A Film For July: Daisies

Daisies is a 1966 Czechoslovakian comedy-drama film written and directed by Věra Chytilová. Two young girls, both called Marie, sit in their bikinis like puppets and decide that as the whole world is spoiled and bad they will act as if they are bad too.

In their babydoll dresses, flower crowns and thick black eyeliner, Marie l (Jitka Cerhová) and Marie ll (Ivana Karbanová) look overtly ‘girly’ but as their youthful pranks play havoc on a world gone stale these two giggly girls are taking up space, being irreverent and wild and making a noise – breaking all the conventions of traditional femininity. Their anarchic spirit and rebellious appetite for food and adventure is captured in a surreal, kaleidoscopic swirl that is a crazy satire of bourgeois decadence.

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Calamity in Kent

In the peaceful seaside town of Broadgate, an impossible crime occurs. The operator of the cliff railway locks the empty carriage one evening; when he returns to work next morning, a dead body is locked inside – a man who has been stabbed in the back.

Luckily, Jimmy London, newspaper reporter, is convalescing in the seaside town and meets Aloysius Bender the lift operator, just after he has discovered the body. The police are called and along with the local constabulary comes Inspector Shelley of Scotland Yard, whose staying in the area with his friend the Chief Constable. Jimmy London and Inspector Shelley have worked together before and distrustful of the local dunderheads decide to team up together to solve the mystery.

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A Film For June: Velvet Goldmine

Where is Brian Slade, front man of glam rock band Venus in Furs? In 1974 he was a teen idol in Britain and together with his wife Mandy (Toni Colette) and American rocker Curt Wild and his band Wylde Ratttz created an outrageous storm. Until he disappears .

Ten years later, journalist Arthur Stuart (an adorable Christian Bale), is set the task of tracking him down. As his investigation progresses vignettes of the characters involved in his career are interwoven with Arthur’s own memories of being a fan, glam rock and youth culture in Britain in the ’70’s.

Written and directed by Todd Haynes in 1998, Velvet Goldmine is a carnival of costumes (Sandy Powell) and music. Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor are gaspingly, shockingly, sensational as Brian Slade and Curt Wild. But the wildness stops, often abruptly, when the memories are Arthur’s own. The dreary streets, getting on a bus, feeling an outsider as he remembers being a teenager and idolising Brian Slade, his sexually fluid, androgynous hero who gives him the strength to come out to his dismally repressed parents and leave them in their living room, with their backs to the wall. While I laughed and gasped at Slade and Wild, it was Arthur Stuart and his quest for excitement in the hum-drum, boring ’70’s that resonated with me!

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Maurice

Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, Maurice follows Maurice Hall through his school days and adolescents, to his time as an undergraduate at Cambridge and into early adulthood. It follows his loneliness and confusion, his sexual awakening and acceptance of his homosexuality and his eventual happiness.

Forster wrote Maurice in 1913 directly after a visit to Milthorpe, the home of Edward Carpenter (who I did a brief post on here) and his ‘comrade’ George Merrill. He calls Carpenter his ‘saviour’ and Milthorpe a ‘shrine’ and says that they ‘combined to make a profound impression on me and to touch a creative spring. . . The general plan, the three characters, the happy ending for two of them, all rushed into my pen.’ I think this is important because I found Maurice the most intensely personal book I think I’ve ever read.

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Summer

‘It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The springlike transparent sky shed a rain of silver sunshine on the roofs of the village, and on the pastures and larchwoods surrounding it.’

Seventeen year old Charity Royall lives with her adoptive father in the small town of North Dormer in New England. Born into a community of outlaws who live in the surrounding mountains, Lawyer Royall brought her down into the valley town when she was five years old and named her Charity ‘to keep alive in her a becoming sense of her dependence’. She knows she’s lucky but she feels stifled by the quietness of the town and increasingly disturbed by the behaviour of her guardian. So she takes a job in the library to save money for her escape, when suddenly one day the library door opens and Lucius Harney a young architect from New York arrives and sparks begin to fly.

