Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Movie Review - 'Being There' (1979)

'The emergence of celebrity in America is not based on depth. It is based on visibility and
accessibility, a smile, a figure. It is based on appearing as a person of importance.' ~ Jerzy Kosinski

I recently watched, again for the 12th time, 'Being There' (1979), thanks to a great and
favorite channel ... TCM (Turner Classic Movies). In a time of a buffoon as president I
realized the similarities between Chauncey Gardiner (Peter Sellers) and Donald J. Trump.
I read that following the upset in Alabama of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate, The Fanta King
through a television set out of the window. Can you even imagine the absurdity of a President
of the United States, and not a banana republic, behaving in that manner, and so I thought
of Chauncey. He wasn't violent per se, but his life revolved around the television.

The question asked is not 'Is he a good man?' It's 'what circles does he move in?' 'Being
There' is a very funny and thought-provoking movie in the most subtle manner possible. It
can be seen as a fairy tale, a political story, and/or a religious parable on the nature
of identity in a media age. Director Hal Ashby's adaptation of Kosinski's 1971 novel is
a tour de force of sensitivity and well-realized pacing.

Chance (Peter Sellers), an individual of mysterious origins, is the gardener in the
Washington D.C. house of a wealthy and eccentric old man. His only pastime is watching
television, but when the owner dies, the lawyers for the estate force Chance to leave.
He finds himself out on the street with no birth certificate, driver's license, chequebook,
or medical records. And Chance can't read or write. Dressed in one of his employer's
custom-tailored suits, Chance looks like a successful businessman. At least that's what
Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine), the wife of a rich and powerful industrialist, thinks when
her limousine bruises his leg. She offers to have a doctor check him at her home. When
he says, 'I am Chance, the gardener,' she hears, 'I am Chauncey Gardiner.' Her husband
Benjamin Rand (Melvyn Douglas, who won an Oscar), an old and ailing patriarch, takes an
immediate liking to the soft-spoken and self-confident visitor, and so Chance is asked
to stay with them during his recuperation.

While the President (Jack Warden) is in a meeting with Rand, he asks Chauncey's opinion
of the economy. 'In a garden, growth has its season... as long as the roots are not severed,
all will be well.' The Chief Executive uses the line in a speech and the press is soon
clamoring to know more about this new economic advisor. Invited to appear on TV, Chauncey
is an instant success. Although Rand's doctor, Robert Allenby (Richard Dysart) has his
doubts about the man, both the CIA and the FBI fail to come up with any information on
him. Chauncey wows a Russian diplomat at a reception on Capitol Hill and is eventually
seduced by Eve. In the end, Rand dies and passes on both his estate and his wife to
Chauncey. There is even talk among influential businessmen that Mr. Gardiner is
presidential material.

One of the hallmarks of a parable of this type is that it can serve as host to
a treasure trove of interpretations. Like the idea of Chance as the Jesus of the
electronic age, living by the TV Bible, speaking in botanical parables, and hailed as
a savior by the media-dominated society. Or how about seeing the old man as God, Chance
is Adam and TV as his mythology. The lawyers are the angels who send him out of the
garden. Eve takes Chance home to tempt him with the fruits of popularity and power. Or
see Chance as yourself experiencing all the ways in which others try to force you to
play a part in their movies. For my part I hail the political prophecy of 'Being There'
as individuals have been elevated to high political office for simply becoming popular
to viewers coming across well on television. Or here's a final one to process ... the film
is simply a very savvy meditation on being present — being at the right place at the
right time.

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant
December 12, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

'Moretti ± Griffintown'

'To live a life of luxury is to experience it by savoring and making luxurious the
moments, big or small.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

'History 101' tells the story of how the wood-fired oven and pizzas together have
been discovered since the ancient Roman civilization. Specifically, in ancient Pompeii
(Naples) the brick ovens were built in different shapes but known under the half
circle one. Traditionally, kitchens pizzerias included granite counters, salad bars
featuring both, hot and cold foods as well as drinks to accompany the pizza. This
will supposedly make you feel like being under the sun. Medieval brick ovens can
be found throughout Europe, often with little variation from the original Roman
round, domed oven chamber and front vent design.

