It Was Sunny in Philadelphia

The moment I realized I really arrived in Philadelphia was when the taxi driver zoomed (literally) to our hotel in a split second. Ok, it was more like a few minutes, but the recklessness was as East Coast as it could be. And truthfully, it got me rather psyched about exploring the city again.

Philadelphia City View

Da Park
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday in Philly. We strolled to the Rittenhouse Square Park nearby and it was just the perfect day to visit. Like the Washington Square Park in New York, the 7-acre space was a busy universe run by freaks, hipsters, lovers, sun bathers, retirees, kids, babies, parents, readers, smokers, tourists, painters, chess players, mumblers, nothing-better-to-doers, dogs, more dogs, and some more dogs.

Everyone was people watching while being watched. It was a photographer’s playground, as my boyfriend put it.

Rittenhouse Square Park in Philadelphia

Alma de Cuba
It was a nice surprise that this sexy modern Cuban restaurant was right around the corner of where we were staying. Moody and luscious, Alma de Cuba could easily blind diners with oozing romance.

“What’s the special occasion?” Just visiting. Our bubbly waitress coaxed us into ordering 2 appetizers, Chorizo Sliders and Oysters Rodriguez, which she claimed to be small (but they were certainly not). I bet she knew it would be hard for vacationers to say no.

A round of complimentary mochi-like bread was served before everything else. I was half way full by the time our entrees Sugarcane Tuna and Vaca Frita Fried Cow (crispy skirt steak) arrived. Mi novio loved his steak. I gobbled down my fish and risotto.

What a satisfying way to end our first day.

Alma De Cuba in Philadelphia

It’s the R”E”ding Market, Not R”EE”ding
I wish I felt normal and not sick the day we planned to check out the Reading Market. I couldn’t bring myself to try the tempting, chunky Italian pork and Philly cheese steak sandwiches or the Cajun bread pudding and the local Bassetts Ice Cream. I had to settle for a breakfast crepe with egg and ham.

But the French snack actually turned out to be a perfect light lunch. Plus, I was too distracted to focus on eating a big meal anyway. It was more entertaining browsing all the seafood and sausage shops, bakeries, and lines of excited people. I even found a little used bookstore. This hustling, narrow-aisle world of commerce very much reminded me of the traditional markets in Asia.

And yeah, after we left, I smelled like food of all sorts for a long, long time.

The Reading Market in Philadelphia

The Third-Largest Art Museum in US
The sculpture of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, owns one the most beautiful and endearing female bodies I’ve ever seen. Standing tall on the stairway, she is an elegant welcomer to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We arrived just in time for a tour of the the most famous Philly painter Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). We were introduced to many of his portraits. While I’m sure they require masterful skills, I’ve never been too interested in still figures. His big showy “The Agnew Clinic” left the most impression to me. It was psychologically grotesque for me to see that a theater of doctors was present to watch a prestigious surgeon performing an operation as if it were some glorious magic show. Interestingly, the painting was also one of his most controversial because he showed a partially nude woman patient observed by men. So scandalous.

While deciding what to see next before the museum closed, we walked into a room displaying medieval armor. Although many of them were cool as heck, could those men really fight efficiently in a clumsy outfit like that?

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Parc across from the Park
It was so lovely out. We got an outdoor table on 18th street facing Rittenhouse Square Park. I desperately needed some beer, especially the tasty Belgian ones.

In came Saison Dupont, Leffe Blonde and Duval. I loved the depth, hidden sweetness and the lasting after taste of these beers. For dinner we ordered our go-to brasserie fare mussels and steak frite. We watched the sun climbed down little by little, and I thought, I could sure use a short nap.

The Parc in Philadelphia

Bar Hoppin’
By the time we arrived at R2L, an elegant restaurant/lounge overlooking the city, the bar was asking for the last call. It was fine. All we wanted was one drink. Sipping on our Loree’s Jones and Perfect Manhattan with Philly’s glittering streets in sight, we decided that this lounge would most certainly be one of our weekend hangout spots if we were local. Our love affairs with bars perched atop skyscrapers just never end.

We also love speakeasies. Unfortunately, just like all other ones out there, The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co took itself way too seriously. A line of us had to wait thirty minutes while it was no where near packed when we entered the room. I suppose it’s all part of the spiel. You wait, you groan and they look cool.

Housed in a long, narrow room, the totally legal alcohol venue offers drinks ranging from easy going to rebellious and “I asked her for water she brought me gasoline.” Mon amour got himself Campari’s Death on Two Legs. I went for the light weight rum drinks Apache Step and the Hazards of Love, even though the names and their contents are oxymoronic.

