EMBERS OF DESIRE, INNOCENCE RECLAIMED AND BONDS OF TENACITY.

Thoughts in verse on the visual imagery and storytelling arcs of some gifted works I have recently had the privilege to watch, in the given order except AN UNFINISHED LIFE, one among my very favourites I have cherished for many years.

***



PETITE MAMAN(2021)

Amber and maple shades
are like us,
twines of emotions
overcoming grief.

At the eleventh hour,
childhood’s miracle
reenacts the lost passages
of two lives
now divided by
an often salient bond.
How about we resurrect
our shared innocence
as mother and daughter
in the image of best friends?

How about I be the ghost writer
of this fable
and make you return
without a heavy heart
and take away
this token
of an unattainable timeline
that we can claim
as our eternal truth?

We were friends.
We only have to remember that
for all days to come.

AN UNFINISHED LIFE(2005)

Sprawling acres
Wooden hearts
Limp souls
and frayed ties.

A child redeems them,
unties the chains around our bodies
and the raving madness of
promises we make to each other
when hit by an undetected enemy.

Grief and longing are spread out
unevenly on human acres.
A little kindling can do so much
as to restore the balance of
failed words
and warm resolves.

It will lead to the spot before
spring
and the melting of hearts.



****



PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE(2019)

At first,
it was a smudge on the canvas.

The waves by the shore
lapping up our tentative first steps.
Candlelight
playing with shadows of a desire,
to be with a known figure
of reason,
rationale,
amity.
Amour.

Then the fire came,
the inseparable
thrust of this world came,
to tell us art was more than
a face preserved in time.
It was a legend we
preserved
for our
ineffable bond.

Now the canvas
is ours.
To bask in the glory
of what we had.
The glory of an union.
A communion.
A credence only we can share.

BENEDETTA(2021)

Blasphemy
is mine.

The miracle of
my flesh and blood
is mine.

My love is kind,
uproarious
and unsettling.

My prophecies
far from deliverance
and yet
apart,
spitting fire on vengeful
ires
and hypocrisies’ belaboured
edge.

Take me as I am.
Deliver me from the evil
that so easily disguises itself.
For we are who we are.
I
among the outcasts
who once received favour.

LIZZIE(2018)

Dreadful evenings set in
with a wilful calm.
Dry blood’s splotches
on the walls
set us apart.

Shush the striking of the midnight hour.
It is a dreadful time
to recall
the outrages
that we were subject to.
The doors that were held ajar
and the hands
that crept up on
hidden parts of our
still pristine souls.

Now the blood is on your hands.
The burden of a crime
on the poisoned chalice
that all drink from
before leaving us
with survivors’ modesty.



FAR FROM HEAVEN(2002)

Paradise had been lost
long before a scarlet scarf
drifted away
from suburbia
and made the last train’s departure
less furtive
and more prone to
leaving a lump
bigger than
the ideas we hold dear
before we see them
bite the dust.

Paradise was here
and the long
cascade of torments
and desires,
flowing along
these residual embankments,
stay.

The moral of the story
sways
and loiters.
The superficial truth
cloisters.
A woman’s work left as a remnant
by a depleting lake.



***

I also switch to the prose form to write briefly about two new releases on a prominent streaming platform that I watched on successive Saturdays.

HALFTIME (2022)

This documentary on a year and a half in the life of multitasking superstar Jennifer Lopez hugely receives its badge of merit from the pithy format. That period from 2019 to pre-pandemic months of 2020 covers the whole gamut of her various artistic triumphs without losing its focus on the physical toil that is a natural corollary as well as her personal investment in the Super Bowl performance that spoke directly to immigrants worldwide.

There are other inescapable elements central to her image such as her body type, appearance, identity as one of the most influential Latinas in the world as also aspersions cast on her singing and acting career, doubts she has slayed with each turn. The ugly spite of ageism too joins the conversation as her 50th birthday becomes a none too invisible yet unobtrusive thread to her career defining turn in HUSTLERS and multiple award notice, including the scrambling and genuine road towards receiving an Oscar nomination.




Within the hour and forty minutes, we get a personable, candid portrait of the individual who has come to define her life choices and by extension a generation, in fact multiple generations, through them. HALFTIME gives her an exhale and holds her accountable for almost three decades of sheer hard work and breaking stereotypes. Watch it.

***

BEAUTY (2022)

From the trailer itself, it was evident this Netflix original feature was an unacknowledged, unofficial portrait of a singing superstar who we know as THE VOICE, also the figure behind the best-selling soundtrack of all time. You know who she is so there has to be no unnecessary room for speculation.

BEAUTY is more of an impressionistic portrait of the beginnings of that VOICE and treads the territory of expectations, familial strains and the first steps towards a glorious future.  It covers fairly humble grounds. Grounds where pressures of maintaining a facade are supreme while passive-aggressive manipulative levers pull and push the titular protagonist around a culture of opportunity.

Gracie Marie Bradley and Aleyse Shannon are almost identical to  singing superstar Whitney Houston and her best friend/ manager Robyn’s real-life tenacity as best friends and lovers. Over the last few years, two documentaries WHITNEY and WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME? have especially delved into that aspect so the repressed embers are no longer hidden.





Andrew Dosunmu, the director, gives his screenplay written by Lena Waithe, a swooning, jazzy pulse, a gestural articulation that never lets us hear the voice but rather observe the impressionistic stillness of this particular atmosphere. The central romance benefits from that approach. However, BEAUTY ultimately becomes an exercise in futility because the abrupt end-point comes with the protagonist’s first major television appearance. Hence, this could have benefited if the runtime was longer or if it was the fledgling first half of a miniseries.  The potential of it is undone by the one and a half hours of runtime along with the increasingly lethargic pace.
The internal worlds and motivations too become very single-minded. 

What I take away from this work are the scenes with Niecy Nash and Giancarlo Esposito as the parents, the two best friends and soulmates defying gender binaries especially with their artistic collaboration and Sharon Stone as the industry head.

There is a lot that could have been expanded with more effective stakes here. Unfortunately, BEAUTY ends up becoming a cipher even with the all-too recognisable back story of an absolute icon and its aesthetics.

***

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