A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

THE COST OF LOVING



Oh, Audrey Tautou, when will you and I get our shit together? We're a perfect couple, ready to love and be loved in return, and yet it's never the right time for us, is it? Not counting your brief romances with Jean-Pierre Jeuneut, a coupling that is so divine that even I am more than content to lose you to him if he ever decides to commit to you fully, every other time you and I encounter one another, we feel that it would be so pretty to think of ourselves together, me the Jake Barnes to your Brett Ashley, yet there is always something to keep it from happening.

For example, last night I saw your new movie, Priceless (Hors de prix), and it was decent enough, but it wasn't really good, was it? In it, you play Irene, an enchantress in a slinky dress who has made it her career to get rich men to pay her way on her permanent vacation of a life, traveling from one fancy hotel to another.. One fateful night, when her latest sugar daddy is sleeping off his raid of the minibar, Irene meets Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a hotel employee she mistakes for a wealthy suitor. They have a night of passion, and then she leaves, only to return a year later (paging Alain Resnais; Mr. Resnais to the front desk, please). She and Jean find each other again, only this time she is caught, and her old moneyman breaks off their engagement. This would be fine if Jean was whom he claimed to be, but since he is not, Irene has to find a new gravy train. Jean wishes to make amends, and he is also in love with her, and both of these things get him in trouble. Before he knows it, he becomes a gigolo, and he and Irene are working the same hotel, conspiring together, and falling in love.

My problems with Priceless are much like my problems with Leatherheads, in that the movie's main failing is in tone and pacing. Writer/director Pierre Salvadori (Apres Vous), along with regular co-writer Benoit Graffin, have the makings of a true romantic farce here, yet they seem almost embarrassed to raise it up to the energy level that they need to, like they have bought into some cliche of what it means to be serious French cinema, forgetting that France is the country of Moliere and thus culturally wired for the farcical. Thus, Priceless is, at times, maddeningly dry and slow, when it should be sparkling with joie de vivre.

You're marvelous in the movie, Audrey, I don't want to understate that. You have an amazing screen presence, and you have never been sexier or more glamourous in a movie. Priceless rests entirely on your shoulders, and you do your best to carry it. In the film, your character teaches Jean how to seduce, and the one thing Salvadori gets right is understanding that his lead actress is also meant to seduce the audience. The fact that I enjoyed it more the farther into the running time we got is down to your flirtations--and, to a lesser extent, Elmaleh's. On the other hand, a large part of what is wrong with Priceless is also Elmaleh. His character takes too long to transform from socially awkward dope to confident hustler. Just when his performance and the writing is reaching the right pitch, when the farce should take full effect as your two characters switch roles, the movie abruptly ends. Neither the comedy nor the romance ever gets a chance to boil.

It's frustrating, Audrey, because you're always excellent in movies that are almost good, and I don't understand why you can't find more projects that would allow me to declare my love for you without reservation. Any production would be lucky to have you, because really, these almost-good movies are only watchable because you make them so. These movies are like parties where I don't like the host, the catering is bad, and the DJ apparently only heard music for the first time earlier that same day, and yet I come because I want to sit and talk with you for a while, vainly hoping that you're finally ready to commit to our love fully. I'll keep being a chump for you, I won't lie, but it is going to get harder if you don't at least engage in the pretense of making an honest man out of me.



Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley's signing at Cosmic Monkey this past Wednesday appeared to be a success. I had never met Hope before, despite my rather embarrassing and inappropriate acceptance of her Ignatz a couple of years ago at SPX. It was a good opportunity for me to pick up a copy of Salamander Dream, which I had read online but had never purchased for myself. I enjoyed it much more when I read it this time around. The story's flow is so reliant on the natural currents of Hope's art, it works far better with the more organic reader interaction that comes with being able to turn the pages back and forth, and even seeing facing pages side by side. It's a lovely little story, innocent in its way while also having more adult undercurrents for those who appreciate the maliciousness inherent in the process of growing up.

Two observations from the signing: Mal is always taller than I remember, and Hope has amazing eyelashes.

After, we all went to dinner with Oni publisher Joe Nozemack and marketing man Cori Casoni, as well as the other in-town guest Brian Hurtt, whom I also hadn't seen in a while. Good conversation, good food. Though, I don't like that Brian is talking about shutting down his sketch blog. Everyone should drop him a line and tell him to stop being an ass.