The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co and R2L in Philadelphia

City of Sunny Love

It was another gorgeous clear-skied day when we were leaving. It must be Philly’s loving way of saying goodbye (Philadelphia means brotherly love in Greek!). In fact, he showed me lots of love over the weekend: cool sites, fun food, delicious cocktails, colorful photos, relaxing pace…

And If you ask me months later what I remember the most about the city, I would probably start with, well, it was so sunny in Philadelphia.

Chicago, Chicago – My Kind of Town

I swear, the song New York, New York was in my head the whole time when I was in the Windy City, except that I changed it to Chicago, Chicago.

There’s so much to croon about: the gorgeous skyline, charming blues, the Chicago River flowing through downtown…it’s My Kind of Town, as Frank Sinatra coined. Well I’m no Sinatra, but I could sure share some stories.

DAY 1 DINNER: TAPAS

My adventure started with the South Michigan Avenue-based Mercat a la Planxa, owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces. The half dome shaped tapas restaurant was suffused with dim red lighting, just perfect for relieving my post-flight weariness. Ah, a glass of sangria please.

The first plate to arrive was the sizzling garlic shrimp. The bursting aroma and taste were out of this world. The sweet bacon-wrapped dates and butter squash dumplings were also nice treats. The two girls sitting next to me told me they had to order the shrimp. “It smells too good!”

Just like that, I gave my very first adult dinner at a nice restaurant by me and myself to Chicago. I knew she was going to be a gracious hostess.

Merca a la Planxa Owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces - Tapas Restaurant in Chicago

DAY 2: THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO BY SUNSET & SUNDA, THE CELEBRITY HANGOUT AT NIGHT

I only had an hour before the museum closed. I grabbed a copy of the collection highlight brochure and began my pilgrimage in a blitz. My favorites? The impressionist’s La Grand Jatte, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. And, I found out that Georgia O’Keeffe studied at the school of the institute for a year, which is why it’s home to several of her paintings.Chicago Institute of Art

Impressionist paintings at the Chicago Art InstituteModern American Art at the Chicago Institute of ArtWhat do you want after you are enlightened with food for thought? You want real food.

My local friends told me that Sunda, a chic Asian fusion restaurant, is one of the popular spots among celebrities.

The friendly hostess offered me a seat at the sushi bar. Although I didn’t see anyone special, I did feel like a VIP. My waitress helped mastermind all my orders with my approval and within my budget. I kept myself entertained by watching the sushi chefs work their magic. With delicious pear sake and truffled tataki tuna sashimi in my tummy, who cares about celebrities?Sunda - Asian Fusion Restaurant in Chicago

DAY 3: REUNION

Gosh, I haven’t seen my graduate school gal pals A and J for almost 6 years. They looked great. We reunited at the Hubbard Inn, a chill restaurant and bar with a classy speakeasy vibe. We caught up over fabulous cocktails with names like Hemingway and Lincoln.

I was the first to admit I stalked them on Facebook a little bit before we met up. They had great news to share – the duo just finished running a marathon together in Nashville! After being on a strict diet and schedule forever, they were ready to be back in the scene. “I’m gonna be living the life again, Tracy!” said J. Clink. Cheers to that!

By the way, my crispy tuna and sausage flatbread were delectable. Having had dinner earlier, A and J refused to share any of my plates. “C’mon girls!” I had to force them each to take a tiny bite of my flatbread. Oh, and I was pretty sure some bartender promised us free drinks, but didn’t deliver. Still, it was a good night.Hubbard Inn - Chicago Bar and RestaurantDAY 4: THE PURPLE PIG AND VIEW FROM THE HANCOCK TOWER

It was my last day in Chicago. The Purple Pig was packed. I had to grab a seat at the bar. The hipster bartender wasn’t the friendliest person on earth. She reluctantly suggested some dishes (this is a Mediterranean small plate restaurant), and wanted me to leave her alone.

Fine. I could make my grown-up woman decisions. And they turned out to be perfect. The salt-roasted beets with goat cheese were beyond satisfying. Buttermilk quail was delicately grilled. Pork shoulder with mashed potatoes was so tender.

