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Category Archives: Foreign

The Dreamers

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The Dreamers

Image credit: The Dreamers, 2003

Prone to expressing themselves through movie quotes, cinephiles are easy to spot. Even when they get into a contest over who has seen which obscure film, you know it’s only due to pure enthusiasm for the medium. Thus when I saw The Dreamers (DVD/Download), these characters instantly felt like kindred spirits. Sure, director Bernardo Bertolucci takes things a little too far with his sexually explicit style, but at the core of the film there is a deep love for all things cinema.

Starring Michael Pitt, Eva Green, and Louis Garrel, The Dreamers is set in Paris during the 1968 student riots. It was this era of turmoil, artistic expression, and youthful energy that fueled a cultish devotion to the Cinémathèque Française, the organization upon which all modern film criticism and preservation is based. Seen through the eyes of an American student, Paris seems exciting, revolutionary, and slightly dangerous. By connecting with two French twin cinephiles, his love of film is fostered even further. There are lengthy debates about Chaplin vs. Keaton, a recreation of the Louvre scene in Godard’s Bande à part, and a rather disturbing interaction with Marlene Dietrich’s Blonde Venus. By the time they start chanting “One of us!” (Freaks), I feel drawn in and consumed every bit as much as the naïve protagonist onscreen. These are my people, too.

For a dangerous, intruiguing, sexy film, only a similar sort of cocktail will do. The Sidecar is one of my favorite classic cocktails, the kind of thing that I could picture Dietrich drinking after a night at the Blue Angel. French liqueur Chambord pairs perfectly with the cognac in this drink, bringing it a lovely raspberry subtlety. While watching The Dreamers, I recommend drinking a Chambord Sidecar.

Chambord Sidecar

1 ½ oz Peach Brandy

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz Chambord

¼ oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

It’s hard not be creeped out by the sexual tension between the two siblings in The Dreamers, and the film’s disappointing second half veers wildly off the rails.  But despite these flaws, the wild, anarchist feeling of Paris in the 60’s remains a constant drumbeat, reminding us that once upon a time, cinema had the power to start a revolution.  Maybe it still does. Cheers!

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Y Tu Mamá También

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Y Tu Mama Tambien

Image credit: Y Tu Mamá También, 2001

Travel Month continues on Cinema Sips with a road trip through Mexico. Full warning, this movie contains a lot of sex. Like, A LOT of sex. However, it also contains enough beautiful scenery, humor, and political discourse to give Y Tu Mamá También (DVD/Download) a sheen of respectability. Plus, a with a pedigreed, Academy Award-winning director like Alfonso Cuarón at the helm, it’s no wonder this was a hit with critics and audiences alike.

I remember a Mexican friend telling me once upon a time that teenagers in his country considered this their American Pie. It was a huge blockbuster, and the film anthem of a generation. I find this absolutely absurd, only because I assume teenagers have zero taste in quality (as evidenced by the popularity of American Pie in the US). But perhaps our southern neighbors are cinephiles in disguise. As a film about randy teenagers on a road trip with a sexy dying woman, Y Tu Mamá También has crude teen jokes galore, but somehow when an English speaker reads them as subtitles, they don’t seem so lowbrow. And a drunken threesome, when set in the backdrop of a sandy paradise, seems artistic and daring.

What do eighteen-year olds do on summer break? Drink of course! Plus, Mexico is home to some truly amazing cocktail delights. I consider this week’s drink a vacation in a glass, so if you need a break from reality, this will transport you. While watching Y Tu Mamá También, I recommend drinking a Charolastra Margarita.

Charolastra Margarita

1 oz silver tequila

2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz Cointreau

½ oz Lime Juice

Lime twist for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, combine tequila, pineapple and lime juices, and Cointreau. Shake vigorously until chilled. Pour into a glass filled with ice, and garnish with lime twist.

Charolastra Margarita

Making stars out of lead actors Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, Y Tu Mamá También was unlike anything at the multiplex at the time of its release. Sexy, bold, funny, and moving, it’s a film about the journeys we take both as travelers and humans. Eventually, we all end up at La Boca del Cielo. Cheers!

I Am Cuba

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Image credit:  I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba), 1964

Image credit: I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba), 1964

To close out Foreign Cinema Month on Cinema Sips, I’m featuring a film that is maybe the epitome of esoteric international art-house fare. Black-and-White photography? Check. No discernable plot? Check. Long stretches of time with no dialogue and beautiful tracking shots? Check. Gorgeous peasants who look like they stepped off the pages of an old Life magazine? Check!

