London Film Festival Concludes

Image from American Beauty
Kevin Spacey in American Beauty

So, the London Film Festival has concluded. In spirit of this wonderful art form and without the privilege of attending the festival, I had my own little film festival. My festival worked like so: notepad, pen, bed and film…and of course the disapproving boyfriend, who can’t seem to comprehend why I can no longer watch a film without having to scribble in my notepad.

‘I thought you blogged about fashion?’

To be honest…so did I? I do! I blog about anything creative and inspirational… Strangely I seem to have flocked like a moth to a flame, with this whole blogging about film…(but that’s another post for another time).

So, in tone with the London Film Festival I watched a film a night – my intention was to watch all the popular must sees that I haven’t seen or forgotten and those currently dominating the cinemas. So, I started with The Help, Drive, Crazy Stupid Love – which I have blogged about individually, and then I randomly selected a number of  mostly great films, some not worth mentioning at all.

A Stream of Consciousness…

…Inspired by:Kevin Spacey

Ayesha’s Film Festival begun with a number of films starring Kevin Spacey, starting with Iain Softley‘s K-Pax, 2001.  I am yet to watch a Kevin Spacey film that I haven’t found enjoyable. He brings a certain density and texture to his characters and the films I have watched him act in. This ‘tone’ I refer to is particularly prevalent in films like Pay It Forward, in which he stars in with Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt and of course the miraculous American Beauty. In fact it was American Beauty that truly made me recognise my profound respect for Spacey. American Beauty may have also been my introduction and appreciation of REAL film. I suppose it made me realise how intrigued I am by the human condition. After watching the film maybe one hundred times, I wrote my very own terrible screenplay, inspired by the film.

Once discovering my admiration for character driven plot, I went on to explore an endless list of world film. I also watched a selection of other films starring Kevin Spacey, including John Swanbeck’s The Big Kahuna, with Danny DeVito. The film is predominately shot in a hotel room. Spacey and DeVito play two salesmen. The film features some amazing dialogue and a soundtrack that has stuck with me, Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, ever since I watched it two years ago. In fact…I think The Big Kahuna definitely deserves its own blog post (I’ll get onto that).

I then watched A Time To Kill, with Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L Jackson and Sandra Bullock. This is a particularly important film to me. I discovered it when I was studying To Kill a Mockingbird for my GCSE’s. During the summer of 2000, I watched A Time to Kill possibly twice a day. I dissected the film shot by shot and learnt it line for line…It might be apt here to reveal…if I haven’t already, that I have a particularly addictive personality. Towards the end of my ‘A Time to Kill’ stint, I was just forwarding the film to my favouritse scenes or lines. And many shots of McConaughey’s ripped torso.

Although Kevin Spacey isn’t a protagonist in A Time to Kill, and although each time I watch the film I hate his character more and more, his court room scenes are absolutely spectacular. When an actor can evoke such hate in you, they’re definitely on to something. Naturally, I can’t help be drawn to Spacey for other reasons besides his acting. As an aspiring playwright I am particularly fond of his directorship at The Old Vic and even moreso I respect his ability to remain obscure from the press.

So…I suppose this little stream of consciousness, totally inspired by Kevin Spacey, is my homage to him and all of the films he makes a presence.

Inspired by: The Boondocks Season 4

Welcome to The Boondocks

Huey Freeman from The Boondocks
Huey Freeman from The Boondocks

Amongst the myriad of skilfully and intricately animated graphic novels and witty comic strips there is one that seems to literally be tearing the American public apart with its social satire on race relations in America.  Regardless of the constant disapproval, censorship, hate mail and rebuttal the comic generates, it is an undying success and continues to prevail.

