The Homecoming

November 20, 2011

Perhaps I should not write a word about this 1973 film adaptation of Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming.  After all, silence, heavy and oppressive, is such a major element in the dialog.

A man comes home to his father, uncle, and two brothers, after having been away and out of contact for nine years.  They are working class Londoners; he has become an American philosophy professor:

Take this table, see, but what do you do once you’ve taken it?” “He’d probably sell it…Chop it up for firewood!  Har har ha!”  Love that skewering of philosophy chat.

He brings a wife, pretty, very pretty, and respectable…but she was different before.  The brother who is a pimp (a very young Ian Holme) senses that right away.  Nobody can process reality, let alone speak the truth aloud about anything.  The uncle who finally succeeds in uttering an indisputable fact falls dead from the effort.  Sex and family power relations render the atmosphere between the characters as thick as molasses:  their words send out shock waves with a physical impact.

Here’s a clip of the scene shown in the header image, a point in the play when everything begins to turn around the central axis of power, sex, and the fear/loathing of women.  Vivian Merchant plays a very different kind of femme fatale, but she herself was destroyed utterly by the breakup of her marriage to Pinter.

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La Torpille

April 2, 2009

raie_electriquewestern_torpedoes

La Torpille is the nickname of Esther Gobseck, the principal whore of  A Harlot High & Low (Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes) by Balzac.  Translated, it’s The Torpedo, an example of which – it’s a fish – you can see at the left above.  Touch it, and you get an electric shock.

Later, naval mines were called torpedoes – touch them, and you are blown up!  (Now torpedoes are self-propelled.)  In the case of Esther, any man who saw her, let alone touched her! was stunned, knocked out, and totally in thrall to her.  The elderly, ultra-rich, super-cynical banker, Nucingen, sees her by chance out for a walk alone in a Paris wood and is totally felled by love.  He who loves only bank accounts!

What might these women have looked like?  These images of fashionable, but respectable women from the 1820s give us a hint.

marchesa_marianna_florenzi_by_heinrich_maria_von_hess_1824 1823-ball-gown-diaphanous-overskirt