In Which We Went To Sleep For Fifteen Years

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Hurt Those Creatures

by ELEANOR MORROW

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
dir. David Yates
133 minutes

There is an ongoing trend, in the age of climate concern, to attribute human qualities to everything that surrounds us. This attitude extends to every creature in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling’s not-so-humorous and not-so-exciting jaunt through the world that would eventually give birth to Harry Potter. There are oversized rhinoceroses desperate to mate, duck-billed platypuses who love nothing more than to steal, and mastodon-type creatures who only crave the touch of others. Would that any of the actual characters in this story had such manifestly human motivation!

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It is almost shocking to see a Rowling film in which the actors are actually decent performers. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them manages a marvelous cast in comparison to the shit show that was the last gasp of Harry’s quest to kill a man without a nose, that fellow who did something completely heinous: left him alive. In those last movies, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint looked completely checked out, not that they were really suited for their roles in the first place.

We desire a real love story, but instead of providing it, none of the characters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ever give over to animal instincts. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is the actor’s usual sexless fop; despite being exposed to several beautiful women who invite him into their home, he can’t escape quickly enough. His platonic friend Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) lives with her sister (Alison Sudol) and has no man in her life. “What makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you?” someone asks Newt halfway through the film, but we never get the pleasure of finding out.

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Despite being named after the most magnetic iteration of 20th century masculinity, the Muggle at the heart of these events, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), is a baker/veteran nearing 30 who works in a canning factory and has never had intercourse. During a particularly revealing interchange with Newt, Kowalski asks him whether he likes canned food. Newt just shakes his head.

Well, there is nothing wrong with canned food. Usually it tastes just fine, and it keeps forever. It’s pretty good for the environment, but you have to understand that these are the types of people who only care about such things to the extent that they do not actually affect their lifestyle. Newt keeps all the endangered species he collects in his suitcase. In his head he is a progressive, but in actuality he is nothing more than a fancy zookeeper.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them inserts Newt in New York just after the war. In America, Muggles are colorfully referred to as non-Mags. You can tell that Rowling’s trips to this country were relatively sheltered, because it is remarkable how completely whitewashed this New York is. Percival Shaw (Colin Farrell) is a magical official trying to track down a devastating cloud of smoke. If that idea excites you, you may suffer a coronary when the time travel yarn Harry Potter and the Cursed Child makes it to the screen.

The best way to do a prequel series would have been to create certain circumstances under which we could finally appreciate why the death of Mr. Potter was necessary – for example, it may have prevented Now You See Me 2 from ever being shown to audiences. If you have read the spoilers for Rowling’s return to the character, you know that he has been basically put out to pasture in favor of his son, a spoiled brat with a famous father. There are no more orphans, just beneficiaries from Rowling’s tremendous financial success.

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I am probably too hard on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rowling at least does a nice job unraveling the basic mystery here, and Yates’ command of the various special effects required by the series has come a long way. The art direction of the animals themselves is immensely pleasing, and Redmayne’s use of animals to save the life of a Jewish woman he barely knows is a lot more enterprising than a mere spell. There is one moment where Newt emerges in the Arizona wild where we actually feel the beginnings of a great adventure. A few minutes later, Newt’s platypus is robbing a jewelry store, and all we want is to go back.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing at This Recording here.

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In Which We Always Thought Of Ourselves As A Good Judge Of Character

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At the Finish

by JESSICA FURSETH

The text he sent me, telling me he misses me and wants to be my friend. I respond I would like that too, but I don’t know how. We sigh, as far as that’s possible to do over text, and then do nothing.

That I’m old now, meaning I know you don’t get to be friends, not right away like this. The god of break-ups owns this time, and the deity will make you sit in the waiting room flicking through the thoughts in your head, working through every little tedious thread in the tangle.

