Monthly Archives: July 2019

Years and Years — Highest Recommendation

Just watched the sixth and final episode of Years and Years on HBO, and what a thrill ride that turned out to be!

The series follows the multi-generational, diverse Lyons family of Manchester, England, through the next 15 years, as technology keeps getting better, while life keeps getting worse. At the same time, it charts the rise of the populist demagogue Vivian Rook, played brilliantly by Emma Thompson as a cross between “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher and a much smarter version of “Short-Fingered Vulgarian” Donald Trump.

Stand-outs, in addition to Thompson, are Russell Tovey as Daniel Lyons and Anne Reid as Muriel Deacon, the Lyons family matriarch. Reid’s monologue in the final episode will probably win her a BAFTA award next year.

Here’s the original BBC One trailer:

And here’s the one from HBO:

Years and Years was a huge hit in the UK, where it got rave reviews across the board.

I’m posting only one tiny spoiler beyond what’s in the trailers: In the final episode, the recounting of the fate of two famous buildings made me laugh out loud.

You gotta watch it yourself.

Another Highest Recommendation.

Scott and Zelda and Gerald and Sara

On the left, Scott and Zelda Fitgerald, sometime in the 1920s. On the right, Gerald and Sara Murphy at Cap d’Antibes beach in 1923.

Last week I made a passing reference to Gerald and Sara Murphy, the wealthy American couple who played a huge part in the literary and artistic communities in Paris during the 1920s, when Paris was the center of the literary and artistic world. “Paris was where the twentieth century was,” wrote Gertrude Stein.

Dick and Nicole Diver, the central characters in F. Scott Fitgerald’s novel, Tender is the Night, are based partly on the Murphys and partly on Scott and Zelda Fitgerald themselves.

Fitzgerald thought the book was his best work. It was the last novel he completed.

I mentioned that I planned to re-read Calvin Tomkins’ 1962 New Yorker article about the Murphys and the Fitzgeralds, and posted a link. I’ve just finished it, and it’s even more impressive than I remembered it being.  It’s a beautifully written piece about some extraordinary people.

Here once again is a link for “Living Well Is the Best Revenge”, along with my highest recommendation.

Bistro Bis — Lunch on 12 July 2019

After an hour or so at the “Infinite Space” installation at ARTECHOUSE, I headed over to Capitol Hill for a late lunch.

Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis is a 10-minute walk from the Senate Office Buildings north of the Capitol, which should tell you pretty much all you need to know about its clientele. The interior is beautifully done, with multiple dining areas on two levels. It’s a charmer.

Bistro Bis Interior (Image from Bistro Bis website)

Bistro Bis Interior (Image from Bistro Bis website)

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

I’d talked to a friend a few days earlier, and the conversation turned to duck confit, as my conversations so often do. It occurred to me then that since I’d titled my current life-improvement project as the “Bastille Day Revival”, and since dining well was a key part of the Revival agenda, there’d be no better way to start it than by ordering that classic French dish. And where could I find one of the best versions of duck confit in Washington? Well, it wasn’t simply chance that brought me back to Bistro Bis.

The duck was served on a bed of wilted spinach and beans, with baby shallots and a good gastrique. Excellent as ever. I could live on this.

Pommes Frites

Pommes Frites

I chose Pommes Frites, with spicy harissa and rosemary aïoli dipping sauces, for my side dish.

This meal made me happy. Thanks to ARTECHOUSE and Bistro Bis, the Bastille Day Revival was off to a great start.

A Faithful Man –– Official U.S. Trailer

Louis Garrel, my favourite French actor, reminds me of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and James Franco. Like them, Garrel is a hugely talented actor who has created a body of work that mixes intriguing indie projects with big mainstream hits. They all take risks and make often-brave choices in the roles they play. All three are about the same age.

With his new romantic comedy, A Faithful Man, Garrel has progressed from acting in memorable films like The Dreamers, Ma Mère, and the delightful Les chansons d’amour, to writing and directing one as well.

In A Faithful Man, Garrel plays Abel, whose partner Marianne (played by Garrel’s real-life wife, Laetitia Casta) tells him that she’s pregnant and that he’s not the father. They go their separate ways, and time passes. Eight years later, Marianne’s husband Paul is dead, and Paul’s little sister Eve has grown from a 13-year-old girl into an attractive young adult who has had a longtime crush on Abel….

It’s all very French.

Eve, btw, is played by Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis.*

A Faithful Man was released in France on 26 December 2018, and opened in the US with a  limited release on 19 July  2019, and will expand this weekend.

*Garrel, Gordon-Levitt, and Franco might want to take cautionary note. That description of their careers in my first paragraph could once have been used to describe Depp’s early trajectory. Both personally and professionally, the last 10 years have not been good ones for Depp.

“Infinite Space” at ARTECHOUSE

“Infinite Space, the first major retrospective of the work of award-winning, Los-Angeles-based, Turkish-born artist Refik Anadol, invites visitors to open their senses to the endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of man and machine.”
—from the program notes

That quote got me thinking about the endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of me and my vacuum cleaner, but perhaps I was taking it too literally.

The current environment in the main room at ARTECHOUSE suffered from a long, dull opening sequence that drove many of us from the room. It was only later that the artist gave us a taste of the mesmerizing beauty that keeps us coming back to the venue:

The walls in ARTECHOUSE’s main room are 30-feet high, so the video is best viewed full screen.

The real fun at this show was in the Infinity Rooms in the side galleries, where mirrored, angled walls created a high tech funhouse effect. Seeing two people who look vaguely familiar simultaneously approaching you from a corridor on your right and from a side hall on your left, and then realizing that they’re both you, is a wonderfully disorienting experience.*

If you wanted, you could be a one-person chorus line.

Two’s company, four’s a crowd.
Look closer. There are only four people in this picture.

“Infinite Space” will run through 2 September 2019.

The Lady From Shanghai
That Scene from Orson Welles’ 1947 film noir.

*Even though those two people are considerably older and heavier than you are.

After The Flood—An Update

It’s been a while. Anybody still out there?

Regular postings will resume in the next few days. What follows here is a brief rundown on why I’ve been hors de combat since Memorial Day. It isn’t very pretty, and you may just want to skip this entry and wait for the new posts.

Summer of 2019 has not been anything close to the most wonderful summer of my life. In fact, I’d probably rank it near the bottom three, only slightly higher than the summer I spent in a Bulgarian prison (mistaken identity), the summer I got lost on the Appalachian trail and had to survive on berries and mushrooms for six weeks, or the summer when that Abercrombie and Fitch model kept calling me and emailing me and stalking me until I finally got the restraining order. (Actually, that one was rather fun.)

The season had started with such high hopes and great expectations! In late May I returned to Washington from a couple of weeks in gloomy and glorious Budapest,* restored, revitalized, and ready to live a much richer and more, well, elegant life. Think Gerald and Sara Murphy in Paris and on the French Riviera in the 1920s.**

The first warning signs came during an otherwise delightful visit by my Nevada brother and sister-in-law, when my long-standing pulmonary problems started to act up. I knew from experience that this meant I was in the early stages of a two- to four-weeks of low-level morbidity, marked by fatigue, marathon coughing sessions, and general yuckiness. And then The Flood happened.

Here’s where things get serious.

I wasn’t aware of it until later, but the whole mess—illness and injury, loss of autonomy and privacy, property damage and disruption of plans, and general uncertainty—left me seriously depressed and effectively paralyzed, unable to do much more than sleep, play online games, and watch immediately forgettable junk TV.  I stopped returning phone calls and answering email. My big project for the year, improving my cooking skills? Abandoned. I had no desire to be in my post-Flood, chaotically disarranged kitchen, and no interest in exploring new restaurants. I survived on deli take-out and on great quantities of Diet Cherry Pepsi.

It was only just before Bastille Day, six weeks post-Flood, that I (metaphorically) slapped myself in the face and told myself that I couldn’t continue to live the way I’d been living, that the numbness began to diminish. I turned off the TV in the middle of an episode of Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away and made reservations at regular hang-out ARTECHOUSE and at a couple of good restaurants. Not only would I get out of bed and dressed before 2 PM, but I would also actually leave the apartment!

And I did.

So while things here are still ugly—restoration of my condo and of the ~30 other units damaged by The Flood may not even be completed before the end of 2019—it seems life is finally, slowly, back on the upswing.

I’ll be spending the rest of my Unwonderful Summer posting here, dining out, and re-reading Living Well Is the Best Revenge and Tender Is the Night.

*It was my fourth visit to that endlessly fascinating city, my third in 18 months. I’ve told people that entitles me to honourary citizenship, but I may have been misinformed.

**See Living Well Is the Best Revenge.