Friday, August 2, 2013

My Log 369: Back In Montreal, catching up on the dreadful news around the world, and revelling in old Bogart movies

--> Well, I am back home in Montreal after three months in Dubrovnik, have settled into my new hours of waking and sleeping, and in the week I have been here have been mostly watching movies on TV. I notice we have a new mayor --- let’s see, how many is that since I moved here in September? Three, I think --- the interim mayor who took over in the wake of resignations caused by scandals about payoffs, having himself been felled by some similar problem.
It seems that the main excitements going on in the world at the moment are in Egypt, where a governmnt elected under a faulty constitution, weighted towards religious involvement in politics, was overthrown by the army after a week or two of immense public protests. In other words, the government headed by Morsi was monumentally inefficient, at one level, and at the other was riddled with favoritism,with right-wing, pro-religious bias, and was detested by the very people who thought they had created a revolution that brought it to power.

The idea when Morsi was thrown over wss that a serious effort would be made by a group of the best minds to create a better constitution, which, among other things, would probsbly forbid the mixture of religion and politics in the affairs of the state; after which a new election would be held. One prescient comment I read at the time suggested this even sounded the deathknell for religion in politics throughout the world.

But Morsi’s supporters --- a short-hand way of saying the people who rave for religion to dominate the state --- have been camping out, vowing not to stop until Morsi is reinstated.  Since it is quite clear Morsi is never going to be reinstated, these people can be accused of putting their religion above the welfare of their fellow-citizens.  But that’s only my view, and I am hostile to religion, and believe it should have no place in the affairs of any state.

Well, that’s the big thing, and it is beginning to look a bit nasty. Meanwhile, the Americans have persuaded the Palestinians and Israelis to have talks about the possibility that maybe they could have talks that might lead to the solution of their apparently irreconcilable differences.   Part of this deal is that Israel has agreed to release 104 (or is it 140?) political prisoners, among them some of the longest serving; and my question about this is, will they release Bargouti, the leader of the prisoners, and the putative leader of the Palestinians, who seems to be the only man who could lead them out of the mess into which the international community, allied to the Israelis, have led them.

Herewith ends my summary of the global situation, for the moment. Personally, among the movies I have watched have been four starring Humphrey Bogart, who, especially since his death many years ago, has emerged as almost the number one iconic  star in the history of Hollywood. I always enjoyed his movies, but was never really impressed by him until this week I saw four of them --- three I had seen before --- one after the other. He certainly had a particular quality that was practically irresistable: that flat, harsh voice, those scarcely moving lips, that shadow of the occasional smile. And that sense that he was always in control of what was happening around him, even when playing a character who was far from in control.  He was always himself, there was no confusion between him and a real actor like Daniel Day Lewis, or even like Lionel Barrymore, with whom he starred in Key Largo, but certainly he was the essence of the stardom we grew up to believe in.  I saw To Have and Have Not, (for the third time, I may say), his first film with Lauren Bacall, the young unknown star who became his devoted wife until his death, and they made a great team, wise-cracking away in jokes that, spoken by anyone else wouldn’t have been considered even amusing, yet jokes that brought a smile to my face, and a chuckle to my lips.. “If you need me,” said Bacall, in one of her more famous ines, “Just whistle.” Going out the door, she turned and added, “You know how to whistle don’t you? Just put your lips together, and blow.” Lovely.

I just finished my week by mistakenly ordering up from Netflix Woody Allen’s film To Rome With Love. I had forgotten I had seen it, and not so very long ago. Once again I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the scenes in which Allen, playing a washed up theatre director, persuaded  a man he met who was a funeral director that he had such a wonderful voice he should try out for the stage.  Since he was at his best when singing in his shower, Allen’s big idea was to bring the man on, even in the mddle of an opera, in his shower. Corny as hell, I must admit, but funny.  I loved the stuttering performance of Allen himself as an old man, wracked, as always, by nervous ticks and uncertainties; and also that of Canada’s delectable Ellen Page as a young actress who was full of shit, if you will pardon the expression, and who gave expression to her basic phoniness in the most winsome, winning way; and of Penelope Cruz, resplendent in a short, short dress that gave us a long look at her gforious legs, playing the role of a call girl who mistakenly turned up to seduce a young man just married but whose wife had, fortuitously, wandered off to look for a hairdresser. While the wife fell into the clutches of an ageing roué of an actor, and ended up making love to a gangster who invaded a bedroom she happened to be half-dressed in (her rationale was, “I’ve never made love to a criminal”),  Cruz set to work to teach her husband something about love-making. 

Altogether a hell of a lot of fun, this movie, and fun is something in short supply in this over-charged, manically violent, psychotic, impossible  world.

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