That I know why we broke up but I don’t think he does because he keeps asking me: “Did you leave because I’m so broke right now? Did you end it because I take drugs sometimes? Was it because of that guy you met, the one you keep meeting up with?” I feel the anger swell in my chest when he asks this, because it’s none of these things and yet all of these things, and so much more. But most of all it’s how he doesn’t hear me when I try and tell him. I spent the best part of a season trying to salvage things, trying to explain what the problem was, desperately sifting through all the words in my arsenal to find the ones that would show him how I felt. More than anything I wanted him to understand.

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The moment when it started breaking. Of course I didn’t understand at the time but with hindsight I can see it: a freezing day with grey fog hanging low over the city, on a bus because the train wasn’t running. He told me something about what he believed in and how he wanted to live, some dream about communal living and sharing resources and a commitment to social activism. All things I can understand and even admire, but the opposite of everything I wanted for myself, as a fickle introvert with a bad case of wanderlust. And felt an ache swell in my chest, realising in a flash that I’d put my eggs in his basket without understanding who he really was, and how could I have let that happen? I got off the bus and went home alone, deflated. We recovered, but I slowly started to retrieve my eggs, one by one, keeping them safe in my own house again because I didn’t trust him with them anymore.

Some Humpty-Dumpty metaphor.

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That time he broke it off via text message while we were trying to work it out, sending me a missive while I was standing in a train station buying wine for a weekend away. I couldn’t even engage with what he was saying, blinded by the indignity of being dumped by text: “I am ending this because you no longer put our relationship first.” Or something like that; I’m not sure what it said exactly because I deleted it, too surreal a message to exist in the world.

What I remember is that I laughed, then shook, and then I raged at the absurdity, the humiliation of being dumped in the manner of my mobile operator informing me I’ve exceeded my monthly data allowance. When I got back there was a wall of ice between us, which melted as he came knocking on my door late at night. We spent three days in bed, in a time capsule, but it didn’t last.

The fact that I felt relief when it finally ended. Too many repetitions of the same arguments. I’d stare at him in disbelief, across the pub table or across the stream of text messages, wondering how it was possible to have been with someone for so long and have it end in such confusion. How black and white it felt, everything he said. How he refused to allow for the fact that things could change. How I was probably equally frustrating to talk to for him but I can’t see it, because when you are breaking up, you no longer are who you are.

That I’m realising you never quite finish with someone you used to love, not really. My ex and I still possess pieces of each other, even as he lives on the other side of the city where he calls another woman girlfriend and I have someone else who answers to boyfriend. See it didn’t take long; I told you the breakdown was a relief.

The worst thing about this is realising how wrong I was about him. How it took me so long to get to really know him, blind to reality at an age when I really should know better. How it makes me look at my new boyfriend with a twinge of skepticism, wondering what’s lurking under the surface, as I’ve always thought myself to be a good judge of character but maybe not. I don’t often wish things were different, but I’d give a lot not to feel this way as my new boyfriend deserves better.

That I regret nothing about my ex. Not getting into it in the first place, nor any of the things that caused it to end because when it was good, it was fantastic. And when it started to break down, it felt natural. I can never admit this to him though, because it’s cruel. But I know what it feels like to be so broken up about a relationship that you can hardly breathe, and this isn’t it. All I know is that I toss my phone across the table in frustration at yet another text message where he completely misses the point. But even as I do, I know it was all worth it.

Jessica Furseth is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find her website here and she tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by the author.

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In Which We Do Not Really Know Your Life

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

After nine months with my girlfriend Vanessa, she recently told me she is planning to transfer to her firm’s London office. She doesn’t know exactly how long she will be there, but it will be no longer than a year. She wants to stay together and Skype; also we could probably afford to visit each other twice during this period.

My worry is that I feel I will be very lonely without Vanessa in-country, and I will probably be inclined to see other women and not tell her about it. I really would like to stay with Vanessa — do you think she would be amenable to taking a break while she is in London and getting back together when she returns or is that dumb?

Bob N.

