Friday, June 8, 2018

Anthony Bourdain R.I.P.

'Maybe that's enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.' ~ Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Michael Bourdain was born June 25, 1956, the oldest son of Pierre Bourdain, who was an executive in the classical-music recording industry, and Gladys Bourdain, who was a long-time copy editor at The New York Times. He grew up outside New York City, in Leonia, N.J., and his parents exposed him to fine cuisine, taking him often to France, which is where he first became conscious of food. When he was in fourth grade, on a family vacation to France aboard the Queen Mary, he sat in the cabin-class dining room and ate a bowl of vichyssoise, a creamy mix of leek and potato. What surprised him was that the soup was cold.

'It was the first food I enjoyed and, more important, remembered enjoying,' he wrote in his memoir 'Kitchen Confidential'. He did not remember much else about the trip.'

Bourdain graduated from high school in 1973 and attended Vassar College, dropping out after two years, where he spent long nights drinking and smoking pot.

'I was — to be frank — a spoiled, miserable, narcissistic, self-destructing and thoughtless young lout.'

At Vassar, he met Nancy Putkoski (his first wife) before he left school for a chance at a culinary career. He spent a summer in Provincetown on Cape Cod with some friends. There, he started working as a dishwasher at a seafood restaurant and closely watched the cooks, men who dressed like pirates, with gold earrings and turquoise chokers.

'In the kitchen, they were like gods. I saw how the cooks and chefs behaved. They had sort of a swagger, got all the girls and drank everything in sight.' ~ Anthony Bourdain

The experience solidified his determination to make cooking his life's work. He then enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in 1975 and graduated in 1978, stepping away at times to work at restaurants in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. He started at the bottom in the kitchen hierarchy, with stops at the Rainbow Room, the W.P.A. restaurant on Spring Street and Gianni's at the South Street Seaport. In everything he did, Bourdain cultivated a renegade style and bad-boy persona. For decades, he worked 13-hour days as a line cook in restaurants in New York and the Northeast, until he reached the top in the 1990s, first becoming an executive chef at Sullivan's, the restaurant next to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, and then followed by Brasserie Les Halles in 1998, serving steak frites and onion soup in Lower Manhattan.
He had been an executive chef for eight years when he sent an unsolicited article to The New Yorker about the underbelly of the restaurant world and its deceptions. To his surprise, the magazine accepted it and ran it — catching the attention of book editors. It resulted in 'Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly', a memoir that elevated Bourdain to a celebrity chef and a new career on TV. He became an instant hero to a certain breed of professional cooks and restaurant-goers when 'Kitchen Confidential' hit the best-seller lists in 2000. He is largely credited for defining an era of line cooks as warriors, exposing a kitchen culture in which drugs, drinking and long, brutal hours on the line in professional kitchens were both a badge of honor and a curse. Bourdain was open in his writing about his past addictions to heroin and cocaine.

Before he joined CNN in 2012, he spent eight seasons as the globe-trotting host of 'No Reservations' on the Travel Channel, highlighting obscure cuisine and unknown restaurants. 'No Reservations' largely focused on food and Bourdain himself. But on 'Parts Unknown', he turned the lens around, delving into different countries around the world and the people who lived in them. He explored politics and history with locals, often over plates of food and drinks. One of my favorite episodes, I have many, when he appeared with President Barack Obama on an episode of 'Parts Unknown' in Vietnam in 2016. Over cold beers, grilled pork and noodles at a restaurant in Hanoi, they discussed Vietnamese-American relations, The President's final months in office and fatherhood. Among the ones I enjoyed more, with a certain insider feel, were the many he did in Montreal, especially with my friends from Joe Beef, David McMillan and Frederick Morin.

Bourdain was found in his hotel room at Le Chambard, a luxury hotel in Kaysersberg, a village in the Alsace region of eastern France, by long time friend Eric Ripert, himself a celebrity chef and restaurateur who appeared with Bourdain on several of his shows. Bourdain had traveled to Strasbourg in France, near the country's border with Germany, with a television production crew to record an upcoming episode of 'Parts Unknown' on CNN.

'Anthony was a dear friend, and an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.' ~ Eric Ripert

'I could not think of a better way to say goodbye.' ~ © Frank Borsellino

© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant

* photo by Alex Welsh @ The New York Times '2015 in New York City

* via The New York Times

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Courtyard in Cattolica

'Sitting under the candlenut tree in the courtyard is pleasant in the afternoon. Laced in shadows, frangipani & coral hibiscus ward away the memory of recent evil. The sisters go about their duties, Sister Martinique tends her vegetables, and the cats enact their feline comedies and tragedies.' ~ David Mitchell

* Cattolica Eraclea is a commune/municipality in the Province of Agrigento in the Italian region of Sicily, located about 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Palermo and about 20 kilometres (12 mi) northwest of Agrigento... in close proximity to Platani river valley.
The town was founded in medieval times. It received the name 'Eraclea' in 1874, associating it to the ancient site of Heraclea Minoa nearby. The economy is based on agriculture, including production of vine, olives, fruit, almonds, cereals and wheat.

± Namaste ±
© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant

Friday, May 25, 2018

'Hemingway & Gellhorn' (2012)

'The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.' ~ Ernest Hemingway

'Hemingway & Gellhorn' is a study in the art of machismo... just as much from a woman as from a man. This film dramatizes the volatile coming together and falling apart of the famous novelist and his third wife. Martha Gellhorn, a renowned war correspondent and the only one of his brides who was also a fiction writer. The film is a big-name affair, with Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman in the leads. Philip Kaufman ('Rising Sun' (1993), directing a screenplay by Barbara Turner ('Pollock' (2000), 'Georgia' (1995), and Jerry Stahl ('Bad Boys II' (2003), executive produced by James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), and based on Martha Gellhorn's memoirs. At the outset of this explosive new film an aged but still feisty Gellhorn recalls how she was more interested in chasing battle action around the world than in pleasing her man in the boudoir.

She adds, 'There are wars, and then there are wars!'

Especially when one is involved with the ever-mercurial Ernest Hemingway, as Gellhorn was to learn over her intense romance and subsequent four-year marriage to the man. Really hard to say what was more life-threatening for Gellhorn: the Spanish Civil War or grappling with the demons of Papa Hemingway.

To be sure, it's practically impossible to re-create with complete accuracy an actual person, and biopics are typically deformed by the need to cover a lot of ground in short order, as one crisis follows quickly upon another, characters can seem both abnormally intense and insufficiently motivated. Kidman benefits from Gellhorn's relative obscurity in creating her, of course; the original person matters less. And yet given the unknowability of even as public a figure as Hemingway, there are as many plausible ways to play him as to play Hamlet, but Clive Owen delivers a stellar performance... down to the extra pounds he packed on, apparent in all those sex scenes. One doesn't need to feel that, yes, it was really like this only that it might have been. From the moment the young writer Martha, 28, sidles up to the celebrated Ernest, a decade older and covered in marlin blood, at a Key West bar -- Sloppy Joe's.

'Friend or foe?' asks Hemingway. 'Or faux friend. You never know', answers Gellhorn.... you might recall Lauren Bacall teaching Humphrey Bogart to whistle in 'To Have and Have Not' (1944).

And they're off, from Florida to the Spanish Civil War to Cuba and China and D-day, as competitors and collaborators. They meet other famous faces (the starry supporting cast includes David Strathairn as a rather too pathetic John Dos Passos and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, as documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens, Molly Parker as Hemingway's second bride, Pauline, Parker Posey as Hemingway's fourth wife, Mary, Joan Chen as Madame Chiang and Robert Duvall as an unhinged Soviet general); enact passages from future memoirs and biographies reconfigured for dramatic effect; dodge bullets and down cocktails.

'You're more of a man than most men I've met,' he says admiringly, as he fails to drink her under the table.

Kaufman, who also directed the erotic period pieces 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (1988) and 'Henry & June' (1990), puts a lot of energy into sex scenes that make Gellhorn seem like a goddess of the literary world. In a particular scene, one of my favorites, they're going at it while bombs rain down on their Madrid hotel, covering their naked bodies in plaster dust.The other scene I truly appreciated was in Cuba at the Copacabana in the dressing room. They sauntered in while the ladies were dancing … he practically dragged her, while both very intoxicated, until they found a spot hidden behind costumes and other paraphernalia. He turned her around and raised her dress … just as she was swaying to his thrusts a group of Cancan girls stormed in to change. He placed his hand over her mouth and continued pressing on… and they pulsated together in a harmonious rhythm. Kidman had this look of utter ecstasy. Delicious!
Integrating the actors' 'Zelig' style into old newsreel footage, sliding from color into monochrome and back again. Sometimes, you don't notice the trick at all, but even when you do, it can be sort of charming: It gives the film a kind of picture-book quality not out of step with its self-dramatizing subjects.

Yet in spite of his wild chauvinistic ways, something about the freethinking and alluring Gellhorn charms him. Hemingway is smitten, for a spell, until Gellhorn proves to be a tad too independent and not so subservient. Then Papa gets angry, and you won't much like Papa when he's angry. He gets really blitzed... ornery and self-centred. Papa is no one's notion of politically correct. But it isn't just self-aggrandizing bravado when he declares himself to be the greatest wordsmith in America. It’s hard to take that away from him. The returns in their relationship eventually diminish: The student outlives her need for the teacher, who derides her as 'Little Miss Human Interest'. It turns out that he's the conventional one who needs a base and a gang; she's the footloose free spirit who wants to be where the action is.

Kidman's Gellhorn and Owen's Hemingway, as well as the others, are mostly on fire, and under fire. And when not dodging gunshots during the Spanish Civil War and the Japanese invasion of China,
Gellhorn and Hemingway are mostly engaged in personal combat – physically and mentally. But the two have something in common: a romanticized idealism. They are rebels with a cause, eager to quash fast-rising fascism, be it in Franco's Spain or Hitler's Germany. Hemingway prevails upon Gellhorn to chuck objectivity in her dispatches for Collier's Weekly.

They are also fearless, bordering on foolhardy. What else to make of their desire for some nookie while their hotel is being blitzkrieged by Franco's bombers... Or Hemingway's challenge to play Russian roulette with an equally unravelled and real Russian General (Robert Duvall). The two are also world-class tipplers. But even Gellhorn marvels how Hemingway could put away bottles of scotch, absinthe and wine at night and still take his post at the typewriter the following morning.

'Writing is like Mass. God gets mad when you miss it,' explains Hemingway, whose second bride convinced him to convert to Catholicism.

While the film focuses on the passion between Hemingway and Gellhorn, it also addresses prevailing patronizing attitudes toward women with ambition back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, which is when the film is set. Despite finding religion as well as adventure, causes, acclaim and women, Hemingway, a senior Gellhorn contends in retrospect, was rarely at peace with himself... 'He tortured no one so much as he is tortured himself.' Such was the price Papa Hemingway was willing to pay for his place in the writers' pantheon. As is abundantly made clear here.

The movie, which has concentrated more on her journey than his, gives her a kind of payback: It
jumps from their final breakup, in 1945, to a diminished Hemingway's suicide some 16 years later.
Gellhorn exits on two feet, as the older woman who has remembered this tale, grabbing her backpack
and heading out the door onto her next adventure.

© Frank Borsellino™
* From Where I Sit!
May 25, 2018

* Nicole Kidman & Clive Owen - 'Hemingway & Gellhorn' (2012) @ Copacabana, Cuba

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Movie Review - 'Out of Sight' (1998)

'Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.' ~ André Malraux

Once again I revisited an old favorite, 'Out Of Sight' (1998), not least because it stands as the most definitive example of Elmore Leonard on-screen. It has a terrific script by 'Get Shorty' (1995) writer Scott Frank. It also has a cameo from Michael Keaton, as a special task force agent, searching for escapees. In a setting that encompasses both of Leonard's traditional stomping grounds - Florida and Detroit. There is a cast of unforgettable characters double-crossing each other in a cracking plot of sex, violence and whip-smart dialogue (all directed with a career-reviving zeal by Steven Soderbergh). A deceptively tricky timeline masterfully reassembled by veteran editor Anne V. Coates (she recently passed away), whose credits include 'Lawrence Of Arabia', (1962) 'Chaplin' (1992) and 'In the Line of Fire' (1993) lays it out; bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney), in the part that set the stage for the decade and more of great work to come, as he bounced back from the disaster of 'Batman & Robin' (1997). He has busted out of jail, taking Federal Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez, in my opinion never again not even half as good as she is here) hostage in her trunk. The reason for his outbreak is he's got a final caper in mind; pinching diamonds from toupeed white-collar criminal Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks), but former prison mate Snoop (Don Cheadle) has designs on the same score as well.

