Monday, June 12, 2006

Blogosphere Multiplex: How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons

Once a week I'm grilling noteworthy bloggers about their own film experiences. This week's victim interviewee is Francis Strand from "How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons" And yes, like last week's interview this one is TransAtlantic. I am such the jetsetter.

On his award winning, well-informed blog Francis talks about whatever occurs to him (politics. life abroad. personal life) and ties it up with a Swedish word of the day. It's a clever concept and addictive, too. So please click over to How to Learn Swedish..." and investigate. You can learn the Swedish words for shameless just in case you meet Lasse Halström or hearing impaired if you're introduced to Roxette at a party or popular should you be discussing Garbo or bold, audacious, daring in case you have the great honor of meeting Ingmar Bergman.

10 Questions with Francis

Nathaniel: How often do you go the movies?

Francis: These days, I'm not much of a moviegoer. Maybe once a month, tops. We actually buy movies on DVD much more often than we see them in the theater, since it costs about the same for two tickets as for a DVD, at least here in Stockholm.

Nathaniel: Speaking of "we" and your significant other, ever had a huge disagreement about the quality of a movie...or do you have twinner taste?

Francis: We like similar food, art, furniture, travel, humor, but we have quite different taste in movies, actually. He's more into action movies, thrillers, blockbusters. I tend to like smaller more eclectic movies. I think he first glommed onto this when I made him watch Walkabout, which he thought was dreadful.

But I've managed to sway him a bit, gotten him hooked on films he probably would never have liked until I made him watch them, movies like Velvet Goldmine, Miller's Crossing, The Graduate, Groundhog Day. Of course I've never converted him to some of my other favorites, like Time Bandits, and he's never converted me to all those Planet of the Ape movies (I only like the first one) or Minority Report, which I think is confused and doesn't know what the hell it thinks.

Nathaniel: I hear you on Minority Report (my review). Spielberg has long ago moved into heavier "idea" films but I always feel he hasn't thought them all the way through which is why he has such problems with the endings --or at least that's my theory as to one of the reasons why.

OK as an honorary Swede, how many Bergman have you seen? Be honest.

Francis: Bergman isn't exactly my cup of tea, although I did see an excellent
production he directed of Ibsen's Ghosts with Pernilla August, here in Stockholm at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. As for films, I've only seen four and a half, the first three of which I saw more than 20 years ago: Persona, Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander. I've only seen a sizeable chunk of Summer with Monica- I fell asleep - but it was fascinating mostly because it shows what Stockholm looked like as a city in the early 1950s, including some scenes out in the archipelago, with people dancing on a jetty (something they still do at Midsummer). He's just too grim for me.

My favorite is The Magic Flute, which looking back on it, I think was surely filmed at Drottningholm at the little baroque theater there; it's a charming filmed version of what I think must be the favorite opera of Swedes.

Nathaniel: Persona and Cries and Whispers are two of my favorite films. ever. But "grim" is definitely an appropriate word. Since you're an American who has been living abroad forever I'm curious re: your feelings about films with this subject. Have you ever seen a movie that you feels captures this dynamic? Or maybe a character in a film that spoke to this part of you?

Francis: I haven't been living abroad forever... it's only been seven years. But, this is a difficult question. Because being an expatriate has two distinct aspects to it: one's relation to the country one comes from, and one's relation to the country one lives in. Although at the most basic level, it's about how one handles being an outsider.

I haven't seen a film that captures how I feel about Sweden, but I lived for about six months in Spain before I moved here, and a film comes to mind that captures more how I felt about Spain when I lived there - Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise. Spain was, and still is, a mystery to me, I love it and hate it more than any other place, and I can so relate to the character played by Esther Balint, dependent on people who probably shouldn't be trusted, but smart enough to still manage not to lose herself. I love it in the end when she finally leaves the second time, and says: "This dress bugs me."

Nathaniel: How about Lost in Translation's dynamic?

Francis: I like Lost in Translation, it's clever and pleasingly melancholy, but it isn't at all about what it's like to be an expatriate. They're simply doing business, or married to someone doing business, in a strange culture, not making a life there.

Thinking about it, my experience in Sweden is much closer to, not a movie, but a British TV series based on a book by Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: Solidly (upper) middle class Charles Ryder (played by Jeremy Irons in his first big role seen by Americans) falls in love first with Sebastian Flyte, and later his sister Julia, becoming enchanted and hopelessly tangled with their upper class family, their fabulous house, their neuroses, but he's never really a part of them, he's always outside, and he never quite understands them, either.

Nathaniel: This also sounds like the plot of Match Point ... only without the messy murder bits.

Francis: Haven't seen that yet. I've sort of fallen out of love with Woody Allen, I tend to find him irritating these days. I think the last thing I liked was Husbands and Wives, but mostly it was Judy Davis who made that movie.

Nathaniel: OK easier question multiple choice: Heath Ledger or Jake Gyllenhaal?

Francis: Anyway, easier multiple choice...? It isn't. So I'll split that one. Heath Ledger, based on having seen him in one movie, is surely the better actor. But, well, Jake Gyllenhaal is the better sex object.

Nathaniel: Nicole Kidman or Naomi Watts?

Francis: Nicole Kidman.

Nathaniel: Let's talk for a second (indirectly?) about your profession. You are a magazine editor, right? Are you eager to see Meryl Streep's Anna Wintour's skewering in The Devil Wears Prada?

Francis: Now you've caught me out in my total out-of-touch-with-the-fatherland-ness... or else I'm slipping up on my duties as a gay man and could risk losing my membership. But, while I've heard of the book, it's never caught my interest and, well, I had no idea they were making a movie of it. But Meryl Streep is pretty much hot shit no matter what she does, so...

Nathaniel: Cool. OK. We've reached our finale: They make a movie of your life. Who would play you? What's the title? What's the rating?

Francis: John Malkovich. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language - The Movie! (don't forget the exclamation point...) Definitely with an R rating. Thanks, Nathaniel, it's been fun...

Nathaniel: And a big "tack" (that's Swedish for 'Thanks') to Francis of "How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons" for participation in this "blogosphere multiplex" interview.

New Reader?
If this is your first time here please check the rest of the blog or some of the film experience's greatest hits: "She's a Bitch" * Pfeiffer Forever * Top 100 Actors * A History of ...Gyllenhaal * 2005 Film Bitch Awards *

Previously at the Multiplex:
Ron L'Infirmier
Thomas & Co.

To All Readers:
Any suggestions of bloggers you'd love to see featured? I'll try to rope them in.

Tags: movies, cinema, Sweden, blogging, Swedish, Spain, expat, film


Francis S. said...

I love the fact that you can amend and clarify things on blogs... like that I forgot to say in my Brideshead Revisited answer that despite Jeremy Irons being an outsider, he nonetheless doesn't question his right to partake in the life of the family, he doesn't feel out of place or like he's beneath them or not worthy.

Javier Aldabalde said...

Swedes, honorary Swedes, they're all crazy... they really don't like Bergman, do they? (Even if he's one of the few cinema geniuses that ever lived, but OK...)

I loved this entry; very fun and reading the word "Sweden" always makes me happy.

Ramification said...

Really interesting read, and Francis is a hottie :)