I Am Cuba (DVD) is a Cuban/Soviet collaboration directed by Mikhail Kalatozov depicting the persecution and eventual rebellion of the communist Cuban party. I know- a laugh a minute, right? What draws me in to this film right away is the exquisite cinematography, which begins on a jungle cruise and continues onto a rooftop pool with the Havana La Dolce Vita crowd. Later, we’re transported to a smoky nightclub where a mournful singer croons `Loco Amor’, and depressed prostitutes nurse cocktails at the bar. The whole movie feels like a dream, or perhaps a nightmare that haunts you long after it’s over. My Laserdisc (yes, it is the dream of the 90’s at my house) of the film is subtitled in English, I think the characters are speaking Spanish, and there’s also Russian dubbing thrown in for fun. The American characters are either dubbed badly by someone with a Russian accent, or the Russian (or Cuban?) actors couldn’t quite grasp English before making this- I can’t tell which. Talk about foreign cinema!

I’ve featured variations on the Mojito several times on Cinema Sips, but with such an authentic Cuban movie, I think it’s time to make the real thing. I’ve been saving the mojito for either I Am Cuba or Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, and Kalatozov beat Swayze by a nose. According to the bartender at San Antonio’s Hotel Havana, the key to an excellent mojito is to roll the mint leaves against the palm of your hand to release the oils. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I had fun testing the theory. While watching I Am Cuba, I recommend drinking a Mojito.

Mojito

1 ½ oz White Rum

6 leaves of Mint

1 oz fresh lime juice

2 tsp. sugar

Soda Water

Muddle mint leaves in the bottom of a glass with sugar and lime juice. Add the rum, ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

mojito

I have had such a great time re-discovering international cinema this month. Watching any of these films always gives me a bit of wanderlust. There were a few that didn’t make the cut that I’d still like to mention- I’m So Excited (or really anything by Pedro Almodóvar), Y Tu Mamá También, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Blue is the Warmest Color, Jules et Jim, and The Blue Angel.  I urge you readers to check out one or two of the movies I’ve featured, and let me know if you have any other favorites. There really is a whole world of cinema out there waiting to be explored. Cheers!

Amélie

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Image Credit: Amélie, 2001

Image Credit: Amélie, 2001

Cinema Sips is traveling to Paris this week, for a romp around the Montmartre district. French cinema has a long and storied history, beginning with the films of the Lumière Bros., George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, and continuing on with those sexy intellectual films of The New Wave. However, in my lifetime, the one film that has made me truly excited about French cinema is the adorable, whimsical Amélie (DVD/Download). Like an Anthropologie catalog mixed with a dash of Audrey Hepburn and a pinch of Wes Anderson on crystal meth, Amélie depicts Parisians as wonderful, cynical, stylish, romantic creatures. Additionally, it highlights fabulous French haircuts that as an average American I will never be able to pull off (despite a misguided attempt in 2002).

Amélie is about a kind-hearted, but lonely young woman played by Audrey Tautou (obviously channeling another famous Audrey) who decides to devote her life to helping the people around her. Playing match-maker, comedienne, seeing-eye waif, and companion to a brittle-boned painter, she flits in and out of the lives of her Montmartre compatriots like a French Tinkerbell. She lives in a world of imagination, eventually realizing that her fear and insecurities have prevented her from finding her own true love and happiness. Amélie is romantic, funny, sentimental, and crowd-pleasing (so… not your typical French film). But it also celebrates the minutia of everyday life, and the interconnectedness of human existence.

In celebration of all things French, and my favorite Amélie character, I’ll be mixing a Kir.  A simple cocktail,  Amélie serves it with a smile to the tragic Hipolito, who has embraced his destiny as a failed writer.  If the future that awaits me as an unpublished author involves a cute waitress bringing me cocktails in a charming Parisian cafe, consider me lucky.  While watching Amélie, I recommend drinking a Kir.

Kir

1 1/2 oz Dry White Wine

1/4 oz Crème de Cassis

Pour white wine into a glass, then top with Crème de Cassis.

Kir 

There was a bit of Amélie overload 10 years ago (what girl didn’t have the movie poster on her college dorm room wall?), but now that I’ve spent time away, I can appreciate what I loved about this film in the first place. Yes Amélie finds romance and quite possibly her soulmate, but more importantly she finds friendship and connection with the people who orbit her world. She’s a reminder that even the smallest act can brighten someone’s day, or change the course of destiny forever. Also, she’s a reminder that I should never try short bangs again. Cheers!

