In 1946, one of the first movies to come out of post-war France was a live action version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast- or rather, LaBelle et la Bete. Though adapted from a fairy tale, this film is more for adults than for children, with moments which are dark- almost gothic horror- as well as others which are surreal and dream-like. The effects are amazing for the time period, and the film- shot in glorious black and white- is beautiful to look at. It is, of course, entirely in French but it can be viewed with English subtitles. This version a lot closer to the original story than say, the Disney versions, but also is padded with extra characters and back story. Fun fact: the actor who plays Avenant (a Gaston-like character) also plays the Beast.
The scene below really highlights the beauty of the cinematography and also makes it obvious that Josette Day (who plays Beauty) was a ballet dancer before she was an actress:
"Ignorance and arrogance are a lethal combination. Nowhere do we see that more clearly among writers and performers who pontificate as historians when they know nothing about history." -Victor Davis Hanson
Peeping around the curtain, Watson notes that Milverton seems to be impatiently waiting for something, repeatedly checking his watch. This proves correct when there is a knock on the door which leads outside to the veranda. Milverton opens the door and admits a heavily cloaked and veiled woman, saying crossly that she's late and it had better be worth it. She is apparently a maid to the Countess d'Albert and wants to sell five compromising letters belonging to her employer. Milverton tells her that he will have to inspect the letters before he can pay her for them. As he is speaking, the woman raises her veil and Milverton lets out a shocked exclaimation: she is not the Countess d'Albert's maid, and he obviously recognizes her.
The woman's eyes are hard as she says yes, it is the woman whose life he has ruined. Milverton tries to laugh but there is a strain of fear in his voice as he says that, since she obstinately refused to pay him, he had no choice but to do what he did. It turns out that he sent incriminating letters about her to her husband whom she describes as "the noblest gentleman that ever lived". The shock of what the letters contained- whatever it was- killed him. She reminds Milverton that when she visited him before, she begged him to show mercy and he laughed in her face. She says that, coward that he is, he's not laughing now.
Milverton tells the woman to leave or he will get his servants to summon the police. The woman doesn't move, a cold smile fixed on her face. She says that he will ruin no more lives as he has ruined hers and that she will rid the world of a poisonous snake. Pulling a revolver from under her cloak, she empties the gun into Milverton's chest- shot after shot- from less than two feet away. Milverton falls forward, claws at his desk, and then collapses on the floor, writhing and then growing still. The woman looks down at Milverton's dead body and then grinds her heel into his face. She then quickly slips back out the door and disappears into the night.
Though the murder happens too quickly for anyone to intervene, Watson automatically lunges forward when the shooting begins. Holmes pulls him back, however, keeping them both hidden until the woman is gone. Then, even though they can hear voices raised in alarm elsewhere in the house, Holmes coolly returns to the safe, scoops up an armload of papers and swiftly dumps them in the fireplace. He does this repeatedly until the safe is empty and the fire is roaring, loaded with burning paper. Holmes and Watson then leave through the same door as the woman, Holmes locking the door behind them as he tells Watson to head for the garden wall: they will have to scale it to escape their pursuers who are even now searching the house and grounds. The two men are spotted but manage to escape over the wall, though Watson has to kick free of someone who grabs his leg as he is climbing. They run for about two miles before Holmes calls halt, realizing that they are not being pursued anymore. The next day, Holmes and Watson are eating a hearty breakfast at Baker Street when Inspector Lestrade arrives, asking if Holmes will help with a murder case in Hampstead. Holmes innocently asks what has happened and Lestrade says that Charles Augustus Milverton- a blackmailer- has been killed and all of his papers burned by his two murderers. Holmes asks how Lestrade knows that there were two and the inspector says that they were seen escaping over the back wall and the gardener had a bit of a struggle with one before they got away. He says the gardener described the one he grabbed as a strongly built man of average height, with a moustache; he couldn't see any other features because the man was wearing a mask. Holmes scoffs at this description, saying it could be anyone- even Watson. Lesrade finds this remark amusing. Holmes then tells Lestrade that he will not take the case. He says that he knew Milverton by his evil reputation and that his sympathies are entirely with the criminals, whoever they are.
After Lestrade leaves, Holmes is quiet and thoughtful and Watson observes that he seems to be trying to recall something to his mind. They are halfway through lunch when Holmes suddenly jumps up, shouting that he's got it and tells Watson to grab his hat and come with him. They make their way to Regent Circus where Holmes makes his way to a shop which has its front window filled with photos of celebrities and beautiful women. Holmes stares fixedly at a picture of a stately lady in court dress and Watson, on examining it closer, realizes that it is the woman whom they witnessed shooting Milverton the previous night. The two men read the name of the eminent nobleman to whom she had been married and then, as Watson looks over at Holmes, the detective puts his finger to his lips and they turn from the window and walk silently away.
After sitting silently in thought for a while, Holmes gets up and goes to his bedroom, emerging in disguise as a young workman. He tells Watson that he'll be back later and leaves the house. Watson relates that, for a number of days, Holmes is coming and going at all hours in his workman garb, telling his friend only that he's been in Hampstead, where Milverton lives. One stormy night, Holmes returns to Baker Street and tells Watson to congratulate him: he's engaged... to Milverton's housemaid. Holmes explains to a deeply shocked Watson that he is masquerading as a plumber and has been walking out with the housemaid every evening, encouraging her to talk about her employer. He says he now knows the layout of Milverton's house like the back of his hand. Waltson remonstrates with Holmes, concerned about the feelings of the girl when the deception is revealed, but Holmes waves away his concern. He says that he has a rival for the maid's affections who will no doubt cut Holmes out the minute his back is turned.
Watson is just recovering from this shock when Holmes gives him another one: he says that he plans to return to Milverton's house later that night and burgle it, stealing back the incriminating letters. He tells the aghast Watson that, while technically criminal, breaking into Milverton's house is morally justifiable. Watson mulls it over and agrees, so long as all they take is materials which the blackmailer is using for illegal purposes. Holmes says there is no "they"... he doesn't want Watson to be involved in criminal activity. Watson says that, if Holmes doesn't let him help, he'll march straight down to the police station and give the entire plan away. At first annoyed, Holmes then gives in, saying with amusement that, after sharing rooms for years, they may end up in the same cell together. Pulling out a kit of burgler's tools, he advises Watson to wear rubber soled shoes and bring a black silk mask. While they are travelling to Milverton's house, Holmes tells Watson that the blackmailer keeps his papers in a safe in his study, which is attached to his bedroom. Holmes has found out from Agatha- his chatty "fiancee"- that Milverton is an extremely sound sleeper, so they don't have to worry about him waking up if they make a little bit of noise. Also, Milverton has a fierce dog which he lets out in the garden at night. Since Holmes has been courting Agatha, however, the maid has been locking the dog up so that her "beau" can visit unthreatened by the beast.
Donning their masks, the two men steal up to the darkened house and Holmes cuts a hole in a pane of glass so he can unlock one of the doors from the inside. They make their way silently through the house to Milverton's study; there is a fire in the fireplace by which they can see and Holmes lays out his tool kit, getting to work cracking the safe, which he soon does. Opening the safe, they find many packets of letters and other papers and Holmes begins to examine them, looking for Lady Eva's letters. Suddenly they hear footsteps coming toward the study and dart behind the heavy curtains to hide. Just as they conceal themselves, the electric light flicks on and Milverton enters the room. Obviously they were mistaken about the man being asleep in bed at this hour. Milverton sits in the chair behind his desk and starts reading some papers, showing no signs of retiring for the night. Holmes and Watson are stuck behind the curtains, striving to remain quiet and still.
Dr. Watson begins this account of one of Sherlock Holmes' cases by assuring the reader that the principal characters involved in the tale are now dead and beyond being injured by his recounting of the incident. Despite this, he supresses their real names and the date of Holmes' case so as to keep people from guessing who was actually involved. One winter evening, Holmes and Watson return to 221B Baker Street at 6 pm to find that a man has left his calling card. Holmes takes one look at it and throws it on the floor with an exclamation of disgust. Watson picks it up and reads: Charles Augustus Milverton, Appledore Towers, Hampstead. Agent. On the back of the card, he has written that he will return at 6:30. Holmes tells Watson that Milverton is the worst man in London, describing him as the king of all blackmailers. Milverton is known to pay generously for letters which will compromise people of wealth and position. Many servants, unable to resist the lure of hundreds of pounds, are willing to pilfer compromising letters from their employers to sell to this slimeball, and so are some confidence tricksters who have lured gullible women into behaving indiscreetly. Holmes says that Milverton has ruined many lives and families with his insatiable greed for blackmail money. Watson wonders how the fiend can get away with his crimes, but Holmes points out that criminal prosecution would require witnesses, and that no one is going to destroy their own reputation- or marriage- by admitting to their guilty secrets in a court of law. Holmes then tells Watson that he is handling a case for Lady Eva Brackwell, who is marrying the Earl of Dovercourt in two weeks. Milverton has gotten his hands on some imprudent letters that she at one time wrote to a young squire of her acquaintance. He will deliver these letters to the Earl if Lady Eva doesn't pay him a large sum of money, and the Earl will probably break their engagement. She has asked Holmes to make terms with Milverton.
Charles Milverton arrives at this moment; he is a portly gentleman of 50 whom Watson describes as looking somewhat like Dickens' benevolent character Mr. Pickwick, except for his hard eyes and creepy smile. Milverton greets Holmes as if this is a social visit, extending his hand, which Holmes pointedly ignores. At first the man objects to Dr. Watson's presence, but Holmes tells him that Watson is a colleague and already knows about the case. Getting down to business, Milverton demands 7000 pounds for the letters. Holmes tells him that he intends to advise Lady Eva not to pay it, but to tell her future husband the truth and trust to his understanding. Milverton chuckles and says that clearly Holmes has never met the Earl. Holmes then says that Lady Eva is not a wealthy woman and can pay no more than 2000, which will drain her financially. Milverton insists on 7000, and Holmes points out that, if he gives the letters to the Earl, he will get no money at all; it would be more lucrative to accept the 2000 pounds Lady Eva is offering. Milverton explains that he has eight or ten other cases similar to Lady Eva's underway at the moment; ruining her marriage will show his other victims that he is serious and will scare them into meeting his demands. Furious, Holmes springs up and tells Watson to make sure Milverton can't escape out the door. He intends to forcibly search the man for the letters, but Milverton backs up to the wall like a cornered rat and pulls back his coat to display the butt of a large pistol. He tells Holmes that he won't hesitate to defend himself and that, in any case, this isn't his first kick at the can; he never carries incriminating documents on his person. Knowing he has won, Milverton cheerfully bids Holmes and Watson goodbye and nips off out the door, leaving the angry detective to sit by the fire, staring broodingly into the flames.
