Wild Young Minds: September 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

Frida: the fervent story of an extremely talented and eccentric woman

A couple of years ago a random guy came up to me, while I was peacefully doing some shopping, and praised my eyebrows. He even said I looked exactly like Frida Kahlo. This I didn't see as a compliment, not at all actually, since Frida Kahlo's eyebrows are definitely thick, but you almost can't refer to them as plural - she only has one eyebrow. Back then that was pretty much all I knew about Frida Kahlo, apart from the fact that she was a Mexican painter. Nowadays I think I would've taken the comparison a lot better, because I've learned so much more about the wonderful artist. She didn't only create the most surrealistic and amazing paintings, she also was a strong woman. A feminist, a passionate lover and an overpowering lady.

Frida is a 2002 biopic starring Salma Hayek, who won an Academy Award for the film, as Frida Kahlo. It tells the life story of the painter, from the terrible accident which changed her life until her death in 1954. I shall tell you the most important events in her life in a nutshell. At the age of 18, Frida suffers a horrible accident in a bus. The results of the crash on her body are a nightmare. Her back is bruised, broken and battered. It looks as if she won't be able to walk and she lies in her bed for hours, days and months. To kill time, she finds comfort in painting. Her frustrations of not being able to walk and not being able to live, are translated on canvas. Frida turns out to be an extremely talented painter, also able to paint herself, because ''I'm so often alone, because I am the person I know best'' as she says herself.

Famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) becomes her guider and lover. Even though he's a fat and not quite handsome older man (as simple as that) Frida is head over heels in love and they marry in a very short time. The wedding is typically Mexican, the party is wild and fiery like guacamole. Their relationship is passionate but quite dysfunctional and they have more ups-and-downs than a trampoline. They both cheat on each other constantly, resulting in huge fights.

When Diego is asked to paint a giant art work at the Rockefeller Center, the two fly to New York. This turns out to be a disappointment for Frida. She has no inspiration, feels left alone and to make it all worse, she suffers a miscarriage and her mother dies. Diego has no luck either, the American government doesn't approve of his communist view (which is also shown in the painting he makes), so they fly back to Mexico. Their relationship is almost over and Diego cheats on Frida with her sister (!). Frida began to drank a lot. “I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim.” They meet again when Diego asks Frida to house Leon Trotsky, a Russian Marxist revolutionary who has caused a lot of controversy. Frida begins an affair with the old Trotsky, which abruptly ends when his wife finds out. Frida and Diego remarry eventually and the film ends when Frida dies. May sound like I'm giving away the ending, but that's just the life story of Frida. No surprise, we all know she died and it's no use making a mystery of this fact.

Frida intruiged me from beginning until end. Was it the story, the character, what happened to her? I don't know. It all inspired me, not in the literal way (can't paint sad enough) but definitely in a creative way. The believes Frida had, the overwhelming strength and persistence, the will to live and the will to love, which seemed even bigger. I've always believed that men like Diego, who constantly cheat, should be thrown out of women's lives. I always thought that if you had any dignity, you would leave a man like that. But Frida was the living proof of dignity and courage, yet she didn't leave Diego. Yes, for a bit when he had sex with her sister (imagine the cruelty!) but later on she took him back anyway. She did this because she loved him so utterly and strongly, despite all his flaws. Of course you have to take into account that she wasn't that sweet herself either - she cheated on Diego with women and with, among others, Trotsky. All we can say is that they had a complex relationship. They worshipped but despised each other.

Salma Hayek was the true incarnation of Frida. I do have to say I found Salma a bit too pretty for the part of Frida, who was definitely charming herself as well, but Salma's looks are really sublime. It's always hard having to play someone who has really existed. There are bound to be fans or family or critics who don't agree with the choice. This is also happening right now with the selection of  Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Agree or don't agree, that's the question. Anyway, I think Salma did an amazing job. She was convincing as a young and energetic Frida but also as an old and lonely Frida.

The visual effects of this film are very good. Every scene begins as one of her paintings, turning into a scene with living creatures. The way the paintings are shown to us, is magnificent.
All in all, Frida is a fresh biopic with great visual effects. It does become a bit long-winded at a certain moment, especially because it focuses on the relationship a lot, rather than on Frida as an artist. Salma Hayek is outstanding as Frida. You can really feel Frida was an inspiration for Salma because she didn't even play her, she turned into her. And that's an admirable job.

''Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?''

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Eulogy for Janis

In my English class, we have to write many speeches. Last week, we had to write a eulogy, which is a way of honouring something or someone who died. I wrote one for Janis Joplin, one of my biggest inspirations and definitely one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. It may seem a bit odd, but I wanted to share it with you, for I think it's such a great way to think about your idols and do something with their greatness. So here's to Janis (imagine a glass of wine or whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other - that was who she was)! 

‘Only the good die young’, is definitely the case when it comes to Janis Joplin. Janis Joplin was a free spirit, a wonderful woman and an awfully good artist. To become the queen of cool was never on her to-do-list. That was just what she was; that was just what she was born to become. She turned herself into a victim of her own lifestyle, which cost her her life. What started as an innocent listening to the Blues, turned into a frequent use of alcohol and drugs and eventually led to a heroin overdose.

She was born in Texas in 1943 as the daughter of an engineer and a registrar. As a child, she was already interested in blues music and the Beat movement. The local choir is where she started singing, which became the birth of a successful career. Janis Joplin made songs that inspired the entire music industry, that were important in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, that breathed her never-ending passion. Passionate she was, be it in a good and in a bad way. Janis was the queen of the hippies. What would the Sixties have been like if Janis Joplin weren’t there? She paved the way for many women to be free, leading them to a place where they could do what they wanted. All by her music.

