August 21, 2012

artist date: farewell my queen

When I first began to incorporate the practice of "artist dates" into my life, one of the first "dates" to really define my practice was going to the movies. Ryan and I love the movie theater experience, and we see a lot of films together. We mostly line up in what we like to see, but there is a point where we head separate directions. I began to go by myself to see those films that did not interest him. The first few times I went alone, I was so self-conscious about it. I felt like I stood out or looked lonely or odd. As I sat in the darkened theater and waited for the films to begin, though, it felt like such a treat. I was going to see the film I wanted to see, and all that mattered was that I was making the effort. If I didn't like it, fine. If I loved it, great! Sometimes the film I saw engaged me completely, and sometimes I would find my mind wandering to unexpected places. But always, I felt a little happier, a little stronger after these artist dates. 
It has been awhile now since I have taken an artist date to the movies. But I had read about the film "Les adieux à la reine (Farewell My Queen)" in recent weeks and then saw that it was playing at the Glen Art Theatre nearby. This French film is a close-up of Marie Antoinette's life during the days surrounding the storming of the Bastille, as viewed by her servants, her reader in particular. I am a sucker for pretty much any period film, and I am also a bit of a francophile: I spent several years studying the French language and though I have not yet been to France myself, it is at the top of my wish-list of "adventures I would like to take." Several years ago, I absolutely loved Sofia Coppola's film "Marie Antoinette," and around that same time I read Antonia Fraser's biography by the same name. I am by no means a scholar of these things, but I find them totally fascinating. The opulence of the era, the grandeur and texture and whimsy of this queen, and the fashions of the time are all enchanting to me.
I am not a film critic, so I will not feign any expertise in my thoughts on the film; I only know what I liked or did not like about it, and that is all I claim to know. I loved the cinematography and art direction of the film - such incredible sets and lighting and a really unique perspective on this time that truly did allow me to imagine other aspects of life at Versailles in this time. I loved the shots where Sidonie was filmed running through the long blue series of doorways in the service of her queen: I think this image will stay with me forever. I appreciated the focus on the "reader" character, Sidonie, and her unique vantage point on the events of these critical days in French history. But the pace of the film did not feel as counterbalanced as I would have wished. I felt like it could have been a bit sharper without losing the lovely fuzziness of life at Versailles that they were constructing. It almost felt like it did not have to be just a bit smarter, because it was so lovely. And I do not completely disagree. But it did feel a little bit emptier than I would have liked for this reason.
More than anything, seeing "Farewell My Queen" made me want to revisit the book and film I loved (and the soundtrack to the film as well, which is one of my very favorites!!). It boosted my daydreams of Versailles even more: of one day setting foot in the Hall of Mirrors and walking through those lovely gardens myself. The film whetted my appetite for learning and planted more seeds of curiosity. An artist date need not resolve, I think. I believe it is as much about planting those seeds as about knowing when or how they will bloom. It is just important to value yourself and your artist enough to keep on planting.

(Learn more about my "artist date" practice here!)

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