Everyone is at Emerald City now, and I have to say I am kind of glad to see the last wave of visitors roll through. Between Stumptown, FCBD, and this, it has been three weekends in a row full of comic book-related events, and despite not actually doing the two shows, I've had the same social obligations as I would if I had, and I feel like I have not been home at all. My pal Sarah Grace McCandless was also in town, and so I spent time with her, stories I will let her relate on her much funnier blog. There might also be some tales on the equally amusing blog of her friend, the writer Abby Mims, rechristened by me as Abby Mimosa. (Check the first photo in this post of Abby's; that's my future wife on the right if Audrey Tatou never becomes available. Though, really, I just want the panties, and maybe I can write a movie for Audrey to star in where she wears them and thus have the best of everything.)

This next image is by Brian Hurtt from his blog and is meant to refer to the previous mention. It should also serve as a marker to break the above from the extremely gross and totally unrelated story that is about to follow.



Sarah Grace is one of the many people who has gamely listened to me excitedly telling the story about the man who shat himself on the sidewalk on SW 4th on Wednesday, which is, naturally, the most exciting thing that happened to me all week. I am, one, most impressed by my ability to identify bodily waste on the sidewalk as being of the human variety, and two, also impressed by the sheer quantity and coverage of said waste. It was like a poo grenade! It created an obstacle course that I had to navigate. There was one curdled, melting-ice-cream plop of poo, and then poo shrapnel all around it. It looked like the culprit had let fly with his main payload and then staggered around in dizzy circles leaving a swirling Hershey-kiss trail back to grandmother's house all around this turd sundae. (Mixed metaphors of war and dairy products, with a little Grimm's thrown in!)

At this point, I didn't know for sure it was human, but something about the color and the consistency got my diarrhea sense tingling. Even if I was right, though, I would not have thought that the bomber was still in the vicinity. I certainly wouldn't have stuck around. Or, if I had, I'd be standing over my efforts proudly and loudly declaring them as my own.

My bus stop was just across the street, and while I was waiting for the 12 to take me to Cosmic Monkey, I watched as a rather large, disheveled African American man walked up to the convenience store behind me. He was in bad shape, using a one-handed walker and carrying two plastic bags full of stuff. As he got to the door, the older Asian clerk had come out of the bodega to smoke. The large man pulled out a wad of money and tried to hand the clerk a dollar bill and asked him to go inside and retrieve him a bag of chips. As he asked, the dollar fell from his hands between them. The clerk was annoyed and protested, not wanting to give up his cigarette time, but he eventually picked up the money and told the man to go pick out the chips himself.

Which he did.

And as he turned to do so, we saw it.

His sweat pants were hanging low, exposing about half of his butt crack, and there was more poop all down the back of his pants. At least as much as was on the street, actually, which only added to the shock. How could one person produce so much waste at one time?

The clerk saw this and I think he almost shat himself, too. Had he not been snotty, the crap machine would not be now walking into his store to buy Doritos. But what was he to do now? Words failed him. (And, let's pause for a second to consider that after dumping in the street, this guy wanted to eat Doritos. Wouldn't have been my first choice. I hope he avoided the Fiery Habanero flavor.)

I had my camera with me, but I could not figure out how to get photos of this crime scene without exposing myself in the process, so you're spared the horrors of the sight. Plus, my bus came before the chip buying could even be completed. It's probably for the best.

I told this to Sarah Grace, who lives in New York, where I assume these kinds of things are commonplace, but apparently they are not. I don't know why they portray New York the way they do in movies, as to talk to New Yorkers, nothing ever happens there. Like, when I visited the city for the first time ever back in 1997, within hours of arriving, I saw a man run past my cab screaming and clutching a bleeding stab wound to the torso. Both my cab driver and my friend who I was visiting freaked out, while I got excited, thinking I had just seen the Big Apple Welcome Wagon. I told this to Mike Carlin from DC Comics at lunch the next day, and he said, "I've lived here all my life and never seen that." I guess it's just me who is badass.



