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Madame Butterfly

 Madame Butterfly


5 out of 5 starsA Butterfly in a Cage

"I am like the goddess of the moon,
the little goddess of the moon
who comes down by night
on the bridge of the sky."

I love this romantic escape into a fantasy world of dreamy opera and sometimes the singing can literally make you heady. I fell completely in love with this story after listening to a 1987 London recording from the library.

The story begins near Nagasaki, although this movie was filmed in Tunisia. A Japanese house, terrace and garden is situated on a hill overlooking the harbor. There is a sense of serenity and peace, but this does not fully represent the future.

Lieutenant Pinkerton (Richard Troxell) is selecting a home and Goro brings him into the house to show him all the benefits of the house. He in turn thinks the house is "as delicate as a puff of wind." Which could rather be used to describe his commitment to his new bride, Butterfly (Ying Huang). We can't quite figure out why this naval officer wants to buy a bride when he is just going to leave her trapped in a beautiful cage for three years.

Is this not the entire fantasy of the knight who rescues a woman and then puts her in a tower? Yet, here the knight and the maiden don't seem to share the same commitment to one another and when the knight leaves, he seems to forget to even send a note back to the maiden.

The love duets are magnificent and beyond compare. The world literally dissolves when you watch this movie. The letter scene gives you hope and yet the sheer tragedy of the situation reaches new levels when Butterfly tosses Sharpless out of the house due to his heartless comments about her accepting a proposal from Yamadori.

I also love Butterfly's sweet innocence when she asks when the robin builds his nest in her husband's country, because in her country it has built a nest three times and she can't understand why her husband has not returned. He promised he would return when the robin was building his nest.



Butterfly has many opportunities to escape her cage with a variety of suitors, yet stays completely faithful. She lives with her maid, Suzuki. They almost run out of money while waiting for Pinkerton to return. When she realized Pinkerton has finally returned, she takes flower petals (peach-blossom, violet, jasmine) and strews them all over the house. She then falls asleep, exhausted from waiting up all night.

"Oh, the bitter fragrance
of these flowers
spreads in my heart like poison.
Unchanged is the room
where our love blossomed.
But the chill of death is here.
My picture…
Three years have passed
and she has counted the days and the hours!"

"Madame Butterfly" is an exquisite and faithful cinematic adaptation of Giacomo Puccini's Opera "Madama Butterfly" set in Japan in 1904. It is really a heart-wrenching story of a young geisha who sacrifices her religion, family and life with a more suitable partner, like Prince Yamadori, while she waits for Lieutenant Pinkerton to return.

Unfortunately, a rash decision does not allow her heart to heal. This movie is just mesmerizing, heart breaking and terribly romantic. If you want to create a romantic atmosphere, watch on a rainy afternoon with a jasmine scented candle and jasmine tea.

~The Rebecca Review


Living with Japanese Gardens


Japanese Poetry, Gardens and Traditions, July 27, 2006

Aching nostalgia -
As evening darkens
and every moment
Longer and longer,
I feel
ageless as the
thousand year pine."
~Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred More
Poems from the Japanese

One of the ideas I love from Japanese design books is the luxury of a deep soaking tub. One of the baths in this book is in an open room with glass windows and walls. Of course taking a bath outside seems a dream, but now and then you find those pictures too.

Throughout this lovely book you will find quaint bridges, bamboo gardens, Japanese maple trees, waterfalls, sand and stone gardens and romantic stone paths wandering through trees. Inside, you can see how to place a bed near an antique paneled screen or how to bring stone fountains indoors.

"An ideal Japanese garden is viewed through a window while on relaxes inside, sipping tea at the kitchen table; soaking in a hot bath; or sitting on a bench on a covered veranda." ~ pg. 11

One of the brilliant ideas is a courtyard garden with a retractable roof. The ponds are especially artistic with lots of lantern designs. There is a teahouse in a forest and a home you can only access if you walk over the pond on a slab stone bridge.

~The Rebecca Review


Japanese Cabinetry: Tansu



Women on the Verge


Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown


5 out of 5 stars Passionately Comical, June 28, 2003

Watching this movie will make any woman feel quite sane. You just cannot imagine your life could get this out of control.

