Thursday, 5 February 2009

Madame Depardieu and the Beautiful Strangers

It's been awhile between book review posts but before I get on with this one I must make full disclosure. A much-admired friend recommended this book - Antonia Quirke's Madame Depardieu and the Beautiful Strangers - with the warning that I would either love it or hate it because he thought it was close to what I might be able to write.

Hah, I'd love to say as much but, honestly I WISH.

Having just re-read the book this week for a second time I am still swept away by flattery. Because it's awesome. I love it and you will too. Largely autobiographical it is basically the story of how Quirke's obsession with male movie stars has hindered her own relationships. It sounds... weird, and it sort of is but it also has a certain luscious charm, largely because Quirke is clearly BESOTTED with her subject and it shows.
"The thing is I can't take my eyes off (Jeremy) Irons's face in any of them. And I mean that literally. I just can't take my eyes off him. There is a quality of mesmeric handsomeness in certain actors which simplifies the experience of movie-going to the point where the aesthetic pleasures of bone structure photographed over an hour or so are entirely enough to satisfy you... Faces so beautiful that you get a tension between the idea of a movie being a story and it being portraiture. It's weird - your appetite for looking at these faces seems never to be sated. Were Last Tango in Paris twelve hours long I'd still be shovelling (Marlon) Brando's face into my eyes. H0ow can we tear ourselves away."

It's a hard thing to capture here, in little quotes, and it sort of has a more cumulative effect, but it's also very funny.
"Had I reviewed The Mirror Has Two Faces, I might have been tempted to write something like 'Jeff Bridges looks as if he wishes he were elsewhere'. It's a classic reviewer's white lie, designed to let a favourite actor off the hook... It's a kindness. But in The Mirror Has Two Faces, I submit, we have a genuine once-in-a-lifetime example. No beautiful teen asked to fall for Woody Allen could ever have looked so stunned and reluctant and nauseated as Jeff does looking at Barbra Streisand."

Now if that doesn't make you smile this may not be the book for you. But if you do... get onboard. Then I can pretend I wrote it.

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