The King of Siam, I Am, I Am

Anna looking ever pained by Rex Siam

This film, Ann and the King of Siam, I am actually watching through my grandmother’s eyes, imagining what she may have felt watching it. (I am also watching it under the influence of a Christmas flu.) For all I know, we may have watched it once together in her living room, though it’s more likely we would have watched the musical The King and I. There are movies that one grows up hearing are classics, or they play often enough on television and have an air of authority to them that one’s young mind accepts them as classics, and this numbers among one of those. If I ever watched it with my grandmother, I imagine she would have communicated “classic” in her manner, without saying a word, which is to mean she would have watched. Like she watched Mannix. Classic. A romance novel on the table beside her, next her High Ball. Classic. All America seemed to once reverence the authority of the giant hoop skirt, rather than be only amused that it was a bunch of hula hoop rings sewn together. A hoop skirt and some lace and a few rhinestones, toss in a chandelier in the background, and there you had it, a classic.

Classics had the authority of school teachers standing before their maps, thwacking Europe here and Asia there in the desultory manner bred of the morning salute to the flag honoring America as the universe and whatever was outside its borders as good as lint under the couch. What was it doing there, not annexed yet? Like Thailand, that little country way over yonder we never discussed because all we needed to know about it we had learned from The King and I, or Anna and the King of Siam. And that was they wanted to be just like us but couldn’t be because they would never *own* great-great-great grandmother’s hoop skirt.

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The Heiress of Washington Square and her Cinderfella


What this movie taught me about life, which I already knew, is angst and pain almost always sound better in French, especially if your first language is English and that’s all you know. The French always sound like they’re just trying to keep the fun to a privileged few rather than spread it around, even when they’re forthright about the waters being full up with sharks.

Brigitte Bardot avec Lino Ventura – plaisir… by patvar

Oh, boo hoo, I have finally watched The Heiress, and, damn, though you know in your heart of hearts (and from some readings of James) that there’s no way in hell things could or will possibly go right, a counselor isn’t going to pop up out of the shrubbery of Washington Square and usher everyone into some quick rounds of therapy for painful insights followed by confused but thank-god-that’s-all-over hugs, little Dalai Lama elves aren’t going to magically recalibrate everyone’s emotional balance beams with “consider the true meaning of life” moments shoved center screen–though you know it’s not that kind of film, one still rather wishes this had at least an alternative ending feature that offered happiest, kind-of-ok, and not very definite resolutions, so with your blood sugar satisfied you can accept the reason you care as much as you do is precisely because it’s not that kind of film.

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What an Affair to Remember Taught me About Life

An Affair to Remember taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. Except I already knew that. I’ve known to look both ways, and not only at the big red Stop sign, since I was three years of age. My child already knows to do the same, which doesn’t warrant me any kind of medal as he’s fourteen. But I ought to remind him because now that he’s a teenager  I need to make it very plain to him that not even love is a good excuse for running into traffic, “Unless,” because I can always think of an “unless” that defies absolutism, such as if I looked into the street and there was my child chasing a red balloon into it. “What if it was someone else’s child?” Now, see? (And let’s not continue in this vein because this isn’t a blog on ethics and personal responsibility.)

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