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The Female Man

Four women in four intersecting time lines. Jeannine is a 29 year old librarian living with her cat in 1969 but the Great Depression is still going on, hers is still a world where her goal is to marry and have a home; Janet is a police-officer from the future utopian planet of Whileaway, where only women have survived a plague and Joanna is the author Joanna Russ, a fired up angry feminist in 1969.

When Janet arrives on Broadway at two o’clock in the afternoon in her underwear she becomes an instant celebrity and Joanna who is fascinated by her goes to a parade given in her honour – picked out of the crowd she gets into Janet’s car. Sitting in the back seat is Jeannine, having been found at a Chinese new year festival, terrified she puts her hands over her ears repeating to herself ‘I’m not here, I’m not here’ but she is there and then the three find themselves on Whileaway.

And then Jael arrives, the shadowy dark side of the future. She comes from a future where the battle between the sexes has divided into two armed camps – Womanland and Manland. Manland constructs its own women from weakling men and Womenland has pretty mindless men who are wired into their high tech houses, objectified males. A ‘rosy, wholesome, single-minded assassin’ it’s she who has got them together because she needs their help to win the war.

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A Film For May: Don’t Look Now

John and Laura are in Venice a city they’ve visited before to try and escape the pain of their young daughters death. One lunchtime they become aware of a couple of elderly women watching them intently. They find out that one of the women has second sight and can see their daughter. As Laura becomes increasingly friendly with the sisters, John becomes increasingly worried.

When a telephone call comes through from their son’s school in England saying that he is ill, Laura takes the first flight to be with him leaving John to follow with the car the next day. But going along the Grand Canal he notices a vaporetto going back to Venice and on board are the elderly sisters and Laura.

He returns to Venice, but Laura is nowhere to be found and John finds himself getting caught up in a train of strange and violent events.

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The House of the Seven Gables

What an odd book this is! It starts with a good story – at the end of the seventeenth century in a New England town, Colonel Pyncheon, a local dignatory decides he wants the land that Matthew Maule has built his cottage on. Met with opposition the Colonel flexes his political muscles and has Maule hanged for witchcraft. But the imposing house he builds on the site is said to carry a curse and bad luck seems to haunt future generations.

At the time of the novel Hepzibah Pyncheon is the custodian and shares the ‘heavy hearted old mansion’ with her lodger Holgrave, a young believer in radical reform . Clifford, her brother arrives home from prison carrying the mark of a person whose youth has been stolen from him and then Phoebe a young distant cousin arrives, as lovely as fresh air and blossom. The possibilities seemed set for a thrilling tale in a gothic setting.

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Ten Books of Summer

I’m so pleased to be joining in with the 20 or 15 or 10 Books of Summer challenge hosted by Cathy at 746books, it’s just the excuse I need to pick up some of the titles that have been looking at me from my TBR pile.

The challenge is to read the chosen titles between June 1st and September 1st and I’m completely buying into the relaxed atmosphere by only signing up to read 10 and thinking that even these could change as the weeks go by.

  • Summer by Edith Wharton
  • The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield
  • Maurice by E.M. Forster
  • Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  • The Far Cry by Emma Smith
  • Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  • Calamity in Kent by John Rowland
  • The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude
  • The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Looking at the list now The Female Man looks a bit out on a limb, Science Fiction is not usually my thing at all, but there we go. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all turn into British Library Crime Classics anyway!

Frenchman’s Creek

In the court of Charles II, Lady Dona St Columb bored and fed up with her superficial world, is involved in every scandal. Beautiful, careless, insolent and deliberately indifferent she aims to shock. But secretly she’s disgusted with herself and so sets out with her children and their nurse for Navron, the isolated Cornish Estate that belongs to her husband.

Free from her drunken sop of a husband and his grisly friends, she runs barefoot through the grass with flowers in her disheveled ringlets and basks in the peace.

But not for long. She sees a sail on the horizon and hears from Lord Godolphin, a local landowner that there are pirates about, led by an elusive Frenchman.

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