Sunday, June 13, 2010

68 Months

At school they call Lucas, "The Little French Boy".

As the school year slowly comes to an end...and I mean slowly because I never imagined when we began this great journey ten months ago that I would be praying for it to end, whereas we thought that it would give us a break from our energetic five-year-old boy but then it only turned out to give our schedules an extra item to attend to, forcing us to longingly dream of the early bus that arrives in the morning carting off all the kids to school and dropping them off late in the afternoon, so that we are now constantly teasing and bribing Lucas with hopes that he will be ready to hop on that bus come September...Lucas has fully embraced his French studies.

There are many days and so many ways that makes both Xtimu and I truly appreciate that little boy of ours. He's a genius at grocking the wonders of the world around him. He's completely adaptable, conscientious, aware and he continues to tweak us toward various and new perspectives that only a child can provide. I'm pretty certain that, if we continue to harness and focus our energies into a cohesive and knowledgeable tool of parenting know-how, Lucas will accomplish anything that he puts his mind toward.

I will say that I have also noticed how drastically our son is changing; into a mature little boy, into a sophisticated communicator, into an individual, into a multi-lingual achiever. He definitely is no longer that little doe-eyed beautiful baby boy that blew our world askew. So many times I find, when I am talking to him or simply just watching him, that I can see this grown up person before me. It's like I fast-forward ten years and my mind blurs into a crash-twilight-zone moment. I go a little numb, but I can't help but smile because I imagine that Lucas at fifteen is going to be wonderful just like he is at five.

Yeah, he still has some issues (we all have our karma don't we?) but I'd rather focus on the tremendous abilities that he is fortunately endowed with, like speaking French. His wonderful teacher has told us numerous times over the past couple of weeks about Lucas's little nickname because he always speaks French in class. He responds to her questions in French. He asks his own in French. He even mumbles in French when he's doing his homework, which is absolutely adorable, by the way.

Ever since the school year began, we've conspired to take advantage of this new gift of language that our son is accumulating. We joked that we would most certainly have to take a trip to the western shores of Europe and use our faithful son as interpreter. We thought that we could probably head over sometime in his early teens, maybe when he graduates from middle school. Well, we better watch out because it isn't a joke anymore and we may be headed across that great big ocean in just a few years from now.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 07, 2010

28 Months (part two)

That is an image of Monica Furlong, not Quinn, but I wanted to remember this woman for the impact that she recently had in my life. I just finished reading a book that she wrote called, "Wise Child". It immediately connected with my soul and it's a book that I am holding aside for Quinn. It'll be perfect for those tween years when life feels so unsure and trying to understand your place in this world seems like a monumental chore. I have complete faith in my children and their abilities but I am constantly on the lookout for beautiful messages that might reach their lovely ears.

The story of "Wise Child" focuses on the growth of a young girl at a transitional period of her life. Raised during the dark ages in Britain, Wise Child suddenly finds herself orphaned when her grandmother dies and both her mother and father are off exploring the world beyond their little province. The only person who has the means to take her in is Juniper, a strange woman who has many mystical qualities about her. At first Wise Child is frightened because all of the children think that Juniper is a witch and that life with her will be terrible, but she soon discovers that there is no one in town who is more welcoming and generous. Wise Child's life until that point had been deeply steeped in a devout interpretation of Christianity, administered by the local priest, a hateful man named Fillan. In that world there was no need for a girl to be educated beyond homemaking designs and only those with Jesus in their heart should be acceptable companions. Juniper's world is an entirely new perspective for Wise Child. She begins to learn about nature and her intimate connection to it. She discovers the lore of herbal culture and the benefit of working diligently to bolster the environment around her, which in turn helps them live more comfortably than most of the others in town. She also is educated on all of the arts of human understanding, just so that she may become a more fully realized individual.

For her entire life, Monica Furlong fought against the gender prejudice inherent within the Church. She was deeply spiritual and had an open seeking heart, but her foundation was rooted within Christianity. She sought to transform the culture of the Church Of England so that women were connected to a more equitable environment within those hallowed walls. She was a Christian Feminist and her understanding of religions and the way that they functioned was always grounded with a human touch.

Growing up within the Christian culture myself, I often had misgivings and was extremely confused by the inequity existing all around us that didn't jive with the message of universal love that stemmed from the teachings of Jesus. This book was a revelation for me because it showed that the true heart of the divine exists all around us, that it doesn't have to be constrained by any book or theology or culture. It is a natural breathing reality that we witness every day. Juniper understood that so much more than any of the so-called "Christians" in the book and it is this message that she tries to impart on Wise Child so that she may develop and help the world grow to become more in tune with that divine spirit.

There is a constant struggle within our culture about empowerment. We are forever being told that we have the capabilities to be the most dynamic and self-realized people then, in the same breath, we are reminded how limited those capabilities can be. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the lives of women. We have advanced so dramatically over the last hundred years, since women first were empowered with the vote, yet almost every message conveyed is one of subservience, of succumbing to the male gaze, of retaining an unequal role in life. Though it's true that more and more women are overcoming this debilitating burden, the dominating story that remains is one of enormous struggle and conflict to simply obtain a basic human right.