Current Soundtrack: Keane, Pony Club, Ludus, Crowded House, the Creation, Björk & Antony, Kylie Minogue, My Little Airport, Arctic Monkeys, the Zombies, Blur, Timbaland & the Rapture, Elvis Costello, William Bell, Amy Winehouse, Gnarls Barkley, Lily Allen, the Roots, the Mad Lads, Elbow

Current Mood: priceless!

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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich

12 comments:

Santiago said...

Audrey Tatou deos make Hors de Prix a much better movie than it should be. Your review is pretty much spotless. But I must confess that I left the movie theater smiling...

Jamie S. Rich said...

Santiago -

You had asked me what I thought of the movie weeks ago, so it was for you that I decided to write about it. The way I ended up writing about it did actually skim over the fact that I left the movie mostly pleased, too, and with that ending, you can't help but feel happy. Like I said, there is a subtle seduction going on. I just wish more of the movie was like those final scenes, essentially from right around "the pool" to the end was when things finally started moving.

Richard said...

Mr. Rich,

I just watched "La Strada" this afternoon and read your awesome analysis over at your Criterion blog. In it you wrote, "Though in his canon La Strada was film #3 1/2..." and I was wondering why you did not refer to it as his 4th film.

Before it, there was, I believe,"Variety Lights (1950)", "The White Sheik (1952)", and "I, Vitelloni (1953)."


I was just wondering if you could please explain the "and 1/2" comment.

Thank you.

Jamie S. Rich said...

Hey, Richard, welcome.

The 1/2 distinction is Fellini's. Since he only co-directed Variety Lights, he dubbed that a 1/2. The phrasing only came into play with the actual film 8 1/2.

I've actually borrowed from that recently, as my next novel I've been calling 5 1/2, classifying I Was Someone Dead as the 1/2 due to it being a novella. :)

Santiago said...

Thanks for writing the review!

BTW I just saw My Blueberry Nights, and even though I haven't seen any of Wong Kar Wai's previous films, it didn't feel like an American movie even though it has a Hollywood All-Star cast. The movie has a very slow tempo, and even though it has a happy ending of sorts, I exited the movie theater feeling nostalgic. I cannot say it was an amazing movie, but any movie that changes they way I'm feeling is a good movie in my book. I cannot wait to see his Chinese movies (and from reading your review, it seems they're even better!).

Santiago said...

(and I have to learn to say things without using "even though" so many times!)

Jamie S. Rich said...

See, that's interesting to hear, since my theory about My Blueberry Nights kind of rested on the idea that critics were reacting to it with too much prior knowledge, so it's neat to hear from someone who started with it.

I think Chungking Express is easily the best intro to his Chinese work, and then anything after that. His first several films are the weakest.

Abby said...

Jesus. I was just going to thank you for the shout out, (and I still do) but after reading the shat story, all I can think of is, "Two Girls, One Cup" and the fact that eventually, I'm going to have to watch it. Geez.

Thanks for the shout out! It's been 5 days and my book hasn't sold. WTF?

xo,
Abby

P.S. When I return to Hell-A I will hunt down Whale Panties for you. It's the least I can do for all the Johnny Meeker inspiration. All quiet on that front.

Jamie S. Rich said...

I kind of thought afterward that Hope Larson might not like being just above the poop story, too. Johnny Meeker should send his mom my blog, she'll love it!

Though, I suppose we should question what it means that just above the poop story I fetishize panties that has a whale squirting from its blowhole right on top of a girl's blowhole. That clearly says something about me in a grand symbolic sense.

littlebird said...

that's a crazy story. i always wondered when i'd be seeing that myself. but i am okay living vicariously through you.

Santiago said...

I'll check Chungking Express as soon as I can. Thanks for the pointer!

Sarah Disgrace said...

I've been thinking about emailing Johnny Meeker a link to Abby's blog post, but hell, it'll be more fun when he stumbles upon it organically.

I may not have personally witnessed people shitting themselves in NY yet, but I'll tell you what - I'm going to start pooping my pants in public. In the West Village. Yep. Sounds like a plan.

Jamie, you should come down to SD, if just to hang out. I think I've conned Abby into coming down and hanging around poolside with me so we can make fun of the ding dongs who wear their BADGES on their bathing suits (this is a true story, circa Comic Con 2001 I believe?)

In other news, you should check out my Sushi Wars report on my blog - Jann is my new hero. Pacific NW report coming shortly. Followed by my book proposal to my agent. Swearsies.