20 December, 2011

The Duchess Writes A Letter . . .

Dear Santa:

The Duchess knows that times are hard this year, so she is asking for a gift that is totally free!  Please please please, in her next life, let her come back looking like this gorgeous creature here.  (Happy Birthday Lara Stone.)

That is all.

xxDoC

18 December, 2011

The Duchess Recommends . . .

If you can tear away from holiday charmers ("Elf", anyone?) to engage in something utterly spectacular, the Duchess has these four words for you:  THE TREE OF LIFE.  If you have not seen this film, rent or purchase or download it immediately. 

"The Tree of Life" (or "Tree" for short) was released earlier this year to coincide loosely with its premier at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme D'Or.  Though it has received tremendous critical acclaim (not from all corners, however), it hasn't enjoyed the popularity of more recently released flicks (such as "The Descendants" by Alexander Payne, starring George Clooney (wake me, I'm snoring) or some as-yet to be released (i.e., "War Horse" by Steven Spielberg, already nominated for a Golden Globe award for best drama--the Duchess won't be seeing it, so let her know how it goes).  It was booed and cheered at Cannes, and in brief unofficial pools, many people the Duchess has quizzed about the film (have you seen it?  what do you think?) didn't like it; some even walked out of the theater (as the Duchess should have done with "Black Swan"). 
But it is extraordinary.  Billed out to prospective audiences as the story of an eldest son's loss of innocence and his revisiting of his 1950's childhood, complete with soothing, domesticated mother and stern, authoritarian father, the movie in reality is a surging exploration of the interconnectedness of people and human experience, and the tension between that interconnectedness and the egoistic struggle of the self to rise above all.  It's difficult to provide a synopsis, especially a brief one, but in short the movie begins with a family tragedy (shown through parents Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain), then forwards for a moment to Sean Penn (their eldest son) as an adult, wandering aimlessly, searchingly through life as visualized in a sequence of phallic, anonymous high-rise buildings.  Everyone is seeking an answer to that eternal question, why?, and attempting to find understanding in the universe writ large.  Cue a montage of images documenting the beginning of the earth, and then the rest of this two hour and twenty minute masterpiece. 

Pitt is remarkable as the father figure, anchoring the entire story on both micro- and macro-levels.  Hunter McCracken, who plays Sean Penn's younger self, gives an incredible cinematic perspective on the developing mind of a boy on the quest for manhood.  Jessica Chastain is luminous, relatable, and the ideal yin to Pitt's yang.  The weakest link in the movie, interestingly, is Sean Penn; the Duchess read somewhere that in an interview Penn acknowledged the screenplay as the best he had ever read, but that he had difficulty relating the depth of emotion it sought to capture on screen.  The Duchess thinks that is true. 

Another real star of the movie is the music, a classical "who's who" encompassing Bach, Brahms, Berlioz, Mozart, Holst, and the enchanting "Lacrimosa" by Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner.

Terrence Malick has made only five feature length films in his four decade career as a director.  He held on tightly to his vision of a creative masterpiece, and he has succeeded.  He is a true, master auteur.  Like it or not, "Tree" is a weird, compelling work of art, the likes of which the Duchess hasn't seen (in any medium) in years. 

14 December, 2011

The Duchess Celebrates . . .

It's somewhat challenging to get into the Christmas (holiday) spirit when the tree is not festively lighted and trimmed, let alone en casa.  This year, instead of taking the time to visit one of the many local Christmas tree "patches," so to speak, we are chancing it with a fresh Fraser fir (say that three times, and fast) tree shipped directly from the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Not very green, and not something we'll be doing again.  Next year, the Duchess insists that we will invest in one of the fantastic faux Christmas trees that abound, which we shall store and reuse year after year.  Suzanne Kasler designed some gorgeous ones for Ballard Designs.

Soon-to-be our Blue Ridge tree

Divine design from Suzanne Kasler, through Ballard

Of course, when we finally get the damn thing, then we have to decorate it.  The Duchess suffers already from quaking fears of inadequacy:  Her tree will never measure up to the stunning creation of designer Benjamin Bradley, whose tree annually boasts over 2,000 ornaments, many of which are antique.  Visit New York Social Diary to see a complete tour of his apartment, decorated to the absolute hilt for Christmas.  It's inspirational, and makes the Duchess just want to swing by for some cider or glogg. 

Photograph by Jeffrey Hirsch

It's also somewhat challenging to focus on the Christmas tradition of gift giving when there is so much financial inequity confronting us.  It's all fine and good for the Duchess to go gaga over a little Prada clutch every now and again--but let's be honest, as with most "eye candy" there is a lot of look-but-don't-touch going on, for the  Duchess and everyone else.  Times are hard, you're afraid to pay the fee (with apologies to Donald Fagen)--and you don't have to this year.  Focus on friends, family and other loved ones.  Start spring cleaning a few months early, and take your probably very precious cast-offs to your local charity--someone will appreciate them more than you do.  Drop off a meal for delivery at your church, or load up the kids in the car and drop off the meals yourselves.  There are small ways to contribute that take up very little time.  The Duchess is looking for more suggestions! 

Come back soon for posting on affordable, homemade holiday gifts. 

08 December, 2011

The Duchess Recommends . . .

Should the Duchess ever get off the phone with Barneys customer service (not likely at this rate), she'll spend some time this weekend at the Raymond Pettibon exhibit at Regen Projects ("Desire In Pursuyt Of The Whole," now through December 22).






Regen Projects Gallery

633 N. Almont Dr.
West Hollywood, California 90069
Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm
images via hypebeast

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