Aging, Paris, Kentridge, Basenjis, Revolution, Caffeine, Hemispheric Incongruence
Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I live in a cultural backwater that has the audacity to call itself the "Paris of the Pacific" (sorry, that's Santiago), but then I am sometimes surprised by the offerings right here in this little berg by the bay. This weekend has been a good example.
This morning I dashed down to be early in line for the SFMOMA presentation of William Kentridge - Five Themes that so many of my friends have been raving about. (And most of my friends are raving, raging or some unseemly combination of both). I had a good feeling about the show when, as I was Twittering on my TREO as I advanced in line, I looked to the right and saw a basenji walking by and looking up at me as if she knew she was peering into the eyes of one of the cult of guardians of the African dingos. The Kentridge show is worthy of all the hype -- a heady mix of drawrings, short films (that include homages of that superb Parisian George Melies and that benign German Lotte Reiniger), assemblages, puppet shows, constructions, musings on aging and other stuff).
It was a great show, but there was no time to doddle and I rushed off to MUNI to that charming arrondissement footsteps away from the Pacific, West Portal, where I ventured to catch the matinee of Faubourg '36. I went to get my ticket early and asked the agent if I should return quickly to ensure I got a seat. He rolled his eyes and said, "Uh, that's probably not going to be an issue." (Confirmed later when the lights went down on me and the three other people in the theater. I guess I over estimated the appeal of musical comedies about the clash of Fascists and Leftists in the first third of the 20th Century Paris.)
So I headed over to Fresca (which bills itself as Noveau Peruvian Cuisine) for a nice Peruvian crab salad. However, instead of Twittering, I got into a sort of nasty argument via IMing with one of my exes in Park Slope over my distaste of the clash of cultures at Fresca. Granted, the food and service were good, but they were playing salsa music and served me chips and salsa. Wrong hemisphere and continent. "Oh, it doesn't matter, it's still Latino," W___ in Park Slope texted back. "Would you say that if you were in a restaurant in Tokyo and got bruschetta while they played polka music but defended because it was all from the Northern Hemisphere?"
"Oh, GB, you obsess about things that just don't matter," W___ texted back.
"Oh, and by the way -- noveau Peruvian Cuisine? Excúseme, si no es: ¿el nuevo cocinar de los Peruvian?"
Well, at least Faubourg 36 (marketed in the U.S. as Paris '36 since apparently the distributors thing people in the U.S. are so dumb they barely know where Paris is, let alone being abl to locate one of its better known arrondissements) did not disappoint and was what it should have been: a sentimental two-hour tale of peasants occupying a theater taking it out of the clutches of a Fascist landlord. The number just kept getting bigger and loonier. And, like any self respecting musical, it had big number about going to the sea.
While its charming yet infirm middle-aged male stars were in long swim trunks and tank tops, they outfitted male (sexily Leftist) star Clovis Cornillac in a revealingly thin strip of brief beachwear. Only then did it connect of who he reminded me of -- gay porn legend Jeff Strykker.
Though Cornillac was cast as the "fetching young male lead" he is nearly 42. And it reminded me (going back to Kentridge's themes on aging and Melies) that the French have long had a history of allowing both male and female stars to play such roles into a time when, well by comparison in the U.S. , they'd have Cloris Leachman on Dancing with the stars. I could not help but think ofArletty at nearly 50 playing the "babe" in Les enfants du paradis. Or consider Mistinguett in this clip at 60 playing a young mother singing to her "baby". Perhaps they felt that by casting a nine-year-old girl as the baby, no one would notice that more than one spring had passed since her coming out debut.
These thoughts filled my had as I hopped on the K-train from West Portal (a neighborhood that is surreal to me like most western San Francisco Arrondissements because they feel so non-San Francisco) and then to the Balboa Park BART and then up to Ritual, where it has become a ritual for me to meet up with Friendatella Saturday afternoons to gossip and share insights on the meaning of life and culture. We've debated about the meaning of this roasterie's logo. Is it the flag of Turkey or the hammer and sickle or a gangland razor swung upon the throats of hypocrites. I used to despise this place because of the long lines, abundance of 20-something hipsters pecking away on their iMacs with the self-righteous grandeur of the cult of the Apple/Fuhrer Herr Jobs, and disdain for those of us with speckles of natural highlights in our hair. But Friendatella and I have discovered a row of three tables in the back near the bathrooms and with a scenic view of the burlap bags filled with the beans from Lago Atitlan and Vietnam where our elder faces will not diminish the views from the wall-to-wall windows in the front. Sitting their with my legs crossed in the European male way and nibbling my Madeleine, I felt the spirit of Mistinguett take over me the desire to put on one more show before the fogs of the summer return to Topeka on the Pacific.