'The measure of a great restaurant is the consistency of its dishes.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

Last weekend, being my fourth visit, I have decided that this time I shall weigh in
on the culinary ecstasy that is 'Moretti ± Griffintown', and give you my observations.
As a sociology aficionado, passionate about culture, as well as a foodie, I could not
restrain myself from researching about that wood-fired brick oven, which is the first
thing you see once you step inside. All the cooks are concentrated in what they do.
Moreover, they seem to be very meticulous. I was able to enjoy every little taste that
I was slowly discovering while eating. The food was outstanding and splendorous,
and so we should give thanks to Alessio Gioffre, Chef de Cuisine. Every time I have
been it is always the same as the previous time.

You really feel welcomed as well as taking one step to Italy, but for anyone who
knows Gianni Caruso (one of the proprietors) will attest that is part of his DNA.
The décor includes these enormous windows with an industrial style that reminds
you of being on a terrace in Italy. I could imagine the Italian music in my ears while
eating a fresh pizza from the wood-fired brick oven. It was filled to the rafters, like
it is every time I have visited. Every table full, including a very nice private room that
sits in the back. It is convenient for birthdays or exclusive event.

'If you go back to the Greeks and Romans, they talk about all three - wine, food,
and art - as a way of enhancing life.' ~ Robert Mondavi

Accompanying the wine was a truly accomplished server in Nicolas who suggested
the 'Joel Gott 815' (2015) with rich vanilla aromas, framed by red fruit notes of plum;
strawberry and cherry filled the nose with this California Cabernet Sauvignon. Luscious
flavors on the palate gave way to hints of toffee on the long, textured finish. There
was a tremendous flow of this most divine elixir of the Gods.

Let us begin with our pizzas, after all that is their raison d'être. 'Frank's Pizza' (Gianni
likes ribbing me), the 'Pizza Siciliana', according to my Hebrew friend who is well-travelled,
declared it the best he ever had outside of Italy. It was just like a scavenger hunt by noticing
small treasures with each bite taken. With pomodoro San Marzano, fior di latte, roasted
eggplant, ricotta salata and fresh basil... and 'La Capricciosa' with pomodoro San Marzano,
fior di latte marinated artichokes, prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) and seasonal mushrooms.
The dough was tender, well-cooked and melted in your mouth. And the dishes kept coming
like an avalanche in the hills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The fried calamari with shrimps and
white fish in a lemon-black pepper aioli with a splash of tomato marmalade were all crispy,
well-battered and with just the right mix of seasonings.
Then it was followed by Mozzarella di Bufala with Heirloom tomatoes and Ligurian olives,
figs, Planeta olive oil and some leaves of fresh basil. Grilled lamb chops with chickpea
salad, tomato-black olive salsa and a couple of sautéed shrimps. The 'Parmigiana di
Melanzane' with broccoli, tomatoes, Kalamata olives and mozzarella in a Pesto Sauce. That
was a very unique dish… just the right zing of zest. A new take on a tradition with the
'Arancini Siciliani' which is a Saffron fried rice ball, fior di latte, green peas, Bolognese ragu
and a lightly spiced tomato sauce... that went quickly.
Finally, as the 'pièce de résistance' slivers of grilled rib eye (14oz), fingerling potatoes,
sautéed kale and fried peppers covered in a pink peppercorn sauce. Not over-cooked, but
just the right 'cuisson' so the juices flowed. This night's dinner theme could have been
'Flowing'. Everything that we savoured flowed like an avalanche (you know the rest)...
and it was accompanied by sautéed shrimps. I died and went to Heaven.

'Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty
and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly
used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'Wow! What a Ride!' ~ Hunter S. Thompson

© From Where I Sit™
November 24, 2017

* 'Moretti ± Griffintown'
1059 Wellington St,
Montreal, H3C 1V6
(514) 954-0000

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Movie Review - 'Michael Clayton' (2007)

'A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad act the good. Each should have
its own reward.' ~ George R.R. Martin

Michael Clayton is the name that belongs to a character played by George Clooney,
a man who is so handsome it's almost boring and then he talks and whoa where did
the time go. At his best, Clooney is fun to just watch talk and he does that a lot
in 'Michael Clayton'. But it's not the smarmy, cool, confident talking you've seen
him do in 'Ocean's Eleven'. No, Clooney in 'Michael Clayton' is beleaguered, tired,
and questioning everything he's done. And it is magnetic.

'Michael Clayton' (2007) is a riveting, suspenseful, slick corporate thriller and
was a superb directorial debut for writer, turned director, Tony Gilroy, an attestation
to his skill as a storyteller. Best known for his contributions to the Jason Bourne
trilogy. Twenty years ago, he penned 'The Devil's Advocate', which imagined Satan as
the head of a top law firm. In researching for that film, he stumbled upon an internal
memo, by a large corporation, explaining their decision not to recall a certain car,
because of a fatal, defective part. Their legal counsel and financial advisers concluded
they were better off litigating, if and when, a case would reach the courts, than go
through the expensive process of a recall. From the look of things, Gilroy's opinion
of the legal profession has not improved.
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house 'fixer' at one of the largest corporate
law firms in New York. A former criminal prosecutor, Clayton takes care of Kenner, Bach
& Ledeen's dirtiest work at the behest of the firm's co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney
Pollack in his second to last film role). The firm has two big deals going. One is
a merger that would fold them into a bigger operation, reaping rich rewards for Bach.
The other is a huge class-action lawsuit against their biggest client, major conglomerate
U/North (think Monsanto), which after years of skirmishing is about to settle pre-trial.
But then Kenner's point man on the case, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson 'This Beautiful
Fantastic '2016), as a public meltdown in the middle of a deposition. U/North's own
counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton 'War Machine '2017) becomes infuriated and lashes
out at their representation. So Bach dispatches Clayton to fix the damage. Edens certainly
seems unbalanced, but he and Clayton are old friends. As hardened as Clayton might be
in his job, there is a certain amount of empathy. Edens may have mental issues, but the
divorced Clayton, father of a young son, has family problems. Add to that, a barely
controlled gambling addiction, and a debt he and his brother owe to some very bad men
over a failed restaurant. When Edens talks about U/North, Clayton listens and realizes
that he is not hearing crazy talk, which leads to his central dilemma: If Clayton does
the rightb thing for once, will he endanger his own position with the firm? And if Edens
is right about this corporate evil, will he risk his life?
Swinton and Pollack offer wonderful supporting turns, but Clooney is terrific, his
world-weary charm perfect for the tarnished Clayton. Early in the movie (though late in
the story, as the film's time-shifting scheme of things) when Clayton, having just cleaned
up a client's mess and driving toward home, at dawn, stops his car and gets out, climbs
up a hill to commune with a trio of horses. At this point in the tale, the behavior does
not track, but it is a testament to Clooney's talent, as an actor, that he is able to sell
the scene. This movie belongs to Wilkinson, who is simply breathtaking. Michael Clayton
may be the movie's hero, but Arthur Edens is its moral center. Wilkinson's sublime
performance elevates 'Michael Clayton' from an above-average thriller into the realm
of greatness.
This is not an action movie in the manner of the Bourne movies, but instead it is quietly
paranoid, a throwback to the '70s style storytelling of something like 'The Parallax View'
(1974). Gilroy does not create white-knuckle suspense so much as a simmering tension that
will surely burn Clayton if it ever comes to a boil. Editor John Gilroy, the director's
brother, deserves a lot of credit for maintaining an unhurried pace that nevertheless
telegraphs the threat that Clayton faces.
'Michael Clayton' is a wonderfully understated thriller. It doesn't have fight scenes or
a dramatic score or the kinetic feel of a Bourne movie. Instead, it's the most mesmerizing
of slow burns, about a man who witnesses a house collapsing around him in slow motion,
and wondering whether or not he should even bother hatching a scheme to get out.
In this reviewer's opinion, this was one of the great films to emerge out of Hollywood,
in a very, very long time. Shame on them for not created more and shame on you if you
don't experience it.

