Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Just returned from a weekend with T and D who live in Kingston, near Woodstock. Friday night, after dinner at an Italian restaurant called Mint, we drove into Rhinebeck to Upstate Cinemas to watch "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." A good-fun, feel-good movie, it followed a group of British retirees who traveled to India to stay at the eponymous hotel. The ensemble acting was good though the roles hardly stretched the talents of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel. India was seen very much through the eyes of these Britishers (a recent widow, a former civil servant, a retired High Court judge, an ex-governess), but it was to the credit of the firm, directed by John Madden, that it fleshed out a few Indian characters such as Dev Patel's hapless romantic. The dialogue was sharp, and the plot provided a couple of surprises ("twist" is too strong a word).

On Saturday, after eating lunch and walking about in Rhinebeck, which boasts the oldest tavern-inn in the country, we visited the Vanderbilt House at Hyde Park. The house and its grounds were bought and restored in the 1890's by Frederick Vanderbilt, son of William Henry Vanderbilt. and grandson of "Commodore" Vanderbilt who built his fortune on steamships and railways. We did not tour the house but enjoyed walking about the beautiful grounds, full of old trees. T pointed out a spectacular grove of European Weeping Beeches. The formal terraced gardens were built in the Italian style. A cherry tree walk led from the pergola to a pool with fish. At the far end of the lower rose garden rested a loggia. The Commodore grew up on a small farm on Staten Island before becoming rich. To give their wealth the prestige of age, his descendants busied themselves building luxurious homes in European styles in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley, Newport, MN, and Asheville, NC.

That night, after dinner in Woodstock, we went back to the house and watched "3," a movie about a husband and a wife falling in love separately with the same man. The German movie, directed by Tom Tykwer, was a plea to see sexuality in a less deterministic manner. The argument was supported by references to literature (the couple watched a stage production of Shakespeare's sonnets written to both a young man and a dark lady), dance and science. Devid Striesow, who played the aptly named man-in-the-middle called Adam, was a geneticist who was working to return skin cells to their stem cell state. Like his work, Adam signified the possibilities of new beginnings. The overly optimistic movie did not deal with the difficulties of being in a three-way relationship. It did not have to since its action focused on bringing the three people together, and leaving them blissfully satisfied in bed.

During the stay I read David Hockney's book That's the Way I See It from T's library. It described his struggle against naturalism, in particular, Renaissance perspective, and showed me how to read photo-collages. Picasso, for him, brought the viewer into the picture, into the midst of life, instead of fixing him as a voyeur looking through the keyhole or the window of the picture frame. The book gave me a few ideas on how to bring time into the timeless lyric without destroying the lyric. It may have rearranged my next book.


Ms. said...

What a tasty post, and I must admit to some envy, Tomorrow I'll see "Marigold" here...and looking forward to the elders at play. Looking forward to your next book.

Jee Leong Koh said...

I hope you liked the movie.