Monica Furlong didn't succumb to the pressure of a dominant persistent belief. Instead she continued to try and alter that belief for her entire life, even completing a third novel shortly before she died that continued to delve into Juniper's and Wise Child's world. Ms. Furlong is the type of role model that I want Quinn to admire and aspire to be. Not a model nor a film star nor a rock god nor a celebrity of any kind that will demand that she conform to an idealized version of beauty. Not a CEO nor a politician who doesn't believe that women should have ever gotten the right to vote or even serve in office alongside men. I want her to truly be empowered and to believe in the strength of every human being, to fight against injustice no matter where it may rear its ugly head. I want her to be a feminist.

Here's a picture of my little feminist.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Movie Review: Summer Hours

A few years ago I saw the movie Clean starring Maggie Cheung as a ex-con junkie musician who somehow manages to pull her life back together after losing her partner, custody of her child and any sense of identity that may have come from her former life. It gave me a new perspective on film, one that expressed the idea of the global citizen, living a life where borders no longer rule the lives of people who harbor the dream of communicating with other human beings. It was a truly international film, traversing across various cultures and continents as if their inherent differences no longer existed, not in a Jason Bourne I am the king of the universe kind of way but rather in a more mundane fact of modern day life type of existence. It really captured the soul of the 21st century and it was also my introduction to the world of Olivier Assayas.

Assayas was born of the cinema and like so many others who grew up immersed in the world film, it became a natural medium for him to explore. Obviously influenced by many of the great French artists of the 60's and 70's, La Nouvelle Vague; Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol. Rohmer; Assayas captures a sensibility in life that actually considers the true nature of our human emotions. He came to prominence as a filmmaker after writing for Cahier du Cinema for a few years during the early 80's and is highly regarded in Europe, though his films have always had trouble finding a large audience here in the States. This is unfortunate because his movies are rich and beautiful and realistic and complex, worthy of recognition, but there's no shortcuts here, only heartfelt interactions that feel like something that you just experienced the last time you were with friends or family.

The Criterion Collection has made available a special edition DVD of Assayas 2008 film “Summer Hours” and it's a perfect opportunity for him to connect with some new viewers. Filled with interviews with Assayas and actors Charles Berling and Juliette Binoche, as well as a documentary that explores the film's approach to art in the cinema, it's a movie that should be on the queue of anyone who looks for thoughtful and emotionally resonate filmmaking when they press the play button on their remote.

Summer Hours follows three well-to-do siblings as they deal with the passing of their mother. The film opens with her 75th birthday party out at the family estate where they've all come together for the first time in awhile. We get an intimate glimpse into the heart of the family, spanning three generations, through this very ordinary gathering in the home of their youth. Assayas uses a deft and honest tone to immerse us into their world and wonderful dialogue to help us understand how they all got there, without actually making it feel like it's being narrated to us. This type of expression is where Assayas excels in filmmaking. Throughout the rest of the film we share wine and tears, laughter and conversation with the family as they address the unpleasant task of handling their mother's estate after she's died. Often a scene tends to linger on moments where it seems so hard to let go; two brothers refusing to say goodbye as they stand in the rain, a wife attempting to comfort her husband in a dark room, the grief of loss stranded on the side of the road under the shadows of overhanging branches. Each frame holding onto the delicate nature of their lives with the warmth and beauty of a precious painting, masterpieces for the halls of museums.

An important aspect of the film resides within the evaluation of worth regarding the things that we collect in our lives and eventually leave behind for those who remain. The matriarch has spent a lifetime surrounding herself with beautiful and valuable art pieces. From famous paintings to gorgeous furniture, from impressionist sculptures to a post-modern vase, these objects of inheritance can end up becoming burdens in the end. How many times have we stopped in on an estate sale to marvel at the collection of stuff people have left for others to deal with? It's shocking to see and hardly anything will ever be cherished with the same feelings as of the original owner. In the case of this esteemed French family, we are taken to a much more elevated extreme of this idea and most of the conflict between the siblings comes down to how they can accommodate their inheritance equitably and with respect to their mother's legacy. Played by Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche and Jeremie Renier respectively, they bring poise and a nuanced air to their roles that we ultimately recognize as love for one another. They are polite, honest and ambitious, which reflects on the way that they were raised, another gift passed on by their mother. Though many of her collected works do end up in a museum, looking spare and beautiful, there's a longing that yearns for the utilitarian necessity of the past when these objects were still useful; a vase that should be filled with flowers or a desk in need of clutter.

What do we cherish after all is said and done, after a life has been fulfilled? Assayas reveals what is at the heart of the matter by the way the narrative moves through the film. We pass from the perspective of the Grandmother at the beginning of the movie, then become ensconced in the lives of her children as they come to terms with her death and finally we end with the grandchildren and a big bash they hold for their friends shortly before the ancestral home is to be sold. Assayas hands off the responsibility of life through each generation as if it's a baton, these memories and feelings that cling to us after all the years. This third generation cares for the objects of the past least of all but that doesn't mean that they are callous to what is passing.

When Sylvie, the oldest grandchild, pauses in a meadow with her boyfriend, she recalls how her Grandmother often brought her there when she was younger. She's struck by the power of the place and it overwhelms her heart so much that quiet tears spring out of her. She truly understands what has become lost here. It's a moment that is so pure and silent that it only belongs to her, not even her boyfriend knows how to penetrate her delicate space. The moment passes as all moments do and Sylvie quickly tries to escape any intrusion to her thoughts, but every time you break away from that intimate caress with the past and with each passing day, those memories become less clear, like an old unattended country home that has grown thick with vines and moss and weeds.

Labels: ,