After two glasses of the crisp German Riesling and filling plates, I was happy, relaxed and ready to venture to my next stop.The Purple Pig - Chicago Mediterranean Small Plates Restaurant

The John Hancock Tower is a pretty cool looking building. Black and confident, it has the famous x-bracing exterior, giving it an almost soldier-like solemness. I stood in front of it, shading my eyes and lifting my chin up as high as I could to see the highest point. A few minutes later, I did the exact opposite. I rode the elevator up to the Signature Lounge at the 96 floor and overlooked Chicago from above.

Yes the window seats were a steal, but lord, the view from the woman’s bathroom was fantastic. The floor-to-ceiling glass gave the best of Chicago away. All the ladies got busy taking pictures. Husbands, boyfriends, dates and fathers were probably wondering where their partners went.Chicago view from the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Tower

Chicago night view from the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Tower

The lounge itself was kind of touristy but fun. I had a couple of the fruity and strong martinis appropriately named Chicago. I chatted with CSX folks from Florida and a visiting salesman excited about taking his granddaughter out for a pizza and ice cream day.

And I wondered, is this what it’s like traveling alone? The schmooze with strangers, the acute observations of everything around you, the underlying loneliness, the urgent desire to share your excitement with someone immediately…

Ha, I felt them all. Yet, I felt good. I really enjoyed my time in Chicago. She is my kind of town.

3 Theater Picks by a Reviewer’s Girlfriend

I’ve always liked theater, and even played one of the leading characters in the annual play put on by my English department in college. I was the meddling matchmaker in Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker. Of course, I cringed hardcore when I re-watched the recording of my green appearance.

While I wouldn’t mind being part of a play again, I love going to see shows more these days. Luckily, being the girlfriend of a theater reviewer gives me plenty of opportunities to observe good shows AND bad shows that could bulk up my taste range.

Here are 3 performances I really enjoyed as a reviewer’s date in Washington, D.C.

The Water Engine by Spooky Action Theater, 2012

Originally written by the celebrated American playwright David Mamet as a radio play, The Water Engine deals with a tragedy involving technology, conglomerates and small potatoes.

The Water Engine's main character Charles Lang

The Water Engine's main character Charles Lang

Set against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934, it follows a doomed factory worker who invented a water-powered engine fighting in vain the oil-giant-backed lawyers who tried to prevent the machine from seeing daylight.

The D.C.-based theater only puts on one show a year, and this one is clearly a winner. All the actors did a convincing job portraying the characters, including the paranoid inventor Charles Lang and the roguish attorneys. The troupe also vividly brought the behind-the-scene sound effects of an old fashioned radio show to life.

Verdict: Great production. Kudos to the small theater that cares.

Othello by Synetic Theater, 2011

I had no idea what to expect of the just-dance-and-no-talking interpretation of the popular Shakespeare tragedy. But it was just as engrossing.

Othello by Synetic Theater

Synetic Theater's gothic version of Othello

The award-winning company transformed the classic play into a sexy and gothic choreographic drama. Anger, lust and jealousy were all well delivered through pounding music, precise physical and facial expressions. I didn’t miss speaking at all.

It was also interesting to note that Iago, Othello’s manipulative opposite, was played by three dancers, who together looked like a seething serpent with three heads.

Verdict: Funky experience. I wonder if they can make Sophocles’ tragedies chic?

Les Misérables at the Kennedy Center, 2011

Some think the show, adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel, is too trite in this day and age, but I’ve always had a soft spot for classical literature.

Les Misérables: One Day More

Les Misérables: One Day More

You simply can’t judge the story through a cynical modern-day lens. I admire Jean Valjean because he represents the prototype of those tragic heroes trying to make peace with their past and get things right. I love the theme song “I Dreamed a Dream” because it shows a genuine longing of a sympathetic low-life desperately wishing to live a better life.

While this production is not the best out there, it allows me to revisit the innocence of traditional drama where main characters always have a chance to redeem themselves, despite all the suffering and guilt along the way.

Verdict: Depressing but fun. It planted a bunch of melodies in my head for several weeks.

Nothing Wrong with a Slight Accent

Many of my friends who are the “good English students” in my motherland Taiwan really care about perfecting their “American” accent—just to be clear—the standard, clean accent characters in the television show Friends have.

That too used to be one of my top priorities as a second language learner. But having been in the United States for several years, I find myself caring less and less about my accent. Instead, I want to be a better conversationalist in English. I want to write and express myself artistically. I want to be a good listener. Sounding native is really the very least concern at this stage of my life.

Colorful Chinese Fried Rice

English in different accents is like an image in different shades of color.

