by Angeliska on June 17, 2011
Oh today, today. I don’t really want to write about what today was like, because it was quite awful.
Instead, I’ll write about something that makes me happier: my favorite film. I know, I know – just one?
Is it even possible to pick only one? I think so. For me, it’s the film that found me at an early age, and
provided a defining moment in my sense of beauty and aesthetics. It is the film that no matter how many
times I see it (many, many!) it remains perfectly fresh: never fading, or withering, never growing old – just
as Queen Elizabeth exhorted. I have my beloved grandparents to thank, for their good taste and judgement,
and for exposing me to so many wonderful films. I was thirteen years old, and visiting them when they still lived
in Los Angeles. I remember devouring L.A. Weekly when I was there – so hungry for culture, for information,
for the lures of forbidden concerts and drag shows. We all decided Orlando looked interesting, and the three
of us went to see it at a little old art-house cinema with incredibly creaky and uncomfortable wooden seats.
I was forever changed. The music, that beautiful soundtrack, the gorgeous costumes and cinematography,
and of course – the pink, the pearl, and the perfection of her sex: my first flaming female crush and future wife, Tilda Swinton.
Oh, androgyny! This perhaps was my first encounter with how wonderful, how right it could be to not have to choose
one gender over the other. That one could be as Orlando said: “Same person. No difference at all… just a different sex.”
Combined with my feverish and everlasting love for meticulously executed costume and historical dramas, and just the simple
beauty of the story and the characters – well, it caught me up then and has never let go. There is no moment in that film that
is wasted, that is unecessary. From beginning to end, it is truly perfect. If you’ve never seen it, I hope you will. If you do, or
if you have, then you will understand some essential and inexpressible things about me, and what I find beautiful.
All quotes below are from Virginia Woolf’s book, Orlando: A Biography, upon which
the film was based. Obviously, they go hand in hand in the wonderfulness department. Read it.
“He loved, beneath all this summer transiency, to feel the earth’s spine beneath him; for such he took the hard root of the oak tree to be; or, for image followed image, it was the back of a great horse that he was riding, or the deck of a tumbling ship — it was anything indeed, so long as it was hard, for he felt the need of something which he could attach his floating heart to; the heart that tugged at his side; the heart that seemed filled with spiced and amorous gales every evening about this time when he walked out.”
“The taste for books was an early one. As a child he was sometimes found at midnight by a page still reading.
They took his taper away, and he bred glow-worms to serve his purpose. They took the glow-worms away
and he almost burnt the house down with a tinder.”
“For it would seem – her case proved it – that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person.
The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.”
The brilliant Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth. What a clever thrill is the scene between he and Tilda,
him playing a great old dowager empress, and her playing a young sprig of noble youth, a gingery boy.
“But Sasha was from Russia, where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden
and sentences are often left unfinished from doubt as how to best end them.”
“Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, then to burn like a meteor and leave no dust.”
“Was not poetry a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice?”
“In the 18th century we knew how everything was done, but here I rise through the air, I listen to voices in America,
I see men flying- but how is it done? I can’t even begin to wonder. So my belief in magic returns.”
“Nature, who has played so many queer tricks upon us, making us so unequally of clay and diamonds, of rainbow and granite, and stuffed them into a case, often of the most incongruous, for the poet has a butcher’s face and the butcher a poet’s; nature, who delights in muddle and mystery, so that even now (the first of November, 1927) we know not why we go upstairs, or why we come down again, our most daily movements are like the passage of a ship on an unknown sea, and the sailors at the mast-head ask, pointing their glasses to the horizon: Is there land or is there none? to which, if we are prophets, we make answer
“Yes”; if we are truthful we say “No”; nature, who has so much to answer for besides the perhaps unwieldy length of this sentence, has further complicated her task and added to our confusion by providing not only a perfect ragbag of odds and ends within us—a piece of a policeman’s trousers lying cheek by jowl with Queen Alexandra’s wedding veil— but has contrived that the whole assortment shall be lightly stitched together by a single thread. Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand
towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind. Instead of being a single, downright, bluff piece of work of which no man need feel ashamed, our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings, a rising and falling of lights.”
“For Love, to which we may now return, has two faces; one white, the other black; two bodies; one smooth, the other hairy.
It has two hands, two feet, two tails, two, indeed, of every member and each one is the exact opposite of the other.
Yet, so strictly are they joined together that you cannot separate them. In this case, Orlando’s love began her flight
towards him with her white face turned, and her smooth and lovely body outwards. Nearer and nearer she came
wafting before her airs of pure delight. All of a sudden (at the sight of the Archduchess presumably) she wheeled about,
turned the other way round; showed herself black, hairy, brutish; and it was Lust the vulture, not Love, the Bird of Paradise
that flopped, foully and disgustingly, upon his shoulders. Hence he ran; hence he fetched the footman.”
“One of Tilda’s many ideas about having the big house in Nairn was that people would come and be around;
interesting people for her kids to meet. Like a salon, I suppose. It’s peaceful out there but often at weekends there’s
a whole variety of people. It’s quite variable and chaotic. There’s no television. You can get a lot done and you’re
in very pleasant company. It’s never boring. The guy who does their decorating is fantastic, really interesting to talk to.
You’ve got a huge continuum of people who may or may not be high powered in the outside world, but you don’t know
because everybody’s just in their pyjamas eating toast. Which is how you should meet people”
–AL Kennedy, Writer
This is so, so great:
Sally Potter and Tilda Swinton Discuss Their Film Orlando
A change of sex
I couldn’t resist this sweet La Roux/Orlando mash-up. Again with the ginger ladies! Sigh.
So, also the kitten we found in the bushes last year, Bojangles, went through a similar transformation.
We had always assumed that Bojangles was a boy – the orangeness (orange cats are 80% male), the appearance of what
we thought were testicles (eh?), and the fact that he was spraying things down territorially with piss. I mean! Really?
All signs pointed to dude. Imagine my shock, when one night at 3am I looked up from my book, hearing a strange squalling.
A little peachy lumpkin had tumbled out of my Grampy’s old armoire and had become tangled in a hat veil. I was so perplexed!
Where had this little thing come from? A pregnant cat has snuck into my armoire and given birth to two kittens! Strangely,
Bojangles was very interested and concerned about these newborns. I took in the dilated, crazy-mom gaze, her mowling,
and the fact that these two larvae looked exactly like her, and it finally dawned on me – my cat had had a change of sex.
Well, probably not – but! Given the story, and her gingery complexion, we decided that maybe we should change her
name from Renfield Bojangles Whiskerwitz Tom Tum Shrimp Scampi to Orlando, or Tilda, or maybe Tillie for short?
Of course, none of that happened – we call the cat Booey. Very undignified, but it stuck. She’s fixed and happy now!
Did you ever see anything so adorable in your entire life? I thought not.
We gave them to my two little cousins, Molly + Eliza who decided that they
should be named Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie Zucchini Bread. Well, of course!
Grrizelda and Booey are best friends. The cuddle like this and make out all the time.
It’s ridiculous. You can see here that they are actually holding hands. Paws. Whatever, it’s amazing.
More about when we found poor little Booey here:
So strange to think it’s been nearly a year since then.
So much has changed in my life. So much happened right
then, and it was hard changes – but I can say now, for the
best. Funny to look at that old tarot reading and be able
to see it all so much more clearly now. It’s all there.