Bob,

If you want to stay with your girlfriend, you should never announce a break for any reason. When women hear the word “break,” something breaks deep inside of them. Even a small rejection is still a rejection on some level.

A year can be difficult, but at least there is a firm date when she will return. What will probably happen if you break up is that you will regret it and she will meet some British guy whose command of the language not only rivals your own, but exceeds it. He will be tangentially related to Winston Churchull and the two of them will snuggle together over long marathons of Poldark. If this is really what you want, break up with her now.

It sounds instead like you are pouting because life isn’t going your way. Either you’re an active part of this relationship or you’re not. Decide meow.

Hi,

My boyfriend Sam has taken his exercising to the extreme. When he wakes up in the morning he immediately works out for three hours, including a long run and a swim afterwards. After getting home from work, he immediately begins lifting before dinner. The amount of time he spends on this is excessive, and I am worried he will injure himself. Recently, it has become clear that exercise is his number one priority in life above and beyond me.

Should I just throw down an ultimatum or what?

Ariana R.

Dear Ariana,

Addiction to exercise and the corresponding adrenaline rush is no different from any other drug addiction, albeit with somewhat less deletrious effects.

Have you ever seen Legends of the Fall? Those guys ran through fields a lot, and it was enough for them. Maybe show Sam that movie, and then afterwards break things down with a hard talk. Be aware that an addict will do anything to explain away his addiction, and say goodbye to those tight abs in any case.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

In Which We Open The Manila Folder

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Dear Derek

by LINDA EDDINGS

I got the letters back today, in a manila folder. It looked like he had been collecting them; at least, like they were given care.

The first one was about how I could not shake the feeling I was better off without him, but by the end of the letter, thematically, I wasn’t so sure if that was the case. There was the note of apologia – an apology always smells to me like sulphur and the inside of a camping tent. With that said, there was no actual sorry, just the idea that something negative had taken place between us, that had not been accounted for completely and would not for some time. He left my apartment before I woke completely. I begged him to stay and forced him to go. A girl on the street played hopscotch with her sister. I bought a pregnancy test, but I didn’t mention that until the third letter.

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installation by katja novitskova

The second one was all about regret. I wrote it in a Starbucks, the one near his place where I always hated to go. It is not stalking to revisit these old places, right? I had already met someone else by the time of this letter, but I was not one hundred percent sure about him. It felt weird to write to him and pursue this other romance, but it is best to be practical about such things. He was, I wrote, never the type of human being I could count on completely. But I still missed him and wanted him back, so I listed all the things I missed about him: that cinnamon smell to his clothes, the way he pressed his cock against me while I slept, how he never once overstayed his welcome.

The third one was in pieces. After I write a letter, all the feeling I put into it is drained from me. I walk around like a skeleton, which is all we are anyway. Ask any x-ray technician. In this epitaph I listed all the problems I thought he and I had. They included a struggle to communicate, a reluctance to bring our true emotions out for fear of hurting the ones closest to us, various issues with trust brought on by the existence of his ex-girlfriend. I wonder – did she write him letters? He deleted all his e-mails, so she must have, in order to leave something permanent in the place we both know.

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The fourth one is hardest for me to read. I am a mess by then, barely able to wake or sleep. Stuck between those two poles, I ache for his physical presence. In life it is not enough to be betrayed; we must know the meaning of the betrayal. I ask him all about his new girlfriend, who he posts about incessantly. She is substantially younger than I am, with a different hair color. Worst of all she has a positive mental outlook.

By the time of the fifth letter they have broken up, and I am reassured by this, potentially gratified by this. It has opened up a world of new possibilities for me. Then again, when you want something as much as I do, actually getting it would come as such a complete shock to the system that it might destroy me all over again. Reading back these particular words fills me with delight: I am legitimately impressed at how delusional I become given the right circumstances. “I know you don’t love me,” I almost write, but hold back. Could saying something make it true?

