle to find the beauty that I once so admired about Chicago.

 

Horowitz’s evaluation of various neighborhoods in Rome as he searched for an apartment all over the city reminded me to try to appreciate the little intricacies and charms that each neighborhood of Chicago holds, especially since I don’t get to see them everyday. I like how different each neighborhood is and how diverse the city is. So maybe what I need to do, taking a lesson from Horowitz, is take the time to visit different neighborhoods, as he explored Rome, and experience each one for the unique things it has to offer. And maybe I just need to take a harder look at the small things in my everyday encounters with the city to remind myself what makes Chicago the beloved city that it is by so many.

 

 

A little voyage to Paris

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“Three Perfect Days in Paris” by Boyd Farrow

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I was on a plane last week, one of my least favorite places to be since flying makes me anxious, but this article about Paris that I came across in the Hemispheres magazine made it much more enjoyable. And although flying makes me nervous I have to say I love watching the landing as we’re approaching the destination and I don’t think it’s necessarily solely because I know I’ll soon be safely on the ground; it’s just such a cool view from up there. Anyway, I was completely engrossed in this article and the flight was more pleasant because of it. I went to Paris one summer when I was in high school and it is every bit as magical as Boyd Farrow recounts in his travelogue. It definitely transported me back to my visit there and makes me want to go back to go to some of the places he mentions. And how about the photographs…I especially like the one of the three Parisians basking in the light of their beautiful city. They look like characters from a French movie (Jules et Jim by François Truffaut,  The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci, and Band of Outsiders by Jean-Luc Godard come to mind). I’m just waiting for them to break into that infamous dance scene at the cafe in Band of Outsiders. 

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These are some of my favorite quotes from the article to give you a sampling of the delight that’s in store for you:

“I sit down with my giant cheese and watch as people file in and light votives or stealthily angle their phones for the ultimate shot: a selfie with Jesus.”

“By the time we leave, I’m so relaxed I hail a cab standing in the middle of the street. The driver looks terrified. Now, if I could only remember where I put my room key.”

“Everywhere here has a real community feel. You tend to keep an eye on your neighbors’ kids; you know your butcher, baker, and florist. In most big cities, people don’t live like that anymore.”

“In Jacques Genin’s showroom-size chocolate shop on lively Rue de Turenne, a loved-up couple agonizes over a chocolate display as if choosing an engagement ring. I’m agonizing too, over how many kirsch caramels I dare take from the sample jar.”

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And I just love the way the article ends, tying in the iconic kiss photograph by Robert Doisneau. So romantic…

“As I thread my way through the crowd, a young Frenchwoman bumps into me, spilling wine down my shirt. Being English, I apologize. She smiles, kisses my cheek, and disappears. Okay, so it’s not a Robert Doisneau moment, but it’s not a bad way to say goodnight to the city—the Eiffel Tower to the west, its sparkling light show reminding us that the clock has just struck 12.”

I’ll stop here so that you actually read the full article because it’s such a treat! Thank you, Boyd, for transporting us to the magic that is Paris.

 

The Devil’s Mistress

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The Gene Siskel Film Center is currently running a Czech Film Festival, which is exciting for me because my mom is Czech. The other night I went to see The Devil’s Mistress, which is a true story about a Czech actress who goes to work in Germany and has an affair with Hitler’s right-hand man, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler’s character is, of course, frightening and awkward, but well-played. The movie is melodramatic, but the starlet, played by Tatiana Pauhofová, is stunning and charming. Her flirtatious spirit is disturbing at times, as she knows she can use it to get what she wants, and the way she falls in love with Goebbels is shocking given his political affiliation and stature. I have to say I much prefer the actor she has a passionate affair with who she leaves for Goebbels, but the heart wants what it wants I guess…

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The setting of all the scenes is beautiful, as well as the scenery, especially the modern house Lida buys for her parents. All based on true events, it was an interesting historical lesson for me, in addition to being entertaining and visually engaging. Hearing the Czech language was so nostalgic for me and I was surprised by how many words I could understand based on what I’ve picked up listening to my mom speak to my grandparents over the years. I only wish there had been a little less dialogue in German and a little more in Czech!

