Here’s the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto.
Chard and white beans with raisins, walnuts and smoked gouda
Le gamin au vélo, and I thought “ah, yes, of course.” I was going to add a scene from the movie to yesterday’s post, but in watching the scene, I realized that this was one I want to go on an on about, so that’s where we find ourselves today. The film is by the Dardenne brothers of Belgium, renowned for making emotionally and stylistically bleak and austere films, most notably La Promesse in 1996. They almost never use non-diegetic music–they don’t have a soundtrack. The sounds of the film are those that people make going about their day, and these sounds become oddly compelling as we become immersed in the rhythms of the character’s lives, as we learn their routine and become alert for any small change in the patterns. All of their films are quiet, they’re a succession of silent moments. And that’s why this scene is disarmingly beautiful. We’re given music! We’re given, specifically, a small, moving swell of music, like a warm gentle wave; a few notes from the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto. And then we return to the quiet world of this ridiculously beautiful expressive boy, to the sound of his breath, and of his madly pedaling feet. Throughout the film, in certain scenes, this music washes over us, just a few notes, and then recedes. You feel that you need to hear the rest, you want the notes to resolve themselves. You want the boy’s life to resolve itself, you want him to care for himself, you want him to let somebody take care of him. The Dardenne brothers’ films, though beautiful, are often hard for me to watch. The very honesty and rawness that makes them wonderful makes them painful. Their characters are battered by life, conflicted and rejected, and they spend a lot of time alone. We’re compelled to watch them in their solitude, drowning in the silence of their own company, facing rotten choices and making regrettable decisions. They raise all sorts of questions for me, as a film viewer, and as somebody that hopes to one day call herself a filmmaker again. You could make a film this revelatory of human nature as it actually is–you could, and you probably should, but why would you? Why watch something so depressing? The older I get, I find I have less tolerance for unrelentingly grim movies. When I was younger I could watch anything, but now that I have children, I just can’t–particularly if the movie involves kids the age of my boys, as this film does. I don’t need a happy ending. I don’t want to watch sickeningly sweet saccharine feel-good movies, but I do need some small hopeful sign. So I will admit to you that when we watched this film, we stopped halfway through, and I read about how the film ended, and only then did we watch the rest. But we did watch the rest. Because in being entirely honest about human nature, you have to include moments of warmth and generosity and connection, and that’s what this film does, quietly, slowly, without melodrama or judgement. The few notes of Beethoven that we hear throughout the film are full of sweet sadness, the music veers between hope and despair, light and darkness, but it’s so beautiful that we need to follow it to the end, which they finally allow us to do during the credits. And that is why you watch a movie like this one. Greens are my favorite! This time of year is the best! We’re getting greens by the armful from our CSA–chard, kale, spinach, broccoli rabe. I love to come up with new ways to prepare greens, and this one turned out really good. It’s a twist on the old chard/raisin/pine nut combination that I love so much. This one adds white beans and smoked gouda, for extra substance and flavor. We ate this with whole wheat pearled couscous, which I prepared “according to the package instructions,” except that I cooked the couscous in olive oil and herbs at first. You could eat it with pasta, rice, millet, farro, a big bed of lettuces, or as a vegetable side dish. You could eat it in a box, you could eat it with a fox.If you’re following along at home, you’ll recall that yesterday found us, here at The Ordinary, seeking some solace from our busy thoughts in the form of quiet film scenes. David mentioned a film we’d watched last week,