On the second of May 2010, the pioneering and revolutionary comic strip, The Boondocks aired the first episode of the third season on American TV channel, Adult Swim. The return of the show after a two and a half year break was heavily awaited amongst fans and just as much dreaded by those opposing. The opening titles read ‘an episode that takes us back to the election of our nation’s first black president…’ The episode acted as a documentary that explored the power of the electoral campaign amidst Woodcrest (fictional town) residence. The German interviewer of the episode remarkably took the voice of Werner Herzog (the German film director and screenwriter whose films often feature superheroes with unattainable dreams, this collaboration sat in perfect alignment with the episode.

‘It was a veritable loaded gun (as many Boondocks episodes are), aimed at blasting the hype that surrounded Obama’s presidential win in 2008,’ says Tom Surette, staff writer for The disapproval and enthusiasm that would surround this episode was as exciting as the show itself. Moments after the show broadcasted Facebook patrons, bloggers and online writers began a whirlwind of deliberation. Many fans thought it to be the best episode yet, while others felt it was too critical of Obama. The political cartoonist and creator of The Boondocks, McGruder had done it again, provoking the thoughts, confronting the situations and creating the debates that nobody really wants to explore – at least not in the eye of the public. The Boondocks may very well be guilty of documenting the most honest cultural and political analysis of the presidential electoral campaign and its impact on American society to date.

Thirty five year old Aaron McGruder created The Boondocks in 1996 while attending the University of Maryland where he studied African American Studies and where the initial Boondocks comic was published, in the university’s student newspaper, The Diamondbacks. The Boondocks is set in a fictional middle class, white suburban town named Woodcrest, centralised around the Freeman family; Huey aged ten, Riley aged eight and their grandfather, Robert Freeman. Huey and Riley have moved to white suburbia from Southside Chicago to live with their grandfather, where they attend a ‘very strict and very white oppressive’ school named, aptly, J Edgar Hoover (1) – this is where the strip begins.

The show satires prominent events and figures in American society against the back drop of black socio politics; George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Lil’ Wayne, R. Kelly and Martin Luther King are to name a few of the famous figures McGruder has lampooned. He approaches delicate and controversial issues like Hurricane Katrina, Nine Eleven, the rape trial of R. Kelly and the ambiguity of use of the ‘N’ word. Many of the impressionable and ignorant characters use the ‘N’ word, and in selective episodes such as the Jimmy Rebel episode, so excessively it is hilarious (ashamedly so, maybe). Mike Lee Richmond, political radio talk show host at 90.1fm and a general fan of the comic, known for broadcasting shows that discuss many of the prominent Boondocks episodes says, ‘I have no issue with him using the word or explaining why he does so*. Satire is a comical reflection of what the writer sees in society, he is clearly pointing out our loss of self. He’s not trying to entertain us all the time, he is trying to send the message that we are losing what we fought so hard to gain.’ It is important to note that when the characters swear in the cartoon, these are always bleeped out – this technique emphasises McGruder’s reasoning of the use of the N word.

Like The Boondocks, McGruder was born into a middle class family in Chicago, at age six Aaron and the McGruders, consisting of Aaron, his parents and older brother Dedric, who also works as a political cartoonist, moved to middle class suburban town Columbia, Maryland, where McGruder was the student of what he describes as a ‘very strict, very, very white school.’ He says the two years spent at this particular school were ‘the most oppressive years of my life.’ Evidently the two oppressive years at McGruder’s school failed to coerce him into a silence, in fact it has provided stimulus for material that has created what may cautiously be considered a genius comic strip, which speaks as loudly and clearly, with all the political belligerence and integrity of Aaron McGruder.

Before the end of 1999 McGruder secured a syndication deal which was ultimately the beginning of his fame, success and notoriety. Since then The Boondocks has emerged in over three hundred American newspapers, most of which the comic has appeared daily. Due to the comics nature newspaper editors frequently discontinued and postponed printing it. Nevertheless the newspaper medium acted as platform for McGruder to reach a much broader and varied audience and has since been adapted into the cartoon series. This has inevitably allowed the cartoon to be accessed globally across a number of video streaming sites, including Youtube.