To me,  the record ‘Pearl’ is the best record in the world. ‘Get it while you can’, one of her songs, remembers me of the fact that I should grab every opportunity, take every chance and do what comes on my way. To her loved ones, Janis was caring and a warm soul. To herself, she was a woman addicted to music. To sing was to feel like the first time she was in love, she said. It was everything to her.

The world has lost yet another legend way too soon. Only 27 she was, so much of her was to become. She could have written so many more poetic lyrics, which she could have sung so passionately. We will never know what legendary work she would have made, since we are left with her early records, that will make the sounds of a raw voice, a bitter sweet voice. It is the voice of Janis Joplin. A voice no one will ever forget for it moved mountains in the world of music. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Songs on rewind

Late at night, a playlist of The Doors is on rewind
Because every song seems to match the thoughts on my mind
Jim Morrison singing ‘Soul Kitchen’ gives me the thrills
It makes me feel like the night that I took happy pills

You light another cigarette to forget your thoughts as well
And I know that I will never get rid of my love for that smell
It oozes you, even when I’m in a misty bar and you’re nowhere around
I want to stay but run at the same time, to a place that can never be found

Since every time you come a step closer, my body moves away
Sometimes I feel a close connection to the girl called ‘Ruby Tuesday’
There’s a reason the word ‘freedom’ is engraved on my back
I love the routine of grabbing my suitcase and beginning to pack

But there’s something about you that integrates me for a change
A certain mystique that competes with mine and it feels strange
Maybe it’s because I have the feeling we’re quite the same in this
No desire for chains but a pure passion I see as a beautiful bliss

The good are never easy, the easy never good is what they say
Who knows, we may found out on a particular lovers day
For I know the best thing is to take it easy baby, to take it as it comes
Before I run away for the mighty noise in my head of beating drums

--A poet is before anything else, someone who is in love with language-- W.H. Auden

Monday, September 9, 2013

Another year of university has begun...

As the first leaves are spotted on the trees again, summer comes slowly to an end. The last days of fun in the sun are in sight and the books are re-opened again. University, I didn't miss you one moment these last three months. But unlike the many hours I spent at high school studying maths and economics - in other words: non-inspiring and wasted hours - I got the chance to choose courses within reach of my own interest field this time.

So this year no more falling in sleep in the library (though that's something I can never guarantee), but interesting lectures about the history of jazz, irony and metaphors, the hidden rules of English behaviour, the secret behind Obama's rhetorics and culture criticism. It is of course possible that this all sounds very dull to you, but to me it's great. It's great to learn about something I'm interested in and it's great to be able to improve my own speech and writing.

I have to say I'm quite inquisitive and full of discipline, so university isn't such a punishment for me. I do have to work two or three days a week in addition to the four courses I take, so it's going to be stressful as always. In the meantime, I hope to keep up with my blog, since it's not only important for the few followers I have, but also because my blog has always functioned as an outlet valve for the many things that inspire me.

Anyway, here's to a new year, new knowledge and new experiences. High expectations, but the feeling they will come true.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fernweh: a constant aching for being in another place from where you are now

Ever since I got back from my last roadtrip, I have this constant ache in my body. Is it my heart? No, that's perfectly fine. Is it my head? Nope, perfectly fine as well. My legs then? Yeah well, they're still a bit tired from everything, but quite okay. So no, I have no idea what the ache comes from, where I feel it or why I have it. Though every time I hear the word 'travel', 'foreigner' or 'sun', a reaction occurs. I think I found the cure of the problem: I've got fernweh and in a considerable manner.

All of my life I've been totally fixed on America. Wait till you start making assumptions; I still am. I love to live in New York more than in any other city in the world (I might go there next year, my roommate is doing an internship every summer!) and travelling through the West Coast is next on my list. San Francisco, I already feel you have a special place in my passport. But I recently found out that there are SO many other places I want to see as well: South America, Africa, Australia, India. And not only those well-known places, but also countries like Israel, Nigeria or Peru. Even when I was in Eastern Europe, I wasn't satisfied yet. We didn't have time for Bosnia, Ukraine or the Baltic States. Such a shame! Later on one of my friends reminded me that I'm only 19 and that there are years and years of travel to come, which is absolutely true and reminded me not to be too eager already.
Anyway, I also came to the conclusion that travel definitely has to be a part of my work. Which is actually a good thing, since I want to do something with journalism and writing, and that's one of the best things to do abroad. Writing for a site or magazine would be amazing but being a correspondent would be magnificent as well. I'm thinking about doing a 'travel writing' course in Berlin next year, that sounds perfect to me.

Another sign for the fact that I was born to travel is that I always fall in love with foreigners. Not only on the road, even in Amsterdam the guys who have mixed blood are most interesting. People who come from different parts of the world are interesting anyway. But people who have traveled the world as well. They know what they talk about, they've got many interesting stories to tell and 99% of the time they're open-minded. Important features, if you ask me.

I have no idea where I will end up and I think that's only for the best. I love Amsterdam a lot but I don't see myself living here forever. If I am to live in Holland, it will definitely be in Amsterdam, but in a few years I think I sorted Amsterdam and its inhabitants out. A new city will come on my path, but which one it will be, I don't know. We'll see. For unplanned moments are the best and that definitely accounts for travelling.
In all photos you see the wonderful city of San Francisco, credits go to Free People.