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Fridericianum Speculations On Anonymous Materials

In Which Rory Gilmore Contemplates A Voyage Into The Known

Yale Was Not A Good Choice

by ETHAN PETERSON

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
creators Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino
Netflix

That last season of Gilmore Girls, when Amy Sherman-Palladino was no longer working on the show, was quite depressing. Nothing, however, could be as sad as the condition these women find themselves in when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life begins. Lorelai was the brightest light in a cute but sometimes grim New England town. Now she looks completely bored by the place she selected to raise her daughter so long ago. Even the most mediocre people seek appropriately-sized challenges for themselves, but Lorelai doesn’t want kids, or a new job, or anything more from her boyfriend than to lie next to her as she watches the Hallmark Channel. An inspirational mother and hotelier has given up.

Things are even worse for Rory Gilmore. She has not found one man of any persistent intelligence. It is far more believable that Rory would be stuck in an endless loop, given that the only male figure she had to look up to during her childhood was barely ever there at all. Her relationships with men conform to the only way of interacting she knows: babbling endlessly to her mother. Some men like a woman who talks a lot, but most do not like to be talked to like the girl’s mother.

Rory’s Yale boyfriend Logan was always a problematic and underwritten character. His wealthy father made a point of putting Rory down, and she weirdly accepted this determination. Somehow, it seemed to enhance her view of the man’s son. Logan lives in London, and when Rory is there she stays in his apartment. He promises not to discuss the other women he is schtupping, and she is cautious about prying too much in his drawers and closets. When we learn he is not really serious about Rory, it is expected and reflects even more poorly on her judgment.

Emily, the girls’ mother and grandmother, is the only one who time has altered at all. The role played by Edward Herrmann of Lorelai’s awful, distant father was one of the best characters on the show. It seems strange to eulogize his passing given that he was pretty much a monster to Lorelai and nothing like the loving father he should have been. We witness a long funeral scene with sweeping music, and various other lawyers talking about what an irreverent piece of shit Richard was. In the wake of the death, Emily lives in a massive house with an entire Portuguese family who has presumed on her grief.

Minority characters are always completely subservient to the white ones in Palladino-Sherman’s writing, and Rory’s friend Lane never got half the scenes she deserved during the run of the original show. She has had two children with her husband, but we never even get to learn the names of the boys or speculate on the kind of relationship Rory might have with them. Kids have changed everyone I know, but they don’t seem to alter Lane or Rory’s other friend Paris, who ironically runs a fertility clinic.

Everyone on Gilmore Girls look none the worse for wear, until you probe deeper. Lauren Graham in particular is still a vibrant and beautiful woman; even though Luke still has a certain mercurial charm, it feels like she has not completely found the right man. Alexis Bledel enters middle age even more self-possessed; it seems a mystery that she cannot find a man who complements her. They really should have cast her real-life husband on this joint, and maybe they still will.

One running joke has Rory ignoring a boy with no self-respect, who believes he is dating her and getting to know her family, named Paul. It is cruel in the way that jokes on Gilmore Girls always were. One character would make fun of another, and this seemingly offhand jibe would represent some deeper unhappiness, and the immensity of the problem would balloon when you least expected it. Sherman-Palladino excelled at writing scenes like this, which ostensibly started as one thing but because something completely different through the flow of his signature patter.

We are supposed to believe that Rory has seen some of the world: the parts that her mother was never able to. At one point, Rory romanticizes a vagabond life, and we realize how much she needs this valuable perspective, a journey that would allow her to see what kind of man she could love who would love her back. Instead by the end of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, she is tied down exactly like her mother. God this show made me want to cry.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which Andrei Tarkovsky Writes These Things Down

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Destroy Everything

The diaries of the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky are the notations of a man whose real enterprise was elsewhere. In the 1970s Tarkovsky’s frustrations boiled over as he reached the peak of his cinematic powers. Tarkovsky’s writing was purely a means to end — a way of framing his real language of filmmaking. As translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair, these notes on films like Solaris, Andrei Rublev and unfinished and unrealized projects reveal Tarkovsky’s struggle with the state, his family and himself.