In view of the success of The Boondocks, McGruder has become a bit of a personality, associated with both black and white public, political and celebrity figures. He is repeatedly invited to lecture at universities, which are renowned to sell out, he has been awarded the Chairman Award at the NAACP Image Awards and The Boondocks was the winner of the 66th Peabody award in 2007, for an episode which envisages the awakening of Martin Luther King. McGruder has become a celebrity in the light of the impact of his work and since his recognition has attended Hugh Hefner’s birthday party at the grotto and P.Diddy’s infamous MTV after parties. The cartoon features the voices of Samuel L Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes and is celebrated in the lyrics of conscious Hip Hop artists. It is important to note that the recognition and celebrity status McGruder may have acquired is a consequence of the quality, the intelligence and the artistic vision and conviction of his work and not vice versa. It is also important to note the rise of McGruder and the success of The Boondocks is not because the American public are enthusiastic about his work, many of the American public are somewhat adverse to McGruder, his views and or The Boondocks – but his work and the intellectual brain behind it is indisputable excellence and can evoke a strong aversion.

But what is it that makes The Boondocks such a powerful piece of art and McGruder such a powerful artist?

For those that are yet to watch The Boondocks, the Black President episode epitomises the essence of the cartoon and shows the true talent of McGruder at its best. The brilliance of McGruder is not the political events that he explores but the characters he has created and how he aligns them perfectly to each and every event; The Boondocks, although dealing with conflict ridden situations, manages to tell an astute and entirely candid discourse. ‘Aaron McGruder’s overall portrayal of black people in American culture is very parallel. Notice the things such as uncle ruckus, the self hating black man that is there to specifically point out all the faults of the black culture. Huey, who is there to show that there are some people in the culture that are willing to believe in blacks and are hopeful that something will smack the people upside their head and make them realize what is truly important in black culture, I can go on about the other common characters but I’ll leave it there,’ Mike Lee says. Of course, it is to be noted that the narrator of the cartoon and protagonist of the comic is Huey Freeman, Aaron McGruder’s alter ego – who often summarises and concludes the impact of various current affairs and their influences on society and the Woodcrest residents. Excluding this, through the perspective of very diverse and dynamic characters that represent various social characteristics, the reader or audience is able to view circumstances in their entirety, as opposed to just McGruder’s perspective.  There are many characters in the comic that are just as influential to the cartoon, who communicate vital elements of whatever the subject matter maybe just as effectively and authentically that completely conflict with Aaron McGruder and his alter ego’s political alignment.

Huey Freeman, possibly the most intelligent, socially and politically aware ten year old is introduced in the First Black President episode as a ‘Domestic Terrorist.’ Aside from his neighbour, District Attorney Tom DuBois, Huey may be the only black character that does not use the word Nigga on tap. Throughout the cartoon and comic strip Huey has a constant frown and hasn’t smiled once thus far. He is known for his conspiracy theories, his political convictions, his disdain for rap culture, capitalism, Black Entertainment TV AKA BET, which Huey has redubbed Black Exploitation TV and is tired of celebrating Martin Luther King, ‘as though he were the only black person to ever do any good.’ McGruder and Huey are also known for their disdain for Condoleezza Rice, so much so that McGruder writes her into a strip where Huey links her single status to the war on terrorism. Huey deliberates, ‘maybe if there was a man in the world who Condoleezza truly loved, she wouldn’t be so hell-bent to destroy it.’ McGruder has previously said on TV show, America’s Black Forum TV, ‘I don’t like Condoleezza Rice because of her politics. I don’t like Condoleezza Rice because she’s part of this oil cabal that’s now in the White House. I don’t like her because she’s a murderer. You know, I’m not bound by the rules of a politician or journalist. So, you know, when I say, “She’s a murderer,” it’s because she’s a murderer, and that’s all that’s necessary for me to make those statements.’

