Our Promise Parlor part two: Blue Valentine

This is the second of two Discourses from our Salon: The Fight for Women’s Promise.

 The Movie Salon The Fight for Women’s Promise posted first and set out our issues. 
The first Discourse on Revolutionary Road posted earlier. 

And now for some thinking on Blue Valentine.  

In the middle of her fight to keep her Paris promise to herself, April of Revolutionary Road listens to that crazy guy soothsay, “I know one thing.  I know I’m glad I’m not that child!” as he points at April’s womb.

April, already ready twice a 1950’s mother, knows he speaks the truth.  She knows what’s up.  That she doesn’t have enough emotional resource left to keep her promise of a creative life and to birth another child, too.  She just can’t do it all.  Another pregnancy signals the end of it.  And so, once her husband Frank destroys the dream of Paris, April just lets her promise go by letting go her life, making her exit right out of the male narrative just as much as Thelma and Louise did going off that cliff.

Sitting in the empty dark after witnessing this tale of April’s extinguishment and our loss of what more she might have become, I ask myself – what kind of, for lack of a better word, weltanschauung would rather lay to waste its lifeforce than let woman out from under its service to explore what her promise might be?

In Blue Valentine, Cindy’s promise of a healed life is manifested in her dream of becoming a doctor.  But in the all-too-real world, with her meager resources compounded by a family legacy of futility and rage, Cindy traverses not a path of healing but the American underclass of tired retro hip, drinking, and dead end jobs.  Remnant disappointment lingers everywhere.  All slightly, what is it?  Sticky. This frazzled edge of loss is no one’s dream life.  And in this story of Cindy’s love with Dean the seeds of that love’s end are sown in the beginning. We are spared the dreary middle.  Continue reading


Our Promise Parlor part one: Revolutionary Road

There are two parts to our Discourse this time round. 

Below’s the first centered on the film Revolutionary Road.
The second with Blue Valentine at its center will post in the near. 
What is it to abandon the promise one’s made to oneself?


Deep in the code of our inherited male narrative, woman as the portal for life, the mother, is idolized into deepfreeze or reframed as burden; either way a method for crippling and containing.  This tends to turn women’s great gift for birthing life into nightmare by way of elaborate, mostly repressed mechanisms that block and bind us, setting our biology in opposition to any discovery of what womanhood might be, might be becoming once separated from reproduction.  Which is underway.  There is no turning back.  This is an untenable equation no matter how much is sacrificed, by both men and women, trying to prove this ancient, no longer relevant foundation to be solid and true.  As a consequence the emotional evolution of us all is crippled and contained because our continuing, essential emergence can not find birth without both women and men as fearlessly as possible encouraging growth in one another.

The stories in these two films, Revolutionary Road and Blue Valentine, approach the untangling of this mess.

 “Having babies is a blessing, not a duty.” 

Our once First Lady Mrs. Betty Ford.   May she rest in peace.


But first, a meanwhile…

A woman rises from the seats of the cavernous Egyptian Theater during the question answer session after the showing of The Whistleblower, a Women In Film Seattle sponsored film at SIFF – a story about a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia who uncovers a sex trafficking ring.  The woman stands to question the film’s director, Larysa Kondracki about forcing the audience to watch a brutal torture scene of a young woman by her captors.  Very upsetting. 

Ms. Kondracki responds by acknowledging the woman’s emotional shock and states that it was very difficult, too, for everyone involved in the filming.  And in the edit again, she had to carefully weigh how much was enough.  Then she explains that as a storyteller she absolutely needed the scene in order to show that this “breaking” (a term of the darkworld depicted) of the young woman was a tactical decision on the part of the sex traffickers.  She had shown too much, well, will to live by trying to escape.  Ms. Kondracki felt her story had to show the violence it takes to enforce what is, from the trafficker’s point of view, a practical matter.  An independent minded woman is expensive, you see; a young woman’s human will is a detriment to profit in this economic system that demands the female body be put under the absolute control of the males who trade in them.  Money’s more easily made from a broken girl.  Less fuss.  And besides, broken’s much more marketable to other men. 

