Archive for the ‘Comparing This and That’ Category

Comparing This & That: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” vs. “Christiane F.”



Chalk and cheese, you might say. Or speed and bacon, if you’re Spanish. But actually, there are solid grounds on which to compare and contrast these two movies. I think most people are well acquainted with Blake Edwards’ 1962 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, adapted from a story by Truman Capote which I haven’t read so I can’t say that it’s inferior or different or superior or identical. (But I bet the book’s better). And it was hard for me to write the word “classic” without bunny ears in this case. En fin. Christiane F. was made in 1981 by Uli Edel and is also considered a classic with a cult following.


OK, so that’s something they have in common. They’re both classics. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is what they call a romantic comedy. Christiane F is a harrowing drama. The former is centred around a fancy jeweller’s on Fifth Avenue, New York and the latter mostly happens in the toilets of a Berlin Railway Station. You couldn’t find a bigger contrast.


Christiane (the eponymous heroine) and Holly Golightly (the girl who has her breakfast looking at the window of Tiffany’s) are both prostitutes. This is never dwelt on, in either film, but it’s how each girl acquires money in order to obtain heroin (Christiane) or Little Black Dresses (Holly). Both accept the need to submit themselves to men, to satisfy their own material cravings. Christiane and her (rather moronic) boyfriend Detlev hate each other for prostituting themselves but have no self-control and therefore no self-esteem. Holly seems to be in denial about how she makes a living and boyfriend Paul aka Fred is no position to bring this up as he is being “kept” by a mysterious woman.


Christian’s addiction is portrayed with exquisite gruesomeness. The film is never moralizing or maudlin. We see a 14-year old girl sink into the world of drug abuse in as much detail as it takes to tell a good story, (the true story of this girl in fact), but no more. The atmosphere is sordid and stomach churning because it has to be so.


Holly has what would be called today “an immature relationship with alcohol”. Her dependency is brushed over (it’s a comedy, remember) and her deliberately getting blind drunk is considered to be perfectly OK. Why wouldn’t it be OK for Christine to shoot up outside Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue, I wonder? Oh, that’s right, that dangling needle dripping with blood… Christiane vomits in anguish and sinks deeper; Holly laughs off her hangover and lives another day.


Holly “is saved” by Paul. Detlev can do nothing for Christiane and dies from an overdose. Amazingly, Christiane lives to tell the tale.


Music plays a central role in both films. Take your pick: Henry Mancini or David Bowie. Breakfast in Tiffany’s features that well-known song Moon River, a lonesome ditty which leaves me cold. Christiane F.’s soundtrack is a collection of Bowie songs from the albums Low, Heroes and Lodger. We actually see Christiane at a Bowie concert in the film.


Dann sind wir Helden is kind of a lot more moving than the rainbow’s end, my huckleberry friend…

Christiane is played by Nadja Brunkhorst, in her first ever role. As such, her performance is raw, pure, natural, genuine, authentic and frightening. Holly Golightly is played by Audrey Hepburn, whose performance is anything but. I’m not an Audrey Hepburn fan but in the case of Breakfast at Tiffany’s I think it’s the unfathomably corny script that makes her performance so shoddy. The director presumably thought, “We’ll just dress her up nice, give her a telescopic cigarette holder and get her to wear that bland smile”. And it works. Breakfast … is many people’s favourite movie and AH’s supposedly sophisticated characterization of Holly is a 20th century icon.

Antonio de Felipe's Audrey is everyone's

Antonio de Felipe’s Audrey is everyone’s

Imagine Antonio de Felipe painting Christiane… it doesn’t bear thinking about!


Comparing This and That : Juan Echanove, Mr B., and Stalin

Your jailer’s name is : JUAN ECHANOVE

Your jailer’s name is : MR B.



Your jailer’s name is : JOSEF STALIN


Being held a prisoner can’t be much fun. The same can be said about holding someone else a prisoner, however. Being lumbered with a prisoner is a nasty burden most of us will never have to bear, but let’s spare a few minutes of our time to look at three different cases of prisoners and prison keepers.


I’d like to compare the film Una casa en las afueras, the novel Pamela and the early days of the Soviet Union. You will see in my essay that there are entertaining parallels that justify my choice.


Una casa en las afueras was directed by Pedro Costa in 1995. Largely forgotten these days, it stars Juan Echanove and Emma Suárez, both pretty major figures in the world of Spanish cinema, it has to be said. A spoiler-free synopsis of the film would read something like this: Blanca warns Yolanda of Daniel’s obsessive nature and violent behavior, but it is too late. Trapped in a strange house in the middle of nowhere, Yolanda sees even her daughter turn away from her.


