It’s a good thing that we had supper tonight at Le Chat Noir, with our friends Frank and Ahuva, and that I could enjoy the duck pate and bouillabaisse, because otherwise the bad taste in my mouth from watching the 1951 movie “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” would linger still.
What a film. Ava Gardner (how could one person be married to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes and a bullfighter?) and James Mason in a lavish, stylized film that is so bad that it seems to me that we can give up waterboarding and torture enemy combatants by making them keep watching it. The Flying Dutchman (Mason) is condemned to sail the earth forever alone until he finds a woman ready to die for the love of him. Pandora (Gardner), the true femme fatale, responsible for at least two deaths of spurned lovers (three if you include Mason who, of course, returns to life) until she gives her life for the Dutchman and the two of them drown in a storm off the Spanish coast. OK, it was free (a Saturday National Gallery of Art Film) and comfortable, but you have to have some standards.
And, while I am complaining, what is this about world famous travel writer Paul Theroux? In the Smithsonian Magazine this month, he and a number of other travel writers are given the opportunity to visit the place they would like to see and have never visited. The medina of Fez, Krakow and Gdansk, the Punjab, Tahiti, the west coast of Japan…..all reasonable. But Theroux picks a cross country drive, from Los Angeles to Cape Cod. It’s like he has never been to America before! For the first time, he seems to marvel at the freeways of Los Angeles. For the first time, he goes to Las Vegas. For the first time, he sees Arkansas and Kentucky. And his descriptions are sophomoric at best, ending with calling the USA “the most beautiful country I’d ever seen.” I haven’t read Theroux’s books, like The Great Railway Bazaar or the many others. Are they all this weak?