This is my gender-bending pictorial take on the delicious Les Liaisons Dangereuses, currently playing at the National Theatre in London.
I hope it inspires you to add your own flash fiction/images/songs/videos or autobiographical tale of seduction, revenge, love and betrayal in the comments section or by pasting a link to your story. And remember, you can always use a pseudonym 😉
Looking very much forward to reading your stories!
Take a bowl of strawberries
put it into the freezer
wait one hour
take it out
Gently place one strawberry
in your mouth
for three seconds
roll it in sugar
Put it back in your mouth
the luscious moment.
My best friend Katrin Denkwitz and I had a ritual. Every time I would sleep over at hers, we’d patiently wait under our blankets until her parents were asleep, then sneak to the freezer and take out a bag of strawberries.
Katrin taught me the important lesson of how to gently defrost each strawberry in the mouth before coating them in sugar. Then we would look at each other from opposite armchairs and grin lopsidedly through numb mouths.
Later in my twenties and already living in London, I came across a line in Leonard Cohen’s book The Favourite Game, ‘She had a treat for him, frozen strawberries.’ I thought to myself, I know exactly what you mean, and in that moment divergent lines from the past and present connected in consoling ways.
14 Stages of Developing the Malaise & How to Combat None of Them
But first of all, how do we attract this most alluring of possible mates?
Work non-stop for an extended period of time.
Make sure you take a combination of underground transport, where the air-shafts and sudden bursts of icy drafts send shivers down your spine.
Take your coat off as soon as you enter the stuffy, crowded, germ-infested carriage.
Work in a place which has air-conditioning so that getting used to an artificially induced cold in late October will make your system work overtime.
Ignore any signs your body sends out to slow down, cause really, it isn’t that bad.
Every time you’ve slept you will feel better until later when you don’t.
Take paracetamol and adopt the placebo-thinking that this will take care of your bodily malfunctions.
Prove to yourself that you are a hero and stronger than you think by going to work anyway. Then watch yourself falter.
What Not To Do Once the Amour Fou Has Overtaken Your Body, Mind and Soul:
Don’t walk into a 24-hour-Tesco without pharmacy with your hat pulled down halfyour face at 11 pm Friday night when the cashier is counting a stash of cash. Because by that time the throat pain is so bad that you croak at him in the hope of receiving pain killers in exchange, or any pill really.
A soft sunny afternoon in Belleville. Between the stalls and the crowd, somewhat forlorn, sits Antoine surrounded by knick-knacks, female clothes and high heels.
My girlfriend dumped me. Was in such a hurry, didn’t even bother to take her stuff. So as not to have anything remind her of the past, I guess. Just took off with another guy… And that’s exactly where I was living these past two years – in our dumped past. The first year I’ve waited, hoping she would change her mind and come back, maybe get bored of that other guy and realise her huge mistake. The second year I was fuming, wanting to burn her clothes and silly knick-knacks. Is it not enough being the one left behind? But being her rubbish man as well? Actually, coming to think of it, rubbish guy is spot on.
Antoine sits on a stool, his elbows resting on his knees, his face in his hands. Sulking, at odds with the world and the role he was handed to play. Not really interested in selling his wares, he stares at the ground when suddenly a pair of shoes appear, crazy over the top 70ies shoes. But what’s most bizarre about them is that the left shoe is on the right foot and the right one on the left.
Antoine gets confused just by looking, when a matter-of-factly female voice floats through the air, “I was born like this.”
Bewilderment mixes with curiosity and Antoine looks up. What he sees behind a long fringe is pleasant. “I was told that when I meet the right guy I will be normal again,” the matter-of-factly voice behind the long fringe says.
Antoine gets flustered because she clearly means him and flirts openly, “’Do you want to help me?” Antoine stutters, “Ehm…maybe…Though really, I wouldn’t know how.” He opens his arms in a gesture which says, totally not my field of expertise.
However, Mystery Girl is of the persevering kind and not easily put out “I don’t care how, just make it happen.” A smile, which could be called encouraging, plays around her lips.