Daniel is complex and devious. Echanove is convincing when he’s charming and when he’s brutal. Unfortunately, the part of Yolanda is flimsy and the dialogues are weak so it doesn’t matter how well Emma Suárez performs, she isn’t going to make much of this character.


Samuel Richardson wrote Pamela in 1740. It is considered the first bestseller in world literature, apparently. (I can’t see many people devouring it these days… it’s long and weary and repetitive and moralistic…. I mean, I love it, but that’s just me.) The eponymous heroine is held captive by the wicked Mr B. until she falls in love with him. (500 pages just to say that?)


The Soviet Union was founded in 1922 and had a rocky start. Uncle Joe Stalin was boss of the place for thirty years and he had an awful lot of prisoners, because it was such a huge country, you see.


Yolanda starts out in love with Daniel, who curbs her freedom, so she turns against him, so he polishes her off. Pamela respects Mr B. at first, then shuns him when starts accosting her and locking her up, then realizes how wrong she was and how gorgeous he is. Some of the citizens of the USSR loved Stalin, there’s no doubt about it, but most people’s lives picked up when the man finally died (apart from the thousands that he’d executed, that is.)


What they all have in common, these guys, is that they all say, “I’m doing this for your own good”. Daniel KNOWS that Yolanda is better off staying at home, not working, not having a car, not having any contact with her family. Mr B. is sure that he will break Pamela in the end; her imprisonment is essential for her learning. Stalin couldn’t help breaking a few eggs if he was going to make that omelette.


That’s what they say, but is it true? Richardson portrays Mr B. in a way which would be disturbing today (even in these “Shades of Grey” days…. Sigh…) – it seems OK for him to molest Pamela, to trap her in his mansion, to rob her, basically to do as he pleases with her. And we, the reader, are supposed to smile and say, “Silly girl, can’t you see he adores you?”


Emma Suárez doesn’t get the chance to see whether Juan Echanove is being sincere or not, as he shoots her when she cottons on to his mental condition. But he works on her daughter, brainwashing her in the Mr B. style, explaining that “Mummy’s gone away” until she sort of believes it, until she rebels and he’s “forced” to tie her up and gag her, in the best KGB fashion.


So Mr B. is absolved; he keeps Pamela a prisoner for her own good.


Daniel, not so much.


In the case of Stalin, I will leave history to decide.


If I were a jailer, who would I like to have in my prison cell? Not Pamela, for crying out loud. Her non-stop sanctimonious lamentations and then her unctuous raptures would be too much for me. I wouldn’t much care to be the Head of State of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat, either; I can already feel my migraine coming on…


However, if Emma Suárez were my prisoner I would feel really bad about having to deprive her of her freedom but she’s such a lovely person I know she would understand that I’m just doing my job and she wouldn’t mind, I mean, there are a lot worse things that could happen.


This hurts me more than it hurts you, you see.

Comparing This and That, pt 3. Usher vs Elvis Costello

guilty as hell

guilty as charged


This is a post I have been thinking about writing for a long time but I have been delaying it for an almost equally long time for two simple reasons, which I shall go into immediately.

The first reason is that I was vitrified into a kurtzo  figurine, and blogging is such a bind when your arms are ceramically fused to your torso, believe you me.

And the second reason is that I have been hunting for a video clip that I wanted to embed into this post but to no avail. Anyway, enough already, as the bishop said to the actress.

This is the third post in our occasional series of “Comparing This and That” and this week we will be looking at two songs: Guilty  by Usher and I Stand Accused  by Elvis Costello. Many moons ago we compared and contrasted two versions of a song by Lily Allen and The Specials and today we’re going to be looking at two different songs which share the same theme, as you might have guessed when you read the titles of the songs in the last sentence.

The reason we are embarking on this journey of identification and discovery is to make a written record, in a sense, of a conversation with my dear friend Zakiya, in which we discussed all the points that I am going to refer to in this post.

I think I should say, at this point, that you really ought to listen to both of these songs right now. Stop reading this blog; listen to Guilty  and I Stand Accused  so that you know what I am talking about, in the sad case that you know neither of these songs.

OK, so now you have listened to them.

Usher is pathetic. He whines and protests. He doesn’t confess, he owns up. Like a sheepish schoolboy, he puts his hand up and says it was his fault.

