Doodad Kind of Town

Fragrance and Foreign Films – My Week So Far
August 10, 2007, 12:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I read a lot of fashion and beauty blogs on a regular basis, but I rarely feel confident enough to write about the subject myself. However, tonight I’d thought I’d share my (admittedly unsophisticated) impressions of Estee Lauder’s new Private Collections Tuberose Gardenia fragrance. I say unsophisticated because, the sad truth is , I don’t have a very good “nose” for anything. Be it wine or perfume, I’m chronically unable to detect the notes within. So all I can tell you is that the new Tuberose Gardenia provided me with a powerful sense memory of my grandmother and her collection of Avon cream perfumes. I used to go go through all the ceramic jars of the stuff that she kept on her bathroom vanity, opening and sniffing each one. The scents were sickeningly flowery, overpowering. Nothing I really wanted to wear when I grew up. Unfortunately, that’s the first thing I remembered when I got a whiff of this fragrance.

On an entirely different note:

The deaths of film directors Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni were written about everywhere last week. There were some particularly good remembrances from Andrew O’Hehir at Salon. But reading those articles brought me up short. I realized that – although I am a self-professed lover of “art” films in general and European films in particular- I had seen precious little of the work of either of these men. The only Bergman films I can remember seeing in their entirety are “Autumn Sonata” and “The Passion of Anna.” And I had not seen a single film by Antonioni. (Although I’d read a lot about him over the years, I was too intimidated by Antonioni’s reputation for slow, ponderous, cerebral studies of ennui and isolation to actually see any of the films he directed. I was sure I wouldn’t understand them , or I’d be bored to tears. Or both. Come to think of it, I have pretty much the same trepidations about Bergman.)

Well, I couldn’t let those gaps in my cinematic experience go unaddressed. I (finally!) signed up for Net Flix and put a number of Bergman and Antonioni films (plus several other directors’ classics I had missed over the years) into my queue. The first of the DVDs to arrive was “L’Aventura,” Antonioni’s first important film.

Here’s what I can tell you after watching it last night: I didn’t love it,exactly, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it this morning. I kind of regretted my haste in sealing it back into the NetFlix mailing envelope only minutes after popping it out of the DVD player; there are scenes I’d like to watch again. Yes, it is slow, and not a lot happens. A group of rich people go out on a yacht for the day and stop at an island. One woman in the group disappears on that island, and is never found again. For the rest of the film, the woman’s lover (didn’t catch the actor’s name) and her best friend (played by Monica Vitti) go from place to place, sometimes looking for their lost friend, alternately professing and denying feelings for one another. Somtimes they hang out with their other rich friends, and sometimes they go off alone together. There’s no real arc to their story, and you find yourself thinking “Where is this going? What does this all mean?” And then you realize, that Monica Vitti’s character is asking herself those same questions in regard to her very existence. She’s passive and flighty, drifting from experience to experience, but going nowhere. Her friend’s disappearance appears to leave her without any central focus in her life. In the final shot of the film (which I won’t reveal, because you should see it yourself), she seems to find some meaning and purpose at last.

There are some striking visuals. I really loved the way shots were carefully composed to underscore Vitti’s sense of isolation. There was one particularly interesting shot of her from a darkened room in the foreground as she stands far out at the end of a very white, long balcony, looking very small and alone. OK, hard to explain, but when you see it, it takes your breath away.

So I guess I have faced up to and conquered my fears of not being smart enough to “get” Antonioni’s films. Actually, I’m sure I didn’t “get” all the allusions and visual symbolism in “L’Aventura,” but it doesn’t seem to matter so much today. I’m looking forward to the next Antonioni film that pops in my NetFlix queue.


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