Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Science of Sleep or If the French had filmed Mulholland Drive....

I remember seeing David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” at the Auckland Film Festival a few years ago (I’m guessing 4, when we were still technically child-free). The theatre was packed to the brim and when the credits started to roll and the lights came on at the end, nobody moved, nobody spoke. We all sat there, bewildered, until somebody shouted: “what the f- actually happened?”

Now, The Science of Sleep (yeah, it has a French title, which I can’t remember) screened at this year’s Auckland Film Festival was a little bit like Mulholland Drive minus all the Lynch-esque macabre. You still had no clue what, if anything, was real, except that, in this case, it didn’t matter in the least.

You watch The Science of Sleep for the sheer beauty of cellophane water ripples, and to see a patchwork horse gallop gracefully in a meadow. You watch it to get the recipe for making dreams. You watch it because the film is delightful, funny and fun.

And you watch it because it’s your only ever chance to call an art film “fluffy, warm and fuzzy”.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Murder on the Mind

L.L. Bartlett is a brave woman. That was the first thing that crossed my thoughts when I got into her mystery novel, “Murder on the Mind”. Murder mysteries are usually enjoyed by left-brained analytic people, so it’s a risk having a psychic protagonist, which is very much a thing for a right-brained audience (if you’re not sure what all that left-right-brained stuff means, see http://www.creativelearning.com/ where I sunlight - as opposed to moonlight - as an employee).

Yes, I know, there is a whole sub-genre devoted to paranormal mysteries, but this one was the first for me, and what an enjoyable introduction it turned out to be! The author knows her job and writes with a light pen, creating fully developed three-dimensional characters, most of whom you would love to befriend.

A word of warning for all you cosy-lovers: this book crosses the line into the macabre with the murder’s modus operandi. Nevertheless, the majority of the book is just as I like my mysteries: intelligent, easy to read, and best of all: cosy without being fluffy.

Now for a summary of the first part of the book for those of you who like that sort of thing: Jeffrey seems to be a regular guy, a bit down on his luck. His luck worsens considerably when he gets mugged and receives a blow to his head that makes him psychic. He moves in with his ultra-rich half-brother and gets them both into progressively more trouble with his investigation of a local murder. There is a romantic angle too, when the murder enquiry leads him to a girl who, in addition to being a good source of information on the victim, also makes his body go zing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Chocolate

No, I don’t mean Chocolat the book (although if you can get hold of it, read it: it’s better than the already-good movie). I mean chocolate. No, Chocolate with a capital C. It deserves the capital.

What’s your favourite? Mine is of the light brown variety (milk chocolate, not white, not dark), and the Lindt estate with its creamy palate and caramel nose beats everything else hands down.

But sometimes I venture into the dangerous world of Belgian pralines and truffles. I say “dangerous” for two reasons. The first is the Forrest Gump one: you never know what you’re going to get, and while that may be exciting in life, when it comes to chocolate, it’s a no-no. Imagine the disappointment when you’ve prepped yourself for a soft melt-in-the mouth experience of crème, only to be stuck with a porn-hard centre!

The second reason is that when buying hand-crafter chocolates, you have to interface with salespeople. Some of them are wonderful (the chocolate shop in Takapuna’s Hurstmere Rd, the heroine in Chocolat), others can be cows (the chocolate shop in Birkenhead).

Picture this: you walk into a chocolate shop and, without browsing, you head for the counter where the Florentines and the Chocolate Pigs and the Cherry Liqueur Pyramids await. The two salescows are happily chatting among themselves. Being a polite sort of customer, you wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually you hazard an “excuse me”, only to be greeted with a look that makes it only too clear what a terrible burden it is to have to serve you. Oh, and don’t make the mistake of asking which pralines are the coffee-flavoured ones - that’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to judge from the shape of the chocolate itself. The one with the coffee bean on top then, right? Nope - that’s Irish Cream, and you should have known it. I honestly don’t know how the shop is surviving in this competitive market, but it’ll have to do it without my support.

Oh, look, my Lindt slab is almost totally gone. Speak of subliminal messaging!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Gilded Folly

The woman dug frantically in the rich soil, the earthy scent making her shiver. There was an underlying sourness to the dampness, which spoke of death...
It’s here. It has to be. This was where panicky instinct had led her.
More than intuition...
No. A bad dream. That’s all it was. Sleepwalking again. Gritting her teeth, Glys forced herself to withdraw her hands—to fight against impulse. She knelt there, rigid with compulsion, and lifted her eyes to the moon.
It nearly choked her. The light was so cold it chilled to the bone, and gooseflesh rode reckless across her skin. Moonshadows gloomed everywhere, leached from the innocent silhouettes of tree and shrub.
One of those silhouettes was moving. Her breath caught, finishing what that frozen moon had begun. All rational thought fled in the face of need.
Her fingers tore at the soil once more, as she dug like a caged animal. Only one way lay freedom....
The next moment her fingers had closed on it and a wash of cold relief cleared her mind.
Then, for an instant only, she could see pursuit clearly, racing across the slope.
It’s a dream...only a dream.
A nightmare. The difference was, in this one, she could run.


Thus begins N.D. Hansen-Hill's "Gilded Folly", and, if you like fantasy/futuristic stuff with layers and layers of complexity, you will love this book. If you like twists and turns in the plot, with perfect pacing and great visual descriptions, you will love this book. If you enjoy reading about bigger than life themes, this one's theme is loyalty.

(Oh, and the book's not available from Amazon, isn't that refreshing? Try www.cerridwenpress.com instead.)