Saturday, September 22, 2007


I meant to mention this Tuesday: my medical assessment is finally complete. I got the official "class one" clearance in a voice mail first thing after waking. That's a relief. All shots and prodding finished for another two years. We've scheduled our official pack-out for October ninth to use the Columbus Day vacation for sorting everything three ways: an air shipment with weight restrictions, conventional freight which might arrive months after we've moved, and what we'll carry with us onto the plane. We think we'll fly Wednesday, October seventeenth, but I'll update that once we actually have tickets. Sunshine's mom left town today after two museum afternoons and three area cuisine evenings. The restaurant highlight, for me, was Zaytinya,1 if for no other reason than the highly dramatic second floor view of a sunset-lit one-block G Street spur between the MLK Library and some industrial stone building. Other meals were rife with all sorts of emotional last-minute feelings since we're flying away so soon. Today, Sunshine and I met in Silver Spring to eat a rapid dinner before seeing American Visa (Juan Carlos Valdivia, 2005),2 a movie Sunshine felt trepidation about screening when we had the opportunity while still living in México (and part of the Latin American film festival3 happening now). The first three-fourths of the movie are fantastic, with real human concern for a man trying to abuse the US legal system by immigrating on a tourist visa. He wishes to be reunited with his son by fleeing from a corrupt Bolivian society. "People just do whatever they want here," he says at one point. But the film eventually degrades into a silly crime plot before finally providing a "daring" revelation that serves to reveal it's no better than any disgruntled political cartoon. What a waste.[Cavin]

Friday, September 21, 2007


Tuesday's second movie was Peter Greenaway's melodramatic black comedy A Zed & Two Noughts (1985),1 a characteristically tortured Greenaway title alphanumerically approximating the word zoo. Here the director begins to plum in earnest the theatrical presentation of baroque turpitude he'll bring to a crescendo in his later tour-de-bravura The Cook the Thief his Wife & Her Lover (1989).2 The curtains rise on the first of a handful of stages the director redresses throughout the movie: a windswept patch of urban roadside surreal with strobe-lit glass, a fetching tiger billboard, a woman screaming. It's the scene of a horrible swan-related car accident which has killed the wives of brother animal behaviorists Oliver and Oswald Deuce (Eric and Brian Deacon), working a zoo predominately devoted to black-and-white animals. The driver of the car, Alba (Andréa Ferréol), is seriously injured. The swan is dead. This tragedy begins a spiral of misshapen events in the brothers' environment while they themselves lose their historically fragile autonomy. One hides in the zoo's auditorium, screening hours of David Attenborough-narrated natural history programming and, queasily, swallowing handfuls of collected safety glass. The other begins cobbling together time-lapse documentation of various decaying specimens culled from the zoo. Both seek self-destructive refuge in the story-telling of Venus de Milo (Frances Barber), a hooker in a little back-and-white dress who is attracted to zebras. Milo's name echoes the plight of Alba, the driver, who loses one leg after another under the care of her mad surgeon, heir to a famous Vermeer forger. "You can never see the legs in a Vermeer" she notes. The movie follows an intuitive sensibility rather than cleaving to narrative logic, advancing through the director's gaudy stages like a wicked dream punctuated by montages of animal decay. Intermittently difficult to watch, but worth every minute. [Cavin]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The first movie I saw last night was Peter Greenaway's crisply delineated mystery of ill manners The Draughtsman's Contract (1982),* a movie firmly rooted in a rather earthier seventeenth century than generally provided. Mr. Neville (Anthony Higgins) is a draftsman held in courtly regard among Early Modern powdered wig types during the reign of William and Mary. The film begins at an orderly party where the artist is being petitioned by Mrs. Herbert (Janet Suzman) to render twelve drawings of her estate and surrounding gardens during her husband's upcoming twelve-day holiday. For this she is willing to draw a contract promising eight pounds per completed picture, twelve days room-and-board on the estate, and her own collusion in a certain number of earthy liaisons with Mr. Neville. The artist is game for this arrangement, but cannot reconcile the exact nature of Mrs. Herbert's relationship with her disinterested husband. Mrs. Herbert's daughter (Anne-Louise Lambert), whose husband is merely ineffective, also seems in hot pursuit of her mother's contract. Before the end of the party, the deal is made. The balance of the movie, before an unsatisfying denouement, details Mr. Neville's progress on his daily obligations, narrated by his directions regarding each of the estate's angles; each to be penciled during specific hours of sunlight. But he is becoming frustrated by objects of seeming random distribution that keep appearing in his view. The movie, so far suited to Mr. Neville's aesthetic, here steadily widens to present an angle beyond that of the artist's scope, thereby revealing the extent to which he is being unknowingly maneuvered. As the plot thickens we become aware of a mastermind behind the incongruous objects placed here and there, and thus dutifully recorded in the draftsman's documentation. Certain of this movie's unexpected revelations made my jaw drop. [Cavin]


