Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Film: Bride Wore Black by François Truffaut; starring Jeanne Moreau

This is one of Truffaut's very best films. Truffaut has been dead for awhile now but for several decades, ending in the 1980s, he was probably the most popular French director for American moviegoers newly discovering French film. One thing that made him so accessible to Americans was that he started out as a movie reviewer and also wrote a definitive book on the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Truffaut understood what we Americans were drawn to at the movies but could also make it a new experience for us by making it French. This movie is an homage to Hitchcock's work yet also distinctly Truffaut's movie. The marvelous Jeanne Moreau plays the lead, a woman hell bent on revenging her husband's murder. She systematically goes after and murders each man who was in any way involved in gunning her husband down on their wedding day. She of course has to get rather close to each man in question to pull this off and she is wonderfully inventive in her methods. Perhaps her best "sendoff" is saved for last though. Be ready for a great night at the movies with this one as it holds up to the very best of Hitchcock's work.

TV: Seinfeld by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David

People ask  how a comedy about four self absorbed people could be so funny and excellent. After all, shouldn't we dislike Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer? No, the reason we were rapt with their lives is because just like Desi and Lucy mirrored the 1950s, this quartet mirrored the 1990s. In the 1950s, most people were in a marriage like Desi's and Lucy's. They might have felt like they were in a straightjacket but at least they were fully connected with their extended families and friends. 

By the 1990s, people were no longer in the straightjacket. They had their full freedom and could remain as single and unconnected as they wished. They now wanted perfection before they committed. Many of them chewed through their entire 20s and 30s looking for the perfection connection or none. So the quartet of Seinfeld characters rejected everyone but themselves for nine solid years and then ended the show as unconnected as the day the show began. This show is also genius at zeroing in on the day to day foibles of people. It also tackles previously taboo areas of sitcoms. For example, George loses his fiance in this show in a way no one in sitcom history has ever lost a fiance and it is hilarious. 

Larry David was the genius hand guiding the show but he was infrequently on camera as a character. However, I loved it when he played Stienbrenner, head of the New York Yankees and George's boss. I adore this show and love watching the episodes again. Any time I need an up, it is either this show or FRASIER. There are no substitutions.

Novel: The Importance of Being 7 by Alexander McCall Smith
from the 44 Scotland Street series of novels

Author Smith tells us in a prologue that of all of his myriad characters in his prodigious literary output, Bertie Pollock is his most beloved character. When he is approached by readers, the number one query is always about Bertie. This is fairly amazing when you come to realize that Bertie is a six year old boy living in Edinburg, Scotland, living at 44 Scotland Street, the name of this series of books. Bertie's adventures in the shadow of his major whack job of a mother, Irene, are hilarious yet poignant. This volume finds Irene mired in her usual pursuits, chief of which is foisting pschotherapy upon Bertie. One of the more hilarious moments in this volume is Irene's managing to fall into a charity crate and being shipped to Romania. Bertie, as usual, must rescue both himself and his brother while everyone investigates whether Irene has become, hopefully, a victim of foul play.

But Bertie is joined by other characters on his street who are almost as beloved as he is. Matthew and Elspeth find out they are having triplets. They must find a bigger place to live and run into the narcissistic Bruce who is their surveyor. He tries to ruin their purchase of their new home out of sheer jealousy.

Angus Lordie and his dog Cyril are pursued by two women with an eye towards marriage, Domenica and Antonia. They all go on vacation to Italy together, whereupon Antonia is felled by a syndrome well known to the Italians. She is overcome by all of the art and beauty in the country, becomes messianic overnight, has a major fit in the Uffizi museum, and has to be confined in a convent for a lengthy recovery.

The above is just a small sampling of the many delights of this novel. I am a major fan of this series and give it the highest recommendation.

Music: The Songs That Got Away, Sarah Brightman

I am not a theater-goer so had not heard Brightman prior to seeing her on a DVD with Andrea Bocelli. They did a duet together that was out of this world on "Night In Tuscany." So I decided to give her a try alone on an album and she is equally as great here. These are gorgeous songs and she has an incredible voice. As a first time listener, I couldn't be more pleased and now count myself as a fan. This may not appeal to rock and roll fans or jazz fans, although I like those categories too. Brightman's is a voice in a much more classical vein though and that is the only reason I can think why someone might not be taken with her.

Andrew Lloyd Weber was married to her for six years and she was his leading lady on stage as well. He wrote Phantom of the Opera with her in mind as the lead. He would not cast anyone else in the role although there was initial opposition to her. In 1990, he met a woman who was part of the Princess Anne Horse riding set, Madeline, and divorced Brightman to marry her. The two of them proceeded to adopt a lifestyle of English country squires, which continues to this day.

Brightman went on to pioneer the classical crossover music movement and is famed for possessing a vocal range of over 3 octaves. She is the world's biggest selling soprano.

Everything reviewed above is carried by Amazon, iTunes, Audible, the Overdrive app for your public library and most other outlets both online and in the real world. These are taken from my five star reviews at Amazon where I am a Top Reviewer.

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