small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Thursday, March 27, 2003

Tonight I watched The Road Home, which was directed by Zhang Yimou, who did Raise the Red Lantern and To Live. The Road Home is about a schoolteacher who is sent to a small village and the love affair between him and a village girl, told as an extended flashback within a framing sequence about his funeral. It's a simple story, affecting mainly because of the care with details and the great beauty of the scenes. The power of nature is everywhere within this film, as the heroine inhabits a world of vivid seasons, red and gold and white. The chill of wind-blown snow is especially potent.

Tradition and crafts play a large part in the story as well. When the schoolteacher's widow weaves him a funeral cloth, it is with a loom that has been broken for years, and that is the last one in the village. It seems impossible to carry the corpse home from the city, as the widow desires, because all the young men have left the village. In the past, it was very different. Then, everything was made by hand. From the old schoolhouse which is raised by all the villagers working together, to the buckets they carry water in and the footbridge made of crooked logs, everything in the village carries the stamp of handcrafting. All this is passing, but it is not forgotten and the old ways (even though not practiced) still command respect.

Movies like this make you appreciate another way of life. They are why I like foreign films so much.

Tuesday I watched Tape, a low-budget indie filmed from a stage play about three people meeting in a hotel room ten years after high school and confronting each other about old secrets. It would have been better as a play, alas. I was bothered by the obtrusive camera techniques, especially the conversation where the cameraman had only one person in the shot at a time and did whip pans back and forth whenever anyone finished a sentence. Ugh. Plus, both the male characters were unlikeable, and the playwright tried too hard to put it unexpected twists that would make us reevaluate what went before. On the positive side, the characters were complex and realistic, and the writing was interesting. It was by no means a waste of time, even though it could have been better.

Monday, March 24, 2003
I got back from Lunacon last night. It was fun, even though I mostly just hung out with my hotel roommates and a few other friends. Terry McGarry, who's in my Links section, was showing off her new novel, The Binder's Road. I also got to meet Cassandra Claire, the author of The Very Secret Diaries, who was attending her very first science fiction convention. (She mentioned getting a letter from the Tolkien Society saying that when they first heard about the diaries, they were afraid that she might be taking liberties with the Professor and his works, and I interrupted--"They were afraid you might take liberties with the Professor?") The Saturday night party, where we eat pizza and watch bad television, was fun as always. I bought only one book in the dealer's room, but succumbed to temptation in the art show and acquired a lilac stuffed crocheted dragon. I picked up $30 worth of tickets for the book raffle, but didn't win anything, which is almost a relief, since I have no room to put more books. (The money goes to Clarion scholarships, so I always give them something.)

My next convention is Readercon, in July in Massachusetts.


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