Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Son of Saul - review



Son of Saul is finally here. I first heard about the film during last year's Cannes Film Festival, when I came across this five-star review on the Guardian website.

The plot is beyond horrific and made me think 'that will be a film for the guts': Saul is a sonderkommando in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, meaning his job is to get his fellow prisoners ready for the gas chamber (without panicking them - "there will be coffee after!", someone yells, "and we need carpenters!"), their bodies out of the chamber and to the crematorium, and finally their ashes dumped in a nearby pond. A boy barely survives the gas chamber, only to die minutes later: Saul recognises him as his son and decides to give him, against good reason and in the face of the surrounding hell, a proper Jewish burial. This leads to an attempt to hide the body, find a rabbi etc.

A sub-plot sees his fellow sonderkommandos and some kappos (both groups received better treatment) attempting to photograph the horror and get the photographs out of the camp, as well as planning an uprising.

So, the story itself is intense. Director Lazlo Nemes gives it even more power by always focusing his camera on Saul. We face him head on as he watches new victims arrive, we follow him closely as he walks across the changing room emptying the pockets of the clothes left behind by the people we can hear screaming and banging in the gas chamber next door. His face is rather impassible. We are deep inside horror.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

C'est intéressant w/c 4 Apr 2016

Agnes de Mille's Artistic Justice (The New Yorker)
I was doing some research on female choreographers for work, and found this really interesting article about Agnes de Mille - arguably the most successful of them all. She was very critical of herself, very opinionated, full of ideas and a great writer, which makes for a great read.

New York Times series: Social Capital
Analysing the tweets of a celebrity.

A Dancer Dies Twice (BBC Radio 4)
A documentary on dancing, and letting go, and moving on.

Living and Breathing Martha Graham (New York Times)
Current dancers with Martha Graham Dance Company tell us why they love her work, her technique, and why it got under their skin. Enlightening.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I don't really know what really kept me up until 2.30am...

I don't really know what really kept me up until 2.30am. 
I was hot. 
I was cold. 
I was thinking about the last moments of Harvey Milk (am finishing his biography - the moment he saw Dan White with a gun and must have thought 'oh no!"). 
I was thinking of the last moments of OJ Simpson's ex-wife and her friend (am watching American Crime Story - what terror). 
I was reliving the emotions of our Brazil trip. 
I was excited about doing pecs at the gym in the morning. 
I was singing Shirley Bassey's After The Rain to myself again and again ('after the rain has gone something inside me is dying for you'). 
I was thinking about the intense one-man theatre show I'd seen with Dan and Michael earlier that evening, and one of its monologues: who are we afraid of disappointing in life? Ourselves? Others? (who are they and why?). 
I was worried my phone battery was going to die (it did the night before, I couldn't explain it, no alarm that morning, it made me late for work). 
M thought I was asleep as I was very still, but in my mind thoughts and melodies were racing through, one taking over the next; in my body my senses on high alert. There seemed to be no end to it, but sleep did win over, without me being conscious of it. 
Normally I realise it's coming because I get a spinning sensation (like my bed is flying through a space tunnel) or I start having work ideas (which I have to jot down quickly) or I start thinking ridiculous thoughts (could I get Chaka Khan to sing at my 10th wedding anniversary, wouldn't that be a nice surprise if she just rocked up in the pub we've hired and sang us our song?).
Tonight, will you sing me lullabies?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Brazil trip #6

I did sleep a good 4-5th of our flight but still I feel well tired here on this couch next to a power socket by gate 43 of Lisbon airport. It makes me so emotional: I look wistfully at a beach volley competition TV broadcast (we played beach volley during our trip, it was hilarious), I cry at a Guardian video about an Iraqi cat reunited with his family now refugees in Norway ("Kundush! My life!" sobs the mother when he is returned to them - I can't wait for the cat's biopic to come out at the cinema), I friggin' go all "that-is-so-sad" reading that Umberto Eco has died (question: has anyone every finished one of his novels?), and I react passionately to the lack of available choice in fruit juices at the cafe (haven't they heard of acerola in this country??!). Time for a nap.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brazil trip #5