Cinema Paradiso

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Image credit: Cinema Paradiso, 1988

Image credit: Cinema Paradiso, 1988

It’s no secret that I love movies. Why else would I write this blog, week after week? It’s not just for the drinks- I swear. What I love most of all are movies about movies. This brings me to the Italian component of Foreign Cinema Month, Cinema Paradiso (DVD). I’m not ashamed to admit that this schmaltzy, idealistic movie about the power of cinema tugs at my heartstrings every time, turning me into a weeping mess on the sofa. If you’re not affected even a little bit by the final montage, well then, I can’t help you.

Cinema Paradiso is at its core a love story between a boy and the art of cinema. Cute little Salvatore (`Toto’) pesters Alfredo (the projectionist at his local small-town cinema) into letting him help out in the projection room. Alfredo becomes a father figure, teaching Toto life lessons through movies, and encouraging him to follow his dreams of becoming a filmmaker. There’s a tepid love story that weaves itself through Toto’s adolescent years, but it can’t compare to the love stories we see on the screen of the tiny Italian movie theater. The film touches on religious censorship within Italian cinema, thus setting up the big finale. I feel like the Italians are the only ones who could have done this story justice, and their beautiful language only adds to the romance of the film as a whole.

Because this movie is a celebration of cinema, I think it deserves a prosecco toast. Pair it with the Italian aperitif Aperol, and you’ve got yourself a pretty, sparkly beverage evoking the Italian sunset. While watching Cinema Paradiso, I recommend drinking an Aperol Spritz.

Aperol Spritz

3 oz Prosecco

2 oz Aperol

1 oz club soda

Orange twist (optional)

Pour Aperol into a chilled flute or wine glass, and top with prosecco and club soda.  Garnish with an orange twist if desired. Toast to il cinema italiano!

aperol spritz

There have been a handful of other films about cinephiles (The Dreamers, Hugo, etc.) but Cinema Paradiso will always be my favorite. I first saw it as a teenager in a small town in Pennsylvania, and at the time it made me feel a little less alone. Like maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t crazy for wanting to barricade myself in my room with a stack of VHS tapes from Blockbuster. Toto ended up alright, anyway.  In many ways this blog, and the wonderful comments it receives, does the same thing for me as an adult. Here’s to Italy, and amore. Cin Cin!

Monsoon Wedding

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Image credit: Monsoon Wedding, 2001

Image credit: Monsoon Wedding, 2001

Get ready- Cinema Sips is off on an international adventure! For the entire month of July, I’ll be showcasing some of my favorite examples of foreign cinema. I know I have readers from all over the world, so maybe these films aren’t “foreign” to everyone. But for those of us living in the US, be prepared- there will be gorgeous scenery, there will be unusual flavors, and there will be subtitles. Deal with it. To kick things off, we’ll be visiting India through the lens of Monsoon Wedding (DVD/Download). Perhaps my favorite example of modern Indian filmmaking, this movie expertly blends contemporary Western culture with traditional Bollywood stereotypes. Add a cocktail, and you’ll feel like an honored guest at the reception.

Monsoon Wedding tells the story of an arranged marriage among upper middle class families in India. In a four day-long wedding extravaganza, we see the couple meet for the first time, learn their fears and dreams, and watch as distant relatives all come together to celebrate the union. I will admit, I grew up thinking of India through the typical Western lens- dirty, crowded, full of starving children, and telemarketers. However after seeing this movie, I discovered an entirely different side to the country. India is home to a beautiful world full of riotous color, arbors draped in marigolds, steamy summer nights, music, dancing, and laughter. Of course, what would a wedding be without a little family drama too? Director Mira Nair weaves a bold, complicated tapestry of family emotions, making the viewer realize that no matter what country you live in, embarrassing relatives are universal.

Summertime in India calls for a fruity, refreshing drink. Mango seems to be a popular flavor in this country, and the celebratory theme of the movie calls for something light and uplifting. While watching Monsoon Wedding, I recommend drinking a Mumbai Mojito.

Mumbai Mojito

1.5 oz rum

½ cup fresh mango (or frozen, thawed)

4 sprigs mint

1.5 oz lime juice

5 oz oz club soda

Marigold blossom (for garnish)

Muddle mango, mint, and 1 oz of lime juice. Add rum, mix, then pour into ice filled glass. Top with club soda, squeeze of lime, and a marigold.

Mumbai Mojito

By far my favorite character in Monsoon Wedding is wedding planner P.K. Dubey, who’s like a cross between Hrundi V. Bakshi and Martin Short in Father of the Bride. Permanently attached to his Nokia cell phone, he is the heart (and comic relief) of this film. His character is a lot like India itself- a blend of traditional cultural values, and new Western ideas. He can order up a weather-proof tent via this crazy new thing called email, but he can also tell you it won’t rain because the peacocks aren’t dancing. Now isn’t that the kind of planner every bride needs on her side? Cheers!