52 weeks – August 25, 2012

Book

The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin, published in 1988, edited and with an introduction by Anthony Thwaite. I have read a handful of Larkin poems over the years and been fascinated by the personality of the poet (witty, poignant, quintessentially British, not always pleasant) and his poetry (traditional form with modern content, and that content varying from the mundanities of twentieth century life to loftier topics). Time, I thought, to immerse myself more deeply.

MCMXIV
Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;
And the countryside not caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word—the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Food

Another fine dinner at Pier 7 in North Vancouver. Dinner with friends on a late summer evening is good. Shafts of golden sunshine are also good. A view of the water and waving grasses adds to the experience. I had salad, salmon with polenta, and a heavenly raspberry macaron dessert. But the essence of summer dining was embodied most of all in the St. Germain pre-dinner drink: elderflower liqueur, prosecco, and soda.

MOVIE

La Femme Nikita, directed by Luc Besson. I didn’t see this movie when it came out in 1990 so I watched it recently, courtesy of the local library’s excellent selection of DVDs.

You have to suspend a lot of disbelief, as the story is improbable. Nikita, a drug addict and convicted murderer, is offered a degree of freedom in exchange for being trained as an assassin for a secret arm of the French government. The movie is most interesting in its early stages, when Anne Parillaud does a good job of rendering Nikita as an out-of-control punk who seems to be a lost cause. Nikita receives what appears to be a lethal injection but then wakes up in a room where Bob (Tcheky Karyo) offers her the arrangement.

After a lot of kicking and screaming, she agrees to the deal and begins her training. Naturally, she is a crack shot although how she got that way is left unexplained. In a surreal scene, Jeanne Moreau has a role as a beauty adviser, who explains how Nikita’s life and her work will be a lot easier if she develops her feminine side. Nikita then starts wearing a completely unnecessary wig and is seen in a little black dress and pearls.

Nikita falls in love and starts living with Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a nice supermarket employee, and thus embarks on an unsustainable dual life. Eventually, she has to break away and that is the climax of the movie. As with her ability to accurately shoot targets while still in her early, messed-up state, there are loose ends and things glossed over. You have to just go with it if you want to enjoy the film. Which I did, although at times I had to shrug a lot in a very European way.

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