So in the end there was nothing to fear about today (Sunday), because we said our goodbyes last night instead.
After a stunning day of hiking and swimming in 3 waterfalls and 4 water holes, and stressfully making dinner (gazpacho, Brazilian chicken), we went to dance forró in a bar. Why oh why did I decide to have a caipirinha with cachaca? (I blame my friend A) 
I started welling up as the singer/accordeonist was asking "meu baião... coração... arranca essa dor do meu peito pra eu não chorar" - I didn't get all the words but I understood the words for pain, chest and not crying. (Can you see where this is going?)
So in the end I just had to cut it short ("Shall we go, M? I am tired") even if  I didn't want to say goodbye.
So in the end I actually don't look down to hide my tears, I look up into the sky, as though gasping for air, my throat is too tight and my chest feels too heavy. I sob in V's neck, I cry on G's shoulder, J, A and T join them to make a circle around me and jump and sing and jump and flood me with their joy for living.
Here's to you, beautiful ones!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Brazil trip #4



This morning Thamires, sat in the back of the VW Gol we had rented for the day to go around this gorgeous national park, told me how much she enjoyed reading my posts about the trip. "Even if I'm there anyway. They are so nice! They take you there!" (I paraphrase).
At the end of the day, as we hike down from the top of the Moro de Inacio peak (it takes 10 mins + Valmir did it in flipflops - we are not that adventurous), giddy with the breathtaking views we just enjoyed, and after having been to a waterfall deep in a canyon and swam in a lovely river creek, she says "Ben I can't wait to read your latest chronicle tonight!".
"Oh I don't know if I can write about today, there is too much to say", I reply, thinking that it would be hard to describe how beautiful the landscapes are here, how magical it is to see hundreds of butterflies flying across the dirt road and by the water, and all the flowers, insects, birds all around.
But also I thought I couldn't write because I am feeling quite anxious: on Sunday we say goodbye to our merry gang of friends, old (the ones we came to see on this trip to Brazil) and new (the ones we made during the recent intense days), and it breaks my heart already. 
I am dreading it so much. You know that sensation before hugging someone you don't want to part from... I tend to sort of clear my throat while looking down on the floor (as if the courage to face the moments ahead could be found on the floor!). Also I tend to hope the other person will cry too, and first, so I can say it is their fault I am crying now. Well it was always their fault, but not in that way.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Brazil trip #3

It's 6pm and the beach hut we stop at to have dinner has actually closed its kitchen. (Cause it's a Wednesday night I guess?) But the live band is still playing, and the small crowd of people is loving it so we decide to hang about. At first we watch from the side, then we start swaying our hips, then we get into the groove. Behind us the beach is long, sandy with waves perfect for the handful of surfers still in the water. We face towards many tall palm trees: at their root the sky is that light orange (the color of the fruit juice Valmir made us try yesterday - fruit name unremembed, am pretty sure it ends with a 'va' sound?), at their top the sky is the purple/dark blue of the coming night. People are dancing all around us. A little girl (7 years old or so, big afro with a bright yellow ribbon) makes a choreography (right arm round on 1 beat/left arm round on the other/both arms together slowly on 2 beats) and everyone starts copying her. 

Are we on the set for an advert for Havaianas, Coca-Cola, or the Partido de Trabalhadores?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brazil trip #2

So Sunday started scarily with that mugging (see previous post), but it also ended magically - with a visit to our friend Victor's grandma. 

Raised to be a lady, she was a natural hostess. She chatted and chatted and chatted (and Michael and I just nodded, understanding 1 word in 5...), asked questions and told us about her love for the local football team (she has written a story whose main character is the club's mascot, a canary bird).

 She also told us she loved playing the piano ('adoro tocar o piano!' - this I understood clearly), and then invited us to listen to her. I was a little late in the parlour, as I was admiring the several paintings she had made and were on display in the living room (some were naive collages, others on plates, many bouquets of flowers, and fishes on glass). And then I heard she had started to play. The instrument was really out of tune, but wow she could play it! 

What made it even more magical is the coincidence that she played Autumn Leaves (one of Michael's favourite songs), and then went into playing a fado she had composed herself for her parents (her dad was Portuguese, from Madeira). And I love fado! What were the chances? This holiday is an emotional overload.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Brazil trip #1


Things I said I would do if I ever got mugged (you know, the things one says while watching a stressful movie scene): 1. Scream loudly "I am being mugged!". 2. Scream loudlly "Police!" 3. Kick him in the balls. 4. Punch him in the face while holding my set of keys. 5. Throw what he is after across the street. 

Things I did not do when I got mugged by a crackhead with a very large knife: all of the above. In the typical post-trauma, guilt-trip way of thinking of my family, I would spend lots of time thinking about what I could have done: kick his knee? pretend to fall so he would stop holding my tee-shirt so tightly? Only later did it cross my mind that maybe he had another weapon, actually, so what I did do was the only right answer.