I guess I'm guilty for wanting to be up in the club
I guess I'm guilty cause girls always want to show me love
I guess I'm guilty for living and having a little fun
Girl I'm guilty for that girl I’m guilty


Do we sense remorse in Usher’s confession? Not a jot. He says


 Your Honor,I didn't know that I hurt her
I didn't know she was crying
I didn't know that it was killing this love


He spends most of the song pleading to the judge thus:


Don't take me to jail
Don't take me to jail
Don't take me to jail


How immature. He complains that it’s not fair; how can this ungrateful girl accuse him of not being there for her? After all, he has given her:


Couple million dollar worth of bags and full of shoes
7 carat solitaire, Caribbean water blue
Range Rover, Porsche powder mirror in the Bentley coupe


An impressive gift list, indeed, Mr Usher, but, you know what? You manage to be both poor and cheap at the same time, thinking you can buy a woman’s acquiescence with your ill-earned dollars.


Learn a lesson in manhood from Elvis, who also declares himself guilty. Yes, he’s guilty, and what’s more, downright PROUD of it. He loves his lady and bares his chest to the firing squad:


 yeah I stand accused
and I got no defence
all I need is a touch from your hand
find myself on the witness stand
I’d be unable to lie girl
I got a love that won’t die girl
tell the world that I was guilty


Bow down your head, Usher, you shameful creature. Elvis Costello takes it on the chin, turns the other cheek, spins round and yells the truth at the judge, the jury, the barrister, the girl, the girl’s friends and relations, anybody who cares to listen. The truth isn’t just “out there”, it’s in here, says Elvis, and we will listen to him because he’s right and because it’s such a damn good song and he sings it so well.


It should be said that Usher was singing in 2010 and Elvis in 1980. Have we changed so much in thirty years? Have we gone from being honest, straightforward men to whimpering, shallow pussies in this time? Are we afraid of climbing the fiercest mountain and shouting out to the world, “I love her!” or, worse, of saying fearlessly, “I love you” to the woman we love?


Usher is regarded as the king of R & B. How miserable that this acronym has sunk from its original meaning of Rhythm and Blues to this drab commercial umbrella-term which basically means that the singer ain’t white. Other things that R & B can stand for:


Restless and bored
Russia and Belarus
Rum and black
Riots and bombs
Rich and bitchy
Ramón and Belén (the old couple that live next door to us)


Elvis Costello recorded I Stand Accused  for his album Get Happy!  Some of the tracks of this album are available on YouTube but not this one. You can find videos of Usher easy enough without me needing you to guide me.


Sigh. What is the world coming to.


Visca el Barça and visca Elvis Costello.







Comparing This and That. Chapter Two.

Some of you dear readers have brought to my attention the fact that I haven’t mentioned our friend, neighbour and accomplice, Soraya Campos since I resumed this Blog. She added a comment a couple of weeks ago, begging Sheen to come back to Zaragoza, and it turns out that her prayers may be answered soon, but more of that later…


To give you an approximate idea of what Soraya is like, I thought I’d do another “Comparing This and That” post, and the two people I’ll be comparing  Soraya to are the Brazilian model Adriana Lima and the French singer Alizée. (The main reason for these choices was just an excuse to post pictures of these young ladies, obviously.)


Adriana Lima is famous for being a Victoria’s Secret model, and although she has modelled in just about every article of clothing imaginable, her standard attire in the public psyche is the swimsuit. Alizée Jacotey has a penchant for dresses which are just a teeny weeny bit too short, a feature which she enhances by bending over at the drop of a hat. Just as Adriana’s swimsuits tend to be red, Alizée’s dresses are often blue.


Soraya, on the other hand, is often to be found wearing a black tee shirt and jeans. The tee shirt often refers to some heavy metal band from the 80´s, with garish depictions of skulls, lightning bolts, axes, blood and flames. When the weather is not exactly tee shirt weather, Soraya likes to wear a thick lumberjack-type shirt underneath, or some foul chunky-knit sweater she has picked up from a dumpster. She occasionally wears shorts – I have seen her in bright yellow, pink and white – but she reserves these for formal occasions.


So, as you can see, there are serious differences in the garment area. I can imagine Adriana and Alizée wearing each other’s clothes, and I could just about see Soraya in either, but not there’s no way Alizée would wear any of Soraya’s stuff unless it was soaked in Dettol for a month.


Although Alizée is a professional singer, I don’t think she has much of a voice. (OK, detestez-moi, but there it is. Maybe it’s because she bends over too much.) Adriana Lima has a very ordinary speaking voice, too. (Her other assets speak louder than words.) However, Soraya has a really characterful voice and I wonder how much is due to the operation her mother performed on her as a child, after the TV remote control got stuck in her throat and her mother was forced to make an incision there and then, using a knife and fork.