Antoine feels uncomfortable, put on the spot. He looks nervously around, embarrassed to be trapped in this awkward situation and anxious to get out of it. But there is no escape. He has to man his stall.
He takes another look at Mystery Girl. She calmly gazes back at him with all the time in the world. Slowly synapses connect and thoughts start sinking in. After all she’s sweet and unique (not least because of her feet) and to be honest, he would like to help her out.
Taking another glance at his merchandise, the museum of his life spread at his feet, Antoine’s gaze falls onto a picture showing him and his ex. Annoyed he picks it up and throws it swiftly into the nearby rubbish bin, where it makes a clunk noise when landing.
On hearing this, Antoine breaks into a smile for the first time, the cloud of misery dispersed.
He turns to Mystery Girl but she’s gone. Sun rays dance and sparkle.
Does anybody actually have time to read blogs or anything for that matter?
If truth be told, I need several lives. Fortunately, Reincarnation is there for each and everyone of us. At least the Buddhists don’t differentiate between believers/good and non-believers/bad. On a whole, they are far less judgmental and critical than the Catholics with their pre-planned itineraries of: GOOD people this way please and the BAD turn right at the corner and down the escalator which will take you to where we all know where. Continue reading →
A homage to LAST TANGO IN PARIS
Even though Last Tango in Paris is mostly famous for its highly charged sexual scenes accompanied by blasphemy which therefore caused a scandal at the time of its release and must still have the pope cursing the day it hit the screens, what got overlooked is that Last Tango in Paris is a poetic and narrative masterpiece.
At the core of the film lies a doomed love affair, but Bertolucci also comments on the dogmatic and damaging influence of the family and, drawing the circle even wider, the Catholic church. The two characters, Jeanne and Paul, are like two savages, who try to create their own world but ultimately break when confronted with their past lives and the outside world.
Last Tango in Paris dares to delve into the ugly depths of human relationships and not only that, it digs up the monsters lurking in its murky waters and gives them human faces. Starting with evocative titles featuring paintings by Francis Bacon and trembling music by Gato Barbieri, we know we are in for a ride when the film opens with a shot of a man in a brown coat standing beneath a railway bridge trying to escape the noise of the overrunning train by pressing his hands to his ears. There he is forlorn with disheveled hair and agony in his eyes: Marlon Brando, the character of Paul, the uprooted American in Paris. Maria Schrader plays Jeanne, the Parisian ingénue, and as she passes him in a crème coat with fur trimmings and a hat with plastic flowers she looks like a character from a varieté show at the Pigalle.
And in comes the third character of the film, the obscure object of desire: an apartment to let. When Jeanne asks the old Caribbean concierge for the key, the woman doesn’t let go of the girl’s hand and, like the witch in the fairytale, she seems to jinx the girl with her hysterical laughter, a foreboding of that whatever is going to happen in this apartment will be no ordinary affair.
And we are also entering Vittorio Storaro’s (the cinematographer) world of dirty whites and browns, which in times of intimacy are given a copper glow, but where the light can never quite fight off the shadows and where darkness becomes a place for painful comfort and shared loneliness.
As Jeanne ascends in the elevator like a modern-day Alice travelling to wonderland, the camera rests on a round lamp shining like the moon. When she enters the apartment the American is already there, slouched in a corner, waiting for nothing, but not surprised to see her there. They talk about the apartment, if he’s made up his mind about taking it, he has, she is not sure, he tells her to decide quickly, all marvellous sub-text for what follows next: they fuck. And it is an act of heavy labour, void of any intimacy.
Desperate and confused Jeanne runs to meet her boyfriend, an eager film student who is documenting their lives as a couple in love, and thus transforms any real feelings into acting, taking away the realness she craves.
Cut to a woman cleaning a blood-stained bathroom in a boarding house: the place the American owned together with his wife who committed suicide. Paul’s troubles to communicate are not only language-based, even in his own house, he is a man out of place. His feeling of being trapped inside a human zoo is translated into aggressive action and words.
Jeanne and Paul meet again at the apartment. She wants to know his name. He reacts violently, insisting that there should be no names. He imposes a world without past and memories on her: We are strangers and shall remain strangers. The less you know me the less you can hurt me. And we know that this man is a prisoner of his past and the only way to escape it is by pretending it isn’t there. The apartment thus becomes a sanctuary, a place outside life and reality, a stage where past events can be re-enacted and given a different outcome and the purest form of communication can be found.
But his past cannot simply erased and weaves itself into the present as the mother of his dead wife waits for Paul at the boarding house, eagerly preparing the funeral, holding on to what she can grasp: the cards to be sent out, the flowers, the ceremony. Her grief meets with Paul’s aggression as she tries to overcome the horror of what has happened by throwing herself into organising the aftermath, while utterly unable to understand why her daughter has killed herself. Or maybe she does and tries to escape her guilt by hanging on to the mundane tasks.
Jeanne’s boyfriend, still obsessed with finding out who Jeanne is, takes her back to her childhood house in the countryside, occupied by her racist nanny and the memories of her dead father, a colonel in the French army.
Jeanne carries her memories over to the apartment, to the man who does not want to know them, and who recognises them as what they are: romanticised images of childhood, her youthful naiveté constantly clashing with his middle-aged cynicism. Eventually Paul opens up and his childhood memories are of a different nature. Both his parents drunks, humiliating him, the boy. But when Jeanne taunts him about having let go of his guard he replies that everything he’s told her might be lies. Later on he cries by himself and we know they are not.
Paul’s language throughout the film is violent and obscene, the armour on which he hopes all the pain ever inflicted on him and which is yet to come, will bounce off. But when alone with his wife, covered in flowers and makeup for the dead, he breaks down, releasing his hurt by cursing her and confessing that he’d loved her and that she short-changed him until the very end.
All this is a charged build-up for the core scene of the movie: Paul butters up Jeanne’s rear and rapes her, or does he? But it wasn’t this what caused the controversy: while he is at it, he makes her repeat after him, in a scene entitled “Holy Family”: “I’m going to the family. That holy institution, meant to breed virtue in savages. Holy family. Church of good citizens. The children are tortured until they tell their first lie. Where the will is broken by repression. Where freedom is assassinated by egotism. Family… you… you…you fucking family! Oh God… Jesus”, and he comes.
Here, Bertolucci makes a connection between the family as the nuclear unit to the Holy Family and simultaneously comments on the corrupt nature and righteousness of the Catholic church, stating that both families, your own and the supposedly holy one, are a means of oppressing the independent spirit, fucking you in the ass, literally.
Yet the more Paul frees himself of his demons and becomes a believer again, the more Jeanne spirals into a dark world of her own. When he finds her under the rail-way bridge, he is a changed man. A man with music in his walk, full of optimism and hope. But Jeanne has passed the point of no return and tells him it’s over. They enter a dance hall where middle-aged couples engage in a semiprofessional tango competition. For Jeanne their fairytale has become stale reality, reeking of disillusionment. Paul is finally himself, a love-struck teenager, if not for the first time then surely for the last. He tells her he loves her, but she only sees the maître d’hôtel in him. As if now, that his guts are displayed on the table Jeanne notices his tie is the wrong colour.
Once more the possibility of their love appears as they playfully dance amongst the couples their version of the tango. Being kicked off the dance floor they retreat into a dark corner and in an act of pity and humiliation Jeanne masturbates Paul, and maybe, unconsciously, pays him back. Then she desperately breaks away from him. Paul runs after her in the streets and forces his entry into her mother’s flat. Jeanne takes her father’s revolver from the drawer. He wants to know her name: She says, Jeanne, and shots him. Paul staggers onto the balcony and, in a final gesture of absurdity, or simply to leave his mark behind, he takes out his chewing gum and sticks it beneath the iron-cast railing. Jeanne mutters,: “I don’t know who he is. He followed me in the streets. He tried to rape me. He is a lunatic. I don’t know what he is called. I don’t know his name. I don’t know who he is.” And it’s true: the one thing he has never told her was his name.