Both Huey and McGruder are in McGruders own words, ‘Cautiously pessimistic’ about Obama’s presidency, he says, ‘I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.’ In reflection of this, in The Black President episode Huey merely sits in the background watching his fellow black people campaigning for Obama, his silence is due to the fact that, ‘Nobody listens’. His lack of excitement for the black president baffles the interviewer and irks black Woodcrest residents so much so that they try to attack him. What McGruder documents in this episode is the unfortunate truth, this electoral campaign was in fact more a racial protest, more so than it was a political campaign.

‘When McCain played on Obama’s inexperience in government, people started playing the race card. The whole election was racially charged and racially fueled. People who were against Obama’s policies were either labelled racists, or uncle toms from the black perspective of things… it’s sad really, but McGruder really pulled it off nicely,’ says Mike Lee. Mike Lee believes his political views correlate with McGruder’s, he felt that McGruder documented the impact of the electoral campaign with complete accuracy, ‘Spot on,’ he says, ‘he did an excellent job showing that no one was paying any attention to what Obama was saying or rather, not saying, in regards to his policies.’

Nevertheless beyond all the excitement around McGruder’s political approach to creativity or his creative approach to politics many black media figures struggle to accept the concept as intelligent entertainment, for many the show has materialised as a degradation of black people and the cartoon and McGruder generate a following divided by conflicting views. The nature of The Boondocks isn’t entirely dissimilar to the creator’s infamous and highly controversial temperament that frequently causes uproar, offense and humiliation within both the black and white American public.

 Larry Elder, an American talk show host and great critic of the cartoon and McGruder says, ‘Aaron McGruder draws the sometimes-funny daily comic strip “The Boondocks.”… In a recent strip, two young black characters considered renaming what they call the “Most Embarrassing Black People” award. One character suggested calling the award the “Larry Elder.” An idea clicked. How about an award for the “Dumbest, Most Vulgar, Most Offensive Things Uttered by Black Public Figures”? Maybe we could call the award the . . . “McGruder.”’However, McGruder doesn’t see Larry Elder as much different to himself in their approach to their work and is well aware of the fact that in order to make changes in the world one most certainly needs money, ‘The more ridiculous shit I say that’s hurtful and hateful and racist, the more stupid rednecks will buy more books. I don’t even get mad at them, ‘cause I get what it is…He [Larry Elder] decided to be that black guy that makes money by saying things that white people want black people to say.’

‘I find it very funny that the people who have the hardest time dealing with McGruder’s satire, are the people who truly haven’t done anything productive for blacks since Martin Luther King died. Larry Elder, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton just to name a few,’ says Mike Lee. Would The Boondocks be so controversial if it had a predominately black or urban audience – like it does in the UK?  Would Larry Elder even care so much as to critique the show or strip be it obscure to the mainstream or only satire the black underclass? It could be doubted that Elder would even want to give the show any exposure, not for the refusal of contribution to the success of a highly intelligent black male, after all it’s not the success of Aaron McGruder that troubles black public figures. If McGruder were a golfer, a conformist journalist or creator of something similar to The Cosby Show he probably wouldn’t mutter a single, negative word – in fact, when boasting of black people’s achievements in the world, he might use McGruder as an example. What does anger black middle class figures like Larry Elder is the precise and acute illustration of black society in its totality, broadcasted to the public domain and put in the line of fire.

The Boondocks, heroic and defiant in its illustration of ‘blackness’ and societal, racial and political views acts as the metaphorical mirror being held in the face of American society. Exploring the lives of black people living in a country that is the supposed manifestation of Martin Luther King’s ‘blissful’ dream McGruder unveils, fortunately or unfortunately, the black social and cultural experience in all its glory and criticism. It’s authenticity, frankness and it’s no hold bars approach is what makes it a success. The Boondocks forces people to question their own actions and reactions – even if they don’t do so out loud. Should we be laughing at Uncle Ruckus’s racial verses? Should we be laughing at the poor white teacher Mr. Petto that made a slip of the tongue and called Riley a Nigga in what he thought was a term of endearment, maybe even brotherhood, confused by the various contexts and meanings? Do we ever find Huey’s subversive nature tiresome, even though knowing he is for the greater good of the race?

