Monday, August 07, 2017

FILM REVIEW ~ Tale of Tales

This film is based on three tales from the Pentamerone, a 17th Century collection of folk tales, from which we also get our earliest versions of Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The Director Matteo Garone, successfully blends these three stories into one flowing narrative, and what a delightful entrancing result it is.

Retaining a lot of the original qualities of this source material, the stories are unhinged, bizarre, surreal creations that startle, entrance, are both beautiful and repulsive, whilst all the while retaining that curious logic that folk tales possess, that is all their own.  The buildings, sets, locations, costumes and effects possess  a baroque twist of exoticism, and provide the movie with both a familiarity and an other-worldliness.  There is an excellent cast of Selma Hayek, John C Reilly, Toby Jones and Vincent Cassell who bring these odd tales close to the edge of being believable.

Most of the tales involve a decision or action that has an unintended consequences for a character, usually requiring a sacrifice. They are often told half truths, where aspects of what will happen are being withheld.  A king wants to cheer up his morose queen, so he obtains the beating heart of a sea monster so a virgin can throw it into a pot of boiling liquid, all so his wife can eat it and then conceive a son in an instant, and be happy. Unfortunately the king dies in obtaining the heart, and both the queen and the virgin conceive a son, who turn out to be identical albino twins, who become inseparable and can both breath under water.

Like many folk tales they are not for the squeamish, and often have a very dark shadowy side to them. One woman who wants to appear young has her flesh cut, stretched and stuck down, whilst another has her skin flayed off.  Whilst this is to my mind not shown in a gratuitous manner it nevertheless gives the film an unnerving, yet intriguing edge, you never know quite where these stories will take you.  They remind you how life, and not just folk tales, will often punish you for your ignorance, vanity and folly.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

BOOK REVIEW ~ John M Hull ~ Touching The Rock

After many years of diminishing eyesight, John Hull, despite all the medical help he was receiving gradually lost any vision in the one remaining eye that had been functioning. The book Touching The Rock is an edited transcript of tapes he started recording shortly after he became blind and continued to do on a regular basis for a number of years subsequent to that.  In them he records his observations on how being blind feels, the changes to his sense of self, how his relationship to himself and others changes, the way sighted people misguidedly try to help a blind person, having to deal with well meaning spiritual healers who are sure they can restore his sight.

The book, and the dramatised documentary Notes on Blindness which is based on it, are truly beautiful things to read and to see. Personal and intimate, whilst also observing his predicament with some detachment and insight, his words often tinged with an underlying spiritual impulse. His religious views are a bit too Christian to move or inspire me. However, as a Buddhist, it was his observations about how his blindness changed the relationship and understanding of his own self that I found the most exciting and revelatory. For these revelations alone, this book is worth reading, and it is very readable.  Here's a taster just to wet your appetite.

" I find I'm trying to recall old photographs of myself, just to remember what I look like. I discover with a shock that I cannot remember.......To what extent is the loss of the image of the face connected with the loss of the image of the Self|? Is this one of the reasons why I often feel I am a mere spirit, a ghost, a memory. Other people have become disembodied voices, speaking out of nowhere, going into nowhere. Am I not like this too, now that I have lost my body?" 

"On one of my walks, I pass beside a five-foot-high fence made of vertical metal bars. this gives way, at a certain point, to a solid brick wall. I find that if I pay attention I can tell when I have left the fence and am going along the wall. There is, somehow, a sense of a more massive presence. I gather from conversations that this experience is essentially acoustic and is based upon awareness of echoes....but at the same time it is important to emphasise that one is not aware of listening. One is simply aware of becoming aware."