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Paris Can Wait

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Can Paris wait? I think most of us would agree it cannot. This consensus that I’m assuming is shared among those in the plot of the new movie starring Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait. Reminiscent of another travelogue starring Lane, the popular Under the Tuscan Sun, this genre really seems to suite her well. She is a classic beauty and there is a carefree, sexy ease about her that makes her the perfect travel companion, even if only through a screen. You hardly see any shots of Paris but at the very end because the movie traces the fragmented journey to Paris, but the places they stop along the way are points of interest in their own right. Lane’s trip to Paris is not with her husband, as one might imagine, but with her husband’s business partner who happens to be a Frenchman, played by Arnaud Viard. Need I say more about the fact that he’s a Frenchman and all the stereotypes that go along with that…he is charming, flirtatious, spontaneous, a womanizer, and let’s just admit, a little selfish. Despite all this, there is a genuine connection between him and Lane, which makes her feel appreciated and desired in a way that she hasn’t felt by her husband in a long time. Classic…

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The movie is full of scenes of delectable food and artistic shots of whatever Lane sees that she’d like to capture with her old school digital camera. She certainly does have an eye for composition of the unique things she comes across on her trip. There are sad moments as you learn more about Lane’s life, and there are funny moments as she saves the day when their car breaks down on the way to Paris. What I particularly liked was her relationship with her daughter (who we never actually see) because it reminds me of my relationship with my parents – we share the same name, we are both only children, and we are both very close to our parents.

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The movie definitely accomplishes evoking travel envy, as I left wanting to take a similar trip, even full of all the obstacles. I also love Lane’s summery linen outfit (seen in all three of these pictures), as well as her seductive evening dresses. Usually Paris can’t wait, but I suppose it can if it means going on a spontaneous adventure like this one.

“One Kiss”

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The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago was running a European Union Film Festival for the month of March and I took full advantage. I went to see eight movies and I was sad that I didn’t make it to more, but I beyond enjoyed the ones I did see. I loved many of them, but there was one that stuck out to me for its existential authenticity and realistic portrayal of what it is to grow up during your teenage years and navigate the nightmare that is high school. It was an Italian movie called One Kiss directed by Ivan Controneo.

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The protagonist, Blu, played by Valentina Romani, who is relatively new to the acting world, did a marvelous job of taking on a difficult role filled with teenage frustration, as she has to learn to maneuver around the limitations placed on us by others during those high school years that can be so challenging for people to overcome. What helps her overcome this is a friendship she forms with a new kid at school, who happens to be gay, and waltzes in like he owns the place in dramatic fashion. They then take on a shy, quiet guy under their wing and the three of them have adventures akin to those of Jules, Jim, and Catherine in Truffaut‘s Jules et Jim, and Matthew, Theo, and Isabelle in The Dreamers. These parallels are quite obvious, as the three of them dance several choreographed pieces recalling the famous dance in the cafe in Jules et Jim, and run through their high school hallways like Matthew, Theo, and Isabelle run through the Louvre in Paris, in The Dreamers, which is in itself a parody to Jules, Jim, and Catherine running through the Louvre in Jules et Jim.

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Their adventures remind you of everything you ever wanted to do in high school but were too embarrassed to do because you were afraid of what others might think of you. But Blu and her two partners in crime just don’t give a f**k and prove how much fun you can have if you liberate yourself enough carry out your wildest dreams. The soundtrack is stellar which only intensifies the freedom they exert, as well as the freedom you feel while watching them and living vicariously through them, even if only for a couple hours for the duration of the film.

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The three of them don’t live in such a free, happy state all the time though. These moments of bliss are definitely interspersed with the hardships they face, which are truly painful. And at the end of the movie there is a shocking finale that had much of the audience jump in their seats and gasp a sigh of terror. Despite this, it is a beautiful movie about what it is to grow up and it will surely become an Italian classic for a younger generation.

