Thursday, March 19, 2009

they thought God had left the museum for good

I'm reading The Madonnas of Leningrad right now; it's about a woman's memories of hiding from the Nazis in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad.

When we were at the Krakow film festival, there was a Russian filmmaker who had spliced together footage from the recently released archival reels of the siege. It was all images, little if any dialogue. It was really arresting, just one stark black and white image of suffering after another.

Last night I was reading a passage in the book where the main character and her colleagues (she's a docent at the Hermitage) are working around the clock to pack up all the artwork so it can be shipped out to safety, when I suddenly remembered the lyrics to an old Tragically Hip song, "Scared":

you're in Russia
and more than a million works of art
are whisked out to the woods
when the Nazis
find the whole place dark
they'd think God's
left the museum for good

I've listened to that song many times before, but I never realized what those lines were about until I read that passage.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grey Gardens

I'm really looking forward to the new Grey Gardens movie:

When I first saw the original Grey Gardens I was concerned that the Maysles brothers had exploited these two women by documenting their eccentricities and sad state for everyone to see. About halfway through the film I realized that Big and Little Edie actually had a lot more agency than I had originally thought, and that what was going on here was much more complex than a callous filmmaker exposing two dotty old ladies. Even though they're undeniably strange, the Edies are unwaveringly true to themselves in Grey Gardens, dramatic and wounded and defensive and joyful.

I've seen some of the stills of Little Edie in the beautiful prime of her life, and I've read about her childhood and youth, but I am really looking forward to seeing them played out in this film. In the trailer, Jessica Lange seems to be doing a fine job of Big Edie, but I think this movie will turn out to belong to Drew Barrymore. I bet Little Edie would have been delighted.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

reading The Flying Troutmans

I was the world's worst guardian of children. I was like the neighbourhood cat lady, but with kids. They were filthy, broken, and eating themselves, and soon they would feed on my old corpse.

From Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans