Archive for the ‘ Monthly Salon Suggestions ’ Category


Which is another way of saying, who and what grants authority to speak?

On a number of occasions I have been asked, “Who are you to speak?”  It is true that I have brought my intellectual life into being, by and large, outside of legitimizing institutions.  However, mine has not been an entirely lonesome travel.  Look how I find myself here, among you in this Salon, thinking out loud on this theory of an emergent Narrative Otherways.

It is my intention to devote our upcoming and final Discourse Parlor to fleshing out the characteristics of what I mean by a Narrative Otherways.  But for now, in this Farewell Salon, I would like to remember the beginning.

When I pitched the idea of producing this weblog to the Board of Women In Film Seattle it was, truth be told, an amorphous jumble of ideas pinned to a list of movies that had caught my focus.  It would be, I said, a discussion of a few films from a theoretical perspective.  It would be an examination of narrative, in particular as it pivots on gender.

I don’t entirely understand by what alchemy of group dynamics those women came to give me the nod to go ahead.  But in that nod I was given a reason to develop my thoughts into a body of writing that became this Salon&Palor.  Their affirmation provided a shelter granting me the authority to speak.  In short, they gave me permission.

As a consequence of tracking the feelings and thoughts that emerged from watching the filmstories analyzed here, some substance of self not in me before came into being.  Understandings have come from my practice of reading meaning from and into these filmaker protrayals of our world.  These understandings now affect how I now perceive my own passage here.  Although I make no grand claims for how my readings may translate into the hearts of others, I know without the original permission from WIF my thoughts may have remained a disorganized bundle of notes transferred from computer to computer until, forgotten, they were tossed on a recycled hard drive into oblivion.  And the corresponding territory of self grown within? To remain unformed and stillborn.

Beyond my particular tale of becoming there are big picture manifestations of the permission dynamic.  Any tributary of interpretation, of giving name to our reflections in the exploration that story can be, brings to light facets of meaning yet forming, allows a turning over of that shiny, molten surface in our hands.  These tributaries contribute drip by drip to the rushing cacophony of expression we all share and want to show one another.  “Here, look.  See.”  Because once in the flow we women, we others stand a chance to weigh in on how our perception and portrayal of being, our reason & meaning (for which we have an inexhaustible thirst) might alter, thicken, become more complex.

So, thank you to the women of the WIF Seattle Board for providing a nexus between idea and becoming.  And for having enough faith in the direction I was pointing my head to say, “Go!”

Giving and getting permission, it matters.

Meanwhile, for those of you hanging in there to watch more movies.

Here’s a late, welcome addition to our Salon.  A film all about giving and receiving permission.

  • Queen to Play 2009, 2011 USA release.  Director Caroline Bottaro, written by Bottaro from a novel by Bertina Henrichs.  With Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline.

Our Movie Salon of the (perpetual) Spiritual Quest

Or, could some bit of Faith be learning to live with ambivalence?

I admit it.  It is utterly near impossible to see any way through the faith debate these days.  Let alone keep faith – as in that Sixties phrase, a recognition of shared spirit, “keep the faith, man.”

So of course, in the face of this utter near impossibility, I’ve decided to try to do a little thinking on faith.  This by way of tying up loose ends before shuttering our Salon&Parlor.  I can’t say goodbye without mulling some on our reason for being.  As presumptuous as this must appear, as unable as I am to answer the accusation, “who are you to speak?”  I try to compensate for my lack of authority by staying small, limiting my horizons to what’s right in front of me, my fading flashlight shines dimly…

There’ve been a spate of film stories circling the topic of faith, lately. Small bites, around the edges.  Perhaps that’s the best way to approach such a fortress.  By telling little stories that seem to end up asking more questions.  Such as – do we have any ability, can we grow capacity for living with ambivalence?  Odd that watery word ambivalence comes to mind in connection with faith, up till now framed as such a solid.  Always linked with authority.  The Word (right after the Light.)  The Father telling us how to live.  What to be.  What to do, or not do, with our bodies.

By way of mulling all this I did a good bit of watching films.  Some of these have been added to our Family Tree of Stories:

  • Meek’s Cutoff, Kelly Reichardt’s difficult, thirsty allegory of desert wandering and how to know who to follow through our arid patches.  How do we go about choosing our guides?  How does a man come to seem worth following?
  • Incendies, A blow by blow account of the generational damage done by warring religious sects rooted at core in, surprise surprise, controlling the reproductive power/capacity of the body of woman.
  • Of Gods and Men,  A tender and lyrical laying out of the workings of traditional faith in men who have given their lives over to the practice of it; a small family of monks in a mountain monastery who are confronted with, Christ like, having to follow through on the consequences of their faith playing out in the “real” world of hate and violence.
  • The End of the Affair, Neil Jordan’s beautifully composed rant on the Judaic/Christian take on faith all confused and bottled up in a passionate, adulterous love affair.  Very Graham Greene and mid 20th Century, which is to say, very tormented male narrative. But oh, what exposition on the opacity of faith as squeezed through finely drawn characters aplenty.

