Late Review: “3:10 to Yuma”

A long long time ago, before the debacle of:

    car engine developing weird noise on the way back from Sonoma Book Festival
    dentist extracting two of self’s teeth
    vet detecting more lumps on Gracie
    self’s first moving violation in over 20 years
    visits from: ex-Assumption high school classmates and ex-Ateneo college classmates
    visit to classmate nine years in a coma

Yes, long long before any of the above had transpired, self spent one afternoon in local movie theatre, watching 3:10 to Yuma.

A few days before, self had just taught her first (or second) class of the quarter at xxxx community college, and 3:10 to Yuma had somehow become part of the discussion. Self got the distinct impression that quite a few of the female students found Christian Bale exceedingly cute (Self thinks so, too, though he isn’t in her “top” cute category, which would be headed of course by Viggo Mortensen).

Now, weeks and weeks after that enjoyable afternoon, self comes across a New Yorker with a review of aforementioned movie.

In the course of a quite respectful review, New Yorker writer David Denby fails to mention Christian Bale’s acting at all. Instead, Denby lauds Russell Crowe (“an acting genius”, Denby says, with which assessment self wholeheartedly agrees, for anyone who can pull off gladiator/ general Maximus role, and Beautiful Mind geek/genius/crazy person role, and British commander of H.M.S. Surprise role is definitely deserving of the appellation “acting genius”); praises Ben Foster as “gifted” (self now realizes that she found his character in the movie extremely creepy, and therefore she wholeheartedly agrees with Denby characterization of Foster as “gifted”); and describes Fonda’s acting as “amazingly fierce” and deserving of adjective “iconic.”

Frankly, self did not recognize Fonda at all, not until movie was 3/4 over and she realized he had not yet made an appearance. Then, she suddenly recalled old gent who had been off-ed by Russell Crowe character, and she slapped her forehead and said, “Holy Cow!” (silently), and she thought it was quite a disappointing role for Fonda, since he just looked generally old and decrepit. Even a trifle loathsome. And she couldn’t decide whether she liked him or hated him. But fortunately he got off-ed before she had to think too hard about it.

Back to Denby on Crowe. Denby writes:

Within minutes of his first appearance, he convinces you that Ben Wade is the most intelligent man in the territory.

Ha, ha, ha! That sure is funny. But it is true. No matter who/ what he plays, Crowe’s eyes have such intelligence. That is why self can never quite buy him in an out-and-out romantic role, as in that movie where he played a bumbling fool (didn’t fool self for a minute) who goes to France and falls in love with fetching local maiden.

Then Denby writes:

“Crowe separates himself from Foster and the other actors, creating a quiet private space in which he can play.”

And with this, too, self wholeheartedly agrees.

The only other actor who transmits a similar intelligence is, in self’s humble opinion, Ed Norton.

But, alas, he has chosen as his next role the Incredible Hulk. Which in any case is nowhere near completion (or is filming at this very moment). And, casting her eye over upcoming movies, self thinks there is only Benicio del Toro who she really wants to see, or Casey Affleck (who she always loved in those Ocean movies, though he had such bit roles).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Today: More on Dearest Mum

It has not started raining yet, so self considers this a very good sign. It means she will have time to finish digging hole for last plant she purchased from Redwood City Nursery, a viburnum davidii.

And, self is eating a slice of triple-chocolate mousse from bakery on Laurel Street in San Carlos: Vivaldi’s or Chocolate Mousse, as the new owners have taken to calling it. Self saw the cutest array of Halloween cookies and thought of purchasing a box to send to son, for him to share with his “rezzies”, as he calls his freshmen charges. Perhaps she’ll do that next week.

Self started perusing some old e-mail and came across one from her aunt, a response to a question from self. The e-mail said that Dearest Mum’s piano teacher at Curtis was one Madame Vengerova. So, self decides to google “Madame Vengerova + piano” and comes up with a whole host of entries on movie called Madame Sousatzka, starring Shirley MacLaine.

Hmmm, self is quite sure Dearest Mum was visiting at the time this movie opened, in a small art-house cinema just around the corner from self’s apartment in Menlo Park. And Dearest Mum said nothing, nothing about wanting to see it. Curious.

Here is what The New York Times had to say about the movie:

The film critics will be discussing ”Madame Sousatzka” in cinematic terms. Speaking musically, though, this is an honest attempt to bring into perspective the travails of a prodigy, his growing up, his relationship with his teacher and, as he develops, with the music industry. Piano teachers go about it in various ways. Some are tyrants. Adolph Henselt, considered in the 1850’s to be a peer of Liszt as a pianist, ended up as a teacher in Leningrad. His idea of teaching was to go around swatting flies and yelling ”Falsch! Falsch!” (”False! False!”) whenever his pupils hit a wrong note. He made them so nervous they hit many wrong notes, which delighted him. There was a saying in the profession: ”Henselt kills.” Liszt’s great pupil, Karl Tausig, was also tyrannical, with never a good word to say. His way of teaching was to sit down and say, ”Play it like this.” Since he was Karl Tausig, conceivably the most perfect technician who ever lived, nobody could play it like this. In Amy Fay’s unforgettable words – she was an American girl who studied with him in the late 1860’s – ”it was like trying to copy a streak of lighting at the end of a wetted match.”

Whether or not the producers of ”Madame Sousatzka” realize it, the piano teacher in the film is modeled after Isabella Vengerova (1877-1956). She was the empress of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and through her hands passed such figures as Samuel Barber, Lukas Foss, Leonard Bernstein and Gary Graffman. She was demanding and despotic. Things had to be done exactly her way. When she went into a tantrum, she could make her pupils feel like crawling caterpillars. But she gave them technique and musicianship, and she lived by a set of vanished ideals in which music and only music was the focus of her and her pupils’ lives.

Oooh, somewhere in the back of her mind, self recalls that Dearest Mum told her that Madame Vengerova was royally pissed when Dear Departed Dad began hanging around her star pupil. In fact, Madame V told Dearest Mum in no uncertain terms that she could not hope to have a real career if she married Dear Departed Dad. Which proved to be just the ticket, for shortly thereafter Dearest Mum married Dear Departed Dad, departed New York (for at least 20 years) and raised five children, just like that, in the Philippines.

Self was the second.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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