Things I did do when I got mugged: 1. Said "oh not my phone there are all my holidays photos in it!! Por favor!!" (our friend got his phone taken from him at Carnaval the night before so at this rate we aint gonna have many photos of the event to show you!). hahaha I tried to plead a poor crackhead for the mercy of my first-world digital memories! hahaha 2. I refused to take it out of my pocket, but then he started counting "one.... two...". 


Which made me realise I was, actually, one second away from disaster. (If not the big one, at least something very painful!). I thought about my partner, helplessly watching from the side, about my family, about our Brazilian friends. I gave him my phone and the little bit of money I had in my porta-dollar.


In the picturesque cobbled streets of this old Salvador neighbourhood, as the sunrise bathed the crumbling, colourful houses and the stray cats slowly walked in the middle of the deserted road, the likelihood of disaster striking was actually higher than I thought.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

You've been kidnapped. You can call on the characters from one television show to make your rescue attempt. Which show do you pick?

This question has been circulating on social media, and thinking about an answer got me to remember all the TV shows I used to watch as a teenager/young adult. Surely the best rescuers would be there...

- Buffy and the gang is an obvious choice. Kick ass strength, sass and magic. I'd be free before dawn, for sure.
- the girls from Charmed! I can't even remember what all their magic powers could do... the actress from Who's The Boss could see the future, and the actress from Beverly Hills 90210 could make things move. The third sister, Piper... I have no idea. Also they had this pretty guardian angel friend, and I remember their grandmother being pretty ace.
- if they could get along, I'd give the characters from The Pretender a try. Jarod can do anything, really. They may take a bit of a while to come up and execute a plan though. But I would have all the patience in the world if I knew I'd end up in the arms of Michael T. Weiss by the end.
- I was obsessed with The X Files (even joining the French fan club and having an article published in the monthly magazine!) but Murder and Scully wouldn't be my first port of call. Only if the three groups above were busy on another mission would I contact them.
- Closer to 2016, I think the police team of Brooklyn Nine Nine would kill it. See their Halloween heist episodes for a reminder how they are a great team and can take on any challenge.

And, for a laugh... the geeks of Dawson's Creek, the jolly crew of The Nanny, the foursome of Will & Grace! Those would be hilarious.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lord of the Dance: vom vom vom

In life, what I like best is finding myself in a situation I would not have anticipated at all only a few weeks before, doing something not ordinary or that I thought I would never do.

This week, such a moment took place. I went to see Lord of the Dance at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End. People look to me for good shows, so all of them were very surprised when I told them I was going. It's a long story, but basically I befriended one of the performers and wanted to see him/her in action. His/her backstory was fascinating, s/he was living her/his dream on that stage, so I thought it was pretty cool.

Plus I found £10 tickets.

And I knew that, on some levels, the show would be terrible, so bad it would be hilarious. So the idea of being a bit drunk in the final row of the balcony (so steep! I had a bit of a headache at the beginning) watching my friend dance really appealed.

Now, my friend was great - all the dancing cast was great. So much talent on that stage, light leaps, heavy and amazingly fast footwork from the dancers, and also a really strong female singer. Sadly they were all lumbered with the least tasteful production I've ever seen on stage.

I can only list the affronts to beauty, which had me gasping throughout:

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Getting out of bed this morning

I've noticed that in the morning I need to think of something to get me out of the warmth under my duvet. I don't get out of bed for the sheer joy of living my life. I need something concrete, and often immediate.

Today though, what got me out of bed was not the thought of having a latte at Gail's Bakery on the way to work (so silky), the urge to look at overnight sales for my shows currently running in town (I know, it's sad), the anticipation of the post-gym adrenaline rush (I know, it's sad) or my plan to break my work day with lunch out of the office with a friend.

Today what made me jump out of bed and still feel its warmth as I was getting ready was the realisation that in one month I will be in Brazil! And this gave me enough strength to face the day ahead. B-A-H-I-A!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Christmas holidays cultural diet

Lots of reading and discovering done over the Christmas holidays. Many of these come from the Bloomberg Jealousy list (a list of long form articles from other publishers that Bloomberg writers wish they had written) and the Best of Books 2015 lists that are ubiquitous at this time of the year.

The Myth of the Ethical Shopper, by Michael Hobbes (Huffington Post)
We can never really know exactly where that cheap tee-shirt we bought came from: on the maze of the world's production and logistics machine. It made me think that the only way out is to, quite simply, consume less.

Learning to speak lingerie, by Peter Hessler (New Yorker)
A fascinating article looking at recent Chinese immigrants to Egypt, who somehow end up setting up lingerie shops. Along the way, it covers cultural differences in making business, women's liberation and expectations, language barrier, local marriage customs and more.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank you 2015!