Oftentimes, new people I meet say they hear no accent when I speak, and are genuinely surprised to find out I didn’t grow up here. That’s indeed flattering. However, I always have to confess that I’m simply a good “faker.” I can sound like I’ve been here all my life for about 2 minutes. After that, I don’t promise.

But seriously, why should I try so hard to be someone I’m not? It took me leaving where I’m from to realize that. Back in my country, I thought it was kind of cool to somehow dress and sound like the American-born Chinese. Many of them came “home” with a cute “Western” mandarin Chinese accent and became big celebrities in music and movies. Why wouldn’t I want to be part of the glamour?

Here, the situation is a bit different. First of all, people speak English here. It’s not cooler to talk or look more like an American. Plus, I’ll have to think about what kind of American I want to be. There are so many regional and ethnic cultures to choose from. Besides, my Chinese heritage, particularly the food and the inscrutably fascinating script, is getting more interest than the fact that I speak English. I mean. I am a Chinese despite several years off the plane. (Nope, I didn’t take a boat.) I love me some good fried rice. I might even have some ingrained and subconscious Chinese values I’m not aware of. It’s pointless trying to hide all of that behind a perfect English accent.

With that serious note, I have to share a funny story. Several years ago, I was staying at a hotel in Salt Lake City to attend a journalism award ceremony in which my boyfriend snatched a prize.

When I was trying to borrow a pen from a hotel clerk, I asked: excuse me, do you have a “pan”?

The clerk paused awkwardly for a moment, and said: um…well, I’ll have to check with our kitchen.

Huh??

I will never forget this little incident. An accent can cause misunderstandings, but most of the time, I communicate just fine.

You Don’t Need to Be a Snob to Appreciate Art

I’m in no way an art connoisseur. But with DC’s Smithsonian (free!) in my backyard, it’s hard not to be at least a frequent art visitor.

Here are 5 cool American artists I recommend checking out.

Thomas Cole
(2/1/1801 – 2/11/1848)

Why him: I have a soft spot for fantasy and ginormous landscapes.

I discovered Thomas Cole at my favorite DC museum the National Gallery of Art. Regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, the landscape master created several gorgeous multi-piece series of oil on canvas paintings. The very first set I saw was The Voyage of Life portraying the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.

I wasn’t so concerned with the obvious religious theme behind these pieces as I was wowed by the goth-like drama he brings with detailed brushes, lighting and colors. He is a very talented painter with a strong romantic and fantasy touch.Thomas Cole: The Voyage of Life - ChildhoodThomas Cole: The Voyage of Life - YouthThomas Cole: The Voyage of Life - ManhoodThomas Cole: The Voyage of Life - Old AgeAlso worth checking out: Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt are two other Hudson River School painters I really like. Their recreations of mother nature are breathtaking. No joke.

Edward Hopper
(7/22/1882 – 5/15/1967)

Why him: the man is so bleak.

When I spotted Nighthawks at the National Gallery of Art (did I say I love this place?), I thought, oh, I know this one! I could’ve seen its reproductions many times at restaurants, cafes, bookstores or furniture shops. It’s no doubt the most iconic and widely recognized work by Hopper.

The New Yorker is best known for his depictions of the alienation of modern life. His subjects always appear to be trapped and frozen in time and space. For example, you’ll often see variations of solitary figures against an angular, geometrical background such as a room, house or restaurant corner. With a style so strong yet so cold and quiet, Hopper’s paintings are hard to miss and hard to shake.

Edward Hopper: Nighthawks

Edward Hopper: Hotel RoomFun fact: The Boulevard Woodgrill (Arlington, VA) is decorated with Hopper’s works. The owner must be a fan.

Alexander Calder
(7/22/1898 – 11/11/1976)

Why him: the guy is a genius toy maker.

I know him first as a sculptor who invented mobile sculptures. Dictionary.com explains mobiles well: they are constructed with “rods and sheets of metal or other material suspended in midair by wire or twine so that the individual parts can move independently, as when stirred by a breeze.” Simply put, they are these fun flowing art pieces you often see hung on walls or ceilings. They are just cool to look at, and the bigger the better in my opinion.

Later I found out he used to be a toy maker, and a really cool one too. In 1926, he built a lively miniature circus that can be fit into five suitcases for him to carry around and simulate a performance of a real circus. Made with materials like wire, string, rubber and cloth, it’s known as Calder’s Circus. I saw the entire circus exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and supposedly it’s rare to see the whole troupe displayed at the same time (score!).

Alexander Calder: MobilesAlexander Calder: Circus

Not just a creator of mobiles: Calder also produced big stable sculptures made of painted sheet metal. Many of them look like giant spiders to me.