As for our next Discourse Parlor

I’ll be focusing on a modest, little movie, Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground, 2011.  This story is a straightforward meditation on a woman’s spiritual search.  A woman who would give herself, her life and family to a church in an old fashioned idea of that giving, a dip em in the river being reborn sort, if only she wasn’t plagued by so many questions.  Ms. Farmiga’s Corinne is a seeker who finds she is also a woman who can not submit.

I was perhaps stimulated some in my choice of this movie by the good bit of rumbling that’s come to surface in this Salon expressing a lingering desire for a Heroine’s journey to correspond to that old Campbellian conception.  It seems to me the character of Corinne combines two characteristics, questing and a refusal to submit.  And when these qualities are entwined in a woman they can cause a good deal of spin and wander.  A journey, perhaps, from here to some other there.  And so that’s what we’ll explore in the next Discourse.

A little more thinking on Faith and Questing: Continue reading

Movie Salon – Paternity’s Burden of Perpetual Protection

This Movie Salon’s suggestion of films to watch for the upcoming Discourse Parlor:

  • In a Better World, 2010.  Directed by Susanne Bier.  Written by Anders Thomas Jensen.
  • The Lovely Bones, 2009. Directed by Peter Jackson.  Written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.

In this edition of the Salon we focus on two films which are, from the point of view of your Lookout, explorations in this emergent story-ness we’ve come to term the Narrative Otherways.  Both tales will be mulled over in the forthcoming Parlor as indicators of the narrative shift away from our antediluvian conception of paternity to point in directions of other, more responsive embodiments of what being a father, these days, entails.

Both are of a father’s anguished figuring on how to respond to the infliction of pain, loss, and injustice upon his family, striking in that way of misfortune with dawning dread, seemingly random and from out of nowhere.  In a Better World traces a doctor’s walk in the shadow of evil from the windswept tents and oozing sores of an African incarnation of it in a terrorizing “Big Man” to Denmark’s land of summer houses and detailed educational plans.  Here the father must engage with a more internalized evil that threatens to incarnate in his own young son.  In The Lovely Bones a father loses his daughter to a serial murderer of young women, a monstrous evil beyond comprehension.  How is a father to absorb, counteract, fight to get back what’s lost by the happenstance of being in the path of evil?  Is it possible?

Both tales are representative of a bundle of activity now taking place around the disintegrating morphology of the male narrative.  They turn over, touch and feel the texture of our ancestral response to evil which has had almost always to do with violence, to match it or more, and often, after the damage done, with revenge.  As if a man could extract some sort of evening out to evil’s crippling, as if an eye for an eye leveled it all, rather than bred more of it.  Exponentially.  And how to trace back this lethal mix of violence and revenge through its tap-root in the definition of fatherhood as he who protects?

Which is also to ask, if a father fails at protecting, then are revenge and retribution his duty to take?  And once taken, it that then justice?  

A related rumination on paternity (or its rejection) can be found by watching  Somewhere, 2010. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola.  This panorama of nihilistic realism is set in Coppola’s own backyard of Hollywood celebrity.  And it’s not a pretty picture.  Which is why I decided to give it a home on The End of the Male Narrative branch of our Family Tree of Stories. (Thanks to netizen Theresa Majeres for bringing it back to our attention.)


NEW to Periodic Links:

  • Everything is a Remix.  A webvideo series.  Where Kirby Ferguson makes his case that “creativity” entails remixing and building on all and everything that has come before.
  • Embrace your inner girlA 19:55 minute rant of inspiration by Eve Ensler speaking bluntly of the power of girls and transformation, of “protecting the girl cells within us all.” 

And over in our always growing Tree of Stories:

NEW to the branch of Reasons to Keep the Faith:

  • The Other Woman- Love and Other Impossible Pursuits.  Tackles the back end of the story of the sexy, intelligent woman who does get the married man away from his family and for herself.  And what happens next.  
  • Days and Clouds.  How we define ourselves through the work we do.  How the loss of a husband’s working life shakes a marriage with denial, assumptions, cars breaking down, etc.  And how a marriage can transform and survive because both parties in it help each other to grow in response to inevitable change.

