Pre-Ouagadougou culture

I arrived here last night, but so far all I have done for one day is talk about FAVL for about eight straight hours, and that is pretty boring for you blog readers, so instead I will give brief report of cultural experiences (reading and watching movies) in the weeks leading up my trip.  Then tomorrow I can actually start posting about the trip.  So in reverse order.

Movie on the plane: A Bigger Splash a remake of a 1960 French film. Ralph Fiennes is irresistibly watchable as the over-the-top charismatic friend who intrudes on the quiet vacation of his former lover and her current, quiet, partner on a beautiful rustic villa on an island near Sicily.  The soundtrack is great, and so are the long silences.  Gorgeous cinematography.  Tilda Swinton is her usual creepy self-absorbed film presence.  The film itself is average; some clear mistakes (too many revving engines on country roads, an almost laughably predictable tourist shot of the “natives” having their village religious parade, a seemingly unstaged moment with some migrants intruding into a scene) but the script at the end is a mess that left me scratching my head, and includes unforgivably a police detective who apparently has never himself watched a television police procedural, and so happily lets a global celebrity get away with murder (I’m not giving anything away here, actually).

Movie on the plane: The Hateful Eight.  Exactly what I expected from Quentin Tarantino.  For me, he specializes in making movies that you are happy to watch for free on an airplane when you have nothing else to do and want a break from reading.  I think I have seen Jackie Brown and Kill Bill on planes.  He is having fun making the films, and so are the actors.  As long as I am not paying anything, I am enjoying it.  When it is over my brain calmly presses the “delete all memories of this film” button.  I watched so many of these movies as a kid growing up in Puerto Rico… westerns dubbed in Spanish, Mexican films with masked wrestlers, Godzilla, etc.  Enjoy (on a plane).  Good soundtrack.  And chiasmus. “You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang.”

Novel last week.  Don Delillo Americana.  Really in my humble opinion this novel was awful.  I started skipping after 50 pages, and skipped all the way to the end.  Overblown writing, pointless humor, grating experimentation.  I know there is an audience for this kind of writing (and filmmaking) but I can never figure out why people like this stuff.  I was intrigued by the thought that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie may have somehow been riffing off this, but I think it was just coincidence (or good marketing) that the titles ended up so close.

Novel last week.  Girl on the Train.  It was lying around.  I. am. not. proud.  Quite depressing to turn the pages as it struggles to conclude… the killer telegraphed midway through. A long “we know he is a killer but let’s be alone with him anyway” scene.  Help! I am being bored to death by this thriller novel!

Novel two weeks ago.  The Root: A Novel of the Wrath & Athenaeum by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun.  A young adult fantasy sci-fi novel.  Could have used more editing, but there is lots of imagination.  I found it oddly captivating as it careened off to an ending that merely sets stage for volume two.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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