May 10

On 24 April 1970 we bought a house in Myasnoye. The one we wanted. Now I don’t care what happens. If they don’t give me any work I’ll sit in the country and breed piglets and geese, and tend my vegetable patch, and to hell with the lot of them!

We shall gradually put the house and garden in order, and it will be a wonderful country house; stone.

The people here seem nice. I’ve installed a beehive. We’ll have honey. If only we could get hold of a pick-up we’d be all set. Now I must earn as much as possible so that we can finish the house by the autumn. It has to be habitable in winter as well. Three hundred kilometers from Moscow — people won’t come dragging out here for nothing.

The two important things now are:

1. Solaris has to be in two parts.

2. Maximum distribution for Rublev. Then I’d be free of debt. And—the agreement in Dushanbe.

To be done in the house:

1. Reroofing.

2. Re-lay all floors.

3. Make second frame for one window.

4. Use tiles from house to roof shed.

5. Make stove for steam heating.

6. Repair cracks in gallery.

7. Put up fence all round house.

8. Cellar.

9. Remove plywood from ceilings.

10. Open up door between rooms.

1 1. Put stove in gallery.

12. Build bath-house in kitchen garden.

13. Make lavatory.

14. Install pump (electric) from the river to the house (if it’s not going to freeze up in winter).

15. Shower (by bath-house).

16. Plant garden.

17. Paint floors and walls of gallery, and beams.

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June 3

Yesterday Bibi Anderson was introduced to me. I spent the entire evening wondering if she would make a Khari. Of course she’s a marvellous actress. But she’s not that young, although she looks very well. I don’t know, I haven’t yet decided what to do about her. She’s willing to work for our currency. She’s going to be filming for Bergman through the summer and she’ll be free in the autumn. We’ll see. For the moment I haven’t made any decision. I must talk to Ira.

On the 12th I took Senka to school. My impression was that he had failed, but the headmaster is liberal-minded and didn’t say anything, so for the moment everything is all right as far as school is concerned.

June 12

Last night I had a terribly sad dream. I dreamed again of a northern (I think) lake somewhere in Russia; it was dawn, and on the far share were two Orthodox monasteries, with amazingly beautiful cathedrals and walls.

And I felt such sadness! Such pain!

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September 18

I saw a very bad film by Bunuel—I forget the name—oh, yes, Tristana, about a woman who has her leg amputated and who some- times dreams of a bell with her husband/stepfather’s head in it instead of a clapper. It’s unbelievably vulgar. Just occasionally Bunuel allows himself lapses like that.

Read Akutagawa’s story about water-sprites — ‘kappas’. Rather mediocre and limp.

Chukhrai asked me to bring them the screenplay of The Bright Day. He wants me to make it with their team. They’re allegedly thinking of buying Ariel as well. We’ll see. I don’t trust Chukhrai. He’s often let people down. Betrayed them.

November 15

I really have to make a note of the fact that on 12 November 1970 I gave up smoking. Frankly, it was high time. The last few weeks I’ve been feeling somehow empty and dull-witted. Either because I’ve been ill, or because I feel frustrated. You could very easily expire without ever having done anything. And there’s so much I want to do . . .

Reading Thomas Mann’s stupendous Joseph and His Brothers. The whole approach is as it were from the far side. Kitchen gossip from the far side. I can see why the typist, as she finished typing out Joseph, said, “Now at least I know how it really happened.” Yes, but as for screening it, I really don’t know what to say. For the moment, I don’t see how it would come across.

I want to restore the house in the country — then there’d be some point. Build a bath-house, cultivate the garden. The children could graze. My father came to see us yesterday. He was introduced to his grandson who wore his smart blue suit for the occasion. Please God.