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
November 15, 2017

* George Clooney & Sydney Pollack 'Michael Clayton' (2007)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jeanne Moreau R.I.P.

This week we lost Sam Shepard, a tragedy no doubt... but another departure on the same day may have been overshadowed, Jeanne Moreau. A woman I have followed for a long time...goes back to my relationship early on in my youth with an intellectual French woman. Her gravelly voice… made her the original 'Femme Fatale'. Sometimes I find a story or an article that completely encompasses what I feel and so the words are so eloquently expressed. This piece in 'The New Yorker' Magazine (July 31, 2017) by Richard Brody is such a piece. I edited it to suit me.

The idea of Jeanne Moreau is as great as the onscreen presence of Jeanne Moreau because, in her performances, she embodied ideas in motion, and, for that matter, one big idea: Moreau. Moreau passed away on Monday, July 31st, at the age of eighty-nine, she was a Grande dame without haughtiness or prejudice. Her grandeur didn't erect walls around her; it widened her vistas, increased her curiosity, enabled her adventures, and overcame narrow boundaries. She was a queen of intellect—but an intellect that was no cloistered bookishness but an idea and an ideal of culture that enriched experience, envisioned progress, and looked ardently at the times. Someone once wrote that Cary Grant looks like a person who's thinking; I'd say he's rather lost in thought, whereas Moreau seems at home in thought, standing on a solid foundation of knowledge that makes her searching focused, precise, intention-sharp. If Alfred Hitchcock had known how to film heroic women, Moreau would have been the most Hitchcockian of active and intrepid women—and François Truffaut, who was among the most faithful and profound of Hitchcockians, recognized that trait when he cast her in 'The Bride Wore Black' (1968), one of his most conspicuously Hitchcockian films.

Moreau spanned generations, not merely in her life and in her career but in her ideas and in the art of her times. A celebrated theatre actress in the conservative Comédie Française, she made her name in films with a director from the new generation, Louis Malle, who was in his mid-twenties and found in Moreau a new kind of heroine, whose glamour had no gloss, whose elegance had no airs, who seemed to burst fussy constraints with every word she spoke, every glance she shot, every step she took. Born in 1928, she was an artist raised and trained in traditions that she expanded without destroying; she embodied not the narrowly intellectual artist but the person of culture, and she also embodied the paradoxes of culture in an age when its own presumptions were being challenged.

That's why Moreau was an ideal actress for such analytical directors as Michelangelo Antonioni and Joseph Losey, whose dramatic schemes and visual compositions embodied the lure and failure of intellect, the delusions of reason. Her performance in Antonioni's 'La Notte' (1961) as the fiercely intelligent and sensitive wife of a famous and egotistical novelist (Marcello Mastroianni), a woman who is struggling to rescue her identity in her marriage and in the architectural and intellectual tangle of modernity itself—is among the most essential in all of Antonioni's films. As Moreau walks alone through the lonely and architecturally oppressive streets of Milan, she seems not just to be thinking but to be thinking about thinking. That's also why some of Moreau's most famous performances came in filmed adaptations of works by Marguerite Duras, such as Peter Brook's version of 'Moderato Cantabile' (1960) and Tony Richardson's 'The Sailor from Gibraltar' (1967), as well as his 'Mademoiselle' (1966), for which Duras wrote the script. Moreau even played the role of Duras in Josée Dayans 'Cet amour-là' (2001). But no one filmed the Duras cinematic universe as did Duras herself. In the film 'Nathalie Granger' (1972), Moreau appears along with Antonioni's first screen heroine, Lucia Bosè, in a movie that Duras made in her own house, in a small town not far from Paris. There, Moreau embodies the severe yet dryly whimsical brilliance that Duras herself applies to the stuff of women's domestic lives and her own. The scene in which Moreau and Bosè terrify the young Gérard Depardieu with their skeptical gazes is exquisite comedy.