Andy Warhol
(8/6/1928 – 2/22/1987)

Why him: you gotta see the king of pop art at least once.

Warhol’s recent “Headlines” exhibit in DC was kind of a hit. The show featured many of his playful appropriation and repositioning of popular and sensational tabloid images. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not totally sold on his stuff. But the guy’s idea to incorporate pop culture into what we called fine art and thereby challenge the concept of fine art is pretty neat.

What’s also neat is his silk-screened and hand-painted canvas installation Shadows, which comprises of 102 distorted photographs of shadows on a variety of bright colored backgrounds. It was just recently showcased at the Hirshhorn Museam. The paintings were displayed side-by-side and extended for almost 450 feet against a curved white gallery wall. It was just beautiful and surreal walking down the gallery seeing images after images of these shadows.Andy Warhol: ShadowsAndy Warhol: headlinesWarhol’s first claim to fame: 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans. May I just say they are quite quirky.

Alexis Rockman
(Born 1962)

Why him: he’s got some grotesque visions of the future.

I stumbled upon Rockman by randomly tagging along a guided tour of his exhibit “A Fable for Tomorrow” at the American Art Museum. It turned out to be a good random choice.

A science-fiction like storyteller, the contemporary artist excels at rendering these dazzling but horrific landscapes of the future world perverted by climate change and genetic engineering. Preachy? Maybe, but his theatrical use of colors and magnified illustrations of unnaturally morphed animals, insects, plants and creatures can really get you.

Alexis Rockman: EvolutionAlexis Rockman: Manifest DestinyGuess what: his style is influenced by the Hudson River School. Can you see that?

Magimel in the Art Films of Chabrol, Part 3: The Flower of Evil

Funnily, The Flower of Evil (La Fleur du mal, 2003) was the first Chabrol-Magimel film I watched on my 60-inch TV. I streamed two of their collaborations on my laptop.

Thank goodness for the bigger screen this time because the movie tells quite a complicated family mystery. I needed all the little clues magnified.

It starts with the camera passing through a dimly lit house, glancing at a nameless girl curled up at the corner and stops at a blooded dead man.

French Movie: The Flower of EvilTo solve the crime, we are introduced to the three generations of a prestigious family in a small French town. There is Aunt Line, who bears the horror of her murdered brother’s WWII Nazi connection, as the hands-off but observant benign secrets holder of the family. There are Anne (Aunt Line’s niece) and Gérard who got married after their former spouses died in a car accident together. Busy with their separate lives, she is actively running for mayor while he manages a pharmacy, cheats around and shows a growing contempt for his wife’s political ambitions. And then there is the taboo love affair between the unrelated step siblings François and Michèle. Son of Gérard and daughter of Anne, they have been attracted to each other since teenagers and find themselves still in love after spending some years apart.

The hidden tension behind the seemingly peaceful family is first triggered by the distribution of a malign, anonymous flier that revisits the scandalous murder of Anne’s Nazi-related father. Aimed to harm her mayoral campaign, it recounts the rumor that her father might have been killed by his own wife. Although there is no clear evidence, Gérard is suspected to be the mastermind of the scheme.

As if the man is not evil enough, a drunk Gérard then tries to violate his step daughter and is accidentally killed when Michèle attempts to protect herself with a lamp. Just like that, the family is cursed with a second murder. The matriarch of the family, Aunt Line, is determined to to take the blame for the accident. In her mind, it’s better to contain the stain in her generation than passing it on.

While we see the police cars arriving at the crime scene, it’s never shown what happens next. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. We have solved the big mystery shown in the very beginning of the film.

The plot is all too familiar in all of Chabrol’s films: poking fun of the bourgeoisie and their somehow laughable being. It’s such an easy subject for the filmmaker that the movie doesn’t feel too substantial. It flies through the family nuances very carelessly and you have to pay extra attention to link the little hints of past drama together. I cannot tell if the director does it on purpose or if he is just pressing the story on too impatiently.

Although Magimel is charming and handsome as always in the movie, his character is not fully developed. We see François, who just moved back from Chicago days before all the happenings, make fun of the Christian tradition of America, looks down on his slimy father, stifled by the dark family history and smitten with his sweet step sister. But I can’t find a specific word to describe the cynical son, except that he’s a bit of a reluctant victim of it all.