With Sisco on his tail, can Jack keep his mind on the job? Or might he have found something more important? Frank and Soderbergh keep the narrative moving propulsively, but find plenty of time to stop and catch their breath with a cast of characters that might be Leonard's finest, including Dennis Farina, as Karen's dad, Steve Zahn's hapless Glenn Michaels, Ving Rhames' loyal Buddy Bragg, Catherine Keener's magician's assistant Adele, Luis Guzman's escaped con Chino, Isaiah Washington's sinister Kenneth, and even a one-scene wonder from Viola Davis. The director, relishing his second chance after having had a string of under-performing pictures, gives the film a New Wave pop, but there's a darkness and sadness here too that underlays the laugh-out-loud moments without undermining them. It's an incredible masterpiece, one of the best crime pictures of the last few decades, and to my mind, the finest Elmore Leonard adaptation I have seen, at par or maybe better than 'Get Shorty'.

Finally a film adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel that really captures the author's seedy South Floridian love of small-time hoods and big-time losers. Granted, 'Jackie Brown' (1997) mined similar territory some months back, but Soderbergh pares Leonard down to his essentials, playing around with the timeline à la Leonard, and just generally having a lighter, wackier time of it. It's gritty enough to stay true to the source material's comedy-of-despair ethos, yet solid enough to pack a punch, and in doing so it makes for one of the better heist movies in some time. Clooney, looking and acting way above par here, plays career thief Jack Foley, who in a lovingly realized opening scene finds himself in the Glades Correctional Institution after botching an endearingly simplistic bank robbery. Dismayed by the fact that he's not scheduled to see parole for three decades, he breaks out of prison and more trouble in the form of Deputy Federal Marshall Karen Sisco (Lopez), who just happened to be in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. With the help of partner Buddy Bragg (Rhames), Foley ditches Karen (but not before some serious brake-light rapport is established between the pair) and moves forward with his big plan to rob another ex-con -- insider trader Richard Ripley (Brooks) -- of a reported $5 million in uncut diamonds. When stoner car thief Glenn Michaels (Zahn, doing his best Jim Breuer impression brings him the inside scoop. Plans go awry (don't they always?) when hair-trigger Maurice ‘Snoopy’ Miller (Don Cheadle) cuts himself in on the action.

A host of terrific bit players round out Soderbergh's film: Catherine Keener turns up as Foley's ex-squeeze Adele, Isaiah Washington appears as Snoopy's psychotic brother Kenneth, an uncredited Michael Keaton reprises his ‘Jackie Brown’ role as FBI agent Ray Nicolette, another and also uncredited Samuel L. Jackson plays a fellow con in the film's closing scene. Although 'Out of Sight's whipsawing storyline feels off-putting at first, as the flashbacks-within-flashbacks begin drawing to a head, Soderbergh's obvious glee at playing with linear conventions shines through. It's also readily apparent that the actors are enjoying themselves immensely; more than anything else, 'Out of Sight' captures Leonard's sense of the indefatigable appeal of the downtrodden grifter. Clooney, with his cockeyed half-grin, sparks some real chemistry alongside the tempestuous Lopez, and Albert Brooks -- with his flagrantly shoddy hairpiece and all – is a sublime hoot. Soderbergh's film has a Sixties pop art feel to it, from the European-styled one-sheet poster on down to his frequent use of freeze-frames and snazzy edits. Hardly a serious caper film, 'Out of Sight' instead takes a lighter approach, effortlessly offering up as many unexpected chuckles as it does bullets.

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
May 10, 2018

* George Clooney - 'Out of Sight' (1998)

Monday, April 30, 2018


'Life is a series of games... The past is game over, you lost or you won. The future is the game your training for and the present is the game your playing.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™


'At times we run from what we need the most... It is then that we may find the great freedom in being bound by love.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

* © Hackett London by John Balsom '2014

Saturday, April 21, 2018


'Safe. Peaceful. Loved. Complete. Where I belong. Where I was always meant to be. I wrap my arms around you, and take you in. Our bodies become one, I don't know where you end and where I begin.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™