This week I saw Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) which I really liked. Juliette Binoche plays a middle-aged actor, with Kristen Stewart as her personal assistant. This actor’s first role, at 18, was in a play and its later movie adaptation, as a personal assistant to a middle-aged woman. She’s now struggling with being cast in the same play, but this time as the middle-aged woman, with Chloë Grace Moretz’s troublesome Hollywood star as her personal assistant.
I enjoyed watching all three of their performances in a very talky film. I struggle to describe performances. I want to say they were very “natural” but that’s not quite right; even if you didn’t recognise the actors, you wouldn’t see a clip and mistake it for documentary. But they’re alive. They appear to genuinely have fun and get frustrated. They react to one other.
This seems more noticeable in contrast to a couple of characters with small supporting roles later in the film, who… aren’t quite there. I don’t like criticising actors — because I’m so aware of my own failings (even assuming I had much real acting experience) — and they weren’t bad. But in comparison with the leads they were more obviously “acting” — not in an over-the-top way but they appeared to be reciting lines at someone, instead of living. I could imagine these performances in an acting class and they’d be OK. They reminded me of performances from the showreel scenes we wrote and shot recently. It was interesting to see these in contrast to really good performances, performances that didn’t seem like performances.
When I first read about W. G. Sebald I thought he was an author I should like. I felt like I was someone who should be into W. G. Sebald. But when I read Vertigo a few years back I didn’t even finish it. I can’t remember anything about it now or why I couldn’t finish it, which is an unusual occurrence. But recently I came across Austerlitz in a charity shop in Hereford and… I enjoyed that one so maybe I will like W. G. Sebald after all. I think I’d have got more from it if I’d read through in one or two sittings, rather than spread out over a couple of weeks, because it’s an almost-unbroken flow of narrative and I kept forgetting what I’d read the previous evening. I enjoyed the calmness, the tone of the narrator, and the patchwork of reminiscences.
The book reminded me of two things. First, Nicholson Baker’s early novels The Mezzanine and Room Temperature, simply for the similar way the narrative in Austerlitz steps from one topic and memory and thought to another, tangentially related.
And also Peter Greenaway’s 1978 short film A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist I haven’t seen it for years and so I’m not sure there’s much connection other than having a first-person narrator recounting things about another man, who’s the main subject of the tale. I can only find this brief segment from the start of the film online, which is a shame.
I ordered an Apple Watch this week, after two, or maybe three, years of thinking “I kind of want one but I’m not sure why and I definitely don’t need one”. So, why? I guess I’m curious as to how useful it will be, mainly for exercise. How do [waves hands vaguely] the algorithms rate the amount and intensity of exercise I do? What does the exercise do to my heart? Will a Watch encourage me to do more or better or different exercise? We’ll see.
I’m pretty sure that the me of 10+ years ago would have bought an Apple Watch as soon as the first one came out. He would certainly have succumbed by Series 2 when it became suitable for swimming. He was more curious about new technologies and less frugal than 2018 me. It feels like there’s a sliver of his curiosity buried in here somewhere, struggling to survive and, focusing its remaining strength, it powered my finger to the ‘buy’ button. The rest of me rolls its eyes and thinks “OK, for old time’s sake, but if this watch is rubbish you’re never coming out again”. Stay tuned for my tepid takes on this technological advance.
This week we watched season four of Silicon Valley which continues to be fun, and to give me that weird feeling that it’s from a parallel world that’s both close but entirely different to my own experience.
Most of the characters are awful in some way (apart from Jared, who’s adorably odd, and Monica, who’s a bland straightwoman) but mostly in over-the-top comedic ways. Even the villains are funny caricatures of tech CEOs, clowns rather than awful evildoers. Richard, though, is often awful in a straightforward, non-comedic, way. He believes he means well and that he does things for the greater good but he’s an overly-obsessed geek who will do one terrible thing after another because he believes they justify his inflexible vision. I guess it’s impressive writing to have someone who initially feels like the everyman lead role who ends up digging himself, and his friends, into holes by making increasingly self-serving decisions. The man we start out by relating to, who is our “way-in” to this world, turns out to be an awful person. He’s only redeemed because this is a comedy and so everyone has to be friends again at the end. He doesn’t deserve redemption.
That’s all. We got through another week! Well done us. Have a treat.