Movie Salon: The Fight for Women’s Promise

And why we can’t retreat, for the sake of our daughters, or our mothers either.  

This Movie Salon’s suggestion of films to watch for the upcoming DiscourseParlor:

  • Blue Valentine, 2010.  Directed by Derek Cianfrance written by Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis.  With Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
  •  Revolutionary Road, 2008. Directed by Sam Mendes. Screenplay Justin Haythe  from the novel by Richard Yates.  With Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet.

These two stories tell the tale of the consequences of pregnancy and of the decision to continue that pregnancy, or not, on two young women, which is to say on their young dreams for themselves;  how acting on that decision figures into everything and on everything into their future.  Both narratives throw open the door to spread nuanced, detailed light on this messy and muddied social reality.  And both stories lay out in intimate detail the affects of this intensely personal earthquake on the women and men in them as well as the rippling net of connection, within and without, that’s set in motion by their decision.  Complex, not simple.  As complex as it gets, this bringing, this allowing life.  Or not.  And what is let go of, moved toward, and sometimes, yes, extinguished in the process of balance, or not, between self and other.

The elements on which I’m building this discourse are that woman and man together conceive biological life.  Genetically speaking, so far, we each give a pretty much equal share.  This might serve as inspiration for a certain cultural equality, but we’re a ways from that, mired in a conception of ourselves as living above/beside/in disregard of nature.  Here, in the social, we, women and men together give into our tendency to fall back on inherited and mostly calcified patterns of relation, especially as codified in marriage.  These patterns are deeprooted in the obsession with control and power over as substitution for the arduous work of discovering who we are through actual feeling.

But in spite of these cultural inheritances of suppression and sublimation, we’re already well along in our Westward Ho! of unearthing consciousness through feeling. Because evolving consciousness, intrinsic to our nature, is our work to do here.  Why earth birthed us.  This excavation of consciousness manifests through our relation with one another and simultaneously within each of us alone.  Yes, it is often a trudge, a high energy burn when done in earnest.  And often dangerously unpredictable.  That is, volcanic.  But then, that’s where the new substance of us flows out.

We are arriving at a time and place where the hard won out-of-the cave survival of the species is no longer under constant question – besides the very real threat from our own overwhelming success at propagation.  Finally the discussion has opened on acceptance of non-reproductive sex as a part of our being.  It always has been.  But now we can begin the process of admitting it, taking a good look at it.

A woman’s self determination, in the form of contraception, over how and when to allow biological new life, having children (which can also be a fast track to growth of the self) has risen simultaneously – and this comes as no surprise – with the ongoing and recently exploding exploration of what it is to be female.  (And what it is to be male, too, thank goodness.)  This exploration is the emerging promise of what we are, what we could be becoming.  And this promise is, as it always has been all along our ancestral trajectory, at risk, in the balance.  More delicate, easier to extinguish than you might think.  Something to treasure, for sure, this emerging promise.

And something to encourage in one another and explore in our storytelling.  And just so, because of tsuch narratives as those traced in Revolutionary Road and Blue Valentine, our understanding grows of the emotional resources necessary to allow new life to come through our bodies; and that infinite variety of emotional resources can evolve, and will, in response to the demands of life. 

It is a sort of chicken and egg equation, this intention to recognize and work that trudging, high energy burn of evolving self brought out in, demanded from us by the act of allowing life.  But this is a mainway of the many ways we grow.  The personal navigation of this immeasurable commitment of bringing life, that leap of faith, is complicated, terrifyingly real.  No woman takes it lightly.  Ever.  Which is what makes such leaps fine fodder for story in Narrative’s working out of our becoming…

So check out Revolutionary Road and Blue Valentine so we can do more mulling on all the above.

NEW GROWTH on the branches of our Family Tree of Stories

I’ve been busy these past weeks, sprucing up the Salon&Parlor with tidbits and additions some of which I hope will be of interest to you.

NEW TO  Reasons to Keep the Faith:  

  • White Material.  Seeing through the eyes of a woman ravaged by being on the topside, now become downside, of Colonialism.
  •  In a Better World A traverse of violence as the default mode in male identity.
  • Rabbit Hole.  The story of a mother’s devastation from the loss of her child.  How we remember.  How we go on, or not. 
  • And by way of contrast from the wayback machine Ordinary People.  A masterful meditation on the opposite course from that charted in Rabbit Hole of the damage inflicted from the loss of a child.

NEW TO  Periodic Links

  • The website of Finding Kind.  “There’s a universal truth shared by all females.  A truth that’s been swept under the rug for generations…how vicious we can be to each other…”

NEW TO  Narrative Otherways subpage of  A Female Hero’s Journey?

