BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) adapts a Rumer Godden novel about a group of nuns (headed by Deborah Kerr) trying to found a convent/hospital/school in the Himalayas only to find themselves wilting under the attractions of the landscape (“I can’t hide the mountains.”) and the Manly Man working for the local monarch. This concept of British Stoicism collapsing under exotic assault is badly dated, but the film is absolutely beautiful to look at, which helps a lot. Sabu plays a young nobleman and Jean Simmons has a racebent role as an Indian beggar woman. . “You’re obnoxious when you’re sober and abominable when you’re drunk.”
STUCK IN LOVE (2013) stars Greg Kinnear as a writer clinging to the hope ex-wife Jennifer Connelly will come back to him, while the couple’s son falls hopelessly in love with a teen addict and the commitment-phobic daughter winds up falling for a nice guy. Competent performances (including Kristen Bell as Kinnear’s friend-with-benefits), but too lightweight to stand out—and while they acknowledge Kinnear’s pursuit of Connelly (who’s largely wasted here) is stalkery, admitting it doesn’t make it less so (so Chilly Scenes of Winter with John Heard’s obsessive stalking of a married woman would be a logical double bill). “If I were you, I’d be on every dating website.”
SISTERS OF HEAVEN: China’s Barnstorming Aviatrixes: Modernity, Feminism and Popular Imagination in Asia and the West by Patti Gully chronicles the decisions of three 1930s women fliers in China — a diplomat, an actor (whose credits include a silent version of MULAN) and a military officer — to barnstorm North America (and in one case South America too) to build support and raise funding for the fight against the Japanese invaders. The women are certainly impressive—it’s eye-opening to see how far outside the stereotype of Chinese women they fall—but the narrative isn’t really gripping, and spends a lage amount of time on an endless series of whistle-stops (fly in, make speech to cheering crowd, fly off), though given the nature of the topic, perhaps that was unavoidable.
I only picked up ELDRITCH EMBRACES: Putting the Love Back in Lovecraft edited by Michael Cieslak because it includes my “Signs and Hortense” but having read it I’m quite glad to have a copy. It’s an excellent collection (and if I’m going to be in an anthology, that’s what I’d prefer) where I enjoyed almost every story (one of the exceptions made me wince by having Native American religion presented in the pulp tradition as something unspeakably evil). The stories range from rom-com to traditional horror themes (Oh No, the Woman I Love Is a Monster!)—which isn’t a criticism, those stories worked to the completely bizarre such as “The Rimerson Composition”and “The Fine Art of Fortune Telling.” There are several same-sex romances, the best of which for my taste was “Pickman’s Canvas.” I’m proud to be included in this collection. (cover by Ignacio Cariman, all rights to current holder).