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Posts tagged ‘Film’

Sensational, New Agatha Christie Bio by Laura Thompson, Pt.2


But I digress…Nobody EVAH writes about the wonderfully witty Ariadne Oliver character in Agatha Christie’s  oeuvre, so I thought I’d just fill you all in on how I felt. I loved that character. And Poirot and Miss Marple, too! And we’ve never seen a picture of an apple-munching Dame Agatha.

No. By no means is Laura Thompson’s meticulously researched and thoughtful book about  dotty, apple-munching Ariadne Oliver. It is securely focused on the elusive Dame Agatha Christie herself.

No one can explain how she was THAT prolific. She just seemed to never stop writing. And as she got older, she used to DICTATE her books into  a Dictaphone. Writing mysteries was essential to her as breathing. And as seemingly effortless.

Though as a single Mom after her divorce, she was forced to support herself. J. K. Rowling another prolific female British author, she, of the Harry Potter books comes to mind. Though Christie always had servants and was never on welfare as Rowling famously was.

Laura Thompson was allowed access by the Christie family to many notebooks and papers that have never before seen the light of day. It’s a treat for Christie lovers, and a triumph of a biography for Thompson. I can’t imagine anything being more thorough. “Agatha Christie: A mysterious Life” is exhaustively complete. And thoroughly researched, with end notes and footnotes galore.

Thompson interweaves episodes from the very secretive Christie’s life, as they appear, quite baldly in her prose. She never got over the break-up of her first marriage to the very handsome fighter pilot Archie Christie before WWI broke out.

Needing a Crying Wall, Christie seems to have poured her heart out in her Mary Westmacott books. Under a pseudonym, she could tell the truth. But actually I find the Westmacott books inferior reads to her bounty of mysteries. She needed the focus of a murder. She had a mind like a serial killer. And she just couldn’t stop writing. All her books Thompson reveals, are one way or another thinly disguised re-tellings of her break-up with the dashing rogue, Archie. Thompson posits that he is the barely cloaked villain in many, many of the stories. And all the violence she felt towards him, she took out on the page. Much to the delight of millions of readers.

Her difficult relationship with her only daughter Rosalind is gone into in great detail. Christie was an atrocious, absentee mother, and her daughter looked and sounded like her father. She didn’t take after her mother at all. Hard-headed, she became the businesswoman her flighty mother never was. And was in large part,  the  reluctant caretaker of her literary empire.

But it is Thompson’s tendresse and insight that spell-binds. She especially excels by slipping into the first person as Agatha herself recounts her doings during her infamous ten-day disappearance, which ended her first marriage, even though she didn’t want it to.

Hiding out under the guise of a “Mrs. Neale” at a Harrowgate Spa in 1926, the entire U.K. was out searching for the lost, “poor Mrs. Christie,” sure that Archie had done her in. Thompson reveals a never-before mentioned letter that Agatha wrote to Archie’s brother Campbell, telling them all where she was, but the letter seems to have gone astray and caused the ten-day ruckus that made her famous and made every book she subsequently wrote a best-seller.

It also ended her private life. Now forever a controversial public figure, by many who considered it a publicity stunt, Rosalind said “She ruined my father’s life.” The family all the while covered it as amnesia. 

And Thompson feels that this lingering bad taste of her “mysterious” disappearance may account for her lack of respect by many critics, while Thompson considers it a result of “Christie’s simple writing style.”

And a fan looking for a new Poirot or a new Miss Marple (her other great detective, an old lady who knits, no less) are more than going to find them popping up like real life figures as Christie goes through her trials and tribulations. For in Thompson’s skilled tellings, they WERE like real figures to her. And to us, her devoted, beguiled readers. “Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life” is a treasure to be bought and savored.

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Michael Grinfeld R.I.P.

I am deeply saddened to report the sudden passing of a very talented young man who did camera and editing work for me just this past year. Michael Grinfeld died last week, and I didn’t get word of it, via Facebook, until it was too late to attend the wake or the funeral which took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I would never have known this happened.

His death has sent me reeling. I’m writing about his because I feel he would want me to. He would want to be remembered. He wanted to conquer the world. He wanted to be a filmmaker. He loved movies and studied that at New Paltz where he went to college.

He was so young. Only 24, maybe 25. I don’t know the circumstances of his passing, but I know he’s gone and I can’t believe it. We worked together for several months just this past summer and autumn.

And he was sooo excited to be shooting(and editing his own footage) from the Toronto Film Festival. I could tell it was a highpoint of his life. As it is for most people who are privileged enough to experience the magic, the electricity of Toronto.

I’m including the Ciaran Hinds interview, which Michael shot and edited, which is above, which Michael I think felt was his best work there.

I never dreamed that his work on “The Stephen Holt Show” would be his entre and exit from Show Business.

Michael loved the movies. In particular, the Coen Brothers, and he was bummed that they had decided to skip Toronto this year and open their new film “Inside Llewyn Davis” at the New York Film Festival this year in October instead of TIFF (as the Toronto International Film Festival is abbreviated.) Everything seemed to remind him of a Coen Bros. movie.

I remember him commenting on the corridors of the hotel where we stayed, the Royal York, looking like “Barton Fink” to him. Everything was a movie reference. He was passionate about his work.

And as all who knew him knew he was very, very, VERY smart.

There was a tragic bus accident in New Paltz three years ago, in which Michael suffered severe head trauma.

I don’t know how or why he died, but I think now that his health was more fragile than he let on to me, clearly.

I don’t even have a picture of him. So this video of his best work will have to suffice for the time being.

I looked online for an Obituary, but couldn’t find anything. If there is one and some one sends it to me with a picture that I can use to go with it I’ll post it on this blog.

Michael was very supportive of “The Stephen Holt Show” and we remained friends. I sent him an email asking him how we was getting on in his hometown of Owego, New York, just a little over ten days ago. He was, as far as I knew, awaiting his results from his graduate school entrance test. He had plans to go to Bernard Baruch here in New York. I didn’t get a reply, which was unusual for him. Now I know why.

The tragedy of a young person’s dying before their time is enormous. My condolences, heart and thoughts are with his family and his friends. He was so talented.

Who knows what wonderful things he could have done?

Now we’ll never know.

R.I.P. Michael

Michelle Williams & Ryan Gosling break your heart in “Blue Valentine”

Just got back from a press screening of the much-buzzed about “Blue Valentine.” I don’t want to write a complete review here. It doesn’t open til Christmas, but I will say that both Ryan Gosling and ESPECIALLY my darling Michelle Williams, really do live up their Oscar hype and both SHOULD be nominated!

There’s virtually no other characters in the film except them, and it creeps up on you slowly and them WHAM! It lets you have it with two barrels of blazing star-power.

Michelle is, from an Oscar standpoint, the more predictable nomination, since she’s the sympathetic one in this film. It’s all told from her point of view. And Ryan’s the heavy. But goddamn! La Belle Michelle is wonderful here. The irony is the best actress category is SOOO crowded, but a serious, tragic heart-breaking performance that seems ALL TOO REAL could easy knock out one of the actresses in the lighter, comedic contenders. I’m talking to you Julianne Moore.

Ryan Gosling, OTOH, is a probable lock because except for Colin  Firth and James Franco, the category is MUCH more open. Best Actor, that is.

And with the never-to-be-underestimated Harvey Weinstein, this should be a double slam-dunk for nominations.

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