The Boondocks success is McGruder’s courage and his competence to illustrate the profound issues he does and his outstanding ability to tap into his audience’s mind. McGruder uses the audiences own personal perspective as an interactive part of the experience, finding identification and familiarity with the strip or particular characters is a very fulfilling instant. Watching the short twenty minute cartoon is like being on an emotional roller coaster, the sensation of The Boondocks is beyond description and worth watching or reading just for the sheer amazement at the witness of a genius.

McGruder isn’t about whitewashing blackness or making the truth obscure to anyone – he is just extremely courageous and devoted to presenting his vision with complete veracity to anyone and everyone who cares to know, regardless of their race, class or political affiliation. However, in the words of Huey Freeman, ‘Now here’s something black people have known for a couple of hundred years, niggas are crazy, now black people may not want to talk about crazy niggas in public because white people might be listening, but I’m afraid the secret might be out.’ The Boondocks Season 4 is in production.

Otis Jenkins, A.K.A Thugnificent is Woodcrest’s very own superstar rapper. ‘Otis has found success like many negro American entertainers today, by being a professional buffoon.’

(1)  J Edgar Hoover the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,and to collect evidence using illegal methods.

Drive 2011

Drive, a book by James Sallis, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling

Drive the movie by Nicolan Winding Refn
Drive 2011

An actor that is currently under my radar is Ryan Gosling. Not only because he was papped in a passionate lip lock with the stunning Eva Mendes a day or so ago, but because he appears to be the man of the moment right now. Last night, when everyone was queing to watch the special screening of The Help, I was sipping wine in the foyer, waiting to see Drive

The night before, I had watched a narcisstic, womanising, hard bodied, handsome Ryan Gosling, with that unmissable and wonderful accent – which apparently has Canadian roots, star in Crazy Stupid Love. However, Drive is a very different film and Gosling loses all his gloss for a very different kind of role.

Yet another book adapted for the screen, Drive was written by James Sallis, the film, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. By day Gosling works as a mechanic and a stunt driver for the movies, at night he is a designated heist driver. We  first meet Gosling, on the road, driving-gloved hands on the wheel, waiting for two men who have just robbed an establishment, to drive them away from the crime scene.  Once the men bundle into the car Gosling puts his foot down and takes off, swooping and careening through the streets to avoid the police. What we are treated to here, is possibly one of the sexiest driving scenes, likely to go down in  movie history (at least I hope so).

Everybody knows there’s something unmistakebly sexy about cars and the way their driven (I’m sure Nicole Scherzinger can vouch for that, as can Justin Lin and Vin Diesel). However, this is no Fast and Furious, or other such cheap thrill action films. There’s something fascinating about the calmness, the confidence and the control Gosling’s character oozes, when he’s a hold of the wheel, and most surprisingly, when he’s not…

This is a heartfelt film about a man (Gosling), who has been assigned no proper name, whose life is turned upside down when he offers to drive in a heist that goes terribly wrong. He’s providing his services out of the goodness of his heart, to a man with a wife and child that Gosling has grown fond of. Gosling and the the wife, played by Carey Mulligan, shared something special while her husband was locked up in prison. But now he’s released, his situation risks harming the family. Gosling believes his driving can help.

Gosling plays a man of very few words. He’s quiet and reserved. When he meets Mulligan, we might even be led to believe that he’s shy. We understand that he’s not impassive, particularly through the relationship he builds with Mulligan’s son.  But we also understand that, as a wheelman he’s no saint and something’s gone wrong somewhere. Well, we never learn much about Gosling’s backstory, just as we never learn his name. However, what we do learn is that he is very capable of taking care of business.

The film is intense from the word ‘go’. Incredibly gruesome and violent scenes are juxtaposed against moments when there are almost no words, just a stirring and evocative soundtrack, Kavinsky’s Nightcall, playing in the background.