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February 18

“Fear of the aesthetic is a first symptom of weakness.” — Dostoievsky’s notebooks, about Crime and Punishment, p. 560.

“The supreme idea of socialism is machinery. It turns a person into a mechanical person. There are rules for everything. And so man is taken from himself. His living soul is removed. It is understandable that one may be calm in such Eastern quietism, and these gentlemen say they are progressives! My God! If that is progress, then what is Eastern quietism!’

“Socialism is despair at the impossibility of ever being able to organize man. It organizes tyranny for him and says that is freedom itself!” — ibid., about Svidrigailov, p. 556.

I’m very strongly affected by diaries and archives and “laboratories” of every kind. They’re a wonderful catalyst.

So — Ariel has turned out really well. Only no one must be told what the script is about.

It’s about —

I. The creative pretensions of the mediocre.

2. The greatness of simple things (in a moral sense).

3. The conflict within religion. (The ideal has collapsed. It’s not possible to live without an ideal, no one is able to invent a new one, and the old one has collapsed: the church.)

4. The emergence of pragmatism. Pragmatism cannot be condemned because it is a stage and a condition of society: indeed an inevitable stage. It started at the turn of the century. Life can’t be condemned. It has to be accepted. It is not a question of cynicism. The war of 1914 was the last war to have a romantic aura.

5. Man is a plaything of history. The ‘madness of the individual’ and the calm of the socialist order.

Parallel between Ariel and the turn of the next century. Super-pragmatism on a state scale, as viewed by the man in the street. Consumerism.

I showed Ariel to Klimov, he said he liked it. Whatever happens I must let Yussov have it, so that he can be ready.

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August 14

Culture is man’s greatest achievement. But is it more important, say, than personal worth? (If one doesn’t take culture and personal worth as being one and the same thing.) The person who takes part in the building of culture, if he is an artist, has no reason to be proud. His talent has been given him by God, whom he obviously has to thank.

There can be no merit in talent, since it is only yours fortuitously. The mere fact of being born into a wealthy family does not give a person a sense of his own worth and thus the respect of others. Spiritual, moral culture is created not by the individual—whose talent is accidental—but by the nation, as it spontaneously throws out that individual endowed with the potential for artistic creation and the life of the spirit. Talent is common property. The bearer of it is as insignificant as a slave on a plantation, or a drug addict, or a member of the lumpen proletariat.

Talent is a misfortune, for on the one hand it entitles a person to neither merit nor respect, and on the other it lays on him tremendous responsibilities; he is like the honest steward who has to protect the treasure entrusted to his keeping without ever making use of it.

A sense of self-respect is available to anyone who feels the need for it. I don’t understand why fame is the highest aspiration of the artistic confraternity. Vainglory is above all a sign of mediocrity.

Reading extracts in Novy Mir of S. Birman’s memoirs, with the pretentious, tasteless title, ‘Meetings Granted Me by Fate’. God help us! It’s about Gordon Craig and Stanislavsky. She quotes from a conversation between them about Hamlet, in particular where they are talking about Ophelia.

What rubbish it all is!

Craig’s interpretation of Hamlet is metaphysical and pretentious and stupid. Hamlet as construed by the idiot, megalomaniac Stanislavsky is equally absurd.

At the same time Craig is right when he says that Ophelia falls out of the tragedy, that she is insignificant, whereas Stanislavsky, with one eye forever on the audience because he was scared to death of their verdict, maintains she was a pure, beautiful girl. I’m irritated by this silly claptrap from a silly old woman who wants to attract attention.

August 15

Stanislavsky did great harm to future generations of the theatre; roughly the same as Stassov did for painting. All those lofty ideals — that so-called ‘sense of direction’ as Dostoievsky put it — falsified the functions and the meaning of art.

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September 14

Dostoievsky read by the light of two candles. He didn’t like lamps. He smoked a lot while he worked and occasionally drank strong tea. He led a monotonous life, starting off in Staraya Russya (the prototype of the town where Karamazov lived). His favourite colour — the waves of the sea. He often dresses his heroines in that colour.