It’s an accepted principle of predatory economics to “contain” the cost of labor, right?  That’s the game, no matter what the damage.  Because it keeps in place the underpinning rationale, a presumption, that it’s the given order of human interaction to take the life force, the raw resource of the energy of lower others, by violent means if necessary, for the benefit, the enrichment of one’s own.  The rights of the privileged.  Top of the heap.

What has all this to do with the film Revolutionary Road?

Continue reading

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.

Parlor Discourse on Womanhood’s Escape from the Reproductive Model

By way of reminder.

We are turning to the films, I Am Love, Leaving, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, as our compass for a trend, a raising of voices lately heard to mull a certain shift in what we collectively understand as the role of women.  And to run our fingers along an anxiety detected in the general cacophony, repressed or not so much, over that shift.

These films tell of three perfect/imperfect women and their somewhat messy bolt for new life.  We center on these tales not so much as fine specimens of cinema, although there’s much art here, but because these storytellers are not just reacting, are not just paddling around in the remnant narrative space left to women.  No.  They and their fine actresses are tearing open, spilling out into the newly forming ground of transformational womanhood underway at the very core of our being.  Here and right now. Continue reading

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.

Parlor Dialogue – Questing for a heroic practice of love in Winter’s Bone

The Dialogue that follows was constructed from a written exchange inititated as a piece of writing by Salon Netizen Caryn Cline, which I responded to, and then we sent back and forth some until it became what’s posted below. 

A Dialogue on Winter’s Bone

“Ain’t you got no men could do this?”

Winter’s Bone, 2010. Director Debra Granik. Writers Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell.

Winter’s Bone still IMDB

Caryn C: I saw Winter’s Bone at the Angelika Theater in the heart of the Soho district in New York City.  I experienced a unique sensation while watching: alone among the filmgoers that afternoon, I saw a film I recognized. I was born in Monett, Missouri, in the Ozarks, not far from where the story takes place.  The backroads, the light, the houses, the lichen-pocked trees, the accents, the music, all are familiar to me. The other viewers at the Angelika that day were watching a foreign film.

The protagonist of Winter’s Bone is Ree Dolly.  At 17, Ree is the head of her family.  Her meth-cooking father, Jessup, has been arrested and has put the family home and land with its stands of old growth Ozark hardwood up as bond. “Ree’s a folk hero,” novelist Woodrell says, she’s the kind you sing a ballad about. Continue reading

Parlor Dialogue – Is there any love in the film Closer?

Follows is a Dialogue on the movie Closer.  Based at first on talking, this writing was built from exchanges between me, your Lookout, and fearless Parlor editor Kathleen Gyurkey, who brought the film to the Salon’s attention. 
To repeat my previous Salon caveat, all this will make more sense if you’ve watched the film.

A Dialogue on Closer

Closer, 2004.  Directed by Mike Nichols, written by Patric Marber from his stage play.  Characters:  Anna (Julia Roberts), Dan (Jude Law), Alice/Jane (Natalie Portman), Larry (Clive Owen).

Kathleen G:  Hey, say, on the Nature of Love… have you by any chance seen Closer?  I watched it the other night.  I’d have to say it’s more about the misconceptions of love than the nature of love, more to do with male weaknesses influencing what love is supposed to be.

IMDB still from Closer

The story begins with the song “Can’t take my eyes off of you.” This is the original fallacy in love, the starting place from which everything can go wrong.  Not to dismiss chemistry, which is different, but to put “fascination” into a box where we can recognize it for what it is: not love, but a place from which one explores the possibility of love. Those who treat “The Thunderbolt” as a definitive event that transforms the remainder of their lives operate from a false premise: that Love is an impression. Continue reading