So I have zero interest in seeing the new Aladdin movie, but I quite enjoyed my nephew's school production:
The story of Aladdin And the Magic Lamp is found in The Book Of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights), although not in the original Arabic texts. The story- and that of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves- were added by Antoine Galland, who translated the Arabian Nights collection into French in the early 1700's. In his diary, Galland wrote that in March 1709 he met a Syrian Christian storyteller named Youhenna Diyab who told him these two tales, which he added to the collection. It has been speculated that Diyab based these stories on some incidents in his own life, which was full of travel and adventure.
Tim Conway died last week at the age of 85. He was, of course, best known for his comedic roles on The Carol Burnett Show, McHale's Navy, and other programs. I've seen clips of him on these shows and he's always funny, but what I know him best from is the many Disney films he appeared in, my favourite being The Apple Dumpling Gang. In it, he and Don Knotts are a not-so-dynamic duo of painfully inept bank robbers. Conway and Knotts play off each other wonderfully well and it's a pleasure to now watch this movie with the nephews and nieces, seeing them laugh just as heartily at the antics of Theodore and Amos as we did when we were kids. Here's a short clip of the two attempting to plan their theft of a giant gold nugget:
I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal, these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
I read the poem Ozymandias for the first time in grade eight English, during our poetry section of the class, and it was one which I found instantly memorable. It was written by the Romantic English poet Percy Shelley in 1817 as part of a poetry contest. It was a common practice amongst Shelley's literary acquaintances to challenge each other to writing competitions; his wife Mary's novel Frankenstein had it's start in a ghost story challenge suggested by Lord Byron. Earlier in 1817, Leigh Hunt, Percy Shelley, and John Keats had written competing poems about the Nile River. In December of that year, the author Horace Smith spent Christmas with the Shelleys and the two men engaged in a friendly rivalry to write the best poem on a chosen topic. They picked a passage from 1st century BC Greek historian Diodorus Siculus' Bibliotheca historica, which describes the inscription on an ancient Egyptian statue: "King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work." The word Ozymandias isa Greek form of the name of Ramses II of Egypt, who reigned from 1279-1213 BC. It is thought that Shelley and Smith may have chosen this topic because a huge statue of Ramses II had been purchased by the British Museum the previous year, although it wouldn't actually arrive in England until 1821. The poem Ozymandias is a sonnet: a 14 line poem with a defined rhyme scheme, although in this case Shelley's iambic pentameter is somewhat irregular. There are three voices in the sonnet: that of the author- "I", the traveller who relates what he saw, and Ozymandias himself, whose words are inscribed on the crumbled statue.
Shelley's Ozymandias is a meditation on the transience of the power and influence of even great rulers and tyrants. Shelley's distaste for such tyrants is obvious in his description of the "shattered visage": "...whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command", and it has been suggested that Shelley may have been thinking of Napoleon, who had been defeated and exiled to Saint Helena in 1815. The hubris of Ozymandias led him to believe that he would never be forgotten, that his works would never be surpassed, and the edifices he built would stand forever. Yet, as the traveller reads the arrogant pronouncement on the base of the colossal ruin, it is obvious that the broken statue is all that remains of the tyrant's once mighty and imposing empire. Even his power and prestige could not withstand the ravages of time.
I got back from Fam Jam 2019 late Monday night, extremely tired. When my brothers and sisters and I get together, we tend to stay up late into the night- or rather, early into the morning- talking and playing board games (mostly talking). Unfortunately, the younger generation generally starts getting up around 6am on the Fam Jam, so sleeping in isn't really an option. Also, with many activities like the annual soccer/baseball game etc. going on, sneaking off to catch a nap isn't in the cards either. Anticipating this, I took a vacation day on Tuesday so that I could catch up on sleep and unpack... mostly sleep. I'm glad I did, because I would have been a zombie at work. This is a picture of the camp we rent:
It was still pretty chilly there this year, which is why one of my sisters is wearing gloves in the above picture; it had been snowing there the week before. While it would have been nice if it was a bit warmer, there were very few black flies around, and they're usually terrible at this time of year. We especially appreciated their absence during the soccer/baseball game.
A sister attempts to ride nephew's unicycle... it doesn't go well.
One thing we definitely do at the Fam Jam is eat well. Everyone signs up to provide one meal for the group, which means you only bring food for that one meal. This is a picture of one of the breakfasts:
Campfire/ marshmallow roast:
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”– Frederick Buechner