The opening scenes are dreamlike, colorful and only when you watch this for the second time do you fully understand the implications of all the movie making episodes and why Ivan is walking by woman after woman saying exactly what they want to hear.

In this movie, there are a number of women who are involved with a number of men they should be running from instead of pursuing them endlessly in the hopes of returned affection.

While I started watching this in English, you might also tend to agree it is best watched with the Castilian audio track and the subtitles of your choice.

This story really begins with Pepa (Carmen Maura) oversleeping and hearing the love of her life leave a message on her answering machine asking her to pack all his things in a suitcase because he is leaving on a trip. Pepa does what any sane woman would do and tosses out everything that reminds her of Ivan. Except it takes almost the entire movie for this to happen. We wonder how she would have reacted if she had not wanted to tell Ivan she was pregnant.

Candela (Maria Barranco) is one of her best friends she is trying to avoid so she can deal with her own heartbreak. Candela is running from the law and needs a safe place to escape to until she can figure out how to warn the world about a Shiite terrorist attack she found out about from her ex. Eventually Candela makes her way to Pepa's penthouse just as Pepa is flying out the door.

Each woman is vulnerable in various ways. Lucia deals with her rejection in violent ways, Pepa by looking for her boyfriend endlessly and Candela by trying to jump from the balcony of Pepa's penthouse.

This movie is so beautifully woven together with all sort of delicious connections including the gazpacho episodes and the taxi driver. Nothing in this movie is expected. You also see each character giving her view of the entire situation. Antonio Banderas appears as Ivan's son Carlos and is hardly recognizable at first. Must have been that he is so young and is wearing glasses.

At times just the way the scenes are filmed gives it such visual appeal. It is a comedy, a mystery, a thriller depending on the music which is only used to maximum effect where needed. There is some brilliant symbolism like the bed going up in flames perhaps representing a relationship destroyed in a moment of misunderstanding or passion.

With that said, this has to be the most hysterical film I have seen "since" I watched a movie when I was seven called "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)." This movie is also one you will not soon forget. If it wasn't for the study of sexual customs, this would be an innocent romp at best.

Vibrant, artistic and unrestricted in its originality and hilarity.

~The Rebecca Review 


Another Woman on the Verge

Ingrid Bergman in Jean Cocteau's The Human Voice


5 out of 5 stars A Stunning Representation of a Woman's Emotions, July 2, 2005

Human Voice is initially unassuming and it takes about 5 minutes or more to fully realize the potential of this painful expose of a woman's emotions. The scenes all take place in one room.

Ingrid Bergman plays a woman in the most painful state she could possibly exist in besides the state in which she is mourning the loss of a child. She has just lost the love of her life and has tried to commit suicide. Fortunately she wakes to find she has survived taking all the pills in her medicine cabinet.

What happens next is rather disturbing really. When a woman feels these emotions, she may happen to glance at herself in the mirror, but more than likely she is in bed crying her eyes out. The honesty is captivating, but painful to observe.

Through a one-sided telephone conversation a woman first tries to hide her feelings and then after numerous attempts to talk to the man she loves and convince him she is handling the break up, she finally breaks down. She experienced devastation, desperation, completely heartache, longings of the soul, everything a woman feels when she has lost the man she thinks she will spend the rest of her life with; it is poetic and tragic.

Ingrid Bergman wanders about in a pink housecoat, clinging to a old-fashioned phone and is stunning in this solo performance. At one point she wraps the phone cord around her neck and says that her lover's words are now around her neck. It is very provocative at times as she plays with ideas in creative ways.

This movie may stir up memories from the past and may cause you to hunt down doughnuts, chocolate or anything comforting. Watching this movie is similar to riding the waves in a storm. The sad part of this movie is that women feel these emotions all too often. The callousness of her lover is especially difficult to take. While we never hear his voice, we hear her reactions. Even when she is expressing her undying affection, he seems angry with her and displays an almost inhuman disregard for her feelings.

This movie might make you angry, it might make you cry and it will definitely leave you with a lasting impression. Human Voice is a true classic and one of the best representations of complete desperation and loss of self-esteem I've ever observed.

~The Rebecca Review



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