Monday, November 22, 2004

Late Lunch at Tiffany's.

My friend CJ has been doing hardcore studying on Sunday for his law school exams, and a couple weeks ago he asked me if I minded spending the day with Solenn, his girlfriend who recently got here from France. He called it a favor, but I reminded him that I like talking to Solenn - so spending that Sunday with her wouldn't be a problem.

And it wasn't.

Last Sunday, Solenn and I headed to Buford to catch THE POLAR EXPRESS on 3D IMAX, and it gave us an opportunity to have Chinese food at my favorite childhood restaurant, Lee's Golden Buddha. It ended with me learning a new card game from CJ called Sequence - and teaching Solenn a few swing dance steps.

Yesterday with Solenn was even better.

The day started early because I found out that my old film professor, Dr. Neupert, was coming to town to speak at the Sunday Key Cinema Club, which meets at 10 a.m. The club is cool because they don't tell you the name of the not-yet-opened feature that they'll be screening until you walk in that morning.

Since Neupert is the state's best speaker on French cinema - and because he last spoke at the screening of AMELIE, one of my favorites, I took a guess that we'd be watching a French movie and asked Solenn if she wanted to come along, even though it was so damn early.

The film we watched was the World War I romance I mentioned here before, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, which was directed by the same guy who made AMELIE and starred the same actress from AMELIE and looked a lot like AMELIE and seemed like it really, really wanted to remind us of AMELIE. But A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT is darker and way more complicated than AMELIE, and, to me, it was confusing and a lot less satisfying.

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT is beautiful to look at, first of all. It gives us beautiful shots of Brittany - and it features some amazing battle sequences from the trenches of World War I.

Its love story features two young, innocent kids named Manech and Mathilde, who have loved each other since they were very small. Mathilde caught polio as a child and, in the film, walks with a limp. (In the novel, she's in a wheelchair.)

The movie begins by showing us that Manech, sent to the front, goes crazy, tries to get out of the war, gets convicted for treason and sentenced to a horrible, horrible death. He's sentenced to walk out onto the battlefield unarmed with four other men, where the enemy will attack at morning.

A few years later, Mathilde, who has been told that Manech was killed, refuses to believe it and investigates the intricacies of what happened on that battlefield that day.

As details pile up and characters from the trenches start to reveal layers of secrets, the film becomes a confusing, twisted puzzle involving dozens of characters, some of whom are hard to keep straight.

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT is another story from Jeunet featuring complications of fate and how a plucky, moon-faced girl chooses to navigate her way through it. You still cheer for Audrey Tautou and want her character to find what she's looking for. But it doesn't "work" the way AMELIE does.

Solenn and I both agreed about A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, though Solenn didn't like AMELIE and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was for.

Solenn's good at speaking her mind, and she impressed me several times yesterday.

After the movie, we went to Phipps Plaza for lunch, then we did some browsing at the haute couture boutiques.

Outside of the main ones, Solenn saw the Phipps Plaza Santa Claus, and she began to coo because, apparently, he didn't just look like some fake, store-worker Santa. He looked like the REAL Santa Claus, she said. I asked her if she wanted to see him, but she said her devotion didn't run that deep.

My favorite, Giorgio Armani, was as fun to look at as ever. I did my usual examination of all the ties.

Solenn, looking at the women's clothes, told a salesgirl that this one mink wrap looked like it had a bunch of cat tails sewn onto its edges. (Solenn was right. It did look like that. And it was kickass of Solenn to say so. But the salesgirl tried her best to be "unflappable" in the face of adversity.)

At Versace, Solenn and I tried to find the gayest, most elaborate shirt there, and it was a toss-up between several of them. One of them, though, had a hot-pink lining and looked like an Oriental rug from my mother's house, so that one got Solenn's vote.

At Gucci, Solenn and I looked at shirts and accessories, picking out some really good things, but we spent the majority of our time there checking out how damn hot the salesmen were.

I asked one of them where he got his haircut, and Solenn told me that I was flirting with him. I denied it, not convincingly.

Then, we ended up at Tiffany and Co., which Solenn had shockingly NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE. Not "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Not the Tiffany's boutique in Paris. She'd NEVER HEARD OF TIFFANY'S BEFORE.

I was so stunned that I ran the girl immediately to the diamonds.

Looking in the cases, Solenn told me that she likes simple jewelry made of silver. Diamonds - the beautiful, sparkly, beautiful-from-a-mile-away, oh-my-God Tiffany's diamonds - didn't impress her in the slightest. Not the slightest. Which was really, really great.

"What is a big diamond supposed to tell me about the man I'm seeing?" she asked, in her cute accent. "That the man I'm dating is rich? Am I supposed to be bowled over by how much money he has?"

I remarked, in the diamonds' defense, that they were pretty and sparkly.

"It's not practical," Solenn exclaimed, looking at the display. "Just save your money, get me a simple ring with faux diamonds and buy me a car!"

Another lady browsing the Tiffany's display counter, overhearing Solenn, widened her eyes and gasped in horror.

It was great.

The heart necklaces didn't impress Solenn either. She doesn't like anything with hearts or crosses.

A salesman came up to us, and he got Solenn to try on a really pretty, thick-yet-simple silver bracelet. We didn't ask how much it cost.

Solenn later found this porcelain egg with a design painted on its outside that fit in the palm of her hand, and she opened it up, then closed it.

Curious, she looked at the price, and I think it was around $500.

"Wow, $500!" Solenn said. "You should really put something important and expensive inside that. Like cocaine or something."

Then, she carefully put it back on the counter.

Then, we went to the Gap, where we found more sensible, smarter and simpler clothes. It was a lot of fun. At one point, I took a tied fur stole, put it on my head and asked Solenn if I looked like a character from DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, something that I wouldn't have DARED to do at Armani.

The night ended back at my apartment, where we watched episodes of SEX AND THE CITY with CJ until they had to go grocery shopping.

After they left, I ended up back at Phipps Plaza to watch FINDING NEVERLAND, which made me cry.

Everyone else in the theater had people with them. I was, like, the lonely guy in the fifth row with tears streaming from his eyes. But it's not the first time I've been that guy before.

Solenn and CJ should see it. She's plucky, and she has a thing for Tinkerbell.

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