  • Nikita was no Charlie’s Angel A Grrl Blog posting by Malory Graham from Reel Grrls on the occasion of presenting an award to La Femme Nikita at Seattle’s 20/20 Awards.
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final DaysIn this category of  female heroics, and journeys spawned by them, I’ll submit this tale as more to my taste.

Movie Salon: Are Women Escaping?

This Movie Salon’s suggestion of films to watch:

  • I Am Love, 2009.  Written and directed by Luca Guadagnino.  Starring Tilda Swinton.
  • Leaving, 2009.  Written and directed by Catherine Corsini.  Starring Kristin Scott Thomas.
  • The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, 2009.  Written and directed by Rebecca Miller.  Starring Robin Wright.

Are Women Escaping?   I’ve pressed my nose to the narrative wind, and I think yes.  But it might not be exactly in the way we’d think.  Or why…

I Am Love, Leaving, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee may have escaped your notice, or may have been on your to-see list but then dropped out of sight.  These are “small” films, easy to miss and hardly making gate, most likely, with so much disposable cultural produce being launched at us.  But these filmmakers, exploring womanhood right now, at this particular, interesting and pivotal moment, are doing a yeoman’s job of narrative pathfinding.  And the actresses they’ve recruited to give life to their characters are masters of the craft.  The MovieSalon&DiscourseParlor would consider itself lucky to be your excuse for making the time to see any or all three. 

Still from "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" IMDB

I set off on this investigation with a notion, a certain distillation of ideas around the general spate of movies lately released having as a central theme women leaving, or trying to  leave, what we might term traditional roles within a family.  Mothers and wives.   And the ramifications, the consequent discomfort these escape attempts spark within the hearts of those whose definition of themselves has grown interdependent with these women who have been being and doing for them. 

To do, to be for others. And the decision to stop, to just let it go.   Yes, there’s some of that old 20th century theme of self discovery in all three of these films.  But perhaps it’s that the women here are mid-age.  Maybe that’s what’s different.  They’ve already done and done their duty quite magnificently.  Raised children, made homes, augmented their husbands’ careers.  Received the dividends of indirect power.  Some.  Maybe.  What now?

Still from "I Am Love" IMDB

Are these tales of escape the same, only gender flipped, as told by men all these years?  A slipping away from those dreary, deadbed marriages though the magic wand of sex with an other?  Because the women in these stories all do that, too.  Or is their confinement and attempt at escape, being of another gender, of another nature entirely? 

Publicity photo for "Leaving" IMDB

Maybe it’s simply a subcategorical expression of our general cultural anxiety about change given particular form through changing gender roles.  A subliminal expression of our fear of abandonment.  Who will pair up our socks in this brave new world?

Leaving and  I am Love are available streaming or on disc.  The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (with a fascinating commentary between director Miller and actress Wright as an option) only on disc.

And last but not least –

GROWTH in our right margin Pages – Morphologies of the Male Narrative.   Here, I’ve listed some characteristics, to my view, of the Male Narrative way of story telling and why it’s finding its end.

GROWTH on the branch of our Family Tree of StoriesReasons to keep the FaithThe Other Man.  Liam Nieson once again single handedly takes on the male wellsprings of jealousy and revenge.

Signs of Spring Movie Salon Potpourri

In which we continue our explorations of the unfolding Narrative Otherways by:

  •  Hosting a continuation of our Parlor on the Nature of Love through a Dialogue on the film Closer.
  •  Casting an eye back to push forward our quest for the persistently desired, it seems, Female Hero’s Journey in a second Dialogue on Winter’s Bone.
  • Taking a wander in the forest of our Family Tree of Stories to spot some budding growth on its branches. 

The shift is on. 

Upcoming Discourse Parlor: on Closer and Winter’s Bone.

By way of shaking things up some from our past Parlors’ sweated over, concentration requiring sort of writing birthed, as I was, from the long & magnificent Era of the Printed Word, we will give a nod in our upcoming Parlor to forms bred of the present swift-winged Digital Era by running two Dialogues.  

I intend these Dialogues to be breezier reads.  They are constructed from written exchanges, to and fro, across a bit of time between myself and two of our engaged Salon Netizens. 

The first will be on Closer, 2007.  Director Mike Nichols.  This wild-ride of a film with its stage play linage is both a continuation of our recent Parlor on The Nature of Love, being chocked full of rumination on the waft and weave of the male/female love affair, at least its predatory aspects, and an addendum to our Salon on the End of the Male Narrative in that it smart talks the love to death until there’s no love left at all, nothing of the energetic burst that attracts us one to an other.  Because of this straddling I think of this film as a transition narrative; a masterful illumination of the fallacy of love as practiced in the boxed canyon where its male elaboration has abandoned us.

