Saturday, August 27, 2011


I've seen the movie version of this book, Gervaise, by René Clément, but this book is sadder. The poverty described by Émile Zola is so detailed.

The story spans 15 years. In the beginning, Gervaise is a lovely young mother with 2 kids. Her lover Lantier is about to leave her for another woman. Perhaps this is sad, but when we reach the end of story, we know that she is better off without any man. Soon she marries Coupeau, a roofer; and it all seems very well and they begin to be able to save money. Then comes the accident, where Coupeau falls from the roof and Gervaise spends all the savings to give him better treatment. The long rest makes Coupeau lazy and he prefers to spend his days at drinking dens instead of working.

Meanwhile, Gervaise's friend, Goujet, lends her money to rent a shop. Gervaise's dream is to have her own laundry shop, which is doing well until Lantier comes back to her life and makes friends with Coupeau. Coupeau offers Lantier to stay with them and he accepts. Gervaise now has to work to feed her children and 2 idle men. Slowly, she becomes devastated and neglects her works. She loses her costumers and finally, also, the laundry. Then she joins her husband in the drinking dens.

The presence of Lantier in their house makes Gervaise not faithful to her husband. It's not that she does it easily, but when she comes home and finds Coupeau lying in his own vomit and there is stains on their bed, why doesn't she accept Lantier's offer to sleep on his clean bed? Surrounded by unkind people, like Coupeau's mother, sister, and brother-in-law, Gervaise doesn't get good advice she needs. They never give her strength. She is distressed and doesn't care about her being and surrounding, and it leads to her downfall. What once was a lovely laundress who owned a beautiful shop, dies in poverty, alone and hungry.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crainquebille (2010)

This episode from Au siècle de Maupassant: Contes et nouvelles du XIXème siècle is one of the saddest movies I've ever seen. Crainquebille is an old man, happily lives with his loyal dog, Bébert. Daily he sells vegetables at his usual spot for 40 years in the local market, which is led by the major, Mangin, his son's future father-in-law. The marriage will take place in 2 months. Also coming is the future election. Crainquebille soon will move with his dog to the country, where he will use his savings to buy a new house, while his son Antoine, now Mangin's delivery boy, is happily married to Solange Mangin and inherits Mangin's butcher shop.

One day, after the market has closed, a maid arrives, asking Crainquebille to sell her some leek, if not her mistress will be angry. Some seller has already turned her down because the market has been closed. Crainquebille takes pity of her and sells leek to her, but this maid forgets to bring money. While waiting for her to come back with the payment, Crainquebille refuses to move his cart and this causes another seller angry (the one who has turned down the maid) because her cart cannot pass. Constable Matra comes (he is young and new) in the middle of the argument and he seems to hear that Crainquebille says "Down with the Pigs!" to him. The constable takes this as an insult and arrests Crainquebille.

Matra's superior reads the report and asks why Matra puts "I seemed to hear..." in the report and asks him if he really heard Crainquebille spoke the words or not. Matra cannot be sure. The superior tells him to change his report and write "clearly heard". The result: Crainquebille goes to jail for 1 month. His cart, which was left in the market when he was arrested, has been stolen - and Bébert who guarded the cart that night has been killed. None visits him at jail except Antoine.

After serving his sentence, Crainquebille returns to the market to work as usual. His usual spot has been given to someone else and his is now in a dirty corner. Customers hardly buys from him and later his cart is full of rotten vegetables. He goes back to his bad drinking habit. One night, his savings is stolen while he lays drunk.

With the coming election, Mangin cannot take any risk and forces Solange to put off the wedding. No way his daughter will marry an ex-convict's son. Antoine takes this badly and commits suicide. Crainquebille is now alone, leaves his home, and lives like a beggar.

In the end of the movie, one year later, he meets again the maid who has caused all his misfortunes. He says to her that she still owes him 40 cents for the leek, but she doesn't recognize him at all. Her boyfriend gives him some money, though, in the name of charity. Hungry, Crainquebille remembers that in jail he is warm and well fed. When he meets a police, he says to him, "Down with the Pigs!", but the police won't arrest him and just walks away.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Los ojos de Julia (2010)

The name Guillermo del Toro made me want to watch this. This is one of the scariest movies I have seen. [I haven't seen many, though, as I don't like to be scared.] One of the scariest things in life is darkness, and this is what the movie explores.

Julia (wonderfully played by Belén Rueda) cannot believe that her twin sister, Sara, who is blind, committed suicide by hanging. She believes there is someone else in that room when Sara is dying. No one believes her, so Julia tries to investigate herself, sometimes helped by her husband Isaac. The problem is, like Sara, Julia suffers neurodegenerative disease and is going blind.

The movie is presented in pale colour and we often can't see faces of the people. Pictures are often out of focus. This is to make us understand what is Julia going through. The story reminds me to Patrick Süskind's Perfume. If the baddie in Perfume doesn't have smell, this one doesn't have light. He always becomes a shadow that people don't realize his presence.

Jane Eyre (2011)

I couldn't believe that another movie version of Jane Eyre had been made. I also couldn't believe I actually made myself to watch it. Why they didn't make a movie version of Villette instead? I hope to watch Villette because I never finished the book.

This 2011 version of Jane Eyre is the 5th version movie version I have seen. [I also have the musical version by Paul Gordon: Original Broadway Cast and the Toronto cast.] I must say that I am disappointed with this. I think it's very calm and 2 hours are not enough for this story. On the positive side: the whole production looks beautiful with amazing cinematography, and there is Judi Dench.

The first 5 minutes shows Jane Eyre running away from Thornfield until she, very tired and hungry, meets St John Rivers. I myself disagree with the filmmakers's choice to open the movie with these scenes. It seems like a long 5 minutes.

Compared to Orson Welles - Joan Fontaine, Timothy Dalton - Zelah Clarke, Michael Jayston - Sorcha Cusack, Toby Stephens - Ruth Wilson; it seems to me the chemistry between Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska is not very convincing. Mia Wasikowska is not passionate and she looks calm. I can say the same about Michael Fassbender. Or is it the script? They only have 2 short conversations in front of the fireplace: 1) when Rochester look at Jane's drawings after they were officially introduced and 2) after he gave Adèle a cadeau (the talk about paid-subordinate). Suddenly, there is the fire in Rochester's bedroom. I think it's too fast and I don't believe a spark of love is already there.

My favourite movie version of Jane Eyre is still the one with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke. Despite the fact that the production looks cheap (which is understandable since this is made by BBC in 1983), it has almost all the delicious lines straight from the book. I also love how Timothy Dalton delivered those lines. His Rochester has a temper and he shouts a lot. [Someone said that was why his wife had gone mad and had to be locked in the attic.] Dalton's Rochester made me cry when he begged Jane to stay. The line "Is it better to drive a fellow creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law?” moves me more than the 2011 version: "You would rather drive me to madness than break some mere human law". Dalton's Rochester also made me want to read the book. Many say that Timothy Dalton is too handsome to play Rochester, but there are people who say that he is the ugliest James Bond.
My 2nd favourite is the one with Michael Jayston and Sorcha Cusack. The chemistry between these two is the best.