Driver: If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.    

Drive Trailor

Drive – The Opening Scene


Drive – The Elevator Scene

There are many more scenes and quotes I could put on here that are mind-blowing, but I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it yet. But you must – see it.

The Help 2011

Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Katherine Stockett’s novel, The Help

Tate Taylor's The Help Movie
The Help UK Release 26/10/2011

Yesterday, West India Quay’s Cineworld had a special screening of Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Katherine Stockett’s novel, The Help. Queues backed out of the door and spilled onto the, now freezing, London streets. Thankfully I had already seen The Help and was, in fact, queuing to see Drive. However, considering I enjoyed The Help so much, I thought I should dedicate some time to write about it.

Set in 1960’s Mississippi, Emma Stone, who plays aspiring journalist Skeeter, has returned from University, where she studied a degree in Journalism. She’s inspired to write a piece that explores the relationships between white families and their black maids from the perspective of the maids, for the Jackson Journal. Skeeter, decides she wants to interview one of her friend’s maids, Abileen, played by Viola Davis.  A number of events occur, mainly stimulated by the callous behaviour of Hilly, played by    Bryce Dallas Howard, towards her maid Minny, Octavia Spencer,  that causes a cautious and dubious Abileen to speak out. It’s not long before Minny follows in Abileen footsteps.

The film takes an emotive angle, as opposed to a racial one, and reveals the relationships and love that develops between the maids and the children they care for. It’s ironic that these women and mothers trust their maids to feed their families and nurture their children, but refuse to share a bathroom with them. We are shown the struggle, the trials and tribulations the maids experience and endure in order to have the means to support their own families.

Abileen and Minny meet with Skeeter discreetly and divulge their stories working as maids. Soon enough, a troop of  local maids from Jackson Mississippi , get wind of this opportunity, which ultimately offers a chance for them to break free from their oppression, to vocalise their thoughts and express their humanity.

Skeeter’s desire to speak with the maids is of course threatening and dangerous, but the maids soon realise that this column offers hope and the possibility of change. These courageous women come together to risk their social status, their livelihood and the well being of their families to be heard and consequently to make a difference. 

The film deals with some sad and serious issues, but miraculously, unlike many other films that even remotely face racial issues, The Help doesn’t feel heavy nor weigh you down. In fact, never have I laughed so much during a film with racial concerns. It’s inspiring and uplifting.

Minny Jackson: Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life…

Minny: Eat my shit.
Hilly: Excuse me!
Minny: I said eat… my… shit.
Hilly: Have you lost your mind?
Minny: No, ma’am but you is about to. ‘Cause you just did.

BFI 55th London Film Festival 2011

The London Film Festival starts today…

Here’s a little teaser to whet your appetite.

Inspired by Leon: The Professional

Is life always this hard or is it just when you’re a kidLeon: The Professional 1994, written and directed by Luc Besson. Starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman.

After returning from dinner last night, slipping into PJ’s and hanging out in the bedroom,  my boyfriend asked me, ‘What film do you want to watch tonight?’ This is the habitual question that one of us asks the other each night we spend at home. The other always answers,  ‘I don’t know – do you fancy something old? Something funny or…?’ It can go on like this for a while, till eventually one of us loses interest. Last night my answer was, ‘I want to watch something that moves me.’ 

And, well, I most certainly was.

‘Allora, come stai Leone?’ ‘Bene’ The opening line said.

Yes! Last night I watched Leon:The Professional and yes, ashamedly, it was the first time I’d seen it. Leon, starring Jean Reno and Natalie Portman was made in 1994, written and directed by Luc Besson. Those very first few lines hooked me instantly, but the second I saw a tiny Natalie Portman, sitting in a hallway smoking a cigarette, I was completely enthralled.