That's also why Moreau quickly came to embody an idea that was crucial to the French New Wave—she came to embody history itself. It's noteworthy that the film that enshrined Moreau as an icon of the French New Wave, Truffaut's 'Jules and Jim' (1962), is a period piece set around the First World War. The French New Wave brought a new generation of intellectuals and their concerns into the cinema, and proved that the cinema itself was among that generation's crucial concerns. But when Truffaut, the youngest of the New Wave directors, sought to reconsider French history and culture in the light of his own experience, Moreau was his heroine of free-spirited inventiveness, of freedom tout court, and of the tragically destructive (and self-destructive) passions that came with it.
In the following decades, Moreau was cast over and over by directors who sought to unite modernity with tradition. There was Jean Renoir's 'The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir' (1970), Luis Buñuel's adaptation of Octave Mirbeau's 1900 novel 'The Diary of a Chambermaid', which Renoir had adapted in the mid-nineteen-forties. When Jacques Demy, in his second feature, 'Bay of Angels' (1963), pulled the stifling and louche bourgeois world and the cinematic crime-drama clichés of Riviera casinos into the blazing New Wave sunlight, Moreau—platinum-blond—was the star. With her intensely concentrated analytical focus as she pursues the goal of a doomed and reckless passion, is one of her greatest performances. When André Téchiné reclaimed French history through French melodrama in his film 'French Provincial' (1975), Moreau was the star. When Rainer Werner Fassbinder, adapted a novel by Jean Genet for the film 'Querelle’ (1982), it would be his last film, made in a daring new style—a French period piece in the vague past, Moreau was one of its stars. She sang in it, too—indelibly. And in 'Gebo and the Shadow' (2012), the last feature by Manoel de Oliveira, which he made at the age of a hundred and five, the prophetic voice from the distant past was performed by Moreau. Her death marks not just the end of an era but of the idea of an era.

* On behalf of myself and the ladies of © From Where I Sit™ Bon voyage éternelle!

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

* photo by Giancarlo Botti

Sam Shepard R.I.P.

'I didn't go out of my way to get into this movie stuff. I think of myself as a writer.' ~ Sam Shepard

* A playwright extraordinaire whose work carried a poetic voice full of passion, soul, sometimes desperation and heartbreak that could rip right through you. He was also a director and a fine actor. In all, he wrote forty-four plays, along with short stories, essays, and memoirs. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for 'Buried Child' (1979)... nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in 'The Right Stuff' (1983). He seemed to disappear for a while…as it turns out, he had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) - that most cruel disease that leaves the mind intact while shutting down the ability to move and then, at the end, to breathe. May your final act be a peaceful one for all eternity.

* From all of us at © From Where I Sit™ we extend our deepest condolences for the passing of such an immense talent.

* 'Bloodline' (2015–2017)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

© Sperry Top-Sider™

'The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are– bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling- when you don't feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength.' ~ Charles B. Handy

* As Paul Sperry watched his cocker spaniel, Prince, run across the ice on a winter's day in Connecticut, he noticed his dog's amazing ability to maintain traction on the slippery surface. Turning over Prince's paw, he observed hundreds of tiny cracks and cuts going in all directions. These wave-like grooves became the inspiration for Sperry's latest patent, 'Razor-Siping™', and were instrumental in maximizing the traction and performance of the Authentic Original Sperry Top-Sider™ (or Top-syder™) first introduced in 1935. Since inventing the first boat shoe, the brand continues to share their 'Passion for the Sea' with those who enjoy the good life in, on and around the ocean. From its introduction of the world's first siped rubber outsole for non-marking traction, to advanced technical fabrication to combat the elements, © Sperry Top-Sider™ remains the vanguard of high-performance amphibious footwear.

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

* © Sperry Top-Sider™