A photo posted by b (@benjaminlalala) on
For ringing you in with an old friend, for Laos, for Rome, for Valmir & Victor, for Charlotte's baccalaureat, for vintage Michael joy, for Sintra, for getting to know Andy & Jon & Dan better, for long-awaited and surprise babies, for the fitness push, for Bristol, for the summer cycle rides, for the validation from people i shouldnt realy care about, for that meal at Bao with Nicolas, for learning to draw a little bit with my little neighbours, for Faustine's blue eyes, for singing with friends and family, for stolen kisses on empty sidewalks late at night, for Netflix, for the freedom from a certain type of worries, and for work and life plans that make me look forward to 2016!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 30 Nov 2015

It's been a busy few weeks, but I managed to get quite a bit of reading done., and some discovering Some highlights below.

The Green Lady of Brooklyn (New York Times)
A lovely written portrait of the kind of eccentric characters one totally associates with New York. Elizabeth Sweetheart is 74, an artist, and has been wearing and living life in bright lime green. There are many funny quotes in this, but I thought one particular fact said a lot about this artist's drive and passion: "In 1964, she hitch-hiked [from Nova Scotia] to New York City to establish herself as an artist". Inspiring.

One does not 'live' at Xanadu (blog)
Talking of artists making their way to New York - my friend Helene moved there earlier this Autumn and her blog - in French - is pure joy to read. Full of references (from random music to sweets to Girls), and games of languages, it always makes me happy. I friggin' hope she gets to stay in the big apple so she can keep writing her adventures, and hopefully become her own Elizabeth Sweetheart.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A day as only London can throw them

8-8.45: gym. aaaaah push it.
9.30-10.30: meeting in Facebook's offices (career highlight, but I wouldn't work there because they have this frozen yoghurt station which I would basically empty every day).
12-12.30: quick run through the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy, with noticeably diverse and engaged crowds. Wanted to linger more.
12.30-15.30: work lunch where I met interesting people who live in a different sphere of life (one where people pay £20,000 a year of school fees, one where they can be a Masterchef finalist - it was Emma, for those who watched it)
16-19.30: work
20.30-22.00: recording of my future single "Let One Go", a version of Let It Go that is about a different kind of wind (written by Michael), ahead of a drag cabaret next week.
22.00:00.00: baking of cardamom biscotti for office bake off tomorrow.
22.45: snarky comment from partner seeing me type, delete, shape, re-shape this post, but I can only shrug my shoulder because this was a day as only London, that city of opportunities, could throw them and I feel grateful.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 19 Oct 2015

Special edition: facts and figures for our governments.

The myth of welfare's corruption influence on the poor (New York Times)
Cash transfers do not discourage work.

The snarling dud of May (The Economist)
"Theresa May, the home secretary and would-be successor to David Cameron, this week declared that “there is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced”. Wrong. In 2001-11 new immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) contributed one-third more in revenues than they drew in public spending, subsidising native Britons. This boost to the public purse will be handy."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - soundtrack

Your classic 1980s dance film - with all the plot holes, montages, outfits, and clicheed characters you'd expect from the genre (buttoned-up dad, mad friend, silent but supportive mum, nuns...).

And amazing music! Some of which is not even on Spotify - whaaaat! So I am putting them in here so it's easy for me to find those tracks again.




You've got techniqueeeeee


80s remix of Motown...


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 21 Sep 2015

Video: Mr Bojangles tap dancing his way up some steps



Music: Frida's I Know There's Something Going On (Lindstrom Remix)
I love the slow groove throughout.

Meeting the Pope after a Fight for Better Pay
Because when those with no individual power come together and organise, they can change their lives for the better. An inspiring read on fighting for a better life and system for everyone.

Dance films
The kind of films I wish I could put out at work! Soon, soon, I will!
Ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson on Nowness
The "third stage" of Paris Opera Ballet




Wednesday, September 02, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 31 Aug 2015

Video: Flamenco in Granada in the 1960s
A Swedish documentary around the Sacromonte neighbourhood of Granada. It really shows how kids mimic the movements they see around them.

Essay: Tim Kreider - The Summer That Never Was (New York Times)
My hubby shared this with me. The longing it describes, and also the realisation that the little things are also beautiful, are very much me.

Interview: Quentin Tarantino (New York Magazine/Vulture)
Was lead to this from a Guardian article that rather misquoted what Tarantino said about "those Cate Blanchett films that dont have longevity" (or something like that). He was being more subtle than that, and I am surprised by the Guardian on that one.