I got a late start today. This was inconvenient since it left me only one hour to clean our whole unit before heading off to Silver Spring for some movies tonight. Sunshine's mother arrives in town for a short, mid-week visit today, but I won't see her until tomorrow because AFI's Silver Theater1 in Maryland is screening a couple Peter Greenaway2 movies I've never seen. It's odd; I became a fervid Greenaway fan when I first saw the Cook the Thief his Wife & her Lover3 at the Janus Theaters back in 1989. It was the most walked-out-of movie we ran during the four years I worked there: a visual and aural assault on the nerves, dangerous and thrilling. But in those early days of esoteric home video, it was difficult to access his previous work. Later, I lost interest just as abruptly after 1991's endless Prospero's Books,4 and haven't seen a Greenaway movie since. I mention all this because I feel a little guilty for missing the first whole night of Bet's visit just so I could go to the movies. But this is also my last hurrah: Summer scheduling is ramping down at the theater; except for one Latin American film festival5 I'll predominantly miss, no new programs start until sweet Otto Preminger noir6 and Halloween horror7 features begin popping up the weekend after I arrive in Vietnam. Between now and that travel day--exactly one month away--our schedule is minutely planned. I can name just what I'll be doing on most days and I can predict the remaining handful. Tonight's movies were the last movies I'll get to see, save one festival entry next Friday, that isn't currently in wide release. Next Tuesday I'll likely see my last American screening of anything before 2009. [Cavin]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Today's post is dedicated to forgotten clothes. Today I realized I left my dry cleaning hanging in a little plastic bag in the room where I stayed last week. But that's the punch line. Lately, rebelling against living out of a bag all the time, I've been packing the trunk of the car with my laundry basket when I travel. It's very convenient, and keeps my shirts flatter than those times when I have to roll them into a tight little wad to cram into my duffel. But even folded neatly, many of my favorites were badly wrinkled when I arrived in North Carolina for my recent vacation. So, despite the fact that my clothes were all clean, I took everything, excepting the clothes on my back, to the dry cleaners to be pressed. Pretty smart, huh? That was two Thursdays ago. I couldn't retrieve them that Friday. Saturday, the cleaners closed at four, something I eventually realized during a nice late lunch at First Carolina Deli. Sunday, the place was closed all day. See where this is going? Monday I was supposed to get my driver's license, but got a late start and didn't actually manage to get to the NC DMV building until Tuesday afternoon. I also finally remembered to get my nicely pressed clothes that day, too. Until then, I'd been switching between the same two pairs of pants. My scheme to have crisply starched clothing had kept me in dirty laundry all week. Wednesday was the first opportunity I had to access the things I'd paid twenty bucks to wear. I left for DC again on Thursday. I'd worn exactly one clean item. I guess I don't even have to pack now when I return to NC in just under two weeks. But still. [Cavin]

Monday, September 17, 2007


There has been some very, very good weather lately. Saturday I slept late principally because I had no idea it was afternoon already as dark as it was outside. Today I slept late for the hell of it: it was neither dark, nor was the autumn-like weather much of a surprise when I finally stepped out into it. Over the last two evenings, I've needed my jacket and shoes outside. For the temperatures during the day, even a sunny day like today, I've been wearing heavier, long-sleeved pullover-type shirts that I had just assumed I wouldn't be wearing again for a couple of years. I'm glad I didn't put those into storage yet. The weather has been wonderful, and I wouldn't change it for anything, but it's also served to make me a little sad that I'll be leaving the temperate zone halfway through October, probably robbing myself of much of what is spectacular about fall and the onset of winter this year. Sunshine and I saw the Bourne Ultimatum* at the zombie multiplex tonight before eating excellent Burmese fish soup and samosa coconut curry salad in a fluorescently no-frills strip mall nearby. Frankly, these Bourne movies started off strong, but haven't really paid off for me. I'm interested in a specialists without memories, but I have no burning desire to discover the invented past of a literary character, at least not for a movie-and-a-half now. It's fun to watch Matt Damon, his doubles, and their editors fight it out in drab locales, chase each other in cars, etc; but it's extra-boring to plod through another stock governmental rights violation perpetrated by an agency solely engaged in sprouting one clichéd out-of-control shadow-op after another to mop up its own extralegal mopping transgressions. Yawn. Who watches the watch, man? [Cavin]

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I returned home to our Falls Church Unit just before seven yesterday morning and got to sleep around ten. I managed to get up again before dark, and Sunshine and I enjoyed a nice, if rapid, Italian dinner before coming home and watching TV. Man, I'm exhausted. Through last Tuesday I balanced a schedule of three things per day which had me dashing between many houses in several cities. By Thursday I began to close down entirely, refusing to leave the house before five and eating at the same location I was to meet with other friends later that night. In this way I went from bed to bar and that was my whole day. Initially, I'd expected to leave NC Friday around noon, but by one am it seemed preferable to make the five-hour drive overnight and get it over with. It's been difficult to get catch up on things and start making this blog again. But most of what I have to talk about happened last week and I don't want to still be talking about my vacation by Thursday. Also, there were some posts composed in North Carolina which languished on my laptop due to the inconsistency of a stolen Wi-Fi signal. So I've back-posted three previous vacation Updates prior to this post (here, here, and here). Today I've done very little besides lay about. We watched Univision's broadcast of last week's Miss Venezuela pageant and the expected contestants won (only these women had single-strapped dresses and bathing suits, which I presume was an overt signal to the judges that the president of OMV wanted them crowned). Sunshine went to a party at her Vietnamese teacher’s house while I lazed. Later we ate a nice Lebanese dinner before watching more TV and going to bed. [Cavin]