There’s something I’ve always found truly bewitching about Natalie Portman – I love to watch her. But this performance completely and utterly astounded me. She was a mere thirteen when she made this film, but her acting is absolute perfection. She appears to have mastered her talent, yet she seems so natural and believable. In comparison to someone such as Dakota Fanning, who I can appreciate may have honed her talent and be a brilliant actress – but in my opinion, doesn’t seem to possess that naturalness that Portman does at this age.

In Leon: The Professional Natalie Portman plays Mathilda, a daring, loving and intense twelve year old girl, and Jean Reno plays Leon. When I asked my boyfriend what the film was about, he described it as a story of a professional hitman, but this does it no justice. Ultimately it’s a love story. Albeit, it’s hard to decipher what kind of love grows between Leon and Mathilda. Initially it appears to be a fatherly daughterly love, but their relationship evolves and at times I thought the film may have been gravitating towards something more sordid, like Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

However, regardless of the age difference between Leon and Mathilda, strangely their relationship never seems quite as tawdry as Humbert and Dolores. In fact, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments in the film where I found myself wanting Leon to admit his love for Mathilda and, admittedly, for their love to manifest. Whereas in Lolita, I detested Humbert and the entire ordeal – as you’re supposed to.

The beauty of Leon is that you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to feel. Throughout the film I longed for Leon to address their age difference, for him to tell Mathilda that they couldn’t love each other because it was wrong. Even when Mathilda has decided that she’s ready to make love to him, his only reason for not doing so is because he won’t make a good lover. This would have been the expected juncture in the film for Leon to express any form of concern he may have had about their age – but he doesn’t. 

I’m not quite sure if Leon ever officially confirms what kind of love he has developed for Mathilda. But this is what makes the film so beautiful and powerful. We all know that Leon loves Mathilda in the same way she is ‘in love’ with him, but we just want to hear it – so we can understand and decide how we, as the audience, should feel about the situation (‘should’ being the operative word). The fact that Luc Besson never gives us that satisfaction is sheer genius. Even as I write about the film this very minute, my unanswered questions still linger and I am still very much haunted by the fact that I wanted Leon and Mathilda to fall in love and ultimately – I shouldn’t have.

All the wonderful and beautiful moments from Leon

There are so many wonderful and tender moments in this film – and a lot of them take place with very little dialogue at all. It’s definitely the small details, such as the way Mathilda takes on the habbit of pouring Leon’s glass of milk for him or the way she tucks him into bed –  the only night they share a bed, that makes this film an absolute masterpiece. I’m tempted to say it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

The Trailer

“Please open the door…” Mathilda

Mathilda: I was more of a mother to him than that goddam pig ever was.

Leon: Hey don’t talk  like that about pigs. They’re usually much nicer than people.

Mathilda: They smell like shit.

“If you don’t help me I’ll die tonight. I can feel it.I don’t wanna die tonight.” Mathilda

“Let’s play a game.” Mathilda

” Leon, I think I’m kinda falling in love with you…” Mathilda

“I want love or death – that’s it…” Mathilda

“A girl’s first time is very important…it determines the rest of our lives actually…” Mathilda

 12 minutes in: “I’m sick of watching you sleep in your chair. We’re gonna share the bed.” Mathilda

You can’t love a film till you’ve seen Leon.

Leon: The Professional 1994


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Be Charmed, Stay Inspired

Rene Gruau Fashion illustration for Vogue Paris cover
Rene Gruau Cover Design for Vogue June/July 1985

When I am unispired I am as good as dead – I lose my whole sense of being. I am most excited about life, about its prospects and potential when my mind is open and switched on. I’m receptive, sponge like and turned on by everything.  However, I am  not always in this state of mind, so tuned in and turned on. There is that recurring dark cloud that forms from time to time that obstructs me from locating the point of it all. Inspiration? Art? Creativity? This blog? In this position I am cynical, destructive and above all, unhappy.