Now. Imagine you were stranded on a desert island with one of these women. Which would you choose? And when I say “stranded on a desert island”, I could mean “locked in a space capsule going to Pluto” or “stuck at the bottom of a mine shaft” – any situation where there’s nobody else around for a very long time. Well, you know what, I think I’d choose Soraya.


Adriana looks great posing in red swimsuits (or black negligees), but it could get tedious, for her and for me, and we wouldn’t want that. And Alizée is adorable to watch as she sings and dances, but her repertoire only goes so far, however often she bends over. Soraya, on the other hand, is always unpredictable. Often annoying, but also entertaining and occasionally brilliant.


To make sure, though, I’d like to spend 24 hours on a desert island with Adriana Lima and a well-stocked Victoria’s Secret collection, and then another 24 hours in a mine shaft with Alizée and a variety of short blue dresses and with just enough room for her to bend over. I feel that then I would be in a better position to judge.


As Sylvester Stallone once remarked, beauty is in the eye of the tiger. Far be it from me to hint that Soraya is any less pulchritudinous than Adriana or Alizée, so I refuse even to pose that particular question. 


So there you have it. I have overlooked obvious similarities (they all speak French, for instance) and obvious differences (their shoe sizes, for instance) and yet, even so, I think I have conclusively proved, once and for all, without a shadow of a doubt and to all intents and purposes to the best of my knowledge so help me God, that Soraya Campos, Adriana Lima and Alizée Jacotey are at once both the same and different, both at the same time and vice versa, conversely, concavely and convexly, in this world and the next.


Witness my hand as I swear and sign that all the above is mostly true and that I shall willingly give up my life denying the opposite.


Thank you for your time.


Heen ♥

Comparing This and That. Chapter One.

  What’s the difference between a jellyfish and a building society? Sounds like a joke, but I’m dead serious. There are dozens of differences, but they can all be summarised into one: a jellyfish is a jellyfish and a building society is a building society.

There. That wasn’t hard, was it.   But, more often than not, when we compare different things we can’t help finding similarities or at least points in common. This is what this BRAND NEW CATEGORY is all about. Finding differences, finding similarities and grading three things along the same continuum.  

 Tonight’s three things are books: I, Claudius, by Robert Graves, Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami and The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.  OK, let’s find one similarity. They’re all books.  And another: They’re all written by men. 

But let’s ask a few questions and see how each book stands up.  First question: Which one is the least likely to be made into a musical?   Personally, I’d have to go for Kafka on the Shore. It wouldn’t be far fetched to have ancient Romans doing each other in on stage, and you could just about convert some of the sage military advice in The Art of War into bouncy dance numbers, but I don’t see how you could musicalise Kafka on the Shore without losing the mysterious freaky charm of the book; you could make a decent film of it, but the soundtrack would have to be something like I’ve, Japanese techno trance with that whimsical girlish sound that is both creepy and cuddly at the same time. Trouble is, their music has already been used for umpteen anime productions. Something similar, in any case. Andrew Lloyd Webber wouldn’t have a look in.   (By the way, check this out if need be:’ve_Sound )  

Second question: Which book would come in handiest for first-time parents?   If you don’t mind your little son turning into a schizophrenic psychopath, or your baby girl turning into an  incestuous nymphomaniac, again the choice has to be Kafka on the Shore. For all this book’s characters’ dubious quirks, it has to be said that they’re all nice people and you could do worse than emulate them vicariously through your offspring. However, you should brush up your Japanese if you want to understand their excuses. I can see the validity of opting for The Art of War, should you see parenting as a battle and your baby as the enemy, but there’s always the temptation of wiping out the little brat for good if one takes the author too literally, and good parents don’t really do that. If you use I, Claudius as a substitute for Dr Spock you are likely to end up with a nasty little Caligula on your hands and that wouldn’t go down well at the play centre.

  Third Question: Which book would taste best if it were a cocktail?   The way I see it, if Kafka on the Shore were a cocktail, it would be 2 parts light rum, 1 part Curaçao, I part sake, with a dash of kiwi juice. How disgusting is that. I, Claudius would be 2 parts sweet vermouth, 1 part ewe’s milk and that would be even worse. However, I see The Art of War as a delicious cocktail based on gin and Guinness, possibly with some Angostura bitters, stirred not shaken. And, to be honest, I think “The Art of War” already sounds like the name of a cocktail.  

So, you see, when somebody asks you “Which of the three books mentioned above is the best?”, it all depends what they mean.  That’s all for now, love, Heen xx

ps: sorry about the formatting; sometimes I can’t get the pics to line up right. That used to be Sheen’s job and now, well, she’s otherwise engaged, although actually, maybe not for very much longer now…