January 2

If only we could start filming.

February 15

The film was sent to the Committee without any discussion. Sizov telephoned today and said that the film is now much better and more harmonious. But he hinted that there would have to be more cuts. I shall resist them. The length is actually an aesthetic consideration.

I’m going to see Sizov on the 17th; he asked me to; he has to talk to me about something. I can’t bear surprises, they’re always unpleasant.

I am tired. In April I shall be forty. But I’m never left in peace, and there is never any silence. Instead of freedom Pushkin had ‘peace’ and ‘will’, but I don’t even have those.

People are sending me letters after seeing Rublev. Some are very interesting. Of course audiences understand the film perfectly well, as I knew they would.

February 23

Am I really going to be sitting around again for years, on end, waiting for somebody graciously to let my film through.

What an extraordinary country this is — don’t they want an international artistic triumph, don’t they want us to have good new films and books? They are frightened by real art. Quite understandably. Art can only be bad for them because it is humane, whereas their purpose is to crush everything that is alive, every shoot of humanity, any aspiration to freedom, any manifestation of art on our dreary horizon.

They won’t be content until they have eliminated every symptom of independence and reduced people to the level of cattle.

In the process they’ll destroy everything: themselves and Russia.

Tomorrow I’m going to Sizov and he’ll explain what is happening about Solaris. No doubt he’ll try to persuade me and win me over and convince me. The usual story.

I must read the Korolenko story Friedrich was talking about; it’s all about peasant life miles from anywhere in Siberia, and their prejudices and so on . . . It may be a bit like Echo Calls? Screening an existing book is an easier way of doing things.

I somehow think that it’s better to screen inferior literature, which nonetheless contains the seed of something real — which can be developed in the film and grow into something wonderful as a result of going through your hands.

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February 26

Late this evening I looked at the sky and saw the stars. I felt as if it was the first time I had ever looked at them.

I was stunned.

The stars made an extraordinary impression on me.

April 2

Evening.

I’m very excited by Zen. At present I’m reading somebody’s dissertation (or simply research notes) about Koan. Very interesting.

“In order to write well you have to forget the rules of grammar.” (Goethe)

“Dostoievsky gives me more than any thinker, more than Gauss.” (Einstein)

“We are being sentimental when we attribute more tenderness to a person than the Lord God has endowed him with.” (R. T. Blice)

April 6

Here I am forty. And what have I done in all this time? Three pathetic pictures. So little! So ridiculously little and insignificant.

I had a strange dream last night: I was looking up at the sky, and it was very, very light, and soft; and high, high above me it seemed to be slowly boiling, like light that had materialized, like the fibres of a sunlit fabric, like silken, living stitches in a piece of Japanese embroidery. And those tiny fibres, light-bearing, living threads, seemed to be moving and floating and becoming like birds, hovering, so high up that they could never be reached. So high that if the birds were to lose feathers the feathers wouldn’t fall, they wouldn’t come down to the earth, they would fly upwards, be carried off and vanish from our world forever. And soft, enchanted music was flow- ing down from that great height. The music seemed to sound like the chiming of little bells; or else the birds’ chirping was like music.

‘They’re storks’, I suddenly heard someone say, and I woke up.

A strange and beautiful dream. I do sometimes have wonderful dreams.

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In Which He Believes They Are Very Delicate

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

Last year I worked a seasonal job at a horse track in upstate New York. While I was there, I met Thalia. We really had a great summer, but we knew at the end of it I would be heading back to school in the fall. We have stayed in touch despite the distance, although things cooled off considerably and we both saw other people. Lately we have been talking more, and she suggested we get a place together for the summer since I was offered the same job.

Working with horses is fun and I’m good at it, but it is not really what I want to do with my life. I do miss Thalia, but I don’t know if living together, even for a summer, is the right step considering we haven’t seen each other in a year. I know I would enjoy some aspects of it, but I feel like I don’t really know her life and there might be surprises since she is from the area. What should I do?

Aaron M.

Aaron,

Forget Thalia for a moment. Is this town where you would spend your summer if the woman was not involved? If yes, then go there and get your own place. If no, then don’t go there at all. There is probably a reason Thalia wants to get a place with you, and the options are not the best:

her current living situation is bad

she needs your buffer against some jerk

she can’t afford to live on her own

she wants to get more serious than you do

she’s worried about what you do when you aren’t with her

she wants you to cook and clean for her

she wants you to strap her while she shoots up

she’s running a ponzi scheme she wants to involve you in

he’s hiding from creditors

she’s kidnapped a child

she is a kidnapped child

you’re going to prison for the rest of your life

she will send you pictures of yourself

years later you will realize they were cut out of a magazine

she will win the national book award

you tunnel out of prison with a pen knife your mother baked into some eclairs

I could go on. This is not the right move for you. You had a good summer. You can visit and see where things stand.

Hi,

How much time is normal to spend on the phone with your significant other? I ask because I have been dating a girl I will call Angela for about eight months. Things are going well. In the early days of the relationship, I would call her a lot and we would sometimes have “erotic discussions” over the phone. (She was away for the semester in Brazil.)

Now we see each other a lot and there doesn’t seem to be as much of a need for long conversations on the phone since the “getting to know you, getting to know all about you” period is over. Despite this, Angela expects a phone conversation of over an hour most days. I’d rather use this time on other things so that I don’t have to be doing other things when I’m spending actual, in person time with her. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Allen C.

Dear Allen,

Most people have their phones all the time now. The answering machine was a magnificent invention rendered obsolete by the shortsightedness of the human race. What you need is an ironclad reason why you would not be using your phone at a given time that enables you to ignore a certain percentage of Angela’s calls. Physical pain from holding the phone should waylay Angela for a bit while we find what she really needs: another phone partner.

In fact, maybe you should find her a new boyfriend, since you seem unwilling to do what’s required of you.

But seriously, if you just pretend that you have tinnitus, lie about a trip to the doctor you took, explain that he recommended short phone calls for the safety of your ears and long hand jobs for the safety of your penis region, this problem should fall by the side rather quickly.

Hey,

My boyfriend Aaron and I have been seeing each other for six months after meeting on Tinder. He is something of a nervous guy at times, never more so than when we are being intimate. He is extremely well-endowed so has nothing to worry about on that front. Still, he gets a little anxious and as we start, begins narrating every aspect of what is happening. The amount of apologies on offer is amazing, but quickly gets old. If my head is accidentally bumped he will stop completely and ask me if I am OK. Once, completely unprompted, he left to get me ice.

I have tried to talk to Aaron about this, but even after I explained, he looks verbally constipated during sex and I can tell he’s not himself. Is it possible to get him over this hump?

Lucianne R.

Dear Lucianne,

I despise puns.

Some men are brought up to think women are very delicate. At the same time, they ignore pretty clear evidence that Angelina Jolie keeps the souls of the men she couples with. Do you think she was like, “Hey Brad, I’m heading for your anus” on that fateful first date? Some things are better when you don’t know about them beforehand, like Ellie Goulding and the Batmobile.

I suggest physical intervention in this case. Aaron won’t shut up, but he probably wants to, so put your finger on his lips and shush him as you take over. Failing that, cover his mouth and nostrils tightly. When he begs for his life, remind him, “I thought I told you to close your trap.”

If you are keen on a more psychological approach, tell him a story about a friend named Marcia Hamsbottom who had an ex-husband who would not stop quoting The Big Lebowski, no matter how many times she told him she hated it. If he says that the name Hamsbottom sounds made-up, wonder aloud how he has not heard of RCA recording artist Duracell Hamsbottom. I think he was in Outkast?

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.