At the moment my mind is skipping ahead of me, collecting inspirations and ideas too fast for me to keep up or execute in anyway. I am losing sleep and my fingers are tingling with a desire to do something amazing. A quote from Paolo Sorrentino‘s Consequences of Love springs to mind; ‘I want to die and extraordinary death’. So, for the days that are uninspiring, when the black cloud casts itself and passion momentarily relocates itself, the posts from Charms of a Dandizette, whether it’s a quote, a film, a book or a person, should help to locate an escape route, that should lead to being inspired once again.

Be Charmed, Stay Inspired x

Good Will Hunting

Do you buy all these books retail or do you send away for, like, a shrink kit that comes with all these volumes included? Will Hunting

There’s so much dialogue I could pull from Good Will Hunting and so many one liners that are absolutely amazing, if I wrote them all in this blog post I’d probably end up rewriting the entire script. However, Matt Damon‘s monologue at the NSA interview never fails to give me goosebumps and the ‘It’s not your fault’ scene with Robin Williams never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

Interviewee: The way I see it, the question isn’t why should you work for the NSA, the question is, why shouldn’t you?

Will: Why shouldn’t I work for the N.S.A.? That’s a tough one, but I’ll take a shot. Say I’m working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I’m real happy with myself, ’cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin’, “Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area” ’cause they don’t give a shit. It won’t be their kid over there, gettin’ shot. Just like it wasn’t them when their number got called, ’cause they were pullin’ a tour in the National Guard. It’ll be some kid from Southie takin’ shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, ’cause he’ll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain’t helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin’ play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain’t too long ’til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy’s out of work and he can’t afford to drive, so he’s got to walk to the fuckin’ job interviews, which sucks ’cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he’s starvin’, ’cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they’re servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better. I figure fuck it, while I’m at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

 Good Will Hunting – simply genius.

1997 Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

A Quote byJim Jarmusch

A Quote byJim Jarmusch  on Inspiration and Imagination…

Illustration by Sahara
'Where I Live' An Illustration by Sahara Charles

I found this quote and fell in love with it…Creative journeys can be just as masterful as the final masterpiece…

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

 Jim Jarmusch


Film List: Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen

Written and directed by Woody Allen, starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates

For the lovers of 1920’s literature, the dreamer, the romantic and anyone who just happens to adore Paris…

Midnight in Paris a Woody Allen film

Granted, this is no Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but any opportunity to slip through time and escape to an era where one can mingle with the Fitzgerald’s, talk literature with  Hemmingway and roam the streets of Paris during the roaring twenties isn’t one I’ll ever miss.

Corey Stoll, who plays Ernest Hemmingway, is a particular favourite in the film. And yes, that is Carla Bruni in the trailer!

Dialogue and Quotes

Ernest Hemmingway to Gill Pender on Writing 26:34 into the film

Hemmingway: What are you writing?

Pender: A novel.

Hemmingway: About what?

Pender: It’s about a man who works in a nostalgia shop.

Hemmingway: What the hell is a nostalgia shop?

Pender: A place where they sell old things, memorabilia and….does that sound terrible?

Hemmingway: No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.

Hemmingway to Pender on making love and fearing death 34 minutes into film

Pender: Were you scared?

Hemmingway: Of what?

Pender: Getting killed.

Hemmingway: You’ll never write well if you fear dying. Do you?

Pender: Yeah I do…I’d say it’s probably, maybe my greatest fear actually.

Hemmingway: Well it’s something all men before you have done, all men will do.

Pender: I know, I know –

Hemmingway: Have you ever made love to a truly great woman?

Pender: Actually my fiance is pretty sexy…

Hemmingway: And when you make love to her you feel true and beautiful passion and you for at least that moment lose your fear of death?

Pender: No, that doesn’t happen.

Hemmingway: I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing and when the man that is brave and true looks death squarely in the face, like some rhino hunters I know, or Belmonte who is truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds, until it returns, as it does, to all men and then you must make really good love again….Think about it.

Gertrude Stein to Pender on the Artist 101:51 into the film

Gertrude Stein: We all fear death and question our place in the universe, the artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but  to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence

More details on Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris here