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Report 7 The Movies +

I finally got to Flicks—a great co-op run movie connection here in Phnom Penh where for $3.50 you can be blasted out of this world with AC (I actually had to move, it was so intense) and see a first run/or/relevant film. Sort of Mission Theatre-meets-dormroom-with-treacherous staircase and better quality booze.

Flicks 2 is quite convenient for me and I was delighted to finally see a film with 2 fellow AJWS volunteers. Amour—did this just win Oscar for Best Foreign Flick? I guess it was in the 50 best of 2012. Brave and wonderful performances by two stars of the great age of modern French Cinema— Jean-LouisTrintignant (A Man and a Woman) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) playing an elderly couple suffering the slings and arrows of age—stroke–and where their love takes them in this chapter of their marriage. (And no, I don’t think it was depressing or scandalous.) And as always, an interesting reminder of the difference between French and anyone else’s film making: show don’t tell; and no answers. OMG and the apartment.I think the set dresser had a mahvelous time.

French Cinema is nothing if not provocative of questions of existence, isolation, etc. I’m struck by what seems like a silly question, unless I’m traveling (so many questions are, until then): How can these places all be going on simultaneously? How is a speeding, spinning sphere different from a dinner plate?

The world as I usually experience it is a dinner plate. A slab of pot roast—no, let’s say salmon–my life–sits squarely in the middle of the plate. Around it a serving of greens—perhaps the Asian continent? Dessert lands on an adjacent dish—maybe Europe traveling backwards through time (oh dear–way too much time with the Tudors in these last 12 months. And then there’s Downton. More people that can’t seem to have boys. Don’t get me started.) And a few other condiments are dabbed colorfully around. In my “normal world” I’m firmly anchored to the entrée—of course I am the center of my universe. It’s a breath of fresh air to field a thought that moves me to the rim or beyond. “Ah, the salmon’s a bit overcooked but the green beans are sparkled by tarragon butter.” And the world gets a wee bit bigger.

Out of my element, eyeing the gridlock of Phnom Penh morning traffic and remembering that seven weeks before I’d never given it a thought, I quickly jump to the inescapable fact that it goes on in all sorts of other locations I’ve never given a thought to: Taiwan; Cairo; Omaha; Berne; to name a few. The people in the universe of skeptical oxen also don’t imagine my dinner plate or my new world of topsy-turvy, nor Denmark, Uganda, or the next province over.

Skeptical Ox

I have to wonder about my space in the world—and their spaces. My nature would keep clearing and refilling that plate, hanging on tight, dancing furiously upon it as if to prove my existence. And maybe I don’t need that—maybe it’s a comfort to simply be—tossing out the window most measures such as plateness, tapes and calendars. No one much will notice, which is the reality of this vortex.

Don’t worry, you’re saved from this existential introspection by another movie break—this one complete with the disorientation of returning from the chilly absorbing event to the hot streets of a foreign capital. I finally saw Silver Linings Playbook at Flicks 2. I was sprawled out on the floor futon-sort of things, a safe distance from the AC unit, with a hot pot of curry and a glass of red wine. This could get to be habit forming.

I liked the film a lot—a surprise since I was resentful of its Oscar challenge to Lincoln (I’m not saying this has to make sense. For some reason, although I’m a little surprised that Argo took the prize, I didn’t find that unjust—just Hollywood. Maybe because I’d seen and enjoyed Argo.) Anyway, back to Silver Linings, I was with 4 of my fellow AJWS volunteers–two mental health professionals—both enjoyed but one was disappointed by the mid film jump into happily-ever-after-flashdance-moviehood. I certainly noticed it, especially after our recent encounter with Amour and the French resistance (to happy or resolved endings.) But I was so sucked in by the story that I totally went with it. What can I say, Mr. DeNiro? Still, too much of a mush to win Best pic. Good performances. Funny how we love mental health problems as great sources of drama and storytelling and then do such a lousy job supporting mental health access. Or maybe that’s not so funny.