Heads upCloser is a pretty complicated story, and we won’t spend much time reviewing the plot, so by the time this Dialogue posts in a couple weeks, it will probably make more sense if you watch the film beforehand.   

The second Dialogue is on Winter’s Bone, 2010. Directed by Debra Granik.  This story ties into a previous Salon, Are We Questing for a Female Hero’s Journey?  There, as you may recall, we claimed our Dragon Girl’s story as on an emergent path of the Narrative Otherways.  In this Ozarks tale our young woman’s search is for her absent father, not the serial murderer of women, but the searching’s a quest, nonetheless.  And the value to which her heart stays true is the nutrition bearing pulse of relation that ties us all, one to the other. Like blood.

And then…because… 

The trail of crumbs leading us in the direction of a Narrative Otherways feels as if it has gained breadth of late with filmstory elaborations of other ways of being round every narrative corner.  Our muscles cramp from exertion here in the Fellowship of the Salon!   We can barely keep up. 

New to the Pages:

In recognition of this, several branches of our Family Tree of Stories have had a growth spurt. 

Change is in the air. 

Reasons to Keep the Faith branch:

  • The Messenger.  This war movie of little gestures and empathetic detail of character tallies the cost of killing but it does not leave us there.  It presses on to run its gentle fingers along the sutures, calling up the alchemy of healing out of loss.  
  • Lady Chatterley.  This new French take makes multiple turns of evolution on the “scandalous” story birthed from the West’s first wave of taking an eyes wide open look at female/male sexual love and where, oh where it could lead us.  Needless to say, this story fills in another piece of our inquiry into the Nature of Love.  

End of the Male Narrative branch:

Broken Promises branch:

  • Black SwanPerhaps we could look at this story of a young woman driven to please and perfection, who gives her life over to dance so utterly that she loses it, literally, as something other than a broken promise.  But from our perspective as seekers of the Narrative Otherways this tragedy did not give us the trade of enlightenment we bargin so hard for in exchange for the suffering endured by its young dancer, our woman in the game.

Periodic Links page:

  • And in light of these feelings, we’ve turned over the discoursing on Black Swan to an illuminating post in the weblog breathlesspace brought to these pages through our Periodic Links.

Upcoming Parlor Attractions

  • Blue Valentine.  We’re planning on putting much thought into a Discourse in the near on this contemporary love story, which it is for sure, contemporary that is, in that it’s not a love story.   

Movie Salon: The Nature of Love in three films by Jane Campion

After all our exploration of the burnt to a crisp territories of loss and violence, of the cynical, desperate and trapped self endings so masterly expressed in the Male Narrative, I am more than ready to pack for our journey toward a Narrative Otherways. 

With that adventure in mind the destination of our next Salon has been set on the Nature of Love.  I know, I know. This is such an ongoing large as to be beyond definition’s containment, so… 

At least to begin and not be paralyzed by the beginning, we’ll start with a trinity of films by Jane Campion, courageous storyteller of love:  that groping, some blinded energetic exchange, oft compulsive human reach of us each, vaguely or targeted, in the direction of one another. 

We will cross considerable territory with Campion beginning with The Piano from 1993, moving to Holy Smoke of 1999, and then taking in her most recently produced Bright Star, 2009. 

As we have three films to chew and mull, and as there’s the swirl and demands of the upcoming, no that’s come upon us already, holidays, it’s been decided this Salon on the Nature of Love will stretch from now through January.  I’ll post my thoughts as they gel during this period and you, as always, are welcome to read, watch, comment at any time.

The reason for my tardiness here is the recent death of my beloved father.  The focus I need in order to do these writings has eluded me in my grief.  I’ve stumbled round its dark topography wondering if my being as a writer might leave me now, might go with him from this earth.  He was, you see, a most fine companion on my cultural and philosophical wanderings; even on my wildest adventures he never abandoned me, never disparaged my ideas.  To the end he was a man of ideas with an infinite interest in all of life and I was given courage and much definition by being his treasured, thinking daughter.  

And now that I am no longer a daughter I only hope to keep thinking.  To stand in honor, at the very least, of his bright intelligence.  

New in the Pages

You’ll find some growth on a favorite branch of our Family Tree of Stories: Reasons to Keep the Faith

And in case you’re wondering what lies ahead, on the branch of Upcoming Parlor Attractions  I’ve done a bit of speculating on where all this might be leading us.