The sweetest voice

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I went to see a Mexican/American movie recently, Everybody Loves Somebody, and this song was playing at the end during the credits and I just couldn’t get over the sweetness of her voice. I wish I knew what she was saying, but nevertheless, I am loving this song 🙂

When you host a naked party, but you’re the only one who’s naked…

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This was the setting of the most bizarre and comical scene in Toni Erdmann, the German film that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year. It did not win, but the dry humor that prevails throughout definitely makes it a good contender. It’s a very long film, which I wasn’t prepared for, rounding out at about 2 1/2 hours, and its slowness makes it feel even longer. I almost left at one point because it started to drag on, but thank god I didn’t because at about the two hour mark, this scene of humorous hysteria ensued.

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The main character, Ines, hosts a buffet lunch at her apartment for her consulting colleagues in an effort to encourage team-building. The naked component of the luncheon is not exactly planned, but as Ines has trouble adjusting her tight dress right as the first guest rings the doorbell, she impulsively decides to answer the door naked after she struggles to get out of her dress. First a friend arrives, who then leaves because she does not agree to strip down, followed by her boss, assistant, and other colleagues. As they’re awkwardly standing around naked, Ines’s dad, who is the primary source of comedy throughout the movie, shows up in a looming, furry costume. While those at the party are mostly disconcerted by his appearance, it somehow brings Ines and her father closer together after a tumultuous relationship.This whole scene is carried out in a completely serious manner with everyone maintaining straight faces as if colleagues standing around naked at a party is perfectly normal, which is what makes the entire audience LOL!

Lost and Beautiful

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I recently saw a new Italian film, Lost and Beautiful, by Director Pietro Marcello. An ode to Italian neo-realist film, it is a slow-moving film with sparse dialogue and stunning visuals of the Italian countryside. It is told from the perspective of a buffalo calf that we see grow up into an adult buffalo, which is thought to have the power of speech by one of the film’s characters. This power of speech is what saves the buffalo from slaughter early in its life, and what it allows it travel nomadically throughout the Italian countryside.

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A stately abandoned villa is also a central subject of the film, which, in the care of a dedicated groundskeeper, survives total oblivion.  It is not entirely clear where the plot line is headed throughout the film, but the tragic end, at least in my mind because I am so fond of animals, culminates in the beloved buffalo being sent to the slaughterhouse. Though a very sad and melancholic movie, it is worth the watch simply for it’s stretching of time, which affords the opportunity of contemplation while watching something that is visually enriching.

Arthur Frommer on the healing power of traveling to Europe

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As often happens in my household, old papers, magazines, and brochures pop up because my mom is constantly going through things in an effort to downsize. I recently came across a travel magazine entitled “Planning Your Trip: Europe ’95.” That’s right, it’s from 1995. In it is an article by travel expert Arthur Frommer on his love for traveling to Europe because of its restorative power. I strongly identify with what he has to say, as I also find traveling to Europe rejuvenating, and just a few lines will give you a sense of why:

Some people take pills to restore their energy. I go to Europe. Some people go out dancing to lift their spirits; I go to Europe. To me, a week or so in the Old World is a restorative more powerful than any regiment of diet, medicine or exercise ever devised. It does me good to turn my back for a time on familiar scenes, and head for the gentler, slower, more traditional life of Europe. 

He goes on to talk about the old world charm, which more than simply being an endearing quality of Europe, actually truly connects us with history in a way that we cannot experience in the U.S. because of its young age compared to Europe – “This communing with the past – so much a part of the European travel experience – provides solace, and a sense of human connection and continuity that awes me.”

Featuring a picture of Café de Flore in Paris, one is reminded of the slowness of life in Europe and the afternoons spent at the café with an impeccable espresso or cappuccino and good conversation.

 

Christmas cheer 2016

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Santa babe

Scandinavian mantel decorations

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What a cute couple

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Slouched in slumber after Christmas dinner (btw, our cats love cuddling with these bears…it’s hilarious!)

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Our Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from all over the world

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Swedish horses skirting the tree