Saturday, March 29, 2014

Like Going Steady

Life is a party, let's live it together ~ from Fellini's "8 1/2"


On my way to the Byrd theater to see an Italian movie about Fellini as part of the VCU French Film Festival, I ran into a foodie friend and our brief conversation set the tone for the evening.

Agreeing that it would be tough for either of us to date a vegetarian or a non-drinker, he observed, "If I had to, I'd date a vegetarian over a non-drinker. No one wants to have sober sex all the time."

Now there's something I hadn't considered.

I was greeted outside the theater by a French friend who'd saved me a seat for "Carte Blanche de Jacques Perrin," a film tribute and portrait of Fellini, and who'd also brought dark chocolate crisps to snack on.

If you're curious about why an Italian film was showing at a French film fest, put your mind at ease. A French director had selected it because of its French cinematographer.

I learned the basic Fellini premise: "For women, love is everything and then sex. Men are just the opposite." Sobriety during either was not mentioned.

We returned to form with "Cousin Jules," a sumptuous 1972 French documentary that followed an elderly blacksmith and his wife in Burgundy for five years in a beautifully meditative film that the film's cinematographer warned us was definitely not an action movie.

Scenes were languid, unfolding as naturally as life in the French countryside must have been back in the '60s and '70s.

Interesting as it was to watch the blacksmith light fires, pump bellows, heat metal and shape things, I was far more fascinated with watching the wife's domestic life.

Peeling potatoes with one finger reduced to a stump, drawing water from the well, grinding coffee, she was always simply dressed in a dress and apron with black, woolen stockings. You'd have thought the film was from 1868 rather than 1968.

We learn she dies only when we see him over a graveyard wall shoveling. He carries on, carefully making their bed every day, preparing meals alone and filling a bottle from a barrel of wine to accompany his meals.

It was striking how much the world has changed in 46 years.

Their lives had been recorded in CinemaScope and stereophonic sound so we heard every nuance of birds flying overhead, roosters crowing at sunrise, the scraping of the man's straight razor against his coarse stubble and the shelling of dried corn.

Afterwards, my friend remarked that the sounds of the film had been particularly evocative for him, recalling those of being at his French grandparents' house as a child.

Breathtaking and riveting as my friend and I found the documentary, not everyone else did, including the older trio behind us who chattered away throughout. I finally said something to them but they kept on. Others did the same until finally they buttoned it for the last half an hour.

I bid au revoir to my friend after the Q & A, my backside deadened from the punishing Byrd theater seats (plenty of people were smart enough to bring cushions, but, no, not me).

When I stopped at Cafe 821 to eat, I walked in to hear my name called by server (and bass player) Gabe, who insisted I take a table since all the bar stools were occupied.

Hardly surprising given that this weekend is both Slaughterama, meaning the bike kids are here, and United Blood, meaning the hardcore crew has arrived, but when I want my favorite black bean nachos, there's just no going anywhere else.

Luckily, my server was also a familiar face who wanted to know where I'd been and where I was going (film to music so I could stand for a while, I told her) and understood completely when I left all chips without cheese sitting on the plate.

Walking outside into the still balmy air, I was glad I had a show to go to and happily surprised when lots of friends were there.

Before I even made it to the back room, a girl came up to me and asked if I was the Karen who wrote "ICGOAO." Well, sure, but how the hell had she known that?

"I see you around a lot and I just figured it out," she claimed. before introducing herself as one of the female arm wrestlers who had read my post on that fabulous night of estrogen power.

Further back I found plenty of people I already knew. There was the pretty DJ doing a special French pop music show on WRIR Sunday that I'll want to hear, the overworked and inventive dulcitar player, the platinum blond organizer and the Romanian folk musician, whom I had to move when he began blocking my view.

The draw for me was VA Beach's Suburban Living, a dream pop quartet with glorious guitar lines and enough reverb to qualify as my beloved "music from a cave."

It was hard to decide if they sounded more like the Cure or a melding of Real Estate and Wild Nothing, which is to say, two other Cure-derived bands.

Completely to my taste, in other words, as a shoegazing musician friend noted with a grin. His, too, so he should know.

Next up was Positive No,, who will be playing Suburban Living's hometown tomorrow night on the exact same bill.

"Two nights in a row," lead singer Tracey said. "It's like we're going steady!"

She's the high energy burst in front of the hard-hitting (and dimpled) Willis on drums and between Andre and Kenny keeping it loud and fuzzed out as everyone began to react to the music.

Even though Balliceaux had those beautiful windows open, it quickly got warm in there with everyone crushed in and half-dancing.

Exactly how you expect it to be at a party when you're living it together.


  1. Cousin Jules was a beautiful film. My wife & I both remarked that we could view it again.


  2. Very true, cw. We were really fortunate to have that screened here.