While the film is not a strong thriller or drama, I still kind of enjoyed it. It’s like reading a plain yet candid family diary convoluted enough to keep you interested. I suppose the movie poster, i.e. the family portrait, best summarizes the characters. From far away they are a picture-perfect bunch. In a close range, an ominous cloud of guilt is visible on the youngest generation François and Michèle who will have to carry the secret and burden of two family murders for decades to come.

Ay, what a mess, as Chabrol might say of the funny bourgeoisie.

Image from IMDb.

Magimel in the Art Films of Chabrol, Part 2: The Bridesmaid

Traumatized by A Girl Cut in Two, I was hesitant to watch another movie by Claude Chabrol. But I knew it would be unfair to the acclaimed filmmaker (“and” Benoît Magimel) if I shut his movies out completely.

I decided to give The Bridesmaid (La demoiselle d’honneur, 2004) a try.

Aha! It was not bad at all. It worked well as a quirky, romantic thriller with enough uncertainties and puzzles to lead you on.

The Bridesmaid (French film)The movie followed the eccentric and all-consuming relationship of the hard-working Philippe (Benoît Magimel) and his mysterious girlfriend Senta (Laura Smet). They met at his sister’s wedding where she was one of the bridesmaids, and it was instantly love at first sight. “You’re my destiny and I’m yours,” declared Senta.

On the other hand, Philippe was an overly doting son to his mother. When the sweet woman gave away the sculpture of the Roman goddess Flora he got her to Gérard, a local businessman she was dating at the time, the young man was obviously disturbed. In fact, he secretly stole back the sculpture from Gérard after they broke up and hid it in his room. With a hard-to-explain obsession with the object, Philippe often put Flora by his side as he worked at home. He kissed and talked to the sculpture as if it were a real person. He even mentioned how Flora looked very much like Senta, and eventually offered it to his girlfriend as a gesture of life-long commitment.

Odd and sensual, Senta lived in a dark, stuffy basement of an old house and “claimed” to be an aspiring actress, model and world traveler. She believed that to live life fully, one has to plant a tree, write a poem, make love with a person of the same sex, and kill someone. More importantly, she wanted Philippe to murder a random person to prove his devotion. That was when he candidly confessed he never fully trusted all of her fantasy-like life stories, and disregarded her request.

Senta angrily threw him out of the basement and refused to see him again. To pacify her, Philippe later made up a quick story about him killing the homeless man that used to camp outside her house. She was overjoyed at the news and vowed to do the same for him. While he nervously told her not to reciprocate, the next morning Senta described in details how she just stabbed Gérard in the woods with a glass dagger she bought in Murano. She said the dagger was so sharp that the victim didn’t bleed when dying.

Not sure what to believe, he drove to Gérard’s house to confirm the story and saw the man alive in person. A relieved and elated Philippe decided to marry his bizarre girlfriend, thinking she was simply a superb story teller. However, it was discovered soon that Gérard’s visiting cousin was found dead and the descriptions matched with Senta’s.

Philippe desperately hurried to warn her about local police’s investigations only to realize this was not the first time she murdered someone. She had already killed a girl out of jealousy from her previous relationship, and the dead body was hidden right in a closet of her house.

At the end, Senta asked if Philippe would leave her, he replied, “I’ll never leave you…ever.”

Yup, creepy. The credit then creepily ran over a static shot of Flora, who I felt symbolized obsession. Both Philippe and Senta had an obsessive personality as shown on screen, and they immediately became obsessed with each other for no apparent reasons. Ok, there was probably physical attraction since they were both really good-looking, but in my mind the relatively normal Philippe could have found a relatively normal girl to be with.

However, the two characters were actually perfect for each other — where there is a mystery, there is a mystery seeker. I thought it was pretty clear who was who in the story. Magimel was more than convincing at playing the conscientious son who had always carried family burden on his shoulders. He also painted the tortured, cautious yet love-stricken Philippe with just enough sensitivity. Laura Smet was equally charming as the enigmatic psychopath with her wild stares and irrational philosophy of love.

In an interview, Chabrol complimented Smet’s natural performance and said Magimel was always at his best when he became less conscious of surroundings. To me, Magimel was really genuine throughout and there was not a second of overacting or pretense.

It’s also worth mentioning that the score of the movie composed by Matthieu Chabrol, the director’s son, was beautiful, moody and suspenseful with a nice touch of sadness, especially the opening piece. Some said the music was very Hitchcock-like and I could definitely see the resemblance.

Although the film was in no way a blockbuster, it was enjoyable to watch. And I couldn’t stress more, Magimel was awesome as always.

Image from Wikipedia.